Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Movie Diary #18: December 2013

Happy New Year! Here's to excellent 2014's for all. And good luck to American's who finally have something approaching a worthwhile medical system.

The last month of 2013, a relatively slow one in terms of movie watching, I had a burning urge to take part in the December Challenge, to plough through 100 hundred films without pausing for breath but resisted in favour of having a life. Rare around these parts I'm sure you'll have noticed.

Here's the last post before a full recap. I've got a Top 15 new releases as well as a Bottom 15 new releases. December saw my YTD total reach 150 thanks to viewing a 18 further films from 2013, target reached. A total worthy of assessing, a top fifteen is certainly more worthy if you've seen 150 films than if you've seen 30, therefore my list is the definitive one for the entire planet. Obviously.

72 movies seen in December also took me to 901 YTD, whilst I would have liked to (and it looked certainly possible at one point) reach 1000 films seen in the year it simply was not to be. Taking that number and deducting 2013 releases and the 98 rewatches (10 in December, the month of the happy revisit to childhood past) leaves me with 653 films to choose from for Top 15 pre-2013 discoveries list.

I have a total of 10 recommendations for you film lovers this month, 2 terrible pieces of shit, 5 excellently produced gems and 3 masterpieces. Dig in.

Runner Runner (2013) Dir. Brad Furman
Runner Runner is the kind of BAD film that would have gone straight to bargain basement DVD if not for the names Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake above the title. Brad Furman's direction is at best 'by the numbers' obvious and at worst the laziest and dullest "thriller" I've ever seen but what really sets Runner Runner apart from the rest is the shocking attempt at storytelling made by screenwriters Koppelman and Levein. None of it makes any sense, whole swathes of "plot" are painfully absurd and really stupid exposition happens at every opportunity. 
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (2013) Dir. Cody Cameron, Kris Pearn
John Frances Daly can ruin anything he puts his hand to. The first Cloudy was a blast of bizarre, an offbeat comic animation that took me by surprise and brought may a smile and many a catchphrase to my life. This unnecessary sequel is a mess of hack writing (not surprising with the sheer number of writers credits really) and by the numbers storytelling, unique and interesting characters have been butchered and Mr T was not invited back. I wish I could forget this even existed.

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
The opening of this work of genius by Mr Powell and Mr Pressburger had me gasping with cinephile pleasure such was the skill and imagination brought to my screen. David Niven and Kim Hunter falling in love over the radio as the pilot prepares to die is, quite incredibly given its content, one of the most joyous scenes I've ever witnessed. The pair of directors never cease finding new ways to amaze, whether it's the enormous stairway to heaven or Marius Goring's breaking of the fourth wall, the flitting between glorious technicolour and the beautiful tradition of black & white or even essentially pre-empting the death scene of T.E. Lawrence as photographed by David Lean.
White Reindeer (2013) Dir. Zach Clark
Anna Margaret Hollyman's performance as the damaged housewife is as impressive as Cate Blanchett's Blue Jasmine, although it's not glamorous or flashy; she spends an inordinate amount of time sitting on or bent over toilets looking very much worn out for example. Her portrait of a broken woman is fascinating, heartbreaking and extremely funny and much more subtle than most scenery chewing award nominees, that she won't get any attention from The Academy says much more about their failure as an organisation than her acting ability.
Terry Pratchett's Hogfather (2006) Dir. Vadim Jean
It's Christmas, so it's time to watch The Hogfather once more. So faithful to Terry Pratchett's delightfully funny novel, this 3+ hour adaptation is a modern Christmas classic that discusses the nature of belief and is full of wonderful performances. You don't need to be a fan of the books to enjoy this film so why haven't you seen it already?
Home Alone (1990) Dir. Chris Columbus
Our annual visit to the McCallister household took place at a sold out cinematic screening full of adults. Who knew that would happen when this slapstick kids movie came out in 1990? Most people have a few movies from their childhood that they remember fondly but Home Alone just has that special something that keeps the kids coming back for more twenty three years later. Pesci and Stern as the nefarious Wet Bandits are both sufficiently villainous and wonderfully silly, doing great work, especially as they essentially have to carry the drama of the entire film whilst the child actor that defined a generation ran around having a great time.
Supporting Characters (2013) Dir. Daniel Schechter
Alex Karpovsky and Tarik Lowe are fabulous as a couple of friends who work together editing a movie, there's a really honest friend vibe working between them that carries the entire film, making it the entertaining and pleasing piece that it is. On second watch it still holds together nicely, the humour remains and the denouement still affecting. It's no The Colour Wheel but it's a truly fine example of the current movement in low-fi American indie cinema. Will place high in my year end Top 15.

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) Dir. Wes Anderson
The most Wes Anderson of any Wes Anderson film, The Fantastic Mr Fox is the work of a quirky genius who has found the 100% right material for themselves. Charming, funny, with wicked dialogue combined with beautiful and sometimes breathtaking cinematography, this is everything I could want in contemporary American cinema. Has rewarded and will continue to reward repeat viewings.
Blade Runner (1982) Dir. Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott with more than a little help from his wonderfully talented and put upon production team achieved a visionary masterpiece that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Citizen Kane. In some ways it is the ultimate film noir with its existential narrative, expressionistic lighting, the neon and the smoke, a conflicted protagonist and a charismatic antagonist that you can't help but root for, it's funny and intelligent and even the mesmerising and crazy performance of Rutger Hauer seems to recall quite a lot of James Cagney.
The Wicker Man (1973) Dir. Robin Hardy
Christopher Lee plays his role to perfection, a learned man, joyous and open minded, yet still has a playful menace about him that  again pays off wonderfully come the end. Whilst Edward Woodward captures the straight laced lunacy of his character with remarkable skill and the very real sense of horror that you take away from The Wicker Man comes not from blood, gore, suspense or loud music but from a closeup of his face as you listen to his voice, truly acting at its finest.

That's it. Comment or tweet if you like. But save your powder for the lists that are about to come.


  1. 100 movies in ONE MONTH? That's crazy. People actually do that?

    Whatever, I'm so happy I've seen two of these masterpieces. Fantastic Mr. Fox is my 3rd favourite WA film but it's still awesome (so yes, I'm a fan of his films). Just watched Blade Runner a few weeks ago and loved the hell out of it. However, I think it's one you need to re-watch because there were quite a few things I didn't completely grasp. Happy new year!

  2. I watched The Wicker Man a few months ago, and it really is brilliant. White Reindeer is on my 2013 watchlist, so I might give it a look soon.