September 2020 Breakdown
- 25 films/series total
- 9 foreign films/series
- 6 new classic films
- 3 TV series
- 2 re-watches
Biggest Disappointment: Le Samourai and Marie Antoinette just didn’t live up to their hype, for me.
Favorite Discovery: This was a great month overall for me when it came to entertainment choices as it gave me lots of new favorites. However, if I have to narrow it down, I’ll go with It Happened in Flatbush and the Korean dramas Crash Landing on You and Masquerade.
It Happened in Flatbush (1942) – My first movie of the month and what a winner! I had never heard of this engaging little comedy before. I’m not all that interested in baseball. But I thoroughly enjoyed this charmer starring Lloyd Nolan as a reviled former player who takes over as manager of the team. Nolan’s charisma surprised me in a good way and his interactions with a subdued Carole Landis are both sweet and sassy. This is going on my list of favorites.
Pollyanna (1960) – No many how many times I watch this, I’m always struck anew by it’s message of hope and positivity. And of course that special blend of Disney’s Americana and Hayley Mills charm is a winning combination. This is the type of movie, I will never outgrow.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) – Don’t judge me, but this was my first viewing of this modern classic. It’s absolutely ridiculous and so much fun. I loved the time-travelling historical aspect of it. And it gave me a whole different perspective on Keanu Reeves.
Crash Landing on You (2020) – I love K-dramas but try to stay away from them because they are so addicting and a serious time commitment! But my best friend got me hooked on this one about a South Korean heiress who falls for a North Korean soldier. And it gave me ALL THE FEELS!! I loved seeing a glimpse of life in North Korea. And although it doesn’t match what I read in a book published by a man who escaped the country, it does mirror the memories of one of the show’s screen-writers. Aside from the romance between the main leads, one of the best things about this is the portrait of friendship among a group of North Korean village woman and separately among a group of North Korean soldiers. I did feel the story started to drag a bit in the last third of the series when the action moved to South Korea. But overall, this is one I would watch again.
Fisherman’s Friends (2019) – This one came highly recommended by my mom. It is based on a true story about a group of Cornish fisherman who become famous singing sea shanties. I always appreciate films featuring everyday people/heroes and I also like the unique story of this one. These are men who are like family after years of living in the same village and working together. The harmony on the songs was wonderful and the way of life represented here was both challenging and inspiring.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) – The slow pace and simple story transported me into an Irish island idyll and a more traditional way of life. This film is carried by the natural performance of the child actress as we see everything through her character’s eyes which helps us believe in the magic of the story.
Marie Antoinette (2006) – An absolutely gorgeous production with little substance. Although perhaps that is the point? To show the idleness, waste and ignorance of this historical figure? I got bored about 2/3rd’s of the way through and was glad when it was over. I feel like there was more that could have been done with this much maligned character.
Masquerade (2012) – Not wanting to get sucked in to another K-drama series, but still appreciating the quality of them, I chose this historical Korean film. It’s a Prince and the Pauper story set in the 17th century starring Lee Byung-hun, whom I fell hard for in Red 2. His dual performance as the emperor and the man who impersonates him is fabulous, as are the production aspects. It’s a tense political drama with moments of levity. It begs the question, what characteristics define an emperor (or any other leader for that matter).
Snowball Express (1972) – I’ve been wanting to re-visit this childhood favorite starring Dean Jones & Nancy Olsen for a while. These old Disney films are like a security blanket during this trying year. And guess what? I found out I still enjoy this story of a family who moves west after inheriting a decrepit hotel, determined to turn it into a successful ski lodge.
A Bittersweet Life (2005) – I gave this one a go because once again it stars Lee Byun-hun. This gritty, brutal crime drama was very well done. And Lee proves he is a great actor as a mob enforcer who is betrayed by his boss. However, the violence was very graphic and a bit too much for me. Although, I did appreciate the story arc and character development which left me pondering questions about the meaning and value of life.
Be With You (2018) – So, at this point I was really on a roll with the Korean shows. This was a sweet but emotional story about a woman who reappears to her husband and son a year after her death. The full impact of their journey does not hit until the very end when everything is seen from her perspective, then wow! The tears came hard for me. Having experience with grief myself, I really appreciated the way this ended.
The K2 (2016) – Ok, so I lied. I allowed myself to be sucked into another Korean series. Full of political intrigue, interpersonal drama, and action scenes, this one kept me glued to my screen. It’s the story of a former military mercenary who ends up as the bodyguard to a powerful family. My main complaint is that the romance was not very believable, but I think it’s because the female love interest is so weakly written. Some suspension of disbelief is necessary for the fight scenes also. But this show does villains so well! Surprisingly, they were my favorite character portrayals. Despite a few flaws, this series is addicting. And this series has one of my favorite scores ever.
Le Samourai (1967) – Alright, I’m officially done watching foreign classics simply because they have high ratings. I’m just a film fan, not an expert, so I tend to value story and performance over style and technique. But I thought, this stars Alain Deleon so I’ll give it a go. You would think a film about a hit man would have more action, but no. It moves at a glacial pace, there is little character development or dialogue, or really even a strong plot. On the upside, Deleon gave me strong Alan Ladd vibes and I could look at him all day.
Van der Valk (2020) – I didn’t expect to like this gritty crime drama set in Amsterdam, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. The mysteries in this one are dark. And apparently I have a thing for misanthropic leads something British television does so well. The city setting is also a major draw of this series for me. The main character is rather opaque, but the last episode showed enough hints of his past to keep me looking forward to a second season.
The Beauty Inside (2015) – South Korea borrows a fascinating premise from an American film with the same name. What makes a person? Is attraction purely physical or can it also be attached to the inside of a person, namely their character and soul? A young man who wakes up in a different body every day starts a relationship with a woman who must decide if she can love a person who is a stranger to her every day. I really appreciate how this picture explores the emotional and psychological ramifications of such a relationship.
Enola Holmes (2020) – So, Netflix needs to make more movies like this. In fact, they can just make more Enola Holmes films. This was entertaining and adorable. Millie Bobby Brown made the title character so endearing and quirky and of course I am always happy to see Henry Cavill on screen, even if he isn’t your typical Sherlock.
Royal Wedding (1951) – I liked this classic musical better than I expected, despite the unbelievable age gap between the two siblings played by Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. He looks old enough to be her father. But, they are delightful together, the musical numbers are fun. Most people know this film as the one where Astaire dances on the ceiling, but I really enjoyed the humorous performance on the swaying ship. Pure fun!
Mood of the Day (2016) – An average Korean rom-com, that reminded me a bit of a Hallmark movie. The meet-cute between a player and a woman with a long-term boyfriend leads her to re-consider her relationship and him to question his life-style. However, the sincerity of the story was hampered by the fact that these two were more interested in debating the issue of sleeping together than love or what makes a relationship work.
The Royal Tailor (2014) – A tragic tale of jealousy plays out between two talented tailors, one with experience and the other with innovative ideas, in this Korean historical drama. As expected the costumes are gorgeous. The story plays out slowly with a lot of emotion. The performances are nuanced and give glimpses into the character’s inner thoughts and motivations. It definitely left me with lots of ponderings over how pride and the need to belong influences actions.
The Take (2016) – This crime drama and action film hit a little too close to home with it’s depiction of government and police corruption fomenting riots in the streets of Paris. Idris Elba is great as a CIA spy gone rogue, but I wasn’t as convinced by Richard Madden’s portrayal of a talented thief trying to clear his name. The plot was okay, although it’s fairly easy to guess what will happen and there is very little in the way of character development. But if you like fast-paced action thrillers, you’ll probably enjoy this.
The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018) – Despite more crude language then I generally like, I was very entertained by this movie about two girlfriends who end up on the run after discovering one of their boyfriends worked for the CIA. Mila Kunis is the star, but Kate McKinnon steals the show as the snarky, hilarious and also sweet bestie who is unusually close to her parents.
Nobody Lives Forever (1946) – The story of a con man who falls for his mark is not an original one. But when it stars John Garfield and Walter Brennan, it is worth watching. Garfield is an actor who has grown on me over time, with the way he portrays men with banked fires of emotion. I like films which allow him to show his softer side like this one. Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald is surprisingly good as the love interest.
The Black Stallion (1979) – An absolutely gorgeous film with breath-taking scenery and camera shots. Simply and lovingly told, it’s the story of a friendship between a boy and his horse seen through the boy’s eyes. Although it features a child and is a good family film, it’s also one that adults can enjoy as well.
On an Island With You (1948) – Does the fact that I watched this Esther Williams picture this month and then promptly forgot about it indicate anything to you? Williams is gorgeous as usual, but I don’t remember much more about this one. I do know I didn’t like the stalker romance story line, even if the stalker is the likable Peter Lawford.
Eyes in the Night (1942) – It’s rare that character actor Edward Arnold gets a starring role, much less one like this. He plays a blind detective who is smarter than all the sighted people around him. It also stars a young and beautiful Donna Reed as a nasty teenager who is out to get revenge against her stepmother. I enjoyed the unique main character as well as his dog who acts more human than some humans.