hanna (joe wright, 2011)

I needed some escapist fare, and my wife had seen and liked this one, so I went for it. Joe Wright has directed several films I've seen ... I liked the first one (Pride & Prejudice) the best, was less impressed with Anna Karenina. In all of his films, Wright is a busy director, prone to showing off. Hey, it worked for Orson Welles.

Hanna is just as visually complicated as the others, and Saoirse Ronan as the title character is the best thing about the movie. Ultimately, though, the film is much ado about nothing, which in fairness was just what I was looking for. Cate Blanchett as the villain and Eric Bana as Hanna's father/trainer are good. The soundtrack by the Chemical Brothers has won praise ... I confess I didn't notice it.

Strong action scenes, solid performances, an excellent star turn for Ronan ... who could ask for anything more? No one, if you're looking for escapist fare. I couldn't shake the notion, though, that Wright was up to something greater, something I never found. There are elements of fairy tales that are intriguing ... there's certainly more than enough here to pass a couple of hours. Later a TV series with Esme Creed-Miles.


the dirties (matt johnson, 2013)

This is the eleventh film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 11 is called YMS Recommendations Week:

Adam Johnston, AKA YourMovieSucks on YouTube, is a big factor in my appreciation of films. However you feel about his work, it can't be denied that YMS recommends a large amount of obscure and foreign cinema from the past couple decades. As my small tribute to him, this week we're taking a look at the films on his Top 10 lists, though they're usually somewhere in the 20s or 30s. If you aren't familiar, check out some of his videos (including the Top 10s) here.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film recommended in one of YMS' Top 10 videos. You can find lists of these films here.

Can't say I've ever heard of Adam Johnston, but his lists were interesting. Can't say I'd heard of The Dirties, either, and it was also interesting. The primary force behind the film is Matt Johnson, who directed, wrote, and starred. The Dirties is filled with clever touches, made on the cheap and not hiding the fact. Johnston stars as Matt, who with his friend Owen (Owen Williams), is making a low-budget movie. Matt and Owen are in high school, and they share a love of movies. They are also both victims of school bullies, and the movie they are making (yes, it's called The Dirties) is about two high school guys being bullied. It's all quite circular, and for an hour or so, it's hard to take seriously ... in fact, Johnson doesn't seem very serious himself, and it's a low-key affair with just enough entertainment to keep us involved. The movie then takes a dark turn that felt a bit abrupt to me. Johnson suddenly gets very serious, and I think we're supposed to believe this darkness makes something more of The Dirties than just a low-budget romp. It accomplishes this, but The Dirties is never a great movie. I don't think it can hold all of the suggestive meaning Johnson wants to offer.

The film uses a found-footage format which is OK if you don't think about it too much (it's unclear how much we are meant to believe in the format, since at the least there is an unmentioned cameraperson at work). Like I say, it's clever ... the character of Matt would like this movie, and not just because he is the star. It's effectively nerdy, and it carries an anti-bullying message, although that message goes awry about the time Matt starts reading up on Columbine.

Among the other choices people made for the Challenge were 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and Caché. I couldn't pick them since they don't qualify as "previously unseen", but in the end, I probably would have better spent my time rewatching 4 Months.


music friday

(Acts that we saw from the mid-70s to 1980.)

Flora Purim, 1970s. Purim is a jazz singer from Brazil. In the 70s, we went to several shows at the annual Concord Jazz Festival (Robin's dad would give us tix). When we saw her, she played with Airto, her husband and a noted percussionist. 

Mink DeVille, 1977 or so. At one point in the early 70s, they were Billy de Sade and the Marquis. They moved to New York just in time for the CBGB explosion, and were put in the same genre as the other NYC punk bands, but they were soul and R&B. We saw them at the Old Waldorf, capacity 600, when they toured behind their first album. Here he is in 1982, by which time Willy DeVille was the only remaining original member. 

George Thorogood and the Destroyers, 1977. George is probably best known for "Bad to the Bone", which became iconic over the years ... just ask Al Bundy fans. We saw him at the Keystone Berkeley, a tiny club on University that was the home of more than 200 Jerry Garcia Band gigs. Robin was pregnant with Sara, notably so. We were at a small table next to the stage, and at one point, George climbed on our table while taking a guitar solo. This video is from 1980. 

Sector 27, 1981. This was Tom Robinson's first band after TRB broke up. We saw them at Keystone Palo Alto, another of the "Stone" venues. The guitar work by Stevie B was in marked contrast to the more rock-ish work of the great Danny Kustow in the Tom Robinson Band. If memory serves, Robinson had laryngitis at this show and could barely sing. 

The lights of home are burning low
And time ran out a little time ago
The ranks are closing and the lines are drawn
They call for surrender but it's almost dawn
I'm not ready, I'm not ready