Casino (1995)

Casino
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Martin Scorses and Nicholas Pileggi based on his book
(number 379)

I knew nothing about this movie going in. I had no idea what to expect… except for it’s a Scorsese movie and it seems to be really long. Well, both of these things are true.

Two alternating smart ass male voiceovers was a bit much for my sick, slightly fevery brain to keep straight. There’s so much talky talk, so much suited guys being cool, so much neon and Vegas lovingly filmed. It’s the seedy underbelly sort of movie I’m sure Scorsese has made before about different-ish characters. Before and since. Ultimately none of it is moving me, and the random sudden gory violence was pretty shocking.

In terms of cinematography, the desert scenes in particular are very striking. From other movies I find the Nevada desert very familiar looking, and the harshness of the light is obvious when it’s filmed.

The star power in this movie cannot be denied. You got Robert de Niro, Sharon Stone, James Woods and Joe Pesci, but I honestly just… don’t really enjoy this kind of story. I’m always on the side of the FBI taking down the crooked people.

Great soundtrack, this movie. I really dug the soundtrack. House of the Rising Sun, Nights in White Satin, Love is the Drug, Go Your Own Way, I’m pretty tempted to track this down on CD.

Does it make me love the people? I have a bit of a soft spot for Ginger, who’s abused by all the men in her life and can’t stop herself going back for more and feeling incredibly deeply about everything. Ace is slick but I don’t really feel for him, and Nicky is terrifying.

Bechdel test: I don’t think so. Ginger seems to be the only named woman, and there’s a whole sequence of fat shaming show girls, so… yeah this isn’t a movie about women. I’m getting depressed about how often I’m typing those words.

Best line:

Ace Rothstein: The town will never be the same. After the Tangiers, the big corporations took it all over. Today it looks like Disneyland. And while the kids play cardboard pirates, Mommy and Daddy drop the house payments and Junior’s college money on the poker slots. In the old days, dealers knew your name, what you drank, what you played. Today, it’s like checkin’ into an airport. And if you order room service, you’re lucky if you get it by Thursday. Today, it’s all gone. You get a whale show up with four million in a suitcase, and some twenty-five-year-old hotel school kid is gonna want his Social Security Number. After the Teamsters got knocked out of the box, the corporations tore down practically every one of the old casinos. And where did the money come from to rebuild the pyramids? Junk bonds. But in the end, I wound up right back where I started. I could still pick winners, and I could still make money for all kinds of people back home. And why mess up a good thing?

State of Mind: Meeeeehhhh. It’s pretty, it’s well acted, and I dun care.

Watched movie count

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The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

The Double Life of Veronique
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
(number 418)

Irene Jacob is perfection in this movie, as both Veronique and Weronika, two different but interconnected women who look identical and share a metaphysical bond. This film is a French/Polish collaboration but it felt very French, the casualness of the exposed breasts of the lead actress, showing a man going down on a woman on camera… these things are so not what you’d see in a Hollywood film, and I value them so much for it.

I don’t know how to describe this movie beyond ‘beautiful and calm’. It felt like the forerunner of Amelie, maybe, and it made me want to watch those newer movies about doppelgangers which came out at the same time last year.

The first half of the movie is Weronkia, a Polish singer who wins a competition and enjoys a rich family life. The second half of the movie is Veronique’s.. I don’t want to spoil the movie so I won’t go into more plot. I will say instead that this movie almost certainly needs to be watched more than once, and I intend to watch it again sometime soon.

It’s lush, the greens and greys of the colour palette suiting the mood of the film perfectly, the classical music refrains coming back and back. The sudden realisation that the camera angle is suddenly point of view, and how delightful it feels when it happens. There are lots of little great moments in this film, and I relished them. Such a nice change from the male dominated cast films I’ve been watching off this list.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, I adore Weronika and Veronique, they both have a lust for life, the old joie de vivre, and a healthy approach to sex. They both are thoughtful and intuitive, loving to the people around them.

Bechdel test: Yes, Veronique talks to Catherine and Nicole about ‘the plan’. Mostly when either Weronika or Veronique are talking to other women it’s about a man or to a woman who isn’t actually named beyond ‘the aunt’ or something, but that one conversation counts. I had hoped they would talk to each other but it’s not to be.

Best line:

Weronika: What else do you want to know about me?
Alexandre Fabbri: Everything
Weronika: [picks up her purse and gently dumps the contents on the bed in front of him]

State of Mind: Lovely, beautiful and enchanting movie, will definitely be watching it again. Maybe one of my favourite surprises from this list.

Watched movie count

The English Patient (1996)

The English Patient
Directed by Anthony Minghella
Written by Anthony Minghella based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje
(number 398)

Before Harry Potter, Ralph Fiennes plays Voldemort. Okay, not exactly, but…he does have that look about him in the burn make up. Juliette Binoche is a nurse at the tale end of the second world war, stationed in Italy. She’s soft hearted, kissing sad soldiers, loaning money to her girl friend and generally being lovely.

The only movie of Minghella’s I have seen before is The Talented Mr Ripley, which is a rough and harsh sort of film but excellently made. However I find out by looking on his imdb page that he wrote almost all of the old Jim Henson Storyteller episodes which had a huge impact on me as a child.

The flying sequences really are lovely. I thought the photography of the desert was very beautiful, especially the stars at night and the start of the sandstom, but overall I was a lot more invested in the ‘current day’ story with Almasy in the bed and Hana being the main character. I couldn’t find too much to connect to in the ‘rich white people lost in the desert’ storyline of the flashbacks. It’s hard to feel excited about the romance when you don’t really care about the characters involved.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, Hana is sweet and sad and interesting, the perfect fantasy of a WW2 nurse. Almasy is a bit less exciting, on account of I felt he’s rather aloof. He does make some good jokes though.
I loved Willem Defoe’s Caravaggio instantly, so cute and charming and yeah, I have a stupid soft spot for thief characters because of roleplaying.
Kip is lovely too, I like that a person of colour is included as a well spoken, interesting and funny character who also has a romantic role to play. The sequence where he rigged her up so she could see the Frescos on the highest parts of the walls was charming. Also hey, Sayid from Lost. He’s awesome.

Bechdel test: Yes, Hana and Mary speak about Hana staying on by herself and them being worried about seeing each other again. Also Hana talks to Jan about needing/loaning money for lace.

Best lines are generally a bit poetic…

Almásy: What was all that banging? Were you fighting rats, or the entire German army?

Caravaggio: You’re in love with him, aren’t you? Your poor patient. You think he’s a saint because of the way he looks? I don’t think he is.
Hana: I’m not in love with him. I’m in love with ghosts. So is he, he’s in love with ghosts.

Almásy: This… this, the hollow at the base of a woman’s throat, does it have an official name?
Madox: Good God, man, pull yourself together.

Caravaggio: I thought I would kill you
Almasy: You can’t kill me, I died years ago.

State of Mind: Why is this film so loooooong? It’s too long. I also felt like Almasy was generally a bit of a tool so I found him hard to relate to. However overall the feel of the film is quite pleasant, pretty and calm with some nice jokes in it. Fantastically acted and directed, but I don’t know how I feel in terms of watching it again. Maybe some rainy Sunday afternoon while I do craft it could be nice to have on, but then I could also probably watch something else. Not my favourite, but not my most hated either.

Watched movie count

Springtime in a Small Town (1948)

Springtime in a small town
Directed by Mu Fei
Written by Tianji Li
(number 427)

I went into this movie knowing nothing at all…

Made just three years after the end of World War 2, the most striking thing immediately about this film is the traditional Chinese homestead contrasted with the destruction of the city and the outside walls of the same homestead. Knowing that the half ruined brick walls are most likely not sets made for the movie is pretty intense. The landscape is beautiful when they go for walks and show the countryside. It’s all filmed in such a lovely way.

For a love story, it’s remarkably chaste. Part of that is the era the movie was made and released in, but I think a larger part is that the story is about yearning, about what you can’t have. If the lovers give in to their desires it’s less powerful, and both are prevented from doing this by their sense of duty, honour and decorum. There’s an incredibly powerful scene where Yuwen does try to give in, and for a moment Zhichen also.. but the overwhelming sadness between them stops him. He pulls her off him, pushes her away, eventually has to leave the room and lock her in, but her passion is such that she punches through a window and cuts her hand open.

Later there’s a sweetly yearning scene of Liyan exploring Yuwen’s room, sniffing her powders and so on. Not in a creepy or disrespectful way, but to understand more about who she is. It’s hard to imagine this scene being done right in almost any other movie.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, all of them. I feel for Liyan, stuck inside and convinced he’s dying of TB, still loving his wife but totally wrapped up in himself. Then Yuwen obviously, I adore her. That kind of dutiful wife holding an old flame in her heart and unwilling to do anything drastic. Xiu is adorable, and although she is absolutely the annoying teenage girl trope she’s played really endearingly. Then of course dashing Zhichen who is stylish, cute, adorable and absolutely torn in his loyalties.

Bechdel test: Yes, Yuwen and Xiu exchange several little bits of dialogue. They are shown to dote on each other, with Yuwen looking after and indulging Xiu and Xiu ensuring Yuwen is included.

Best line:
Spring is as changeable as a child’s mood

Liyan: I had no idea you knew her before… if she’d married you, she would have been better off.

Yuwen: there was a time when you weren’t so good to me either. Later, good or not, it felt as good. I couldn’t tell the difference.

Liyan: please stay just one more day at least. Seeing her so happy makes me happy too.

State of Mind: I am blown away with how much I loved this movie. It was moving, beautiful and ultimately brought a tear to my eye. True, the big problem between the characters could pretty easily be solved with a consensual polyamorous relationship, but given the time and the country this is from that was never going to be a solution. I loved it, shed a tear at the end, and will definitely be watching it again. I watched it over several days and it was still completely engrossing. Two thumbs up!

Watched movie count

Things I Love Thursday

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Mission Bay is probably one of my favourite Auckland things. It has ice cream, beach, mountains, boats, people walking dogs, tasty food and a real holiday feel to it. I also have some pretty important/great memories there so 🙂

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On the weekend Anna and I went to see Romeo and Juliet at the Pop Up Globe Theatre on Saturday. I didn’t exactly know what to expect beyond ‘audience participation’ and seeing the scale of Shakespeare’s Globe. It’s a funny wee building, built out of scaffolding and full of hidey holes. I loved it! The play was spectacular, moving and funny and shocking as it should be. Favourite moments include Romeo hiding amongst the audience, the balcony scene, any time the Prince showed up and the moment when Romeo slit Paris’s throat and a police siren happened to sound right outside.

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Mango is best cat.

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Because we’re addicts, we went to Baristacats cat cafe again. This is their newest charge, a tiny three legged girl ginge called GG (after Jen Genie, because of Bowie passing). She’s super affectionate and likes to chirp. She also said ‘meow’ to me, like… exactly how meow sounds. I called her out on it ‘did you just say meow?’ and she blinked all innocent like.

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Many cats.

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Miss Molly Snugglington is either asleep like this, or super energetic and playful. It’s mostly the sleeping though.

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Orson is maybe a bit big for this hammock, but whatever, she looks so comfy.

Roleplaying I got to play in the Tuesday game, and I used a character I’ve played in a couple of previous sessions and it was so much fun. Snoops for lyfe! Tonight I have Apocalypse World and I get to play my totally-not-Bucky-Barnes-what-are-you-talking-about? Quarantine character. I am excited to see if there’s retribution for the violent helping out I gave the Battlebabe last time…


Honourable Mentions:
Anna, Anna looking after me when I’m sick, codral cold and flu tablets, sleeping, the exceptionally good books I’ve been reading this year, story ideas, motivation to edit and improve games and short stories, powering through 500 list movies, rewatching Face Off and Ribena.

Mitchiri march!

Rain Man (1988)

Rain Man
Directed by Barry Levinson
Written by Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow, based on his story.
(number 397)

Tiny Baby Tom Cruise stars in a movie where he plays an 80s capitalist narcissist, the same character template as good old Patrick Bateman. But the twist in this movie is that he has a secret brother who has a mental disability, played by the genius Dustin Hoffman, it turns out that the twist actually makes a huge difference to the angry white business guy template. I like that.

I’ve never seen the movie start to finish before, I’m most familiar with the character of Ray from the animaniacs sketch Rita and Runt, where the big dog spoke just like Ray. Lots of ‘definitely, definitely’ and so on. I must have seen little bits of it at some stage but all I really knew about it was that he goes to Vegas and uses his savant brother to cheat at cards and get money.

There’s some really beautiful shots as they cross the country. Especially the sunset over the desert… I’ve always liked the idea of a road trip across America and this movie isn’t helping with that desire. It was interesting watching with Anna who was in Vegas a few months previous and was able to tell me just how much the city has changed since ’88.

Does it make me love the people? I dunno, you’re kind of watching the slow humanisation of Charlie, but he’s so awful to Ray it’s hard to feel much for him. I love Ray, he’s very cute and endearing which I’m sure is the point of the entire movie. Actually yeah, once he realises that Ray was his Rain Man imaginary friend, and Ray tells him the story of how the hot water hurt the baby I loved both of them. I also love the sequence after they win big in Vegas when he teaches Ray how to dance.

Movies like this are, I think, pretty important in the way that they bring different kinds of people into the foreground and demonstrate their humanity. That said, I’m not in a position to say if this movie is a fair or balanced portrayal of someone with autism. At least it pushes it into the limelight and promotes understanding – Charlie switches from wanting to ‘cure’ Ray to genuinely trying to do what’s best for Ray and what would make Ray happy.

Bechdel test: Not so as you would notice. Susanna is probably the only named woman and she gets left behind for much of the movie. It does please me that she is also the lead love interest in Hot Shots, opposite Charlie Sheen pretending to be Tom Cruise.

Best line:

Probably when Ray’s making the humming honking noise that he can hear Susanna making love with Charlie, that was very funny, but for feels…

Charlie: When did you leave?
Raymond: January 12, 1965. Very snowy that day. 7.2 inches of snow that day.
Charlie: Just after Mom died.
Raymond: Yeah Mom died January 5, 1965.
Charlie: You remember that day. Was I there? Where was I?
Raymond: You were in the window. You waved to me, “Bye bye Rain Man”, “Bye bye.”

State of Mind: I enjoyed it. It’s maybe in need of editing, I think it’s longer than it has to be but at the same time it’s relatively fine to watch – doesn’t drag, I just got really sleepy. I really hated the ending, I was crying and crying. Anna said it was okay because they were going to see each other in two weeks or whatever, but I really wanted Ray to stay with Charlie and have a happy life outside the institution.

Watched movie count

Bad Taste (1987)

Bad Taste
Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Ken Hammon, Tony Hiles and Peter Jackson
(number 419)

Peter Jackson’s first feature length movie filmed by him and his friends on weekends around Pukerua Bay on a 25-year-old 16mm camera. For pure effort, guerilla film- making and a boost into the movie industry this movie is clearly a touchstone and a very important moment of history. Plus I feel it would be unpatriotic to say bad things about it… but yeah, I will.

I have watched this movie just once before and even then I don’t think you could count it. I watched it with an ex-boyfriend and I didn’t much want to watch the gory horror, I wanted to make out. So.. although the opening sequence was vaguely familiar I can’t say I know this movie at all.

Well, duh, it’s really gross. It’s stupid and gross. I mean, those two things are 100 per cent the point of this movie right? It’s right there in the name, and it’s clearly influenced by slasher gore movies of the 70s and earlier 80s. Peter Jackson had a brilliant time coming up with gross effects and props and he went to town with it. I imagine the local butcher got a lot of money out of this project!

I cannot watch the vomit in a bowl scene, I had to skip it. I have such a sensitive vomit trigger that stuff like that makes me want to do it. Being sick with a fever doesn’t help either.

I like the clarity of the shots, the saturated colours of the New Zealand landscape and fauna, the soundtrack’s not too bad and they dubbed the sound okay. I don’t really care about the straightforward ‘fighting aliens who are harvesting humans’ story, and the gross out stuff is too gross for me.

The wikipedia page did lead me to this neat list of movies shot over more than 3 years though.

Does it make me love the people? Ehhhh… They’re all just kiwi blokes, I don’t really feel much for them as people or characters, they don’t really develop. They make some good pop culture jokes like aliens coming down in a phone box but, yeah. This isn’t a movie about the human experience, it’s about a rough ride and a gross out.

Bechdel test: There doesn’t seem to be a single woman in the whole film. Oh, maybe in the big group scene with a whole lot of people looking up at the dude speaking at the top of the stairs, but I’m guessing based on back of heads.

Best line:

Barry: Why can’t aliens be friendly?
Derek: There’s no glowing fingers on these bastards, we’ve got a bunch of Extra-Terrestrial psychopaths on our hands, like a visit from a planet full of Charlie Mansons, they’ve started on something small, its my guess they’ll go onto something bigger next time, Christchurch, Wellington…
Barry: Auckland?
Derek: Yeah, well, that wouldn’t be so bad.

State of Mind: I can see that this is an important movie for launching Jackson, and generally in NZ film history and just a really impressive feat for a bunch of friends to pull off, but I don’t care for it myself. Won’t be watching it again.

Watched movie count