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Romance

The Love Witch

The Love Witch

Sure, there's a lot of red in the flick, but, yeah, better Dead than Red

dir: Anna Biller

2016

What… what in the name of unholy fuck was that about?

I did read some very positive reviews of this flick late last year, very keen appraisals that argue passionately and persuasively about the merits of The Love Witch. This even made some people’s Best Of lists at the tail end of 2016. I even got to read a glowing review in The Age, the local paper of record, which made me think “Hmm, sounds great, must check it out”.

And now? Now I feel this dull rage, like I got ripped off by someone who wasn’t even running that good a scam on me, yet I got played anyway and I lost my watch, my wallet and my glass eye in the deal…

Of course you can’t rely on other people’s opinions in order to form your own opinions about anything: yes, People are People and have Different Experiences and Such when they See the World in All its Glory. I know all that: I’ve seen identical twins watch the same movie and violently disagree over their different takes on it while walking out of the theatre, which even might have resulted in a punch up, no shit.

At the very least what I can say is that the merits a fair few reviewers and / or film critics saw in this film are completely lost on me, even as I can nod my head and comprehend some of the themes and points the film seems to be making. Where I say “seems” I could just readily admit that I have no freaking idea.

Rating:

La La Land

La La Land

I prefer this poster because it makes it look like a completely different
flick from the one it actually is. This ain't no Goddard flick, though maybe
it's a remake of Breathless and no-one told me.

dir: Damien Chazelle

2016

It’s like… don’t they realise how out of place something like this is right now, in this day and age?

Don’t the makers and stars of La La Land realise that the place society seems to be leaning towards is more Fear the Walking Dead rather than Umbrellas of Cherbourg or Singing in the Rain?

They couldn’t have known, I guess, when they were making it that it would look like some anachronistic relic, like something completely at odds with the zeitgeist it would be released into. This flick says nothing about our anxieties, our fears, however concrete or abstract as they may be, but it does speak sweetly to our hopes and dreams.

Turns out, as long as we try our darnedest at whatever the hell it is we most want in the world and don’t give up, and we look like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, then eventually we’ll get exactly what we want, because this is a universe that rewards people’s most heartfelt desires and their specific attractiveness, instead of a realm that crushes everything in the vast uncaring coldness of oblivion.

This is exactly the kind of cynicism that a film like La La Land is trying to transcend, and why the hell not? These dark times we live in need some spark of light, some reminders that eventually, maybe, things will be a tad brighter? Or that maybe the staggering darkness isn’t as all pervasive as it seems?

Rating:

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Oh what a lovely day I had before I watched this monstrosity

dir: Burr Steers

2016

It should have been more fun than this.

It should have been more… something, anything than this.

There’s no argument that the world needs more versions of Pride and Prejudice. We don’t. Thanks, we’ve had plenty, there’s no more room at the inn.

I say that yet I happily watch any of them whenever they appear on cable. Especially that one, you know the one, the one that’s sex on a stick, with Colin Firth as Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy Bennett. Even the ones I don’t like I still watch, like that one with the stick insect and the other guy, or that Bollywood ‘inspired’ one, or any of the literally one million other versions.

We further don’t need more of them because virtually every romantic thing aimed at those humans who drink red wine / read / masturbate in the bath is pretty much based on Pride & Prejudice anyway. How so, you ask, as you sip from your second glass of wine for the night, and eat your third Tim Tam?

Rating:

Tangerine

Tangerine

It's nice that they used a beautiful image to promote it, because
honestly this image is prettier than anything that happens in this
scuzzy "masterpiece"

dir: Sean Baker

2015

In all honestly, this movie is like a Tom Waits song from a slightly alternate reality come to vivid, stinking, meth-smoking life.

It’s also one of the most bizarre Christmas related or Xmas-adjacent flicks I’ve ever seen.

Tangerine may seem to be too gimmicky to be taken seriously as a movie, as a ‘serious’ movie, but I think they made something pretty interesting.

If the first gimmick “major release arthouse flick with transgender leads” doesn’t put you off, then the second might: Tangerine was filmed on an iPhone and edited using the kinds of software anyone with a Mac has on their computer but rarely uses. Of course a bunch of stuff has been done to it in post, especially the soundtrack, but also the visuals have been cleared up / colour adjusted.

Technical details aside, Tangerine got a lot of press as it toured the film festival circuit, even playing at Melbourne’s International Film Festival before disappearing upon release. It was always going to be a hard sell outside of a very narrow niche.

Rating:

The Age of Adaline

Age of Adaline

In The Age of Adaline, the Avengers attempt to save the world from a
quiet immortal woman living in San Francisco looking after a succession of
dogs. The Avengers lose because she's just so charming, with her
1920s levelheadedness and snappy dress sense.

dir: Lee Toland Krieger

2015

Fantasy? Romance? Fantasy romance?

Whatever perfect combination of both those concepts you could wish for.

What is this film about? Well, it’s…

Hard to say. It’s about immortality and love, and hiding, and time.

That there is a strange element to the story is a given, since it’s about a woman who’s over a hundred years old but who doesn’t look a day over 25. What it’s ultimately saying about life and love, well, I have no idea, because I wasn’t able to figure it out whilst watching it.

I’ve thought about it some more since then. Still nothing.

Adaline (Blake Lively) looks like a young woman living in San Francisco. Upon travelling to her place of work she reminisces about her youth while watching archival footage of San Fran 100 years ago. If her faraway expression wasn’t enough, a serious, sober voiceover starts telling us stuff as if we, and not Adaline, are watching a documentary.

This is not a documentary, in case I haven’t yet made it painfully obvious. Adaline floats through most of the movie, elegant and detached from all around her. Why?

Well, people would get freaked out since she doesn’t age. And she doesn’t want a visit from the FBI/Gestapo again, where they once grabbed her, presumably for the purposes of experimentation, and yet they did it so incompetently that she was able to get away.

Rating:

Top Five

Top Five

Let's walk around for a while and who knows what might happen

dir: Chris Rock

2014

Oh, how hard it must be, to be rich and successful! Doesn’t your heart go out to the struggling celebs, whose lives are irretrievably destroyed by the wealth and the constant temptations of the flesh that most of us will never know of, let alone imagine?

I know mine does. Each morning and before I lay me down to sleep on my bed of nails, as I dutifully put on my hairshirt, I pray to the sweet Lord above and below that He look after all those successful comedians who are struggling to be taken seriously as dramatic actors. Then I wipe a tear away and sleep the sleep of the wicked.

Chris Rock directs and stars in a film where he seems to be playing a thinly veiled variation on Chris Rock. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. At least he calls his character “Andre Allen”. And this “Andre Allen” character is way more famous than Chris Rock is. This Andre Allen is like Brad Pitt – Katy Perry – Angela Lansbury famous, being mobbed on the streets and being driven everywhere in limos.

There are key differences, though. The character he plays here is in recovery, is afraid of comedy, and desperately seeks the approval of some film critic called James who hates his work with an unholy passion. I wonder if circumstances will present him with an opportunity to get back at his nemesis?

Rating:

Love is Strange

Love is Strange

And it's mean and cruel, and fluffy and silly, and silky
and oh so manageable, too.

dir: Ira Sachs

2014

Love is indeed strange, and wonderful and terrible, and a bunch of other descriptive words and adjectives. And it’s stronger than death, lighter than helium and more painful than anything else we can experience or imagine.

And it can also be a comfortable, gentle thing, as invisible to the rest of the world as it is obvious to us.

What it’s not is the solution to all the mundane problems that beset us in our daily lives. Sonny and Cher, a married couple at the time, sang that some other churlish soulless wretches could say that love won’t pay the rent, but everything’s okay because "I Got You, Babe", and that makes everything fine and dandy.

Well, fuck that. They were rich bastards who got divorced anyway, but their rent being paid was never a problem for them.

For the rest of us in couples, the sheer magnitude or sun-bright brilliance of the love we feel for each other doesn’t get us anywhere near closer to paying the rent living in expensive cities, or taking care of mortgage payments. Sure, last time we were late on the rent and the mortgage simultaneously, I tried explaining to the landlord and the bank manager ‘hey, we ain’t got the money, but we have Love! Lots and lots of love! Surely that counts for something?’

They both screamed “Fuck your love, pay us!” and started pistol whipping me while The Rolling Stones played in the background.

Rating:

The Fault in Our Stars

Fault in Our Stars

Get off my lawn, you crazy star-crossed cancer-riddled lovers

dir: Josh Boone

2014

I don’t go out of my way to read sappy or depressing books, but, for some reason, probably to do with the excellent reviews it received, I sought out The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, knowing that it was about kids with cancer.

Now that’s a topic that comes pre-loaded with an emotional reaction: It’s like showing a picture of a basket full of puppies and kittens chugging along a conveyor belt into the blade of an industrial saw. Even knowing how manipulative the subject matter would be, I trusted that the author would do right by his characters.

It turned out that my trust was rewarded with a sweet story about teenagers with cancer dealing with love and the fact that they know they’re going to die far sooner than most of us do. It’s one thing to accept the fact that all that live will one day die, no matter who, no matter how wonderful or how loathsome, it comes for us all. It’s another entirely, since most of us live long enough to indulge in the supreme illusion that helps our lives not be an unremittingly miserable trudge to oblivion, being the denial of death, dying when you’re a kid, a teen, or barely out of your teens.

Rating:

Her

Her

Him. It's all about him, really, more so than Her.
Isn't that always the way?

dir: Spike Jonze

That poster, with Joaquin Phoenix and his moustache, staring out at us, we who are looking at his poster. The ‘us’ I’m guessing is predominately expected to be women, as we gaze into his plaintive, soulful eyes, and we’re expected to ignore the fact that his moustache is terrible and it’s no longer Movember, thus there’s no excuses any more.

But there’s even more going on in that poster. His eyes aren’t just plaintive, suggesting longing and the capacity for deep emotion; he’s imploring us, he’s pleading with us not just to watch the film, but to accept what it is that the pervert’s moustache is hiding.

That he is about to, or get into, a pretty weird relationship. Don’t judge me, just love me, he seems to be pleading. Because it could have happened to you too.

Her is, perversely, one of the most sweetly romantic and beautiful films that I’ve watched all year, or at least from last year. It’s the sweetest film I’ve seen this year, but this year is only a handful of days old, so that’s not saying much. Like all of Spike Jonze's films, all of which I've loved beyond rationality, there's some fundamental oddness at play, but there's enough focus placed on the crafting of the themes and the various scenes, and the performances especially that combine to render the parts a workable "whole".

Rating:

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

Crazy people shouldn't breed. These crazy people
shouldn't breed

dir: David O. Russell

Do you sometimes hear about a film that a whole bunch of people seem to think is the bee’s knees, the duck’s nuts, the greatest thing since the invention of whisky, and you watch it and think nothing more than a big question mark?

Apparently, Silver Linings Playbook was one of the greatest movies of 2012, perhaps of all time. Your humble writer is in no position to confirm or deny, even after having watched it. Maybe I haven’t seen enough movies. Maybe I’ve seen too many. Whatever the cause, I’m obviously lacking something crucial.

My perplexity doesn’t diminish after having written this review, I’m as confused at the beginning as I am at the end. That’s not to say that this film isn’t modestly enjoyable, it’s just that it’s a very flawed film, and a very conventional one as well.

Mental illness is a tricky subject for movies. Invariably, in the same way they get almost everything real wrong, movies get mental illness wrong wrong wrong. The main character here is a violence-prone maniac with bipolar disorder; it’s what they used to call being manic depressive.

When we first see Pat (Bradley Cooper), he’s in a mental health facility. We don’t know why yet, so one of the first things we see to give us an idea of where this character is coming from, is his taking of, and spitting out, of some medication.

Rating:

Celeste & Jesse Forever

I guess you could call it a romantic comedy, but then how
many rom-coms start where the relationship is already
over?

dir: Lee Toland Krieger

We get to see the entire span of Celeste and Jesse’s relationship and marriage in montage over the opening credits, and by the time actors are saying dialogue, we’re shocked when a friend of the central couple, Beth (Ari Graynor) screams at them for still acting like a goofy married couple when they’ve been separated for the last six months.

It’s a shock to them, and it’s a shock to us, because, well, what were we expecting? They lulled us into a false sense of security, by representing their relationship one way, and then cruelly telling us it’s the opposite.

What are we supposed to think? What kind of romance occurs after the break-up? The messy kind. Celeste and Jesse Forever is really about two people who love each other and for whom being in a committed relationship doesn’t really work anymore, can’t work, no matter how many moments they individually and together get where they think maybe they should.

Real life intrudes, it always intrudes. The days where one of them thinks they should get back together is the day the other finds someone completely new out there in the world, and the possibility of having something with someone else sparks briefly. The next day, one of them thinks they’re never going to have it as great as they did with Celeste or Jesse, and this regret causes them to undermine what they have, with the hope that maybe they can go back.

Rating:

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Entertainment not guaranteed, either,
to be honest

dir: Colin Trevorrow

Sometimes I can’t see the plain things in front of me that other people can see. I don’t know whether it’s an eye problem, or some kind of neurological disorder, but, whatever it is, it means the virtues of this particular flick have completely eluded me.

The premise is that this vaguely has something to do with a classified ad that was put in a Seattle newspaper once upon a time, whereby someone pretended to be asking for someone in order to go time travelling together. Hence the Safety Not Guaranteed appellation, as in you couldn’t Guarantee someone’s Safety if they come with you into the Mesozoic era, but you still want someone to come with you, bringing their own weapons and expertise, and maybe a cut lunch. Sunscreen would be nice, and maybe a change of underwear.

That vaguest of premises has a basis in fact by only the loosest of definitions, in that someone once posted an ad like that. It was, however, a joke, as in a fake ad.

From this somehow they’ve spun a confection whose purpose, I guess, is to illuminate the gutting feeling many of us possess whereby we wish we could go back in time to correct something that happened or something horrible that we did. Yes, yes, we all have regrets. But this flick, not unusual in the cinematic landscape, makes literal this wish, in that we’re gradually meant to believe that the nutjob at the centre of the flick could actually do it.

Rating:

Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks

Bloody caveman writers, stealing all the fictional women

dir: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

Being a deeply neurotic person, I regularly fall prey to a panoply of fears. One of the most fundamental for me is either not being seen as a person, or failing to see other people as real people.

I'm sure that probably sounds a bit weird. I mean, there are a bunch of far more reasonable and likely things to be terrified of. Spiders, for one, insanity, earthquakes, tsunamis, radiation, cancer, germs; there's a lot out there, and they're just the simplistic ones. People with elaborate and expansive imaginations can think of plenty more crap on a second-by-second basis to be horrified at the prospect of.

My fear about forgetting to see the inherent humanness of people and just seeing them as objects is a powerful one, because I think it's so easy.

You forget, sometimes, don't you, when you're dealing with someone who seems more like a collection of annoyances rather than a living, breathing person, to see them as they deserve to be seen, as a whole person? Or when you fixate on some other aspects of their being, and completely forget about their personhood, and instead bliss out at whatever aspect / fetish takes your fancy?

And what if you do this overwhelmingly to the people you're meant to be closest to in your life, like your own partner or family?

Rating:

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I don't think they have turntables where you're going

dir: Lorene Scafaria

If the world was going to literally end, and we knew about it in advance, and we knew exactly when it was going to happen, what would we all do with the time we had left? It’s a compelling what if? of a thought experiment, and usually, in art at least, it’s reserved to “if you were going to die, what stuff would you do finally that you never had the courage to do before?”

This time, though, everyone’s going to die. Every living thing extinguished in a cataclysm that won’t be averted with a couple of seconds to go, apparently, since this is what the film tells us from the opening minutes. A man (Steve Carrell) and his wife (Nancy Carrell) listen blankly as the radio in their car outlines the failure of some last-ditch attempt to avert the disaster. A meteor called Matilda, which is as good a name as any for something fixing to permanently end your present world, continues on its course towards Earth, where it will obliterate all life, perhaps.

Rating:

Lola Versus

Lola Versus

My money's on Lola for the win, or at least a draw

dir: Daryl Wein

Now, this film isn't a million miles away from the Australian flick I reviewed the other day whose name I refuse to repeat right now. Suffice to say it involves characters in their late twenties questioning what the heck they're doing with their lives, in a manner that is meant to be entertaining and edifying for us shmos in the audience.

This one does a much better job, even though it's not immediately obvious as to why. It's just as pretentious and filled to the brim with annoying characters overflowing with affectations, and it has a murky path with a dubious destination in mind, and doesn't really have a lot of substance to it.

That hardly matters because, at the very least, the main character in this instance, called Lola, surprisingly enough, is actually quite likeable even if she is something of a fuck-up, and it's actually enjoyable to spend time with her, most of the time at least.

Rating:

Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

Ecstacy

They're trying to remind me of something... not sure what

dir: Rob Heydon

I approach anything to do with Irvine Welsh with a great deal of trepidation these days, but I was curious to see this, since I recall reading the book way before my fear and loathing for Welsh began.

And what I recall is that the book had three stories, one having to do with some hospital plagued by a necrophiliac and a romance writer, the other to do with some armless girl rendered armless in utero due to some Thalidomide-like chemical and the football hooligan she enlists for revenge, and a third story I don’t remember that well.

That third story alone serves as the basis for this flick, which follows the adventures of ecstasy gobbler Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) and the various addled people in his life. It’s a good thing, too. My main reason for losing interest in Welsh’s writing is that I just can’t handle the sexual horror stuff he dreams up and messily expels onto the page. Everyone has limits, and I reached mine a long time ago with him, even as I acknowledge Trainspotting to be a landmark book (and subsequent film).

Rating:

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

I'm wondering whether the title is just a sleazy euphemism
for some nasty sex act. From the joy on their faces, I think it is

dir: Lasse Hallstrom

This title is a blatant rip-off of the band Trout Fishing in Quebec, but I’ll forgive it that. I won’t forgive it much else along the way. Lasse Hallstrom is responsible for some truly terribly treacly flicks in the past, but somehow he was able to pull out before making a horrible mess this time.

I have not and will never read the book this flick is based on, but I’m virtually certain at least one thing about the book doesn’t carry over to the film. The character that McGregor plays has to have been older than the one he plays here, otherwise it makes no sense. Well, I guess it makes some sense if he has Asperger’s, or is just emotionally retarded, but then again, he’s a guy, so it’s hard to tell the difference.

Dr Alfred Jones (McGregor) is an expert on fish, and lives and breathes their fishy world as if it were his own. It’s humans he can’t stand. Even though he’s so curmudgeonly that it hurts the eyeballs, he has somehow managed to marry a woman who, for most of the film, is as emotionless and proper as he is, so they’re an ideal match.

Rating:

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy Stupid Love

I don't know if the filmmakers got the memo, but stalking your ex isn't cool,
romantic or legal

dir: Glenn Ficara & John Requa

There’s two things wrong with that title, and I’m not referring to the grammar or punctuation.

It’s certainly Stupid, but there’s no real craziness or love to speak of.

This flick manages to achieve something that I never considered possible: it manages to be both bland AND offensive, which I thought was a combination that was oxymoronic.

I can’t even begin to describe how wrong this flick is, on how many levels, yet I can start up on how unentertaining I found it to be.

Yeah, I could start on that stuff, but instead I’ll indulge myself, as if I do anything else whenever I write about flicks. A person would never suspect it from looking at me, or from reading my reviews, or from using public transport in close proximity to me, but I am, or at least consider myself to be, something of a romantic. I’m not going to quibble about whether that’s a small ‘r’ romantic or a big ‘R’ Romantic, because that’s a pretentious bridge too far even for me. Clearly I wasn’t palling around and doing drugs with the actual Romantics like Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge or Benny Hill, but I do still have the capacity to swoon in the presence - and at the thought of - heartbreaking beauty, overwhelming passion, and love, careless love.

Rating:

Friends With Benefits

Friends with Benefits

Do you think, no, that they're implying, it can't be, something sexual?

dir: Will Gluck

Two attractive people. A fast-talking banal screenplay. The very barest of mocking derision aimed at romantic comedies within the text and the subtext. What could go wrong?

Nothing, nothing at all.

I find it very hard to buy Justin Timberlake as anything or anyone else apart from Justin Timberlake. It’s hard for me to buy him playing a character, any character. It doesn’t adversely impact on one’s potential enjoyment of this flick, I guess, if enjoyment is what you’re hoping for from a flick with Justin Timberlake in it.

It’s an effervescent trifle, a virtually forgettable flick forgotten as it is being watched, of such an incredible level of shallowness that it barely registers within human let alone goldfish memory consciousness.

I guess that’s not a bad thing. It’s not like they’re trying to teach us anything of great importance, like that tolerance is nice, and that racism is bad, or something similarly controversial. It’s just something people, presumably youngish people, could take someone to on a date, presumably to convince that someone, being a female, to have sex with you, being a male, afterwards.

Rating:

Blue Valentine

dir: Derek Cianfrance
[img_assist|nid=1366|title=It'll all end in tears, like everything else|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=580]
Jesus, what a fucking depressing film.

Maybe it’s not entirely depressing, just mostly depressing. At the very least, it’s wrenching, gutting and very uncomfortable. And sad.

And what’s it about? Well, it’s about two people not in love anymore.

I don’t think I could ever bring myself to watch this flick again. That’s not entirely true: it’s really well made, I guess. And the music is really nice and appropriate, and heartbreaking at certain points. And it’s well filmed and well acted.

But, jeez, does it hurt to think about it.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a married couple who are clearly not happy. Their marriage is clearly headed towards dissolution. Dean is surly, drunk and hectoring, passive aggressive as well as just outright aggressive, fuelled by his sensing that Cindy is shutting him out.

Cindy clearly cannot stand Dean anymore, and their every remark to each other is brittle, jagged and fraught with peril. Don’t mistake this for some highfalutin Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf retread where sophisticates are tossing martini-enhanced barbs and cutting witticisms at each other. They, being the two leads, play it like real people unwilling to face the reality that they shouldn’t be together anymore.

Rating:

I Am Love (Io Sono L'Amore)

I Am Love

Of course you are, there's no doubting that

dir: Luca Guadagnino

You wouldn’t think a title like I Am Love would pack them into the multiplexes. I guess in Italian, if you’re not an Italian speaker, Io Sono L’Amore sounds that much more exotic and alluring. Despite these obvious obstacles, these wonderful people still thought they’d get together and create an exquisite flick about how passion makes idiots of otherwise rational people, as if the books Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina were never written, and no-one ever read them.

Honestly, I can’t recall the last time it was implied in a flick that women could have sex with someone outside of their marriage and that it didn’t result in death, murder, suicide or the end of the fucking world. Is it really that catastrophic? Male characters cheat constantly, and the world seems to keep turning, and yet whenever a female character, and a mother, no less, finds passion or solace in the arms of another, someone always ends up dead.

Of course it would be unfair of me to assert that this flick is going for anything close to a moralistic or judgemental tone in the slightest. It’s anything but what it sounds like I’ve described, because it’s an amazing construction. I rarely see flicks, and I’ve seen a bundle, so exquisitely and meticulously put together. It’s so intricately put together, from a cinematography, set design, sound, score and editing point of view, that there’s almost little room for the acting performances.

Almost, but not quite. This flick is an engine, or a machine at least. Not a single shot is taken simply when it can be done in a far more fussy and seemingly meaningful way. Even as I marveled at it from a distance, and realised I was more impressed with the construction that the content, I had to remind myself that it’s still about people. Rich people. Rich People With Problems.

Rating:

(500) Days of Summer

dir: Marc Webb
[img_assist|nid=1188|title=Too busy, just like this flick|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=350|height=540]
There aren’t that many good romantic flicks. I don’t think it’s the boring case of “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to, and get off my lawn, you deadbeats” beyond the heyday of the Golden blah blah of Hollywood. Romantic flicks invariably suck because they’re invariably crappy, inhuman and lazy.

And yet romance infects its way into almost any other flick and genre you can think of. Romance on its own, though, without the ‘comedy’ support of being at least a romantic comedy? Oh, it’s fucking awful, almost 99 per cent of the time.

That figure is empirical fact, based on years of meticulous research, forensic testing and cross-matching with the FBI’s crime database.

I don’t think this flick is anywhere near up the top of the genre with the few decent romantic flicks of the last couple of decades or so, but it doesn’t completely and utterly suck.

We are told right from the start that though this is a story about love, that it is not a love story, and that it is more about the misery a failed relationship can bring rather than the sheer scope and magnitude of wonderfulness that can occur when everything goes right.

Rating:

Across The Universe

dir: Julie Taymor
[img_assist|nid=6|title=Across a boring 60s-infused Universe|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=475|height=347]
Julie Taymor, being Julie Taymor, delivers high concept drama-free colour-soaked movies rich in immaculate artistic design and acting little higher up on the relative scale compared to dinner theatre.

In Across the Universe, she delivers a musical using much of the Beatles better known back catalogue, which is more of a homage to the gullibility of audiences seeking a romantic fix mixed with 60s Americana clichés rather than honouring the Liverpudlian larrikins and their music.

Is it entertaining? Eh, if you like polished, sickly sweet musicals and karaoke versions of classic pop songs, then maybe it is. Maybe it is.

But otherwise the clearest thought that came into my mind was that this flick seriously reminded me, as most things remind me, of an episode of The Simpsons where trusty news anchor Kent Brockman starts a news story about the 1960s saying something like “And here’s a 60s montage.” Random cliché scenes of hippies, the National Guard popping skulls at Kent State, civil rights marches and Vietnam protests flick past to the accompaniment of All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix. At the end of the montage, Brockman intones in disgust “What a shrill and pointless decade.”

Well, Kent, feel free to describe this film in a similar fashion.

Rating:

Once

dir: John Carney
[img_assist|nid=775|title=Hi, how's it going?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=260]
How many times are you likely to watch this flick, if at all? Once. How many times will you listen to the CD? Once. How many times will you hear the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly that features in the film and is likely going to be used in every ad trying to sell everything from haemorrhoid creams to fighter jets and cheese-in-a-can? Probably dozens of times.

Once is a very simple, very unambitious flick that is nonetheless quite charming. It is billed as a romance, but really, it’s about two people who meet, sing and play some songs together, and that’s it. There’s really not much else to it.

The story, such as it is, looks at The Guy (Glen Hansard) who repairs vacuum cleaners in his dad’s shop. He also busks on the streets singing his own songs. In an amusing exchange to open proceedings, he spies a junkie who looks like he’s going to try to steal the change dropped on his guitar cover. When the junkie does what is expected of him, and The Guy has to chase him down, it seems like the junkie and the Guy know each other quite well.

Rating:

How Much Do You Love Me?

dir: Bertrand Blier
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This film is terrible even by the standards of French cinema. I’m no Gallophobe, disliking the French or their cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but this flick is appalling according to any criteria that I can think to apply.

Look, it’s not the acting. The actors are, I’m sure, doing the best they can with the material. And many a French film possesses a certain arch or pretentious sensibility that would be ridiculed in flicks from any other culture. But here, the scripting, the plotting and the editing combine to produce an absolutely shithouse result that knows no borders.

It’s not unpleasant to watch for most of the time, with the sound and subtitles turned off. Any film that has Monica Bellucci in it has at least two good reasons to watch it, whether lingerie clad or not. And the great advantage that this film has over, say, Irreversible, is that the audience isn’t subjected to watching her being subjected to the most horrendous assault imaginable over a prolonged period of time.

But this film is still appalling. Even with Bellucci, and Gerard Depardieu, that giant of French cinema in more ways than one, in this flick, it’s still unwatchably stupid.

Rating:

Brokeback Mountain

dir: Ang Lee
[img_assist|nid=943|title=Beautiful boys|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=301]
It’s strange that such a big deal is being made about this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully shot, well-acted, with a touching, sad story to tell.

But it’s such a low-key story, regardless of all the controversy surrounding it. And let’s not skimp on the praise here, it’s utterly ridiculous that such subject matter can still get so many people’s girdles in a twist in this day and age.

Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) work as shepherds in the mountain region of Wyoming one summer in 1963. They talk like Texans, and dress like the Marlboro Man, so I guess they must be cowboys. They’re really not cowboys, though. So those, like me, who were expecting two hours of gay cowboys eating pudding, will be disappointed. Instead of proving the old South Park gag about all arthouse films, they subverted it, the bastards.

Their job on the mountain is to let the sheep graze, and to protect them at night from coyotes and other predators. And though it be 1963, the place is still a pristine wilderness. As such, depicted in relatively modern times, the place has an air of unreality to it, as if it is some fabled realm, of nature unspoiled, where man doesn’t really belong. So two men, up there, all alone on Brokeback Mountain; cold nights, flowing whisky, sleeping in a tent together, what else would you expect, eh?

Rating:

9 Songs

dir: Michael Winterbottom
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The film is exactly 69 minutes long. It consists of a smattering of banal dialogue between two people, they also do some drugs, squabble a bit, and they go to some great gigs. They also fuck. They fuck a lot. The weird thing is, they really are having sex. We see it in all its messy glory.

This isn’t meant to be a porn film. And it’s not a porn film, really. Most porn films have better production values. But their soundtracks usually aren’t this enjoyable. And they don’t usually have scenes from actual gigs at Brixton Academy, the Forum, Hammersmith Odeon, or the Empire in between the sex scenes.

I’ve used this gag many times in my reviews and conversations with people about films, where I say stuff like, “By Lucifer’s beard, the plot of that film was so bad that even porn films have better and more coherent plots”. Now I’m going to officially retire that gag and never use it again. I realised that porn films haven’t had plots for years, and anyone that watches them thinks “What the fuck you talkin’ about, Willis?” whenever I say it in a review.

Rating:

Before Sunset

dir: Richard Linklater
[img_assist|nid=986|title=Only in movies are people thinner ten years after they first met|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=327]
I'm not a fan, even remotely, of romantic movies. Romantic movies generally have the same effect on me intellectually as Draino would have on a human's gastrointestinal system upon consumption. I doubt anyone's going to be surprised by that. Hey, I'm not some stoic, repressed, unemotional automaton. I don't work in an abattoir nailgunning creatures in the head day in day out for a living or for fun; I haven't 'shut down' emotionally because of my second tour of duty in 'Nam where I put my hand in a pile of goo that used to be my best friend's face. I am, in short, a product of the current age, not overly apathetic about stuff, but not too interested in getting sweaty over anything either.

All in all, I am clearly not the demographic intended for anything explicitly shelved under the Romance section of the local franchise video rental chain. You know where I mean, be it your local Burstblocker or LeproZYDVD, where they have over fifty copies of the latest Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore flick, and no copies of any films by Federico Fellini. Yeah, I know, I'm a snob when it comes to movies, so sue me.

Rating:

2046

dir: Wong Kar Wai
[img_assist|nid=964|title=In the Mood for Love Revisited|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=452]
2046 is a lush, beautifully filmed movie with an aching coldness at its heart. It’s a complementary film to In the Mood for Love, but it’s so much of a mutated yet ‘faithful’ continuation that calling it a sequel feels inaccurate.

In the Mood for Love was about two people clearly in love with each other trapped by circumstances and their apartments into never being together. 2046 has the male character, Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) continue on his way whilst doing an autopsy on himself the whole time. It is essentially about how screwed up he is as a person now that he refuses to open his heart ever again after ‘losing’ Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) from the first film.

So, even though he swans about with his cool pimp moustache and looks the dapper dandy, inside, his heart is dead. Women are in ready supply and close proximity, but he uses them solely for sex and keeps them a million miles away emotionally. The ones that want him repulse him, the ones that he thinks he might want, were he not an amputee from the result of dwelling permanently in the past, don’t want or care about him at all.

Rating:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

dir: Michel Gondry
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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a rarity in this day and age: a film that has elements of romance, drama and comedy without being hampered or paralysed by any of those aspects. In truth this film is beyond a rarity: it's a gem that stars, inexplicably, Jim ‘Ham on Rye' Carrey and Kate 'Let Me Get The Twins Out' Winslet playing two oddball characters that don't pander, don't beg us to love how cute they are and therefore circumvent the natural expectations that an audience member might have of a scriptwriter having to create a story we could possibly care about. One that doesn't ploddingly, predictably, stagger from point A to point B to point Zzzzz.

Let's face it romantic comedies are about as popular as syphilis to those of us that don't think Maid in Manhattan, the Wedding Singer and Pretty Woman are the pinnacle of the cinematic experience. Sure, I understand, we're ungrateful, but some of us aspire to something more out of film and of life. With that in mind when something comes along that's clever and sweet it seems fuckstruckingly out of place. What? It's funny AND romantic? Are the seas boiling? Is that sky falling? Isn't this one of the signs of the forthcoming Apocalypse?

Rating:

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