February 2015: Viewing Diary

Two Days, One Night (2014; Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne). My friend Dan referred to the movie as a “Sunday school lesson” and, you know, I can see his point. But I found it absolutely riveting, one of the best portraits of depression, that’s for sure, that I’ve ever seen. I wrote about Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-nominated performance here. I was wiped OUT at the end of Two Days, One Night. I needed a nap.

Calvary (2014; John Michael McDonagh). Brendan Gleeson won Best Actor in the British Independent Film Awards. I thought he should have been nominated for an Oscar. The rest of the cast is excellent, too.

Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 13, “Houses of the Holy” (2007; Kim Manners). Re-watched in preparation for the re-cap, which is still pending. You know. February. I was kinda busy.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 1, “Lazarus Rising” (2008; Kim Manners). Watched in tandem with “Houses of the Holy,” due to the angel connection.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 2, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester” (2008; Phil Sgriccia). Again, connecting it to “Houses of the Holy.”

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 4, “Metamorphosis” (2008; Kim Manners). Along with the angel thing, started with “Houses of the Holy,” I was also interested in Season 4 because they started with the famed Red camera in Season 4 (and only used it until Season 6). There’s a reason why there was such a sharp drop-off of image quality in Season 7 when they went digital. But boy, Season 4 is absolutely cinematic: that camera is incredible.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 5, “Monster Movie” (2008; Robert Singer). One of my favorite episodes in the whole series.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 6, “Yellow Fever” (2008; Phil Sgriccia). Ditto.

John Wick (2014; Chad Stahelski, David Leitch). So excellent. Discussed it here.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 8, “Wishful Thinking” (2008; Robert Singer). The moaning teddy bear blowing his “brains” out is one of the stupidest funniest things I have ever seen in my life.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 12, “About a Boy” (2015; Serge Ladouceur). So good. Watched it twice.

What’s Your Number? (2011; Mark Mylod). I’d watch Anna Faris in anything. I think she’s quite brilliant. And Chris Evans is totally appealing. It’s kind of funny to see a man have to play a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is what his character is. His character makes no sense. He is merely a female fantasy. They’re good together though: I wish it had been more about the two of them together, becoming friends, avoiding the reality of their growing attraction. The movie felt too much obligation to its Plot. The one scene where the two get drunk, play basketball, and jump in Boston Harbor, etc., was wonderful, my favorite section in the movie. Anna Faris is so talented. I love her.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 9, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (2008; Charles Beeson). Somehow, because of “Houses of the Holy” and the impending re-cap, I found myself unofficially giving Season 4 a re-watch.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 10, “Heaven and Hell” (2008; J. Miller Tobin). Killer episode.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 18, “The Monster at the End of This Book” (2009; Mike Rohl). Boy, Season 4 was good.

Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 19, “Jumping the Shark” (2009; Phil Sgriccia). The behavior in this episode, from all three brothers, is so rich that I almost pass out from too much sugar.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 13, “Halt and Catch Fire” (2015; John F. Showalter). Watched out in Los Angeles. I already can’t remember any of it.

Out in Los Angeles, I watched the first two episodes of Jinx. My brother was like, “You, of all people, have GOT to watch this!” It was a nice night in Santa Monica, after the filming of the movie. My nephew Cashel sat at the table behind us, Melody and Emmett were asleep upstairs, and Bren and I watched the two episodes. It is fascinating and I can understand why everyone has been telling me to check it out.

The Imitation Game (2014; Morten Tyldum). I finally saw this one and am absolutely floored that this was nominated for Best Picture. (Side note on the Oscars: I do not treat them like a sporting event, because I understand that no one CAN actually win. It’s ART.) But The Imitation Game is extremely conventional, and actually pretty shoddy in its construction. The flash-forwards were handled in a very banal way, and there were scenes when I was confused as to where I was in time. I’m baffled, in general, by the film’s accolades, unless it’s just for the soppy sentimentalized reason that Turing was gay and persecuted for it. Fine, he was gay and persecuted: make a better movie out of his story. One of the billboards for the movie said something like: “HONOR THE MAN. HONOR THE FILM.” So if I don’t like Imitation Game, it means somehow I’m dishonoring Turing’s memory, or anti-gay or something? Please. I have read a couple of fantastic books on those code-breakers who worked on cracking the Enigma. Fascinating bunch. You’d never know it from The Imitation Game. The Imitation Game does not help us understand what the hell Turing invented, and HOW it worked. It does not care to show us his brilliance and analytical skills. It is more interested in his schoolboy crush on another boy, and his Aspie-ish behavioral patterns. Ugh. So condescending. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch was fine, although he over-acted a bit, and I actually enjoyed Keira Knightley, despite the fact that I am not a fan (especially in period stuff – I thought her best performance was in Bend It Like Beckham). Mark Strong can do no wrong. HUGE crush on that guy.

Still Alice (2014; Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland). Pretty straightforward film, and also pretty conventional (faces blur out when the disease starts to take hold of her, yawn), but Julianne Moore is excellent. It’s all rather terrifying. And Kristen Stewart broke my heart a little bit. Her recitation of the monologue in Angels in America, and the WAY she did it? I felt like I was holding my breath the whole entire time. Go, Kristen Stewart. Have you read the great interview in Interview magazine? Patti Smith interviews Kristen Stewart. And my friend Dan told me: did you know that only ONE woman in their 50s has been awarded the Best Actress statue? That would be Shirley Booth for Come Back Little Sheba. The 50s is the blackout period for actresses, when nobody wants to see them, when parts dry up and disappear, so Julianne Moore’s win is significant in that way, small inroads being made all the time. And yes, she is excellent and heartbreaking. Thought Alec Baldwin was very good too.

Farewell to Hollywood (2015; Henry Corra, Regina Nicholson). A documentary I had to review for The Dissolve. I had to take a walk afterwards, saying to myself, “What the FUCK did I just watch.” I felt dirty. My review here.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 8, “Hibbing 911” (2014; Tim Andrew). “Jodeo!” “Jodeo?” So entertaining.

Floating Weeds (1959; Yasujiro Ozu). It was a snowy day. I was home from Los Angeles. I canceled a couple of things because it looked too nasty out there to drive. I curled up in my armchair and popped in Ozu’s Floating Weeds. It’s such an amazing film. Funny and calm and poignant and then enormously emotional. It’s also a wonderful story about acting and theatre-folk, one of the best. That final family scene is such a killer. How did Ozu do it? His films are not flashy, his camera does not move, and yet within the formal structure of his stories … huge emotion is possible. It’s also so funny. I always look forward to the dame sharpening the razor with the leather strop, staring at her customer with dead eyes. She’s terrifying and hilarious.

Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team (2001; Bernard Goldberg). I own this one. I watched it on February 22, of course, but I watch it all the time. Goosebumps.

It Follows (2014; David Robert Mitchell). This one hasn’t come out yet but the buzz has already been deafening from Sundance and other festivals. Sometimes buzz is annoying. I try to tune it out. I have been assigned to review this one for Ebert. It opens in a couple of weeks. I won’t give anything away, all I can say is: the buzz, this time, was well-deserved.

Letter to an Unknown Woman (1948; Max Ophüls). What to even say about this movie. One of the most disturbing portraits of unrequited love ever put onscreen. Joan Fontaine. Amazing. Louis Jourdan – who just died – is heartbreaking, fantastic. The whole movie puts you through the wringer. And absolutely stunning to look at too.

The Widowmaker (2015; Patrick Forbes). I reviewed this documentary about heart disease for Rogerebert.com. It’s very effective and I learned a lot.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012; Kathryn Bigelow). Excellent film. I own it. Mark Strong again. “This is real … tradecraft.” I am mainly confused as to why I wasn’t recruited into the CIA out of high school.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 14, “The Executioner’s Song” (2015; Phil Sgriccia). Superb.

Lucy (2014; Luc Besson). Had missed this one on its initial release. Boy, Scarlett Johansson appearing in Under the Skin and Lucy in the same year? She’s doing everything right. Lucy is a thriller with a sci-fi twist, and has Besson’s stamp of expertise: he knows how to make a thriller. He knows how to film car chases (bless his soul: I love a good car chase). I also love any movie that involves French policemen, one of my little quirks. And Johansson is excellent. I loved her performance.

My Winnipeg (2007; Guy Maddin). Out now on Criterion, My Winnipeg is both a documentary and a memoir. It’s fictionalized, it’s a fairy tale, it’s a mythology, a mythologizing of the city where Maddin grew up, still lives there, cannot escape. I saw it in the movie theatre upon its first release and was captivated by it. Watching it it’s like you are lulled into a dream-state. There really is no other movie like it. And Guy Maddin cast the great Ann Savage, who hadn’t made a movie in … 50 years or something like that … to play his mother. Very glad Criterion brought this one out – it was very hard to find otherwise.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014; Ned Benson). There are actually three films that go under the same title: “Them,” “Her,” and “Him”, each one telling the story from a different point of view, Rashomon style. I watched “Them,” and I really feel I need to see the others before I can make an assessment. The acting is very good. The story is extremely simple: a couple breaks up after a terrible event in their marriage. He starts to basically stalk her, unable to get over the ending of the relationship. She moves back home with her parents and tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. I didn’t care for the scenes with Viola Davis, but again, maybe there’s more to it in the other two films. Definitely well worth a watch.

Touching the Void (2003; Kevin Macdonald). Based on Joe Simpson’s book of the same name, Touching the Void is a haunting and unforgettable piece of film-making. The re-creations are superb. The story harrowing. I’ve seen it before, but had just been discussing it with my cousin Mike, so I popped it in again.

The Great Man’s Lady (1942; William A. Wellman). Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Brian Donlevy. I actually had never seen this one. It’s in my Barbara Stanwyck box-set and I have an eternal crush on Joel McCrea, and love Wellman’s films. It’s a heartbreaking film about a woman who basically sacrifices herself and her happiness so that her man can be successful and reach his dreams. This is touted as a valid course for a woman to take. That outrageous-ness aside, I found the whole thing to be a bit shattering. The film is full of misunderstandings. You wish these people would just TALK to each other. Brian Donlevy is wonderful as the gambler who befriends Hannah (Stanwyck), and loves her, and stands by her, even though she is married to another man. Another fantastic element of The Great Man’s Lady is the production design. My God! The film takes place in: Philadelphia, the Wild pioneering West, a fictional place called Hoyt City, San Francisco, Sacramento and Virginia City. Each location with its own feel, its own architecture. The level of detail in production design is awe-inspiring: you really feel like you are getting a tour of the development of America in the latter half of the 19th century. Stanwyck is great, of course. I love when she skins the rabbit with one quick slice of the knife.

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24 Responses to February 2015: Viewing Diary

  1. Helena says:

    I really enjoy these film watching recaps!

    An Ozu film is perfect for curling up on an afternoon when the weather is crap. Floating Weeds was the first Ozu film I ever watched. I had read a load of stuff about his films – Floating Weeds confounded every expectation. I remember thinking, 1) ‘Noone told me Ozu was funny. These people are hilarious.’ 2) Also ‘Noone told me there would be much sex in it.’ 3) It looked gorgeous 4) it was my first taste of that thing Ozu does, which is jumping right over the scenes you would expect see, focusing instead on the aftermath – the emotions. I became a lifelong fan.

    RE The Imitation Game – It’s kind of awful of me to criticise films I haven’t seen, and getting any film made is an achievement, but I think I’m just plain allergic to films like The Imitation Game. Look, I’ve watched The King’s Speech so have done my bit for Brit prestige cinema forever. They are so predictable in terms of script (terse, elliptic, stiff upper lipped – just blergh), use of location, camerawork, casting, the types of performance they elicit. I’m sure there were some really good things about the film – Keira Knightly’s cardigans, for instance. They looked divine. Otherwise, I. Can’t. Even.

    Very much looking forward to the Houses of the Holy recap – one of my favourite Season 2 episodes. Season 4 and 5 Supernatural and angels – cannot get enough. By the way, last week The Toast linked to this supercut of every time the angel of death appears in Touched by an Angel. (In the comments someone asks if the show was like Supernatural in reverse.) You’re welcome. I think.

    • sheila says:

      So nice to hear all the thoughts about Floating Weeds!!

      yes: these people are hilarious!

      // which is jumping right over the scenes you would expect see, focusing instead on the aftermath – the emotions. //

      I love that. I am still shocked, after all these years, at just HOW emotional that final family confrontation scene is. Ozu (and his actors) get there without pushing, without straining. It’s so NATURAL.

      Roger Ebert’s review of Floating Weeds was in one of the books of his reviews my parents had around the house. It is because of him that I rented it at age 17, 18. I mean, it’s still kind of amazing to me, looking back on it.

      It’s still a favorite.

      I kind of want to live in that little fishing village.

      And Imitation Game: oh dear. I know.

      Keira Knightley’s entire wardrobe is to die for. She’s lovely in it, and the scene where she shows up to “try out” for the code-breaking team is wonderful, and made my feminist heart flutter. But they missed SO many opportunities to show the work these people did – the collaboration – instead focusing on one or two “A HA SO THAT’S WHAT THE CODE IS” moments from Turing – in order to give us that swell of “OMG he’s a genius” music and Bah. So simplistic.

      Cumberbatch is fine. But the film. Ugh. Best picture? Really?

      • sheila says:

        speaking of Ebert, he does the commentary track on the Criterion release of Floating Weeds and it’s WONDERFUL.

  2. Machiko Kyo as Sumiko in Floating Weeds is perfect. What a performance! She starts exactly where she wants to be, blows it, and gets back. The cigarette lighting in the train station! (Among the many great cigarette acting scenes in the movie) The look on her face at the end when she’s all snug and back where she belongs. Well, I guess you can tell she ranks pretty high on my list of greats. From Kurosawa’s Rashomon to the ghost story Ugetsu to Floating Weeds. All brilliant. All different.

    • sheila says:

      Steve – you said it about her cigarette smoking behavior! YES. She is so so awesome and I agree that her journey is one of the most interesting journeys in the film. She takes some actions that may be seen as unforgivable (but if you think about it, it kind of works out in the end – if she hadn’t intervened, maybe those two young kids wouldn’t have found love? You know?) … but you always love her.

      And yes, to your listing of her other performances. I’m always happy when she shows up.

      Her body language in Floating Weeds, its over-it droop, is to die for.

  3. Maureen says:

    //I also love any movie that involves French policemen, one of my little quirks.//

    One of my movie crushes is Jean Reno…have you seen the movie The Crimson Rivers? I really enjoyed that, and it has two French policeman, Reno and the wonderful Vincent Cassel! There was a sequel with Benoit Magimel-another movie crush of mine ;)

    I haven’t seen The Imitation Game, and now I don’t think I want to. I am also interested the code-breakers, Enigma with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet, directed by Michael Apted-was really good.

    I love reading your Viewing Diary. I have never heard of Floating Weeds, I must see this movie ASAP!

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t seen The Crimson Rivers – thank you so much for the tip!

      Maybe it’s because I grew up with Pink Panther movies? I don’t know. But a serious detective working a case and speaking French makes me so happy – it’s one of the reasons why Claude Chabrol is one of my all-time faves, because his films are all about crime!

      I never saw Enigma – meant to – never got around to it – will definitely do so now! These people were just so amazing – people good at puzzles, housewives some of them, people who had never had a job – but just had that kind of code-breaking brain. The Imitation Game really simplified the work they all did, in order to prioritize Turing, and his “weird” behavior – so that he could then be RIGHT – and then be persecuted like a martyr for his sexuality. What happened to him was awful and it deserves a much better treatment.

      And you are in for such a treat with Floating Weeds!! Such a delightful movie, unforgettable characters.

  4. Cousin Mike says:

    “I am mainly confused as to why I wasn’t recruited into the CIA out of high school.”

    hahahahhahahahhahahahahahaahahahahahah. It might have had something to do with all that Diary keeping you were doing….

    Writing in a “Diary” might be the opposite of not leaving a trace, Sheila. In fact–a trace is just something small–whereas you write so much down getting it down to just a trace would be early impossible. But we are glad this is the case….

    • sheila says:

      hahahahahahahahaha

      // Writing in a “Diary” might be the opposite of not leaving a trace, Sheila. //

      hahahaha

      I know! But the Special Ops guys could have trained me out of that. I coulda been a contender, I’m sure of it!

  5. Maureen says:

    //But we are glad this is the case….//

    HA! The CIA’s loss is our gain!!

    To continue with the code-breaker fun, The Bletchley Circle is really good-about some women who were code-breakers, who put their talents to use after the war, fighting crime. I have only seen the first season, but I enjoyed it. Since you don’t have a TV, not sure if you have caught this.

    • sheila says:

      Maureen – I have been meaning to watch that! It caught my eye recently and I thought – Oooh, this looks really interesting!

  6. mutecypher says:

    The Kristen Stewart interview was excellent, almost as much for Patti Smith as Kristen. I liked the exchange where the two of them are talking about enjoying the down-and-dirty waiting aspects of touring and making movies:

    PS: You’re like Robert Duvall’s character in Apocalypse Now. “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.”

    KS: Yeah! Exactly.

    I’ve never experienced a desire to see “Twilight” before, it’s an odd sensation. I am looking forward to Clouds of Sils Maria coming out on DVD.

    • sheila says:

      Yes! I love, too, that Kristen Stewart is not dissing Twilight, or trying to put it behind her. It’s part of her. That is really really smart and I could not be more happy that she is getting the accolades she is getting – both for Clouds of Sils Maria (she won the freakin’ CESAR!) and Still Alice.

      and yes, Patti Smith.

      Any time I have to interview someone and get nervous – I should re-read that interview. Because she’s just talking. She is prepared, obviously, but she’s just sharing observations and that gets Kristen talking. It’s really great!

  7. Stevie says:

    I keep hoping for a piece on “Caged” – – xxx Stevie

  8. Anne says:

    The weird thing about The Imitation Game, to me, was how it was set up like a heterosexual love story between Turing and Keira Knightley’s character. I was wondering, even before I saw it, why Keira Knightley was doing all the press interviews and obviously had such a big role. Is the biography it’s based on set up like this? Was Joan’s role in his life really that important? Or can we just not get away from a standard Hollywood romantic lead model? I was genuinely puzzled.

    • sheila says:

      // Or can we just not get away from a standard Hollywood romantic lead model? //

      Yeah, that’s a really good point. She was clearly positioning herself for that Oscar nom – and that’s fine, she’s allowed to do that – but the nomination itself is also confusing to me. She’s fine. She does the part well. But … really? She’s also sort of sidelined into a “romantic’ interest – and we never see her working with the code-breakers. Like, what exactly was she hired to DO? Really disappointed that they didn’t flesh all that out, especially after that really cool scene where she “tries out” for the job.

      It seems they might have been going for “mad genius with supportive woman” thing – looping it in with A Beautiful Mind – but the irony is that John Nash was pretty much bisexual, as far as I can tell – and openly so – and his wife knew about it, and threw him out, and took him back, and didn’t speak to him for 20 years, or whatever, and finally decided to financially support him so that he could do his work in a safe environment. Not QUITE the love-heals-schizophrenia model that the film-makers were going for. (I really disliked that movie.)

      So yeah: maybe they beefed up the role when Keira signed on – giving her that awful “You’re a monster” speech, which came out of nowhere and felt like pandering to me. Even the woman he was friends with turned on the poor gay persecuted man. It felt totally unmotivated.

    • sheila says:

      I also (sorry) did not like the performance of the policeman who brought Turing in for investigation in the flash-forward scenes. I get what they were going for – that he was to be a figure of compassion, one of the only ones to look at this gay man and say, “what we are doing to him is wrong” – but he over-played it in my opinion (maybe directed that way?) – there were times when he looked at Turing in practically a ga-ga way, like, “OMG, you did all that during WWII? YOU’RE SO COOL AND SMART” and it all just felt so obvious and schmaltzy.

      Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I saw the movie.

  9. Anne says:

    It may have been especially confusing to me because I felt like I knew at least a little bit about Turing and had never heard of this Joan person. So it seemed shoehorned into some other kind of story. But then I was wondering if that’s just because I knew more about his work than his private life.

    The Theory of Everything seems like the ultimate in the woman-supporting-suffering-genius genre. But I haven’t seen it. I just thought it would be great if the slant was, I did all this crap for him and then he leaves me for his nurse? Somehow I imagine it isn’t, though.

    • sheila says:

      I mean, was Joan really necessary? I could see her being a smaller part, maybe a woman who had a crush on him – to also show that it wasn’t just boys doing the code-breaking. I don’t know much about his personal life – so the fact that you do, and had never heard of this Joan person makes me think the part was beefed up in order to attract someone like Keira, and here we are today.

      // I did all this crap for him and then he leaves me for his nurse? //

      totally!!

      I haven’t seen it either, but the golden-glowed romantic aspect of it seems a bit much to me, all things considered.

  10. Anne says:

    Yeah, I agree on the policeman.

  11. sheila says:

    This letter from Turing has always been so heartbreaking to me.

    http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/06/yours-in-distress-alan.html

    The “Yours in distress” in particular.

  12. Anne says:

    That is a terrible closing note. You’re right, he deserved a better movie!

    Didn’t mean to make it sound like I knew a tremendous amount about him, especially his private life, just have read a bunch about Enigma and things like his debates with Wittgenstein, &c.

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