Another month has passed and with that another year. In December I caught up with a few of the awards films like the terrific The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Nightcrawler and Foxcatcher. Also, some fantastic TV shows like Olive Kitteridge, Transparent and Rectify.
Also, this month, I made a big change in my life. I currently live in Birmingham, UK, far away from my Romania town. I have no plans of returning home in the near future so I’m very excited for this.
First Time Viewings:
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
My Blind Spot film for November that I caught up with a month later. Loved it from top to bottom. A review will come out soon. Hopefully.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Isao Takahata, 2013)
I was blown away by the beauty of this film. It really makes me sad to think that this is among Studio Ghibli’s last projects. They have only When Marnie Was There which I assume will come out internationally in 2015.
The animation is like nothing I’ve seen and the story is just so beautiful. Strong year in animation. I wouldn’t mind if this takes the Oscar from The Lego Movie. A
Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
Blind Spot film for December. A review will come out in the near future.
Go (Doug Liman, 1999)
Loved the energy of this film. The editing is something that stood out for me. The soundtrack as well. It’s one of those cool films like Pulp Fiction and Drive. A-
Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, 2014)
Well this was certainly an interesting film. It’s a marital drama as well as a study of how people respond to extraordinary events. It also talks about masculinity in different generations which I found engaging. It’s also a bit funny. You can have some nice discussions after seeing this film. B+
Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014)
Another interesting story that could spark debate. I think people who work in this business develop a thirst for the exclusive. What I liked about Lou Bloom was the way he thought, his perspective on the world which adds a lot to his character. Wonderful acting and camera work. I had a problem with the ending. Seemed like the director didn’t know how to finalize his story or at least create a more poignant completion. B+
Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)
The freshest film in my mind as I write this post. I liked the moody atmosphere and how the characters were created. So cheers to the director here. I liked the acting too, but wasn’t blow away by it. Steve Carell’s make-up seems to be doing a lot of the acting for him. In the film, du Pont is portrayed as just a strange guy. he did a great job for a comedic actor transitioning to a different genre but I wanted more versatility in his performance to be really convinced. Channing Tatum was good too showing that you can grow as an actor over time from doing a Step Up movie to a prestigious Oscar drama. Mark Ruffalo’s role didn’t seem that show-y but he was great as always, I’ll have to think more about this film. For now it gets a B.
Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2002)
Liked the idea of the film. Liked the performances and direction. It’s not your typical murder mystery film. B
Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
Great words written by Stillman but I didn’t feel the actors being in control. It seemed more like quoting than acting. Maybe its because of the vocabulary which sometimes was like out of a novel. I’m not saying they were bad, not at all, just that it was noticeable that they weren’t in command of their scenes. Still, it entertained me a lot. B
The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
One of my Christmas movies for the year. I enjoyed the actors’ performances. The final scene is truly memorable and profoundly romantic. I thought was a bit too long but I probably think that because I knew what was the film’s idea. It’s a sweet film but I don’t think is as great as people make it to be. Also, it’s exaggerated the many times they pronounce their boss’ name. B
Meet Me In St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli)
I enjoy a musical every now and then. I expected this film to have an actual story but it didn’t. I thought the Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas moment would have been powerful if the characters had faced a bigger problem than just moving away to New York. There’s nothing sad about that. What I liked were the performances and the musical moments. But just like The Shop Around The Corner, I wasn’t impressed but didn’t hate it either. B
Still Alice (Wash Westmoreland & Richard Glatzer, 2014)
This film is certainly revolving around Julianne Moore’s performance. I liked its portrayal of Alzheimer’s. It’s also important for the family to be upper class and that the main character is an intelligent women, I think that makes the message more powerful. Moore’s acting is not as show-y as I thought it would be. It’s very subdued and not grand. I don’t get the praise for Kristen Stewart. She was slightly better in Clouds of Sils Maria but here there is nothing special. I guess people like to think she is better than Twilight. I don’t really see it yet. B
The Interview (Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen, 2014)
The Interview is the kind of film that Seth Rogen and James Franco would do. But I understand why North Korea would be upset. I wonder if they did the same thing with other films. I heard Team America has North Korea as a villain. Also, on 30 Rock they really made fun of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, far more upsetting than anything on The Interview but I guess not many people watched 30 Rock then enough to create a controversy. But I admire Rogen, Franco and director Evan Goldberg for having the courage to touch a subject as sensitive as North Korea, especially in a comedy. I had a fun time with The Interview. Laughed at the scenes with Rob Lowe and Eminem. And the Firework scene was funny too. B
St. Vincent (Theodore Melfi, 2014)
A sweet drama that doesn’t offer many surprises. A straight-up comedy drama with some nice performances, Bill Murray goes into dramatic territory once again while Naomi Watts tries a comedic part as a Russian prostitute. I thought she was fine. It was a decent and sweet story. B-
Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)
I like films about vanishings but this one was among the most ridiculous. While it had a strong supporting performance from Amy Ryan, the final act is just stupid and totally ruins the film. C+
The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson, 2014)
Typical Sundance comedy drama about lost people. People seem to be loving this film. I really like the two actors and their work on SNL and they are very good here too, but I didn’t like their characters and thought the story was a cliche. I hate the scenes when I see people lying down and saying something cute or having an 80’s pop song in the background. This is becoming a cliche and it really bothers me. I did like the singalong scene though. But as a whole the film is just something that has been done before. C
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (Ned Benson, 2014)
Well, these are two hours I’m never going to get back. I like the two leads but they don’t get much to do in this film. Them is made out of two films Her and Him each from the point of view of the male and female. There is really nothing going on in this film. They broke up, they had a kid who died, she goes to school, he stalks her. But all this is touched upon superficially. It’s very much like the type of Sundance-y films we keep getting. What I complained about on The Skeleton Twins appears in this film as well. I am reluctant to check out Him and Her which got great reviews. So I’m not sure if I want to get back to these characters after seeing this very weak film. C-
Tusk (Kevin Smith, 2014)
I don’t understand why this film exists. I don’t understand its meaning. I thought Justin Long was a fine douchebag and Michael Parks was outstanding. Johnny Depp was a bit strange but gave a dedicated performance as usual. I just don’t know why Kevin Smith made this film. Is it a joke? The fact that he made the film is a joke? It’s neither scary nor funny. It’s just very boring and strange. D
Men, Women and Children (Jason Reitman, 2014)
I thought I should give this one a try. I was very curious about it. At first I thought it wasn’t that bad but as the stories developed it just got laughable. So, this film is about how we are dependent of technology and the Internet but it doesn’t really get into that theme much. Computers and cellphones are used all with an Internet connection but the actual stories aren’t about that. The stories are about a husband and wife drifting apart, a young girl pressured by society into staying thin and hooking up with boys, a teen who watched so much freaky porn he can’t get an erection anymore, another teen who prefers to play video games to playing football in his high school team, a young girl whose mother is over protective of her and a mother who takes her daughter’s quest to getting famous too far. None of these stories are about technology and the Internet, those are just in the background. And the execution is very weak. All the stories turn hokey. The Judy Greer segment, about the mother who helps her daughter get famous by taking inappropriate pictures of her, is especially ridiculous. So the main problem is that the stories, which are Lifetime-worthy, aren’t representative of the main themes. The acting was alright and while I was bothered by the narration it was nice that it was by Emma Thompson. D-
Second Or Multiple Viewings:
Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)
I love this film. It entertains me so much. And Rosamund Pike is just astounding. By the way, has anyone noticed how funny this film is? A
Olive Kitteridge (Lisa Cholodenko, 2014)
This four hour miniseries from HBO is as great as people say it is. I don’t want to get into what is is about, just that the entire cast, especially lead actress Frances McDormand, are fantastic. It’s both very dramatic and very funny. I liked how the characters were created and evolved. Just wow. A
Transparent: Season 1 (2014)
Another greatly acted show. I didn’t like it as much at the beginning but when I did, I loved it. The acting is terrific. What I appreciate about Transparent is that is helped me understand people from the LGBT community. I don’t have friends that are gay, where I come from their number is almost nonexistent. Thanks to the three dimensional portrayal of the characters I understood how hard it is to come out, to face the people you’ve known all your life, how much courage it takes to make this transition and how good it feels to be in your own skin. Fantastic show. A
Seinfeld: Seasons 7-8 (1996 – 1997)
Yeah, it’s still very funny, great writing and acting. I just hate George so much and Kramer gets way too weird. But that is not a reason to dismiss the show. A
Rectify: Season 1 (2013)
Smart drama from the Sundance channel about a man on death row for 20 years for the murder of his high school girlfriend who gets out. Because of new evidence that puts into question whether he did the crime, he is freed but not acquitted. It’s a study of innocence vs. guilt, how people perceive people on death row, how the family copes with the idea. Also the writers do a great job at never assuring us that the main character is innocent or not. It’s a really great and the acting is top notch. A-
That’s all folks.
What did you watch in December? Did you like any of the films ans shows I listed?