dir: Lone Scherfig
If I was to tell you that this flick is the coming-of-age tale of a private schoolgirl seduced by an older, sophisticated man, then you’d tell me that this is clearly a porno or at the very least a remake of Rochelle, Rochelle, an young girl’s erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.
If I was then to tell you that it is nothing of the sort, and if I apologised profusely for having made a Seinfeld reference in one of my reviews, then you’d probably still not be interested in what is otherwise quite a charming little flick set in the early part of the 1960s.
Based on the memoirs of journalist Lynn Barber, with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby (of High Fidelity and About a Boy fame), An Education is set in 1961, and looks at what goes on in the life of an intelligent but unworldly girl called Jenny (Carey Mulligan), who comes across the path of a charming and sophisticated (from her limited perspective) older man called David (Peter Sarsgaard).
See, you could only get away with setting a flick like this in the 60s. Back in those halcyon days, the creepy setup looks a little less creepy. Back then you are meant to see it a little bit more as people being a product of their times, and acting accordingly. It's still creepy, but, y'know...
It makes it sound like it’s all about one thing, and it’s not. Sure, a seduction lies at the heart of the tale of woe, but it is more the seduction of an otherwise sensible young girl by a lifestyle she could only ever imagine before, let alone approach.
dir: Zhang Yimou
Yes, yes, a beautiful film. You know that, I know that, but does that mean it’s a decent film as well? Surely a film needs more than stunning visuals to make it worthwhile? I mean there are a tonne of pornos that have stunning visuals and amazing views of that which one rarely sees in their own lifetime, but that doesn’t make them Oscar quality films to show the whole family over Christmas dinner, does it?
dir: The Wachowski Brothers
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.
See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.
What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!
Too many fights? Style over substance? The sunglasses and the latex? PEOPLE, please! These films were ALWAYS about style over substance, and fighting, and people looking exceedingly cool in the Matrix when they're kicking three shades of fuck out of their enemies. Has anyone hidden the fact that these are essentially live action manga stories writ large across the big screen: overly colourful, loud acting for the cheap seats, oodles of action and convoluted and ridiculously
complicated plots that ultimately fall apart if you probe too deeply?
I've come to realise that practically every action sci-fi film is ultimately flawed in the plot department. I'm sure as shit not apologising for the kind of people that make sci-fi films with Jean
Claude Van Brain Damage in them. I mean even the decent stuff has plot holes.
At least for me there are the times where there may be plot holes, but at least I don't feel insulted by them ignoring something fundamentally flawed in their own construction of their story. Sometimes a film earns your goodwill so that you forgive some howling, gaping plotholes. Other times you just accept them without thinking. But everything, especially sci-fi big budget stuff has plotholes.
dir: Rian Johnson
Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick, was a noir crime drama worthy of the pen of Raymond Chandler, set in a high school. The dialogue sounded strange in the mouths of actors playing children, but it had style, and a commitment to its set-up that never wavered, perhaps to the flick’s detriment, but no matter.
When I heard that he was making a film about two con artist brothers, I was pleased. Pleased was an understatement. I was ecstatic. For reasons that make no sense, I felt glad that a guy who struggled, fought and agonised over making a flick with no budget (which is what happened with Brick) was getting the chance to move up in the moviemaking hierarchy, and was getting to make more flicks.
I’m still glad he’s making movies, watching Brothers Bloom hasn’t diminished that, but I realise he’s got a fair way to go as a director as long as his films require actors.
Listen to me, offering unsolicited advice to a director who’s achieved stuff I’ve never dreamed of and will never get close to creatively and professionally. How generous of me to criticise him and offer tidbits of wisdom.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the performances in this flick are what let the film down, which otherwise is a sporadically amusing, wry kind of romantic comedy, for lack of a better term. The script is okay, the dialogue is okay, I guess, the plot is okay, but the performances were just awkward and seemed to come from actors who just couldn’t settle into a groove with each other. For all that it looks like a quirky Wes Anderson-esque flick, replete with affectations and uniforms, the acting doesn’t match the story.
When it comes down to it, maybe I’m imagining it, or maybe I’m making too much of it, but I couldn’t really buy that Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody were brothers, or that Rachel Weisz’s character was a wealthy American heiress who’d grown up in complete seclusion. I know that Brody can give mediocre performances, having seen a few of them, but really it felt like the director wasn’t sure how to get them to do what he wanted them to do, or what the script required. Sure, Brody as Bloom was able to look like a depressed and hollow Victorian-era gentleman thief staring with melancholy off into the distant horizons of the Dalmatian Coast, but when he was talking, or fighting the urge to smile in completely inappropriate sections, it kind of shattered the willing suspension of disbelief thing they were trying to generate.
dir: Neill Blomkamp
It seems like a brilliant idea on paper. It even seemed like a brilliant idea in the promos and trailers and such. Truth be told it was the first genuine-seeming actual science fiction movie to pique my interest in a long time.
As the film begins, the premise is set out for us very quickly and easily. Twenty years ago, a huge alien vessel appeared above the skies of Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens, for which we are never given a better title than prawns, are settled into a ghetto / township, all million plus of them.
The ghetto is cordoned off, and twenty years later, as an impetus to the current story we’re supposed to be watching, the organisation tasked with corralling the prawns decides it needs to move the prawns 200 kilometres away because of tensions with the locals. Mostly because South Africans, white or black, don’t want them there. They are seen, despite their hideous appearance, as really being nothing more annoying or dangerous than refugees.
dir: John Woo
I’m a bit confused. There’s a film called Red Cliffs that’s playing in the cinemas at the moment, which is meant to be an amalgam of two movies John Woo finished last year. But I don’t know if what I watched is what cinemagoers got to see, since I saw something around five hours long.
Now, there are films that are epic in length, others epic in scope, and still others are epic in terms of the boredom they inspire in audiences. ‘Epic’, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily synonymous with ‘good’. Some things are great the bigger they are, and I’ll leave it up to your personal preferences to imagine which ones, but tumours, debts, jail sentences and divorce settlements don’t necessarily improve with increased length, width or girth.
dir: David Fincher
David Fincher almost gets a lifetime pass from me for Fight Club. It’s a film so goddamn good that it elevates him into the lofty heights of directors whom I’ll defend even if they make twenty shitty films compared to their one or two masterpieces. Brad Pitt has no such pass from me, lifetime or otherwise. I have such a deep antipathy for his brand of actoring that he is usually the weakest link (for me) even in the strongest of films.
This flick, right off the bat, I enjoyed, very much so, despite the fact that there is less going on here than meets the eye. The premise sounds like it’s high concept enough, but it’s used more for its ironic sense than anything else. A F. Scott Fitzgerald short story is the origin of the film’s screenplay, but it has been fleshed out and elaborated upon in order to make it a serious, prestige Oscarbait contender, instead of the Twilight Zone half-hour that it probably warranted instead.
In the early part of the 20th Century, a clockmaker grieves over the death of his son in the Great War. He constructs a clock for a train station that runs backwards instead of forwards, with the (poetic, not literal) hope that such a clock going backwards would reverse time and resurrect the many sons who died needlessly, bringing them home to their devastated families.
It is, without doubt, the most touching moment of the movie. It occurs in the first few minutes, and, truth be told, the flick never matches or exceeds those moments from there onwards. It does, however, remain interesting.
dir: Rian Johnson
Time travel stories: They do your head in, don’t they?
An appreciation for time travel shenanigans is not a prerequisite for enjoying this odd but interesting film, but a lot of attention to what’s going on is mandatory for understanding it. Let your attention drift for a while, and you’ll be yelling “where did that purple elephant unicorn come from?” at the screen, much to the chagrin of the people around you.
Looper is set about 40 years in the future, in Kansas, of all places. We are told that at a time even more distant in the future, they’ve invented time travel. Not only that, but the best and only use for it they could think of was for crime lords sending back to the past people they want killed. So in 2070, they have time travel, but they can’t dispose of bodies because of the awesomeness of forensic technology. In 2044, they don’t have time travel, but they shoot these people who are sent into the past.
These killers, who wait in a designated spot with a gun called a blunderbuss, are the loopers from which the flick gets its title. The looper we’re concerned with is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who shoots these hooded people who appear out of nowhere, collects the silver strapped to their bodies, and then disposes of the corpses.
These loopers have contracts with their employer Abe (Jeff Daniels). It is understood that, as part of their terms of service, eventually, someone is going to be sent back that they themselves are going to kill, finding gold, instead of silver, strapped to the body, and something vaguely familiar about the victim.
That person sent back, for their last job, will be themselves, 30 years in the future, thus closing the loop.
See, this is what happens when you don’t have a strong union: you don’t get a dental plan and you end up killing yourself for the boss man.
dir: Richard Ayoade
Coming of age stories are a laugh, aren’t they? Whether it’s some spotty git fucking an apple pie, or four friends searching for a dead body, coming of age stories are almost always nostalgic and poignant, because they’re watched by people far removed from the actual age. Throw in some period detail, some tunes from an earlier, ‘better’ time, and it’s like crack to oldies of a certain oldness.
The problem or virtue of Submarine is that it’s set in the 80s, which no decent person should be nostalgic for, including and especially those of us who came of age in the 80s, and also it’s a flick in love with coming of age flicks. There’s plenty of references to other classic boyish coming-of-age flicks (400 Blows, Harold and Maude, The Graduate, bunches of others), but this has its own unique take on the Bildungsroman.
That doesn’t make it good, necessarily. The reason I went out of my way to see this flick is because of the almost surreally positive reviews it has garnered, even down to local Potato Head Pomeranz and Old Farmer Stratton giving it stratospheric approval. And it was lauded and praised to the heavens around the world long before it came to Australian shores to die a quiet death at the box office.
I don’t really see it. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m not as interested in coming of age stories any more. The appeal of Submarine pretty much escaped me.
dir: Sylvester Stallone
I guess if someone absorbed and retained all the juicy goodness of crappy 80s action flicks, it was the guy who starred in most of them. And if there’s one person who can profit from perpetuating what he used to be good at, rather than doing anything remotely new, it’s Sylvester Stallone.
His last three films including this one are virtual monuments to himself (the other two being Rocky Balboa and the fourth Rambo flick creatively titled Rambo) and the time when he was one of the biggest action stars on the goddamn planet. But this flick, far moreso than the others, is more of a monument to the era itself and the trashy 80s action flicks that were so beloved by all.
By ALL. Don’t dispute me on this: I bet back in the day even the Pope, the Queen of England and the King of Siam were sitting around in their sweatpants watching video tapes of Red Heat or Cobra or Commando and drinking a six pack in between punching the air and screaming “YEEEEEAHHH” in full throated passion. It didn’t matter if there was no reason for shit to be exploding, or for a man with a gun to be walking around mowing down an army of faceless Hispanic goons without so much as a scratch on him: it was fun, apparently, and everyone had to like it or be sent to re-education camps for indoctrination. Maybe I remember the 80s differently to the rest of you, but I’m positive that all happened.
(Flickan som lekte med elden)
dir: Daniel Alfredson
Ahhhh. I like it when they make semi-decent movies out of shitty books. It gives me hope for humanity.
For my money at least, The Girl Who Played With Fire was the best of the three books Stieg Larsson shat out onto an unsuspecting world before he died. By ‘best’ I don’t actually mean that it was a great book. I just mean that out of three terribly written books, the second was the least worst of the trilogy.
Since I haven’t seen the last instalment in this series of flicks yet, I can’t say whether this is the best of the three. I thought the first flick, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, did pretty well whittling down a phonebook of empty and stolid prose into a competent enough crime investigation flick, with a compelling central character (Lisbeth Salander, not the journalist Blomkvist). She becomes even more central to proceedings here, as the second story, and indeed the rest of the series becomes the All About Lisbeth show.
It opens with Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) in the Caribbean, lazing away and working on a tan despite clearly, from years lived in the land of the midnightish sun, not possessing a skerrick of melanin throughout her emaciated body. She still bears the tattoos and piercings of her first incarnation, but now she also has a fortune stolen from some tangential business character in the first film.
When she returns to Sweden, after finding out that the sadistic advocate Bjurman (Peter Andersson) is trying to get the tattoo she helpfully gave him removed, she decides to step in and remind him that she’s the one in charge.
This starts a chain of events that results in Salander becoming Sweden’s public enemy number one as she is wanted for several murders, including those of a journalist and his scholar partner writing about the sex trade and human trafficking in Sweden and Europe.
All the while, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a pudgy middle-aged journalist, tries to convince the cops that Salander is innocent, and that there is a darker conspiracy afoot, whilst trying to track down Salander herself.
Because this wouldn’t be enough, they throw in Lisbeth’s lesbian lover Miriam Wu (Yasmine Garbi), so that there can be a scene of hot lesbian sex, a giant German guy with white hair who never feels any pain (Micke Spreitz) and some former boxing champ called Paolo Roberto (played by, funnily enough, Paolo Roberto) who gets involved with the crazy goings on.
dir: Niels Arden Oplev
I don’t know how many people are going to make this point, since I assume that people, like sheep, like doing stuff in concert with each other, that this is the rare instance where the movie resulting from an adaptation is better than the book it’s based on. There, I said it. In reality this is the best adaptation of a Dan Brown novel Dan Brown never wrote. But Sweden’s Dan Brown, called Stieg Larsson, sadly died before he could profit from his success, collect his royalty cheques, and watch this version of his book on the big screen. It’s a shame, because he could have gotten to see what his story looked like with most of the boring bits cut out.
When I read the three books in the Millennium trilogy, as you could say with most crime or detective mystery kind of novels, I remember thinking they seemed like they were always intended for the big screen. They all read like that, usually. I’m sure it wasn’t a fact lost on the shmuck’s publishers, or on the people who made this Swedish film version, or the American shysters who snapped up the rights and who are going to allow Fight Club director David Fincher to remake it.
The fact that it’s a bestselling set of books helps too, I’m sure. The women I see on the train not reading any of those damned Twilight books are often reading one of the three books in the trilogy (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played with Fire, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).
They’re not great literature. Actually, I’ll restate that. Perhaps in Swedish those novels are brilliantly written and plotted, but in English, which is the version I read, they’re so hacky and flat that their tremendous success would be mysterious if it weren’t for a few salient factors.
The thing with crime fiction is that no-one expects it to be well written or even well-plotted. I’m not trying to malign the entire genre or the fans of that style of writing. It’s a perfectly valid genre, and I’m a big, big fan. But the shit writes itself. The general audience just wants a plot that moves, location changes, surprise twists and red herrings, and closure at the end where everything fits together nicely, with a hint of future adventures. And of course, sexy results.
These books have all that, along with the flattest exposition and most unlikely conversations as dialogue I’ve ever read. But they get the job done.
dir: Scott Glosserman
You might have thought that Scream and its pale shadow sequels were going to be the last word on self-aware horror flicks deconstructing the horror genre even as they celebrate their dearest clichés. But no.
There’s more of that filthy, filthy lucre to mine by taking more trips to the well. In truth, these kinds of self-aware flicks will always be viable, and always be relevant as long as horror flicks keep being made.
The reason is that, as an audience member, you often sit there wondering why the characters in a horror film who are seemingly trapped in a building they can’t get out of and being stalked by an implacable killer don’t realise they are in a horror film. The willing suspension of disbelief necessarily has to extend to allowing for the protagonists, police chiefs, their neighbours and work colleagues to have never seen a horror flick in order to not know what the conventions are governing their survival or death, and therefore what is going to happen to them next.
dir: Julian Jarrold
Plenty of people, pretty much only the people who’ve read the book and watched the BBC series, would think that a film version of Brideshead Revisited is either redundant or pointless or both. I have watched the series and read the book, and have now watched this latest adaptation. Hurray for me.
So maybe I am one of those who think a new version is pointless. Thing is, though, I still enjoyed the flick.
Of course a two-hour version seems pointless after the majesty and scope and patience of the series, but then when you’re making a film for contemporary audiences, you’re not catering to people with relaxed attention spans and time. You’re catering to hyper-caffeinated people with the patience, attention span and morals of feral ferrets.
So, boiling a complex novel down to its essentials is the order of the day, here. I don’t have a problem with that, mostly because I’m so familiar with the source material. Sure, it is period piece stuff arising from the success of Atonement (which is a very different kettle of gay fish compared to Brideshead) with a similar kind of look, but it’s not an especially complex story.
dir: Peter Chan and Wai Man Yip
I never thought that Jet Li, at this advanced stage of his career, could surprise me in a positive way. No-one in this world, regardless or sometimes because of their age, stops finding ways to surprise me negatively. But I was surprised here by Jet Li’s dramatic chops, which hasn’t occurred once in the twenty years I’ve been watching his flicks.
He’s always been a tremendous fighter onscreen, and good enough playing his usual, stoic, heroic roles in the wuxia (martial arts) flicks. But he’s often been quite terrible whenever he tries to do anything dramatic or comedic or tragic or acting in general.
This lack of acting ability has never stood in the way of his career, because his arse-kicking ability is so incredibly amazing. Amongst his peers he’s par for the course, but with age comes, if not wisdom, at least an appreciation for looking like you have the emotions and stuff the director is telling you to have.
Right from the start it’s obvious that this is a very different film for Jet Li. He’s in his forties, and still looks amazing fucking people up, but he’s been doing this stuff since he was a kid. He wants to do more dramatic work, less fighting, but they won’t let him play Hamlet, the cruel masters of Chinese-Hong Kong cinema that they are. Bastards.
The compromise is to have him play Qing-Yun, a forlorn general during the twilight of the Qing Dynasty (during the reign of fearsome Empress Dowager Cixi), when China is riven by civil war as the Taiping rebels rebel all over the place. The general has emotions and stuff, all of which Li’s tired face is better able to convey these days, I guess just because he’s finally lost that perpetual babyface look of his. Still hope for you after all, Leonardo DiCaprio.
dir: David Yates
Another year, another Potter flick. The difference is, now, after having enjoyed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix so much, I thought I actually cared about future Potter flicks.
And then the Half-Blood Prince came along, and reminded me why I never really liked these tales of whimsy and magic in the first place.
That’s a bit harsh. Initially, going into it, I was pretty excited. I also thought, and still think, that this entry looks phenomenal as well. Hogwarts never looked so vast, so foreboding, so much more like a place that is no longer a sanctuary to these budding sorcerers.
Of course the ‘kids’ are getting older. Harry, Ron and Hermione are becoming awfully, um, grown-up physically, at least, if not emotionally mature. The story reflects and spends an inordinate amount of time fixating and developing these developments, as if the fact that they’re all acting like horny teenagers is supposed to be some kind of revelation.
Of course, this being a very successful franchise, they’re not going to turn it into an episode of the frightening school-age British series Skins, which has kids shagging, doing drugs and carrying on like teenagers having been acting since the dawn of cask wine.
Needless to say, no decent person expects to see that kind of stuff happening within the hallowed walls of Hogwarts. But they’re perfectly entitled to expect to see it in the inevitable porno versions that tend to ensue.
dir: Buxbaum or Bixby Ali Van Allen O’Shea
Very late in the game, very late in the year, I have decided to close the lid, as in the coffin lid, on the previous year’s festivities by summarising all of my highly valuable yet worthless thoughts on how I thought the year went movie-wise. You might wonder “why?” whereas I just wonder “why not?”
dir: Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and probably a whole bunch of other people, try to do to the buddy cop genre what they did to the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead. If you saw and liked Shaun, then you know what to expect.
If you hated Shaun, then you probably haven’t got a hope in hell of getting anything out of this here flick.
Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is an extremely driven cop who is so good at his job with the metropolitan police that they transfer him out to the boondocks because he makes the rest of them look bad. When he gets to the sleepy, quiet town, he discovers that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
The locals are the expected group of quirky hicks you’d expect from a British flick of such a nature, populating the place with some characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Ballykissangel, Monarch of the Glen or Doctor Martin, and some who you only find in the shows and flicks made by Edgar Wright. Once on the town beat, the police chief’s chubby, somewhat simple son Danny (Nick Frost) latches onto him and makes him the wind beneath his wings. What follows is one and a half hours of set up, and twenty minutes of utterly over the top gun action which would deafen John Woo himself.
dir: Michael Winterbottom
Tristram Shandy: a Cock and Bull Story, is not really an adaptation of the novel by Laurence Sterne. Like Adaptation, which is not an adaptation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, but a film about not being able to adapt The Orchid Thief, Tristam Shandy is more about people pretending to put on an adaptation of the novel rather than actually doing so. Whether budget constraints or the experimental desires of the director have resulted in this outcome, anyone wanting or expecting a faithful version will be sorely disappointed.
But it is a faithful adaptation of the spirit of the anarchic novel, which features the same kinds of digressions, blurrings of protagonist, author and story, and overall absurdly mundane madness.
Most of all, the flick is about Steven Coogan. And not about the ‘real’ Steve Coogan, but the character of Steve Coogan that he tends to play for shits and giggles, as the phrase goes. It’s a persona, it has to be. Coogan has gotten so much goddamn mileage from playing his smarmy character that if it’s really how he is, someone surely would have killed him by now.
Arrogant, pretentious, petty, insecure, vain: these are just a few words that have been used, in pairs or individually, to describe me over the years. Used all together, and you have the essence of the Coogan character. It’s the same character he played in 24 Hour Party People, except he was supposed to be playing Tony Wilson. It’s virtually the same character he played as Alan Partridge in Knowing Me, Knowing You. You either find it hilarious or tiring. If you could stand him in any of the other stuff, or actually like him, then you’ll be prepared to ‘enjoy’ him here as the sort-of main guy.
Another point taken from the novel and wedged without lubricant into the movie is that life is chaotic and cannot be pinned down, that life doesn’t fit neatly into boxes or perfect narratives, and as such a novel or film shouldn’t be bound in such ways.
dir: Eli Roth
Hostel is about so much more than just the horror. It’s more like bumping into an unpleasant ex at a party who gives you a blow-by-blow explanation of just why every single little aspect of your relationship sucked. Without any blow-by-blow, but with plenty of bringing the pain.
Oodles of pain. There is viciousness here, but it’s really not as bad as you’ve heard. It veers off into cartoonish violence and gore which undercuts its overall effect, but it’s still pretty compelling in setting up its fucked-up premise. Director Eli Roth has done substantially better here than he did with his awful debut Cabin Fever, but he’s got far more money and obviously far more leeway as well to tell this diabolical tale.
The essential thing to remember is that this grindhouse, grindcore flick is not for any other audience other than an American one. Sure, they sent copies of the flick out here for our drooling masses to drool over, but it’s very much a product of a certain place and time, calculated to derive a certain feeling. And that feeling is the dread of what other people want to do to you because you’re American.
The Americani, bless each and every one of them, have been going through tough times for the last bunch of years. Since September the 11th 2001 Americans, in general, have started getting the impression that other people throughout the world, wallowing in the misery of their own pathetic nations, have little love lost and in fact open loathing for all them. Some might feel it’s because of the US government’s actions overseas, or solely because of envy.
dir: Tommy Lee Jones
Films that don’t immediately jump themselves into a recognisable pigeonhole already have a point or two in their favour, for my money. When films follow formula, I tend to start evaluating the film along the lines of its adherence to or variance from the formula. Whatever happens on screen filters through to me with that lens in use.
When I don’t get what the formula is, or the obvious destination point, I’m already more interested than usual. Because such a scenario makes me wonder what is going to happen next, as opposed to generally being able to predict it.
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is not a great film. It has some great scenery, gorgeous cinematography, and some interesting characters. Its greatest advantage is that it has a script by Guillermo Arriaga.
Arriaga usually collaborates with director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, so you may be familiar with his work in the form of Amores Perros and 21 Grams, both films I have a lot of time for.
Three Burials has a more linear plot, though it does have significant unannounced flashbacks confusing the viewer every now and then. In connection to the other flicks, it has all its characters wallow about in a mess, dealing with issues of moral complexity, personal failure and redemption.
dir: James Mangold
Johnny Cash. The Man in Black. An icon and a music legend. Contemporary of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, and a stack of others, influenced by and influential to them all. Could a two and a half hour film do him and his life justice? Can Joaquin Phoenix and the toothsome Reese Witherspoon do the story of the Big Big Love between Cash and June Carter justice? Or even get close?
Someone as simultaneously recognisable and mysterious as Cash needs a twenty hour film about his life. With a squillion dollar budget, all the CGI in the world, and the best actors and production people alive or dead (resurrected) to work on it. It would need a director who combines the spirit and ability of Leni Reifenstahl, Sergei Eisenstein, Otto Preminger, Carl Dreyer, John Ford, John Huston, Akira Kurosawa and Jean Renoir to get it right. It would need the greatest actors culled from history, put into a blender until gooey, with their DNA spliced and respliced until the mixture was just right, re-coded up into the greatest actor possible, which would then be discarded anyway in favour of a resurrected, young, vital, dangerous Johnny Cash to play the lead.
Clearly such a collaboration and combination of events will never happen anywhere apart from in my fevered, amphetamine-fuelled imagination. Such is life. Long ago, whilst working as a scullery maid for a cruel mistress, I’d realised life for me was going to be a perpetual sequence of disappointments punctuated with mere moments of mirthless pleasure. So I’m not surprised that this film doesn’t meet the meagre criteria I magnanimously set forth for it.
That doesn’t make it any the lesser. For what it is, Walk the Line is an enjoyable and competent enough film. Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, and Witherspoon as June Carter put in decent performances. But the film is still a superficial look at the Man’s life, hobbled by the same problems that neuter most biopics about musical, genre-straddling legends.
dir: Mike Mills
Another coming of age story. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school. Another coming of age story about an oddball teenager in high school who tries to find a way to fit in for most of the film, and only realises at the end that the important thing is to be yourself.
Yes, being your fucking self is the solution to all of life’s problems. Because there aren’t enough arseholes being themselves out there fucking shit up for the rest of us. There aren’t enough of us who are ourselves, which is where all our problems come from in the first place.
As if the world hasn’t had enough of these monstrosities lumbered onto it already. In the last few years I can think of a multitude of flicks with a similar premise (though substantially different execution). Enough already. Napoleon Darko Holden Caufield has left the building.
So. Thumbsucker is a minor, pleasant flick about a 17 year old called Justin (Lou Pucci) who still sucks his thumb. He doesn’t know why he does it, his parents are embarrassed by it, and for Justin it is the cherry on top of a seething mess of teenage neurotic confusions. Which is little different from the lives of most teenagers, minus the thumbsucking, I guess.
dir: Costa Gavras
Veteran Greek agitator/director Costa-Gavras directs a Spanish guy playing a French family guy who’s just trying to get by in the corporate world by killing people all over Europe. How European Union of him.
The downside of the whole EU thing is that with cross border barriers to work having faded, people now compete with a whole new bunch of equally qualified shmos across that once great continent. The other downside being that downsizing naturally follows the increased globalisation of the European labour market. And thus multiple killings ensue.
You may think I’m speaking metaphorically or ironically, but you’d be mistaken. You’d be even more mistaken than I was when I voluntarily chose to watch this flick. The murderous climb up the corporate ladder constructed entirely of corpses is literal in this case.
You see, when our main character, played by Jose Garcia, was made redundant from his job a while ago, he thought nothing of it. A generous severance package and being highly qualified let him think the world was his oyster just aching to be taken. But a year and a half of job hunting has humiliated him to such an extent that he cannot countenance any other course of action apart from murder.
dir: Jeff Feuerzeig
Documentaries are great for finding the true stories behind people known for something they did or something they were. Documentaries are also great at illuminating the stories of people for whom obscurity and anonymity would have been a blessing.
Firmly, firmly within the tradition of doco subjects such as Robert Crumb and his insane brothers in Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, the eccentric mother and daughter of Albert Maysle’s Grey Gardens and the indulgent, excruciating self-laceration of Jonathan Caoutte’s Tarnation, The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals the life and times of an absolute nutter.
Daniel Johnston enjoyed a certain kind of notoriety in the late 80s-early 90s when too-cool hipsters and try-hards like Sonic Youth and the shmucks from Nirvana raised him to public consciousness. Of course he was oh-so-famous in his home town and around his family, but this virtually unknown singer-songwriter became famous mostly because he is crazy.
He started off with promise, of some kind that I can’t really figure out, but degenerated into the darkest pit of manic-impressive madness. He was obsessed entirely with music and becoming a famous musician, but never really seemed to achieve the goal of learning how to actually write or play music properly.