Tuesday, January 31, 2006

On the noms

Forgive stream of consciousness here, I've got no time to spruce this up.

1.36pm Wish they'd get on with it - don't they realise I've got the UK press show of Derailed to rush off to?!

1.38pm OK, finally.

AMY ADAMS! Nice start.

Gyllenhaal I figured. Hurt, though? A batty choice if you ask me.

Best Actress - dull, dull, dull, though I'm quite pleased for Keira.

TERRENCE HOWARD!!! Sad for Fiennes, but that more than makes up for it.

Munich gets pic and director. Whadya know. Very little for Constant Gardener. Way too much for Crash.

A dullish roster enlivened by Adams and Howard, I'd say. But the Gyllenhaal nod is key: prepare for an almighty Brokeback sweep, which I now think might carry not only Ledger but Williams to a win.


Fingers crossed...

...for Amy Adams, Ralph Fiennes, Terrence Howard, Eric Bana, Amy Adams, Naomi Watts, David Cronenberg, Deborah Moggach, Amy Adams, Jacqueline Durran, Emmanuel Lubezki, Alexandre Desplat, Ronald Sanders and Amy Adams. I'll check back in later, in extreme fury if none of these people have been Oscar-nominated.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Pseudy musings on The General (1927)

Einstein would have loved this because it's an attempt to achieve constant velocity. Buster Keaton saves the day by virtue of simply being in a better movie than everyone around him: a faster one, a more determined one, one that knows how to get the obstacles out of its path like that. Everyone else is stuck in the mud or pissing about on horseback. But when Keaton's on that train there's just no stopping him. I wish filmmakers these days understood the power of forward motion like he did. Paul Greengrass maybe?

#21: Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)

Because it's noir fatalism at its most gutting.

Friday, January 27, 2006

#22: Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)

Because it's majestic and down to earth at the same time.

Two things I love

1. Cereal late at night.
2. The New World, three viewings in.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

RIP Chris Penn

This is terribly sad. I was a fan.

(from IMDb)

Actor Chris Penn, brother of Sean Penn and star of such films as Reservoir Dogs and Mulholland Falls, was found dead Tuesday at a condominium in Santa Monica; he was 40. Few details were released surrounding Penn's death late Tuesday afternoon, though sources reported there were no signs of foul play, and an autopsy was to be conducted to determine the cause of death. A spokesperson for the Penn family confirmed the actor's passing and released a statement saying that Penn's family "would appreciate the media's respect of their privacy during this difficult time." The son of director Leo Penn and actress Eileen Ryan, Penn was the younger brother of Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn and musician Michael Penn, and began his acting career in the early 80s, appearing in such films as Rumble Fish, All the Right Moves, and Footloose; he appeared alongside his brother in the 1986 film At Close Range. Penn went on to specialize in working-class character roles, achieving fame for his portrayal of Nice Guy Eddie Cabot in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs as well as such films as Short Cuts, The Funeral (for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination), and Mulholland Falls. Most recently, he appeared in the film version of Starsky & Hutch as well as episodes of TV series Entourage and Everwood, and his latest film, The Darwin Awards, was slated for a premiere Wednesday night at the Sundance Film Festival. --Prepared by IMDb Staff

Lisa Schwarzbaum is right!

At least on the differences between The New World's two cuts.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The New World v2.0

"Conscience is nuisance. A fly, a barking dog. If you don' t believe you have one, what trouble can it be to you?"

Captain Argall (Yorick Van Wageningen, left) in The New World

There comes a time when you just have to surrender critical pride which, let's face it, isn't worth much, in the grand scheme of things and admit that you were just plain wrong. I'm freshly back from the official, apparently final, significantly improved 135-minute cut of Terrence Malick's retelling of the Pocahontas story, and I'm not sure I've ever stood so gratefully corrected, or had two such contrasting experiences of what was, fundamentally, the same work of art.

First, the mitigating circumstances. The cut screened to UK press before Christmas some 20 minutes longer had left me shuffling out with a poignant sense of disappointment, all the more poignant because, in fits and starts, it had me egging it on all the way through to greatness. Malick, I'll confess, seemed to me to be lazily retreading old ground from The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven. Worse, the movie had a rhythmically uncertain quality both baggy and too choppy which unhelpfully muddied its themes, leaving its now limber narrative out to dry, and left me flailing.

I should have worked harder. It's hardly as though this sharper cut leads you through it by the hand, exactly, but it had me completely under its spell this time, engaged my heart and mind, and again and again made me almost blush with the memory of how I'd misread it. It's been transformed from a film I kept on wanting to like more than I did into one I've ended up liking far, far more than I could ever realistically have hoped. I should know Malick well enough by now not to take any given snatch of voiceover as gospel, and I should have cottoned on, even wading through all the sun-dappled grass slightly in v1.0, to how beautifully the movie grapples with ideas of belonging, the question above all of who Pocahontas belongs to, and how generously it offers that question up as finally her own rather than the audience's to answer. I think this is the film's great theme.

I missed way too much of this first time round I hear other critics, some of them wonderful critics, did too and I'm kind of kicking myself, but mainly just jumping for joy at the opportunity to make proper amends, in print, this Friday. This experience is really a lesson to me: to have faith in the working practices of a great filmmaker, and not to rush to judgement on any slightly indistinct first viewing, particularly not when the movie's release was being so evidently compromised by the idiotic pressures of award-season rush and industry nail-chewing. And above all to trust in Malick, who is, after all, God. Hats off to those who managed to get the hang of The New World, which I still think presents plenty of thorny challenges, in a single sitting, but I reckon it was almost worth being disappointed by that earlier cut in order to be undisappointed by this one, and I'd urge anyone who felt similarly short-changed on a first viewing, of whichever print, to have another go. I should add one caveat: red-faced though it might appear, this isn't a complete volte-face, as I still think the movie is not quite, not quite, what it might have been. But after stomping on it with an immoderate B two months ago, I'm buggered if I'm going to stick some monolithic, arbitrary grade on now. Some movies are beyond grading. Or beyond my grading, evidently. Praise be!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's wrong with these pictures?

And lo, it came to pass: Tim hated, as in outright loathed, almost all the films to be released in the UK in a given week. I've been subjected to some crushing line-ups in my time, but I'm not sure any have been quite so dire as the hellish triple threat of Shopgirl, Get Rich or Die Tryin', and Underworld: Evolution, the cumulative effect of which was enough to make sampling cow dung suddenly look like quite a tempting career change. I'll be struggling to find anything nice to say about these wretched flicks come Friday: the stillborn Shopgirl has a promising performance from Claire Danes, until you realise that Mirabelle Buttersfield, her very name a transparent fiction, might as well be a centrefold in Steve Martin's porn stash for all the dimensionality she's given; Terrence Howard keeps threatening to walk off with Get Rich in his back pocket, but then thinks better of it and slinks quietly off-screen to let Fiddy and Jim Sheridan seriously propose gangsta rap as a redemptive and ennobling alternative to ghetto violence; and the Underworld sequel, which in better surroundings would probably be getting an F, at least never sets out with anything other than face-value intent to be unrelievedly oppressive, soul-destroying rot.

The only comparatively bright spot was the perky and half-intelligent Fun With Dick and Jane, a marginal improvement on the original movie, and still a bit of a mess. But a forgivable mess. I think I'd go easy on the Exxon oil spill in a week like this.

Shopgirl - F
Get Rich or Die Tryin' - F
Underworld: Evolution - D-
Fun With Dick and Jane - B-

Saturday, January 14, 2006

#23: The Phantom of Liberty (Luis Buñuel, 1974)

Because it exposes Western civilisation as the scattershot farce it is.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Best movie news in yonks

James Gray is making another film! I'm a huge fan of his unjustifiably buried 2000 Queens mob drama The Yards, which, in other good news, apparently came out on DVD in some kind of director's cut last month, amending some of the damage done to it by Harvey Scissorhands on its initial release. And actually ending up shorter. So glad to see this smashing film getting a bit more respect, and that Gray's Hollywood currency is back on the rise. The new film's called "We Own The Night", and just from that title it sounds very much like my kind of Gray movie: moody, slow, anguished, portentous, probably scored by Howard Shore. In a word: heavy. Bring it on.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

#24: Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)

Because, like all great westerns but more so, it's the last western.

#25: Sans soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)

Because we're all in the poetry business.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


An Oscar-winning wunderkind went to war

Determined to depict it as a crashing bore.

It doesn’t matter which war – let’s call it Gulf I –

So long as there’s thumping irony under a scorching sun.

The guys get off on Wagner; Jake looks buff and fucked-up.

The poster got it right – it said: “Welcome to the suck”. D

Monday, January 09, 2006

#26: Vanya on 42nd St (Louis Malle, 1994)

Because you should only ever see it once.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

#27: Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)

Because it defines everything it describes.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Match Point

Er, no. Review to follow. D+

#28: Holiday (George Cukor, 1938)

Because of Cukor's exquisite generosity.

#29: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)

Because I've never laughed harder in my life.