Weekly “I’ve been”.. April 4th – 10th

4th to 10th of April I’ve been..

Reading: Wuthering Heights

  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë. I’m about halfway through this novel right now, and quite liking it so far. It’s about horrible, HORRIBLE people, as I’m sure most of you know (I’m really late to the party when it comes to this classic), but it’s well written and interesting so I can handle the unsympathetic main characters. For now at least.
  • I haven’t made much progress when it comes to Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science, which I’ve been reading for a long time now, but have to admit I haven’t picked it up the last week. I really like it and find most of the topics so interesting, but I just need a break between every theme I read about. Will try to get into it again this week though!

Watching:

  • Season 2 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s great to have a TV-series in the 20-35 minute span that you can always put on, and I’ve just started watching Curb recently, and I’m loving it, although I’m usually cringing throughout the whole episode.
  • A film I watched last week that I really want to highlight is Das Boot (1981), which I thought was an amazing war movie, and although we watched the Director’s Cut which is a whooping 209 minutes long, I was never bored. Such a good film, brilliant acting and masterfully shot.Das Boot
  • We also rewatched Amadeus (1984), which both Tommy and I have seen before, but it was almost like watching it for the first time, as we were both quite young the first time and remembering very little. It was a great watch, and a must-see film for anyone interested in music. And Tom Hulce’s laugh is wonderful.

Listening to:

  • Christoper Tin – Baba Yetu. My choir is practicing this for our spring concert, and it’s soooo cool. I need to listen to it a lot to get a feel for the rhythm and how to pronunciation the text properly though, as I’ve never heard it before we started singing it (Yup, I’ve never played Civilization IV).

Doing:

  • Quite a lot of revising. Starting next week I have two take-home finals, before my month of interning at a library, so I’m going through all of this semester’s lectures and reading through the curriculum list.
  • Karaoke! Yaaay! After choir practice last Thursday a small bunch of us went to this amazing bar in Oslo called Syng, where you can rent your own karaoke room. With about 15.000 songs to choose from, we had such a good time, and will probably go again very soon.

Here’s to another good week. I’ll continue reading Wuthering Heights, but probably won’t have the time for any new books with my exams lurking just around the corner. This Saturday is also our choir’s practice day, where we use the whole day to go through our repertoire, before a well deserved party at the end. Before that I’ll just have to study hard 😉

Preparing for the Oscars: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max, Room and Spotlight

The Oscars are quickly approaching, and I’m trying go watch as many nominated films as possible before the ceremony, especially those nominated for Best Picture. I’ve managed to see quite a few so far, but it’s difficult to get to all of them before the 28th as several of the films aren’t released in Norway until March, and I really want to see them in the best quality possible. So far when it comes to the Best Picture nominees I’ve seen:

Bridge of Spies – Watched January 23rd
Mad Max: Fury Road – Watched January 17th
The Martian – Watched November 6th 2015
The Revenant – Watched January 24th – Review here
Room – Watched February 1st
Spotlight – Watched February 5th

Click on the title of the film to read more about them on IMDB, as I will not go into much detail about the premises or plot of the films!

I’m only missing Brooklyn and The Big Short, which I’ll hopefully get to see soon! I thought I’d just share a few thoughts about the latest films I’ve seen which I haven’t already written about.

Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Horrible poster aside, I liked this film much more than I thought I would. It looks very standard Spielberg: family friendly, good side and bad side without nuances, polished.. and in a lot of ways it does present itself with a lot of that classic formula, but it’s still a good film with very solid acting. There’s also a lot of well written dialogue, which I always appreciate. Tom Hanks does a fine job as usual, but the film’s strongest point by far is the subtle yet brilliant Mark Rylance, who is a strong contender for best actor in a supporting role.

Very well deserved nominations for best supporting actor and best original screenplay, and quite justified that it doesn’t have any directing or editing nominations, as it didn’t really stand out in those departments. Not a strong contender for best picture in my opinion though. Still, a film worth watching.

Mad MaxMad Max: Fury Road – George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

With it being nominated in 10 Oscar categories, I was quite intrigued before watching Mad Max, it doesn’t appear to be my type of film at all, but I ended up enjoying it quite a lot. Still, 10 nominations is a slight overkill in my book, but it’s interesting seeing the Academy paying more attention to different types of films and genres, it’s quite rare seeing a full on action movie receiving so much Oscar-buzz. Anyway, Mad Max: Fury Road is a breath of fresh air in it’s genre, keeping in balance, combining old cliches and finding its own path as it goes along. It’s also a great film visually, both in terms of camerawork, editing and effects, and deserves a lot of recognition there. All in all a very good movie, but not quite best picture for me.

Poster for "The Room" (2015)Room – Lenny Abrahamson
Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

A beautiful film in my opinion, about a emotional traumatizing case, yet it doesn’t become “emotional porn” to put it in those terms. It’s not without flaws, the pacing of the film could perhaps be a bit different, but the acting is so strong, and the story it self very well written. It’s interesting to follow a story that takes us beyond the happy ending, and explores what happens afterwards, both on the outside and inside the characters. I really appreciated how the characters in this film are shown as extremely human, and everyone’s reactions to a near unthinkable situation I found very realistic. Brie Larson seems to be one of the strongest contenders for the female in a lead category, which I fully support, but I cannot understand how Jacob Tremblay isn’t nominated! He isn’t just great for a kid actor, he’s absolutely phenomenal no matter who he is compared to. Several of his scenes had me tearing up. In my opinion he is absolutely robbed of a nomination.

With its strong acting and great storytelling, Room is a good contender for the best picture, although it doesn’t quite reach up to the greatness of The Revenant and Spotlight in my book.

SpotlightSpotlight – Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.

I saw this only yesterday, and I was so so pleased with it! Spotlight is a film I hadn’t heard that much about, there hasn’t been a lot of promo or trailers around in Norway for it, don’t know about the rest of the world? As a result I didn’t know much of the premise of the story at all, which I find is a good starting point for every film you see, the less you know beforehand the better.

Dealing with a very important, yet touchy subject, I felt Spotlight never borders on the verge of tasteless. The strong highlights of this film are its dialogue (there’s a lot, and it’s fast so pay attention), the strong cast who all do a great job and the way everything flows together; the tempo and rhythm of the film is so perfect and fitting, and it’s all done in a very subtle way. Very good editing! Mark Ruffalo’s acting is also a very strong point and he received a well deserved nomination. I would have liked Tucci to receive a nod as well, his performance reminds me of Rylance in Bridge of Spies, subtle yet very moving. Anyway, as pointed out, all the actors do a great job, from the leads to the smaller ones who only have a scene or two. A film I’d recommend to everyone, and which made me conflicted after watching, I’m now very torn between Spotlight and The Revenant as for which should win best picture. They’re both great films, and very different as well! Hopefully they will both take home their fair share of awards.

Conclusion
From the films I have seen so far The Revenant is still one of my favourites, but now with strong competition from Spotlight. It’s also quite interesting to see the differences in the films nominated for best picture this year, from the “standard Oscar film” Bridge of Spies to the hardcore action movie Mad Max: Fury Road.

Hopefully I’ll get to see Brooklyn and The Big Short soon. I will also write more about films nominated in other categories before the big ceremony February 28th, and a blog post about the films I think should have nominated (more) as well.

The Revenant (2015) – Film Review

The Revenant - Movie poster

© 2015 – Twentieth Century Fox. Image used under fair use.

The Revenant (2015)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro González Iñárritu

Imdb summary: A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

Last Sunday night my boyfriend and I watched “The Revenant” at the movies, and before I say anything else I just have to say: This is definitively a film where you choose the cinematic experience, DO NOT download some low quality DVD-rip and watch it on your computer. If you want to see as many Oscar-nominated films as possible before the ceremony, this is the one you choose, it would be a sin to not watch this in the best quality and surroundings as possible. I simply have to gush over the stunning visuals before I move on to the story itself.

As you have probably gathered, this is simply a beautiful visual experience. Watching “The Revenant” was almost like watching a very high quality nature documentary and feature film combined, the film takes its time to let you enjoy the beautiful scenery. The film was shot using almost exclusively using natural light, which absolutely paid off, even though it made the filming period a lot longer (only so much light during the day) as the beautiful snowy scenes really came into their own in the wonderful cold and bright winter sun. When watching you get the feel that the surroundings and setting is as much part of the story as the events that are unfolding there, and cinematographer Lubezki treats them with great respect. An Oscar nomination well deserved! The same can be said for editor Stephen Mirrione, who seamlessly sews it all together, adding to the sense that story and setting are one.

A shot of Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Revenant"

“The Revenant” is a stunning visual experience

One of the most talked about scenes in the film is the bear-attack, and again I’m full of praise. For the past few years no matter how far we’ve come regarding CGI, it just doesn’t look 100% right when you have something or someone computer made interacting with a real human character in the same scene, especially when it’s a close interaction like touching and fighting. This is not the case with “The Revenant”. I have no idea how they did it, but that attack scene looks completely real. It’s worth the talk, it’s worth the hype, it’s worth the praise! I know it’s CGI, but something inside me is still a little convinced they just let a bear loose on DiCaprio, and that he willingly let them. I mean, if you let a bear almost kill you, you have to win that Oscar!

When saying that the plot it self is the weakest part of the whole film, it’s by no means an insult to the story, just again a proof of how amazing the visuals and acting are. They are the strongest points, but the story is also gripping, intense and never leaves you bored. Before watching a film that’s over 150 minutes long you’re always a bit apprehensive, and lately it seems like almost all big new releases have to be around this playtime, and frankly, in most cases 120 is enough. I was never bored for a minute though, even though the film is by no means action-packed throughout or moving high-speed through everything. It takes its time, but does so beautifully. I know there are divided views about the plot, and I can understand some of the reservations some have, because yes: a lot of the happenings in “The Revenant” are quite far fetched, and even though it’s inspired by true events there is a lot elements, some quite unrealistic, added to the film. I don’t mind myself, but I understand that people enjoy storytelling in different ways, and that type of realism is more important in some camps than other. My own justification of the “far-fetchedness” of it all is that this film sets out to tell the ultimate survival story, and I’ll accept a bit of difference in the physical laws in our own world and in this epic movie world. Though, the characters could maybe have tried just a tad harder to stay away from the water when it’s freezing around them and there’s nowhere to dry their clothes.. But details, details.

I quickly mentioned that the acting is great in this film, and I truly believe that this if finally DiCaprio’s time to win that Oscar statuette. Although his actual spoken dialogue is scarce, he does so much through, and of course, acting is so much more than just speaking lines. I truly felt his anger, hurt, pain and emotions, and above all, I truly felt cold. I am yet to see all the nominees for Best Actor this year, but so far Leo is my bet and hope! Tom Hardy also does a brilliant job as John Fitzgerald, the unsympathetic antagonist, and does not represent him as a one-note character, though we may not like him that much it’s also possible to understand his actions throughout the film. Also a nomination well deserved, though Hardy is in my opinion rivaled by Mark Rylance’s great performance in “Bridge of Spies”.

In conclusion, The Revenant is truly one of, if not the greatest films of 2015, especially in the visual department. It’s a truly epic story of survival that at times may require some suspension of disbelief, but its few weak points are saved by the brilliant actors and the always present stunning cinematography. It’s definitively a film worth seeing, and worthy of a true cinematic experience.

Films watched in 2015: Part 2

 

The Evil Dead, Moonrise Kingdom, Lawrence of Arabia and Ex Machina

The Evil Dead, Moonrise Kingdom, Lawrence of Arabia and Ex Machina

May, June, July and August.

This period was a wonderful mix of old classics, horror movies, older and new. Though very few films from the year 2015, I think only Jurassic World and Ex-Machina if I remember correctly. Jurassic World was unfortunately quite forgettable and tame, but Ex-Machina was absolutely wonderful, one of the best films of the year. Such an original story, ad it is a beautiful film to look at, it’s just absurd how it hasn’t been nominated for best cinematography in this year’s Academy Awards. It is an especially impressive film considering that this was Alex Garland’s directorial debut!

May of 2015 also introduced me to the Evil Dead-series, which I’m now a big fan of! I love cheesy comedy horror, if it’s properly tongue-in-cheek. We also watched the the French-Polish “Three Colours trilogy” by director Krzysztof Kieślowski, which was very good, especially the first one, “Blue” with Juliette Binoche.

Hitchcock continues to dominate among the directors of films watched in the May – August time span, though the period also introduced me to other greats such as Woody Allen who I (shockingly) have not watched anything by previously.

Films watched: 40
Most watched director: Alfred Hitchcock (5), Krzysztof Kieslowski (3), Woody Allen (3)
Favourites: Ex Machina, The Evil Dead & II, Moonrise Kingdom, Lawrence of Arabia
Watched at the movies: Jurassic World

The following is a list of the films I watched in May, June, July and August 2015. The list does not include films I’ve seen before. To keep track of the films I watch I use ICheckMovies, which is highly recommended 🙂

  1. The Cabin in the Woods – Drew Goddard
  2. The Evil Dead- Sam Raimi
  3. Evil Dead II – Sam Raimi
  4. Singin’ in the Rain – Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
  5. Skyfall – Sam Mendes
  6. Match Point – Woody Allen
  7. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson
  8. The Trial – Orson Welles
  9. The Searchers – John Ford
  10. Heavenly Creatures – Peter Jackson
  11. Picnic at Hanging Rock – Peter Weir
  12. Ex Machina – Alex Garland
  13. Vicky Christina Barcelona – Woody Allen
  14. Poltergeist – Tobe Hooper
  15. Annie Hall – Woody Allen
  16. The Apartment – Billy Wilder
  17. Lawrence of Arabia – David Lean
  18. All Quiet on the Western Front – Lewis Milestone
  19. Dial M for Murder – Alfred Hitchcock
  20. Rear Window – Alfred Hitchcock
  21. Jurassic World – Colin Trevorrow
  22. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – David Lych
  23. The Killing – Stanley Kubrick
  24. Fargo – Joel Coen and Ethan Coel
  25. Black Swan – Darren Aronofsky
  26. Brief Encounter – David Lean
  27. Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock
  28. Blade Runner – Ridley Scott
  29. Trois couleurs: Bleu – Krzysztof Kieslowski
  30. Trois couleurs: Blanc – Krzysztof Kieslowski
  31. Trois couleurs: Rouge – Krzysztof Kieslowski
  32. Se7en – David Fincher
  33. The Birds – Hitchcock
  34. Kind Hearts and Coronets – Robert Hamer
  35. Intouchables –     Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano
  36. If…. – Lindsay Anderson
  37. The 39 Steps – Alfred Hitchcock
  38. Sweet Smell of Success – Alexander Mackendrick
  39. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Wes Anderson
  40. Gravity – Alfonso Cuarón

Films watched in 2015: Part 1

When I started putting this list together, I quickly realised I had to divide this in to more parts. I watch quite a lot of films, and at the end of the year it’s fun to look back and see what type of films I’ve watched, has there been a theme, are certain directors more present than others, and so on. Reviewing my “I-checks” for January, February, March and April, I clearly started the year by catching up on as many Oscar-nomitated films as possible, as is the situation this year.

Further out in February and March my boyfriend and I had our “great film period”, before we moved in together we were catsitting my aunt’s cats and living in her house for a month, and took advantage of the huge HD-TV to watch a lot of films. The theme is quite clear, I was being introduced to a lot of old classics, most of which I loved. You can cleary see some directors being listed several times..

We ended the first third of 2015 by going to the movies and seeing It Follows, which I truly think is one of the best modern horror films, and truly recommend!

Stats:
Films watched: 44
Most watched director: Alfred Hitchcock (6) and Billy Wilder (5).
Favourites: Sunset Blvd, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Psycho, 12 Angry Men and It Follows.
Watched at the movies: The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Adieu au langage, Into the Woods, It Follows.

The following is a list of the films I watched in January, February, March and April 2015. The list does not include films I’ve seen before. To keep track of the films I watch I use ICheckMovies, which is highly recommended 🙂

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Felix Herngren
Big Hero 6 – Chris Williams, Don Hall
The Princess Bride – Rob Reiner
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu
To Kill A Mockingbird – Robert Mulligan
Boyhood – Richard Linklater
The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois
The Theory of Everything – James Marsh
Serenity – Joss Whedon
Adieu au langage – Jean-Luc Godard
Slither – James Gunn
Groundhog Day – Harold Ramis
Sunset Blvd. – Billy Wilder
Roman Holiday – William Wyler
The Other Boleyn Girl – Justin Chadwick
Sabrina – Billy Wilder
Charade – Stanley Donen
Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder
Psycho – Alfred Hitchcock
The Grapes of Wrath –John Ford
Rebecca – Alfred Hitchcock
Witness for the Prosecution – Billy Wilder
North by Northwest – Alfred Hitchcock
The Lost Weekend – Billy Wilder
The Innocents – Jack Clayton
The Princess and the Frog – Ron Clements and John Musker
Prisoners – Denis Villeneuve
In the Heat of the Night – Norman Jewison
Into to the Woods – Rob Marshall
Big Fish – Tim Burton
Prometheus – Ridley Scott
Taxi Driver – Martin Scorsese
Star Trek – J. J Abrams
Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht – Werner Herzog
To Catch a Thief – Alfred Hitchcock
Spellbound – Alfred Hitchcock
Peeping Tom – Michael Powell
Shadow of the Vampire – E. Elias Merhige
Barton Fink – Ethan Coen and Joel Cohen
Paths of Glory – Stanley Kubrick
Frenzy – Alfred Hitchcock
12 Angry Men – Sidney Lumet
It Follows – David Robert Mitchell

 

So bad they’re good – B-movies galore

collage of postersRecently my boyfriend and I have been watching a lot of so-called B-movies. Something just got into the both of us after watching Army of Darkness a few weeks back, and since that we decided to just continue on that path for a little while. We’ve watched a lot of old sci-fi and/or horror movies that are often referred to as b-movies, a lot of them in the category “so bad it’s good” and some “so bad it’s just bad”. And some are just plain good films.

I thought I’d make a quick list of the films we have watched so far, but I’m sure it will expand in the future. We have a lot of titles remaining to be seen! I will only post my short opinion here, and mostly won’t include a summary or description, as some of these will have their own blog-post dedicated to a full review later. If you want to find out more about the plot or information about the film, click on the title and it will lead you to the film’s IMDB-page.

I would also love some tips on what to check out next based on the things we have seen, so if you have any ideas, please leave a comment 🙂

Army of Darkness (1992) – First thoughts: Oh my god, it’s Miss Honey! That is WEIRD! Otherwise, loved it as I loved the other Evil Dead-films. They increase in silliness with each film, but in a good way. THE series to watch if you want a comedy-horror film.

Young Frankenstein (1974) – This was a really fun film! Basically, it’s about a younger family member of the original Frankenstein, tired of always being compared to his infamous relative and determined not to follow in his footsteps, but end up doing EXACTLY so. Just in a more comical and absurd way. Gene Wilder is funny as always in the title role, but this films TRUE star is Marty Feldman as Igor.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) – The title of this film is just.. Well.. What can you say? I was a bit let down by this, as it’s actually a bit more serious than the title leads you to believe. I was expecting something completely stupid, goofy and laughable, but unfortunately it was mostly stupid and boring. There’s a cute monkey though, so you have that.

The War of the Worlds (1953) – Actually a bit unsure if this is considered a b-movie or not. I thought it would be before watching it, but it was a lot more high-budget and high-tech than I expected. The set and effects are quite impressive, but unfortunately the film itself is quite dull. I think it would have been more interesting had they stayed closer to the original story. Quite a forgettable film.

Barbarella (1968) – The “classic” Barbarella. I’m actually not even sure what to think of this film. It’s just SO weird. Good weird or bad weird? I can’t decide! I certainly laughed at parts, but it also felt longer than the 98 minutes it took to watch it. It is “the ultimate b-movie” for a lot of people, and certainly the sexiest. I don’t think I’ll be tempted to re-watch it any time soon though.

Dracula (1958) – Christopher Lee! Peter Cushing! I loved this, and it also surprised me a lot. It actually changes quite a lot from the original Dracula-story, but it stays true to its spirit, and Cushing is BRILLIANT as Van Helsing! One of my favourites of the films we saw! Will have to check out some of the sequels (there are A LOT)!

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) – This was quite forgettable I’m afraid. It’s a standard monster-movie, but what’s cool about The Beast is that it’s basically almost like Godzilla, but this came first by a year! The plot revolves around a frozen dinosaur waking up to life, he’s pissed and wants to rampage a city. Sound cool, but turned out quite boring. The last five minutes are the highlight of the whole film.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) – I.LOVE.THIS! They are clowns. They come from outer space. And they just wanna kill people! With popcorn guns, cotton candy and pies! How can you not love it? This movie embraces the “so bad it’s good”-idea to the fullest, I even think the acting is bad on purpose. Or they went out of their way to find bad actors (sorry). Anyway, IT’S THE BEST, YOU HAVE TO SEE IT!

Forbidden Planet (1956) – This turned out to be something completely different from what I expected, but I quite liked it. The plot surprised me, mostly in a good way. It’s not a goofy movie as one might think from the poster, although it has its goofy moments, it’s actually takes almost a philosophical approach to its themes. A recommended watch!

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) – Decided to watch this as we liked Dracula so much, and here we have the brilliant trio of Fisher (director), Lee and Cushing again. This wasn’t quite as good as Dracula, but it was an okay watch, and my first old Sherlock-movie. Big surprise in the film: Lee plays a good guy! What is this!? Nice to see for a change though, and although the film itself wasn’t that interesting, the actors are great.

Leprechaun (1993) – Watched this in hope that it would be kind of like Killer Klowns; completely ridiculous and hilarious, but our hopes were not met. The concept of an evil murderous leprechaun seeking vengeance for his stolen gold sounds cool, but it turned out too stupid and without the fun-stupid parts. And this film has 6 sequels! I don’t think I’ll be watching any of them, although the title Leprechaun 4: In Space (Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood is another good one) sound awfully tempting.

As mentioned, I’d love to hear what your favourites in the genre are, I’m always looking for what to explore next 🙂