Nil Pois

It has been a shameful week for film watching; namely that since ‘A Single Man’ I have not watched a single one! What is going on? I attempted to watch Quadrophenia and An American Werewolf in London, however our film consumption is still in the format of taping from the tv onto a video and alas technology failed us, or lack of. I still haven’t sent off ‘City of God’ as I want to watch the bonus features, but I plan to catch up over Easter. What with ‘Whip It’, ‘I’m Not There’, ‘The Runaways’ and many more lined up, I should be back on track in no time.

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A Single Man

Wednesday night provided a delightful diversion from rountine in the form of a cinema trip to see ‘A Single Man’; Tom Ford’s debut. This is a carefully contructed film, you get the feeling that Ford designed each frame as seamlessly as a Gucci suit. Perhaps so exact that it feels slightly overdone, but you can’t ignore its beguiling potency. Its poetic, artistic and stylish, oozing the 60’s vibe; I loved Colin Firth’s glasses, the James Dean lookalike, Julianne’s hair and makeup, the close-up of the eyes, the smoke. Its a film characterised by glamour and elegance, but marked with the sadness of loss and desperation. The pace is pretty slow and perhaps what this film lacks is content, but the cinematography and symbolism is what enchanted me. The colour transformation from glassy, bleak and monochrome as we are first introduced to George contrasts with the warmth and lighting in the flashbacks to his life with Jim. This is a visually mesmerising film, slightly self-indulgent on Ford’s part but the performances from pretty much the entire cast, most notably Firth add to the enjoyment. I look forward to seeing more of Ford’s filmic ventures.

the good, the mediocre and the ugly

I’ll start with the ugly; on revising my film list I had a quick count of the film’s I’ve seen this year and discovered to my horror that something was amiss. There was a disparity between the number of films I’ve seen in total and the number I had seen from my every 50 total. I will explain… basically to keep track of numbers I write a total next to the film after every 50 I’ve seen, but according to my list the 700th film was Brief Encounter, 15 films apart from my 707 film Julie and Julia. I had to start from the very beginning and after a long-winded recount it appears I haven’t even watched 700. It breaks my heart to say it. I might have to recount again its so hard to believe, it appears somewhere in 2006 I forgot how to count. So now my numbers for the blog are messed up, but never mind, it looks like I’m the only one who reads it anyway. But enough with the pity prose, I have two more films to write about.

Firstly, was saturday night’s viewing; the mediocre. Best Picture nominee at the Oscars; ‘District 9’. I’ll come right out and say it, but sci-fi’s aren’t really my thing. I was the wrong generation for Star Wars and despite enjoying films such as Star Trek and Sunshine they just don’t excite me the way a powerful, gripping drama does. I can spout out the usual comments about how original and technically superb this film was; it makes a change for it to be set in South Africa rather than a suburb in America, but I still can’t say very much. The issue is I’m indifferent. I know I’m probably more filmically wise for having seen it, but I figured I’d probably be just as knowledgable if I hadn’t. I didn’t really find it affecting, the main guy ticked me off with his smarmy ways and the aliens were violent and disgusting. Yes it may well be allegorical for the exploitation of minors at the hands of a corrupt government, but at the end of the day this is a smart, pacy, state-of-the -art sci-fi and nothing more. I enjoyed the CGI and the documentary style, but this is just another film on the temporarily faulty list.

From the slums of South Africa to the favelas of Brazil on Sunday night I watched ‘City of God’ and it would be a vast understatement to simply call this film good. Having watched the opening sequence in film class, I knew I was in for a treat. Not the indulgent, uplifting kind, but the extraordinary, eye-opening, electrifying kind. City of God is one of the films that from the very moment is starts it has your gripped and doesn’t let up until the moment the credits rolls. This is powerful stuff because it documents a story rarely told in a way that its brutal and shocking, but at the same time poignant. My dad walked out of half way through because he’d had enough of films about drug dealers for one week, but its sooo much more than that. Of course that sounds slightly hypocritical after my comments about District 9, but never mind. The opening sequence just sums it all up; the music, the editing, the symbolism. I loved the non-linear narrative and how it weaved all the stories into the main one; whilst to a Brazilian kid in the favela this would be an ordinary coming of age tale to us its a violent gang warfare epic. This is the kind of film I would need several essays to cover in depth why I loved it and how good it is, but in a few short words, when you watch something like this it makes you see truth. Yes its a dramatised representation, but its also refreshingly honest about the type of world we live in. The kids who killed Lil’Ze at the end are what leave this film with a haunting resonance. Its the kind of film that upon owning you just look as though you have good taste in film. I will definately be going out and purchasing it.

Taken – Film No. 709

I was trying to convince my Dad to see the film ‘City of God’, my latest lovefilm rental by bombarding him with statements such as ‘its in every 500 best movies or movies you must see before you die list’ or ‘you won’t be a real film buff if you don’t watch it’. However the film I watched yesterday evening has provided the perfect ammunition to get my way; I sat through Dad’s latest lovefilm ‘Taken’, therefore the least he can do as a way of apology is watch my film.

The truth is I’m quite ambivalent about Taken, I could quite easily call it a tense, fast-paced and well structured thriller, but then I also find it quite shocking and ridiculously flawed.
Whatever attracted Liam Neeson to a role such as this is beyond me; perhaps he was anticipating comparisons to Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne and James Bond, but you know immediately he’s not a real hero, because his name is Brian. Brian Mills. The only credibility this film might earn is that it involves the sinister, often neglected issue of sex trafficking, a contemporary form of slave trade. However rather than use this as the point of focus its an excuse to feature an abundance of gratuitous violence. I imagine that the scriptwriter just sat down for a day and tried to list as many cinematic ways to kill a person.

There are so many flaws my brain is overloaded just thinking about which one to put first. Its completely unbelievable, unrealistic and far-fetched. Liam Neeson takes on several stupid Albanians at once, managing to escape and kill them all. Taken uses every generic and cliche plot device there is. Ridiculously amounts of foreshadowing, fight scenes, car chases, shootouts, foot chases, wall-climbing; I got a bit tired of it all after awhile. The daughter Kim barely makes it off the plane before she’s picked up by dodgy ‘spotter’ Peter, making petty pleas to her very stupid friend Amanda. I mean would you really let a stranger see where you’re staying? Let alone give him the exact address and tell him that you were on your own… Maggie Grace, as Kim, was not only utterly too old to play a 17-year old but she spent the whole film running everywhere like a 5-year old. Then after the whole debacle and trauma that she went to she appeared very undistressed; collapsing into her father’s arms and back to running and smiling everywhere when she got home. Her friend died, she was kidnapped, guarded in a house, drugged and almost made a sex slave, I thought she would have taken a little longer to recover.

The editing was impressive and I enjoyed the two moments when Liam Neeson got one over on his enemies; the phone deploy and the empty gun, but apart from that it was very sickening and frustrating. Can this really be called entertainment? The characters are flat, the script is formulaic; “I will look for you, I will find you and I will kill you” and worst of all its oh so predictable. Plus the famous singer is called Diva! You’d have thought something more original could have been used. But then again this isn’t a very original film.

Ah well, I have ‘City of God’ and copious amounts of gloating to look forward to.

Seven Pounds – film no. 708

Having been influenced by the slightly less favourable reviews of this film, I resolved to give it a miss and save two hours of my life. However, I was then wrongfull swayed by the judgement of my parents who claimed it was a very clever movie and worth watching… so I invested my time. What a foolish thing to do.
Seven Pounds is overly sentimental; someone on imdb declared that if it did not ‘reach the core of my soul’ i would not be human. Well I can assure you I am 100% human, just untouched by this syrupy excuse for a film. This was precious, annoying and really confusing. Throughout the entire film all I could think was ‘they’d better explain all these cliffhangers throroughly at th end’. Instead, Will Smith commits suicide by a jellyfish. I had a myriad of unanswered questions…who was the guy who had a ‘deal’ with Ben and then cried at the end? where did he get these special powers from? i.e. how could he fix that papermaking machine? being one of them. The only time I cried was when Will Smith was shouting down the phone at Woody Harrelson and I felt pretty sorry for him, alternatively I was also venting after a very long day. Most likely the latter. I also laughed out loud once, when Will Smith was humming that ‘loving youuuu is easy cos you’re beautiful’ song. But that’s the extent of any reaction I had to this film. It was pretty dull, not gonna lie.
The ending was a dissatisfying emotional payoff; ‘you must be Emily.’… excuse me while I gag. The cinematography was beautiful, especially memorable were the views of the beach and the shot of the candle outside on the table as its pouring down with rain. This is mostly a confusing film rather than intriguing, it may claim to be clever, but really its just quite intricate for the sake of calling itself deep. Also I found it quite patronising how the filmmakers are attempting to spoonfeed the audience lessons on atonement and responsibility. The lesson really should be don’t use your phone whilst driving. End of.
I really should have listened to my instincts/the reviews and saved two hours of my life. Now that is a valuable lesson I have learnt from watching this film.

The Beginning

So there I was watching Nora Ephron’s ‘Julie and Julia’ on Sunday evening, film no. 707 and I had inspiration to write a blog; mainly because that is what Julie Powell did after being inspired by Julia Child’s cooking. Not only would it be a perfect creative outlet for my passion for film, but also a good way to remember the countless number of films I watch each year; apart from documenting them in a list of course.

I’ll start from this weekend… friday night was ‘Blow’. Johnny Depp, Penenlope Cruz and the cocaine industry. The only thing I knew about it was that it starred Emma Roberts when she was first starting out in her movie career. Made in 2001 it charts the story of George Jung who established the American cocaine market in the 70’s. I’m not sure what ever made me want to see it, considering I have no interest in drugs or the handsomeness of Johnny Depp, but I did. In my opinion, there wasn’t anything special about it; maybe I haven’t seen enough drug movies to realise how perceptive or original it may be. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful or brutal film, it jumped around quite a bit and however the message is clear; this was a man who thought he could find happiness through wealth and at the end, at the expense of a child who loved him and trusted him, he realised it wasn’t as important as he thought. And while I may not be able to relate to snorting cocaine at parties or smoking weed on the beach, this is a lesson from which we can all learn. I gave it 3 stars in my film diary which equates to the rather reductionist term of ‘good’. But that’s what it was.

Saturday night I watched ‘Out of Sight’. Having just completed a George Clooney movie star profile for my film studies project this was a film I was intrigued to see this film; mainly I admit because of the ‘sizzling’ chemistry between J-Lo and George and also because it was Steven Soderbergh first mainstream film. Slightly complicated, but overflowing with technical accomplishment and perfect moments. The freeze frames, the bright city lights in the background as Jack Foley and Karen Sisco rendez-vous in the bedroom, the steamy bathroom scene, the non-linear narrative; this is the foundation not only for George Clooney’s cemented position as Hollywood heavyweight but for Soderbergh’s excellence. Not as slick as the Ocean’s film, but more absorbing and realistic. Lopez still seemed to glamorous or ‘done’ for a federal marshal, but every review that ever mentions their chemistry are right; it was sizzling.

And lastly, the film that inspired this blog; ‘Julie and Julia’. It was the perfect mother’s day gift and the perfect sunday evening film. The kind of warm, humorous and well, delicious film that makes you want to get up and cook as soon as it over. Yes Meryl Streep is eccentric and superb and funny as Julia Child; Amy Adams is equally charming and the food, well apart from the meat dishes, ( I am a new-born vegetarian) it all looked very appetising. The plot dragged slightly in the middle, but the different POV’s and story jumping worked wonderfully. I was quite surprised to find both Sue from Glee and Chloe from 24 in it; both of whom will never escape their famous characters, but all in all it was a delightful little film. It wasn’t flawless; i found the script for the New York sector slightly tedious and predictable, but the peformances are what transform it from 3 stars to 3.5; yes I am that pedantic.

That was my weekend in films; three memorable films, two true stories and one person who’s started a blog because of them. Bon appetit!