The war, on film

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching movies about recent American military actions. What do they have in common? In the first place, the desire to tell true stories in highly conventionalized ways. In the second, presenting themselves as being non-political. I don’t think they’re all that successful in either regard. They’re decent action flicks, but if you’re looking for something more you’re not going to get it.

Black Hawk Down (2001)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
American Sniper (2014)
13 Hours (2016)



Blinded. By the light.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching two film adaptations of the Patrick Hamilton play Gas Light: the 1940 version directed by Thorold Dickinson (which I liked the best) and the more famous 1944 film directed by George Cukor and starring Ingrid Bergman (who won an Academy Award).

The only reason I wanted to watch these movies is because the phrase “gaslighting” has become so popular in political discussions that I wanted to see where it originated. I came away thinking it’s a stretch to apply it to political propaganda and the lies presidents tell. But then, the plot of the two films (which comes from a play by Patrick Hamilton) is so ridiculous in the first place, why not?

Colour films

Mop on. Mop off.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out of Space.” Lovecraft has always been hard to put on screen and I’m afraid most of these movies aren’t very good (bordering on terrible). But the two most recent, the German film Die Farbe and the even stranger Swedish production Feed the Light are interesting, low-budget experiments that I’d recommend.

Here’s the list:

Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
“The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” from Creepshow (1982)
The Curse (1987)
Colour from the Dark (2008)
Die Farbe (2010)
Feed the Light (2014)

Begin again, and again

Over at Alex on Film I’ve added notes on three movies taking the premise that an individual has to relive the same day in their life over again and again in a loop until some condition is met. I think Groundhog Day (1993) was the first, or at least the best known film to do this. We still call it a Groundhog Day plot. More recently the idea has proven itself to be highly portable, being featured in Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and Happy Death Day (2017).

What I find interesting is how different, in most other respects, these films are. In Groundhog Day the time loop has a vaguely spiritual dimension to it, related to Buddhist teachings or Nietzsche’s eternal return. In Edge of Tomorrow there’s a ridiculous explanation for it based on some connection between alien biology and time travel. This is a throwaway, as the real connection being made is to video game play. In Happy Death Day it seems like the device is being invoked in a more ironic way. What do these different approaches have in common? I’m not sure. I can’t help thinking there’s some deeper connection though.

On trial

Joseph K. Before the fall.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve posted my notes on two film versions of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. The first is the Orson Welles film from 1962. It’s not my favourite Welles, but he manages the text well and really makes it his own. The second is a far more literal adaptation, directed by David Jones, which came out in 1993. I didn’t like it nearly as much, but it’s still worth seeing if you’re a fan of the book.

Holmes on film

I’ve updated a few times on this site with links to my notes over at Alex on Film on various movies featuring Sherlock Holmes. Mostly I’ve been talking about the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce series that ran through the late 1930s and early ’40s. If you’re interested, this is an up-to-date master list. If I review any more Holmes movies I’ll just add them here.

The Copper Beeches (1912)
Le Trsor des Musgraves (1912)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943)
Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
The Spider Woman (1943)
The Scarlet Claw (1943)
The Pearl of Death (1944)
The House of Fear (1945)
The Woman in Green (1945)
Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
Dressed to Kill (1946)
Murder by Decree (1979)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Old boys

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the two versions of Oldboy: the Korean original and the 2013 American remake (where the title was changed to Old Boy).

I’m still scratching my¬† head as to why anyone would want to remake Oldboy. It’s a great movie, but so weird and idiosyncratic¬† I don’t see how anyone could have thought a Hollywood version was going to work. In the event, Spike Lee’s version doesn’t have any of the visual inventiveness and grotesque imagination of the original.