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My favourite films of 2008.

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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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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.

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

film chat: “Silent Light” by Mexican director Carlos Reygadas and “Into the Wild” by Sean Penn

Time for a bit of film chat.  The compulsion for me to actually spend some cash and go and see a movie is often a completely random thing.  I try and speed read reviews so I don’t actually wind up knowing the whole plot but it proves sufficient for me to digest something, a gist or a theme.  Even how the film looks can nudge me to watch something,  from this accumulated heresay I can usually make a decision and word of mouth from trusted sources can assist things too.  
I spotted some stills from a film called “Silent Light” the other day in a magazine, worthy of further investigation I thought and duly noted the details in my phone (very useful if my notebook isn’t to hand!).  The film was released at the end of 2007 written and directed by Carlos Reygadas, a Mexican film-maker apparently deemed a bit of an enfant terrible judging by reaction to his previous two films; “Japón” (2002) and “Batalla en el Cielo” (2005).  He favours long-takes and often uses non-professional actors.  The wonderful cinematography is from Alexis Zabe.
The film is set in a Mexican Mennonite community who practice nonviolence and pacifism and deals with a married man who falls in love with another woman.  It is a quiet and very slow film, not always a bad thing and the reviews were fairly glowing.  I shall investigate and post back.  Definitely a bit of Terence Malick about him looking at the stills.
silentlight.jpg 
One film I have seen recently that made a deep impression was “Into the Wild” (2007) directed by Sean Penn.  I was really put off this film by some of the reviews and so decided against seeing it at the cinema.  The main criticism seemed to be that the hero was so flawed, egotistical and selfish that the audience simply hated him too much.  The result being that any message the film wanted to reveal was lost in a sea of annoyance.
intothewild_poster.jpg 

Though I would not go so far as to say the critics were wrong, in fact many rated it highly, it simply goes to prove how we are all so different in our tastes and take different things from the cinematic experience as a result.  The film is based on a true story and a book  written in 1996.  It is the fascinating tale of a gifted American student who decided to drop-out, hitchhike to Alaska and live in the wild.  
With his films Sean Penn sometimes has a tendency to veer into smugness and simplicity (though I believe his heart is in the right place) and maybe this explains the mixed reviews, I am not sure, but if you love open spaces and sometimes tire of the materialistic road we seem to be freewheeling down then I would say give the film a go.

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