Thursday, November 28, 2013

At Long Last, My Favorites of 2012

Now that I've seen Frances Ha, which I'd been waiting for since it premiered at all those North American festivals last September, and Museum Hours, which wasn't even on my radar until last week, I finally feel ready to choose my favorites of the film year 2012. And we're only five weeks away from 2014!

I'm sure there are some excellent 2012 films/performances still left for me to discover (I've yet to see No, for example), so these top fives might not be set in stone, but it doesn't matter anyway - I just want to use this space to acknowledge the great work of the following people.

Best Film
Frances Ha
Holy Motors
Museum Hours

Best Screenwriter
Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch - Starlet
Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha
Michael Haneke - Amour
Antoine Jaccoud, Ursula Meier, Gilles Taurand - Sister
Alice Lowe, Steve Oram - Sightseers

Best Director
Noah Baumbach - Frances Ha
Leos Carax - Holy Motors
Miguel Gomes - Tabu
Michael Haneke - Amour
Peter Strickland - Berberian Sound Studio

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard - Rust and Bone
Greta Gerwig - Frances Ha
Nina Hoss - Barbara
Helen Hunt - The Sessions
Emmanuelle Riva - Amour

Best Actor
Toby Jones - Berberian Sound Studio
Denis Lavant - Holy Motors
Kacey Mottet Klein - Sister
Joaquin Phoenix - The Master
Jean-Louis Trintignant - Amour

Best Supporting Actress
Eva Green - Dark Shadows
Diane Kruger - Farewell, My Queen
Corinne Masiero - Rust and Bone
Ela Piplits - Museum Hours
Léa Seydoux - Sister

Best Supporting Actor
Garrett Hedlund - On the Road
Samuel L. Jackson - Django Unchained
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln
Tim Roth - Broken
Michael Zegen - Frances Ha

"27 is old, though."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Okay, so I just stumbled upon this photo of Andrea Riseborough from last year's British Independent Film Awards, and... yes. Very Amy-Adams-in-American-Hustle-esque. I think this is the best thing Andrea's done so far, even surpassing her very good performance in Shadow Dancer (for which she won the Best Actress award the same night, by the way) by some distance.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

3 x Shelley Duvall in 3 Women

"Uh-oh. Don't look now, but it's Thoroughly Modern Millie. Top of the stairs, making her entrance."

If I were invited to one of Millie Lammoreaux's famous dinner parties where she's serving pigs in a blanket, chocolate pudding tarts, and crackers with Cheez Whiz and an olive on top ("I made these once before and they were a real big hit."), there's no way in hell I wouldn't show up... unlike those fools in the movie.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I had intended to participate in several episodes of Hit Me With Your Best Shot this season, but ended up missing most of them (most regrettably Dead Ringers) due to forgetfulness or laziness. As a "punishment“", I decided to take part again in the week of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's not that I had ever deliberately avoided this film, but I had also never felt like I would much care for it. But then it was chosen for the Hit Me series, and I also happened to see an old Married... with Children episode on TV the other night where Al and Peg go to the video store and the only movie they can agree on renting together is... Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so I took it as a sign that it's time for me to finally see it.

I knew that Butch wasn't going to be super somber western a la The Assassination of Jesse James, but it turned out to be even more of a fluff than what I had expected. The problem is not that there's humor in it, but that much of it is too silly and slapsticky for a movie that's not actually a comedy. The dated score is definitely a problem as well: the endless "da-ba-da-ba-da" during the "robbing banks in Bolivia" montage drove me crazy. Also, even though I promised to myself at the beginning of this year not to write about awards on this blog anymore, I have to mention that BAFTA chose Katharine Ross's performance in this movie (basically just window dressing, and in a supporting role at that) over Jane Fonda's in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which is an unusually stoopid decision even for awards bodies.

I suspect that several people will choose their best shots from the scene right after the opening credits, which is clearly the best of the film as far as I'm concerned, and not just visually.

- "What happened to the old bank? It was beautiful."
- "People kept robbing it."
- "Small price to pay for beauty."

I almost chose the above shot from the first scene as my favorite, but then went with the one moment from the rest of the movie that I felt was deserving of that title:

It seems that I'm a sucker for shots where someone in the background is secretly observing others in the foreground – see also my choice for the best shot in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Haven't I Seen Me Here Before?"

Best lyrics ever? Quite possibly. And Amy Adams was clearly born to be in a Muppet movie.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Talking Picture

I watched Adaptation. again last week and it continues to be my favorite film in the whole wide world... Well, it actually shares that honor with a handful of others: The Green Ray, My Neighbor Totoro, Safe (the Julianne Moore one, not the Jason Statham one!), Mulholland Dr., Lost in Translation... and I think it's time to add Oslo, August 31st to that list. However, I don't think there's any movie out there besides Adaptation. that manages to be so smart AND funny AND moving at the same time, and the following scene is a great example of that:

Orlean's Book: There are too many ideas and things and people, too many directions to go. I was starting to believe the reason it matters to care passionately about something is that it whittles the world down to a more manageable size.

Kaufman: Such sweet, sad insights. So true.

Kaufman: I like looking at you.

Photo of Orlean: I like looking at you too, Charlie.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Underseen Masterpieces

The hardest part about compiling this top ten of best underseen films was not mulling over the order of the list (though that was difficult too, of course), but deciding which movies qualify as "underseen" in the first place. After all, most great films have been seen by depressingly few people. In the end, I simply used good old IMDb and decided that those gems that are rated by only about five thousand users or less especially need more people praising them. To put this number in perspective: basically every Nolan, Tarantino or Lord of the Rings-related movie has been rated by hundreds of thousands of people (and most of those movies also place very high in the IMDb Top 250, but the less said about that mess, the better).

First, ten honorable mentions (in chronological order):

Summer Interlude (1951, dir. Ingmar Bergman)
Vanya on 42nd Street (1994, dir. Louis Malle)
Wild Reeds (1994, dir. André Téchiné)
Morvern Callar (2002, dir. Lynne Ramsay)
35 Shots of Rum (2008, dir. Claire Denis)
Involuntary (2008, dir. Ruben Östlund)
Lourdes (2009, dir. Jessica Hausner)
Archipelago (2010, dir. Joanna Hogg)
Wuthering Heights (2011, dir. Andrea Arnold)
Sister (2012, dir. Ursula Meier)

Update: I forgot about The House of Mirth (2000, dir. Terence Davies), which probably wouldn't have cracked the top ten, but is definitely worthy of a mention.

If I ever make a list of best taglines,
"Nothing tests faith more than a miracle" will be a strong contender.


10. Opening Night (1977, dir. John Cassavetes)

Gena x 4

9. Julia (2008, dir. Erick Zonca)

"It's time MY luck changed, and it's time something went right for ME for a change!"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Talented Ms. Blanchett

Since today's Hit Me With Your Best Shot happens to almost coincide with the birthday of the most impressive cast member of this week's film, I take it as a sign that this post should be dedicated to her:

Happy belated birthday, Cate!

One of the things I've had to come to terms with in the last decade as I've evolved from a teenager who's gradually becoming more invested in movies than most people into a sort-of-an-adult, hard-core cinephile is that Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, has a filmography that I don't much care for. Sure, she's been ubiquitous for the better part of the last 15 years, hopping from one awards bait to another and every now and then switching it up with something more offbeat, but in my opinion, she's yet give a knockout performance in an equally great film that several other acclaimed actresses of her generation - Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton - have managed to do more than once.

Of all her movies, the one I've seen the most is probably Notes on a Scandal, but that's because of Judi Dench's great performance and lines such as "YOU'RE NOT YOUNG! I say this to help you." Blanchett's take on Sheba doesn't really work for me - sure, her big freak-out scene is entertaining, but she comes across too strong for a character who's basically a total pushover. I haven't seen Heaven for several years, but from what I can remember, she gives one of her best performances to date in the sort of Swinton-esque art house film that I wish she had done more by now.

And then there's The Talented Mr. Ripley - for my money, the best movie of Blanchett's filmography so far and the only one that I love enough to keep on my DVD shelf. Her role isn't quite substantial enough for her to give a performance for the ages, but she makes the most of it and manages to turn Meredith the socialite into an unexpectedly endearing and sympathetic character without downplaying that she's also quite annoying and foolish. My favorite shot is of Ripley catching Meredith's eye for the first time...

There's a pattern to the encounters between Meredith and Ripley: each time, she's been lurking in the background for a while before he becomes aware of her presence. It's ironic, considering how much Ripley himself secretly observes Dickie throughout the first half of the movie.

I love how everything and everyone in the background of the first shot is so matte as if there's a huge painting just behind Ripley and how Meredith already seems to be looking at him longingly, even though she's just seen him for the first time (Cate's face here reminds me a little of Girl with a Pearl Earring). The light makes her appear a bit ghostly, which is fitting since she keeps haunting Ripley throughout the film and probably afterward as well. Poor girl (at least she's rich moneywise, even though she claims to despise it) just happens to run into him over and over again, so it's only a matter of time until he has to whack her too, isn't it?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Your Life Is Not Complete...

...until you've seen The Swarm. "It is more than speculation. It is a prediction!"

This movie truly has it all: Michael Caine as an extremely creepy/shouty entomologist. Katharine Ross as the most useless doctor in the history of cinema. Olivia de Havilland's slow-motion moan! The bees derailing a (spectacularly fake) train, after which every single passenger car explodes for some reason. The bees breaking into a (spectacularly fake) nuclear power plant, which explodes almost instantly for some reason. The bees causing an ambulance to crash into a building, after which it explodes for some reason - and almost as spectacularly as the aforementioned nuclear power plant. The military forgetting that bees can fly and burning down Houston to kill them. Numerous hallucinations caused by bee venom that always consist of one huge-ass bee and nothing else:

This end credits disclaimer in case the normal bees were planning to sue for defamation:

And much, much more. I cannot recommend this glorious mess enough.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Good Comedy Is Hard to Find...

...and it's even harder to find a good black comedy. Except for the immensely quotable/rewatchable Burn After Reading, the last five years haven't offered me much to enjoy when it comes to dark comedies. About 99% of the people on the Internet seemed to love In Bruges, but I found it thoroughly vile. In the Loop was a mixed bag: it had some hilarious moments, for sure, but at times veered into the "shouting profanities is automatically funny, right?" territory, which annoys me. It must also be said that it felt very much like an unusually long sitcom episode (it's a spin-off of the BBC series The Thick of It and the same people are now making Veep on HBO). Four Lions seemed to have its share of fans, but fell totally flat for me. Also, like In the Loop, it couldn't have been much less cinematic. John Michael McDonagh's The Guard at least managed to be significantly better than either of his brother's films, but faded quite fast from my memory. And last year, Bachelorette a.k.a. The Mean Bridesmaids was basically devoid of any humor, while Martin McDonagh cemented his status as one of my most disliked filmmakers with his In Bruges follow-up Seven Psychopaths.

And then there's Sightseers by Ben Wheatley, a director whose two previous films I haven't seen, but which IMDb synopses give off a worrisome McDonagh vibe. It's one of those rare films about which I knew nothing going in, other than what the title and poster imply and a vague recollection of having read that it was very well received in the UK.

Sightseers is about Tina and Chris, a newish thirtysomething couple who (after Tina's overbearing mother has done her best to stop them) embarks on a road trip in Chris's caravan. At first, I was a bit worried that the whole hour and a half would be about whether Tina finds out Chris's secret, i.e. his habit of killing people whom he finds obnoxious ("He's not a person, he's a Daily Mail reader."). Fortunately, Sightseers is more complicated than that. Tina does indeed find out, and then comes to realize that she can vent her own frustrations by becoming the anorak-wearing Bonnie to Chris's caravan aficionado Clyde. One can only hope that the wait for the next genuinely clever, funny black comedy will be shorter than the four years between Burn After Reading and Sightseers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

She Came from Outer Space

First of all, I have to admit that one reason I definitely wanted to participate in The Film Experience's Hit Me With Your Best Shot this week was that I needed an excuse to share "not David Lean's finest moment", starring Patsy Stone herself (starts at 2:17).

My favorite shot from Booberella is definitely this:

Atmospheric! But now on to Barbarella...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two Resolutions

1. From now on, I will write here only about the films, performances, etc. that I love, or at least enjoy.

2. I will not write anything about the Oscars or other awards, because 99% of the time, thinking about them only irritates me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Best Picture Lineups of the New Millennium Ranked

A few days ago, I finally popped in that Letters from Iwo Jima DVD that had been waiting in my desk drawer for over two and a half years, which means that I've now seen all the Best Picture Oscar nominees from 2000 onwards. And what better time to rank the lineups from those years than one day before the new nominees are announced? So, from worst to best:

12) 2008: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Frost/Nixon - Milk - The Reader - Slumdog Millionaire
The only one of these that's anywhere close to the best films of 2008 is Milk. The Reader took a lot of flak for (presumably) denying The Dark Knight or WALL·E a nomination, but it's actually my second choice, just ahead of Benjamin Button, which, I have to admit, kind of moved me in the last 30 minutes or so. There's still the problem of the first two hours, though.

11) 2011: The Artist - The Descendants - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - The Help - Hugo - Midnight in Paris - Moneyball - The Tree of Life - War Horse
One of those rare years when my favorite nominee won, and yet The Artist might not even be in my top 20 of 2011. It's a shame that the voters couldn't resist year-end bait like War Horse and Extremely Loud in favor of much better films which were probably just outside the top nine: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridesmaids and maybe, just maybe, even Drive (it did well at the BAFTAs). I prefer each of those four to any of the nominees.

10) 2009: Avatar - The Blind Side - District 9 - An Education - The Hurt Locker - Inglourious Basterds - Precious - A Serious Man - Up - Up in the Air
The second time in the last 12 years when the Academy chose the best nominee, and the second time when it's a film that I appreciate, but don't love. A very diverse lineup, for sure, but most of these movies are problematic/very problematic. Too bad that Pixar's first nomination in the Best Picture category came for Up, which becomes quite a mess after a promising start. 2009 was a dismal year for English-language films in general, though, and at least the Academy gave the cold shoulder to the year-end prestige pics Invictus, The Lovely Bones and Nine, which all turned out terrible.