rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

7-1-2006 (archived)

I've been reading a lot of food writing recently, as often happens in the holidays when I cook a lot more, and there was one old, award-nominated post that particularly struck a chord with me: Tigers and Strawberries's “Meat comes from animals: deal with it, or eat vegetables”. Like most people, I know a lot of people who apparently like meat enough to be unwilling to give it up, but still can't deal with anything that reminds them of what it is; anything, in fact, that looks like a bit of an animal. Now, I'm not going to tell people what they should and shouldn't eat, but it does rather seem to me that if you can't cope with the knowledge that you're eating a chunk of animal, you really shouldn't be eating it. Barbara Fisher puts that very well, along with a couple of excellent stories; I grew up in the countryside myself, and we bought meat by the whole or half animal (as well as catching, killing and preparing fish when we could), so we always knew what we were eating, and respected it accordingly.

9-1-2006 (archived)

When the first round of trailers came out, I wasn't going to see “Just Like Heaven”, because the last thing I want is another romantic ghost flick. But then the second round arrived, and they made it clear that actually she wasn't dead (hey! I see not-dead people!), and so I decided a movie featuring the excellent Mark Ruffalo was probably worth seeing. It was.

There's a great deal of skill in this movie, in how completely we accept the foolishnesses of parts of the plot (in which hauntings by the spirit of a not-dead woman are not actually the silliest bit), but sadly the end lets us down just a little. It ought to be a cathartic, sob-inducing finish, but it just ran out of energy with five minutes to go, and I was left feeling slightly cheated and pretty much dry-eyed. 95 minutes of really good, energetic, very nearly intelligent romantic movie, complete with character arcs (albeit quite short ones) and funny lines, and five minutes that leave you thinking “oh, ok. That's nice.” Good, but really should have and could have been great.

12-1-2006 (archived)

There's been a great deal of hype about “Brokeback Mountain”, the “big gay cowboy movie”, but this is one of those rare, happy films that not only justifies but exceeds its billing. The good things are easy to list: the deeply serious subject matter, the fact that we're made to think without ever being made to work, the beautiful scenes of the big skies of ranching America, and the staggering acting. We knew, of course, that Gyllenhaal is a brilliant young actor, and anyone who saw Dawson's Creek knows that the (here almost unrecognisable) Michelle Williams is great, but I had no idea Heath Ledger was capable of work of this quality. Gyllenhaal and Ledger, especially, give astonishing, virtuoso performances.

And the bad things? It thoroughly justifies its running time, the one complaint I've occasionally heard of it - Lee's pacing is brilliantly measured, and it does not feel long. It is never gratuitously emotionally wringing, or unnaturally dramatic. There is nothing I would change. It is a stupendously good film, one of the very best I have seen, and you should all see it too.

14-1-2006 (archived)

There seems to be rather a movement among more “serious” films recently to try and make all the characters unsympathetic, and “Match Point” is no exception. It has come in from a bit of a kicking from a certain class of broadsheet British critic for not quite capturing the speech of the English, and it's certainly true that a lot of the dialogue is (considering Allen's reputation as a wordsmith) surprisingly stilted, but it's really not that bad. A great many British comics have clearly achieved long-held ambitions to work for Allen, but none are allowed to be funny, and sadly James Nesbitt is not even, apparently, allowed to act - the scene where he and Ewen Bremner are talking through their ideas about the crime is comfortably the worst of the movie, and would look unusually bad in a television cop show.

Still, there's quite a lot to like here. Meyers is good, and profoundly unlikeable, in the lead; Matthew Goode is a real find as the rich, Drones-club brother in law; and Scarlett Johansson is ridiculously, impossibly sexy, at least as much so as anybody working now. It manages to grip without ever really excelling, and hold our attention even on people about whom we do not care. It suffers very badly in the shadow of the sun setting over Brokeback Mountain; seeing them on consecutive nights, as we did, makes Match Point seem inneffectual and shallow, but Brokeback is an astonishing, revelatory masterpiece. This is certainly not, but it's more than watchable.

16-1-2006 (archived)

I didn't expect much of “Just Friends”, but I rather fancied another comedy, and rather surprisingly it turned out to be pretty funny. Bad, but funny.

There's no chemistry, no romance, almost no acting, next to no believability, not much of a script, and no good jokes. What there is, though, is a great deal of very competent old-fashioned physical comedy, and that's enough to make 94 minutes pass quickly and enjoyably. That's all I wanted.

18-1-2006 (archived)

Back when we were moving house last, my father and I went to look at a place on a new estate - so new there was still work going on. The site foreman showed us around the downstairs, and just as he was leading us to the stairs, he paused, looked out of the window, and shouted “Green side up!” Then, without another word, he led us on up.

We looked at the two front bedrooms, and very nice they were too, and then he showed us the rooms at the back, and once again as we went in he leaned out of the window and shouted “No! Green side UP!” Curiosity piqued, my father asked whom he was talking to, and he explained:

“It's nothing really, it's just I've got some blondes laying turf in the garden.”

You're not getting that other blonde joke from me, you fuckers. You'll be wanting the rhombus joke next.

20-1-2006 (archived)

It's been a good patch for good movies, and “Jarhead” is not merely good but great. Sam Mendes, in easily his best film yet, gives us one marine's view of Desert Shield and Storm, the first and by far least messy of our Iraq adventures, and he does what the military famously do: hurry up and wait. Basic training is, of course, hellish, and there are moments near the start where this boy, who reads Camus and “Sir, I got lost on my way to college, sir!" clearly doubts the impulse and family history that sent him in. But Jamie Foxx's staff sergeant pulls him into a sniper unit, and he has found his place.

Then they get to Iraq, and for half a year they just wait in the desert, all too genuinely out of their minds with boredom, heat, tension. Then the war starts, there are brief moments of horror, and almost at once it is over. We follow these characters, particularly Gyllenhaal's Swofford and Foxx's Sykes, as they interact, change, and fester, without any regard to the almost complete lack of action. It is funny, sad, horrifying, uplifting, disturbing; brilliantly shot, brilliantly acted (both Gyllenhaal and Foxx should be up for best actor gongs), superbly written, utterly believable. It may not be quite as good as Brokeback Mountain, but it is an amazing film, and should be seen.

23-1-2006 (archived)

Breakfast on Pluto” has one thing very much in its favour - another excellent, slightly otherworldly turn from Cillian Murphy and his disturbing eyes - but is really nothing more than a series of not-particularly-gripping vignettes about a character it's hard to like, or care about much at all. In the end, it's not the transvestitism that makes “Kitten” difficult to deal with, even by the standards of the time; it's the utter self-absorption and lack of any will to look after himself, let alone anybody else, that makes us wish through much of the film that he'd just stop messing up the lives of others. There are some good sequences, but it can't even nearly sustain its 135 minute running time. Wasted.

25-1-2006 (archived)

Underworld: Evolution” is, again, mostly about Kate Beckinsale in shiny black tight clothes, and briefly out of them in what must be the nudest scene ever not to contain a nipple. This is actually quite a bit better than the first movie (which I thought was badly flawed but still very watchable), with a more atmosphere, and it pretty much dispenses with plot in favour of action and (ludicrous) backstory. I didn't like it as much as Cherie did, but I certainly liked it a lot. Stupid, but great fun.

Just as the first one dropped pretty clear sequel hints at the end, this one left the door wide open for a third movie. I'm there.

28-1-2006 (archived)

Jim Carrey seems to be developing two separate careers. In one, he is a really rather talented serious actor, and in the other he's the rubber-faced pratfalling physical comedy loon, the one that made his name. I actually sort of like both of them.

Fun with Dick and Jane” is stupid but funny, with Jim Carrey back on full-on funnybones mode. The attempts to turn a political point are also funny, but not in quite the same way. Still, if you want undemanding fun in a nice short movie, you could do a lot worse.