I Watched That 003

Despite all my best intentions of writing a few more My Thoughts On… posts for the films I’ve watched recently, I’ve been lax again, and I kind of just want to get thing tidied up so I can start afresh. That’s the plan, at least, but I know myself well enough to know that I will probably find myself saying exactly the same thing in a couple of weeks!


Inside Llewyn Davis


I really wanted to write a full post about this, but I didn’t do it promptly enough, and now I find myself with less to say than I would like, so I have to fold it into an I Watched That post. I really, really liked Inside Llewyn Davis, and I knew I would from the moment I heard Mark and Simon talking about it on Wittertainment (even if they weren’t sure about it). I’m not some huge fan of the Coen Brothers; I’ve seen very little of their work, to be honest. I think this is possibly why I enjoyed it so much, after all, without a working knowledge of their back catalogue, the burden of expectation was very much removed when I watched it, and I was able to just enjoy it for what it was. I always find it slightly odd to watch a film where you aren’t encouraged to like the main character at all, and that is very much the case here. In fact, there aren’t many likable characters at all, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film, and I absolutely loved the music.

 
Now You See Me

I watched Now You See Me one night at my friend Anna’s house, and we honestly spent about half an hour browsing through Netflix and Amazon trying to find something to watch. I have to take the blame somewhat, because I vetoed an awful lot of choices (I have to be in just the right mood for the majority of films), but we settled on this one, and I enjoyed it, to a degree. Afterwards, I said that I thought that it wasn’t as good as the sum of its parts. It was all very flashy and exciting, and I love watching magic being done on a grand scale, but when it came to it, I didn’t feel completely satisfied by the ending. It has a great cast; I’m a fan of Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher, as well as an actor I love called Michael Kelly. But I wouldn’t necessarily rush to watch it again.


Zodiac

I went through a bit of a Mark Ruffalo phase here, obviously! I have been meaning to watch Zodiac for years, and finally got around to it last month. I did enjoy it, and it has another cast full of actors I like a lot (Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr), but I thought it was too long, and for me, it got a bit boring in places. I was really interested in the case, which I didn’t know an awful lot about, and it has led me to do some more reading on it, but again, I don’t know if I would feel the need to watch it again.

Good Morning Vietnam

I guess it’s perfectly obvious why I watched Good Morning Vietnam when I did. When he died, I realised that I had only seen ten Robin Williams films, and while I love the ones I have seen, they are not the ones that are considered his best. How Good Morning Vietnam passed me by for so long, I don’t know, but when I found it on Netflix, I decided to start putting things right, and watched it. I actually wasn’t sure if I was going to love it, because i have a shaky relationship with films labelled ‘comedy’, but I really liked it, and of course, that was all down to the main man. It was great to watch him at work, riffing and improvising his way through almost the whole film, and it did make me laugh a lot. The famous scene where he provides an impromptu stand-up routine for the soldiers heading out is wonderful; hilarious and poignant. And it was great to see Forrest Whittaker in a comedic role, because I’m so used to seeing him being dour and serious.

MASH

I watched MASH because I’ve always had an idea that I would like the television series, and I figured that the film wouldn’t be that different. Well either I’m wrong about how much I would like the television series, or the film and series are different, because I really didn’t like the film. It’s on the AFI list that I’m trying to make my way through, so watching it was not a total loss, as I get a tick on that list. But I didn’t enjoy it. It didn’t make me laugh, and while I understand that it’s a satire rather than an out and out comedy, I didn’t like any of the characters. I know that I’m not supposed to like them, that the film is making a comment on society, but I found it hard to spend that amount of time in their company. I’m sure that I’m probably missing something, as it’s considered a great, but I don’t think satirical black comedy is for me, somehow.

This roundup takes me to within four films of being up to date, and in an ideal world, I’d write separate posts about all of them, because I feel I have a lot to say about them. But we’ll see; don’t hold me to anything!

My Thoughts On… Frances Ha

Just a reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to Why Should I See This Film? which is spoiler-free!

Synopsis

A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possibility dwindles. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • Before I even watched this, I knew that I would like it. It’s just my sort of film, which is not very helpful in terms of explaining what I like about it. It’s probably something to do with it being an independent film, which is not to say that I am one of those people who eschews studio blockbusters, because I love them as much as the next person. But there’s usually something a lot more charming and real about an independent film, and I can usually find that to love about them, even if I don’t like the story or the direction or the characters.
  • It feels totally and utterly real. It’s somewhere between a mumblecore film and an improvised film; sometimes I can’t quite get on board with an improvised film, because they almost feel more contrived than a scripted story (that’s probably just me; it’s something to do with the way they choose to deliver the lines), but Frances Ha feels real despite the script. Some of the dialogue at the start felt a bit too quirky, but as the film went on, I became completely and utterly immersed in the lives of these characters.
  • Frances Ha is one of those films where not an awful lot happens. It’s a series of vignettes, and it’s much more about the characters, and an exploration of themes, than about a strong plot. Frances is 27, and although technically she is an adult, she doesn’t seem to have transitioned particularly from the kind of grown up you are when you are at university, or when you take your first tentative steps into the big wide world. Given the choice, she’d stay cocooned in her own little world with her best friend. They are the same person with different hair, and this suits Frances fine, but Sophie wants to grow up and move on. I totally sympathised with Frances; even at 31 I still feel stuck between two worlds, and it often feels as though everyone else has moved on and grown up, and I’m left here wondering what happened. Sophie’s leaving propels Frances’ life in a direction that she isn’t keen on and doesn’t really want, and the film follows her as she struggles to get her life on track and grow up properly. This is a coming of age movie, despite the fact the main character is not a teenager, she’s a young woman.
  • Greta Gerwig was perfect as Frances. It probably helps that she co-wrote the film, but she brings so much to the screen. She’s funny and poignant at the same time; I laughed a lot at her running through the streets and falling over, but I felt desperately sad for her at times. She’s tall and almost awkward at times, yet she’s also incredibly graceful. I loved her.
  • I loved the end, with the nod to the title of the film. I thought it worked perfectly.
  • It’s 86 minutes long. I think I’ve made my feelings on the length of films clear; if it’s under 90 minutes, I’m much more likely to watch it. Films don’t need to be over two hours long.

What I Didn’t Like

  • As I mentioned above, there is a slight inclination for things to get a bit kooky. A little bit of kookiness goes a long, long way, and luckily I think they just about get the balance right here, but if you easily irritated by that kind of thing, I can understand why you might rail against this film.

Why Should You See This Film?

If you have a Netflix subscription, and a spare 86 minutes, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s a beautifully shot film, and it has a really well written character at its heart, performed with aplomb by Greta Gerwig. There’s not a huge amount of plot, but it explores the idea of growing up and really taking on adult responsibilities when you hit that age where it becomes inevitable and necessary. It’s a lovely little film, and definitely deserving of all the praise it received on its initial release.

My Thoughts On… The Bay

Just a reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to Why Should I See This Film? which is spoiler-free!

Synopsis

Chaos breaks out in a small Maryland town after an ecological disaster occurs. (via IMDb)

What I Liked 

  • I watched The Bay on the recommendation of one Dr Kermode (not a personal recommendation, you understand. He reviewed it on Wittertainment), because I’ve been on the lookout for a decent horror film for a while. I’m not sure that this really counts as a horror; although it did make me jump a couple of times, it wasn’t out and out scary. It’s probably somewhere between a thriller and a horror, but it’s genuinely really good, and I’m glad I listened to Dr K (he tends to know what he’s talking about).
  • I watched The Bay in the same weekend as having watched The Blair Witch Project, and they are both ‘found footage’ films. I haven’t seen an awful lot of this type of film, but as I mentioned in my post on The Blair Witch Project, I often find myself thinking “Why are they still filming this?” I think The Bay gets away with it because it’s a collection of found footage, rather than just one person’s footage. There are mobile phone videos, police car dashboard videos, webcam videos, and it all comes together to make a film that doesn’t feel contrived at all. The story of the film is that the footage has been suppressed, and it is only now coming to light, through a journalist who was experiencing the events as they happened. This is definitely a good way to construct a found footage film, because there was rarely any point at which I wondered why the characters would still be filming.
  • As I mentioned, the film really, really made me jump on two separate occasions. I wish I’d seen this film at the cinema, as I think these two moments would have been even more effective. It’s also pretty gruesome; the boils and sores that start popping up on people’s bodies are truly disgusting.
  • This is a quiet, slow film. It really takes its time, and builds up to its climax really well. People who need their thrills and scares to be more obvious (“quiet, quiet, quiet, bang!”) will probably lose patience with The Bay (and that’s possibly why it has such a low rating on IMDb), but I really appreciated this about it.
  • I think the scariest thing about the film is that it feels as though it could really happen. Ultimately it’s a disaster brought on by irresponsible behaviour by local bureaucracy, and it causes death and destruction, and then there is a cover up. It’s a film with a message, which is unusual for a low budget horror film!

What I Didn’t Like

  • There’s nothing I didn’t like; I loved The Bay!

Why Should I See This Film?

The Bay is a really nice little film; it’s actually scary in places, which is more than I’ve found with some horror films that I have watched recently. I really like that it’s a slow and patient film – it doesn’t try too hard, so in those moments where it actually made me jump, it felt as though it had worked for it! It’s a bit gruesome in some places, but never gratuitously so, and it’s a film with an environmental message. It’s definitely, definitely worth a watch!

 

My Thoughts On… Jaws

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, please skip down to the section titled Why Should You See This Film? where you will find no spoilers!

Synopsis

When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it. (via IMDb)

What I LIked

  • I’ve been wanting to watch Jaws since forever. When I was little, it felt as though it was on every Saturday night, but I wasn’t allowed to watch it. My mum obviously thought it was too scary for a child, and so I grew up thinking it was terrifying. When I got to be a teenager, I was a bit of a wimp, so I assumed that it would be too scary for me to even try to watch. Then, a few years ago, I decided it was time I watched it, and when I heard it was being re-released in cinemas, I thought it was the perfect opportunity, only to find it was a very limited re-release. Then I saw it on DVD for a fiver, and fully intended to buy it, only to not actually do so. It feels as though the universe has been conspiring to ensure that I never see it for years, so when I stayed at my friends and she asked what films we should watch, I suggested Jaws, never expecting that it would actually happen. And then it did. Given all of what went before, I was a little worried that I had built it up to a point where it could only fail to live up to my expectations, but I loved it. Totally and utterly loved it.
  • I really liked Roy Scheider as Brody. Not only does he manage to look totally hot in shorts and a shirt (not a reaction I expected to have to Roy Scheider, if I’m honest), he’s the perfect average Joe, the everyman who finds himself in a horrific situation, and manages to rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done.
  • Richard Dreyfus is similarly well cast (if not as attractive to me as Roy Scheider is), as the nerdy, arrogant marine expert Matt Hooper. I particularly liked the way the friendship between Hooper and Brody develops, and I’m really glad that the decision was made not to include the infidelity storyline from the book, where Hooper sleeps with Brody’s wife. (Did you know that Jaws is really about infidelity, and not about a shark?)
  • There was a specific moment when it became perfectly clear why my mum wouldn’t let me watch Jaws as a child; it will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen it what that moment is. When Ben Gardner’s head pops up underwater to greet Hooper as he is investigating the scene, I jumped out of my skin. Truly terrifying, and if I’d seen it as a child, I probably would have been traumatised. It’s one of many examples of great editing throughout the film; the head pops up at exactly the right moment, because although you know it’s coming, you aren’t given enough time to ready yourself before it does.
  • Obviously I spent the entire film waiting for the quote: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” I thought I knew when it was going to come, but I was wrong! I love Brody’s reaction to the shark, because he doesn’t pretend to play it cool at all. The first time he says it, he’s shocked into near silence, but then he says it again: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat, right?” and then again! “Yeah, but we can radio in and get a bigger boat…” It really made me laugh. The Orca really is spectacularly small and not suitable at all for its purpose.
  • The structure of the film works so well. There are many arguments as to whether or not Jaws has three acts or four, and as someone who has only watched it once, it’s not an argument that I want to wade into. Whether there are three or four, it works perfectly for me. The actual fight between the men and the shark (Bruce, not Jaws) plays out in almost real time, and it just ramped up the tension.
  • OK, so it’s obvious, but without the music, Jaws just wouldn’t be as successful as it is. It’s so simple, and yet so effective!
  • “That’s some bad hat, Harry.” I didn’t know that this was a quote from Jaws, so it was a nice surprise when Brody said it!

What I Didn’t Like

  • I wasn’t fond of Quint. I understand that he’s supposed to be the Ahab character, but he wasn’t my favourite. I enjoyed the scene where he and Hooper were comparing battle wounds, but generally, I wasn’t sad to see him meet a grisly end! I also had major problems with Robert Shaw’s accent at times. It just veered off all over the place!
  • The worst part of the entire film was Quint dragging his nails down the blackboard. I couldn’t quite get my fingers in my ears quickly enough, and even just sitting here typing it is giving me weird shivers. Sometimes when I am laying in bed and just about to fall asleep, I remember it, and it’s not a nice experience.

Why Should You See This Film?

Again, this is another film that I am the last person in the world to watch. I had seen bits of Jaws 2 and Jaws 3, to my shame, but never the original. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a reason why it’s considered a classic. It’s a very, very good film, with genuine scares and huge amounts of brilliant tension. It has a famous score, a famous quote, and a famous shark. It’s amazing, and I want to watch it again already.