Saturday, 18 August 2012

Take This Waltz - review

Seth instantly regretted that "waking up at the crack of Dawson" joke."

The old saying "two's company but three's a crowd" rears it's head in Take The Waltz.
Margot, a struggling writer (is there any other type in the movies?), finds the temptation to act on an attraction to neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby) brings her marriage to Lou (Seth Rogen) into question.
This film has been heralded by some critics as the best movie about relationships starring Michelle Williams since, well, the last great movie about relationships starring Michelle Williams Blue Valentine.
The secret to any great dance, like a waltz, is having trust and chemistry with your partner. Many may have a viewing that Craig Revel-Horwood would describe as "Fab-U-Lous" but unfortunately some will find the experience more akin to trying to tango with a partner with two left feet.
The main stumbling block is rather surprisingly Michelle Williams and her character of Margot. Perhaps it is the overly-cutesy babyish way she says "I wuv you" or apparent immaturity of the character (witness the "gaylord" putdown she uses to try and win an argument) made it impossible to like the character and therefore develop any empathy with her and care about the outcome of her relationship crisis.
Which is a shame because the film does have some really beautiful moments.
A scene on a fairground Waltzer (see what they're doing there) set to The Buggles' Video Killed The Radio Star is a highlight where the growing attraction threatens to boil over until an abrupt end to the ride interrupts the moment and a silent shot of the two looking at each other tells the audience everything about their relationship. The best moments do come when they, as Ronan Keating eloquently put, "say nothing at all". Writer/director Sarah Polley should have possibly heeded this rule when writing the sequence where Daniel describes what he would do to Margot in bed as it comes across like he's reading from a chapter of Fifty Shades Of Grey.
However the biggest misstep in the film comes with a stylistic montage sequence that, after Watchmen, offers further proof that Leonard Cohen songs should not be used to soundtrack sex scenes in the movies.
The end result is unlikely to provoke a Last Tango In Paris instead create the desire for Murder On The Dancefloor.

2 stars

Friday, 3 August 2012

The "Greatest Films Ever Made"?

Last week film critics and bloggers got themselves worked up into a frenzy following the publication of Sight And Sound's latest Greatest Films Ever Made list.
It began in 1952 and compiled every ten years from a poll of film critics who submit their own personal top ten, it had previously always produced the same result - Citizen Kane being proclaimed "The Greatest Of All Time"... until this year when Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo grabbed the top spot.
This then sparked off a mass debate on Twitter with everyone putting in their two cents worth on why this result was correct/incorrect/a conspiracy due to the fact the BFI are currently running a Hitchcock retrospective*. * - Delete as applicable.
The main things that everyone could agree on is that lists of this nature are incredibly subjective, "greatest" or "best" can mean "favourite" in this context but above all else, the lists are very effective at prompting hours of arguments down the pub.
In response to the Sight And Sound Critics Top 50 list, which can come across as a list of film's that you should have seen, Adam Lowes of Hey U Guys blog set about putting together an Alternative Top Ten compiled by online bloggers.
As you can see below, the results are rather varied with only Citizen Kane and 2001 appearing on both lists.

Sight & Sound Top Ten

1. Vertigo
2. Citizen Kane
3. Tokyo Story
4. La Regle Du Jeu
5. Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. The Searchers
8. Man With A Movie Camera
9. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
10. 8&1/2

Hey U Guys Alternative Top Ten

1. Jaws
2. Back To The Future
3= The Dark Knight
3= Blade Runner
5= 2001: A Space Odyssey
5= There Will Be Blood
5= Psycho
5= Citizen Kane
9. Pulp Fiction
10= The Thing
10= Alien

So what can we read into the alternative top ten? Lots I'm sure.
Initially it does appear more mainstream.The Dark Knight is at number 3, but franchises like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings are conspicuous by their absence.
One interesting aspect of both polls which isn't known, but I'm sure influences the films that are picked, is the average age of the critics and bloggers voting.
With the alternative top ten featuring a number of film's from the late seventies and eighties, I would assume that most of the bloggers are in their late twenties/thirties and films like Jaws and Back To The Future played a huge part of their childhood and what led them to fall in love with cinema in the first place.
That's probably enough analysis from me. You can read the whole list here and exclaim "I'm glad that is there"/"I can't believe that is missing" to your heart's content.

"But Dallas...", I don't hear you cry, "what were your top ten films?".

Well of course I'm going to tell you, but first I will explain that in selecting my top ten, my decisions were based on the impact that these films have had on my moviegoing life. And of course it goes without saying that I rate each film very highly.
So what follows is my own personal top ten in chronological order.

Citizen Kane
A pivotal moment for me. I saw this film in a Film Studies class at University and it was the first time I really understood about the language of film. Over seventy years on after it's release it really does remain one of the greatest films ever made.

My favourite film of all time. I wholeheartedly agree with Robert McKee that Casablanca has the "greatest screenplay ever written". Harry Burns is right to claim that "Louis, I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship" is the best last line of a movie ever. So many classic quotable lines and in Claude Rains, the greatest supporting performance of all time.

Contains the most famous death scene of all time. My pick for Hitchcock's best film (sorry Vertigo) and one of those films that you can never see it for the first time again. There is the shock and awe of the first viewing as the twists an turns are revealed, followed by a completely different experience second time round. Pure genius.

Star Wars
I do prefer Empire Strikes Back but in terms of influence, nothing beats Star Wars: A New Hope for introducing me to film and completely blowing my tiny little mind as a kid seeing the star destroyer coming over the screen and being transported to a galaxy far, far away. A life changing experience and the film I would watch every weekend between the ages of 6-13.

If Star Wars was the sci-fi of my childhood, Alien is the science fiction film for my grown up life. It has slowly creeped up my list as I appreciate it more and more with each viewing. Hell, I'm even named after the captain of the Nostromo... well that is my reason anyway!

Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Back To The Future
Both films are perennial favourites from my childhood, classics of their genres and very rare examples of what I believe are perfect films, in that I would not alter a single frame of them.

When Harry Met Sally
The best romantic comedy of all time thanks to one of the sharpest, wittiest scripts ever written, it succeeds at being equally romantic and funny when most rom-coms fail to find that delicate balance. It also acted as a gateway film into Casablanca, then Play It Again Sam and finally a deep love and appreciation for Woody Allen with the likes of Annie Hall and Manhattan. Both of those film's were close to making the list but they wouldn't have been on my radar if not for that fake orgasm.

In The Mood For Love
One of the first foreign language films that I watched, and it still remains one of the best. The acting superb, the story heartbreaking and the score is sublime. It proved to me that film is universal and you can tell a great story regardless of whether it needs subtitles or not. Also it was one of the first films that I saw at The Belmont Picturehouse where I ended up working for eight years.

Black Swan
Upon it's release I described it as "if Polanski had directed a hybrid of The Red Shoes and Suspiria", and it was the first film to move me to the brink of tears thanks to an emotional sucker punch to the gut. Like a prima ballerina, it was flawless in it's execution, plus it is the only film on the list to feature a love scene between Queen Amidala and Meg from Family Guy!

So do you agree or disagree with my list? Feel free to let me know where I have gone right/wrong...

Films watched in August 2012

Brave - 3 stars
The Expendables 2 - 1 star
Take This Waltz - 1 star
The Bourne Legacy - 1 star
The Imposter + Q&A - 4 stars
Keith Lemon - The Film - 1 star
The Dark Knight Rises - 5 stars
Shadow Dancer - 3 stars
Total Recall - 2 stars
The Watch - 2 stars

Films watched in August - 10
Total number of films watched in 2012 - 135
Total number of unique films watched in 2012 - 115

Brave - review

Despite sharing the same hairdresser as Rebekah Brooks, Pixar heroine Merida has much more in common with a Disney Princess than a Wicked Witch... albeit a Princess who has a poster of Katniss Everdeen on her bedroom wall.
Merida is as bold and fiery as her beautifully rendered hair and rallies for her independence against her overly protective mother as hard as Scotland is currently fighting for it's own.
Fed up of being prepared for an arranged marriage with one of the potential suitors from the three surrounding clans, Merida attempts to win her freedom in an archery contest but a blazing row with her mother and a chance encounter with a witch gives her a spell and a chance to change her fate. But change must come from within, yadda yadda yadda, etc, etc and the audience will have seen enough Disney film's to know where the plot is heading and it is slightly disappointing given Pixar's great history of producing such unique stories (rat becomes culinary master chef in Paris, nearly mute love story of robot meets robot, grumpy octogenarian realises dying wife's dream of travel by tying 1000 balloons to his house) that the end result feels so pedestrian.
So while the story might not be up to Pixar's usual high standards, the same cannot be said for the vocal casting and visuals in particular which are arguably the finest this animation team have ever produced.
One of Pixar's strengths has always been their talent for matching the voice to the character. Unlike studios such as Dreamworks that tend to go for "stunt casting" in getting A-List names for the posters, Pixar have found success in choosing lesser known actors such as Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible or Patton Oswalt as Reme and Brave is no different.
There were rumours that Reese Witherspoon was initially approached for the role of Merida but thankfully it went to Kelly McDonald (Trainspotting, Boardwalk Empire) who gives her a steeliness thanks to her actually being made in Scotland from girders. Yes that is an Irn Bru reference but it's valid since Merida's hair is the same colour.
The rest of the cast is rounded out with fellow Scots Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd (whose Doric tongue got a huge reaction from the Aberdeen audience where the dialect originated) with fine support from Emma Thompson (sporting an affa good accent) and Pixar lucky charm John Ratzenberger.
Having a predominantly Scottish cast helps to add to the authenticity of the film when combined with stunningly realised visuals that really show off the real beauty of the land that inspired the tale.
For what it may lack in originality, Brave makes up for in heart... Get it?
Ah whatever, if the audiences like the film more than my jokes perhaps, given Pixar's current streak for green lighting sequels, we can look forward to a cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch next time round.

image courtesy of Ethan Runt

3 stars