Thursday, January 06, 2005

Last year I have been mostly watching...

Three great films from last year:

Master and Commander: the Far Side of the World
I can’t seem to get tired of watching this one. It’s a human story disguised as an action movie. The battle scenes, impressive as they are, almost get in the way of the good bits: the long nature shots on the Galapagos Islands, the string duets in the Captain’s quarters, the wide-angle shots of that beautiful ship on the vast ocean...

As a Portsmouth lad, it brings to life the romantic world of cannons, grog rations, ship’s biscuits and powder monkeys that formed the basis of virtually every school project with which we were tasked.

Lost in Translation
Surely the best film about the tedium of hotel life ever made. It perfectly captures the feeling of numb displacement and the unreal slowness of time you experience when staying in a ‘transitory’ place (such as a hotel, airport or train station) alone.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A few years ago I would have thought it very unlikely that a film could star Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and not be very irritating. But this is an exceptional movie, which manages to be very easy to follow despite its deeply complex structure - with time looping backwards and forwards, and memory and reality becoming mixed up in nearly every scene.

And three rubbish ones:

The Day After Tomorrow
Has great effects, but then which films haven’t these days? Unintentionally hilarious. Has a very cringeworthy bit where a British chap is watching Manchester Utd play and ‘cheering them on’ by shouting ‘kick it, kick it’ at the screen.

More unintentional hilarity. Best bit is when the camera pulls out to reveal the Greek fleet, which must consist of about a billion ships.

Fahrenheit 9/11
For these reasons.


martpol said...

Oh, you devil, you. Just when I thought I wasn't going to contribute to your blog for at least a couple of days.

Actually, I haven't seen Lost in Translation or Eternal Sunshine - surely a crime against my movie-loving credentials. However, I think Master and Commander was a fairly idiotic Hollywoodisation of something which could have been so distinctively British. Fun, but infuriating. I'd go for The Day After Tomorrow any time, as an enjoyably ludicrous adventure in the mould of Independence Day. The bit with the ice chasing him into the library was giddily stupid, and fantastic.

Of the year's blockbusters, I'd say Spider-Man 2 was definitely the best, though. And Troy was just DULL.

By the way, pick up Ricky Gervais Live 2 - Politics if you can. It's even funnier than Animals, and considerably more offensive. Yes, it's even possible to make jokes about the Holocaust.

Brit said...

Master and Commander an 'idiotic Hollywoodisation'? Nonsense upon stilts, sir!

How many idiotic Hollywood movies have you seen which forego the 'action' three-quarters of the way through, to allow a long sequence depicting a naturalist crawling around with a net and a microscope, examining insects and giant tortoises?

Really of course, the film is about the different aspects of masculinity and what it means to be a good man: authority, courage, duty, loyalty etc

For example, the physical courage and iron will of the little aristocratic boys employed as officers is compared with the 'weak' officer Hollom, who eventually sacrifices himself to remove his 'curse' from the ship.

The true central focus of the movie is not the capture of the French ship, but the dilemma facing Aubrey re his two competing loyalties - to his friend Maturin (the doctor and naturalist), and to his naval duty.

It's a wonderful, unique film - which you would expect from Peter Weir, who made the equally wonderful and unique movie about the different aspects of femininity: Picnic at Hanging Rock.

(Spider Man 2 was a great, a hoot - one of the few comic-based films that doesn't take itself cringingly seriously. Nearly as good as Evil Dead II.)

martpol said...

Problem is, I've forgotten almost everything about Master and Commander, since I found it so unmemorable and so difficult to distinguish from a dozen other Hollywood action films. You pick out one character in particular: for me, he was just the obligatory wacky character. The conflict you mention is just the obligatory half-arsed attempt at conflict. Beyond that I can't comment; I did enjoy the film, but was disappointed to think that a lot of the dialogue/action could just as easily have taken place on board a spaceship or in a pub.

Still, it was nothing like dreary as my Worst Film of the Year, Battle Royale II. If you've seen the original, you'll want to weep.

Another trend which seems set to continue is the remaking of just about any successful Asian horror film. Two of these should definitely be seen in their original form: the genuinely creepy A Tale of Two Sisters (from Korea), and Dark Water (by Hideo Nakata, who made Ring). Don't bother with Ju-on: The Grudge, though - it's confusing and a bit silly, and definitely improved upon in the remaking.

Brit said...

Ah well, if you can't remember it, that's different. perhaps you were in a bad mood that day.

I suggest you watch it again. Then you'll realise it's not an action movie at all (there are only two battle scenes), and is only 'Hollywood' in the financing sense: there is no conventional plot structure, no love interest (in fact, no female characters, which just doesn't happen in Hollywood action movies), no American stars, the cast is mostly unknown British actors recruited from the stage, and the director Weir is an Australian (responsible for The Cars that Ate Paris, Witness and the Truman Show).

Duck said...

I'll second Andrew's comments on "Master & Commander" and "Troy". Another nominee for the wort list has to be "King Arthur". Arthur as a Roman governor? Arturus? The Knights of the Round Table as German indentured mercenaries? Guinivere as a druid warrior princess?? I cannot recall of a worse mangling of history, or myth, or both combined as this gave us. Of course it was merely a premise for one of Jerry Bruckheimer's action-saturated extravagances. As an action film it was pretty good.

Brit said...


Have to agree about the risible King Arthur. Clive Owen as Arthur had a sort of anti-charisma. I say that if you're going to do Arthur, do it properly, with magic and chivalry and the sword in the stone etc.

For Arthurian myths you can't beat T H White's strange and brilliant "The Once and Future King" in literature, and Boorman's equally oddball "Excalibur" in film.

Hey Skipper said...


I third your recommendation of M & C. I've seen it three times and it is currently occupying a spot on my TiVO.

I havent' seen the others, but I would heartily recommend The Incredibles.

Here is a recommendation that you will either think sublime, or cause you to wonder if I am barking mad: Mean Girls. It is a teen film with a message, itself an oddity right there. What is even more odd, it never insults the viewers intelligence, and is amazingly funny. And here is the kicker: it is better the second viewing. (A must see for girls from 13-18. And their dads. I picked it up on a whim; turned out to be my father stroke-of-genius for 2004.)

Or, I am barking mad.

Hey Skipper said...

Andrew--you might know me as Jeff Guinn.

Brit said...

Hey Skipper/Jeff:

Of course I know you...welcome to Think of England. It's not quite as highbrow as the Daily Duck, and much less prolific than the exhausting BrosJudd.

Funnily enough, I have seen Mean Girls and like you, was pleasantly surprised by its cutting edge.

Just saw The Incredibles this weekend - wonderful stuff.

David said...

Though I frown at self-promotion, I have no problem with hypocrisy.

I enjoyed Lost in Translation, but I think it is a very slight movie that won't stand up over time.

Eternal Sunshine is excellent, though I'll have to see it a couple more times to really come to grips with it. It is, of course, a movie about the triumph of faith over rationality.

Brit said...


"It is, of course, a movie about the triumph of faith over rationality."

Sigh - yes, well it would be, wouldn't it? :)

I admire your review of M&C - you're right that Weir takes almost painstaking care to sacrifice all the obvious tools to make his movie a conventional Hollywood blockbuster.

I think you and Orrin are wrong to yearn for a resounding defeat of Maturin and his ideas, though. Presumably you'd want an ending with the medic humbly apologising to Aubrey for the error of his academic, forward-thinking ways, putting away his books and taking up his blunderbuss.

But Weir plays it about right. You need the Aubreys and Maturins of this world for the best balance and the richest recipe. Imagine how dull BrosJudd would be if it were stuffed solely with a stodgy diet of OJ's yes-men, without the spice added by its resident dissenters, the Jeffs and the Harrys...

David said...

I don't think I was arguing for Maturin's abject apology. Rather, my problem with the movie is that is suffers from the common movie flaw of not forcing its hero to pay the price for his decision.

Aubrey decides not to pursue the Acheron in deference to Maturin. Suddenly, the Acheron shows up. It's not due to anything that Aubrey did or Maturin did. It's not that, together, they are better than either one alone. (Which, speaking of BrothersJudd, and taking Aubrey to be COE Tory conservatism, and Maturin to be Enlightenment rationality, would be an interesting thesis.) It just happens because Weir needs a climactic battle. (I do understand that we're supposed to think that Aubrey gets the idea of disguising Surprise as a whaler from Maturin's stick bug, but (a) that's laughable and (b) trivial.)