Five films, inc. three romcoms

I’m short of TV shows at the moment, apart from New Episode Friday, so I’ve watched a few films, with mixed results.

I’m right off films, and find most of them too dull and too long. I also have zero interest in films based on comic books and/or Star Wars. There’s also a massive darkness problem in both film and TV, which I’m sure has something to do with the current generation of 8K video cameras, or whatever they’re up to these days. Back in the film days, cinematographers knew how to light a scene and knew how far you could push film. With digital video, you can immediately see your shot, and viewing it in “ideal” conditions in the editing suite probably gives a very misleading view of what people will experience in their living rooms.

Take The Vast of Night, for example, which is a perfectly good little micro budget period science fiction film on Amazon Prime. Released in 2019, it’s set in 1950s New Mexico and was reportedly (and almost unbelievably) made for just $700,000. Two friends, one a telephone operator, the other a local radio DJ, encounter a weird frequency and investigate. The film has innovative camera work, lovely dialogue, natural performances, and an interesting enough plot. It’s really worth watching, but it is of course mostly shot in the dark. It’s in the title. I’m sure a lot of its low budget was concealed by the darkness, but still, there were long periods where you couldn’t see much on the screen. Anyway, it’s a lovely film and at 89 minutes, it’s actually as long as most films need to be, so well done everybody concerned. Recommended.

Not recommended is another Amazon acquisition, the Thandiwe Newton and Brad Pitt Chris Pine starring All The Old Knives, which wants to be an espionage thriller, but it fails to thrill. Pitt Pine stars as an active agent who’s called in to investigate an 8-year old terrorist incident when it emerges that an insider aided and abetted the terrorists. His ex-colleague (and lover) Thandiwe Newton is now a suspect, as is Jonathan Pryce. Pulling the strings is a low key Lawrence Fishburne, who appears to be cast as The Spy Whisperer. In fact, everybody mostly whispers, there’s a lot of unnecessary darkness (again) and you can’t escape the feeling that Chris Pine is who you get when you can’t get Brad Pitt. He’s charisma-free, and although there’s plenty of hype surrounding his supposed chemistry with Newton, I think you’d need laboratory conditions to spot it. Poor.

I also recently watched three old romcoms, with mixed results.

Broadcast News (1987) is the kind of adult entertainment they don’t make any more, and one of those Hollywood productions about how the media is getting stupider and shallower and quality and integrity are going out of the window. This coming from the industry that no longer makes films like this in favour of stupid comic book films and other franchise nonsense. Albert Brooks is the hero journalist in this instance, who braves the trouble spots of the world to bring the truth to the masses. He’s in love with colleague Holly Hunter, a brilliant news producer who turns his raw material into compelling viewing. Along comes shallow but pretty sports reporter William Hurt, who admires Hunter but can’t help himself when it comes to faking news and softening it up with sentimentality. A love triangle about news, who knew? Anyway, it’s good, and I like the way it ends up with none of them together.

Another hero journalist comes along in the form of Richard Gere, the cynical reporter in The Runaway Bride (1999), who seems to have a problem with women and writes a scathing column about Julia Roberts, who has left three different men at the altar. Cue predictable unravellings as Gere gets fired by his ex-wife and boss and has to try to redeem himself by profiling Roberts as she prepares to marry fiancée #4. This film has aged quite well, and has a good soundtrack of contemporary country music. Gere is charming, and Roberts lights up the screen, as ever.

Something that hasn’t aged well, though, is High Fidelity (2000), featuring John Cusack as a deeply unpleasant and unprofessional record store owner, whose equally unpleasant employees berate and abuse any customer who dares ask for uncool music. As someone who grew up with a local record store staffed by similarly unpleasant people, I was triggered by this. More problematic still is the way Cusack’s character reacts when he is dumped by his girlfriend, played by Iben Hjejle. He stalks her, harrasses her, insults and abuses her, and generally acts like too many fucking men when rejected by women. Every man in this movie is a different variety of twat.


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