Posts Tagged ‘film’

March of the people

Posted: June 7, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Watching Werner Herzog’s South Pole documentary, Encounters at the End of the World, is an exceptionally humbling experience.
Herzog sets out his stall early in the film, telling us that he was not interested in making a movie about ‘fluffy’ penguins and instead he takes his tiny crew to McMurdo Station, the American headquarters, and a town-of-sorts in the Antarctic.
In and around this area, he encounters a group of people working in a variety of disciplines – plumber, driver, biologist, volcanologist – and tries to discover how and why they have ended up here, at the ‘bottom of the world’.
Herzog willfully seizes on the eccentricities of many of these people and manages to create a film that is beautiful, both in its visual representation of an unusual part of the planet and in its portrayal of the fragility of humanity and how, ultimately, we are all just a blip on this planet with extinction an inevitability, just like the dinosaurs before us.
Nature will take care of us sooner or later.
We are no more special than the single cell organisms that are scraped from the ocean floor by one 50s science fiction film enthusiast and scientist who celebrates the discovery of three new species in a single dive by jamming with a co-worker on top of their shed in the middle of the snow, their noisy blues echoing across the white plains.
Personally, I find this prognosis refreshing and Herzog certainly doesn’t want it to be taken as bad news. As always, he sees the beauty in human existence, in their stories and thoughts and ideas and lives and he sees the eventual demise of our species as just another step in the world’s history..and future.
Why do we deserve anything special because we are a little more intellectually advanced than most animals?
Isn’t it wonderful to imagine that everything we have ever created, both hideous and sublime, will someday be gone, probably through our own doing, and the world could be once more left to the most basic creatures, scurrying and foraging on the ocean bed, only interested in the next meal.
The earth would have a clean slate again and it is just a shame that Herzog will not be there to make a documentary about that.
I can imagine his monotonous voice, just audible over helicopter-shot footage of a desolate, silent planet:
“Theees eees de plenet nowww. Chust ez eet begenn. Wiss nossing ett all exsseptt ameebazzz and plennnt liiiiife….’

There was blood

Posted: April 21, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Having spooked the bejesus out of myself by watching Let The Right One In recently, it has taken me a few days to get back to a normal, uneventful, solid night’s sleep. Even Amityville II: The Spookening (or something) seemed scary, having subjected my human eyes to a Swedish vampire film with one of the most intense and ominously quiet atmospheres I’ve ever experienced in a film.
I think it deserves a post of its own to be honest, which I will do soon, but for the moment I will bang up a couple of tracks that helped bring me back down from Planet Creepington.
Both are Damien Shingleton remixes of Jonathan Fisher tracks from his 2006 (I think) album Desiderata. Great chilled out remixes of atmospheric electronica. Head over to Hippocamp to find the rest of this album and a heap of electronica stuff all free and legal.

Hebden Bridge in November(Damien Shingleton remix) – Jonathan Fisher

Everything (Damien Shingleton Remix) – Jonathan Fisher

Wow

Posted: April 11, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Animal Collective – My Girls from Rob Chesnutt on Vimeo.

Not much point me posting this here as you probably already saw it on Nialler‘s blog but it’s just too good to not re-post. So many ideas overflowing in this video for Animal Collective’s My Girls by Rob Chestnutt – it has a cracking hodge podge of imagery that, off the top of my head, reminds me of Apocalypse Now and Mike Figgis’s Timecode. Excellent stuff.

Froxon

Posted: January 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Saw Frost/Nixon last night.
Solid entertainment with Langella’s Nixon being a wonderful replacement now for my shitty Al Pacino impression – all jowly and gruff.
Great performances by all involved although it takes Michael Sheen about 15 minutes to get past the impression stages of his performance. Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt are great but the talking heads bits, where the actors play their characters a few years after the event, are unnecessary and a bit distracting.
One of the lads asked me for an ‘outta 10’ so i’ll give it a 6. Howzat?

Revolutionary Road

Posted: January 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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For anyone involved in a relationship, Revolutionary Road might prove a somewhat uncomfortable ride; not for the caustic, bitter, spittle-laden fury contained in its simple plot but for the horrifying idea that any couple, once in love, could end up filled with such abject hatred and resentment towards each other.

Sam Mendes – director of the beautifully-shot Road To Perdition and the excellent, if overrated, American Beauty – directs his wife, Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio in this adaptation of the highly regarded 1961 novel by Richard Yates.
I have not read the book but have read many of his short stories and Yates certainly knows how to paint a bleak picture of impotent, stunted masculinity so I fully expected this film to weigh heavily with hostility and bile, replete with a downer ending.

I wasn’t wrong.

While Todd Haynes tackled the social melodramas of 50s America in his fabulous tip of the cap to Douglas Sirk, – Far From Heaven, in 2002 – Mendes is more interested in the behind-closed-doors minutiae of frustrated American suburbanites in 1955 with delusions of intellectual grandeur.

April (Winslet) and Frank (DiCaprio) were once idealistic young lovers with dreams of greatness and intellectual fulfillment. Now, they are pretty, bored drones who get by on the fumes of supposed superiority to their dullard surroundings.
The sad truth is that they are exactly what they hate and, truthfully, they know it. What follows is a couple intent on tearing the flesh from the bones of their marriage and exposing each other’s failings and shortcomings in a manner so vicious it will leave nothing when it passes. They argue horribly, they both have pathetic extra-marital sex, they pretend everything is okay to their fawning neighbours and they harbour an immature idea to escape their myriad problems by fleeing to gay Paris…until April discovers she is pregnant, something that proves to be the key in determining the outcome of their marriage, their lives and this film.

Michael Shannon (pictured on the right) – in a tour-de-force cameo as the mentally-unhinged son of Kathy Bates’ realtor, brimming with razor-sharp observations and dry wit – steals this film from the two fine actors headlining the poster and provides a kind of ‘this-is-what-this-means’ commentary for the key moments when the couple’s lives are really unravelling.
His killer line is to Frank when he ‘compliments’ the preening failure’s awareness saying: “Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.”

The movie is big, shiny, wonderfully-shot and lit, and creates a different cinematic world that, despite a good script and great performances, leaves an emotional gap between the viewer and the film that is difficult to fill. TV’s Mad Men is blessed with labyrinthine plots that detail the feelings of a nation just out of the 50s and trying to deal with the social changes that are coming like a tidal wave but Revolutionary Road is firmly set in the mid-50s when the 50s ideal is the be-all and end-all.
There is no change on the horizon and the status quo is suffocating.

Unfortunately, the film itself creates a distance I imagine the novel did not. Without being inside the heads of these characters, having an internal monologue to grind out, in detail, the frustrations and anger that drive them to say the things they say, it becomes difficult to connect with the multiple fights which come thick and fast.

The director is also faced with the problem of cinematic deftness while attempting to emotionally connect with the viewer on a profound level over what could be perceived as staunchly middle-class whining and despite an effort that gets alot right, the epic self-absorption of the characters renders them and their problems slightly unrealistic and dismissible and, ultimately, the whole film falls short.

It’s hard to identify with a hardship or desire you cannot grasp for the grandiosity of its presentation and relative indifference you feel towards the characters and the fault for this must lie with the director.

Late night telly

Posted: December 6, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I’ve just gotten home from the work Xmas drinks thingy and In America is on TV.
Sweet jesus promise me you’ll never watch this dire shite.
I love Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton but even they cannot save this self indulgent twaddle, with a pair of D4 brats playing supposed ‘working class’ kids, in America. They play a couple trying to escape the trauma of their young boy dying (I think) by starting a new life across the water, and it features some of the most overwrought, melodramatic balls ever committed to celluloid.
Words cannot really explain how much I dislike In America and the cinematic world is a far worse place with it existing.
I would rather watch Transformers for a second time….and I hated Transformers.


I’ve just watched the Ben Kingsley film Elegy, an austere adaptation of one of Philip Roth’s recent novels, A Dying Animal.

But first things first, the new trains between Galway and Dublin are becoming more common than the old trains and so it is now actually possible to plug in the trusty old laptop – since the battery lasts roughly 4 minutes on its own – and watch a legally-obtained movie on it…I’m sure mininova’s Axxo wouldn’t be involved in the nefarious underworld of illegal torrent uploading would he/she?

I haven’t really watched a film on the train before, due to the shitness of said battery, and so it is an unusually conflicting circumstance in which I find myself.
It’s all very well cracking open the computay but, despite my firm atheism, Irish Catholicism still has a pleasureless grip on my conscience at times and the film has got boobs in it.
Boobs?
On a public train?
Jaysus.
I can feel that tea-supping, Twix-gobbling biddy behind me, drowning her friend with the spittle-soaked news that some devilman is titillating himself a few seats away with them ‘Cruz missiles’ while there are children within a 100-mile radius.

Surely I’ll burn in hell.

Anyway, I watched the film so balls to her. On with the opinions.

Roth has long been an observer and diarist, in his novels, of the mind-workings of the modern male and in this Nicholas Meyer adaptation (Meyer incidentally also adapted Roth’s The Human Stain, which proved to be a pretty underwhelming film overall) we meet David Kepesh (Ben Kingsley) an erudite, shaven-headed, sexual predator of an old-but-sexy Coloumbia University professor who beds his fave fawning female students every year…but only after their final grades have been given.
When he claps eyes on the phenomenally hot Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) their ensuing relationship takes him to places of jealousy and idiocy his little shiny head has never been and to a melodramatic climax that cannot ruin what is essentially a piece of upper middle-class romantic drama tosh aimed at those who know their Goya from their Manet and like their cerebral, funereal film-making served up with an Argentinian Malbec and a hand shandy to Mozart (Which in the book, Kepesh actually does indulge in).

Quite.

Everything in this film is working so hard to impress.
The pretensions are bubbling there all the time and as Kepesh becomes the saboteur of his relationship with Consuela, you wonder what it is she really sees in him beyond his intellectual prowess and finely-trimmed goatee.
Director Isabel Coixet (director of the excellent My Life Without Me) employs some camera tricks familiar to Stephen Soderbergh fans out there as the lens lingers on faces, bobbing slightly with different parts focusing and unfocusing and we are left with silences and ‘heavy themes’ to deal with along with finely-polished production values and a predictably weighty classical score.
We are also left with a film that promises – and indeed Kepesh’s narration suggests as much – violent desire, yearning, palpable sexual hunger and emotional trauma but, through this medium, Roth’s visceral detail is torn away like meat from a bone and you are left with…well, a bone.
Dennis Hopper is fine as Kepesh’s poet friend and both Patricia Clarkson (as a lover)and Peter Sarsgaard (as Kepesh’s son) are more than welcome in any film really, but the whole thing just teeters from set-piece to set-piece, not coming off the screen hard enough to make you really care what the fuck happens.
Kepesh is not a likeable man. He’s a 60-something horny teen with juvenile emotional reactions and a smug demeanour that makes you quietly desire the worst happens to him.
Cruz is gorgeous and not bad. Her part requires that she portray the object of desire (but with a brain) and she is never less than convincing.
But again, it’s hard to really care too much.
When the final act arrives and the ‘twist’ is revealed you will, I hope, groan like I did and bemoan the heavy-handedness of this piece of up-its-own-arsery and go watch a really wonderful pretentious film like Solaris.

You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again

Posted: November 26, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Have been lazy about the blog recently so just a quick film post here.
Having read the interview with Mickey Rourke in the weekend’s Observer, it seems that Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Wrestler is set to be the catalyst for one of the biggest Oscar wins of all time.
Rourke is a man who has really been through alot of shit, most of it his own doing, and it seems that before his comeback run of the last few years, he has been a poverty-stricken loser who thought it was all over for him.
The interview reveals a sensitive man, once touted as a future Brando, who has battled with himself for a long time and is being given one last chance.
His is an intriguing story and I’m hoping The Wrestler lives up to the hype that is starting to build around it.
In other film news, I meant to post about Body Of Lies a while ago after I had watched it. It’s a pile of bollocks and again the standard for anti-CIA, cerebral political film-making has been set by the wonderful Syriana. It will be hard to top that, especially if Hollywood’s default actor for an Arab-speaking, covert agent in the Middle East is Leonardo di Caprio. I actually think he is a great actor but only in certain roles and in Body Of Lies he has neither the gravitas nor beard-growing abilities to make it all work.
Next on my to-see list is Waltz With Bashir , an animated documentary of sorts by Ari Folman, which deals with the horrors of war in a way not previously seen. Looks like an intense experience.
Anyone catch the Kurt Cobain doc recently there, About a Son? Audio clips of journo Michael Azzerad talking candidly with Kurt while the hack was researching his book at the time. The audio is complemented with stills from the areas Cobain grew up in and used to hang around. A really moving song at the end (Mark Lanegan doing Museum) had me in silence for a good 10 minutes after the credits had rolled. Also on recently was The Thrilla In Manila, the documentary about Ali and Joe Frazier’s relationship from friends to foes. The doc reveals some genuinely uncomfortable stuff about Ali, who is so revered amongst sportsfans, and shows him as a nasty, racist man who mouthed off a little too easily on things about which he should have known better. Easily as good as When We Were Kings. Quality stuff.
Anyway coming soon. My ten best films of the year (because everyone else is going to do albums).
Spoiler warning: said list may feature There Will Be Blood. Feel free to suggest your own faves of the year too.

Dubya

Posted: July 29, 2008 in Uncategorized
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A leaked trailer has emerged for Oliver Stone’s upcoming George W. Bush flick. This should be an interesting work to say the least..

The Dark Knight

Posted: July 24, 2008 in Uncategorized
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The ‘reimagining’ of the Batman franchise continues with this black, bleak, typically dystopian, chaotic masterwork, The Dark Knight.
With a script penned by his brother Jonathan, Christopher Nolan has fashioned a modern crime saga that displays its comic foundations proudly and takes all the best things about smart summer blockbusters and makes them even better.
The key, firstly, is to provide a decent story and script. Then get yourself a rock solid cast. Then ramp the action up to 11 and keep the violence ultra and the editing fast.
It seems redundant for me to point out that Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is astounding, not least because this jars so strongly with his last outstanding performance which was one of heart-wrenching quietness and poignancy as Ennis in Brokeback Mountain. Ledger brings to this role a physical and personal transformation so convincing, I effectively forgot it was an acting performance and bought into the character entirely from the outset.
His vocal stylings owe a little to Jack Lemmon, with his deliberate, whiny Middle American drawl and his hunched posture, ragged face and scar-licking lizard tongue only serve to heighten an absolute tour-de-force display as the script gives him all the best lines and he makes the most of every chance to play the creepy, anarchistic headcase. There is no sadness here and the idea that the Joker role may have been a factor in his mind’s state at the time of his death is absurd – he clearly relished the acting role and Christian Bale, in interviews, has said as much. This role is any talented actor’s dream – an opportunity to really make a mark in a massive film.
As always, there will be detractors moaning about bits and pieces but people need to remember this is based on a comic so quibbles about ‘reality’ and ‘that is impossible’ should be fucked into the bin.
Comic books people, comic books.
This is more of a hyper-reality that looks at major themes in society: terrorism, politics and vigilantism, among others, and does a decent job of it.
And Eric Roberts gets a part too? Genius. And as with any summer blockbuster, it is unbelievably entertaining – from the Michael Mann-esque opening bank heist to the truck/van road chase set-piece to the huge laughs Ledger generates with just the words ‘Yeah’ and, later, ‘Hi’.
Yes yes it’s a fraction too long and the whole Two-Face thing (that’s not a spoiler if you’ve read any reviews)is a little unnecessary but it doesn’t matter.
This is the future of the blockbuster. Everyone else needs to pay attention.