Film diary: 6/20

If you’re on Letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 15
Films directed by women: 3 (up 2)
Strong recommendations: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, The Raid, Next Goal Wins, Booksmart, O.J.: Made in America

You’d be forgiven for thinking this blog is just a place to syndicate my film reviews. I’ve had a few notes on Covid and Everything stuck in drafts for the last three-four months, but Covid and Everything has hindered my enthusiasm for most things. I’m also struggling to find things that feel worthwhile doing in the day. The reason I enjoy doing a film in the evening when we can is that it’s a one-off full meal that makes the day feel different than the one before. I’m very ready for days that feel different.

TV that’s been good includes the new season of What We Do In the Shadows, Staged, Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II, The Mandalorian, and Upright.

Full list follows:

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things (2019, dir. Leslie Woodhead)
A decent, thorough summary of Ella Fitzgerald’s life. In terms of technique, it’s your standard mix of talking heads and archive footage, with a mix of narration and captions. This means it’s not very interesting as a film, but you can’t complain about a good opportunity to listen to Ella sing. (3/6/20)

Orpheus (1950, dir. Jean Cocteau)
I really like the way it’s made, and would recommend it as a watch. However, since it has an intellectual purpose rather than an emotional one, and I’m not currently interested in its ideas, I can’t say it moved me beyond admiration. Definitely easier to follow than Testament of Orpheus, though, so marks for that. (3/6/20)

Captain Fantastic (2016, dir. Matt Ross)
I really liked it until its message got muddled at a crucial point of the narrative, meaning I don’t really believe its conclusion, and the whole project became somewhat compromised. Still, great actors doing great acting, a great sense of atmosphere and place, and hardly a waste of time. Strangely, if it was three hours and didn’t have a strong ending, I’d probably prefer it. (6/6/20)

Artemis Fowl (2020, dir. Kenneth Branagh)
If it was just a generic fantasy blockbuster, with lumpen Josh Gad narration, that’d be boring enough. However, it also completely misunderstands what was unique and interesting about the great books, so it’s pointless too. This film is the pits. (12/6/20)

The Warrior (2001, dir. Asif Kapadia)
Really great, stripped down, western-samurai personal epic. (13/6/20)

Filmworker (2017, dir. Tony Zierra)
Works better as a straightforward biopic of a very interesting individual than the tribute to below-the-line production crew it tries to spin itself as towards the end. Also, while there is some insight into Kubrick and his films, it’s obviously not the focus, and is mostly restricted to how Vitali sees the director. Great doc though. (14/6/20)

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991, dir. Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola)
The granddaddy of documentaries about films, this short n’ sweet flick has tremendous access and an astonishing amount of footage you wouldn’t have expected them to capture. It’s also a proper movie, with high stakes, amazing events, and great interpersonal drama. It finishes rather abruptly towards the end of the shoot, and I would have liked these filmmakers to follow the process right through editing, but luckily that’s covered in extras. Highly recommended. (14/6/20)

Blues Brothers 2000 (1998, dir. John Landis)
The film is a lame retread of The Blues Brothers, which gets by on charm rather than a brilliantly structured script. My opinion of the original is flattening out over the years, and seeing a lumpenly paced and boringly directed photocopy just highlights the flaws inherent in the idea. However, it far exceeded my rock bottom expectations, the (far too many) musical sequences are great, and there’s some good car stunts, so I have to say I enjoyed it. (14/6/20)

Good Vibrations (2012, dir. Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn)
Great biopic, inventively directed, with some cracking tunes. (17/6/20)

The Raid (2011, dir. Gareth Evans)
Beautiful violence. (19/6/20, rewatch)

Next Goal Wins (2014, dir. Mike Brett, Steve Jamison)
Really great underdog sports doc. Funny, sweet, exciting. (20/6/20)

Booksmart (2019, dir. Olivia Wilde)
Lovely, funny, heartwarming teen flick. I don’t miss being young, but I kinda do. (24/6/20)

O.J.: Made in America (2016, dir. Ezra Edelman)
A magnificent achievement in documentary film making. Clearly and concisely argued, providing the right amount of context in order to describe O.J.’s place in American society as an individual and as a Black man. I came to this knowing pretty much nothing and feel like I’ve been treated to a university module considering justice and race. Highly recommended. (It’s probably a TV series, but it won an Oscar, so it can go here.) (26/6/20)

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020, dir. David Dobkin)
Could be shorter with more gags, but it’s pretty good if you like Eurovision. (27/6/20)

Live and Let Die (1973, dir. Guy Hamilton)
One of my favourite Bond films. Sharp, varied, and absurd in a delightful new way, rather than the lazy camp of some later Moore entries. (28/6/20)