Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fast Food Nation is...

... like, ew, man. Totally gross. And I don't just mean the end part where they slice up cows and show their stony eyes in their disembodied heads and slide their insides down a metal chute. Or even the part where Paul Dano spits in the burger he's making up for Greg Kinnear (incidentally, my audience seemed surprised at this- why? I thought everyone knew about this practice, or at least the mythical idea of it.). But Fast Food Nation isn't just about fast food, it's about consumerism, man- at one point the hotel clerk at Kinnear's hotel recites a robotic round of questions at him and doesn't even blink at his sudden snap of rudeness. The world has become a machine, is what Linklater is saying, a factory line of crap, both literally and figuratively. Ashley Johnson's character goes out for a meal with her uncle Ethan Hawke and seems quietly impressed with his remarks about how those who followed their dreams- whether successful or not- are generally happier when they look back on their lives. When did the world become so money-orientated? Johnson's mother (Patricia Arquette) swipes away her brother as a role model, but really, this is exactly who Johnson should be listening to- follow your dreams, your heart, not society's conventions of job-marriage-children. Fast Food Nation sings an age-old message- money don't make you happy- but it seems that more than ever people need to be told this message.

Oh, and one other thing about Fast Food Nation, the engrossing and imperfect film that it is: I don't think, as some idiots at IMDb (for as we all know, the IMDb messageboards are generally populated by idiots) seem to believe, that Fast Food Nation is preaching a vegetarian message (or vegan, as the idiots say- where did vegetarianism go?). I am a vegetarian, not through choice but through parentage, and while, yes, the final images of the film are indeed disgusting, I think that Linklater is simply presenting a case against fast food and the way it's produced as opposed to meat altogether. Although he IS a vegetarian himself, so maybe I'm wrong. Anyway.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sim Survivor

Now, I'm sure y'all have heard that some company have acquired the rights to make a movie out of The Sims (and if you haven't, well, I'm telling ya). If they got the right people on this, it could be genius. It could be some kind of metaphysical mind-fuck about how people are controlled by an unknown force from the sky (gee, now doesn't that sound familiar?). It could have all sorts of metaphorical religious undertones. It could also be a superb dissection of human (well, Simmish, I suppose) interaction- "why are you falling asleep in the middle of the floor?"; "why do we keep 'woohooing' even though you're my mailman?"; "why do you keep talking about aeroplanes?". My god, if they got the right people on this, it could be AMAZING. Like, have that green diamond thing hovering over a Sim's head and watch them trying to ignore it while everyone else whispers about how they're the "chosen one" (I know they don't do that in the game, I'm improvising here!). Watch what happens when you put seven wildly different Sims in a room and then take away the door. Have the grim reaper turn up to take a relative and end up with him becoming the new husband. See the spawn of human and alien take on university. It could be wicked.

What's that? "...has set project up with Fox-based John Davis... Davis' most recent projects include "Norbit," "When A Stranger Calls," and "Eragon.""... "Brian Lynch will script; story is under wraps with talent yet to be named... Lynch scripted and helmed upcoming "Big Helium Dog," and penned "Scary Movie 3,""?

Oh, fuck it. This is going to be a disaster. I bet it won't even be in Simlish, because god knows these people aren't going to risk filming it in a foreign language.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: #1: King of his Castle


And here it is, not only my top film of 2006 but the second David Lynch film of the new millenium to be the best of its year. But what is it about his films- particularly, of course, the particularly labyrinthine ones such as this- that fascinates me, and indeed so many others, so much? It's a well worn fact of debate that his films generally don't make coherent narrative sense, and that Lynch doesn't want them to- but why is it that some respond so eagerly to this, and others detest it? In the case of INLAND EMPIRE, at least, it would be easy to shrug off with an explanation that the sheer emotion here is the reason- scenes like the indescribly discomfiting scene where two strangers have a pallid discussion as a woman lies dying between them- but I think what Lynch does so well, instead of simply using his actors and mise-en-scene to provoke any random emotion, is expertly calibrate a building up of these emotions, leading his audience to horrifying crescendos, letting his three-hour running time take away all sense of time and space (which is why, incidentally, I was so distressed by an intermission during my second impulsive viewing) so that INLAND EMPIRE is simply all that exists, and therefore in itself it is not strange or incoherent, but perfectly, if subconsciously, understandable. The matter of whether or not a person responds favorably is not a matter of elitism or intelligence- it is simply a matter of emotional, and perhaps even physical, conditioning. INLAND EMPIRE is not a film that deals in strange ideas- it simply deals with them in strange, refreshing and unusual ways.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: The Round-Up

Before I unveil my number 1 film of 2006 (which, let's face it, is pretty obvious), I thought I'd do a little round-up, including a few honorary categories.

Individual Categories:
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Ensemble
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Non-English Language Film
Best Cinematography
Best Editing
Best Production Design/Art Direction
Best Original Score
Best Costume Design
Best Make-Up
Best Sound
Best Sound Effects

Best Visual Effects

The Worst of 2006
The Under- and Over-Appreciated
The Top Ten can be found at my 2006 Viewing Index.

Films With The Most Nominations
Children of Men: 7
The Departed: 5
The Good Shepherd: 5
The Death of Mr. Lazarescu: 4
Marie Antoinette: 4

Best Films With No Nominations
(46 of the 135 Films I Saw Are Nominated for Something)
Akeelah and the Bee
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
An Inconvenient Truth
Inside Man
Lady Vengeance
The Road to Guantanamo
Stranger than Fiction

How Did You Get In Here?
(Worst Films To Manage A Nomination)

The Black Dahlia: 1
Breaking and Entering: 1
Dreamgirls: 1
Notes on a Scandal: 2
Perfume: 3
Venus: 1
World Trade Center: 1

The "I Don't Like Real Life" Award for Best Documentary

(or: I didn't see very many documentaries)
Dave Chappelle's Block Party

Best Animated Feature
is jointly awarded to
Cars, Happy Feet and Monster House

The "Hello, Goodbye" Award for Best Small Role
Viola Davis, World Trade Center
Karolina Herfurth, Perfume
Gwyneth Paltrow, Infamous
Jamie Parker, The History Boys
Grace Zabriskie, INLAND EMPIRE

"Sorry I Missed Ya"
(films I missed on release)
Fast Food Nation

Fur- An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Running with Scissors

Damn Those Distributors!
(films that either weren't released, or were barely released at all)
The Dead Girl
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
Shut Up & Sing

Scene of the Year
The furry infiltrators get blasted by the horrifying sound of THX in Over the Hedge.

And now all you have to look forward are the 2007 Gold Stars. Poor you.

Victim's Gold Stars: Leading Ladies


It's a strange kind of paradox, really, that Dame Judi's best work in years- in fact, I can't really remember a better performance from her- comes in a part that was so perfect in the book but becomes so messed up on film. Dench works wonders, yes, else she wouldn't be here, but the film doesn't do her any favours- where Barbara Covett in novel form was a rounded, complex, dangerous but pitiful human being, Barbara Covett on film is little more than a villanous, nasty lesbian predator. Dench mines like a trooper to inject some of the book-Barbara's sympathetic qualities into her character- the look in the mirror, the hidden looks of weariness (see my graphic)- but the film around her wants you to hate her, despise her, look at her in disgust. Thanks to Judi, though, you don't- your looks of disgust are instead directed to the film itself.

No one really seems to know what INLAND EMPIRE is all about, even David Lynch himself, and no one really needs to- but what they do need is an emotional hook, because, like it or lump it, you're not really going to be interested in a film if it doesn't affect you in some way, and for all its unweildy imagery and strange metaphors and circular, ovaline or star-shaped (I don't know!) narrative threads, this is what INLAND EMPIRE does. Dern is given the enormous task of making some kind of coherence of about five different characters, none of whom are given much more than a name, and Dern must not only carve out distinct personalities but thread them all together, for naturally these women are all extensions of each other, in whatever abstract Lynchian way. Dern is both a cypher and an abstraction, a way in to the film and a barrier to understanding it. But, most importantly, she is transfixing, committed, and fiercely emotional.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu may be about, well, Mr. Lazarescu, but quite unexpectedly, both to her and the audience, Gheorghiu's ambulance worker gradually, naturally becomes the driving force of this movie, and not just in the sense that she pushes Mr. Lazarescu around on a gurney. Gheorghiu craftily portrays Mioara's transition from disinterested, weary worker to concerned, involved companion, slowly adjusting her body language to show increased concern for the man she is ferrying around, and, ever so slowly, becoming the heroine of the film. Without Mioara, Mr. Lazarescu would be dead even sooner than he ends up being; with Gheorghiu, Mioara would have been a pale, dull shadow.

2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose saw newcomer Jennifer Carpenter give a fiercely committed performance in much the same role as Huller has here; however, where Carpenter's sidelined character was little more than a devil-riddled woman with extraordinary limb suppleness, Huller has the harder task of creating an actual person, since Michaela, though she does eventually let rip with virulent screams, is simply a young woman, a religious, willowy figure, a person who, for whatever reason, seems to be a vessel for the devil. Michaela is not, unlike Carpenter's character, centered in a philosophical court debate, but one between reality and psychology- Michaela does not know why these things are happening to her, but she must struggle valiantly on with the rest of her life while they exist.

The best for last, perhaps. I know I haven't been picking first, second or third prizes in these awards, but Julia Jentsch's performance has been on this list for so long, so unchallenged and so supreme, that it feels only fair to call her out as the best. Taking the titular role as Sophie Scholl, persecuted member of the Anti-Nazi White Rose movement, Jentsch does not have confusing arcs to ace like Laura Dern, or reflective moments in a mirror like Judi Dench, but she effortlessly creates a full, human and beautiful figure anyway, perfectly attuned to the film's low-key tone- this is not a film that is pulling any large punches, simply a picture of a historical moment, a tribute, almost, to this valiant young woman, and Jentsch makes her not a saint, but a woman- too committed, perhaps, to her ideals, too protective for her own good, too stubborn and proud- but in recognising these weaknesses of character, Jentsch also reveals what made Sophie Scholl the heroine she was.

Apologies to: Actress was not so crowded as its supporting counterpart, but nevertheless six ladies made it particularly different slicing this crowd in two: Penelope Cruz's strength of character in Volver; Kirsten Dunst's charmingly naive Marie Antoinette; Sienna Miller's impersonation of the saddeningly superficial Edie Sedgwick in Factory Girl; Qi Shu's trio of parts in Three Times; Naomi Watts' bourgeosie-in-China in The Painted Veil; and young Zoe Weizenbaum's sympathetic attempts to be an adult in 12 and Holding.

Friday, May 25, 2007

She's ON THE SHIP, people!

I really just don't GET the fuss over Pirates of the Caribbean- the first one was fine, okay, fun, but it was too long then, and that was the shortest of the three!- and people are going so nutso crazy over it everywhere I look (it currently has 8.6 at IMDb. You like it, fine, we get that, but that is just ridiculous.) that I'm tempted to boycott the whole thing altogether. If it weren't for this picture:

Naomie Harris' Tia Dalma is ON THE SHIP. On the ship, people! She was easily the best thing about the last movie, and the woman has so frequently been the best thing about things she's in, however far on the periphery (see: 28 Days Later..., Tristram Shandy, Miami Vice), that I'll see this movie even if she's only in it for five seconds, just so I can stare and adore. Look at the picture! Such funky hair, such sassiness, such suspicion in her eyes.

Naomie's next film seems to have her in a leading role- August, with Josh Harnett, focuses on two brothers struggling to keep their new Wall Street company afloat in the month before 9/11. Here she is with Harnett on set:

So smiley. She's just a lovely, smiley person, and a sassy and wonderful actress. I leave you with another smile:

So pretty.

Victim's Gold Stars: #2: Our Last Hope

THE TOP TEN: #2: Children of Men

What marks out Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of P.D. James' dystopian novel The Children of Men (which I haven't read, I hasten to add) is how alarmingly realistic it looks. This is not some distant, technological future that's all shiny surfaces and robotic aides- this is the world gone to the shitter, that's for sure, and it all looks so familiar: this is a world that could easily happen, and even looks as though it might. Sure, in reality women may not become infertile (as is the main distinguishing feature of the film), but there are too many things in our world that could lead to this horrific eventuality. Asylum seekers are locked in cages in plain sight of people walking past, rioters stream menacingly down country roads with torches of fire and guns, coffee shops explode in the middle of London. Cuaron and his team (for once, five screenwriters does not a bad script make) have certainly developed James' story into a gripping and involving one, but what makes Children of Men the second best film of the year is the world they have created behind it- intricately detailed, painstakingly gritty, and alarmingly similar to our own.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: In Control

Only two categories and the top two of the top ten to go- hopefully this'll be completed by the weekend.


I was going to do a little individual commentary for each one, but as I pondered this, I realized that each and every one of these directors are here because they were fiercely committed to a vision- very different visions, but committed to them all the same, stamping their own personalities and styles firmly on their respective films- these, each and every one, are auteurs, creating unique and surprising films in and out of systems that squash creativity, not bending to expectation, and producing films that inspired and entertained in different, but equally commendable ways.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Attention, America! The Best Film Of The Year Is Headed Your Way...

Let go of the mouse. Put down the phone. Close the tab where your email is blinkering away, trying to get your attention. Concentrate all your attentions on these words.


If you've already done so, then give yourselves a pat on the back. Good work, champs. If you haven't... well, finish reading this page (you might, god forbid, need some convincing!), and then head straight for your local theatre's webpage, or pick up that phone again and dial their number. According to boxofficemojo, it's being released in over 1,500 theatres, and while I'm not too sure on the math, that should leave you no excuse. I don't care if it's 100 miles away, you're driving. You do not want to miss this experience.

Because, yes friends, Bug is that good. It's so good it will take something amazingly supreme to dethrone it as the year's best movie. It's so bloody fantastic it even beats The Lynchian wonders of INLAND EMPIRE. If it'd been released last year as intially intended then my Gold Stars would have a distinctly different flavour to them.

Bug, in case you're very silly and don't already know, stars Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon (she of the trashy thrillers and he of the original stageplay- oh, their careers couldn't be more different, but both are absolutely, scarily superb). Judd is the lonely, divorced Agnes who, having been terrorized by the return of her ex (Harry Connick Jr, also excellent), holes up in her dirty motel room with an unhinged war veteran (Shannon) introduced to her by her friend (Lynn Collins), who convinces her that there are bugs. In their bed. Under the lampshade. On the phone. Under their skin. Everywhere.

Bug isn't your conventional horror film. Oh, the film goes to very dark and eventually very violent places, but this is no crappy slasher flick. Like the bugs themselves, Bug wheedles under your skin, it's unique tone and style chilling your entire body. It's absolutely frickin' terrifying, but also, somehow, manages to mix in some morbid humour, subtle layers, and some prementioned performances that'll knock you for six.

William Friedkin hasn't really been heard from much since his early 70s period of celebration (winning an Oscar for The French Connection and creating seminal horror The Exorcist), but he's back, people- this is a superbly attuned director, with a superb sense of the stagey set he's got, a needle prodding his actors to unexpected places, and an unforgiving laugh at his audience.

Bug is the best movie that you WILL see. Go. Now. Book your tickets. Take the day off work. Cancel all appointments. This is one movie that you need to see.

Oh, and if you don't happen to live in America: I sympathize. I cannot wait to see this movie again, for as much as it scared the living crap out of me, I think it's like a drug. I must see it again. But, naturally, there isn't even a release date for it here in Britain. But, be patient. Bug will come. It will find its rightful place beneath your skin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Mighty Movie?

Michael Winterbottom's A Mighty Heart has been making news in the past couple of days- it premiered to a positive reception in Cannes (good news for my entry in Nat's Actress Contest), but, more than that, the subject of the movie Mariane Pearl's presence at the press conferences has caused great interest- especially after a reporter asked her if she'd forgiven him. A Mighty Heart may well be a press-stirrer, but thankfully, it looks as though it won't be because it's a bad movie. Here's the trailer for the movie, scheduled to be released on June 22nd in the US, and 28th September in the UK.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: The Leading Men


Damon's done this sort of part before- introverted, quiet and rather morally suspect man in a suit- but I don't think I've ever seen him do it with more conviction, complexity and subtlety. Edward Wilson is really the tentpole of The Good Shepherd, and, despite all the superb work going on around him- Robert De Niro's clever direction, the production design, the music, the stellar supporting cast- it would still collapse without Damon at its centre, for he prevents the film from becoming a hollow, impervious beast. Wilson is a man whose life is both made and broken by his involvement with the CIA's birth, and Damon is supremely adept at portraying the slow, painful erosion of his relationships and soul.

The part of Billy Costigan quickly proves to be the best part Leonardo DiCaprio has ever been given; and beyond that, it's easily the best he's ever been. A mess of aggressive masculinity and confused nervousness, Billy is eager to show that he's not the man people expect him to be, but he struggles to let go of that as it seems to become increasingly necessary. The Departed is ostensibly a two-hander between DiCaprio's Costigan and Matt Damon's Colin Sullivan, but it really seems more of the long-awaited fruits of the extended Scorsese-DiCaprio partnership- finally DiCaprio has proved himself an equal to Scorsese's previous favourite actor, Robert De Niro himself. This, finally, is a star-making performance.

Dan Dunne is not a hero, which the teachers in this type of film usually seem to be. In fact, Dan is just as weak and selfish- probably moreso- than the people he teaches, a good teacher but a failure of a man. Ryan Gosling (whose real revelatory performance was five years previously in The Believer) creates a crafty balance between Dan's weaknesses and strengths, struggling to help others while neglecting himself. Gosling is not only superb within his character, but in the duets he creates with those around him- a brief appearance from Tina Holmes as a concerned ex, the various students in his class, but most importantly young Shareeka Epps as Drey, who discovers his drug habit. It's the rich web of relationships that make Half Nelson, and Gosling is the spider at its centre.

C.R.A.Z.Y. looks unlikely to ever be released in the USA (at least in theatres- I seem to remember reading about a DVD?), but since it was released in Britain in 2006 it's here, so shut it. This powerful family drama, with a superb visceral sense for its time period(s), is prime fodder for some great acting, and indeed, none more so that Marc-Andre Grondin as the central character Zac, the most unique of five brothers, and also the most confused. Grondin gets the mix of alienation and love from and for his family just right- he loves them but can't get on with them, because they don't understand him. Grondin keeps Zac firmly in reality as his character goes through various confusions- sexuality, drugs, travelling- even keeping C.R.A.Z.Y. grounded in its most absurd moments.

The Fountain is also a film that (more successfully) dabbles in the absurd, and Hugh Jackman also has to work hard to keep it grounded, as Darren Aronofsky's unique visions fly dazzlingly all over the place, and main co-star Rachel Weisz seems to lift off the ground thanks to ethereal lighting and a ghostly character. Jackman not only has to juggle three different- although ultimately the same- characters, but he has to mediate between their different temperaments. The central character, the one in the nearest time period, Tom Creo, is the biggest part and also the most powerful- witness Jackman's howls of pain as he's restrained in the hospital and I defy you not to sob. The Fountain made me cry in a singular way, and this, I credit entirely to Mr. Jackman.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: #3: Watching Over The Flock

THE TOP TEN: #3: The Good Shepherd

It's hard to believe that this is only Robert De Niro's second film as director- he has such superb control on the rhythms of every scene, such imaginative touches, such unusual stylings, that it feels like a director whose been working for years and is finally experimenting with things. The Good Shepherd is about the CIA, sure, but it's not a spy thriller- this is gripping in all sorts of ways, it's tangled web of deceit, corruption and morality snaking all over the place, and it's a credit to De Niro, his superb cast, and screenwriter Eric Roth that the audience doesn't fall through the spider's web and into confusion. The Good Shepherd doesn't patronisingly indulge in overblown confrontations or expositional monologues or breathless chases the way you might be expected- no, De Niro lets the emotional weight of the story slowly build, gently nudging it along until it finally collapses on top of you.

Victim's Gold Stars: Lookin' Good


Lance Acord

Eric Gautier

Frank Griebe

Pin Bing Lee

Emmanuel Lubezki

Victim's Gold Stars: Makin' Good Music


Nick Cave

Alexandre Desplat

Philip Glass

Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek & Tom Tykwer

Clint Mansell

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: #4: Death by Hospital

THE TOP TEN: #4: The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

Cristi Puiu's elegaic, subtle journey through the Romanian hospital system has been praised by virtually everyone whose seen it (and they are not enough! Go, go!), and it's really hard to add to that praise in any constructive way. Suffice to say this two and a half hours both feels it and doesn't- it's certainly a superbly paced film, carrying you along with the trials of titular character Mr Lazarescu, whose complaints don't seem to be too great at first, but after waiting for a while for an ambulance, he's bad enough to need the hospital- and so begins an unwanted tour of several hospitals, with disenchanted and rather reluctant ambulance worker Luminita Gheorghiu shuttling him around and inevitably becoming more devoted to his cause. Some people call Mr. Lazarescu a black comedy, but I don't really see that: it is, perhaps, ironic, but there's not really any laughs here- more an advancing sense of disbelief. The superb long takes add to the realistic, humanist feel that the superbly crafted screenplay has already built up, and Mr. Lazarescu emerges as one of the least outwardly attached but most intimately affecting films of the year.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: Smiling From The Sidelines

Finally! Here are the Gold Stars for Best Supporting Actress- which was, incidentally, easily the most hotly contested category of them all. It was painful to cut some of the women that didn't make it; the top runners up are mentioned at the end.

I didn't like Anthony Minghella's rather silly Breaking and Entering, but the one thing I found to truly like about it was the relationship that young actor Rafi Gavron and the experienced Juliette Binoche forged between their mother and son characters. Binoche affects a convincing Eastern European accent that somehow doesn't hinder her performance at all; she's a warm, tender mother, tough and steely to those contributing to her son's downward curve; and in the scenes with Jude Law's selfish architect, she's almost heartbreakingly vulnerable.

It's so rare that comic performances are appreciated, but Miss Blunt has seemed to be an exception to the rule: everyone except the Oscars, it seems, has jumped on this bandwagon, and I'll not be one to argue. As Miranda Priestly's devoted assitant, Emily Blunt mines this ultimately sidelined part for all its worth, snapping hilariously at Anne Hathaway's naive new recruit and delivering her lines- "I'm on this new diet. Well, I don't eat anything and when I feel like I'm about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I'm just one stomach flu away from my goal weight"- with a superb combination of desperation and sarcastic disbelief. She's certainly one to be watched.

Pell James' arc from virgin to slut is not as crass as it might be, if The King weren't so cleverly written, and if Miss James weren't so note perfect at fleshing out the intracies of her character. As she lies beneath Elvis' rutting body for the first time, face pressing a hard, stony rock, James gives her eyes a disturbing glaciality; this is a girl being smashed to pieces, so she can be reassembled. As The King progresses, James nails her character's progression into a strange sort of nervous control- she knows what she wants, but she also knows where the line is, and she still doesn't really understand the man she's with. Director James Marsh is said to have been glad not to have known James' true age while filming; her years certainly don't show.

Mia Kirschner's face haunts the entireity of the rather disastrous Black Dahlia, which, although I would have been happier with a better film, is rather befitting the story; Elizabeth Short haunts the men investigating her death, who descend into a total mess of drink, violence and obsession. In black-and-white film clips, Mia Kirschner makes you understand far better than any of the rest of the film why these men become so obsessed; her eyes are big pools of ghostliness, her voice cracks and wavers, her body shivers and freezes. Elizabeth Short was a good actress; Mia Kirschner, perhaps, is a great one.

It's strange how many of my choices in this category have been from films I haven't really cared for; in the case of Venus, Jodie Whittaker pierces the heart of its crass and jokey heart, a brash teenager who swoops into the lives of an aging man and turns his world upside down. The man holds her up as a goddess, as Venus; but, as Whittaker so cannily portrays, she is just a girl, full of weaknesses and imperfections, wishing to overcome them and get her head round the strange relationship she develops with this older man. Whittaker does not try hard to gain your sympathy- she plays her character with unlikeable harshness at times, but the moments when her mask slips are so unconsciously beautiful, it almost seems like she's forgotten to act and is simply being herself.

Apologies to: Cate Blanchett, Babel; Vera Farmiga, The Departed; Eva Green, Casino Royale; Keeley Hawes, Tristram Shandy; Naomie Harris, Tristram Shandy; Danny Perea, Duck Season; Annabella Sciorra, 12 and Holding; Kerry Washington, The Last King of Scotland; Emily Watson, Wah-Wah

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: Snip Snip

I'm bored. And lazy. So I can't be bothered to do a blurb (or is this the blurb? Ooh, the mystery) for the Gold Stars for Best Editing.

Luc Barnier

Emma Collins

Claire Douglas, Richard Pearson & Christopher Rouse

Jon Harris

David Lynch

Victim's Gold Stars: #5: Suspicious Minds

THE TOP TEN: #5: The King

I am not religious (and have become staunchly less so recently) and yet the idea of it is something that fascinates me. The King's basic plot may seem rather crude, but it is simply a guise on which to delicately lace ruminations about faith and what it can do to people. Gael Garcia Bernal's Elvis is a young, fatherless man with no faith binding him, and when he seeks out his birth father, now a priest and family man, the fall out is spectacular. British director James Marsh is clever and constant in his examination of the subject of religion, contrasting Elvis' loose morality with that of his father, and those in between- the priest's wife, son and daughter, the latter of whom is particularly important as her journey challenges everyone in the film. The King is a compulsive and fascinating microcosm of the world's struggle with religion, pointedly written and superbly played by its small cast. [Full Review]

Monday, May 07, 2007

Victim's Gold Stars: A Red Cross

I'm halfway through my top ten countdown, and thus it is time to take a little detour into the black pit that is the worst of the year. These are the movies (and the people in them) that are so bad that they don't deserve graphics (no, it's not because I'm lazy)- these are the very nadir of 2006's movie experience. Brace yourselves. (This is strictly for FUN- please don't start berating me.)


Hayden Christensen, Factory Girl
The Star Wars-alumni suddenly swoops in and tears the film's clever self-conscious emptiness into a dull emptiness with a annoyingly mugging performance as someone who ISN'T Bob Dylan, I tells ya!

Aaron Eckhart, The Black Dahlia
I'm not sure who told Mr. Eckhart to contort his face so wildly whenever the camera looks at him, but I sure as hell wish they hadn't.

Noah Emmerich, Little Children
Emmerich is the sole member of the cast who actually fits into the skewed universe in which Little Children takes place: alienating, grotesque, hyper and disturbing.

Freddy Rodriguez, Lady in the Water
I like Freddy when he isn't forced into an admittedly thankless role and made to perform like a circus monkey. Nice arm.

Mickey Rourke, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker
There aren't 300 rows in the cinema, Mickey. We can hear you just fine. And see you, unfortunately for us.


Shohreh Aghdashloo, The Nativity Story
Stop smirking, Shohreh. Just because you're miraculously pregnant doesn't mean you have to start being sickly sweet two months early.

Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
She can sing, sure. But she can't act, even when she's singing.

Laura Linney, Driving Lessons
I think she's supposed to be Welsh. But, like Sir Anthony Hopkins, she seems to be even less clued in than the audience about where she's from. And she's so upset that she starts shrieking! Stop it, Laura! Please, for the love of god!

Idina Menzel, Ask the Dust
Who are you and why are you living next to a fairground?

Hilary Swank, The Black Dahlia
What is she wearing? Is that real hair? She doesn't look like Mia Kirschner, does she? What is she doing? What is she saying? Why is she here?

A little respite... here are five diam
onds in the rough. (I'm not sure how they all ended up being women, but there you go.)

Amy Adams, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

The Junebug star is barely in this atrocity and yet still manages to be luminescent, suddenly swooping in for a gorgeous monologue before, sadly, subjecting herself to Will Ferrell's hung
ry lips.

Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
Superbly attuned to the childish and suspicious nature of her sidelined character, Connelly pierces her scenes with a stunning precision, eyes watching her husband and his new 'friend' like a hawk.

Jodelle Ferland, Tide
To be fair Tideland isn't awful- it's just extremely alienating. Ferland, as the central character, proves a terri
fic find, no traces of Dakota Fanning-esque precociousness in her unbalanced character's oddities, throwing herself totally into Gilliam's strange world.

Diane Lane, Hollywoodland
Lane is an unexpected warmth in the corner of this extraordinarily dull movie, bringing pathos and emotion to an underwritten part and giving her scenes the necessary nervous ed

Amy Smart, Crank
Miss Smart is subjected to rather nasty things in
the course of Crank's hyper-active running time, yet remains charismatic, knowing and exciting.

And now back to...


Adrien Brody, Hollywoodland

Whenever he reappeared on-screen, my already deadened heart sank several metres. Go. Away.

Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code
Nice hair. Are there no showers near the Louvre?

Kevin Kline, A Prairie Home Companion
This is a film about radio, right? So
remind me: why the private dick? And more importantly, why is Kevin trying to look like he's come straight from The Maltese Falcon?

Sean Penn, All the King's Men
Mr. Penn is so loud and bombastic that I'm pretty sure even the penguin
s dancing around the North Pole got what he said. Well, they heard it- god knows if they understood it, because I didn't.

Alex Pettyfer, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreak
I'm thankfully no longer a young teenage boy, but even so, I just wanted to punch this smug pretty boy into the Thames.


Cate Blanchett, Little Fish
Wake up, Cate! They're filming! It's time to act now. Oh, you are?

Kate Bosworth, Superman Returns
Lois Lane is supposed to be a fiery cracker of a woman. Kate Bosworth acts like someone poured one hundred pints of water over her heard and slapped her after each one.

Keisha Castle Hughes, The Nativity Story
If she's Mary, I'm the Archangel Gabriel. Oh, sorry Mr. Siddig. I forgot they already hired you.

Julie Walters, Driving Lessons
I'm recoiling and she's not even touching me.

Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter
She's blotchy, garish and alarmingly bonkers. Run, children, run!


5. Ask the Dust
It's entirely hollow: not even the sets look realistic, they're reminiscent of a Pleasantville-style enclosed set, and the director is even stupid enough to film at the edges. When you manage to make the naked frolicking of Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek boring, you're in major trouble.

4. Driving Lessons
Julie Walters smiles and yells, Laura Linney shrieks and pops her eyes, and Rupert Grint cowers in fear. If you think its bad while you're watching it, just wait for the end. It's ten times as horrifying.

3. Just My Luck
The jokes are just too easy with that title. What universe does this take pl
ace in? I hate it. I hate it I hate it I hate it.

2. Lady in the Water
The setting of M. Night Shyamalan's latest indulgency is an apartment block that seems to be the little swampy brother of Narnia. Is it strange that this, too, doesn't seem to ta
ke place in any recognisable universe, even though it protests to? I mean, I know it's full of strange creatures, but the people are supposed to be from Earth, right? Right? Oh, sorry, Night, you can't hear me- your head is lodged firmly up your own ass.

1. Apocalypto
Speaking of asses... Apocalypto isn't just immoral and despicable and horrifying and useless and devoid of any purpose whatsoever, but it's just bad filmmaking. The camera doesn't know where it's going, the script seems to have been written by a three-year-old, and- a-ha!- someone gave the editor Milos's crazy scissors! Step away from the camera, Mel, and no-one'll get hurt.

Victim's Gold Stars will resume normal service very soon. And no, I'm not going to mention Spider-Man 3.