Friday, 1 February 2013

Memento, Reservoir Dogs and The Big Lebowski

I watched Memento, about a man who has no short term memory, and the story is told almost completely backwards. I thought it was great as it was the most interesting film I've seen in a while and the storytelling was very intriguing and unique.
I also watched Reservoir Dogs, which was also brilliant. It's about the aftermath of a failed bank robbery and as always with Tarantino, the script was great. It was excellently acted, especially by Tim Roth as the hysterical Mr. Orange and Steve Buscemi as Mr. Pink.
Finally, I watched the Big Lebowski, a Coen brothers film starring Jeff Bridges as The Dude. This film contains some of my favourite characters of all time (especially Walter Sobchak, played by John Goodman), and has a great story involving Nihilists, "marmots" and White Russians.
I would strongly recommend all of them.

Hal Chavasse

The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man

I first saw the Wicker Man two or three years ago, and this was my first time watching it since then. I had enjoyed it the first time, and revisiting it was exactly the same. The film is based around a remote Scottish island called Summerisle where a girl has gone missing. A mainland policeman (Sgt. Howie) played by Edward Woodward is sent to the island to find her.
I think that the reason this film is so good is the general feeling of creepiness and wrongness that surrounds almost every scene in the film. Immediately after arriving on the island, everything is suspicious and you know as little as Sgt. Howie when he first arrives. The gradual reveal of the islands Pagan culture and history is great, and all of the supporting cast are great as the awkward and outsider-shy islanders.
The film is littered with creepy moments that make the island more unwelcoming and gradually reveal it to be a more and more unpleasant place, for example the schoolgirl who traps a beetle inside the missing girls school desk or the maypole scene. Christopher Lee plays the islands leader/occasional transvestite Lord Summerisle and is great as a seemingly amiable and complying character, but with something sinister about him, which is revealed as the film goes on.
The soundtrack is also a huge part of this film, with frequent interludes showing gatherings of islanders singing and dancing. All of the music is incredibly happy, which plays a huge part in adding to the unsettling feel of the film, and some of the songs are great standalone pieces of music.
The final moments are where the film really shines, with the tense procession around the island, which is incredibly creepy as the locals are dressed in animal masks and costumes which are all lifeless and imposing, especially the Punch costume which is easily the most unsettling of them all. The final scene is the best in the entire film and is quite horrible to watch, and is gives this already great film an ending which makes the overall experience even better.

Hal Chavasse

Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist(Daniel Craig(DIWF)) has just lost a well-publicized court battle having been accused of publishing false information about a wealthy business man in his left wing newspaper: Millennium, (hence the Millennium saga name). The story is set in a modern, frozen Sweden, where we are supposed to believe that everyone has either a fluxuating, questionable or non-existent Swedish accent. This is a slick, gory, gritty political thriller, riddled with social innuendoes and questioning about the treatment and representation of women. This remake, the Swedish original and the Stieg Larsson novels (originally entitled ‘men who hate women’) are by all means in my opinion wonderfully 21st century feminist films. 

Mikael and later Lisbeth(Mara Rooney), a troubled but gifted goth computer hacker, are enlisted by a retired wealthy industrialist tycoon to solve the unsolved mystery of the murder of his beautiful granddaughter 40 years ago. He suspects the murderer is one of the members of his cold and unpleasant family, who currently occupy an island in northern Sweden. As Mikael and Lisbeth begin to piece together the sinister and deeply unpleasant pieces of this unsolved jigsaw, they find themselves dangerously involved in what seems to be more than just one girl’s disappearance.   

As cliché as it sounds I think this is one of those defining tales of our era and I defiantly recommend this and the Swedish Original. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Machinist

This film was definitely a Physiological Thriller. By this I mean that not only did the clever filming and trickery reel the watcher in and keep them hooked, but because it was totally from the view point of someone who was turning slowly and undoubtedly insane, for once the viewer could not second-guess the plot or have their own feelings and opinions about the goings on, and instead had to completely immerse themselves in the film until you felt like you were the traumatised and dysfunctional leading character.

The first scene acts as the definitive scene, one that the plot comes back to at the end which helps to finally answer all the mystery and dead ends. This was a clever ploy and one that truly set the film out to be memorable and very watchable.  There is no real way of summarising the plot without giving the story away, as on the one hand it can seem like a twisted and complicated story, but on the other hand once you understand all the points of the plot at the end, it seems so obvious and you wonder why you had not foreseen the huge twist in one of the final scenes. However, this is down to my earlier point, that the viewer starts thinking like the leading character who has not slept for over a year, so is clearly not think exactly clearly.

I think that Christian Bale played the character of Trevor Reznik, (a machinist who had been suffering with chronic insomnia for over a year and who was therefore slowly losing touch with reality,) outstandingly, and truly embodied the doomed character. Bale was painfully underweight for this film, making him at times very hard to look at, which is an example of the way the film cleverly used imagery to make the viewer part of the experience. Tense and gruelling scenes from the factory where he worked also added to the harshness of the viewing, and some of these shots were also almost unwatchable.  This shows that this film was a good physiological thriller, as the mixture of terrifying scenes mixed with clips that were disjointed and surreal, (such as clocks ticking backwards or confusing flashbacks,) stripped the viewer of normal and rational thoughts, and you became the troubled Reznik.

I love this kind of film because after watching such a powerful and clever array of images and stories, you feel as if you were part of the film, and the thoughts and emotions you felt won’t leave you for days.


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Blue Valentine

I finally got round to watching Blue Valentine, directed by Derek Cianfrance. I thought the film looked really promising and I’d wanted to see it for a log time. The film didn’t exactly break any box office records, but it had won a small handful of awards at American independent film festivals. Anyhow, I didn’t see how I could go wrong with a romance starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle William, two of my favourite actors. The film included improvised dialogue from the actors during the film, which is just one of the current and contemporary things about the film.
Blue Valentine is a film about a couple called Cindy and Dean. The film cuts back and forth from the early days of their relationship to its painful breakdown years later. The film shows them meeting when Cindy is a student living with her unhappy parents and looking after her grandmother, and Dean is working for moving and storage company. The couple rush into a marriage after discovering Cindy is pregnant, even though they are not sure whether Dean is he father, or if it is Cindy’s previous boyfriend. There is a strong contrast between their life as a young couple, when they are beautiful and effervescent, to the future when Cindy and Dean are older and their exhaustion from their relationship is all too apparent.
 The film is incredibly sad and somehow completely unromantic. It’s a completely realistic and unflinching love story. It is basically about a relationship where once they were devoted, and now one of them just has nothing left to give. The performances were, of course, stunning, as was the whole production of the film. The film included an excellent use of music, and I can’t usually hack it when songs have been written especially for a film, but I thought it worked really well on this occasion.
Blue Valentine takes a very alternative and simple approach to the almost taboo subject of falling in then out of love. I couldn’t fully get my head around it and I think that’s why it will stay with me for a long time.

Me, You and Everyone We Know

Me, You and Everyone We Know

This film for me wasn’t terribly boring or exciting, it was average. Whilst some of the narrative was strange and confusing others were funny and smart, which was something I especially liked about this film. The quirky and slightly edgy humour in this film is again something that I liked, but at points I wasn’t sure whether I should have been laughing or not.

The narrative is loosely based on Miranda July’s character but more on the diverse and strange relationships that surround her. With the two best friends who are constantly competing with on another or the two brothers weird and lonely relationship with horny people on the internet. The film’s ending was quite unresolved and annoying; whilst the relationships carried on I felt the characters had not developed or changed enough for me to like how it finished. Although Miranda probably wanted an ongoing story; one which wasn’t defined by the ending. It left me feeling almost betrayed in not letting me know what to take from this film; was it a hilarious, unusual and terribly honest  take on modern relationships or a very pessimistic depressing view on how most if not all relationships are somehow based around sex. Or maybe I too misjudged the film entirely.

In conclusion my opinion on this film is unsure, whilst my age and interest in other genres might make me bias to hate this film I don’t; and so believe that this film is decent and at least 3 stars.

Joel Hooper

The Craft

The craft is a very unusual and intrepid take on a high school drama/ coming of age film, but although its fictionally based it still surprisingly manages to detain some familiarity with modern high school life, even with it being more then 10 years old.  Strangely I found the narrative of this film to be a lot like “Mean Girls” but obviously with a fictional subtext and a much darker ending. Retrospectively I found this film is very smart in the way it portrays different social groups with different characters and the way they react given the supernatural context. Obviously this familiarity doesn’t really apply to British high school life but might still have some relevance in American high school life, which not only says a lot about this film but a lot about high schools.

The story bases itself around Sarah; a newcomer to a Catholic High school who’s moved with her father to Los Angeles, but soon falls into the wrong crowd and when rumours about her start to stir Sarah decides to seek friendship in a strange group of girls. When Sarah realises they’re withes she decides to join them but they all underestimate Sarah’s power and soon after face fatal consequences for it.

I like this film for its originality in genre mix and narrative, although at points I felt disappointed with the narrative/character arks chosen for individuals but also felt that the narrative for some characters wasn’t in depth enough for the narrative to flow properly. But what they attempted to do with this film was incredibly smart and gutsy.

I would give this film 3.5 stars; for its originality, good narrative and interesting and smart interpretation of teenage life.

Joel Hooper

Friday, 4 January 2013

Wuthering Heights

I watched Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights recently and I rather enjoyed it. Everything about the direction was so different to what I had known to be conventional for classic stories. I felt that Arnold took a different approach to the story and for the first time I got to see a classic as I had never imagined before. Maybe my experience for classics isn’t vast but from the adaptions of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Oliver Twist’ and indeed ‘Peter Rosminsky’s’ 1992 version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ with ‘Ralph Fiennes’ I know that what Arnold did with the timeless classic was certainly different to the films listed.

The film concentrated on the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff, leaving out the second half of the original book where Emily Brontë focusses on characters Nelly Dean and Lockwood. When Cathy and Heathcliff are both young, they share scenes of openness and happiness. Both Cathy and Heathcliff expressed a knowing innocence when they were alone. Although it was a romance, they never broke the boundaries of their fabricated sibling relationship. It was also a relationship that didn’t fit the period time love story. It was quite raw and unrehearsed. The unsteadiness of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship was reflected in the cinematography, powerfully orchestrated by ‘Robbie Ryan’. The harsh, choppy, rough handling of the camera perfectly replicated the immeasurable emotions of pain, anger and love- Key themes in this story.

Arnold also justifies the use of weather and landscape in her adaption. It was as if the weather was the commander of fortune and most of the time it was merciless. The rain brought Heathcliff to the Earnshaw family which eventually became the root of his pain and suffering in many ways. The entwining branches reflected complication, the open moor allowed Cathy and Heathcliff to be together and happy , the darkness mirrored secrecy and the mist and fog appeared at times of confusion and ambiguousness. Now and again I noticed that the camera would emphasise the attention to an animal or a plant. Perhaps this was to remind the viewer of the original inspiration of the book and the importance of the setting. Or maybe it was to remind the viewer of natural beauty in unlikely things; after all, the focus on the setting was a sharp difference from some of the intensity of the acting. I did feel that the landscape and setting ran parallel alongside some characters; Cathy a bird, Heathcliff a venerable animal taken to slaughter and Hindley a loud dog.

Overall I really appreciated this film. Arnold’s ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘Red Road’ were superb and I felt she lived up to her expectations with this rendition of Wuthering Heights. This film was bleak, depressing and sad but I still loved it.


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Me and you and everyone we know

Me and you and everyone we know’ written and directed by Miranda July, received mixed reactions across the board. Some hailing it as ‘a quiet masterpiece’, others appeared to frankly detest the whole film. I have to say, I found watching the film not exactly a pleasant experience. As I did when watching Terence Malick’s ‘the Tree of Life’, I felt as though I was being excluded by the film by the fact that, ‘I didn’t really get it’. I often enjoy alternative films, but I just couldn’t see the emperor’s new clothes here.
The plot, a word I’m playing a bit fast and loose with here, focuses around Christine (Miranda July), a cab driver and video artist, trying to get her work displayed at her local gallery and Richard (John Hawkes), a shoe salesman and recently single dad. The two of them eventually end up together, after what seemed like a lifetime of their mishaps and struggles. It was enough to make me want me yell at them through the television screen to ‘get a grip’. The film included a whole other variety of characters though. There was Richard’s neighbour, a little girl who collects kitchen appliances for her ‘dowry’. A rather bleak sentiment, I felt. There was an art gallery curator who liked send dirty messages to whom she hadn’t realised was Richard’s young son (creepy). The was also Richard’s colleague at the shoe shop, a man who leaves sexual messages for two teenage girls to see, about what he’d ‘do to them’ (creepier). The art gallery served nicely as a metaphor for the film whole pretentiousness. Like the scene where an artist puts a hamburger wrapper on the ground and calls it art, they apparently filmed some weirdo’s stumbling around and called it a film.
Overall, I feel the film had an effect of indie blandness, the jokes weren’t funny and the characters had no likeability. I didn’t understand why the characters acted in such a bizarre acted way. For example, there was a scene in which Richard sets is hand on fire, this apparently an act to represent his turmoil into despair and his struggle to stay afloat, but wasn’t it just an incredibly stupid and irresponsible thing to do? The film especially awful, it just didn’t do it for me. It made me realise why I love socially realistic films, because they’re about real people, with real problems, and these are dealt with. However, this film won awards at the Cannes and the Sundance film festivals, so what do I know.