Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo#112 at time of writing.

A better children's film has never been made. Well, except for maybe Toy Story. And The Incredibles. And, well, you get the idea. Pixar rock.

I have been lucky enough to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. It was fantastic, the stuff of dreams. Coral so colourful it could have been designed by Walt Disney. Clams so big you could believe that they'd swallow you whole. The occasional troupe of reef sharks minding their own business. Big tubular things straight out of an H. R. Giger nightmare.

Pixar captured it all, and made it larger than life. But that's entirely incidental. The story and the characters are what make this film unforgettable - even to the extent that every now and then my girlfriend still flits around the house singing in Dory's voice, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim. Ha ha ha ha ho ho..."

And what fun this must have been to research! The production crew were apparently all treated to visits to aquariums, and diving trips to Monterey, Hawaii and Australia.

As you can see, Finding Nemo doesn't just appeal to kids. And it definitely appeals to me.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cinemap 2006

You may have read my post from a few months ago showing a series of emails between me and the Head of Intellectual Property Rights at Transport for London. I was asking him for permission to adapt the London Underground map and sell the result to the general public.

He said no.

But I adapted the map anyway, for my own personal satisfaction. I allocated film genres to each of the Underground lines, and replaced all the station names with films. Each film fits into the genres represented by the lines it's on, and the films are grouped together in lots of other ways as well.

I've printed the finished artwork out poster-size, laminated it and stuck it up on my wall. I like it there. Lots of people who come and visit enjoy it too, and comment on it. It sparks off interesting discussions.

I thought I'd give you the opportunity to do the same thing. Here it is!

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Prestige

The Prestige#187 at time of writing.

I was extremely excited when I heard that this movie was coming out. It's about magic. I love magic. It's directed by Chris Nolan. Memento and Batman Begins are two of the best films I've ever seen. And it was getting rave reviews. Surely a winning formula?

When I finally got around to watching it, I was treated to an involving story about rivalry, risk and obsession in the golden age of magic, when a combination of Victorian sensibilities, boundless imagination and showmanship, and new technology that actually seemed magical, led to the most fascinating and inspiring conjuring there has ever been.

My appreciation of this film has grown further since reading Hiding the Elephant, which is a wonderfully told history of modern magic. Nothing to do with the film, but recommended all the same, especially if you have even a passing interest in prestidigitorial trickery.

The one complaint I have about this film is that I was slightly disappointed that the story resorted to a supernatural twist at the end after being so proudly realistic, or at least verisimilar, for most of its length. Having said that, the twist was deliciously dark, and absolutely fitting.

And hey, it's got David Bowie in it. That gets any film extra points.

Walk the Line

Walk the Line#200 at time of writing.

Hmm... maybe I wasn't in the right mood when I watched this - I'm starting to realise that the mood you're in makes a huge difference to your perception of a film - but this film didn't set me alight. It felt somehow derivative. Maybe I've just been spoiled with the spate of formulaic American biopics recently, but this one just didn't seem to have anything that stood it out among the rest.

It's a great story, with great actors, I just felt that the filmmakers knew they had those two things going for them so they didn't bother putting any extra effort into it. I guess I'm measuring this film by a high standard, but I suspect no-one's life was ever changed by making it or watching it.

Mind you, reading into the background of the film a bit more makes me think I might be judging it harshly. It's impressive that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon performed all of the songs themselves, and learned to play their instruments from scratch. It's impressive that Johnny and June Carter Cash themselves picked the actors who played them (although they died before the film was made). Maybe one day I'll give this film a second chance. But I have a few hundred other films to watch first.