Category Archives: Film

Why Beauty Matters

Roger Scruton had a documentary/ report/ essay on BBC a couple of months ago called Why Beauty Matters. It’s about how the idea of beauty in art is/has been lost/ abandoned.

I agree pretty much with the views expressed in that. People on the whole have become too cynical for beauty in Art. As with in all other artistic areas these days, I would suggest the portrayal of negative attributes is what is often most highly praised.

Most “modern art” (at least the most popular kind) is a jaded death spasm of an urge to rebel, which itself is now nothing more than conformity because few people have the courage to portray Beauty or Happiness or pleasant scenes or thoughts or actions when the Art world is expecting -and only allows- “mind-pricks” with a particular message or non-message or a cynical “dare to nay-say this!”

Beauty in modern art is often used only as a counterpoint to the pain and suffering of others or to come or that has been. It is rarely the focus, the raison d’etre. Beauty is too subjective, and so, too many people might not “get it”.

Death and Fear and disdain and cynicism are more universally shared commodities.

It’s hard to dismiss a portrayal of Death or a work of art that justifies itself simply as “a bit of a mess”. To criticise -or even discuss- this last one is lending it credence and adds to the mockery and disdain of my personal view and ‘wants’ from Art.

That’s not to say “it’s not Art” -but just that it’s nothing I care to talk about or debate.
Feel free to enjoy it yourself. Sleep in it for all I care.

A work that is made to “uplift” is nowadays dismissed precisely because of the bland, homogenised, compartmentalised, formulaic, “digital” view of the world. Everything is labelled and put in its box for easy consumption. Want “uplifting”? Go to Disney or see a Ron Howard movie.

But those places we are “supposed to” go to for that uplifting experience are themselves the greatest distributors of Cynicism and Formula and disdain. They languish in Politically Corrective strategy groups, paring edges off anything that might offend, almost always leaving nothing but the bare bones of a thread that will “appeal to” (which now means little more than ‘not offend’) as wide an audience as possible (which translates as ‘doesn’t have any nipples in it because granny might have a heart attack if she knows the 3-year-old suspects women have breasts!’)

Here’s the programme I mentioned above

Underrated Movies (part 4)

This series of (some of) my favourite under-valued movies begins here.


A Very Long Engagement

averylongI’ll let you in on a secret: I wasn’t crazy about that darling movie Amelie. In fact I didn’t like it. If Amelie herself had been played by an ugly 50-something everyone would call her a nosey busy-body. The fact she’s a beautiful young Audrey Tatou means she is impossible to disagree with. I find that disagreeable -whether I disagree with her or not.

And another thing, my favourite Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies to date are the ones he made with Marc Caro (Delicatessen and my real favourite City of Lost Children), but those gems are at least much praised by anyone who mentions them. A Very Long Engagement though, was all but forgotten soon after its release. At least I don’t notice any fuss over it. Outside of France, bien sur. This is a shame because it rivals the best of them.

Again Audrey Tatou blesses the screen with her natural charms and screen presence, but this one is much more of an ensemble piece with a cast of (it seems) hundreds. This can make it confusing at times to remember who’s who and what’s going on, but nonetheless it only makes you want to see it all over again from the start right after watching. We’ve all seen films about soldiers living with the affects of war, but this is more about the people who stayed at home and how they manage to recover (or not). It’s never depressing or overly sentimental -at least not in a bad way. Beautifully shot, perfectly played by all the cast. Lovely story -the type that seldom escapes the Film Formula Factory these days. Watch it in wonder and awe. …And it’s unfair of me to say I prefer those earlier films since they are nothing whatsoever like this one so any comparison is moot. It would be like me saying I prefer paper over soap. I have no idea what that means either, but watch A Very Long Engagement. You won’t regret it.
(There’s a slightly longer view of this movie now available here if you’re interested. No spoilers!)


In this World


If you don’t know already, you’ll be put off as soon as I tell you what this film is about. Trust me, I know you will. Can I get away with telling you it’s a thriller? No? …OK, it’s about some boys whose family pay to have them leave their village in Afganistan (before the current war, as writing in 2009) and be smuggled into England. To say the journey doesn’t run smoothly is putting it mildly.

BUT WAIT! Come back… it’s not a preachy “oh woe is this shame” movie. It is a thriller as I said. You will be on the edge of your seat and you will know you’re not being lectured. Michael Winterbottom has made some great movies. This is one of his best.




They Shoot Horses Don’t They?


Yes yes, I know. That box art looks maudlin. Don’t let that put you off though. If you’re like me you’ve wondered many times what everybody ever saw in Jane Fonda. I’ve even seen her in her hey-day and wondered that. Could it just be they’re in love with her father Henry? I’ve often asked myself. Other Fondas are hit and miss.

But anyway, I saw TSHDT (as I like to call it) relatively recently (mid-2000s) for the first time and was blown away. It’s an amazing recessionary tale of survival and dance. It’s like X-Factor (which I hate too!), The Running Man, Rollerball and The Cannonball Run rolled into one. As ridiculous as it sounds, it concerns a depression-era dance marathon that just about never stops… last one standing takes the grand prize of $1,500!!
I am told such things existed in real life, but it’s hard to fathom how it was allowed.

These people are desperate. They put on a show of their life -and yours. Even Red Buttons (who never did much for me either it has to be said) works his socks off and delivers an amazing performance.

And Jane Fonda… oh boy. She is amazing in it too. And looks stunning.
Sydney Pollack directed a number of really good solid movies, including Three Days of the Condor, Tootsie, The Firm and others. I believe They Shoot Horses Don’t They? is possibly his best.


The King of Masks


Not so much underrated as rarely seen, King of Masks features the greatest cinema performance by a child ever. The movie is heartbreaking and uplifting -but never in schmaltzy sentinemtal ways.

Tip: The less you know about the story before watching, the better. But I’ll tell you this much… it’s about an old man looking to pass on his knowledge and secrets to the grandson he never had.

It’s a movie that doesn’t show China in the best light, so for that reason can be hard to find. Well worth the effort.




The Proposition

thepropositionBudget constraints keep this movie from being the all-time-classic it should rightfully be. With just a teensy bit more scope it would easily sit alongside films like Once Upon a Time in the West or Unforgiven.

Guy Pearce is told he can save his younger brother if he goes into the savage wilds and kills his “mad” older brother. A proposition indeed.

What I would (still) absolutely love to see added to the film is an initial half-hour-or-so showing the three immigrant brothers step off the boat in this ‘new world’, full of fear, hope and innocence. *That* alone would catapult this movie to the position in which it belongs.





failanPlease -do yourself a favour before the inevitable Hollywood remake… do not look at any still pictures from Failan (even the one pictured here!) because they all make it look dire.

Man marries (for ‘mob reasons’) a girl he meets in a registry office. They split with barely a word spoken between them. Much later he falls in love with her -but is it too late to find her?

It’s hard to do this film justice in a synopsis that doesn’t spoil the plot. It’s a gritty film -not the romantic mush it looks like. It’s also top-class filmmaking.




This list of under-rated movies starts here.


Underrated Movies (part 3)

This series of (some of) my favourite under-valued movies begins here.


The Last Detail

I haven’t yet met a male of the species who has seen this movie and doesn’t think it’s anything short of a masterpiece.

After viewing, Mrs. Rumm said “yeah it’s alright, but there’s no women in it.” She’s wrong in that, but in essence she’s right. It’s all about the men.

Still, do all stories have to involve a woman? I’m sure there are some perfectly good tales involving mostly women. I might even think of one and mention it here shortly. This one happens to be about some men.

A young sailor is being taken to prison by two MPs, one of whom is played by Jack Nicholson. The banter between them (written by Robert “Chinatown, Shampoo & others” Towne) and their whole outlook on life & living, goals & ambitions is all male. That’s not to say it’s stereotypical bravura-male or over-the-top dumb bullheadedness, but somehow it gets to the heart of manness without ramming it through the other side. Nor does it need to go over the top. It is pretty x-rated language if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing though.

Hal Ashby made a number of classic near-perfect films. This is one of them.
Even Randy Quaid is excellent in it. No really!

*STOP THE LIGHTS*: I have now met one man who doesn’t like this film. He found it dated and unnecessarily coarse. Must say I disagree with both issues, but just thought I’d pop that in for balance.


The Red Shoes

One for the men above. Perhaps one for the women here. Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m a man and I love this film. I think every woman should see The Last Detail and everyone should see The Red Shoes too.

Yes it involves ballet. Yes there is a 20 minute unbroken ballet in the middle of it. No I’ve never been to a ballet nor felt the urge.

But it’s not about ballet, in my view. It’s about art -and what it means to create art -and to live for art -and needing to be a part of it -and being in the thick of it -and being unable and unwilling to think of a life without it.

The Red Shoes oozes class, but it’s not stuffy. Much of its cinematography especially is very daring. Tricks are played with the camera and with certain scene setups that would make you sit up and take notice if it had been made in 2009. Not to show off, but to convey thoughts and emotions and ideas beyond what can (or should) be put into words. Its deep colour is like a warm duck-down duvet you want to wrap around you and dissolve into forever.

But again, it’s not all artsy and grand -yes, certain characters are cold and distant, but this is merely the result of the life they lead… or the life they lead is a result of their one-track-mind.
Art is Life/ Life is Art. If it is any other way for you, then that rule does not apply and you do not belong here.

It’s not exactly a love story, but a passion story. That passion has nothing to do with ballet in particular so much as Art in general. If you have a passion (or once had a passion) beyond the physical or material, you will fall in love with this movie and perhaps inspire you onward and upward.


The King of Comedy

I always think of The King of Comedy right after thinking of The Red Shoes (and vice versa). The two are forever linked for me. Maybe it’s because I first saw them around the same time (early/ mid eighties?). I honestly don’t remember.

But I like to think Rupert Pupkin is desperately trying to get into the world occupied by those people in The Red Shoes. He feels he belongs there. Nothing else matters to him except his art -which in this case is “comedy”. He lives for it. Or at least he wants to live for it. And live from it. And he passionately believes he can and should and needs to.

He can’t get a toe in the door, however. He’s too old to start at the bottom. He needs that one shot at the top and he’s willing to do drastic things, such as kidnapping, to get it.

Is he delusional? Is he psychotic? Is he really awful? Is it possible he can pull it off? Should he be allowed get away with it if he could?

I love this film for all of the above reasons, but also because it doesn’t go for the easy or pat answers. It’ll keep you thinking to the end and beyond. Then you’ll want to watch it again and you’ll find new things.

…New things such as, for instance… Remember Maury in Goodfellas? He’s the guy who sold wigs. He played some part in a robbery, then kept nagging for his cut until he was offed in a car. Well that guy has a cameo in King of Comedy… There’s a restaurant scene where Rupert has a date. ‘Maury’ is sitting behind him, briefly mimicking De Niro.


Here, I found it on youtube. We see ‘Maury’ in the background at the start. He comes back from the toilet or wherever, then he does his mimicking towards the end of the scene, before he leaves.
Have  a look…

Did you see him?

For me, if there is a point in this, it’s that this guy is “on the outside” and is trying to force an image of himself onto those in this “world of the movie”. He wants to be IN like Rupert wants in.

I guess it could also be some kind of outtake where Scorcese later felt De Niro made a better performance and hoped nobody would notice the guy looking at the camera in the background.

I prefer my take on it though. He’s not just looking, he’s playing to the camera -and the earlier shots of him only appear to be setting him up to doing so.

Scorsese hasn’t been thinking this outside-the-box in years and years. He should get back outside that box pronto in my view. He has been going a bit stale this past 10 years or so if you ask me. (…Of course nobody ever asks me, but if they did they’d know a thing or two I tell ya!)


One Night At McCool’s

I’ve never understood how this movie wasn’t a massive hit. It has so many hilarious threads that all come together perfectly it’s almost not even funny how funny it is.

Again, it could come down to the male-female thing, since we’re talking about it above. I’ve seen men criticise it for saying all men are dumb and their brains are in their underpants (these are the ones who don’t find Liv Tyler attractive.. !).
I’ve seen women criticise it for perpetuating the notion that women are evil, manipulative, conniving little vixens.

I don’t believe either is a valid criticism of this movie. I also do believe at least a nugget of truth can exist in both -which is what makes One Night At McCool’s so funny.



One Hour Photo

One Hour Photo is one of those movies that is hard to say much about without spoiling. I’ll only say, I don’t like serial-killer type movies (as I said in a previous post in this series), but this film does not fall into that hole in any way, shape or form.

It’s a movie about loneliness and idolatry and far away hills being green. It’s also a movie about faith and what happens when belief in a particular notion is cracked open. Anything can happen.

Robin Williams, alas, has become a kind of caricature. It’s hard to see him in a film without sighing at his no-longer-funny outbursts and twee pursing of his lips. But rejoice, for Robin Williams is nowhere to be seen in One Hour Photo! It’s like a different person. There is no likeable movie star on show. The man on show in this movie is like a blank canvas whose actions are beautifully portrayed by the guy who used to be in Mork and Mindy believe it or not!

We never know what’s in his head or where he has been.

Around the same time as this movie came out, Williams played a kind of similar role in another movie, Insomnia. I really liked his performance in that too, but I’ll have to watch it again before mentioning it here, so you could do worse than have a quality night in with Robin Williams ( ! ) by renting/ buying/ downloading these two films. If you haven’t seen One Hour Photo in particular you will find yourself re-evaluating everything you ever thought you ever knew about him.


More underrated movies here.



Underrated Movies (Part 2)

More movies that should be more popular. Why they should be and why they’re not.  According to me.

It began here.


Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom

OK it’s not exactly a forgotten classic, but it is in my opinion the most overlooked, underestimated and rewatchable Indiana Jones movie.  From what I hear, both Spielberg and Lucas feel they got the atmosphere wrong. They made it too scary, then too childish. The tone is all over the place. It’s neither fish nor fowl, for children nor for adults.

The non-US release (on video/dvd at least -in Europe at least) had all the ‘horror’ parts cut out, so we don’t see any severed hand in a box or live-heart extractions to the same degree, etc.. With a result the movie comes across as a ridiculous cartoon with no tension. Children shouldn’t be frightened you see! This is Spielberg’s favoured cut of the film (when last I asked him) and I think he’s wrong. Dead wrong.

The US release however still has these scenes intact, which helps the more ridiculous moments to be seen as more like light-relief rather than movie-defining set pieces.

Spielberg and Lucas are remaking/ revisiting those 1950s Saturday matinee action B-class movie serials, so the Indy movies are meant to be hokey and silly and fun as we all know. But what the boys seem to have forgotten is these (original) movies were actually scary at times, once upon a time. They weren’t always only for children. Temple of Doom (uncut) to my mind has that mix of moods just right. It’s not a consistent tone, but I don’t want consistency. I want thrills and dumbness and action and room for the characters to breathe. This is the Indy for me.


The Man Who Wasn’t There

Never write off the Coens. That’s an adage I hold in high regard. To be honest I found this movie very dull and pointless the first time I saw it.The casting of well known actors particularly distracted me. They didn’t seem to fit in this black and white 50s period piece for the most part.

Still, it was going cheap a while later and I bought the DVD. It sat on my shelf for over a year unwatched and unloved. It might as well have not been there.

Then, one day I felt ready. I put it on and fell in love almost immediately with the rich black & white, the hilarious performances and with Billy Bob Thornton’s look, silence and screen presence.

Now I believe the casting of the often larger-than-life secondary characters is inspirational. Almost certainly I had been distracted by these characters and the overall series of events first time around, with a result I barely took note of the central performance, which I suppose is the whole point.

Still, we can’t appreciate a character’s ways or subtleties (or lack of them) until we better know who they are and how they will react to events. Billy Bob’s character in The Man Who Wasn’t There takes a little longer to get to know than most.

As with all the best films in my view, The Man Who Wasn’t There warrants a second look.  And many more. He’s there alright. You just have to keep looking.


Divided We Fall

It’s easy to do nazis. Nobody can criticise a movie for being unfair to them. Nobody is going to rush up and say “actually it wasn’t quite like that…” because we all know they are the baddies and even if it wasn’t like that they deserve no better.

With the result, nazis have become a 2-dimensional dartboard. Any film that presents a multi-faceted dimension (such as for example, the excellent Downfall) is immediately criticised and attacked for making excuses for the actions. This is a dangerous airbrushing to my mind. How are we to recognise the faux-friendly, charismatic, populist, persuading face of such Powers if we’ve only ever seen the comic book Evil in all its height? What would we do if we suddenly opened our eyes to find ourselves in the middle of a world where fear invades every private thought and action?

Why did millions of people in many countries across Europe do nothing while the worst atrocities were being performed under their noses? Did they know? Did they want to know? Did they consciously mean to support the nazis in their ultimate aim? All of them?

Not many films broach the topic. It’s easier to show ‘Evil’ and atrocities and to point the finger and say “see how despicable this is!” and wait for the awards to flow in.

Divided We Fall looks like it might fall into this category, but it hasn’t been lauded and praised as highly as all the other “Holocaust movies” so it’s hard to muster the energy to watch it.

But this is an example of a great story being tarred with the brush of others. It’s actually not a holocaust movie at all. There are no concentration camps or easy tear-jerking scenes. It’s actually a very funny movie that understands the need for humour in the darkest of moments. Too many WWII tales miss this entirely -or lack the courage to show it.

Anyway the box/ poster above, I know, does nothing to sell the story. It doesn’t exactly make you want to see it, but I’m not sure what would… other than a persuasive recommendation. I hope this mini-mention persuades you to at least think about sourcing and viewing Divided We Fall. Don’t be put off. It’s funny. It’s frightening. It’s never exploitative or predictable. It’s a small film, but a lot more real and revealing and rewarding (and dare I say “enjoyable”?) than the big budget gut-wrenching, soul-sucking, hard-slog “retellings of the time” we all feel duty bound to sit through from time to time.

If you have have a chance to see it, see it. You won’t regret it.


Nobody’s Fool

As with Divided We Fall above this film suffers from being hard to assess without actually seeing it. It could be a bit twee and melodramatic and most of us would rather not waste our time finding out. Life is too short and there are too many other films out there than to bother with something that looks like it might turn into a sopfest or something your mother would watch on a wet Sunday whilst waiting for Antiques Roadshow to come on.

This is the first film I watched (that I can think of) that made me want to read the book it is based on. Normally, if I haven’t already read the book, watching the movie is enough (for right or wrong). After Nobody’s Fool ended however, I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time with these characters. I wanted more.

Then I read the book by Richard Russo and I’m happy to report it too is great (even better of course!) and well worth reading. There are marvellous plots and subplots and characters in the book that had to be omitted if the film was to be made at all. That’s understandable -and the cuts are so well made for the film it’s not easy to see where more layers can or should fit if you haven’t read the book first.

After I finished reading the book I still felt I hadn’t spent enough time with these people, which started me checking out Richard Russo’s  other books. All to date have been great, but Nobody’s Fool still has a special appeal to me.

Paul Newman has rarely, if ever, been better in my opinion. And I include The Verdict in that.


Brotherhood of the Wolf

I don’t seem to like most blockbuster action movies. I think it’s because they’re mostly dishonest, over-manipulative, formulaic, over-serious, over-bloated, childish wastes of celluloid (or RAM), featuring a one-man-goody-two-shoes who is actually a “somehow moral” psycho, killing only other psychos -so it’s all alright. None of which can be said of Brotherhood of the Wolf.

Nobody is “the good guy”. Well not really. Which, to my mind makes the long list of psycho fighters a lot of unadulterated fun, bereft of the emotional baggage your average Hollywood blockbuster would have us believe we must have.

If you do see it, make sure you’re watching the director’s cut. It goes on forever and it’s a ride you won’t forget too soon.

What is it? …Well, for starters it’s French language (Canadian). Set in 18th century France, where everybody fights in a Kung Fu style. For no apparent reason that’s the fighting method of choice. They’re all at it. Including the women. And what women! It’s maad I tell you. Monica Bellucci melts the screen with her sizzling charms (no, she doesn’t fight to my recollection) and never looked better. That’s saying something. Her husband is in it too. That’s saying nothing.

Apart from not featuring a cleaner-than-thou pure-Good psycho for underage children to look up to, I believe the other reason this film was not a success is the rather-special special effects. It’s some time into the movie before we get to see “the beast” that has been terrorising the countryside. When we do our collective hearts drop because it’s so bad it belongs in something like Scooby Doo.

Although this does take us out of the movie, it’s not really about the beast himself, so for me it’s a forgiveable problem.The ultimate “explanation” is (or would be) a lot more realistic than this ridiculous computer model would have us believe though, so hang in there!

Obviously budget and CGI-ability at the time (2002) played a big part in its sub-parness. I reckon a revised director’s cut is called for, with a new digital beast using today’s technology. It should cost a lot less now too.

I doubt that will come at this stage, though. 🙁

Anyway, the movie rips along and you never know where it’s going to take you or how it will be resolved (if it is to be resolved!) Neither does it kowtow to PC-sensibilities. In fact, if there’s something you hold dear your sensibilities will almost certainly be stomped on one way or another by the end of this film.

Other than the cheap-looking CGI, the rest of the film doesn’t look or feel too low-budget. In every other way it’s a large canvas, bodice-ripping action adventure for adults who can appreciate a story that is not on rails.

It’s a movie like none other -17th century French Kung Fu, with nary an Asian person in sight to at least pretend it makes any sense. Yet it is based on actual events. With added kung fu, naturally.

Watch at your peril. It’s a great movie if you’ve found yourself tiring of the standard formula, but you have been warned.

…Now I really feel like watching this again after all that. I hope you do too!


More here.



Underrated Movies (Part 1)

I’m the worst person in the world to ask if you’re wondering what movie to watch because it seems my DVD shelves are full of films that nobody else likes (well, not enough others anyway). In this series I hope to list some of my personal favourite movies that I think are over-looked or underrated or at least not praised highly enough by all the world and its lobster. You are free to disagree by all means (I hope you let me know), but at least I’d like to take this chance to explain why I like them and/or why I believe they are not as popular as they should be.
(I’m not against “popular” by any means -I just think these movies should be [more] popular too -and maybe would be if only everyone looked at them as I do!)

So in no order other than the order in which they come to mind, we begin…



Best film of 2007 by far that I can think of as I type this. Get the DVD. Watch the movie. Watch it again with the commentary. Watch it again with the second commentary. Watch it again without any commentary. It’s a different movie every time. For one price you get at least 12 hours of excellent movie. And that’s before you even watch any of the documentaries and extra material on the packed 2-disc set (assuming you’re not watching on Blu Ray).

Also, while I’m at it, I’d like to add the movie it most reminds me of (apart from All The President’s Men)…

Memories of Murder

I hate serial killer movies. I believe serial killers and the whole idea of serial killers get far too much air time in Western ‘civilisation’. There’s an almost serial killer glorification going on nowadays <cough cough> Dexter <cough cough> that thoroughly disgusts and depresses me, but Zodiac and Memories of Murder are more about the effect on everyone around in searching for a serial killer rather than about “the killer”.

Which is probably why they weren’t smashing successes (to my knowledge). They both concentrate less on the murders and the blood, etc. than on the people who seem to spend their lives becoming increasingly obsessed by the events. These movies could be about stamp collectors and little need be changed -except of course we (the audience) would find it harder to understand the obsession that drives the person in question.

Serial killers deserve none of the attention mass culture awards them, but in concentrating on the individuals who are obsessed with these specific murderers, Zodiac and Memories of Murder are more to do with turning the camera on the audience itself -can you not see how crazy this thing is making you? It’s tearing you apart, but you keep searching and delving and looking for answers and it is eating you apart from the inside out.

These movies are you, pop culture, which is why you choose not to look. Snap out of it and look hard and recognise yourself before it’s too late!



Black Book

Verehoven being Verehoven. It’s one part Schindler’s List, one part Indiana Jones, one part Showgirls (almost), three parts fun.

More fun than war should be, of course, which is why it pretends to be oh-so-harrowingly-true for a while before admitting “ah to hell with it, have a look at Carice van Houten colouring her bazz instead!” by the mid-way point.
(funny aside, I just went to imdb to search for the actress’s name and typed in “Black Bush” by mistake. Ha ha! ..Sorry I know that’s one of the parts we’re supposed to take seriously, whilst secretly snatching a quick leery peek. <ahem> …What? You did take it seriously? ..yes, well, er, quite.)

Anyway, where was I?

Ah yes, it’s silly. It’s crass. It’s holier-than-thou in parts in case you think you can criticise it. It almost makes no sense.

If Verehoven had made it in english (if he hadn’t driven himself out of Hollywood after the disastrous Showgirls) it would certainly have made as much money as some of his other movies like Robocop, Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct, etc.


Life and Death of Peter Sellers

I think there’s something beautifully sad about Peter Sellers -in a funny way. This movie captures that vulnerable, selfish, spoilt and loveable little boy perfectly. It’s less a biography of Sellers as it is a movie made in his way, as he might have liked to play it, even though it’s not exactly very complimentary.

Again, this is a film you could watch over and over (great commentary on the dvd too) and still get new things from it. I’ve heard Britt Eckland complain she wasn’t consulted, but really it’s not about Britt Eckland or anyone else other than Sellers …or a narrow self-centred look at Sellers possibly from Sellers’ point of view. It’s less about the facts than about how we perceive Sellers may have perceived those facts. Or something.

It’s quite weird the way it’s made, but fascinating watching Geoffry Rush play Sellers play so many other characters throughout the movie when we least expect it. What’s that you say? Stanley Kubrick never behaved in that way? Who cares!? It’s not about Kubrick -it’s about Sellers’ warped view of Kubrick. Or our view of Sellers’ view of Kubrick. Repeat for everyone and everything else. Also features the funniest “plop” in movie history.

The scene where he’s standing outside in the snow towards the end is particularly touching. The only bad thing I can say is it’s a pity Rush was a little too old to play the part (even with the digital touch-ups in some parts). In every way within his control however he was excellent.


Rescue Dawn

rescuedawn1I was surprised at how “commercial” this film is. If the exact same film was made by anyone other than Werner Herzog it would’ve been a lot more popular I’m sure.

Instead Herzog’s fans seem to shun it for being a sellout and not many mainstream crowds seemed to want to dip their toes in what could possibly involve viewer discomfort for two hours. Instead of torturing the audience (as he does only sometimes to be fair) Herzog instead seems content in torturing Christian Bale.

…This is unfair of me I know.  I’m sorry Werner. I saw the opportunity and ran with it.

The beauty of this film is that it doesn’t revel in the torture and dehumanisation of the prisoners-of-war as so many other movies would have done. Yes it shows how awful it is to exist under such conditions, but only just enough to establish it’s a bad place and these people need to get out before it’s too late.

The trials Bale’s character (based on a true story) goes through in order to escape is the stuff of videogames (if this movie was more a part of pop culture that is), although I wonder what Mr. Herzog would think of such a notion. ?

Not a sellout. Not an arthouse. Good, straightforward, honest, decent movie.


American Splendor.

Very adventurous movie. It breaks a lot of rules, but never without good reason. It’s not “look at me I’m a director”, but it’s all about the character and how he sees life and what that means. Harvey Pekar plays Harvey Pekar in the mostly-documentary-section of the movie, except for the parts where Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, where it’s more movie-like.  Or something.  More or less.

Harvey, you see, has spent a large part of his life writing a warts-an’-all comic book about his life, you see. So the movie has Harvey describing (and interacting with) the Harvey he has written about for so long. It’s the same Harvey, but as seen in many ways.

I just realised this film has somewhat-thematic similarities to The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, in that they’re about particular individuals and how they see the world -or how we imagine they maybe see the world- through somewhat-extroverted-introverted eyes. I should watch both back-to-back sometime to spot how they go together and/or differ.

Very underrated/ ignored.


American Movie


The funniest documentary ever. One of the very few I can watch over & over and still enjoy.

When I first saw it I had no idea if it was real or performed by actors. Now I’m fairly sure it’s real, but either way it’s funny as hell -and touching. You find yourself laughing at the characters one minute, then feeling bad that you found perhaps the wrong thing funny, then laughing with them, then admiring the perseverence to make a movie, then wishing they would stop, then hoping the end result doesn’t turn out to be totally disastrous, then realising it’s a damn fine achievement to do what they’ve done no matter what you think of those involved, one way or the other.

The director of American Movie, Chris Smith, did an excellent job in capturing every human emotion in all its subtleties (and not-so-subtleties).



Training Day

trainging1Yes Denzil Washington won a best actor award for it at the Oscars, but this non-formulaic cop movie is still under appreciated in my opinion.

I’d like to say all Denzil Washington movies are under appreciated, but I can’t because most of them are putrid (he should stop working with Tony Scott ASAP). I don’t know if it’s the scripts he accepts or if he’s just not offered the right roles, but he’s one of the few charismatic actors working in ‘Hollywood’ today. Training Day is his best work in my opinion. Ethan Hawke isn’t even annoying in it. Any movie that can make a boast like that is worth watching in itself.


Treasure of the Sierra Madre

I know -it’s the obligatory “old movie” of the list, but I promise it’s more than that. I know this is a very well known movie, but it’s dropped off the radar somewhat. People assume they have seen it -or are not really that interested in finding out for sure (“because it’s all in that black & white isn’t it?”) and “if you’ve seen one Humphrey Bogart movie you’ve seen them all, right?”

Wrong. I do like a few others, but here Bogart is not playing Bogart. His character is deeply flawed from the start. He means well in his own way though.

Believe me, it’s not at all dated. If this film was shot today, reel-for-reel, it would be viewed as a breakthrough action movie. It has real characters with real faults working through a plot that is never predictable.

Not many women around though.
…I just realised most of the movies I’ve mentioned to date have a lack of women or “female interest”. I’ll have to rectify that right away with…


Brief Encounter

OK I’ll come clean: Yes it’s more than 50 years old. Yes it’s in black and white. Yes it’s a teensy bit melodramatic, BUT I bet if you don’t love it you haven’t seen it!

People hear of it, then quickly shrug it off lest the very notion invokes a bad case of the merry-old-englands and the good-show-wots. And obviously it’s full of “frightfully” quaint and polite Mills & Boon romance.

Well in a way, it is, but damn it’s a ripping film. She’s married with children you see. He’s a doctor you see. They meet and fall in love but they don’t want to you see.  It’s dashed unpleasant for both of them, but what can they do?

What do they do? The movie is worth watching and watching and watching. The ending is always worth it as Racmaninov’s Piano Concerto Number 2 swells to its amazing crescendo. (I didn’t know what it was before seeing this film, but there are a few things you remember for always after watching Brief Encounter. The music is one of them.)

Don’t be put off. Only a real tough guy can watch a film like Brief Encounter without worrying about his manhood. If it teaches you nothing else it’ll demonstrate how else to use a kleenex.

(and no, it’s not a big sad gushing ending -just all-powerful)


More Underrated Movies here.



Artgenda Movies

I don’t like films with “agendas” -even if it’s in support of a viewpoint I might otherwise agree with. At least not an agenda that must be conformed to in order to appreciate the tale at hand. If I want to be preached at I’ll go to church. I don’t think any “art” (and by that I do include “entertainment”) should have any leaning bias.

Viewers should be free to form their own conclusions and opinions -not have it forced upon them.

Pleasantville is an example off the top of my head.
It’s black & white and slowly goes into colour as characters develop less “50s strict” lifestyles and learn to live in increasingly more liberal ways.

Continue reading Artgenda Movies

Piracy -How I feel about it

I grew up with pirate videos and pirate games. I watched every movie available this side of Betamax. I had tens of new Spectrum games per week. With the odd exception I can honestly say I valued and appreciated none of them.

It became about acquisition rather than appreciation for any one movie or game. I became a Collector rather than a beneficiary of art and/or entertainment. Only when DVD came out (around 1998) did I begin to realise how much I had missed in the great films of my past -missed because of youth of course, but also because of a lack of atmosphere due to poor quality picture and sound, as well as getting lost in a race to view two, three, seven movies in one day.

I had drawers full of Spectrum games with maybe 10 games per tape. I spent more time copying them and arranging them in the drawers than playing them.

I now see the same thing for other people with R4 Nintendo DS games especially. Those who have them rarely seem to play any one of them -or rarely seem to be “gamers”. They are collectors, happy to know they have something, even if they barely play/ view/ use it  -and best of luck to them. But they’re missing out.

I believe I (and my family) have a healthy appreciation for most individual titles. We wait and often are uniformly over-excited to get & play, say, the latest Mario game. We enjoy this excitement and we give a game time to sink in -perhaps partially because it has just cost us 40 euros or more.

So I don’t oppose “piracy” on moral grounds. I couldn’t care less about that. I’m not convinced it’s theft or anything near that in most cases (but I won’t get into that now). I’ve installed the USB Loader on the Wii, ripped my Mario Galaxy and Wii Play games, then promptly forgot about it.

I believe “piracy” -even 100% super quality AVIs or whatever- takes something from the whole experience. A great game/ movie/ book needs to be consumed whole and possessed -or it must possess you. You feel it inside like a drug. The good kind. The non-chemical kind. Piracy (or what we call such practice) gnaws at this sense of possession -at least for me. We lose something of the thrill and the overall experience. This often stops us from appreciating its greatness in the first place. Even reviews or remarks on a movie (or game) based on a “pirate viewing” I disregard for this reason.

“Pirates” are not experiencing the whole package so can’t be trusted (or even trust themselves) to have gotten the most from it or to be able to review the experience the buyer will have. That’s not to put down the pirate. Do what you feel like, but in my view the pirate is a victim of the Cameron creed that “more is more”. When you can stand back from that and see the wood from the trees it’s obviously not true in many cases.

I’d rather buy and play, say, 4 DS titles in a year than have a card with 100 at any one time. You simply don’t get the quality experience from them. I’m not a pirate -but for selfish reasons. It spoils my enjoyment of and appreciation for and patience with whatever is at hand.

Porn Queen AKA my Review of Transformers 2

The words “I’m not a prude” are usually followed by proof to the contrary. So I shall allay any expectations by not using them.

Have you ever found yourself in a group where people have gotten increasingly carried away with themselves, taking things a step further and further into unsavoury behaviour? I’m sure you have. We all have.

I remember walking home with friends late one night when I was eighteen years of age (more than 20 years ago now!). There were around ten of us there. All male. Some general horseplay and possibly rowdy-type behaviour was going on (I honestly don’t recall, but I can imagine). When you’re inside a group like that you don’t notice and don’t see yourself as others do.

Suddenly one amongst us leapt in the air and smashed the window of a parked car with his foot. It’s not the type of thing any of us was familiar with. Why did he do this? What happens next? How did it come to this? Why did my friend believe it was an acceptable thing for him to do?

None of that mattered. No questions were asked. There was a yell of glee and an air of excitement and we all ran.

Continue reading Porn Queen AKA my Review of Transformers 2

What is THE WIRE all about?

The Wire is a TV series by David Simon -and others.

I’m posting this because I don’t think enough has been said about The Wire.
Sure, it’s easy to see it’s praises being sung everywhere, but I’ve spoken with many people who have seen/read this praise and jumped in, often unable to make it halfway through the first series without throwing in the towel.

Maybe, I think, it’s because people have become weary of the kind of traditional tales that are set in “this environment” via the traditional media. Who needs more woe-begotten, hopeless stories with small sparks of over-gushing sentimentality? Not me.
Or maybe it’s because people see it as being “about a world I have no interest or involvement in”?
That’s possible.

Thankfully, the Wire is about much more than that, if you allow it to take you through its story.

So what is it? What is THE WIRE all about?

I’d like to make some attempt at explaining why people should stick with it (if they have a difficulty) and to put a finger on exactly what it is all about -or at least give a general no-spoiler overview so as to enable you to decide if it’s something you might wish to devote your precious time to…

Continue reading What is THE WIRE all about?

Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time

A number of years ago a team of medical experts placed a camera in my anus to search for the source of my intense abdominal pain. They didn’t find anything.

A few years later they were back to search again. Afterward, the main doc was coming around to each of the examinees in turn, telling people they’ll have to come back for more tests, etc.. When he came to me he said “we didn’t find the possible source to your symptoms,” before adding lest I feel dejected, “…we found a polyp!” in an almost cheery manner.

It reminded me of that scene in Life Of Brian when a group of ‘terrorists’ hid in a small house and a full garrison of Roman soldiers marched in to search for them. They didn’t find anything, then left. A little while later they returned because there was some place they forgot to check. Following the lengthy entrance and exit, the garrison leader was expecting a positive find, but instead was informed “we found this spoon, sir!”

I do enjoy it when often totally unrelated events or circumstances remind me of something from a movie or book or painting or whatever.

Continue reading Somewhere in Time