Celebrating Great Films

Monday, February 02, 2015


#38 at the time of writing.

I had mixed feelings about this one. It's about a young student who subjects himself to the fearsome tutelage of his mentor in his quest to become an all-time great drummer. It's a very good film, no doubt, but I don't like it when bullies are celebrated.

To be fair, the story stuck in my head, and the questions it raised. What does greatness cost? Does the end justify the means? When you're pushing for better, where do you draw the line? And actually it's exactly that ambiguity which elevates this film.

The tension runs high, and the lead characters are wonderfully played by Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons. The music is good, but it didn't really strike me as a music film - it's about other things. Anyway, full credit to debut writer-director Damien Chazelle for realising such a powerful film.

Sunday, February 01, 2015


#125 at the time of writing.

The most original film I've seen in a long time - probably in years. Having seen director Iñárritu's Amores Perros and Biutiful, I initially steered clear of this film, expecting it to be beautifully filmed, gritty, and soul-crushingly depressing. But more than once I heard friends say that this was something else - and indeed it is sublime. It's funny, hopeful, and always unexpected. The story fizzes along with captivating energy. I loved it.

It's about a washed up Hollywood superstar, famous for (long ago) playing Birdman à la Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man, who tries to reinvent himself as a respectable Broadway artiste. But he must overcome towering doubts, hubris and the bunch of wackos he calls family and friends. The style is very theatrical, with no visible cuts, plenty of backstage shenanigans and disarming magic realism.

I totally didn't realise until afterwards that Birdman was a real thing. That makes this movie the craziest adaptation since Adaptation. And that can only be a good thing.

(I just read that Antonio Sanchez's musical score, performed almost entirely by drums, was disqualified by the music branch of the Academy Awards. Why?! It's great!)