Monday, October 31, 2005

#79: The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988)

Because it pushed the envelope of what docs can achieve both on-screen and off.

#80: A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Because it glows.

#81: Van Gogh (Maurice Pialat, 1991)

Because it's about a man hiding behind his art.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

#82: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)

Because Peter Jackson knows how to begin the hell out of a story.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

#83: Dr Mabuse: The Gambler (Fritz Lang, 1922)

Because of its seething atmosphere of moral decay.

#84: The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)

Because we all fear different things.

#85: The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998)

Because it reaches parts other Coen Bros films don't even know exist.

Friday, October 28, 2005

#86: Great Expectations (David Lean, 1947)

Because it's so judicious, and so trim.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

#87: Pixote (Hector Babenco, 1981)

Because this is realism.

#88: The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988)

Because it's the not knowing that can drive you mad.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

#89: The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)

Because its emotional language is so completely its own.

#90: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)

Because trying to stay human is hard work (and I prefer it to the Siegel one).

#91: Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)

Because it's all about reading the runes.

#92: The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)

Because it's just so heartbreaking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

#93: The Draughtsman's Contract (Peter Greenaway, 1982)

Because of a connoisseur's delight in the word "strategem".

#94: Eternity and a Day (Theo Angelopoulos, 1998)

Because it does memory better than almost any film I know.

Monday, October 24, 2005

#95: Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)

Because it's the closest thing ever made to a British western.

#96: Gaslight (Thorold Dickinson, 1940)

Because it's a magnificent study of marital sadism.

#97: The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000)

Because Society can smile, and murder while it smiles.

#98: Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992)

Because it's one of the great horror romances.

#99: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

Because it's about screaming in a world that's not listening.

#100: Magnolia (PT Anderson, 1999)

Because it errs on the side of feeling.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ripping a leaf from Nick and Nat's books

This is going to look like shameless plagiarism, because it is, but mainlymovies feels the urgent need to ape the current list-love which makes Nick Davis's Flick Picks and Nat Rogers's Film Experience such consistently addictive reads. I think Pauline Kael once bitchily described Andrew Sarris as a "list queen", but who isn't? (Andy should have bitched back and called her a flip, jazzy fizz-bomb of a critic or something.) Come on, we all love these things, particularly when presented in big juicy countdown form from 100 to 1, which is pretty much the ideal way to incorporate them into a blog and which I will henceforth be doing.

More to the point though, it's high time I laid my cards on the table and told anyone reading what my favourite movies are, so that they can gauge at a glance if I'm a man of taste or if I'm just talking nonsense or what. These 100 choices are going to be the films I simply couldn't live without, not the ones I think I ought to like. Some of them are the best movies ever made, and some of them aren't. But let me have them anyway! They're all on here for a reason.

I think I'll keep the explanations brief. Like, very brief. Let's see if I can boil them down into a sentence per. And I'll try and do 2 or 3 a day - this way I'll be done by early December...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Stuff on the box

There aren't many better ways to nurse one of those weirdly pleasurable all-day-Sunday hangovers than slouching around and catching up with some random chunks of comfort TV. Denman St's small-screen obsession at the moment is The L Word, which I came into with no expectations whatsoever, but which is shockingly good once you get past the odd patch of clunky voiceover and an ever-so-slightly monotonous (but still luminous) Jennifer Beals. It's nowhere near the slavering exercise in Sex and the City-fied dyke chic I'd prejudicially assumed it would be; if anything, the ways the relationships develop and multiply and go wrong here keep showing up the distressingly shaky final season of Six Feet Under. If it's hard-ass lesbian credentials you're after, look no further than the directors they're hiring: Rose Troche, Lisa Cholodenko, Lynne Stopkewich. And in a terrific cast, the clear stand-out is the untouchably cool Kate Moennig (above), who elicits small, smitten yelps of heroine-worship from either end of our sofa whenever she appears.

There's less to be said about Grey's Anatomy, but it's quite fun, Ellen Pompeo is a classy lead, and a Patrick Dempsey comeback was at least as overdue as a Rob Lowe one. More clunky voiceover though. Do we really need to hear that it's a dog's life for an intern every time Ellen rolls out of bed? I wish screenwriters would practice this stuff aloud to themselves before foisting it on their cast - it never works. Did make me wonder, though, whether there might be mileage for Charlie Kaufman or whoever in writing deliberately pretentious and/or pseudo-poetic voiceover for a future movie. Sure, we get deliberately dim ones in Election or Clueless. But why not deliberately wanky? Post if you can think of any. Anyways, the other reason Grey's Anatomy compels my attention is a bit more basic; I know he's an ex Calvin Klein aftershave model who starred in The Musketeer, but just about the only thing sexier than Justin Chambers looking puppy-eyed and unkempt in surgical scrubs (right) is... well, you can probably guess. Nice locker room, GA production team. Use it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More? I'd had quite enough, thanks

Four reasons not to write Oliver Twist off entirely:

1. Edward Hardwicke (above), plain wonderful as Mr Brownlow.
2. Pure's Harry Eden, natural and vivid as the Artful Dodger.
3. A terrifically funny scene with Alun Armstrong as a truculent magistrate.
4. A good, ghoulishly Polanskian moment when Bill Sykes tries to drown his dog.

Ten reasons why Oliver Twist still, all things considered, deserves a C–:

1. Why?
2. Polanski gets a better performance out of that dog than most of his child actors.
3. Has he forgotten how to cut? Virtually every scene goes on too long or ends too abruptly.
4. Why?
5. Kingsley's Fagin, a fastidiously assembled but resolutely unaffecting creation, is allowed to degenerate into an embarrassing string of "oy"s when the plot runs out of use for him.
6. Nancy, perfectly well played by Leanne Rowe, martyrs herself for some bland urchin she's barely shared a scene with.
7. Why?
8. Ronald Harwood's stuffily pedestrian screenplay never answers questions 1, 4 or 7.
9. Note to d.p. Pawel Edelman: there's powerfully bleak (see your own work on The Pianist) and then there's just mucky and dreary, like this. Not that the production design gave you much to work with.
10. I like "Food, Glorious Food", OK?

Monday, October 10, 2005

"I usually get most roles..."

Ok, everyone must click through post-haste to Webloge and the link to the deluded actress thing. It's quite extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Something I didn't see in a cinema

Since this blog has up to now been wholly movies, I feel it's high time to prove that there's more to my cultural life, dammit, and to say that James Thiérrée's La Veillée des Abysses, caught tonight at the Peacock Theatre, is one of the most bewitchingly pleasurable pieces of live theatre I've ever seen. It reduced me to childlike awe and giggles, and my hands hurt from clapping so much. Wow. What a show. Thanks Maxie!

(Plus, they use Michael Nyman's music from Gattaca, which helps.)

PS to that

Maybe I'm overlooking Memoirs of a Geisha (OscarWatch has it heavily tipped). But, I don't know, all the frippery in the trailer screamed "busted Oscar contender" to me, and Rob Chicago Marshall would have been few people's first choice to direct it. Zhang Ziyi, I'm told, is a shoo-in Best Actress nominee. Fair enough. Gong Li, I hear, has a good shot at supporting. And I wouldn't want to bet against Colleen Atwood's costumes, Dion Beebe's cinematography, and John Williams's music being nominated either. But the overall movie? Kind of depends whether the early parts of it serve up too much destitution chic. We'll have to wait and see, but on a hunch I'm keeping it off my list for the time being.

Memo to self: this is not going to turn into an Oscar blog. (Self: Yeah, right...)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Insanely Early Oscar Predictions

Obviously a ludicrous exercise, since there are so many major contenders left to actually see, and I really should get a life, frankly, but this is how I think the major categories are shaping up at the moment. I've placed the nominees in order of likelihood to win, as far as I see it (ie Brokeback Mountain current favourite for Best Pic, then Munich, etc). I've put additional contenders in each category in smaller print.

Best Picture

Brokeback Mountain
All the King's Men
The Constant Gardener
The Producers
A History of Violence

Best Director

Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Steven Spielberg (Munich)
David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)
Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener)
Terrence Malick (The New World)
Susan Stroman (The Producers)
Sam Mendes (Jarhead)
Steven Zaillian (All the King's Men)

Best Actor (I do think Hoffman's got it, but looks like one hell of a strong field)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
Sean Penn (All the King's Men)
Nathan Lane (The Producers)
Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence)
Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener)
Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
Tommy Lee Jones (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) (you dark horse you)

Best Actress (no real frontrunner yet, and weak-looking year: plus, Collette and/or Weisz might be relegated to supporting instead, weakening it even further)

Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) (aargh)
Charlize Theron (North Country)
Toni Collette (In Her Shoes)
Cameron Diaz (In Her Shoes)
Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Maria Bello (A History of Violence)
Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice) (yes, really)
Judi Dench (Mrs Henderson Presents)
Zhang Ziyi (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger)
Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
ie... fuck knows

Best Supporting Actor (fairly amorphous at present, though I'm pretty sure Broderick and Giamatti will be locks, and I'm nominating all the King's Men roles that got noms for the 1949 version, so hello Jude)

Matthew Broderick (The Producers)
Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
Jude Law (All the King's Men)
Ed Harris (A History of Violence)
Frank Langella (Good Night, and Good Luck) (it's the Alan Alda slot...)
Clifton Collins, Jr (Capote)
Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead) (third time lucky, maybe, and I really hope he redeems himself for Flightplan)
Will Ferrell (The Producers) (only throwing this in cos "Academy Award nominee Will Ferrell" will just sound too funny. On the evidence of Winter Passing he can actually hold a tune, too.)

Best Supporting Actress (shaping up to be a damn good list...)

Amy Adams (Junebug)
Patricia Clarkson (All the King's Men)
Catherine Keener (Capote)
Shirley MacLaine (In Her Shoes)
Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
Frances McDormand (North Country)
Sandra Bullock (Crash) (please not Thandie Newton)

So I'm thinking: not much for Crash or Cinderella Man, no Bill Murray, no Jake Gyllenhaal, nothing for Proof at all. Munich, Jarhead and All The King's Men are the big unknown quantities. Watch this space...