Thursday, 8 December 2011

Bringing Up Baby...

Well, I have officially entered the world of dad-ness. Little baby Maia is as cute as heck, and makes the sweetest sleep-squeaks. My whole world, since she arrived, has just been non-stop doting.

I'm already planning a future of mutual film appreciation. I'll get my baby daughter accustomed to the Disney classics, move on to some good ol' Looney Tunes animation, then get her watching Satantango. C'mon, it has moo-cows in it, she'll be fine.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


For some reason the idea that with every edition of this bloody “1001 Movies” book there comes a whole slew of new additions and deletions from the 1001 list really pisses me off. Why? Because I’m anally retentive and I like a little bit of order and new films being added to a list that I’m trying to deplete (against my better judgment – I mean some of the crap I’ve put myself through just to say I’ve completed this goddamn list…) just feels wrong and frustrating. Any supplementary film that I’ve never seen that happens to pop up on a new edition of this book feels like an interloper messing with my nicely ordered original 1st edition list (actually I think I’ve been working from the second edition, but the difference between the two is miniscule, so why am I even writing this?) And so, with regularity, I try to kill off these interlopers as quickly as I can, so that I can resume counting down from the ‘original list.’

But I’ve let things get a little hairy in the past couple of years, and I’ve left a few of these supplementary frustrations to niggle and annoy me whenever I feel like culling this increasingly inane obsession to zero. So, while recuperating from a shoulder operation, I’ve decided to just knock off all the supplementary films in one fell swoop. I was thinking of obtaining copies of any of the relevant supplementary editions, to read the outline for each film and ascertain their inclusion into this hallowed pantheon. But I really couldn’t be bothered to waste my time and effort being this deeply attached to my years-in-the-making project/pain-in-the-arse, and I think I’ve got some semblance of a brain in my head, so I’ll try and work out each film’s supposed importance and relevance all by my lonesome.

Hokay. Here goes. The 8th edition has just come out this year. I’m culling back about 4 editions worth of hangers-on. Woo-haa. After seeing these suckers, I now have 61 films to go. Why am I such an anally-retentive list-obsessed nerd? Sigh.


[included in 6th edition only]

Had absolutely no driving desire to see this when it came out, and being forced to confront it now in order to knock it off this list, I can see why I had no compulsion to see it. There’s an incredibly powerful sense of over-arching listlessness and clinical coldness that makes watching this film utterly arduous. The chemistry between Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett is non-existent. No fire, no desire, no passion. This may well be the point – hey, nothing is ever easy in a Fincher-esque world – but sometimes it really doesn’t matter, one just needs a bit of friction and fire to spark up the screen. The film ticks all the ‘cinematographically-stunning’ boxes on the odd occasion, but it’s coloured in the usual Fincherian-brown, which kind of sums up the whole experience – kind of shitty.

68. LA VIE EN ROSE (Olivier Dahan; France/ UK/ Czech Republic; 2007)

[included in 5th – 8th editions]

The time jumps between various parts of her life become wearying too quickly – yes, it becomes abundantly clear that we’re supposed to draw correlations between Edith Piaf’s experiences as a child/ young adult with her attitudes and actions as an adult, so big deal. Although this thumps along like a malformed creature for 140 minutes, amazingly there’s no real feeling of depth achieved here. It’s incessantly episodic structure seems to defy the apparent intention of the film to induce some form of empathy/ pity/ sorrow for Piaf, as it keeps all attachment and connection at a distance. Ultimately this is dry, dull, and tasteless, which is a shame because Piaf’s voice certainly wasn’t any of those things.

67. RABBIT-PROOF FENCE (Phillip Noyce; Australia; 2002)

[included in 5th edition only]

Essentially this is a cat-and-mouse film. And the ‘cat’, the chief protector of Aborigines who remotely controls a hunt for three Aboriginal girls tracking their way back to their mothers, is clearly painted as the villain. Although the film is peppered with sumptuous drifting sweeps of the Australian outback, with some shots almost distantly related to Arthur and Corinne Cantrill’s landscape studies, the film ain’t about all that – it’s a “message” film, and if that’s palatable for you, then great, but if you can smell the message coming on thick and don’t appreciate being told what to smell, then this will ultimately make you want to pinch your nose.

66. FISH TANK (Andrea Arnold; UK; 2009)

[included in 7th – 8th editions]

How did I let this one slip through the cracks when it first came out two years ago? Sometimes it’s damn hard keeping up.

A very strong film that prowls all over the place. The camera constantly searches and follows, mimicking the lead’s exploration of her nascent sexuality through movement. It’s either on her shoulder, closely tagging her through the tight labyrinth of her small apartment, or it’s tight in front and to the side, always tracking her, keeping her close. At times there’s a frenetic speed to the teen girl’s walking pace and talking style, and it’s if the camera is doing all it can just to keep up. This swirling hectic pace, countered with moments of stillness and stasis, sum up the mood that characterises her plight – desperation and stagnancy. The desire to break free from shackles. There’s an intense intimacy generated by this roving cinematography, which gives us a number of awkward close-ups (a look of confusion and shock post-coitus) and ‘holy-shit’ snippets (angrily pissing on a carpet). Hard to shake, even though you really want to shake it all off by the end.

65. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (Oren Peli; USA; 2007)

[included in 7th – 8th editions]

It’s pretty damn obvious early in the piece that smug masculine bravado is the thing that’ll have a demon chew on your ass. So it’s plain where the whole shebang is heading, just a matter of watching to find out how. I avoided this on its initial release because a number of colleagues told me this just wasn’t worth the money to go and see. But, four years on from all the initial hoopla and hype, it’s not as crap as I was expecting. The scares and thrills are laid out well enough, just predictably so. Some incremental small mysterious nocturnal movements, leading to bigger thuds and bangs, building to a rather foregone and obvious conclusion. Nothing really grabbed me by the short-and-curlies here, although the image of the woman standing for two hours by the bed watching her partner raised the eerie stakes to above normal.

64. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Quentin Tarantino; USA/ Germany; 2009)

[included in 7th – 8th editions]

Intentional or not, this film is a comedy. Has to be. How many times can a film make you think “you’ve got to be kidding me?” And not in a “wow, cool” kind of way. There is no longer anything to either love or hate about Tarantino’s work – everything has been mashed up so much that it’s hard to really taste anything. I never knew smacking together chunks of cinema history could end up feeling so normal and less-than-riveting.

63. PRECIOUS (Lee Daniels; USA; 2009)

[included in 7th edition only]

Why the hell was this included on the 7th edition list?  This is pretty much a stock-standard abusive mother-daughter relationship thing, with the usual predictable daughter-trying-to-move-into-a-better-world stuff. Sometimes I marvel at just how boring a film can be. Considering the gravity of what the girl has endured, the film should not be allowed to stir the waters of triteness, yet it magically performs the feat of being completely underwhelming and cloying.

62. HEAD-ON (Fatih Akin; Germany/ Turkey; 2004)

[included in 5th – 8th editions]

A car-crash film revolving around a couple of car-crash lives being smacked together. The journey from reluctant marriage-of-convenience, to gradual friendship, then explosion of emotions is played out with a forced intimacy. We are shoved right into the world of these two incendiary characters, often jammed close into the male lead’s craggy, sweaty, dishevelled drunken face. The film reflects the temperature of passion, from being subsumed, denied, or hidden, to murmuring and simmering, to exploding full-force and grabbing you by the throat. And at the end there’s the lingering question – is the passion actually real, or is it merely an addictive fixation used to explain unexpected changes in one’s identity? Good meaty pungent stuff.