You are here

Biography

Good Night and Good Luck

dir: George Clooney
[img_assist|nid=929|title=Edward R. Murrow, where are you when we need you? Oh, that's right. Dead.|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=343]
The most important aspect that a period piece has to get right is to evoke a sense of place and time. Depending on the time it is set in, an essential part of that is representing just how different that time and place were compared to the present day equivalent. It’s also handy when you can illustrate what hasn’t changed at all, no matter how much time has elapsed between drinks.

Good Night, and Good Luck goes a long way towards setting itself properly just through the use of black and white film. It not only convinces us straight away that we are looking at a slice of the past, but it also ‘colours’ the content, so to speak. Since the film deals with the medium of television as a newborn child, the era itself is defined by its limitations and the remnants we have left of their broadcasts in shades of stark light and dark.

Rating:

Factotum

dir: Bent Hamer
[img_assist|nid=920|title=When will people learn: being a drunk doesn't make you Bukowski. Hating women and occasionally writing turns you into Bukowski|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=316|height=463]
Getting to watch a flick based on a Charles Bukowski novel appeals to a pretty narrow crowd of people. Anyone familiar with his work and his life knows that the story is going to follow a narrow path: it’ll deal with drinking, women and writing, and little else. Maybe a few fights. Bit of throwing up and examples of scuzzy living, some poetry, and that’s it.

But they’re already sold on the idea anyway. The difficulty is in selling it to anyone else.

This movie, produced by a Norwegian director and film crew, is an adaptation of the Bukowski novel Factotum. Factotum (the book) is about an alcoholic based on Bukowksi who drinks constantly, works shitty jobs, and writes. He also takes up with some women, lives like a bum, and writes some more.

Factotum (the movie) stars Matt Dillon as Hank Chinaski, who drinks constantly, works (and gets fired from) shitty jobs, writes, takes up with women, lives like an unrepentant bum, and writes some more. It is virtually plot-free, like an episode of a reality television show devoted to the Biggest Loser that has nothing to do with weight.

Rating:

Capote

dir: Bennett Miller
[img_assist|nid=944|title=Compote himself|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=267|height=400]
This flick wins my Academy Award, my giant, golden, suggestively-designed Oscar, for the most overrated flick and performance of 2005. There, I said it. And I’m not taking it back.

Reports from the film festivals were saying Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a lock on the Best Actor award months before the film was ever released, and who am I to argue. But, come on. Be serious.

In anticipation of seeing the film, I did a fair bit of homework. I read Capote’s book In Cold Blood, so I’d know what all the fuss was about. I also watched the excellent B&W film of the same name from 1967, directed by Richard Brooks, where, irony of ironies, Robert Blake played one of the killers.

So I was ready. Prepared. Primed. To be bored out of my fucking skull, it turns out.

Rating:

Downfall

dir: Oliver Hirshbiegel
[img_assist|nid=989|title=The man himself, who is now, and for all eternity, trapped in a Jewish deli where they never get around to serving him|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=310]
To a lot of people it might seem redundant making another film about World War II, because for those of us not born in the 80s, other than JFK's assassination, the Vietnam War and Abigail's breasts on Number 96, no event had as profound an impact upon the last century as WWII did, and there is no shortage of movies or tv stuff devoted to the occasion.

Even if people don't know the details regarding Uncle Adolf, his life and death or the frightening power he once held, they know at least that he is one of history's nastiest villains.

So who needs another movie about the downfall of the Third Reich? Maybe Holocaust deniers, anti-semites and warmongers need to have versions of these films made and have ye olde worlde VHS copies fisted into their various orifices. But the rest of us think we know all there is to know about it.

Even if Downfall isn't necessary, it's still damn compelling. A film that successfully captures and gets across the surreal atmosphere of Berlin towards the end of the war has to be vital viewing for those with the time, patience and inclination.

Rating:

Libertine, The

dir: Laurence Dunmore
[img_assist|nid=960|title=Even syphillitic he's still eminently shaggable|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=375]
Talking directly to the camera, John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, tells us that we will not like him. We won’t like him because he is a thoroughly naughty chap, and he’s up for it all the time, with the ladies and the fellas. He tells us this, talking straight to the camera, forewarning us to be prepared for just how much of a libertine he truly is.

Oh, what a rascal. And he’s played by Johnny Depp. Wearing a wig recalling the heady days of hair metal bands from the 80s. Of course they don’t believe the opening pronouncement, and they don’t really expect us to believe it either.

Of course we’re meant to like him. He’s Johnny Depp, for Christ’s sake. He can make women from great-grandmothers to trembling girlie-girls weak in the knees and wet in the gusset. And he makes grown men question their sexuality. Whether he plays the swishy pirate in Pirates, or the cross-dressing director in Ed Wood, or kiddie-fiddler J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, he is respected for his choice in film roles, for the quality of his acting and is almost universally adored for his charming good looks and roguish ways.

It’s enough to make you vomit with rage and envy.

Rating:

Ned Kelly

dir: Gregor Jordan
[img_assist|nid=1026|title=So now they've created a giant golem version of Ned Kelly to get revenge for the Irish|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=600]
Australia has a long and varied history of making movies its own citizens hate. Most countries obviously have their own film industries, none which match the economies of scale available to US production, or the rapid fire super cheap production levels of countries like India or Hong Kong. Australia makes comparatively less films than most industrialised countries, but is at least to my mind unique in that the main hurdle its films have to first traverse and generally stumble over is the idea of ‘cultural cringe’ and the antipathy of the local audience. Antipathy means more than just not giving a fat rat’s arsehole: it’s active dislike.

There’s a better and more expansive explanation out there for everything that cultural cringe entails. Essentially, it refers to the concept that representations of Australia and Australians are uniquely unpalatable to domestic audiences, and generally found to be embarrassing or, more obviously, cringeworthy. Some say it has to do with the explicit anti-intellectualism of mainstream Australian society, others point to the perception that, apart from being generally badly made, the way Australians are portrayed in our own films is hokey, parochial and distorted, rendering characters into nothing more than risible caricatures.

Rating:

Monster

dir: Patty Jenkins
[img_assist|nid=1025|title=She read a bad review|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=397]
This isn’t a story about the redemptive power of love. It isn’t a story where everything will work out all right in the end. It is, in essence, a sad love story all the same.

It would seem to contradict the advertising and many of the reviews already written about the film. Its two main selling points were the fact that Charlize Theron won the Academy award for Best Actress for 2003 in the role, oh, and she happens to play a serial killer. And seeing as it is based on the life and times of Aileen Wuornos, convicted and recently executed killer, you’d think the focus would be more on the killings than any other elements. At its heart, however, it’s about a horribly damaged woman and her desperate attempts at finding some happiness in a world that had guaranteed her thus far a life of ceaseless misery.

Rating:

American Splendor

dir: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
[img_assist|nid=992|title=Hey big splendors|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=430|height=323]
A film about unremarkable people living lives of quietly desperate quiet desperation. It seems almost pointless by definition, doesn’t it? Films are about heroes, winners, the triumphant, usually. They’re not supposed to be about us mediocre types, are they? If these stories were going to genuinely be about people like us then they wouldn’t need to hire people with bleached teeth to play characters in every film and have wealthy screenwriters tell us how much better our simple lives are compared to the lives lived by the people that make these films.

American Splendor is not really based on the comic book of the same name, in that it’s not like Harvey Pekar is a superhero like Batman or She Hulk or Man Thing. But then again, since the comics were all based on Pekar’s life anyway, it kind of is. And maybe Pekar is a superhero in his own way.

The concept of so-called “outsider art” worries me. In an episode of The Simpsons where Homer accidentally becomes an artist when constructing a barbecue that goes horribly wrong, an art scene hag voiced by Isabella Rossellini explains that his work is outsider art. It is art that could have been created by hillbillies, mental patients or chimpanzees.

Rating:

Seabiscuit

dir: Gary Ross
[img_assist|nid=995|title=America's Phar Lap|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=404|height=408]
It’s a mediocre film masquerading as an Oscarbait ‘prestige’ contender. It’s flawed, obvious, cliché and hackneyed. The actors are mostly outacted by the horse. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t still find it sweet and enjoyable, damn my eyes.

Goddamn me it hurts to admit that. It makes me want to get liver-rupturingly drunk and binge on hard Class A drugs in order to regain my equilibrium after that admission. It wouldn’t change the fact that I genuinely enjoyed the film, despite its shallow nature and emotional manipulativeness. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a pic about horses, seeing as I have a weakness for the ponies. Not so much the gambling aspect, since the indentured servitude that passes for employment in my life doesn’t leave me a whole hell of a lot of money for wasting on beting. But there is just something that appeals to me about horse racing.

Rating:

Pianist, The

dir: Roman Polanski
[img_assist|nid=1068|title=Not The Penis, The Pianist|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=450]
"Breathtaking!" "Stunning!" "A Masterpiece!" "Grunties!"

These words are used to describe everything from the most recent Jerry Bruckheimer film to the latest hemorrhoid creams on the market. Superlatives are such an integral part of the marketing hyperbole industry that the words have lost all meaning. Certainly their use, by anyone, especially film critics should be taken not with a grain of salt, but with a quantity of salt not exceeding that available in your average ocean.

That being said, when people you respect (for whatever reason, whether it be their professional credibility or the way they keep handing you lollies until you get into the car with them) start using words like that about a film, you prick up your ears. In this context, some of those words have been applied to The Pianist, and perhaps not without merit. The film has even been honoured at this year's Academy circlejerk, which, whilst not usually an indicator of anything more important than the fact that Hollywood is more insular and inbred than a hillbilly family from the Appalachian mountains (you know, Deliverance country), has for once potentially gotten it right.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to Biography