Movies… so many movies. When will this god-forsaken year be over?
Hell or High Water (2016 – David Mackenzie)
I don’t watch trailers and I don’t read Empire. So getting excited about movies can happen in a very roundabout way. I saw people talking about this film on Twitter and it was several days before I realised they weren’t talking about the similarly titled Samuel Fuller film. Mackenzie continues with the momentum he began with Starred Up (2013) crafting an engaging tale of desperation. Its themes are spoken out loud in a Christopher Nolan style approach to writing, but it features two great performances: Jeff Bridges, making you genuinely concerned for his health, and Chris Pine portraying one of the great queer roles of the year – in a film dripping with sex, and women literally throwing themselves at him, he appears distinctly uninterested. Capitalism has made him realise that relationships only result in the loss of money.
Seen at the Bluewater Showcase. For about £11 because it’s the weekend and everything is just so ruddy expensive nowadays, even mid-budget mainstream American cinema. Nice-sized screen.
Blair Witch (2016 – Adam Wingard)
One day there’ll be a pioneering piece of film criticism exploring the images posted on Adam Wingard’s tumblr, and how that promulgates a view of sexuality within his films. Until then, he directs a film that no one wanted, and was fairly widely despised and dumped in September. However, I enjoyed it, despite its flimsy treatment of its black characters. It does fail to acknowledge the appeal and awkwardness of the first movie, with the scenes in the wood unable to grasp the panic of the original. It is a more glossy affair, and it is only once the film reaches its endpoint, and a horrendous crawl through a tunnel, that the film starts to scare you. Until that point it’s just tricks.
Mid-sized screen at Bluewater Showcase. Ticket still cost £11.
De Palma (2015 – Noah Baumbach + Jake Paltrow)
A birthday treat… isn’t it great when things come together to make you feel special. A fairly breakneck tour through one of my favourite director’s career, with the occasional sidestep into moments of film theory and autobiography. It makes you want to watch Carlito’s Way (1993) again. Though my enjoyment of this film was only heightened after hearing Paul Schrader’s bitchy comments about it on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast. The wounds of Obsession (1976) run deep.
Screen 3 at The BFI Southbank. Ticket cost £12 or so. Strange red lights went on in the room in the first 10 minutes. On the other hand, no trailers to sit through…
The Magnificent Seven (2016 – Antoine Fuqua)
What’s the point of having a diverse cast if the film doesn’t address the racial politics of the period in which it is set? I mean, reading that sounds like some despicable ‘All Lives Matter’ viewpoint, but the diverse cast was fantastic… it’s just not helpful to anyone to whitewash society. It feels cowardly. The views held by previous generations are always distasteful, as indeed ours will inevitably be to our ancestors. Despite having moments of transcendental dialogue, the film fails to dig deep into the scenario it has created. However, it was an enjoyable western (isn’t great that we’re getting regular westerns again!) enhanced by some superb performances, particularly Vincent D’Onofrio, looking like Orson Welles and sounding like Mickey Mouse.
IMAX screen at Bluewater Showcase – which previously I hadn’t been impressed with, but admittedly I was very hungover on that occasion. Beautiful experience that really added to my enjoyment of the movie. Ticket cost about £15.
Deepwater Horizon (2016 – Peter Berg)
With a spare ninety minute running time, Deepwater Horizon was an exemplar of direct, big-budget genre filmmaking. Mainstream cinema isn’t dreadful, it just too often has an extended running time that isn’t justified by the story on screen – movies have too much flab! Anchored by some enjoyable performances from Kurt Russell and Mark Wahlberg and some capable action sequences, it was as enjoyable an hour and a half I’ve had in the cinema for a long time!
Once again at the IMAX screen at Bluewater Showcase. Slightly cheaper as I was able to go in the day – by cheaper I mean £1.50 cheaper.
American Honey (2016 – Andrea Arnold)
I was taken to the London Film Festival premiere of this for a birthday treat. Sitting in beer garden having a cigarette and a catch-up at the BFI Southbank fifteen minutes before the film, I’m suddenly told we’re at completely the wrong place! Some people live very different lives to your own. A frantic run across London, a wander about Leicester Square looking for a ticket machine, and a firm ‘move along please’ when standing in front of the paparazzi and we are seated. Okay, it’s not an aisle seat, but I got over it.
The film starts at 9.15pm. Andrea Arnold comes out. None of the wanky media types around me appreciates my cheers of “Temple Hill!” The film starts.
It’s two hours and 40 minutes long. We’re talking running for the last train when it’s over length here. It admirably picks up thematically after the end of Fish Tank (2009) and is a delight as it explores the beauty in all nature and the exhilaration that comes with freedom. But it is a looong film.
So we left with twenty minutes to spare. I’ve never walked out of a film (this doesn’t count) but I still feel guilty.
The main screen at the Odeon Leicester Square – which isn’t that impressive when it’s a film shot in the Academy ratio. I didn’t pay – a birthday treat.
Room (2015 – Lenny Abrahamson)
Free (?) on Amazon Prime. Still a rip-off.
The Intervention (2016 – Clea DuVall)
If you were a teenager in the nineties Clea DuVall represents every underdog, freak, weirdo and person who never fit in. She is treasured for that. She’s now directed what is a pleasant film, with nice performances and a couple of good jokes, but nothing more than that. It’s background music whilst you do something else. More freakery please Clea!
Spent various reward tokens I had on Amazon Prime after buying all those DVDs so I don’t think I spent too much on it.
Daughters of the Dust (1991 – Julie Dash)
The shadow of Lemonade (2016 – Beyonce Knowles-Carter) looms high over me. Having watched that film and loved it, I read endlessly about it. Daughters of the Dust was mentioned time and again as an influence, but it was impossible to see. So when the London Film Festival included a showing of this I made it a priority. It’s a strange and moving film, one that explores the entanglement of personal and cultural history within a family. It felt quite special, and featured an extraordinary, other-worldly (to me) soundtrack.
Screen 5(?) at the Leicester Square Vue. A large screen with slightly threadbare seats. Ticket cost £15.
The Wailing (2016 – Na Hong-jin)
Some films you can’t rush to make a judgement upon. This is one of those films. I liked it, but know it has buried itself into my mind, and I will need to return to it to form a stronger opinion. Bear with me.
DVD showing – imported for about £14 from America.
I, Daniel Blake (2016 – Ken Loach)
Written about here: https://asidesteps.com/2016/10/25/i-daniel-blake-2016-ken-loach/
Psycho (1960 – Alfred Hitchcock) + Psycho II (1983 – Richard Franklin
Written about, in a roundabout way, here: https://asidesteps.com/2016/10/27/top-five-psycho-films/
Seen at the downstairs screen at the Prince Charles Cinema. The seats are tatty, the audience teeters on the edge of obnoxious, the reel changes during Psycho were not very good, but the programming is excellent. Ticket cost £11 (the screen isn’t huge)
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016 – Edward Zwick)
For me, the annual Tom Cruise film is something special. He is our last movie star, a person you can rely upon to produce entertaining, big budget movies each year. He is precious because of that. This was no let down. It moved at a decent pace, made some fairly worthy, but ham-fisted attempts at addressing gender equality, and featured the usual charming, intense and professional performance that Cruise brings year after year. That is not something to be sneered at.
Seen at Bluewater Showcase; decent screen and ticket cost £9 – why is everywhere so expensive? For some reason there were no adverts before the film and that will be a cinematic highlight of the year!