Celebrating Great Films


Friday, January 26, 2018

Coco

#39 at the time of writing.

This is middling Pixar, so it's merely... brilliant. (IMDb currently has it ranked as the best Pixar, and the 39th best film of all time, which is somewhat overselling it.)

One of Pixar's strengths is that it doesn't shy away from adult themes - in this case, death. The story world is inspired by the Mexican Día de los Muertos, and whilst it touches only lightly on death it was sufficient to scare my film-hardy 6-year-old. But this movie is infused with colour and music and family values, and it's a delight to spend time with.

It's about a boy who defies his family to pursue his dream of becoming a musician, but in the process falls foul of a curse that sends him to the land of the dead - where he must untangle some family secrets to be able to return.

There's another recent animated kids' film that's also very colourful, very musical, and very much inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, The Book of Life, which I also enjoyed. I wonder why it didn't get the same hype as this one. Even the two stories are a little similar - here's the IMDb tagline from The Book of Life, adjusted so it describes Coco instead:

ManoloMiguel, a young manboy who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans threetwo fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Logan

#195 at the time of writing.

I'm pretty burned out on superhero movies. Whenever I watch one I'm usually perfectly well enough entertained, but the prospect of going to the cinema for yet another terribly witty/violent comic book extravaganza is kind of exhausting. I think I only saw the first two X-Men films (and Deadpool).

But in fact there were nine X-Men films before this one. Nine. For die-hard fans, that's a huge amount of emotional investment in the characters. So when I say that this film got me emotionally engaged, I can only imagine the magnified impact it must have had on the legions of true Wolverine-worshippers out there.

You can imagine the pub conversation that sparked this film. So, says the writer, we've got these two characters - the most powerful brain in the world, and a rapid-healing fighter with anger issues. What can we do that's new, that hasn't been done before? I know! Super-brain has dementia and invincible wants to kill himself. Pretty dark, huh?

Yes, it's dark. The story doesn't shy away from the darkness, and is all the better for it. But it also succeeds in delivering a treatment of the (prolifically overdone) superhero genre that feels genuinely new. And for that, kudos.

Trivia: Upon opening at 4,071 theatres in the United States, this film became the widest opening R-rated release in cinema history. But only for a few weeks. It was surpassed by It, which opened in 4,103 theatres.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

#119 at the time of writing.

This is the story of one woman's fight for justice and redemption in small-town Missouri, where cops still beat people up just because they're black, and where townsfolk are trapped in cycles of poverty and abuse. In other words, a place where there is no justice, and no redemption.

With the exception of whiter-than-white Chief Willoughby, sensitively played by Woody Harrelson, no-one and nothing in this town is morally black and white, least of all Frances McDormand's bolshy protagonist - the characters exist in a grey zone, often outside of the law, and with their own peculiar definitions (or tolerances) of right and wrong.

It's a bleak story, but compelling, and with occasional touches of dark humour. By the end I feared it was dragging on too long - which I think is because once the story has played it course the ending still had to be set up, but it was probably worth it because the ending is just as it should be.

I was surprised to learn that the theatrical pitch-black comedy In Bruges was written and directed by the same person, Martin McDonagh, not least because this feels like such a deeply American film and he's not remotely American. I overheard someone say they thought this was a Coen Brothers film. Nope. A British-Irish dude made this. (Although it does star Joel Coen's wife, of course...)

Look out for this one at the Oscars...

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Elephant Man

#149 at the time of writing.

One of the worst film experiences of my life was sitting through David Lynch's interminably boring Inland Empire at the cinema. Neither am I a fan of Mulholland Drive. Nevertheless, I've long been curious about his earlier works.


This 1980 biopic of deformed Victorian gentleman Joseph Merrick is clunky in parts, but on the whole thought-provoking and sometimes genuinely moving. Even the Lynchian indulgences feel avant grade rather than annoying.

The story is apparently faithful to the source material, except for one major difference: the film depicts Merrick as weak, exploited and abused by his cruel carnival master, until he is rescued by the surgeon Treves; when in fact the real-life Merrick was an enterprising soul who voluntarily entered into an equal partnership with a showman and made very good money in the process. Perhaps the filmmakers thought Merrick would be more sympathetic if portrayed as a helpless victim, but I would have liked to see a truer portrayal of the man - his gumption makes him all the more remarkable.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dunkirk

#51 at the time of writing.

Just watched this, and my initial impressions are twofold. First, I'm incredibly grateful to be living in relatively peaceful times; we must never take that for granted. I don't know how I'd react if I was forced into such horrendous circumstances, but I'll be thankful if that's never tested.

Second, this film suffers a little from director Christopher Nolan's trademark flaw. His movies are awe-inspiringly ambitious spectacles, with intelligent and compelling plots, but populated by under-developed characters. The people in this story feel like ciphers.



Still, the film showed me perspectives I hadn't considered - and taught me things I didn't know - about the Dunkirk evacuation, and made me want to read more.

The practical effects deserve praise, and Hans Zimmer's musical score added to the tension beautifully (if unsubtly).

According to IMDb trivia, roughly 30 veteran Dunkirk survivors, who were in their mid nineties, attended the premiere in London. When asked about the film, they felt that it accurately captured the event but that the soundtrack was louder than the actual bombardment, a comment that greatly amused director Christopher Nolan.

The Mark Rylance character, Dawson, is closely based on Lightoller, Second Officer of the Titanic, who took his yacht Sundowner to Dunkirk at the age of 66. Like Lightoller he refuses to let the navy crew his boat - "if anyone takes her it will be me", and takes one of his sons with him. Like Lightoller, Dawson has lost a son in the RAF (Brian, shot down in a Wellington bomber on the second day of the war) who taught him how to evade air attack. Also like Lightoller he packs the boat so full (four stood in the bathtub), the disembarkation officer couldn't believe over 55 men were aboard Sundowner.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Snapshot IV - IMDb's Top 250 Films Feb 2017

Right, after taking a whole year off this blog, it's time to do a progress check. More than a third of the films I've blogged about have since fallen off the Top 250. Nevertheless, my mission is 35% complete...

See previous snapshots: Feb 2013, Sep 2010, Feb 2009.

Title IMDb Rating Blogged?
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) 9.2
2. The Godfather (1972) 9.2
3. The Godfather: Part II (1974) 9
4. The Dark Knight (2008) 8.9 Yes
5. 12 Angry Men (1957) 8.9
6. Schindler's List (1993) 8.9
7. Pulp Fiction (1994) 8.9
8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 8.9
9. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) 8.8
10. Fight Club (1999) 8.8 Yes
11. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 8.8
12. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 8.7 Yes
13. Forrest Gump (1994) 8.7 Yes
14. Inception (2010) 8.7 Yes
15. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 8.7
16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) 8.7
17. Goodfellas (1990) 8.7
18. The Matrix (1999) 8.7
19. Seven Samurai (1954) 8.6 Yes
20. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) 8.6 Yes
21. City of God (2002) 8.6 Yes
22. Se7en (1995) 8.6
23. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 8.6
24. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 8.6
25. The Usual Suspects (1995) 8.6
26. Life Is Beautiful (1997) 8.6
27. Léon: The Professional (1994) 8.5
28. Spirited Away (2001) 8.5 Yes
29. Saving Private Ryan (1998) 8.5
30. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) 8.5 Yes
31. American History X (1998) 8.5
32. Interstellar (2014) 8.5 Yes
33. Casablanca (1942) 8.5 Yes
34. Psycho (1960) 8.5
35. City Lights (1931) 8.5 Yes
36. The Green Mile (1999) 8.5
37. The Intouchables (2011) 8.5
38. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 8.5 Yes
39. Modern Times (1936) 8.5
40. Rear Window (1954) 8.5 Yes
41. La La Land (2016) 8.5 Yes
42. The Pianist (2002) 8.5
43. The Departed (2006) 8.5 Yes
44. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 8.5 Yes
45. Back to the Future (1985) 8.5 Yes
46. Whiplash (2014) 8.5 Yes
47. Gladiator (2000) 8.5
48. Memento (2000) 8.5 Yes
49. Apocalypse Now (1979) 8.5
50. The Prestige (2006) 8.5 Yes
51. The Lion King (1994) 8.5 Yes
52. Alien (1979) 8.4 Yes
53. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) 8.4
54. Sunset Boulevard (1950) 8.4
55. The Great Dictator (1940) 8.4
56. Cinema Paradiso (1988) 8.4
57. The Lives of Others (2006) 8.4 Yes
58. Paths of Glory (1957) 8.4 Yes
59. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) 8.4 Yes
60. Django Unchained (2012) 8.4 Yes
61. The Shining (1980) 8.4
62. WALL·E (2008) 8.4 Yes
63. American Beauty (1999) 8.4
64. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) 8.4 Yes
65. Princess Mononoke (1997) 8.4 Yes
66. Aliens (1986) 8.4
67. Oldboy (2003) 8.4 Yes
68. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) 8.4
69. Citizen Kane (1941) 8.3
70. Das Boot (1981) 8.3 Yes
71. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) 8.3
72. North by Northwest (1959) 8.3
73. Vertigo (1958) 8.3
74. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) 8.3 Yes
75. Reservoir Dogs (1992) 8.3
76. M (1931) 8.3
77. Braveheart (1995) 8.3
78. Amélie (2001) 8.3
79. Requiem for a Dream (2000) 8.3 Yes
80. A Clockwork Orange (1971) 8.3
81. Taxi Driver (1976) 8.3 Yes
82. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 8.3 Yes
83. Like Stars on Earth (2007) 8.3
84. Double Indemnity (1944) 8.3
85. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) 8.3
86. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) 8.3 Yes
87. Toy Story 3 (2010) 8.3 Yes
88. Amadeus (1984) 8.3
89. My Father and My Son (2005) 8.3
90. Full Metal Jacket (1987) 8.3 Yes
91. Dangal (2016) 8.3
92. The Sting (1973) 8.3
93. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 8.3
94. Singin' in the Rain (1952) 8.3
95. Toy Story (1995) 8.3 Yes
96. Bicycle Thieves (1948) 8.3
97. The Kid (1921) 8.3
98. Inglourious Basterds (2009) 8.3
99. Snatch (2000) 8.3
100. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) 8.3
101. 3 Idiots (2009) 8.3
102. L.A. Confidential (1997) 8.3
103. For a Few Dollars More (1965) 8.3
104. Scarface (1983) 8.3
105. Rashomon (1950) 8.2 Yes
106. The Apartment (1960) 8.2
107. The Hunt (2012) 8.2
108. Good Will Hunting (1997) 8.2
109. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) 8.2
110. A Separation (2011) 8.2
111. Metropolis (1927) 8.2 Yes
112. Yojimbo (1961) 8.2
113. All About Eve (1950) 8.2
114. Hacksaw Ridge (2016) 8.2
115. Batman Begins (2005) 8.2 Yes
116. Up (2009) 8.2 Yes
117. Some Like It Hot (1959) 8.2 Yes
118. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) 8.2
119. Unforgiven (1992) 8.2
120. Downfall (2004) 8.2 Yes
121. Raging Bull (1980) 8.2
122. The Third Man (1949) 8.2 Yes
123. Die Hard (1988) 8.2
124. Children of Heaven (1997) 8.2
125. Heat (1995) 8.2
126. The Great Escape (1963) 8.2 Yes
127. Chinatown (1974) 8.2 Yes
128. Inside Out (2015) 8.2 Yes
129. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) 8.2
130. Ikiru (1952) 8.2
131. My Neighbor Totoro (1988) 8.2 Yes
132. On the Waterfront (1954) 8.2
133. Room (2015) 8.2 Yes
134. Ran (1985) 8.2
135. The Gold Rush (1925) 8.2
136. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) 8.2 Yes
137. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 8.2
138. Blade Runner (1982) 8.2 Yes
139. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) 8.2
140. The Seventh Seal (1957) 8.2 Yes
141. Howl's Moving Castle (2004) 8.2 Yes
142. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) 8.2
143. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) 8.2
144. The Bandit (1996) 8.2
145. Casino (1995) 8.2
146. Incendies (2010) 8.2
147. A Beautiful Mind (2001) 8.2 Yes
148. The Elephant Man (1980) 8.2
149. A Wednesday (2008) 8.2
150. The General (1926) 8.2
151. Wild Strawberries (1957) 8.2
152. V for Vendetta (2005) 8.1 Yes
153. Warrior (2011) 8.1
154. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) 8.1 Yes
155. Sunrise (1927) 8.1
156. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) 8.1
157. Gran Torino (2008) 8.1 Yes
158. Rang De Basanti (2006) 8.1
159. Trainspotting (1996) 8.1
160. Dial M for Murder (1954) 8.1 Yes
161. The Big Lebowski (1998) 8.1 Yes
162. The Deer Hunter (1978) 8.1
163. Tokyo Story (1953) 8.1
164. Gone with the Wind (1939) 8.1 Yes
165. Fargo (1996) 8.1
166. Finding Nemo (2003) 8.1 Yes
167. The Sixth Sense (1999) 8.1 Yes
168. The Thing (1982) 8.1 Yes
169. Cool Hand Luke (1967) 8.1
170. Rebecca (1940) 8.1
171. No Country for Old Men (2007) 8.1 Yes
172. How to Train Your Dragon (2010) 8.1 Yes
173. Hera Pheri (2000) 8.1
174. Arrival (2016) 8.1 Yes
175. Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. (2003) 8.1
176. Andaz Apna Apna (1994) 8.1
177. Sholay (1975) 8.1
178. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) 8.1 Yes
179. Into the Wild (2007) 8.1 Yes
180. Mary and Max (2009) 8.1 Yes
181. Manchester by the Sea (2016) 8.1
182. There Will Be Blood (2007) 8.1 Yes
183. Gone Girl (2014) 8.1
184. Come and See (1985) 8.1
185. It Happened One Night (1934) 8.1
186. Life of Brian (1979) 8.1 Yes
187. Rush (2013) 8.1
188. Platoon (1986) 8.1
189. Hotel Rwanda (2004) 8.1 Yes
190. Shutter Island (2010) 8.1
191. Network (1976) 8.1
192. The Wages of Fear (1953) 8.1
193. Stand by Me (1986) 8.1
194. In the Name of the Father (1993) 8.1
195. Wild Tales (2014) 8.1
196. Spotlight (2015) 8.1
197. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) 8.1 Yes
198. The Nights of Cabiria (1957) 8.1
199. The 400 Blows (1959) 8.1
200. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 8.1
201. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) 8.1 Yes
202. The Maltese Falcon (1941) 8.1
203. 12 Years a Slave (2013) 8.1 Yes
204. Ben-Hur (1959) 8.1
205. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) 8.1 Yes
206. Persona (1966) 8.1
207. Million Dollar Baby (2004) 8.1 Yes
208. Amores Perros (2000) 8.1 Yes
209. Jurassic Park (1993) 8.1
210. The Princess Bride (1987) 8.1
211. Memories of Murder (2003) 8.1
212. Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009) 8.1
213. Stalker (1979) 8.1
214. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) 8.1
215. Drishyam (2015) 8
216. The Truman Show (1998) 8
217. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) 8
218. Before Sunrise (1995) 8
219. Touch of Evil (1958) 8
220. Annie Hall (1977) 8
221. Rocky (1976) 8 Yes
222. Gandhi (1982) 8 Yes
223. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) 8 Yes
224. The Message (1976) 8
225. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) 8 Yes
226. Donnie Darko (2001) 8
227. Diabolique (1955) 8
228. Monsters, Inc. (2001) 8
229. Prisoners (2013) 8
230. The Terminator (1984) 8
231. 8½ (1963) 8
232. The Wizard of Oz (1939) 8 Yes
233. Groundhog Day (1993) 8
234. Catch Me If You Can (2002) 8
235. Twelve Monkeys (1995) 8
236. Zootopia (2016) 8 Yes
237. La Haine (1995) 8
238. Barry Lyndon (1975) 8
239. Jaws (1975) 8
240. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) 8
241. Infernal Affairs (2002) 8
242. The Battle of Algiers (1966) 8
243. Udaan (2010) 8
244. Strangers on a Train (1951) 8
245. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) 8
246. Sin City (2005) 8 Yes
247. The Help (2011) 8
248. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) 8
249. Chak de! India (2007) 8
250. Kahaani (2012) 8