Tuesday, 22 December 2009

(500) Films of Empire - Day 98

494 - Sideways - 4 stars
The movie that sent sales of Merlot plummeting and got me into wine.
Before this film there was only Ernest & Julio Gallo and Jacob's Creek, now there is a world of Sancerre, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The film coincided with City Screen placing a bigger emphasis on wine, where I got to go to wine tastings and the cinema hosting several wine event including a French vs Californian tasting.
But Sideways wouldn't have had the impact that it did on the wine industry if the film itself wasn't as good as it is.
It is hilarious, wonderfully written and directed by Alexander Payne and well acted by the four leads, although part of me will always wonder what this movie would have been like if George Clooney had played Jack, as he had actively wanted the part.
There is a terrific relationship between Miles and Jack; one a womaniser, the other his put-upon friend. It got me reminiscing about holidays I've had with my closest friends, but that might be a story for another time!
Paul Giamatti, while not your typical leading man, delivers a tremendous performance as Miles, one of life's losers who may find hope in a fellow wine enthusiast.
There is one moment towards the end of the film when Miles's ex-wife lets slip that she is pregnant. He feigns happiness but his face and eyes show the heartbreak he feels inside. A truly wonderful piece of acting and it is a travesty that he wasn't Oscar nominated for this.
Any fans of Sideways should check out Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure. A great programme designed to get novices and experts alike trying some great wines.

148 - The Red Shoes - 2 stars
One of the most vibrant and beautiful technicolour films ever made from the stable of Powell & Pressburger. Yet, unlike A Matter Of Life And Death, I found this film to be a case of style over substance.
It is based on the Hans Cristian Andersen fairytale about a woman who puts on a magical pair of red shoes that won't let her stop dancing, ultimately leading to her death.
This fairy tale becomes the central ballet that the lead character Vicky Page becomes famous for, and is staged in a 15 minute sequence in the middle of the film. Fabulous if you like ballet, personally it reminded my of the weird dream sequences in Dumbo and Vertigo.
Her success causes her to become involved in a love triangle; in love with her composer husband, and in love with her career and dancing.
This is where the film falls down in my opinion, as the romance between Vicky and Julian feels rushed and underdeveloped so when she has to make her tragic, final decision, the difficulty in her choice doesn't ring true.

450 - King Kong - 3 stars
The gods of television scheduling were smiling upon me when I got home from work with Peter Jackson's King Kong on ITV2 at 9.00. I started watching it but realised I had it on Blu-Ray so put that on instead, meaning I wouldn't have to endure lots of advert breaks.
Watching this again it reminded me of Avatar, a personal yet flawed project of love by the director.
A hark back to the Golden Age of filmmaking and the wonder of cinema but suffers from a slightly bloated storyline with some very dodgy CGI effects yet unlike Avatar, Jackson is able to give more depth to the secondary characters, sometimes only a few lines, but the actors create something more from them and the audience are more involved in their eventual fate.
Naomi Watts deserves credit for giving one of the best performances for acting opposite a fully CGI character, developing a believable relationship with Kong. She could teach the cast of the Star Wars prequels a thing or two.
Still I admire Jackson as a filmmaker and can't wait to see The Lovely Bones (screening at The Belmont Picturehouse from 29th January).

Days remaining - 267 Films remaining - 361

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