Sunday, December 27, 2015

Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (M. Hulot's Holiday) (1953)

Today's film is M. Hulot's Holiday.  It is a good, simple film.

So it takes place during vacation season when the whole country flocks to the seaside for relaxation.  A lot of the scenes, especially in the beginning, reminded me of the movie Airplane.  Most of the gags are visual in nature.  There is barely any talking at all.  In fact, there's not really a story or plot, it's just a bunch of people, including M. Hulot who are taking a vacation.

Most of the humor comes from M. Hulot's carelessness or lack of thought.  He leaves the door open while getting his luggage, and this causes the whole lobby to be windy.  Or, he doesn't put up the brakes while changing his tire, so his car rolls down the hill.

Other than that, a lot of the people are still mentally at work and can't relax on vacation.  We see that even worse today.  Work is work, vacation is vacation.  In this way this film will always be relevant.
I will give it an 8/10.

Must be nice to live in a time where no one would
associate your hair with Princess Leia.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Die Hard (1988)

Today's film is Die Hard, which is an excellent Christmas film.  There are some who would argue that this is not a Christmas film, and they are wrong.

John McClane is a New York City cop.  His wife left town and moved to LA to work at Nakatomi plaza.  This causes a rift between them because its hard being across the country and maybe his wife didn't consider his feelings on the matter.  What's worse is when he visits her office, he discovers that she is now using her maiden name.  What is up with that?

So, the office Christmas party gets overtaken by a German terrorist group.  But we learn that the whole terrorism thing is just a distraction so they can steal a ton of money from the vault.  In fact, they are counting on the feds cutting the power so they can open the vault more easily. Actually, that wouldn't work in real life.  Something as important as a vault would be on its own power supply and would still function even if the entire grid was shut off.

I think this movie would be a lot different if it were made today.  The book it was based on was written in the 1960s and the film came out in 1988.  But, today we have terrorist attacks all over the place.  My workplace put in several new policies right after the most recent attack in California.  Also, news reports love to focus on terror attacks and we have instant access to everything.  John McClane could have live-tweeted his whole experience. #Nakatomi #terroristsarebad

McClane does use what little technology he has to contact the police.  Other than that, he just uses his smarts and badassdom to defeat the majority of the terrorists singlehandedly.  There are no twists and turns, no strange plot devices, the whole film is straight up action.  The whole film.  Fun fact: The Nakatomi building is actually the 20th century Fox building.  This is a very exciting Christmas film.  I will give it an 8/10.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hanyo (The Housemaid) (1960)

Today’s film is Hanyo, The Housemaid.  It is a very interesting example of early Korean horror as well as a moralistic lesson.
The film opens and closes with a husband and wife discussing a newspaper article about an affair between a married man and the family housemaid.  The film is an imagining of such an event and how it can destroy the entire family.
The husband, Mr. Kim, works as a piano teacher in a factory full of young female workers.  Since he is one of the few males they ever see, several of them are going to like him.  It’s just nature.  A worker makes her friend pen him a love letter, but she gets suspended and later kills herself in shame.  In response, the worker goes to his house to take piano lessons, but she has a plan.
Mr and Mrs. Kim both want a housekeeper.  They just purchased a larger new house and Mrs. Kim is about to give birth soon.  The worker suggests a woman who seems unbalanced and they hire her as their housekeeper.
The whole movie ends up being like Fatal Attraction if the crazy lady lived in their house full time.  The housemaid takes advantage of Mr. Kim and becomes pregnant.  She uses her condition to manipulate him until Mrs. Kim convinces her to abort it by “falling” down the stairs.  In retaliation, she also kills their older son the same way.  It is a common trope in both Korean and Japanese horror for victims to die by falling or being pushed down stairs.  It is interesting to see it exists as early as a film from the 1960’s.

Nobody expects the housemaid to be as  cunning and manipulative as she is.  She becomes convinced she must kill herself and she wants to bring down the husband with her.  Neither Mr nor Mrs. Kim ever call the police for anything she’s done and essentially let her get away with everything.

Then at the end, the husband and wife, who were discussing the news, turn to us and explain that this could happen to anyone.  Yeah we know we literraly just got done watching it.  We don’t really need the school lesson at the end.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The 400 Blows (Les quatres cents coups) (1959)

Today’s film is Les quatres cents coups (The 400 Blows).  The title actually comes from a French saying meaning “to raise hell” so it doesn’t really have anything to do with “blows”.  The film feels very modern and relevant, and I think a lot of people can relate to it.
Even though this film was set in current times, for us it’s the past and provides us a unique window to see what everyday life was like.  I don’t know what school was like in the 18thcentury, but I know what it was like in the 1950s because I am watching it right now.   It is amazing how it is exactly like school in the 1990s.  Except for now, in our modern age, playing hooky feels a little different.

One of the students is Doinel, who is not a villain, but always seen as a troublemaker by his harsh teacher and his parents.   He has trouble paying attention.  He might have ADD or he might not be challenged enough and is bored.  I have Autism and was always at odds with school personnel.  Then when someone explained my condition, they automatically feel sorry for me.  School can be overwhelming and boring at the same time.  But people like us are always dismissed as troublemakers.
Then comes Doinel’s mom, who is the source of all his problems.  He knows that she never even wanted him to begin with, and he can thank his grandmother for convincing her to keep him.  That must weigh heavily on him.  He catches her with another man, but cannot tell his stepfather because it would reveal that he was skipping school that day. 

Wanting to tell your dad that your mom is cheating on him, but it
would reveal you were playing hooky.

Later, he is caught trying to return a stolen typewriter and sent to juvie.  He sees the ocean and makes a break for it.  As he runs toward the freedom of the beach, the film freezes over his face.  But his story is far from over.  Just you wait, Doinel.  Soon you will have kids of your own and your mom will reappear out of nowhere.  Nowhere!! Because she wants to "play Grandma" and she will have the audacity to tell you how to raise your children even though she knows fuckall about children in general.  Man, this movie is so realistic that it's painful.  I give it a 10/10 this movie excels on all levels.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Today's film is Carnival of Souls.  It used local actors and a tiny budget, and has a quaint charm.

It focuses on Mary, who is in a car that is drag racing. The car drives off the bridge and crashes into the water.  The cops drag the water but find nothing.  Later, Mary emerges from the water unharmed with no memory of what happened.  She then moves to to new town and finds work as a church organist. No matter  where she goes, she encounters a creepy man with a white face and black eye area. He appears out of nowhere to her.  She even sees a doctor, who believes these apparitions are a result of survivor's guilt.  Throughout the film, she is time and time again drawn to a mysterious building.

We find that the building was once a carnival, and now houses the souls of drowning victims.  Through this, we can easily predict the ending, that Mary actually did die in the water after the crash.  I think the whole thing was a dream right before she died.  Like she was sort of aware she was dead but not fully.  I remember having to read An Incident at Owl Creek in high school and it focused on this same issue.

Even thought the movie was very predictable and not very well acted, it had a genuine creep factor so I will give it a 5/10.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On the Town (1949)

Today we are watching a fun movie, On the Town.  It follows three sailors making the most of their 24 hour shore leave in New York City.

They soon get burnt out from sightseeing and decide to go find some ladies.  Two of them have no problem finding lady companions, but not the last one,Gabey.  He falls in love with a "Miss Turnstiles" after seeing her picture on a poster.  So he has to have her.  Man there is like 5 million women in New York City,  you can't be that picky.  What does he even have to offer her?

One thing I really liked was the female characters, Brunhilde the cabby and Claire the scientist.  They are not shy and demure, they are just as flirtatious as the men. They provide much of the humor in the film.  Brunhilde also tries to find a match for her roommate,  who unfortunately looks like Cinderella's evil stepsister.  After an accident involving a dinosaur skeleton,  now the cops are looking for them too!  It's about to get wacky in here! 

Eventually Gabey does meet up with Miss Turnstiles, who wants nothing to do with him until they both find out they are from the same bumfuck nowhere town.  Gabey and his friends catch up to her at her dance number, which involves them wearing dance clothes too.  Men wearing women's clothes is always funny.  The cops catch up to them, and they are put back on their ship.  But we notice that it's morning again, and we see more sailors pouring out, ready to experience the city that never sleeps. And tomorrow it will begin anew again.  I thought this movie was funny.  I will give it a 7/10.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) (1955)

Today's film is Pather Panchali.  It is part of a series, so don't expect any closure at the end.

So here we have a family living in India, and they are barely getting by.  The father is a writer, poet, and priest, who is artistic but doesn't have much money sense.  He even gave away his family's orchard to settle his brother's debts.  Did he know exactly how much his brother owed vs. how much the orchard was worth?  Was there anything on paper proving this?  No probably not.

To get by and put food on the table for her two children, the mother, Sarbojaya, sells what little possessions she has, including her wedding dishes.  The struggle is real.  Interestingly, this film was made on a tiny budget, and the director and his wife pawned their possessions to help fund it.

Her daughter, Durga, often steals from the orchard, but it did used to be her orchard, so I don't think she knows what she is doing is wrong.  Eventually, her kleptomania evolves to steal non-food items as well.  What's worse is that her family defended her the entire time and she actually did steal the jewelry.  There's like a total of ten people in her village, where was she planning on wearing it?

Durga has a little brother named Apu, who is sent to school, but it's not a very good school from the looks of it.    Most of the film centers around the two.  Even though they don't have much, they share simple joys every day.  Durga is a great example of a big sister, being a leader, motherly, but sometimes teasing too.  Got to keep the younger siblings in line.

Their dad decides to leave town to find work, and it takes a toll on the family, especially his wife.  After playing in the rain, Durga catches a cold, which develops into a high fever and she passes away.  Soon after, her dad returns home with gifts, but no one cares because Durga is gone.  The family decides to leave their ancestral home to find a new life elsewhere.

It is refreshing to see an Indian film without a ton of singing.  Also, the whole life in poverty theme is pretty universal.  I will give it a 7/10.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Today's film is Letter from an Unknown Woman.  I did not find this movie romantic; I think this movie is very creepy!

This woman is a stalker! If you gender-reversed everyone in this film, there would be no doubt about it.  But people forgive her because she's a woman.  So it starts off with Stefan the musician getting ready to flee to avoid a duel.  Just then, he receives a letter and begins to read it.  So now we hear the woman's tale through flashbacks.

So the whole movie is her stalking this guy, Stefan. She becomes obsessed with him after listening to him play piano through her walls. She does encounter him in person a few times, but each time he doesn't remember her.  But this does not deter her at all.

Meanwhile, while living with her mom and stepdad, a handsome young soldier starts to date her.  However, she is just stringing him along and rejects his proposal.  She flees back to Stefan's town and gets a job there to be near him.  She does manage to get him into bed at one point.  Then, she does the unimaginable.  Their encounter does result in a baby, but she refuses to name the father.  She never tells Stefan about their son for nine full years.  Not allowing a parent to see or get to know their child is just as bad as a parent abandoning their child.  She is doing a disservice not only to Stefan, but to her son as well.  She has no right to keep her child away from his own father.  What a disgusting individual.

So, now she's a single parent with a young child, and what does she do?   That's right, she marries the handsome soldier who proposed to her years ago.  Way to be a stalker's sloppy seconds, soldier boy.

Then, through no fault of their own, the stalker and her son are exposed to the Typhus bacteria.  As they lay dying in a hospital, she pens the letter expressing her story to Stefan.  She and her son die before Stefan can see or visit either of them.  Stefan decides not to flee his duel, and it turns out his challenger is the stalker's husband.  Very interesting.

This movie disturbed me on so many different levels.  Excellent.  I will give it an 8/10.