My Thoughts On…The Bridesmaid

Sublime theatricality and cinematic verve. It’s a film that gets under the skin with its directness, simplicity and smouldering aloofness. 

It’s a fascinating study of obsession and madness and how one can love and project flaws and madness onto another person without an ounce of self awareness of their own plight.

Dark, twisted, unsettling. I think this is my first Chabrol since La Boucher at university and it’s got me hooked, desperate for more. 

My Thoughts On…Throne Of Blood

I’m screening this for my adaptation class this week as we discuss the lure of Shakespeare and the practice of theatrical adaptation in film. 

It’s one of my favourite Kurosawa’s, easily top 3, and not simply because I love Macbeth but because it’s such a beautiful film. It tackles the themes of power and greed, ambition and ego sublimely and manages to blend the original ideas with ancient Japanese culture perfectly so that the changes from the original just make seamless sense.

Toshiro Mifune is crazed in the lead role of Washizu, on a power crazed mission for the throne of Cobweb castle, having his ambition coaxed out by his wife Lady Asaji. The spiritual elements are superbly handled, the visuals bravura and probing and claustrophobic and the use of mist alone captures the doom, foreboding and danger of Shakespeare’s play that should not be uttered.

My Thoughts On…12 Years A Slave

Maybe it was the hype surrounding the brutality but I was expecting a much more uncomfortable experience, particularly from the director of Hunger.

However (maybe I am desensitised) but I didn’t find it too hard to watch. I mean it’s horrific, but then the story is horrific, the truth is horrific, so my expectations were in line with that understanding beforehand.

What I did experience surprised me.

It felt like a piece of classic cinema. A beautiful, incredible story impeccably told. Exceptional screenplay, perfectly cast exceptional performances, sublime editing. 

The photographic collaboration between Steve McQueen and Sean Bobbitt is yielding the most jaw-dropping series of films aesthetically and again here the composition is off the chain, just wow.

Another film where the power of music to comfort, support, heal and hide is front and centre. The burial song sequence is heartbreaking. 

Like Gravity, it felt like there was a concession to the masses in order to get it made at this level. Here the concession felt like Hans Zimmer’s score which was unnecessary and felt slightly disconnected from the brutal realism and not in a good way. I kept wondering what Jonny Greenwood would have done with it, as the sound design underneath it was superb.

All in all it felt like a really strong piece of classic cinema and made me remember why I love cinema so much, the ability to meld story and image to such effect. I love McQueen as a filmmaker and while this didn’t have the same impact as his earlier works it is still an incredibly profound and beautiful piece of work, and a brilliant addition to his diverse, expanding and increasingly wondrous filmography.

And that end scene. Oh my word.

My Thoughts On…Kelly + Victor

@kierboyo

Finally saw this film and it was worth the wait. A beautiful, tragic tale of life lived on the margins. A delicately told tale of how one or two steps from the norm, from mainstream culture, either by choice or force, can leave people in a limbo existence.

The two performances from Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris are perfectly pitched. The chemistry as they become enraptured in desire and experimentation is electric. Victor finds excitement, confusion and trepidation from the sexual journey he undertakes and his warmth and devotion is problematic for Kelly who is not used to nice, love. 

Beautifully shot with an exceptional soundtrack. The film uses the wonderful Bill Ryder-Jones who also scored my last short film. 

I’ll leave it there, even though I have more to say, because I’ll be talking to the director Kieran Evans when he visits my Uni to talk to my screenwriting and adaptation students.

However, it must be said that it was a tough experience but a vital portrayal of modern British youth and a generation on the fringes, in the hinterland, slowly being forgotten, left to rot. It feels part of an exciting time in British filmmaking that is making the everyday cinematic again and resonating profoundly. It’s exciting to witness and I just wish more people could see this wonderful, raw, powerful work.

My Thoughts On…A Cock And Bull Story

I love this film. It’s so funny. So, so funny. And a brilliant adaptation. Why you say?

Well I won’t go into it too much here, because it’s the first film on my adaptation module next semester, so you will have to tune back in for my short lecture on it, the audio of which I shall post.

But, things I won’t talk about.

It’s a brilliant satire on celebrity and actors, really tapping into notions of privilege, fame, ego, competition and insecurity. 

As a screenwriter I love the scene where Gillian Anderson is cast over the phone in split screen, and the writer sits silently by in his shot, munching his dinner alone. Brilliant.

I loved how the film plays on pseudo-real versions of Coogan and Brydon and how this spilled over into the promotion of the film. I saw it at the London Film Festival and the pair did a Q&A afterwards, pretty much as the versions they play on screen here. It’s clear where the idea for The Trip came from. As funny, natural, improvisational, sharp and connected on the spot there, as they are on screen here.

What a cast! Great energy, great sense of a film set and as nuanced a film about adapting literature for the screen as the Kaufman/Jonze masterwork Adaptation.

My Thoughts On…Jackie Brown

I think this is a beautiful piece of work. It’s a collection of top level performances and moments that flow together and through each other. You can tell everyone is in awe of the storytelling, the characters, the dialogue. It’s the combination of Tarantino and Leonard, and Tarantino is in awe of Leonard too, and he’s incredibly respectful.

He’s restrained, delivering delicious flourishes every now and again that are less grandiose than normal, but they are there. 

It’s always been one of my favourite QT movies, and still is. It’s a film that has got better with age and still an all too rare glimpse of him stretching his wings.

My Thoughts On…Great Expectations (1946)

I’m teaching this for adaptation next semester so I thought I should revisit it. It’s still a wonderful film and a beautiful version of one of my favourite stories.

I love the story, it’s both a powerful love story and also a deft examination of privilege and the restrictions to change placed on us societally through fate of birth. This is one of the areas of the book that the film really addresses.

The performances are superb, although I’ve always thought John Mills was too old to play Pip. He doesn’t seem like a young man coming of age, he seems like a man who has been of age for quite sometime.

The opening is majestic, Magwitch in the graveyard, and the ‘ring that bell’ scene is still breathtakingly delivered. Great score and beautifully shot, deservedly regarded as one of the great Dickens adaptations and one of the greatest British films of all time. 

My Thoughts On…The Great Gatsby (2013)

The moment when Gatsby and Daisy see each other for the first time in 5 years is so perfect, so full of yearning and unbearable love. It’s proof that no filmmaker captures the space between lovers as powerfully as Baz Luhrmann. It’s a moment that echoes Romeo & Juliet and Christian & Satine. 

Alas, the film as a whole never scales the heights of those works. It hits its stride when Carraway finally meets Gatsby, before that it’s Luhrmann by numbers and the style feels very derivative of Moulin Rouge! in particular. 

The filmmaker feels pulled in the direction of his signatures when it seems his heart is in the human drama and close relationships. The stuff between Carraway, Gatsby, Daisy is the best stuff and some of the style here is mesmerising. It’s the big stuff that gets in the way.

Ultimately, it’s an irresistible force and an immovable object. The scale - The American Dream, the symbolism of the money and the hollowness of it all is all in the love between Gatsby and Daisy and Carraway’s wide eyed outside observer naiveté. It’s all in Fitzgerald’s characters. The casting of that trio is superb, they are all perfectly cast. The rest of the cast is good but their roles are given short shrift by the screenplay. 

It’s all in the performances of those indelible characters and at its peak the film is beautifully concerned with them. The bombast feels forced upon the drama which results in something very disjointed and uneven. The strength of the story comes through, just, but overall it left me yearning for something visually more low-key so that the dramatic impact could have been the central, star attraction. 

My Thoughts On…World War Z

Meh. Sadly, that’s pretty much all I can muster and I watched it last night. I’ve been trying to get something more in mind to write about, but there’s nothing.

Not angry, even though a film that cost this much to make should have at least polarised me, love or hate.

It was just lazy and boring, dull. Most of the characters are functional, there to deliver information and move the story forward towards an overly-scored effects-heavy action scene or just more information. I struggled to see what, in this form, Pitt was so attracted to in the project. I know the graphic novel is revered but I don’t think there’s much correlation with what ended up on screen.

I struggled to get through it in all honesty.

My Thoughts On…The Rules Of Attraction

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Oh God it’s just awful. The filth. The despair. The angst and privileged youth getting wasted and wasting. 

Because of that It perfectly captures the Ellis essence and presents a visually stunning tour de force of nihilism and disconnection. 

It’s an awful story but the performances are relentlessly committed (not just Dawson off the Creek) that it has an air of truth that stinks as much as the obnoxious odour of these awful people’s lives.

And the film student is probably the worst ‘film student’ ever committed to celluloid. 

My Thoughts On…Get Shorty

I love this movie. So much. It’s probably in my most watched list. It’s endlessly entertaining with its slick dialogue, cool performances and deep cinematic references. 

It’s sad watching it now in the wake of the loss of three principle players. Elmore Leonard who wrote the source novel died this week, the oldest and perhaps least unexpected of those who have recently passed.

Also gone now are James Gandolfini who plays Bear, an ex-stunt man turned reluctant informer. Pre Sopranos and he delivers a softness and a weariness, and a diligence to performance most actors wouldn’t reach for. 

Finally there’s Dennis Farina, an actor born to read Leonard dialogue. Here and in Out of Sight he is miraculous. Slimy, pitch perfect, sad and dangerous. 

It also makes me miss Gene Hackman, his retirement is keenly felt.

All are great, great losses to cinema and the film feels like the kind of film that has passed away. It stars adults, it’s for adults. It is about adults. Rene Russo has never been sexier (except for The Thomas Crown Affair).

There’s a weariness and a resoluteness from all involved. 

There’s also some delicious dialogue and a supreme John Lurie score. It’s funny, and smart, and doesn’t care if people don’t get the cine-references, because it’s in love with movies, and wants the audience to be in love with movies. The scene where Russo’s Karen watches Travolta’s Palmer watch Touch Of Evil is wondrous. He is so in love with movies, and she falls for his passion, his child like wonder. 

I miss the three involved who were so good in getting this movie into my heart, and I miss movies like this from Hollywood, about Hollywood, for those of us who love Hollywood.

My Thoughts On…Out Of Sight

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Just, just tucked behind The Limey as my favourite Soderbergh film. This is an endlessly watchable movie, a brilliant adaptation. There’s so much going on, and so much love within it. 

The chemistry between Clooney and Lopez is insane. So believable. The famous trunk scene is a brilliant example of creating chemistry and believability. The movie references are superb. Clooney misquoting Network is a joy.

He is brilliant at being smooth and charming but also littering his performance with moments of idiocy and clumsiness that give his characters great depth. He uses his physicality a lot too. 

Dennis Farina (RIP) is brilliant as J Lo’s Dad. His interrogation of her married boyfriend Michael Keaton (in the role he also plays in Jackie Brown) is brilliant, helped by Keaton’s obliviousness. He will be missed.

The scene where he greets his daughter’s boss at the hospital is a gem of passive aggressive comic timing. It’s an example of luscious dialogue that runs through the film. Funny, smart, illuminating. A brilliant screenplay.

The cameo at the end (I won’t spoilt it if you haven’t seen it) is a wonderfully cheeky scene that ties up and leaves open what has gone before in such a satisfying and story logical way. Bravo.

The script, the photography, the editing, the performances, all so natural and effortless. 

Never realised Viola Davis was in it either.

The David Holmes soundtrack is a thing of wonder.

An example of the greatness of the film is in the character of Glenn Michaels. He is a border between the charming anti-hero criminal and the dangerous, murderous villain. The scene where he is forced to be involved in a revenge murder organised by Maurice (Don Cheadle) is a jolting reminder that this is a film about criminals, violence and danger and it beautifully muddies the water for the rest of the film. We are with Foley all the way until this moment when the morality of what he does for a living, however charming, is laid bare by the acts of, whether he likes it or not, his peers.

Masterful.

My Thoughts On…A History Of Violence

I intend to write more about this film over coming months and years. I feel there is so much to say about it. I think it’s a masterpiece. It’s such a powerful, profound and brilliantly entertaining work. There’s so much going on. I’m teaching it for adaptation. I love it.

It’s a coruscating dissection of the American Dream. It’s Cronenberg’s Blue Velvet. And as good as that movie. So watch this space. I really want to go into this film for Bright Wall/Dark Room and I feel drawn to it academically, so just looking at outlets for talking about it - journals and conferences looking at violence, adaptation, cronenberg, the american dream.

For now. Just watching it again because I haven’t seen it in a while, but it hangs over me, haunts me, inspires me, challenges me and gets me excited about writing, movies and teaching writing and movies. 

So good.

My Thoughts On…Seven Psychopaths

It starts off promisingly, with Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg as medium to high level mafia hitmen on a job in a scene that delivers exposition and a nice nod to the pairs turn in Boardwalk Empire. 

From there though the film is scattershot, tonally, and never really settles into something coherent and engaging despite great moments. And ultimately, it’s just not that funny. Criminally it feels underwritten which is bad for a film by the writer of In Bruges, and as it’s a film about screenwriting, in part. It feels derivative, even as it apes derivativeness but it never feels achieved with the level of satire or flair that Adaptation manages, say.

For example, writing poor female characters, and then having characters tut and avoid the topic of poor female characters in a movie, is a cop out.

The performances are either good or great, and all really want to make the material work. Walken is great, as is Tom Waits, it’s just all too disjointed to really nail what it’s going for.

My Thoughts On…Dredd

Someone gets shot UP the face!

There’s a commitment to a British aesthetic and an almost tokenistic American feel to proceeedings. Outside the central tower block there’s a greater sense of America, but once through the doors, a real grimy, dark Britishness takes over, which given the roots of the comic and character is just.

This film is also so direct, and simple. There’s one plot, and one subplot. And that’s it. Both work in unison and save for a short expositional flashback, the film moves forward relentlessly. The character of Dredd is not foregrounded with grand claims of his reputation and there’s no iconic grandstanding or framing. The actions of Dredd speak for themselves and the iconography of his badassness (is that a word? it should be) emerges organically, which is so refreshing. And Karl Urban plays it spot on. He just oozes justice and ice cold violence. Through him, the brilliant morality tale at the heart of the origin story of Dredd can be played out perfectly.

There is a lo-fi sensibility, a grimy sheen, a roughness that suits the material and the violence is brutal and imaginative. It skirts the boundary of entertainment and horror perfectly. It’s uncomfortable enjoyment. Great score, although I would have loved them to have been brave and gone with Beak>’s DROKK score, that would have been something.

Balls out adult entertainment. A proper 18 made by people who clearly love the source material and did a great job with a small budget, and who have redeemed an iconic character from camp infamy (that’s you Stallone).

Finally, it was clear that the filmmakers knew what they were doing, whereas now it’s clear that the Stallone Judge Dredd is so bad, because no one had any idea how to put this character on screen, at least in the background, cos woah, this feels appropriate and the Rob Schneider one now feels like the weirdest cheese too late at night infused dream of what Dredd cinema would be.

Oh, and someone gets shot UP the face.