Marilyn Monroe hairdress test for Let's Make Love, 1960. Although it’s just a functional image, I love the surreal composition of this. I think I may prefer all of the photography surrounding Monroe’s films – especially the many candid shots of her reading – than the films themselves.
If you aren't already familiar with Simon Stalenhag's Scandi-scifi art, I suggest you get over to his site at once. He paints an ominous blend of the nightmarish and the calm, landscapes depicting the aftermath (or normalisation) of some horrifying techno-biological events. Often narratively linked, Stalenhag's work looks like concept art for the greatest film never made. It's surely only a matter of time before Hollywood comes calling – just imagine him paired up with Alex Garland, David Fincher or Denis Villeneuve.
Here's last month's slew of cinematic happenings. Check out my Letterboxd profile for more of this sort of thing.
Wonder Woman. A lot of fun, at least until the standard issue DC climax kicks in. Gal Gadot is absolutely perfect in the role. Much like Captain America and The Rocketeer, the film benefits hugely from a period setting and being stand-alone. Rather than skip straight to present day, I'd love to see the sequels tackle other eras – 70s New York WW would be glorious, if only for the hair – without those silly boys getting in the way.
Suicide Squad. It's like they took a bad film and then recut it to deliberately make it even worse. And then they patched over the joins by occasionally fading Best Rocks Anthems Ever Volume 3 in and out every so often. The result is teetering on the very edge of what constitutes a film.
Tangled. Deservedly holding a permanent spot in this list. Watching for the umpteenth time, and it struck me how near damn perfect the comic timing is. The dialogue, the editing, the action, the expressions of the characters, all absolutely spot on. And there's a lot of comedy, none of which falls flat. Honestly can't think of another film that I laugh at more. Should be a set text in comedy school.
Hop. Many, many times. The boy's new favourite film. Actually rather good.
Moneyball. Given that's it's about a sport I have absolutely no interest in, this was really rather good. Whole scenes of baseball player trading shenanigans went way over my head, but somehow I was still riveted. The always underrated Pitt absolutely perfect in lead role.
Morgan. Imagine if Ex Machina was sucked dry of all goodness and remade as a TV movie; maybe an episode of nineties Outer Limits. The Scott family should probably stop making films about robots.
Valkyrie. Some tense moments, but frustratingly keeps falling short of full-on seat-edge nail-biter. And nobody's quite sure what accent to go for.
Apollo 13. Damn fine film, and a timely reminder that Ron Howard is a hugely underrated director. Looking forward to seeing what he does with Han Solo.
Baby Driver. Enjoyed this immensely. Huge smile on my face from beginning to end. Weirdly, the wit and invention and sheer joy of it all gave me the same overwhelmed-by-glee feeling I get from watching Hey Duggee. Stick that on the poster.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe. Good fun. Very creepy, up to a point. An interesting case study in the effect lighting, editing and music can have on your perception of a completely still face.
Here's everything I watched in May, on small screen and large. For further discussion, all links lead to the corresponding bit of my Letterboxd profile. And yes, I did pinch this monthly movie missive idea from Khoi Vinh.
- The Silence of the Lambs. Still incredible. If you can't afford film school, just buy this and watch it every day for a month. You will learn a LOT
- Prometheus. Thought it might be a good idea to watch this again before seeing Alien: Covenant. It wasn't.
- The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Lots of good stuff, lots of bloat. I never thought I'd say this about anything, but Michael Rooker is the star here.
- Moana. So many times. Is it as good as Tangled? Quite possibly.
- Margin Call. I'd heard good things about this for a while, but never quite found myself in the "ooh, I'll watch a low budget banking drama" state of mind. And then it appeared on iPlayer and I gave it a shot – and oh boy, it's good. Highly recommended.
- Alien: Covenant. Such high hopes, but despite the title, this is more of a Prometheus film than an Alien one. And it weirdly has the same boring core as Guardians.
- Coherence. Made for approximately five quid, and all the better for it.
- I Origins. Really wasn't sure about this one right up until the last scene, and then it completely broke me (partly because of a beautiful bit of Radiohead). Raises some big questions about science and faith – it's a great late night discussion-starter.
- The One I Love. A three minute short film dragged all the way out to a feature. Shot at Ted Danson's house apparently, so maybe worth watching if you like a spot of Through the Keyhole. Rooney Mara is credited as costume designer, which is utterly preposterous for a film that features a frock and a couple of shirts.
- Wild at Heart. Back when Cage was Good Weird rather than Bad Weird, and Dern was approximately 8 feet tall and had to hold her hair in place for entire movies. Vastly superior in every way to the embarrassingly poor new season of Twin Peaks.
- WALL-E. Brilliant, obviously. Not sure why exactly, but I have a feeling that this would make a cracking double bill with La La Land.
- Rogue One. Second time around and … nope, still doesn't work for me. Mostly down to the unlikeable characters, the unnecessarily convoluted plot and the weird no-loose-ends third act.
- Tangled. Love it love it love it. Straddles so many genres, and wins them all. Those celebrating the fact that Wonder Woman is the first successful female-led superhero movie clearly haven't seen this. Or Moana. Or Frozen.
- Nightcrawler. Dr B didn't like this at all, but I rather liked the cynical, sleazy, Taxi Driver-ish feel to it – but you do need to have a shower or two afterwards.
- La La Land. Still utterly adorable, but it loses a lot on the small screen. As with any film about films, this demands to be seen on the biggest, brightest screen possible.
- Solace. A fine, forgettable little thriller. Notable for apparently being written as a sequel to Seven.
- Hop. Surprisingly inoffensive, and stands up to repeat viewings with the boy. Basically the Easter equivalent of Arthur Christmas. Russell Brand is really rather good – and surprisingly tolerable – as a voiceover actor, and James Mars den continues to be one of Hollywood's most underrated talents.
Good crikey, just look at this poster for Alien: Covenant. I've actually been working on a little Alien-related personal project of my own recently, and just when I think I'm halfway happy with it … this appears. How am I supposed to compete with this? It's as if Rodin took the afternoon off and asked HR Giger to finish off The Gates of Hell in his absence. Stunning/infuriating.
Tula Lotay's poster for Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper is rather lovely, isn't it? Love that lettering. As if being a bit good with a pen wasn't enough, it turns out that Lotay is also the brains behind Thought Bubble (Leeds' excellent annual comic art festival) and creative director of splendid comic shop Travelling Man. Lord only knows when she finds time to sleep. Check out her shop for more of this sort of thing.
Delve is a weekly newsletter from Human After All and a coterie of film critics (Ian Freer, Peter Bradshaw, Tim Robey, Karen Krizanovich and Jonathan Crocker). It's basically a film-of-the-week thing with a bundle of interesting related links thrown in, but the best bit is the new limited edition artwork that accompanies each issue – often better than any official posters. David Mahoney's Arrival piece is suitably ominous, and just imagine if Karolis Strautniekas' Spectre artwork was the basis for the film's opening credits. Gorgeous stuff. Obviously, all of these deserve to exist outside of your inbox, so thankfully prints are available from the Delve shop.
The black and white – sorry, black and chrome – version of Mad Max: Fury Road is finally coming to the big screen this April (a good excuse to appreciate Changethethought's wonderful heavy-type poster). It may seem like a trivial adjustment, but going black and white can change a film in unexpected ways. For example, Frank Darabont's superior cut of The Mist feels more like a particularly excellent episode of The Outer Limits. And if you watch Saving Private Ryan or Raiders of the Lost Ark with the colour turned right down, it somehow seems more realistic, closer to the imagery of the era that we're most familiar with. Anyway, this is apparently George Miller's preferred version of the film, so it'll be interesting to see how it differs. It looks wonderfully, appropriately oily.
Fans of ephemera design will be excited to learn that Shelf Heroes (splendid indie film magazine) have started a new collection on twitter: cinema tickets. Old and new, they're wonderful little fragments of culture interpreted as awkward, functional design. It seems unlikely that cinema tickets – or cinemas – will exist for much longer, so this collection is rather poignant. Follow @tkts_plz for more.
I Am Shark have just announced a 2xLP collector’s edition release of John Williams' Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens score, with four gatefold sleeves illustrated by the consistently splendid Dan Mumford. And dear crikey, they're beautiful. Only 500 copies will be available of each design – all of which will have sold out by the time I've decided which one I want. Decisions decisions …