Saturday, 23 January 2010

Poem of the Week #4

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

Louis Macneice

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

BamBi's Filmography 2009

You know the drill (see 2008 and 2007's versions in case of any confusion). All the films released in 2009 that I saw, each reviewed in twenty five words or less and a score out of ten.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Pitt is fantastic, and Blanchett supports superbly. Absorbing with some beautiful cinematography. Highly polished and crafted. Wonderful.

Slumdog Millionaire
The story kept me hooked from start to finish. Some powerful scenes are peppered throughout. A gritty fairytale told through high quality cinema.

Marley & Me
Very average, very safe. Wilson and Aniston are decidedly bland, with Arkin providing some relief in his scenes. Oversentimental and a bit too long.

Starts well, but loses pace and focus, concluding in an unsatisfying and preachy way. A couple of impressive disaster scenes, but ultimately poor.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

Genuinely funny all the way through, even though the story is a bit too simple. Great characters and some clever humour.

17 Again
Never terrible, but never special. Efron has potential, Lennon provides a few funny moments.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Stays safe, delivering a film lacking in point or substance. The story in the opening credits would have made a much more interesting film.

Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs
Buck is an excellent addition, but some established characters feel sidelined. The Scrat segments are potentially the best we've seen.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
Broadbent and Felton largely save a half-hearted, patchy and at times incomprehensible adaptation. Even the magic is underwhelming. Not awful, just distinctly average.

The Proposal
The collective charm of Reynolds and Bullock drags this below-average rom-com back up to average. One or two funny scenes, but ultimately forgettable.

Night At Tbe Museum 2
An enjoyable and lighthearted sequel that in many ways is better than the first. An endearing film that's great fun.

Land Of The Lost
Ferrell on autopilot and one-dimensional characters bumble through a second-rate parallel universe of dinosaurs and ice cream vans and make boob jokes. Lame.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Sold as a chick flick, but ultimately more than that. Flawed and at times oversimplified, but intelligent and enjoyable at the same time.

Terminator Salvation
Strong casting in Bale, Worthington and Yelchin and an absorbing depiction of the post-Judgement Day world make a very enjoyable addition to the franchise.

(500) Days Of Summer
Wonderfully difficult to define. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is superb. Structurally, comedically and emotionally intelligent. Apart from an overly corny ending, an excellent film.

Inglourious Basterds
Sets the bar incredibly high and achieves everything it attempts. Flawless casting, astounding script and direction. A Tarantino masterpiece.

Emotional, funny, expertly crafted. The first twenty minutes are some of the finest cinema I have ever seen. Another Pixar masterpiece.

Star Trek
Great action sci-fi reboot. Strong cast, fairly tight script and an interesting story if somewhat oversimplified in places. Very good opening film to the franchise.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
A quirky, fun take on the Roald Dahl story. Never reaches the heights of Wes Anderson's previous films, but still worth seeing.

By-the-numbers action disaster. Impressive CGI, rubbish script, overlong story, flat characters. Just watch the best bits in the trailer.

Hamlet 2
Disappointing and dull stuff from Coogan. Realises its complete misfire too late to save itself. Some funny songs in the final act.

Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past
Tries to be more than an average rom-com by desecrating a Dickens' story. Fails. Michael Douglas hams it up fairly well.

Not as excruciatingly bad as it could have been; low expectations made it better. Wootton grates in every scene.

Style firmly over substance. By-the-numbers forbidden romance story set in a breathtaking CGI environment. Good action-fantasy-sci-fi. Cameron makes it work.

Sherlock Holmes
Not as clever as it thinks it is, slightly lacking in character depth and robustness of storyline, but a strong cast makes this very good.

And the one's I never got round to seeing:
Sunshine Cleaning
The Soloist
Public Enemies
In The Loop
Funny People
District 9
The Informant!
The Invention Of Lying
A Serious Man
Where The Wild Things Are
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Me And Orson Welles
The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus
Harry Brown
Is Anybody There?
Looking For Eric

So, that's 2009 wrapped up. There seem to be a lot of "best films of the decade" lists going around at the moment, so I may start work on one of those if I feel it's not beyond me and a worthwhile exercise. For now, 2010 has cinematically begun very much on a high for me with the excellent Up In The Air. Review to follow.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Adieu 2009

So, just as I and others did for 2008 and 2007, here's my review of 2009.

Best film I saw at the cinema in 2009:
Inglourious Basterds
(honorable mentions: Up, Slumdog Millionaire, (500) Days Of Summer, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)

Looking back on 2009, I found that only one or two films really stuck out in my mind as candidates for the best film I'd seen. However, thinking a little harder revealed several gems. Up came very close to beating Inglourious Basterds, being as it is a tour de force of animation and one of the most emotional pieces of cinema I've watched for a long while, but I just couldn't deny Tarantino's near-perfect war epic that is quite literally unlike any film I've ever seen before. Inglourious Basterds is probably as close as Tarantino has come to matching the cinematic heights reached in Pulp Fiction, and deserves to go down as a masterpiece.

Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2009:
The Wrestler
(honorable mentions: I'm Not There, Son Of Rambow)

Three brilliant films in their own ways, and a difficult choice because of this. But The Wrestler clinches it for being an ace film and solidifying Mickey Rourke in my mind as a truly awesome actor.

Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2009:

Not that I haven't watched any TV this year. It just hasn't featured as prominently in other years, and a lot of the stuff I've watched is stuff that I've continued to watch, rather than started watching, in 2009.

Best TV show that I continued to watch in 2009:

Lost has benefited this year from two things: heading towards its conclusion (the final season begins at the beginning of February this year), and not trying to cater to people who haven't watched all the previous seasons. Even the way season 4 was written seemed at least in part to be to allow new viewers to join the story. Season 5 forewent such exotericism plunging deep into Lost's complexities, and as a viewer from the start of season 1, to my mind it was all the better for it.

Best singles of 2009:
Bonkers - Dizzee Rascal & Armand Van Helden
Warrior's Dance - The Prodigy
End Credits - Chase & Status (featuring Plan B)

Most annoying songs of 2009:
Bulletproof - La Roux
Bodies - Robbie Williams

Best albums of 2009:
Invaders Must Die - The Prodigy
Drop - Mistabishi
Join The Q - The Qemists

Best live show I saw in 2009:
Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage

Kind of wins by default, as it was actually the only live show I went to see of any sort in 2009. But it's still worth a mention as, even though it's not entirely my kind of thing, there was no denying the high production values and performances of all those involved. I went with the intention of keeping an open and non-cynical mind, and I actually had an enjoyable time seeing Dirty Dancing, so that's why it's there.

Best game I first played in 2009:
The Settlers Of Catan

Most time wasted this year:
Being a teacher

Okay, I guess it's more of a career than time wasted, but it's amazing how more and more of your life gets taken over by the fact that you're a teacher the longer you do it. So no chance for websites to take up my time any more.