The final straight. A few end of year blockbusters are released, but in England we have to wait for all the awards films till the new year. And then there’s the films I watch to catch up on before the inevitable end-of-year list… which can’t be done until the year is over.
A Bigger Splash (2015 – Luca Guadagnino)
I had jumped over a fence at work whilst chasing some children and had severely injured my foot. My mind thinks I’m Batman, but my body doesn’t respond in the same way… So this film already had to compete with the distracting pain coming from the lower right half of my body, and for a few moments, whilst a drunk Ralph Fiennes told ludicrous fictional anecdotes about the making of obscure Rolling Stones album tracks, it succeeded. But generally, it’s one of those films were it’s just sunny. That’s all I really remember. It being sunny a lot.
Streamed via Amazon Prime.
Arrival (2016 – Denis Villeneuve)
Amy Adams’ character should have owned a cat. A single university lecturer would own a cat. And there was not a cat to be seen. Cats make everything better. They’re more interesting than babies… they’re notoriously difficult actors… I would rather watch a cat than Jeremy Renner.
This is one of those films that we’re all meant to enjoy because it’s grown-up, big budget science fiction. And it was enjoyable, despite the very strange scene where they decide to give Amy Adams CGI hair. But it falls in to the same trap as The Abyss (1989 – James Cameron) – these films are always better when the aliens want to kill us.
A nice big screen at Bluewater Showcase. Ticket cost £11.
My Scientology Movie (2015 – John Dower)
Going Clear by Lawrence Wright is a brilliant book, largely because it’s profoundly gossipy (about John Travolta’s sexuality, L. Ron Hubbard’s son’s murder(?), Tom Cruise’s wife etc.) Presentations about Scientology always lose their precision when they move away from the ridiculousness of these belief systems. And by ridiculousness, I don’t mean that it’s false (which it clearly is), it’s just that it’s no more or less valid than any other system a human needs in order to function in a violent, senseless universe.
Theroux’s documentaries have always suffered from a slightly sneery sense of them and us, and it’s a pernicious opiate that lulls a viewer into believing that the nonsense of their life is superior to the nonsense of another’s. We’re all vile, whether we’re Scientologists or middle-of-the-road populist documentary filmmakers.
Streamed via Amazon Prime.
Paterson (2016 – Jim Jarmusch)
A darling film focussed mainly on the micro-emotions of human existence. The flickers of cynicism against overheard conversations, the moments of apathy when listening to a loved one. It speaks to the tolerance of an individual in navigating the world; how the self is sublimated in order to function in society. Yet alongside that, this film was rooted in a distinct geographical space – a city alive and unwell. Jarmusch populates his films with brief encounters (including cameos from the children from Moonrise Kingdom (2012 – Wes Anderson)), each one an insight into the complexity of human experience.
A decent screen at the Greenwich Picturehouse. Ticket cost £11ish. For once the person selling me my ticket understood my desire to sit in the front row and we had a little chat about best places to sit. Walking across Greenwich Park afterwards I was struck by the beauty of autumn afternoons in England, and for a moment, everything seemed to be okay.
Sully (2016 – Clint Eastwood)
Greeted with the comfortable praise that comes with being American cinema’s sturdiest filmmaker, Sully was a study of an individual’s attempt to manage an experience far greater than any in his life. The plane crash presented within was genuinely nerve-wracking. Tom Hanks remains a criminally underappreciated talent, such is his strength in portraying human moments of trauma (see the conclusion to Captain Phillips (2012 – Paul Greengrass) for similar moments of verisimilitude).
A decent screen at the Bluewater Showcase. Would have liked to have seen it in IMAX, but the screens were filled with Doctor Strange bollocks. The computers were broken so I got to see I for £9.
Heaven Knows What (2014 – Ben Safdie & Joshua Safdie)
Christ… I can barely remember this. Blurry images come back to me… drugs… fights in parks… burning alive. Those memories seem interesting, but I’m unconvinced that the rest of film was of any worth. One of those films where I donated the DVD to a charity shop upon completing the viewing.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016 – Gareth Edwards)
Despite myself, I am enjoying these annual visits to the Star Wars universe. What separates them from those god-awful Marvel films? I suppose it’s the fact that they originated on screen and that there’s still only eight (and a half) of them. Ultimately, Disney will take over, their rate of production will increase, and any joy I have in them will diminish. I would like to stress that I would still prefer to see original concepts/films from Abrams, Edwards and Johnson over entries in a franchise.
It’s a surprisingly dark film – I would have been a little uncomfortable seeing it with a child – and it was clear which parts of the film were reshoots, so different was the lighting palette. The characters were paper-thin, and the concept of a CGI Peter Cushing was really rather disturbing, but I got a rush of joy when Darth Vader massacred all those soldiers towards the end. What can I say? Like crying at a Coldplay concert, sometimes the most cynical moments can have an effect.
A large screen at Bluewater Showcase. 9am in the morning! Ticket cost £9.
HyperNormalisation (2016 – Adam Curtis)
Which is one of those films that if I remembered even five minutes of it I’d instantly be simultaneously the smartest and most irritating man in the pub. But it’s so much information, and I’m really not convinced that television is the best way to convey this information, however entertaining these found moments of footage are. Write a bloody book Curtis!
Streamed via the BBC iPlayer. Only cost is the tax I pay…
Dirty Grandpa (2016 – Dan Mazer)
There’s some interesting presentation of the male body and the attractiveness that comes with age, and some edging into non-conventional relationships. But the Hollywood narrative comes steamrolling in and there are one or two unpleasant anti-disability terms used with impunity. Though Robert DeNiro seemed to be actually trying. Which was nice.
Streamed via Netflix.
And finally… a Top Ten for the year:
- Love & Friendship
- Everybody Wants Some!!
- The Hateful Eight
- The Nice Guys
- Things to Come
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice