Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stuck in the middle with you, and you, and you...

Of all grades I instinctively want to avoid handing out too often, the boring old B– is top of the list. It's the sitting-on-the-fence grade: it feels lazy, as though I can't force myself down on one side or the other. And yet, right now, it's an affliction. I can't get round the problem of nearly liking about half the stuff on my current sidebar. Fabrice du Welz's Vinyan (pictured) has smashing photography, a confident arrangement of ideas and settings, an unexpectedly good Rufus Sewell performance... but Antichrist it just ain't, I'm afraid. Surrogates is about twice the film anyone was expecting, but still about half the one anyone could plausibly argue was a must-see. Army of Crime is so drab-looking and sluggishly assembled it was looking C-tier till way into the second half, but then the story gets going and I was hooked and moved. District 13: Ultimatum is neither more nor less than a propulsive, dumb, niftily edited action flick with a threadbare conspiracy plot that no one's worrying about too much. But it's still a B. Individually they're all just fine, but collectively they feel like some tyranny or epidemic of fine. Can someone who is NOT Nia Vardalos or Ricky Gervais please break this stranglehold?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

2009: Mid-Year Favourites

I'm basically looking at everything since last year's awards season, which happens to include Synecdoche, New York over here in the UK, and not to include last year's mentions Julia and Summer Hours.

The Hurt Locker
Modern Life

Synecdoche, New York

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York)
Sam Raimi (Drag Me to Hell)
Lars von Trier (Antichrist)
Jan Troell (Everlasting Moments)

Runners-up: Henry Selick (Coraline), Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), Cary Fukuyama (Sin Nombre), Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), Raymond Depardon (Modern Life)

Russell Crowe (State of Play)
Robert Downey, Jr (The Soloist)
Denis Moschitto (Chiko)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Synecdoche, New York)
Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)

Unusual riches here this year. Five terrific runners-up: Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker), Jamie Foxx (The Soloist), Paul Rudd (I Love You, Man), Adam Sandler (Funny People), Alex MacQueen (The Hide).

Penélope Cruz (Broken Embraces)
Vera Farmiga (Orphan) (!)
Maria Heiskanen (Everlasting Moments)
Isabelle Huppert (Home)
Maya Rudolph (Away We Go)

This field is bugging me, in part because, beyond the wonderful Heiskanen, it's hard one to rave about. I keep going back and forth on whether Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank) really belongs here -- see comments -- and I think she's probably on the cusp. Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist) and Lina Leandersson (Let the Right One In) are commendable, but trail some way behind.

Liam Boyle (Awaydays)
Michael Fassbender (Fish Tank)
Tom Hollander (In the Loop)
Martin Starr (Adventureland)
Michael Stuhlbarg (Afterschool)

Cécile de France (Mesrine: Killer Instinct)
Holly Grainger (Awaydays)
Rebecca Griffiths (Fish Tank)
Blanca Portillo (Broken Embraces)
Lorna Raver (Drag Me to Hell)

Let the Right One In
A Serious Man
Synecdoche, New York
35 Shots of Rum

Fish Tank
The Hurt Locker
Modern Life
Sin Nombre

Production design, Coraline
Editing, sound and score, Drag Me to Hell
Editing and sound, The Hurt Locker
Visual effects and score, Moon
Sound, Let the Right One In
Score, 35 Shots of Rum

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Links galore

Three things to plug: first (belatedly) this convo with Nick about Michael Mann's Ali, a movie we were both intrigued to revisit.

My brief Telegraph review of David R Ellis's b.o.-topping but grim and cynical The Final Destination is up online after a technical glitch.

Plus, I'll be tuning in over at In Contention to Guy Lodge's reports on the Venice competish. I like his style.