Cast Against Hype

Reflections on film and other forms of storytelling from a Swedish wannabe-storyteller…

Tag: Satire

100 Films You Should See (If You Haven’t Already)

 

Hitchcock, Alfred. Is he included on the list? Since you asked, yes. By Fred Palumbo – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c21483, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1305493

It’s always personal. Still, there is a canon. Some films are simply extremely likely to show up on virtually every “Films you should watch before you die” whenever these lists appear. Some of these are here. Such as “The Godfather 1 & 2”, “Citizen Kane”, “Jaws”, a couple of Hitchcock and at least one Chaplin. But I did omit a few of the usual suspects… You will not find “The Shawshank Redemption” here. Not that it’s a bad movie. It’s a pretty good one. But it never meant that much to me personally and I still struggle to comprehend the fact that it resides as the Number One Movie Ever Made, as voted by the users of Internet Movie Database. Obviously there is a black hole where my heart ought to be. Anyway, sooner or later you have to create one of these very, very important compilations yourself, right? I found an excuse a few years ago in a work-related context. I teach social sciences and similar stuff to adult students who didn’t complete all of their basic education, or what in Sweden would be the equivalent of high school, and feel the need to fill in the blanks. Now and then I take the opportunity to sneak in some cinematic/storytelling themes like brief film history, genre definitions, narrative arcs and the like. This spring I decided to update this list and in the process translate it into English for some reason. Just because.

Bogart & Bergman – together at last! No compilation like this would be complete without “Casablanca”. But you knew that already. By Warner Bros. – eBayarchive, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80446534

Sometimes these projects make you realize things about yourself and the issues at hand. Like the fact that 95 percent of these titles were directed by men. Says something about the industry, but still a bit troubling. Or that only four of these films are Swedish. Maybe less troubling. 79, I think, are spoken primarily in English. Nine were shot in black and white, if I remember correctly. The total number of Mexican directors are… Well. You can see for yourself. In the AD 2019 version of my own personal “100 films you should see”. Full report available now in pdf below.

Related: A decade is coming to an end. Currently I’m trying to figure out which films, TV shows and albums (music, that is) from these past ten years I did appreciate the most. Some time before 2019 turns into 2020 I will have the answers and publish them here, I hope. Who said it was going to be easy?

100 Films you should see-PJL2019

Blades, Blondes, Beasts and Driving Babies – My Favourite Films of 2017

 

Once more again, into the breach… As usual, at bit late. And also as usual, I haven’t seen enough. Nevertheless, here they are, my favourite films of 2017 AD. Or to be specific, films that opened in my Scandinavian home country during this illustrious and turbulent year we just left behind. Be it in the cinemas, BluRay, Netflix, airplanes (in some cases, yes) or other venues – these films caught my attention more than others.

1. Under the Shadow (directed by Babak Anvari)

Could have been labeled ”Under the Radar”. Films like these have a tendency to just disappear in the onslaught of moving images constantly coming our way. That is a shame. This combination of modern history (the 1980’s Iran-Iraq war is used as a backdrop to great effect), understated absurdities and observations about women’s life in that time and place, and on top of it all a harrowing ghost story is irresistibly frightening. Thought-provoking. And frighteningly irresistible.

2. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve)

Back to the future. Again. One of the darker and least attractive visions of said future, even considering the competition (considering the official library of film dystopia already available) did result in one of the year’s most attractive films. Villeneuve might not have created one the most immediately commercially successful films of 2017, but maintains his standing as one of the truly visionary, exciting and genuinely interesting directors working today.

3. Baby Driver (Edgar Wright)

Mr Provocateur Bill Maher delivered an entertaining, harshly critical review of this film, and basically the whole ’drive really fast to get away from the cops’-genre on his show. Though personally I enjoyed this one far more than car-chase movies in general. The carefully selected soundtrack alone made it worthwhile. And the driving was… Special.

4. Get Out (Jordan Peele)

It’s tempting to recommend it with the caveat ’the less you know about the plot beforehand, the better’. Even the trailers seem to give away far too much information. Anyway, it’s about prejudices. And the misguided notion you might not have any. Delivered in a laughter-turns-to-screaming scenario that seriously will mess with your head in a number of ways.

5. Silence (Martin Scorsese)

Honestly, an ordeal you might not want to go through more than once. But at least do it once. It’s like the Scorsesian antithesis to the unbridled hedonism he wallowed in for three hours in ”The Wolf of Wall Street” (which I also might recommend for different reasons, but still don’t entirely adore from start to finish). If this is penitence, it would be comparable to Robert De Niro carrying his discarded mercenary armour uphill and downhill and uphill again for days, in ”The Mission”. Enjoy!

6. Okja (Joon-ho Bong)

Colourful action-satire-adventure flick dealing with genetic engineering, corporate politics, public relations in a postmodern era and the unbreakable friendship between a young girl and a giant pig. You don’t see something like this every day. From the guy who brought you the relentlessly cheerful train ride known as ”Snowpiercer”. This is, in comparison, slightly more optimistic.

7. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi)

Feel-good modern history, telling the story of some unsung heroes in the American space program. Quite simply an uplifting story that never crosses the line into awkward sentimentality and exaggerated audience manipulation. It works, dammit!

8. Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon)

This also works well, in the fantasy-for-all-ages genre. We know the story. They added something to it, not sure exactly what. But as I said, it…works fine.

9. Atomic Blonde (David Leitch)

Could be that it is just a little cold and distanced, eh? But is it exciting, entertaining, full of great 80’s pop songs and a anchored by a similarly great Charlize Theron as an enigmatic and emphatically independent spy in late Cold War Berlin? Yes, yes, yes and Oh yeah.

10. Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)

Maybe another case of ’the less I tell you…’. Somehow a young, slightly lost woman (Anne Hathaway) moving back to her small, mostly downright boring hometown after a break-up registers a personal connection to a giant monster showing up in South Korea, wreaking havoc while the world watches. What’s it all about, really? Is there a deeper, existential meaning, another hidden layer to be found? Your guess is as good as mine. But it did keep my attention throughout until the spectacular finale.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

 

The Lost City of Z (James Gray). Mysterious, a little too introvert and with some stretches but something you don’t see every day. An exploration worth taking part in.

Tour de Pharmacy (Jake Szymanski). Perhaps not strictly speaking a feature film. This HBO 40-minute satire on the wonderful world of bicycle is too outrageous to be ignored. From the folks who kindly brought you ”7 Days in Hell”, FYI.

Loving (Jeff Nichols). Extremely well acted and worthwhile subject matter. Could have used a little more temper and forward motion.

A Cure for Wellness (Gore Verbinski). Weird indeed. And difficult to forget entirely.

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola). It looks great. The acting is quite distinguished. Somehow it didn’t keep me completely enthralled all the way, but deserves to be seen at least once.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson). This particular franchise never had any real life-transforming impact on me. I tend to find most of the installments entertaining and… that’s that, basically. That said, this one impressed me more than I had expected going in. Especially the final 45 minutes or so, including the denouement, packed a punch I gotta give it credit for.

 

Oh, last year’s ranking is available here.

Mind-bending Movies: ”Triumph of the Trump” (2016)

This is not only one of the strangest films I have seen in my entire life. It is definitely also one of the longest. When did it even start – a year ago? Who can say, really? It concluded in a way about a week ago. But now it seems the story is just beginning anyway. Whether it will continue to be a tale of victory or disaster or another of many possible alternatives, remains to be seen. I am still not convinced it’s really happening. From the way it is presented, it’s supposed to be documentary, a part of our reality now. Is it, really?

mindbendingmovies-logo1It stars an unlikely hero of sorts. A man on the verge of retirement, you would think, launching himself into a new career while claiming the title of champion for the working class, the masses and the so-called silent majority. As it happens, he himself was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Or is that a proverb in English? This is still not my first language… Also, I – like many other people on this planet – have been watching this from some distance. There obviously has been some voting going on. Most of us around didn’t have that privilege in this case. But we are bound to be affected by the outcome. We are just not sure exactly how, because, you know, the man is unpredictable. And he likes it like that.

The story can be – and has been – told från different angles. And I admit to mostly following it from a more critical perspective. He simply never seemed like a true hero to me. I have met people who appreciated the fact that he didn’t care about being politically correct. My own reflections on the matter are rather that he doesn’t care about being correct. Early on, he presented his plans to build a great, great wall as one of his main priorities when elected. Of course, heroes build walls. We have seen it in the movies time and time again, haven’t we? Not roads or bridges primarily, right? But he does have the best words. He did say that. ”I have the best words”. Or did that really happen? Sometimes it is difficult to know for sure. It’s all getting surreal. This alternate reality feeling came to a head this November. There was an election day on the other side of the pond. My daytime job as a teacher usually means early mornings. So I started watching the election coverage but had to give up at, like one o’clock at night. I got up again at five in the morning, which translates to something like 11 o’clock in the evening, American East Coast Time. And you might be familiar with relevant events taking place at that time. ”The Twilight Zone” started early that day.

As I said, this is one of the longest films I’ve seen. And still, like many people where I live, I haven’t strictly speaking seen it from the beginning. I’m certain I don’t have the whole picture. Who has? But obviously it started long ago. To be more precise, our hero has made a name for himself not just by being very very rich. There is also a little detail called Reality TV. We have those shows here as well. I just don’t know anyone over here who actually watches or used to watch these particular Reality TV shows. The ones he used to make. How important are they, really? For a guy who likes to scream and complain about dishonest media, he certainly has had a lot of use for it. In that way you could see him as a monster created by exactly that particular machinery. A special entertainment segment. An integral part of our culture. Globally, but maybe most significantly in his own homeland. So, I’m still on the fence about this whole drama. Is it really happening? Has it all been scripted from the very beginning? Someone somewhere obviously made a lot of money from it all. Our hero maybe. But he’s hardly the only one. I do feel pretty certain that there will be sequels. Or rather new chapters to come. Will this be a complete nightmare or something completely anticlimactic?

He will join a club of gentlemen now in possession of a significant proportion of the decision-making power in this world, on this planet, right now. The most visible ones share some common traits. Like displaying a certain impatience when things don’t go their way, not responding well to insults or for that matter a difference of opinion in general. They know how to get sufficient people rallying behind them. They are also the kind of people that psychologists love to analyze. And why wouldn’t they? Of course, far be it from me to name names and run with gossip. Suffice it to say that one resides in Russia. One in Turkey. Syria. One used to rule Italy. Of course there obviously has to be many more of them. The phenomenon in itself is not new and could happen elsewhere. In France. Yes, even in my home country in Scandinavia. It’s all just great. Huge.

Recently, just after this election I got around to watching ”Independence Day: Resurgence”. The long-awaited sequel we, as it turns out, could’ve done without. But it made me think and draw some unexpected conclusions. Eureka! They are already here. They are slowly and strategically taking over. No matter from exactly which part of the universe they originated, we are now a part of their big happy family. We cannot be sure exactly what the grand design is. And whether we are supposed to survive as a species. But maybe we we are going quietly into the night after all. Truly mind-bending indeed. What’s not to like about that?

A lot, actually.

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