September Blind Spot Review: Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

2

“The only way to find out what story you’re in is to determine what stories you’re not in.”
– Professor Jules Hilbert

SYNOPSIS: An I.R.S. auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death. – via IMDB

I have always heard that Stranger Than Fiction is a solid movie and that Ferrell is excellent in it (this reason is always cited when I say I am not a huge Ferrell fan) and I have always said I will get to it at some stage and then I never do, which is how it ended up on y 2018 Blind Spot list. I needed to cross it off my list.

Right off, I didn’t know what to expect from this movie when I started it. Was it going to be one of Ferrell’s ridiculous movies, would it be different, what was going to come from it? Well, let me tell you, Ferrell rocked this one. Completely. It was a more contained performance than I am used to seeing from him, and the humour landed for me from him now more than ever. I feel he is sometimes just too OTT and not my cup of tea. I think the cast all worked well together in this to deliver a pretty good comedy drama, and I enjoyed it.

The pacing was good, and I was sold on seeing what, exactly, Harold’s life was all about, because it was super bland, doing the same thing day in and day out. Emma Thompson as writer and narrator fit the role perfectly, and it was entertaining to watch her whenever she was on screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s insistence on being a kind anarchist is sweet, too, and Ferrell’s lonely Harold is quite sad. Dustin Hoffman, too, as the weird and quirky writing expert is quite fun, and just to see how all the characters interact and pull together to change the initially drab story is a satisfying experience.

The humour is rather sharp and low key in this, not forceful or over the top or anything like that, and it just worked completely for the story being told. I liked how the story paced itself, never too slow to be boring, never too fast to be confusing. I found myself delighted with Stranger Than Fiction coming to life, as a reader and a moviegoer, there was plenty that worked so well.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Stranger Than Fiction, and I might very well check it out again someday. Ferrell did not irritate, and it had enough quirk to keep it fun and sweet but not grating or excessively cheesy and with a cast that worked well together, and I can highly recommend it.

July Blind Spot Review: Before Sunrise (1995)

8

“Isn’t everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?”
– Celine

SYNOPSIS: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together. – via IMDB

I know I am in the extreme minority with this one (apparently), but I found it really hard to get excited about this one while watching it, and after. In fact, I have no real excitement to write this review, either. I watched this weeks ago and haven’t even been able to muster the oomph to write about it. I really don’t want to write a half-assed review, so let’s see how it goes.

I totally don’t mind a dialogue based movie at all. I really don’t, if I feel that the dialogue is worth following. For me, that wasn’t the case here. It came off as pretentious and meh, like it was trying too hard. Truly. For two, I do like Ethan Hawke, a lot, I think he gets a lot of flak and he really isn’t the terrible actor that people say he is. I just thought that there was like no chemistry between him and Delpy. The runtime, too, felt like the movie was forever and two days long and it was actually (technically) a really short movie.

Okay, you know what, I am just going to leave it there. I didn’t like this, and I really wanted to. There was this romantic angle that could have been more than it was. Not because I wanted some Disney-style something, but because I really thought that this could have been more genuine. For some it probably is, for me it fell flat. I know there are two more movies in this trilogy that is so well loved, but I don’t know if I will be taking the time to check them out.

June Blind Spot Review: Vertigo (1958)

4

“Here I was born, and there I died. It was only a moment for you; you took no notice.”
– Madeleine

SYNOPSIS: A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. – via IMDB

Ha, finally another Hitchcock off my list, and this was another one of the good ones. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and will admit initially it was like just a little mystery, like what is going on, and then the last thirty minutes devolved into a nice, creepy type, so that definitely works.

I really likes James Stewart, and think he is a great actor. He definitely fits here and brings a lot to the table, and works really well with Kim Novak, who is truly beautiful and suits this strange role rather well, though her eyebrows are absolutely insane. There, I said it. I found them to be super distracting.

The story is not rushed, and is well paced. The movie doesn’t feel as long as it is, and gets things going from explaining John’s vertigo, and then moving on to his task of watching over a friend’s wife, and where an unhealthy obsession begins. I didn’t feel like the movie dragged anywhere, so that is cool. Vertigo features a pretty cool trippy scene, which is so old school, but it works so well with this. The music, too, works and succeeds at building tension.

I liked the friendship between John and Midge, though it was sad to know that she was so in love with him and his feelings certainly weren’t mutual, but they were close. I feel that the romance was rushed in the beginning (typical of these films, maybe people just feel in love different back in the day), but it grew into something else later, and watching John’s obsession and controlling behaviour later was certainly creepy.

Maybe not my all time favourite Hitchcock (and I still have many to see), but overall I thought it to be engaging and done really well. Stewart and Novak truly fill out this movie, and push that tense darkness through the whole time, never missing a beat. It is shot well and keeps you interested throughout, so all in all, well worth the watch.

May Blind Spot Review: Big (1988)

9

“So you got a job, where you play with all these toys?”
– Billy

SYNOPSIS: After wishing to be made big, a teenage boy wakes the next morning to find himself mysteriously in the body of an adult. – via IMDB

You know what… this one was going so well until it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t going well, my stomach was churning. Maybe let me back up and get this going properly so we are all on the same page.

In the beginning, I was having a good time. The movie was sweet and silly and so totally eighties, and Tom Ha

nks was totally just owning it. Preposterous movie, but cute. But then it went icky – quickly. Despite the fact that this 12 year old is now in an adult body, it does not make him an adult, so for the writers to have to engage in a sexual relationship with a coworker was just too much for me. I just went ICK and the movie never recovered from that.

Besides that whole section of nasty, the second half did suffer from being too adult-y and all that. Yeah, I get why, and yeah, I get the message and all that, and it is necessary for the story arc to start somewhere, progress, and then complete, but after Josh started kicking it with Susan, everything fell apart. I got the whole concept of how much life changes when you have to grow up, how the simplicity is lost, I didn’t mind the message, but I was having severe difficulties with the relationship component – even with his body, he is still a child, and my skin crawled.

In the first half there were a lot of fun things – it was funny to see a child find himself in an adult body and try to pick up a life and make things work, all the while having a total ball with all that cash and freedom. Tom Hanks is also excellent here, to be sure, and I thought he handled the role really well. He came across and genuine and adorable.

Anyway, I can’t really say Big was much of a winner. It started out alright and then it just went super dodgy, and it ruined the experience for me. I will certainly not be rushing out to watch this again. Once was enough.

April Blind Spot Review: Straight Outta Compton (2015)

4

“I got something to say.”
– Ice Cube

SYNOPSIS: The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood. – via IMDB

You know, even after all the rave reviews and the love this movie got when it came out, I didn’t know for sure exactly what it was about (other than a hip hop/rap history biopic type deal), but thought it would be worth watching as it seems it was done really well. Well, let me assure you, this really is that good and a bag of chips. Damn, I was way more impressed than I thought I would be.

I only know bits and pieces of the history surrounding these guys (pretty much all of it passed down to me from an old colleague who knows plenty about this), so I didn’t really know how accurate everything was, and I wasn’t too bothered. I was there to watch a movie and it happened to feature people we have at least all heard about, and it seems that it was pretty accurate (checking after the fact) too, for the most part.

There was a lot to like about this movie. The music (obviously) suited the content, the history used is interesting. Something that really blew me away? The casting. I mean O’Shea Jackson Jr looks just like his dad, which is insane. Then you see after the fact that each and every one of these cast members looked almost exactly like the real-life counterparts they were playing. Wow! That doesn’t usually happen, and yet it was nailed down completely here.

There were also some flaws with this movie. The pacing is a little off at times. The movie does not feel as long as it is, but there are times when the narrative jumps around a bit or feels hurried (especially the beginning – these were guys struggling at home and then in the recording studio within a space of like… ten minutes). Like, the groundwork is there but rushed. The dramatic element is good though, and there is humour in here from time to time that is quite entertaining.

I am glad to finally say I got around to watching Straight Outta Compton. While rap/hip hop is not generally my cup of tea, I think that this movie is handled well and is engaging. You might/might not love the genre, but you cannot deny how these guys had their say and influenced/drove the genre the way they did. One has to respect that.

March Blind Spot Review: Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

3

“There was a time, a time before cable. When the local anchorman reigned supreme. When people believed everything they heard on TV. This was an age when only men were allowed to read the news.”
– Bill Lawson

SYNOPSIS: Ron Burgundy is San Diego’s top-rated newsman in the male-dominated broadcasting of the 1970s, but that’s all about to change for Ron and his cronies when an ambitious woman is hired as a new anchor. – via IMDB

Alrighty, putting it out there right now, ripping the band-aid off super fast: NO. Just NO. I did not like this :/

Okay, now that it has been said and I can be called a heathen, I can move on. Since this damn movie came out I have heard how I have to watch it, how it is super hilarious and quotable as all hell, and I have never really had the desire to watch it. Not even the beloved Paul Rudd could tempt me. But it has always been in the corner of my mind, that I should check it out despite not liking the majority of the cast, if for nothing more than to see what the cult status is about.

Well, I don’t get it. Anchorman is painfully stupid. My husband sat through this with me and is usually way more forgiving about movies than I am, and he said this was soul crushing. I have to agree with him. There were like two gems in this movie (Baxter? Bark twice if you’re in Milwaukee) and:

Other than that, this movie is not quotable. It is painful to sit through, and has some completely braindead humour. No, it is not funny if you think about it, and no, it is not funny even if you check your brain at the door (which I consciously bloody well did).

That’s it. Done.

February Blind Spot Review: Sixteen Candles (1984)

4

“That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call ’em something else.”
– Jim Baker

SYNOPSIS: A girl’s “sweet” sixteenth birthday becomes anything but special, as she suffers from every embarrassment possible. – via IMDB

Alright, so we know that John Hughes is like super popular and all these things, and I have watched some but not all of his movies. I love The Breakfast Club while I completely loathe Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I was figured I should check out another one of his movies that I have heard so much about but never actually watched. Now I have. And, well… okay.

I wasn’t a fan of this. I didn’t hate it, and it had moments, and let me tell you, having your family forget your sixteenth seriously blows (true story, I actually know this feeling). Hughes captured the complete teenage-ness of Samantha and her life, and I think Molly Ringwald was totally the right choice to play sullen, sulky Samantha.

I have always heard a lot of bitching about a rapey angle of this between Jake and the Geek and Caroline, and let me tell you, now that I have watched it, I get it. That arc was so not cool. Basically like giving the girl away like she was a commodity, not caring what happened, all that. I don’t want to get into it too much, but just know that the whole situation was just not cool man. ICK.

John Cusack is adorable, as always, and I could totally have done with more of him. In fact, the most entertainment for me came from the interactions between Bryce, Cliff, and the Geek, even if at times they were a touch inappropriate. Then there was the silly but fun story line of Long Duk Dong. What an unexpectedly crazy character to make his way into this.

Anyway, I thought that Sixteen Candles to be an alright watch, maybe not the best of all time, but it wasn’t bad. There were aspects that I liked and aspects that I didn’t, and while it won’t be something I will be checking out again (probably), I don’t regret having ticked it off my watch list.

Blind Spot Series 2017 Rankings

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So, another year gone, another twelve movies crossed off of my Blind Spot list. For the most part, I had particularly good movies this year. For the most part…

Anyway, as always, I decided to rank them all here.

12. Deliverance (1972)

Well. This. Fuck this movie. I will say it again, fuck this movie. Yep, totally hated it. I am sure you all remember the Shitfest-worthy meltdown I had about this. If you don’t, you are more than welcome to head on back to the review linked above to see how I raged. Ugh…

11. Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

Certainly not an underrated gem as I was led to believe, I was so amped to finally watch this gangster movie and was totally let down by it. What a waste of nearly four hours of my life!

10. Cronos (1993)

While I am always up for Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish works, this one was not nearly as great as I was hoping it would be. It was not a bad movie by a long shot, but it does not stand equal to The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth.

9. The Road (2009)

Dark, depressing, apocalyptic, The Road definitely paints a super depressing, far more realistic apocalyptic future than these movies usually portray. Viggo Mortensen is exellent, and Kodi Smit-McPhee also holds his own in the bleak movie. Worth the watch!

8. Say Anything (1989)

So pleased to have seen this –  it is one of those movies that is referenced all over the show, and I have never really known how it all fit in. Man, Lloyd Dobler is absolutely adorable and the boombox over the head scene finally makes sense now. Say Anything is sweet, but not to soppy your stomach churns. Enjoyed this one!

7. The Help (2011)

Okay, so right off the bat, this is not unpredictable, but that doesn’t make it bad. The Help is rather formulaic, and shies away from some of the sick history it is steeped in, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t find other ways to run home the story. There are terribly sad moments, moments that will make you mad, and some great sections with some fantastic humour, and the movie has heart. The cast, too, definitely sold this one.

6. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, but I really liked this one. I thought it was funny and shot really well and rather strange, but it all worked. I would like to rewatch it and see if it holds up as well. I must admit, this is where I finally understood Tom Hiddleston’s appeal to the world – before he was just a decent actor. After this? Impressed. Plus I liked the humour in this. So deadpan. Swinton and Hiddleston make this a treat.

5. The Orphanage (2007)

Another one of those cult classic type movies I have vowed for years to get to and just never did, 2017 was the year that changed. The Orphanage is haunting, sad, beautiful and creepy, and has a solid story as a strong psychological aspect to it, making it a movie that gets under your skin and lingers long after, not just a typical, generic horror movie at all.

4. JFK (1991)

Conspiracy theories galore! Naturally this was totally going to be my cup of tea, and it totally was. There were some solid performances and I was particularly interested in how Stone would set out his case for JFK’s assassination. While I feel that it was heavy handed in forcing his interpretation of events down the viewer’s throat, if you watch this as a theory and not as the gospel of the answers to JFK’s assassination, you are in for a good time. Great starting point for those not too familiar with the intricacies of the infamous case.

3. City of God (2002)

I can see why this movie is so popular – it is so not an easy watch, but it is engaging, gritty, violent, realistic, and truly gets you thinking. It tells a super solid story and it draws you in, getting you invested in some characters from this nasty slum. It is depressing and yet completely enthralling, something I can see myself revisiting.

2. Rear Window (1954)

James Stewart man, what an actor. The man is amazing, and with Grace Kelly at his side, the duo was bound to impress. Hitchcock, too, weaves a tense one-room story, which is carried and fleshed out completely by a talented cast. The tension is palpable, the story is smart and engaging, and the pacing is just right. Rear Window is a well-crafted movie and definitely worth the time.

1. Atonement (2007)

Ah, Atonement. Where do we even start? My goodness, what a watch. While it is not completely perfect or shocking, and it is predictable in places, it is handled so well and is shot brilliantly – truly, what beautiful shots. James McAvoy is absolutely perfect here, sweeping us all up so completely in Robbie. Keira Knightley, too,  managed to not work on my last nerve. The two work together well, and Atonement tells one hell of a story, a journey I both loved and resented in equal measure. I thought it was told so well, and some details were handled with such aplomb. What a movie, though certainly not a light, easy watch.

December Blind Spot Review: Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

4

“You’ll be carrying the stink of the streets with you for the rest of your life! “
– Max

SYNOPSIS: A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life. – via IMDB

You know, I am not going to pretend that I didn’t have high hopes for this one. I did. Old school organised crime and Robert De Niro? Uhm, yes, sold. Well. Well. Uhm, yeah. Okay, I will just come out and say it. I didn’t love it. I wanted to, but I didn’t. There was just so much here that put me off of it completely.

Once Upon A Time In America treats women horifically. Like fuck my life, what the hell was that?! I am going to address this as my primary issue because, well, you can’t watch this movie and miss that. I was horrified. Women were objects there for sex and amusement, and didn’t really stand as their own characters. Just watching how they get treated by the men of the cast really makes you hate the men of the cast, and no storytelling can save it. For instance, this movie features one of the most drawn out, disgusting rape scenes I have ever had the misfortune to sit through. As if I didn’t dislike Noodles enough, that was enough to make me hate him, and there was no redeeming him. The movie tried, too, like it was just a thing, and I was horrified by how meek Deborah was when seeing him all those years later, like there was still this fire between them. Fuck that. Not to mention Carol at the break in, and Peggy in the beginning of the movie. DISGUSTING.

Not to mention the story was skinny, too. I had to sit down six different times to try and get through this movie. I have no issue with a movie coming in with a super long runtime, as long as the story is good and it is all put together well. Here, I didn’t feel that the time was utilised correctly. There were times where it was good to watch Noodles and Max together, even though what they are up to is dodgy (because that’s how organised crime rolls, but you can enjoy the show), but then there is rape, gratuitous sex, violence, and lots of rambling with no story to fill it, and the story that was woven through the almost four hour runtime? Pretty fucking thin, and I didn’t appreciate that at all.

Some of the performances were clunky, too, and I don’t care who has what to say on that. Some of the performances were excellent – De Niro, for instance, sickened me to my core, but portrayed his character really well. Jennifer Connelly was great, and McGovern hit with a bang. Woods was solid, too. I was also not a fan of the extremely limited music used throughout the movie. It was annoying and grating. Of the entire movie, I must be honest and say I preferred watching the half when they were kids (even though the acting was truly godawful, the story was better), pre-prison for Noodles, even though there were some super issues with it, too.

While lauded as one hell of a gangster film, I was immensely disappointed with Once Upon A Time In America, and will not be rushing to rewatch it. Horrific treatment  of women, a stupidly skinny story, and a mixed bag of performances, I found this to be disappointing and excessively long for what it is.

November Blind Spot Review: City of God (2002)

7

“You need more than guts to be a good gangster. You need ideas.”
– Rocket

SYNOPSIS: Two boys growing up in a violent neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro take different paths: one becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer. – via IMDB

Man, I have been meaning to get to this movie for years and years and just never have, and finally I can cross it off my list. I don’t know about Top Ten Movies of All Time material or anything (which is where I see this movie listed often), but this movie is definitely fantastic and well worth the watch. It is heavy and handled exceptionally well, and comes across as authentic, not some attempt at a sob story from a dangerous area.

First off, City of God does not pussyfoot around in terms of the violence, drug use, and life in the slums. Oh no. You get kids with guns doing drugs and killing people and it is just the way it is, and you get a look at junkies, you see robberies and plenty murder. I have no issue with it, but I think some people might find it a little hardcore. I think it told the story in a gritty, brutal manner, and didn’t sugarcoat things.

City of God has an array of characters, and they are all interesting, all bringing a new facet to the story, and I quite liked that. The story is so interesting and immersive, being told in disjointed chapters which all fit together seamlessly as they are laid out. I was mesmerised from the off. It takes a few minutes to get rolling, but once it catches it barrels right along and it is so good. It is so heavy to see the conditions that people live in, and how the violence and danger was simply accepted as a way of life.

There are some heavy scenes that come up throughout the movie that just get your blood boiling (Li’l Zé, you are a supreme dweeb). Benny is a character you cannot help but like – he is just likeable. Yes, he’s in the whole drug racket and is respected and will do what is necessary, but he is also more level-headed and fair, so the people like him more. Rocket, our main peanut, is in a sticky situation all throughout the movie as he does not want to be either a cop or a hood, and I can’t think you would have a lot of options in the slums. Li’l Zé is a freaking crackpot crazy – no two ways about it o.O

Anyway, City of God benefits from a good cast that presents to us an uncomfortable but important and engrossing story. It is gritty and brutal, authentic and heartfelt. The film is shot well and the score works hand in hand with the visuals to draw you in. You become invested in what you are seeing, and the movie truly provokes viewer engagement throughout. You are fascinated, but you don’t want to be these people. For people uhming and ahing about this because it is subtitled, get over it. The story is awesome and you will hardly be aware of those subtitles.