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106- Grandma Lo-Fi [8.0]

At the tender age of 70 she started recording and releasing her own music straight from the living room. 7 years later she had 59 albums to her name with more than 600 songs – an eccentric myriad of catchy compositions mixing in her pets, found toys, kitchen percussions and Casio keyboards.

Grandma Lo-Fi is an inspiring, if not occasionally sad view of a woman who found her passion at a later age. Sigrídur Níelsdóttir’s was a rather funny old lady who had a knack for lo-fi recording. Her joy of finding interesting sounds that replicated things such as birds chirping or airplanes flying by is rather infectious. I was amazed that in a truncated period of time, she seemed to have gone through a variety of music phases (whereas most make those progressions over the course of years). Her fear of playing live is fairly tragic, as it impeded her from continuing on with her music career. The obvious thing to take away from Grandma Lo-Fi is that it’s never too late to find the thing you love, but I was more taken aback at the thought of being potentially more creative than I am now when I’m a shriveled, old man.

(I wrestled with posting vs. not posting a review as Grandma Lo-Fi is only 62 minutes long, but between all the different definitions of what makes a feature film and the fact that I can do whatever I want with this blog, I decided to go for it.)

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105- Parents [6.5]

In this bizarre and very black comedy set in 1950s suburbia, Michael Laemle comes to suspect that his conventional parents have a little secret which they have kept from him.

Parents shares some commonalities with the Spielberg Anberlin films of the 1980s, but takes the view of how a child looks at his or her parents to a very dark place. Director Bob Balaban occasionally hits the audience over the head with operatic horror flourishes, but Parents is still memorable and disturbing.

Though it takes place in ’50s suburbia, Parents could’ve worked in virtually any decade. Some of the ironies and disparities between the concept of idyllic suburbia and the realities of the lives within those cookie cutter homes is front and center, but I don’t think the film needs to be viewed as a period piece in order for that concept to work. In fact, if any movie that I’ve seen in recent memory is ripe for a remake, it’d likely be this. Parents hasn’t aged particularly well, and though that’s not enough precedent to revisit the material, it’s still something I’d like to see someone take another stab at.

104- Monsieur N. [5.0]

A historical mystery thriller about Napoleon. Sir Hudson Lowe is assigned to guard Napoleon while the latter is in exile in Saint Helena. A local girl, Betsy, has a crush on the exiled leader. This, along with the fact that keeping Napoleon on the island is costing the British a great sum of money, leads Lowe to consider drastic action.

I’ve been tremendously fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte for almost six years now. I’ve read countless biographies and even put together a silly little concept album based on the historical figure. I couldn’t recommend Monsieur N. to a casual viewer, as I think there are too many factors that prevent it from being interesting to anyone but those heavily drawn into the Napoleon legend. There are many details and references that would have went over my head had I not done research prior to seeing the movie. With about twenty minutes to go, Monsieur N. becomes a laughable mystery movie when there’s seemingly no material left to cover. I’m still trying to find an awesome Napoleon movie and would love a good recommendation.

103- City Lights [8.5]

The Little Tramp makes the acquaintance of a blind flower girl, who through a series of coincidences has gotten the impression that the shabby tramp is a millionaire. A second storyline begins when the tramp rescues a genuine millionaire from committing suicide.

The degree of brilliance displayed throughout Charlie Chaplin’s filmography may vary, but one thing is consistent throughout each of his works: they are damn funny. Initially, City Lights plays out like a series of Tramp skits, but it eventually settles into a charming mix-up story. Though the boxing sequence felt a bit long, there were so many laughs peppered throughout that it was worth the extended bit time. The final scene is one that left a big, stupid smile on my face, even if it wasn’t difficult to telegraph. Though The Great Dictator remains my favorite CHaplin film, City Lights is a close second.

102- A Dangerous Method [6.0]

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein as his patient.

Both the historical figures and topics at the center of A Dangerous Method are endlessly fascinating. Be it the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, or psychoanalysis being explored and potentially limited due to the fears of its reception, there should be no shortage of interesting material to keep the viewer intrigued. Instead, David Cronenberg’s film goes from one scene to the next without much dynamic change.

That’s not to say that A Dangerous Method is largely a bore. Jung and Freud’s admiration and jealousy for each other is displayed in a subtle fashion until their relationship completely fractures. Considering their vast intellect, I appreciated that there wasn’t some verbal blow out shouting match nor venomous, manipulative attacks; rather, their competitive, jealous, and opposing views all play a part over the course of the film in giving ample reason as to why they split from each other both professionally and as friends. It’s a shame, though, that there is no emotional weight under any of it.

A Dangerous Method is best when Jung and Freud are simply bouncing ideology off each other. Michael Fassbender turns in yet another terrific performance, but it’s Viggo Mortensen that is at the best I’ve seen him as Sigmund Freud. His slow, almost cautious delivery shows Freud as a man who’s rarely at a lack of understanding, yet always measures his words carefully. Props are due to the makeup department, as Mortensen truly looked like someone else.

The one performance that I imagine is going to be divisive is that of Keira Knightley’s as Sabina Spielrein. The opening scenes showcase her in the middle of a nervous breakdown, and her acting teeters dangerously between captivating and scenery chewing. There were times in the first act where I was so unsure if her acting was laughable that it took me out of the movie completely. Her Russian accent, though not great, is at least somewhat consistent throughout.

The movie occasionally slips into melodrama (especially at the end) but largely shies away from it. I felt largely conflicted throughout as my appreciation for what is being covered in Method is something that interests me greatly, but perhaps not played out in this fashion.

101- Half Nelson [5.5]

An inner-city teacher struggling with a drug habit forms an unlikely bond with a young student who catches him in a compromising position.

Half Nelson lays it on pretty thick with its theme of change in history (or lack thereof) and how it can relate to addiction. Though it thankfully avoids a lot of trite plot points found in teacher/student movies (especially those set in urban neighborhoods), Half Nelson still feels like a dozen films you’ve seen before stitched together. Ryan Gosling and young Shareeka Epps are excellent, but there performances are much better than the material at hand. (Also, as much as I love Broken Social Scene, their music felt quite out of place throughout.)