Perhaps the only thing more dull than sitting through Mike Leigh’s snoretacular borefest Mr Turner has been reading the shrill, dreary outpouring of rage from so-called “film critics” and “filmmakers” and “members of the viewing public” about its so-called “snub” in this year’s BAFTA nominations. The truth is that, as many better-informed observers have noted, Leigh’s film is boring and too long and shit – and BAFTA, as usual, have hit all possible proverbial nails on their heads.
Category Archives: Reviews
I tried. I honestly tried. I never meant to see Interstellar, because I already knew that I would hate it – and, more to the point, I already knew why I would hate it. That said, it’s comparatively lukewarm reception does indicate something of a turning point in Christopher Nolan’s career, and perhaps makes this a good moment to recap my reasoning.
Part of the film’s fundamental awkwardness may be down to the fact that it was originally intended as a Stephen Spielberg movie, broken fragments of which are still visible. John Lithgow is awkwardly cast as a stock Spielberg type – a salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar love-bundle. Good old, grouchy-yet-lovable gramps is supposed to project a homely warmth, serving as a stable, loving core for Murphy’s family, but this is totally at odds with Lithgow’s signature style of effete, uppity aloofness. “It’s unnatural to eat popcorn at a ballgame. I wanna hotdog,” he grouches at one point, sounding for all the world like a man who’s never tasted either.
Flipping his double-headed coin, he demands that the kid call it – which, of course, defeats the entire purpose of a double-headed coin by restoring the element of random chance. Where this gets truly, classically “Gotham” is that, although it’s clear the writers realised their mistake, for some reason they decided to leave it in. Instead of simply rewriting the scene, some bright spark inserted a line where Dent reassures us that “they nearly always choose heads” – which, apart from being factually incorrect, leaves us with the bizarre implication that every once in a while Harvey Dent sends some poor kid to prison because they said “tails”.
My relationship with Christopher Nolan has been a bumpy ride. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years – it’s not like there haven’t been good times – but the uninterrupted downward slide which really began with 2006’s The Prestige, and has only gotten steeper with each successive film, doesn’t show any signs of stopping. After a fair bit of soul-searching, I’m sorry to say that this is where I get off.
For anyone struggling to get through Peter Bradshaw’s one-paragraph review of The Best of Me (2014) in The Guardian, here is a rundown of his thoughts on the film – minus bluntly-stated plot details he could have copy-pasted from Wikipedia:
– The film was based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Bradshaw goes further, stating that the film was “based unmistakably” on a novel by “the great rom-dram maestro Nicholas Sparks.” This addition gives an impression of familiarity with the material, and coincidentally also bumps Peter six unnecessary words closer to his minimum limit
– Peter asserts that, having refused to check his “corrosive cynicism” at the door, and thus he was able to “appreciate the calculated narrative ploys and manipulations” with a strength of insight which may have escaped his more blind, gullible colleagues. No examples of the ploys or manipulations in question are given
– The film stars James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, and an unnamed man whom Peter thought looked a lot like Will Ferrell – but, it is made clear, he wasn’t
– Marsden and Monaghan’s characters are played by two different, younger characters during flashbacks, and Peter did not think Marsden’s double looked very much like him at all.
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Fox’s new Batman-ish TV show Gotham just might be the most enjoyable thing on television right now, to a certain type of viewer. If you are the kind of person who slows down as they pass accidents on the motorway, or laughs at YouTube videos of parkour mishaps, this should be the TV event of your century. The giddy schadenfreude of watching as its creators make almost every decision that could be made wrong even wronger – twice – makes Gotham more than just a scientifically fascinating case study in failure. It’s a genuine joy to behold from beginning to end, and although I know it makes me a bad person I just can’t look away.
Scarlett Johansson has always been a difficult prospect. Although she has risen to stardom through her talent as an actress, from her debut she was lumbered with the dubious privilege of also being a “sex symbol”. Being set up as an object of desire might seem like an honour, but for a serious actor it must be just as much a stigma – threatening to undermine and distort the perception of every role you undertake. I’ve always had trouble separating the two in my mind, interpreting her presence as a cynical attempt by the film’s backers to manipulate me.
In Under the Skin she manages to completely nullify that burden for the first time, by confronting it head-on in a film which, though completely focused on sex and erotic desire, goes to great lengths to be as unerotic as possible. In the film Johansson plays a recent immigrant to the United Kingdom, who is essentially a mixture between a foreign spy and a trafficked sex-worker. Brought to Scotland by a shadowy ‘handler’ – who acts as part-bodyguard, part-pimp – she is tasked with seducing and entrapping as many adult men as she can, by exploiting their lust for her physical beauty. The real plot which is served by these entrapments is left deliberately vague, but – as the film makes clear in the most memorable its many miniature visual masterstrokes – it’s going to leave the men in question feeling a little bit adrift.