A Ghost Story

A film that was not at all what I was expecting, and which consequently took me quite a while to process. I’m still partially doing that, to be honest.

What had I been expecting? Well, I’d been half-waiting for Casey Affleck to break my heart for the second time this year. But that didn’t happen. I thought I might have been a little scared (I’m not a fan of horror). But I wasn’t.

Instead, I was mesmerised by the long takes, the silences, the fixed camera shots.

The first section sets up the relationship between Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. We can see that they care deeply about each other. We assume they have been together for quite a while given their conversations and interactions. And we can also see that, despite their closeness, not everything is perfect. All this makes the relationship real and mature.

And then, poor Casey meets his end. Rooney deals with the grief in her way, and Casey ends up still hanging around their house, covered in a sheet, unable to properly move on. There are a number of extended shots where the camera is fixed and we just wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes something is happening slowly. Sometimes nothing happens for a long time. But each time we’re forced to take in tiny details, or just ‘be’ there as part of the story.

And then, the film makes a huge change in theme. Instead of being about very personal grief and connection, it becomes about the nature of death, time and memory, and deals in vast themes, all featuring a man in a sheet.

At one point, a self-centred, loud-mouthed hipster essentially mansplains the meaning of the film at a party, and it was the only point at which I tuned out of the film. But we see Casey not being able to move on, and we begin to understand how important the house is in that.

I did like A Ghost Story. I just can’t work out yet whether I liked it a lot, or completely loved it. But it’s still with me. Much like Casey, I feel the film is standing in the corner of my room observing me while other things happen in my life.

The final scene is open to interpretation and will be viewed differently by many. On leaving the cinema I was puzzled by it but I have since formed an opinion which, for me, makes sense of what I have seen.

Now, can we talk about “the pie scene” for a moment? Even if you haven’t seen this film, you may well have heard that “Rooney Mara eats a whole pie in one take”.

Firstly, she doesn’t. She eats maybe a third of it. It’s a big pie, admittedly, and full of chocolate, but that tiny little woman did not eat a full pie.

Secondly. That’s not a pie. A pie has a lid. What Rooney ate was a tart. Rooney ate half a tart.


Spider-Man: Homecoming

No doubting from this that Tom Holland is an excellent casting choice for Peter Parker/Spidey. He has youthful enthusiasm and radiates a genuine desire to just do good things for his neighbourhood. Yes, he’s dazzled by the possibility of becoming an Avenger but at heart he’s just a teenager struggling with the usual high-school stuff while stopping petty-crime in the evenings.

And yet I was only just about satisfied with Spider-Man: Homecoming. It felt over-long, with some quite baggy special effects, and an alarming disregard for the development of its female characters.

And so many questions! Is the timeline between the fallout from the Chitauri invasion (Avengers Assemble), the airport fight (Captain America: Civil War) and the placing of events in this film really correct? Why does Spider-Man have to have his suit replete with voice like Tony Stark’s suit? Why has Pepper miraculously reappeared as if nothing has happened, only a short time after she broke up with Tony? Does Spider-Man have some kind of incredible healing powers, because after most of what he went through, that kid shouldn’t have survived … more than once!

Maybe I’m getting too old for this.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

You may recall that I did not like director Luc Besson’s previous feature film Lucy AT ALL.

But I had seen and heard the reviews, and I do like Jupiter Ascending, so I was prepared to give Valerian a go.

Good choice, Marie! Yes there are things wrong with the film, but I had real fun in its presence so :-p to you if you didn’t. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that I really, really liked, and also a few things that were unnecessary and whose inclusion I didn’t fully understand, but I almost feel like I need to watch it again to get the full benefit of the visual tapestry which Besson has woven for this world.

Things that I really, really liked:

  • The opening sequence set to the Bowie track
  • The world of Müll and its inhabitants – such vibrant colours, and that iridescent blue pearlised skin-effect was just beautiful
  • The sequence taking place in multiple dimensions – really well handled
  • The Star Wars meets Jupiter Ascending aesthetic
  • Ethan Hawke as a Space Pimp!
  • Rihanna, surprisingly
  • Cara Delevingne, even more surprisingly

Things that were, admittedly, a little puzzling

  • Laureline spends most of the film demonstrating that she is driven by her head and following orders. Yet in the end she tries to convince us that she’s the renegade? Whereas he’s been flouting the rules all along, yet won’t disobey orders JUST AT THE END WHEN IT’S OBVIOUSLY THE RIGHT THING TO DO according to the film’s world?
  • I haven’t seen Dane DeHaan in very much so I’m not sure – but does he actually talk like a cut price Keanu Reeves in real life or did he make this a strange decision to channel him? Coz that wasn’t necessary.
  • Staying Alive? Please.
  • Not sure what the food parade was all about.
  • Do we really need that complete explanation of everything which occurs at the end? I had already figured it all out by then, so this was totally unnecessary exposition as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, I liked it just fine thank you very much, and will be picking this up on Blu-ray when it’s released. So there.

Podcast episode: Who am I, I am me?

If someone invites you to talk with them about film on their podcast, and says you can choose the movies which are discussed, then why pick just one Jake Gyllenhaal when you can have two?!

In part one of a two-part series on identity crises, The B-Movie Podcast‘s Adam and I chat insecurity, infidelity and spiders (yuk) as we reflect on Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy – you’ll find a link to the podcast here.

Sea of Love (1989)

Rewatching for my The Complete Pacino list.

After the failure of Revolution, it was 4 years before Pacino returned to the cinema screen in this ‘thriller’. I recall at the time liking Sea of Love quite a bit, but I was less interested this time around. Perhaps because I knew who the criminal was?

Or perhaps because things which seemed so normal in 1989 (singles ads in print form, making phone calls from booths on the street, and Ellen Barkin’s amazingly body-skimming wardrobe) really date this film watching it in 2017.

I’ve never been much of a Barkin fan, particularly in this film – but then, I guess she’s not supposed to appeal to me in a role like this. Her character isn’t that well developed, and flip-flops between storming off in a huff and then placidly forgiving the lies she’s been told so she can get a shag. Anyone who will just jump all over someone the first night while still feeling the need to carry a gun around because of ‘all the crazy people out there’ really needs to re-think her lifestyle choices. And fondling the vegetables in the all night grocery wearing nothing but an overcoat is probably high on the list of things to avoid.

But the highlight is most definitely the on-screen relationship between Al Pacino and John Goodman – they are great together as cops partnered-up to solve the murders, and I can imagine them continuing to do so long after the film’s story has ended.