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January 2008

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Jan. 22nd, 2008

...

 Rest in Peace Heath Ledger :( x
Such a tremendous loss, to his family first and foremost but also to film...
Yuck  

Jan. 14th, 2008

Zodiac

Another long 'un here, which I really liked, and for the most part stayed with mentally even as my (well padded might I add) bottom began to get upset! 
Again, had no prior knowledge of the history of the Zodiac serial killer who struck throughout the 1970's in California, which certainly didn't do any harm and helped the material to feel extra fresh and shocking.
Reminders, also of the wild goose chase experienced by West Yorkshire Police at the hands of the Yorkshire Ripper (and to a significant extent, Wearside Jack) during the same time period, which also interested me.
Whilst providing a good, clear timeline of the twists and turns of the Zodiac case, the movie goes into greatest detail regarding the detrimental effects of investigation on three men, political cartoonist. Greysmith, Inspector Toschi and top Reporter, Avery, played by Jake Gyllenhaal,  Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. 
Slowly but surely, the case, even as it fumbles and crumbles around them, begins to consume them. Although, arguably. obsession is displayed most obviously in Graysmith's life, as his long suffering wife, Chloe Sevigny, leaves with his children, Toschi's part seems the most interesting to me as he takes on the persona of the killer, adopting his way of thinking and indeed style, in order to write letters posing as Zodiac, to keep the failing case alive. Both Ruffalo and Downey Jr give strong performances. Downey in particular is given the perfect platform to show off his talent for cynicism, world weariness and the slightly slimy. Would be interested to check out some more of his back catalogue, in particular, 'Kiss Kiss, Bang, Bang'.
Some nicely done, harrowing scenes of violence complimented effectively by the sickly yellow 70s colour palette in which the film is shot. The sequence with the young, picnicking couple by the lake lingers longest in the subconscious.
The latter part of the movie deals with what would happen if the killer were to be unearthed, with tense moments for Graysmith in the basement of a potential suspect's house and a near-confrontation in a hardware store with the nearest anyone came to the main man in question.
Although Arthur Leigh Allen (now dead and never charged) was identified in a mugshot by one of Zodiac's first targets, sufficient legal evidence was never compiled.
Not only does this delight the viewer with their own investigative questions, it also creates an almost supernatural element to Zodiac as a soulless, phantom-like assassin, perhaps the ultimate bogeyman.

Fincher should be commended for another competent and involving look at the dark and twisted and the merge between the professional and the obsessional.

     

Jan. 12th, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford

It's pretty fair to say this is not the sort of movie I'd be drawn to immediately, not least because my knowledge of the history of Jesse James prior to seeing it was zero!
However, it has many good things going for it, that transcend genre.
Brad Pitt, as James and Casey Affleck as Ford (and laterally, Sam Rockwell as Robert's brother, Charley) give strong, honed and convincing performances throughout, as the film moves at a developmental, purposely meandering pace.
The story is as engrossing as it is well (and thoroughly) told, despite a running time just shy of three hours, dealing with the changing dynamics between the two lead characters as Ford enters as a fragile, insecure young man, eager to impress and emulate his childhood hero and leaves the world, embittered, damaged and persecuted.
James on the other hand is shown almost consistently as a man with an extraordinarily commanding and intimidating presence, even to his closest 'allies', although this never feels overblown or bombastic. Pitt truly is a talented, insightful and charismatic performer, given the right vehicle. Although there are several standout scenes of nerve-shredding violence and terrorism, these are held together by the grim and often chilling, underlying sense of impending doom. It is in no way a movie impaired by the foreknowledge of it's conclusion. The tension is palpable and helps drive the film through many dialogue heavy exchanges.
It is to Dir. Andrew Dominik's credit that he makes this a film about character study and assassination, both physical and metaphorical - and is probably the reason I liked it so much. Affleck is rightly acclaimed for his edgy, unpredictable and conflicted portrayal of a man desperate to claim the glory and notoriety held by his hero.
Tragically however, his short lived possession of such power is married with innate irresponsibility and instability and following his killing of James, people soon display their disgust with the pitiful and grating character of Ford, constantly reminded by a play acted by the Ford brothers themselves, in which Robert is brilliantly shown to be consumed by his moment of ultimate betrayal and rebellion as he shoots a knowing James.
Jesse himself is interestingly in control of every scenario he finds himself in, even his death, where he removes his weapon, resigning himself to his fate. It is almost, to me, as if he is the more able, perhaps deserving of his position of power and manipulation, through the sheer strength and calculation he exudes. Often he proves to display real insight and wisdom, observing of Robert, just how much he creeps him out.
After the killing itself, which is, incidentally beautifully scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, the film moves past a sort of anti-climax to show the aftermath and consequences for the Ford brothers where Robert is left unsettled and disillusioned before finally suffering an eerily similar fate to his late hero. It is hard to imagine the will to continue with this story well past the two hour mark if the relationship between viewer and characters had not been so carefully and admirably built and deepened. 
Although morally speaking, both characters are reprehensible, as the movie reaches it's conclusion, it is fascinating to see such differing public reactions and attitudes based solely on the natures of the men, questioning the power and appeal of charisma regardless of circumstance.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward, Robert Ford is a cerebral experience, artistically presented, in the best possible sense.

Jan. 11th, 2008

Half Nelson

A sort of typical, but yet fresh Amercian Indie take on the struggles of working class inner-city dwellers, delivered mostly from the points of view of a morose but inspired white school teacher, portrayed by the cooler-than-ice, Ryan Gosling and an equally troubled yet bright and thoughtful thirteen year old black girl.
The film itself juggles familiar issues of race, class, drug abuse, isolation and to a slight degree, infatuation but without ever feeling like a lecture in Sociology/Psychology or slipping into cliches.
Gosling deals with the role of an enthusiastic teacher or 'coach' with beautiful understatement, depth and realism. He cares for the children deeply yet finds himself depending upon them to define his existence and hold him together in the midst of a growing Cocaine addiction - there are some shocking scenes of unprofessionalism from a man struggling, increasingly in vain, with his flaws and demons. Yet a wealth of responses are drawn from the viewer, disgust and anger at the carelessness he displays by allowing one of his pupils to discover him in various drug addled stupors, yet heartbreak at witnessing his guilt, shame, and most horribly, resignation.
In the hands of another director, perhaps the revelation that pupil and teacher unwittingly mix in the same unfortunate social circles, would seem contrived, but here it only serves to underline the sense of hopelessness, irony and hypocrisy, as both teacher and family 'friend' lead the young Drey into dangerous and corruptive environments.
Yet, hope is encouraged, as motives are exposed and made clear, in an ending left open to the interpretation of the viewer. Despite the clumsy and messy relationships and decisions explored by this film, confidence lies in the ever-maturing mind and heart of thirteen year old Drey, brilliantly portrayed by Shareeka Eps.

Jan. 10th, 2008

Lets start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...

 So...as good a start as any, here is an overview of my top twenty ranked films of 2007 in list form!
I intend to provide individual reviews for each as I write them. Watch this space :)


20. Half Nelson

19. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

18. Zodiac

17. A Mighty Heart

16. The Darjeeling Limited

15. Ratatouille

14. Knocked Up

13. Control

12. 2 Days In Paris

11. Once

10. Inland Empire

9. Death Proof

8. The Bourne Ultimatum

7. Hairspray

6. Enchanted

5. The Lives of Others

4. Paris Je t’aime

3. Away from her

2. La Vie En Rose

1. Waitress

Why, hellew!

Testing, testing :)