Talking Movies

November 4, 2018

Notes on Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked was the topic of tired, aggrieved and dissatisfied discussion on Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle early this morning.

Juliet, Naked is based on a 2009 Nick Hornby novel, and wastes the considerable talents of Rose Byrne, Chris O’Dowd and Ethan Hawke in a rehash of 84 Charing Cross Road for the internet age that again demonstrates Hornby’s penchant for psychological improbability. High Fidelity. Brooklyn. Hornby can’t seem to be near a screenplay in any capacity without implausibilities multiplying and odd life choices being endorsed if not pushed at the audience. The inciting incident of this film is that Byrne listens to an album before O’Dowd does when she opens their mail. I am not making this up.

Hawke does his best with reclusive rock star Tucker Crowe, who in some sense could be the grown up version of his character in Reality Bites, creating a shambling walk to compensate for his lack of dialogue, but everybody is doing their best with very poor material. Hornby fashions one scene where all of Tucker’s exes converge on him to his considerable embarrassment, but, as always, seemingly, Hornby has no grasp of actual human behaviour and so this romantic comedy without jokes or much romance meanders on painfully to a conclusion that rings entirely untrue.

July 8, 2018

Notes on the First Purge

The First Purge is an incredible fourth entry in five years in the micro-budget horror series. Here are some notes on’t, prepared for Dublin City FM’s Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle early this morning.

The Purge series has expanded dramatically in scope since the claustrophobia of 2013’s house under siege original with Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey trying to survive the night of annual temporarily legalised criminality. Arguably though as the series’ scope has become bigger it has become less unsettling; the government snuffing out a troublesome underclass isn’t as unnerving as your envious neighbours smiling as they come to dispatch you. If Rio Bravo/Assault on Precinct 13 was the model for that then writer/director James  DeMonaco was explicit in locating the sequels in Escape from New York territory. The First Purge features a hero shot to beat all hero shots as Y’lan Noel’s Dmitri decides to finally sort out this situation and stomps towards the tower block, wearing his Bruce Willis white vest, with a big gun over his shoulder, a trashcan on fire to his right, and the block shrouded in smoke from the mayhem across Staten Island. In some respects this film is Attack the Block with a more likeable lead and no jokes or aliens.

I didn’t get to chat about all of these points, but we did cover most of them. Tune into 103.2 FM to hear Patrick Doyle’s breakfast show every Sunday on Dublin City FM, and catch up with his excellent Classical Choice programme on Mixcloud now.

February 22, 2018

ADIFF: Paul Schrader recieves Volta

Acclaimed director and screenwriter Paul Schrader tonight receives the Audi Dublin International Film Festival’s prestigious Volta Award at the Irish Premiere of First Reformed.

Paul Schrader, renowned director of films such as Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Mishima: A Life in Four ChaptersThe Comfort of Strangers, Light Sleeper, Patty Hearst, and Affliction among many others, and screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, tonight receives the Audi Dublin International Film Festival’s highest honour, the Volta Award, at the Irish Premiere of his new film First Reformed. The Volta Award celebrates the careers of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the world of film. Paul Schrader’s visit to ADIFF will include an in-depth Public Interview in the O’Reilly Theatre, broadcast live as an RTÉ Radio 1 Arena Special, and will introduce a series of screenings of films that have inspired him. Tickets are available to book now at www.diff.ie.

Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director, said “I’m thrilled that the Audi Dublin International Film Festival will tonight bestow our highest honour, the Volta Award, to one of the great writer-directors at the Irish Premiere of his new film First Reformed. Paul Schrader started his career as one of the talented young filmmakers who were at the centre of an extraordinary renaissance of American cinema in the 1970s. Schrader has also had a remarkable career as a director and, as a critic, he’s a passionate advocate and interrogator of film culture.”

In First Reformed, ex-military chaplain Toller (Ethan Hawke) is tortured by the loss of the son he encouraged to enlist and struggles with his faith. A faith that’s challenged by befriending a radical environmentalist, Michael, and upon learning of his church’s complicity with unscrupulous corporations.

Previous winners of Audi Dublin International Film Festival’s Volta Award include Al Pacino, Julie Andrews, Danny DeVito, Daniel Day-Lewis, Joss Whedon, Brendan Gleeson, Angela Lansbury, Stanley Tucci, Stellan Skarsgård, Kristin Scott Thomas and Ennio Morricone. The Volta Award is named after Ireland’s first dedicated cinema, the Volta Picture Theatre on Mary Street in Dublin, which was opened on the 20th December 1909 by an enterprising young novelist named James Joyce.

Schrader will be this year’s ADIFF Guest Curator, selecting and introducing three films that have inspired his own work as a filmmaker including Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959), Yasujirō Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon (1962), and Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970).

Tickets for the Public Interview and the Paul Schrader season are available now via the ADIFF Box Office (www.diff.ie or 01 687 7974). 

SCHEDULE Paul Schrader – ADIFF 2018 Guest Curator 

Thursday 22nd February
18.00 (Cineworld) First Reformed (Irish Premiere with Q&A and Volta Award Presentation)

Friday 23rd February 
14.00 (Lighthouse Cinema)  – Pickpocket (1959), introduced by Paul Schrader
16.00 (Lighthouse Cinema) – Performance (1970), introduced by Paul Schrader
18.45 (O’Reilly Theatre) – Paul Schrader Public Talk 

Saturday 24th February
14.00 (Lighthouse Cinema) – An Autumn Afternoon (1962), introduced by Paul Schrader

January 31, 2018

Top Performances of 2016


January 4, 2018

ADIFF 2018: Paul Schrader

Acclaimed director and screenwriter Paul Schrader will receive the prestigious Volta Award and present his new film First Reformed at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried and Paul Schrader during the ‘First Reformed’ photocall at the 74th Venice International Film Festival at the Palazzo del Casino on August 31, 2017 in Venice, Italy

Paul Schrader, renowned director of Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, The Comfort of Strangers, Light Sleeper, The Canyons and Affliction, and screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, will visit the Audi Dublin International Film Festival (21st Feb- 4th March) to receive a Volta Award at the Irish Premiere of his new film First Reformed on Thurs 22nd February 2018 at 6pm, and will also curate a special season of screenings and events that includes an in-depth Public Interview.

Gráinne Humphreys, Festival Director, says “Paul Schrader started his career as one of the talented young filmmakers who were at the centre of an extraordinary renaissance of American cinema in the 1970s. Schrader has also had a remarkable career as a director and, as a critic, he’s a passionate advocate and interrogator of film culture. I know my excitement at his visit and the Irish Premiere of First Reformed will be shared by many of Dublin’s cinema fans and we’re delighted to be honouring him with ADIFF’s prestigious Volta Award”. Previous winners of ADIFF’s Volta Award include Al Pacino, Julie Andrews, Danny DeVito, Daniel Day-Lewis, Joss Whedon, Brendan Gleeson, Angela Lansbury, Stanley Tucci, Stellan Skarsgård, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Ennio Morricone. The Award is named after Ireland’s first dedicated cinema, the Volta Picture Theatre on Mary Street in Dublin, which was opened on the 20th December 1909 by an enterprising young novelist named James Joyce.

In First Reformed, ex-military chaplain Toller (Ethan Hawke) is tortured by the loss of the son he encouraged to enlist and struggles with his faith. A faith that’s challenged by befriending a radical environmentalist, Michael, and upon learning of his church’s complicity with unscrupulous corporations.

Schrader will also be this year’s ADIFF Guest Curator, selecting and introducing three films that have inspired his own work as a filmmaker including Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959), Yasujirō Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon (1962), and Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970).

Tickets for the Irish Premiere of First Reformed and the Paul Schrader season are available now via the ADIFF Box Office (www.diff.ie or 01 687 7974). Discount packages are available for the full Paul Schrader season and for First Reformed + the Paul Schrader Public Talk.

SCHEDULE Paul Schrader – ADIFF 2018 Guest Curator

Thursday 22nd February
18.00 (Cineworld) First Reformed (Irish Premiere with Q&A and Volta Award Presentation)

Friday 23rd February
14.00 (Lighthouse Cinema)  – Pickpocket (1959), introduced by Paul Schrader
16.00 (Lighthouse Cinema) – Performance (1970), introduced by Paul Schrader
18.45 (O’Reilly Theatre) – Paul Schrader Public Interview 

Saturday 24th February
14.00 (Lighthouse Cinema) – An Autumn Afternoon (1962), introduced by Paul Schrader

February 16, 2017

Here Comes ADIFF

The Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017 (16th-26th Feb) opens tonight with the Gala Irish Premiere of hotly-anticipated Irish-Canadian co-production Maudie, featuring Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins, finally making its Irish homecoming after international critical acclaim. Director Aisling Walsh will attend the screening for a Q&A in front of an audience that includes festival-goers, film-makers, and industry professionals.

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Film fans have 11 days of cinema ahead with an array of top talent coming to Dublin to present  films from around the world and some key Irish films from the year ahead.

Highlights of the first weekend include the Gala Screening of Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture with a host of special guests, the World Premiere of Jamie Thraves’ Pickups with actor Aidan Gillen in attendance, Tindersticks front-man Stuart Staples will present his brilliant new project Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F, Percy Smith, and New Zealand actress Kerry Fox will appear at the Irish premiere of The Rehearsal and join us for a look back at her breakthrough role in Jane Campion’s An Angel At My Table. On Monday 20th Feb the festival hosts the Centrepiece Gala screening of new Irish documentary In Loco Parentis, and the Cineworld Gala World Premiere of new Irish horror Nails with Ross Noble, Shauna MacDonald, and Leah McNamara in attendance. On Wednesday 22nd Feb, the festival hosts the Irish premiere of Unless, a new Irish-Canadian film starring Catherine Keener, with director Alan Gilsenan in attendance.

The Audi Gala of Free Fire on Thurs 23rd Feb sees Kill List and High-Rise maestro Ben Wheatley return to the festival, joined by Irish cast members Jack Reynor and Cillian Murphy. Friday 24th Feb sees a special tribute to John Hurt with the first Irish screening of his performance in 2014’s Snowpiercer, which wasn’t released here after much controversy over its re-cutting for American audiences, while Anna Friel appears with director Juanita Wilson at a Special Presentation screening of Tomato Red.

The Festival’s final day sees no let up in activity with a Special Presentation of Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais’s new film Headshot, the Special Presentation World Premiere of Emer Reynolds The Farthest with an appearance from Voyager Program project manager John Casani, the much-speculated-about Surprise Film, and the Closing Gala Irish Premiere of John Butler’s Handsome Devil.

January 18, 2017

ADIFF 2017

The programme for ADIFF’s 15th celebration of cinema is now available to browse and download at www.diff.ie and tickets go on sale tomorrow Thursday January 19th at 10:00am; available by phone on +353 1 687 7974 or in person at DIFF, 13 Ormond Quay.

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World cinema is coming to the Audi Dublin International Film Festival from 16th-26th February 2017 with Vanessa Redgrave, Nathalie Baye, Kerry Fox, Ross Noble, Ben Wheatley, and Anna Friel joining Irish stars Jack Reynor, Moe Dunford, Cillian Murphy, John Butler, and Aiden Gillen on the red carpet.

Grainne Humphreys, Festival Director, said ‘I’m thrilled with the selection of films that not only showcases some of the biggest names in world cinema but features a selection of first time directors from across the globe who will make a serious impression with our audience in this and in coming years. To be able to include new Irish films from Aisling Walsh, Jim Sheridan, Emer Reynolds, Aiden Gillen, John Butler, Neasa Ní Chianán, Juanita Wilson, and Ken Wardrop is an extraordinary testament to the current strength and depth of the Irish film industry. I hope that as many Dubliners as possible take this chance to explore and celebrate the art of film.’

Richard Molloy, Head of Marketing and Product at Audi Ireland, said, “Following a hugely successful partnership between Audi and the Dublin International Film Festival in 2016 we are proud to continue this into 2017.  Audi’s brand philosophy, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’, really connects with the festival’s ethos of inspiring progressiveness and creativity. Furthermore, our partnership with the festival allows us to celebrate the art of film-making while recognising new and emerging film talent. This year we are delighted to introduce an Audi Gala screening to the festival programme providing festival fans with the ultimate red carpet film experience.”

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Galas and World Premieres

The Gala Opening Night of ADIFF 2017 will be the Irish Premiere of Maudie, the internationally acclaimed biopic of folk artist Maud Lewis by award-winning Irish director Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy) which stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture, adapted from the award-winning novel by Sebastian Barry, will receive a Gala Irish Premiere and see ADIFF present a Volta Award to British theatrical royalty Vanessa Redgrave. The Volta Award is the Festival’s most prestigious honour, reserved for those who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of film. Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy, and Ben Wheatley will attend the Audi Gala screening of Wheatley’s new film Free Fire. ADIFF’s new Centrepiece Gala will be Neasa Ní Chianán and David Rane’s In Loco Parentis documentary study of the Headfort School. World Premieres at ADIFF 17 include Juanita Wilson’s Tomato Red with star Anna Friel in attendance, Dennis Bartok’s terrifying hospital horror Nails, and Aiden Gillen and Jamie Thraves’ Pickups (features Gillen playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself). Ken Wardrop (His & Hers) brings his characteristic warmth and humanity to piano grade exams in The Piano Lesson, while John Murray and Traolach Ó Murchú’s Photo City delves into the celluloid history of Rochester, NY. ADIFF’s prestigious Closing Night Gala is the Irish premiere of Handsome Devil, the new comedy-drama set in an Irish boarding school from John Butler, who directed The Stag.

International Programme

Nathalie Baye, Kerry Fox, and François Cluzet will attend the festival. Baye becomes the target of a dangerous obsession in Moka, Fox is the uncompromising acting teacher in The Rehearsal, and Cluzet stars in stylish paranoia thriller Scribe. ADIFF’s world cinema programme feature films from over 35 countries, from Bhutan to New Zealand, Seoul to Senegal, and Nova Scotia to Manila. There are new films from Festival favourites including Olivier Assayas, Pablo Larraín, Michael Winterbottom, Aki Kaurismäki, Ben Wheatley, Asghar Farhadi, Cristian Mungiu, Lone Scherfig, and Terence Davies. In 2011, Iko Uwais’ flying fists and lightning-fast feet in The Raid brought the house down in the Savoy. Now Uwais returns as the hero of IFI Horrorthon sell-out Headshot, bringing his astounding fighting skills to this tale of amnesia and revenge.

First-time Directors

This year’s programme features a number of new international voices making feature debuts: Juho Kuosmanen’s uplifting Oscar-tipped boxing biopic The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, Ben Young’s Australian kidnap nightmare Hounds of Love, British director William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth, and Daouda Coulibaly’s thrilling West African crime thriller Wùlu. Irish director Lorcan Finnegan’s deeply creepy walk in the woods eco-horror Without Name marks him out as a talent to watch closely in years to comeThe frustration and unease those in the arts have felt at people uninterested in the arts voting for Brexit and Trump is expressed through acerbic and bitter humour – Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea!, Sean Foley’s Mindhorn (with Ross Noble in attendance), Anna Biller’s Love Witch, and Kris Avedisian’s comedy of discomfort Donald Cried.

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Special Events and the Surprise Film

Masterclasses include leading British director Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Free Fire, A Field in England, Kill List), and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Doctor Strange). Terence Davies, a singular master of film adaptations, will take part in a public interview with Roddy Doyle. Celebrating the current high point in Irish film, an exhibition by Hugh O’Conor features intimate portraits of his colleagues. An annual treat for the brave, the Surprise Film is a tightly guarded secret known only to the Festival Director, and this year the screening is supported by Just Eat, the official food ordering app, who will be offering special discounts and vouchers to the audience.

Fantastic Flix

The Festival’s expanding Fantastic Flix programme brings the world of cinema to the next generation in its packed festival of children’s films from around the globe, workshops, short film selections, the Fantastic Flix Children’s Jury and special events. Highlights include a special selection of films from visiting children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, along with the Golden Globe-nominated animated film My Life as a Courgette, and Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle.

Awards
Alongside the Volta Awards that recognise outstanding achievement, the ADIFF Discovery Award sees the festival reward emerging Irish talent; the Dublin Film Critics Circle Jury selects the best of the festival for their awards ceremony; and film-goers themselves select their favourite with the AUDI-ence award. The AUDI-ence award-winning film-makers
 will be flown to the Berlin International Film Festival in 2018, where they will enjoy a true VIP Audi experience.

January 27, 2015

Top Performances of 2014

As the traditional complement to the Top 10 Films, here are the Top Performances of 2014. The refusal to isolate single winners is deliberate; regard the highlighted names as top of the class, the runners up being right behind them, with also placed just behind them. They’re all superb performances.

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Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) Arquette’s character grows older but not wiser, instead we see her becomingly increasingly brittle as even she realises that she’s sensible about everything except her romantic choices.

Carrie Coon (Gone Girl) Forming a great double act with Ben Affleck, Coon broke out from theatre with a glorious turn as his twin sister– the foulmouthed and spiky voice of reason.

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) Lawrence was perhaps too young for the part, but she played it with such comic panache that her sporadic appearances energised an overlong film.

Runners Up:

Maggie Gyllenhaal (Frank) Gyllenhaal was pitch-perfect as scary obscurantist Clara, with wonderful nuance in the slow reveal of how such off-kilter music bonds her and Frank’s damaged and isolated psyches.

Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar) Foy was bright, furious, and resentful, and blew Jessica Chastain off the screen as the younger iteration of their character, the indomitable Murph.

Sarah Paulson (12 Years a Slave) Paulson’s casual brutality towards slaves was deeply shocking, but her horror at being replaced sexually by a slave subtly underscored her menace.

Also Placed:

Amber Heard (3 Days to Kill) Parodying her hyper-sexualised persona (The Informers) Heard, in leathers and wigs, flirted with burlesque girls and sexualised both driving fast and injecting medicine.

Joey King (Wish I Was Here) Pitted against Zach Braff’s glibly sarcastic agnosticism the sincerity of King’s adherence to Jewish faith, language, and cultural identity blew him off the screen.

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Best Supporting Actor

Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) His character’s drugs spiral, even as his friendship with Ron becomes beautiful, was extremely moving, with his fierce commitment extending to deliberately ravaging his appearance.

Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) His vicious bible-thumping alcoholic was terrifying, but also complex; slaves are either sub-human or masters are guilty, and Epps is self-destructing from mercilessly exploiting his slaves.

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) Hawke physically filled out in a career-best performance of serious comedy as deadbeat dad whose rebelliousness was an affectation thrown off for mellow acquiescence with the world.

Runners Up:

Andrew Scott (The Stag, Locke) Scott was their sole highlight: his Locke vocal performance exuded excitability and exasperation, while Davin was a man fatally wounded by romantic rejection being tortured some more by his ex-girlfriend.

Killian Scott (Calvary, ’71) His Calvary misfit Milo was dementedly funny in rambling frustration, and he so transformed into ruthless IRA leader Quinn that he seemed not only older and tougher, but almost taller.

Zac Efron (Bad Neighbours) Efron’s previous subversions of his image were nothing next to this jackpot: his squeaky clean looks have never been put to such diabolical and hilarious use.

James Corden (Begin Again) Corden not only frequently gave the impression that he was ad-libbing great comedy moments, but also that he was improvising Knightley into unscripted corpsing bonhomie.

Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) Bautista took what could have been a tiresome running gag and instead by dedicated deadpan made utter literalness to the point of insanity infinitely unexpected and hysterical.

Also Placed:

Adam Driver (What If, Tracks) Sparring against Mackenzie Davis and Daniel Radcliffe in What If he was highly amusing and occasionally sagacious, and was both funny and adorably awkward in Tracks.

Gene Jones (The Sacrament) He was patently playing Jim Jones, and turned the charisma up to 11 for a TV interview that was so mesmerising it explained Father’s cult of personality.

Mandy Patinkin (Wish I Was Here) Patinkin brought deep humanity and biting humour to his wise, religious father disappointed by his glib, agnostic son but delighted by his bright, devout granddaughter.

Tyler Perry (Gone Girl) The man can actually act! And as celebrity defence attorney Tanner Bolt he transformed the oily character from the novel by bringing palpable warmth to the part.

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Best Actress

Keira Knightley (Begin Again) Knightley sang rather well, but not only did she carry a tune she also carried the movie with a return of her old confidence. Maybe all that’s needed to restore the old swagger is James Corden ad-libbing her into improvising so she forgets her stage-fright.

Mackenzie Davis (We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, What If) Her What If wild child was oddly reminiscent of Katy Perry, albeit interpolated with Daisy Buchanan, and was strikingly different from her reserved bookworm subtly using her wits to escape a noir nightmare in We Gotta.

Runners Up:

Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbours) It’s always a joy when Byrne gets to use her native Australian accent, and she swaggered with such foul-mouthed comedic assurance that at times Seth Rogen became her foil as the sensible one in their marriage.

Agyness Deyn (Electricity) Deyn was a commanding presence. She grabbed with both hands this defiant character, who wears short dresses and fluorescent jacket; drawing the eye to a body covered in cuts; and had no vanity in showing these effects of seizures.

Also Placed:

Juno Temple (Magic Magic) Temple reprised some elements of her naïf in Killer Joe, though thankfully she was less over-exposed here, and made her character’s steady descent into insomniac madness chillingly plausible.

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Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) McConaughey’s physical commitment to the role was jaw-dropping, initially rake-thin before then wasting away before your eyes to harrowing effect. Initially unsympathetic, he patiently revealed the hidden softer side which engaged Dr Eve, and beautifully developed an unlikely and most affecting friendship with Rayon.

Runners Up:

Daniel Radcliffe (What If) Radcliffe is sensational as the hero who’s crippled romantically by his traumatised desire to act ethically. A Young Doctor’s Notebook served notice of his comedy chops, but combining uncomprehending deadpan and dramatic sharpness this was a comic role of unexpected substance.

Mark Ruffalo (Begin Again) It’s hard to imagine anyone else, save 1973 Elliot Gould, pulling off this role quite as well. The Ruffalo exudes immense shambolic charm, shuffling about in scruffy clothes, doing permit-free guerrilla location live music recording that would make Werner Herzog proud.

Dan Stevens (The Guest) The Guest is a high-risk gamble that would fail spectacularly if its leading man was not on fire. Luckily for all concerned Stevens burns a hole in the screen with a Tom Hiddleston as Loki level performance – playing scenes tongue-in-cheek serious as the charismatic helpful stranger.

Also Placed:

Ben Affleck (Gone Girl) Affleck as an actor too often contentedly coasts, and (even when gifted zingers as in Argo) acts as a still centre. But, with Fincher pushing him with endless takes, he was fantastic as the hapless everyman; who we root for despite his flaws.

Pal Sverre Hagen (Kon-Tiki, In Order of Disappearance) The imposing Norwegian perfectly captured old-fashioned grit, naive enthusiasm, and quiet heroism as Thor Heyerdahl, and then played crime-lord The Count as an epically self-pitying vegan equally stressed by divorced parenting with his ex-wife, and a nasty turf war with Serbian mobsters.

January 12, 2015

Top 10 Films of 2014

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(10) X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer triumphantly linked X-ensembles as Wolverine time-travelled from a Sentinels-devastated future to 1973 to prevent Mystique assassinating Bolivar Trask and being captured by Stryker. X-2 vim was displayed in Quicksilver’s mischievous Pentagon jail-break sequence, J-Law imbued Mystique with a new swagger as a deadly spy, and notions of time itself course-correcting any meddling fascinated. The pre-emptive villainy of Fassbender’s young Magneto seemed excessive, but it didn’t prevent this being superb.

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(9) The Guest

Dan Stevens was preposterously charismatic as demobbed soldier David who ‘helped’ the Peterson family with their problems while director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett riffed on Dominik Moll and Stephen King archetypes. Wingard edited with whoops, Stephen Moore’s synth combined genuine feeling with parody, ultraviolent solutions to Luke (Brendan Meyer) and Anna (Maika Monroe)’s problems were played deliriously deadpan, a military grudge-match was staged with flair: all resulted in a cinema of joyousness.

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(8) Mystery Road

Writer/director Ivan Sen’s measured procedural almost resembled an Australian Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Aaron Pedersen’s dogged Detective Jay Swan battled official indifference as well as suspicion from his own community as he investigated an Aboriginal teenager’s death. Strong support, from Tamsa Walton as his estranged wife and Hugo Weaving as a cop engaged in some dodgy dealings, kept things absorbing until a climactic and startlingly original gun-battle and a stunning final image.

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(7) In Order of Disappearance

Nils (Stellan Skarsgaard), snow-plougher and newly-minted citizen of the year, embarks on a killing spree when authorities deem his son’s murder an accident. Nils’ executions accidentally spark all-out war between the Serbian gang of demoralized Papa (Bruno Ganz) and the Norwegian gang of self-pitying and stressed-out vegan The Count (Pal Sverre Hagen). Punctuated by McDonaghian riffs on the welfare state and Kosovo provocations, this brutal fun led to a perfectly daft ending.

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(6) Frank

Director Lenny Abrahamson loosened up for Jon Ronson’s frequently hilarious tale of oddball musicians. Domhnall Gleeson’s Jon joined the band of benevolent melodist Frank (Michael Fassbender wearing a giant head) and scary obscurantist Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Great comedy was wrung from Jon viewing writing hit music as a means to fortune and glory, but then affecting drama when music was revealed as the only means by which damaged souls Frank and Clara could truly connect.

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(5) Begin Again

Once director John Carney delivered a feel-good movie as Mark Ruffalo’s desperate record executive took a chance on a guerilla recording approach when he discovered British troubadour Keira Knightley performing in a bar. The Ruffalo was on glorious shambling form, and was matched by an exuberant Knightley; who in many scenes seemed to be responding to comic ad-libbing by James Corden as her college friend. Carney was surprisingly subversively structurally, perfectly matched Gregg Alexander’s upbeat music to sunny NYC locations, and stunt-casted wonderfully with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine as Knightley’s sell-out ex.

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(4) Tom at the Farm

Xavier Dolan’s wondrously ambiguous thriller saw Tom (Dolan) bullied by his dead lover’s brother Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), into keeping Guillaume’s sexuality hidden from mother Agathe (Lise Roy); but exactly why Guillaume had elided Francis’ existence, and why Francis needed Tom to stay at the remote Quebec farm, remained murky. Dolan showed off subtly; the lurid colours getting brighter during an ever-darkening monologue in a bar; and flashily; expressionistly changing screen format during violent scenes; and deliriously; a transgressive tango on a nearly professional standard dance-floor unexpectedly hidden in a barn.

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(3) Gone Girl

David Fincher turned in a 2 ½ hour thriller so utterly absorbing it flew by. Ben Affleck’s everyman found himself accused of murdering his icy wife Rosamund Pike. Only twin sister and spiky voice of reason Carrie Coon stood by him as circumstantial evidence and media gaffes damned him. Fincher, particularly in parallel reactions to a TV interview, brought out black comedy that made this a satire on trial by media, while, from fever dreams of arresting beauty to grand guignol murder and business with a hammer, making this material his own.

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(2) Dallas Buyers Club

Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallee drew incredibly committed performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in this harrowing drama. McConaughey wasted away before our eyes as Ron Woodroof, an archetypal good ole boy diagnosed with HIV, who reacted to his terminal diagnosis with total denial before smuggling drugs. Leto matched McConaughey’s transformation as transvestite Rayon, who sought oblivion in heroin, even as he helped Woodroof outwit the FDA via the titular group. This was an extremely moving film powered by Woodroof and Rayon’s friendship, beautifully played from initial loathing to brotherly love.

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(1) Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater’s dazzling technical achievement in pulling off a twelve-year shoot was equalled by the finished film’s great heart. The life of Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to eighteen in Texas with mother Patricia Arquette, sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), and weekend dad Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) was followed in seamless transitions with teasing misdirection and subtle reveals. Child performances that began in comedy grew thru shocking scenes to encompass depth of feeling. Hawke gave a wonderful performance of serious comedy, Arquette grew older but not wiser, and Linklater was richly novelistic in revealing how surface facades belied the truth about characters and personality formation defied self-analysis. Watching Boyhood is to be wowed by life itself; your own nostalgia mixes with Mason Jr’s impressively realised youth.

July 10, 2014

Boyhood

Director Richard Linklater unveils a coming of age film 12 years in the making and the result is a dazzling technical achievement of great heart; whose humour belies its length.

boyhood

Mason Jr (Ellar Coltrane) is a normal six year old living in Texas with his mother (Patricia Arquette) and bullying sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). He only sees his divorced dad Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) at weekends, and enjoys escaping from his proper mother’s care to the more freewheeling parenting of his muscle-car driving father. It’s a normal boyhood, and time rolls by… And it really does roll. Mason Sr becomes more responsible, Mason’s mom finds happiness elusive, Samantha becomes an ally not a nemesis, and Mason Jr starts to develop his own personality in response to the various people who surround him and the times he lives in (the transition from Bush to Obama, anger to hope to disillusionment). To reveal more details would deprive you of the pleasure of Linklater’s seamless transition between years, teasing misdirection, and subtle reveals.

Astonishingly Linklater made 10 films while chipping away at this film; yearly vignette by yearly vignette. His absolute faith in child actor Ellar Coltrane, and his own daughter Lorelei, are rewarded by performances that begin in wonderful comedy and grow, through some shocking scenes, to encompass genuine depth of feeling as their characters mature. Lee Daniel and Shane F Kelly meanwhile manage to shoot Texas with such rigorous continuity that at times the joins between years aren’t even noticeable if Mason Jr hasn’t changed hairstyle or grown a few inches. This is a rare occasion when the term novelistic is deserved. Boyhood has the narrow focus on a handful of characters and their interactions of The Art of Fielding, but the longer span of time to probe psychological formation of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’s bildunsgroman; and Linklater’s innovation of charting the passage of time by the actual passage of time is jaw-dropping. Arquette’s entire run on Medium is encompassed (and observable in her varying hairstyles) as her character grows older but more brittle not wiser, and skinny Hawke noticeably physically fills out in a career-best performance of serious comedy. Boyhood is also richly novelistic with interpretation…

Mason Sr at first seems an archetypal deadbeat dad. But over time we see he’s quite wise; his rebelliousness is very much a surface affectation thrown off for mellow acquiescence with the way of the world. Which leaves you wondering, will Mason Jr follow that same arc? Arquette’s mom seems to be the sensible one, but over time we see she’s actually sensible in everything except matters of the heart where she’s quite hopeless. And, in a sly critique of divorce, what Mason Jr would regard as his unique personality; artsy, ditching Facebook to live an authentic life, given to paranoid riffs about the evils of the NSA;  is largely a rebellion against the hypocritical, brutal, ‘Duty, Honour, Country’ Christian authoritarianism foisted on him by stand-in fathers. But the amazing late exchange between father and son – “Yep, I’ve finally become the boring, castrated guy your mom always wanted. And she could have had it too, if she’d just been a bit more patient, and a bit more forgiving.” “And it sure would have saved me a parade of drunken assholes” – obscures the fact that an unexpected gift, not from Mason Sr, is what helped Jr find his metier in life…

Boyhood is probably the film of 2014. See it on the big screen to be wowed by life itself; your own nostalgia mixes with Mason Jr’s impressively realised youth.

5/5

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