Monday, 31 January 2011

2011 Oscar predictions

The nominations for the 2011 Academy Awards were announced last week, bringing few surprises for many it would seem. The nominees in most categories seem to have followed what many predicted, and the general consensus appears to be that those who are nominated deserve to be there. With twelve nominations, The King's Speech is the front runner, with the Coens' True Grit pleasingly receiving ten, followed by Inception and The Social Network with eight each. Whether this will be an Oscar year of forgone conclusions or big surprises remains to be seen, but I thought I'd join the foray of predictions with my thoughts on how things might go in the main categories. You can find out all the nominees on the official Oscar website.

Of the ten nominees for Best Picture, I've only managed to see Inception, The Social Network and Toy Story 3 and I'm pleased that they've all been nominated. There's been a great deal of praise for all the nominees over the past year, but The King's Speech seems to be the film on everyone's lips. Black Swan might get a look in, and I'd be happy to see the Coen Brothers get another best picture win after No Country For Old Men in 2007. But with all the accolades it's already received, I'm going to go with the general consensus and predict The King's Speech will be victorious here.

Best Director is a tricky one to predict, as I've only seen The Social Network. But where is Nolan for Inception? Not to take anything away from the nominees, but it's a great shame to see him missed off. I'm guessing looking at the directors nominated that Inception was too much of a summer blockbuster to get a nod. Anyway, all the directors have been lauded for their work on the films here, so I'm going to plump for Fincher winning here because I've seen the film and the direction was ace.

I've not seen any of the Best Actress films (whoops), but I'm expecting Natalie Portman to claim it. As for Best Actor, again I've only seen The Social Network, but the buzz around Firth's performance in The King's Speech has been impossible to miss. I'm glad to see Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco in here, as both are great young talents who deserve to go far, but again I'm going to go with the consensus and predict Firth as the winner as it would seem foolish not to.

As I haven't seen any of the films for either Best Supporting Actress or Best Supporting Actor, I'm not going to give any predictions for them.

Great to see Mike Leigh nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Another Year (a film I very much want to see). Another category where I've only seen one of the films - Inception this time - and as Nolan seems to have been largely overlooked in other categories, I'm going to go with him winning this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay is a tricky one to call. I've seen two of the five nominated (The Social Network and Toy Story 3), and whilst it would be great to see the Coens win this with True Grit, I'm going to go with The Social Network to win this one as it's script was razor sharp.

From the rest of the categories:
  • Best Animated Film has to be Toy Story 3.
  • A shame to see Daft Punk's score for Tron: Legacy miss out on a nomination. I'd love Reznor and Ross' score for The Social Network to win this one.
  • Inception for Best Cinematography, please.
  • Good to see Banksy's Exit Through The Gift Shop nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
If I manage to see any more of the nominees between now and 27th February I'll be sure to update my predictions.

Review | Leap Year (2010)

Since her break-out performance in 2007's Enchanted, Amy Adams' career has been both varied and increasingly impressive. She brings a comprehensive authenticity to roles, from a feisty and energetic Amelia Earheart in Night At The Museum 2 to the understated and discomfortingly innocent Sister James in Doubt, in which Adams held her own supporting cinematic heavyweights Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Adams has proven herself as a talent to watch, which makes it all the more disappointing to see her talents completely wasted in forgettable dross such as Leap Year.

Adams plays Anna Brady, a successful career woman who mistakenly believes her boyfriend of four years Jeremy (Adam Scott) is going to propose to her. When she realises her mistake, she follows the advice of her father (John Lithgow, sadly only in a cameo) to follow Jeremy to Dublin, Ireland when he travels there on business to propose on 29th February as, according to Irish tradition, a woman is allowed to propose to a man only on this day. After her flight is diverted from Ireland to Wales, she finally makes it to the small Irish town of Dingle where she manages to convince innkeeper and taxi driver (yes, really) Declan O'Callaghan (Matthew Goode) to accept the fare of transporting her across the country to Dublin. Their relationship begins at odds with each other, but naturally things change along the way.

Essentially, Leap Year follows the premise of countless other romantic comedies before it. Anna and Declan start off as polar opposites - her a preened and fastidious city girl, him a good old Irish country boy - but over the course of the film they grow much closer. Not that I wish to spoil the film, but if you've ever seen a rom-com you can work this one out for yourself. In terms of genre conventions the film plays things absolutely safe and down the line. This doesn't necessarily make Leap Year awful from the get go, but it does set things off on a decidedly average mark.

Things soon go downhill however. Leap Year contains some incredibly "Hollywood" geography, as Anna lands at Cardiff airport when her flight to Dublin is diverted due to stormy weather. Welsh ferries also out of action because of the storm, she then proceeds to sail from Cardiff to Ireland. In a tiny fishing boat. Manned by one fisherman. Through a raging storm. Yes, really. To cap it all, Dingle - where Anna ends up - is on the far side of Ireland to Wales. Whilst I appreciate the film is supposed to be lighthearted entertainment, with an opening act as ludicrous as Leap Year's it's hard not to become cynical.

The "Hollywood" geography is soon joined by painful Irish stereotypes, as pretty much everyone Anna meets in Ireland apart from Goode's character appears to be a grizzled old bumpkin who spouts superstitious nonsense. Research into Ireland done for the film appears to have consisted of little more than sitting in an Irish theme pub.

Unfortunately it's not just the minor characters who lack depth. Both Anna and Declan have hurried backstories tacked onto them at separate points to explain why they are the way they are (Anna obsessed with keeping to plans, Declan just a bit of an arse) as if the makers of the film suddenly realised their main characters were a bit flimsy and decided on the quickest and laziest way to remedy this. Suffice to say, it doesn't work. It also doesn't help that Adams and Goode have almost no chemistry whatsoever on screen. It's never believable that the two truly hate each other, even less so that they could suddenly fall head over heels in love.

There are worse films in the rom-com genre than Leap Year, but there are also plenty that are much more enjoyable. Adams does the best she can with the trite and predictable script, but she has proven herself to be much better than this and hopefully will steer clear of this kind of tosh in the future. Adams' performance and the views of the beautiful Irish countryside jointly earn Leap Year an extra mark, but this is ultimately a film with ridiculous plot points, cultural ignorance and nothing new to say. If it's lighthearted entertainment you want, watch Enchanted again instead.


Review | The Aristocrats (2005)

Making a documentary film about one of the filthiest jokes ever told might seem to many to be inviting controversy for controversy's sake. Upon its release, The Aristocrats did stir things up a little with one chain of cinemas in the US refusing to screen it. But the style and delivery of the film quickly demonstrate that the intention of filmmakers Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza here is not to directly shock or cause offence (although many watching The Aristocrats will no doubt be shocked or offended) but to look into the nature of comedy, of joke-telling and of the people who make their living in those fields.

The premise of the film is simple: to explore the origins and enduring appeal behind a joke known as "The Aristocrats" which has existed for decades since the vaudeville era. The structure of the joke, as explained within the first ten minutes of the film, is simple: there is little variation in the opening of the joke or the punchline, whereas the middle part of the joke is the exact opposite; it is the chance for the teller of the joke to make it his or her own through ad libbed and improvised description. And here's where the shock and offence come in: the intention of the teller is to make the middle section as boundary-crossing, taboo-breaking and downright filthy as they can.

Essentially, if you don't have a sense of humour, a strong stomach and are easily offended then it's likely that you'll get very little out of The Aristocrats. Jillette and Provenza's documentary consists almost entirely of interview footage of comedians, performers and members of the entertainment industry either talking about the joke or giving their own rendition of it. There are plenty of big names here (Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock to name just three) but also many who aren't so well known, especially as all but a few of the comedians featured are American. The three Brits who feature are Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly and Eric Idle (all of whom, incidentally, have very successfully broken the US market).

With around one hundred people interviewed throughout the film, and with humour being such a subjective and personal thing, there's bound to be a handful who don't quite hit the mark - Drew Carey comes across as smug and grating, and a ventriloquist act credited as "Otto & George" is neither funny nor successful at ventriloquism. But there's also going to be plenty of contributors who you will enjoy. With such a large amount of speakers in the film, in lesser hands the film could have become incredibly unfocused, but Jillette and Provenza keep things vibrant whilst at the same time drawing from the rich array of comedic talent and experience they have at their disposal.

That said, there are points when it's hard to judge what the purpose behind the film is. The opening ten minutes or so feel a little like a false start as we go straight in to the middle of George Carlin (undoubtedly one of the most captivating minds on comedy in the entire film) speaking about the origins of the joke without any form of introduction from the makers of the film. There are also sections throughout the documentary where people are talking about aspects of the joke or the ways it can be told where it is unclear why they are saying what they are saying at that particular point in the film. These sections make the film feel unfocused at times, and occasionally left me waiting for the film to find itself again and continue on a more meaningful track.

However, the good in The Aristocrats far outweighs the bad. The line between a comedy film and a documentary is expertly toed. The film never becomes dull, with many laugh-out-loud moments including regular fantastic renditions of the joke itself - Sarah Silverman's unique and unsettling version immediately springs to mind as a particular highlight. Jillette and Provenza never forget that they are documenters either, resisting the urge to turn the film into a lightweight series of sketches or clips from comedy shows. The film also succeeds in deconstructing what makes the joke successful as well as how each comedian's slant on the joke reflects their personality and brand of humour. Close analysis of comedy in this way can often destroy the entertainment within it, but once again the craftsmanship within the film makes sure this is never the case.

In The Aristocrats, Jillette and Provenza have produced both an entertaining and insightful look into the world of comedy, as well as a keen observation on the nature of comedy itself. Whilst it's not always completely clear what direction the film is going in, the ride is always thoroughly enjoyable. And although this is clearly a documentary about comedy, rather than a comedy film per sé, you'll find the laughs are consistent and the presentation pleasingly high in quality. Probably file this one in the "films not to watch with your mum" pile, though.


Hathaway, Hardy announced as Catwoman, Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises"

So the announcement arrived the other week that the villains in the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises will be Catwoman and Bane, played by Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy respectively. The reaction so far across the internet and elsewhere has been mixed, mainly towards Catwoman and Hathaway playing her. Many seem disappointed that Nolan has chosen to go with a well-known nemesis of Batman who has been portrayed more than once on screen already.

My initial reaction is one of positivity, and is in fact similar to when I first found out Heath Ledger would be playing The Joker in The Dark Knight. The choice of The Joker was criticised before that film was released with many questioning how Jack Nicholson's portrayal in the 1989 Burton film could be bettered. Then the casting of Ledger was equally scrutinised as doubts were cast on his ability to do the character justice. And then The Dark Knight was released and, at the risk of sounding cliché, the rest is history. Essentially, I trusted Nolan then and I trust him even more now.

Whilst Hathaway is more known for "lighter" roles in films such as Bride Wars and The Princess Diaries, she has also ventured into more challenging and quirky roles (her turn as The White Queen in Burton's Alice In Wonderland springs to mind in relation to those two adjectives in particular). Whilst she may still be proving herself to me and others, I believe Hathaway has the presence of screen and the versatility for the role. And not to hammer home the point too firmly, but similar things were said of Ledger when he was first announced as Nolan's Joker. Ledger was still proving himself; his most well-known performances prior to The Dark Knight, in films such as Brokeback Mountain and A Knight's Tale, hardly point towards his cerebral and dark turn.

In terms of Nolan's choice of villain being too mainstream, obvious or overdone, simply look at the critical acclaim that was heaped upon Nolan and Ledger for their reconstruction of Batman's most infamous foe following The Dark Knight's release and any fears should be quelled.

Anyway, I'm more excited about the other side of this story which currently seems to be being overshadowed by Hathaway's casting. I haven't seen Bronson, the film which gained Hardy notoriety, but he impressed me greatly in Inception and he must have caught the director's eye for Nolan to cast him in two films in succession. The only other actor who currently holds that honour is Batman himself, Christian Bale, in The Prestige and Batman Begins. The character of Bane also sounds like a fascinating choice allowing Nolan a great deal of scope and interpretation within his version of Gotham, as well as bringing some juicy potential character arcs for both himself and Batman to the closing installment. One thing I think can be seen as a certainty is that Nolan's Bane will be an innumerable amount of times more palatable than Joel Schumacher's abomination in 1997's Batman & Robin.

If the last two Batman films have shown us anything, it's that the Dark Knight and the world he inhabits are in some of the most capable hands in cinema in Nolan. He has my confidence in his decisions and will find me eagerly awaiting the next tidbits of information on The Dark Knight Rises whenever they should appear.

Review | Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass is undoubtedly one of the films that caught, and held, my attention the most in 2010. And not just mine, being as it was decried as much as it was lauded at the time of its release. Mainly by those who write for, or those who read, The Daily Mail. But if experience has taught us anything, it's that if something ires a Daily Mail writer/reader, it probably dares to stray significantly from the middle of the road and is worth checking out. Both of these things are true of Kick-Ass.

"How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero?" is the question posed by Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) at the start of Kick-Ass, establishing from the get-go the high concept behind the film. So begins Dave's journey from being a high school nobody (and not even a particularly notable nobody at that) to becoming Kick-Ass, the first real superhero. Or so he thinks. Dave soon discovers through donning the mask and tight-fitting costume of a comic book crusader that, in actual fact, there are superheroes already out there, namely Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), a.k.a. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. And, of course, with superheroes must come the villains in the shape of mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) and his associates. As Kick-Ass gains notoriety and popularity, Dave finds out more about those who he is fighting both with and against, and quickly realises that he may be in way over his head.

Matthew Vaughn, a director never defined by genre - his first two directorial efforts being Layer Cake and Stardust, films poles apart from both each other and Kick-Ass in both genre and tone - demonstrates his innate ability to strike the tone of the film quickly and accurately. The opening scene of Kick-Ass shows us a young man in a superhero costume diving off a skyscraper in expectation of flight, only to crumple violently onto a parked taxi below as onlookers gawp. A voiceover from Dave assures us that this isn't him, transforming the scene into something of a prologue to the story the remainder of the film will present, and establishing the key premise of Kick-Ass - it is most definitely a comic book film, but one that refuses to sugarcoat what it might actually mean to become a costumed vigilante by keeping one foot somewhat firmly in reality. Think Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins but without all the privileges of having ridiculously advanced technology at your disposal and, y'know, being a billionaire, and you're some of the way there.

This dedication to placing the superheroes of the film into a more realistic world is followed through for the most part successfully and skilfully. During Dave's first act of heroism as Kick-Ass, he holds his own for the first ten seconds or so before being promptly stabbed in the stomach and then stumbling into the path of a speeding car, earning him a lengthy stretch in hospital. Similarly, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl go against the usual superhero credo of "no guns", the walls of their home being lined with all manner of firearms to use during their crimefighting exploits. Nonetheless, our heroes still most definitely feel like heroes, as opposed to just some people who've put on outlandish costumes. We believe in Big Daddy, Hit-Girl and, eventually, Kick-Ass as credible superheroes. Vaughn's balancing of these two competing elements is tight and well-judged for the majority of the film, presenting a fresh take on a genre that has needed and received more rebooting than most in recent years. Kick-Ass is its own reboot and it knows it.

Whilst the film's tone and presentation are largely a success, that's not to say there aren't flaws. Vaughn, along with co-scriptwriter Jane Goldman, do stumble into some pitfalls of the action genre. Some of the supporting characters feel too one-dimensional, especially on a second viewing. Dave's friends Todd and Marty (Evan Peters and Clark Duke) become increasingly stereotypical "comic book nerds" as the film progresses despite admirable performances from both actors. A far worse offender is Marcus (Omari Hardwick), a former colleague of Damon who is given so little depth it is difficult to buy into the key role we discover he played earlier in the lives of Damon and Mindy. The subplot of Dave becoming friends with his high school crush Katie Deauxma (Lyndsey Fonseca) by allowing her to think he's gay also feels somewhat thin, and the conclusion of that particular story within the film severely lacks credibility, even by comic book standards. Putting a little more into these characters and plots to make them more than just cookie-cutter elements already seen in countless other films would have helped to seal some of the cracks that can be seen occasionally in Kick-Ass.

That said, you have to look pretty closely to see the imperfections. Kick-Ass succeeds far more than it fails, and considering how high Vaughn continually raises the bar, this is a considerable achievement. The action sequences are some of the most vibrant and well-executed I have seen in an action film in recent years, with the film's climax providing scenes that will leave you in awe of Vaughn as director and the cast delivering them. After an unsure opening chapter which feels unsure of its purpose, the film gains momentum as it progresses. It becomes bolder and more confident in its endeavour as well as allowing itself to become increasingly and pleasingly ludicrous, and succeeding on both counts. Case in point: Kick-Ass' magnificently over-the-top entry into the final foray will either make you say "Really? That?!" or "Best. Entrance. Ever." - most likely a mixture of the two - but you'll soon be rubbing your hands with glee either way. It's very difficult to deny how consistently entertaining Kick-Ass is.

A key component to the film's success is undoubtedly the cast. Johnson as Dave Lizewski barely puts a foot wrong, making both Lizewski and his eponymous superhero alter ego credible and genuinely likeable. Strong too is also satisfying as Frank D'Amico, bringing little that is new to the mob boss role but certainly making D'Amico his own. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as D'amico's son Chris, later becoming superhero Red Mist, continues to successfully shed the curse of "McLovin" that he began to throw off in Role Models and proves himself to be a talent worth watching.

The film, however, is undeniably stolen by Moretz and Cage both individually and as a duo. Moretz's performance is astoundingly mature whilst bringing enough childlike qualities to the character of Mindy/Hit-Girl to make the performance authentic, heartfelt and highly original. Hit-Girl receives some of the finest lines in the whole film, and Moretz's delivery of these with precisely the right amount of tongue in her cheek makes the character vibrant, cool and unforgettable. Equally Cage - who despite being one of my favourite actors has undeniably produced some fairly ropey performances in his career - is on absolute top form here. Damon/Big Daddy is arguably the character we see develop the most throughout the film, and Cage's performance underpins this superbly. Cage presents all the elements of Big Daddy - a devoted father, an honest man wronged, an unhinged vengeance machine, an Adam West fan (you'll see) - in an expert balance that only an actor of the calibre of Cage at his best could manage so perfectly. And it is when he and Moretz share the screen together that Kick-Ass is at its very best. The chemistry between the two is a delight, and whilst presenting surely one of the most unconventional father-daughter relationships ever seen on film, the bond between Big Daddy and Hit-Girl is also one of the most honestly believable I can recall seeing for some time.

Kick-Ass is not successful in everything it attempts. However, its successes far outweigh its shortcomings, and many of the criticisms of the film must be rooted around for to be found. Vaughn has shown that he is not afraid to set himself challenging goals in his films and that he is more than capable of reaching them. Kick-Ass successfully both parodies and pays tribute to the comic book film, but at the same time creates something of much more depth and ambition. I would go as far as to say that this is a film of such quality that it now sits at the right hand of Nolan's Dark Knight in becoming what all future comic book adaptations will be measured against.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

So Long 2010

Best film I saw at the cinema in 2010:

(honorable mentions: Toy Story 3, Up In The Air)

For one reason or another, I've watched films on DVD a lot more than going to the cinema this past year. Partly due to there being a smaller selection of films I've really wanted to experience at the cinema this year; partly due to time constraints, in that it's a lot quicker and simpler to put a disc in a DVD player than it is to head to the cinema; but also, partly for no reason in particular - the reasons I've just given are certainly with the benefit of hindsight, but neither was particularly prominent throughout the last twelve months. My selection was naturally narrowed therefore, but the films that I considered are in no way inferior to those of previous years. Toy Story 3 was very close to claiming the honour, as it's another Pixar masterpiece, rounding off the Toy Story trilogy faithfully to the characters and universe of the franchise that also proves that "threequels" and beyond can be fantastic pieces of cinema in their own right. Kick-Ass pipped it to the honour, being as it is a film of equally high calibre (but clearly very different genre and intention). Its triumph comes from its relatively minuscule budget and the perseverance of those who made it to make it a success. It's also not a sequel, whereas TS3 has the previous two films to help in its success. Kick-Ass is also one of the boldest and most uncompromising pieces of cinema of the whole year, or indeed any year. Up In The Air also deserved consideration for the great performances, polished direction and the uncanny balance of reality and hyperreality created within it.

Best film I saw (for the first time) on DVD in 2010:
(honorable mentions: Shutter Island, Inception, Blazing Saddles, A Serious Man, Synecdoche, New York )

All of these films stayed with me as something special, as films that chose to do things individually, setting challenging goals and reaching them sublimely. Shutter Island is another Scorsese-DiCaprio masterpiece with a unnerving Hitchcockian feel and superb craftsmanship throughout. Inception is one of the most original and ambitious films I can remember ever seeing, and solidifies Nolan as a truly special director. It took me far too long to see Blazing Saddles, but it's a genuinely innovative, unreserved and unequivocally hilarious comedy that will stay with me for the rest of my life. A Serious Man took my breath away with the Coens' masterful ability to build character and fly in the face of cinematic convention. And Synecdoche, New York is almost indescribable, but incredibly beautiful filmmaking from Kaufman, a perfect performance from Seymour Hoffman and is almost certainly the most cerebrally challenging film I've seen all year (yes, even more so than Inception).

So how did Exam manage to beat all these? Simply put, Exam excels in every single challenge it sets itself. It contains some of the finest storytelling I have ever seen in cinema. It shows that great cinema can rely almost solely on the writing, direction and acting and be a comprehensive success. And it inhabited my brain way after the credits had rolled. I was left exploring the world of Exam in my brain for a long, long time. A world which in many ways was only hinted at. Of all the many exquisite films I saw in 2010, Exam blew me away even more than the rest.

Best TV show that I saw for the first time in 2010:
Life After People

I didn't watch a great deal of new TV this year. I picked up Life After People cheap on DVD after being intrigued by the idea. And it's a very entertaining watch. It mixes the ludicrous with the highly technical in a way that's never really appealed to me before. It's almost certainly a guilty pleasure, but sometimes that's exactly what you need. If you've never seen/heard of Life After People I urge you to give it a go. If nothing else, you'll have a laugh - whether at its entertainment factor or at its expense.

Best TV show that I continued to watch in 2010:
(honorable mention: Doctor Who)

Doctor Who went from strength to strength with a fantastic send-off for Tenth Doctor Tennant at New Year followed by a series of equal if not greater success introducing the team of Stephen Moffat taking over as executive producer and new Doctor Matt Smith. The series felt rejuvenated after a quiet year in 2009, with Smith making The Doctor entirely his own whilst at the same time bringing just as much warmth and vibrance to the role as was recognisable in Tennant's incarnation, and Moffat introducing a slightly darker tone to the series overall, countering the slightly overindulgent and flabby feel that previous executive producer Russell T. Davies had delivered towards the end of his tenure.

But I just cannot ignore Lost's final season. Not as successful overall as Season 5 (especially on a repeated viewing), but keeping things fresh and innovative with the "flash-sideways" timeline whilst at the same time providing enough answers (with "enough" being the pivotal word) to bring the series to a satisfying and fitting conclusion. Many were unhappy, but when a series generates as much intricate mythology and fan theorising it's an inevitability. Personally I loved it. Lost is the best series from the first decade of the 21st Century, and the best bar one (The West Wing, if you're interested) that I've ever seen.

Best singles of 2010:
DJ Fresh - Gold Dust

Cee-Lo Green - Fuck You

Magnetic Man - I Need Air

Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand

Best albums of 2010:
Sadly, I don't have even one best album of 2010. The new albums from The Chemical Brothers, Scissor Sisters, Fatboy Slim & David Byrne, Daft Punk and Royksopp may have been candidates if I had got round to getting hold of them. Equally, I've briefly enjoyed new albums from Magnetic Man, Richard Cheese, Gorillaz and Goldfrapp this year, but don't feel I've listened to them enough to warrant judging any of them as best albums. In the past, none of these albums would have slipped through my fingers, all receiving at least a few listens each. Unfortunately it seems to have been my enthusiasm for music that has fallen by the wayside this year due to increasing demand of my time for other unavoidable commitments, and it's something that even as I type leaves me feeling quite disappointed in myself. All I can do is endeavour to significantly improve upon this in 2011.

A thin year in some ways (I haven't been to see any live shows for a good couple of years now), and I hope that 2011 is a year where I can pick up some interests that have dropped off slightly in recent times. Whether that is actually achievable remains to be seen, but the intention has now at least been stated and here's hoping it will be fulfilled, at least in part.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Telf's (embarassingly meagre) Filmography 2010

Toy Story 3
Keeps up quality of previous offerings. Well told story that will appeal to all and impeccable presentation. Funny and moving at times, and never dull.

Brilliantly original and uncompromising.

Shrek Forever After
Lacking in ideas. Very few entertaining moments - hanging off its previous incarnations like an old sitcom.

Despicable Me
Funnier and cuter than Shrek, but really very kid-oriented.

The Other Guys
Occasional moments that work, but mostly just feels like everyone involved is just treading water.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Pushes so deep into the culture that it is trying to reference that it sometimes loses its grip on the plot. Mostly very entertaining, though.

Films I would like to have seen:
Genuinely too many to mention...

Saturday, 1 January 2011

BamBi's Filmography 2010

Simple really. Every film released in 2010 that I've seen, reviewed in no more than twenty five words. See 2009's, 2008's and 2007's editions for reference.

Released in 2010:

Up In The Air
Very difficult to fault. Clooney, Farmiga and Kendrick collectively barely put a foot wrong. A sharply written and directed film of very high quality.

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief
Too slow, with flat characters and decidedly average execution. Feels like it's being forced into filling the Potter-shaped hole on the cinematic horizon.

Alice In Wonderland
Burton and Carroll should have been the perfect combination. Instead we get a "lite" version of both and a storyline reject from Narnia.

Valentine's Day
Think Love, Actually set in America on February 14th and you're pretty much there. Cardboard cut-outs tumble through the paper-thin story. Yawn.

A tour de force of action and superhero cinema. Original, highly polished, pleasingly gritty yet authentically comic book in style. The cast are collectively superb.

Whip It
Page impresses again, counterpointed superbly by Harden, Wiig and Lewis. Indie style direction from Barrymore gives this a satisfyingly rough finish. Well made, very enjoyable.

Iron Man 2
Downey Jr. shines again, Cheadle, Rourke and Rockwell are welcome additions. A simple yet effective story allows the characters and action to successfully drive this.

Sex And The City 2
Self-indulgent, too long and barely a storyline in sight. A generous helping of cultural ignorance makes sure this one goes down painfully and uncomfortably.

Toy Story 3
Pixar at their charming, beautiful best. Masterful, with genuine humour and emotion in perfect balance. The ideal swan song for a loved and respected franchise.

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
One part emotionally uplifting to three parts punishing. Mo'Nique stands out from a wealth of strong performances. Powerful and well-crafted. Steel yourself before watching.

I Love You Philip Morris
Carrey is strong in the lead, and McGregor provides solid, understated support. Unfocused and meandering at times, but ultimately funny, entertaining and well made.

Outstanding human drama that is cerebral, tense and enthralling. Sets the bar high and exceeds it continuously. Virtually flawless. My film of the year.

Shutter Island
Tense, psychological and engrossing. Scorsese and DiCaprio make a perfect pairing once again. Classically Hitchcockian with a charmingly modern finish. High quality cinema.

The Social Network
Sorkin's tight, sharp writing marries brilliantly with Fincher's raw, moody direction. Eisenberg steals every scene; Garfield and Timberlake are winningly strong in support.

Four Lions
A disconcerting, albeit satisfying, mix of realism and farce. Despite somewhat lacking focus, Morris' searing humour and pitch-perfect satire are as sharp as ever.

Hot Tub Time Machine
A simplistically ludicrous plot allows plenty of genuine humour. Cusack is a strong and agreeable lead. Knows what it wants to be, and succeeds.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1
Better and darker than recent Potter outings, but still pedestrian from Yates and most of the cast. Half a film, so ultimately imbalanced and unsatisfying.

The Lookout
Great heist film that presents familiar genre elements well yet adds enough originality to the mix to elevate it further. Gordon-Levitt is superb.

The Tourist
Depp and Jolie do well, but this is plodding with an ending that renders the story ludicrous. Especially disappointing considering this could have been excellent.

Brave cinema, captivating from start to finish. Pleasingly gritty, breathtakingly fantastical cinematography. A wealth of outstanding performances from the year's strongest cast. Difficult to fault.

And those from 2010 I missed...

A Prophet
A Town Called Panic
Bitch Slap
Death At A Funeral
Dinner For Schmucks
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
Exit Through The Gift Shop
The Expendables
Green Zone
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
The Killer Inside Me
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Undead
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
The Town
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Valhalla Rising
The Wolfman
Youth In Revolt

And to finish, my top five films first watched (but not released) in 2010
A Serious Man
Blazing Saddles
The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters
Synecdoche, New York

Not the most film-packed year compared to previous lists, but I've managed to see quite a few films from previous years on DVD or online this year - I saw nine of the twenty one films I listed as ones I missed at the end of my 2009 list - so overall I'm satisfied. 2011 looks to be an interesting year in terms of cinema - lots of franchises continuing or finishing (Transformers 3, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, HP7 Part 2) so I'm hoping there'll be plenty of quality to fill in the gaps between the box office pleasers.