(1) Thu Feb 10 2022 19:03 January Film Roundup:
- Local Hero (1983): Another excellent, gentle Bill Forsyth comedy built on a near-Billy Wilder darkness and cynicism. Not saying much about it because you should just watch it.
- Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003): Sumana took a few introductory Hindi classes through the local library, so we watched a lot of Bollywood this month to get a little immersion. Looking back at it, this movie was just okay, but our enjoyment was greatly magnified from being set in New York City and watched in the deep of winter at the height of the Omicron surge. We were constantly pausing it and playing games like "Mock the Geography" and "NYC or Toronto?" For the record, I believe only one shot was actually filmed in Jackson Heights -- the brief vox pop outside the produce market.
Highlight: the epic, hyper-American "Pretty Woman" street party dance number ("They should show this in the line for Customs." - Sumana). Lowlight: everything else Shah Rukh Khan's character does. ("This guy is annoying." - Sumana (paraphrase))
- My Favorite Year (1982): A very fun period comedy of the sort it's hard to imagine anyone making nowadays, partly because the corresponding Favorite Year would be 1994. It's super-sentimental about a bygone era of entertainment in a way that just wouldn't... what's this? My Mel Brooks sense... tingling!
Likewise, the film My Favorite Year (1982) is loosely based on Brooks's experiences as a writer on [Your Show of Shows] including an encounter with the actor Errol Flynn.
That explains that!
- Queen (2013): By far the best Bollywood film we saw this month, a female-empowerment film that's also a fun tour of Europe. Rajkummar Rao takes a villain turn, and is believably obnoxious and entitled.
- Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019): A queer rom-com that builds empathy using a Hamlet-ish play-within-a-play ("can you play The Wedding of Gonzago?") and has a nice twist where you think Rajkummar Rao is the romantic lead unless you already know how act two is gonna go, which Sumana did and I didn't. This was the movie where we noticed that Rao, although good-looking enough to play the romantic lead, seems to prefer roles where "romantic lead" is a psych-out: he's an entitled jerk (Queen), he's wrong about being the romantic lead (this film), or the romance just isn't important to the story (Newton).
- Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021): A second queer rom-com, with a wackier tone than Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. This one builds empathy by showing you real-world news clips, which is the exact opposite technique of play-within-a-play, and would be like me reviewing this movie by quoting other reviews of it. Always nice to see the stock film character "supportive parent(s) of queer character," whether played serious as it is here or comedically like in Booksmart.
There's another stock film character who always shows up in twos, and I can reliably get a laugh out of Sumana by referring to them as "Merry and Pippin." Anyway, there's a Merry and Pippin in this film. See also, e.g. Logan Lucky (2017).
- Eye of the Needle (1981): A thriller that was all right but gave me a good thrill about halfway through when the two plots joined up. It's one of those "everything goes wrong for our competent main character" films, except, twist: the main character is a Nazi and we're rooting for the "everything goes wrong" side of the ledger. Double twist: everything goes wrong for everyone, resulting in ruined lives all around. At least the timeline is preserved.
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973): What if crime... but very little grime? This is one of the cleanest-looking 1970s crime flicks I've seen. Lots of suburban banks, roadside parks, spacious parking lots... Even the bar, the bowling alley and the diner are clean. (And that bowling alley has a hell of an arcade, though you only see it in a quick pan.) Nothing's stylish like in The Godfather, just shabbily respectable. A good choice for a film on the classic "no real difference between crime and business" thesis, a film where people betray each other without raising their voices and the most objectionable thing that happens is that one of Eddie's guns gets used.
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