Thursday, 2 April 2020

Plague Times Viewing (2) - Despatches from John Baxter, Adrian Danks, David Stratton and Neil MCGlone

Following the previous iteration, John Baxter writes

Good to see ALONG CAME JONES given a guernsey. Some great lines. Sheriff. “Have you got anything to say?”. Dan Duryea. “Yeah. You’re hanging an innocent man.” Sheriff: “You were caught leaving town on a stolen horse with the contents of the bank in your saddle bags and the banker’s wife up behind you.” Duryea. “You call that evidence?”

Adrian Danks has already posted this on Facebook:

Might need to rethink my choices of movies during this period of physical though not social isolation. Started well earlier in the week with A MATTER OF LIFE & DEATH, Leisen's EASY LIVING & then Wilder's A FOREIGN AFFAIR - all films that touch on the real world (in a very deep fashion in the first listed here) but which also offer a fair amount of escapism/joy/hope/laughter, etc. 

The last 2 nights were, let's say, interesting choices. Val Lewton's/Mark Robson's ISLE OF THE DEAD (below) - which starts with Boris Karloff vigorously washing his hands (a model of it, really) before warning of an approaching plague (which catches up with him, inevitably, on the Isle of the Dead). It is a strange & poetic film – so although a bit too close to the bone, I'd certainly recommend it. 

Not so sure now was the moment to watch the isolationist nightmare and surreal dream that is THE LIGHTHOUSE though. I think we might settle for something like THE BANDWAGON tonight.

David Stratton writes:

Susie and I decided to pick a year and explore the films of that year.

The year - drawn from a hat - was 1944.  

So far we have seen:-
COVER GIRL - delightful; lovely Technicolor restoration
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT - Bacall really is something!
ARSENIC AND OLD LACE - dire; Cary Grant’s worst performance
GASLIGHT - splendid
We haven’t decided what’s next, but I have another 45 or so films
available to see from 1944.

Neil McGlone writes:

Our lockdown started a little earlier here in the UK!

The cinema where I work as Project Manager was closed down on Friday 20th March along with our restaurant, and since then the country has been in a lockdown situation with only supermarkets and pharmacies open. We are only allowed out of the house for 4 reasons - essential food shopping, picking up prescriptions, a walk/exercise once a day, essential work for those designated as key workers.

This has meant I have been pretty much confined to the house with a few daily walks interspersed.

I have therefore been watching way more than usual including the following over the past week and a bit:

Star Wars Original 1977 Theatrical release (George Lucas, USA)

I am in no way a “nerd” when it comes to the Star Wars franchise and can take or leave the films, however a friend recently told me about a group of guys who had gone to painstaking lengths to get hold of original 1977 theatrical prints of STAR WARS and basically pay for their own restoration so that the original version could be seen again. Lucas is never likely to allow the original to be released again following the Special Edition he released in the late 90’s, so this could be the only way possible. 

Check out for more details. 

I downloaded the 4K UHD version (yes, it’s a 50Gb file!) but boy does it look good when played back through my Oppo 4K Blu-ray player and Sony 4K TV!

Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot (Gus van Sant, USA, 2018)

This film clearly passed me by when it was released in 2018, I feel pretty sure it did not get a theatre release in the UK as am sure we would have screened it. It’s directed by Gus van Sant and stars Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black. It tells the true story of the American alcoholic cartoonist, John Callahan. Loved every second of it, great performances from all the cast.

Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans

A 2015 documentary about the much troubled making of the film, Le Mans. Nobody comes out of this looking particularly great, including McQueen. Nonetheless a fascinating insight into the story behind the film.

To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1955)

A much-needed “warm blanket” film to jut sit back and feel comforted by - Grant and Kelly in the South of France looking amazing. What is not to like.

Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil, 2019)

I was first introduced to the filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho when I saw his film NEIGHBORING SOUNDS at the 2012 Rotterdam Film Festival. It blew me away and it’s a film I often re-visit, it also has some of the best Sound Design in film history. Sadly anything else I have seen by him has never lived up to this and BACURAU was no exception, didn’t work for me at all.

Toast of London 

Comedy at this time is much needed and I love the British comedian, Matt Berry, this series follows a failed actor on his quest for the big time through various hilarious attempts. Each episode is only just over 20mins, and I could happily watch all three seasons again tomorrow.

Vivarium (Lorcan Finnegan, USA, 2020)

This film from Lorcan Finnegan was released only last week and stars Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots as a couple looking to settle down and find their dream home to start a family. However, they end up being taken to a new housing development where every house looks the same and they find it impossible to leave. A series of very dark, sinister events follow. The film seems quite apt at this time with people self-isolating, and this has some real creepy moments in it. Essentially a science-fiction tale of isolation and dehumanisation.

The Hunt  (Craig Zobel, USA, 2020)

This movie was due to be released in the US in the summer last year but following a series of shootings, it was put back until just last week when it was finally given a release date. A social satire on Trump and all he stands for, this film is at times quite vulgar, over the top and for me, pointless and unnecessary.

Ozark Season 3

I can’t get enough of this! Fantastic series on Netflix, Season 3 dropped a few days ago and I have already greedily consumed every episode.

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 10

It’s hard to think of a comedy series running for 10 seasons and not yet having run out of steam. Sure there has been a few duff episodes in previous seasons but this latest season is one of the best, every episode is a gem. Larry David caught up in the whole #MeToo movement, Jeff being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein, Coffee Shop Wars and lots more. It’s times like these we need comedy like this to see us through the darker moments.


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