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The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2015

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> 2015 in Film

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The Best Films of 2015

The Best Films of 2015 (In alphabetical order)

  • 45 Years (Dir. Andrew Haigh)
  • Anomalisa (Dir. Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson)
  • Beasts of No Nation (Dir. Cary Fukunaga)
  • Carol (Dir. Todd Haynes)
  • Ex Machina (Dir. Alex Garland)
  • Far from the Madding Crowd (Dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (Dir. Alex Gibney)
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir. George Miller)
  • Room (Dir. Lenny Abrahamson)
  • Spotlight (Dir. Tom McCarthy)
  • The Big Short (Dir. Adam McKay)
  • The Martian (Dir. Ridley Scott)
  • The Witch (Dir. Robert Eggers)

Honourable Mentions:

  • Everest (Dir. Baltasar Kormakur)
  • Hitchcock/Truffaut (Dir. Kent Jones)
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dir. JJ Abrams)
  • Tangerine (Dir. Sean Baker)

Yet to See:

  • Love and Mercy (Dir. Bill Pohlad)
  • The Revenant (Dir. Alejandro G. Inarritu)
  • Son of Saul (Dir. Laszlo Nemes)
  • The Tribe (Dir. Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)

> 2015 in film
> Critic Picks from 2015 on Metacritic
> The Best Films of 2014

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The Best Films of 2014

* The following list is in alphabetical order *

’71 (Dir. Yann Demange): The Troubles in Northern Ireland have inspired some very bad films (A Prayer for the Dying), some excellent ones (Bloody Sunday) and some masterpieces (Hunger). This intelligent and absorbing examination of a British soldier (Jack O’Connell) on the run in Belfast, during 1971, can be safely added to the ‘excellent’ category. Although parts of the film owe a¬†debt to Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947), albeit in reverse, it remains a pulsating historical drama. Mostly set over one hellish night in the city, the performances, production design and visuals are deeply impressive and bode well for newcomer Yann Demange.

A Most Wanted Man (Dir. Anton Corbijn): The last significant performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of his best, playing a German spymaster in this John Le Carre adaptation. Set in Hamburg post-9/11, it examines the tensions and suspicions that abound between the U.S. and German security services. This comes to a head when a Chechen refugee turns up in the city who may (or may not) pose a security threat. Corbijn evokes the mood and nuances of Le Carre’s world, whilst cinematographer Benoit Delhomme shoots an appropriately gloomy Hamburg in blues and greys. A rare and bold contemporary thriller, which actually embraces the complexities of our times, instead of shunning them.

Birdman (Dir. Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu): One of the most inventive and technically accomplished films of recent years was this darkly comic exploration of a washed up Hollywood actor (Michael Keaton) trying to reignite his career on Broadway. It plays like a brilliantly audacious mashup of Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979) and is laced with some delicious supporting performances from Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts. The extraordinary cinematography which glues the film together could spell another Oscar for DP Emmanuel Lubezki.

Boyhood (Dir. Richard Linklater): Perhaps the most conceptually ambitious film project of the modern era, this film was shot over several years, from 2002 to 2013, and follows a boy named Mason (Ellar Coltrane) – and his older sister (Lorelei Linklater) – from childhood to adulthood. Director Linklater demonstrates his trademark eye for human behaviour and the performances are uniformly excellent – especially Patricia Arquette as the boy’s mother – and the seamless time transitions are perhaps the most impressive aspect of all. Is it as powerful as Michael Apted’s pioneering Up documentaries? Probably not, but in terms of US filmmaking this is an unusually daring and satisfying film in an era of safety first thinking from the major studios.

Calvary (Dir. John Michael McDonagh): Although this Irish drama bore some similarities to McDonagh’s last film, The Guard (2011), it was darker in tone and content. The tale of an Irish priest (Brendan Gleeson) who hears a troubling confession explores the light and shade of modern Ireland with a knowing, morbid wit. Gleeson stood out in an impressive ensemble cast, but Kelly Reilly was also notable in a key supporting role as his troubled daughter. Over the last twenty years, Ireland has undergone seismic political, financial and cultural changes, which are reflected in this grimly¬†comic exploration of a small coastal town.

Citizenfour (Dir. Laura Poitras): Perhaps the most riveting cinematic experience of the year for me was experiencing the inside story of the Edward Snowden leaks. The former NSA contractor who contacted Poitras and two Guardian journalists (Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill) about the post-9/11 eavesdropping activities of the US government. What gives the film real power is the sense of being in the Hong Kong hotel room as Snowden reveals the initial secrets, the tension of them getting caught at any time and the consequences of what might happen next. A remarkable document of an incredible story, as tense and thrilling as any fictional film.

Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennett Miller): Bizarre and disturbing real life events are¬†the backdrop for this compelling drama about two Olympic wrestlers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with one of America’s richest men. That man was John du Pont (played with eerie intensity by Steve Carrell), a philanthropist and wrestling enthusiast. The film is something of a blank slate, preferring suggestion over explanation, but this is a powerful tool in exploring themes such as patriotism, class and the seedy underbelly of the late Regan era. Since his rarely-seen debut film The Cruise (1998), Miller has often drawn from the enigmas and oddities of real life and packaging them with considerable intelligence.

Gone Girl (Dir. David Fincher): This love letter to Hitchcock was a smart adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel, tailor made for the sensibilities of David Fincher. When his wife (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, a Missouri husband (Ben Affleck) slowly enters a hellish nightmare of trial by media. Using a highly effective flashback structure, it Fincher uses his formidable array of skills to dissect and dismember the institution of marriage. The performances from the leads and supporting cast are all first-rate and Tyler Perry was an unexpected jewel as a high-profile ambulance chasing lawyer.

Interstellar (Dir. Christopher Nolan): A sci-fi epic which blended theoretical astrophysics with human emotions was always going to be a tricky feat to pull off. Thankfully Nolan just about achieved it with this story of futuristic Earth on the brink of dying and the NASA mission to save it. Headed by a former pilot turned engineer/farmer (Matthew McConaughey) forced to abandon his young daughter and family, the depiction of space travel is realised with tremendous verve and clever use of sets and visual effects. Although its grasp sometimes exceeded its reach, it was a bold and unusual blockbuster filled with ambitious ideas.

Life Itself (Dir. Steve James): A documentary about a film critic might seem an esoteric, even indulgent, project, but when the subject is the late Roger Ebert and the director is Steve James it immediately becomes more tantalising. After the acclaim that followed its premiere at Sundance, I was expecting something good, but not quite the heartfelt and fascinating tribute James created. Aside from his storied career as a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, it reveals numerous other nuggets including work with Russ Meyer (!) and backstage spats with fellow TV critic Gene Siskel. Interviews with his wife Chaz and a wide circle of friends paint a moving and unflinching picture of a remarkable man.

Mr. Turner (Dir. Mike Leigh): A slow burn portrait of the famous Victorian painter J. M. W. Turner, was greatly aided by a tremendous central performance from Timothy Spall in the title and some dazzling visuals by cinematographer Dick Pope. Interestingly it begins when he is firmly established as an artist and covers the last 25 years of his life. This means we see a reflective Turner coping with a complicated private life and critics disliking his later, unconventional style. One can still detect a defiant spirit (the list of credited financiers seem to indicate Leigh’s determination to get it made). The result is also a richly layered portrait which ranks highly amongst Leigh‚Äôs best.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir. Wes Anderson): A delicious layer cake of a movie, Wes Anderson crafted his most elaborate and ambitious project yet. Inspired by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, the madcap story involves a concierge (Ralph Fiennes) who needs the help of one of his employees (Tony Revolori) to prove his innocence after being framed for murder. A wonderful ensemble cast featuring F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe (among others) is headed by Fiennes, who gives one of the best performances of the year, showing a lovely comic touch. Some people simply don’t like Wes Anderson’s intricate style of filmmaking, but even arch sceptics might be tempted by this.

The Imitation Game (Dir. Morten Tyldum): When World War 2 codebreaker Alan Turing got a posthumous pardon from the UK government, it was a sad reminder of how a great hero of the war could be a victim of prejudice on the home front. Norwegian director Tyldum also brings a compelling pace to this adaptation, whilst juggling the complexities of Turing’s life and work. Cumberbatch is very strong in the lead role, whilst Mark Strong brings a enigmatic gravitas to his role as a shadowy MI6 agent. The production design by Maria Djurkovic impressively recreates three periods (1930s, 40s, 50s) and is aided by some sharp camera work which involves a subtly altered visual sheen for each.

The Rover (Dir. David Mich√īd): This follow up to Mich√īd’s stunning debut, Animal Kingdom (2010), didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of that film but was still a stellar effort from the gifted Australian director. Set in a lawless post-apocalyptic world, the plot sees a loner (Guy Pearce) have his car stolen by a gang who have left a member behind (Robert Pattinson). It then becomes a fusion of genres, principally drawing from the Western and road movie. Although it bears some similarities to The Road (2009), this has a slightly more arid and oppressive atmosphere, partly due to the hot conditions of the Australian Outback. Filled¬†with intriguing surprises, whether it be strange characters or bizarre actions, the pay off when it comes is a corker.

The Theory of Everything (Dir. James Marsh): The life story of another British genius, only this time the subject was the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking. Although at times it borders on hagiography, director Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten manage to steer the film away from too much sentiment. The bulk of the narrative deals with Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) as they fall in love at Cambridge in the late 1960s and have to deal with motor neurone disease. Redmayne bears a strong resemblance to the Hawking and does a fine job in portraying the younger and older man. Beautifully lit by Beno√ģt Delhomme and directed with precision by James Marsh.

> 2014 in film
> Critic Picks from 2014 on Metacritic
> The Best Films of 2013

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The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2014

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS FOR 2014

> The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2013
> 2014 in Film

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Sight & Sound’s Greatest Documentaries List

Sight and Sound Doc Poll

Sight and Sound have recently released the results of a poll of critics and filmmakers to find the greatest documentaries of all time.

The Critics’ Top 10 documentaries are:

1. Man with a Movie Camera, dir. Dziga Vertov (USSR 1929)

2. Shoah, dir. Claude Lanzmann (France 1985)

3. Sans soleil, dir. Chris Marker (France 1982)

4. Night and Fog, dir. Alain Resnais (France 1955)

5. The Thin Blue Line, dir. Errol Morris (USA 1989)

6. Chronicle of a Summer, dir. Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin (France 1961)

7. Nanook of the North, dir. Robert Flaherty (USA 1922)

8. The Gleaners and I, dir. Agnès Varda (France 2000)

9. Dont Look Back, dir. D.A. Pennebaker (USA 1967)

10. Grey Gardens, dir. Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer (USA 1975)

The poll report is released in the September edition of Sight & Sound published today, Friday 1st August.

The full lists of all the votes received and films nominated will be available online from 14th August.

You can join in the debate at Twitter using the hashtag #BestDocsEver.

> Sight and Sound
> More on documentary film at Wikipedia

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The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2013

The Best DVD and Blu-rays of 2013

DVD & BLU-RAY PICKS FOR 2013

  • Billy Liar¬†(StudioCanal) / Blu-ray
  • The Impossible¬†(Entertainment One) / Blu-ray and Normal
  • Amateur¬†(Artificial Eye Blu-ray / Normal
  • One Hour Photo¬†(20th Century Fox Home Ent.) / Blu-ray and Normal /
  • Rear Window¬†(Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Birds¬†(Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / 50th Anniversary Edition /
  • Bullhead¬†(Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Sessions¬†(20th Century Fox Home Ent.) Blu-ray with Digital Copy ‚Äď Double Play /
  • Blow Out¬†(Arrow Video) Blu-ray Special Edition /
  • My Left Foot¬†(ITV DVD) Blu-ray / Normal /
  • The Unbelievable Truth¬†(Artificial Eye) Blu-ray / Normal /

> The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2012
> 2013 in Film

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The Best Films of 2013

Best of 2013

* The following list is in alphabetical order *

12 Years a Slave (Dir. Steve McQueen): The British director brought us a stunning historical drama with its haunting depiction of US slavery. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender were the highlights of an outstanding ensemble cast.

All is Lost (Dir. J.C. Chandor): Robert Redford alone on a sinking boat provided a multifaceted drama of survival, with Redford’s best role in years. After his brilliant debut Margin Call (2011), Chandor is clearly a talent to watch.

Before Midnight (Dir. Richard Linklater): The conclusion (?) to a unique trilogy provided director Richard Linklater and actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy another opportunity to explore their charming characters in another beautiful setting.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche): An intimate epic of the heart, this year’s Palme D’or winner featured two outstanding lead performances (Ad√®le Exarchopoulos and¬†L√©a Seydoux) and a refreshing approach to portraying relationships on screen.

Blue Jasmine (Dir. Woody Allen): The rise and fall of a rich society wife (Cate Blanchett) provided rich pickings for Allen and his superb supporting cast featuring Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Andrew Dice Clay. A bittersweet treat with a memorable lead performance.

Captain Phillips (Dir. Paul Greengrass): This true life tale of a US tanker captain (Tom Hanks) taken hostage by Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi) was an expertly constructed thriller that also managed to examine the sharp end of globalization.

Enough Said (Dir. Nicole Holofcener): One of the lighter pleasures of the year was a romantic comedy that was both clever and funny. A middle-age romance between two divorcees (Julia Louise Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini), it contained numerous delights.

Gravity (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron): Perhaps the most ambitious film of the year was this stunning drama, with two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) adrift in space. Cuaron, DP Emmanuel Lubezki and VFX maestro Tim Webber took on screen visuals to another level.

Inside Llewyn Davis (Dir. The Coen Bros): The New York folk scene of 1961 provided the backdrop for this bittersweet tale of a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac). Intricately crafted, with a great soundtrack produced by T Bone Burnett and a great cat, this is top-tier Coens.

Nebraska (Dir. Alexander Payne): Another road movie from the director of About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2004) provided a great role for veteran Bruce Dern in the twilight of his career. Shot in atmospheric black and white, the supporting cast is also note perfect.

Short Term 12 (Dir. Destin Daniel Cretton): One of the unexpected delights of the year was this beautifully crafted drama set in a foster home. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr were excellent in the lead roles but there are many aspects to admire, not least Cretton’s direction.

The Act of Killing (Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer): One of the most disturbing and unique documentaries in film history, Oppenheimer secured a remarkable degree of access amongst the former death squads of the Indonesian revolution. A landmark work.

The Great Beauty (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino): Wonderfully rich look at the twilight of the Berlusconi era, with Tony Servillo again proving an excellent foil for his director. As usual for Sorrentino, the visuals and location shooting are of the highest order.

Upstream Colour (Dir. Shane Carruth): Returning from a 9-year absence, Carruth crafted a dazzling puzzlebox of a film, performing multiple duties (acting, writing, directing and music) alongside his impressive co-star Amy Seimetz. Fascinating, complex and brilliant.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Philomena (Dir. Stephen Frears)
Iron Man 3 (Dir. Shane Black)
Mystery Road (Dir. Ivan Sven)
The Look of Love (Dir. Michael Winterbottom)
The East (Dir. Zal Batmangajli)
The Wolf of Wall Street (Dir. Martin Scorsese)

> Find out more about the films of 2013 at Wikipedia
> End of year lists at Metacritic

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Sight And Sound’s Top Films Of 2012

This year‚Äôs Sight and Sound end-of-year poll has been topped by Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

As usual, the UK film magazine polled around 100 critics and but have refrained from publishing it online for now.

But my print copy arrived in the post this morning and I can confirm that the list is as follows:

1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)

2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, Portugal/Germany/France)

3. Amour (Michael Haneke, France/Germany/Austria)

4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, France/Germany)

5. Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, USA)

=  Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, UK/Germany)

7. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, USA)

8. Beyond the Hills (Christian Mungiu, Romania/France/Belgium)

= Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, Canada/France/Portugal/Italy)

= Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia & Herzegovina)

= This is Not A Film (Jafar Pahani & Mojtaba Mirtahmaseb, Iran)

N.B. Because of the crossover of UK and US release dates some titles have been duplicated from last year’s list.

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> 2012 reviews at Metacritic
> Wikipedia on 2012 in film

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The Best Films of 2011

Although it was a year with a record number of sequels, there was much to feast on if you really looked for something different.

The year will be remembered for momentous events which overshadowed anything Hollywood could come up with: the Arab Spring, the Japanese Earthquake, Hackgate, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the continuing meltdown of the global economy.

But cinema itself underwent some seismic changes: in April the thorny issue of the theatrical window raised its head, whilst James Cameron suggested films should be projected at 48 frames per second instead of the usual 24.

But by far the biggest story was the news that Panavision, Arri and Aaton were to stop making film cameras: although the celluloid projection will effectively be over by 2013, it seems the death of 35mm capture is only a few years away.

So the medium of film, will soon no longer involve celluloid. That’s a pretty big deal.

As for the releases this year, it seemed a lot worse than it actually was.

Look beyond the unimaginative sequels and you might be surprised to find that there are interesting films across a variety of genres.

Instead of artifically squeezing the standout films into a top ten, below are the films that really impressed me in alphabetical order, followed by honourable mentions that narrowly missed the cut but are worth seeking out.

THE BEST FILMS OF 2011

A Separation (Dir. Asghar Farhadi): This Iranian family drama explored emotional depths and layers that few Western films even began to reach this year.

Drive (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn): Nicolas Winding Refn brought a European eye to this ultra-stylish LA noir with a killer soundtrack and performances.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Dir. Martin Scorsese): Scorsese’s in-depth examination of the late Beatle was a passionate and moving tribute to a kindred soul.

Hugo (Dir. Martin Scorsese): The high-priest of celluloid channelled his inner child to create a stunning digital tribute to one of the early pioneers of cinema.

Jane Eyre (Dir. Cary Fukunaga): An exquisite literary adaptation with genuine depth, feeling and two accomplished lead performers that fitted their roles like a glove.

Margin Call (Dir. J.C. Chandor): The best drama yet to come out the financial crisis is this slow-burn acting masterclass which manages to clarify the empty heart of Wall Street.

Melancholia (Dir. Lars von Trier): Despite the Cannes controversy, his stylish vision of an apocalyptic wedding was arguably his best film, filled with memorable images and music.

Moneyball (Dir. Bennett Miller): The philosophy that changed a sport was rendered into an impeccably crafted human drama by director Bennett Miller with the help of Brad Pitt.

Project Nim (Dir. James Marsh): A chimpanzee raised as a human was the extraordinary and haunting subject of this documentary from James Marsh.

Rango (Dir. Gore Verbinski): The best animated film of 2011 came from ILMs first foray into the medium as they cleverly riffed on classic westerns and Hollywood movies.

Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia): A documentary about the F1 driver composed entirely from existing footage made for riveting viewing and a truly emotional ride.

Shame (Dir. Steve McQueen): The follow up to Hunger was a powerful depiction of sexual compulsion in New York, featuring powerhouse acting and pin-sharp cinematography.

Snowtown (Dir. Justin Kerzel): Gruelling but brilliant depiction of an Australian murder case, which exposed modern horror for the empty gorefest it has become.

Take Shelter (Dir. Jeff Nichols): Wonderfully atmospheric blend of family drama and Noah’s Ark which brilliantly played on very modern anxieties of looming apocalypse.

The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius): An ingenious love letter to the silent era of Hollywood is executed with an almost effortless brilliance.

The Descendants (Dir. Alexander Payne): Pitch-perfect comedy-drama which saw Alexander Payne return to give George Clooney his best ever role.

The Guard (Dir. John Michael McDonagh): Riotously funny Irish black comedy with Brendan Gleeson given the role of his career.

The Interrupters (Dir. Steve James): The documentary of the year was this powerful depiction of urban violence and those on the frontline trying to prevent it.

The Skin I Live In (Dir. Pedro Almodovar): The Spanish maestro returned with his best in years, as he skilfully channeled Hitchcock and Cronenberg.

The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick): Moving and mindblowing examination of childhood, death and the beginnings of life on earth.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir Tomas Alfredson): Wonderfully crafted John le Carre adaptation which resonates all too well in the current era of economic and social crisis.

Tyrannosaur (Dir. Paddy Considine): Searingly emotional drama with two dynamite lead performances and an unexpected Spielberg reference.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsey): Audio-visual masterclass from Ramsay with a now predictably great performance from Tilda Swinton.

Win Win (Dir. Thomas McCarthy): Quietly brilliant comedy-drama with Paul Giamatti seemingly born to act in this material.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A Dangerous Method (Dir. David Cronenberg)
Anonymous (Dir. Roland Emmerich)
Another Earth (Dir. Mike Cahill)
Attack the Block (Dir. Joe Cornish)
Bobby Fischer Against The World (Dir. Liz Garbus)
Confessions (Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima)
Contagion (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Four Days Inside Guantanamo (Dir. Luc Cote, Patricio Henriquez)
I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Ji-woon)
Into the Abyss (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Life in a Day (Dir. Kevin MacDonald)
Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin)
Midnight in Paris (Dir. Woody Allen)
Page One: Inside The New York Times (Dir. Andrew Rossi)
Super 8 (Dir. JJ Abrams)
The Adventures of Tintin (Dir. Steven Spielberg)
The Beaver (Dir. Jodie Foster)
The Deep Blue Sea (Dir. Terence Davies)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dir. David Fincher)
The Ides of March (Dir. George Clooney)

2010 FILMS THAT CAME OUT IN 2011

Armadillo (Dir. Janus Metz)
Beginners (Dir. Mike Mills)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Submarine (Dir. Richard Ayoade)
Cold Weather (Dir. Aaron Katz)
Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris)

> Find out more about the films of 2011 at Wikipedia
> End of year lists at Metacritic
> The Best Film Music of 2011
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2011

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Sight and Sound’s Top Films of 2011

This year’s Sight and Sound poll has been topped by Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.

The UK film magazine polled around 100 critics and Рas usual Рthe list has surfaced on various websites before the official one, even though they have confirmed the top two films on their Twitter feed:

“Most of you guessed right: our film of 2011 is The Tree of Life (by a country mile)”

Which begs the question, why has this film got the reputation of being critically divisive?

Whilst a minority booed at the Cannes press screening and it presumably baffled some audiences, if you look at the filtered critical consensus there is a lot of love for Malick’s opus: 85/100 on Metacritic, 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, 79/100 on Movie Review Intelligence and 7.3/10 on IMDb.

As is often the case, there is a good spread of European auteur¬†royalty amongst the list (Von Trier, Dardennes and Tarr), which makes it read a bit like Thierry Fr√©maux‘s contacts book, but its good to see Michel Hazanavicius, Tomas Alfredson and Asghar Farhadi¬†join the club with films of real distinction and class.

1. The Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick).

2. A Separation (Dir. Asghar Farhadi).

3. The Kid With a Bike (Dir. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne).

4. Melancholia (Dir. Lars von Trier).

5. The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius).

=6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan).

=6. The Turin Horse (Dir. Béla Tarr)

8. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Dir. Lynne Ramsay).

9. Le Quattro Volte (Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino).

=10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir. Tomas Alfredson).

=10. This Is Not a Film (Dir. Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmashb)

> Sight and Sound (follow them on Twitter or connect on Facebook)
> Wikipedia on 2011 in film

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Time Out’s List of The 100 Best British Films

UK listings magazine Time Out have selected a list of The 100 Best British Films, topped by Don’t Look Now (1973).

Voted for by 150 film experts including critics, filmmakers, actors and ‘industry players‘, it¬†is a very solid selection overall, with the top ten featuring a healthy mix of established greats alongside some interesting choices.

However, if we are talking about British films (that is films produced by British companies) the team that put this together have made a major blunder by including Stanley Kubrick films which were American films that just happened to be shot in the UK.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was produced by MGM, whilst A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Barry Lyndon (1975) were funded by Warner Bros – both large US studios.

Brazil (1985) was also US financed (by Embassy International Pictures, whilst Universal released it) and Nil By Mouth (1997) – whilst seemingly very British – was actually co-financed with French money.

This might seem like nitpicking but it is worth highlighting where the money comes from, especially in the current era where it prospects look fairly bleak for homegrown UK production.

However, there are plenty of films here to feast on and a few personal favourites I’d highly recommend are:¬†If… (1968), Performance (1970), The Offence (1971), Witchfinder General (1968), Local Hero (1983) and Hunger (2008).

You can also check out the individual lists of each Time Out contributor here.

THE TIME OUT LIST OF THE 100 BEST BRITISH FILMS

  1. Don’t Look Now (1973)
  2. The Third Man (1949)
  3. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
  4. Kes (1969)
  5. The Red Shoes (1948)
  6. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
  7. Performance (1970)
  8. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  9. If… (1968)
  10. Trainspotting (1996)
  11. Naked (1993)
  12. Brief Encounter (1945)
  13. The 39 Steps (1935)
  14. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  15. Withnail & I (1987)
  16. Black Narcissus (1947)
  17. A Canterbury Tale (1944)
  18. The Innocents (1961)
  19. Barry Lyndon (1975) *
  20. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
  21. Nil by Mouth (1997) *
  22. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
  23. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) *
  24. Brazil (1985) *
  25. Great Expectations (1946)
  26. I Know Where I’m Going! (1945)
  27. The Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972, 1973, 1978)
  28. The Wicker Man (1973)
  29. Peeping Tom (1960)
  30. The Ladykillers (1955)
  31. The Ladykillers (1955)
  32. Get Carter (1971)
  33. Secrets & Lies (1996) *
  34. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  35. The Servant (1963)
  36. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
  37. It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)
  38. Went the Day Well? (1942)
  39. London (1994)
  40. Ratcatcher (1999)
  41. Witchfinder General (1968)
  42. Listen to Britain (1942)
  43. Fires Were Started (1943)
  44. Sabotage (1936)
  45. Repulsion (1965)
  46. The Fallen Idol (1948)
  47. Blow-Up (1966)
  48. Hunger (2008)
  49. Gallivant (1996)
  50. Culloden (1964)
  51. Local Hero (1983)
  52. Robinson in Space (1997)
  53. This Sporting Life (1963)
  54. Monty Python and The Holy Grail (1974)
  55. Radio On (1980)
  56. Caravaggio (1986)
  57. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) *
  58. Gregory’s Girl (1981)
  59. Blackmail (1929)
  60. The Long Good Friday (1980)
  61. Walkabout (1971)
  62. Deep End (1970)
  63. Nuts In May (1976)
  64. Topsy-Turvy (1999)
  65. Dracula (1958)
  66. Wonderland (1999)
  67. Whisky Galore! (1949)
  68. Dead of Night (1945)
  69. Oliver! (1968)
  70. Bad Timing (1980)
  71. Edvard Munch (1974)
  72. The Long Day Closes (1992)
  73. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
  74. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  75. A Room for Romeo Brass (1999)
  76. Penda’s Fen (1974)
  77. Piccadilly (1929)
  78. Billy Liar (1963)
  79. The Offence (1972)
  80. Under the Skin (1997)
  81. Dr No (1962)
  82. Orlando (1993)
  83. A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929)
  84. Fish Tank (2009)
  85. I’m All Right, Jack (1959)
  86. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  87. Night and the City (1950)
  88. This Is England (2006)
  89. The Go-Between (1970)
  90. Blue (1993)
  91. Land and Freedom (1995)
  92. Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)
  93. Zulu (1964)
  94. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
  95. London to Brighton (2006)
  96. Theatre of Blood (1973)
  97. 28 Days Later… (2002)
  98. School for Scoundrels (1960)
  99. The Railway Children (1970)
  100. In This World (2002)

> Time Out Film Section
> Wikipedia lists of great films

Categories
Interesting Lists

Interesting Links of 2010

As an alternative to the current end-of-year lists here is a collection of film-related links to things that caught my eye during 2010.

The spectrum is pretty broad but ranges from the location of the crop-dusting sequence in North By Northwest, James Dean punching Ronald Regan, an unaired Orson Welles TV pilot (genius) and a graphic explaining Inception.

Any interesting links you’d like to share? Leave them below.

> The Best Films of 2010
> 2010 in Film at Wikipedia

Categories
Lists music Soundtracks

The Best Film Music of 2010

My favourite film music of the year included albums by Trent Reznor, Hans Zimmer and Daft Punk, whilst tracks by various artists including Zack Hemsey and Grizzly Bear also stood out.

BEST SOUNDTRACKS

Tron Legacy (EMI): The sequel to Tron was a mixed bag (great visuals, mediocre script) but the score by Daft Punk was unbeliveably epic, fusing their trademark electronica with an orchestra. [Amazon / YouTube]

Inception (Reprise): Hans Zimmer’s score for Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster mixed electronic elements, strings and the guitar of Johnny Marr to brilliant effect. [Amazon / YouTube]

The Social Network (Pid): Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross gave David Fincher’s film about the origins of Facebook a dazzling electronic flavour, at turns pulsating and atmospheric. [Official site / Amazon / YouTube]

The Kids Are Alright (Lakeshore Records): A traditional, but shrewdly assembled collection of traditional and modern songs (featuring the likes of MGMT and David Bowie) which fitted the themes of Lisa Colodenko’s film perfectly. [Amazon / YouTube / The Playlist]

Greenberg (Parlophone): A solid collection of songs from James Murphy alongside tracks by The Steve Miller Band, Duran Duran, Nite Jewel and Galaxie 500. [Amazon / YouTube]

127 Hours (Polydor): Danny Boyle films usually have a memorable soundtrack and this is no exception, featuring music from A.R. Rahman and tracks by various artists including Free Blood, Bill Withers and Sigur Ros. [Amazon / YouTube]

Black Swan (Sony): For Darren Aronofsky’s reworking of Swan Lake, Clint Mansell reworked elements of Tchaikovsky’s original music to spectacular effect. [Amazon / YouTube]

N.B. The soundtracks for Somewhere and Blue Valentine would have easily made the list if they were available to purchase in the UK.

PLAYLIST

The following tracks are not all directly from soundtracks, but may also have featured on trailers and TV spots for various films.

You can download most of these tracks as a Spotify playlist here or just click on the relevant links to listen to them.

If you have any pieces of film related music you want to share, leave a comment below.

> The Best Films of 2010
> The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010

Categories
Cinema Lists

The Best Films of 2010

As usual these are my favourite films of the year in alphabetical order (just click on each title for more information).

THE BEST FILMS OF 2010

Animal Kingdom (Dir. David Mich√īd): The outstanding debut feature from director David Mich√īd is a riveting depiction of a Melbourne crime family headed by a sinister matriarch.

Another Year (Dir. Mike Leigh): A moving, bitter-sweet drama about relationships, filled with great acting, is arguably the peak of Mike Leigh’s career.

Biutiful (Dir. Alejandro Gonz√°lez I√Ī√°rritu): Searing exploration of life and death in a modern European city, featuring a tremendous central performance from Javier Bardem.

Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky): Swan Lake is retold with glorious intensity, channelling Polanski and Cronenberg whilst giving Natalie Portman the role of a lifetime.

Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas): Scintillating and immersive depiction of a 1970s terrorist with a tremendous performance by Edgar Ramirez.

Enter the Void (Dir. Gaspar Noé): Technically dazzling depiction of a dead drug dealer that also features what is possibly the greatest opening title sequence of all time.

Exit Through The Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy): An ingenious and hilarious hall of mirrors which is brilliantly executed and so much more than a ‚ÄėBanksy documentary‚Äô.

Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan): The ingenious puzzles of Christopher Nolan’s early films were given the scale of his blockbusters in this hugely ambitious sci-fi actioner.

Inside Job (Dir. Charles Ferguson): Devastating documentary about the financial crisis which plays like a heist movie, only this time it is the banks robbing the people.

Tabloid (Dir. Errol Morris): The media feeding frenzy surrounding a bizarre 1970s sex scandal provided Errol Morris with the raw material for one of the most entertaining documentaries in years.

The Fighter (Dir. David O’Russell): A boxing story which follows a familiar path but remains energetic, inspirational and funny, with Christian Bale on career-best form.

The Kids Are Alright (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko): A perfectly pitched comedy-drama that explores modern family life with genuine heart and humour.

The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper): Wonderfully crafted period drama with two brilliant lead performances and a moving story filled with hilarious one liners.

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher): The inside story of Facebook is a riveting tale of ambition and betrayal, which sees Fincher, Sorkin and a young cast firing on all cylinders.

Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich): The ground breaking animated series gets a worthy final chapter whilst maintaining Pixar’s impeccable standards of story and animation.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle)
Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)
Catfish (Dir. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost)
Four Lions (Dir. Chris Morris)
Let Me In (Dir. Matt Reeves)
Restrepo (Dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Somewhere (Dir. Sofia Coppola)
The American (Dir. Anton Corbijn)
The Ghost Writer (Dir. Roman Polanski)
The Illusionist (Dir. Sylvain Chomet)
Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik)

> Find out more about the films of 2010 at Wikipedia
> End of year lists at Metacritic
> The Best DVD and Blu-ray Releases of 2010

Categories
Lists News

Sight and Sound’s Top Films of 2010

Sight and Sound have selected their best films of 2010 and it has been topped by The Social Network.

They asked 85 critics from across the globe to select their five favourite films of the past year and the titles that appeared the most were then selected for this list which will appear in their January 2011 issue.

(Note that the list can be a little out of sync with US and foreign release dates).

The final selection has already reached the magazine subscribers, although it won’t be on the Sight and Sound website until December 7th.

Here is the list in full (with some ties):

1. The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher, USA)

2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)

3. Another Year (Dir. Mike Leigh, UK)

4. Carlos (Dir. Olivier Assayas, France/Germany)

5. The Arbor (Dir. Clio Barnard, UK)

=6. I Am Love (Dir. Luca Guadagnino, Italy)
=6. Winter’s Bone (Dir. Debra Granik, USA)

=8. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Dir. Andrei UjicńÉ, Romania)
=8. Film Socialisme (Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, France/Switzerland)
=8. Nostalgia for the Light (Dir. Patricio Guzm√°n, France/Germany/Chile)
=8. Poetry (Dir. Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)
=8. A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard, France)

=13. Certified Copy (Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, France/Iran/Italy)
=13. Meek’s Cutoff (Dir. Kelly Reichardt, USA)

=15. Dogtooth (Dir. Giorgos Lanthimos, Greece)
=15. Enter the Void (Dir. Gaspar Noé, France/Germany/Italy)
=15. Mysteries of Lisbon (Dir. Ra√ļl Ruiz, Portugal/Brazil/France)
=15. Of Gods and Men (Dir. Xavier Beauvois, France)

=19. Aurora (Dir. Cristi Puiu, Romania/Switzerland/Germany/France)
=19. Exit Through the Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy, UK/USA)
=19. Four Times (Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy/Switzerland/Germany)
=19. The Ghost Writer (Dir. Roman Polanski, France/Germany/United Kingdom)
=19. Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (Dir. Sophie Fiennes, UK/France/Netherlands)

> Sight and Sound (follow them on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook)
> MUBi and InContention on this year’s list
> Wikipedia on 2010 in film

Categories
Interesting Lists

The Biggest Box Office Bombs of All Time

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CNBC have compiled a list of the biggest box office disasters in history, which is topped by the ill-fated pirate adventure Cutthroat Island.

Trying to calculate the profit and loss of a particular film can be a slippery exercise, especially when film companies are reluctant to reveal accurate numbers for a variety of reasons.

This list has examined films that lost money relative to the production costs and box office numbers (according to BoxOfficeMojo) and has then adjusted the figures for inflation.

  1. Cutthroat Island (1995): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $146,947,958
  2. The Alamo (2004): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $134,784,016
  3. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $134,396,524
  4. Sahara (2005): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $133,141,605
  5. The 13th Warrior (1999): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $125,887,312
  6. Town & Country (2001): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $115,352,672
  7. Speed Racer (2008): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $106,054,234
  8. Heaven’s Gate (1980): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $104,542,449
  9. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $99,798,592
  10. Inchon (1982): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $89,870,942
  11. Treasure Planet (2002): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $83,833,389
  12. The Postman (1997): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $83,346,947
  13. Red Planet (2000): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $82,406,208
  14. Soldier (1998): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $78,912,404
  15. Gigli (2003): Net losses adjusted for inflation: $77,961,644

For a more flexible chart, have a look at Wikipedia’s list of box office bombs.

The more spectacular disasters are fairly common knowledge, but the fact that Sahara ended up with a budget of $241 million (?!) is mind-boggling.

> Box office flops at FilmSite
> Fascinating LA Times story filled with eye-popping details on Sahara
> Techdirt story on why ‘Hollywood Accounting’ is losing in the courts

Categories
Lists

Classic Cars on Film

If you’ve just been listening to me on the radio with Ian Collins on talkSPORT,¬†then here is a fuller list of classic cars from films we were just talking about.

Remember you can follow his show on Twitter (@collinslateshow) and Facebook and listen every Sunday-Thursday from 10pm-1am.

CLASSIC FILM CARS

Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (Dir. Terence Young, 1963): The Bond films in the early 1960s were a massive cultural phenomenon with Sean Connery playing the iconic British spy. Goldfinger perhaps remains the apex of the Connery-era with its famous villain (Gert Frobe), Bond girl (Honor Blackman), theme song and setpieces.

Along with his licence to kill, shaken-not-stirred Martinis and Walther PPK was Bond’s silver Aston Martin DB5 which featured an oil slick, smoke screen, ejector seat, radar tracking system, machine guns, and revolving license plates. [IMDb / Amazon]

1968 Ford Mustang GT in Bullitt (Dir. Peter Yates, 1968): Famous for an extended car chase – frequently cited as one of the best in cinema history – this thriller sees a San Francisco cop (Steve McQueen) who is assigned to protect a mafia informant before uncovering a more sinister plot involving an ambitious senator (Robert Vaughn).

The famous car chase had Bullitt in a dark “Highland Green” 1968 Ford Mustang GT 390 CID Fastback, chasing two hit-men in a “Tuxedo Black” 1968 Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum. [IMDb / Amazon]

1963 Volkswagen Beetle in The Love Bug (Dir. Robert Stevenson, 1968): The 1968 Disney film The Love Bug featured a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, his driver (Dean Jones) and love interest (Michele Lee).

It went on to star in 4 sequels Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. One the iconic cars to emerge in post-war Europe, its popularity and awareness were boosted by the Herbie series. [IMDb / Amazon]

Mark II Mini in The Italian Job (Dir. Peter Collings, 1969): It is hard to imagine now, but this late 1960s caper film about British criminals (led by Michael Caine) stealing gold bullion from Turin wasn’t a huge success on initial release. Over the years it gradually became something of an institution due to its witty (and heavily romanticised) evocation of the Swinging Sixties.

Although the film contains some memorable cars (including a Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB4) it is synonymous with the Mini, three of which are used for the climactic getaway, thankfully all cars have a great motor trader policy. The cars used were the Mark II Minis and they are driven down staircases, storm drains, over the FIAT factory and – most memorably – into the back of a moving bus to the sounds of Quincy Jones’ famous soundtrack. [IMDb / Amazon]

1970 Dodge Challenger R/T in Vanishing Point (Dir. Richard C. Sarafian, 1971): Down the years this film has established a formidable cult reputation. The story involves a Vietnam vet named Kowalski (Barry Newman) who drives from Denver to San Francisco, refusing to stop for the police – who soon start to chase him – and becomes a media sensation after being championed by a blind black disc jockey (Cleavon Little).

Although not a big hit at the time, it captures the black counter-culture mood of early 1970s America and the white Dodge Challenger has gone on to inspire albums (Primal Scream’s 1997 Vanishing Point) and other films (Quentin Tarantino used the same model in Death Proof in 2007). [IMDb / Amazon]

1971 Pontiac LeMans in The French Connection (Dir. William Friedkin, 1971): One of the classic crime movies of the 1970s was this gritty tale of New York narcotics detectives “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) tracking down the source of heroin coming into the United States.

It also contained one of the most remarkable car chases ever put on screen, in which Doyle frantically chases an elevated train. It was made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was shot for ‘real’ in Brooklyn, New York with terrified observers avoiding Doyle’s car, which was driven by stunt driver Bill Hickman. [IMDb / Amazon]

Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6 in C’√©tait un Rendezvous / English Title: “It Was A Date” (Dir. Claude Lelouch, 1976): One of the most jaw dropping and riveting examples of a car on film is this incredible short film (under 10 minutes) showing a high speed drive through Paris in the early hours of the morning.

Shot in a single take, with a gyro-stabilised camera mounted on the bonnet of a Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6, it has been shrouded in rumour and controversy for years due to the illegal nature of how it was filmed. It is thought that the sound of a Ferrari was dubbed on, even though the car was probably a Mercedes. Jeremy Clarkson once said it “makes Bullitt look like a cartoon”. [IMDb / Amazon]

1975 Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me (Dir. Lewis Gilbert, 1977): The second iconic Bond car appeared in the late 1970s in the heyday of the Roger Moore era. The plot saw 007 try to stop a madman (Curt Jurgens) from taking over the world with the help of a KGB agent (Barbara Bach).

But the highlight for car enthusiasts was the sequence involving a Lotus Esprit which also doubled as a submarine complete with rocket launcher and mines. At the time of shooting only two of these Lotus models were available, and the film helped boost it’s image with what was a groundbreaking stunt sequence for the time. [IMDb / Amazon]

1974 Dodge Monaco in The Blues Brothers (Dir. John Landis, 1980): The ‘Bluesmobile’ was the long suffering cop vehicle that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd drove on their ‘mission from God’ in the popular 1980 comedy. After the extended chase from their concert gig in the film, a 106-mile trip to Chicago in which they are chased by the police and Neo-Nazis, the Bluesmobile collapses as the Brothers arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center.

The film used 13 different cars to depict the Bluesmobile, all of which were former police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol, and were mocked up to look like Illinois patrol cars. [IMDb / Amazon]

Modified 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT in Mad Max (Dir. George Miller, 1979): The low budget Australian thriller that launched Mel Gisbson as a star was the story of a traffic cop who hunts down the crazed motorcycle thugs who kill his family.

Featuring plenty of car chases, there are many memorable vehicles in this film but no more so than the modified car Max eventually drives, a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT. The actual model used in the film (and the 1981 sequel Mad Max 2) is currently at The Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, Cumbria. [IMDb / Amazon]

DeLorean DMC 12 in Back to the Future (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1985): One of the major box office hits of the 1980s was this clever tale of a teenager (Michael J Fox) who inadvertently travels back in time thanks to a maverick professor (Christopher Lloyd) who has built a time machine into a Delorean car.

Interestingly, the Delorean never really took off as a car after the company went bankrupt in 1982, but it has become synonymous with this film and in 2007 a limited number were produced again. [IMDb / Amazon]

1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California in Ferris Bueller‚Äôs Day Off (Dir. John Hughes, 1986): The late John Hughes directed several films that captured the growing pains of teenagers in Reagan’s America, but this tale of a Chicago whizz-kid (Matthew Broderick) who plays truant with his girlfriend (Mia Sara) and best buddy Cameron (Alan Ruck) was arguably his funniest.

A key subplot was that they used a vintage Ferrari to drive around own in, a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California which forms part of a key scene towards the end of the film. [IMDb / Amazon]

1976 Ford Gran Torino in Starsky and Hutch (Todd Phillips, 2004): A bit of a cheat this one, as the film version of the long running TV series about two LA detectives also featured the famous red Ford Gran Torino with the white stripe down the side. In truth this remake wasn’t really up to much (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson didn’t really have the chemistry of Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul), although the car remains one of the most iconic of TV shows in this era.

Ford built 1,000 replicas of the “Starsky and Hutch” car in the spring of 1976, due to the TV show. [IMDb / Amazon]

The Tumbler in Batman Begins & The Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2005 & 2008): Of the bat-mobiles that have graced the big screen, the one in the most recent films with Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman was the most radical. Invented by Wayne Industries’ Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), it resembles an armoured vehicle and is powered by a massive jet-booster.

The vehicle does not have a front axle, a design which was influenced by the ‘spinners’ from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The film’s production designer described the machine as a cross between “a Lamborghini and a Tank”. The second film saw a nifty Bat-bike (the Batpod) hidden within the main body of the vehicle. [IMDb / Amazon]

The Films of Sam Raimi: For some reason director Sam Raimi has included has included a 1973 yellow¬†Oldsmobile Delta 88 automobile (nicknamed “The Classic”) in every film, even including his period Western¬†The Quick and the Dead.

It has been in The Evil Dead films, the Spiderman trilogy and most recently appeared in¬†Drag Me to Hell, driven by the elderly gypsy woman who can’t get a mortgage.

If you have any classic film cars, leave a comment below.

Categories
Amusing Lists

That Guy

[ad]

That Guy is a neat site compiling a list of character actors who you have probably seen in films.

To make the cut they must have appeared in a ‘solid number’ of movies and TV shows, preferably 75 movies/series and 100 TV guest appearances.

Bonus points go to those that have ‘non-recurring roles in multiple hit movies’ or ‘guest appearances on popular TV shows’.

Traits of these character actors usually mean that they:

  • Have a resume that indicates quantity over quality
  • Are frequently typecast
  • Remind people of somebody more famous
  • Fit an Ethnic Stereotype
  • Can be described in two words
  • Played the bad guy in a sequel

[Via Metafilter]

Categories
Cinema Lists

The Best Films of the 2000s

Here are the films of the last decade that really struck me as the best of the best.

I’m sure there are a few here and there that I might have missed but if some come back to me I’ll update it.

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

What about you? Leave your favourites from the decade in the comments below.

> Find out more about the films of 2009 at Wikipedia
> Check out more end of decade lists at Metacritic
> Have a look at the Movie City News end of year critics chart
> Check out our best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009

Categories
Cinema Lists

The Best Films of 2009

As usual my best films of the year are presented in alphabetical order and in the interests of brevity I’ve decided to make the descriptions shorter so I can post each one on Twitter.

THE BEST FILMS OF 2009

A Prophet (Dir. Jacques Audiard): A stunning French prison drama with grit, style, humour and killer performances from Tahar Rahim and Niels Arestrup.

A Serious Man (Dir. The Coen Brothers): This sly re-working of the Book of Job was arguably the finest film of the Coen Brothers distinguished career.

Adventureland (Dir. Greg Mottola): A coming-of-age drama which defiantly proved that movies featuring teenagers can be funny, moving and smart.

Avatar (Dir. James Cameron): The dialogue creaked but Cameron returned with a dazzling sci-fi experience and took cinema visuals into a new world.

In the Loop (Dir. Armando Ianucci): The joyous foul-mouthed wit of this political satire was only matched by the intelligence of its observations on modern politics.

Inglourious Basterds (Dir. Quentin Tarantino): A cinematic mash up of WW2 movies and spaghetti westerns saw Tarantino return to form with a bang.

Sin Nombre (Dir. Cary Fukunaga): This beautifully shot immigration drama featured some fine performances and heralded a new talent in director Cary Joji Fukunaga.

The Hurt Locker (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow): A pulsating and provocative examination of a US bomb squad in Iraq that may come to be a defining film of the conflict.

The Road (Dir. John Hillcoat): Cormac McCarthy’s parable of a book came to the screen with admirable levels of emotion, horror and realism.

The White Ribbon (Dir. Michael Haneke): A stunning examination of a German village beset by mysterious cruelties which became a telling meditation on the roots of Nazism.

Up (Dir. Pete Doctor): Pixar triumph again with this lovingly rendered tale of the young and the old learning from one another on a unique balloon trip.

Up in the Air (Dir. Jason Reitman): A skillful comedy-drama that was both funny and thoughtful, featured a terrific performance from George Clooney.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A Single Man (Dir. Tom Ford)
An Education (Dir. Lone Scherfig)
Broken Embraces (Dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
Coraline (Dir. Henry Selick)
35 Shots of Rum (Dir. Claire Denis)
District 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp)
Moon (Dir. Duncan Jones)
Star Trek (Dir. JJ Abrams)
The Cove (Dir. Louie Psihoyos)
Fish Tank (Dir. Andrea Arnold)
Where The Wild Things Are (Dir. Spike Jonze)

FROM 2008

Encounters at the End of the World (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Two Lovers (Dir. James Gray)
Il Divo (Dir: Paolo Sorrentino)
Mid-August Lunch (Dir. Gianni di Gregorio)

What about you? Leave your favourites from this year in the comments below.

> Find out more about the films of 2009 at Wikipedia
> Check out more end of year lists at Metacritic
> Have a look at the Movie City News end of year critics chart
> Check out our best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray Lists

The Best DVD & Blu-ray Releases of 2009

Best of DVD and Blu-ray 2009

DVD and Blu-ray releases have effectively gone on holiday until the last week of the month so here is my list of the best UK releases of 2009.

*N.B. Some of these titles were already available on DVD but got a Blu-ray release this year *

JANUARY

DVD and Blu-ray Picks January 2009

Standard Operating Procedure (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Recount (HBO) [Buy on DVD]
Ashes of Time Redux (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Fall (Momentum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Wong Kar-wai Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]

FEBRUARY

DVD and Blu-ray February 2009

Gomorrah (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
I’ve Loved You So Long (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
7-49UP (Network) [Buy on DVD]
Amadeus – Director’s Cut (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Being There (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Hunger (Pathe) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
The Visitor
(Unanimous Pictures) [Buy on DVD]

MARCH

DVD and Blu-ray March 2009

A History of Violence (EIV) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
L.A. Confidential – Special Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Not Quite Hollywood (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Waltz with Bashir (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

APRIL

DVD Blu-ray April 2009

The Bela Tarr Collection (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Red Riding Trilogy (Optimum) [Buy on DVD]
Dean Spanley (Icon) [Buy on DVD]

MAY

DVD and Blu-ray May 2009

Fargo (MGM) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Silence of the Lambs (MGM) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Mad Men Season 1 (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Frost/Nixon (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

JUNE

DVD and Blu-ray June 2009

Slumdog Millionaire (Pathe) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
A Christmas Tale (New Wave Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
Milk (Momentum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Blackadder Remastered ‚Äď Ultimate Edition (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD]
Bolt (Disney) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Class (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
Woodstock 3 Days of Peace & Music (Warner Bros) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Che (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Gran Torino (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

JULY

DVD and Blu-ray July 2009

Mad Men Season 2 (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Religulous (Momentum) [Buy on DVD]
Brick (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Elephant (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Pianist (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Il Divo (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]

AUGUST

DVD and Blu-ray August 2009

Children of Men (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Winstanley (BFI) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Two Lovers (Lionsgate) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
La Haine (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
In The Loop (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Encounters at the End of the World (Revolver) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Battle of Algiers – Special Edition (Argent Films) [Buy on DVD]

SEPTEMBER

DVD and Blu-ray September 2009

This Is Spinal Tap – Up To 11 Edition (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Beyond the Clouds (Second Sight) [Buy on DVD]
In This World (ICA) [Buy on DVD]
An American Werewolf in London (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Belle De Jour (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Ran (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Sunrise (Eureka!) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Deer Hunter (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Elephant Man (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The New World – Extended Cut (EIV) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Prisoner: The Complete Series (Network) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

OCTOBER

DVD and Blu-ray October 2009

Synecdoche, New York (Revolver) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Dawn of the Dead (Arrow) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Frozen River (Axiom Films) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray Import]
The Complete Friz Lang Mabuse Boxset (Eureka!) [Buy on DVD]
The Essential Michael Haneke (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection (2 Entertain) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

NOVEMBER

DVD and Blu-ray November 2009

Gone with the Wind – 70th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Heat (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Fanny and Alexander (Palisades Tartan) [Buy on DVD]
For All Mankind (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Moon (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
North by Northwest – 50th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on Blu-ray]
The Terence Davies Collection (BFI) [Buy on DVD]
Fight Club – 10th Anniversary Edition (Fox) [Buy on Blu-ray]
The Wizard of Oz – 70th Anniversary Edition (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Jacques Tati Collection (BFI) [Buy on DVD]

DECEMBER

DVD and Blu-ray December 2009

Inglourious Basterds (Universal) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
Mid-August Lunch (Artificial Eye) [Buy on DVD]
The Hangover (Warner) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
1941 (Universal) [Buy on DVD]
District 9 (Sony) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]
The Hurt Locker (Optimum) [Buy on DVD or Blu-ray]

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N.B. As I’m based in the UK, all of these DVDs are UK titles but if you live in a different region of the world check out Play.com or your local Amazon site and they should have an equivalent version of the film.

> Browse more DVD Releases at Amazon UK and Play
> The Bestselling DVDs of 2009 at Amazon UK
> Check the latest DVD prices at DVD Price Check
> Browse all the Cinema releases of 2009

Categories
Lists News

Sight and Sound’s Top Films of 2009

Sight and Sound - January 2010British film magazine Sight and Sound have published their top 10 films of 2009.

They asked 60 critics for their favourites of the past year and the titles that appeared the most were then selected for their January 2010 issue.

Here is the final list (with some ties):

1. Un Prophète (Dir. Jacques Audiard, France)
=2. The Hurt Locker (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow, USA)
=2. 35 Shots of Rum (Dir. Claire Denis, France)
4. The White Ribbon (Dir. Michael Haneke, Austria-Germany)
5. Let the Right One In (Dir. Tomas Alfredson, Sweden)
=6. Up (Dir. Pete Docter, USA)
=6. White Material (Dir. Claire Denis)
=8. Bright Star (Dir. Jane Campion, UK-Australia)
=8. Antichrist (Dir. Lars Von Trier, Denmark-Germany-Sweden-France-Italy)
10. Inglorious Basterds (Dir. Quentin Tarantino, USA)

With the exception of Antichrist (a sloppy, faux-controversial work) I find it hard to argue with the selection here.

As is often the case, the list can be a little out of sync with US and foreign release dates (Un Proph√®te¬†doesn’t open in the UK until January 22nd) although that hasn’t affected this year’s selection too much.

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> Sight and Sound (Follow them on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook)
> Wikipedia on 2009 in film
> Every film that came out in the UK in 2009
> My favourite films of 2008

Categories
Lists News

Top Rated Films of the New Millennium as voted by IMDb users

IMDb Best of the new Millenium list

As this decade winds to a close, the IMDb has compiled a list of the best movies since 2000 as voted by its users.

They are:

  1. The Dark Knight (2008)
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  3. City of God (2002)
  4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  5. Up (2009)
  6. Memento (2000)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  8. Wall-E (2008)
  9. Amélie (2001)
  10. The Departed (2006)
  11. The Lives of Others (2006)
  12. The Pianist (2002)
  13. Spirited Away (2001)
  14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  15. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Apart from Amelie, I would find it hard to leave out any of these as significant films of the past ten years although clearly some are greater than others.

Categories
Lists Trailers

Alien trailer tops IFC list

50 Trailers IFC

IFC recently posted a listed of The 50 Greatest Trailers of All Time.

As so often with these kinds of list, there are some WTF inclusions (Red Eye?!) but there are also many worth a look.

However, it is the Number 1 entry of Alien that you should really check out if you haven’t ever seen it.

The lack of dialogue, haunting sounds and first rate editing all reflect the creepy atmosphere of the film as well not revealing too much (sadly a lost art in recent years).

(N.B. It is also worth looking out for a shot which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before at 1.09-1.10)

> Alien at the IMDb
> More on movie trailers at Wikipedia

Categories
Lists Viral Video

100 Movie Lines in 200 Seconds

Liquid Generation have edited one liners from 100 films in to the following 200 second montage.

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How many of the films can you name?

Categories
Interesting Lists News

TCM’s Most Influential Classic Movies

TCM logoTCM, which is 15 years old this month, have published a list of the Most Influential Classic Movies.

Normally I’m a little sceptical about these kinds of lists, but this one is pretty hard to argue with.

  1. The Birth of a Nation (1915)
  2. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  3. Metropolis (1927)
  4. 42nd Street (1933)
  5. It Happened One Night (1934)
  6. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  7. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  8. Stagecoach (1939)
  9. Citizen Kane (1941)
  10. The Bicycle Thief (1947)
  11. Rashomon (1950)
  12. The Searchers (1956)
  13. Breathless (1959)
  14. Psycho (1960)
  15. Star Wars (1977)

I think a more challenging exercise might be to list films over the last 30 years that will have a similar status in future.

Off the top of my head I’d go for:¬†

  • Halloween (helped kick start 80s boogeyman horror)¬†
  • Blade Runner (influenced the look of pop culture)¬†
  • Die Hard (the template for many action blockbusters)¬†
  • Sex Lies and Videotape (began the Sundance indie movement)¬†
  • Pulp Fiction (led to many, inferior, crime imitators)¬†
  • Toy Story (the dawn of CGI animation in the modern era)¬†
  • The Matrix (a massive influence on action films over the last decade, despite the inferior sequels)

But what about the last decade?

> Original post at TCM
> Total Film on influential movies 
> Wikipedia on film in the 2000s 

Categories
Lists

All The Films I Saw in 2008

I might be missing a few out, but here is my list of all the films I saw at a cinema in 2008.

  1. Charlie Wilson’s War
  2. Sweeney Todd
  3. I Am Legend (IMAX)
  4. Dan in Real Life 
  5. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets
  6. Be Kind Rewind
  7. Cloverfield
  8. Things We Lost in the Fire
  9. U2 3D (IMAX)
  10. There Will BE Blood
  11. The Bucket List
  12. My Blueberry Nights
  13. The Bank Job
  14. Margot at the Wedding
  15. Funny Games US
  16. Overlord
  17. The 11th Hour
  18. Jumper
  19. Rambo
  20. The Accidental Husband
  21. Lars and the Real Girl
  22. Vantage Point
  23. In Bruges
  24. Semi Pro
  25. REC
  26. Son of Rambow
  27. The Eye
  28. The Cottage
  29. Diary of the Dead
  30. The Other Boleyn Girl
  31. Horton Hears A Who
  32. The Orphanage
  33. Drillbit Taylor
  34. Shine A Light (IMAX)
  35. 21
  36. Taxi to the Dark Side
  37. 10,000 BC
  38. The Flight of the Red Balloon
  39. Redacted
  40. 27 Dresses
  41. Charlie Bartlett
  42. Leatherheads
  43. Joy Division
  44. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
  45. The Visitor
  46. Stop Loss
  47. Doomsday
  48. Iron Man
  49. Speed Racer
  50. Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?
  51. Happy-Go-Lucky
  52. The Oxford Murders
  53. The Forgotten Kingdom
  54. Gone Baby Gone
  55. Smart People
  56. Teeth
  57. Made Of Honour
  58. Cassandra’s Dream
  59. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  60. Zoo
  61. Shutter
  62. Shotgun Stories
  63. Sex and The City: The Movie
  64. Mongol
  65. Baby Mama
  66. Alexandra
  67. The Ruins
  68. Prince Caspian
  69. The Edge of Love
  70. Standard Operating Procedure
  71. Man On Wire
  72. In Search Of A Midnight Kiss
  73. Kung Fu Panda
  74. The Incredible Hulk
  75. The Happening
  76. Hancock
  77. Wanted
  78. You Don’t Mess With The Zohan
  79. Mamma Mia!
  80. WALL-E
  81. The Mist
  82. My Winnipeg
  83. Savage Grace
  84. Meet Dave
  85. City of Men
  86. The Love Guru
  87. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
  88. The Dark Knight
  89. Elegy
  90. Swing Vote
  91. The X-Files: I Want to Believe
  92. The Wackness
  93. Make It Happen
  94. The Fox and the Child
  95. Babylon AD
  96. The Mummy 3
  97. Step Brothers
  98. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  99. Get Smart
  100. Somers Town
  101. I’ve Loved You So Long
  102. The Pineapple Express
  103. The Fall
  104. The Duchess
  105. Rocknrolla
  106. Gomorrah
  107. Linha De Passe
  108. Death Race
  109. Lakeview Terrace
  110. Eden Lake
  111. Death Defying Acts
  112. The Cool School
  113. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
  114. The Foot Fist Way
  115. How To Lose Friends and Alienate People
  116. Taken
  117. Hunger
  118. The House Bunny
  119. Once Upon A Time in the West
  120. Rachel Getting Married
  121. Igor
  122. Religulous
  123. Eagle Eye
  124. The Class
  125. Adulthood
  126. The Baader Meinhoff Complex
  127. Sugar
  128. Tyson
  129. Frost/Nixon
  130. Synechdoche, New York
  131. Dean Spanley
  132. Quantum of Solace
  133. Waltz With Bashir
  134. The Brothers Bloom
  135. Max Payne
  136. W.
  137. The Wrestler
  138. Easy Virtue
  139. Slumdog Millionaire
  140. Gonzo
  141. Blindness
  142. Brideshead Revisited
  143. The Fall
  144. City of Ember
  145. Burn After Reading
  146. Ghost Town
  147. The Good, the Bad and the Weird
  148. 88 Mins
  149. Body of Lies
  150. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
  151. Faintheart
  152. Twilight
  153. Transporter 3
  154. Milk
  155. Choke
  156. Zack And Miri Make A Porno
  157. Ana Una
  158. Changeling
  159. Four Christmases
  160. What Just Happened?
  161. Australia
  162. The Day the Earth Stood Still
  163. Defiance
  164. Trade
  165. Bedtime Stories
  166. The Reader
  167. The Tale of Despereaux
  168. Yes Man
  169. Seven Pounds
  170. The Bicycle Thieves
  171. Che: Part 1

If you want a quick one sentence review of any of them then I’ll post a reply in the comments.

See you in 2009 and until then ‘merry new year!’:

> Wikipedia entry for 2008 in Film
> My Best Films of 2008
> The Best DVDs of 2008 

Categories
Cinema Essential Films Lists

The Best Films of 2008

Best films of 2008 mosaic

As in previous years this list of the best films of the year is presented in alphabetical order. (2007 titles which got a UK release during 2008 can be found in last year’s updated list).

THE BEST FILMS OF 2008

che-1Che (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)

This long gestating biopic of Che Guevara from director Steven Soderbergh got a mixed reaction after it premiered at Cannes in May.

Some were put off by the four hour running time and the whole question of whether or not it was actually two films. It would probably be most accurate to describe it as two films merged together as one: The Argentine deals with the Cuban revolution in 1959 whilst Guerrilla explores his final years in Bolivia.

In the UK they will be released as Che: Part One and Che: Part Two, with some special double-bill screenings at certain cinemas. However you see it though, be sure to experience it on a big screen, as this an audacious and thrilling piece of cinema.

In the first part we see¬†the Cuban Revolution inter-cut with Guevara’s 1964 trip to the United Nation and refreshingly¬†Soderbergh eschews the narrative cliches of many historical biopics. Instead of ponderous meditations on his motives or background we are¬†plunged into the raw action of the revolutionary’s life.

Some viewers may find this off putting but as the film progresses the production design, costume, acting and cinematography get ever more hypnotic, drawing us into this world.

Soderbergh has always been a gifted technical filmmaker interested in pushing the boundaries of mainstream cinema and here he has crafted one of his most interesting and accomplished films with the help of a revolutionary digital camera (appropriately called the RED One) that has allowed him to make an epic using guerrilla film-making techniques.

The spiritual core of the film is an outstanding performance from Benicio del Toro, who captures the physical and vocal mannerisms of Che so well that he manages to make you forget about the face that spawned so many t-shirts and posters.

[Che Part One is released in the UK on January 1st and Part Two on February 20th]

 

Frost Nixon UK posterFrost/Nixon (Dir. Ron Howard)

When I first saw Peter Morgan’s stage play about David Frost’s famous interviews with Richard Nixon in 1977, I remember wondering what a film adaptation might look like.¬†

Although the hiring of Ron Howard to direct might have raised some eyebrows, to his credit he not only kept the two lead actors from the production (Michael Sheen as Frost and Frank Langella as Nixon) but also managed preserve the essential drama at the heart of the story and keep as faithful to it as possible.

For those of you unfamiliar with the background, Peter Morgan (who has become an expert in dramatising modern history scripting¬†The Queen¬†and¬†The Last King of Scotland) created a play which explored the tensions behind Frost pursuing and then conducting Nixon’s first TV interviews since resigning in disgrace over the Watergate scandal.

What makes it so absorbing is the clash of two very different characters who for different reasons had a lot at stake: Frost was desperate to re-establish himself in America, whilst Nixon was keen to rebuild his shattered political reputation.

Technically, both lead performances are superb and after two years on stage together the chemistry between Sheen and Langella is magnetic.

The supporting cast is very solid with Rebecca Hall, Toby Jones, Matthew Macfadyen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt and Sam Rockwell all making fine contributions in key roles.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the film is how it manages to be both a fascinating slice of history garnished with some fine period design yet also finds a way of commenting on the current concerns about US politics.

It also poses a fascinating question: will President Bush ever come out with the same anguished mea culpa that Nixon delivered in these interviews?

[Frost/Nixon is released in the UK on January 25th]

 

Gomorrah UKGomorrah (Dir. Matteo Garrone)

One of the darkest and most disturbing films of the year was this searing examination of crime in modern Italy. It didn’t just upend many of the traditional tropes of the Mafia in pop culture – it exploded them.

The narrrative was based on true life stories from¬†Roberto Saviano‘s bestselling book about¬†the Comorrah, a criminal organisation centred around southern Italy (especially¬†Naples¬†and¬†Caserta).

There is a 13-year-old boy (Salvatore Abruzzese) who falls in with a criminal gang; a messenger (Gianfelice Imparato) who pays the families of prisoners; a young graduate (Carmine Paternoster) who gets involved in toxic waste management; a tailor (Salvatore Cantalupo) who wants to break free of local suppliers and two wannabe gangsters (Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone) who find a stash of weapons and want to act like Scarface.

Director Matteo Garrone cast the film impeccably and the ensemble acting was terrific but he also created a hellishly believable modern landscape far removed from that of mob movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas or The Sopranos.

This was a world riddled with poverty, tension and despair where crime infects everyone like a rampant virus. It paints a devastating picture not only of regions in modern Italy, but the tentacles of the Comorrah spread out to the wider world.

The film scooped the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, where it deservedly screened to critical acclaim.

Although at times it was an uncomfortable and brutal film to watch, it remains one of the most powerful and haunting crime films of the last decade.

* Listen to our interview with Matteo Garrone about Gomorrah *

[Gomorrah is available on DVD on February 9th)

 

Hunger UK posterHunger (Dir. Steve McQueen)

Every year there are a handful of films that know will end up in your ‘best of the year’ list as the credits roll and this¬†stunning drama about¬†the¬†1981 IRA hunger strike¬†was just such a film.

A stark and harrowing look at one of the key episodes of The Troubles was about a group of IRA prisoners in the Maze led by Bobby Sands (a mesmerising performance from Michael Fassbender) went on a protracted hunger strike.

Their aim was to apply pressure against the British government, so that they could be classed as political prisoners and it marked a significant escalation in the conflict.

What the film managed to capture so well was the bitter brutality of life inside the prison Рa world in which inmates refused to wear clothes, smeared excrement over their walls and were savagely beaten.

But at the same time this was no apologist for the IRA and perhaps the most shocking scene in the film explored the constant danger the prison guards lived under, where reprisals could lurk anywhere and at any time.

This is not a film that ‚Äėtakes sides‚Äô, but rather it explores the full human horror of The Troubles through the lens of the hunger strike – the physical brutality and sheer squalor point to the entrenched hatreds that ensnared all of those caught up in it. Echoes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are never far away.

The sounds and visuals were breathtaking with McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt showing a remarkable attention to detail whether it was a snowflake landing on the bloodied fist of a guard or urine gradually seeping out from beneath the cell doors before being gradually swept back in. 

One lengthy sequence involving Fassbender and Liam Cunningham (who played Sands’ priest) was perhaps one of the most riveting and daring pieces of cinema I’ve seen in years.

This was an astonishing directorial debut for Steve McQueen, who has been best known until now as an acclaimed visual artist, but this holds the promise of a hugely successful career in feature films.

* Listen to our interview with Liam Cunningham about Hunger *

[Hunger is out on DVD on February 23rd]

 

In Bruges UK posterIn Bruges (Dir. Martin McDonagh)

Perhaps the funniest film of the year was the directorial debut of the playwright Martin McDonagh, a brilliantly executed tale of two Irish hit men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) who have been sent to lie low in the Belgian city of Bruges.

Not only does it contain several memorable sequences, but it contained the sort of ballsy, politically incorrect humour absent from a lot of mainstream comedy movies.

It also features some excellent performances, most notably from the two leads. Gleeson is his usual dependable self whilst Farrell shows what a good actor he can be when released from the constraints of big budget Hollywood productions.

Ralph Fiennes also made a startling impression in a menacing supporting role that owes more to his turn in Schindler’s List than some of his more recent performances.

If you are familiar with the sensibility of McDonagh’s plays, such as The Lieutenant of Inishmore, you will find much to feast on here Рit feels like Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter remade by Quentin Tarantino.

Despite a warm critical reaction, it didn’t really get the attention it deserved, which may have been down to bad marketing (the US one sheet poster was horrible and the UK one not much better) or the fact that the title confused people.

One sequence in a hotel room involving drugs, a hooker and a dwarf was one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year and is worth the price of admission. ¬†¬†

[In Bruges is out now on DVD]

 

I've Loved You So LongI’ve Loved You So Long (Dir. Philippe Claudel)

An intelligent and beautifully crafted portrayal of family love which revolved around two sisters named Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Lea (Elsa Zylberstein), who reconnected with one another after a prolonged absence. 

To say too much about the plot would spoil the cleverly constructed narrative which gradually reveals their past and the reasons as to why they have been separated for so long. 

Writer and director Philippe Claudel was better known as a novelist in his native France and this also shares many of the pleasures of well written fiction: nuanced characters, slow burning emotions and a real sense of the complexities of human relationships. 

This is a film in which a lot of characters spend a lot of time in rooms talking about themselves, but at the same time manages to burrow deeply into the tangled emotions of it’s protagonist. 

Much of the power comes from two marvellous central performances and Scott Thomas proved what a captivating screen presence in what is arguably the performance of her career so far.

Her work on stage Рnotably in Chekhov productions like Three Sisters and The Seagull Рdemonstrated that she had much more range and ability than some of her screen performances suggested, so it was gratifying to see her grapple with such a juicy part and take it to another level. 

Credit must also go to Claudel for the way in which he has captured the small but subtle details that gradually reveal her character: the silence as she sits alone in a cafe, the wetness of her hair or even the way she smokes a cigarette. 

Since screening at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals a few weeks ago, this film has had a good deal of awards buzz and deserves recognition for the sheer excellence of the writing and acting.

[I’ve Loved You So Long is released on DVD on February 9th]

 

Man on Wire DVD coverMan on Wire (Dir. James Marsh)

British director James Marsh crafted a superb documentary about Frenchman Philippe Petit, who on August 7th 1974 gave an incredible high-wire performance by walking between between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center eight times in one hour.

The act itself almost defies belief but what the film does brilliantly is capture the tension, beauty and brilliance of Petit’s highly illegal operation. 

Born out of a dream and an idea, Petit and his team of accomplices spent eight months planning the execution of their ‚Äėcoup‚Äô down to the most intricate detail.

Like a team of bank robbers planning their most ambitious heist, the tasks they faced seemed virtually impossible: they would have to bypass the WTC‚Äôs security; smuggle the wire and rigging equipment into the towers; suspend the wire between the towers; secure the wire at the correct tension to withstand the winds and the swaying of the buildings; to rig it secretly by night ‚Äď all without being caught.

The film is also an emotional experience Рalthough it never mentions or shows footage from the 9/11 attacks, the Twin Towers are a haunting presence in the stock photos and footage from the time.   

But the ultimate message of the film is a positive one as it reminds us that the joy and magic Petit created on the Twin Towers is still there, even though the actual building is not. 

* Listen to our interview with Philippe Petit about Man on Wire *

[Man on Wire is out now on DVD] 

 

Milk posterMilk (Dir. Gus Van Sant)

Sean Penn is often regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation and his portrayal of Harvey Milk in this biopic was one of his very best.

Milk was a gay rights activist who in the 1970s became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

The film opens with opens with archive footage of police raiding gay bars during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by the announcement in November, 1978 that Milk and Mayor George Moscone have been assassinated.

What follows is an inspiring and moving tale of political courage and hope with many fine performances across the board from Emile Hirsch, James Franco and Josh Brolin. 

Directed by Gus Van Sant¬†from a script by¬†Dustin Lance Black, it skilfully juxtaposed the drama of Milk’s political battles against the inner conflicts of his private life.

It was also a nice change to see Penn play a warm and inspirational protagonist, an added dimension to the film which gave it an extra lift.

Watching the film unfold just a couple of weeks after the election of Barack Obama it was hard not to see the parallels: both were political outsiders who thrived on changing the status quo through a combination of hope and grass roots activism.

Sadly, Milk’s legacy was not enough to prevent the passing of Prop 8 – a¬†California ballot proposition¬†that changed the laws of the state to ban same sex marriage.

But this film will almost certainly become a lasting testament to his political and moral courage.   

[Milk is out at UK cinemas on Friday 23rd January]

 

Slumdog Millionaire US posterSlumdog Millionaire (Dir. Danny Boyle)

In the spring of 2007 director Danny Boyle told me that his next film would be set in Mumbai and was the story of a young man on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

But it was only afterwards that I started to wonder. Would the film be made in English? Would it be a Bollywood film? Comedy? Drama?

It is a testament to the final film that Slumdog Millionaire is so many different things – a vibrant and rich journey through modern India through the lens of a Dickensian tale of love and redemption.

Adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, it deservedly received a lot of buzz and acclaim at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.

What’s interesting is that the narrative plays a little like The Usual Suspects, as we learn how the central character Jamal (Dev Patel) came to be on the game show.

It then flashes back to periods of his life growing up as a kid from the slums (or ’slumdog’ as some less than charitable characters in the film put it) and his desire to find the true love of his life (Frieda Pinto).

Boyle and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle don’t shy away from the poverty of the slums in the film but also capture the live wire energy of Mumbai with some inventive use of digital cameras and a cracking soundtrack.

Whilst some audiences might be a bit taken aback by some of the darker sequences, they are necesssary counterweights for others aspects of the story to really work.

A huge amount of credit must go to Beaufoy who has constructed a jigsaw puzzle narrative that somehow manages to hold everything together in a way that is exciting, clever and moving.   

Another clever touch is the realistic portrayal of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show, complete with the right music and graphics which are expertly woven into the film and play a key part in how the story unfolds.

The cheesy tension of the TV show somehow has a new life here, with added meaning on the tense pauses and multiple choice questions. 

It is currently regarded as the front runner for Best Picture at the Oscars and deservedly so as it mixes serious social commentary with a classical tale of lost love into something truly special. 

[Slumdog Millionaire is out at UK cinemas on Friday 9th January]

 

Synechdoche New YorkSynecdoche, New York (Dir. Charlie Kaufman)

In the last decade Charlie Kaufman has become one of those rare screenwriters whose work has even overshadowed the directors he has worked with.

This is quite a feat given that he has collaborated with Spike Jonze (on Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) and Michel Gondry (Human Nature and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). 

However, it is fair to say that all those films bear certain recognisable tropes: ingenious narratives, surreal images and a tragi-comic view of human affairs.

It would have also been a reasonable assumption to think his directorial debut would be similar, but¬†Synecdoche, New York¬†(pronounced ‚ÄúSyn-ECK-duh-kee‚ÄĚ) does not just bear token similarities to his previous scripts.¬†

In fact it is so Kaufman-esque that it takes his ideas to another level of strangeness, which is quite something if you bear in mind what has come before.

The story centres around a theatre director named Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who starts to re-evaluate life after his health and marriage start to break down. 

He receives a grant to do something artistically adventurous and decides to stage an enormously ambitious production inside a giant warehouse.

What follows is a strange and often baffling movie, complete with the kind of motifs that are peppered throughout Kaufman’s scripts: someone lives in a house oblivious to the fact that it is permanently on fire; a theatrical venue the size of several aircraft hangars is casually described as a place where Shakespeare is performed; and visitors to an art gallery view microscopic paintings with special goggles. 

But despite the oddities and the Chinese-box narrative, this is a film overflowing with invention and ideas. 

It explores the big issues of life and death but also examines the nature of art and performance Рa lot of the film, once it goes inside the warehouse, is a mind-boggling meditation on our lives as a performance. 

Imagine¬†The Truman Show¬†rewritten by¬†Samuel Beckett¬†and directed by¬†Luis Bu√Īuel¬†and you‚Äôll get some idea of what Kaufman is aiming for here.¬†

I found a lot of the humour very funny, but the comic sensibility behind the jokes is dry and something of an acquired taste.

Much of the film hinges on Seymour Hoffman’s outstanding central performance in which he conveys the vulnerability and determination of a man obsessed with doing something worthwhile before he dies. 

The makeup for the characters supervised by Mike Marino is also first rate, creating a believable ageing process whilst the sets are also excellent, even if some of the CGI isn’t always 100% convincing. 

The supporting cast was also impressive: Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Hope Davis, Tom Noonan and Dianne Weist all contribute fine performances and fit nicely into the overall tone of the piece. 

Although the world Kaufman creates will alienate some viewers, it slowly becomes a haunting meditation on how humans age and die.

As the film moves towards resolution it becomes surprisingly moving with some of the deeper themes slowly, but powerfully, rising to the surface.

This means that although it will have it’s admirers (of which I certainly include myself) it is likely to prove too esoteric for mass consumption as it has a downbeat tone despite the comic touches.

Having seen it only once, this is a film I instantly wanted to revisit, so dense are the layers and concepts contained within it.

On first viewing it became a bit too rich at times for it‚Äôs own good but on reflection I don’t think I’ve seen a more ambitious or challenging film this year.

[Synechdoche, New York is out at UK cinemas on Friday 15th May]

 

The Class posterThe Class (Dir. Laurent Cantet)

The surprise winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival was this deceptively simple tale of a French teacher (François Bégaudeau) at a state school in Paris.

The actual French title is ‘Entre Les Murs’ – which translates as ‚ÄėBetween the walls‚Äô – which is apt as the film never (apart from one shot at the beginning) strays outside the confines of the school.

Adapted from the 2006 novel of the same name by Bégaudeau, which in turn was based on his own real life experiences teaching in a Paris school, it is a rich and deeply satisfying film.

Not only did it scrupulously avoid the cliches that can plaue films set inside schools, but also managed to offer a plausible snapshot of modern French society by focusing tightly on a class of pupils and their teachers.

Although it is shot in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2:35, the camera hangs tight on each character and never really gives us a look at the French city landscape.

This might sound claustrophobic, but makes the lessons and world inside of the school (the staff room, the corridors, the playground) all come alive in an unexpectedly thrilling way.

Performances Рespecially from Bégaudeau and a very special cast of non-professional teenagers Рwere outstanding but the film also had a tremendous sense of humanity to it without ever slipping into cheap sentiment.

An example of a rare film that touches the heart whilst engaging the brain, The Class is a gem that I would urge anyone to go and see when it gets released in the UK in February.

[The Class is out at UK cinemas on Friday 27th February]

 

The Dark Knight posterThe Dark Knight (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

The most commercially successful film of the year (globally at least) was also one of the best, as this Batman sequel transcended its comic book origins to become one of the most ambitious blockbusters in years.

When Batman Begins came out in 2005, it was an impressive reinvention of the DC Comics character but I wasn’t as blown away as some were. But props to the suits at Burbank for recruiting a director like Christopher Nolan who had already made his mark with Memento in 2000.

The realistic approach to the Bruce Wayne character and Gotham City worked well and reaped dividends with this sequel, which built on the first film but also made for a richer experience.

Managing to transcend the usual limitations of the comic book genre, its ambitious approach owes more to crime epics like Heat and The Godfather than the usual summer comic book adaptation.

The story, set in a Gotham City soaked in crime, violence and corruption, revolved around three central characters: Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), a billionaire vigilante dishing out justice at night time; Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the District Attorney boldly taking on organised crime; and The Joker (Heath Ledger), a mysterious psychopathic criminal wreaking havoc on the city.

Nolan and co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan (with story credit by David S Goyer) crafted a spectacularly ambitious summer blockbuster with the different narrative strands developed in engrossing and genuinely surprising ways Рat times it was so layered that key sequences often had parallel consequences.

As for the action, it follows the script in being similarly dense, and some of the big set pieces Рespecially two key sequences Рhave an unpredictable and chaotic quality to them, which is refreshing for this kind of genre.

The performances too were a revelation for a genre movie: Bale continues his solid work from the first film but Ledger and Eckhart brought much more to their roles than some might have expected.

As The Joker, Ledger managed to completely reinvent an iconic character as a wildly unpredictable psychopath who brings Gotham to it’s knees. Although Рdue to his tragically early death Рthere was always going to be added interest in his performance, he really was outstanding in creating a villain who is scary, funny and unpredictable.

Overall the technical contributions were outstanding Рof particular note were Wally Pfister’s cinematography, Nathan Crowley’s production design and Lee Smith’s editing.

Special mention must also go to the diverting score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, which thankfully will be up for Oscar consideration after initially being barred due to a technicality.

Many aspects of the film raised interesting questions and parallels. Can we see Batman Рa sophisticated force for good caught up in a moral dilemma Рas a metaphor for the US military? Could The Joker Рa psychopathic enigma wreaking terror on society Рbe a twisted version of Osama Bin Laden?

The fact that a comic book adaptation subtly provoked these points was daring and clever but also true to the darker comic books¬†–¬†especially¬†The Killing Joke¬†– that influenced on the film.

Although Ledger is almost a forgone conclusion for Best Supporting Actor – for both valid and sentimental reasons – the film itself might find more nominations in the major categories, which when you think about it speaks volumes to its quality.

[The Dark Knight is out now on DVD] 

 

The Visitor posterThe Visitor (Dir. Thomas McCarthy)

Tom McCarthy made one of the best films of 2003 with The Station Agent and his second film was just as good.

The story involved a college professor (Richard Jenkins) who finds a young immigrant couple living in his New York apartment and then follows the characters as they connect with one another in unexpected ways.

Like his previous work, it is thoughtful, beautifully observed and features rounded characters who feel like people you might actually meet in real life.

Jenkins is a character actor you might recognise Рhe’s probably best known for his fine work as Nathaniel Fisher in Six Feet Under or as the FBI agent in Flirting with Disaster.

Here he is finally given a lead role that allows him demonstrate his considerable acting skills and there is fine support too from Haaz Sleiman, Danai Jekesai Gurira and Hiam Abbass.

But what really made this stand out is the way it managed to tackle some really big themes with intelligence and grace: immigration, loss and love are just a few of the issues dealt with here but the approach was never stodgy or patronising.

Instead, it managed to take us deep into the hearts and minds of people caught up in the chilly climate of a post-9/11 world.

A rare film that manages to engage both the heart and brain, but does so with the subtle skill of a gifted director.

* Listen to our interviews with Richard Jenkins and Tom McCarthy about The Visitor * 

[The Visitor is released on DVD in the UK on February 9th]

 

The WrestlerThe Wrestler (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)

When I first heard about Mickey Rourke playing a has-been wrestler in a film directed by Darren Aronofsky I was intrigued. 

Would it be similar to the director’s previous films like¬†ŌĬ†and¬†Requiem for a Dream? And what would Mickey Rourke be like in his first proper leading role for many years?

For Aronofksy it is a major – but welcome – departure in that it eschews many of the stylistic devices of his earlier work in favour of a raw, stripped down approach.

For Rourke it is nothing less than a triumphant comeback: a dream role that proves not only what a fine screen actor he can be, but also atones for the chaos of his professional career over the last 20 years.

The film itself is the story of a big time wrestler from the 1980s called¬†Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, who has fallen on hard times and¬†wrestles on the weekends in independent and semi-pro matches for extra money.

Health problems force him to re-evaluate his life which includes working in a deli, a possible relationship with a stripper (Marisa Tomei) and an attempted reconciliation with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

The parallels between Rourke’s own career and that of his character are there for anyone to see but there is more to the film than just brave casting: it paints a moving yet unsentimental view of outsiders struggling to make it in modern America.

The world of semi-pro wrestling is also brought to life with remarkable authenticity. Although the theatricality and hype of the WWF dominates the public perception of wrestlers, the realism on display in this story creates a much more authentic and poignant world.

A lot of the film’s charm rests on Rourke and Tomei, who play two contrasting characters who actually have much in common: both are performers who use their bodies and have problems reconciling their double lives.¬†

Rourke is already being talked of as one of the frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar and there is no doubt that he deserves recognition for what is one of the most memorable screen performances of the year.  

[The Wrestler is out at UK cinemas on Friday 16th January]

 

WALL-E posterWALL-E (Dir. Andrew Stanton)

Pixar continued their incredible run of form this year with yet another landmark animated film.

Set in a dystopian future circa 2815, it was about a waste disposal robot named WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) who meets another robot named EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator) and gets involved in an unlikely romance, as well as the future of the human race.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, it is probably the most visually impressive work Pixar have yet committed to film (and that is saying a lot) but it also resonated as a surprisingly moving love story.

Robots haven’t been this endearing since Silent Running and the two central characters are joy to watch Рthe boxy old school charm of WALL-E contrasting beautifully with the cool, sleek beauty of EVE.

Although I would never thought I would ever compare a Pixar movie to There Will Be Blood Рboth have startling opening sequences with little or no dialogue.

One of the clever aspects of the film is the casting of sound designer Ben Burtt as the central character Рfor those unfamilar with his work he was the pioneering sound editor on the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.

Along with the animators, Burtt has helped create a character who is extremely expressive without using conventional language.

The same is true for EVE, so it is even more impressive that the filmmakers have managed to craft a compelling relationship between them.

The landcaspes were equally impressive, full of rich detail and nods to other sci-fi films.

* Listen to our interview with Angus MacLane, the directing animator of WALL-E *

[WALL-E is out now on DVD]

 

Waltz With Bashir posterWaltz With Bashir (Dir. Ari Folman)

One of the most daring and original films was this astonoshing animated film about the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre and the memory of the Israeli soldiers involved in the invasion of Lebanon at the time. 

Directed by Ari Folman, it examines his own experiences on that mission and the struggle to remember what happened when he interviews various army colleagues from the time.

The strange title is taken from a scene with one of Folman‚Äôs interviewees, who remembers taking a machine gun and dancing an ‚Äėinsane waltz‚Äô amid enemy fire, with posters of¬†Bashir Gemayel¬†lining the walls behind him. (Gemayel¬†was the Lebanese president who whose¬†assassination¬†helped trigger the massacre.)

Animation isn’t normally associated with historical and political films, but here it worked brilliantly creating some haunting and indelible images.¬†

A hugely ambitious project, it took four years to complete and is and international co-production between Israel, Germany and France.

Another aspect which makes this story so intrguing is that the Israeli troops were not guilty of the massacre itself but of standing by and letting Lebanese miltia murder Palestinian refugees. 

It is the memory of, or rather the inability to remember, this event that lies at the core of the story. Has Folman unconsciously blocked out the memory? Does guilt cloud any rational perspective? 

The raw power of the source material is enhanced by some extraordinary imagery, with a remarkable and inventive use of colour for certain sections, especially those involving the sea.

Added to this is Folman’s narration which has an almost hypnotic effect when set alongside the visuals, almost as if the audience is experiencing a dream whilst watching the film itself. 

Back in May it premiered to huge acclaim at Cannes and was one of the front runners to win the Palme d’Or. The film also won 6 Israeli Film Academy awards (including Best Picture) and looks likely to be a strong contender for the Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.

Much of that praise is richly deserved because this is an arresting and highly original film that deserves special credit for taking a highly politicised and contentious event and yet somehow makes a wider point about the futility of war.

The recent events in the Gaza strip only reinforce what a timely film this is but the central message about the horrors and futility of war has a relevance not just confined to the cauldron of the Middle East.

* Listen to our interview with Ari Folman about Waltz with Bashir *

[Waltz with Bashir is out on DVD in the UK on March 30th]

[ad]

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

[Rec] (Dir.  Jaume Balagueró)

Appaloosa (Dir. Ed Harris)

Battle For Haditha (Dir. Nick Broomfield)

Blindness (Dir. Fernando Meirelles)

Burn After Reading (Dir. The Coen Brothers)

Changeling (Dir. Clint Eastwood)

Flight Of The Red Balloon (Dir. Hsiao-hsien Hou)

Funny Games US (Dir. Michael Haneke)

Gran Torino (Dir. Clint Eastwood)

Happy-Go-Lucky (Dir. Mike Leigh)

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro)

Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Dir.¬†Peter Sollett)

Religulous (Dir. Larry Charles)

Revolutionary Road (Dir. Sam Mendes)

Sugar (Dir. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dir. David Fincher)

The Reader (Dir. Stephen Daldry)

W. (Dir. Oliver Stone)

N.B. Have a look at my list of the best films from 2007 which has now been updated to include those that got a UK release in 2008. (They were Gone Baby Gone, Persepolis, The Orphanage, In Search Of A Midnight Kiss, Joy Division, My Winnipeg, Savage Grace, Shotgun Stories, Son Of Rambow, The Band’s Visit and The Mist).

What about you? Leave your favourites from this year in the comments below.

> Find out more about the films of 2008 at Wikipedia
> Check out more end of year lists at Metacritic
> Have a look at the Movie City News end of year critics chart
> Check out our best DVDs of 2008

Categories
Amusing Lists

Christmas Movie Montage

An amusing montage of Christmas movies.

The films used are:

  • A Christmas Story (1983)
  • A Linterieur (2007)
  • Bad Santa (2003)
  • Batman Returns (1992)
  • Brazil (1985)
  • Christmas Vacation (1989)
  • Die Hard (1988)
  • Die Hard 2 (1990)
  • El D√≠a de la Bestia (1995)
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985)
  • Jarhead (2005)
  • Jingle All The Way (1996)
  • L.A. Confidential (1997)
  • Lethal Weapon (1987)
  • Mean Girls (2004)
  • Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
  • P2 (2007)
  • Peters Friends (1992)
  • Scrooged (1988)
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
  • The Ice Harvest (2005)
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  • The War of the Roses (1989)
  • Trading Places (1983)

> A list of Christmas films at Wikipedia
> 100 Greatest Christmas movies by Digital Dream Door

Categories
Interesting Lists News

Cahiers du cin√©ma’s 100 Greatest Films

French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma have compiled a list of the 100 greatest films of all time.

It is published this month in an illustrated book and was put together by 76 French film directors, critics and industry executives.

Here are the 100 films:

  1. Citizen Kane – Orson Welles
  2. The Night of the Hunter – Charles Laughton
  3. The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu) РJean Renoir
  4. Sunrise – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  5. L’Atalante – Jean Vigo
  6. M – Fritz Lang
  7. Singin’ in the Rain – Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly
  8. Vertigo – Alfred Hitchcock
  9. Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis) РMarcel Carné
  10. The Searchers – John Ford
  11. Greed – Erich von Stroheim
  12. Rio Bravo – Howard Hawkes
  13. To Be or Not to Be – Ernst Lubitsch
  14. Tokyo Story – Yasujiro Ozu
  15. Contempt (Le Mépris) РJean-Luc Godard
  16. Tales of Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari) – Kenji Mizoguchi
  17. City Lights – Charlie Chaplin
  18. The General – Buster Keaton
  19. Nosferatu the Vampire – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  20. The Music Room – Satyajit Ray
  21. Freaks – Tod Browning
  22. Johnny Guitar – Nicholas Ray
  23. The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain) – Jean Eustache
  24. The Great Dictator – Charlie Chaplin
  25. The Leopard (Le Guépard) РLuchino Visconti
  26. Hiroshima, My Love – Alain Resnais
  27. The Box of Pandora (Loulou) – Georg Wilhelm Pabst
  28. North by Northwest – Alfred Hitchcock
  29. Pickpocket – Robert Bresson
  30. Golden Helmet (Casque d’or) – Jacques Becker
  31. The Barefoot Contessa – Joseph Mankiewitz
  32. Moonfleet – Fritz Lang
  33. Diamond Earrings (Madame de‚Ķ) – Max Oph√ľls
  34. Pleasure – Max Oph√ľls
  35. The Deer Hunter – Michael Cimino
  36. The Adventure – Michelangelo Antonioni
  37. Battleship Potemkin – Sergei M. Eisenstein
  38. Notorious – Alfred Hitchcock
  39. Ivan the Terrible – Sergei M. Eisenstein
  40. The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola
  41. Touch of Evil – Orson Welles
  42. The Wind РVictor Sjöström
  43. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick
  44. Fanny and Alexander – Ingmar Bergman
  45. The Crowd – King Vidor
  46. 8 1/2 – Federico Fellini
  47. La Jetée РChris Marker
  48. Pierrot le Fou – Jean-Luc Godard
  49. Confessions of a Cheat (Le Roman d’un tricheur) – Sacha Guitry
  50. Amarcord – Federico Fellini
  51. Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) РJean Cocteau
  52. Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder
  53. Some Came Running – Vincente Minnelli
  54. Gertrud – Carl Theodor Dreyer
  55. King Kong – Ernst Shoedsack & Merian J. Cooper
  56. Laura – Otto Preminger
  57. The Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa
  58. The 400 Blows РFrançois Truffaut
  59. La Dolce Vita – Federico Fellini
  60. The Dead – John Huston
  61. Trouble in Paradise – Ernst Lubitsch
  62. It’s a Wonderful Life – Frank Capra
  63. Monsieur Verdoux – Charlie Chaplin
  64. The Passion of Joan of Arc – Carl Theodor Dreyer
  65. À bout de souffle РJean-Luc Godard
  66. Apocalypse Now – Francis Ford Coppola
  67. Barry Lyndon – Stanley Kubrick
  68. La Grande Illusion – Jean Renoir
  69. Intolerance – David Wark Griffith
  70. A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne) – Jean Renoir
  71. Playtime – Jacques Tati
  72. Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini
  73. Livia (Senso) – Luchino Visconti
  74. Modern Times – Charlie Chaplin
  75. Van Gogh – Maurice Pialat
  76. An Affair to Remember – Leo McCarey
  77. Andrei Rublev – Andrei Tarkovsky
  78. The Scarlet Empress – Joseph von Sternberg
  79. Sansho the Bailiff – Kenji Mizoguchi
  80. Talk to Her РPedro Almodóvar
  81. The Party – Blake Edwards
  82. Tabu – Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
  83. The Bandwagon – Vincente Minnelli
  84. A Star Is Born – George Cukor
  85. Mr. Hulot’s Holiday – Jacques Tati
  86. America, America – Elia Kazan
  87. El – Luis Bu√Īuel
  88. Kiss Me Deadly – Robert Aldrich
  89. Once Upon a Time in America – Sergio Leone
  90. Daybreak (Le Jour se lève) РMarcel Carné
  91. Letter from an Unknown Woman – Max Oph√ľls
  92. Lola – Jacques Demy
  93. Manhattan – Woody Allen
  94. Mulholland Dr. – David Lynch
  95. My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud) – Eric Rohmer
  96. Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) – Alain Resnais
  97. The Gold Rush – Charlie Chaplin
  98. Scarface – Howard Hawks
  99. Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio de Sica
  100. Napoléon РAbel Gance

The reaction from some outlets in this country is surprise that there are no British films on the list.

The Telegraph say:

The list in the publication Les Cahiers du Cinema features films from the USA, Germany, Russia, Italy and Sweden but there is no place for some of the biggest British directors including David Lean, Ken Loach and Peter Greenaway.

British-born Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin are both mentioned but only for the movies that they made in Hollywood.

The nearest the British cinema industry comes to a mention is the 17th (equal) place given to 2001: A Space Odyssey, made in 1968, by the American director, Stanley Kubrick, partly with British money and with British technicians.

The 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia came seventh in a recent list of the best 100 movies drawn up by the American Film Institute in Hollywood but is perhaps the highest profile omission.

Jean-Michel Frodon, the editor of Les Cahiers du Cinema, has pointed out that the lack of British-made films was “striking” but not part of any Gallic conspiracy:

“It does not reflect an anti-British bias. It is simply the result of the individual choices of 76 people in the French industry. Each was asked to name their 100 best films and this was the result.

Yes, it is surprising, maybe, that there is no Lawrence of Arabia, or no film by Ken Loach or Stephen Frears (The Queen).

But there are many other national film industries which are also missing. There are no Brazilian films, for instance.”

Some British films that should have made the list would surely include:

That said, if you were to ask me what are the truly great British films of the last 20 years, then I would struggle to come up with one.

In May 1957 a former editor of Cahiers (and later director) Francois Truffaut once remarked:

“The British cinema is made of dullness and reflects a submissive lifestyle, where enthusiasm, warmth, and zest are nipped in the bud. A film is a born loser just because it is English.

Maybe nothing has changed in 50 years.

> The Telegraph on the list
> Official site for Cahiers du Cinema
> Geoffrey MacNab of The Guardian in 2001 on Cahiers du Cinema

Categories
Essential Films Lists

The Best Films of 2007

As with previous years this is a list of my favourite films of 2007 listed in alphabetical order.

A while ago I gave up trying to rank the best films into an descending list from 10-1 after the realisation that it was just too arbitrary and that this isn’t a maths experiment, it is just a list of films I thought were great.

So here are what I considered the best of 2007:

4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (Dir. Cristian Mungiu)
This Romanian drama about an abortion set in 1987 scooped the Palme D’Or at Cannes and it was a surprising but worthy winner.

Although the subject matter might put some viewers off it is a truly remarkable film from director Cristian Mungiu that deserves a wider audience than just the art house circuit.

The brilliance of the film is that it takes what appears to be a simple situation (the difficulty of abortion in a Communist Romania) and manages to wring out the intense human emotions and drama that lie below.

From the young woman who is pregnant, her loyal friend who helps her and the abortionist who performs the operation, all are complicit in a highly dangerous situation.

What elevates it above many contemporary dramas is the excellent lead performances from Anna-Maria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu, the terrific cinematography by Oleg Mutu and the clever use of long takes that draws us deeper into the characters lives.

Although it is only his second film, director Mungiu has scored a major achievement.


Away From HerAway From Her (Dir. Sarah Polley)
This is another film that may put some people off if you read a short synopsis Рit is a film about an elderly married couple dealing with the onset of Alzheimer’s.

But in the hands of first time director Sarah Polley, it became a deeply affecting film about the complex struggles of getting old.

It owes a lot of its power to the two stellar performances from Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, who managed to convey a great depth of emotion.

Added to that, it was a rare pleasure to see older characters portrayed without any of the clichés rife that riddle so many mainstream films.

Polley – who also wrote the screenplay based on an Alice Munro short story – skilfully manages to avoid the cheap sentimentality that can plague stories like this and her low key approach was as refreshing, combining intelligence and emotion in equal measure.

The score by Jonathan Goldsmith also added another rich layer to the film.


Before The Devil Knows You’re DeadBefore the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Dir. Sidney Lumet)
Veteran director Sidney Lumet managed to roll back the years with this dark crime drama set in New York.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was superb as an overextended broker, who lures his younger brother (Ethan Hawke) into a small robbery that spins wildly out of control.

The strength of the film was down in no small part to the excellent cast (which also featured Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney.

Kelly Masterton’s script was clever in how it managed to show the devastating ripple effect of a crime gone wrong and the non-linear narrative heightened the tensions and emotions at the heart of the story.

Whilst it wasn’t quite as good as some of Lumet’s best work the tension superbly tweaked throughout the film.

Notable on a technical level for being shot on hi-def digital cameras, it was also a powerful morality tale that showed the squalid futility that lurks beneath many crimes.


ControlControl (Dir. Anton Corbijn)
Films about bands can fall prey to the ghost of Spinal Tap but this study of Ian Curtis and Joy Division was a brilliantly original take on the band.

Anton Corbijn’s background as a photographer showed as shot the film stark but dazzling black and white.

He also used his experiences from working with the band to make the film more nuanced and emotionally involving than an outsider might have done.

The performances from Samantha Morton, Toby Kebbell, Joe Anderson, Craig Parkinson and Ben Naylor were uniformly excellent with Sam Riley outstanding in the difficult role of Ian Curtis.

The use of music, especially the non-Joy Division tracks from the likes of Kraftwerk and David Bowie was also highly effective.

The use of locations such as Macclesfield was also captivating and Corbijn somehow transformed the bleak setting and tragic story into a musical biopic of rare beauty.

 

Gone Baby Gone posterGone Baby Gone (Dir. Ben Affleck) 
The directorial debut of Ben Affleck was a highly accomplished adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel about the investigation into the disappearance of a young girl in Boston.

The film’s UK release was postponed due to the (entirely coincidental) similarities with the Madeleine McCann case and despite critical acclaim and some award nominations it probably didn’t get the recognition or box office it deserved.

Affleck demonstrated considerable skill as director but also as a screenwriter, with the intelligent script he co-wrote Aaron Stockard. He also cast a slew of fine actors (Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, Amy Madigan) in key supporting roles but was brave enough to entrust the two key roles to younger actors with their careers now firmly on the rise.

Amy Ryan deservedly received an Oscar nomination as the mother of the missing girl, whilst Casey Affleck is highly assured in the lead role as the investigator hired to assist the police in the case.

The technical contributions are all excellent with the cinematography of John Toll and music by Harry Gregson-Williams being particular stand outs.  

Perhaps what is most impressive about the film is the way Affleck has refused to romanticise his hometown Рhe doesn’t flinch from showing the dark complexities of a modern American city, a place where morals and motivations can get easily blurred. 


Im Not ThereI’m Not There (Dir. Todd Haynes)
Writer-director Todd Haynes had a highly original and daring approach to the life and music of Bob Dylan.

Instead of hiring an actor to play the rock legend, he got six actors (Marcus Carl Franklin, Ben Whishaw, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, and Cate Blanchett) to all play different ‘versions’ that represent different parts of his life and career.

Although such a concept could have been a mess, it actually proved to be a highly effective way of exploring the enigma of the singer-songwriter.

Not only was it filled with musical and film references for Dylan aficionados but it was also edited and paced with incredible verve and panache.

Although it runs over two hours, most of that flies by as the film criss crosses through the various Dylans with gleeful abandon. Perhaps most impressively, Haynes somehow got Dylan to agree to licence his music.

A true original, it was a fitting antidote to the safe sterility of the the studio sequels which came out this year.


Into the WildInto the Wild (Dir. Sean Penn)
Sean Penn has long been one of the most gifted actors of his generation but his considerable skills as a director were on display with this adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book.

It was about the cross country adventures of Christopher McCandless, a young man who wandered the US in the early 90s in search of greater meaning to his life despite coming from a privileged, if troubled, background.

What really set this film apart was its stunning use of the American landscape, be it the fields of Dakota, to the deserts of Arizona or the wilds of Alaska.

All were beautifully shot by cinematographer Eric Gautier and formed an essential part of both the plot and atmosphere of the film.

Emile Hirsh was very impressive in the lead role and there were some excellent supporting performances too from the likes of Catherine Keener and Hal Holbrook.


Michael ClaytonMichael Clayton (Dir. Tony Gilroy)
This smart and intelligent legal drama was a throwback to the tradition of 70s thrillers like The Parallax View and Klute.

George Clooney starred as a fixer in a New York law firm who has to deal with one of the senior partners (Tom Wilkinson) who has cracked under the strain of a multi-billion dollar settlement involving a large corporation.

Writer-director Tony Gilroy manages to skilfully juggle a lot of different elements here: it was smart, absorbing and thanks to Robert Elswit’s cinematography effectively evokes the paranoia and darkness that lurks beneath the world of corporate America.

George Clooney deserves a lot of credit for using his star power to help make films like this.

Although he earns big bucks with the Ocean’s franchise he has used that clout to make films like Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, The Good German and now this.

It was also notable for a raft of superb performances from Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack.

Credit must also go to James Newton Howard for his unusual but highly effective score.


No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men (Dir. Joel Coen)
This is the critical darling of the year and it is worthy of all the plaudits. Not only is it one of the best films of the decade, it is perhaps the Coen Brothers finest hour.

Adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel about a Texan antelope hunter who stumbles across a suitcase of drug money, it was a riveting and brilliantly observed tale of crime full of drama and a sense of unease about the world.

It contains some of the year’s finest performances with Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and Kelly McDonald doing fantastic work, but is only fair to single out Javier Bardem for special praise.

As the ruthless hitman Shigur, he gives one of the creepiest performances in recent memory and has already sealed his place in the pantheon of great screen villains.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography captured the landscape of West Texas and Mexico with a wondefully poetic eye.

A truly magnificent film.


OnceOnce (Dir. John Carney)
This surprise sleeper hit wore its low-budget on its sleeve and showed that a simple love story and acoustic guitars can go a long way in a box office landscape dominated by CGI and big stars.

Director John Carney cast two musicians (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) in the lead roles and both gave beautifully unaffected performances as mismatched soul mates united by their love of music.

Refreshingly for a film set in Dublin, it reflected the modern face of the city rather than the twee version that too often crops up in Hollywood films.

But at it’s heart the charms of Once were very simple.

Imagine Brief Encounter mixed with The Commitments along with some terrific songs woven into the film (notably ‘Falling Slowly’) and you’ll get some idea of why this delighted so many viewers.

 

PersepolisPersepolis (Dir. Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud)
Writer and director Marjane Satrapi (along with co-director Vincent Paronnaud) adapted her own graphic novel about growing up during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Using a striking animated style, it explores her journey living in a theocratic society until she emigrates at the age of 21.

The voice actors in the original French version included Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux and Simon Abkarian and the English version saw Mastroianni and Deneuve reprise their roles alongside Sean Penn, Iggy Pop and Gena Rowlands.

Although the mix of animatio, history and politics might seem at first glance an uneasy one, it is handled with a great deal of intelligence, heart and humour.

A moving and insightful film, it deservedly won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and was nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars.

 


RatatouilleRatatouille (Dir. Brad Bird)
The animated movie of the year was another classic from Pixar.

The story of a rat who becomes the unlikely hero of Paris restaurant owed much to Cyrano de Bergerac but it was notable for matching some witty writing with some marvellous animation.

Brad Bird was in charge of The Incredibles, which Pixar’s first film to feature lead characters in human form.

Here his team of animators managed to blend a rats and chefs together with a wonderful eye for the details of a kitchen.

But aside from the gorgeous visuals, the script managed to balance a sophisticated wit with some genuinely touching emotions.

The voice work all-round was good with Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Janeane Garofalo and Lou Romano but Peter O’Toole stood out in a supporting role as a stern food critic who the restaurant are desperate to impress.

Watch out too for the excellent short about alien abduction that accompanied the film called ‘Taken’.


SuperbadSuperbad (Dir. Greg Mottola)
Judd Apatow has risen to the top rank of Hollywood comedy in the last couple of years with a hand in hits like The 40 Year Old Virgin, Talledega Nights and Knocked Up.

But for me this film, which he produced and was co-written by his acting protégé Seth Rogen, is the pick of the bunch.

In terms of pure laughs, it remains the funniest film I saw this year.

It was the tale of three geeky teenagers (Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse) over the course of one night as they struggle to buy booze on the way to the party.

The three leads fitted their roles perfectly and were given some brilliant dialogue and situations (one my favourites involved one of them being forced to sing at a party).

For years people have over praised comedies like American Pie and There’s Something About Mary, but this left them trailing in its wake.
 

Taxi to the Dark SideTaxi to the Dark Side (Dir. Alex Gibney)
This documentary explores the story of an innocent Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who was beaten to death by American soldiers in 2002 while being held at Bagram Air Base. 

Director Alex Gibney had previously explored subjects such as Henry Kissinger and Enron with a probing eye and here he rigourously examined¬†America’s policy on torture¬†and¬†interrogation¬†during the current war on terror.

It examines in clinical detail the events surrounding Dilawar’s death, featuring interviews with the troops who caused it and contributions from many figures involved in the story.

The film is meticulous in examining the evidence and explores how the court-martialed soldiers involved were acting upon ambiguous policies that tacitly encouraged torture. It also makes the connection between the detention tactics used at Bagram and those at Abu Ghraib.

Gibney interviewed a highly impressive array of contributors including: Carlotta Gall and Tim Golden (the New York Times journalists who helped uncover the story); Alberto J Mora (retired General Counsel of the U.S. Navy); Lawrence Wilkerson (former chief of staff to Colin Powell); Jack Cloonan (former FBI special agent) and Clive Stafford Smith (a lawyer who respresents detainees at Guantanamo Bay).

Back in February it deservedly won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and is one of the most important films to be released in the last five years, painting a devastating picture of the moral cesspit into which the Bush adminstration has sunk in prosecuting their foreign policy.



The Bourne UltimatumThe Bourne Ultimatum (Dir. Paul Greengrass)
There is no doubt about the best mainstream film of the year and it was the third part of the Bourne series.

This film series is rare in that the first one (The Bourne Identity in 2002) started off with a lot of production problems and became a hit against the odds.

When Paul Greengrass took the reins in 2004 with The Bourne Supremacy he injected an urgency and political dimension to the franchise that was refreshing as it was riveting.

With this one, he made all the other summer ‘three-quels’ (such as Pirates 3 and Spider-Man 3) seem dull by comparison.

The location shoots in London and Morocco were dazzling and Matt Damon, Joan Allen and David Strathairn all showed that decent acting can fit quite nicely into a big budget film.

We should be thankful that a thriller as intelligent and quietly subversive as this could become such a huge hit funded by a major studio.


The Diving Bell and the ButterflyThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Dir. Julian Schnabel)
Few films this year were as moving and well crafted as this adaptation of Jean Michel Bauby’s memoir about his life as a paraplegic.

His privileged life as the editor of French Elle magazine came to a halt after a devastating stroke, after which he could only move his left eye.

The film documents his struggle in hospital as he gradually learns how to communicate by blinking his left eye to speech therapists.

Director Julian Schnabel brought a sense of beauty and wonder to the subject and coaxed some tremendous performances from his cast, with Mathieu Amalric superb in the lead role and Max Von Sydow on fine form as his father.

The way in which things are shot from the central character’s point of view was ingenious and highly effective in conveying his condition.

In a year of dark films, this was notable in that it found hope, humour and humanity amidst the terrible condition of its main character.


There Will Be BloodThere Will Be Blood (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
With films such as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson put himself on the map as a filmmaker of dazzling skills and high ambitions.

To his credit he has now made a film notably different from his previous work in both subject and tone.

This is an intimate frontier epic that explores the oil boom in California in the early 1900s and the twin forces that shaped modern America: business and religion.

Daniel Day Lewis plays an early oil prospector who becomes locked in a battle with an evangelical preacher (Paul Dano) over a number of years.

The film is stunning to look at and has a terrific unsettling score from Jonny Greenwood, but the real strength lies in the captivating way the narrative develops to its conclusion.

Day Lewis is sensational in the lead role – a hellish cross between Charles Foster Kane and Gordon Gecko, in what is almost certainly the best performance of his career.

A sublime examination of the dark heart of America.


This is EnglandThis is England (Dir. Shane Meadows)
It is a depressing fact of life that every year the British film industry will produce publicly funded rubbish (like Sex Lives of the Potato Men) or just outright crap (like Outlaw).

But sometimes there are exceptions, especially if they are made by Shane Meadows, who has carved an impressive niche for himself over the last ten years.

This drama about a young boy growing up in the early 80s and joining a skinhead gang was perhaps his best film to date.

Featuring a lead performance of considerable depth and maturity by young Thomas Turgoose and a terrific supporting turn from Stephen Graham this was a film of many shades: funny, disturbing, nostalgic and moving.

Unlike a lot of his British peers Meadows seems to have an instinctive knack with actors that gives his films a special quality.

Long may that continue.


ZodiacZodiac (Dir. David Fincher)
Major studios are often berated for churning out soulless dreck and whilst that’s often true, they do also make some great films from time to time.

The problem is that sometimes no audiences end up going to see them. Zodiac is just such a film – when people look back in years to come I think this will be seen as something of a classic.

Based on the case files of the unsolved Zodiac killing that plagued California in the 60s and 70s this was a thriller cut from the finest cloth.

Director David Fincher demonstrated his marvellous visual skills whilst conveying many complex layers of information wrapped up in a beguiling procedural drama.

The acting from Mark Ruffalo, Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey Jnr as three different characters haunted by the case deserved more recognition than it got.

Plus, the production design and the brilliant HD camerawork by Harry Savides merit the highest praise.

For me this was Seven crossed with All the Presidents Men made by one of modern cinema’s most talented directors.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A Mighty Heart (Dir. Michael Winterbottom)
American Gangster (Dir. Ridley Scott)
Atonement (Dir. Joe Wright)
Breach (Dir. Billy Ray)
Eastern Promises (Dir. David Cronenberg)
In Search Of A Midnight Kiss (Dir. Alex Holdridge)
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (Dir. Julien Temple)
Joy Division (Dir. Grant Gee)
Juno (Dir. Jason Reitman)
Knocked Up (Dir. Judd Apatow)
Lust, Caution (Dir. Ang Lee)
My Winnipeg (Dir. Guy Maddin)
Rescue Dawn (Dir. Werner Herzog)
Savage Grace (Dir. Tom Kalin)
Shotgun Stories (Dir. Jeff Nichols)
Silent Light (Dir. Carlos Reygadas)
Son Of Rambow (Dir. Garth Jennings)
Sunshine (Dir. Danny Boyle)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Dir. Andrew Dominik)
The Band’s Visit (Dir. Eran Kolirin)
The Counterfeiters (Dir. Stefan Ruzowitzky)
The Darjeeling Limited (Dir. Wes Anderson)
The Orphanage (Dir. Juan Antonio Bayona)
The Mist (Dir. Frank Darabont)
The Namesake (Dir. Mira Nair)
The Savages (Dir. Tamara Jenkins)
The Science of Sleep (Dir. Michel Gondry)

What about you? Leave your favourites from 2007 in the comments below.

UPDATE 28/12/08: This post was updated with 2007 films that I saw in 2008. They were Gone Baby Gone, Persepolis, The Orphanage,¬†In Search Of A Midnight Kiss,¬†Joy Division,¬†My Winnipeg, Savage Grace,¬†Shotgun Stories,¬†Son Of Rambow,¬†The Band’s Visit and The Mist.

> Check out more End of Year lists at Metacritic
> Have a look at the Movie City News end of year critics chart

Categories
Lists

Disgusting Movie Scenes

Check out this list of the 10 Most Disgusting Movie Scenes in American Cinema over at Alternative Reel.

My particular favourite comes in at Number 5, which is the classic moment in John Carpenter’s The Thing where, well… you can check it out below:

Categories
Lists

A list of all the films I saw in 2007

Below is a list of all of the films I saw in 2007, in the order that I saw them. If you want to know more about each one and what I thought of it, just leave a comment below and I’ll reply.

Smokin’ Aces
Fast Food Nation
Notes on a Scandal
The Fountain
Bobby
Hannibal Rising
Blood Diamond
Arthur & The Invisibles
Dreamgirls
Iraq In Fragments
Letters From Iwo Jima
The Illusionist
Ghost Rider
Goya’s Ghosts
Goal 2: Living the Dream
Hot Fuzz
Zodiac
The Science of Sleep
Music and Lyrics
The Bridge
The Lives of Others
300
Outlaw
The Good Shepherd
The Number 23
Becoming Jane
School for Scoundrels
Half Nelson
Freedom Writers
The Good German
Shooter
The Breed
The Painted Veil
Inland Empire
Factory Girl
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
Fur
Wild Hogs
Premonition
Sleeping Dogs
Amazing Grace
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
I Want Candy
Catch a Fire
Sunshine
Days of Glory
The Namesake
The Hills Have Eyes 2
Curse of the Golden Flower
Blades of Glory
Why We Fight
This is England
The Mark of Cain
Fracture
The Reaping
Alpha Dog
Reign Over Me
Pathfinder
Bridge to Terabithia
28 Weeks Later
Spider-Man 3
28 Weeks Later
The Battle of Algiers
Roving Mars
Next
Away From Her
Goodbye Bafana
Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
Life In a Metro
Black Snake Moan
Jindabyne
My Best Friend
Sketches of Frank Gehry
Blue Blood
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
Black Gold
The Hitcher
Tell No-One
Wedding Daze
Ocean’s Thirteen
Knocked Up
La Vie En Rose
Shrek the Third
Die Hard 4.0
Transformers
Water
Wedding Daze
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Vacancy
The Wild Blue Yonder
Captivity
Lucky You
Hostel: Part II
Harry Potter and the Order Of Phoenix
Moliere
Hairspray
The Simpsons Movie
Sherrybaby
Death Proof
The Hoax
Evan Almighty
The Bourne Ultimatum
Disturbia
Evening
Copying Beethoven
Licence To Wed
Run Fat Boy Run
Eagle Vs. Shark
3.10 to Yuma
Rush Hour 3
Waitress
The Walker
Bratz
1408
Breach
Death Sentence
Hallam Foe
Year Of The Dog
Superbad
Black Sheep
Shoot Em Up
Rocket Science
Run, Fat Boy, Run
Michael Clayton
The Kingdom
Halloween
Atonement
Once
The Brave One
Stardust
Day Watch
A Mighty Heart
The Nanny Diaries
I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
Ratatouille
The Heartbreak Kid
Eastern Promises
Across the Universe
Control
Sea Monsters in 3D
Rendition
And When Did You Last See Your Father?
The Counterfeiters
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
American Gangster
Lions for Lambs
Into the Wild
Funny Games
Silent Light
Youth Without Youth
The Lookout
Sicko
The Darjeeling Limited
Redacted
Interview
Lust, Caution
In the Shadow of the Moon
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Savages
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Things We Lost in the Fire
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Grace is Gone
Planet Terror
Persepolis
Juno
Saw IV
I’m Not There
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Brick Lane
Rescue Dawn
Jesus Camp
Beowulf
Sleuth
The Nines
Good Luck Chuck
The Magic Flute
No Country for Old Men
The Killing of John Lennon
Fred Claus
The Kite Runner
Chavez
Hitman
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
We Own the Night
My Kid Could Paint That
There Will Be Blood
In the Valley of Elah
The Golden Compass
Balls of Fury
Enchanted
Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Bee Movie
St Trinians
I Am Legend
Alvin and the Chipmunks
P.S. I Love You
U2 3D
Walk Hard

Categories
Lists Random

The 12 Most Influential Online Videos of All Time

The Webby Awards have compiled a list of what they consider the most influential online videos of all time.

There are some interesting albeit obvious choices here – especially Jennicam – but I guess the fact that you could add a lot more (such as Evolution of Dance, Leave Britney Alone! and Ronaldinho: Touch of Gold) shows how online video has exploded in the last couple of years.

Anyway their list is:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVVPSEVQMzI[/youtube]
Jennicam

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qItugh-fFgg[/youtube]
All Your Base Are Belong To Us

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKYUtUw-8ig[/youtube]
The Hire

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=HPPj6viIBmU[/youtube]
The Star Wars Kid

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Q-sRdV7SY[/youtube]
This Land

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLHM1eUERS4[/youtube]
Subservient Chicken

Lazy Sunday (which the dumbasses at NBC still won’t allow on YouTube)

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=wFlYw9awR5o[/youtube]
The Israel-Hizbollah War

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=dZN-Wye4rDE[/youtube]
Lonelygirl 15

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv5zWaTEVkI[/youtube]
OK – Here We Go Again

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r90z0PMnKwI[/youtube]
George Allen’s Macaca Moment

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=zAjWi663kXc[/youtube]
The Zidane Headbutt

Categories
Essential Films Lists

Good Movies You’ve Never Seen

Movies.com have come up with a list of the 25 best movies “you’ve never seen“.

Well, I have seen them but there are some gems on it I would definitely recommend:

Heavenly Creatures (1994): An early example of Peter Jackson‘s skill as a director as well as Kate Winslet‘s ability as an actress.

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003): A terrific documentary about the US punk band.

Breakdown (1998): Very under-rated thriller starring Kurt Russell and directed by Jonathan Mostow (who would go on to direct U-571 and Terminator 3).

Grace of My Heart (1996): A beautiful love letter to the singer songwriters of the 60s starring Illeana Douglas as a Carole King-like singer.

The Hidden (1987): Trashy but smarter than average sci-fi thriller about an alien that takes over humans, leaving a trail of havoc in its wake.

Igby Goes Down (2002): A nicely observed comedy drama starring Kieran Culkin as a disaffected young man as a modern day Holden Caulfield.

And my favourite:

Chopper (2000): Eric Bana gave one of the best performances of the last decade with his mesmerising portrayal of Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read – an Australian criminal who became an unlikely media celebrity.

[Link via Digg]

> Check out A Decade Of Underrated Movies at the AV Club
> 100 Under-rated Movies as Digital Dream Door

Categories
Lists TV

50 Films to See Before You Die

I just finished doing my regular Sunday morning film review on TalkSPORT and one of the presenters (Rhodri Williams) asked me about the Channel 4 program last night called 50 Films to See Before You Die.

Film4

It was actually shown on Film 4 last year, to celebrate the channel’s launch on Freeview¬†and featured a list of “essential films” that would subsequently be shown on the channel.

The range is impressive and it features some interesting choices so, in case you missed it, here is the list in full:

1. Apocalypse Now
2. The Apartment
3. City of God
4. Chinatown
5. Sexy Beast
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. North by Northwest
8. A Bout de Souffle
9. Donnie Darko
10. Manhattan
11. Alien
12. Lost in Translation
13. The Shawshank Redemption
14. Lagaan: Once Upon A Time in India
15. Pulp Fiction
16. Touch of Evil
17. Walkabout
18. Black Narcissus
19. Boyz n the Hood
20. The Player
21. Come and See
22. Heavenly Creatures
23. A Night at the Opera
24. Erin Brockovich
25. Trainspotting
26. The Breakfast Club
27. Hero
28. Fanny and Alexander
29. Pink Flamingos
30. All About Eve
31. Scarface
32. Terminator 2
33. Three Colours: Blue
34. The Royal Tenenbaums
35. The Ladykillers
36. Fight Club
37. The Searchers
38. Mulholland Drive
39. The Ipcress File
40. The King of Comedy
41. Manhunter
42. Dawn of the Dead
43. Princess Mononoke
44. Raising Arizona
45. Cabaret
46. This Sporting Life
47. Brazil
48. Aguirre: The Wrath of God
49. Secrets and Lies
50. Badlands

> Check out what’s on Film4
> Find out more about Film4 at Wikipedia

Categories
Interesting Lists

Controversial Films

Tim Dirks has compiled a list of controversial films over at FilmSite.

There are the usual suspects like Birth of a Nation, Basic Instinct, A Clockwork Orange and The Life of Brian, but there are some other notable entries that you might not expect.

Did you know that Disney’s Alladin offended Arabs? Or that The Outlaw starring Jane Russell drove a local judge in Baltimore to complain that “her breasts hang over the picture like a summer thunderstorm spread out over a landscape”?

For information on these and other controversial films check out the full list.

> Filmsite.org
> Entertainment Weekly’s list of 25 controversial movies

Categories
Lists

12 Movies That Were Ahead of Their Time

This list of “Movies That Were Ahead of Their Time” at First Showing is interesting.

It consists of some obvious (yet correct) choices like Star Wars, The Matrix and Metropolis but somehow omits Citizen Kane and Blade Runner.

Plus, I think that films like Sin City, Pulp Fiction and Escape From New York are also worthy of inclusion.

Add your thoughts in their comment section.

> The full list at First Showing

Categories
Lists Reviews Thoughts

The Best Films of 2006

Babel (Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu): Although this bears many structural similarities to Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu’s other films (Amores Perros and 21 Grams) with its interwoven narratives of despair, this was his most ambitious film yet. Exploring different characters connected by a single gunshot over 3 different continents, it is a moving and highly accomplished piece of work. Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garc√≠a Bernal all turn in fine performances but look out for newcomer Rinko Kikuchi who is startling as a deaf Japanese teenager.

Brick (Dir. Rian Johnson): Another first time film maker to catch the eye this year was Rian Johnson whose debut feature got a US and UK release a year after making waves at Sundance in January 2005. A film noir set against the back drop of a Californian high school, it was a film that could easily have looked silly but thanks to some assured writing, acting and directing it is a gripping and captivating film. Made for just $450,000 it puts a lot of the UK lottery funded garbage to shame.

Children of Men (Dir. Alfonso Cuaron): The future has rarely looked as plausibly bleak as it does in director Alfonso Cuaron’s vision of Britain in 2027. Although the acting from the likes of Clive Owen and Michael Caine was excellent, it was the virtuoso technique and underlying intelligence that took this film to another level. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki and the production design by Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland were particularly outstanding.

Half Nelson (Dir. Ryan Fleck): The real treat of the London film festival this year was this shrewdly observed tale about the relationship between a Brooklyn teacher and a student after one of them is caught smoking crack. Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps give two marvellous lead performances and the film skilfully avoids the clichés of the teacher pupil drama. A stunning debut from director Ryan Fleck and his writing partner Anna Boden, it marks them out as filmmakers to watch out for in the coming years.

Little Children (Dir. Todd Field): This intelligent and highly accomplished adaptation of Tom Perotta’s novel about suburban angst unfortunately died at the box office but deserved a lot more recognition. Apart from featuring a clutch of heavyweight performances from Kate Winslet, Jackie Earl Haley and Phyllis Somerville it was one of the boldest mainstream studio releases of the year in terms of style and content. Managing to weave some dark subject matter with some telling ironic touches it was a film that deserved a bigger audience.

Pan’s Labyrinth (Dir. Guillermo Del Toro): Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro created the best work of his career so far with this sublime fantasy set amidst the backwoods of Spain during the Civil War. Ivana Baquero gave an excellent performance in the lead role and the visuals (on a medium sized budget) were a feast for the eyes. Del Toro has managed to balance commercial films (Hellboy and Blade 2) with more personal work like Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone and this extraordinary film.

The Departed (Dir. Martin Scorcese): It is no coincidence Martin Scorcese’s return to form happened when he stopped chasing Oscars with Harvey Weinstein and returned to the urban grittiness that characterised his best work like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas. Whilst this was not up to those exalted standards it was still a refreshing blast of cops, crime and corruption laced with a wicked sense of black humour. The plot was reworking of the 2002 Asian thriller Infernal Affairs relocated to Boston, as a cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a criminal (Matt Damon) double cross their bosses in an increasingly dangerous game of cat and mouse. It might have lacked the tension and panache of the original but the lead and supporting performances were excellent (look out for Mark Wahlberg as a particularly foul mouthed cop) and Scorcese has certainly done enough to bag his long overdue Oscar.

The Queen (Dir. Stephen Frears): Helen Mirren is odds on to win the Best Actress Oscar for her imperious performance in this drama about the relationship between Her Majesty and Tony Blair during the death of Princess Diana in 1997. Michael Sheen was nearly as good as the Prime Minister (and he was even better on stage recently in London as David Frost in the brilliant Frost/Nixon) and both were helped by a script by Peter Morgan that was bold, witty and intelligent. Stephen Frears direction was a reminder that he is one of England’s most accomplished and consistently interesting directors.

United 93 (Dir. Paul Greengrass): The first major studio film to deal with 9/11 was a riveting recreation of the fourth hijacked flight that crashed in Pennsylvania that day. Director Paul Greengrass has surely now established himself as one of the most interesting and gifted directors currently working in Hollywood. Shrewdly avoiding any politics it was a remarkable film on many levels, its technical brilliance matched only by its emotional intensity.

Volver (Dir. Pedro Almodovar): Pedro Almodovar has long been one of Europe’s best directors but in the last few years he has hit a particularly rich vein of form. Talk to Her (2002) and Bad Education (2004) were both outstanding and this year Volver was in the same league. This tale of three generations of women dealing with life and death in Southern Spain was funny and filled with emotion and a career best central performance from Penelope Cruz. The title of the film means “to return” and after a lengthy professional absence from Almodovar’s films, Carmen Maura made a welcome return in a key supporting role.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

A Scanner Darkly (Dir. Richard Linklater)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Dir. Larry Charles)

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Dir. Cristi Puiu)

The Last King of Scotland (Dir. Kevin McDonald)

Little Miss Sunshine (Dir, Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)

Hard Candy (Dir. David Slade)

Thank You for Smoking (Dir. Jason Reitman)

Venus (Dir. Roger Michell)

Casino Royale (Dir. Martin Campbell)

Superman Returns (Dir. Bryan Singer)

Flags of Our Fathers (Dir. Clint Eastwood)

As usual it is no particular order but check out last years list for films that ended up getting a UK release earlier this year (like The New World and Grizzly Man). There are also films I haven’t seen yet like Letters From Iwo Jima and Dreamgirls that may end up in this this list when I do. See here for the explanation.

> Check out some more best of 2006 lists at Metacritic
> A big scoreboard of Top 10 lists at Movie City News

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The end of year dilemma

It is that time of year where critics start compiling their end of year lists. But if, like me, you are based in the UK then there is always a problem.

Films often get released here a couple of months after their US release, so outstanding titles like Brokeback Mountain, Grizzly Man and The New World end up in a strange twilight zone. They are 2005 films that end up in the 2006 best of list. And that is just wrong isn’t it?

If you go to the IMDb and look up The New World it is listed as a 2005 film, even though it got a UK release in February 2006. My solution is to just list the best films I’ve seen this year and ammend the previous year’s list accordingly.

My end of year list will be up in a couple of days but also look out for an amended version of last year’s best films.