2017 Film Challenge – February

Another month, another recap

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Improvements were seen all round in February, both in the amount of films watched but also in the number of first viewings, a total of 27 films were seen including 14 new. This puts me ahead of the pace towards my 250 film target with an impressive 50 films after two months. If the current rate continues I should reach my goal by the end of September which would be an immense personal achievement. I will write this post in the same general structure as last month with the complete list of the films followed next by my thoughts and finally a top 5. As the months pass I will add additional sections as needed.

Films Watched:

  • Hacksaw Ridge (2017)
  • Gold (2017)
  • Sully (2016)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • Dodgeball (2004)
  • Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Night at the Museum (2006)
  • The Departed (2006)
  • Hidden Figures (2017)
  • Dr Strange (2016)
  • Superbad (2007)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
  • Patriots Day (2017)
  • Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)
  • The Founder (2017)
  • Whiplash (Short) (2013)
  • Allied (2016)
  • Passengers (2016)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
  • The Nice Guys (2016)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • The Big Year (2011)
  • The Internship (2013)
  • Tropic Thunder (2008) x2

There is a wide range in the type and genre of films here with older classics such as Tarantino and Scorsese’s Palme d’Or winners Pulp Fiction and Taxi Driver contrasted with cult classics such as Superbad and Dodgeball. Some guilty pleasures such as the dependable charm of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson seeped through too in 2013’s feature length google advert that was The Interview. A major surprise for me was Shane Black’s The Nice Guys. After going into it blind hearing great things I was blown away by both Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe’s performances in this fantastic crime thriller.

If there are highs there must also be lows and Passengers takes the bacon. A futurist titanic set in the stars it had potential, especially featuring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt in the lead roles. Unfortunately their chemistry could not overcome the flawed story leading to a rather bad film.

Here is my Top 5 for February

  1. Manchester by the Sea
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. The Nice Guys
  4. The Founder
  5. Dodgeball

Special mention goes to Fargo, The Departed and Dr Strange

Review: Silence

A leap of faith that doesn’t pay off

Seldom has a movie relied on the individual perspective of its audience more than Martin Scorsese’s latest release, Silence. This is a punishing film, both mentally (in the depictions of will-breaking torture) and physically — with an exhaustive 161 minute runtime. Perhaps my lack of faith prevents an emotional connection or perhaps it was intended as an extension of the on-screen trials, testing the limits of the most diehard Scorsese fans. What can be certain is that the film is a leap of faith, and one that very few will make. Silence is the third in a series of religious features made by Scorsese following The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun. Set initially and briefly in 1630’s Portugal, it tells the story of two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) and their journey to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) after his alleged apostasy. They decide to travel to Japan, a country where Christianity is outlawed, armed with nothing more than religious talismans and the clothes on their backs. A test of faith? Or an example of the naivety of youth? The movie’s imperfections are wholly distracting from potential immersion in the story. For example the three lead actors, of Canadian, American and Irish descent, find huge difficulty in replicating Latin accents. As a result, the most powerful scenes are those without words or without involving them at all. There is also an overly exaggerated sense of purity in the mission of the priests. The word of God must be spread throughout Japan, no matter how many must be tortured or killed in their name. That being said, there are plenty of positives to be drawn. Scorsese teamed up with fantastic cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, having worked previously on The Wolf of Wall Street, and the result is a visually stunning experience. There are plenty of scenes with great camera positioning and the use of overhead camerawork facilitates urgency as the Jesuit priests decide to, and then travel to Japan. Issey Ogata and Tadanobu Asano are both perfectly cast as the Inquisitor and the Interpreter respectively, showing wisdom and charisma far beyond that of their compatriots. The beautiful locations used evoke wonder as they travel throughout Japan. Except it isn’t Japan, it is Taiwan. In a fictional work set in Japan, location of filming isn’t an important factor, however this is a non-fiction historical drama. Regardless of Ang Lee’s recommendations for setting, more respect should be paid to the source material in order to keep it as historically accurate as possible. One cannot deny Scorsese’s deep catalogue of great movies. Sadly though this does not rank among them. He purposefully gives little away throughout the film, leaving you to your emotions but forgetting to evoke any. Silence is certainly not an experience for the masses, instead tailored probably for those who attend mass. Maybe the 25 year gestation period was too long for anything of real substance to survive.