Braveheart (1995)

Directed by Mel Gibson
Written by Randall Wallace
(number 328)

When this movie came out, it was one of those Hollywood moments where two very similar films came out at the same time. My family went to see the other one, Rob Roy. I really liked Rob Roy, I couldn’t see how Hollywood and Mel Gibson could have done a better version of a similar story. Not the same story, obviously, but… very similar.

I may have seen this at a sleepover at a friend’s house, actually. She really loved it, and I may have seen it then but I also may have mostly slept through it. I am at least a quarter Scottish. I should be loving the history lesson here, but good lord why is it three hours long?

It looks so cold there. It looks a lot like New Zealand actually, the hills and the trees. The greenness of it, the large arching sky.

Good Lord, Prima Nocta.. this movie, if nothing else demonstrates how awful an idea it is. Can we please stop giving Iron Man a pass for joking about it in the Avengers? Please ? Literal sanctioned rape. Anyway, it’s a really good way to make the bad guys unforgiveable.

The battle scenes are big, epic, impressive.. well. I imagine that they were at the time. In a post Lord of the Rings world, where epic battles just get bigger and more elaborate all the time I can’t say I was particularly blown away. At the time though, CG wasn’t really a thing, so they really did have to have 6000 extras, and that’s pretty impressive.

Oh hey, evil, weak gay people. Representation matters and this is one of many examples of gay people being the villains – the prince is clearly weak and foppish, despised by his father, and the fact that he is gay/bi is the subject of court gossip. And then of course, his lover, Philip is thrown unceremoniously out a window. So, we have the two man LGBTQA tropes present: gay people are evil and one of them is killed before the end of the movie. So… yeah, this is that crap representation we’re all hoping will die out soon.

Does it make me love the people? The love story at the beginning is sweet, it made me care about William and Murron. They’re both exceptionally pretty and filmed in very flattering ways. It seems very uncomfortable to make love standing up on a waterfall but it looks nice on camera. Once things start going bad though I found myself unable to keep affection for William.

Bechdel test: Two French noble women talk to each other, but it’s about William Wallace and the man one of them slept with the night before. So, although we have a bunch of women named, they only talk to or about the men.

Best line:

“It’s tearing me apart!” ) but only because of the Room.

William Wallace: There’s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.

State of Mind: Thank goodness it’s over? Like, it’s brutal. So much torture and death. I didn’t enjoy it very much, I don’t understand why it’s so beloved and I’m not going to watch it again. I got bored enough while watching it that I started a thread on facebook for teenage crushes, and that was a lot of fun.

Watched movie count

Midnight Run (1988)

Midnight Run
Directed by Martin Brest
Written by George Gallo
(number 325)

I’m not sure how this film got on the list. It seems like a pretty standard action/comedy from the late eighties, I feel like we had others like this on the list already and I can’t quite see why it’s a classic.

Having said that I did find this movie pretty entertaining. It’s a road trip with an odd couple and there’s a lot of people all trying to track them down from different sides of the law.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I love Jack and I love ‘The Duke’, they’re both pretty sympathetic and they’re both kinda sweet to each other. Like, especially Duke being like ‘you shouldn’t smoke’ and on and on about his health and life choices. It is legitimately funny, in a bit of a Blues Brothers kind of way, very dusty and smart talking and lots of cops and cool people smoking. The feel is similar, although with a lot less cool music.

The scenery is great, lots of open American landscape (which seems to be a theme in the movies in this list, like Paris, Texas and so on. Actually there’s a lot of similarities in the shape of the trip to Rain Man from the same year. The failed plane ride, the weird small towns, etc.)

Shout out to the stunt team and special effects for some neat sequences, especially the small plane taking off, the

Bechdel test: Nope. Denise and Gail are in the same scene but they only talk to Jack.

Best line:

Jack : Where am I? I’m in Boise, Idaho. No, no, no, wait a minute, I’m in Anchorage, Alaska. No, no, wait, I’m in Casper, Wyoming. I’m in the lobby of a Howard Johnson’s and I’m wearing a pink carnation.
Moscone: What the fuck are you talking about?
Jack: I am not talking to you, I am talking to the other guys.
Moscone: What other guys?
Jack: Well, let me describe the scene to you. There are these guys, see? They’ve probably been up for like two days. They stink of B.O., they have coffee breath, they’re constipated from sittin’ on their asses for so long, they’re sitting in a van, and they’re probably parked right up the street from your office, Eddie. YOUR PHONE IS TAPPED!

Duke: you know why you have an ulcer? because you have two forms of expression: violence and rage.

Duke: (as Jack is trying to evade multiple police cars) this is the kind of situation where something bad happens.

State of Mind: It’s De Niro, but it’s hardly him being impressive. He’s just being angry and violent, much like Mel Gibson in lethal weapon or a hundred other heroes of a hundred other action movies. It’s funny, sure, but it’s hardly ground breaking or any kind of zeitgeist. It’s fun, but I don’t know when I’d watch it again. I feel like it’s the kind of movie they used to play in the evenings over summer school holidays, around 9pm and I’d watch them if I could scam the portable TV off mum and dad. I don’t think I ever watched this particular one but it feels like that kind of thing. Also it felt a bit overlong, once Duke was separated from Jack i lost interest pretty fast. I started wanting it over, very fast.

And I feel I have to say… these fucking movies where two men get to know and care about each other… but it’s somehow never romantic? it’s bullshit. I just wanted them to kiss at the end. Duke was gazing softly at Jack, smiling and leaning in. Jack’s all lop sided and crinkly eyed and goddamnit it. Just. Kiss. Run away into the sunset together…

Watched movie count

Trainspotting (1996)

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge based on the novel by Irvine Welsh
(number 324)

Content warning for bad things happening to animals and babies.

I mean, I feel like the opening sequence is pretty much the zeitgeist:

“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

I never managed to see this film before. I remember by brother bringing it home from the video shop and suggesting (having watched it himself) that Mum and I watch it. Mum watched it without me (possibly I told her to) and then it went back to the shop. I just never really felt the need to see this. Knowing what I did about it – drugs, someone dives into a toilet…and that’s sorta it? It’s one of these movies which when I tell people I haven’t seen it they look at me like WHAT? and also… it’s one of the ones on the list I figured I probably should see when I was first going through and checking things off (seen, not seen).

So, I watched it on an overly hot Wednesday early evening while Anna was out at the rehearsal dinner for her sister’s wedding. The opening and the first half hour are pretty great (gross out poo jokes aside), and poor old Renton getting taken in by a school girl who wanted him. An event happens 40 minutes in which makes everything rather more real and horrible. I saw it coming. Didn’t make it any easier when it happened.

There’s some very clever special effects in this movie. The sequence where Renton’s in his childhood bedroom detoxing is probably my favourite. The movement of the walls, the weirdness of his hallucinations. I really rated that bit.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, damnit. Ewan Macgregor is just so adorable, so charismatic that I cared about him right away. Tommy as well, they’ve got such chemistry on screen and you want to care about them. Spud, although rather gormless is generally the well meaning victim in other people’s drama and I care about him too.

Robert Carlisle does a stunning job as a totally unloveable asshole, so props but no love there.

Bechdel test: Lizzy, Gail, Diane and Allison are all named characters, but they don’t talk to each other, except once in the lady’s loos two women talk about withholding sex as a tactic learned in cosmopolitan but I don’t think they counts as it is about men explicitly.

Best line:

Tommy: Doesn’t it make you proud to be Scottish?
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: It’s SHITE being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. We’re ruled by effete arseholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference!

State of Mind: Generally I quite enjoyed that. I didn’t love the poo flying everywhere at the start but once that was done it’s a really good, solid movie. Reminded me of a couple that came later on like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or The Angel’s Share. Cleverly written, quite beautifully shot and with a killer soundtrack. I am pleasantly surprised.

Watched movie count

Out of Sight (1998)

Out of Sight
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Frank based on the novel by Elmore Leonard
(number 334)

Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney are very pretty people. They’re also in this movie where they’re very cool and talk all dry and sardonic to each other. So, if that’s all you need in a movie, maybe this is for you?

Look, really early on, Jack threatens to rape Karen. He immediately follows it up with ‘I’ve never done that in my life’ but the threat’s still there. It’s hard to get past that…. especially when it happens so early on. I guess it’s to show that he’s a hard man, a criminal. I don’t like it. I couldn’t forget it.

I really like the sequence in the hotel bar, they seem to really connect in a way I enjoy in that time and I see the chemistry between them. Up to that point it seemed sort of forced in the same way Karen thought the movie characters were during the conversation in the car boot. I also liked the view out of the hotel window, it was really charming seeing the snow fall and everything.

The cinematography of the movie is quite lovely. Especially the interiors of the fancy houses, really shows off the luxe aspects.

Does it make me love the people? I don’t know. It seems like they’re more stereotypes than characters, but Karen is pretty bad ass. I guess it’s hard to dislike Clooney and this is him at maximum gravelly voiced cool. The film is stuffed full of great character actors but I feel like for the most part they’re relegated to being ‘thug’ or ‘thug in prison’ which is a bit of a shame. Don Cheadle did a great job but his character was almost identical to Luis Guizman’s or Ving Rhames’s. It’s tempting to say this is racism but suspect it’s the fault of the original author.

Bechdel test: Karen talks to Adele but it’s only about men, and later on to Moselle, mostly about men but they have a brief interchange in the middle about Moselle’s old dog so it’s a pass.

Best line:

[Opening a birthday gift from dad]
Karen Sisco: Oh my God, it’s beautiful.
Marshall Sisco: It’s a um…
Karen Sisco: Sig-Sauer 380.
Marshall Sisco: Right.
Karen Sisco: I love it, thanks Dad.

State of Mind: I dunno. I think I’m just not that into movies like this. Like a slightly boring session of Fiasco which characters which are good ideas but not at all fleshed our or made interesting with quirks.

Watched movie count

The Gold Rush (1925)

The Gold Rush
Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin
(number 348)

Here’s one of these old films that you kind of know what it’s about purely because it’s been spoofed, referenced and sampled in so many other places. I feel like I’ve seen clips of it over and over. Mostly I think of the Simpsons parody with Homer and Mr Burns in the cabin.

The things I like about this film are that it’s easy to follow, there’s not weird stuff happening like in Napoleon. There’s genuinely amusing set pieces, and the love story is rather sweet and affecting. I didn’t really expect a love story but I suppose Chaplin usually put them in.

Tropes which started with this film: being so hungry you imagine someone as a big bit of food, being so hungry you cook and eat your shoe, the breadrolls + forks dancing feet, the cabin teetering on the edge of a precipice? P
ossibly the stuff with the bear being right behind him but then turning into a cave when the Prospector turns around? No, that one’s been around since people started making stage comedies I think.

I like the continuity with his missing shoe all through the movie as well, and his bundled up foot. It’s nice to see it so carefully represented all through the story, even after it gets set on fire. It should probably go without saying but I’m gonna state it anyway, there’s some astoundingly good slapstick in this film. I think my favourite is the Prospector declaiming his intentions to Georgia and gesturing widely, then being yanked off camera by Big Jim. You see both of Charlie’s feet in mid air in this stunt and it’s impressive.

I was also surprised to read that the majority of the movie was filmed in studios and backlots, it does look quite a lot like the actual Klondike stuff at the start of the film.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, the prospector, he’s our every man, but the tenderness he shows once he’s fallen for Georgia is what really makes him sympathetic. He has so little, but he sets up a lovely dinner table, decorations and a gift for her for New Years Eve dinner. It’s so sweet.

Bechdel test: well, aside from the fact that no one actually speaks out loud, it actually gets close. Georgia is shown talking with her dance hall girlfriends several times, but they aren’t named and their dialogue isn’t shown on title cards.

Best line:

“Man proposes, but a storm disposes” may be the best title card ever.

also I learned through the power of subtitles that the Spanish for ‘stowaway’ is ‘clandestino’ and if that’s not the most brilliant word, I just don’t even know language.

State of Mind: This is a lovely film, easy and fun to watch with lots of appeal for a modern sensibility. Charlie’s performance seemed ‘essence of Chaplin’ and I read online that it’s the role he wished to be most remembered for. I can see why. I may seek out other Chaplin films, as it really is sweeter than I expected from the opening sequence’s bleakness.

Watched movie count

Au hasard Balthazar (1966)

Au hasard Balthazar
Written and directed by Robert Bresson
(number 354)

Same film maker who did A Man Escaped which I watched a bit over a year previously. One of the greats in the ‘pretentious boring French film’ stakes (which I say with love, because French films are generally, love.) Having said that though, I’m not sure this is going to be one of my favourite French films. Marie and Balthasar are both mistreated and it’s meant to be a study of sainthood?

I guess the saints generally had pretty crap lives, didn’t they?

This film is basically Black Beauty if Black Beauty was a French donkey. So much pain and suffering and equating the struggles of an animal with the existential crisis of life.

It’s beautifully made, no question there. The photography is beautiful, the animal actors are astounding, the human actors are great too. The music, everything. It’s a lovely piece visually, but the story is pretty bleak. I had to watch this without Anna around and I’m glad I did as there’s quite a lot of animal suffering.

Does it make me love the people? I loved Balthasar because how could you not? Basically everyone else in the movie is horrible, selfish or actively abusive (especially bad boy Gerard, urgh.) Marie, yes. and Basically only Marie. Marie was such a sad, obedient character but there wasn’t much going on otherwise. Just winsome sadness.

Bechdel test: No, Marie and her mother talk, but her mother is not named and they only talk about Marie’s boyfriend and her father so. No.

Best line:

Gerard: Lend him to us.
Marie’s mother: He’s worked enough. He’s old. He’s all I have.
Gerard: Just for a day.
Marie’s mother: Besides, he’s a saint.

State of Mind: I cannot recommend this film. It’s depressing and upsetting things happen to the donkey. I feel I’m not sufficiently educated in how this movie relates to religion and sainthood but I dunno, it just felt awful. I tried to explain about it to a couple of people after finishing it and apparently my description just makes it sound awful as well. Cannot recommend.

Watched movie count

Fatal Attraction (1987)

Fatal Attraction
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Written by James Dearden based on his short film.
(number 351)

Here’s another film which you hear a lot about without actually seeing it. There’s one thing in particular that you hear about this film, and it’s also the reason why Anna should never see it. #BunnyBoiler

I guess it’s one I had always been interested in – just out of curiosity, also because it is one of those films which get parodied or homaged to quite often. I hadn’t realised it had been nominated for so many academy awards. It seems like it’s not the kind of fim which would get nominated these days, it seems like a pulp film, below their notice. Different times, I suppose.

I’m interested in Michael Douglas’s character because Dan seems like such the cookie cutter of the Michael Bateman type, a successful capitalist man’s man in suits. He’s a twist on it though because he is happily married and relatively devoted to his wife and family. And the other twist: he gets punished for breaking the family mould and sleeping around. It is kind of horribly satisfying to see the police be so useless when Dan goes in for help – a gender twist on the woman going to complain about being harrassed and basically being told she deserved it and there’s nothing they can do but catch the culprit in the act. Not a fun scene but an interesting use of it, I feel.

The sex scenes with Glenn Close are pretty raunchy, I can see how this caused a stir in the late eighties alone, let alone what happens later. It’s a very familiar storyline, not sure if this film originated it or not: textbook love sequences with raunch and playing around and tenderness, but then of course the darkness seeps in. She immediately goes to violent emotional manipulation and goodness. It’s scary. It also seems like classic behaviour for a manipulative partner.

The bunny sequence is shocking even when you know it’s coming – I can’t imagine the reaction in the theatres at the first releases. It’s especially awful because of how it doesn’t target Dan – it hurts his daughter first and foremost, and Beth for discovering it. He is forced to tell what happened, forced to deal with the fall out and how it hurts them.

The last half hour moves into classic horror territory with Alex popping up seemingly from nowhere, and the scenes in the country house becoming increasingly scary.

Does it make me love the people? Sure, you like Dan and there’s nothing but sympathy for Beth and Ellen. At first you feel sympathy for Alex too, you’re taken in just as Dan is because she seems sweet and fun. She lost all of it when she accused him of being gay for not doing what she wanted :/

Bechdel test: The babysitter talks to the daughter Ellen very early on, but the babysitter is not named. Martha the secretary talks to Alex over the phone but we only hear the secretary’s side of things. Hildy and Beth talk while they’re at a dinner party with their husbands but it’s sort of all four of them talking at once so I don’t think that counts. Beth and Ellen can be heard enjoying a bed time story together but it’s off screen, does that count? They’re both named women and talking about not-men…? Finally a definitive pass, Alex is in the house talking to Beth. It’s small talk about the apartment and definitely not about men. So many near misses before then! Later Beth and Ellen are shown on screen talking and practising her lines for the school play, so it’s a definite pass a couple times over. Nice to have so many named women to choose from!

Best line:

Dan: so you’re just gonna show up at my apartment?
Alex: Well, what am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I’m not gonna be IGNORED, Dan.

State of Mind: It got really tense at the end there. I didn’t like the jump scares… but overall a great movie. I’m not sure if I’d watch it again but the performances really are incredible. Virtuoso stuff from Glenn Close. I feel good for having seen it properly – I’m sure I’ve seen clips of it here and there, and certain moments were so familiar to me – but I think because of endless homages.

Watched movie count