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My 2010 Film Awards

08/01/2011 2 comments

I’ve just returned from holiday, so this is a little late, but I decided to round off the year with an awards-esque thing. This is what I made of the year:

Best Screenplay: This is easy – Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network was incredible. No question about this one.

Best Soundtrack/Score: I’m going for the Shutter Island score, assembled by Robbie Robertson. Mark Kermode described it as “honking and quacking”. I loved it. It fit the film perfectly.

Best On-Screen Chemistry: Riz Ahmed and Kayvan Novak were hilarious in Four Lions, so I’m giving this one to them. Really great performances and a really touching relationship.

Best Villain: It has to be Lotso from the wonderful Toy Story 3. What a bastard.

Best Horror: I haven’t seen a lot of horror this year, so this is going to Frozen. This one caught me unawares, a real pleasant surprise.

Best Sci-Fi: No doubt that this has to be Inception, one of the films of the year. As everyone keeps on saying, it proves that popular cinema does not have to be dumb.

Best Comedy: I’m going back to Four Lions again. Hilarious. And I haven’t seen a whole lot of comedies this year.

Best Supporting Actress: Emily Blunt in Wild Target. Not a great film, but I enjoyed watching her, and she was very funny.

Best Supporting Actor: Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones and Easy A. I enjoyed both movies, and Tucci is the man.

Best Actress: Ruth Williams as not-Cherie Blair in The Ghost. An excellent performance from an excellent actress.

Best Actor: DiCaprio for Inception and Shutter Island. The man is infinitely watchable.

Best Director: I think I’ll say Chris Nolan for Inception because it was so spectacular, but with a massive nod to David Fincher.

Best Film: Definitely The Social Network. Perfect in every way.

And, just to end on a downer:

Worst Film: Vampires Suck. Easily the worst thing I have ever paid to do.

This is what I had to choose from, I think I saw 42 in total:

127 Hours (8/10)

A Nightmare on Elm Street (4/10)

Buried (6/10)

Clash of the Titans (2/10)

Devil (8/10)

Easy A (7/10)

Four Lions (9/10)

Frozen(8/10)

Get Him to the Greek(7/10)

Green Zone (8/10)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (8/10)

Inception (10/10)

Invictus (8/10)

Iron Man 2 (7/10)

Kick Ass (8/10)

Knight and Day (5/10)

Let Me In (5/10)

Monsters (8/10)

Predators (7/10)

RED (5/10)

Remember Me (7/10)

Salt (6/10)

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (7/10)

Shutter Island (8/10)

The American (7/10)

The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (7/10)

The Book of Eli (6/10)

The Expendables (7/10)

The Ghost (9/10)

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (4/10)

The Killer Inside Me (6/10)

The Lovely Bones (8/10)

The Other Guys (7/10)

The Road (6/10)

The Social Network (10/10)

The Town (8/10)

The Wolfman (4/10)

Toy Story 3 (10/10)

Up In The Air (7/10)

Vampires Suck (1/10)

Wild Target (7/10)

Winter’s Bone (8/10)

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The Other Guys and Knight and Day. Two average movies.

I’m trying to catch up with what’s gone on this year, and I decided to start with two of the more surprisingly positively refused movies. Adam McKay’s The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz juggernaut Knight and Day, directed by James Mangold.

There are a lot of similarities between the two films. They are both essentially buddy cop comedies with one extremely annoying element, they both end incredibly predictably and they are both fairly decent.

First, the annoying elements. Will Ferrell’s shouty doofus shtick is more than past its best. While it may have been funny back in the Anchorman and Elf days, its now worn beyond thin. However, Marky Mark more than makes up for it with a pitch-perfect straight man role, frustrated at the incompetence of his partner and angry at the demotions that it all leads to.

In Knight and Day, the smug, self-congratulating way in which Cruise and Diaz portray their relationship is painful. It’s like they’re saying “Hey, we don’t even need to pretend that these are characters. Let’s just let everyone see how good looking we are. That’ll do it.”

As I said, they aren’t bad movies, but they are both let down by some really crucial errors.

Peter Bradshaw gave The Other Guys five stars in The Guardian, and listed it among his top films of the year, and fair enough, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, it isn’t a five star movies. Even looking at movies with a degree of relativity and comparing it to movies of the same genre, if this is a five star movie, the likes of I Love You, Man and Superbad need a new set of ratings to be introduced to allow their superiority to be properly displayed.

These aren’t bad films but there are a lot of better things out there. Worth a watch, but don’t buy them.

The Town – Oscar Contender?

I’ve been looking around the web at various bits of Oscar-related news and came across WB’s “For Your Consideration” page for Ben Affleck’s The Town. Not convinced. I liked The Town. I’d even go so far as to say that I very much enjoyed it, but Oscar contender? Not for me.

It is one of the most straight-forward, down-the-line, simple films I have seen this year. Affleck’s direction and acting is good, but not world class. I could see Jeremy Renner or Rebecca Hall getting Supporting nominations, perhaps, but the big two are never going to happen, and the day Affleck wins an Oscar for his acting is the day Hell freezes over. And I say that as a fan.

To be fair, Renner and Hall were excellent in this movie – they did everything required of them well and convinced me of their somewhat two-dimensional characters – but there are probably five better nominations I could think of having only seen about 30 films this year – Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Nic Cage (Kick Ass), Robert Duvall (The Road), Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer (The Social Network) are all better bets for Supporting Actor than Jeremy Renner, and I would venture that Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones), Emily Mortimer and Michelle Williams (Shutter Island), Amy Ryan (Green Zone), Eva Mendes (Bad Lieutenant) and Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter) all did better jobs than Rebecca Hall in their respective roles. OK, maybe it’s a stretch to suggest that the likes of Kick Ass and Harry Potter will get Oscar noms in the big categories, but they deserve them more.

I genuinely liked The Town, but it is no more than a solid film with solid direction and solid performances. It is, in a word, solid. Solid. Although, given that nowadays we get 10 Best Picture nominations, it is possible that The Town will get one of these. I won’t support it, but it’s possible.

The Social Network’s Oscar Campaign

30/11/2010 1 comment

As everyone knows, David Fincher’s The Social Network is the film of the year. Concise, gripping and brilliant, it lacks nothing and has everything. What Fincher doesn’t have, however, is an Academy Award. The man who made Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac has not been recognised by the Academy. A travesty, I’m sure you agree.

This week, there has been a lot of Oscar chat, due to the Gotham Independent Awards, at which Winter’s Bone won Best Picture. Now, Winter’s Bone is being talked about as a key contender for the Oscar, alongside The Social Network, Toy Story 3, The Kids Are All Right and The King’s Speech. These all tick boxes for Oscar nominations – token kids movie? Check. Indie movie? Check. Minorities movie? Check. British movie? Check. Best film of the year? Check.

If The Social Network doesn’t win either Best Picture or Best Director, the Academy needs to take a long, hard look at itself. I have gone on and on about The Social Network to whoever will listen, and was disheartened to be told last week that it was “boring”, before being told that Inception was a better film. Not just that it was the opinion of this person that it was a better film, but that it actually is a better film because it is a more exciting story and it has action. Hmm.

What has really surprised me is the story that Justin Timberlake is campaigning hard for a Supporting Actor nomination. He was certainly good in the film, but if The Social Network is to get a Supporting Actor nod, I would expect it to go to either Andrew Garfield, who is heavily tipped, or Armie Hammer, who was fantastic as the Winklevi. Timberlake did a good job, sure, but he was very much a background character. He certainly did something different from what we’ve seen before in the likes of Southland Tales and Black Snake Moan. Whatever the case, he’s a long way from N*Sync now.

High Plains Drifter

I watched High Plains Drifter – Clint Eastwood’s second directorial feature – two nights ago, and I enjoyed it a fair amount. This isn’t a review, I just want to share my thoughts on it.

Now, my first thought when the credits began to roll was “Why was this rated 18?” Sure, there’s a rape scene, and a fair few people get killed, but it’s all pretty tame my today’s standards; there is barely a drop of blood, the only nudity we get is Clint Eastwood topless as he undresses for a bath, and the overall tone of the film is nowhere near as dark as a film like A Fistful of Dollars, which is rated 15 over here.

I would have no qualms about showing this movie to even a 15-year-old; if they can walk into HMV and pick up a copy of Hot Fuzz, which has numerable uses of “cunt” and “fuck”, as well as lot more explicit violence and gore, I don’t see why they are not allowed to buy this. It is also a valuable tool in film education, as it is yet another reason to fall in love with Clint Eastwood, possibly the greatest person ever to have lived.

To quickly summarise the plot, Clint plays, unsurprisingly, a high plains drifter, who drifts into a small town called Lago, which is steeling itself for the return of three notorious outlaw types, who are due to be released from prison in the next couple of days. Clint’s first action is to kill Lago’s three self-styled protectors, obviously, because he is awesome. It is just after this that he commits what is possibly the tamest rape I have seen on screen. Despite its tameness, it was a bit creepy given that Mordecai, the town midget, is watching them.

I really don’t understand how the certification of this film works at all, and the BBFC website has no information, so I guess I stay stuck in this state of confusion and bewilderment.

The other thing I wanted to talk about is a spoiler, so don’t read on after this if you don’t want High Plains Drifter spoiled for you. To be fair, if you don’t figure it out in the first 20 minutes, if not the first five, there is something wrong with you.

***********************************SPOILERS*************************

 

 

 

So Clint is a ghost, or something. He is Marshall Jim Duncan, once of Lago. He was killed by the three dickheads that are coming back to town and was buried in an unmarked grave. Early in the film, one of the female characters says something along the lines of “If you’re buried in an unmarked grave, you’re destined to wander the earth forever, looking for something.” Or something like that. This is an obvious clue, along with Clint’s flashbacks to being savagely attacked in the middle of the town, with no-one helping him.

I get why maybe they thought this was a good idea, but it just seems a little weird to me. To be fair, if he had just been a nice guy who came in and helped, I would probably be writing something like “I don’t get why Clint would help out this little town for no reason, blah blah blah…”, so maybe this plot element is warranted.

However, due to my sanity, I don’t believe in ghosts, and generally when one watches a movie about ghosts, the whole notion is very stylised or fantastical in a way that makes it acceptable to show me ghosts. When I watch a western, it’s all about real badasses doing real badass things, and the idea that ghosts could be a part of this bothered me quite deeply. I did enjoy the film, but a lot of the time I was thinking “Well, why would a ghost do that?” Why didn’t he just go and murder the criminals in their cells? Why did he make Mordecai the sheriff and the mayor? Why did he paint the town red?…That was really weird. It has to be said that sometimes I read films slightly naively, but this time, the red thing really went over my head. I understand that he ripped off the townspeople because they let him die, but certain elements seemed very odd.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on High Plains Drifter – a very good film, but not my favourite Clint movie or my favourite western. Very accomplished, and very entertaining, but the supernatural stuff did irritate me slightly. It’s a solid movie, and if you like westerns, you’ll like this. If you don’t like westerns, a) you probably won’t like this and b) what is wrong with you?

Horror Movies

As you are probably aware, Hallowe’en is happening in a couple of short days. I’m not one for celebrating holidays. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I can’t be bothered. My normal MO on Hallowe’en is to sit with whoever else doesn’t want to do anything and watch some horror movies. I used to be a huge horror movie fan, but my enthusiasm has waned in recent years. I don’t know whether this is down to me growing up, horror movies getting worse or just outside influences rubbing off on me, but I struggle to get excited about horror films now. However, this year is different. I have three modern horror movies to watch that I am very excited about; Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, Ti West’s House of the Devil and Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. I realise that these may never be recognised as standard-bearers for the genre, but they have all been celebrated in what I would consider the right circles, and I was a massive fan of the first of Rob Zombie’s Halloween remakes.

What I wanted to write about was the perfect movies to watch on Halloween. I think for horror movies, four is the magic number as they will generally run in at around the 100 minute mark. With that in mind, I will start thinking.

For the first movie, it has to be exciting. Whether it be gore or humour, it has to have an extreme element that will get everyone involved in the experience. I’m a big fan of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. These are all fast-paced movies with plenty of really visceral set pieces that you can’t help but enjoy. Of the three, I think The Evil Dead will probably do the job best. Who doesn’t enjoy ankles getting stabbed with pencils, young girls getting violated by trees and Bruce Campbell’s reaction at the end? It’s a perfectly crafted horror-comedy, and of course it was banned under the Video Recordings Act in 1984 which makes it even more awesome.

The second film, for me, has got to up the scares and tone down the comedy. I think Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chain Saw Massacre is perfect for this. Who doesn’t find Leatherface terrifying? By the end of this movie, everyone should be pretty emotionally drained, as it takes a lot of stomach to watch. There is one particularly harrowing scene towards the end that freaks me out every time. This rightly regarded as a horror classic, and often seen as the beginning of the slasher movie, an opinion I do not agree with, but it deserves its place at the top of the horror genre.

Now that we’ve had what is essentially a zombie movie and a serial killer movie, how about a ghost story? I’m going to go with Gore Verbinski’s The Ring. I know it’s a remake, but I prefer it to Hideo Nakata’s original and it also has the added bonus of being in English which can only be a good thing, as you should be quite drunk by now. I think, for all the evil it unleashed on the world, The Ring is a great horror movie. It’s genuinely creepy. Samara could easily be seen as one of the great horror characters of the 21st century, and even if nothing but the final set piece gets to you, it is more than worth watching.

Finally, a very personal choice. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, featuring future stars Patricia Arquette and ‘Larry’ Fishburne. I find this movie hilarious, and it is a perfect display of set piece horror films. Every fifteen minutes you get an awesomely constructed death scene, which of course happen in the characters’ dreams, so anything can happen. A Nightmare on Elm Street was a fantastic idea for a horror film, but this instalment takes the idea and takes it to its ridiculous extremes. My particular favourite death is when Freddy turns a certain character into a puppet with tendons for strings. Also, there is an awesome fight between John Saxon and one of the skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts. This is just classic camp horror, and is very much worth watching.

So there you have it. If you are stuck for Hallowe’en, sit down with some people, some beer and The Evil Dead, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Ring and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That sounds like an awesome 6hrs 19mins of entertainment to me, and will do you well for Hallowe’en. I enjoyed myself writing this. If you take my advice, you will enjoy Hallowe’en.

The Guardian, and the Top 7 Films of All Time (So Far)

To start with, here is a link to download a spreadsheet of The Guardian’s 175 best films (25 in each of seven genres).

Now, The Guardian took the top of each genre and made a Top 7 list. It looks like this:

1) Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

=2) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

=2) Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)

4) Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1976)

5) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

6) Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

7) Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

I am appalled by this for many reasons. Having not seen Andrei Rublev or 2001, I can’t really judge, but the order of these is all messed up. Here’s how the remaining five should line up:

  1. Apocalypse Now
  2. Psycho
  3. Brief Encounter
  4. Chinatown
  5. Annie Hall

How these people could claim that Chinatown is the best film that has ever been made, I do not know. I mean, it is a good film, sure. It does everything that needs to be done, and it does all those things well. What I would say is that it is solid, but I did not fall in love with it, not for a second. It was voted as the best Crime film – I am once again capitalising genre titles for clarity’s sake -above the likes of The Conversation, GoodFellas and Badlands, all of which I would rate as much better films than Chinatown.

It’s not just the order of these, but the films themselves. As representatives of the best of their genres, I feel that they are letting the side down. To begin with, I would barely count Sci-fi and Arthouse as being genres. If anyone can give me a definitive description of what Arthouse is as a genre, they win a prize. As for Sci-fi, I think of it as more of a backdrop against which a story can be told. I will always cite the case of Alien and Aliens as my case in point; these are both “science fiction”, but the former is clearly a horror film, while the latter is an action movie. Point made. I don’t want to go on about it, because I feel that that is all I’ve done this week.

I will go through the ‘genres’ and pick my Top 7 of all time, one from each genre, for two reasons. The first is that I am very self-indulgent, the second is that this is my blog, and I will do what I want.

Starting last Saturday with Romance, The Guardian chose David Lean’s Brief Encounter. This, I cannot argue with. It is one of very few Romance films that has ever gripped me, something that I put down to Noel Coward’s fantastic script, and is one of even fewer that seems believable. For those not in the know, it is a WWII-era forbidden-love story about a married woman and a married man, both happy in their respective nuptial bonds, but who happen to fall in love. It is extremely touching and I recommend it highly. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson are really great in the lead roles, and I put the film’s plausibility down to their superb performances. So, no qualms. On a side note, the list should have included Brokeback Mountain. A shocking exclusion.

Sunday, in The Observer, was Crime day. I can think of so many more worthy Crime films than Chinatown that it makes this list embarrassing. I am actually choosing two films; The Godfather parts I and II. I feel fine choosing both because they were grouped together in the Arthouse genre later on. I can sort of understand why these were put in Arthouse, but when a film concerns a mafioso family and its business interests so closely, I can only call it a Crime movie. And what a movie it is. Based on Mario Puzo’s book, the first film marks the start of an incredible seven years in movie-making for Francis Ford Coppola, as he followed it up with The Conversation, The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. I prefer Part II to Part I, but both are fantastic examples of how to make films. Long but not boring,smart but not too smart and artful with being pretentious, they straddle a fine line. The awesome performances from Al Pacino, Marlon Brando and Robert DeNiro, among many others, only help.

Comedy on Monday, and with it came Annie Hall‘s nomination was the best film of its kind. I like Annie Hall. I like it a lot. However, comedy films rely on laughs, and I don’t see Annie Hall as a laugh-out-loud movie. For me, there are three contenders; The Ladykillers, This is Spinal Tap and Naked Gun. I think, for its influence, This is Spinal Tap just about deserves it. I love all three movies, but they have problems. Naked Gun was the second of its kind, after Airplane!, and Ealing Studios made so many classic comedies that The Ladykillers struggles to stand out from their repertoire. It just came down to personal preference. This is Spinal Tap it is, then. Hilarious to this day. Perhaps even better acting from Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer than by Pacino, Brando and DeNiro in the two Godfather movies.

Tuesday brought Action to the fore, with which they combined war and western movies, perhaps just to stir the pot even more. As everyone knows, Apocalypse Now is the greatest film of all time anyway, and it topped this group. However, I’m taking it away from this genre, because I don’t really see it as a War movie. Set during and in the Vietnam War, yes, but not about war. It may be something of an obvious choice, but I think Die Hard is the best Action film ever made. Tons of action? Check. Witty one-liners? Check. Alan Rickman? Check. It may have spawned a fairly average franchise, but I can still get excited about the original. One of those films that is impossible to turn off if you happen to come across it on TV, even at 3am. A great movie. It does everything that action should; it’s fun, fast and exciting.

After Action came Arthouse, and this is where I’m putting Apocalypse Now, because it kind of is an Arthouse movie. It’s experimental and wild. It takes a couple of watches to get to know it, and it feels better once you do. I find it really difficult to talk about this film without gushing, because it is literally perfect. What I wills say is that it went massively over-budget, over-schedule and over-awesome, and became the best film in the world. Ever.

Next was Sci-fi. I already said that I don’t believe in Sci-fi as a genre, so this is kind of pointless. I’ll pick Star Wars. It could fit into any of about five different genres, but this one will do. If you haven’t seen Star Wars, then how are you managing to work the internet? This is the cornerstone of wholesome family entertainment, and deserves its place in cinema folklore, even if some snobs out there think it ruined cinema.

The last genre was Horror, for which Psycho was selected. I can get on board with this. I knew it was going to be chosen, so I was well prepared, and to be fair, it probably deserves it. I was slightly upset that Night of the Living Dead and A Nightmare on Elm Street weren’t in there, but again, I can understand why not. I’ll stick with Psycho as the no.1. It does deserve it because it pretty much gave birth to modern horror films. It is still pretty scary, and has a wicked twist. If you don’t know the twist, go and watch Psycho now.

Now to arrange these into some sort of Top 7. I’ve never made a Top 7 before. It’s probably like a Top 5, but with two extra ones. Here goes.

  1. Apocalypse Now – this was an easy choice.
  2. Psycho – pretty damn good.
  3. The Godfather Parts I + II – classics.
  4. Die Hard – it still excites me like it did when I was 12.
  5. Star Wars – like Die Hard, it makes me feel like a kid again.
  6. Brief Encounter – one of very few films to get me really emotional.
  7. This is Spinal Tap – very funny and very influential.

This is very much a personal preference thing, and not a carefully considered, democratic, intellect-led selection like The Guardian’s was. And these really are not my seven favourite movies of all time. I hate lists. Who’s with me?