My Thoughts On…Kill Your Darlings

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A brilliant film about the universal but complicated roots of great art - love, friendship, jealousy, alienation.

We all see things we believe are wrong and need changing, but so few of us actively change ourselves to the extent that the world around us can change.

Where is this rebellion now, artistically? If I have missed it because I am now too old to tap into that energy then point me in the direction of the descendants of the beats, the punks.

I’m a big fan of this period of literature and art, particularly Kerouac. In New York in March I saw a brilliant exhibition at NYU of Ginsberg’s photographs, mostly from this period. It was a beautiful window onto a seminal era for me and modern literature and culture and showed that Ginsberg was a prototype modern creator - not restrained to one form, his photos were beautiful. His eye as good as his ear for language.  

I have got a lot of time for Daniel Radcliffe. His choices post Potter are fascinating and here, as a young Ginsberg he is sublime in an astonishing ensemble cast. My re-evaluation of Ben Foster keeps going, his Burroughs is superb. All the cast members give memorable performances in a film that is brimming with energy, ideas, passion and confidence. Jack Huston and Dane DeHaan continue to show their fierce emerging talent. The women are given short shrift as per, but to be fair this is a period of history dominated by male figures and the role of women in it is another, equally important film. 

The music is integral and is a stunning mix of period accurate tunes and some wonderfully anachronistic choices - the use of TV On The Radio is inspired and I need the Bloc Party remix in my life but as yet haven’t tracked it down (the press screening I saw cut the credits off so the press conference with Daniel R could start). 

Some of the press moaned (as they generally do) about the modern music being out of place and unnecessary but surely that misses the point in a film about a group of young men who were so convinced that old ways needed to change they went hell for leather forging their own ideas and identities. Surely it’s completely in keeping with the spirit of the historical era being represented? 

This of course prompts the argument that what the filmmakers are doing is not as original as the characters did in real life, but it’s refreshing to see a film that is secure in its own vision, that uses music and text/design in interesting ways and doesn’t pander to all the conventions of the period flick. I say more like this please, maybe more like this will see some new movie Beats emerge and tear the tired establishment right down.

My Thoughts On…Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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Quite simply the best film I have seen this year so far. A brooding, elegant and poetic drama that is beautifully performed, has a beautiful score by Daniel Hart and is just a delicious slice of gothic Southern pulp.

Those who claim it is Malick-esque sell it somewhat short. Yes there are more than shades of Malick here but it deserves wider respect than that. It’s a film that gives space to its characters, lets them breathe, lets us get to know them. It is part of a lineage but not beholden. The use of space and time is stunning. 

My reassessment of Ben Foster continues and Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are as stunning as ever, what actors. 

Just stunning.

My Thoughts On…The Messenger

Whoever told me Ben Foster could act, I take it back. You were right. He is brilliant in this movie, which is a really good actor’s movie. Foster, with Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, Steve Buscemi, elevates a simple tale to something really watchable.

It follows Foster, an injured serviceman who has to take on the duty of delivering news of death to spouses and family. 

His injury is to his eye, and he is seeing differently in more ways than one as he does his duty with Harrelson’s older, jaded soul and falls for one of the wives he delivers news to (Morton).

The scene with Buscemi is moving, jarring and truthful. Brilliant.

It’s just a great story, grippingly told by performers who always deliver and Foster, coming of age.

I take it all back.

My Thoughts On…360

In Cinemas: Friday August 10th 2012

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Fernando Meirelles’ early films City of God and The Constant Gardener were incendiary social thrillers. Gripping in their style and execution and with a strong socially charged core they were breaths of fresh cinematic air. His latest however, never gets beyond being okay, and sadly, most of the time it’s quite tedious. 

What is most strange is how the globe trotting ensemble piece that seeks to show the how connected the world is, has become a tired and dated format. This lacks completely the energy and class of Soderbergh’s Traffic or Inarritu’s Amores Perros, both modern high points of the genre, or even the ambition and brazenness of Inarritu’s latter Babel.

It is so caught up in the structure, and the smug resonance of the way the characters collide that it forgets both drama and character. There are so few moments where real empathy is created that despite its under 120 minute running time it feels laboured and prosaic. 

That’s not to say there aren’t any good moments. Ben Foster in particular comes off well in a difficult role as a recently released sex offender, and other actors get some nice moments from their glorified cameos. And it all could have been really different. The seedy opening with its pulpy opening song leads into a meeting between Jude Law and a new prostitute that sets the film up as a potentially sleazy Hitchockian thriller, with Law being ripped off, framed etc. But the film doesn’t take this route and ends up drifting into drama with lots of characters in lots of locations but never really moving beyond gimmick at any time. A real shame, but proof that style is never a substitute for substance. 

My Thoughts On…Rampart

Blu Ray / DVD Release: Monday 9th July

Released by Studio Canal UK

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For the first hour this film is the most visceral and gripping translation of the mind of writer James Ellroy that has made it to the screen. It’s a pitch black dissection of a sociopathic corrupt cop, surrounded by troubled souls and others searching for their piece of the disgusting pie.

You either love Ellroy’s cynical take on the world, masculinity and women or don’t and it seems to come down to whether you believe that his characters could be real or not. For me, I love him, and it only takes one cursory look at a newspaper or headline segment of the news to know if anything, he might be being kind to our race. 

Woody Harrelson is formidable as Dave Brown, the eye of the storm, hell bent on seeing through his vision of policing whatever the cost, and the cost is astronomical to the lives of fellow cops, his family, the women who somehow fall under his spell and the criminals unlucky enough to cross his path.

It’s a breathtaking performance that both forces everyone else, and it’s a fantastic cast, to up their game, but also outshines them through its fearlessness. Particularly a scene with a burrito that prompted the most response on Twitter when I tweeted I was watching this.

So if you like your stories cancerous this is the film for you. Where it all comes apart is when the film feels like it has to force moral questions on to the protagonist that the film neither needs or deserves. The beauty of Ellroy is the fact that no one is spared, everyone is dirty, there is no salvation. It’s jail or death. When the film presents opportunities for redemption and Harrelson’s character has to question his life, it falls apart somewhat and the power of what has gone before is diluted. Also, the direction never knows whether to go all out Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant in its style or stick with the common language we’ve come to expect from The Wire, Homicide, NYPD Blue etc. And this is a shame.

They detract from what could be an incredibly bleak classic, and instead leave the film full of great moments, fronted by a scintillating first hour and brave storytelling, but ultimately lacking in cohesion and confidence. 

Still one of the most uncomfortable and uncompromising (til towards the end) characters from an American screen in a long time and the film deserves to be seen.

My Thoughts On…The Mechanic

@eigtba

Snob eh? Pah! You clearly haven’t seen my Grown Ups review. 

Never one to shirk from a challenge I’ve watched and am reviewing a Jason Statham movie. 

I like Statham. He’s gives good action. In fact

He’s the new Marlon Brando. What? I hear you cry.

He seems to not like being filmed from the neck down. So many close ups of that Mount Rushmore cranium. 

He’s the new Steve McQueen. What? I hear you cry.

He knows the power of saying nothing. He just broods and punches.

Love how he is always walking with paranoid glances. It’s as if he is scared of being found out any moment. Both his character, and as an actor. 

His films are telling, he plays characters who have short life spans and stockpile relics of the good life for an early retirement. He ain’t stupid.

This is a decent enough action movie. Some good lines, some imaginative deaths, some needless, offensive sex scenes. Ben Foster is rubbish, but then he usually is. Badly miscast here. 

Happy Scott? You douche.

Oh, and how brilliantly camp is the still below? Haha. He’s a little angry teapot!

My Thoughts On…30 Days Of Night

I’ve seen this film a few times. It very nearly made it into my top 20 of the decade and before you get all ‘the graphic novel is better yada yada yada’ I’ve not read it and I don’t care. This is a film with an amazing concept that is beautifully shot, with incredible sound design. The characters are great, the location means twists in plot can be covered without anyone going ‘oh god, how lame’.

The Vampires are demonic, the way they are shot is savage. Their ‘powers’ work because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be such a threat because as Josh Hartnett points out, the only reason those people live in Barrow, is because no one else can. David Slade, who also made Hard Candy, knows how to handle tension, and his use of children in 2 key points of the movie is sublime. He manages to balance the humanity and the action needs perfectly. I love it, and could watch it over and again.