Are you not entertained?

Are-You-Not-Entertained-Gladiator

Here continues a monthly series of the music, books, and movies that have occupied my time. 

MUSIC

Spoon

My son suggested I’d like the Indie rock band, Spoon. From Austin, TX, Spoon has been around since the millennium, but I wasn’t listening to them. I’ve been catching up and like their easy beats, clever harmonies, and rhythms that keep you in a good mood. Need background music at a party? They are your band.

Check out this top ten list with more videos by the music pros at CONSEQUENCE OF SOUND

BOOKS 

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A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). Depressing and insightful. Four stories weave around the political dynamics of Afghanistan from the 1960s to the present. A fast, informative read. Khaled Hosseini writes with a graceful style. If you liked The Kite Runner, you will like this story, too. Though depressing throughout, at least the ending is uplifting. Highly recommend. 4.5/5

 

FILMS 

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Love and Friendship (2016)Sorry, period film fans. I was bored. The great costumes and gorgeous manorial setting couldn’t lift my dislike for the principal character, Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale). Maybe if she didn’t treat her daughter like a pawn and wasn’t so shallow and manipulative, I would have laughed at the jokes. Sir James Martin’s character was so idiotic, it was hard to root for anyone except for the daughter, Frederica. I’m in the minority, here.  3/5.  

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Sully (2016) In the last decade, Clint Eastwood has rebounded with a formula that works:  he finds quiet protagonists who possess old-fashioned virtues like fortitude, honesty, optimism, perseverance, and fairness; with calm dispositions and a dry wit, they save the rest of us without asking for applause. They are modern heroes. Sully is no different. It’s an entertaining tale analyzing the five-minute flight and emergency landing through many perspectives. I can’t help but feel Clint is trying to tell us something before his curtain closes in Hollywood. How to behave? How best to live? In Sully, humans, not technology, win the day. I sure love the positive message. 3.5/5.  

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)Whether you are a die-hard or casual fan of The Beatles, there are lots of new details to learn from the perspective of Freda, the Beatles secretary, who politely and loyally provides fun insights about the colossal band without blemishing any of them. A great way to spend the evening. 5/5.

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Son of Saul (2015). This academy award winner for the Best Foreign film from Hungary is unique. Director László Nemes’s interesting cinematography confines the audience alongside a prisoner at Auschwitz who is Sonderkommando, forced to work in the gas chambers, when a boy who survives the Zyklon B assault, the clean-up worker, played by Géza Röhrig, devotes his remaining time trying to find a Rabbi who will give the boy a proper burial. Happenings and people are out-of-focus except for Géza Röhrig. The effect places the audience inside the death camp unable to escape. There are no transitions, no time to digest or refocus. Holocaust films are painful to watch. This was painful but beautiful in its message and the heroic attempt by the worker who salvaged his humanity. Once is enough. 4/5. 

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). This was my pick for Halloween. I had heard that this Iranian vampire movie was a cult sensation. Set in a worn-down Iranian community which has the flavor of a forgotten Texas oil town, a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) preys on men who disrespect women. Female writer and director Ana Lily Amirpour created unique characters and handles the camera with style. Perfect for Halloween. 4/5 

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Swiss Army Man (2016)I’m a sucker for ironies, and there’re so many clever aspects about this crazy film, I fell for the magical realism. I think Paul Dano is on fire–he impresses me every time he’s on the screen. It was great to see Daniel Ratcliffe pull off playing a corpse who teaches the hopeless Hank how to live. The script is superb. 4.5/5

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In 1948, Jack Cardiff won an Oscar for “creating color with the camera” for his innovations with technicolor. Narcissus is a beautiful, sensory masterpiece about five British nuns at a Himalayan convent who waver in the exotic setting. Light and color are used to express emotion. If you enjoy the technical aspects of filmmaking, I learned a lot about the process of technicolor and the behind-the-scenes story of Narcissus in the documentary below. First, if you want a scrumptious classic to watch, you won’t be disappointed with the cast: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, Jean Simmons, and David Farrar.  Perfection!  5/5.

36 thoughts on “Are you not entertained?

Add yours

  1. Great to see more praise for ‘Black Narcissus’, always a delight to watch.

    I have ‘Son of Saul’ on my to-buy list, alongside ‘Love and Friendship’, of which yours seems to be the only negative review I have read. Because of Hanks, I will not be bothering with ‘Sully’, and the same with The Beatles documentary, as I never liked them as individuals, nor cared that much for most of their music. (I know, unusual…)
    That leaves me with the book, which I haven’t read, the band, who have good songs but I find the vocalist lacking, and ‘Swiss Army Man’, which I will look forward to, as I generally enjoy Paul Dano.

    ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’. I got this on DVD after reading constantly solid reviews, many of which raved about the film. It was different, quirky, and the small-town Iranian setting made it stand out from the crowd. However, i didn’t fully engage with it, and was left feeling it was a very good example of ‘style over substance’.
    (Not to suggest that is always a bad thing.)

    Thanks as always for the roundup, Cindy. See you at the weekend.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Hi Pete! I don’t feel so lonely out here disliking ‘Love and Friendship’ if you confess not to be a Beatle fan. I dare say you’ve been ridiculed a lot longer than I will be. 😉 When it comes to music, I’ve noticed you are more into individual talents than bands. And not surprisingly, you prefer female vocalists. I like men singing to me.
      I’d be curious what you think of ‘The Lobster’ a surreal strange film on par with ‘Swiss Army Man.’
      Looking forward to Sunday. Remember, I’m 13 hours behind you!

      1. I am out in a Beatles ‘wilderness’, Cindy, I agree. Despite a love for so many of their songs, I just never got them in the way that most other people did. Maybe it was the Liverpool accents…
        I have read a lot of good things about ‘The Lobster’. If I get to watch it, I will let you know.
        As ever, Pete.

    1. Ha! Yes. We are the mob out here wanting constant entertainment, so says, Maximus. It’s a slog, but fun to find gems and share them with fellow enthusiasts. I’m always glad when you comment. Thanks GP.

  2. Quite a few interesting films were covered in this post. I have a love/hate relationship with “Son of Saul.” I like how it represents a man who has been forced to forfeit much of his humanity. It seems almost as if he hits some kind of invisible wall and must create his mission in an effort to regain some of that humanity back. “A Girl Walks Home at Night” is also interesting, though I admit that a lament a number of missed opportunities. I feel like it is a good film that could have been great. Meanwhile, “Black Narcissus” is beyond reproach in my estimation. It is a different film each time that I watch it. I haven’t seen the other two films yet. I hope to get to them.

      1. ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ –yes, while the black and white and characters were interesting (all of them) I think you are right that it could have been magnificent. What would you have liked to have seen different? I liked the ending.

        1. I think that it deserves a few more viewings before I can really say for sure. It has been a while since I have seen it. I only remember feeling that a few adjustments or details would have made it better (and this might mean making a few points less on the nose. It might mean blurring details, but I honestly don’t remember specifics).

    1. Nice to “see” you! I appreciated the technique of the limited camera while at the same time wishing for a pan or widescreen shot. I did like that the gruesome details were blurred. It was an improbable story, and that made his efforts more remarkable. There’s a documentary about an Auschwitz survivor that was fantastic. I forgot to include it in this post. Maybe you’ve seen Kitty Hart-Moxon in “Day in Auschwitz” 2015 documentary?

  3. A real variety here in terms of the movies! I agree with you that Dano is on a roll; I’ve been impressed with him from There Will Be Blood onwards. Did you see Love & Mercy from last year? He was excellent as Brian Wilson.

    I broadly had the same reactions as you to A Girl Walks Home and Son Of Saul. You like Swiss Army Man more than me and I liked Love And Friendship more than you! I think that makes us even!!

    1. Howdy, Stu. I loved Dano in Love & Mercy. He had me at ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. What a silent presence. I especially liked seeing him in last year’s ‘Youth’. He makes me laugh.
      BTW, I’ve been reading your posts but you’ve locked out the ability for comments. Is that intentional?

      1. I thought he was good in Youth as well. That came out this year over here and I liked it very much.
        I’ve turned the comments off temporarily just to cut some blogging time down; not that I was inundated with them, or anything, but my first kid is due any day and I’m trying to save as much time as possible so I can at least keep blogging a little bit! Once things settle down I’ll turn them back on.

  4. I really enjoyed that peep back at the making of Black Narcissus. I’d completely forgotten that movie but this bought the scenes back to mind. It was a good movie, but I recall I didn’t like the ending.

    1. Oh, I’m glad, Ian. I find how films are made almost as enthralling as the film itself. The rain drops on the leaves and the downpour as the sisters left the intoxicating convent worked well for me.

  5. Just saw Sully a week ago. Good movie.

    I don’t want to take away in any instance that Sully didn’t do something brilliant. He did. BUT I wonder if there maybe wasn’t another hand in this? Because it really was a miraculous event – that nobody died. They don’t practice this kind of crash because they don’t expect to survive. BUT the plane did not break up in any way apart from losing the engines. If it has lost even one wing, many would have died and the plane would likely have sunk before anybody could get there. Only a few people seemed to have any floatation devices and the water was frigid. Even with a floatation device people would have died from hypothermia. Yet because the plane still had both wings and they were able to stand on them. And there would not have been enough room for everybody to stand on only one wing … provided the plane was still afloat. Rather amazing.

    Yeah … good for Sully … but … I have to wonder.

    1. Hi Vinnieh. I’m glad you liked it, too! Kathleen Byron was a seething, hot and humid presence! I loved her role and when she got out of the habit and put her red lipstick on, wow! What a shock. Very sexy.

      1. It was a strange and very atmospheric movie. The clash of religion and sensuality was palpable. Byron really stole the show as the jealous Sister Ruth, that unveiling of her without the habit was both disturbing and erotic.

  6. It is truly criminal that Jack Cardiff only won one Oscar. While Black Narcissus is stunning, for me his finest hour came the following year in his next collaboration with Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Red Shoes. It wasn’t even nominated in a year that Joan of Arc won, a film that owes as much to Matte painting as lighting and photography. I’m guessing you have seen it, if you haven’t, check it out.

  7. Wow you get through a lot in a month, admire how many books and films you take in. Sorry Love and Friendship didn’t do it for you, it came to me at the end of long run of average films at the cinema. I was pretty grateful for it. As for Sully, one of my faves. Have you seen Eye in the Sky yet?

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