It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve sat down to write about a film, not because I haven’t been seeing any, but rather that I’ve found generally that quality seems to have diminished somewhat and I find it more difficult to be enthused about the state of modern film. However, Bladerunner 2049 isn’t a normal film for me, in some ways this is a bigger film event than the Star Wars prequels / sequels, the stakes being higher and the spate of attempts to follow classic films being littered with well-intentioned failures. Bladerunner was the first film I can remember getting a grip on me, I couldn’t quite understand its strange other worldliness. Subsequent revisions have only deepened its mystery, its allure. Bladerunner always felt different.
Sj’s birthday was a little different this year, as instead of wondering what to get her as a present I decided fairly early on the year to take her to The Making of Harry Potter. Now, I’ve always been slightly hesitant of the Potter films, which aside from the third one I felt never really managed to hit their stride and were too beholden to the books. However, the artistry in the design & crafting of the films couldn’t be denied and this is what the exhibition focusses on. I didn’t expect to be quite as bowled over by the exhibition as I was, but that made for a pleasant surprise.
Having finally seen it (and avoided a lot of the hype beforehand), I now can’t decide if The Revenant is a grim revenge western or a surreal eco-horror – the likelihood is that it’s both. It is undoubtedly superb, one of those experiences that couldn’t be replicated in another medium (like Gravity, I’m not convinced that it will even work on the small screen), held together by a trio of superb performances and a case of director insanity working – this is a modern Fitzcarraldo. It’s also a surprisingly beautiful film given the ugly subject matter, it brings to mind a bizarre mash-up of Terrance Malick’s “The New World” and “High Plains Drifter”, eco-horror tinged with the supernatural.
(Life got in the way, this has been sat half written for about a month and a half now, waiting for me to get round to finishing it…)
Bond Twenty Four arrives after the most successful (financially) Bond ever; and possibly the most successful artistically. Skyfall marked a high point for modern Bond, taking it away from the pulp origins to try to look at the character in a deeper fashion. Spectre feels like a return to the fun of Bond, and if honest is less successful as a result (it feels a bit more old fashioned as a result), but remains top tier – its biggest problem is that it can’t live up to the film it comes after.
I’m torn about Guillermo del Toro’s latest film. On the one hand it’s a very slight concoction, a very effective love-letter to the Hammer Films of old, but with very little meat on its bones. On the other it is one of the most beautiful films for a long time, designed within an inch of its life, and one where every scene could be framed and hung on a wall. Whilst I’m leaning towards saying I liked it, it isn’t a film I would go out of my way to see again, although the beauty means that I am glad I saw it on a large screen.
Minor spoilers ahead.
A friend recently posed an interesting question, pick five minutes of film that you like and explain why you like it. It seems easy enough at first, but when you look at it further it gets a bit more complicated – how do you pick just a few moments?
A genuinely smart action film smack bang in the middle of the summer season? Check! A real sense of craft on behalf of everyone involved in the film? Check! The best female action protagonist for longer than I can remember (maybe even Aliens)? Check! The new textbook on how to reboot a long dead franchise? Check!
As good as The Imitation Game is I can’t help but feel it plays a little too loose with history. That’s about the only criticism I have of an otherwise fine film, the fact that for anyone who hasn’t read anything previously on the events at Bletchley Park this could become the definitive version of events – which is a pity really as this is certainly a case of the reality being as interesting as the fiction. Turing is an interesting figure without mythologizing aspects of his life.
It’s a bizarre topsy-turvy world when the best film I see over the Christmas period isn’t the Middle Earth related one but the start of the franchise that I really wasn’t sure about – Paddington. Far from being a saccharine child focussed endeavour there’s a genuine warmth to the whole film, a real dollop of humour (just the right side of risqué at times to appeal to the older audience members), terrific acting from all involved and some of the best animatronic / CGI characterisation for a long time.
Another year, another return to Middle Earth. This one promises to be the last one (at least until the Tolkien family decide they need another cash injection), and I’ll try and comment on it outside of the context of the wider set of films (although I will touch on that at a later date). Once again, none HFR / 3D this time around – not getting burnt by that again, and also on the same screen as I’ve seen the previous two instalments so no dodgy screen / projection issues clouding the issue.