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Archive for the 'movies' Category

My Best Films of 2011

 

9/10 Blue Valentine

Dir: Derek Cianfrance  (USA)
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

Plot: The story of a young, blue-collar couple living in smalltown America which cuts back and forth between the start of their relationship and their troubled present.

 

 

My thoughts: Realistic, Quirky, Moving, Slow. Nice Filming. Great Acting. The unfolding story is engaging and in contrast with the majority of Hollywood films the central relationship feels natural, boosted by real charisma between the two leads.

 

 

8.5/10  Snowtown

Dir: Justin Kurzel  (Australia)
Actors: Craig Coyne, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Lucas Pittaway

Plot: A charismatic drifter brings horror to an Australian suburb in this shocking take on a notorious real-life crime.

My thoughts: An exceptionally difficult watch, not sure I’d recommend to everyone, but v glad I saw it as it adds real insight into a horrid topic which one probably would not take time to read about.  Powerful stuff, very atmospheric NOT the side of Australia you usually see, deprived, no hope, dysfunctional families and society.  The acting is brilliant and uncomfortably real, probably due to the fact that only the lead is a professional actor. Lasts long in the memory and with much to think over. Outstanding film-making from a debut Director.

 

 

8.5/10  The Skin That I Live In

Dir: Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Actors: Antonia Banderas, Elena Anaya.

Plot: Almodovar in dazzlingly idiosyncratic form; a sexual melodrama on gender issues and human identity. Features the visual austerity of his more recent work with elements of sheer Almodovarian entertainment.

My thoughts: Gothic, horror and humour make for a weird mix but one I hugely enjoyed.  Thoughtful and distinctive, a true auteur Almodovar makes films for himself with no compromise.

 

 

8.5/10  We Need To Talk About Kevin

Dir: Lynne Ramsay
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C Reilly,

Plot:The mother of a troubled teenage boy tries to deal with her feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions, based on Lionel Shriver’s award-winning 2003 novel.

My thoughts: Dealing with blame, guilt, gender roles, society pressures and stereotypes, this is a provocative and often bleak film with no easy answers but stimulating in its approach. A superb adaptation, extremely visual and bold which enhances the narrative.

Lynne Ramsey’s first film since 1992 Morvern Caller it marks her out once again as a powerful director with an individual vision. Deliberately confusing in parts and featuring many crimson-tinged flashbacks, the ride is not smooth, but it forces the audience to think. A chilling and powerful antithesis to the “happy family” Hollywood blockbusters we usually get presented with. The novel and film provides a voice for thoughts, feelings and discussions which are seldom heard and for that alone it deserves a place in my Top 6. Never mind the powerful and nuanced performance of Tilda Swinton who totally convinces in a difficult and complex role. She effortlessly reveals the contrasting layers of emotion such a horrific scenario must provoke.

 

 

8/10 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Dir: Tomas Alfredson (France | UK | Germany)
Actors: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong.

Plot: A flawless cast and stylish direction creates a masterful new rendering of le Carre’s classic spy thriller.

My thoughts: Slow but engrossing and complex, woven beautifully together by “Let The Right One In” director Tomas Alfredson.  Gorgeous muted colour palette, attention to detail and sharp framing entertain the eye.  Each role is perfectly cast and every actor is flawless, especially Oldman who gives Smiley an intense mesmeric centre ensuring we are totally drawn into this Cold War chess.

 

 

 

8/10  127 Hours

Dir: Danny Boyle (USA | UK)
Actors: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn.

Plot: A mountain climber becomes trapped while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. Based on a true story.

My thoughts: Danny Boyle’s best film since “Trainspotting”. He brings this story to life and keeps the audience gripped with stylish direction and superb editing. The bulk of the film is set in one location and in the hands of a less-skilled director it could easily have become laboured. Boyle uses lots of tricks and techniques to allow the tale to unfold whilst the tension racks up. The clever script allows plenty of scope for the emotions of the narrative to be shared with the audience.  James Franco imbues the role with charisma and physicality, creating a courageous and strong-willed character with a huge will to live. Engrossing and inspirational.

 

And the Rest:

7.5/10    The Kings Speech

7/10        True Grit,   The Guard,   Drive,    Hugo 3D

6 ¾/10    The American,    Contagion,

6.5/10     Submarine,   Senna,   Jane Eyre,   Ides of March

6/10        The Way Back,   The Fighter,   The Big Picture

5.5/10    How I Ended This Summer,   Sarah’s Key

5/10       Black Swan

4.5/10   Wuthering Heights (such a massive disappointment as I loved the Directors last film “Fish Tank” which was my Best Film for 2009)

 


My favourite films of 2008.

filmframe

I usually bore all my filmy mates with my favourite films of the year, but hey, now I have a blog I can be even more indulgent!  My favourite music list will follow shortly, as soon as I’ve taken some more evaluative pills.

  1. There Will Be Blood /Paul Thomas Anderson, USA … ambitious, layered, passionate, engrossing, well acted.  Old-fashioned parable, epic in a good way.  Stunning cinematography.  Needed a great central performance and thankfully we got a top of the range Daniel Day Lewis acting class.  Powerful stuff.  Just spoilt by a drawn-out ending.
  2. The Dark Knight /Christopher Nolan, USA … very enjoyable, disturbing, moody and magnificent, Heath Ledger’s Joker lifts it notches higher on the entertainment levels.  Delve deeper and the messages are thick and potent.
  3. Juno /Jason Reitman, USA … original, funny, involving, imagine a comedy about abortion working so well. Great screenplay.
  4. No Country For Old Men /Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, USA … clever and creepy, vacuous, mans dark side exposed, not much hope on show.  Always interesting but worryingly uninvolving.
  5. Happy Go Lucky /Mike Leigh, UK … just the antidote I needed post “Old Men” and “Will Be Blood”, light of touch, beautifully acted, jaunty, charming and sweet. A film with a heart.
  6. Lars & the Real Girl /Craig Gillespie, USA … I really loved this, its original, affecting and thoughtful.  You are slowly drawn into a quite odd world which is brought to life wonderfully.
  7. Of Time and the City /Terence Davies, UK … rich, moving, interesting, thoughtful, individual, a very personal elegy and an essay on life.
  8. Charlie Wilson’s War /Mike Nichols, USA … entertaining, well acted, surprisingly better than I thought.  Philip Seymour Hoffman should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this.
  9. Gomorrah /Matteo Garrone, Italy … realist and gritty, suffers a little being post-“Sopranos”, anti-gloss gangster deconstruction. Tight jumpy editing, visually strong and visceral.  Deserves to be seen widely.
  10. Sweeney Todd /Tim Burton, USA/UK … rich in colour and pantomime,  good fun, I closed my eyes sometimes but the sounds were even worse.  Burton back on form.
  11. The Kite Runner /Marc Forster, USA … emotive, a strong visual hook tells a universal tale.  Strong but slightly flat.
  12. Wall-E /Andrew Stanton, USA … innovative and exciting first 40 minutes, imaginative story then plummets to dullness. How could such potential diminish so quickly?  Massively disappointing.
  13. Indiana Jones /Steven Spielberg, USA … couldn’t resist, my hero returns for more hokum.  Better than Indy 3 nowhere near as good as Raiders.  Old Harrison just about pulls it off, thankfully the laconic Bogart delivery doesn’t diminish with age.
  14. Gone Baby Gone /Ben Affleck, USA … well told crime tale, sturdy acting.  Delayed release due to freakish parallel with real UK child abduction case in the news.
  15. Burn After Reading /Ethan Coen/Joel Coen, USA … poor, almost embarrassing acting and casting, the Coens back to coasting mode.
  16. Hellboy 2 /Guillermo del Toro, USA/Germany … what a let-down, the best bit by far (which produced the only audience laugh) is the singing of a Barry Manilow song.  Save your pennies and watch that clip on YouTube.

Missed but heard good things on:

Hunger (UK), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania), The Class (France), Waltz with Bashir (Israel), In Bruges (UK/USA),  Man on Wire (UK/USA)

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“Silent Light” – Update. It’s being shown on Film 4 tomorrow night!

A little late in the day, but I just happened to notice a film I blogged about back in April is being shown in the UK tomorrow evening (Monday 11th August) at 11.30pm on Film4.

“Silent Light” is the latest film by the talented Mexican Director Carlos Reygadas and was given it’s theatrical release in 2007. The pacing is described as “funereal” so it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it is described as “overwhelmingly powerful” by the Guardian.

Below is some information on this award-winning film taken from the Radio Times website, my original post can be found here. I was initially struck by the beautifully composed still images from this film and I vowed to track it down and give it a viewing. Tomorrow evening will provide the perfect opportunity. :-)

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Excellent websites for Movie Reviews …

For the film fans amongst you, here are my two favourite sites for checking out reviews for movies old and new.

1) metacritic.com (“Metacritic compiles reviews from respected critics and publications for film, video/dvd, books, music, television and games. Features the nifty Metascore which shows the critical consensus at a glance by taking a weighted average of critic grades).


2) mrqe.com (“provides a searchable index of all published and available movie reviews.” Includes 69,993 titles and 684,131 articles).

 

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“Tokyo Story” a film by Yasujiro Ozu (Japan) 1953

This is a wonderful film I saw last weekend. I have listed below some random facts and opinions. I hope it intrigues and encourages some of you to see it and do let me know what you think.

  • Brief Plot : Two elderly parents from a small seaside town in southwest Japan pay a visit to their busy children in Tokyo – a journey that, before the introduction of the bullet train, took almost a day.
  • Released one year after the end of the Allied Occupation of Japan, showing the changes and transitions on the road to a modern Japan.
  • “This film is the Director’s masterpiece: tender, profoundly mysterious and desperately sad” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
  • A classic of World Cinema (BBC)
  • Made post World War II, released in 1953 and shot in black and white.
  • One of the best 100 Films ever made (Time Magazine).
  • Sight and Sound magazine called “Tokyo Story” one of the three greatest films of all time”.
  • The Best Film Ever Made declared in 2005 by Halliwell’s Film Guide.
  • Simple yet universal theme of families and how they can drift apart.
  • 100% Japanese reflecting a very different culture and society values to the West.
  • Many filming techniques are quite alien to those familiar with mainstream movies.
  • Trademark Ozu style: slow and still, low camera angles, minimilist, static camera (as a mere observer), lack of action, uneventful plot, no upbeat ending, landscape or wide-shots are used to allow a “chill-out” and separate scenes, characters often filmed sideways allowing the viewer to feel in the middle of the conversation, scenes often filmed in profile and framed within a building.
  • The Director pioneered “ellipses” where major events are discussed but not shown within a film.
  • “Tokyo Story” was not released in the US until 1972.
  • Ozu made 54 films (26 in his first 5 yrs), which were very popular in Japan but under-appreciated in the West.
  • There is a lack of editing and scenes are often shot in one take.
  • Because of this lack of manipulation the viewer slowly becomes emotionally engaged with the characters and eventually by the end of the film the cumulative effect is that it hits home with power and honesty.
  • Ozu does not point fingers instead he creates more of a contemplative meditation on the transitory nature of life.
  • One of the most sympathetic characters Toriko (the daughter-in-law) is played by Sesuko Haro who features in many of the Director’s other films. The actress never gave interviews and refused to be photographed, she retired from making films at the height of her fame.
  • The viewer is drawn towards the characters through subtle gestures, observation of Japanes social manners and conversation, tiny details echo the bigger picture with wonderful camera framing and cinematography.
  • Sound plays an important part, the rhythm of journey pervades the entire film, from background steamboats to speeding trains. A ticking clock or the sounds of the city subtly compliment the major themes of the story.
  • One of the Director’s favourite films was Orson Welles “Citizen Kane”.
  • My favourite key message “the beauty of life is often found by standing still”
An amazing website detailing images and journals from Ozu’s huge back catalogue can be found here it seems to be part of the University of Toyko website.

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Mike Leigh and his film “Happy-Go-Lucky” @ the Cornerhouse, Manchester

Last night I joined a sell-out crowd for an early peek at Mike Leigh’s latest film “Happy-Go-Lucky” at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. Not only that, the director himself sauntered into the bar prior to kick-off and in his softly spoken way chatted freely with anyone who wished to say hello. A rumoured appearance by Ken Loach never materialised (though he is in the area shooting his latest film) but we were treated to a surprise guest in the form of one of the cast namely Kate O’Flynn.

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