In which Nat talks briefly about the movies she’s been watching this week for no particular reason and that probably don’t warrant proper reviews, but hey? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all chatted about them anyway?
I’m not saying I’m going to turn into a cat lady any time soon, but I’ve not been out in a while. At least, not to the movies. This is strange for me, particularly with a Robert Pattinson movie in the cinema at the moment (The Batman), but honestly, that just looks nasty. I know: after the entire Dark Knight trilogy, could Batman get any nastier? I’m reassured by people who enjoy such things that yes, Batman can get nastier. So I’m going to give it a miss.
I really hope, though, that are some lovely new films for me to watch at the cinema soon, though.
I’ve not been watching many new films at home, either. Not even that collection of all the James Bond movies I got given for Christmas.
(I really did.)
But I have been running a few retrospectives, which I’ll cover briefly after the jump. I’ve also been watching a few Russian movies. For understandable reasons, I hope? 😭
So here’s what you can look forward to discussing in the TMINE multiplex after the jump:
- Black Hawk Down (2001)
- Мне двадцать лет (I Am Twenty) (1965)
- Цапля и журавль (The Heron and the Crane) (1974)
- Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
- The Truth About Cats And Dogs (1996)
Re: the last of those – I promise I’m not turning into a cat lady.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
“The story of 160 elite U.S. soldiers who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.”Available on Netflix
This is a very strange film. It’s directed by Ridley Scott and shows all his visual flair, with great use of contrast and colour, particularly whenever helicopters come into shot – they begin to look almost like his Alien at times.
But it’s about a ‘war’ from a very different time and your sympathies are torn, even though the movie doesn’t really do anything to give characters to the Somalis who both terrorise the Americans and are shot at by them. Everything seems like a massive mistake caused by the Americans and their over-eagerness (an over-eagerness you probably wouldn’t see now after 20 years of the War on Terror); you then watch it become an even more massive mistake as it draws in more and more troops, with more and more people dying on both sides.
I found myself wondering why we were supposed to be celebrating, what feels like a less heroic, even more objectionable Zulu (1964), with which it often has surprising similarities. Yes, there was some incredible bravery on display. But in the cause of something terrible.
So now, I think it’s more a curiosity, particularly given the largely non-US cast – Ewan McGregor, Ioan Gruffudd, Ewen Bremner, Hugh Dancy, Eric Bana and Jason Isaacs, as well as William Fichtner, Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore – and perhaps more of an insight into how our thoughts about war, its ‘nobility’ and how it should or should not be fought have changed in 30 years.
Мне двадцать лет (I Am Twenty) (1965)
Three lifelong friends see their aspirations juxtaposed against everyday life in 1960s Moscow, reflecting on their possible futures and their place in society. At the heart of the film is Sergei, returning from military service and grappling with the loss of his father in the war. Initially filmed as Ilych’s Gate, the great Soviet filmmaker Marlen Khutsiev re-edited this generational portrait into I Am Twenty after the earlier version was labelled “morally sick” by Khrushchev. Reminiscent of the French New Wave, it captures the angst and anxiety of the post-Stalinist Thaw.Available on Klassiki
Most people don’t realise that there was such a thing as Soviet New Wave cinema. There was – and it was every bit as interesting as French New Wave, with which it had much in common.
But there were significant differences, and I Am Twenty is about as anxious a movie as you can get. At first it feels like an almost impressionistic piece looking at what it felt like to be young and free in Хрущёв’s Russia. Yes, free! While the movie takes great pains to reinforce the fact everyone is a good communist, with doors covered in Правда and everyone talking about their dedication to the revolution, this is very much a movie about a people with new freedoms… trying to work out what they want to do with their lives.
This largely involves parties, reading the right kinds of books and hanging out with the right kinds of girls. There’s no real plot to it beyond that at first. Instead, you get to watch the boys hang out and recite poetry in a beautifully photographed 60s Moscow.
But none of them are sure about what to do, beyond explain to the world why the Soviet Union is the way it is, with references to 1937 frequent. The boys are also quite explicit about the fact they have no fathers (they’re almost all dead) as one of the reasons for their aimlessness.
The final act of the film therefore leaves a huge impact on the viewer, in something that is more dream sequence – and a very Russian one at that – than anything else. I won’t spoil it for you, but it changes the entire nature of the film.
It’s a long and somewhat drifting watch, coming in at nearly three hours. But it’s as much watch, if you want to see something that’s as close to French fancy-free yet philosophical film-making as Soviet cinema got.
Цапля и журавль (The Heron and the Crane) (1974)
The Heron and the Crane is a humorous little tale of amorous indecision and self-destruction from animator supreme Yuri Norstein. The titular animals are engaged in a dance of romantic attraction and rejection, whimsical but melancholy. A collaboration with his wife, the artist Francesca Yarbusova, and cameraman Alexandr Zhukovsky, with whom he would go on to make classics Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales, this early short was the first real sounding of Norstein’s mature genius.Available on Klassiki
More of a bit of folk wisdom than a proper movie, this, and the sexual politics of it are very 70s Russian. But I enjoyed it! A neighbouring heron and the crane propose marriage to each other in turn; each refuses then regrets it, so heads over to the other’s home to say they’ve changed their mind… only to discover that so has their former suitor.
And repeat for the rest of the movie.
But it’s charming and the animation is beautiful, so a 10 minute viewing that’s definitely worth watching.
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
Two dim-witted, inseparable friends hit the road for their ten-year high school reunion and concoct an elaborate lie about their lives in order to impress their classmates.Available on Disney+
My rewatch of this was prompted by another reunion – of Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
And I’m so glad I did!
I first saw this when I was still at school, so the idea of high school reunion wasn’t really something I could totally get my head around. And now everyone has Facebook, the idea of people not knowing what two of their friends were doing a mere 10 years after leaving school is still almost as incomprehensible.
Product of its time it might be, particularly with the 80s soundtrack, but it’s still a work of comedy genius that I never really appreciated at the time. But it’s also a poignant tale about female friendships, about learning to like yourself for who you are and not compare yourself to others, how life doesn’t work out quite the way you planned – but may not be the worse for it – and that how you see yourself may not be how others see you.
It’s an almost infinitely quotable affair, too, with Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino obviously having a wonderful time. You have to watch this movie, if only for the PostIt note and the ‘Time After Time’ scenes.
The supporting cast includes Janeane Garofalo and Alan Cumming, so honestly, you have no excuse not to watch it.
The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996)
A successful veternarian & radio show host with low self-esteem asks her model friend to impersonate her when a handsome man wants to see her.
My rewatch of this was prompted by my rewatch of Romy & Michele, as well as the fact Cyrano (2022) is currently in cinemas. A sort of role reversal of Cyrano de Bergerac relocated to California in the 90s, it sees the smart but short Janeane Garofalo essentially trying to woo Ben Chaplin through the medium of Uma Thurman, whom she imagines to be the sort of beautiful woman every man would fall for.
It’s a very sweet little independent movie that has a lot more to say about gender politics than you might think. Thurman isn’t empty-headed by any means and Chaplin’s effortlessly charming in a way that makes me wonder why he never got to do much more leading man work after this. Weirder still, Jamie Foxx is there doing Black Best Friend duty.
It’s also a little ahead of its time. Post-Covid and post-Zoom, that (spoiler alert) phone sex scene is still daring but spot on. I also really enjoyed both relationships: Chaplin and Garofalo’s and Thurman and Garofalo’s, the latter being a lovely unlikely besties depiction.
Of course, it’s a movie where the idea of Garofalo being unattractive is plausible. It’s California, I guess, but all the same, Chaplin’s English and 5’1″ isn’t that short for an Englishwoman, so wouldn’t he have been used to normal sized women? And she’s Janeane Garofalo for flerken’s sake!
If you’re looking for a properly smart rom-com and hated the Katherine Heigl years of rom-coms, seek this one out because it’s delightful!