Showing 1 - 6 of 6 Movie Blogs
I agree with Roger Ebert; ranking one movie over another is an evil and, quite honestly, impossible task. These fifteen films resonated with me this year slightly more than some other films and a lot more than most other films. They?re in alphabetical, not preferential order. Today I?m looking at films on the UK release schedule for 2008 (which includes much Oscar fare from the previous year) ? later I?ll do a similar list for films on the US release schedule as I?ve seen most of the Oscar fare for this year, which is the standard way these lists are made.
I predicted, as I walked out of Australia, that?d it?d be one of those movies that?d end up at around 50% on the Tomatometer. From about 45% to 55%, give or take a couple either side, fall the movies people either absolutely and unreservedly love, or they absolutely and unreservedly hate. I absolutely loved it, and considering I am not a fan of either Luhrmann or Kidman I?m quite pleased I can say this. It looked absolutely sumptuous and it was performed perfectly ? everyone knew very well that they were creating a fantasy here, but they embraced it rather than made fun of it, and that I have huge respect for.
The Dark Knight
It?s been established that I?m not a Dark Knight fan in the office, to the point that even I started to believe it myself, but I watched it again on Blu-ray recently and was reminded of my original opinion on it. The Dark Knight is a great blockbuster, a great event movie with all the visceral and emotional thrill you?d expect from the very best. But it?s not a revelation. Heath Ledger, circumstances aside, does deliver one of the greatest performances of all time, let alone this year, and on the IMAX screen this is quite a ride.
Tarsem Singh?s trippy, idiosyncratic and beautiful work is more art than cinema, but this isn?t pretentious, inaccessible trash. This is visionary stuff, with a passion that?s so lacking in cinema and an innocence that?s hard to find in today?s cynical times. Like Australia, people either love it or hate it, and that?s almost as delightful as the piece itself, because it?s so unconcerned about how people view it that you can?t help but admire its ambition. Straightforward drama has struggled to find the truth that?s present throughout The Fall. Tarsem?s eye for shooting the familiar with a new twist is awe-inspiring.
The posters for Ghost Town imply it?s going to be another How to Lose Friends and Alienate People or Notting Hill ? quirky British comedy with all the depth of a saucepan and all the humour of smallpox. Credit to Gervais for injecting enough of his comedic sensibility to deliver something much more relevant ? this is Kapraesque comedy with heart, and Gervais? acerbic flair keeps the sweet from being too sickly.
Gone, Baby, Gone
Ben Affleck?s directorial debut is as much of a revelation as his screenwriting debut, Good Will Hunting. Based on a cracking novel by Dennis Lehane, Affleck delivers a superbly performed and expertly executed drama that keeps you totally gripped to the screen. Overlooked because of Madeleine McCann, to the point that the mainstream press vilified Affleck?s callousness to make the film ? despite the fact it was well in production when the disappearance happened and the book had been around for years.
Coming out of Hellboy 2 I was a little disappointed, truth told, but repeat viewings have made me appreciate the film much more. Its greatest strength is that it makes you believe in the Hellboy universe without question. Gotham is just a redressed Chicago and Metropolis just a redressed New York, but the universes created by the likes of The Matrix, Blade Runner and Star Wars feel like they?re alive even when the camera isn?t on them. In other corners there are other stories playing out that we?ll never see, other life being lived we?ll never find out about. With Hellboy 2, del Toro creates a universe for the big red beast that lends credence to the goings-on within.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as a pair of boozing Irish assassins, with Ralph Fiennes their bad-mouthed Cockney boss ? it shouldn?t work, and yet In Bruges? expert plotting, outrageous humour and light-hearted joie de vivre makes it one of the year?s finest. It?s endlessly watchable and the performances really are top notch. That this is getting overlooked for awards is a real shame, because Farrell certainly hasn?t been better and the film is a real pleasure.
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
I?ve written plenty about Alex Holdridge?s warm-hearted comedy - it?s been on my radar for eighteen months. I must have seen it no fewer than ten times at this point, and each time I?ve been entertained and moved as much as I was the first time. The story of a first date following flirtation on Craigslist, Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds are exceptional as the couple who begin the night sniping at each other and seem to become different people as they help each other out of their respective neuroses. Should have arrived a few years earlier when indie distribution still meant something ? this is a real charmer.
Very disappointingly, this was largely dismissed as yet-another-horror-remake, swept away by Dimension in the US and not released in the UK for more than six months. It wasn?t a remake for a start ? that was 2005?s The Fog, and it seemed like people got the two confused ? instead it was one of the best Stephen King adaptations of all time. Cult movies are rare these days ? the marketing medium is so polished that very few movies slip through the net the first time around ? and yet this is one that?s still waiting to be properly discovered.
No Country for Old Men
So much has been written about the Coen Brothers? movie that there?s really not much more to add. Superbly performed, with one of the greatest bad guys in cinema history, No Country for Old Men is remarkable. It?s great to see Josh Brolin breaking through again, but few can match the sheer terror that exudes from Javier Bardem?s performance.
Guillermo del Toro?s name made sure this movie opened outside of Spain, but it?s JA Bayona?s beautiful direction and Sergio Sanchez? perfect script that makes The Orphanage worth watching. This is a chilling ghost story that works as a parable about losing a child, dealing with that loss at the time and moving on. Even with Guillermo?s involvement, I fear the English-language remake that?s been mooted.
Son of Rambow
Isn?t this just one of the greatest movie ideas ever? As one of those kids who worshipped films and wanted to be Rambo, John McClane and James Bond simultaneously, this reverberated perfectly with me and Hammer and Tongs bring a fantastical edge to the film that just makes it. Delightful.
I couldn?t think of anyone better suited to delivering a big-screen adaptation of the Demon Barber musical than Tim Burton. This is just about the only musical I?ve ever found palatable and Tim Burton?s dark view of London is to die for. Whether Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter have any business singing is debatable, but God knows I could watch this movie endlessly.
There Will Be Blood
That a man yelling ?Drainage? at the top of his voice can be as simultaneously enthralling and chilling as is Daniel Day-Lewis? rendition in this film is something quite impressive. This isn?t showboating, his performance is truly outstanding and Daniel Plainview is character so perfectly shaped by script and actor that he film he?s attached to is elevated on his shoulders alone.
One of the most original and wonderfully executed animated films of all time. Pixar deserve every inch of the hype they get anyway, but WALL-E really is their masterpiece. A breathtakingly moving tale that brings to mind Disney of old, WALL-E is the most human robot ever to grace the screen and his sweet flirtation with EVE brings a real tear the eye. This is a modern fairytale of the highest degree.
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The Golden Globes nominations have been announced - the year?s big awards-circuit titles are present and accounted for - and the season is officially in swing. And within a few hours of the announcement fans of The Dark Knight are already angrily mourning its exclusion from the list outside of a Best Supporting Actor nod for Heath Ledger?s Joker. As if fans feel the need to further justify the film?s artistic merit, a curious argument seems to be that nominating The Dark Knight in various categories would attract larger viewing figures for the many awards ceremonies ? including the Oscars ? which are languishing in the doldrums of disinterest.
I have my own opinions on The Dark Knight as an awards-worthy masterpiece, and those opinions most likely diverge with the popular opinion present on internet message boards. I liked the film but didn?t find it life-changing in the way so many seemed to. I wish I had. I am, however, more than pleased that a movie of its calibre has been drawing the box office revenues it has, because I spend my life despairing large box office results for films which really don?t deserve them.
Rather, I?m fascinated by this particular argument against its exclusion from the Golden Globes? nomination list. It?s a simple fact that the various awards ceremonies are desperate to regain the giant audiences they?ve had in previous years to the point that they?re turning once-prestigious events into MTV-esque farces of entertainment with reckless abandon. For a few years now it seems like organisers have been planning ceremonies like the Oscars around the nominations rather than in support of them. The awards are secondary to the clip shows, the gowns, the comedy presenters and the singers.
When Harvey Weinstein and Miramax started dominating awards shows in the mid to late nineties, they found the secret formula required to turn simple positioning of a movie into awards glory. At a certain point the nominations? and winners? lists weren?t decided by the Academy or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but rather by the skill with which people like Weinstein were able to put their product in front of voters. And for a while this was great. Sure, there were the aberrations of Chocolat and Shakespeare in Love, but there were also plenty of awards gifted to filmmakers who truly deserved them. And, most importantly, the ceremonies drove people to the cinemas to see the films that swept the awards, providing much-needed box office support for indie fare.
So nowadays, screenings, DVDs and marketing materials aimed directly at a very select group of people who vote for various awards decide winners. The theory is that spending extreme amounts of money on these people (in the spirit of full disclosure, I vote as part of a critics? society so I am one of the marketed few) will result, ultimately, in improved box office takings for an indie film through all the publicity dedicated to the shows.
Could it be that the prevalence of these campaigned films has caused the decline in viewing figures for these shows? If these were films most weren?t interested in before they started collecting awards, could it be that eventually people tire of the awards being given to films they aren?t particularly interested in?
As it happens, I think some of this year?s stock of awards-circuit films - Slumdog, Revolutionary, Wrestler etc. - are worthy every nomination they?re picking up. I also think The Dark Knight?s greatest strength is Ledger?s performance and, for reasons that have nothing to do with his death, that he should be the only one picking up the nominations for the film.
But as the awards shows continue to strive for lowest-common-denominator audiences, I wonder if there isn?t a point in this argument. Would they find the audiences they?re looking for if, rather than focussing on sideshow, their nominations list reflected movies that people were actually already going to see?
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Tom and Paula have settled and in a THR story today about a similar deal being thrashed out with Harvey there's a claim that they've been inundated by "staggering" amounts of material.
I'm talking, o'course, about the WGA Strike and United Artists pact with the guild. Harvey is Weinstein, and the material is screenplays.
It seems like an end is in sight.
The sad realisation is that the studios have the power in this dispute. Writers will need to go back to work before studios start feeling the burn from their lack of material, and they know it all too well. So is UA to be celebrated for their humility to settle or their shrewdness to settle?
The great thing about being inundated with scripts is that you'll get first pickings from the wealth of material that has no doubt accumulated since the strike began. Writers don't stop writing. Like most artists, inspiration strikes writers at all times and inspiration is a beast that can't be tamed by a strike. The strike prevented them from selling and pitching, but you can bet anything that those with passionate ideas brewing inside them haven't been resting on their laurels.
They probably have had a little more time on their hands to smell the daisies - Edgar Wright recently told me that his series of screenings at the New Beverly in LA was well attended by writer folk - but they still need something to fill their days, and the simple fact is that, like most tasks in the movie industry, writing is done by those who have a passion for it.
Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner took over the struggling United Artists in February of last year in what many considered to be the death knell for the historic company that was founded some 87 years ago by Charlie Chaplin, DW Griffith, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks. And by all accounts they've done a pretty good job, hiring smart and creating a serious studio-indie level competitor to the Fox Searchlights and Paramount Classics.
So I tend to believe that UA's push to settle with the WGA has little to do with their desire to give writers what they deserve - and every film studio, regardless of scale, can afford to do what they're requesting, which isn't even remotely unreasonable - and much more to do with the company's shrewd sense of business. You need no more proof than to look at the next company looking to settle - the Weinsteins. They don't come much more shrewd that Harvey and Bob and it's not a stretch to imagine they've been intrigued by activity over at UA.
Will they be too late? Or will we see a couple of very fruitful years for a pair of very clever companies? And have UA and, possibly, The Weinstein Company just found a way to profit from the strike?
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I've just about wrapped up my eleven hour day today. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of reason to pull more than my contractual eight hours and generally do, but I am usually allowed pause to collect my thoughts and regroup every few hours. Today I got to work at 8:30 and kept right on going, stopping only for fifteen minutes of lunch.
And I can't really complain because it was largely my fault. Before Christmas I did the necessary prep work to ensure I would only have to spend a couple of hours on Boxing Day updating the site's box office data during the break. That meant two weeks of spotlights, two weeks of upcoming movies, and two weeks of reviews, all in one week. It was a lot of work, but with the famous peoples all retiring to LA or wherever for their holidays, it wasn't impossible. Not a lot else was going on.
And then I realised I'd completely forgotten about week three. That meant the time I'd prepped for my return to work, which was to be full of new interview content going live, actually became time used to get week three working, and the interviews have slipped a week. Of course, everything has started up again now, though.
So an early start today to spend a little less than two hours prepping and interviewing Edgar Wright, who came into the office this morning to record a Dinner and the Movies podcast with us. We had a great time chatting and you'll be able to see the full feature very soon. Then I got stuck straight into the prep work on the feature itself, sourcing images from the photoshoot we did, writing an intro, and coding it all into the database. The audio from the interview hasn't arrived yet, so there's a little work to do when the CD turns up to choose the juicy quotes and include them in the write-up.
And after a quick lunch I got started on my interview with Ang Lee, which was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. I ADORE Ang Lee. Meeting Ang Lee, for me, was probably one of my highlights of the London Film Festival. However, I was in such reverence of him that I blabbered throughout and was so terrified that I'd seize up and be able to do little else but stare at him that there are times when I'm taking his gaps in-between sentence to jump in and start asking my next question. Fortunately, he's cleverer than me and just carried on, but the way I remembered it, I was just an insolent fool and was mostly unintelligible. As I transcribed the interview today I was thrilled to learn that actually I was OK and asked some pretty good questions. His answers were, of course, better.
That was on the site by 6:30 so I took an hour to work on a personal project before I left the office, preferring as I do to stick around and do anything that doesn't involve getting a rush hour train on a night I don't have a screening to go to. 7:30 I quit the office, which, assuming my maths skills haven't completely washed away in a sea of trashy American television and Uwe Boll films, brings my daily total to eleven hours. But I wouldn't do it if I didn't love being busy, and unfortunately everyone knows that so I can't even claim altruism in my commitment.
Ang Lee though... It's funny, this job. You get to meet your heroes and many of them turn out to be as heroically brilliant as you dreamed. Some, John Cusack I'm looking at you, are a bit of a disappointment, but even those ones are worth the punt. I know that the people I interview aren't interviewees by trade. They're actors and directors usually and some of them just can't stand the interview process full stop. I wonder if it's possible to be a good interviewer because of that. You can have an engaged discussion with someone, or you can make them laugh, or you can keep them intrigued, but I wonder if you can ever truly give someone who doesn't like interviews a good interview.
Ultimately, I think I've picked my heroes well, at least in terms of their ability to tolerate me, because I've either gotten on with them like a house on fire or they've enjoyed the experience enough to comment on the quality of my lines of enquiry or, apparently genuinely, wished we could have carried on when the publicist called a halt. I'm not going to pretend I got on like a house on fire with Ang Lee, because I was nervous in a way I rarely am with my heroes and people I know I can engage on a level above and beyond "What was your motivation?" But he seemed genuinely disappointed that he could give me no more time, and said so, and whether he really meant it or not, it meant a lot to me.
And I think that's ultimately what keeps me excited to do what I do. It doesn't take a lot to make a gesture like that at the end of an interview, particularly if you can tell your interviewer is into your work, and I think we both know that you don't always have to mean it. True heroes of mine have done it anyway, and that's cool. They're all just regular people, but through their films they've spoken to me on a level that gets me up in the morning and ultimately cinema is a platform for speaking to people, so there's no reason why the true artists shouldn't enjoy everything that comes with the creation of a film.
You don't have to promise me friendship in order to get me to do a feature on you, because if your work speaks to me I'll do it regardless, but when I'm in a room with you, asking you questions about your movie, you can probably rest assured that we're both there because we absolutely love the hell out of cinema. There are journalists who don't, but then there are actors and directors who don't either. When we both do, there's no reason that an interview should be anything less than a conversation amongst friends with shared passions.
I hate list features. Well, actually, I love list features, but I hate having to do end-of-year lists because I always get TERRIFIED that I?ve left something out. But Yamato can be quite persuasive when she wants to be, so I?ve done as I?ve been told and created my top ten of the year.
My list follows the UK release schedule so there?ll be plenty that were on Americans? 2006 lists here. BUT, just to prove that us UK folk can?t complain about getting EVERYTHING last, Hallam Foe still doesn?t have a US release date and of the top ten, Sunshine and Hot Fuzz came out here first...
And just to show how annoyed I am at the whole ?wtf only ten?? thing, my list of honourable mentions is longer than the top ten list. So there.
My Top 10:
1. Hallam Foe
5. Notes on a Scandal
8. Hot Fuzz
9. The Bourne Ultimatum
The Ones that Didn?t Quite Make It:
11. Bridge to Terabithia
12. Knocked Up
14. Paranoid Park
15. Black Snake Moan
16. Into the Wild
17. In the Shadow of the Moon
18. The Science of Sleep
19. Last King of Scotland
20. Rocket Science
21. This is England
24. Paris Je t?Aime
25. Two Days in Paris
26. The Fountain
27. Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
28. A Prairie Home Companion
Films UK Folk Will See in 2008 ? In No Particular Order:
-No Country For Old Men
-Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
-Son of Rambow
-The Boss of it All
Films UK Folk Might Never See Because Despite The Fact I First Saw Them At Cannes This Year No UK Distributor Has Had The Sense To Pick Them Up Yet:
OK, so it was only one there, but I have to point it out. DISTRIBUTORS: YOU ARE MAD FOR NOT HAVING BOUGHT THIS MOVIE YET.
With a journal topic so outrageously descriptive, you'd think I had something genuinely insightful to say about stuff. Or that I'd at least take the time to explain what a Down God is when it's at home.
Instead I'm just here to ramble hopelessly about a trio of Peter Biskind books I'm reading, which started with Easy Riders, Raging Bulls which charted the swift rise and stumbling fall of the New Hollywood directors of the seventies, continues with Down and Dirty Pictures, capturing the Weinstein and Sundance era of the nineties, and will eventually culminate with Gods and Monsters. I don't know what that's about because I haven't started it yet, but there's a picture of Marlon Brando on the cover, and I think if you're going to choose anyone to encapsulate both Gods and Monsters, you could do worse.
At the very least in the first two books, Biskind relates anecdotes and insights from the pople who were there. His appendices are almost as long as his prose, listing Author's Interview after Author's Interview with people like Scorsese, Lucas, Friedkin, Nicholson, Weinstein, both H & B, Tarantino, Rodriguez and bergs Spiel and Soder. Many of the anecdotes have been previously related, in various making-ofs and IMDb trivia sections, but he writes with such obvious passion for his subjects and finds an angle on even the most traveled of tales.
Given that most books about the film industry are so desperately boring that if the Devil offered you everlasting life and riches beyond imagination by insisting you read one a year for the rest of existence you'd ask where to park yourself in the fires of Damnation, it feels rather odd to report that Biskind's are the sort that you don't really want to stop reading when you come off the train home. They will you into desiring a life much further from work so you'll have more time to digest them. And they tease you with thick chunks of appendices so that when you reach the end of the book you feel a little annoyed at the fact that there's at least a centimeter of pages left.
I wasn't around when the books hit, and didn't see the Easy Riders documentary that was made, but I was turned onto them in at least half a dozen director interviews I'd done. The books resurfaced in conversation time and again; this generation's filmmakers obviously absorbing the trials and tribulations related and mentioning them as part of their training on the industry.
And then Francis Ford Coppola, in this month's Empire, did the safe-for-print equivalent of suggesting Biskind was full of shit.
What makes his books such entertaining reading is that he doesn't mince his words. Harvey Weinstein, most people no doubt suspect, is not a nice man. Neither is Robert Redford, and that's probably more surprising. In much the same way one can take Actor A's statement that working with Actor B was "delicious, icing on a cake, it was a dream come true," so it's probably safest to read with the idea that Biskind might, too, be toying with the image of his subjects to make for entertaining anecdotes; perhaps editorialising to a degree. But one can't shake the images he delivers. Redford directed Quiz Show and it's not a secret that it was to have been Soderberg's project. Set up through Sundance, did Soderberg pass the film onto Redford or was it stolen from him? Biskind sides with the latter, and can back-up his version of events with quotes.
So perhaps Coppola is sucking on sour grapes, or perhaps Biskind quotes his sources out of context. I'd certainly be surprised if he misquoted them. Whatever the truth, like many of the films he writes about, his books relate great stories with the aid of colourful characters. You'll never look at some of Hollywood's biggest and brightest in quite the same way again.