Mini-Review: Cupcakes

As it turns out when I viewed this film turned out to be serendipitous, I saw this just before this year’s Eurovision competition in Bulgaria. Since I’ve joined Twitter I have lamented the fact that Eurovision is not broadcast in America even more so as those I follow make me even more envious than I normally would be as I hear a lot of extemporaneous reaction. I’ve known of this song competition for a while, always seeking to broaden my horizons, and due to my innate curiosity; however, I never really was able to get it – only getting snippets I couldn’t see how it worked or an illustration of the fascination.

However, I think even if one is wholly unfamiliar with the song competition it’s an easy enough tale to follow clearly. It’s humorous, warm and more about the characters’ struggles than in-jokes. Clearly, knowing some things about Eurovision will only deepen the appreciation you have for the fun it pokes, and the spirit it tries to invoke.

The film is a welcome bit of escapism taking a group of friends from different walks of life who watch the show annually for a bit of ironic enjoyment into the contest unbeknownst to them in a whirlwind the following year. Its humor and tonality is a welcome departure for director Eytan Fox director of such films as Yossi & Jagger and Yossi.

6/10

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Short Film Saturday: Minnie the Moocher (1932)

This is a pre-Code/Depression era short featuring Betty Boop. I’m not much of an authority on the character. I knew some of the shorts when I was a kid before I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit I’m sure. Those were likely the more sanitized Code era shorts. So, yes, the imagery here will be a littleut even animated shorts felt the power of the Depression.

An interesting pre-cursor to The Three Little Pigs that features similar ideals if a different vibe. It takes some of Cab Calloway’s songs and dramatizes them well. I almost snuck this on to a Music Video Monday post but decided against it.

Enjoy!

Free Movie Friday: Little Men (1934)

Introduction

I wanted to start this series back in January. Basically, there are a lot of good movies out there that you can watch free and clear. Meaning you don’t have to pay for them <em>and </em>by streaming it free you’re not stealing it because they are in the public domain. Also, in some cases, these films are not all as ancient as copyright laws usually call for.

Little Men (1934)

Last week I discussed my history with filmic adaptations of this sequel to Louisa May Alcott’s classic. Another thing to note is that I slid into these adaptations sideways having known how tenuous the connection was and liking this story I’ve not looked into the original. The connection is such that if you’re a fan of semantics, like I am, it’s one you could call a follow-up rather than a direct sequel. It tracks a few characters many years later, to see what they’re doing rather than directly dealing with the events of the first story.

Last week, I also mentioned how I think this version may have had a better idea of how to deal with this story and casting it. Now you can decide for yourself, and if you’ve stuck with it through two versions rent or buy the 1998 version, which is quite clearly still under copyright.

This film is one of those that proves that my annual Poverty Row theme is not always fruitless.

To watch the film visit the link below:

Little Men (1934)

Music Video Monday: Billy Joel – Pressure

Introduction

I’ve debated starting this theme for a few weeks, and I ultimately decided I would as it would encourage me to looks for options that actually fit what I’m aiming for. If one pays too much attention to Top 40 type music you tend to see a dearth of creativity in the music video form. The music video is spawned from short films and can be as creative if not more so than their predecessor. Far too often it does just become singing heads. I want to try and buck that trend and find ones both new and old that do something somewhat outside the box, at the very least have some sort of visual narrative. Here we go.

Pressure – Billy Joel

This was one of the videos I thought of when first considering this theme. I will return with more new-to-me tunes and vids soon but it’s been too long since I posted in this theme, so I figured I may as well get back to it.

One thing I always recall about this was that Joel went with a director’s idea that contrasted sharply with a piece of the lyrics because he misunderstood a baseball reference being from the UK. Joel didn’t want to be too literal. It sets the tone, it’s a memorable one.

Enjoy!

Short Film Saturday: Alma

It would not do too well to set this one up too much, but here’s a teaser: there is no dialogue, a simple, well-rendered premise and one brilliant cut that says it all. It’s visual, jaw-droppingly well-rendered in its simplicity, and memorable even down to the score.

The short has been optioned by DreamWorks Animation to be developed into a feature. See the short now to get a leg-up; and was created by a Pixar animator. Proof, yet again, that animation is a medium and not only for kids’ stories; but kids with an ability to deal with the macabre can see this.

Enjoy!

Free Movie Friday: Little Men (1940)

Introduction

I wanted to start this series back in January. Basically, there are a lot of good movies out there that you can watch free and clear. Meaning you don’t have to pay for them <em>and </em>by streaming it free you’re not stealing it because they are in the public domain. Also, in some cases, these films are not all as ancient as copyright laws usually call for.

Little Men (1940)

I first became familiar with Louisa May Alcott’s not-quite-as-popular sequel to Little Women through the short-lived 1998-1999 TV series adaptation. Though TV may, in fact, be a better vehicle for the quotidien, schoolday adventures as Jo (Kay Francis) cares for her wayward students; some film versions have charmed me as well. Including one released in that year and earlier film versions.

This one is a low-budget rare showcase for Jimmy Lydon and a brisk introduction to the tale – an even brisker, earlier take and overall more well-cast adaptation was released in 1934. Enjoy!

Mini-Review: No Place On Earth

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

No Place on Earth

When you see the logo pop up that reads History Channel Films you should know what you’re in for at least to an extent. The dramatization is a fine line between narrative and documentary cinema that this film likes to walk most of the time. The dramatization takes things a step further say than Flaherty did in Nanook of the North when setting up shots. Here there are reenactments that are cast, staged and immaculately lit. It takes a deft hand to weave talking-heads interviews (also immaculately lit) and staged reenactments and it’s a balance this film never strikes. Oddly, in trying to closer represent things visually much of the power is drained from the film.

If you contrast this with say Cave of Forgotten Dreams where Herzog instead moves about an uninhabited cave and films the art and people discussing it without having a visual representation of the work being made, you can see the power of the restraint. However, even closer in construction was this year’s Nicky’s Family that included modern-day interviews with refugees of the holocaust, stills and reenactments with great balance. Here the equation split the story, and as interesting as that is it levels out and fails to give us the best of either technique.

5/10

Mini-Review: Hammer of the Gods

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Hammer of the Gods

This is a film that is a prime example of the fact that the beginning and end of a tale are easier to make compelling than the middle bulk of the narrative. There is a decent set-up and a pretty intriguing turn of events at the very end, but the intervening 80-85 minutes or so there is little by way of intrigue to be found. Based on the content that made it into the cut the running time was a bit bloated. The cinematography is great but this title rivals The Lord of the Rings films in terms of the amount of walking in a much shorter, less epic tale, and there are also scenes that don’t even feel like they belong in the final cut.

It also provides you with an prince, aspiring to be king, who is difficult to root for, or identify with, lest it be by default. There is also a fair amount of vacillation on his part, which makes it a rather annoying affair.

I cannot say that the film plays it safe regarding one of its choices. It creates a very weird locale toward the end, but even that is not without its issues as the staging, blocking and fight choreography need to be at their best there and they are not.

A few interesting touches, some great shots and costume work are not enough to salvage this tale by any means.

3/10