Monday 30 November 2020

Mo Movies 37


I'm not in my usual rhythm for watching movies for some reason. Since my last movie post I've watched a hell of a lot of telly & listened to loads of music though. This includes the entire 80 episodes of Schitt's Creek plus the debut seasons of Ratched and The Queen's Gambit as well as seasons 3 & 4 of The Crown. These tv shows are all highly recommended but you know that already.

Then there is the politics of the authoritarian far left that are insidiously usurping fun, reason, liberty, civilised discourse and freedom of speech. They are disguised as people doing good by using slogans (& co-opting causes) that you agree with but when you look at the fine print of what they are doing and what they want, it's usually the opposite of your core values. Keeping track of Orwellian 2020 is absolutely concerning and consuming me. It's frightening. I think because this ideological revolution doesn't look the same as past revolutions ie. people revolting in the streets, rebels in the hills, military overthrowing Governments etc. but is coming swiftly through institutions (big tech, media, retail giants, schools, universities, corporations, probably the HR department for whoever you work for) people are not taking it seriously, if they know it's happening at all. Just have a quick look at The BBC, The Guardian, Oxford University, Google, Scottish Parliament, Chicago University, Patreon, The New York Times and you will soon realise these people are not following what regular rational working people think and value. They are espousing absolute nonsense while discrediting common sense à la Foucault. You must bow down to their zealous illiberal ideology or you will not get paid or get to do your PHD & ultimately you will not get to have a differing viewpoint. Sorry but this is REAL and it's happening and it's alarming!

Also Ive been listening to a lot of music instead of being in the mood for late night movies. Disco, Funk, Spiritual-Jazz, Funky Lebanese Pop, Gospel-Disco, Cumbia, 80s African Boogie, Latin/Tropical Disco, New Wave Funk, Sudanese Jazz, 80s South African Funky-R&B-Disco-Pop, Somalian Disco, Japanese Soul-Funk-Disco-Boogie, 70s Soundz of The French Caribbean and more. Listening to a lot of records from labels such as Habibi Funk, Ostinato, Analog Africa, BGP International, We Want Sounds & Cultures Of Soul. Then there's my dark side where 80s Industrial and Scandinavian 80s/ early 90s Black Metal are all I want to hear. Prince also rules as usual: Controversy, 1999 & Originals now being the platters du jour.        

Anyway telly though...Ratched was my big surprise this year. I didn't even wanna watch it but Emma kept putting it on. By episode four I was well and truly hooked. The direction, cinematography, period detail, colours and plot were all gloriously over the top. Sometimes it felt like Hitchcock, Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson were directing this cinematic telly extravaganza all at once! The director/show runners were definitely channelling their spirit. There was not one weak link in the astounding ensemble cast. I find it hard to comprehend a lot of people giving it a lukewarm response. Then again who cares? I fucking loved it so that's all that really matters! I didn't realise episode 8 was the final one so I was so disappointed to be whipped up into this delirious excitement to then not know when or if ever there will be another episode. I did see somewhere that there is going to be another season. 

I've now reassessed season three of The Crown. I now believe it to be nine mini-drama film masterpieces and one very good one. Getting over the casting choices for me was the biggest hurdle. In the first two seasons I only knew John Lithgow and he was so ensconced into the character of Winston Churchill I couldn't recognise him anyway. 

Season 4 of The Crown is also some of the highest quality telly ever made. The thing is I really didn't know these stories until Lady Di & Maggie Thatcher turned up (I became a teenager in the 80s). Even then I only knew the headline but rarely the story behind it. So it's all fascinating to me. The makers of The Crown have finally become quite unforgiving and sometimes scathing of these characters we all know and hate (and many love). Whilst Charles had previously been quite sympathetically portrayed now his scoundrel is unveiled. Kudos must to go to the continuing outstanding portrayals of Philip, Charles, Margo & Anne by Tobias Menzies, Josh O'Conner, Helena Bonham Carter & Erin Doherty. There is however a new contender for most outstanding acting performance in The Crown and that goes to the surprise packet of the year Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher. I've always found Scully to be a bit of a sleepy actor to the extent I thought she must have been addicted to Oxycontin whilst filming the excellent series The Fall (2013-2016). Anyway when she turned up here as The Iron Lady I almost fell out of my chair because I didn't know it was coming. I went from "Oh this is just sleepy Scully doing Maggie!" during the first episode to "That's Margaret Thatcher! I can no longer see Scully!" during the second. 

To people who have not been converted to the splendiferousness of The Crown I am recommending one episode. Fairytale is episode three of the fourth season and if it was a theatrical release it would sweep the Oscars and win eleven. Fairytale is a fairytale in the truest sense of the word ie. it's horrifying! This is the story of how fucked up everything was for Lady Diana at the palace and inside her own head before the wedding to Prince Charles. It's absolutely harrowing and brilliantly executed by all involved. I was a bit "whatever" on the portrayal of Diana by Emma Corrin but after watching several documentaries about Diana's life I'm getting that Corrin's depiction is actually pretty close to the enigmatic real life Diana.    

I've been listening to some movie podcasts and watching some movie you-tubers. I'll discuss the state of this often perplexing milieu in my next post. For now here are some lil' reviews of some movies I've recently watched. I know I've missed over 50% of the flicks I've watched but hey life gets in the way sometimes.  

JD's Revenge (1976)
For a blind buy this was a wicked and wild ride of the finest kind. In the 90s I became obsessed with 70s African American movies and particularly the tunes and soundtracks. I never heard anyone ever recommend JD's Revenge so I didn't bother checking it out until this recent blu-ray release. I mean if Arrow are releasing a movie it's like a 94% chance that it will be bloody good and I was not wrong. This is a blaxploitation flick with a difference. It fits into to the Blaxploitation-horror sub-genre and the sub-sub-genre of Blaxploitation-possession movies. First of all you get all the good stuff: The 70s threads, the cars, the vernacular, the youthfully fit beautiful bodies, the afrocentric interior design, the jazz-funk, the soul, the hair, the night clubs, the strip joints, the bars and the bloody violence. One of the best things that sets this movie apart from the pack is that it's set in New Orleans and not only that we get some amazing vision of what I assume is Tulane football Stadium, some spectacular fevered evangelism and flashbacks to 40s gangster shiiiite. Two couples go out for a night on Bourbon Street and are coaxed into a hypnotist show by a spruiker. Isaac (Glynn Turman) volunteers to be hypnotised which is a mistake that causes a crazy spiral of strange, disturbing, violent and confusing events. This ensemble cast (including Lou Gossett, Joan Pringle, James Watkins, Earl Billings etc.) are all in stellar form and the film craft is class sending this straight into my top Blaxploitation top 10 with the bullet. My favourite film discovery of 2020 so far!

Onibaba (1964) 
I knew nothing about Kaneto Shindō's cult classic of 60s Japanese horror going in and that was a good thing. So you can stop right here and go watch this film which I highly recommend. I guess to say an arty cult Japanese film is weird is a bit cliche and perhaps culturally off point but here it is definitely warranted. A film set in 7 or 8 foot high grass is probably unlike anything you've ever seen. Two women, a wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) & her mother in law (Nobuku Otowa), are living in a hut amongst the giant grass surviving somehow through a brutal wartime famine. They are visited by Hatchi (Kei Satō) who reveals to the wife that her husband Kishi was killed after they both deserted the army. Sex, violence and horrific shenanigans ensue. For 1964 this is pretty racy stuff! Onibaba is one of my cinema (well telly) events of the year. The acting and highest calibre film-making coalesce into one of the best Japanese films period. This year I've seen a hell of lot of Japanese movies so that's saying something. Now I'm excitedly on the lookout for whatever else Kaneto Shindō directed.

Seconds (1966)
Terrific haunting sci-fi identity change story with a twist. Stars Rock Hudson directed by one of the all-time great film directors John Frankenheimer. What more do you need?

Life Is Sweet (1990)
I haven't revisited 90s Mike Leigh films, well, since the 90s. I've watched his early BBC Plays Of The Day Abigail's Party (1977) & Nuts In May (1976) several times this century. They remain brilliant & hilarious, absolute classics. When I put this blu-ray on however I thought geez this hasn't aged well at all. It took until about a third of the way in for me to start to engage and stop thinking about switching it off. Women with mental illness and shit men doing shit things is the order of the day here. Worth watching for the cast although Jane Horrocks really over acts her character Nicola letting down the rest of the amazing ensemble cast of Claire Skinner, Jim Broadbent, Alison Steadman, Timothy Spall, David Thewlis, Stephen Rea etc. This is hardly my favourite Mike Leigh movie but it's another stellar performance from Alison Steadman so...

Threads (1984)
Devastatingly realistic portrayal of WW3 and the following nuclear winter. The tone from Barry Hines (Kes 1969) & Mick Jackson might be pitch black but you cannot look away. This is film-making at its most compelling. If you thought last year's Chernobyl was a barrel of monkeys, your eyeballs ain't seen nothing yet. A MASTERPIECE! 

Titanic (1997)
This was a first time watch for me as I would have thought I was way too cool for overhyped hollywood blockbusters back in the day. An unsinkable ship hits an iceberg then sinks. Aw no! Chuck in a love story involving Leo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet's boobs. Also never trust Billy Zane on a boat. It's pretty spectacular particularly the second half when the ship finally hits the iceberg. James Cameron could have dropped the entirely unnecessary device of the story being told by Rose, a survivor, to a bunch of current day Titanic investigators and it would have been a great film instead of "Pretty good...a bit of a slog though".

Anti-Christ (2009)
This contains the most fucked up scene I've ever seen in a film ever and I've seen a few. Arty psycho-sexual Euro horror of the highest calibre. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are outstanding as the two stars of this utterly compelling Lars von Trier shocker. Enter at own risk.

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