In this second entry to a new series of articles where Owen will be taking a look at the films he’s seen during each month of 2015, he talks us through the films he’s seen during February 2015. A month notoriously associated with “awards season”.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
I ended January’s article by saying how much I’d bloody loved Werner Herzog’s 1974 film, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, and how you could expect to see reviews of Fitzcarraldo, Heart of Glass and Stroszek in this month’s piece. Well, sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were expecting, but unfortunately I still haven’t gotten around to them. Instead they are taking up space on my TV planner. However, I am still desperate to see them so hopefully they make it into March’s entry to my 2015 In Film series.
Instead, the month started off with me watching a mix of Terminator movies and catching up on one or two of those nominated for Oscars at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony. I don’t know whether or not you listened to our Oscar predictions podcast earlier in February, where I said that I’d love it if Birdman won best picture, but couldn’t see past Boyhood dominating the awards. Well, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. I was delighted when I woke up, checked the news and found out that Alejandro González Iñárritu had walked away with the two big awards. Not because I have a deep-rooted hatred of Boyhood or anything. I just really, really enjoyed Birdman. A little over two months in and it’s still my favourite film released in the UK this year.
I also put myself about a bit this past month, in a manner of speaking. I made my first debut on a non-Failed Critics podcast when two awesome gents called Jack and Chris were kind enough to invite me onto Not This Again to talk Oscar predictions. I then somehow ended up being invited onto another podcast by another awesome gent called Tony Black, as we reviewed Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman and others. I also recorded two short preview pieces for Tony’s ‘Black Hole Cinema’ podcast ahead of the Academy Awards; one for Whiplash and another for American Sniper.
Throw in an extremely busy period during my day job and it’s just resulted in a hectic month for me, which has left less room for films throughout February, particularly compared to January. Still, there’s plenty enough for me to talk about! On with the reviews…
Week 1: Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 February 2015
Sunday (1) – Boyhood (2014), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991); Monday – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003); Tuesday – Point & Shoot (2014); Wednesday – THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Ip Man 2 (2010); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday (8) – She’s The Man (2006), Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Originally I had planned to talk about Boyhood during this segment. It won BAFTAs, Golden Globes and plenty of other awards and until a couple of days before the ceremony, it was hotly tipped as the favourite for best picture. However, I cannot top Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk on the latest episode of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, Besides which, I really want to talk about a documentary I watched on BBC’s Storyville series called The Internet’s Own Boy. I knew nothing at all about it beforehand; I had no idea who Aaron Swartz was, what had happened to him or why someone had decided to document his life. By the time the end credits came up, I was proclaiming him as the internet’s Che Guevara, a modern day hero, and telling all and sundry to watch this film and learn about this amazing man. For those like me who were unaware of who Aaron Swartz was, I’ll give a quick summary. He founded Reddit and openlibrary.org amongst others, he was partially responsible for inventing RSS and Creative Commons, he was a child prodigy when it comes to coding, and a social and political activist. This documentary explores 26 years of his life, from first learning to read, to his eventual suicide after being involved in an excessive, relentless and bullying persecution by the federal government. Tribute style documentaries can often be a bit of a let down. They’re too respectful, too soppy and too personal a project for those involved to really translate well to the screen. However, there are obvious exceptions such as this (and Grizzly Man, Life Itself, etc) when you truly feel educated on a cause worth knowing about. Rarely do documentaries inspire the level of emotion in me as The Internet’s Own Boy did, and for that, I had to talk about it in this month’s article. It’s still available on iPlayer until 11.30pm this Wednesday. Watch it! I urge you.
Week 2: Monday 9 – Sunday 15 February 2015
Monday – TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009); Tuesday – The Interview (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Virtuality (2009); Friday – Hitman (aka Contract Killer) (1998); Saturday – Wing Chun (1994); Sunday – Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015); Dracula Dead & Loving It (1995); War of the Worlds (2005)
This is less a review of Terminator Salvation and more a general thing about the franchise as a whole. You may have noticed that I started off the month by rewatching the first three Terminator movies. The first of which is an absolute classic of the sci-fi horror genre, as per its rightful inclusion in Matt’s 1984 Decade In Film piece. It’s an extraordinarily tense, atmospheric, brilliant film that never ceases to entertain, no matter how many times you watch it. I seem to have vague memories of James posing the question on one of my first podcast appearances as to whether or not I preferred it to James Cameron’s sequel, T2: Judgement Day. At the time, I definitely said T2. Having now seen them back to back, the spectacle of T2 is still there, and it’s still an immensely entertaining action blockbuster, but something drew me more to the original. The unrelenting machine vs woman battle and inevitable apocalypse brought on by our playing God (*ahem*) is so horrifying, it has far more impact than in the flashy, fun and over-the-top sequel. The less said about Terminator 3, the better. I don’t think John Connor got into a vehicle or building that didn’t explode in that movie. Sheesh. Suffice to say, after suffering T3 again, expectations were low for Terminator Salvation. Aside from the fact I don’t think I can trust a grown man who refers to himself as McG, I’d heard bad things about it. I knew how troubled the production was and it just sounded dull. You don’t set a Terminator movie in the post apocalyptic future, for crying out loud. Nevertheless, I gave it a chance and… it wasn’t that bad. Bizarrely, it was the worst performance I’ve seen from Christian Bale. I love the guy, think he’s a brilliant actor, but when you’re outshone by Sam Worthington…….. well. Say no more. There’s some interesting concepts around the artificial intelligence angle, plus the climactic battle with Skynet and CGI Arnie is handled moderately well and ties into the franchise nicely, but for large parts it was incredibly tedious. Maybe next time, eh? Roll on Terminator: Genisys.
Week 3: Monday 16 – Sunday 22 February 2015
Monday – Focus (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE (1973); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Man of Tai Chi (2014); Saturday – The House at the End of Time (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]
A woeful week for film watching. I didn’t even finish The House at the End of Time, Focus I’ve already reviewed on here, and Callum summed up Man of Tai Chi best when he said it was nothing groundbreaking but a very strong directorial debut. Which leaves me with only this slightly racist spaghetti western from the 70’s to talk about. A film I only happened upon because I noticed the title on movies4men, thinking it sounded like a kung-fu film where a westerner called Joe appears in Shanghai and beats up some people or something generic like that. Alas! It was the complete opposite as a Chinese man turns up in the wild west and beats up some people or something generic like that. The only reason I hit that ‘record’ button and gave it a chance is because I noticed Klaus Kinski’s name in the description. It actually turned out to be quite enjoyable! Utter nonsense with a plot that was barely coherent, as our titular hero is chased from pillar to post by a variety of hired assassins. Regardless, it was a lot more fun than I had expected it to be. Released in the same year as Bruce Lee starred in Enter The Dragon, a film that catapulted kung-fu into the American mainstream, it’s not difficult to understand why the already out-dated Confucius quoting Chen Lee faded into obscurity. Even so, the goofy stunts and not-exactly culturally sensitive gags made it an amusing experience all the same.
Week 4: Monday 23 – Saturday 28 February 2015
Monday – Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Project Almanac (2015); Tuesday – The Darjeeling Limited (2007); Wednesday – Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead) (1960); Thursday – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011); Friday – TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (2014); Saturday – The Babadook (2014), Superman (1978)
In a slightly more successful final week, it became the only one in February where I managed to see a film every day. When I could stand to look at the screen without feeling sick, I watched Project Almanac at the cinema. I took advantage of an offer Pringles were running and nabbed Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited for free. I even watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the off chance that it’d convince me to go and see the sequel that came out on Friday (it didn’t). Actually, I think the best film I watched during this week was The Babadook, another film I managed to acquire for free after my mother in law and her lodger / my mate palmed the blu-ray off on me after being disappointed with it. Instead though, I’m going to take a second to express my own personal disappointment with a film I’d been looking forward to. Two Days, One Night is a French film set in Belgium starring Marion Cotillard as a young depressed mum on the brink of losing her job if her colleagues decide to vote for keeping their bonuses instead of keeping her on. Over the course of a couple of days, she attempts to convince her co-workers to vote in favour of allowing her to retain her job. I’d seen the film described as a masterpiece and knew how highly regarded Cotillard’s performance was. Why is it thought of as a masterpiece? I couldn’t tell you. The film was a repetitive, monotone chore with nothing interesting to say about relationships; be they intimate man-and-woman loving relationships, or about the reflections of the employer/employee relationships. It was just one “sometimes-life-throws-up-difficult-decisions” drum banged over and over again. It’s one thing to make a film seem naturalistic, it’s another to stretch scenes so thin that you are literally watching 30 seconds of someone say they don’t know so-and-so’s address, but here’s [that guy]’s address, then write it down on a bit of paper, then hand it over, then have a slight pause before “merci, au revoir” and slowly walk out of frame. Bah. I know that in reviewing a shitty spaghetti western and the Terminator franchise that maybe I’ve painted myself as a certain kind of movie-watcher. But in all honesty, I do watch any and every sort of film. I stated above that I was looking forward to this film, but even Cotillard was disappointing. She wasn’t bad; in parts I’d go so far as to say that she was quite good. Between the saturation of constant tears and slow awkward conversations, she (and it) just left me tired and bored.
And that’s a wrap. I’ll be back next month to look back at the films I’ve seen in March, as well as hopefully more films to choose from! I’m happy to talk about any of the others listed above too should you want to know more. Just leave a comment below or send me a Tweet at @ohughes86.