Film Journal

THE FILM JOURNAL | November 2012

I look back at the films I watched through the previous month, whether they were brand new in the cinema or simply new to me. Dates are by UK release. Here are my thoughts.


 

Remember, remember, the films of November. See what I did there? Oh, just read.

• Unmissable
Those pieces of work that prove cinema is one of humanity’s better endeavours.
Example: Apocalypse Now

• Recommended
Extraordinary films that are must-sees, but perhaps not considered masterpieces.
Example: Kick-Ass

• Avoid
Movies that exhibit technical ineptitude, cause severe ideological malaise, or both.
Example: Grown Ups

~ ~ ~

thedriver1The Driver [1978]
A pulpy free ride through the snarkier side of police cat-and-mouse, this was a heavy influence on Drive – and for all the right reasons.

Thief [1981]thief1
Michael Mann’s early work displays an aptitude for an exhilarating almost Greek tragedy-level of storytelling, concerning the sordid world of master thieves. Twenty minutes shaved off would have made it perfect, though.


toliveanddieinla1To Live and Die in LA
[1985]

Even though it takes about an hour for the plot to appear, William Freidkin’s action noir hybrid is an offset buddy picture, with many disparate parts that nonetheless fit together for some riveting – and ultimately heavy – viewing.

The Master [2012]themaster1
• Recommended
An intricate tapestry of a character piece, woven together with an almost religious fervour. Jauquin Phoenix is a powerhouse in self-loathing, but Seymour Hoffman is the real god here.
(Read the FilmOnTrial review)


hallpass1Hall Pass
[2011]

More Farrelly brother nonsense. A ridiculous set-up aside, where two wives give their less-than-satisfactory husbands a ‘hall pass’ to do whatever they want with other women, there are a few nice lessons to be learnt, and a handful of vile gags that’ll garner a snort of laughter (or vomit) at the least.

Bringing Out the Dead [1999]bringingoutthedead1
A more forgettable entry in Scorsese’s canon, the nocturnal existence of Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) as an over-worked NY paramedic is still a giddy blend of unique stylistic choices, and contains one of the most assured roles of Nicolas Cage’s career. Odd, tender, but never as impactful as its premise ordains.


argo1Argo
[2012]

Probably the most tense political thriller you’ll see this year (and maybe one of the only), Argo is Ben Affleck’s leap into more complex filmmaking from Gone Baby Gone and The Town. While it lacks directorial flourishes like the latter two and lacks some meat on the bone, this still trumps most of the competition.
(Read the FilmOnTrial review)

Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) [2012]rust&bone1
A sporadically powerful yet ultimately narratively stunted display of two very different lives. Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) is in a freak orca accident – words I never thought I’d utter – and makes unlikely friends / bed buddies with street fighter Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts). Dramatic, intimate, but I expected more from the director of A Prophet.


whathaveidonetodeservethis1What Have I Done to Deserve This? (¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!!)
[1984]
In Almodovar’s world , there are no real rules. In this frankly eccentric black dramedy, bizarre goings-on and strange relatives are the norm. Taboos receive the barest of smirks, and the plot insists on winding and turning, making sure that this enduring early piece from the Spanish auteur’s canon escapes pigeonholing at every turn.

Pepi, Luci, Bom (Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón) [1980]pepelucibom1
An engaging-enough dive into an oddball world of punk rock and confuzzlement. Characters live according to the desires their sexual warpedness brings, and Almodovar’s snapshot of early youth / rock n’ roll energy pours from every scene.


womenonthevergeofanervousbreakdown1Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios) [1988]
A colourful and kinetic waltz with some crazy Spanish dames. Coincidences occur so often you’ll laugh, and awkward Mexican-standoff situations may very well make you wince. It’s all injected with a vibrant life and humour, and boasts the most accomplished camerawork seen in Almodovar’s movies up until that date.

 


Dark Habits (
Entre tinieblas) [1983darkhabits1]
A nun injecting heroin; that’s the only image you’ll need to convey Almodovar’s acerbic portrayal of a convent prone to bending the rules, especially when they take in a lowly bar singer. Uneven in its temperament and aimless in character goals (the main character literally wanders the halls for the film’s entirety), yet is still captivating enough in its well-timed comedic flourishes and insight into a way of life we probably have many misconceptions about.


easternpromises1Eastern Promises
[2007]

Pasted with David Cronenberg’s unique flair for violence (and beautiful lighting) from the first scene, Naomi Watts plays a nurse who, upon studying the horrifying diary of a newborn’s mother, becomes entangled in the Russian underworld in East London. It benefits from the city never being stereotyped as it usually is in cinema, and serves as a chilling, intriguing backdrop to Viggo Mortensen’s compelling turn as an even-tempered, willing, vodka-swilling criminal (just some friendly stereotyping to even things out).

Alps (Alpeis) [2012]alps1
Though without many of the inspired writing flourishes present in Yorgos Lanthiminos’s last film Dogtooth, his already strong cinematic voice comes through audibly in a stylistically ambiguous yarn concerning a group – ‘Alps’ – substituting for people’s dead relatives. It’s plenty engaging, but stunted possibly by budget constraints (it was made for less than Dogtooth was), but definitely by its unwillingness to flesh itself out.


amour1Amour
[2012]
• Recommended
Intensely powerful. Imagine a film that somehow manages to convey the many facets of love, and the ineffable emotions, actions and dreams they perpetuate; that would be Amour. This will stay with you as an important comment on what it is to be human, in the most beautiful sense imaginable. Crushing, uplifting, genius.

Silver Linings Playbook [2012]silverliningsplaybook1
While sticking to convention for the most part, David O Russell’s sweet and mainly corn-free romcom is as funny as it is at times acerbic. Mental illness is hilarious, it turns out.
(Read the FilmOnTrial review)


endofwatch1End of Watch
[2012]

Unlikeable, plot-free and idiotically executed in every aspect. Almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I hated, hated, hated it…

Gambit [2012]gambit1
• Avoid
… But not as much as I hated Gambit. Void of the necessary tone, charm and most important of all, the laughs to get by, this smacks of something Inspector Clouseau would misfire from the tip of his penis into his toilet bowl during a fever-driven wank. He forgot to flush, unfortunately.

shestheman1She’s The Man [2006]
No she’s not.

Event Horizon [1997]eventhorizon1
A very, very poor man’s Solaris. A wonderfully disturbing concept (a gateway to Hell in space) smothered by blockbuster tropes (Exposition! Explosions!) annoyingly winds up as just another uninteresting action / horror yawn.

sightseers1Sightseers [2012]
Unflinching black comedy, with a mean streak of both blood and humour. Wheatley’s operandi is surprisingly poetic but never chiding, and the on-note performances from Alice Lowe and Steve Oram (who both wrote the screenplay) make for characters we should hate, but root for instead.

The Hunt (Jagten) [2012]thehunt1
Mads Mikkelson plays a wrongly-accused child sex abuser, and faces hatred from his entire community. In never once doubting its protagonists’ innocence, it achieves a refreshing take on a tired drama plot.

Follow the editor @GaryGreenScreen

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About GaryGreenScreen

Freelance film critic.

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Gary Green: Freelance film critic.

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