Tag Archives: movie

It’s a Nice Idea, But…


Have you ever the blurb on the back of a movie or book and were immediately intrigued by the plot line, you get it home, eager to see how it will pan out, only to be disappointed at the unfulfilled potential concept. This happened recently with Will Self’s Book of Dave. I forget how I first heard of it, but I had it in the back of my mind to read for a while. The plot is basically about a disenchanted cab driver who writes an angry tirade on life, only to have it dug up years later, after an apocalypse, and taken as a religious text. I thought it was a fairly original idea and an interesting commentary on religion, but was mildly disappointed once I started reading it by a sub par plot line, a few obvious ‘aha’ moments and a not entirely convincing dialogue style. Sometimes an ‘interesting’ idea is harder to play out than to come up with. It’s easier to be carried by the idea and pay less attention to the details, essentially the need to make it believable and relatable to the audience, or to over compensate by the unlikely circumstances, bogging the story down in semantics, further distancing the reader.
Another example that springs to mind is Waterworld, showing how a creative idea was ruined by lazy writers resorting to cliche driven dialogue, and subtexting the plot with typical Hollywood scenarios. Or the science fiction genre, which is full of fascinating ideas, but is probably held back by its more limited appeal, and has only been beautifully orchestrated a handful of times, it usually appears in a camp, b-movie sort of style.

On the other hand, stories that appear rather dull can actually be surprisingly good, such as
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Waiting for Godot, Rememberance of Things Past, if you were to read the plot lines of these pieces they’re less than intriguing, a women waiting at a train station and recalling her past affair, two men waiting for the appearance of an equivocal character, a man reliving, in painful detail, his childhood memories, but the subdued subject matter allows more freedom for the author to fully explore all the facets of their focus. Same with film, such as Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Lost in Translation, Jim Jarmush’s and Walt Stillman’s work. These films have very little action, the focus mainly being the dialogue. Again the creators are able to fully realize the characters, and create a realistic representation of life, which rarely involves much action, and where seemingly slight occurances bear significant repercussions. Both subdued plots and extreme plots come with their own challenges, maybe the trick is to approach far out storylines as banal material and common place plots as the most compelling thing to ever happen.

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Julia’s Picks… Cult/Indie/Underground/Foreign Films

I always wanted to have a section at the movie store, my pick’s, now, that movie stores no longer exist, it doesn’t look like this is going to happen, I have a feeling they wouldn’t be too popular anyways. Unless you’re already a fan of underground films, in which case I’m sure you’re already familiar with some of these films, I’d like to share a few of my favourites (and if you’d like to share some of yours I’d appreciate it).

Naked (1993)


If you like the subtle, dark, slightly disturbing humour and watching a wandering nihilistic intellectuals wondering why they shouldn’t hate the miserable world they life, then you may find some solace in Naked. With a similar feel to Withnail and I, Naked chronicles Johnny who get’s off on raping girls, dark I know, and meets up with his ex-girlfriend, and tries to either get back at her or back with her, by sleeping with her witless roommate, then wanders the streets of London encountering various characters and trying to get some sort of answer for existence from them.

Man Bites Dog (1992)

A Belgium underground classic, done in a mockumentry style, a small film crew follow an eloquent serial killer and are unwittingly sucked into being accomplices. The film shows how an extremely dark side to human nature can be portrayed in a somehow light fashion, and how easy it is to get led along, like the film crew.

La Haine (1995)

A social commentary of tragic circumstances that’s beautifully orchestrated, along to an awesome French hip hop soundtrack and stunning cinematography . Documenting a spoilt innocence, young kids who grow up in the projects of Paris, who are pushed to extreme action from the hateful environment they are surrounded by.

Gomorrah (2008)


Cammora is a criminal organization in Naples, Italy, it is one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy (according to Wikipedia). This film gives a glimpse into the lives of people either directly affiliated or living in the neighbourhoods where Cammora reigns. It shows an environment that it is impossible to escape from, where the only option is to join forces and hope you’ve picked the right side.

Slacker (1990)

One of, the indie star, Richard Linklater’s earlier film’s, before Dazed and Confuse, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset. Do you ever have those days when you’re walking around town and bump into a real character, perhaps they’re want to tell you a story, about something crazy that happened to them, they’re trying to let you in on some secret knowledge they’ve obtained, they’re trying to sell you something that will change your life, and in your mind you’re thinking, how do I get away from this weirdo, but at the same time, you’re compelled, curious about what they have to say, this movie is like a compilation of those run ins.

Harold and Maude (1971)

A young man attempting suicide to get attention, falling in love with an old woman,who shows him the value of life, with a soundtrack by Cat Stevens, the perfect romantic film. This is my favourite movie, it lead to a Cat Stevens obsession, I now own all his records, made me want to buy a hearse and probably inspired my love of black comedies, I even had a little thing for Bud Cort. It’s a perfect combination of tragedy and hope, macabre and upbeat optomism, young and old, life and death, ect.

Soy Cuba (1964)

Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba)

A mesmerizing film, artistically done, portrays the life in Cuba leading up to the revolution and the dire circumstances the citizens live in. After showing the desperation of the Cubans  it ends on a hopeful note, leading into the Cuban Revolution, although we all know how that turned out, having recently visited Cuba, I must say, outwardly at least, conditions haven’t improved much.

Allegro Non Troppo (1976)

An Italian answer to Fantasia, and without the constraints of Disney, it’s probably one of those, ‘better when you’re stoned’ type films, but I believe it still has merit. Musically guided animation is broken up by scenes of the orchestra that is a satire of the social classes in Italy at the time.

Conspirators of Pleasure (1996)

I first heard of Jan Svankmajer while in Prague, from a young man with a shirt full of holes and alcohol stains, gesticulating wildly trying to portray the experimental theatre he took part in, I will admit I felt slightly sorry for him, but when he had cleared the dance floor with his flailing limp moves, I had to return to the safety of my friends. Even though Svankmajer is from the Czech Republic and is one of the more well known local film makers, I think this was an apt person to recommend him to me. While rummaging through the pirated dvd’s in China I happened upon this film, I was collecting a lot of criterion collection type films since most of the selection there is either blockbuster trollop or utterly obscure, only later did I make the connection of what I’d picked up. This is not one of my favourite films by far, but I thought it was worth mentioning, considering it’s a feature length film with no dialogue, a mix of stories and odd characters, describing their weird fetishes, including one that gets off on fishes mouths, it still managed to keep me entertained, if only out of wonderment at what exactly I was witnessing. Svankmajer is a pioneer of stop animation, and you can see how he influenced others in this genre, including Terry Gilliam. As I walked away from my new friend in Pargue, shaking my head, I somehow couldn’t manage to pull my eyes away, it kinda sums up the Czech Republic and what it produces, weird and quirky, but fascinating.

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The Girl You’re Sorry to Feel Sorry For

Greta Gerwig, the name doesn’t roll off the tongue, nor would you probably recognize her, she’s one of those Hollywood ‘normal girls’ that you’re almost convinced by, she’s a lot easier to sympathize with when she doesn’t get the guy as opposed to say Kate Hudson. Recently seen in Damsels in Distress, Whit Stillman’s new film. Although the film left me slightly befuddled, it wasn’t without it’s merits. It’s apparent that Stillman is no longer in his element, trying to conceptualize the youth subculture, whereas  The Last Days of Disco and Metropolitan were both based on personal experiences, this film feels detached, as if he’s trying to place his past perceptions in a new environment. Damsels in Distress is placed in that non-specific time period, bordering on reality, but with a ridiculousness, satirizing different social groups, and a witty dialogue, typical of Stillman, that creates an idealized, but removed society. I’ll try not to analyze the movie, because, well, I wouldn’t really know where to begin,  but Gerwig (his Chloe Sevigny replacement) plays a strong but hopelessly flawed character, baring some semblance to the character she played in Greenberg, you empathize with her character but simultaneously feel frustration, why doesn’t she stand up for herself? doesn’t she realize she could do better? Perhaps because it’s too easy to relate to her weaknesses, she’s too human, and that’s not something we’re used to seeing when we go to a film, that it makes us feel slightly uncomfortable. Isn’t art supposed to be reflection of life, instead we’re fed films that fulfill our deepest desires, showing us life through rose-coloured glasses; shit happens, but don’t worry, you’ll end up finding an even better guy, you’ll get that promotion, and all the bad people in your life will get their punishment, we never tire of our fairy tales. But when film starts to point out our own social anxieties, and uncertainties of life, we don’t like what we see, we don’t want someone to hold up a mirror to our lives, but a picture of that super model we are trying desperately to be. Sure Gerwig’s had her duds, but I’m hopeful, I welcome the new alternative girl.

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