Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting Back to the Present

I've just realised that aside from a paragraph on The White Ribbon I haven't really discussed anything current for a while, such is the never-ending quest through film heritage. My eighties and early-nineties viewing is pretty sparse so I've been trying to remedy that, trawling through dreck like Places in the Heart, Agnes of God, and the preposterously simple disaster movie When Time Ran Out. There have however been rays of light, and I'm struggling to believe why Kathleen Turner couldn't manage an Oscar mention for either Romancing the Stone or Crimes of Passion, which I watched the other day and enjoyed immensely.

But back to the present, and a few words on some 2009 films I've seen of late.

An Education
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina
Grade: C

Carey Mulligan's Jenny is the perfect protagonist because her apparent telepathy with the audience allows her to voice exactly what we're thinking when we're thinking it. Nick Hornby's one-track screenplay has the fall-from-grace of a Max Ophuls film but none of the style. So many of the characters are hypocrites that it makes Jenny look positively heavenly, and so berating education with parental obsessiveness didn't do much to convince me that Jenny is capable of contravening the moral expectations of the audience at all, never mind ditching "an education".

Fish Tank
Directed by Andrea Arnold
Starring: Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing
Grade: B-

Teenager Mia is fucked in more ways than one in this film, seemingly unable to escape a failed education and deprivated working-class existence, not to mention her cherry-plucking at the hands of a rugged Michael Fassbender. Her urban dance dreams are completely convincing, and valuable in terms of exposure and social aspiration, but the attempts to demonstrate how she's craving freedom (her quest to let loose a shackled horse in particular) are disappointingly blatant. Arnold also expects us to be grateful that a child survives in a random act of melodrama that feels very unnecessary.

Harry Brown
Directed by Daniel Barber
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Jack O'Connell
Grade: F

Perhaps the most politically abhorrent film I've ever seen (and that's saying something), straight out of the Eden Lake sensationalist mould of British "thrillers" attempting to right the wrongs of the country. This makes Neil Jordan's The Brave One look like a world-beater, coming to a similarly immoral conclusion and scattering some grotesque characters in order to hammer home its points in shock-tactic style. It also polarises World warfare with Street warfare. War is war people.

Paranormal Activity
Directed by Oren Peli
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs
Grade: B-

Major kudos for creating such a compelling film on a miniscule budget and for a while Activity does a great job of mixing the couple's relationship with the anticipation of what's to come and the levels of skepticism that emerge. It'd be wrong to say that it isn't scary but it does feel a lot tamer than The Blair Witch Project (to which it has been compared) felt ten years earlier. Rather like last year's Cloverfield I don't think it can sustain its video-camera concept and draws attention to it more than it ever needs to.

Up
Directed by Pete Docter
Starring: Ed Asner, Jordan Nagai, Bob Peterson
Grade: B-


Cars was kiddie-Pixar and as many montages and ruminations about old age won't really change the fact that Up is the same kind of thing. It really doesn't look like Pixar made it at all. The attempts to be cute are more akin to the Ice Age series, which I like but for its modest purpose as an educational heart-warming piece rather than anything else. Maybe we've been spoiled but the level of insight and entertainment in Up is probably lower than in any of their other films, with the exception of Cars.

1 comment:

Dain Binder said...

I recently saw Paranormal Activity and must say it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. Your write up is spot on! The Blair Witch project was many times better than Paranormal Activity.

It sure did make me freaked out a couple times but I slept fine that night. Blair Witch stayed with me longer. I am still looking forward to a film that will do what Blair did.