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What was the last film you watched?

Mel O'Drama

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Vive Le Sport (1969)





Another of Bob Kellet's wordless short films, this one made in '69 but released at the end of 1970.

It's telling that this was made hot on the heels of The Italian Job. Between the success of the film and the swathe of wins at Monte Carlo, The Mini Cooper S was at the height of its powers and the hottest film star of the year. No wonder the little Cooper S takes centre stage here.

Unlike the other Kellet short films, this one feels decidedly Continental/European as opposed to terribly British. The two stunning girls in mini skirts who take second and third place behind the little yellow Mini both look decidedly like the archetype that springs to mind when thinking of a Scandinavian woman (even though it has no bearing at all on the plot, somehow it feels so inevitably right when the two friends strip off to cool down with a swim, showing off their perfect physiques). And there's no mistaking the gorgeous scenery as they zoom across Europe.

There's a wonderful warmth to the look of the film: Think of one of those tantalising soft-focus, soft core 1970s compilation album covers of some woman in a sheer floral dress reclining in a field of wheat, breathing in pollen from a flower erotically while she bathes in the hazy light of the sinking sun which casts a halo around her. This film feels exactly like one of those come to life: nostalgic, whimsical, gorgeous, free, innocent and sensual all at the same time. And yet completely silly with it.

In addition, the film boasts a wonderfully evocative time capsule, with a cheerful flutey soundtrack that feels very much in touch with the Mini's Swinging Sixties Carnaby Street roots.

As someone who loves cars from the Sixties and Seventies, this film was a treat, being a showcase for pristine examples of the likes of Lancia and Peugeot in addition to the Cooper S.

The film makes perfect sense with hindsight: I've now read that the short was sponsored by Dunlop and shot to showcase their new tyres (Liane Engeman - the young woman driving the car- is actually a professional race car driver and it shows in the way she throws the little Mini round confidently in some very risky territory, all filmed with exciting subjectivity). However, even watching without knowing the film's origins, I simply found it a wonderfully jaunty and fun little outing in its own right. And with a running time of under half an hour, it would have been rude to not watch it.​
 

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Sigourney Weaver's all-too-brief cameo
That was a bit strange. I saw her name in the end credits and just had time to think "when did that happen?" and then she appeared. Not having memorised the first two films, I didn't even understand the point of it.
 

Angela Channing

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All Quiet On The Western Front (2022)



I was drawn to watching this film after reading it was nominated for a large number of BAFTAs this week and having seen it I can tell why. It's a epic telling of the story that is visually stunning and takes the viewer through a large range of emotions before it concludes in a poignant ending.

In 1917, a group of teenage friends enlist in the German army. They are enthusiastic to fight for their country but naive about what to expect. They very quickly find out that war is brutal, barbaric and in the case of some of them, lethal. The film doesn't shy away from the full horrors of war and it contrasts the tough conditions that the soldiers have to endure with the relative comfort their leaders are in while they discuss a possible ceasefire and later surrender. The soldiers as shown as having mothers, siblings, partners and children, ordinary people not as the spawn of the devil as Germans are sometime portrayed in First World War films. It is a German film though so it's interesting to see the story told from their perspective. The young actors playing the lead roles are outstanding and are incredibly moving in certain scenes. Felix Kammerer, who plays a soldier called Paul and is the main focus of the film, is quite brilliant and was able to say so much with just his face and no dialogue. I will follow his career with interest.

Overall, it's a superior war film that is well worth watching.
 
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Mel O'Drama

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The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death (2015)



While I haven't read the book or watched the original screen version, the 2012 adaption with Daniel Radcliffe took me by surprise with how effectively psychologically creepy it was... and with some scares that made me jump on repeat screenings. I think its "12" BBFC rating had lulled me into a false sense of security.

This loose sequel is pretty much more of the same, though without any huge "name" actors. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view. I think it possibly works in the film's favour.

First, the good news: the film looks wonderful. It feels nicely gothic and rich in atmosphere with long shadows and drab-but-warm hues. It really is beautifully shot and it looks expensive (I'd feared it may be a bit on the cheap side, being what appears to be an under-the-radar sequel).

What lets the film down is the casting and lack of attention to period detail in the writing. In both cases, this mainly boils down to expressions and speech patterns which are too contemporary for the 1940s setting, some of which - certainly by the standards of the time - would be viewed as either anachronistic or alien-sounding Americanisms.

My hackles rose three minutes into the film when a character announced "We're waiting on Edward Lee" (and no: she didn't mean they were serving him nibbles, nor that she was standing on his back to pass the time). The film was absolutely littered with these: ("Me too" instead of "So am I", etc.), but in addition to the "waiting on" example, the two most unforgivable were the lead actress saying "I'm gonna go see.." and several characters using phrases like "I'm so sorry." or "You are in so much trouble." as complete sentences, which would have been unheard of at the time and would have appeared to be an unfinished sentence. The young male lead even said "I am so, so sorry" and then just stopped without saying he was sorry about. (it would have been more suitable to say "I'm very sorry"; "I'm most terribly sorry", or something to that effect).

In terms of delivery, most of the cast seemed to be aiming for contemporary RP which just felt wrong (again, young male lead was the worst offender. He has "Millennial" written all over him and there's no concession at all on his part to the period setting). They spoke in fairly neutral accents rather than regional, but (as contemporary RP is wont to do) dropped "t"s from the ends of words, or used a mid-Atlantic "d" sound instead of a "t" so words like "right" and "getting" became "rye" and "gedding". Perfectly acceptable by 2015 standards (indeed, it seems to be the dominant form) but this would surely have sounded very strange back in the Forties.

As far as the film itself goes: I was expecting to be either scared or creeped out, but I wasn't. The jump scares felt too obvious and sledgehammer and the story was so thin that it was really only the beautiful cinematography and the broody, atmospheric scenes where nothing happened (of which there were many) that made it anything other than a complete waste of time.​
 

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Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
I'm not sure why this is getting the acclaim that it is.
Behind the martial arts and universe-jumping, it's really just a standard relationship drama.
Shaky marriage? Check. Mother and daughter who don't understand each other? Check. Grandfather with dementia? Check.
On the latter, I was glad to see James Hong still going strong. I remember him from the 70s playing villains in TV shows like Wonder Woman. Wikipedia says he started long before that.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Gosford Park (2001)



The way in which I watched this film had several advantages.

Firstly, I went in with absolutely no knowledge of the film. I'd heard of it, and the title and snippets of information such as the poster and thumbnail gave off a Christie-esque period drawing room vibe which appealed. Beyond that - nothing.

I didn't know which actors would be appearing in the film. Not one. As the credits appeared on screen with one big name after another I found myself suitably impressed.

Helpfully I also knew nothing of the plot, and this worked out for the best since it feels very much a film about character rather than plot. I'm not even sure I'd be able to summarise the film's plot for the first two thirds. In many ways, very little happens, but it's just about spending time with the characters and working out how the pieces all fit together: the hierarchy; the relationships; the enmities; the sexual dalliances; the ulterior motives. Because this is a social occasion we have to delve deep to begin to understand whether a character is being polite or genuine in their interaction.

Fresh from watching every episode of Upstairs Downstairs, the similarities between that series and this film were striking. I feel I had a head start with understanding the expectations regarding propriety and etiquette. In particular, this film felt uncannily like the Somerby Park episodes of UpDown in which members of "our" household visited another and the servants had to try and fit in with one another's routines while those above stairs smiled through pained social exchanges and barbed exchanges from those who felt superior while bearing the expected drudgery of pheasant shoots with as much grace as they can muster.

There's nothing that can convince me that this wasn't at least partly inspired by UpDown. And since Downton Abbey was essentially a series version of Gosford Park, it reinforces my understanding that Downton was also inspired from UpDown. Perhaps this is widely known or acknowledged, but since I've never watched Downton and until a few months ago I also hadn't seen UpDown or Gosford Park, that's just the view from my bubble. Incidentally, I only found out that Downton was originally planned as a spin-off from Gosford Park last night, after watching the film. Again, I'm glad about this since that knowledge would have coloured how I viewed the film and I was glad to have a starting point of complete neutrality.

Incidentally, I also felt there was something of early Knots to the film with some of the tentative relationships and various strained relationships. In particular, the abusive husband (I think I was Freddie Nesbitt) bullying his downtrodden wife into trying to obtain him a loan from her father had strong echoes of Richard Avery.

Meanwhile, the Dynasty viewer in me was satisfied by the opulence and glamour. Kristin Scott Thomas was such a wonderful ice queen. And I thought she looked rather like Lorraine Gary circa Jaws which is no bad thing (this could easily have been the unsatisfied socialite version of Ellen Brody who cuckolds her husband with Hooper in the Jaws novel). And of course there was the series of acid drops from Maggie Smith's character to keep people in their place. I thought it interesting, too, that Ivor Novello was included. This made me think perhaps it was based on a true incident but text at the film's end suggested otherwise.

I watched Gosford as a Sunday Matinee. A rarity in itself, but I also watched it in bed, which is something I almost never do and so felt appropriately indulgent. In hindsight, I can't imagine watching the film any other way. I tend to watch films quite critically and attentively (a little too much so, I think. I wish I could switch it off), but with Gosford I was in a very relaxed state and allowed it to just wash over me. I didn't realise how invested I was in the whole thing until there was a brief interruption halfway through when some groceries were delivered and it took a couple of knocks on the door to even get my attention.

The film wasn't without its little flaws. There were a few turns of phrase that bristled for feeling a little too contemporary. And while most of the casting was spot-on, I found Stephen Fry's arrival a little jarring due to his mugging and hamming. Quirky characters are fine, but they shouldn't know they're quirky, and I found all the raised eyebrows and sing-song delivery too knowing, threatening to break the fourth wall. Fortunately, his role was peripheral enough (and late enough in the film) that it was easy to tune out (I know he's a National Treasure and all that, but the film was already awash with those anyway so this was just one too many).

It's a bit of a strange one, this. I loved it, but it's difficult to explain its appeal beyond the fact that it's a fascinating sociological character study. Perhaps it's one of those films that speaks for itself. Or perhaps it's so fascinating and layered it could have a whole thread devoted to it. Whichever it is, I'd say best thing about this film is simply that it is.


 

TaranofPrydain

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Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
I'm not sure why this is getting the acclaim that it is.
Behind the martial arts and universe-jumping, it's really just a standard relationship drama.
Shaky marriage? Check. Mother and daughter who don't understand each other? Check. Grandfather with dementia? Check.
On the latter, I was glad to see James Hong still going strong. I remember him from the 70s playing villains in TV shows like Wonder Woman. Wikipedia says he started long before that.
I saw it several months ago. I do feel that the performances from Michelle Yeoh and Ke huy Quan were much better than the actual film deserved. The rest was pretty bad. Brutally assaultive visuals (it could be ADHD: The movie) and an astoundingly thin story stretched to 138 agonizing minutes.
 
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