Thursday, September 30, 2010

Clued In

Without a Clue: Alternative take on Sherlock Holmes canon, in which Sherlock is in fact an actor, hired to play a genius detective by Watson, who is the real brains behind the operation (with some collaboration from Mrs Hudson). Its value is as an exploration of how people in a long-term relationship, sexual or not, can sometimes forget, or take for granted, what their partner contributes to it; however I did feel the central joke went on a little too long.

Crimes and Misdemeanors: Postmodern Woody Allen film, which starts out familiar-- wealthy businessman, threatened with blackmail by his mistress, plots her murder, while a nebbish documentary-maker falls in love with a wistfully beautiful production assistant-- and turns it on its head, with rewards and punishments falling in unexpected places and breaking all the Hollywood tropes. Also: Martin. Landau.

The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de Pages): Disturbing tale of creativity twisted by a lust for revenge, in which a young girl, who fails a crucial piano audition due to the negligence of a well-known pianist, grows up to carefully and deliberately ruin said pianist's life. You just can't look away.

Superman: The Quest for Peace: Hilariously terrible movie, with inconsistent plotting and characterisation reinforced with really bad CSO and some magnificently heavy-handed 1980s attempts at a political message. I'm not sure if it's an influence on the LaHaye and Jenkins school of bad fundamentalist Christian rapture-fiction, or vice versa (with the UN ineptly portrayed as some kind of one world government and nobody in the world seeing anything wrong with Superman's plan to destroy all nuclear missiles). Strangely, there is actually a possible clever storyline limping through it, when a thinly-disguised Rupert Murdoch takes over the Daily Planet and tries to turn it into a tabloid, but the sweet innocent optimism of Clark Kent causes "Murdoch"'s evil daughter to see the error of their capitalist ways, but that unfortunately gets buried under all the silly and is hastily wrapped up in a coda which appears to suggest that newspapers should be publically owned (which one would think rather goes against the American capitalist ethos). You just can't look away from this one either, but for different reasons.

Metropolis: One of my favourite films since I was a teenager, seen here in the restored version with the extra footage discovered in Argentina in 2008 reinstated. While two scenes are still missing, the new material makes all the difference, giving clarity and depth to Rotwang's motivations and plans, and actually giving Slim a personality (curiously, now that the plots involving him are restored, you actually notice him a lot more in the previously-extant footage). Also contains the Yoshiwara sequence, and some extra bits to Freder's visions which clarify and crystallise the expressionist symbolism of the rest of the movie, in which his memories of seeing a monk preaching on the book of Revelations in the cathedral merge crazily with the reality of Maria's erotic dance in the Yoshiwara to form a mise-en-scene in which Slim becomes a preacher and Maria the Whore of Babylon.

Movie count for 2010: 106

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Holiday movies

The Romantic Englishwoman: A Tom Stoppard adaptation of a story about a writer (Michael Caine) with a disintegrating marriage (to Glenda Jackson), who vents his frustrations by writing bits of said marital disintegration into a film script he's working on, with the ultimate postmodern result that the fiction and the reality become conflated. Which should be a lot more interesting than it actually is. There were a few good moments (some of the knowing inside jokes, for instance, or the bit where Michael Caine's character rakes a hypocritical pseudo-feminist newspaper columnist over the coals), but the postmodernism rapidly became tedious and the story unengaging.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula: A Hammer film from the mid-seventies, which is often reckoned as the studio's declining period, since it was focusing less on making real horror films and more on making thrillers with lots of nudity. Which actually works to the film's advantage, as what we get here, gratuitous boobs aside, is the Dracula mythos cleverly reimagined for the Quatermass/Jon Pertwee's Doctor Who eras, with van Helsing as a posh British scientist with an interest in the supernatural and a cute and smart granddaughter (who's also capable of giving a jolly good scream when required), and Dracula suavely infiltrating the London business community with shades of the Master's successfully becoming an Establishment figure in Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil (written by Don Houghton, who also scripted this movie). The apocalypse is said in this film to begin on Nov. 23-- the date of Doctor Who's first broadcast, but also, since the year is 1974, the day I was born. Make of that what you will. Also contains the world's cheekiest blue plaque ("Site of St Bartolph's Church, Built 1672, To the Glory of God and demolished for the site of this office block 1972").

Hammer over the Anvil: Sort of an Australian version of The Go-Between, about an Englishwoman (Charlotte Rampling) who emigrates to Australia and starts Lady Chatterleying about with a local horse rancher (a young Russell Crowe), seen through the eyes of a local child who is excluded from most of the rural community's life due to being a polio victim. To be fair to it, it has good points; the metaphors aren't unsubtle, and the denouement works well, with Charlotte Rampling showing more courage than anyone had given her credit for and the narrator finally coming to terms with his disability and earning the community's respect. However, it's still so boring it feels like it's almost double its length. Based on a book, and was probably better as one.

Movie count for 2010: 101