During the hours of darkness there’s nothing more I enjoy than watching a film (well, there are a couple of other things but for the purposes of this post let’s politely ignore what they could be). In keeping with the recent musings on ‘the arts‘ I thought I’d stick some more opinion on you, dangle it about a bit and see what bites.
Six is a nice number and so here, below, are six of the best films that I had the pleasure of seeing last year (and yes I know that pretty much all of them were released before 2015…..I’m a slow watcher). As with the book post I’d massively urge you rush out to Blockbusters and use your pocket-money to buy these classic VHS treasures….they’re amazeballs!
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson
When I watched this it became my all-time favourite ever film. It is without a shadow of a doubt the most visually entertaining film I’ve seen and for me is the reason you would go to a cinema. It was the pure, complete package. Colourful, fun, superbly acted, great story, original (as only Wes Anderson can be) and mad as a box of frogs.
The title provides a good starting point to what the film’s about…..a hotel. This is the story of a hotel being visited at a time way past it’s heyday (think Troubles by J. G. Farrell) by a young journalist played by Jude Law (mercifully his role is fairly limited as he is utter shite as an actor) and retold by the former bellboy (snigger) at the outbreak of a war…..we don’t know which one but if I had to guess I’d put my money on allusions to Nazi-socialism (just a theory). The hero of the film is undoubtedly Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) – the greatest casting of a character in the history of moving pictures – who plays a suave concierge with a penchant for octogenarians. It’s adventurous in scope and storyline; the characters (Jude standfast) are cinematically perfect. Go see dis, yo!
If you liked this, you’ll like…………The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson)
2. Birdman: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
I thought this one would be a bit too off the wall for me but after the first 10mins or so I was ‘in’ and staying ‘in’. What a mega film huh? Not seen it yet? Do. It’s a right old marmite of a number. The reviews online rage between folk wanting to drown it in a pond (how?) to wanting to marry it (again, how?) so that should be reason alone to have a gander and make up your own mind. That said, I can’t force you to like it but we may no longer be friends if you don’t.
I get what people say about it, there really isn’t that much going on in any deep or profound way but you’re not watching frickin’ Pan’s Labyrinth here. It’s a guy (Michael Keaton) who used to be a superstar as ‘Birdman’ – you guessed it – who is now trying to get his career back on track with a production on Broadway. Done. Obviously not all goes to plan and various hiccups abound. Keaton is plagued by visits from his former character and experiences some rather bizarre moments culminating in a glorious sporting endeavour running down Time Square in his kecks. Strong. It’s sooooo well acted by everyone. Edward Norton is involved and rocks it.
If you liked this, you’ll like…………Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)
3. Of Fells and Hills: Salomon Running/The African Attachment
So you must have watched the clip above if you’re reading this? What did you think? If you’ve skipped to the writing, go back and try again. How good’s that huh?? Pretty much sums up the British scene of fell/hill/mountain running pretty darn well in my opinion. Yeah so it’s a bit arty and I’d have liked it to have dwelt on the racing scene a bit more I guess but people’s likes and interests are as niche in terms of opinion as fell-running is to athletics in general. Billy Bland, Joss Naylor and Kenny Stuart?! What lads.
If you liked this, you’ll like…………the new season of Salomon TV, which promises to delve a little deeper into the BGR and such-like
4. Calvary: John Michael McDonagh
Right stay with me on this one ok cos it’s flown under the radar a bit and will definitely not be everyone’s cup of chatter-watter. It’s bleak and slow (a bit like me) and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for long periods of time (not really selling it here huh?!) but stick with it. It’s a cruel and unjust ending to a mystery that never really gets solved. A bit of Kafkaism in picture form, if you will.
Brendan Gleeson is a priest who receives a death-threat from an unknown member of the community. ‘Nothing odd there’ I hear you say. No. That ginger chick from Peaky Blinders is in it. She’s decent too. You can guess the outcome of the film before the opening scenes roll through (the clue’s in the title) and poor old Brendan ain’t getting away with anything. There’s dark-comedy and bleakness (did I mention the bleakness?) and on the face of it I’m not really sure again why I liked it so much, or why anyone would. It’s got a good way of pulling you in and holding you there with strong performances and your own misplaced sense of justice and hope eventually amounting to nothing. It’s a not-so-subtle microcosm of the life of Jesus, brought into the modern day and not thrust down your neck but prevalent all the same. I’m maybe not doing a very good job of convincing you here. Probably best just watch it and make up your own mind.
If you liked this, you’ll maybe like…………The Guard (John Michael McDonagh – again)
5. 15 Hours with Anton Krupicka: Billy Yang
Same sketch with ‘Of Fells and Hills’…..same sketch if you’ve skipped the watching part to indulge in the reading part first. Go back and watch it, then read this. It’s the natural order of things. Finished? Glad it’s not literally fifteen hours?! I kinda am and I’m kinda not. Not a huge amount really happens eh? Still, it works and works well. I love the simple lifestyle. It’s a pretty decent work-life see-saw I’d say! Get up, stick the kettle on, lace-up, go for a cycle or run or both, chew the cud with a mate, have a beer, schlafen. Presumably you’d then repeat ad infinitum. Simple. He’s a bit wishy-washy sure, but he’s a Yank without a ‘proper’ job so I can cut him some slack.
If you liked this, you’ll like…………In the High Country (Joel Wolpert)
6. TT – Closer to the Edge: Richard De Aragues
Last, but by no means least (as the saying famously goes), comes this puppy. So good I watched it three times at the cinema and then bought it twice (once on DVD and once as a download since you asked). Why? Like I said, it’s sooo good! It’s one of the few documentary type films that I watched of a sport that I don’t do that made me desperate to go out and do it. I’m glad to say that initial impetuousness has been curtailed and I subsequently still have the use of my legs, but still it has that pull like not many others before or since.
It helps that Guy Martin is mental. He sells it as much as the manic action of racing wheeled-rockets around 38 miles of B-roads on some random island off the coast of GB. On-board cameras, HD, helicopters and fast bikes makes this sound like a Bond film. It’s not. It’s a lot better. Sure the film follows on the coat-tails of Guy Martin but it helps to paint the picture of a British peculiarity and highlights the gnar that is bike racing. Folk get badly hurt, folk die every year but still it’s hugely popular and draws in thousands of fat punters from the world over. You’d watch this for Guy, you’d watch it for bikes and you’d definitely watch it more than once. It’s not some niche, crap documentary but a full-blown cinematic journey into a crazy world.
If you liked this, you’ll like…………Roam (The Collective)