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Film Log For The Second Half of 2009

January 1, 2010

Back at the beginning of July I posted the first half of my film log for the year 2009.  In the first six months of 2009 I watched 103 films.  In the second half I have done significantly better.

Since the first of July I watched 158 films giving me a total for the year of 261 films.  Which is quite a lot more than the 200 films I had originally intended to watch.

As with the first half of the film log, I have linked to reviews of the films I wrote at greater length about.

JULY

1.  Shifty (2009)  : Atmospheric and rather low-fi British drama.  Decent performances but the film really falls between two stools – On the one hand, it never quite deals with the issues affecting the characters (why Shifty is dealing as opposed to working, why Chris turned his back on Shifty) but nor is it a particularly compelling drug-dealing film.  Reminiscent of Pusher but less interesting.

2.  Triangle (2009)  : Excellent thriller from the director of Creep and Severance but it is undeniably his best film yet.  Shades of The Tenant and Groundhog Day in that it is a thriller with temporal loops in it.  Reasonably well acted and incredibly atmospheric (largely due to some clever CGI and some wonderful sound design).  Also has one absolutely incredible shot where you are shown quite how many times people have been through the loop.

3.  From Time to Time (2009)  : Oh dear.  An adaptation of one of the Green Knowe books that is very, very child-friendly partly because the film is immensely and cloyingly sentimental and partly because the plotting is incredibly clunky – “Oooh we’ve got to sell the house” “Ooh evil lady lost all of her jewels mysteriously” “Oooh, that chimney isn’t attached to anything”.  Maggie Smith does well in what is one of her more active parts in recent years, Timothy Spall is watchable but has nothing to work with.  Dominic West is completely wasted.  The lead is a rather unlikable young man with lips like bruised vulva.  Such a wasted opportunity.  Tremble for the up-coming adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, it’s written by the same bloke.

4.  Cherrybomb (2009)  : The film looks good and has a rather splendid, teen friendly soundtrack.  Unfortunately the script ties itself in knots.  The film presents itself initially as a love triangle where the two teenaged boys do more and more extreme stunts in order to get the chance to bed a teenaged girl.  However, the ‘extreme’ acts they carry out really never progress beyond childish pranks and the film rapidly becomes bogged down in how the three teenagers relate to their families – which is a good deal less interesting than the film it initially presents itself as.

5.  When You’re Strange (2009)  : Made by Tom Dicillo, who once upon a time, made the excellent Living in Oblivion and Johnny Suede but now he presents us with a documentary about the doors.  The footage is extensive and the music is great (if you like the Doors… I don’t) and the film is shot artfully but, much like Lynch (One) it is another documentary that looks great but really has nothing to say.  Yes, Morrison was a drunk… why?  Yes, the sixties turned ugly… why?  What role did the Doors play in the 60s music scene?  What was their music about?  Who did they influence?  the only time the film picks up is when it analyses the rather odd set up of the band (only one guitarist, organist provides bass-line).  Disappointing but watchable.

6.  Red Cliff (2008)  : I’m including this here as I saw it during the previous week but forgot to include it on the old list.  Something of a return to form by Woo who hasn’t made a decent film since the early 90s.  the film looks great, as is pretty much standard for this genre of Chinese historical epic but the film is pretty much emotionally inert and very, very long.  Yes it looks pretty, yes the acting is pretty decent but I simply could not bring myself to care about what happened.  Evidently it was cut down from a much, much longer Chinese version but this screams weak script to me… I increasingly feel that you need to have a special kind of film if you’re going to go beyond 100 minutes.

7.  La Femme Infidele (1968)  : More Chabrol.  I very much enjoyed this, partly due to the slightly uncomfortable atmosphere that hangs over the film from beginning to end (thanks largely to the discordant score).  A story of repressed sensuality and intense sexual jealousy leading to a situation where a husband murders a wife’s lover but neither of them can admit that they know anything about a particular case.  The film is a master-class in how to build tension and imply conflict without being heavy-handed.  Superb.  Also wonderful for the cast of decidedly odd secondary characters from the weird bloke in the bar to the flirty secretary and the hideously oily police detective who never says a word but who is always watching.

8.  Sunshine Cleaning (2009)  : I enjoyed this more than I feared I might but I still wasn’t hugely impressed.  Amy Adams is genuinely a fantastic actress, hopefully she’ll continue doing serious work rather than giving in to the call of the blockbuster.  The film itself is decent enough, there are a few laughs initially but then it settles into this cycle of pathos but rather than having emotional transformation occur as a result of a particular event, a few things happen without any real sense of ensuing change…  and emotional transformation is kind of necessary in this type of film.  While I admire the desire to have the film be emotionally messy and to reject genre formulae, I think in this case the formula exists because it works.

9.  Fitzcarraldo (1982)  : A genuinely extraordinary film that in no way disappointed.  Who says that Herzog can’t do uplifting?  Adored the decadent rubber barons, adored the weird obsession with opera (“God doesn’t come with canon, he comes with the voice of Caruso”) and the fact that the film essentially serves as a fictional vehicle for the events in the film.  So Herzog really did make friends with a local tribe and Herzog really did haul a steamship over a mountain in the middle of the jungle.  Some lovely characters too.

10.  Crash!
(1971) [Vector]  : Short film directed by Harley Cokliss based upon the Atrocity Archive fragment relating to the sexualisation of car crashes.  Features Ballard himself, Gabrielle Drake from Gerry Andersen’s UFO, a lot of discordant electronic tones and lots of shots of Ballard driving around in a large American car.  Pre-dating the novel Crash, the book’s value lies primarily in Ballard’s voice-over explaining his ideas about the inter-relation between sexuality, the imagination, mass-market consumerism and the automobile.  Atmospheric and weird in the best kind of ways.

11.  The Wild Blue Yonder
(2005)  : An SF film by Herzog!  Features Brad Dourif as the “sucky” alien.  the film is mostly based upon extended pieces of footage culled from dives beneath the polar ice and astronauts floating about in the shuttle.  Remarkable musical accompaniment, not sure that it’s anything other than a technical exercise but the exercise certainly works.  Just as old genre films used to use stock footage, Herzog returns to the practice but uses the footage to create something much more cerebral and haunting.

12.  Irma Vep (1996) [Ruthless Culture]  : Fantastic film.  Set during the production of an ill-conceived and ill-fated remake of Les Vampires, it is is fact a commentary upon the French film industry.  How many journalists have turned against it, how the actors roll their eyes at the lack of ‘organisation’ and how many productions are peppered with personality clashes, intrigue and bitchiness.  Casts Maggie Cheung in the lead and she is spectacular.  Much like Demon Lover, the film is also quite sexually charged and features extended clips from other films.  Evidently Assayas’ (who started life as a critic) films are not all like this but I’m really starting to appreciate his style and his subject matter.

13.  Bruno (2009)  : Quite a short film but still managed to feel padded.  There are  couple of funny moments (in particular the stuff with the baby and the stuff with Bruno’s midget lover) but the rest of it feels weak and directionless.  It’s essentially a TV special blown up onto the big screen.

14.  35 Shots of Rum (2008) [Ruthless Culture]  : Not the type of film I usually go for but I’m glad I did.  Not only because the Cine Lumiere in South Kensington is a fantastic venue but also because the film itself is magnificently written and directed.  The way that the information is drip fed to the audience is sublime as is the fact that while a lot of ‘change’ takes place, the characters frequently find themselves standing in the same positions.

15.  Public Enemies (2009)  : Enjoyed this but the plot is largely uninteresting.  Bank robberies, chasing, people shouting and hitting each other blah blah blah.  But what did capture and hold my attention was the look of the film.  The extremely-high definition footage that showed every pore on the skin and captured light and smoke in all kinds of interesting ways.  However, I’m not sure the film would have lost very much had it simply been a show reel for the cameras, lenses and cinematic techniques used by Mann.

16.  Observe and Report (2009)  : Looked into this because of the reviews that mentioned that it was a bit like Taxi Driver and while there are elements in there that touch on stuff like dealing with depression and the power of self-mythologising, it’s ultimately quite a silly film that isn’t really dark enough to be anything more than a knock-about comedy.

17.  The Atrocity Exhibition (2000) [Vector]  : The book is difficult.  This is close to impossible.  The film has some fantastic visuals and it does good work with Ballard’s pre-post-modernist stuff but ultimately I was left wondering what is so surprising about the idea that words and symbols no longer connect to the real world?  Also what is with the 1960s worldview?  It would have been nice if Weiss had tried to update some of Ballard’s visuals.  The commentary tracks, on the other hand, are superb and feature Ballard himself talking about the book for 80 minutes.

18.  Crash (1996) [Vector]  : Yes I have seen this film before, but seeing as it’s been 13 years, I think I can count this as a “new” watch.  This film is actually quite a lot more fun than I remember it being and the ideas are a lot more translucent.  I was surprised to see how closely the film followed the genre formula of 90s erotic psychological thrillers before completely destroying it.  It’s also interesting to see how the film contains a lot of the visual techniques that would later appear in A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

19.  Empire of the Sun (1987) [Vector]  : I have smelled sentimentality on this one since I was a child.  Spielberg?  Small boys?  No parents?  Ugh.  But in truth this is a really good film.  The opening 20 minutes are a mesmerising cinematic demonstration of how wealth and privilege protects itself from the outside world and how, when that society comes tumbling down, symbols of wealth and connection quickly become meaningless.  The rest of the film (all two and a quarter hours of it) is slightly less impressive but on the whole I was impressed.  One of Spielberg’s better “serious” films.

20.  Moon (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : Nicely low-key SF film from the pre-Star Wars days.  the film is essentially about the irrelevance of the individual to corporate society.  If you stop doing your job someone else with the same skills will be brought in in order to do it.  Even if you die.  I also liked the film’s interest in old images of the future.  Stuff like the Clapper and the hoover hair-cutting thing.

21.  Female Vampire (1973) [Videovista]  : Erotic Horror with emphasis on the ‘erotic’… well, thematically at least.  I was simply flabberghasted by how pretentious this film was.  Essentially it’s a soft core porn film with a variety of soft sex scenes featuring boobies, hairy 70s vadges and the odd flaccid cock.  The plot is about a mute (!) female vampire who drains her victims during oral sex.  The vampire wanders around in full sunlight wearing a cloak and a belt and nothing else and she is half-heartedly pursued by a bloke with a dodgy moustache and a tendency to quote poetry and rabbit on about spirits.  Not only is this film incredibly silly, it also takes itself very seriously indeed.  Has a 70s jazz soundtrack and lots of “artistic” photography.  Silly exploitation flick.

22.  Antichrist (2009)  : Hmm.  Visually astonishing.  From the black and white opening and closing sequences featuring Handel (and a fat cock) to the dream sequence where she seems to glow in the dark.  However, I think that the plotting is problematic.  The psychiatrist is aloof from his wife.  She says that he has always been like this and that he only became interested in her when she became consumed by grief from the death of their child but there’s no real connection at all between the couple.  Which is fine, but then why draw upon the couple’s bonds for emotional impact?

23.  Basic Instinct 2 (2006)  : A solid, if not particularly inspired, addition to the canon of psychological thrillers.  The dialogue is initially incredibly cheesy and fun (“I want that cunt in jail!”, “I’m traumatised, I may never cum again”) but before long the film settles down into what is essentially a game of erotic Judo wherein the Sharon Stone character uses the force of other people’s desires and insecurities against them in order to drive them to their end and thereby have fun and get another book written.  As a commentary on the first film (which I also like a lot), and the femme fatale it is actually quite insightful.  Some beautiful photography of London too.

24.  The Business of Strangers (2001)  : A splendid film about a woman who is made CEO of a company only to feel a generalised malaise with her life and her choices.  She then meets a much younger woman and the pair engage in increasingly transgressive behaviour until one of them blinks.  Intriguingly Ballardian actually.  Very Cocaine Nights.

25.  La Chute De La Maison Usher (1928) [Videovista]  : Epstein’s silent version.  Superbly atmospheric, wonderful cinematography for the period but Epstein makes some very strange interpretative decisions that actually weaken the final film.  The incest goes and the idea that the two Ushers share a soul with the house is replaced by a link between Usher alone and the house.  Enjoyed it though.  Plus it’s on Youtube.

26.  Not Quite Hollywood
(2008)  : Little more than a highlight reel of great Australian exploitation films with some manic commentary by Tarantino The Uber-Shill but it’s a fun watch.  Light on the analysis though.

AUGUST

27.  Halloween (1978)  : Was surprised by how slow and basic this film is compared to something like Last House on the Left.  Not much happens, its characters are weak and there’s no sub-text or message other than the suggestion that teenagers who have sex deserve to die.  Disappointing.

28.  Logan’s Run (1976)  : Splendid film.  Really makes you regret the arrival of Star Wars and the disappearance of SF films that are not all about empty spectacle.  I adore the very 70s design and some of the scenes with Ustinov when the couple confront their own mortality but see only a life well lived and happy are quite touching.  More films like this needed.

29.  Barbarella (1968)  : Looked into it in order to confirm the suspicion that Roger Vadim has just reused the same ideas for his take on Poe’s “Metzengerstein” in Histoires Extraordinaires.  Was right.  What a silly… silly film.

30.  Mishima : A Life in Four Chapters (1985)  : I adored the direction in this.  The heavy stylisation of the various chapters as opposed to the more ‘realistic’ depiction of Mishima’s final days.  I also love the idea of making a film about an author’s life by using various parts of his books to illustrate aspects of his life.  But while I admire the film and think it is very well made, I did not adore it.  Possibly because Mishima’s obsessions with physicality and beauty are not things I find particularly engaging and partly because the film does not pay that much attention to them.

31.  Clean (2004)  : Another Assayas film, another wonderful bi-lingual work full of humanity and with great use of music.  Cheung is superb as the junkie who burned all of her bridges and then had to try to rebuild them.  Not as cerebral as some of Assayas’ others films but enjoyable nonetheless.

32.  Trouble Every Day (2001)  : Claire Denis’ take on the vampire film.  Technically superb, has very little dialogue and lots of recurring visual motifs (scientific apparatus).  Dalle is superb as a woman suffering from a rare brain disorder who is now boarded up by her husband for fear that she’ll escape and eat people.  Vincent Gallo is rather flat as a scientist with a similar condition who is trying to find a cure before giving in to the urges.  Atmospheric, sedately paced and filled with moments of red hot insane passion that melt the screen compared to the icy demeanour of the rest of the film.  Excellent stuff.

33.  The Wrestler (2002)  : A case-study in how to make a genre film.  The plot line is pure cheese and entirely predictable = Take sympathetic character, heap misery (mostly of their own making) on top of them.  They hit rock bottom.  Then they find a new way of being and start to pull their life back together but they hit a snag and go off the path.  End film either up (“feel-good film of the year”) or down (“intelligent and downbeat”).  These types of films are so familiar that their plot arcs write themselves.  This results in people focusing on the actor playing the main role.  If the film is well put together it is hailed as a triumph.  The Wrestler fills all of these boxes and yet it has the odd flashes of brilliance such as the similarities between the stripper and the wrestler (same music, same moves, same attempt to do a physical job when too old for it) and the final ill-fated confrontation is superb as it effectively manages to imbue a fixed fight with a degree of tension and danger.

34. Cold Water (1994)  : More Assayas.  This one starts more sedately.  In many ways a standard teenagers-in-trouble story but about two thirds of the way through the film it opens up.  There’s this fantastic sequence at a party that lasts for about 10 minutes with hardly any dialogue.  Just period music and kids going nuts around a bonfire.  Then the two lead characters decide to run off through this bleak winter landscape.  You can see the seeds of the director Assayas will become (most notably in the bilingual dialogue and the use of music).

35.  White Diamond (2004)  : Herzog documentary.  Splendid.  After not being too sure about the last couple of films I’ve seen of his this one really reinforces my love for his documentary film as it is just as good as Grizzly Man or Encounters at the End of the World.  It’s the story of a British academic who wants to build an airship.  He’s a fantastic character, very Herzogian, he’s scarred emotionally and physically by his attempts at flight and now he returns to the jungle to try again.  Beautifully shot with a fantastic soundtrack, this is slightly less thematically ambitious than Herzog’s other recent documentaries but it is a great watch nonetheless.

36.  Mesrine – Death Instinct (2008) [Ruthless Culture]  : This film takes a rather bizarre approach to the character’s life.  Clearly it thinks that certain figures in his life were important (his wife, his girlfriend, his parents, his friends) but it never devotes much screen time to them.  This results in a film that is weirdly episodic in its structure.  It moves at breakneck pace from one event to the next, never stopping to pause.  In a way, I suspect that this might well be intentional.  Mesrine is presented as a kind of psychopathic malcontent.  Prone to lashing out violently and cruelly against the world but he also seems eager to cloak himself in some kind of righteousness, so he lashes out against his father for working with the Germans, then he latches onto a friend’s devotion to the cause of a free Quebec.  But he clearly never really believes in any of them.  So for Mesrine, people and beliefs are just shadows when compared to the glaring brilliance that is his all-consuming ego.

37.  The House by the Cemetery (1981) [Videovista]  :  Interesting Italian Horror film.  Plot drags in between the set-pieces but the set-pieces are great fun.  That and the weird looking child actor aside, the film exists in a weird ontological fog… not quite a serious Horror film and not quite a post-modern satire.

38.  The Searchers (1956)  : Very smart but not particularly likeable film.  I adore the way the two main characters spend 5 years hunting a Comanche war band and effectively dip in and out of proper lives, growing older as they do.  I also like the way in which the film deals with issues of racism and miscegenation by having John Wayne act like a dick for the best part of two hours.  Forever growling about his half-cast companion who proudly points out that he’s only 1/8th Native American.  Having said that, I found the film’s tone rather jarring.  Wayne is presented as a hero despite being a racist dick.  The film is filled with comedy characters despite having quite dark themes and for all its desire to castigate racism, the film does actually go along with racist ideas by suggesting as ridiculous the idea that one of the characters would marry an Indian.

39.  Les Biches (1968)  : Splendid Chabrol film.  Takes a while to get going, all about a rich woman who picks this young woman off the street and takes her to live with her.  The two are perpetually clashing their wills, imposing limits, pressing past limits and exerting dominance.  Then the younger woman falls in love with a man and the older woman steps in and takes him over.  The result is this increasingly bizarre psychodrama as the two constantly maneouver to keep the upper hand.

40.  M (1931)  : Lang’s serial killer film.  I adored the theatricality of the production.  The way that you can almost hear someone shout ‘action!’ as each scene begins.  This is partly due to what must have been quite top-down approaches to blocking in the day but also the fact that the technology was not there for location filming and so everything is very obviously shot on specially-constructed sets.  The film itself is superbly atmospheric and I adore the way in which Lang presents the world of criminals and the world of the police as largely identical.  There’s one fantastic scene in which the government and the top brass of the crime syndicate meet separately to discuss the same matter and Lang films it as though they’re all at the same meeting.  Also wonderful is the way in which Lang deploys the silent film director’s box of tricks, the almost wordless opening sequence is truly fantastic.

41.  Orphan (2009) [ZONE]  : Was genuinely surprised by this.  It’s probably one of my favourite new films of the year.  It’s essentially a rip off of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle but as I loved that film, I really enjoyed Orphan.  It’s absurd, it’s ghoulish and its filled with this simmering sense of class war.  Wonderful.

42.  The Sea Hawk (1940)  : Had not seen this before and expected a lot more action if I’m honest.  the final sword-fight is insanely intense, I can’t imagine it being choreographed, the two actors must just have gone at each other for real.  The comparison between the Nazis and the Spanish is quite interesting and the film very much champions the idea of plucky little England standing toe to toe with the empire-building tyrant while quislings work the government from within.  The best scenes are the ones in which Flynn flirts outrageously with the woman playing the queen but much of the actual swashbuckling feels oddly tacked on and unnecessary to the meat of the plot.

43.  Inglorious Basterds (2009) [Ruthless Culture] : I literally have no idea where all of these negative reviews are coming from.  I loathed the trailer as much as the next man, there was something incredibly ugly about America boasting of the intention to torture its enemies.  But the actual film has very little violence or torture in it.  Its meat is in a series of incredibly long conversations between a Nazi officer and a ‘goodie’ with something to hide.  Tarantino really is a superb director of actors as the scenes roll back and forth and are filled with so much tension it is, at times, almost unbearable.  I adored it.  Especially the fact that the film plays the Basterds themselves for laughs.  Eli Roth is as terrible an actor as the woman playing Shosanna is wonderful.

44.  Dark Star (1974)  : Was pleasantly surprised by this.  It was interesting to note quite how influential Dark Star has been on the face of cinematic SF.  Aside from the obvious Red Dwarf and Alien comparisons, the film was clearly largely responsibly for the look of Star Wars too.  I don’t think it’s as clever as it thinks it is (the ending with the solipsistic bomb is just Kirk turned up to 11 and the rest is just pretentious posturing) but I liked it nonetheless.

45.  All the President’s Men (1976)  : Obviously an important film but I must admit that I found it rather flat.  I understand that the film is primarily a dramatisation of a conspiracy and the journalists are there largely to teach the audience who did what to whom and why but I found the film to be entirely lacking in emotion or context.  They could have been breaking any story.  Having watched State of Play recently, I don’t think this compares particularly well.

46.  Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble (1972) [VideoVista]  : Exquisite film.  Fantastic performances by the two central characters and a central relationship that is beautiful in its inversion.  Yanne is a brute and a monster who is then crushed beneath the indifference of the woman he forced out of loving him.  Very reminiscent of Chabrol and not just because Yanne appears in a couple of Chabrol films.

47.  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)  : Not blown away by it largely due to the fact that it is rather long for a one-note film.  at 80 minutes this film would have been fantastis but at 126 it feels a little simplistic : 1) two blokes make friends and swear loyalty to each other, 2) talk of gold changing people, 3) blokes swear gold won’t change them, 4) blokes find gold, 5) blokes change.  I did like the ending with the bandits thinking the gold is sand but while the performances were good, I never felt particularly captivated.

48.  The Witch Who Came From The Sea (1976)  : Wonderfully weird and largely overlooked American horror film dealing with schizophrenia brought on by abusive childhood as an abused woman takes on the belief that her father was a heroic sea captain instead of an insane, cackling, child-molesting drunk.  However, before long her sobconscious exerts itself and she starts to act out these revenge fantasies in which she castrates and murders men who are particularly sexually attractive.  The whole film is enveloped in this weirdly trippy atmosphere of winter-time seaside sleaze.  Genuinely wonderful.

49.  Genova (2008) [Videovista]  : Michael Winterbottom family drama.  Shot in his usual docu-drama style and set in a city you seldom see in films (Genoa) but I was struck by how unemotional the film is.  You simply do not care about the characters, meaning that the big emotional ending falls flat.  However, as a study of inter-personal dynamics of a family it is superb and very intelligent indeed.  Nice low-key use of the supernatural too.  In many films “is it a ghost or is she mad?” would be something to be mulled over and discussed but here it is left ambiguous and neither explained nor questioned.  Interesting example of the mainstreaming of genre story-telling techniques.

50.  Mulligans (2008) [Videovista]  : Yet another weak TLA Releasing gay indie film.  Well directed and the script has a few jokes but I’m struck by how little the director and writer have to say about the experience of being gay.  All of these films share the same views on sexuality and the same simplistic moral and psychological understandings and nothing is ever questioned or made difficult.  At this point, I think these types of film are as much about psychological escapism as they are about sexual fantasy.  Ugh.

51.  The Hurt Locker (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : The heart of Hurt Locker is a film about a man who serves in the army not out of patriotic duty or financial hardship but rather psychological inadequacy.  Unfortunately though, this aspect of the film is poorly served compared to the more mundane “stuff happening in Iraq” strand of the film.  While beautifully shot and full of tension, these scenes are habitually incredibly long and serve to make the film feel a lot longer than it is.  A few less explosions and a bit more character building would have made a much better film.

52.  Mesrine – Public Enemy Number 1 (2008)  : Weirdly enough, a much more joyous and silly film than the first one suggesting that by this stage in his life, Mesrine had become a larger than life character, the gangster’s gangster.  As with Hurt Locker, it overstays its welcome and is simply to long but I was impressed by how it developed the idea that Mesrine was a man lacking in identity and who felt the need to construct one for himself through the press and the political upheaval of the 1970s.  Also wonderful is the depiction of the French cops as cowardly bunglers who then become murderous thugs (in a trial, the judge accuses Mesrine of discharging weapons in the street, but the police do it too… firing away like nutters regardless of the safety of the public).  I also adore the obsession with prison architecture and the depiction of the world Mesrine existed in as this oppressive prison.

53.  The Final Destination (2009)  : 3D annex to the series.  I have always had a great deal of time for this series.  I adore the dark ghoulish sense of humour and the suggestion that life is some huge van neumann machine, carefully preparing our eventual deaths.  It is a film that is only improved by the utterly horrendous nature of the acting.  3D did not add much except the odd feeling of depth.

SEPTEMBER

54.  The Red Shoes (1948)  : Never seen it all the way through but adored every shot and every scene.  I love the slightly artificial post-War cinema verite depiction of the theatre (especially the depiction of a Royal Opera House in which heckling is quite common), the utterly unreal productions of the ballets themselves and the story of the ultimate sublimation of love to artistic obsession.  A powerful and beautiful film.  If real ballets were that well staged I’d be tempted to go and see them but they’re not, so I won’t.

55.  Passe Ton Bac D’Abord (1979) [Ruthless Culture]  : More Pialat.  Didn’t enjoy this as much as Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble but I think that that is because Pialat’s depiction of disaffected youth (as opposed to bourgeois fantasies of disaffected youth as in 400 coups) has proved to be so influential that I get the impression I’ve seen it all before.  It’s like a 1970s version of Kids basically.

56.  La Gueule Ouverte (1974) [Ruthless Culture]  : This affected me a lot less than I expected it to largely because it isn’t really a film about loss or grief but rather the lack thereof : The feelings of boredom and irritation as well as the selfishness of wanting to return to one’s own life as one reacts to the death of a loved one by turning them into an object.  Weirdly low key cinematography.

57.  Afterschool (2008)  : Hmm.  I was struck, while watching this, by how much Campos wishes he was Hanneke.  Aside from the obsession with film that echoes Benny’s Video (weakly and unsuccessfully updated from video to youtube clips) you can also see it in the treatment of sex, violence and even in the use of long pauses in between sentences when the actors speak.  However, where Hanneke is coherent and focussed in his arguments, Campos is a mess.  I was genuinely not certain what point he was trying to make.  There are some nice ideas in the film (such as the vaguely 9/11-ish refusal by the school to recognise drug use as a problem leading to a draconian crack down after the death of two students) but on the whole I was unimpressed.  Seen it all before really.

58.  District 9 (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : Ugh.  Stupid and poorly made video game masquerading as a film.  First 20 minutes are interesting (though as with Afterschool, their point actually eludes me) but the rest of the film is just fighting and explosions.  Boring.

59.  Black Narcissus (1947)  :  Another great Powell and Pressburger film.  As with Red Shoes, it is genuinely beautiful and incredibly colourful (there’s a real joy in shooting flowers and costumes that is almost childlike in its glee) and the story itself is a wonderful story of isolation turning into intense sexual longing and that longing eventually turning into madness.  I adore the fact that the central character’s evidently failed love story is never fully fleshed out… we never know why she became a nun.  I also love the way in which, when one of the characters goes mad, she is in some sense the same person as the central character… as though her humanity had drained out of her and broken free.  Brilliant.

60.  Les Noces Rouges (1973) [Ruthless Culture]  : Simply superb and actually quite funny.  I think that watching a lot of Pialat has actually helped me appreciate Chabrol a good deal more than I did previously.  A brilliant satire on Bourgeois status anxiety : Rather a killer than a nobody.

61.  500 Days of Summer (2009)  : Very nicely directed film with two decent and relatively likeable central performances.  I love the way the film is framed (the day odometer ticking back and forth with later stuff echoing early stuff) and I love a number of the techniques he uses but ultimately the film suffers for lacking anything of substance to say about love or relationships.  The whole question of whether there is a ‘One’ that we are destined to be with is fatuous tosh of the highest order.

62.  Juste Avant La Nuit (1971) [Ruthless Culture]  : Marvellous and actually much much darker than any other Chabrol film I have seen up till now.  Follows the templae of being about bourgeois social neuroses but takes the idea much further.  Am reminded of the Ernest Jones quote about wanting to kill the people who remind us of our failings.

63.  Morgan!  A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)  : The difference between this Romantic Comedy and 500 Days of Summer is stunning.  Morgan is broadly a knockabout romantic comedy (Redgrave is adorable) but it’s shot through with all of these issues such as mental illness, staying true to ones roots and whether or not the central character is a ‘class traitor’.  Morgan is an anarchic presence because he neither fits into the world of the working class, nor that of the upper middle class.  He’s too weird for both.  Adored his gorilla obsession and the bit where he’s asleep with a huge grin on his face dreaming of apes.  Also liked the fact that he ends up in an asylum at the end of the film… how many films treat their quirky craaaayzeee characters in such a fitting style?  Also adored the way in which Redgrave’s character is presented as flighty and easily lead but the reality is probably that Morgan saw that characteristic in her as it suited him.

64.  Alone Across the Pacific (1963)  : A pleasant enough film with few surprises.  All about a Japanese man rebelling against the structures imposed upon him by society and family.  He dreams instead of sailing on his own, all the way to America.  He sets off in a boat that’s too small and badly prepared, with inadequate food and water and no real reason for being in America.  I liked the structure of the film, comparing the punishment he receives at sea and the reasons why he went.  Also liked the Otherness and claustrophobia of Japan and how it was echoed in San francisco.  I think more could have been made of the madness and despair but then, I always do.

65.  Kairo (2001) [Ruthless Culture] : Picked it up in preparation for reviewing Tokyo Sonata by the same director and was simply blown away by it.  Why is this film not better known?  It is head and shoulders above the rest of the J-Horror pap.  Love the apocalyptic imagery at the end, love the absolute technical skill in the scary bits and I adore the way the film deals with issues of isolation and loneliness.

66.  Tormented (2009) [VideoVista]  : Was not expecting very much of this and was underwhelmed by what I got.  The film is a mess of poorly written characters and utterly under-developed and confused dramatic lines.  There are a couple of nice gags (Tony Blair-like headmaster and a joke about finding a full condom) but by and large I watched it consumed with hate for the cast.  Something not helped by the really horrid DVD extra whereby you have to watch their smug faces while they comment on the entire film.  Ugh.

67.  Edward II (1991) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Why had nobody informed me of the awesomeness of Derek Jarman?  I adored every shot of this film and every idea.  Of course, it helps that it is based on something by Marlowe (and therefore is great by definition) but the visual styling is so exquisite that I feel as though I could watch this film forever.

68.  The Thing (1982)  : Never got round to watching this before but took the opportunity offered by the local digital projection and am glad that I did.  There are issues of trust and alienation touched on by the plot but the real meat of the film lies in its perfect pacing, its wonderfully weird effects shots and its dab hand at quirky characterisation.  Never have hats and nose-rings said so much about the people wearing them.  Justifiably a classic.

69.  The Woman in the Window (1944)  : Fritz Lang does Film Noir… what is not to love?  This is actually a pretty fantastic example of the genre.  Robinson gives a nicely low-key performance as the academic in turmoil and Joan Bennett is just aloof enough to fill the role of psychological Other and object of sexual desire.  I adore the way in which Lang uses the details of the police investigation as a means of increasing the character’s feelings of claustrophobia.  The dream ending was reportedly added because of the censorship code at the time but I think it gives the ending a nice Rimmer-in-Better-than-Life vibe : Even in his drunken dreams, a middle aged man is incapable of imagining a better and more exciting life for himself.  Great stuff.

70.  Nada (1974) [Ruthless Culture]  : A very nice Chabrol adaptation of a Jean-Patrick Manchette novel.  Quite funny and very cynical about the revolutionary politics of the 60s (It’s essentially about a bunch of people who no longer believe in the revolution but who are happy to die for it anyway).  I adored the careful characterisation, the wonderful humour and the seemingly guilt-ridden tone of the film.  It’s essentially an admission that he will never climb a barricade.  I suspect that it’s also taking the piss out of Godard’s La Chinoise, though I should probably take another look at that in order to be sure.  Haven’t seen it in about 15 years.

71.  L’Enfance Nue (1968) [Ruthless Culture]  :  What can I say except that Maurice Pialat does it again?  I have yet to see a Pialat film and not have it completely knock my socks off.  Well, that’s what I’ll say if anyone questions my huge credit card bill for the French DVD releases.  It’s a film all about an abandoned child and Pialat is amazingly a-theoretical in his depiction of it.  There are no beliefs about how to fix the child or why he does the things he does, there’s just a willingness to show his life.  Also wonderful are the real people that Pialat cast in the film.  The old boy who fought in the resistance is a real character and a real find.

72.  Scarlet Street (1945)  : More Fritz Lang and Edward G. Robinson.  It’s actually very similar to The Woman in the Window both in terms of plot and cast.  It’s the story of a reasonably happy, placid older man ruining his life by taking up with a younger woman who strips him of his job, his relationship, his money and his sole refuge : painting, leaving him a washed up husk of a man.  Robinson is great (though I prefer him as a tough guy) but Joan Bennett is a bit over the top.  Good Noir stuff certainly but it felt a bit samey compared to the much more precise Woman in the Window.

73.  Violence at Noon (1966)  : Wow.  Technically outstanding story of rotten relationships by Nagisa Oshima.  Japan is gripped by a string of vicious rapes and murders and two women know who is responsible.  However, neither of them is willing to tell the police because of their history with the man and the terrible shame they feel at the prospect of having inadvertently set him on the path to violence.  Shot in stark black and white, Oshima fills the screen with weird close-ups, strange angles and expressionist images of nature.  Superb.

74.  The September Issue (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : All about Vogue magazine.  Joins the small but occasionally rewarding sub-genre of fashion films.  Enlivened by the fact that it does actually have some kind of thesis, presenting Wintour not as some great arbiter of taste but as someone who is willing to take the responsibility for making the arbitrary aesthetic judgements that underpin the fashion industry.  Enjoyed it.

75.  Surrogates (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : Bog standard conspiracy thriller with SF action bits tacked on but setting aside those rather lack-lustre elements, there’s quite a fine-boned and incisive critique of internet use, suggesting that we mire ourselves in the internet as an alternative to real life.  Facebook, Myspace, Social media have “friends” but they’re barely acquaintances… we have less invested in the real world, we protect ourselves from it.

76.  Second Wind {2007) [Videovista]  : Remake of a Jean-Pierre Melville adaptation of a book.  Incredibly long and let down by silly casting (Bellucci too glamourous, Auteuil lacks tough guy reputation) and ridiculous styling… like Melville projected through Amelie resulting in nothing more than the live action adaptation of Dick Tracy.  The plot, however, is solid and an interesting meditation upon reaction to change… the main protagonist sees the criminal climate changing and he cannot cope… he can’t not be a criminal and he can’t adapt and so he becomes suicidal, taking absurd risks and refusing to just let go.  Fantastic performance by Michel Blanc though.

OCTOBER

77.  Doppelganger (2003)  : Took me a while to track down a copy of this and I’m kind of glad that I did.  It’s much less visually interesting than Kairo and the plotting is slightly strange.  Essentially it’s about people who discover that they have doppelgangers.  Some people see these dopplegangers (who invariably represent everything that they are not) and, confronted with their failings, kill themselves.  Others react differently.  The main plot revolves around a scientist who is trying to develop a cybernetic wheelchair and he can only do so with the aid of his double.  By the end of the film, the scientist has taken on all of the negative traits of the doppleganger, thereby integrating those aspects of his personality.  decent enough film, but wasn’t blown away.

78.  Police (1985) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Impressive if somewhat incoherent film.  Initially an intriguing little police procedural then becomes a meditation upon the nature of the self and the lies we tell about ourselves to ourselves.  Great performance by Depardieu.

79.  Celia (1989) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Demented Australian film about the horrors of childhood.  Has been marketed as a proper horror film but in truth it’s more about the way in which children try to make sense of the world of adults by constructing a world of their own with sometimes rather savage rules.

80.  La Rupture (1970) [Ruthless Culture]  : Completely potty film by Chabrol.  It’s part melodrama (see the horror heaped upon a poor working class girl by her vicious bourgeois in-laws) and part picaresque romp in which a louche social climber finds his end.  Great fun.

81.  Creation (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : Wonderfully acted and wonderfully directed biopic about Charles Darwin and his struggle to get On the Origin of Species written.  Initially it presents itself as a conflict between the need to voice the truth and the attractions and consolations of religion.  But then, towards the end of the film, it kind of loses its bearing and decides that the thing stopping Darwin from writing the book was actually his relationship with his wife and some unresolved issues surrounding the death of his daughter.  At its best it works really well but I think that the attempt to make it about human emotions rather than big ideas actually cheapens the ideas.  I blame Buffy.

82.  Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)  : I enjoyed this.  Alec Guinness playing many many roles in a cute comedy about the British class system.  Includes some wonderful photography and a fantastic central performance by Guinness and Joan Greenwood.  This really made me mindful of how much I have enjoyed the Ealing Comedies I have watched in the past.  I may have to track down a few more.

83.  Up (2009)  : This has a few nice ideas but is let down by crumby direction and a lousy script.  The direction is terrible as the film takes ages to get going and when it does it pootles along with no sense of urgency or purpose.  A montage of married life also lacks any kind of emotional punch.  The script is bad as the characters and ideas are one-dimensional.  The stuff about Fredriksen having to let go of his past in order to look to his future made really very little sense at all, complete non-sequitur and the baddy is rubbish “Oh how nice to meet you, I’m going to kill you for no apparent reason”.  I was generally struck by how thin the material was… Paradise Falls is supposed to be this fantastical place but it’s just some jungle with a few talking dogs and a bird.  Hardly eye-popping stuff.

84.  Zombieland (2009)  :  Great fun.  A comedy zombie film with a great performance by Woody Harrelson and a bloke imitating Michael Cena.  There’s a lovely cameo too.  Lots of jokes, some decent action set pieces and the film is filled with genuine warmth and humour.  Undemanding stuff certainly but I’d rather watch this than any more straight zombie films.

85.  The Amazing Mr. Blunden (1972)  : Companion piece to The Railway Children and something of a lost gem.  It’s essentially a time-travelling story all about undoing an injustice from the past.  Has some great performances by veteran British actors and is really quite well paced and quite exciting to watch.  There’s even a jokey paradox suggesting that there are actually three or four Mr. Blundens popping about through time.  Some of them might even be ghosts.  The film ends with all of the cast members saying good-bye to the audience and it’s all very friendly, nice and decidedly middle class in the way that great British children’s films used to be.  I didn’t adore it (it is a kids’ film) but I was happy to watch it.

86.  The Offence (1972) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Magnificently moody psychological thriller dealing with the unravelling of a thuggish detective brought in to help track down a paedophile.  Filled with feelings of rage and fear over the violence he has seen and meted out, the detective eventually finds himself turning to the paedophile for some kind of spiritual advice.  Beautiful photography too.

87.  In the City of Sylvia (2008) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Absolute masterpiece.  It’s a film based around the joys of watching people and the moments in which their raw humanity seeps through the personas they put on in public.  The main plot of the film deals with a bloke following a woman around believing her to be someone he had a fling with decades before but in a sense, Sylvia isn’t a person… she’s simply an object of desire.  Another day, another Sylvia.  Such beautiful photography.

88.  The Reckoning (2003) [Ruthless Culture] :  A genuinely fantastic film and I can’t, for the life of me, work out why I haven’t heard of it before.  Great cast, great performances, great sets and a plot based upon a medieval murder-mystery plot.  However, the film also seems to be commenting upon the emergence of the arts as a rival to the state and the Church in terms of sculpting public opinion.

89.  Rage (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  :  This film has been savaged by the critics.  Unjustly so.  The problem is that while the film offers us two narrative and thematic hooks (murder mystery and satire of the fashion business) the film is not really about those hooks.  They’re simply there in order to ferment psychological change in the characters.  Some of the characters are, on paper, somewhat clicheed, but the performances make up for that.  Rage is an intensely human film that works best when seen as a series of linked Talking Heads-style monologues.

90.  Orlando (1992)  :  Fuck me, what an amazing film!  For starters, I love the way it looks.  The art direction is simply spectacular in its quirky period detail.  I also love the fact that they got Quentin Crisp to play Queen Elizabeth I.  Tilda Swinton is on fantastic form and the themes of gender and sexuality are handled with such intelligence and yet with such a softness of touch.  I was also struck by the fact that the daughter who appears at the end bears a striking resemblance to Sally Potter, the director.  Thereby suggesting that Orlando’s journey is kind of the journey of all women.

91.  The Parallax View (1974)  :  This feels very much like the poor cousin of All the President’s Men.  It has the same problem with weak characters who are nonetheless required to pull the story forward.  In and of itself this is quite an interesting quirk.  It is as though, for Pakula, the job of the reporter is to tell the truth and nothing more needs to be said about the matter.  How things have changed.  Also, as with The President’s Men there’s a strange refusal to really spell out what’s at stake, so while you don’t know why the reporter is putting himself in danger, you’re not much clearer on why it is that the conspiracy is seeking power.  Again, presumably for Pakula, such things speak for themselves.  Which is, again, interesting but it does make for a very dry film indeed.  Beatty is not on particularly good form either.  The most impressive sequences are free of dialogue and explicitly visual such as the brainwashing sequence (which deserves to be as well known as the Ludovico technique) and the scene on the plane when Beatty is trying to inform the crew that there’s a bomb without causing a panic.  Decent enough but feels somehow lacking.

92.  L’Avventura (1960)  :  This film comes across as a technical exercise.  Its refusal to form itself into anything resembling a plot has proved hugely influential in art house cinema but I must say that I found the film almost indescribably boring.  Not because there’s no plot, but because the feelings of existential ennui are established quite clearly early on and the film never moves past them.  Yes the characters are moneyed, yes they never do anything, yes they’re worthless human beings… so what?  The only aspect of the film I really liked was some of the cinematography (in particular the dark grey islands in the black sea).  Bah.

93.  Captain Blood (1935)  :  As charming as Errol Flynn undeniably was, they didn’t half stick him in some terrible films.  Where to start?  How about the lumpen story-telling full of characters explaining why they’re doing stupid things and exposition by caption?  Or how about the horribly forced bon-hommie or the fact that throughout the film Flynn talks like an Edwardian prostitute?  Between this and the Sea Hawks I can now safely state that I do not like swashbucklers.  This is like panto aimed at stupid men.

94.  Man on Wire (2008)  :   Having heard many good things about this documentary I finally relented and sought it out.  It’s not a bad film.  The character of the funambulist is an interesting chap and the details of the rigging and the technicalities of pulling off that kind of stunt are quite interesting but on the whole the film really did not do that much for me.  Had it been directed by Herzog then something more substantial might have come from it but tis is nowhere near as good as Marsh’s Red Riding : 1980.

95.  Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)  : Oh.  Dear.  God.  And I thought The Devil and Daniel Webster was cornball hokum…  This is just a relentlessly terrible film largely due to the film’s absolutely hagiographic approach to its subject matter.  I loathe the way all the secondary characters soil themselves with laughter every time Lincoln says anything even remotely witty.  I hate the way he invariably puts his feet on the table whenever he sits down.  I hate the folksy “Aw shucks” charm of Lincoln himself and I hate the fact that the plot is utterly uninteresting.  Yes the shots are well composed and Fonda really does look the part but this is just awful.

96.  Heathen (2009) [Zone]  : Made for virtually no money at all, this is a pretty decent British psychological thriller.  Shot in black and white and filled with little stylistic flourishes and directorial tricks, Heathen looks good and has a couple of half-decent performances in it too but it is ultimately let down by a climax that relies entirely upon accident and which tries to be too clever by half.

97.  King of the Hill (2007) [VideoVista]  : Spanish thriller/survival horror.  Shot in this incredible vast autumnal forest filled with wonderful colours and incredible lighting.  Direction is good, the pacing is taught and there’s bucketloads of tension, the only point on which it falls down is its script which feels rather lightweight until the third act when they try to cram in a load of exposition including a rather dubious criticism of violent video games.

98.  Yes (2004)  : More Sally Potter!  This time a drama about a couple’s disintegrating marriage and a faithless woman’s love affair with a man who suddenly discovers his devotion to his faith and people.  Most notable feature is the fact that it’s written entirely in iambic pentameter and suffice it to say that Potter is no Shakespeare.  There’s the odd good line or couplet but by and large it just sounds slightly off.  The film itself is quite decent though, filled with discussions of big important questions.

99.  Bottle Rocket (1996)  : This kind of confirmed my feeling that The Royal Tannenbaums is the only really worthwhile film Wes Anderson ever made.  It’s a wonderful effort by a first-time director but I find the ennui and stagnation of the characters to be overly generic and the whimsy a little too broad to be really effective.  I mean, planning heists? Really?

100.  The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)  :  Actually, scratch that.  I really liked this Wes Anderson film.  In fact, I liked it more than I liked the Royal Tannenbaums.  I love the beautiful 2D montage of every shot (product of having to story board the film shot by shot for animators?) and I love the sense of searching around for some sense of meaning to one’s life.  The original novel is about the call of the wild but this is much more existential… What do Foxes do?  Would acting like a Fox make a fox happy?  Is identity a reflection of essence or action?  Is a firm identity an absolute pre-requisite for happiness?  The film addresses all of these issues and has some surprising answers.

101.  The Finances of the Grand Duke (1924) [VideoVista]  : A Murnau comedy.  Not particularly interesting, there’s the same love of location shooting and amazing landscapes and it’s undeniably well put together but at the end of the day it’s quite a frothy little adventure story in a vaguely pulpish style.

102.  Johnny Mad Dog (2008) [Ruthless Culture] : An interesting film about child soldiers.  The film follows two strands, on the one hand there’s the story of Mad Dog and his coterie of similarly youthful children (who wander around with butterfly wings and wedding dresses on) – who are a huge cauldron of rage and aggression kept in a perpetual state of hysteria by drugs, chanting and mystical rituals.  They speak in a kind of English-based patois and bark these nihilistic sentences and nationalistic slogans at each other before committing rapes and murders that are both viscerally unpleasant and astonishingly arbitrary.  On the other hand, we have the story of a civilian teenaged girl who has to look after her brother and her legless father but she wanders through the film with a sense of almost saint-like poise… as though nothing touches her.  She walks down the street with incredible dignity even as the bodies pile up and the bullets fly.  In a sense, she is there to provide a counterpoint to Mad Dog’s excesses and this is evident at the end when Mad Dog, stripped of his military pomp, tries to seduce her only for her to viciously beat the shit out of him.  He’s the violent thug but he has no inner strength.  On a side note, the film has as much of a love of teenaged flesh as City of God though its relentlessly bleak tone and minimalist narrative and characterisation make it a much more harrowing cinematic experience.

103.  Thirst (2009)  : Hmm.  Initially, I thought that this was Park back on form after the cutesy and empty-headed I’m a Cyborg But That’s Okay, but in truth… I’m not so sure.  The film is essentially about the movement from a psychological state of resistance to temptation to one of complete surrender to it.  The priest is almost saintly at the beginning but once he becomes a vampire he becomes insatiable, willing to do anything.  The suggestion is that self-denial is easy when you don’t have any real desires.  If all you want to do is help people then it’s not excessively morally worthy to do so as you’re not denying yourself but actualising yourself.  By contrast, if all you want from life is sensory stimulation that comes from food drink and fucking, then denying yourself is a lot harder and a lot more praise-worthy.  This little psychodrama is played out against the context of a rather fucked up Korean family but while those characters are well drawn in that quirky way common in South-East Asian drama nowadays, I’m not really sure that they add anything other than a backdrop.  As a result, the film’s devotion to the relationship between the priest and his girlfriend seems excessive… it’s also quite clicheed as towards the end they fall into exactly the same dynamic as Louis and Lestat in Interview With The Vampire as the priest urges restraint while the girlfriend refuses to deny herself.  Not a classic film, nor a quantum leap in the depiction of vampirism but fairly enjoyable if somewhat over long.

NOVEMBER

104.  The Cove (2009)  : The film breaks down into two parts.  Firstly, it’s a vicious attack on the dolphin industry from Seaworld down to the Japanese fishermen who sell dolphin meat as food.  The film suggests that the Japanese don’t like to eat it, it’s poisonous due to mercury levels and yet the Japanese government protect the fishermen who continue to kill dolphins.  It also suggests that dolphins are actually MORE intelligent than humans and are undeniably self-aware and so are worthy of our protection instead of the slavery into which we have forced them.  So far, so Douglas Adams.  I felt that the wool was being pulled over my eyes to a certain extent (particularly on the intelligence claims, which are made in quite sentimental ways) but the perversity of the Japanese government’s protection of a dying industry strikes me as quite plausible.  Secondly, the film is a heist of sorts with a bunch of people sneaking into a cove where Japanese fishermen kill dozens of dolphins.  This is quite a fun watch and is made cinematically interesting by all the different kinds of camera they used but ultimately I found the images quite under-whelming.  All you see is blood-stained water.  Undeniably a better documentary than Man On Wire though.

105.  Went The Day Well? (1942) [Ruthless Culture]  :  I haven’t seen this film since I was a kid but I was struck by how incredibly silly it all is.  I love the way that the germans are easy-going and charming when they’re posing as British tommies but the second they revert to their normal personas they become stiff-backed monsters.  Really quite a silly film.

106.  Tropical Malady (2004) [Ruthless Culture]  :  Incredibly beautiful and easily one of my films of the year.  the film is split down the middle.  In the first half it’s a gentle and chaste romance between a Thai soldier and a rather gormless looking lad from the country.  Then, in the second half, it becomes this re-enactment of a fable in which a soldier stalks a tiger only to realise that the tiger is hunting him.  The suggesting is that the country boy is turning into a tiger but the sub-text is one of alienation and seduction.  the soldier does not even realise that he is being seduced.  Excellent stuff.

107.  The Village of the Damned (1960)  : I was struck by how much this film version of the Midwich Cuckoos reminded me of the Quatermass series.  There’s the same impression that in post-War Britain the army was much more powerful, well-organised and equipped than it is now.  I suspect that’s due to the fact that Britain no longer has national service.  As for the film itself, it struts along quite nicely with some decent performances and some undeniably creepy children but I didn’t find it that interesting as the ideas are never fleshed out and the basic concept is actually not that frightening.  I suspect the problem is that the children, though weird, never come across as sufficiently inhuman.  In fact, if someone were to remake this film now, I think people would take their cues from films like X-men and see the children as sympathetic rather than menacing.

108.  Charisma (1999)  :  Kiyoshi Kurosawa writes a fable!  A dejected cop is forced to take leave when a hostage situation goes disastrously wrong.  Leaving his job and his family behind him, the cop sets out for a forest in Northern Japan.  A forest filled with people who are battling for control of a tree named Charisma.  The film could well be about the true nature of politics (people stabbing themselves in the back for control of public opinion) or a comment upon man’s desire to have complete control over nature.  A strange and cryptic film, I enjoyed it very much indeed,

109.  Frozen River (2008) [Ruthless Culture]  : A genuinely excellent film.  It’s essentially a thriller about a couple of people who wind up people smuggling.  The stakes are quite low (at worse 4 months in jail) but the depiction of the characters is so compelling and their situations so miserable that one cannot help but really feel the tension when the cops turn up.  Set on the borders between Canada, the US and a Mohawk reservation, there’s a real sense of interstiality and of a state that is there simply as a tool of repression.  Of course… this is untrue.  The forbidding anglo cop is actually a nice guy and the tribal elders are incredibly forgiving and humane.  In a sense, the film is about the alienation that comes with individualism.  The sense that you cannot trust anyone even the state, to take your side and to understand.  Of course, in the end, this barrier comes crashing down and trust is born of compromise and trust and acceptance and forgiveness.  A really enjoyable film.

110.  The Tempest (1979)  : A Derek Jarman adaptation of another elizabethan play and frankly, I’m not that thrilled.  Visually, the film packs a punch.  I adore the rambling fallen down country house feel to Prospero’s cell and the art direction particularly of toyahWilcox’s costume but aside from the odd nice image, the film feels dramatically empty.  Everything feels like a sub-plot.  Yes Prospero should release Ariel and he may or may not, Yes Miranda wants to marry Fernando but so what?  Yes Caleban wants to take over the island but who cares?  It’s lacking in emotional thrust.

111.  Juno (2007)  :  I like this film far more than I expected to.  Yes, it is a continuation of the Hollywood moratorium on abortions and yes it is ultimately nothing more than a lightweight romantic comedy.  But it is well written.  Well, I say ‘well written’ but the plot is rubbish and the characters are superficial and there are no big ideas and everyone clings tightly to their expected stereotypes.  This is ‘good writing’ in the Joss Whedon sense of the term, namely it’s hokum but hokum with a number of well crafted zingers attached to it.  Diverting in a mindless way.

112.  Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (2009)  :  Yeeeeessss… this is essentially an excuse to put to some use the cans of film that Clouzot collected during the disastrous filming of L’Enfer.  Seemingly, he wanted to do for L’Enfer what Polanski would do for Repulsion, namely make a film around visual illusions and camera trickery.  The footage itself is interesting though you can see why it never went anywhere… the reversed colour thing never completely worked (at most you go “oh, she’s wearing blue lipstick”), the weird running effects didn’t work either and the strange lenses and effects didn’t really create any sense of a world gone strange or distorted.  They always looked as though someone has stuck a prism in front of the lens.  The only effect that really worked was the continuously circling lighting effect that made the planes of a person’s face shift grotesquely.  There’s little analysis of why the film really went wrong or why it never completely cohered, instead the film talks aloofly of personality clashes and slipping schedules.  It’s oddly coy really, quite frustratingly so.

113.  The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)  : Likeable light-weight comedy romp through the weirdness of bloated and unaccountable defence spending.  Nice central performances by Clooney and Bridges but beyond that it’s not particularly well written, not particularly well directed and quite portentous.  Ultimately harmless fun but could have been so much more.

114.  Paranormal Activity (2007)  : A slickly conceived faux-documentary Horror film in the tradition of Blair Witch and the Last Broadcast.  Beautifully paced, makes wonderful use of the camera’s on-screen clock and the scares are very effectively managed in a very day-to-day setting and a low-key manner.  A couple of problems though… firstly, every scare is flagged by a low frequency humming.  This not only tells you that a jump is coming, it is also cheating as low intensity noises induce tension anyway.  Secondly, the ending has apparently been changed by Spielberg and it is really quite rubbish.  Thirdly, the flim lacks that sense of a wider fucked up world like the Blair Witch.  You never get that ground disappearing beneath you, descent into bondage feeling.

115.  The White Ribbon (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  :  To some extent, this is thematically nothing we haven’t seen before.  There’s the same refusal to allow the audience the catharsis of satisfied genre expectations as in Hidden but here it’s less about mystery and more about Horror.  We never see the crimes and we never get to know who the murderer is.  The disappearance of the doctor is just a way of annoying the audience… there’s no reason for it.  However, this is Haneke squared.  It’s a culmination of many of the ideas that appear in the rest of his work and its packaged in an immaculately shot black and white.  Film of the year unless something better comes along in the next 5 weeks or so.

116.  The Hitcher (1986)  : Something of a classic this one, it has some wonderful moments (the bit in the diner when the hitcher puts pennies on the protagonist’s eyes and the bit where he wakes up in the police station to find everyone dead) but the film never feels like anything more than a string of admittedly inventive and tense set pieces.  This is partly because the relationship between the protagonist and the Hitcher is never completely spelled out.  Is there a sexual link between the two men, is the Hitcher supernatural?  Nothing is clear.  I was also struck by the similarities between this and No Country For Old Men, both stylistically and thematically : You can’t stop death.

117.  100 Feet (2008)  : Directed by Eric Red (writer of the Hitcher) I had high hopes for this ghost story that only ever got released on the Sci-Fi Channel.  The set up is interesting (woman returns to old home, placed under house arrest for murder of her husband, husband turns up as a ghost) but nothing is done with the ideas.  The relationship between the woman and the cop has potential (did he fancy her all along, is that why he gives her such a hard time?) but it is never explored and in the end it’s a very straight ghost story, ably told but with nothing new or interesting to say.  Disappointing.

118.  Harry Brown (2009)  : Had mixed feelings about this one going into it.  Did I really want to see a vigilante film?  Did I really want to see a film demonising hoodies?  In the end I am glad I went as rather than being Death Wish, the film is actually much closer to the Dark Knight as it’s a meditation on the ultimate futility of using violence to solve problems.  Caine gives a great performance, I love the sense that the police exists only to produce good headlines and I adore the grime and horror of the setting.  Caine’s confrontation with a local drug dealer is one of the more unpleasant cinematic sequences I have seen this year.

119.  Shank (2009) [Videovista]  : One can see in this film a laudable desire to move the gay indie film on from its middle-class emotionally simple and aspirational trappings.  Instead of being about middle class people with good jobs, this is about working class kids attempting to come to terms with their sexuality despite coming from a background of intensely homophobic and violent gang activity.  Unfortunately, the story is completely unbelievable on a number of levels and is arguably misogynistic to boot.

120.  Walled In (2008) [Videovista]  : Such a great set of ideas – Mysterious deranged architect, strange building, main character trapped between the urge to create and the urge to destroy – hamstrung by completely rotten narrative direction.  Not only is the film not scary or creepy, it’s nothing.  A complete emotional void.  A real pity.

121.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) [Videovista]  :  A film that is not only stunning but surprisingly modern.  Most silent films have quite simplistic narratives due the the fact that they never have room for much exposition but Caligari has this wonderful ‘world-within-a-world’ structure to it that you only actually work out right at the end and rather than many horror films of the period that simply visited traditional myth, Caligari seems to want to create its own, much more contemporary and psychologistic monster.  Understandably a classic and a genuinely wonderful film.

122.  Waxworks (1924) [Videovista]  :  From the sublime to the ridiculous really.  I admire the expressionistic set design such as the way everything seems to be made of bread in the first section and how in the second section everything is dusty and dark except for the costumes but the stories are very traditional and actually quite dull.  A visual spectacle that feels derivative compared to Caligari but which has no other redeeming features.  Blimey.

123.  The Golem : How He Came Into The World (1920) [Videovista]  : Enjoyed this a good deal more than Waxworks.  It’s a traditional story but it’s quite a well told one.  The art direction is wonderful (actual crooked streets instead of painted backdrops) and the sub-text is quite nice too – Knowledge is value neutral.  You can use it to do great good in the world but it can also be used for evil when it has to service the baser human instincts.  The construction of the golem itself and the spell-casting is a great (and evidently hugely influential) effect.

124.  Metropolis (1927) [Videovista]  :  Understandably a classic if only for the sheer scale of the thing.  The early scenes of the workers and the factories are spell-binding, particularly the vision in which Freder imagines the workers as Egyptian slaves being fed into the mouth of a mechanised Sphynx.  The attempt to square a Marxist tale of class war with a Christian tale of redemption by Messianic grace is a really interesting one too.  Loved it.

125.  Faust (1926)  : Hmm.  Well, there are some genuinely fantastic effects in this.  Aside from the initial spell which apes not only Metropolis but also The Golem, the flying carpet ride is astonishing considering the technological constraints at the time.  The narrative itself is pretty much your standard Romanticised Faust and it’s very close to Gounod though ultimately (like Gounod) it fudges the issue by reducing the battle between good and evil to a rather simple love affair that is really a propos nothing.  I’m not even sure that the ethics of the film make any sense, the happy ending is a complete fudge.

126.  A Serious Man (2009)  : In some ways, this is actually quite a similar film to No Country For Old Men as both films are existential quandaries.  Only where No Country For Old Men explores a sense of incomprehension about the world through the medium of crime and horror, A Serious Man does so through the medium of a whimsical comedy.  The observational humour about the Jewish community in that period is superb and the film is particularly biting about the role of Rabbis and therefore religion in helping us to make sense of the world.  In fact, in one sequence, the film moves from a Hebrew lesson to the aftermath of a physics lesson in which the protagonist explains that the mathematics is the thing to pay attention to… not the stories.  Similarly, if there’s moral guidance to be found in religion, it’s in the text itself, not in the interpretations of others.  The film is all about a character who is completely passive in the face of unfortunate events and injustice.  His brother is a leech and a crook and a closet queen who runs up huge legal bills but the character refuses to distance himself from him.  Similarly, when his wife decides to take up with another man, he lets her stay in the house and he welcomes her back when the lover dies… he even pays for the funeral.  Throughout the film you expect him to want to clean house and set the world to rights but he never does and eventually, when he does act, he makes the wrong decision and God seems to punish him for it.  I need to think about this film a bit more.

127.  The Last Laugh (1924) [Videovista]  : Murnau the technician.  An utterly splendid film incomprehensibly associated with Expressionism.  Without inter-titles, the film depicts a man who works as a doorman.  A colossus of a man.  A pillar of his community.  Instantly recognised thanks to his whiskers and uniform.  However, when he struggles to bring in a huge trunk in the pouring rain, the manager of the hotel has him made into a lavatory attendant.  A humiliation that leads to further humiliations as his neighbours find out and mock him.  Slowly, the once gigantic man seems to deflate.  The film ends with its only inter-title : A note from the director informing us that this man would most likely rot in his job until the end of his life but because the director likes his character, he will give him a happy ending.  Strange and yet powerful stuff.

128.  Genuine (1920) [Videovista]  :  It is by looking at films like this that we really come to realise quite how special Lang and Murnau were.  Much like Waxworks, this is ostensibly a work of Expressionist cinema but the art simply doesn’t work.  It’s so busy and detailed that we don’t take it in, it has zero impact.  Meanwhile the narrative is simplistic and dull.  It is like a film from a different age when compared to Caligari.

129.  An American Werewolf in London (1981)  :  I’m including this as per my rule regarding films I have not seen for over ten years.  This is a sensational film.  Aside from the obligatory “now I’m in Regents Park, Now I’m by the Tower of London, now I’m in Piccadilly” Hollywood London geography, the film is simply flawless.  The chemistry between the two leads, the investigating doctor, the transformation sequence that continues to be a forceful argument against the use of CGI trickery, the perfect pacing and the not only downbeat but counter-intuitive ending.  A masterpiece and a joy to rewatch.

130.  The Great Outdoors (1988)  :  A family comedy from the period when such things were still made.  I first saw this film as a teenager and I am surprised by how much of it has stayed with me : The bald bear, the gigantic steak, the bat hunt, it’s quite gentle but quite amusing comedy played with relish by Candy in the long-suffering Dad role he inhabited during this period and a scenery-chewing Dan Aykroyd in magnificent form.  Looking back on it, it is astonishing quite how clunkily written it all is.  For example, there’s a scene in which the children are warned about a mine, a scene in which fuss is made of a lamp that looks like a shotgun and a scene in which a story is told about a bald-headed bear.  How do you think the film ends?  Also puzzling is the inclusion of a completely pointless romantic sub-plot involving Candy’s son and a local waitress.  The kind of plot that was fantastically parodied in National Lampoon’s European Vacation when the son sneaks of with a German girl and instead of talking about love, she just gets her tits out.  It’s a likeable enough film but it only serves to remind me of how perfect a film Planes, Trains and Automobiles really is.

131.  Pandora’s Box (1929) [Videovista]  : Ah… a bit of Pabst.  I enjoyed this one actually partly because it’s not quite a fallen woman melodrama.  Dietrich would go on to make a name for herself playing these parts in which she was really glamorous and ruthless and then died but Pandora’s Box is more even-handed (and less misogynistic).  Yes The Brooks character causes trouble for other people, but she also has trouble heaped on top of her.  Brooks’ performance is astonishing.  Particularly after a week spent watching films from the Weimar era, I was blown away but how naturalistic her performance is.  Great little film.

DECEMBER

132.  Marnie (1964) [Ruthless Culture]  : I have decided to try and build up a proper understanding of Hitchcock and, at random, I started here with one of his more marmite films in terms of critical reactions.  Much like marmite itself, I loved Marnie.  Not so much for the depiction of Marnie as a character (she’s a psychoanalytical construct who exists to drive the plot) but for Connery’s Mark.  Between this and The Offence, I’m slowly warming to theidea that Connery is something of an overlooked actor.  Or at least to the idea that he had really good taste in parts.  Mark is a weirdly cold and aloof man who seems to enjoy breaking down the personality of a woman he finds fascinating.  Great stuff.

133.  The Informant! (2009)  : A gleefully silly film rendered all the more enjoyable by virtue of the fact that I knew pretty much nothing about it going in.  Initially, the film presents itself as a tale of corporate espionage with a wonderfully banal protagonist but about half-way through it turns into a hilarious screwball comedy as the protagonist reveals himself as a compulsive liar, forever telling more and more lies in order to get himself out of trouble but only managing to dig himself further in in the process.  Full of genuinely funny dialogue, some nice visual humour and a brilliant central performance by Damon.

134.  Seraphine (2008)  :  This film reminded me very much of the middle-brow dramas that tend to make it to the Best Film Oscar short list.  It’s a traditionally structured and told drama with no stylisation or embellishments, it rests upon a number of very fine performances and it deals with high brow matters in quite a middle brow way thereby making middle brow cinema audiences feel quite smart.  I enjoyed the film quite a bit in its grounding in early 20th Century French life and its depiction of the art world at the time but the film offers no real insight into Seraphine Louis’ painting or into her mental state.  It tells a neat little story very effectively but it is a film that is eminently forgettable.

135.  The Girlfriend Experience (2009) [Ruthless Culture]  : I really enjoyed this film while also realising the extent to which it is nothing more than a simple drama that uses art house techniques in order to invite the contemplation of deeper concepts and motivations.  In particular the extent to which an obsession with money can debase not only human interaction as a whole but even human relationships that are themselves based upon financial transactions.  A very enjoyable film that does nothing that new or challenging.

136.  The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)  : This I adored.  I was reminded, whilst watching it, of the film about Lincoln I watched a while ago and The Devil and Daniel Webster and how both of those films made American historical settings appear backward and weird.  By contrast, the strange world of the Ambersons really comes to life here and it is difficult not to be charmed by the simple morality tale and tragedy driving the story.  One question though… why at the end of the film, did Welles not show Georgie apologising?  Is the implication that he did not apologise?

137.  The Trial (1962)  :  I was not entirely convinced by this, though that might be because of how familiar I am with the source material.  I love the look of the film, Welles sets the piece in a collection of weird apartment complexes, broken down industrial buildings and cluttered warehouses giving an impression of a weirdly post-apocalyptic state.  There’s work, there’s the courts but there’s very little else and nobody really understands anything.  Some nice performances but it never felt like anything more than a neat adaptation.

138.  The Birds (1963)  :  A lot of fun.  Have not seen this since I was a child but I was impressed by Hitchcock’s very Freudian take on sexuality (the attacking birds as libidinous fury) as well as the rather quirky characterisation.  Also loved the lesbian school teacher and the fact that the heroine looks exactly like the leading man’s mother.  Superb stuff.

139.  Where The Wild Things Are (2009) [Ruthless Culture] :  Hmm.  I enjoyed this as it was pretty but I felt as though motions were being gone through with no actual thought behind them.  Jonze uses art house techniques to create a psychological landscape but that’s pretty much as far as the film goes.  I would say disappointing but not being familiar with the source material, I did not expect anything in particular.

140.  Vertigo (1958)  :  It was interesting to watch this after Marnie as it is, more or less, the same film with a few modifications.  There’s the same use of coloured lights to signify emotional trauma, the same wonderful deconstruction of the romantic leading man into something more unwholesome and unsettling and the same equation of the psychoanalytical process with an uncovering of the truth and the unravelling of a mystery.  This is an exquisite film but I think I actually prefer the increased subtlety of Marnie.

141.  The Handmaid’s Tale (1990)  : Pinter adapts Atwood eh?  I thought there were some interesting ideas in this but I was also very acutely aware of the ways in which the world’s internal logic had been fudged in order to service the feminist agenda.  For example, it is not clear to me why the Handmaids would be second-class citizens forced to do shopping and treated as slaves… if the society values reproduction then surely they should be pampered and oppressed by the health demands of pregnancy?  Similarly, I think that the existence of sleazy brothels for the rich undermines the Otherness of the state’s government.  This is a problem with Chomsky too to be fair : If you suggest that moral zealots are hypocrites then it humanises them,  Real zealots are incomprehensible to the liberal-minded.  The romantic sub-plot also completely fails to work and, on the whole, it’s a very bold and bloodless story that really does nothing to engage emotionally.  I enjoyed it but I still think that it’s a massively flawed piece of film-making.

142.  The Hide (2008) [Videovista]  : Nice little two-hander based upon a play.  It revolves around two men who meet in a bird-watching hide.  One is prissy, obsessive and anal-retentive, the other is a wreck.  Swigging from a bottle and covered with what look like prison tats.  The two bounce off each other with some lovely dialogue until a radio crackles that there is a dangerous man on the run.  The direction is, at times, heavy-handed but it looks very pretty and is heavy-handed for the best of reasons.  Nice little work actually, really enjoyed it.

143.  Me and Orson Welles (2009)  : Well, I like Orson Welles.  I like his films, I like his writing and I like his persona.  This film presents him as both brilliant and petulant.  Director as unforgiving dictator (it’s no accident that the film is set during Welles’ feted production of Caesar).  Problem is with the Efron character.  He’s bland.  He’s uninteresting.  In order to have dramatic shape, the film requires that you sympathise with him but I didn’t.  Not for a second.  He was naïve, he pissed off the wrong people, he got chewed up and spit out by a greater man than him.  The film works best when dealing with Welles and his play, problem s that this means that a good 50% of the film is dull and cheesy.

144.  Torture Me No More (2005) [Videovista]  :  Really badly made micro-budget horror.  There’s some mildly diverting playing around with aspect rations but I suspect you need a better telly than I have for it to really work.  Otherwise an offensive mess.

145.  Syndromes and a Century (2006) [Ruthless Culture]  : A great film, though I find it difficult to write about this film maker without dissolving either into cryptic supposition or summarising what happens.

146.  The Limits of Control (2009)  :  A Grandiose film.  Basically, Jurmusch breaks down the various tropes that make up the spy genre and presents them in a way that maximises their apparent absurdity.  So we get the sexually available woman.  The astonishingly stylish and self-contained hero.  The exotic locations.  The weird demi-monde.  The strangely apolitical moral framework of threat and menace.  Beautifully shot in a style reminiscent of In the City of Sylvia, wonderfully acted and sparingly written.  A triumph.

147.  Elephant (2004)  :  Another superb piece of cinema.  The film tells the story of a high school shooting by weaving together a patchwork of lives that intersect at certain points.  Points at which we repeatedly see the same scene replayed but from different angles.  Full of incredible languid single-take tracking shots and occasional moments of stylised emphasis such as the use of slow motion prior to the arrival of the gun men and the sudden roar of the cafeteria to show how hostile the gunmen perceive the school to be.   A work of genius.

148.  The Baader Meinhoff Complex (2008)  : Watched two thirds of this before the DVD gave out on me.  Grrr.  Clearly the gods do not wish me to see this film.  Which is maybe just as well as the rest of the film did not exactly blow me away.  Nicely shot, good period detailing but ultimately little more than a light-weight spy movie.

149.  Sleep Furiously (2009)  :  I liked this film but did not love it.  Yes it looks lovely and I really appreciate the way that the film unobtrusively builds up an image of village community life but thematically I found the film uninteresting.  Wow… a elegaic British film all about the country-side, what a rarity!  Had the village been a bit more like Royston Vasey I might have enjoyed it more but this is just a bit dull.  I appreciate the form but little else.

150.  King Rat (1965)  :  Really enjoyed this.  It’s kind of an anti-Bridge over the River Kwai.  Despite being set in a Japanese POW camp, you barely see the Japanese, only the strangely modernist fortress they inhabit.  The village where the British officers live is this weird no-man’s land where a kind of post-apocalyptic capitalism has set in.  Rank no longer has meaning, values no longer hold, all that matters is survival.  For some, survival is about friendship, for others it is about money, for others it is about hatred.

151.  The Intruder (2004)  :  Claire Denis and therefore superb.  Essentially a road movie about a man trying to outrun death (death who takes the form of a fantastical female Russian gangster who appears at strange moments and in dreams to drag the protagonist through the snow).  Fantastic central performance and enigmatic plotting.  Has Claire Denis ever made a bad film?  I think not.

152.  Love Exposure (2008) [Videovista]  :  A Huge amount of fun.  Four Hours long and gripping right up until the final beat where the writer/director struggles to tie up all of his knots.  It’s one of the few films you will ever see in which illicit up-skirt photography is presented as a viable spiritual alternative to Catholicism.

153.  Last Year At Marienbad (1961)  :  Much like L’Avventura, I admired this film’s achievements more than I liked it.  The oblique story-telling was hugely influential as was the way in which voices seem to be disconnected from the people speaking (as though everyone is seeking someone they once met).  the cinematography and shot selection is also powerful but I think it really drags at its length.

154.  It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)  :  Reasonable piece by Robert Haymer all about the power and danger of aspiration in a run down post-War east end.  The attempt at social realism is really praise-worthy as is some of the acting but it’s pretty clear where things are headed right from the beginning and I can’t help but feel that there’s something vaguely reactionary about the film’s subtext : Never hope for anything better than you have or you’ll come-acropper.  Meh.

155.  The Man Who Knew too Much (1956)  :  Another Meh.  This film did little to change my opinion of Hitch’s spy films.  There are some nice scenes obviously (including the manic search for a gunman in time with a piece of classical music and a fist-fight in a taxidermist’s office) but on the whole this is nowhere near as good or as interesting as the likes of Marnie or Vertigo.  Love Jimmy Stewart though, there’s no way he’d ever get to be a leading man these days.

156.  Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen (2009)  : The film is undeniably too long.  Its bloat is due mostly to needless use of slow-motion and puerile comic interludes and horrific comedy characters.  As a film, it is a fairly standard blockbuster plot coupon hunt with a standard mystical glaze.  However, what ultimately ills the film for me is that the action sequences are much easier to follow.  In the first film, it was all a blur of colour and noise making for a visceral cinematic experience.  However, the sequel is visually much more traditional and much less interesting as a result.

157.  Targets (1968)  : Weirdly personal Roger Corman-produced exploitation pic.  Evidently made under the understanding that as long as certain scenes were used, the director could do what he wanted and so it’s a film that is ostensibly about a sniper killing people, is in fact about a generation clash within the film industry.  Interesting nonetheless.

158.  Sherlock Holmes (2009)  : Did not expect much from this but was on the whole, pleasantly surprised.  The film is stylishly shot, the plot ticks along nicely (Though Holmes’ deductions are also pretty easy) and the action sequences are not overly long.  Robert Downey Junior is good if hardly revolutionary as Holmes but Jude Law really makes something of Watson, turning him from bumbling side-kick to estranged gay lover and degenerate gambler.  Would happily see the sequel but then, much like submarine films, I think it’s difficult to make a bad Sherlock Holmes film (aside from that one with Christopher Lee in South Africa).

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