Celebrating Great Films

Thursday, December 17, 2009


AvatarUnranked at time of writing.

James Cameron (or at least his marketeers) claimed that Avatar will change cinema forever. Having watched the preview in front row seats at IMAX last night, I finally understand what he means.

Avatar is a stunningly beautiful, comprehensively realised vision that absolutely must be experienced in a cinema. That’s the kicker – I doubt this film would have anywhere near the same impact on a TV screen. Two dimensions would not do this movie justice.

So if Avatar changes cinema it will be by making it more like going to the theatre – you have to see it live. More likely, I think, is that this movie - which is James Cameron’s first outing since 1997’s record-smashing Titanic - will precipitate the advent of 3D in our living rooms (for one thing, they might have to sell a lot of DVDs to break even – the production is rumoured to have cost $300m and as much again is being spent on marketing).

3D films often feel fairly flat, apart from the occasional thing jumping out at you, but the 3D in Avatar has an incredible depth of field. The landscapes of the planet Pandora seem to stretch away for miles. Another bar raised is the CGI. The attention to detail is breathtaking.

Yes, the story uses every trick in the Hollywood book to hook you in, but – wow! – Mr Cameron is a master of those tricks. The pace and interest don’t flag for a moment in the 162 minutes running time. It’s truly epic; it feels like the three Lord of the Rings films rolled into one.

You might argue that the characters and the plotting are a little close to formula, but as an aesthetic and dramatic experience, Avatar is – without exaggeration – the film of the decade. Truly hypnotising.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Serious Man

A Serious ManUnranked at time of writing.

The Coen Brothers have a unique style, and this film is a prime example. It is confident, surreal, knowing, and darkly funny.

Joel and Ethan Coen love to break all the rules, and it doesn’t always work. Yes, they’ve made some truly excellent films, like The Big Lebowski and Fargo; but sometimes the overblown characterisations and quirky storytelling just don’t work – like O Brother Where Art Thou? and Burn After Reading.

Well, somehow, A Serious Man hangs together. Despite an opening sequence that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film, and an ending that resolves exactly nothing, I enjoyed it. I left the cinema feeling satisfied.

It’s a hard movie to pin down, but it helps to know that it’s based on the biblical book of Job (in which a lot of bad things happen to a good God-fearing man without much explanation), transposed to 1960s suburban America.

If you like the Coen Brothers, you’ll love this. If you don’t know their style, be prepared for a weird experience.

Oh, and the Jefferson Airplane soundtrack rocks.