Hello. Welcome to my first ever film blog. My name’s Paul, a film studies graduate from the North of England and I’ve decided to start blogging on movies.
Firstly, the Internet is ripe with negativity. So I’ve decided to recommend films that I have only the most positive of opinions towards. For this particular blog, I’ll be writing about five films, which I would consider recent (within the last three years). They may have been overlooked by the general public due to them being slightly outside the mainstream. Film buffs, I’m sure, will be familiar with some, if not all, of them. However, due to a relaxing two week break from work, with temperamental weather that kept a lot of the country house bound, I have logged plenty of film viewing hours, and assembled a list of recommendations I would like to share…… In no particular order……
1. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Director: Peter Strickland
Starring: Toby Jones
Synopsis: In 1970′s Italy. A British sound engineer (Jones) travels abroad to produce and record the audio track to a forthcoming horror film ‘The Equestrian Vortex’.
My thoughts: The film works on so many levels. Firstly it is a brilliant insight into the way foley artists historically (the days before digital recording) produced sound effects. Producing a number of effects live, in sync with the film being projected, is fascinating. Everything from a chainsaw chopping off limbs to a head being violently dunked underwater. It also displays the trials and tribulations the classic horror ‘scream queen’ endures when recording take after take. It’s a must for any fan of audio recording, and also classic horror films.
The dialogue is minimal throughout the film and often see’s Gilderoy (Jones) lost, as the non-Italian speaking Yorkshire man struggles to piece together the, often fiery interactions between the film crew. As the film progresses Gilderoy’s emotional state, superbly portrayed by Toby Jones, see’s him gradually reach a state of morbid delirium as the juxtaposition between his characters mild mannered nature and the producers harsh and unforgiving wrath, clash in a crescendo of, seriously creepy, sound effects and sequences that blur the lines between imagination and reality.
2. The Raid (2011)
Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah
Synopsis: A 20 man Indonesian SWAT unit are sent to seize an apartment building ruled by a crime lord and his gang. After an entry attempt, the criminals descend upon the team and a bloody war ensues.
My thoughts: An Indonesian film set in Indonesia, with a full Indonesian cast, naturally written, directed and edited by a bloke from Wales. Gareth Evans’ cinematic eye for action set pieces is impeccable. Watching this film is like being smashed in the ribs with a sledge hammer whilst simultaneously having your face injected with adrenaline. There is, within reason, no let up on action. The film runs for a mere couple of minutes before we are in the back of the SWAT van, on the way to shoot some baddies. The action begins with a whole heap of gun fighting, seriously reducing the cast. The minority, left standing, or almost standing, are left to battle with knives, machete’s (bigger knives) and fists, in some of the most skillfully performed and brutal martial arts ever seen on screen.
The plot, is minimal, which in this case, is absolutely fine. You get all the plot you need from what is, essentially a 100 minute long choreographed action sequence. As masterfully choreographed as an intricate ballet performance, the extremities of the violence keep you engaged throughout, and your heart is kept racing at a pace that is surely subnormal. There is actually a cheeky little twist at the end, that reminds you there is actually a story here.
3. Marley (2012)
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Synopsis: A documentary film on the life, music and legacy of Bob Marley.
My thoughts: Scottish director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) travels to Jamaica to capture interviews, anecdotes and stunning scenic shots, introducing the audience to the locations, relatives and admirers that shaped Marley’s early years. Some natives speaking in such thick Jamaican accents, despite speaking the English language, still require subtitles. From there the biographical film unfolds into a joyous celebration of Marley’s life and music. Interspersing archive footage and recent interviews with a myriad of acclaimed artists, it educates and illustrates what an important artist and political figure Bob Marley was, with the power to unite through beauteous music. It begs the question, why aren’t we teaching his legacy in schools? Probably all the weed.
4. Shame (2011)
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
Synopsis: Set in New York, Brandon is a successful advertising executive. He struggles to maintain a healthy lifestyle as his growing sex addiction begins to affect his work and his personal relationships. When his sister Sissy arrives at his door unannounced, housing her proves difficult as he is forced to realise his addiction and becomes emotionally unstable.
My thoughts: Writer / Director Steve McQueen (no, not that one. The London born visual artist one), introduced us to his directorial flair in 2008 with his debut feature ‘Hunger’. Also starring Michael Fassbender, Hunger was a challenging piece about the deformation of the body as it chronicled the 1980′s hunger strike adopted by IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland. As apposed to a physical struggle, Shame deals with an emotional strain an addiction can have over ones life. Contrasting with the excrement smeared cells and blood stained beds seen in Hunger, Shame really glorifies the beauty of New York, taking the audience to glamorous bars, upper class apartments and state of the art offices. The only thing that doesn’t appear glamorous in the film is the sex. It is filmed in such an anti-erotic manner, as Fassbender frequently looks unfulfilled and desperate. A stellar performance on his part (as always). Carey Mulligan shines as his equally emotionally unstable sister, dealing with a series of personal demons. She proves to be an engaging screen presence perfectly complementing Fassbender’s alluring character development, and performs, in my opinion, an iconic cinematic cabaret bar rendition of ‘New York, New York’. All in all, it’s a hard watch and gradually builds up to an exciting and emotionally draining climax. Can’t wait for McQueen’s third collaboration with Michael Fassbender, ‘Twelve Years a Slave’, released later this year.
5. Moneyball (2011)
Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Synopsis: Based on a true story, Baseball manager Billy Beane attempts to assemble a winning team on a low budget using a computer programme developed by a Yale graduate of economics.
My thoughts: Having zero baseball culture in Britain, this film came and went rather rapidly. After tracking it down on DVD, despite having no previous knowledge of the game, teams, players or story, I found this film to be extremely entertaining. Brad Pitt’s performance as troubled Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane is compelling as he brilliantly balances, a man struggling to keep his cool in financially difficult times and a man passionate about winning. The future is also cloudy regarding his newly developed player choosing system that could, and in fact did, revolutionise the management approach. Whilst trying to have the fans and players keep faith in his decisions, he is constantly battling the other members of staff, in particular the ‘old school’ coach of the team, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Pitt’s ability to switch from, a perfectly lovely and charming baseball enthusiast to a frustrated room trashing lunatic keeps the audience on his side and Aaron Sorkin’s razor sharp script moves the film along at a phenomenal pace. Considering the film largely takes place in board rooms and locker rooms the film never ceases to excite. Jonah Hill is perfectly cast as Peter Brand, the Yale economics graduate who develops the player selecting programme. Hill appears to be restrained, by the context of the script, from his usual comic tendencies, and the only comic elements (which are frequent) appear to be created unintentionally by the characters own eccentricities. Do not fear if you have no prior knowledge of baseball. Regardless. This is an excellent watch.
Well, congratulations. You’ve made it to the end of my first post. Many more to follow. I hope you’ve enjoyed my film choices. Agree or not, all opinions are mine. Plenty of other opinions are available I’m sure, but please do let me know what you think.
Just before I sign off, a big HELLO and thank you to Suzy, who helped me get started in the land of blogging. Check hers out at justenougheduction.wordpress.com.
Follow me on twitter @PaulyCarolan.
Thank you and Goodnight.