Somewhere in Dreamland (1936)

Cute and heart-warming on poverty and dream-fulfilment.

Very christmassy, not very funny. Almost in my book of do-gooding.

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Zimna wojna (2018)

The power of love and music – be it folk, propaganda, jazz, rock, or kitsch. A documentation of post-war Poland (plus a few other selected parts of Europe) in its sparse beauty and misery, through troubled times with plenty of political and personal pressure.

Poetic, beautiful, low-key. Passionate but restrained, partly unconvincing storywise. Only maybe in my still, slow book about the (im?)possibilty of escape.

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La belle époque (2019)

– Everything is fake.
– I am fake.

Make believe! The games people play! Truth lies! Bizarre selfdelusions on a grand scale, mixing old memories and new. This is funny, harsh, cynical, sad, unpleasant, and fragmented (without becoming indecipherable) – touching (rather heavy-handedly) on themes such as love, loss, betrayal, remembrance, nostalgia, and humanity.

The roles we are given, and the ones we take. A rejuvenating life re-enactment with reality and fantasy mixed up. Unfortunately stuck in its dated frenchness, with forced esprit and (intentionally?) lame Freudian quotes. Not in my book of good times.

P.S. Always something there to remind me. Now I’m a believer. Rescue me. Bobby McGee. When faking the seventies – why use so much iconic sixties music?

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Jusqu’à la garde (2017)

Law, love, family. An oppressive and threatening atmosphere is apparent right from the start, building to almost palpable levels of tension in this everyday drama. The son – both vulnerable and strong – is especially exposed, torn between fear and duty in a convincing performance.

Suspensefully told, while the story in itself is surprisingly unsurprising. Not in my book. And by the way – the safety belt wasn’t a Chekhovian gun, though the gun was!

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A star is born (1937)

Compared to the remake from 2018 this is a quite different story of upward and downward mobility. An equally interesting look at the pros and cons of stardoms, unfortunately this also feels a bit too dated.

Not in my book of unexpected tongue-in-cheek meta endings, but I am now very interested in watching the 1954 and 1976 versions as well.

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And then there were none (1945)

This rather amiable, even jolly, mass murder mystery starts out with cheesy and unnecessarily drawn out lowbrow comedy, but eventually segues into odd quirkiness with furtive glances, telling expressions, and ominous moods. There’s not much sympathy for any of the dubious persons present, however. And the embarrassing overplay continues throughout. Together with cardboard characters, contrived dialogue, and clichéd story turns this could almost be mistaken for a parody.

Also suffers from irritating script changes compared to the original book. Why did Agatha Christie agree to this? Not in my book of suspicion.

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Tom Puss

The weather crystal (1959)
The magic hat (1959)
The wonder shoes (1959)

The all purpose machine (1960)

Four Tom Puss shorts with forgettable stories, lame jokes, and cheap-looking limited animation (though in a crisp mid century modern style) – this failed attempt at the US market isn’t the proudest moment of the franchise. Far removed from the intelligent and intricate daily comic strip by masterful creator/craftsman Marten Toonder, one wonders how and why this futile concept ever came to be.

Not in my book. A couple of earlier commercials for Philips are actually more inventive!

The magic music (1948)
Dreamland (1949)

There are four more, but I couldn’t find them:
The Bungle cure (1959)
Little Faustus (1960)
The eastern treasure (1960)
Vengeance Valley (1960)

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The spy who came in from the cold (1965)

Doom and gloom! Building tension slowly and carefully, a most sordid cold war rumination folds out – tired, bitter, disillusioned, tragic.

The depressing portraiture of ideologies as morally (almost) interchangeable may lack relevance in hindsight, but this one still earns its place in my book of dispensable individuals and corruption of values.

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Billy Elliot (2000)

A working class hero is something to be? This tense and rhythmic look at toxic masculinity oozes emotional numbness, penchant for violence, homophobia, and so on. Adding poverty and a dose of inferiority complex, it is still strangely uplifting against all odds because of the raw energy, musical talent, sly humour, and sheer passion bursting out while chronicling the strains of both family and society.

Not very realistic, more of a modern-day fairy-tale. Still probably in my book of irresistible feelgood painted against a bleak british background.

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Love actually (2003)

Witty, quick, affirmative christmas romcom pudding stuffed full with huge amounts of incongruent ingredients – foremost among them the large, lovable, and loving cast of characters.

There’s too many subplots to even try and tie together, leaving several loose ends hanging unsatisfactorily – but this one nevertheless just might qualify for my sugarcoated book of festive spirits.

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