The 2021 List: October

Here’s my belated summary of what I watched during October, and the first thing that’s clear to me is that it was a very good month for movies. Mostly it was older movies that impressed, discovering such ‘new’ favourites as Pushover, Kiss of Death and Strangers When We Meet, but of course October also presented a genuinely new film in the shape of Denis Villeneuve’s long-awaited Dune: Part One. I’m still a little on the fence regards the film but I’m pretty certain that when it comes out on home video early next year (its rumoured for late January) after a few viewings it’ll win me over- particularly as we now know that Dune: Part Two has been announced for October 2023. Curiously, at the end of the month I finally caught up with another Part One/Part Two movie, with It: Chapter Two, which I found pretty underwhelming and which left me musing the benefits and weaknesses of these films spreading narratives over two instalments.

Not that October was a slam-dunk for movies, as I saw what must surely be Peter Cushing’s nadir in film- the abysmal The Devil’s Men. Definitely not his finest hour- not so much regards his performance, as Cushing always turned out and made an effort whatever he was in, a professional to the end, but frankly the film was terrible and didn’t deserve him. His next film gave him an all-new generation of fans, when he appeared in Star Wars, but its a sad reflection of the film industry of the 1970s that it didn’t treat talent of his calibre with more reverence. Obviously that’s more me as a film-lover appreciative of the artform and its ‘stars’ with whom we strike an empathy and admiration for, than the cold eye of what’s essentially just a business: the history of film is scattered with under-appreciated talent thrown to the winds of fate, and no matter how much Hollywood marketing eulogises its own history and stars of old, the reality is rather different and far more dispassionate. Look at someone like Hitchcock (and hey, I finally caught up with Dial M For Murder!), who could hardly get a gig later in his career when he found himself lost in the shadow of  the new wunderkinds like Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas. Film history may paint a nobler summation of his worth to the industry, but Hitch always knew that you’re only as good as your last movie (or its box-office, anyway).

Television

119) The North Water

Films

117) The Asphyx (1972)

118) Lucky (2017)

120) Pushover (1954)

121) Chicago Syndicate (1955)

Unbreakable (2000) (4K UHD)

122) Glass

123) A Bullet is Waiting (1954)

124) Guilty (2021)

125) No One Gets Out Alive (2021)

126) Kiss of Death (1947)

127) Strangers When We Meet (1960)

128) Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

129) The Devil’s Men (1976)

Pitch Black (2000) (4K UHD)

130) The Forgotten Battle (2021)

131) Dial M For Murder (1954)

132) Dune (2021)

133) Army of Thieves (2021)

134) It: Chapter Two (2019)

5 thoughts on “The 2021 List: October

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    I gave up on IT2 after 30 minutes. My wife put it back on a few nights later and I saw another 30 minutes then but that was no better. I’d heard it wasn’t as good as the first half – which I saw in the cinema and found hugely entertaining – but was still astounded as to how sloppy it was.

    It’s peculiar that they chose to split the films into different time periods but then the second part relied so much on cross-cutting that you never had time to settle in present day. The speed with which the adult character’s backstories were sketched in in one brief scene each meant they weren’t developed as characters, just kind of adult-sized ciphers for the little kids we’d gotten to know.

    But the rushed tone and the need to dash ahead to the next jump-scare (usually involving a digital cartoon monster) was really poor.

    I went to see Dune again yesterday and my opinion hasn’t changed: it’s impressive but unmoving, and the score is really monotonous.
    There’s qualitatively no difference between Zimmer’s work here and a lot of TV music, it’s just geared to be deafening and impressive on an Atmos sound system (something I noticed about the BR2049 music when I picked it up and noticed how comparatively weedy it sounded on CD). A shame: I was hoping he had another ‘Interstellar’-level score in him.

    I noticed I was wrong about the exposition explaining the importance of spice to space travel. It was in there, but seemed weird since the guild ships appear to open wormholes in this adaptation rather than travel faster than light. So I’m not clear how the navigators use it unless we’re still in ‘folding space’ territory.

    Any thoughts on The North Shore?

    1. I really need to get a post about The North Water up while its still all fresh in my head- I really enjoyed it and binged it over a weekend, I just unfortunately didn’t care for the ending very much. Probably more the original book to blame than the series, I just thought it was a little too ‘neat’ and falling into typical narrative strokes after the series seemed to be so surprising and unusual through its run. Up to that finale though I thought it was excellent.

      Regards Zimmer, that guy never ceases to confound me. I adore some scores from him (The Thin Red Line, Interstellar) when everything just seems to ‘click’ but a lot of the time… well, I think Dune is the perfect example of his limitations. Its very interesting listening to his Dune Sketchbook album, because it appears that’s how he works, developing audio sketches for a project and then his team edits and pastes those pieces into the film. The sketchbook has some very interesting material and much of it is not in the film or official soundtrack, presumably because they couldn’t get it to fit in or work in the final edit. Its clear to me that in the case of something like Interstellar, the film was cut to the music prepared for the that film’s equivalent sketchbook so works better (likewise, Malick cuts to music so that’s likely why TRL works so well). Zimmer can’t work (or usually doesn’t) in the way Goldsmith or Williams or Horner would, as in actually scoring to the picture: he’s more of a Morricone, developing themes and ideas, recording them and handing them to the director/editor (which works so well with Sergio Leone’s films and possibly less so in the case of Carpenter’s The Thing which used the best pieces and had to resort to Carpenter’s own electronics for some places).

      As for Dune, I’m curious that I feel about that film the same as I do about LOTR: I admire those films but I don’t love them, can’t connect with them, even though LOTR is one of my favourite books and I was thrilled how fairly respectful they were. Maybe its just something about epics, a sense of removal from the gigantic events depicted. I’m quite happy waiting for my 4K disc of Dune, when really I should be rushing back to experience it again at the cinema.

      1. Matthew McKinnon

        The ending of the North Shore was a bit disappointing in the TV version. In the book it’s much the same events, but more convincing and less stagey.

        I’ve never understood why IT was a massive hit that everyone’s so fond of, and Tommyknockers [his following novel, which I’m quite partial to] is so loathed. They both have the same cocaine/speedfreak logic that characterised King’s writing at the time when he used to get jacked, sit down and write off the top his head all day, every day, and then just publish it without a rewrite. At least Tommyknockers has an ending that makes sense.

        IT was indeed structured as parallel stories jumping between the 50s and 80s, which you obviously couldn’t do in a film. But I just don’t know why they didn’t keep the timelines completely separate in the films if they were going to split them up.

  2. I quite liked It: Chapter One, but Chapter Two felt like someone had a wild idea for a sequel rather than a necessary second half. Kinda ironic considering they’re both based on the novel, I know.

    1. I was not a huge fan of Chapter One, but then again the novel is not a King book that I ever read or ever appealed to me; that said, I was very surprised just how bad Chapter Two was, it didn’t really feel like it linked to the first chapter at all and seemed quite pointless. The clown is back, they have to come back… possibly its a fault of the original book. Why did King feel the need to bring the characters back as adults anyway, why didn’t he think the kids defeating the clown was enough? I presume the book starts with them as adults and flashbacks serve to explain the childhood events, which the two films nixed in order to tell two seperate stories (in which case, the films were fundamentally flawed from the get-go).It does seem curious that Chapter One seemed to catch the public attention (so much so its success possibly damaged BR2049’s box-office when that was release soon after) and far as I can tell Chapter Two was greeted with a general ‘meh’.

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