Monday, December 22, 2008

End of the Year Review

Here we are again - a time for goodwill to all men, shameless consumerism, gluttony, and lists – endless lists - remembering, shaping and expanding upon the best and worst of 2008.

First up – films.

The year in film began strongly, with two dark, American tales, both set amongst the desolate, desert landscape of the great plains, duking it out for Oscar glory. No Country for Old Men won Best Picture but There Will be Blood was the better film, largely because of the colosal presence of Daniel Day Lewis.

At one point during the summer it looked as though the The Dark Knight might be hit a hit of Titanic proportions, before eventually settling into fourth place on The Most Successful Films of All Time list. The Dark Knight being the biggest headline grabber in a summer dominated by superheroes - again. Iron Man and Hancock both did good business, but The Incredible Hulk, and superior Hellboy 2, struggled.

Shamefully, all of he above were beaten by the film that this year became most successful film of all time at the UK box office: Mamma Mia!

The later part of the year was harder to define, but it did see the release of what I’m calling the best film of the year, just pipping There Will Be Blood to the post.

Films of the Year (in reverse order):

5. No Country For Old Men

4. The Dark Knight

3. I’m Not There

2. There Will Be Blood

1. Waltz With Bashir

An animated documentary, made by Israeli filmmaker, Ari Folman, about his time spent serving in the Israeli Defence Forces, during their conflict with Lebanon in the early-80s. Folman travels around Europe, talking to other men in his platoon, as he attempts to piece his own memory of events back together again.

Classic scene:

Opon on a troop carrier, filled with drunken, roudy youths, heading into the conflict zone. Set to the electropop of OMD’s Enola Gay (also the name of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb). One weedy young soldier, 19, is puking his guts out over the side, fantasising about a giant blue woman coming out of the sea to rescue him from imminent danger and rob him of his virginity.

Beautiful, strange, scary and poetic, Waltz with Bashir blurs memory and imagination, reality and cartoon, in a way that is only possible in animation, creating a mix that resonates all the more because of it.

Word of the week


Sunday, December 21, 2008


Yesterday was the start of the end-of-year film binge. A wide range of festive treats were on offer including, fun-for-all-the-family romp, A Knight's Tale, and the watered down, but nevertheless enjoyable, film version of Alan Moore's story about a masked vigilatte terrorist, V for Vendetta. My choice...

Hidden, written and directed by Austrian filmmaking pofessor, Michael Haneke. Not exactly tradition Christmas fare, but highly recommended. The story takes what might have been a standard paranoid thiller premise - a middle class French couple start recieving survelliance style video tapes of themselves going about their lives - then uses that as a jumping off point.

Too many films strive for the intellectual gravitas of great literature by adopting literary tropes. Deapite the fact that a silver tongued narrator or florid prose are impossible to replicate on screen. And this is exactly where Hiden excels. Hidden is a film that undestands the language of cinema and is very happy playing in that particular sandbox, exploring ideas about the relationship between cameras and voyeuism, deception and perception; and ultimately, what is revealed and what remains hidden!

What I'll be watching: Oliver Twist, Channel Four, 6:30pm, Today. Roman Polanski's take on the classic Dickens tale.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Word of the week