Friday, August 31, 2012

Movie Diary #3: August 2012

It's that time again. August has just gone, flown past would be an understatment. According to my Letterboxd diary, this month I've seen a paltry 35 movies and I think I've been lucky in that a rather large percentage were really rather good. 10 of those films sit snugly in the "made something great" category this month, whilst 9 passed the time nicely and only 1 that I disliked completely with 4 others wasting my time. The other 11 movies are barely worth talking about, not too disappointing but not too enjoyable either. Here's the breakdown of what was what in BBBG towers in August:
Why Did They Even Bother?

Cosmopolis (2012) is the only movie that really wasted my time (and in this case money too) this month. I hated it from the opening scene and it was all downhill from there. Don Delillo may write great dialogue in his novels but it just doesn't work when spoken aloud.

These other movies all had something going for them and I didn't hate them but I would recommend avoiding if possible.

Money For Nothing (1993)
This really is a nothing movie. If it weren't for John Cusack it would have been unwatchable. Although it was fun to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini as young men before they were famous.
Funny Bones (1995)
Extremely schizophrenic movie that whilst never being painful to watch it wasn't particularly funny either. Too many ideas, not enough cohesion.
Runaway Train (1985)
Odd odd odd movie. Takes 40 minutes to get going. Strangely editted and massively overacted. Much better than Unstoppable however.
8 Million Ways To Die (1986)
Terrible adaptation of Matt Scudder books, why was it in LA? Hopefully the Liam Neeson version will be much better.
With the quality involved in the production of this movie I expected better. Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Jeff Bridges and Lawrence Block are all excellent at what they do but the combination here was simply dreadful.

It Passes The Time

American History X (1998) was revisted for the first time in many years and is still a strong film, it lacks the powerful punch it had on first viewing which only highlighted some faults I have with it.
A powerful and brave piece of cinema featuring a great performance from Ed Norton. But rewatching this has told me a few things:
1) Ed Furlong is not a particularly good actor
2) The director has a schizophrenic approach towards his visual style (and no I don't mean the difference between b&w and colour this goes beyond that - he was indecisive throughout)
3) To be counted as one of the imdb Top 250 means that this is as overrated as The Shawshank Redemption. Both good movies but I could probably find 250 better movies with no trouble at all.
Heist (2001) is a finely crafted heist movie from David Mamet, as you would expect from a script written by him.
A tight heist thriller with great dialogue. Of all of the movies directed by Mamet this is probably the most cinematic.
Pierrot Le Fou (1965) an early Godard part experimentation part traditional narrative.
Godard is making so many statements in this movie using every device at his disposal that it might hurt your head to keep up with them.
Impressive, yet surreal, but what is real and what is surreal?
Godard is a genius for films like this, I love Bout de Souffle for many reasons but the mark of a filmic genius is to do things that the viewers (no matter how intelligent or talented or educated or versed in the medium etc etc) can not even imagine attempting.
Please Give (2010) is a low budget blackly comic family drama I guess. I recorded it because of Oliver Platt, there seems to always be a new Oliver Platt movie on foxtel right now and this was one of the better ones.
A fun movie with superb performances from Keener and Platt. Even Amanda Peet isn't as awful as usual.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012) is an animated movie from Aardman studios but not with their classic claymation style. It's a funny movie that plays with the genre tropes of pirate stories and surprisingly well worth a watch.
I expected so little from this movie, even less when I realised it was the same people that had made the awful Flushed Away, so to be laughing so hard and so often was a wonderful surprise.
There are a few jokes that are of Flushed Away quality but mostly this was a fun and quite intelligent piece of irreverent animation that will work for adults more than it will for kids i'm sure.
Haywire (2012) has been reviewed already here and is well worth a watch, especially for fans of Soderbergh.

My Blueberry Nights (2007) is Wong Kar-Wai's only American movie to date and seems to lose something in translation. The script was written by hardboiled legend Lawrence Block which is a major plus point but Christopher Doyle was not DOP and that can only be a bad thing.
Looks beautiful and has a similar feel to the directors previous work but there's something that just doesn't translate to America.
A non-actor in Norah Jones, Jude Law trying out his Manchester accent and Natalie Portman at her most irritating don't help but still it's Wong Kar-Wai so there's some real quality underneath it all.
The Hot Spot (1990) is a Dennis Hopper directed film soleil and based on a classic pulp novel from Charles Williams. It's a movie that I've seen in bargain bins since DVDs were first invented so it was quite a surprise to find out that this movie was actually pretty damned good if a little slow moving with a few key plot points seemingly cut from the movie/script.
Dennis Hopper was not a subtle film maker.
The Hot Spot has some great noir elements and some fantastic soleil elements and twists and turns through it's bizarre and occasionally slightly surreal plot like a novel written by Charles Williams should.
Virginia Madsen is a superb soleil femme fatale and Don Johnson, whilst no Val Kilmer is pretty good in his role as the sun damaged wandering anti-hero.
The Avengers (2012) was probably the best blockbuster movie of the northern hemisphere summer yet had so many issues that it was far from perfect. This was the first time I saw it and I probably will never watch it again but Tony Stark/RDJ is worth the 2.5 hours of almost constant fight scene on his own. Can anybody explain why this is being called Avengers Assemble on imdb?
A bit long and suffers from Captain America and Thor being dull characters with too much screen time. Otherwise a cool blockbuster action movie.

Sometimes They Make Something Great

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) seen as part of our ongoing Noir-a-thon quest.
The brilliant ending makes up for some of the convoluted and absurd shenanigans of the rest of the movie. Coming to the end of the classic noir cycle this is one of the better and more interesting looks at the fears of the American people in the face of potential nuclear war, thanks to some slightly surreal cinematography and some peculiar performances. In some ways this is as black as it gets.
Bill Cunningham, New York (2011) is almost the complete opposite look at the life of a professional photographer to last months documentary watch, Teenage Paparazzo.
A wonderful documentary about a fascinating and charismatic man. I have no interest in the fashion world but it was still an entertaining watch. The mark of a good documentary.

The Big Combo (1955) was another from the noir-a-thon and quite scandalously seems to have been largely abandoned to history.
For the cinematography alone this deserves 5 stars.
I'm amazed that this movie isnt discussed more often. The blurb on my dvd calls it a masterpiece comparable to Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, what it lacks in lush Hollywood production values it makes up for in darkness of story and incredible use of light and shadow.

Rififi (1955) is the classic Jules Dassin heist movie with the twenty minutes of silence whilst the hesit is taking place. That sequence overshadows all other discussions of the movie, but what I always seem to forget is the classic noir depressive ending. Not quite as heart breaking as The Killing but coming close.
A fantastic heist movie, the peak of the genre even; after this every heist film was basically a rehash of Jules Dassins vision.
The heist sequence is quite rightly lauded for its lack of dialogue and the way it builds tension but the art of Dassin can be seen throughout.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) took me four sessions to get through in the end but boy was it worth it. This was such a fantastic movie that staying up all night to finish it the first time would probably have been worth it too.
Powerful filmmaking, four hours of mesmerising visuals and an incredible performance. Lean certainly knew how to make a film last, in lesser hands this would have been interminable.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) was definitely better the second time, whilst I appreciated it on my first viewing I was clearly so burned out/tired that it took watching it again to realise just how funny this film is. I'm surprised it wasn't banned in America the way it criticises their entire approach towards life.

The Killing (1956) is one we've been waiting impatiently for through this history of noir quest and watching it again didn't disappoint. This is the Kubrick I like the most.
A great heist movie with brilliant noir dialogue from Jim Thompson and an ending so bleak you just might die.
Sterling Hayden is perfect for this role, the kind of character he excels at and this is by far my favourite Kubrick film with the only thing letting it down being the bizarre and unnecessary voice over.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957) is just about at the end of the classic noir period and is noir in terms of attitude and world view more than style or hard-boiled content. This period of the noir-a-thon has brought some very very good movies to my attention and Sweet Smell of Success is another one.
I honestly can't find a thing wrong with this movie. Top quality performances and a great script combine for one of the most memorable, fast talking movies I've ever seen.
Elevator To The Gallows AKA Lift To The Scaffold (1958) is the directorial debut of Louis Malle and arguably the first film of the Nouvelle Vague movement, recommended to me long ago by Bonjour Tristesse and well worth the 12 month wait.
Super cool debut from Malle. The combination of Moreau and Miles Davis leaves a visual and auditory mark on your brain that you won't easily forget.
The Deep Blue Sea (2012) was a recommendation from Jon at Films Worth Watching and boy am I glad I read his blog after finally seeing this wonderful movie.
A beautful and meserising film featuring a powerful performance from Rachel Weisz that probably won't be bettered this year.
Slow moving and understated, this study of passion is told in the repressed style of the period and will be poking and prodding at your mind for days after watching I'm certain.
OK that's enough from me, too many recommendations this month and I can't even narrow it down to one MUST SEE movie from the ten but if I had to suggest one it would be The Deep Blue Sea on the basis that it's the only non-classic film amongst the ten. It's not going to be to everyone's tastes but it's so perfectly mine.

If you had to pick one movie you saw in August to recommend to me what would it be? How many of you have seen The Deep Blue Sea already? Coming up next week I've got something different planned, so no flipping.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Currently Listening: Unfaithfully Yours by General Fiasco (2012)

You may have heard of General Fiasco but then again you probably haven't. Hailing from Northern Ireland they are an Indie band playing upbeat pop-rock and at the age of 23 the members are growing up - check out the attempts to grow facial hair in their publicity shot above - and it shows in their approach to this, their second album.

It was the release of the video for The Age That You Start Losing Friends to celebrate their signing with Dirty Hit Records that brought the band to my attention a year ago. Here was an arrogant, swaggering piece of pop with a chorus that you couldn't help but sing along with and I was hooked.

In the year between then and the release of Unfaithfully Yours at the end of July I found myself listening to their debut album on repeat. The youthful swaggerring arroagance of the music is infectious, I find myself walking with added purpose when they come on my iPod and the album is always over far too soon and the hard Belfast accent on some of the vocals is a particular high point for me. The new album couldn't come soon enough.

And it didn't really disappoint. They've grown as song writers and musicians, added an extra guitarist an tried crafting an album that showcases their talent and experience. The single Bad Habits offers a wall of guitars, a fist-pumping, falsetto-sprinkled chorus, which is as anthemic as an arena-rock song for example.

But they've also been over produced and aimed for something that for me they aren't yet ready for. A lot of the raw swagger is missing this time around, the Belfast accent has been toned down quite a bit and for some reason there is both a terrible slow song that threatens to transform in to another upbeat piece of pop but instead stays flat and dull as well as a transparent attempt to write a song that can close their live shows on a high (The Bottoms.) It doesn't work for me and simply adds to the top heavy nature of the album.

From tracks one to seven they build up to the brilliant ....Friends and from then on you get a sense of the album closing down rapidly, it's not quite all filler but it may as well be. Unfaithfully Yours also brings to mind Happiness Ltd era Hot Hot Heat, that album after they had toured stadiums with The Killers, inspiring them to tone down their jerky, abrasive sound and instead write radio friendly music more condusive to shifting units.

It's not the greatest album ever but it is good fun and if you're looking for pop-rock singalongs you can't really go wrong with General Fiasco.

Stream the single Bad Habits from their Soundcloud here and if you're interested get the free 5 track Live EP thanks to Dirty Hit from the TopSpin widget below. You'll also find an interesting interview with them at I Heart AU. Don't forget to leave some comments in the blah.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Movie Review: Haywire (2012) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Attention Hollywood! 
This is how you direct action sequences.

Haywire by Steven Soderbergh

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Blurb: Freelance covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is hired out by her handler (Ewan McGregor) to various global entities to perform jobs which governments can't authorize and heads of state would rather not know about. After a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, Mallory is quickly dispatched on another mission to Dublin. When the operation goes awry and Mallory finds she has been double crossed, she needs to use all of her skills, tricks and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those that have betrayed her.

Thoughts: Joe Wright, are you paying attention? For future reference and to avoid a repeat of your awful cliche ridden performance with Hanna, please invite Mr Soderbergh to educate you.

This was a strange movie, a mash up of The Limey and Oceans Twelve featuring a non-actor in the lead role as an action heroine. And surprisingly it mostly works.

In lesser hands this would have been a weak movie devoid of interest but as always Soderbergh has more ability to tell an entertaining story in a cinematic way in his little finger than most directors in their whole body.

There's an issue with regards to the actual plot and the sequencing of events, part of the fault has to lay (and it pains me to say it) with screenwriter Lem Dobbs writing his first movie since The Limey and the other is the artistic way Soderbergh chose to shoot and cut it together. There are long slow passages (ordinarily fine) combined with some strange use of a jazz score which fail to sustain your interest when you add a lead character with all the personality of David Beckham.

That's not to criticise MMA fighting champion and American Gladiator Gina Carano too much, she was very good when not required to speak and the way she (and her stunt company) incorporated her MMA fighting skills in to the closer to real life situations in the movie was fantastic - no need to suspend disbelief in an action movie for once! - and as mentioned before, it was shot fantastically by Soderbergh.

The whole movie is a visual treat infact, with several sequences serving as pure pleasure causing me to exclaim wildly as they reached a crescendo - Soderbergh was clearly having a lot of fun with this one and gives a masterclass in how to put a scene together both in front of the camera and in the edit.

OK, so this review has basically functioned as a shameless fan boy praise session for Steven Soderbergh,  I can't deny it. Here's my disclaimer, if you don't like his more personal work then you probably won't like this movie. If however you thought Oceans Twelve was the best of the trilogy I think you'll get what he was doing here and have a great time.

I'd also draw comparison in style and approach towards the genre, even the tone and mood at times, with the recent Jim Jarmusch "thriller" The Limits of Control. Two great directors doing really interesting things in American cinema with tired old genre staples.

I've completely ignored the fact that Bill Paxton was at his least annoying in this movie, Michael Angarano was his usual very good self, Antonio Banderas looked like Saddam Hussein,
plus Michael Fassbender can fight like a pro and stars in one of the best fight sequences I remember seeing, against a girl no less!

 How did you feel about Haywire? Or Soderbergh's direction? What was your favourite Ocean's movie? Ever been seduced by a cougar? Leave it all in the blahs below.

Additional Reading:
The Hunter by Richard Stark
Queenpin by Megan Abbott
Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Additional Viewing:
The Limits of Control
Le Cercle Rouge

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan (1976)

The Hawkline Monster by Richard Brautigan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Gothic Western

'This sure is a weird place,' Greer said.
'It ain't any weirder that Hawaii,' Cameron said.
As it turned out, Cameron was wrong.

Blurb: It is the beginning of the 20th century. A huge yellow house stands in a field of frost in the Dead Hills of East Oregon. In the basement of the house are The Chemicals.

The Chemicals were Professor Hawkline's lfework - but the Professor has disappeared and his lifework must be completed by his two beautiful daughters...Who lay in bedrooms upstairs with two professional killers, Greer and Cameron. While their beloved giant butler lies dead and ignored on the front hall floor. Meanwhile, in the ice caves below the house, the Hawkline Monster laughs and roars.

Thoughts: I must admit that I have been reading outside my comfort zone with this one. I know nothing of the gothic style of literature and as far as I know I haven't read any previously. My knowledge of the western genre consists of a few interesting movies (my favourite being perhaps McCabe & Mrs Miller) and the general idea of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood that has become synonymous with the genre. So my expectation going in to this was practically zero. The words "gothic western" just appealed to me and the premise of this one equally so. This being my first Brautigan also added to the newness of the experience for me.

Greer and Cameron are instantly likable heroes, interest and sympathy for them created from the very first page with their wise cracking and obvious humanity. The journey to face the Hawkline Monster is interesting and well told in short bursts of anecdotal description that is in turns funny and obtuse. The majority of the chapters are a single page in length with the chapter headings often providing more of the plot movement than the contents, this is a new literary trick for me and I really grew to appreciate it when combined with Brautigans almost picaresque style of storytelling.

It's just a little too bizarre for me to really love it. I couldn't really work out if the "monster" was real, if the entire story was just a metaphor for religion or some such other major literary topic and maybe that is the point of gothic literature? Something tells me it might be but I'm ready and willing to listen to others explanations on the subject (hint hint.)

Although having said that I got the sudden urge to watch The X Files whilst reading this, the behaviour and description of the monster felt like the kind of case Mulder would have dragged Scully to investigate in the late 90s. Does anybody remember the episode How The Ghosts Stole Christmas from season 6? Am I on the right track now?

As my friend from Manchester said of this book, a good, unusual and interesting novel but not great.

Once upon a time Hal Ashby had lined up Jack Nicholson and Jeff Bridges for a film adaptation but it sadly never happened, then Tim Burton also had Jack Nicholson involved in an adaptation but this time with Clint Eastwood, happily this one never got off the ground.

Further viewing suggestions:
McCabe & Mrs Miller
Ride With The Devil

Additional reading:
Blood Meridian
Welcome To Hard Times
The Sisters Brothers

View all my book reviews

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 10: Movie Directors Part 3 (The Final Countdown)

Cue Europe...Gob Bluth is about to prove that I love these directors more than anybody and perform some magic for us.

This is it, the final countdown of the Blahblahblahgay Top 10 Favourite Directors. We've assessed the 10 most likely to succeed in Part 1 and we've looked at the fallen 20 in Part 2 but this is the real deal now, the list that ties it all together and makes you realise how crazy I am. By the end of this post you'll be asking yourself how I chose X over Fincher or Y over Tarantino and just where the hell is Z if he doesn't even get a mention in a list of 40 directors? I've been ready for this from the day I realised what I'd done so hit me with your best shot, I wanna see your flabbers gasted in the comments and I especially want you to criticise these directors for not being as good as your choice. The fun is in the contrariness afterall.
Number 10 is Gregg Araki, the director of eight features; one of which I haven't been able to find (Splendor) and one of which was too dumb for words (Smiley Face), all of them shot on an almost micro budget and always innovative, bizarre and fascinating viewing. For me Gregg Araki encapsulates the kind of cinema America could make if it wasn't so fascinated with explosions and Jennifer Aniston's hair.
Essential: Mysterious Skin, Nowhere, Kaboom
Don't Miss This: Totally Fucked Up, The Doom Generation, The Living End
For Completists Only: Smiley Face

9th place for the first Asian director on my list, Wong Kar-Wai, director of the beautiful In The Mood For Love and it's slightly more surreal sequel 2046, spontaneous creator of the brilliant Chungking Express and one of the only men to make a Jude Law film watchable with his American debut My Blueberry Nights. Of his nine movies to date I've only missed his epic historical drama Ashes of Time and he even features in my noir-a-thon with his 1988 debut As Tears Go By. Possessor of a singular visual style for his films he owes a lot to the brilliant Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
Essential: In The Mood For Love, Chungking Express, Fallen Angels
Don't Miss This: As Tears Go By, 2046, Days of Being Wild
For Completists Only: My Blueberry Nights

At number 8 sits my final choice, a late replacement for Vincent Gallo when I realised he didn't deserve a place for only two films yet when it came to placing Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn within the ten I felt he deserved a higher ranking. As a young film maker in Denmark growing up in a culture of Dogme95 it must have taken a strong willed and arrogant man to thumb his nose at von Trier et al and in this case a man with the talent to back it up. The Pusher Trilogy alone was enough to get him noticed but his output since then has been even better, and that's not even considering his early English language film Fear X.
Essential: Pusher, Drive, Bronson
Don't Miss This: Fear X, Pusher II, Valhalla Rising
For Completists Only: Pusher III

7th place is as high as I could allow my folly to place the youngest member of the ten, mumblecore director Aaron Katz. To label Katz as simply a mumblecore director is an insult, for me there's mumblecore and then there's mumblecore directed by Aaron Katz. His work stands out as much better than his contemporaries in the movement and has seen a huge growth in quality between Dance Party, USA in 2006 and Cold Weather in 2010, of all the ten on this list his is the work I am most envious of and the man I most want to emulate with my forthcoming work.
Essential: Cold Weather, Dance Party USA, Quiet City

This was a tough call, 6th place for quirky filmmaker extraordinaire Wes Anderson seems incredibly low for somebody who has yet to make a bad movie. I think having not seen Moonrise Kingdom yet may have something to do with it but also the fact that his films are a little lighter in their content than some others ahead of him. I am not a huge fan of Rushmore if I'm honest even though I did enjoy it and Life Aquatic just didn't sit right with me despite numerous attempts to enjoy it. I thought the way he transposed his cinematic style to stop motion animation with Fantastic Mr Fox was a particularly brilliant moment in his career however.
Essential: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr Fox
Don't Miss This: Rushmore, Bottle Rocket
For Completists Only: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Top 5 opens with Kevin Smith. Possibly the most improbable of all the final ten when you consider his affection for rubber poop monsters and dick & fart jokes and the fact that my growth as a person meant the outspoken QT was kicked off of the list but there's no denying the fact that Kevin Smith has got talent. I've said it previously but if Red State had any other directors name on it there would have been talk of Oscar nominations, it was a bold and brilliant movie and a complete change of pace for him. In addition to that I find him highly entertaining both as a person and as a storyteller. I don't care what anyone says Mallrats is a great movie.
Essential: Clerks, Red State, Mallrats
Don't Miss This: Chasing Amy, Dogma, Cop Out
For Completists Only: Zack & Miri Make A Porno

4th place for the only directing team on the list; The Coen Brothers have yet to make a bad movie. I might not enjoy the farcical nature of some of their cannon but that doesn't make them bad, if it wasn't for the less enjoyable Hudsucker Proxy there might not have been The Big Lebowski for example. Together they have created a body of work over the past 28 years that is second to none in terms of quality and watchability; their affection for film noir certainly goes a long way in my book too.
Essential: A Serious Man, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men
Don't Miss This: Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Blood Simple
For Completists Only: The Ladykillers

3rd place may seem a little high for Kim Ki-Duk considering he has The Coen Brothers hot on his tail and I'm yet to see some of his more recent output but the movies I have seen have been of a quality almost unmatched in contemporary cinema. His attention to detail in his mise-en-scene and a rejection of dialogue has left an indelible mark on my brain, when I think of beautiful and mesmerising cinema I immediately think of Kim Ki-Duk.
Essential: Bad Guy, 3-Iron, Spring Summer Autumn Winter and Spring
Don't Miss This: The Isle, Samaritan Girl, The Bow
For Completists Only: Crocodile

It was a very close call between the last 2 on this list but despite his many plus points Steven Soderbergh didn't really stand a chance against my top pick. His range of projects alone is astounding, his ability to ressurrect himself twice in his early career equally so. Practicing the one for Hollywood and one for me approach has seen him squeeze Full Frontal in between intelligent box office fodder Ocean's Eleven and Solaris and indulge his artistic side with the much maligned Ocean's Twelve, he is responsible for quite a few of my all time favourite movies. Not to mention George Clooney's career.
Essential: The Limey, Solaris,  Traffic
Don't Miss This: Contagion, Sex Lies & Videotape, Out Of Sight
For Completists Only: Schizopolis, Underneath, Gray's Anatomy

There can only be 1 director perched in his ivory tower overseeing those lesser mortals out there making movies. Mike Leigh has been that man for quite some time, always creating something brilliant with film from his first movie Bleak Moments in 1971 right through to Another Year forty years later. His approach is unique and his achievements extraordinary. He specialises in the slice-of-life drama but his lighter moments are also something more than others can achieve thanks to the effort he goes to insert reality in to everything he does. He has made eleven TV movies and eleven cinematic features and except for Topsy-Turvy because of the Gilbert & Sullivan content I have enjoyed every moment of the time I've spent with him.
Essential: Secrets & Lies, Bleak Moments, Abigail's Party, Naked
Don't Miss This: High Hopes, Nuts In May, Life Is Sweet
For Completists Only: Career Girls, Topsy Turvy

As I said at the head of the post, go for it, don't hold back in your comments. I want to hear your opinions. I have an idea of some of the names you've missed seeing on the list but as far as I can figure it was deliberate on my part, nobody has been completely overlooked, I just didn't think that highly of them or I am yet to see even one of their films.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

RIP Tony Scott

With the sad news of Tony Scott's apparent suicide on Sunday night here's three of my favourite Tony Scott moments.

1. The Boy On The Bike (Hovis Bread Advert 1974)

2. True Romance (1993)

3. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Feel free to leave your favourites in the comments.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Blahblahblah Family DVD Guide: Part 3 Westerns

Quite a few of you good readers may be new to this feature as the third installment of my guide to DVD's has been sitting on the shelf for a while, ignored until brought up in conversation in the blahs recently. So finally the second longest series of posts I've had planned has been added to by Chapter 19: Westerns.

For a bit of background in to what this is please see the blahblahblah DVD guide page and for those who missed it, Chapter 1: Science Fiction is found here and Chapter 2: Horror here.

Westerns, the one true American genre of movie making that gave rise to the storytelling trope of the Black Hat. Of all the genres of film this is one that I've never really taken a shine to, I think part of it has to be that I'm not American, the other part is that the classical western epitomised by the work of John Wayne is riddled with cliche from the earliest days of movie making.

Recently I've been reading some western/noir crossover pieces of fiction and seen a few films so it seemed like as good a time as any to discuss the better films of the genre.

From a little bit of research it seems as though this genre is as wide as noir in terms of sub-genres and off-shoots, some so fascinating that I feel the need to impart this wisdom to you. For example did you know that in Soviet Russia the propaganda machine created the Red Western and the Ostern in response to Western Propaganda? Some were set in America and others using the genre tropes to tell stories of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The American Acid Western came about in the 60s with a series of films that "express a counterculture sensibility to critique and replace capitalism with alternative forms of exchange." And these sat alongside the Revisionist Western in which audiences were encouraged to question the simple black white/white hat dualism and the morality of using violence to test one's character or to prove oneself right.

Of course the most famous of all genre evolutions would probably be the Spaghetti Westerns that made Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood famous.

In more modern cinema you could look at Serenity, No Country For Old Me and Brokeback Mountain as being shining beacons of what can be done with the genre. The more art film conscious amongst you might even bring up the feminist western Meek's Cutoff for inclusion in this discussion but I haven't seen it so I can only apologise.

The few rules I have placed on this feature:
1. Movies that have become a part of the public consciousness will not be included. If you need a guide to tell you whether to watch these movies then you've been living under a rock.
2. Movies that are primarily another genre such as comedy or romance will not be included. If you flip to this section chances are you aren't looking for a comedy or a romance.
3. Must have been released at the cinema longer than 2 years ago, otherwise you'd just hit up the new release section of your local video store. I shall use 1 June 2009 as the cutoff date.
4. Animation and films not in English will be discounted for pretty much the same reason as other genre. And they have their own chapter.
5. Anything with less than a 4 star rating isn't good enough to be in a guide to the best movies available and will be cut.

For this chapter those rules make things a little difficult. Three pages are given over to seven movies as follows:
Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid *****
High Noon *****
My Darling Clementine ****
Open Range 2003 ****
Shane *****
The Alamo 2004 ***1/2
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre *****

Now this chapter also has a sub-section 10 More Great Westerns! which should allow me to actually make some recommendations for this chapter. Rob Lowings ten quick picks are:
Dances With Wolves
Devil In The Sun
Fistful of Dollars
Gunfight at the OK Corral
Jeremiah Johnson
The Big Country
The Magnificent Seven
The Searchers
The Wild Bunch

I think you're already noticing that Rob Lowing has left out some big names in an attempt to mix things up a bit with this list and I'll probably have to do the same. I think I will replace The Alamo on the grounds that it only got 3.5 stars and therefore isn't worth the space in the book, completely ignore the fact that Stagecoach and a few others should have been an automatic inclusion in the original seven and then get as close to ten quick picks as possible with my limited nowledge of the genre.

Movies that are currently part of the collective consciousness and therefore not open to consideration for conclusion should be few and far between thanks to the way the genre has died in terms of popularity. No Country For Old Men is the first one that I think of as being that popular, alongside that I shall place the entire Eastwood/Leone Dollars Trilogy and Unforgiven. I'm not sure how much people remember Unforgiven but if ever a western from the 90s was to be remembered it would be that one.

I want to say where the hell is Rio Bravo in that original list Mr Lowing? Do you not realise that it is one of Tarantino's favourite films and therefore automatically brilliant? How about The Sons of Katie Elder that was remade starring Mark Wahlberg as Four Brothers? Too obscure for your audience perhaps?

City Slickers is a comedy western right? and Three Amigos! was supposed to be funny yeah? Any movie that involves Kevin Costner automatically gets discounted due to the fact that I don't like the guy. Anyway out of those who object to that statement who wouldn't say oh hey it's Kevin Costner this western must be worth watching? Heaven's Gate is actually worth watching, and not just for the infamy of it all but I couldn't possibly put it in this book because it's so long it could be a mini-series.

My eleven picks for the western chapter, based on my own personal tastes as at the date of posting are perhaps the most obvious and thefore most accessible to the general public. Getting Eastwood out of the way first we start with High Plains Drifter from 1973, the tale of a gunfighter hired to protect a town from a group of bandits, damned by John Wayne for being too violent and portraying the heroes of Wayne's movies in a bad light this was directed by Eastwood and is his first great film. The original 1957 Glenn Ford adaptation of the Elmore Leonard story 3:10 To Yuma is also guaranteed a place because of it's more authentic approach towards adapting the master storytellers short.

Hombre means man! Paul Newman is Hombre! is one of my more favourite taglines from recent memory, beating out Hud in the Paul Newman stakes by the fact that it is another Elmore Leonard movie and I've actually seen it, 1967s Hombre is another revisionist western with a strong female character and a powerful yet subtle performance from Newman. Also adapted from a piece of literature, this time from E.L. Doctorow, Welcome To Hard Times came out the same year as Hombre and is still receiving mixed reviews. It's dark and bleak and from the point of view of that most un-western hero, the coward.
The rest of my selections are all pretty modern, if you're looking for some insight in to the golden period or classic westerns this is not the DVD guide for you. However if you're looking for interesting, powerful and most importantly well made American cinema I'm your man. To varying degrees these next three picks are some of the finest films made in America in any genre in the past ten years. There Will Be Blood is the film that made me pay attention to Paul Thomas Anderson, the opening sequence is one of the most mesmerising I ever remember witnessing, it puts David Lean to shame in terms of scope of vision and grand execution. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford probably suffered with being released the same year as There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men but was still a haunting study of the weaknesses of man and the terrors of frontier era America. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is the only feature film directed by Tommy Lee Jones and is a modern telling of a traditional western story in a contemporary Texan setting and is sadly a relatively unknown movie. Why he hasn't directed further movies is beyond me.
Two of the finest young directors of the 90s working in very different styles both made two very very good westerns. The idiosyncratic minimalist director Jim Jarmusch made an Acid Western thirty years after El Topo and in Dead Man he gives us a violent and surreal western that portrays the traditional "red injuns" in a sympathetic light. The debut feature that brought Rebel Without A Crew director Robert Rodriguez to the attention of cinephiles was the Mexican language western El Mariachi, this led to what was essentially an American remake with a much larger budget, Desperado.
The final two picks are both revisionist pieces but are worlds apart in terms of style and visuals. Nick Cave wrote the screenplay for the Australian western The Proposition, it's bloody and brutal and was included by Rob Lowing under the horror category for some unfathomable reason. Great cast, great performances, looks amazing thanks to the Australian desert locations and quite unforgettable. McCabe and Mrs Miller on the other hand represented a further string in the bow of auteur Robert Altman after the incredibly funny "war" movie M*A*S*H he deconstructed the western before moving on to noir. One of many amazing performances from Warren Beatty from that period of cinema history enhances what is without doubt my favourite western ever made.

So that gives me 11 picks to add to the six left from Rob and whilst seventeen movies from the entire history of the western genre means there's an awful lot of gaps I think I've established that westerns are a lot more than black hat vs white hat with these. Perhaps readers will be encouraged to explore the misunderstood genre further?

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (*****)
High Noon (*****)
My Darling Clementine (****)
Open Range (****)
Shane (*****)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (*****)
High Plains Drifter (*****)
3:10 To Yuma 1957(****)
Hombre (*****)
Welcome To Hard Times (****)
There Will Be Blood (*****)
The Assassination Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (****)
The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada (****)
Dead Man (****)
Desperado (****)
The Proposition 2005 (****)
McCabe & Mrs Miller (*****)

Agree or disagree with the choices I've made? Which of the original seven would you get rid of? How many of the ten quick picks would you have kept? Leave me a comment, let me know. I'd prefer to cut Open Range because of Kevin Costners involvement and some others until I've seen them but that would go against the rules. It's especially tough when I look at all those films that I had to leave out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Announcing: Blahblahblahgay Goes To Europe

Coming soon to a blogspot near you!

I'm just about as excited as can be with what Leah and I are about to embark on. I've spent over a year saving for and planning a five week trip to Europe to coincide with Leah graduate from her Masters degree. We've thrown away so many ideas of where to go and what to do and have come up with an itinerary that we're very happy with. What's that got to do with you? Nothing really but I intend to blog about the trip as we go so it could be fun for any of you guys paying attention.

Here in Perth we suffer with a lack of culture as penance for having nearly 365 days in summer and a beautiful city. It gets a little trying at times. Currently the New York Museum of Modern Art has a show on at our State Art Gallery for a ridiculous $19 charge. This is the best that we have ever seen but comparitively it's miniscule.

As you may know already I am originally from England, spending my university years in London, so this kind of thing is a bit of a shock to the system. I needed to do something fun and a trip to Europe worked out at approximately the same price as a trip to Sydney and infinitely more fun.

We've taken an apartment in South London for the month and intend to use it as a base of operations. Fun fact about our apartment: It's close to Crystal Palace Park which is famous for its Victorian era stone dinosaurs. You can't wait to see pictures can you? I know you're googling it even as you read this.

From there we have plotted an assaut on six major European cities thanks to the dubious pleasures of Easyjet cattle class airlines.
Fun fact about flying with Easyjet: It's cheaper to take an apartment in London for our luggage than pay the extra fees to cart it around Europe with us on Easyjet. Yeah nobody actually believes that but it's true.

Prizes for who can guess the six cities. Answers on a postcard please. That was topical humour.

First up is Budapest, for those with a George W. Bush level knowledge of world geography that's in Hungary.

After that Vienna, it's in Austria which is sort of like Australia only not.

The Danish capital and home of Finding Nemo, Copenhagen, allows us to take a trip across the magnificent Oresund Bridge to Malmo in Sweden. I have a thing for bridges I guess.

Two Days In Paris are up next but hopefully without the terrorist experience had by Adam Goldberg in the movie and more mis-directing of Americans wanting to take a Da Vinci Code tour. I can hope can't I?

Berlin is the last stop in Europe, a city made famous by Philip Kerr in his brilliant Bernie Gunther private investigator novels and filled with cool East German architecture.

I won't blow my whole load just yet but I'll give you a teaser of what might be featured in this space come September/October by naming one awesome thing per city.

Széchenyi Chain Bridge Budapest
Wiener Riesenrad Vienna (as seen in The Third Man)
Carlsberg Brewery Tour Copenhagen

Turning Torso Malmo
Edward Hopper Retrospective Paris
Checkpoint Charlie Berlin
Included in our trip are great hotels, wonderful art museums, at least one West End play, a gig, drinking mojitos, drinking white russians, eating amazing vegetarian and vegan food, book shopping (at last count I had 40 bookshops to visit,) second hand clothes shopping (there's a place in Berlin that charges by the kilo!) and in an ideal world a trip to The Home Of Football to watch Arsenal, not to mention the possibility of directing a short film.

Anyone want to share their experiences of these cities ahead of departure time? Provide some extra ideas to squeeze in to the itinerary? Let me know in the blah.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top 10: Movie Directors Part 2 (Burning Out and Fading Away)

As mentioned last week Alex at And So It Begins recently made a Top 10 list of his favourite directors, it must have been tough. I tried to create my own, it was tough.

My attempts continue today, as hinted at last week part two is a list of directors who have in the past featured in the main list but for one reason or another are looked upon with disfavour at the present time. I wouldn't have hesitated to praise these directors to anyone who would listen, I would have happily talked for hours about any of them, I've written essays on a lot of them but now? I can't get too enthused on the subject.

Of all three parts this is the one that will give you the greater insight in to the workings of my mind. There's some hesitation in sharing this, some of my choices will be controversial and some of my reasoning is at least partly absurd but I stand by these decisions and the reasons behind them.

In the order that the polaroids fell to the floor 20 former favourite directors of mine:

Fincher burst in to my consciousness back when I was a fledgling cinephile, realising the same person had made Fight Club, Seven and The Game was one of the first times I'd "discovered" a director whose work might be considered close to marking him an auteur. Later upon buying the Alien Quadrilogy boxset I rated an unfinished "Director's Cut" of Alien 3 as the most enjoyable of the four films. He's made several great films with an exciting visual style and has an approach towards quality that few working in Hollywood even consider attempting to match. Recent years have brought about a change of opinion of him though, Benjamin Button left me icey cold and ridiculing a Fincher film for the first time whilst Social Network did nothing for me; I can't see what all the fuss is about in terms of direction or story, the only interesting aspect was that it was a part of history so recent and "important" that I can remember what the world was like before Facebook.
Two Thumbs Up: Fight Club, Seven
Two Thumbs Down: The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

If talking down the recent form of Fincher was controversial then this decision may well rival a coach taking off the star player when the team is losing with ten minutes to go, in terms of it's controversy. Movie bloggers darling of the moment Chris Nolan just made a BAD movie; it was a movie so bad that it made me reconsider my positive reactions to all of his previous films. I've seen all of his movies except Following (which I'm saving as part of the Noir-A-Thon) and have always, initially, been overwhelmed with how great they are; but thinking back, wasn't Batman Begins only good because it was a rejection of Tim Burton and actually a bit boring? There's a whole section of The Dark Knight that I always forget about until I'm watching it and it causes me to groan every time. Memento and Prestige have shock value but I don't know if they hold up. We'll see. In all honesty after this rage at DKR passes I'm sure he'll be back up amongst the Top 5 pretty soon, unless he follows the boring path of Fincher that is.
Two Thumbs Up: Inception, Insomnia
Two Thumbs Down: The Dark Knight Rises
In contrast to the previous two selections Jarmusch has not offended me with average or mediocre movies, infact he's probably getting better with age. I am simply not as enthusiastic about his films as I once was. My affection stems from what was to me at the time a unique method of making films and a minimalist style that I'd not really come across before. His early films are enjoyable but then Ghost Dog took his work to a whole new level and has continued right through to the recent Limits of Control. I continue to hold him in high regard but there's nothing fresh or exciting about him either.
Two Thumbs Up: Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai, Dead Man
Two Thumbs Down: Permanent Vacation (at a push because it's just so odd)

The director of cute and charming and so popular it's almost beige these days, Amelie, made a couple of really interesting, quirky, visually exciting post-apocalyptic dystopian movies with Marc Caro in the early 90s. If you are yet to see Delicatessen I ask you what the hell you're waiting for, stop reading blogs and go watch it right now. The combination of a movie about cannibalism and a charming romance between a (perfect noir character) down on his luck clown and shy spinster daughter wouldn't ordinarily go together but the pairing of Jeunet and Caro make it work.
He made the fine Alien Resurrection and then split from Caro, since then he's given us the unmemorable Very Long Engagement and the so much fun (can you name a person who didn;t like it?) Micmacs. I wouldn't say he's gone downhill, he's just more mainstream in his approach towards content these days. I can't get excited by his films like I did after City of Lost Children.
Two Thumbs Up: Delicatessen, City of Lost Children
Two Thumbs Down: A Very Long Engagement

Oh Mr Crowe how you got dull in your middle age. I will happily admit that for quite some time I placed Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous as my favourite films I'd ever seen and as such how could I think more highly of another director than I would Cameron Crowe? I was very much in to finding my pleasure from the content than the style of a movie back then and Almost Famous was the perfect movie for who I was at that moment in my life. Not to mention writing the very excellent teen comedy Fast Times At Ridgemont High.
He went on to bore me to tears with Elizabethtown and I can't raise any enthusiasm for that Matt Damon movie, not to forget the merely OK Vanilla Sky. I think he's got his sights set firmly on Rob Reiners position within American cinema, a bit safe and occasionally interesting.
Two Thumbs Up: Almost Famous, Say Anything
Two Thumbs Down: Elizabethtown

Much like my feelings towards Godard the approach towards and passion for cinema of von Trier had a way of capturing my imagination as a younger man. His arrogant behaviour in announcing the Dogme95 manifesto alone would have been enough to achieve this but he has also crafted some brilliant movies. Films like The Element of Crime and Breaking The Waves plus The Kingdom mini-series that influenced Stephen King all came prior to Dogme but it is The Idiots that not only shocks but challenges the viewer that helped him to make a mark on me. Recently I found myself bored by Dogville, as shocking as you may find that, and the entire idea of Antichrist made me doubt him. I'm yet to see Melancholia and that may boost him in my esteem once more but the fact that I didn't rush out and see it says it all really.
Two Thumbs Up: The Idiots, Breaking The Waves
Two Thumbs Down: Antichrist (on principle,) Dogville
Darren Aronofsky impressed me so much with Pi and Requiem For A Dream that he had a place in my favourite directors list for a very long time despite The Fountain not actually working as a film for me (it was visually stunning however.) The Wrestler seemed like a return to form, impressing me on first viewing but when I returned to it I was less impressed. You may find it surprising but I didn't really like Black Swan, it seemed obvious from the start and whilst I can praise his use of the equipment selected I struggled to find anything to recommend about the film. Maybe I missed something? This decision is a lot more cut and dried than the Nolan one, it's not that I didn't like one of his movies it's that I don't ever want to watch any of his films again except for Requiem For A Dream, which just so happens to be based on a fantastic piece of literature by Hubert Selby Jr. I'm gonna watch whatever he puts out next but I'm not going to be as excited as I was for the last two.
Two Thumbs Up: Requiem For A Dream
Two Thumbs Down: Black Swan

First day of film school I was asked what I wanted to achieve, my answer was a rebel without a crew like Robert Rodriguez. Three years later I knew I couldn't do everything that he does on a film shoot but I still loved his films. I even had the Spy Kids trilogy boxset once upon a time. I love how innovative he is, how willing to find ways around financial problems he is and the way he is always pushing himself to learn new techniques. Why the hell isn't he in my Top 10 then? There was something about the Grindhouse and post-Grindhouse projects which have left me a little less enthused with him. Shorts was fun, Machete was fun but nothing more than that. Right now I feel like Sin City was him peaking but with two films scheduled for next year he could prove me wrong.
Two Thumbs Up: El Mariachi, Sin City
Two Thumbs Down: Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, Spy Kids 4

I was still in my teens when I saw Kids for the first time, three years later when I finally found a dodgy copy of the unreleased Ken Park I had grown as a person and a cinephile but it seemed like Clark was still visiting the same territory. From 1995 to 2002 Clark made five movies that I rated very highly for a long time. I would categorise him as the darker side of Mike Leigh in terms of style and content; his attention to the raw details of life, the darker side that other film makers shy away from is what appealed to me but I would have liked to see him evolve and grow as a film maker, he would be perfect for adapting a Jim Thompson novel for example. The controversy surrounding Ken Park (content as well as beating up his distributor) seems to have been enough to stall his career but he's another director with two films due in 2013 and perhaps, just perhaps he will have grown.
Two Thumbs Up: Kids, Bully
Two Thumbs Down: Wassup Rockers, Teenage Caveman

Richard Linklater seems to have the same approach towards films as Steven Soderbergh, make a commercial one and get a personal one thrown in. The difference seems to be in the quality of the commercial product. Slacker is a fantastic piece of low budget cinema that tells a story and captures a particular moment in time perfectly yet The Newton Boys could have killed his career it was that bad. Before Sunrise is a wonderfully charming personal film yet School of Rock was only saved by Jack Black in the same way Bad New Bears was saved by Billy Bob Thornton. Having said that even if he had stuck with the personal films I'm not sure he'd still make my Top 10, there's just so many more interesting film makers out there.
Two Thumbs Up: Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly
Two Thumbs Down: The Newton Boys, Me and Orson Welles

Todd Haynes makes such pretty movies, when watching them you're left with the feeling that everything is done for a reason; a true believer in the power of mise-en-scene. It was the Christian Bale and Ewan MacGregor film Velvet Goldmine that got me in to Haynes and Safe that cemented his place in my affections, the HBO series Mildred Pierce most recently displayed his prowess behind the camera yet it is the film many consider his finest, Far From Heaven, that I've been in no rush to see. This fact speaks volumes and combined with my "couldn't give a shit" attitude towards that Bob Dylan movie means he doesn't keep his place on the Top 10.
Two Thumbs Up: Safe, Velvet Goldmine
Two Thumbs Down: I'm Not There

The director of I Heart Huckabees, David O. Rant, seemed to be heading in the right direction with his films - away from the Oscars - but then he took over the dregs of a Darren Aronofsky project and The Fighter got some nominations. I was a big fan without even realising it I guess, Jeremy Davies in Spanking The Monkey is to blame I suppose. I saw that movie at a young age and immediately knew I had seen something different to regular movies. Of course Flirting With Disaster was next and that didn't appeal but Three Kings and especially Huckabees allowed me to gloat over having been there first when his name came up in conversation. There was nothing wrong with The Fighter but I can't get behind somebody who is going to cancel making Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (a movie he would have been perfect for) and make another pure Oscar bait drama instead.
Two Thumbs Up: I Heart Huckabees, Spanking The Monkey
Two Thumbs Down: Flirting With Disaster
After watching the Vengeance Trilogy I was all about this guy, not only does he offer visual overload but he fucks with your emotions too whilst creating interesting films. I've since grown up, appreciate his films for what they are but really cannot say he's better than a lot of other directors who I love for actual reasons other than "Old Boy was insane."
Two Thumbs Up: Oldboy, Lady Vengeance
Two Thumbs Down:
Takeshi Kitano, director of the first non-English language film I saw in a cinema - Zatoichi and by a strange quirk of timing the director of the last non-English language film I remember seeing in a cinema - Outrage. Who remembers the first time they saw Hana-Bi? I think it was the first Asian movie I'd watched that wasn't either a horror or an gangster film and boy was it beautiful. Kitano is an oddity in the world of films as far as I can tell; he's capable of making beautiful thought provoking movies and then he stars in Takeshi's castle. Perhaps I shouldn't let that taint my image of him but it has. I think of Takeshi Kitano and I think of a gross out bizarre game show now.
Two Thumbs Up: Sonatine, Hana-Bi
Two Thumbs Down: Takeshi's Castle
I was actually upset when this total stranger to me died in 2006, his movies that I'd seen up to that point had been a huge influence on me and to think that he'd never make another movie saddened me. Altman's prime period of creativity was the early 70s, by the 80s he was making quite a few stinkers before bouncing back with The Player in 1992 with a break in quality until Gosford Park in 2001. It might be harsh of me but having since seen a few of the duds from his six decade career I can't list him as one of my favourite directors anymore.
Two Thumbs Up: The Long Goodbye, MacCabe & Mrs Miller
Two Thumbs Down: O.C. & Stiggs, The Gingerbread Man
Todd Solondz has to go through so much to get his movies made, spending his entire life savings on producing Palindromes for example and all of them have been top quality, challenging pictures. I don't have a reason for not including him in the Top 10, he just isn't exciting enough to me right now in 2012.
Two Thumbs Up: Welcome To The Dollhouse, Happiness,
Two Thumbs Down: Storytelling is probably the weakest but is still great

Vincent Gallo has made two of my favourite films of all time. Vincent Gallo appears to be something of a lunatic, witness his "merchandise" page at his official website (spoiler, it may make you vomit) but then it could all be some elaborate attempt to blur the lines of reality and celebrity and allow him some level of personal freedom away from the press. Buffalo '66 and Brown Bunny are mesmerising pieces of cinema, there are so few film makers who can achieve this and Gallo deserves more praise than he gets. Missing from the Top 10 simply because he has made only two films that are widely available and I couldn't justify his inclusion with more prolific film makers.
Two Thumbs Up: Buffalo '66, The Brown Bunny
Two Thumbs Down: His penis in Brown Bunny

If anyone had come to me after seeing Kill Bill for the first time and told me that Quentin Tarantino wouldn't be my favourite director within five years I'd have laughed, for him to not even feature in my Top 10 after 7 years something major has to have happened. Does anybody else get the feeling he has turned in to a caricature of himself? His appearance in Planet Terror started the ball rolling and Death Proof didn't exactly start any fires in my imagination but Inglourious Basterds felt like gratuitous self-indulgence to me, coupled with his general obnoxious behaviour and I've lost that loving feeling. The man used to be pure entertainment but somewhere along the line he bought in to his own hype.
Two Thumbs Up: Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs
Two Thumbs Down: Inglourious Basterds
Probably the most obscure director on the list but when he followed Swingers with Go I thought I'd discovered a great director, his work on those two films alone was high quality on a low budget but he surprised me with his next film - The Bourne Identity. I actively dislike the Bourne Trilogy thanks to Paul Greengrass but Doug Liman made a quite intelligent action movie which I thoroughly enjoyed, complete with one of the best car chase sequences I've ever seen. Sadly this seems to have been the beginning of the end for Mr Liman, Mr and Mrs Smith wasn't of the same standard whilst Jumper was just plain stupid as was Fair Game. Of the 20 he's up there with Cameron Crowe as "Most Likely Never To Reappear In The Top 10."
Two Thumbs Up: Swingers, Go
Two Thumbs Down: Mr and Mrs Smith, Fair Game

The great man himself, has probably made more great films than everyone on this list combined but has almost certainly made as many movies that I just didn't like. When I was younger I had more time for his weaker efforts but I'm a grouchy bugger these days and I can't be bothered making excuses for him anymore.
Two Thumbs Up: Annie Hall, Bananas
Two Thumbs Down: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Hollywood Ending

So that's 20, some are more of a surprise for the fact that I once considered them great, some for the fact that I no longer do. Between them they have 18 Best Director Oscar niminations but only Woody Allen won for Annie Hall. Sixteen of these filmmakers work in Hollywood to a greater or lesser extent, as one of the few people I know who champion world cinema I am horrified to realise just how few directors from outside of America I praise or have managed to make a long term impact on me. I intend to try harder in future, I will repeat the mantra "do not watch trashy Hollywood, try that film that is on World Movies instead" and it might just work. To mis-quote Jack Black in High Fidelity, is is better to burn your star out or to fade away in to mediocrity? Part 3 reveals who is left, and who I left out completely. The final 10 coming soon.

Go ahead and criticise or discuss in the blahs, but tell me, who did you once laud as a great director and have since turned your back on?