Spetters (1980)

Paul Verhoeven directs Hans van Tongeren, Renée Soutendijk and Toon Agterberg in this teen drama about three motorcross bikers who are seduced by the same chip van worker.

A heady mixture of Breaking Away and Saturday Night Fever only with the tragedy and bawdiness of the latter amped up. Being a Verhoeven, this doesn’t play nice with sensibilities- if you are Christian, disabled, gay, carnivorous or a woman look away now. There’s bound to be something here that will shock you… yes, even you. Unlike his earlier, similar Turkish Delight though you do actually grow to like and care about these protagonists; especially poor, sexy Renée Soutendijk who has the looks, iron will and proclivities to escape her fast food truck life but not the luck. She keeps backing the wrong horse. The dirt biking sequences are exciting too, Verhoeven proving his action chops. Not for the easily offended but well worth a watch.

7

Advertisements

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013)

Hong Sang-soo directs Jung Eun-Chae, Lee Sun-Kyun and Yoo Jun-sang in this Korean romantic comedy about a young woman who wants to break up with the married teacher who she is having an affair with.

Haewoon likes drinking, daydreaming, dressing classically, drinking, dating academics and drinking. You certainly like her and Hong Sang-soo presents her with plenty of paths (romantic and otherwise) to look down in this crossraods moment of her life. His style has the weightlessness of mumblecore, the aura of Richard Linklater or Woody Allen. This first taste doesn’t really hit the spot as a work of genre, it doesn’t have much to say as a drama. It ambles along at it own insignificant pelt. Not for me really, I’ll give his highly praised and extensive back catalogue one more try but I don’t think I’ve discovered a new favourite director here. I’m more likely to seek out Jung Eun-Chae again as she holds the gaze even when the film switches to screensaver mode, as it often seems to.

5

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Marielle Heller directs Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant and Dolly Wells in the true story crime comedy about a struggling writer who forged antique letters for cash.

In the 70s this wouldn’t have been marketed as Oscar bait but as a mainstream comedy. Same as Green Book or even Three Billboards. Just because a film is sensitive in its portrayal, complex in its morality or realistic in its setting doesn’t change the fact the script is full of zingers and the cast deliver them with impeccable aplomb. What changed the landscape? Saturday Night Live? Blazing Saddles? When did every ‘comedy’ become a spoof or a detached from reality elongated sketch? When did we lose Billy Wilder’s sophisticated wit and embrace Rob Schneider’s barefaced tomfoolery? This blog proves I’m no snob… I love broad, gross out, colourful, zany star led flicks. But when did we give up on the more grown-up stuff. Now when these films are released (see anything from Lost in Translation to Joy), they are treated as serious prestigious dramas rather than a showcase for sophisticated humorous writing delivered with glee by committed stars. And look at the pleasure McCarthy and Grant take in having well developed, acid tongued parts. Their partners in crime double act is a seedy delight, both bringing their long forgotten A-Game and inviting us along for laugh filled ride. A cynical treat.

7

Side Effects (2013)

Steven Soderbergh directs Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones in this neo-noir yuppie in peril mystery where a prominent psychiatrist and a depressed young lady find themselves trapped in a web of deceit.

Two watches in and I still haven’t untangled the myriad of twists and sleight of hand in this superior thriller. Soderbergh lends the machinations and hidden in plain sight villiany a deadpan elegance. This is a beautiful film about beautiful people. Some are ethically desensitised, others are all out detached from morality. The plot takes glee in obstructing then uncovering and then punishing the abusers of this grey area. Special props to Rooney Mara who somehow manages to retain a convincing poker face through the anxiety driven breakdowns and heated seduction scenes. Jude Law is also well utilised as the mark, he fits snugly into roles where you have little sympathy for our shill but still have to follow his journey towards enlightenment intently. Great stuff.

8

My Top 10 Yuppies in Peril Movies 

1. Funny Games (1997)
2. The Fugitive (1993)
3. Strangers On a Train (1951)
4. Dead Calm (1990)

5. The Spanish Prisoner (1997)
6. The Player (1992)
7. After Hours (1985)
8. Audition (1999)
9. Ransom (1996)

10. Pacific Heights (1990)

The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1972)

Wim Wenders directs Arthur Brauss, Kai Fischer and Erika Pluhar in this drama about a sociopathic goalkeeper who goes off the rails and returns to his small hometown after a one night stand.

There is a shock at the end of the first act that I don’t want to spoil here but makes the rest of the movie difficult to talk about. It is a meandering non-story about an unlikable character, brutish in his interactions and pathetic in a lot of his conflicts. He watches movies at the cinema, drinks beer, tries to get his leg over, plays jukeboxes. In many ways it is pure Wenders territory but we view his everyday comings and goings through the filter of that one twist moment. The mundane idling becomes sinister and hyper truthful when attached to his earlier actions.

6

American Gigolo (1980)

Paul Schrader directs Richard Gere, Bill Duke and Lauren Hutton in this neo-noir where a high end sex worker finds himself tangled up in a murder and potential political conspiracy.

Surprisingly sexually fluid and unnervingly threatening. Schrader’s take on this elite world shares a lot of its DNA with Brett Easton Ellis’ writing; the air of impending violence, the spartan excess of the lifestyles and the hollowness of the interactions. The mystery thriller elements begin to clunk in the home stretch, it is not a narrative with a satisfying, graceful dismount. As a mood piece from a forgotten time and place this has aged better than it was received.

7

Green Book (2018)

Peter Farrelly directs Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini in this feelgood comedy about an Italian American bouncer and a black concert pianist who travel the Deep South on a concert tour together.

And the Winner is… A really enjoyable film. One with flawed yet loveable characters played by fine movie stars. One with witty dialogue and broad laugh out loud gags. One that explores race relations on a micro level and comes up with the not exactly distasteful theory that prejudice can be broken down by interaction, integration and respect. You cannot prescribe hate out of people’s hearts but you can overcome it by mutual cooperation. Share time and space and culture with each other that bullshit falls away, humanity wins. Of course, for a comedy film of simple values and an upbeat outlook to win Best Picture puts it under a political scrutiny it will struggle with. 48 hours later and this finely made, accessible movie is already a whipping boy. It isn’t the best film of the year, nor the even the best nominated Oscar whore, but it is a career high point for Farrelly, Ali and Cardinelli, classically composed and sharply fun. Not undeserving of its Oscar yet unfortunately it will now be included in the same list as Crash and A Beautiful Mind of Academy Award Aberrations. In all honesty, I think Moonlight fits more comfortably into that infamous subcategory.

8

Begin Again (2013)

John Carney directs Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Hailee Steinfeld in this romantic comedy about a shy singer songwriter and a washed-up music executive who spark while recording a demo on the streets of New York.

A warm, playful and mature urban fantasy. The music convinces as does the chemistry of the stars. It must be a good film as charisma-vacuums Adam Levine and James Corden don’t manage to cripple proceedings despite bafflingly prominent roles.

7

Turkish Delight (1973)

Paul Verhoeven directs Rutger Hauer, Monique van de Ven and Tonny Huurdeman in this satirical romance where an arsehole sculptor falls for a carefree middle class girl.

Love Story but with rape, horse eating, explicit sex, mastectomies, maggots and shitting. Verhoeven is satirising Dutch society but his gross out antics prove a little deadening. The cast is good when not taking their histrionics up to 11. Jan De Bont’s cinematography makes the passion and the degradation look very glowing. Side note – I had to order this on DVD from Korea to watch, which meant my copy had all the exposed genitalia blurred out. For a comedy I’m guessing the Korean blur inputter never expected to work quite so hard.

5

Rain Man (1988)

Barry Levinson directs Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman and Valeria Golino in this Oscar winning road movie about a yuppie car importer who discovers he has an institutionalised brother and heads across America with him to hold the familial inheritance hostage.

So slick it should slip right off the screen. So sentimental it should make hard hearts sneer their eyes shut. Yet everyone brings their A-game. Levinson takes swiping blows at the American Dream and fuses every scene with peril and humour. The stars compliment each other (and compete in each and every interaction). With its gorgeous view of the roadside landscape and attractive soundtrack, Rain Man’s only crime is it stretches itself by about 15 minutes of excess.

8