49th Parallel

49th Parallel. Michael Powell. 1941.

Oops. I bought a box set of Powell/Pressburger movies, and now I guess I have to watch them…

I thought it was a 2K set, but this is DVD.

Wow, this is a proper anti-German propaganda piece. I like it!

Oh! It’s Laurence Olivier playing that trapper with the bad French accent! I couldn’t quite place him but now that I know I don’t understand why I didn’t see that immediately. Weird.

It’s pretty unusual in that we follow the Germans (who are, with one exception) horrible people, escaping through the Canadian countryside, so whenever one of them is killed, the audience would presumably cheer.

The meeting with the Utopian Christian settlement is also… odd.

I like bits of this movie (like the great shots of the wheat fields), and it’s not dull or anything, but it’s not a good movie.

The way it ends with a flagrant violation of international law concerning refugees as the “RAH RAH YEAH *punches air*” moment is fascinating, but then again, we’re talking about literal Nazis here, so whatevs.

Unbreakable

Unbreakable. M. Night Shyamalan. 2000.

Well, this is odd:

I don’t think a single line there is correct? That’s kinda special. (Well, OK, the “per year” thing might be true, and if you divide that by the number of days, you probably get to the “every day” number.)

But why?

Well, OK, this is Shyamalan, so it’s probably all part of the inevitable twist.

I Willis still the dead guy from the previous movie? OOPS SPOILERS Or is his son dead this time?

Again with the Shyamalan, this is a movie I’ve managed to avoid watching, but it’s a movie that’s so part of popular culture that I know that Willis is playing a super-hero before starting to watch it. So as with The Sixth Sense, I’m sitting here wondering whether people are supposed to not understand that he’s a super-hero already? What with the title “Unbreakable” and the surviving the train crash etc, and that’s going to be the twist at the end or something else?

It’s not an idea way to watch a movie.

It does pick up when Samuel L. Jackson shows up.

I wonder who they got to make the super-hero artwork. It sucks.

Oh, there’s the twist.

Kin

Kin. Jonathan & Josh Baker. 2018.

So what’s this then? I basically buy anything that’s sci-fi, so I’m guessing that this is… that?

This is apparently based on a short movie, and I thought that this had to be a low budget movie. But imdb says that it had a $30M budged (at bombed, hard, at the box office). So perhaps there’s some fun stuff coming, because the start is rather dreary.

I think I kind of see what the directors are going for: Mixing gritty drama (ex-cons, loan sharks, etc) with family drama with sci-fi and hoping that something interesting will come out of it. That doesn’t happen. The actors are flailing, getting all their chops from watching reruns of The Sopranos. Everything has been colour-graded into grey and beige. The script has a humour bypass.

I laughed out loud at the “character development” scene in the middle of the movie. Instead of the protagonist going “you’re not my father; you were never there for me when I grew up” (which is the standard phrase to develop character in these movies), instead he said “me and dad… we were never there for each other”. (The father’s dead at this point OOPS SPOILERS you see, so they had to phrase it that way.)

That almost made me like this study in tedium, but no.

WHAT DID THEY USE THE $30M ON! I’m guessing 29.9M went to James Franco hamming his way through his impression of Fort Apache, The Bronx. I guess it’s nice that somebody had fun.

The Predator

The Predator. Shane Black. 2018.

So it’s a reboot? What’s the change going to be?

“This time… She’s nice!”

But no: Doesn’t take many minutes for the predator to disembowel some soldier types.

This is sooo bad. All the characters are boring cliches, every camera angle is what you’d predict, every line is predictable. And there’s a kid! An autisticish kid! That’s the final insult in an action movie.

But then… as it develops (perhaps that’s putting it too generously), it’s kinda growing on me. It’s not a horror movie, but instead a group buddy movie. With lots of violence. It’s kinda amiable?

But oh so stupid and oh so predictable.

… OK, the space ship action scene I didn’t see coming. It’s fun!

This is a difficult movie to throw a dice on. I mean, it’s got a it’s-so-bad-it’s-good kinda vibe going on, but half the movie is rather tedious. But then there’s bits that are (while embarrassing) pretty entertaining.

So: It’s not a good movie, but… But.

Topaz

Topaz. Alfred Hitchcock. 1969.

Just… what… what was Hitchcock aiming for here? This late-60s thing about Russian spies is just beyond tedious. The actors are leaden and the storyline is without interest. The 2K restoration looks nice and colourful. There’s some striking scenes in here where that certainly helps.

But it’s just … portentous and boring. It seemed to go on forever… and it’s one of Hitchcock’s longest movies at 2 hours and 5 minutes.

I wonder what the story behind this turgid mess was. Was he paid to do a propaganda piece or something?

:

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker called it “the same damned spy picture he’s been making since the thirties, and it’s getting longer, slower, and duller.”

Indeed.

The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later

The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later. Agnès Varda. 2002.

So, this is a thing she did two years after the smashing success of The Gleaners and I, and it’s about the reactions to that movie.

The movie was kinda meta already — both about the gleaners, but also about Varda and her filming the gleaners. This one has that guy from that movie talking about that movie and how he didn’t like the bits about Varda herself, which makes it so super-meta that that.

This could have gone south really fast. I mean, a movie about people’s reactions to her previous movie? But it is it’s own thing; it’s great in a totally different way than the previous movie was.

However, there’s a couple of sequences here that don’t really work, like with the psychoanalyst.

The Gleaners and I

The Gleaners and I. Agnès Varda. 2002.

I was talking to the film-buffest of film buffs a couple of weeks ago, and I mentioned Varda, and he said “oh, I love her documentaries”. I’ve never seen any of them, so here we go.

And it’s wonderful: It’s so playful and funny, but also with a real emotional depth. It’s both about Varda playing with her new digital camera as well as salvaging foods; i.e., gleaning.

I love the stream-of-consciousness structure of it all; how Varda seems to slide from one (related) subject to another. It’s captivating.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask. Woody Allen. 1972.

I bought a DVD box set of Allen movies, and I’ve been diffidently watching them at random. There’s two reasons: The first is that I don’t know whether I like Allen’s movies that much any more. The second is because these DVD versions don’t… really look that good. It’s weird that they didn’t make a 2K version of the set.

Hm… Oh! The French have. Three Blu-ray box sets for €€€. I should have gotten that instead, but now I don’t want to re-buy these all…

Anyway!

This is pretty amusing but I haven’t laughed yet (and we’re at the two thirds point). Perhaps the most successful section is the one with Gene Wilder and Daisy? Many of the other parts feel like straight-up skits.

Allen delivers his patter in his usual way, and that’s nice.

I spoke too soon: The mad scientist/blob parody is hilariously stupid.

Saboteur

Saboteur. Alfred Hitchcock. 1942.

I bought a 2K set of Hitchcock films a while ago, and I’ve been watching them pretty much in random order. This is one of the earliest films in the set, from 1942.

Hitchcock has made so many great movies, but this isn’t one of them. It’s got a very topical plot: A saboteur (it’s never explicitly said that he’s German) blows up a factory. But then the Hitchcockiness takes over: The wrong guy is a suspect, so he makes a run for it and tries to uncover the real saboteur.

I have to admit to being distracted while watching this, so perhaps this is a great movie. It just seems so aimless, and the conspiracies are so vast…

So I might be totally totally wrong about this movie, but I it didn’t seem quite… up to Hitchcock’s usual thriller standards.

Le Pointe-Courte

Le Pointe-Courte. Agnès Varda. 1955.

This is riveting. The cinematography is so gorgeous, I’m almost at a loss for words. The camera shifts between being stationary and roving around, even entering houses and exiting through the back doors in a single, stunning take.

I’m assuming the actors here are all (or almost all) non-professionals; presumably the people who really live at La Pointe-Courte? I’ve never seen such an amiable bunch of rascals: They can barely contain their joy at being in this movie; shyly smiling before they have to deliver their lines, and clearly looking at somebody to tell them when to do something (Varda herself, I’m guessing). It’s just such a pleasant thing to behold.

But there’s two distinct parts: One is pure genius, where we follow the people in the village, fishing and talking and speculating about whether the health authorities are going to allow them to sell their… cockles?… or not. It’s so interesting. And there’s cats in every other shot!

The other half consists of very stylised scenes of two people discussing their marriage, and it’s filmed in a very different style:

See? It’s super-stylised and kinda interesting, but whenever these scenes started I was going “but I wanted to watch the other people. Did they get the bacterial cockle situation sorted or what?” But instead it’s these two people talking about whether they love each other or whether they love their love.

They had a lot of fun with the cinematography in these scenes, ending up with shots that wouldn’t have been out of place in Bergman movies made a decade later, so Varda is totally ahead of the curve.

The movie has been beautifully restored on this 2K release.