This time last year I was asked to write a long article on any topic for a film criticism module as part of my undergraduate degree. What follows is the product of this class, my exploration of, at the time, … Continue reading
Written & Directed by Brian De Palma
So I recently watched a YouTube video of Edgar Wright, “What’s In My Bag” in which he mentioned a Brian De Palma film I had never heard of before. Having studied Carrie for my horror module last year, I thought I was pretty confident in all things De Palma related. Turns out this film was only released in 2012/13 and is a remake of the French film Crime d’amour. So I searched Netflix and lo and behold, it streams the film I was looking for. Passion.
Starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace (a collaboration of two of my all-time favourite actresses), Passion is a tale of lust, revenge and bloody murder. All of my favourite things in one film, the Film Gods must have been looking down on me that night. It starts as a tale of two business associates with very clear sensual underlying chemistry, a forceful Blonde, Rachel McAdams’ Christine, in which she channels some of the old Regina/ Mean Girls evilness, and Noomi Rapace’s Isabelle a quiet underling whose sanity comes into question, just as she comes into her own. It begins as a tale of a ball busting executive taking credit for an assistant’s work, harmless enough unless you bring into that adultery, psychosis and, my old favourite, cold bloody murder.
As a Brian De Palma film, not only do you expect to be presented with the lustful male gaze, but the lustful male gaze intricately hidden through incredible camera work and editing decisions such as the split screen of a Ballet and beautifully choreographed throat slashing, as well as the “was it a dream or was it real” sequences which is one of my favourite directorial motifs of De Palma. As a De Palma fan, you will not be disappointed.
De Palma’s focus on the two, possibly even three, female leads is refreshing, these women do not need men to help with their plans, men are used and abused then thrown to the dogs. I may sound a bit harsh on the male gender here, but as it is directed by a man, and therefore supposed to be viewed this way, I think I should be forgiven. These are two/three beautifully complicated characters in the male orientated world of work, for which Brian De Palma should be praised, he has characterised his women perfectly.
If you are going to watch this film for anything, do it for the anticipation of the tiniest bit of blood so beautifully put on the screen that it is as if De Palma has inverted his 1976 masterpiece, Carrie, proving he can create the same reaction without going to the extremes. If I could some this film up in two words it would be Subtly Beautiful. Or Complete Mind-fuck. You make the decision.
Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
As a Coen Brothers film, I don’t think Inside Llewyn Davis has their iconic sense of humour; however it does seem to be on par with the development of their works. In comparison to my personal favourite, Raising Arizona, it would be difficult to draw parallels between the two, you can’t really see the same auteur traits, however in comparison to their later films such as True Grit and A Serious Man, and you can definitely see the darker style and ambiguous almost dissatisfying ending.
Llewyn, not necessarily the most sympathetic character as critics are quick to pick up, is a struggling folk musician in 1960s New York. We follow his journey, both literally and metaphorically, to make a living out of his music, and to be able to live with his music.
We are introduced to fellow musicians, fans of the TV show girls will be thrilled with the appearance of the show’s Adam Driver, as well as the lovely Carey Mulligan playing Jean, of Jim and Jean, Jim being played by Justin Timberlake. However in this pair, it is Jean that steals the show, arguably the most sympathetic character, going through an extremely human experience. Had we sympathised with Llewyn, the audience may have found her character annoying and loud, however though her constant referral to Llewyn as “Asshole”, we find ourselves agreeing with her, and also being able to find laughter in her anger.
Although this isn’t my favourite Coen Brothers film by far, I have had the soundtrack on loop all morning. For a film about a musician, it achieves making the music the main character. It is different to other films in the way music is presented; it allows the music to just play. There’s no huge introduction to each song, there’s not a massive production, its natural and it flows with the narrative rather than interrupting it.
You cannot talk about Inside Llewyn Davis without mentioning the cat. The cat is, personally, my favourite character. The care that Llewyn gives this cat also adds a certain bit of humanity to his otherwise cold and quite careless personality. He goes through the film insulting other people, whether on purpose or otherwise. This cat almost redeems him from this through some part of the film.
The unlikable protagonist can be seen as typical of the Coens. Their crime thriller Fargo arguably has little or no likeable characters, neither doe A Serious man, however it’s their ability to create real characters and still make the audience want to watch their films that show their distinct and incredible ability as film makers.
So I have decided to aim to watch 365 films in 2014. Most that I have looked at were done in 2013 or 2012 and use tumblr or imdb, but I’ll try it on here and would love to know of and follow anyone else who has decided to do it too. Also, should it include only films I havnt seen before or every single film I manage to watch this year?
I’ll try my best to post either a mini review with each film or a synopsis or at least a rating of the film so that it is in keeping with my review style blog. I’ll also try not to neglect my singular reviews as one of my new years resolutions is to keep up with my reviewing more!
#1 Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), Dir. Kelly Asbury
Love the alternative child- friendly ending to Shakespeare’s tragedy. Emily Blunt and James McAvoy give voice to the title characters in this lovable adaptation of this well known story.
#2 Much Ado About Nothing (2012), Dir. Joss Whedon
This just reminded me of how amazing this story was and how incredible Whedon is. Having laughed my head off at the typical Shakespearian style comedy, I am glad I bought this on dvd as this is a film I will want to watch over and over again.
#3 The Heat (2013), Dir. Paul Feig
Sandra Bullock is queen. That is all. Oh and Melissa McCarthy is pretty hilarious too.
There seems to be a comedy theme or a Shakespeare film going on here, looking forward to the rest of the year!
Written and Directed by Clio Barnard
Having been lucky enough to see this film at the Gulbenkian Cinema at the University of Kent, where I study, the very campus at which Clio Barnard is a reader for Film Studies, I may be slightly biased in my review of this film, as my pride as a Kent Film student may have swayed my views, slightly. Never the less, this is undoubtedly one of the most moving films I have seen in my life, leaving me sobbing, it is a must see especially as it is an extreme exposé of the poverty that is an everyday occurrence for such families as Arbor’s.
The film follows a young boy, Arbor, whose mother and school struggle to cope with his extreme behaviour caused somewhat by a mix of ADHD and energy drinks. His saviour, it seems, his friendship with his best friend, Swifty, or at least it would be had this film been made with the typical Hollywood storyline and ending in mind. However this is not the case, we are drawn into an unfair world and so are given a true and realistic ending, possibly so that the harsh facts of this kind of life hits home with its audience. The emotion that is forced upon us is not just done so through the plot, but through such technical aspects as the motif of a shot of the Swifty and Arbor holding hands. This signifies the importance of their friendship to both of their lives, in the end this is all these boys seem to have that is certain, by the end the presentation of this motif is a bitter reminder of the reality outside of this film
The most obvious question that arises from the film is not the most obviously answered. Who is the Selfish Giant? The nerdiest answer would be that, after watching the film, the Selfish Giant is society, its unforgiving attitude and lack of help given towards these characters we see portraying Britain’s vast problems with poverty. It could also be Arbor, as he is the main character; however he is forgiven of his lack of consideration for others by the end as he is only a child. It could then be Kitten, an adult who takes advantage of these children in poverty, giving them work, treating them as adults when what they need is parental guidance. This is the choice that many a reviewer and critic have opted for as it is a tangible person who the audience looks to blame, however he is also a victim of circumstance as Arbor is.
It is no surprise that this film has been nominated for many awards, and won them, such as Best Independent Film and Best Director at the BIFAs. It has also been acknowledged for its technical achievements, as the cinematography is also one of the things that stand out as incredibly sophisticated especially considering it is only Barnard’s 1st Feature length film, not including her also acclaimed documentary, The Arbor.
This film is definitely one of my favourite of 2013, and a must watch when it comes out on DVD, I know I’ll be buying it and making everyone I know watch it. This needs to be seen buy as many people as possible, not only due to its unforgiving social commentary, for the political enthusiast in you, but also its sophisticated cinematography, for the film lover in you. For every other side of you there is the incredible characterisation of both Arbor and Swifty who you will both fall in love with and pity, as well as Barnard’s storytelling skills.
“Låt den rätte komma in” (original title)
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
A tale of innocence and vampirism, Tomas Alfredson directs this coming- of- age film in which a 200 year old vampire trapped in a young girls body befriends a young teenage boy, bringing him into her dark world, in which she needs blood to survive. Set in the suburbs of Stockholm, mysterious murders invade young Oskar’s world, an alluringly beautiful girl, Eli, moves in next door, but can only come out to play at night. And can walk barefoot in the snow.
This film captures the innocence of the love which the American remake does not. Eli’s need for blood to survive, not as monstrous, but as pitiful, she cannot help who she has become and yet she is not ready to die. This story of young love pulls on the heartstrings very unexpectedly. Our protagonist is the 12 year old Oskar, who is a character we come to care for, we hate the bullies almost as much as him and worry about his preoccupation with crime. We seem to fall into the role of the caring parent rather than seeing the world from his point of view. The tender moments between our two main characters, include using Morse code to communicate through the wall, Oskar accepting Eli for who she is and Eli returning his love the only way she knows how, through revenge.
As one of my favourite films, I would say this has to be added to your must watch list. Forget about watching the American remake Let Me In, there is no comparison. None. Nada. Every time I’m almost brought to tears, as well as being terrified by the suspenseful, fearful and bloody murders. This is a horror, love story, tear jerker and all round an incredibly made film. Subtitles may put some people off but it’s their loss, Let The Right One In is one of them films that five minutes in, you won’t even realise it isn’t in English. Forget Edward Cullen, the lovable Oskar will steal your heart.
Written & Directed by Craig Zobel
Craig Zobels “inspired by true events” Sundance film festival film stars Dreama Walker as an unfortunate fast food employee whose world gets turned upside down when a prank call leads to her 19 year old character, Becky, having the worst shift of her life. Although I am an advocate of no spoilers, I have to warn you that this film can be disturbing to some audiences, having watched it with my housemates and viewing the different shocked reactions, ranging from confused laughter to researching actual events, Compliance is not a film to be entered into watching lightly.
It can be quite a difficult film to watch at times due to Zobels choice in cinematic features. His choice to almost play out the events in real time means that you will need a lot of patience to watch this film, but it is worth it in the end, you truly feel the humiliation of Becky through the length of time she was put through this ordeal. The combination of long takes and revelation of the prank caller to the audience but not the characters gives that sense of dramatic irony, us knowing it is a prank call, waiting, wishing that they would just realise. I myself got really involved with the film. I think the fact that it is based on true events, makes it seem even more painful to watch but, as one of my housemates put it, you literally just can’t stop watching.
There are a few Kubrickian and Tarantino elements in it, but as a massive fan of both directors I seem to find that in everything. The opening credits of block capitals seems Kubrickian although can also be compared to the start of Cabin in the Woods, and the constant food shots reminds me of some Tarantino films, specifically the recent Django: Unchained. The food shots also prolong the film and humiliation, the constant reminder that this is all happening in the back rooms of a fast food restaurant just makes it seem even more … dirty. Although there is nudity there is nothing sexual about it, again this all adds to the humiliation we feel for Becky, and, although some sexual events are included in the story, nothing is shown, just suggested by innuendo shots to do with food and drink, they are so subtle and not absolutely necessary to the story ,at the time, as a more extensive explanation is given in an investigation part of the narrative at the end, to the point where one person I was watching it with actually asked aloud what was going on. It’s effective though, it gives those who are able to handle it the fuller picture and for those who aren’t, they can overlook it. I suppose dividing the audience into different character camps, those oblivious to the events like the manager and those who know full well what’s going on, like some of the other employees, allows us to know what the characters, outside the main story, are feeling. This is emphasised at the end where a televised interview is given, which I am guessing is a replica of a real one.
Throughout the film, us as an audience are asking “how can they believe this?”, “how did they not know?” which is exactly what the public asked. An explanation is almost given through the mention of the Milgram experiment at the start of the film. For those who didn’t do A Level psychology, it was an experiment in which the influence of an authority figure was tested on the participants’ willingness to inflict pain on other subjects. It has now since been deemed and unethical but gained the result of a majority being able to inflict pain if they are not directly responsible for it. This is explored through this film, and the real life result is scary.
My recommendation is to set aside some time to watch this film, you can’t really watch it half-heartedly. Compliance will no doubt give you food for thought for days and, disturbing as it is, this analysis of human compliance is a must watch for any film lover. The bold choices of Zobel in his topic for this film and expectations of his audience makes it not only enjoyable but slightly enlightening. You will come away from the screening with a lot more knowledge about human nature than, maybe, you would like to.
Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Joe Wright
This is probably the most visually interesting film I’ve seen this year. Keira Knightly delivers an emotional performance as the title character, living in 1870s Russia and dealing with the social etiquette of that time. Tolstoy’s heart breaking novel, commenting on Russian society of his time, is a surprising choice for a movie, but Joe Wright brings the elegance of the novel to life. As a married Russian socialite, Anna has to uphold certain values in her lifestyle, so when temptation comes falls into her path in the form of Aaron Johnson-Taylor’s Vronsky, her world is turned upside down.
The incredible use of theatre-come-film set making and the transitions between scenes are like nothing I’ve seen before. Building a city in the stalls and setting up a room around the character, just gives this film that little bit more awe, as we see Anna’s world literally building up and falling down around her. This style of set allows for incredible camera movements, we see characters peering down from the lighting bridge onto the stage viewing the secrets of the society, our high angle shots, therefore are allowed to swoop from one characters point of view to another. Longer takes are allowed as the set is moved around the camera, not the other way around.
Lighting both hides and reveals Anna’s secrets to the audience, it emphasises the feeling of the whole room looking at you in high society, through the spotlight literally being on her. Anna’s happiness moments are in brilliant light, away from the stage, away from the eyes of society, while her darker days are literally in the dark, onstage, for everyone to see. Moments with her husband are always onstage, her marriage under the scrutiny of society, she can’t escape judgement from her peers. Anna Karenina is trapped. Trapped by her marriage, trapped by society, trapped by her love. In this we watch her life spiral out of control, due to the constraints on her love.
If you love elegance, if you love heart break, if you love tragedy, you will love this film. Think Victorian type society ideals to the extreme, mixed with the harsh background of cold Russia, and a woman in love with the wrong man caught in the middle of it all.
Written & Directed by Jonathan Levine
In the not too distant future the majority of the USAs population are zombies. We see this through the eyes of R, our zombie tour guide taking us through his seemingly monotonous zombie life. Until he meets Julie, that’s when it gets interesting, that’s when we realise that we are in for a different kind of zom-rom-com, one where your root for the zombies, and the love affair between a human, and zombie who is struggling desperately to regain some sensation of being alive. Even if it means doing that cliché zombie thing of eating brains …
R, played by Nicholas Hoult, offers us some hilarious zombie/teen idiosyncrasies, almost endearing, making us root for the love affair being able to conquer all, even death. Jonathan Levines fresh take on the zombie genre is surprisingly enjoyable. The trailer doesn’t do it justice, I had no desire to see this at the cinema but having watched it on dvd, I really wish I had. As you can imagine with a zombie film from the point of view of a zombie, the pace starts off slow but as R’s pace increases so does the film, and with the introduction of love into this zombies life, a more human pace is then adopted.
This film can be described as so many things, a coming of age film, as zom rom com, but neither really fully explains it. It can be enjoyed as a new age zombie film by nerds like me everywhere as well as by groups of girls who will be surprised at the uncanny accent of British actor Nicholas Hoult, or better known as ‘Tony from Skins’. It really is one for all audiences. It pulls you in, the more R feels, the more we do. If you’re looking for a dawn of the dead style gore fest then this isn’t for you, although fair warning there are a fair amount of brain shots, but if you’re looking for a genuinely surprising story line, and after all, a feel good film, then I’d definitely give this a watch, this is one for the dvd collection.
Written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright
Directed by Edgar Wright
This film will always hold a special place in my heart as the first rated 15 that I ever got into at the cinema. I was lucky enough to study it at film A Level and so gained so much more enjoyment from the repeated viewings which I was able to get away with as “revision” for my exam. The more I watched/ studied this film, the more I fell in love with it. The constant movie references means that each time I watched it, I gained more, understood more, laughed more. Its one of those films made by film fans for film fans and yet can be enjoyed on a surface level as well. It is because of Hot Fuzz that I watched Straw Dogs and Point Break, two amazing films that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Appearances from British comedy actors and favourites of the trilogy, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan just add to the classic British-ness of the film. The cameo from Peter Jackson as a bad Santa will make every film nerd chuckle to themselves.
Taking inspiration from heritage Britain films such as the Wickerman (1973) and big budget American cop films such as the mentioned Bad Boys 2, Hot Fuzz combines so many genres it will be hard not to find something you like. It is set in the small town of Sandford, which happens to be played by Wrights hometown of Wells, Somerset, and houses a true police bromance that is tested when the idealistic village of the year plays host to some suspicious accidents. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a top London cop sent to a small town police station because he is showing up the rest of the force. Upon arrival in Sandford, Nicholas angel gains a warm welcome by the village including Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), Mary Porter (Spaced’s Julia Deakin) and Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), and a not so warm welcome from his fellow police officers, the Andys (Paddy Constantine and Rafe Spall) and Sergeant Turner (Bill Bailey). As the film goes on, Nicholas realises the influence of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance on the village’s upkeep and their focus on “the greater good”. These suspicious accidents seem to be connected and it is up to Nicholas Angel to uncover the truth about Sandford.
The bravest opening shot I’ve ever scene, one long almost static take of Nicholas Angel walking towards to camera, which I for one would have been too scared to make last that long, opens this film with high expectations of incredible camera work. You will not be disappointed. Along with the typical editing that we as an audience have come to expect from an Edgar Wright movie, there are plenty of quick cut montages to go around. A surprising turn of events allows us to revel in Pegg and Wright’s story telling abilities, as well as revelling in the amount of quotable lines that will get you every time.
As one of my favourite films, Hot Fuzz is a definite recommendation. This action/ heritage Britain parody will have to you in stitches as well as covering your eyes at shock gore moments. This is one for the film collection; it just gets funnier each time.