Friday, December 28, 2007

The Best and Worst of 2007: #10

I'm paring down the year-end lists to bare essentials here. 10 of the good, 10 of the not, side by side. Even if no single film I've seen has been quite as addictive or satisfying as Season 3 of HBO's The Wire, I think this has been a really strong year -- maybe the second strongest this decade, after 2004 with all its Eternal Sunshines, Before Sunsets, Spring, Summers, Incredibles and Supremacies. Selection-wise, I'm going by the only list I can live with, which is what I've seen in cinemas in the 12 months since the last top ten; by "seen in cinemas" I include festival screenings and press screenings, but not repertory ones. As a result, some of these films have yet to come out in the UK, and this first pick came and went in the US some years ago. It's true that this doesn't exactly make for a level playing field for comparison with other lists, but I find the release-date approach frustrating and no less arbitrary: it means deliberately leaving stuff off that you're itching to evangelise. Which won't do. This is what I came up with:


10th best -- Funny Ha Ha


This was my introduction to the vivid, dorky, and emotionally astute moviemaking of Andrew Bujalski, pioneer of the movement now annoyingly dubbed "mumblecore" by the kind of folks who strike me as frustrated minor characters in his movies. Narrowly better than Bujalski's follow-up Mutual Appreciation, it was the sweetest relationship comedy I saw this year, full of painful conversational circling around the point -- the point usually being "I like you, and want to hang out with you, and hope that would be OK. Would that be OK?". It's anchored shyly and beautifully by leading lady Kate Dollenmayer.


10th worst -- Hannibal Rising


Probably the most unwelcome sequel or prequel of the year, which is saying quite a lot in a 12 months which brought us Rush Hour 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Day Watch, Elizabeth: The Golden AgeHostel: Part II and Gordon Brown's premiership. Just re-typing those titles sends me into a renewed fug of depression and resentment at how little creativity any one of them expended on already dog-tired concepts, but this one was bad beyond all need or comprehension, with its kindergarten Freudianism and across-the-board hopeless acting doing full justice to an egregious "Nazis ate my sister" backstory. Thomas Harris is not escaping blame. Neither is Girl With a Pearl Earring director Peter Webber for taking a terrible gig and making it visually revolting to boot. 

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reaction to Globes nominations

Keira posts that vote for Laura Linney in Jindabyne

First up: that's way, way, waaaay too much love for Atonement. Only Saoirse Ronan's supporting actress nod is one I can fully get behind, and she's not even my favourite supporting actress in the movie. (Neither's Vanessa Redgrave, and neither is Romola Garai. So there!)

I'm in a spluttering rage over Wright AND Scott AND Schnabel getting Best Director nods over Paul Thomas Anderson for the monumental There Will Be Blood, but at least it's holding out in the picture and actor categories. The lack of anything bar Blanchett for I'm Not There is miserable but a little more predictable; the lack of anything major at all for Into the Wild has got to count as a significant blow. I mean, The Great Debaters? Really? I haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War yet, but it always looked more Globe-friendly than Oscar-friendly, so the Julia Roberts star-fuckery is, again, not that surprising. Ditto the whole American Gangster thing.

Where's Laura Linney? This has got to be the rare year where Best Actress (Comedy/Musical) has been harder fought than Drama, but, all the same, it's criminal that she's been crowded out by the singing contingent (good though they all are) and that Blanchett and Foster luck in with routine nods for such wretched films. Double nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman's fine in The Savages, but better in the overlooked Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, precisely because he's standing back, most of the time, to give Linney room.

There are good mentions scattered around here -- Jolie, Cotillard, Swinton, Mortensen -- but not much to get the pulse racing. Let's hope for an Oscar shake-up and some proper wild cards come Jan 22.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

There Will Be... updates (and close shaves, and blood)


Imagine the usual fraught pre-Christmas scramble -- the organising and attending of various social events, the fulfilment of job duties, the buying of presents, the reviewing of Fred Claus, under pain of death. You know, the usual. Now try doing it without having anywhere to live. That's the situation I'm in -- "between flats", I guess you'd have to call it -- and it's wreaking havoc on this blog. (Or rather silence, if one can really wreak silence.)

So there's hardly been time to talk about how good There Will Be Blood is -- how likely this brazenly ambitious, brilliantly acted and in general quite scarily inspired movie is to be my film of the year, beating even the likes of I'm Not There, my other straight 'A' from the last few months. Nor has there been a moment to deal with the many successes and minor structural failings of the Coen bros' No Country for Old Men; the sense of stuffy self-inflation wedded to unignorable technical virtues in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; the nifty narrative gimmickry and addictive dialogue in John August's underrated The Nines, featuring Ryan Reynolds's first three attempts at acting; the exasperating yet perversely exhilarating mess that is Southland Tales; or, perhaps most pleasurably, the uncompromising grimness, sure-footed sense of the macabre, and smashing musical dexterity with which Sweeney Todd has been brought to the screen, and which I think make it Tim Burton's best film since Edward Scissorhands.

No time for any of this yet, or for another task I've set myself: the updating of my top 100, to be found at the bottom right of this blog, which is a couple of years old now and needs at least 10-15 new films squeezed into it somehow. By new I don't necessarily mean recent, and they won't all be surprises, if you've followed this blog and its sidebars from time to time. One or two of them might be. We like these guessing games, right? Comment away on what you think my new entries might be, which films you insist I must keep or scrap, or anything else you want to sound off about. Go on! Mi casa su casa, except in the real world, where mi casa isn't even mi casa...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Oscar Race – A Pre-Season Analysis


I’ve got to admit I’m more than usually excited about this year’s Oscars, and I say this before I’ve even seen There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men, both of which I’m expecting to be among the heavy-hitting contenders. I like a lot of the other work I’m expecting to get nominated, I think there’s going to be some overdue recognition of terrific actors, and to throw some spice into the mix I have a feeling I’ll be spitting fury about at least one or two of the eventual winners. All of which makes for the kind of derby I like, in contrast to last year’s dreary pile-up of mediocrities.

This is how I think things are shaping up, based on early buzz, reviews and the stuff I’ve seen:



BEST PICTURE


There Will Be Blood – PTA’s recognition is well past due, and it looks like he’s played a blinder
No Country for Old Men – Rapturous festival reception, and rare literary pedigree for the Coens
Charlie Wilson’s War – Gives me that slight Primary Colors feeling, but Aaron Sorkin knows what he’s doing
American Gangster – Don’t think I’m gonna love this, but it’s getting Scott’s best reviews since Gladiator
Sneaking in fifth: Into the Wild – Voters will rally behind its spectacle and sincerity, as long as it gets that b.o. push


The backlash starts here:

Atonement – Come on, it’s thuddingly overdeliberate and unevenly acted. I may be wrong, but I sniff that Cold Mountain cold shoulder…

Hope is alive:

Once – The little train that could?




BEST DIRECTOR

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood – In the bag, I think
Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men – The Coens are respectable again
Sidney Lumet, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – There’s room for this old man
Sean Penn, Into the Wild – Will get recognised even if the movie doesn’t
Sneaking in fifth: Todd Haynes, I’m Not There – aka the Lynch/Kieslowski/Almodovar slot, aka go Todd!

Snubs in the offing:

Joe Wright, Atonement – Competition’s stiff, and he’s such a show-off
also: Nichols, Scott


You never know:

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Haven’t seen it yet, but festival reports were fawning




BEST ACTOR

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood – From the trailer alone it’s a total lock
James McAvoy, Atonement – Only just a nom-worthy role, but he impresses plenty
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Too good to be ignored, and the film’s gathering steam
George Clooney, Michael Clayton – A slightly vague character, but he's the man of the moment
Sneaking in fifth: Mathieu Amalric, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – Getting the nom Bardem missed for The Sea Inside

I think not:

Denzel Washington, American Gangster – He’s been here before, so have we, and AMPAS seems to be going off villains
Also: Hanks, Depp, Jones, Hirsch

Say prayers for:

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises – Just as deserving as he was for AHOV, if not more so. He’ll need a big campaign though…

AND

Benicio Del Toro, Things We Lost in the Fire – The performance of his career, but the film is looking busted




BEST ACTRESS

Laura Linney, The Savages – On glowing form here, and the movie’s a nice vehicle
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart – Divisive star (and flick) but she’ll have passionate supporters
Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose – I maintain that she looks like Ronald McDonald, but she’s good and many adore her
Ellen Page, Juno – Can’t stand her acting, but it’s looking inevitable
Sneaking in fifth: Julie Christie, Away from Her – Christie’s best work in decades, though I didn’t love the script

Crazy talk:

Keira Knightley, Atonement – Gave the same perf in those Chanel ads. Pride & Prejudice was a one-off, and the role's too skimpy


A dark horse:

Julianne Moore, Savage Grace – If this gets distribution in time, she shouldn’t be ruled out



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men – This category’s Day-Lewis – you can guarantee the nod, and a win looks likely
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War – A double-whammy year for PSH, I say, but this is the more certain mention
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild – Has “Richard Farnsworth” written all over him
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood – Hugely talented, and they say it’s not just the Dan show
Sneaking in fifth: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – Everyone’s singling him out, even if it’ll be the film’s lone non-technical nod


Careful not to overrate:

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton – Bizarre role and erratic perf, both damaging to the movie


In with a shot:

Philip Bosco, The Savages – I’m not sure he has enough to do, but look where Alan Arkin went with that

AND

Ethan Hawke, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – No one predicted that Training Day coup, and he’s much better here




BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There – All the makings of another win, but it’s the Haynes nod I’m more psyched about
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement – Deserves her buzz for anchoring the front, better half of the pic
Vanessa Redgrave, Atonement – Excellent for mere minutes: poor Romola Garai!
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton – Strikingly brilliant in a rotten part
Sneaking in fifth: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding – Her husband’s film, but more importantly she’s sympathetic for once

I’m doubting it:

Julia Roberts, Charlie Wilson’s War – Looks inessential verging on decorative, and the film’s going to be scraping its other noms

Coming through:

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone – She’s wonderful in The Wire and I’m hearing great things about this performance

Surely, for all that's holy, no:

Abbie Cornish, Elizabeth: The Golden Age


Monday, October 08, 2007

Review: The Nanny Diaries


You know something’s going seriously wrong with a movie when you spend most of it looking forward to the next screening, and that screening is Resident Evil: Extinction. I had no great hopes for The Nanny Diaries, from the American Splendor team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, but no earthly idea that it would be quite this terrible; if my negativity has a trace of glee to it, I would confess that amid a stodgy diet of comparative mediocrities like The Kingdom, Michael Clayton and Death Proof, the sheer awfulness of this childcare comedy actually feels like something worth commenting on.

Imagine lobotomising Sofia Coppola and asking her to remake The Devil Wears Prada for the au pair profession, and you might have something close to this lamebrained mess, but its singular ability to be shrill, smug and amazingly vapid at the same time owes just as much to the casting. Scarlett Johansson is coerced into all her most listless affectations and coy mannerisms – imagine her saying “I was the Chanel bag of nannies” and you can hear how ruinously the film goes down a dim, Sex and the City-fied voiceover route as opposed to, say, being funny, perhaps by adopting any workable comic vocabulary of its own.

Still, a far more precipitous disaster is Laura Linney, as the Upper East Side, murders-as-she-smiles Stepford Wife to whom Scarlett’s Annie becomes summarily indentured. Her brilliantly concise high society gorgon in The House of Mirth gets unpacked into feature-length caricature, swaddled in unwise Christian Dior, trussed up with nonsensical hair, and unleashed, mercilessly, at an audience who want her dead within minutes. Linney, otherwise enjoying a terrific year at the movies, proves not that she can marshal the delicious, grandstanding condescension of a Streep in Prada, but that she’s quite capable of lapsing, in a role this weakly sketched, into the calcified and witchy nastiness of bad Anjelica Huston.

Going on to outdo Igby Goes Down for upscale misanthropy, the movie is mainly enamoured of its luxuriant bedlinen, shoe racks and Chris Evans’s biceps – certainly not of its actual people, who are given mere letters for names (in the case of Linney and Paul Giamatti’s characters, “Mr and Mrs X”) or have them bleeped off screen (that’s Evans, thereafter dubbed “Harvard Hottie”). Don’t ask me if this is to protect the innocent or a way of fessing up to the roles’ obvious one-dimensionality, but, either way, it’s annoying. So’s the framing gimmick with a supposed cross-section of New Yorkers frozen in street tableaux at the Natural History Museum, their genera stencilled on as “Park Slope Lawyer”, “Central Park Bag Lady” and whathaveyou. The movie’s pretensions to anthropological commentary aren’t just glib and childish but a criminally lazy excuse for wall-to-wall stereotyping – if Alicia Keys’s character were among the exhibits, for instance, I can’t imagine what label they’d find for her except “Standard-Issue Black Best Friend”. Annie’s fantasies of floating above the Manhattan skyline, a red umbrella in hand, tip the wink oh-so-knowingly to the doyenne of film nannies, but you’d need a whole crateload of sugar to help this medicine go down. It’s supercalifragilisticexpialatrocious. F

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Supporting Actress Smackdown: 1990


My gradual return to the blogosphere has been selfishly occasioned, I'll admit – how else would I participate in Supporting Actress Sundays? Our host is the ever-redoubtable StinkyLulu, whose commitment to the cause of actressing at the edges ought to be world-renowned by now.

As my tally of hearts might suggest, I found 1990 an eye-catching but faintly disappointing year for the category, if only because there are so many other performances I'd love to have been arguing about instead. Stinky welcomes alternative lists of personal nominations and here's my first shot at one, though the struggle I'm having to whittle it down to five names only underlines the very middling quality of the eventual ballot. From Oscar's nominees, only Whoopi Goldberg, barging her way hilariously through the mush of Ghost, would have a shot at making my fantasy five, in a year of rich pickings for British actresses in particular.

Honourable runners-up for me include Glenn Close's must-have-been-nearly-nominated Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune, both sustaining the mystery and sneakily enriching it with her comatose narration, and, in a slightly more indulgent register, Frances Sternhagen's sardonic old coot of a local sheriff's wife in Misery. I love both Mai Zetterling's protective granny and Anjelica Huston's scary villainness in Nicolas Roeg's ace The Witches, though either performance could just about qualify as a lead, so that would be cheating.

My finalists are:

Laurie Metcalf in Mike Figgis's Internal Affairs – smashing, credible and sceptical as a tough lesbian cop
Lindsay Duncan, seductively ambiguous as a possibly-vampiric next-door neighbour in Philip Ridley's The Reflecting Skin
Billie Whitelaw as the controlling mother of two psychopaths in The Krays, from another Ridley script
Jennifer Jason Leigh's brilliantly fresh, un-actressy hooker in Miami Blues
and (edging out Whoopi) Harriet Walter as Michel Piccoli's flirty, bilingual sister-in-law in Louis Malle's marvellous Milou en mai

Any to add? Fire away!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

2007, so far

Nick beat me to it this year, but it seems about time for a post-Toronto round-up fielding the best of 2007 as of September. Here's my reply in kind:


BEST PICTURE

1. I’m Not There
2. The Fall
3. Lady Chatterley
4. Conversations with Other Women
5. Yella



BEST DIRECTOR

Pascale Ferran (Lady Chatterley)
Todd Haynes (I’m Not There)
Christian Petzold (Yella)
Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo (The Night of the Sunflowers)
Tarsem (The Fall)



BEST ACTOR

Chris Cooper (Breach)
Aaron Eckhart (Conversations with Other Women)
Ethan Hawke (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)



BEST ACTRESS

Helena Bonham Carter (Conversations With Other Women)
Marina Hands (Lady Chatterley)
Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)
Laura Linney (Jindabyne)
Catinca Untaru (The Fall)



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Joseph Gilgun (This is England)
Hippolyte Girardot (Lady Chatterley)
Fabrice Luchini (Molière)
Alfred Molina (The Hoax)
Devid Striesow (The Counterfeiters)



BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Seema Biswas (Water)
Charlotte Gainsbourg (I’m Not There)
Kelli Garner (Lars and the Real Girl)
Deborra-Lee Furness (Jindabyne)
Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)



BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

2 Days in Paris
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Conversations with Other Women
Funny Ha Ha
The Gigolos



BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Counterf
eiters
Jindabyne
Lady Chatterley
A Mighty Heart
Zodiac



BEST EDITING

28 Weeks Later...
The Fall
I’m Not There
The Night of the Sunflowers
Yella



BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

28 Weeks Later...
Black Snake Moan
Hallam Foe
I’m Not There
Lady Chatterley



BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Fall
Hallam Foe
I’m Not There
Sunshine
Zodiac




BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Blades of Glory
Drawing Restraint 9
I’m Not There
La vie en rose
Yella



BEST SOUND

The Bourne Ultimatum
Drawing Restraint 9
I’m Not There
Lady Chatterley
Sunshine




BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

3.10 to Yuma
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
The Counterfeiters




THE TALLIES


I'm Not There: 8
Lady Chatterley: 7
The Fall: 5
Conversations with Other Women; Yella; Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: 4
The Counterfeiters; Jindabyne: 3
A Mighty Heart; Zodiac; The Night of the Sunflowers; Sunshine; Hallam Foe; Drawing Restraint 9; 28 Weeks Later...: 2

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Unfinished business


At around the point when I jacked in this blogging enterprise, what, eight months ago, there was a post missing: my year-end top ten. Before I offer any mid-term assessments for 2007, here, after a needlessly long drum-roll, is what 2006 would have looked like.

1. Inland Empire A

A nightmarish (not to mention doomed) quest for lost marbles, utterly forbidding and quite mesmerising.

2. The Death of Mr Lazarescu A

The systematic erasure of "Mr L" (identity, I think) before medical death ensues.

3. Black Sun A

A haunting disquisition on what it means to see, narrated by a philosopher who no longer can.

4. Requiem A—

What happens when an illness can't be cured because the cure is the illness.

5. Red Road A—

Stalker cinema par excellence, driven by multiple ambiguous agendas for most of its length.

6. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada A—

An Arriaga jigsaw which worked, in part because the pieces weren't just tossed to the winds but carefully gathered, and lovingly rearranged.

7. Frozen Land A—

Finnish desperation as a virtuoso relay race.

8. A Scanner Darkly A—

Linklater and PKD: a paranoiac's delight, and a riot of free-associating.

9. Deep Water A— (pictured)

The British national psyche at sea in a shattering, superbly crafted doc.

10 United 93 A—/B+

Still one to grapple with on all sorts of levels, and a technical triumph.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fine Young Criminals

Disturbia (d. DJ Caruso)
The Lookout (d. Scott Frank)

What do Disturbia and The Lookout have in common? Loads, as it turns out. They’re both promising mid-year releases carried on the shoulders of hot young stars with plenty still to prove. Both are also mid-budgeted thrillers with easily blurbable, trailer-friendly plotting let down by lax detail and a mudslide erosion of plausibility. Neither sucks, quite, but neither really satisfies on the terms it offers us.

Both, coincidentally, begin with tragic road accidents, but here the similarities end. Disturbia needs Shia LaBeouf’s dad to be dead, in order to remove a key authority figure from his life, provide a pretext for his assault on a tactless Spanish teacher, and thereby get him placed under legally-enforced house arrest for its duration. The Lookout, for its part, needs to afflict Joseph Gordon-Levitt with severe head injuries, establish a vaguely Guy-Pearce-in-Memento-like inability to put his memories into sequence, and open up a pit of insoluble guilt at the core of his emotions.

Me, I’ll take the brisk, impersonal pragmatism of the first movie’s concept over the woolly, voiceovered, “character-driven” pretensions of the second, and for at least 45 minutes Disturbia is both the cheesier and much the better movie. You need a fair tolerance for blaring teen-rock and wurd-up-dawg dialogue, but at least they’re getting on with it: LaBeouf’s confinement within a fixed perimeter around his house is amusingly established, and the Rear Window stuff begins in earnest with the arrival of fresh next-door hottie Ashley (Sarah Roemer), who has a habit of taking lubricious dips precisely when DJ Caruso and his screenwriters need (and indeed want) her to.

It’s easy to let the film off its mechanical foregrounding of every plot beat, at least while the main thriller premise is coming into focus: each establishing sequence has a completely transparent function that you predicted it would have to have about ten minutes earlier. But then it keeps on and on like this. Unlike the campier Hitchcock homage What Lies Beneath, where entire reels were, for better and worse, devoted to ridiculous dead-end subplots, there’s really nothing left up this film’s sleeve once we’ve deduced where it’s headed. We know, from a combination of disappointingly predictable casting and the fact that there’s no other way the scenario can go, that creepy neighbour David Morse HAS to be a mass murderer. It’s just a question of how many creepy deer corpses are going to be found in his creepy garage until a human one pops up and the police actually arrive in time.

If we’re ranking the things-going-bump-in-the-suburbs genre, I’ll take the Zemeckis film over this, and, naturally, I’ll take the delicious Monster House (which he exec produced) over either of them. Disturbia’s script is too vapid and its execution too studio-safe to afford the real frissons of contemporary unease (and creepiness) its title seems to portend, partly because the screenwriters haven’t had the sense to throw in nearly enough suspicious or sinister minor characters. It’s always good to see Viola Davis, but she’s largely wasted as an officious cop, and Carrie-Anne Moss, in the barely-bothered-with role of LaBeouf’s mother, continues to look in vain for a genuine function outside of The Matrix.

Still, it has LaBeouf himself, whose feverish comic timing was the one thing I enjoyed in the ear-bashing demolition derby of Transformers. Caruso’s movie gives its young lead plenty of reasons to break a sweat, and he has a lot of fun acting under siege from hormones and paranoia at the same time, getting into his coltish stride often enough to keep things rhythmic and lively. When the script surprises a reaction out of him, as when Roemer turns up dripping wet on his doorstep, he does flustered double takes as good as anyone’s, and keeps making snap acting decisions that pay off, gesturally and emotionally. LaBeouf isn’t picking great movies, it has to be said, but he’s flinging himself around them with enough abandon and enthusiasm to bump each one up a notch.


And so to his rival in the edgy pin-up stakes. Much as I was impressed by him in Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, I’m not sure Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really adding much to his films right now, and I’m wary of going back to that film (and to the self-regarding if distinctively off-kilter Brick) for fear of having that view confirmed. To be honest, I’m beginning to mistrust him in the way I instinctively mistrust someone who can’t crack a smile. He works hard in close-up to suggest a ticking introspection, but you sense that he wants you to notice the effort. And there’s something ostentatiously gritty and humourless about his script choices – he’s picking movies that can be built around him, and that will make him look good, rather than ones he can help energise or improve much.

The Lookout is exactly as good as Scott Frank’s script, which is to say not very. It’s more sub-Mamet than sub-Elmore Leonard, and, if you really want a note of caution rammed home, it reminded me of Reindeer Games: the con-artistry’s transparent, the heist itself barely memorable. There’s an eye-catching role for Match Point’s Matthew Goode as the criminal ring-leader, but it mainly has the trappings of a killer career move – Goode can do an American accent, he can do threatening charm, but why the asthma inhaler? Who is this guy meant to be, really?

Fair stretches of the movie work thanks to Jeff Daniels, sagacious and endearingly prickly as Gordon-Levitt’s blind flatmate and best friend. The standout scene – the only one that rises to the level of Frank’s Out of Sight work – is a midnight encounter between Daniels and Isla Fisher’s in-on-the-con seductress, in which he takes the piss out of her name (“Luvlee Lemons”) and keeps throwing out casually barbed intimations that, while he doesn’t know exactly what her game is, he knows she’s got one. Fisher, whom I liked a lot in the underrated Wedding Daze, has a nicely ambivalent presence here as the only character who looks a little unsure about fulfilling her generic brief. I like her even more now.

Unlike the garishly designed and grimly lit Disturbia, The Lookout is at least sleekly shot by Alar Kivilo, all wintry reckoning and clean lines, but it doesn’t add up to much, and its pleasures are as airy, ambient and eventually superficial as the other film’s are disposably popcorn-tastic. Note to Gordon-Levitt: do lighten up! It’s time for LaBeouf to get serious. Grade for both films: C

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Some more recent viewings...

...and, pictured above, the film of the year so far. I will be up and blogging again properly soon, I promise. Hopefully by Toronto. It's taking baby steps.

*= repeat viewing

Lady Chatterley A—

The Hoax B

The Bourne Ultimatum B+

High School Musical B—

Tales from Earthsea C

Gandhi My Father C+

Knocked Up B

Billy Liar (1963) B—

Waitress D

The Walker* C—

License to Wed F

Rush Hour 3 D—

Transylvania B

12.08 East of Bucharest B

Ecoute le temps C—

Eagle vs Shark D+

Copying Beethoven D

Birth* A—

Red Lights* B

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm alive!

...just on a semi-permanent blogging hiatus. To prove I've still been doing my job, here's everything I've seen in like the last 4 months:

Transformers C—
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix B—
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End D—
The Bothersome Man B
Wild Tigers I Have Known B—
Shut Up and Sing B
28 Weeks Later B
Lucky You C
Captivity F
Shutter C+
Jindabyne B+
Molière B
Taxidermia B+
Die Hard 4.0 B—
Paradise Lost C
Water B—
Zodiac B+
Lovewrecked C+
Magicians C—
Black Snake Moan B
Longing C+
Goodbye Bafana C
Reno 911: Miami F
The Breed C—
Straightheads D+
The Painted Veil B—
Next D
Scott Walker: 20th Century Man B
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten C
My Best Friend B—
Conversations With Other Women A—
Like Minds D
Blue Blood B
The All Together D—
Dans Paris D
The Bridge to Terabithia C
Edmond D
Hostel: Part II D+
Les petites vacances A—
The City of Violence C+
Black Gold B+
Ten Canoes B—
Flyboys D
Vacancy D+
Tell No One B
Ocean’s Thirteen B—
The Chumscrubber D
The Tiger’s Tail D
Wedding Daze B—
The Hitcher C
Night of the Sunflowers A—
Spider-Man 3 C
Goya’s Ghosts D+
Away From Her C+
The Puffy Chair B+
Mutual Appreciation B+
Fracture B
The Reaping D—
Alpha Dog D
Pathfinder F
Ghost Rider D
Becoming Jane B—
Gone C+
After the Wedding B+
Funny Ha Ha A—
Factory Girl D+
Fur C+
Premonition D
Eden B
The Gigolos B+
I Want Candy C
Catch and Release C+
Beyond Hatred B
The Last Mimzy D—
The Messengers D+
Wild Hogs D
Curse of the Golden Flower C—
Firehouse Dog C
Private Fears in Public Places B—
Hacking Democracy C+
Reign Over Me C
Shooter C+
Perfect Stranger D
Blades of Glory B+
Sunshine B+
Days of Glory B—
The Namesake B
Meet the Robinsons B
Catch a Fire C—
Amazing Grace C
Dead Silence C—
Exiled B—
The Golden Door C
The Flying Scotsman C+
Sketches of Frank Gehry C+


Heaven Can Wait (1978) C—
Heaven Can Wait (1943) A—
Last Tango in Paris C+
Autumn Sonata A
Milou en mai A—
Accident A—
Coming Home B
California Suite C—
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs A
Opening Night A
Prick Up Your Ears A—
El Topo B—
The Seventh Seal A—
Shadows B+
Interiors C+
Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb B—
Demons of the Mind C

Sunday, February 18, 2007

mainlymovies' Best of 06: Actress


Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal)












Laura Dern (Inland Empire)












Catherine Frot (The Page Turner)












Luminita Gheorghiu (The Death of Mr Lazarescu)










Sandra Hüller (Requiem)











RUNNERS-UP: Emmanuelle Béart (Strayed), Sandra Bullock (The Lake House), Penélope Cruz (Volver), Stephanie Leonidas (MirrorMask), Pauline Malefane (U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha), Lorraine Stanley (London to Brighton).

mainlymovies' Best of 06: Actor

Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)










Johnny Harris (London to Brighton)












Heath Ledger (Candy)












Melvil Poupaud (Le temps qui reste)










Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)








RUNNERS-UP: Shia LaBeouf (A Guide to Recognising Your Saints), Eddie Marsan (Sixty Six), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Go Green


GreenCine Daily, an excellent site I've finally got round to adding to my sidebar links, has for quite a while now been my favourite digest for film criticism on the web. As is their wont during festivals, they've very usefully been collating global coverage from Berlin — even linking here! — and their own reports are well-informed, snappily written and admirably comprehensive. It's high time I said thanks to David Hudson and his correspondents for providing such a terrific service, and I hereby offer to buy them a drink the next time we're in the same city together. (Sorry to have missed them for Berlin wrap-up — I'm back in the UK as of yesterday...)

Cheers guys!

Friday, February 09, 2007

BERLIN GRADES



La vie en rose C

Madonnas C—

The Walker D

This Filthy World B

300 C

Yella A—

BerlinSong C+

Bordertown D—

Night Moves A




Here’s my first Telegraph report; here’s my second, including a review of Zack Snyder's initially arresting but thumpingly monotonous 300; and here's a final blog about the prizes, including Best Actress for Nina Hoss (above).

mainlymovies' Best of 06: Supporting Actor


Paul Dano (The King)












Paul Dawson (Shortbus)








Robert Downey Jr. (A Scanner Darkly)








William Hurt (The King)










David Morse (Down in the Valley)










RUNNERS-UP: Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine), Greg Kinnear (Fast Food Nation), Woody Harrelson (A Prairie Home Companion), Stephen Campbell Moore (The History Boys), Nick Nolte (Clean), Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), Hugo Weaving (Little Fish).

mainlymovies' Best of 06: Supporting Actress

(blurbs up later if I get a moment...)


Nichola Burley (Love + Hate)










Charlotte Rampling (Lemming)












Fiona Shaw (The Black Dahlia)












Emily Watson (The Proposition)










Grace Zabriskie (Inland Empire)








RUNNERS-UP: Adriana Barraza (Babel), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), Melonie Diaz (A Guide to Recognising Your Saints), Vera Farmiga (The Departed), Ashley Johnson (Fast Food Nation), Mia Kirshner (The Black Dahlia).

Friday, February 02, 2007

mainlymovies' Best of 2006: Original Score


Mark Isham (The Black Dahlia)


Nathan Johnson (Brick)


Clint Mansell and Mogwai (The Fountain)


tomandandy (The Hills Have Eyes)


Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (The Proposition)


Click the images to listen to excerpts! If it works...