Archive for July, 2009

In only its second month my film of the month award has hit an obstacle.  A month with a lack of new releases (that are of interest to me) therefore we have a reduced nominee list this month; they are:

Antichrist: For being the most controversial film of the year.

Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg antichrist






Public Enemies: Great story, great acting , great direction. It has its problems but is still a great film.

Johnny Depp







The Blues Brothers The Blues Brothers Not eligible as a re-release, honourable mention only. It would have won if eligible!





Three films that I will probably see: Moon, Coco Before and Taking of Pelham 1,2,3 all open today, the last day of the month, as I wont get to see them this month I will include them next month if good enough.  You many be wondering why I have seen so few films this month.  As I mentioned before I am not interested in seeing: Bruno, Harry Potter, The Proposal or Year One!

The Movie of the Month is:


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oscaroscarIn a recent article I listed the last ten best picture Oscar winners along with the film I would have given the award.  Whilst replying to a comment on that article I suggested if I did a similar list for best actor category I would probably go for Russell Crowe for The Insider over Kevin Spacey for American Beauty.  So I started looking at the winners of best actor over the last ten years:

  • 2000: Kevin Spacey: American Beauty
  • 2001: Russell Crowe: Gladiator
  • 2002: Denzel Washington: Training Day
  • 2003: Adrien Brody: The Pianist
  • 2004: Sean Penn: Mystic River
  • 2005: Jamie Foxx: Ray
  • 2006: Philip Seymour Hoffman: Capote
  • 2007: Forest Whitaker: The Last King of Scotland
  • 2008: Daniel Day-Lewis: There Will Be Blood
  • 2009: Sean Penn: Milk

The conclusion I came to, I agreed with the academy in all but two years, this year I think Frank Langella in Frost Nixon was marginally better than Sean Penn in Milk and 2000 was an impossible year to choose between the nominations who where all brilliant, they where:

Kevin Spacey American Beauty

  • Sean Penn Sweet and LowdownThe Hurricane  Denzel WashingtonRussell Crowe The InsiderRichard Farnsworth The Straight Story


  • Kevin Spacey: American Beauty (winner)
  • Sean Penn: Sweet and Lowdown
  • Denzel Washington: The Hurricane
  • Russell Crowe: The Insider
  • Richard Farnsworth: The Straight Story

 Then add to that great performances by:

  •  Matt Damon: The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Al Pacino: The Insider
  • Johnny Depp: Sleepy Hollow
  • Edward Norton and Brad Pitt: Fight Club
  • Ethan Hawke: Snow Falling on Cedars
  • John Cusack: Being John Malkovich

I think Russell Crowe for The Insider is more deserving than Kevin Spacey in American Beauty but my vote goes to Richard Farnsworth for The Straight Story. 

A note on the other nominees to show the quality of the actors:  Sean Penn (twice), Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe went on to win Oscars later in the decade.  The Straight Story was sadly Richard Farnsworth last film although it was a fitting final film!

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The Blues BrothersAfter a false start last week when the cinema posted an incorrect date I went to see The Blues Brothers last night. One of my favourite films from when I was a kid I finally got to see it at the cinema thanks to s new season of classic films to get a new release. Next up: Scarface on 25th August if they get the date right this time.

It was great to finally see the film on the big screen. The digital image had been cleaned up and was brighter and clearer than I have ever seen it. The sound was clean and crisp and had me tapping my feet whenever a song started. It was the original theatrical cut not the 25th anniversary versions with extra scenes.

So if you get the chance go and see this modern classic where it belongs on the big screen. You will be quoting it for the rest of the week. “We’re on a mission from God!”

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Thank You Film 4

I missed the Escapist on its minuscule release at the cinema last year. It has been on my rental list for months but has never been sent. I finally got to see it on Film 4.

Serving a life sentence Frank Perry (Brian Cox) develops a plan to escape from prison to see his seriously ill (following drug addiction) and estranged daughter. He gathers together an unlikely group of fellow cons who all have individual skills or knowledge help the escape. The film employs a good use of “time-slip” showing the escape and the planning simultaneously. Set entirely in prison and the labyrinth of rivers sewers and tube lines under London. This all makes for a claustrophobic setting. The film also boasts a supporting cast including Damian Lewis and Joseph Fiennes. A gritty but rewarding film.

Things went downhill from there. The next film on was Taxi staring Queen Latifah.  The film is just complete rubbish and has nothing good to recommend it. Even Gisele Bundchen’s suggestive frisking Jennifer Esposito falls flat. It could have been funny or sexy, they tried to make it both and succeeded in making it neither.

I have avoided it for nearly five years, why did I bother watching it today? Anyone who hasn’t seen it but is tempted to do so watch the French original instead.  It is approximately ten billion times better! And look out for a pre Oscar winning Marion Cotillard playing Daniel’s girlfriend Lilly.

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Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg antichristCharlotte Gainsbourg antichristWillem Dafoe antichrist


I Just got back from seeing Antichrist, this review is going to be brief as what I have just seen hasn’t sunk in yet. Firstly it isn’t as brutal, violent or as sexual as the reviews would have you believe (review is probably not the correct word as the idiot who wrote this article hasn’t seen the film), only three people walked out of a surprisingly busy screening! The story is broken into chapters like Dogville and Manderlay, this is an interesting intrusion into the narrative. Other than the physical break of a card naming each chapter the narrative doesn’t change any more than in any other film. The narative is about a couple (a brilliant Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg)coming to terms with the death of their young son. A lot has been made of the sex scenes and how the BBFC has passed the film uncut. In truth there isn’t actually that much sex in the film and it isn’t as graphic as you would expect but more importantly it is absolutely integral to the plot. The same can be said for the violence, taken out of context it is mild in comparison to “torture porn” films like Hostel, put into context it is far stronger because it is so personal. The film is often difficult to watch both because of the events portrayed and the jarring sound reminiscent of Irreversible. This is contrasted with hypnotic visuals and amazing photography that you can’t take your eyes off by Oscar winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. The narrative is full of symbolism that is never explained. This is the clever device as viewers will take different things from it. I really can’t say any more without giving too much plot away.

In conclusion it is not a film I can totally recommend as many viewers will hate it but I would suggest you should give it a go, the worst thing that could happen is that you walk out of the cinema/turn the DVD off having wasted a small amount of time and money. It is worth the risk as you may get something out of the film. If you have enjoyed other films by Lars von Trier this is a more extreme example of what he has been doing for years if you haven’t seen any of his earlier films there are easy ways into his work. It is also reminiscent of the work of Michael Haneke so if you dislike his films keep well clear.

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Before Batman

Before superheroes, magicians, police men who can’t sleep and even before the insurance investigator with memory problems Christopher Nolan made an independent film called Following.  Shot in stark black and white and coming in at just over an hour it was the directors feature début.  Shot during free time around the cast and crew’s day jobs the film took over a year to film and was made for a tiny budget believed to be less than £6,000.


A young man who is an aspiring but unemployed writer starts following people in the street looking for inspiration until one day he is confronted by a person he is following.  The man calling himself Cobb explains that he is a thief.  The man starts going with Cobb when he breaks into houses.  Things get complicated when he starts a relationship with a young women whose house they have burgled.  But are things as they seem to be?  Of course not this is a film and a Christopher Nolan film at that!

The acting can be a little forced and amateurish at times *(see note on actors at the end) but the photography is suitably moody making it an interesting little film.  The film is not put together in linear order helping to keep the viewer interested as the story is revealed.  A technique that has since been used in films like 21 Grams as well as Nolan’s Memento.  The film ends with a good twist that is clearly signposted for the viewer letting us revel in the protagonists misfortune as the inevitable unfolds.  I am not overstating it when I say ending is reminiscent of Hitchcock in its delivery.  A good début film that shows signs of the director’s future brilliance.

*(Since the film was made over a decade ago Jeremy Theobald (The Young Man) has made an appearance in The Bill and had a tiny part in Nolan’s Batman Begins.  It is Alex Haw’s (Cobb) only known screen job.  Lucy Russell (The Blonde) has made a decent career regularly appearing in film and on television.)

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I recently came across these on youtube. There are lots of them but these two are the best of them.

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The Pasenger posterMichelangelo Antonioni is a complicated uncompromising director, he can alienate viewers because his films demand the viewer pay attention and think about what they are viewing. Those who don’t pay attention to or think about the film they are watching will probably never realise that it is their loss not the directors! The Passenger is a perfect example of his work and in some ways better than his more famous Blowup. There are long periods of wide-angle long shots without dialogue followed by conversations that are essential to the character development but not always relevant to the plot. In many ways it is Jack Nicholson’s best ever performance as an actor. It has all the gravitas of Five Easy Pieces but with real restraint. It is the kind of performance he could give in his sleep but usually chooses not to in favour of grandstanding over the top performances.

The PassengerSet in Europe and an unnamed African country the film combines a linear narrative with flashbacks that give insights into the story and its lead character. The story is actually not that important, it is all about the journey David Locke (Jack Nicholson) takes. The film starts with him driving around the aforementioned unnamed African country looking for the rebels that appose the government. On returning to his hotel he discovers a man he had befriended a few days has died. Disillusioned with his life he swaps identities with the dead British businessman David Robertson (Charles Mulvehill-a producer making his only appearance as an actor). As he assumes the dead mans identity David is drawn into the mans life. Along the way he hooks up with a young tourist played by Maria Schneider (best known for Last Tango in Paris). The locations are truly stunning and Antonioni and his cinematographer Luciano Tovoli really make the most of them with great if occasionally wandering camerawork. This includes the infamous and hugely complicated shot towards the end of the film and the opening that is bereft of dialogue for about four minutes. If you don’t mind the slow pace this is a beautifully crafted and rewarding film that demands multiple viewings.

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Although this years best picture Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire was a great film I actually think The Dark Knight is a better film. This has got me thinking so I have compiled a list of the last ten best Oscar winners along with the films I would have chosen.


2000: Winner: American Beauty (1999) – My Choice: Fight Club(1999)

American Beauty

fight club 











2001: Winner: Gladiator (2000) – My Choice: Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon (2000)


Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon












2002: Winner: A Beautiful Mind (2001) – My Choice: Amelie (2001)

 A Beautiful MindAmelie












2003: Winner: Chicago (2002) – My Choice: Hero (2002) 













2004: Winner: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – My Choice: City of God (2002)

The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

City of God













2005: Winner: Million Dollar Baby (2004) – My Choice: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby












2006: Winner: Crash (2004) – My Choice: Oldboy (2003)*













2007: Winner: The Departed (2006) – My Choice: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) The Departed Pans labyrinth











2008: Winner: No Country for Old Men (2007) – My Choice: Juno (2007)

No Country for Old Men












  2009: Winner: Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – My Choice: The Dark Knight (2008)

slumdog millionaire

The Dark Knight












Lost in TranslationTo summarise I agreed with the academy once. More than half my choices were foreign language films. I desperately wanted to award Lost in Translation but City of God was just that little bit better.





*Oldboy was not nominated for any Oscars; it was released in America in 2005, therefore I have put it against 2006 films. All other films are competing in year they where nominated in at least one category.

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Sweeney Todd represented a return to form for Tim Burton after a few shaky films. Could Alice in Wonderland be the next step in that process? The first teaser trailer certainly looks promising.

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