Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movie Diary 4: September & October 2012

You may have noticed that I haven't finished the Eurotrip blogging yet. We finished it and returned home exhausted, there was so little time for sleep let alone blogging in the final two weeks so I apologise to those of you who care. I will finish reporting on interesting and uninteresting European things when I can face the zillion photographs taken by Leah.

For now I return to the Movie Diary posts, skipped in September due to the lack of films seen I have combined two half months of watching in to this one post instead.

In the last two months I watched 36 films. Of those 36 films 11 were repeat viewings. Most were not even worth discussing, the kind of films I'd recommend only if you have oodles of time on your hand with only the one film leaving me wondering:

Why Did They Even Bother?

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Honestly I cannot see why this was made. If you haven't seen the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man then some of this might be interesting to you but beyond that this was all a bit dull.
Andrew Garfield is a good Spider-Man in a dull movie, Emma Stone is wasted and Rhys Ifans did not seem like the right choice at all. Not to mention the actual mediocre sub-Mega Shark villain involved.
Why even bother?
 As with August here are some others that you might want to steer clear of:

The Broken (2008)
Sean Ellis either has a great visual eye or a fantastic DoP. Visually this movie is fantastic but everything else about it is just plain awful. The script is a joke, did nobody think to tell him to write a second draft that featured much less exposition and more realistic dialogue for example?
No Blade of Grass (1970)
As reviewed here as part of Dystopia Fortnight

It Passes The Time

The Astronaut Farmer (2006)
Another charming, interesting and unique low budget movie from The Polish Brothers who always seem like they're having a great time making films.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
I didn't love it but it certainly had charm and quirk going for it and serves as a reminder of why people feel the need to copy Wes Anderson in other quirky indie movies.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)
Unexpectedly great the first time, still very funny the second time.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
Quite absurd that THIS is the movie I choose to rewatch quicker than any other in a long time! Still very funny on repeat viewing.
The Expendables 2 (2012)
It's not great by any stretch of the imagination but it sure is a great terrible action movie. A series of action set pieces strung together by incompehensible exposition and cheesy one-liners The Expendables 2 revels in its ridiculousness and plays on the viewers nostalgia for when these guys were legitimately the biggest names in Hollywood and movies like this were made without the tongue being pressed firmly in to the cheek.
I personally found the playful use of the actors essentially playing themselves to be the best part of the movie but I know it won't be for everyone. Also I can't see myself watching it ever again.
Bernie (2012)
A decent enough movie that relies heavily on the charisma of Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey to make the 95 minutes less interminable. As Courtney said this is one of the better movies to come out of Hollywood this year but that isn't exacty saying much.
The Interview (1998)
Solid one room police drama that owes a huge debt to The Usual Suspects.
Hugo Weaving is very good in what was the kind of role an actor dreams of. It's all him, all of the time; he gets to play multiple emotions to the extent that it occasionally verges on multiple characters without the farce of being a Martin Lawrence movie.
It won Australian film awards and deserves to be seen by a wider audience but don't expect anything you haven't already seen in other movies.
The Dish & The Spoon (2011)
Of all of the post-mumblecore titles I've come across this is by far the best and most comparable to the great films put out by Aaron Katz.
Notable for fine performances from the obnoxiously "quirky" Olly Alexander and the mumblecore "IT Girl" Greta Gerwig channeling Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sarah Polley instead of the incredibly annoying Zooey Deschanel this is a movie that whilst occasionally frustrating to watch is also the kind of film you can't help but be mesmerised by; not for any incredibly visual styling (although some of it is) but because of the two train wrecks coming together onscreen with such wonderful honest and natural chemistry.
The fact that writer/director Alison Bagnall had some input in to the quite wonderful Buffalo 66 comes as no surprise to me after seeing this movie. Hooray for The Dish & The Spoon!

Sometimes They Make Something Great

Killer Joe (2012)
Very cool. Very creepy. Superb performances all round but especially from McConaughey. Everything was understated including the great direction from Friedkin. A highly enjoyable film with one of the best blow job scenes ever seen in cinemas.
Bout De Souffle (1961)
The noir-a-thon continued after a 5 week break with a complete change of pace and style. Godard's debut is still a fun and playful yet powerful work that relies upon and subverts the signifiers of the genre. Viewing this film after the classic period of American Noir cinema is probably as close as I will get to understanding just how revolutionary the French New Wave was at its inception. The effect of the cinematography alone shines through after the studio bound productions that came before. Now I begin to regret not putting Bonnie & Clyde on the noir-a-thon schedule which surely owes everything to Godard and Bout de Souffle.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Gosh I love this film. I've seen it countless times and it still has the capacity to scare me as much as it did when I first saw it as a 10 year old and even strike that chord of wonder and awe in the science and fantasy of the Crichton/Spielberg vision.
There's always Jeff Goldblum to laugh at too.
I, Robot (2004)
I always love watching this movie, if there had been a couple more movies this good on my flights time would have gone by much quicker.
A great evolution of the Asimov stories and the presence of Will Smith combine to entertain for two hours in a great action/sci-fi film, something that Hollywood seems to do so rarely it's like gold dust.
Kontroll (2003)
A very well made debut that at times looks like it cost a lot more than it did and with natural performances that keep you fascinated with the occasionally surreal fairytale world contained on the Budapest metro of Antal's film.
Entertaining both visually and as a well told story.
Cockfighter (1974)
I'm not sure how to feel about this movie. It's a strange one that's for sure. Warren Oates is all but silent as the titular Cockfighter and does an incredible job of carrying the film.
Hellman and Willeford don't feel the need to explain any of what happens in the "sport" of cockfighting which lends the film a documentary style feel. Half of the cast must have been either amateurs or actual cockfighting enthusiasts, if they weren't then they did a great job of looking like a natural part of the scene, especially in the way that I could hardly understand a word any of them said to each other.
The Hit (1984)
A truly great British gangster movie. Stephen Frears gets the best out of his Spanish locations, the tight script and his very talented actors to bring together a funny yet existential, violent film. The chemistry between Stamp and Roth and Hurt is what really makes this stand out from the crowd. It's a crime that Stamp isn't/hasn't been in more movies; his delivery of dialogue turns ordinary lines into so much more.
High Plains Drifter (1973)
A fantastic film with a slightly surreal edge recently chosen to be part of The Blahblahblahgay Family DVD Guide for Westerns.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010)
I Heart Scott Pilgrim So Much
As far as adaptations go this is one of the very best.
Visually its great and the soundtrack is awesome. The cast all perform brilliantly and the script filled with wonderful ideas and an incredible sense of fun.
Touch of Evil (1958)
A film that is as beautiful to look at as the bad guy is mean. A fantastic film, the opening scene signals the end of the classic noir period - the car blows up and nothing will ever be the same again in American cinema.
Touch of Evil is a masterpiece of the genre and whilst films such as Big Sleep, Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard are rightly considered as greats, Orson Welles takes things to a whole new level of darkness and sleaze, violence and heartbreak with his interpretation of the pulp source material of Whit Masterson.

As usual I welcome your input, your thoughts on what I loved and of course if anyone can claim to think Spider-Man was legitimately good I'm all ears. Did we share anything this month whilst I was away? Leave all this and more in the blahs below.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 5.2: Simon & Charlene

After Rochester it was time to catch up with my oldest friend Simon and his wife Charlene. When you have two people in your life as important and as close to you as these two it's hard being on the other side of the world but happily at our three year reunion it was like we'd never left. We spent three days with them, mostly drinking, and had a great time (aside from the trip to watch Arsenal lose to Chelsea.) Then we went to Crystal Palace Park, of which there will be more later.

Crystal Palace Park is the parkland that surround the former site of The Crystal Palace, a cast-iron & plate glass building originally built for The Great Exhibition of 1851, moved to Penge in 1854 (yes taken apart and rebuilt somewhere else) and destroyed by fire in 1936.

Post-fire the grounds seem to have been largely abandoned, without even a monument or plaque commemorating the fallen icon of the idustrial revolution. It does however still feature the Victorian stone dinosaurs (again there's very little information on display, the local council are really missing a trick with this stuff,) a maze built to commemorate the Society of Girl Guides and an urban farm.

And so ends this series of catch up posts, thank you for being so boring Vienna.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 5.1: Rochester

Actually the trip to Rochester Castle turned in to a trip in to neighbouring town Chatham too, thanks to the one long interconnected High Street.

Chatham is a horrible little hole of a place that reminded us exactly why we disliked living in England. Small minded, miserable people, living in poverty whilst they drag their knuckles along the ground and breath through their mouths before setting their pit bull terriers on each other.

It is a town that, much like Great Britain itself,  gives the impression of once being rich and prosperous but has since descended in to despair, from which it may never return. The contrast to the much more pleasant (but less interesting) Rochester is immediate and obvious. That famous castle really does bring in the tourist Pounds.

Rochester is the home to a Norman Castle and the UK's largest second hand bookshop. Neither of them were as impressive as we had hoped and certainly didn't warrant the trip. There are a few pictures for you however.

Baggins Books, it's the largest because it doesn't throw anything away

Friday, October 5, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 4: Messing About in London

Returning from the splendour of Budapest to the grey of London was a bit of a letdown but we soon got past that as we had tickets to the longest running play in the world, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap at St. Martin's Theatre, which we were obviously excited about.

Pictures are just banned everywhere these days but we did manage this

Prior to that I collected some bookporn for fans of old books:

One of the most historically fascinating yet visually unimpressive sights on our trip around Europe has to be The London Stone. Leah discovered it when reading the Peter Ackroyd biography of London and the history surrounding it was enough to make us take a trip to the wall of a WHSmith newsagents. Here's your history lesson: Thought to have originally been much larger it is thought to be of Druidic or Roman origin it is located very close to the centre of the east-west diameter of the City of London, as defined by the Roman walls. Legends and myths surround it, most fun of which might be that it is linked to the safety of London (and therefore the never say die spirit of its inhabitants?) "So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish". This relates to the myth that the stone was part of an altar built by Brutus of Troy.

And here's part of the traditional London Wall built by the Romans around Londinium and maintained in to the 18th Century:

Relatively nearby we paid a visit to Whitehaven Mansions, the home of the famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. The wonderful Art Deco building used in the David Suchet TV series is somehow less impressive in reality, possibly something to do with the swathe of flashy cars parked in the pay and display car park outside. Located at Florin Court, Charterhouse Square it still overshadows every other building on the square.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 3.3: Budapest in Pictures

A selection of just some of the many, many statues we found around Budapest:

The architecture was equally as impressive, with buildings of different styles living in seemingly perfect harmony with each other, in contrast to other cities where the differences are jarring and hard to look at:

And some of the artistic and architectural flair we noticed on them:

Just some of the many photographs from the MUST SEE Memento Park:

And some artefacts from the Art Nouveau Bedo-Haz:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 3.2: Budapest

Continuing this series of catch up posts you'll find us in Budapest fresh from a near drowning thanks to a good old fashion British Summer rain. The trip from Brockwell Lido to Gatwick Airport was not exactly pleasant, it rained. And rained. And rained.

And then our first experience of budget European airline Easyjet happened. Everything was going smoothly, we taxied to the runway, ignored the air hostesses inflight safety announcement and waited for takeoff. Then we were informed that we were returning to the gate for an unknown reason. Two hours later we are ready to takeoff after the first officer was replaced due to his wife being heavily pregnant and the plane refueled. Yes, we have asked the obvious question several times. just why did he go to work that day if she was so pregnant that he couldn't fly away for 5 hours or so? Anyway it enabled me to read a book and our socks to dry out.

From the moment we arrived in Budapest we were quite taken with the place. If I'm honest I was quite taken with the place before we even left Perth, but the reality didn't disappoint and the two days went far too quickly.

Budapest is the capital city of Hungary, a country that was once a major part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and sided with Hitler in the early part of the 20th Century. Post WWII it was left in the hands of Uncle Joe Stalin and his merry band of Communists (very well handled by the capitalist Allies don't you think?) Situated on the banks of the River Danube it has been voted Most Livable City in Central & Eastern Europe, 7th Most Idyllic European City and 9th Most Beautiful City in the world.

If there are 8 more beautiful cities than Budapest I'd be surprised. We wandered around in constant awe to the point where the thesaurus was empty of superlatives and throats were sore from making non-verbal exclamations of pleasure.

Vistas, statuary and architecture all amaze the artistic eye, museums were fascinating and extremely well curated, the weather was beautiful and the people pleasant. As a speaker of only one language we got on very well thanks to large majority of educated Hungarians willing to ignore our ignorance of their language and we were very impressed by the youthful vibrance of the place. Sure there was a homeless problem, I witnessed one man using an empty tuna tin as a cushion whilst he slept on a vent from the world's second oldest metro system at 11am but then all cities have a homeless problem and none of the Hungarians seemed to have sunk low enough to beg tourists for change.

Leah loves to take photos, we have just looked through 500 pictures taken from 3 cameras over 2 days in Budapest. In most situations with digital photography you might take many more photos than necessary because it's all so easy but even if we'd had film we might have spent a fortune on taking pictures of the beauty of Budapest. This is some pictures of us in Budapest:

We ended up running out of time, with so many things we wanted to see and do on our pre-trip itinerary fighting with things we discovered upon arrival for our attention we could easily have spent a week of 14 hour days sightseeing. Instead we took it easy, relaxed in to it and spent some quality time in some very interesting places.

The Hospital in the Rock was initially a hospital built in a natural cave system and only saw use during WWII and for a short period during the 1956 Hungarian anti-Communist Revolution. During the Cold War it was turned in to a classified military nuclear bunker and despite the death of Communism in 1989 remained classified in to the 21st Century. Incredibly a husband and wife team  remained on staff, changing the bed sheets et al fortnightly for nearly 50 years despite the hospital/bunker never being used. The guided tour was in English and both fascinating and a little disturbing, and the rooms are all displayed to best effect with a morbidly humorous collection of wax figures playing doctors, soldiers, nurses, and patients - a fun game to play was 'spot the horrifying injury'. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures but there are a few official snaps to show off and if you're ever in the area it is a tour well worth taking, not least because it is the only non-government funded museum in the city.

Memento Park is a purpose built tourist destination/education centre designed to promote free thinking about the legacy of Communism in Hungary without the need for irony or attempting to turn it all in to a joke. The use of statues as symbolism and propoganda was prevalent during the Communist era and the design of the park uses the same tactics reflected back on them to show the fallacy of Stalin-era Communism. Our tour guide was a very entertaining woman with a fine grasp of the English language and a playful sense of humour. That we were the only two people laughing along was quite surprising. I guess for some Americans it's still not OK to laugh at Communism.

Quite by accident we discovered that the Museum of Applied Arts had a special Art Deco inspired exhibition and so we wandered around the city taking pictures of beautiful things until we found the right building. Again photography wasn't really allowed in the gallery but the building itself was worth the time, the interior of the entrance hall particularly amazing.

One of the final places we visited was the Bedo-Haz, a quite wonderful piece of Art Nouveau whimsy turned in to a cafe/museum. This was one place where photography was allowed so we went a little crazy, touching was not frowned upon either but I think we largely managed to resist and there were a fair few items that were on sale too, which was easy to avoid thanks to heavy shipping costs to Australia.

One last major site ended up being squeezed in at the end of the trip before dashing to the airport. It deserved more time but with the large quantity of noisy schoolkids everywhere we turned The House of Terror probably wouldn't have been something we could have coped with for much longer than we did anyway. The site used by both the Nazis and Communists to interrogate and torture pretty much anyone they felt like and turned in to a museum/commemorative site this is one place that has the power to haunt you if you let it. A selection of exhibitions curated and presented with great skill you do not even need the information sheets provided at the start of each room to feel the desired effect or understand what the intended statement was.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

BBBG Goes To Europe Part 3.1: Brockwell Lido

So I'm playing catch up. The trip to Budapest and the immediate days after were hectic and filled with interesting things from dawn til dusk and we are happy yet exhausted. Well until we find ourselves in Vienna today that is. Part 3.1 is from last Monday, 24th September, the morning before we flew to Budapest.

Leah had applied for a graduate position before we left Perth and was lucky/talented enough to be shortlisted for interview, thanks to the marvels of modern technology it was arranged via Skype for 6am British Summer (what a joke!) Time. As we have just the one room in our vacation apartment I found myself walking the cold unwelcoming streets of Crystal Palace from just before 6am. With my overcoat and my hardboiled internal monologue it was just like being in a noir movie. In my mind.

6am: The perfect time to film noir scenes
The interview seemed to go well and so we packed our travel bags. To Budapest via the Brockwell Lido.

The Brockwell Lido is a large traditional British outdoor swimming pool situated in Herne Hill, London. Opened in 1937, it was awarded Grade II listed status in 2003. No longer a public building due to cost cutting measures by the local council it was saved by a users group and is now privately operated. Featuring a modern gym and a cafe in addition to the traditional pool.

Sadly it was raining and the doors to the viewing deck were shut but we still managed to capture quite a large portion of its beauty from the relaxing (aside from the noise of yummy mummies and their children) new cafe.