Top 100 British Films

Time Out London recently posted their top 100 titles generated by an impressive list of industry experts. I had not seen their number one pick – Don’t Look Now – so I thought I’d give it a go via Netflix. Are there any lovers out there, because I didn’t get it. I guess it is a great addition to the neurotic male genre (or maybe the paranoid gothic), but I thought it was a bit silly.

Altman’s Quintet (1979) / Reel Paradise

Trying desperately to throw a couple of new things up here so that anyone can pipe in with things they’ve seen of late. I had low hopes for Quintet and high hopes for Reel Paradise, but neither one really met with my expectations.

I had never heard of Quintet. But geez – a late ’70s Altman sci-fi film starring Paul Newman? And featuring a macarbe version of backgammon in Earth’s “Last ice age”? Well, sign me up! This ddoes after all involve many of my favorite things: Paul Newman, backgammon (macabre backgammon no less), wild dogs, ruined relics of World’s Fairs past, Altman, and late 70s sci-fi. What could go wrong? Continue reading Altman’s Quintet (1979) / Reel Paradise

Silent Hill

Perhaps better silent. Or, if possible, with the dialogue cut, but moans and screams and echoes intact. I must say I did enjoy this movie, and to be honest would not have enjoyed it in the theater. At home, I could cut all the lights, sink into a chair, turn the sound mostly down and speed through just to catch cool visuals. And there are a slew of great visuals: it’s a genuinely creepy aesthetic, and there’s rarely a shot that doesn’t have some nice touch, some cool glint off a moist surface or a sharp angled line through a beautiful wide shot. The story is of course piffle, and I feel bad for Alice Krige, who I first recall from the lousy film adaptation of Ghost Story, playing there and then playing everywhere ever since a spooky evil woman. Would have been nice if this had been simply strange, instead of trying to explain… or if there was a clearer, more starkly-defined sense of urgency to the thing. Instead, it works as a not-terribly-frightening but still malicious dream.

Egoyan – Where the Truth Lies

Atom Egoyan’s latest film, which seems to be quite far removed, in plot at least, from his previous film, Ararat. If a few words could accurately sum up Egoyan’s obsessions and themes, it would be "where the truth lies" which would make this a nice opportunity to look back on Canada’s second best memory obsessed director, except I’m not feeling up for a retorspective.

There are some big problems with Where the Truth Lies; among them the characters, the acting, the amateurish direction, and the plot. None of these are beyond redemption, but parts of each are weak enough to end up being unsatisfying.

Continue reading Egoyan – Where the Truth Lies

Prairie Home

Depending on your appreciation of Keillor’s conflation of schmaltzy cornpone and dry, sly sting (which brings out, in the actors, ham on wry), either a dreamy afternoon in good company or a forceful lug-wrench to the soft area between your forehead and your ear. I fall in between: I am a sucker when Keillor stops singing and wanders around flatfooted, mumbling out yarns and sidestepping emotional reactions; I’m equally smitten with the extravagant “Midwestern” dramatics of Meryl Streep’s Johnson sister or the equally outsized snap of Lily Tomlin’s more bilious, bibulous Johnson sister. I also happily confess to loving John Reilly and Woody Harrelson shamelessly twanging and slanging away in the wings.

I’m less keen on the many false notes struck by the framing narratives (an odd misplaced wandering death angel, a vision more in keeping with Michael Landon than, say, Bergman; a dull plot about the end of the show, and a mean old capitalist from Texas, ably and acutely played by Tommy Lee Jones without one hint of whimsy but also lacking any hint of dramatic purpose); the waste of Kevin Kline and Maya Rudolph and a few other stray supporters, left drifting with the wisp of character and comic “bits”. And I almost always turn off the radio “Prairie” (if Kris will let me) whenever anyone starts singing; that ain’t my cup of joe, and it wears about as poorly when seen as when heard.
Continue reading Prairie Home

The Ringer

Mostly dead. I so wanted this to be a sly, subversively funny dismantling of disability tropes which employs–and then implodes–cultural stereotypes. Instead, it was not so sly, rarely funny, even if still nicely subversive of said tropes.

For those interested, it’s about a loser-wimp type (the ingratiating Johnny Knoxville) who tries to make some needed money by playing “disabled” so that he and a scurrilous uncle (the game Brian Cox) can rig bets on the Special Olympics. What’s kind of neat is that the film’s producers (the Farrelly Brothers, who have I think an *excellent* track record in upsetting disability tropes) engaged with the Olympics and it was filmed on site, with in-jokes and inside humor (sidestepping the frequent criticism of “laughing at”) and with performers with variously different abilities. One of the good jokes is that the other athletes recognize how bad Knoxville’s mimicry is, while the “norms” all get suckered. What’s less good is that the filmmakers employ a mix of actors, some of whom are playing disabled, and doing so generously but not persuasively (i.e., the movie’s central gimmick is itself replicated by the movie, inartfully).

I wanted it to be funnier, or even just funny. Nope. I recommend instead the under-appreciated Stuck on You and the brilliant documentary How’s Your News?.

good night and good luck

do we already have a thread on this? i just finished watching this and found it terribly dull. i cannot believe that this got a best picture nomination or that so many smart people told me to watch it. perhaps it plays much better on a big screen, i don’t know. i do know that i felt no tension of any kind, felt no dramatic interest, and didn’t get the connection between the film’s narrative and its aesthetic, which frankly reeked of “good taste”. the opening scene looked a bit like a cross between ads by calvin klein and debeers diamonds, and the shiny beauty of the cinematography (not to mention the songs and score) muted for me the impact of what was being said. yes, it is a worthy story, and in these days of non-journalism, a necessary reminder of a time when the television news was worth watching, but it is not a great film by any means.

oh, and leland palmer is in it. i kept waiting for him to be possessed by bob and smash edward r. murrow’s face into a wall, but no such luck.

anyone else seen it?


last night i saw capote, because neither simon nor our friend jennie wanted to see brokeback mountain (don’t ask). i enjoyed the movie while it was going, though i was a bit weary during the last third. but simon and jennie talked me out of liking it in about 15 minutes of conversation after the movie’s end. here is our collective thought on capote:

philip seymour hoffman is a great actor who handles his first major (or first, period) lead role with great aplomb and artistry. he is actually magnificent. i guess the director knew hoffman was his best asset, because every other shot is a close-up of his smooth, babyish, pink face. i actually find him quite fetching, so i didn’t Continue reading capote

Horrors in fancy pants

I watched a couple of films–neither great, neither bad–which grub in the troughs of contemporary horror scenarios but with some more high-falutin’ goals in mind. I could probably write an essay that excoriated the directors for not taking their slumming seriously enough; the films don’t really succeed as horror, and the pretensions swell up and occasionally burst the seams of the well-knit genre conventions. But I’ll assume they were serious fans of the genre conventions, and simply suffered from grand ambitions–in trying to make seriously scary and yet seriously serious flicks, both ends of that equation kind of suffer. We get middling melodramas, admittedly well-shot and showing promise.

Continue reading Horrors in fancy pants