Celebrating Great Films

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Toy Story - The Best Film Trilogy?

I stumbled across a fascinating analysis that attempts to identify the best film trilogies according to both IMDb voters and professional critics.

The conclusion is that IMDb voters rank the following trilogies as the best of all time:

Lord of the Rings
Star Wars (original 3)
Toy Story
Indiana Jones

The order changes if you only count the top 1000 voters, but those are still the top 5.

Astonishingly, but deservedly, professional critics (as collated by Rotten Tomatoes) rate none other than the Toy Story trilogy as the best of all time. Their top 5 includes most of the trilogies preferred by the plebs above, plus the Trois Couleurs trilogy.

It's a great article, with graphs and everything. Have a look!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Toy Story 3

#9 at time of writing.

Wow. I haven't laughed out loud so often, and cried so hard, since... well, since Up. But if you exclude Pixar, since ever.

That's right. I'm a grown man and I bawled my eyes out.

Pixar are the masters - nay, the gods - of story. With Toy Story 3, they once again excel themselves. There is not one moment that allows your attention to flag, and the plot masterfully achieves that most challenging of goals (as taught by Terry Rossio): it's decisive, set-up, inevitable and yet genuinely unexpected.

This wonderful threequel complements and augments the first two films beautifully, whilst simultaneously laying a fair claim to being one of the best animated movies ever. Indeed, IMDb voters have propelled it into the top 10 movies of all time, of any genre. (With Inception currently at #3, July 2010 is proving to be a month of astonishingly high-quality film releases, at least as far as IMDb voters are concerned.)

The emotional core of Toy Story 3 is provided by the question: What happens to Andy's toys when he grows too old to play with them? A typical Pixar mix of loss, jealousy, hope and high-jinks follows, with an ending that will reconnect you to your inner child - and perhaps have your real children wondering why you are sniffling and teary-eyed over a bunch of toys.

Thank goodness Pixar and Disney made up. When they split over creative differences in 2004-2005, Disney started up an animation division titled 'Circle 7 Animation,' which would have been in charge of churning out sequels for Pixar films without consulting Pixar. The original plot for Toy Story 3 was going to be about Buzz Lightyear having a defect and being shipped to Taiwan to be fixed, and the other toys shipping themselves to Taiwan to rescue him. Judging by Disney's decidedly mediocre record with sequels, we should be grateful that Pixar are back in charge.

The UK government are doing WHAT?

UK Film Council to be abolished? I'm so angry I'm speechless. I will let my alarmingly eloquent friend at Polygonic speak for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


#83 at time of writing.

Just came back from watching the IMAX premiere of this with a few friends. I don't think I've come out of a film and talked about the plot - and the ending - so much since Donnie Darko. Without giving anything away, the last ten seconds of the film show something completely mundane, but had the whole room on the edge of their seats. When the screen went black, there was a collective gasp and spontaneous applause.

So, definitely entertaining. Definitely tense. Sufficiently clever and ambiguous to stir up a few hours of après-film conversation. Christopher Nolan has successfully maintained his near miraculous record of directorial excellence.

The central concept of stealing (and planting) ideas within people's dreams allows for some beautiful images of bending cities and gravity-defying hyperreality. Inception owes a lot to The Matrix, perhaps with sprinklings of Synecdoche, New York. Subtle it is not, but who needs subtle - this is Hollywood.

However, it has flaws.

Don't get me wrong, I heartily recommend this film. It's a big-screen film, confident and ambitious. But I think it suffers (although not nearly as fatally) from the same problem as the Matrix sequels. (Let's speak of them just this once, and then never again.) It is an overdose of exposition plus action. The plot is so complicated and so carefully laid out that character and emotional involvement feel squeezed into the edges.

As far as dream-within-a-dream films go this might beat Vanilla Sky, but I prefer the disorientation of eXistenZ or the emotion of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still, I would gladly watch Inception again.

(Side note, David Walliams was sat behind us!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Buy tickets now for The Man Who Married Himself screening in LA

If you are near Los Angeles on Wednesday July 28th, be sure to check out the short film I co-wrote last year, The Man Who Married Himself, starring Richard E Grant.

It's showing as part of the LA Shorts Fest. Tickets are available as of today.

Friday, July 02, 2010

City of God

#18 at time of writing.

This is a stylish and impactful rollercoaster of a film that devastatingly evokes the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that can trap the children of Brazil's Cidade de Deus, and favelas like it, in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.

The characters are all children, almost all of whom carry guns, and most of whom will be killed before the age of 20. The film follows one child in particular, Buscapé (translated as Rocket), who goes to great lengths to try not to get caught up in the criminal underworld, but without success.

The story, acting, directing, cinematography, editing - everything - is first class, but the thing that makes this film unbeatably compelling is that it is based on truth. Not in the Hollywood "inspired by true events" way, but for real. Some shots in the movie are recreations of genuine photos from the drug war the film dramatises. All of the child actors (with one exception) were amateurs recruited from the favelas themselves. And, of course, the story and the characters are based on Paulo Lins' eponymous account of living in the City of God during the 60s, 70s and 80s.

According to director Fernando Mereilles, much of the script is improvised. For example, when we hear Buscapé (Alexandre Rodrigues) talking to Marina (Graziela Moretto) about how he had never taken a hot bath, that was not scripted. Rodrigues was telling Moretto, during a pause in the filming, about his life in the slums.

The DVD also contains a horrifying and fascinating documentary about the modern-day City of God. Becoming a hoodlum in Cidade de Deus isn't just a fringe career option for disenchanted rebels and social outcasts - it's the main industry.