Sept/Oct Watchlist

I didn’t compile a Watchlist for September, as it was a thin month for viewing with back to school tiredness – apart from Strictly that is. However, October has been much more interesting – and I’ve been out to the cinema THREE times!

No Time to Die

Bond comes out of retirement to save the world one last time as Daniel Craig. I won’t spoil the plot, which gives Craig the send off he deserves. I wasn’t entirely convinced by Rami Malek as Lyutsifer Safin and wished we could have had more Christoph Waltz as Blofeld on the baddie front. Loved Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas, and you can never have enough Ben Wishaw.

Dune

Thanks to Denis Villeneuve, Frank Herbert’s epic novel finally gets a big screen treatment that works (just cross your fingers that part two does get made). George Lucas ripped off so much from Dune to make Star Wars, but Villeneuve has managed to create a dark and brooding film, with that epic feel which brings the politics to the fore, and gives the set piece battles and wonderful ornithopters a different feel to Lucas too. Timothée Chalamet is a great young lead as Paul Atreides, supported by Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem as Stilgar the Fremen leader, amongst a strong cast. Loved our little dose of Charlotte Rampling as the Bene Gesserit leader too – we never see her full face, but her voice is unmistakeable. Zendaya plays Chani, the young Fremen woman who’ll win Paul’s heart, but we don’t get to see much of her in the first installment, which ends when Paul and his mother escape to join the Fremen in the desert after the Harkonens destroy the main city on Arrakis. Loved the look and feel of this film, always aided by Hans Zimmer’s equally epic score.

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s latest is a delightful montage film with an ensemble cast, featuring cameos from just about everyone who has ever regularly worked with him on his other movies. The French Dispatch is a magazine supplement to the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. On the occasion of the death of the editor Arthur Howitzer Jr (Bill Murray), they publish one final issue – containing three great articles from the magazine’s past. The three stories are bookended by scenes where Arthur discusses the articles with their authors, a short travelogue with Owen Wilson as travel writer Herbsaint Sazerac which introduces us to the town of Ennui-sur-Blasé where the magazine is based, and then the ensemble of office staff after Arthur’s death. The three featured stories are entirely different to each other:

  • In the first Tilda Swinton as a toothsome journalists recounts the story of the artist murderer Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro) who paints a series of abstract nudes of his prison guardienne Simone, (Léa Seydoux) which come to the attention of an imprisoned art dealer (Adrien Brody). Loved this one, especially del Toro’s growl!
  • Frances McDormand is journalist Lucinda Krementz (based on Mavis Gallant) – who helps a young student revolutionary, Zefirelli, (Chalamet again) polish his manifesto. Chalamet shows a great comedic touch, and I loved Lyna Khoudri as Juliette, Zefirelli’s girlfriend who speaks only in French, very fast and seriously. Loved this one too.
  • The final story is written by a food journalist, Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright (based partly on James Baldwin) who gets embroiled in a kidnap when he attends a dinner given by the Commissaire de Police prepared by legendary Chef Nescaffier. This story fell rather flat for me until it suddenly went into Tintin cartoon style at the end!

The whole film is a love letter to journalism of the kind espoused in The New Yorker. It is so incredibly detailed it would take several viewings to even begin to decipher all the references and spot all the cameos, some of which are voice only, that Anderson can pull together such casts of big names, some of whom are just in one scene is amazing. I just love the way he creates tableaux of characters, perfectly posed and arranged. The picturesque French town of Angoulême in the Charentes stands in for Ennui. I loved the mix of colour and monochrome sections for the parts in the past.

I really enjoyed the majority of it, just that third story dragged in parts. It’s pure Anderson and a return to live action after 2018’s stop-motion Isle of Dogs, which didn’t succeed for me in the way Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) did. Apparently, his next film, Asteroid City is to be a romance, and Tom Hanks is in the cast alongside the Anderson regulars.

But what about TV?

There is only one series to talk about, isn’t there? SQUID GAME – which I binged on this month.

Please don’t let children or young teens watch it.

This Korean series is the big hit of the autumn Netflix schedules. It follows a bunch of losers lured into playing a high stakes game to win a huge pot of money. What they don’t realise until too late is that the high stakes are life and death. 456 contestants must be reduced down to a single one who will win billions of won. Underneath the ultra-violence of the sadistic games the contestants are put through, there is a human story.

Gi-hun is a divorced father of one, a jobless chauffeur and a gambling addict; his mother suffers from diabetes but can’t afford her drugs and needs an operation. So when Gi-hun meets a man at a station who invites him to join a game for high stakes money, he accepts, awaking in a dormitory with 455 others, all in numbered green tracksuits. Gi-hun is number 456.

The combination of ultra-violence, the dark satire on greed, together with the human stories of characters like Gi-hun, who may be a loser but is a good man, is a strong mix, made more potent by the games being based on childhood ones that can unleash competitive behaviour in children. Some of the competitors will always compete against each other, others will look out for each other, and Gi-hun is the latter luckily.

Gosh, Squid Game‘s nine episodes were gripping from start to finish. The look was stunning too.

Have you watched it? What did you think?

11 thoughts on “Sept/Oct Watchlist

  1. A Life in Books says:

    Keen to see French Dispatch but I’m a little too nervous to venture into a cinema given the current covid conditions locally. I’m hoping it will still be around when my booster takes effect. I suspect I’m too squeamish for Squid Game.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I pick afternoon or tea-time showings which are usually fairly empty. I go to Vue and go for the VIP seats (£6.99) which are more widely spaced – and then cannily pick my seat to not be surrounded! Seems to work. My booster due end Nov – can’t wait for it!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      We’ve had to warn parents too. Apparently there is a version of Squid Game on Roblox without the violence which the young kids are watching – but nor is Roblox itself a safe space!

  2. Kristina says:

    I completely fell out of Squid game by the 3rd episode.. It was not interesting enough to catch my interrest as there was too much side story about Gi-hun; which I absolutely wasn’t aware of, I was there for the game 😅 I don’t quite understand the hype here..

  3. Calmgrove says:

    There’ve been mixed responses to Dune so I’m glad it passed muster with you. I mean to read Children of Dune before I catch this, though it may be some time, possibly when it’s streamed, before I see it. The Bond film was, as you say, a fitting end to Craig’s outing in the role (I saw it with a grandson, whose first Bond movie this was). I admired Craig’s acting but I think the whole thing was overlong and a bit unbalanced, perhaps a result of its long gestation and script changes. Sheer hokum, of course, but great fun, if ever violence and death (even if as in a video game, as this was) can be classed as fun. Squid Game sounds the same, but possibly with eveb more tongue in cheek… 😁

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I am not a Star Wars fan at all (although naturally I saw the first three in the cinema when they came out way back). Villeneuve’s Dune is so much more serious with proper political and ecological world-building, gorgeous visuals, and that brooding epic feel – no tweeness at all – it’s as different as possible to Star Wars, and maybe the nay-sayers are expecting it to be a nod to Lucas rather than Herbert.

  4. Cathy746books says:

    Nearly all the kids in my twins’ class have seen Squid Game. They are 10! There is no way I’d let them watch it. Not just because of the violence and sex but because ofnthe complex emotional relationships. I found some of it really upsetting (the marbles episode in particular) so it’s definitely not for kids.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I despair at the parents who don’t care, or don’t realise their kids can get around parental controls by logging into streaming as their parents! I agree with you, the marbles was the most upsetting, all the more so because I immediately clocked what was going to happen.

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