Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Apartment

Dir: Billy Wilder
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine

In general, seedy humour does not make Narry Borman laugh, and The Apartment is full of it. Those seedy little backstreet dalliances. Let's not try to normalize something so "out of order". So, the comedy element of The Apartment did nothing for NB. In fact, the script isn't even very sharp - Jack Lemmon's lines are delivered with comic timing, but there's not much to back it up, which makes him come across as a kind of Disney character. Shirley MacLaine has some funnier lines. The real comedy gold, though, comes from the Jewish wife next door - "Max the Knife!" being a standout line.

Forgetting the humorous side of things, The Apartment stands out for it's dramatic elements. Billy Wilder can sure tell a story, and he gets you involved in the characters, too. C.C.Baxter is super-sympathetic as he stands outside his apartment in the cold and the rain.

His gradual transformation into a minsch (spelling?) is quite inspiring - leading up to his delivery of one standout line in particular: "I used to live like Robinson Crusoe, shipwrecked among 8 million people. Then one day I saw a footprint in the sand. And it was yours." Soppy genius!

Well made, well acted, but not very funny.

Rating: Good

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Orson Welles' Macbeth

Dir: Orson Welles
Starring: Awesome Wells

Unwatchably bad. I started viewing it with the best of intentions, but this was not NB's cup of tea. Massively over-serious, as bleak as Russia in the 1980s, and poorly written (I don't care if yer name is Shakespeare). One good point: Macbeth's wife (Jeanette Nolan) puts in a great performance.

Rating: Piffle


"Oooooh no. I've forgotten how to act"
Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe

Is there any event in the history of humanity as fascinating as the flood? Although we're talking ancient history, the impact of the flood is still palpable today. Furthermore, the antediluvian world seems to have been, by all accounts, a place vastly different to the one we know today in terms of topography, technology and culture.

Narry Borman fully understands, then, why Darren A chose to make a film on this subject, and why he combined a variety of flood facts and myths to create his story of Noah. What NB does not understand is why the result is so bad.

Part of the problem is that no one in this film puts in a good performance except for Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins. Ray Winstone and the feller who played Shem should be singled out for particularly bad acting. Booo!

The other part of the problem is that, while the first half of the film has an interesting slow build up, the second half of the film destroys all of that good work by adding unnecessary, over-complicated and pointless twists to the plot, such as the stowaway on the ark and Noah's insistence that humans should not reproduce. What rot.

Probably the best idea in the film is that the animals hibernated during the long sojourn on the ark. NB fully subscribes to this idea. NB also recommends that you hibernate through the screening of this poorly executed flick if forced to watch it by a "Christian" or by a "Teacher" at "School" who will inevitably consider the film to be "open-minded" and "fair"nopah.

Rating: Bad

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

National Lampoon's Vacation

Dir: Harold A-miss
Starring: Chevy Chase

Oh dear. After watching the comedy gold of Loaded Weapon, NB thought he must be missing out on some other undiscovered magic in the National Lampoon series.

I was wrong. This is rubbish... and a bit weird in places. Don't bother.

Chevy Chase's worst film.

Rating: Poo


Dir: Alejandro Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Ed Norton

Ohhhh, how good it is sometimes to go the local movie house and enjoy a talkie. In the same way the The Congress inspired me earlier this year, Birdman knocked Narry Borman of his size 3 feet. It all works so well: Michael Keaton is really unhinged, the setting of the theatre house is a perfect backdrop to his increasingly uncertain life, all of the subcharacters rotate around his madness like planets in a solar system, and the music... that was a stroke of genius.

In a similar way to The Congress, there is a fascinating mix of incredulous imagery and ghastly reality. There's also a combination of laugh out loud humour and touching poignancy. Narry B has no idea how a film this good is made... it must take genius, hard work and all the right circumstances in terms of casting and location. Go watch it.

Rating: Genius

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Dir: David Gelb
Starring: Jiro

Did I ever tell you I lived in Japan?

Japan is a country where, particularly with the older generation, life is all about work. Jiro Ono perhaps typifies that ethos better than any other. He has spent the last 75 years working day and night.

It's more than work, though; it's a struggle for perfection. Perhaps the best quote along this line comes from the octopus seller at Tsukiji market: "You think you know everything. Then you find there's so much left to learn, and you get depressed."

The documentary shows how everyone in every stage in the process of producing this sushi is involved in this quest for perfection; from the rice seller who won't sell his rice to anyone other than Jiro, to the customer, who has to eat the sushi in the order mandated by Jiro.

There's a good analogy made in Jiro between the head chef and the orchestra conductor... every little detail is being controlled and managed in order to create a perfect whole.

An incredible story that is beautifully shot and is accompanied by a great Philip Glass soundtrack.

Rating: Top Work

Escape From New York

Dir: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell

Oh, how I love watching John Carpenter films. If you gave a camera and a sizable budget to a precocious 13-year old boy, I'm pretty sure you'd get something akin to a Carpenter flick. There's an unmistakable naivety to his oeuvre, almost like they are caricatures of real films. Look at the characters in Escape from New York: Snake Plisken, with his leather boots, combat trousers and sleeveless vest; Donald Pleasance as the (bizarrely English) US President who is all about self-preservation; Lee Van Cleef as Hauk, the police chief who's a bit of a maverick and wants to get the job done at any cost... these are characters straight out of a 50's DC comic.

If any of this sounds like a criticism, it's cos you don't 'get' Carpenter. While I would rate The Thing above this, Narry B is convinced that Escape from New York is essential watching and should be on the national curriculums of all civilized countries.

Rating: Top Work