January 2012 – Your Mom Got Chased By A Shark Once

2012 began like any other, with a look forward to the year at hand and lists of the most and least anticipated movies of the coming twelve months. With neither producing a movie until February, I tuned into Watchmen on TV, bought The Tree of Life on DVD and waited for the first set of releases to arrive in cinemas.

This month I set about catching up on all of the awards contenders that I hadn’t yet seen, falling instantly in love with Michel Hazanavicius’ exceptional The Artist, Kenneth Lonergan’s long-awaited Margaret, Steven Spielberg’s emotional War Horse, Steve McQueen’s impressive Shame and Alexander Payne’s Oscar-tipped The Descendants.

Also released this month was toothless Meryl Streep vehicle The Iron Lady, nonsensical alien invasion flick The Darkest Hour, unwanted Underworld fourquel Awakening and the brutally botched Haywire. For The Darkest Hour, I prepared a brief criticism for Moviejuice, STV’s film review programme. Invited to join fellow Edinburgh-based movie lovers, we spoke our pieces to camera and found ourselves united in dread of the inevitable broadcast.

Elsewhere this month, I contributed a number of reviews and a list of my most anticipated animated features to BestforFilm, alongside a defensive piece in support of director Richard Kelly and a showcase of my favourite video game for HeyUGuys. Just in case you’re interested (the cinema adaptation is probably already on the way), it’s Banjo-Kazooie.

As with the last twelve months, I ended this one with James Bond for Blogalongabond. January was the month of Octopussy, and, you know what, it was alright.

Film of the month: Margaret

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Listen, The Academy…We Need To Talk About Kevin.

As you may or may not have noticed, it’s awards season, and earlier today The Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence took to the internet to reveal the 84th Academy Awards’ prepared list of Oscar nominations.

While The Academy tip their hat to a number of the year’s finest pieces of filmmaking – with The Artist, War Horse and The Decendents walking way with several awards apiece – there were the usual array of glaring omissions and truly staggering misjudgements.

Let’s take the Best Film category, which forsakes its potential ten places in favour of the aforementioned three, along with Moneyball, The Tree of Life, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Hugo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Having not yet seen Moneyball or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close it is impossible for me to pass judgement (even if the latter looks too saccharine for words), while nobody in their right mind could question the right of The Tree of Life or Hugo‘s place on a list of the greatest movies of last year. But The Help, really? Sure, it was enjoyable enough, and nobody’s claiming it doesn’t carry an important message, but it is one that is seriously undercut by a black and white script in addition to the gigglesome whimsy of the central performances. And then there’s Midnight in Paris, a perfectly charming slice of confectionery nostalgia, starring Owen Wilson as Owen Wilson. But film of the year?

Where’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lynn Ramsay’s devastating adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel that earnt a poster quote from the latter? Where’s Melancholia, the clue-is-in-the-title film of the year from walking headline Lars von Trier? What about Super 8, a film just as nostalgic as Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, but with the added bonus of great performances and an escaped alien? However much I adored the above, however, there is one film that stands out from the competition as the finest piece of cinema released last year: Margaret. Five years in the making, and boasting a career-best performance from Anna Paquin (that’s right, Best Actress category, I have a bone to pick with you, too), Margaret is a film which actually has something to say. You know, other than racism and flying planes into buildings are bad.

My next bone of contention are the nominees for Best Documentary. Having broken my own personal record for documentaries seen in a single year, I had high hopes for actually having seen the Oscar winning film. I – along with the rest of the sports-ignorant world – fell in love with motor-sports this year, having watched a slew of young men either die or injure themselves doing something that they love. Both Senna and TT3D: Closer to the Edge were outstanding pieces of filmmaking, both informative and evocative as they shone a spotlight on two worlds little known out of their own fanbases. Heck, even Never Say Never opened my eyes to the undeniable talent of Justin Bieber, even if it has by now been marketed it out of existence by his record label. And I haven’t even mentioned Jane’s Journey, Project Nim, The Green Wave or LIFE IN A FREAKIN’ DAY.

The omissions wouldn’t have even been so bad if it weren’t for the clunking atrocities that have become Academy Award nominees in their place. What business do Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon, Rio, W.E., Puss in Boots and Anonymous have being shortlisted for Oscars, when the likes of Shame, Troll HunterThe Skin I Live In and Take Shelter haven’t been nominated for anything? I didn’t think much of Winnie the Pooh but I’d rather see it an award winning animated movie ahead of Kung Fu Panda 2. Does Zooey Deschanel’s work on the soundtrack not count as Music then, The Academy?

I bloody knew this would happen.

December 2011 – I Agree It’s Not My Best Disguise.

Back from my refresher trip to London and with only a few working days separating myself from the new year, I returned in earnest to the cinema for another, final month of movies in 2011.

I kick-started the year with My Week With Marilyn, a film which proved slight but sweet, before moving on to more lowbrow fare such as The Thing, Puss in Boots, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, New Year’s EveHugo in 3D, Romantics AnonymousThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. While each of these latter films served a purpose and entertained throughout their running time, it was only Hugo which made an impression.

It being December, I suddenly found myself evaluating the year as a whole as much as I was the movies of 2011 themselves. There have been some exceptional works released this year, with Super 8 topping my list of favourite movies and films such as Scream 4, Footloose and Killing Bono just missing out on a place.  2011 has also had its fair share of duds, with the latest Transformers movie, the return of Jack Sparrow and Bad Teacher each earning a place in my bad books.

December also saw the input of my second ever contributor, with an invite to a London press screening of War Horse catching me in Scotland. Montimer duly attended, and dropped me a brilliant review, one of the first to make it online after the embargo was finally lifted.

It’s been a brilliant year all around, with a wealth of opportunities seeing my attend The Edinburgh Film Festival, walking the promenade in Cannes and interviewing the director of About A Boy, The Twilight Saga: New Moon and A Better Life. My words have graced film posters, TV spots and graced a variety of new platforms, The Incredible Suit’s BlogalongaBond included. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities 2012 will no doubt bring, and who knows, I might even get paid for this before the world ends.

Thank you all for helping this blog become such an unexpected success.

Film of the month: Hugo in 3D

War Horse (2012)

Based on the hugely successful play, War Horse tells the story of Joey, an unfortunately named horse, sold into military service at the outbreak of World War One, and his adventures and relationships with numerous owners throughout the course of the war. Which is where the film’s problems start, because with the focus on a horse and with a succession of human protagonists dipping in and out of the story as Joey comes through, it often feels much more like we’re watching a succession of episodes of a TV series in the vein of Lassie or Old Yeller, rather than a coherent movie.

In fact, the comparison with dog-based TV series is somewhat unfair, because while dogs, kangaroos and even dolphins have a range of easily recognisable expressions, horses are the animal kingdom’s equivelent of Keanu Reeves. Where we’ve had equine protagonists previously, our connection has been fostered through the people with whom they interact. The lack of consistent human company in War Horse – even our ‘lead’ actor (Jeremy “Trench Foot” Irvine as Albert Narracott) is only in about half of the film – makes it almost impossible to connect with anything on screen.

To be fair to War Horse, while the movie as a whole is difficult to engage with, there are some sequences that do work quite well. In particular, a rendezvous between a British and a German soldier in No-Man’s Land is solidly entertaining, as is a sequence featuring a young French girl and her elderly grandfather, but these work because of the humour that runs through them. Something seriously lacking from the remainder of the film.

Indeed, for the most part, War Horse is so po-faced and sincere that it feels almost rude to enjoy it. As a result of this, sequences that should be thrilling, like a cavalry charge into a German camp, are simply dull – although, this does lead to the most interesting shot in the film, as riderless horses charge into the fores. Again, this isn’t helped by the lack of engagement with the characters. At the point in the film the charge occurs, we have spent so little time with the riders that their success or failure is about as important to the audience as the colour of the tiles in the cinema toilet.

Compounding the film’s problems is a terrifically clumsy script. Because every twenty minutes or so we are introduced to an entirely new set of characters, a huge proportion of the dialogue is used to explain who they are, and how they relate to one another. Admittedly it could have been far worse, but it often sucks the momentum out of the movie, and frequently causes otherwise decent performances to fall flat. Again, something not helped by the film’s forced sincerity.

In spite of all this, War Horse isn’t a terrible film. It’s not even a bad one, it’s simply forgettable. About a decade ago, Steven Spielberg created Band of Brothers. Ten years before that, Richard Curtis was responsible for one of the most entertaining and poignant depictions of trench warfare with Blackadder Goes Forth. The fact that they phoned in this waste of time is utterly disappointing.

Reviewed by @Montimer.