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  • Shanghai Triad 1995

    Watched 02 Mar, 2015

    Shanghai Triad takes the familiar approach to 1930s Shanghai as a place of wealth, opportunity and corrupting vices that sits in stark contrast to a simple virtuous countryside. The truth is considerably more nuanced: most of Shanghai's residents worked as pedicab drivers, factory labours, taxi dancers and the like while living in hovels or in cramped, sublet houses. In many cases they were actually worse off than "country bumpkins". The "money and sin" approach does mirror the contemporary, popular perception…

  • Citizenfour 2014

    Watched 01 Mar, 2015

    •The erosion of privacy and the frightening nature of government's ability to monitor electronic communications is conveyed not only by the explicit text but also comes across through people's actions in the documentary. The constant collection of cell phones, unplugging of telephones, nervousness about the likelihood of doors getting kicked down and of injunctions being issued speaks as well to the issue as does the explicit talk about exactly how, for example, Tempora works.

    •At times it risks pushing into…

  • In Celebration 1975

    Watched 28 Feb, 2015

    Unfortunately due to a damaged disc I wasn't able to see all of this so the following is going to be my impressions of everything bar the last 15-20 minutes or so.

    •Anderson resists all temptation to "open the play up" and I think it's for the best. The last thing a claustrophobic chamber drama like this needs is space. Furthermore when everyone comes back from the restaurant and the mother rhapsodises over the view with her husband and middle…

  • The Babadook 2014

    Watched 26 Feb, 2015

    The tormented and the tormenter being one and the same seems like such an obvious metaphor for mental illness after watching this film that I'm surprised I haven't seen it anywhere else before. (Of course that description is not entirely accurate - this is a horror film after all so something else - in this case the dog and the kid - has to be at risk.) It also does an excellent job of getting across mental illness as an…

  • Jupiter Ascending 2015

    Watched 24 Feb, 2015

    I'm going to do this in bullet points because I said pretty much everything I wanted to say about this on twitter and I'm lazy like that:

    •I adore the production design and would've bought a ticket for it alone. I've seen people refer to Ascending as being made up of Star Wars offcuts and while I'll grant that the robots do bear a passing resemblance to Lobot it should be noted that the gambling dens and antiseptic future corridors…

  • Still Alice 2014

    Watched 21 Feb, 2015

    For a weepy about Alzheimer's disease Still Alice is uncommonly orderly and efficient. Every scene starts clearly, gets straight to the point and then cuts to the next - much like it would in a well made thriller. In the film's early stages this strategy works well as in some sense the film is a thriller. Alzheimer's is more or less a monster stalking Alice. Every time she begins to speak or goes out on her own the disease is…

  • The Legend of Drunken Master 1994

    Watched 17 Feb, 2015

    This is going to be somewhat slapdash, oh well:

    It's tempting to separate this movie into two parts: the undistinguished, familiar narrative of anti-imperialist nationalism and filial piety, and the extraordinarily choreographed fights shot with wide-angled lenses. However I'd argue that the former adds a valuable, if slight, emotional payoff to the finale in which Chan's character and the film as a whole indulge just the right amount.

    Talking of payoffs the fight in the middle of the film in…

  • Laura 1944

    Watched 16 Feb, 2015

    Watched as a belated double bill with Pitfall. Like Pitfall it's about men trying to posses a woman and like Pitfall the object of their affections is quite literally presented as an object before she becomes a person. Laura does have more agency than Mona as the head of an advertising company who creates images rather than a model who acts as an image for others. She's still trapped though, caught as she is in the social ties that demand…

  • Pitfall 1948

    Watched 12 Feb, 2015

    Pitfall is strikingly feminist in the way it draws attention to how men look at and objectify women. Before Mona (Lizbeth Scott) is present in the movie she’s described in lascivious terms and has her age, weight and dress size displayed prominently alongside modelling samples. Later on her job is exploited by a sleazy private investigator (Raymond Burr) who won’t take no for an answer. Under the pretext of buying a dress a he’s able to make her the subject…

  • On the Waterfront 1954

    Watched 07 Feb, 2015

    Given the context of the time this is surprisingly anti-individualist, even anti-capitalist. It does serve as a justification for Kazan's testimony to the Un-American Activities Committee but beyond that it makes a pretty strident case for the virtues of collective action and condemns the sin (and yes, in this movie it is very much a sin in the biblical sense) of looking out for oneself without caring for one's neighbours.

    The scene in which Malloy and Doyle go out for…

  • Pulp Fiction 1994

    Watched 03 Feb, 2015 2

    Most of this movie consists of people talking in an obnoxiously stylised manner about stuff that doesn't interest me at all. I suppose the lengthy discussion on what foot massages signify and thus whether it is immoral to give one to a married woman is not unfunny but it's just not funny to me. Nor is an ultra efficient hitman detailing how to clean up a crime scene. (The short version: wash everything and then throw it out.) Similarly its…

  • The Mule 2014

    Watched 02 Feb, 2015

    You know Australian cinema isn’t having a good time at the box office when what is essentially a direct to video release is hailed as an innovative distribution strategy. Having said that it’s clear that The Mule wasn’t dumped; there was a considerable effort to promote the film through twitter and the like which suggests it was intended to attract an audience that simply doesn’t show up to poorly promoted, short run limited releases (www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/26/australian-film-australian-audiences?CMP=twt_gu).

    As for the film itself…