rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

18-3-2006 (archived)

Opinions have certainly varied on “Mirrormask”; the major criticism seems to be that it's incoherent, which since it's essentially a lengthy guilt-trip dream seems to me to be missing the point rather. It is aurally and especially visually just magnificent, and completely unlike anything else I've ever seen - a really beautiful experience. Stephanie Leonidas, whom I've not previously seen, is excellent and enthralling, deserves to be a star, and the rest of the cast are as excellent as we would expect. Different, and wonderful.

20-3-2006 (archived)

Pierce Brosnan is best known for playing an aging, not-as-cool-as-he-thinks, womanising drunkard who pretty much kills people for a living, and that is, in a sense, exactly what he's doing in “The Matador”. The difference, of course, is that (unlike James) Julian is supposed to be all of those things, and is entertainingly foul-mouthed with it. It's a very, very funny film, particularly for Brosnan's perfectly-judged performance, and three talented if regularly typecast actors are playing to, and very much up to, those types. Underneath the jokes that the characters never see, and the killings, and the dreadful moustaches, this is very much a study of character, morality, and friendship, full of depth and richness, and played straight, strong, and perfect. Not nearly enough people saw it, but it will be remembered by the ones who did.

22-3-2006 (archived)

It is no surprise when Ray Winstone turns in a brilliant performance, and since Danny Huston is of the numerous and talented clan Huston that should not surprise us either, but while everybody in “The Proposition” is at the least very very good, it is Guy Pearce who is the revelation. The cinematography is startling; Australia is made to look both impossibly beautiful and somewhere you really wouldn't want to be. I was worried that Nick Cave's score would be a problem, but in fact there was only one very brief moment in which it troubled me at all, and it was often excellent and evocative.

It reminded me somewhat of Peckinpah in its deadpan brutality, but has more style and presence, and (particularly in the person of Winstone) more humanity. It is horrible and terrible, and (returning to a recent theme) uncaring of convention; Aboriginals are treated with neither reverence nor contempt, even minor charactors go through emotional arcs, there is no exposition whatsoever - everything we learn, we learn from context. This belongs alongside the recent and occasionally brilliant revival of the western, and is as strong a film as any.

25-3-2006 (archived)

This being the last Sunday in March, the clocks are going forward. Now, I'm pretty much convinced that the whole thing is stupid anyway - why on earth should we put our clocks back in the winter just because it's dark in the mornings? (And yes, I do consider BST the correct time zone rather than GMT; if we're going to work 9 to 5, sunrise and sunset averaging at 6 is clearly inappropriate.) It's still dark when we have to get up and drive to work; if we left them as they are, at least it wouldn't be dark when we go home. The usual argument involves Scottish farmers in some way, which makes no sense whatsoever - farming is one profession notably ungoverned by what clock time it is, unlike anybody who has to work to an arbitrary schedule. Yes, it would put them further out of synch with the rest of the population, but let me simply point out that if you wanted to have a vigorous social life involving the population at large, you would not be farming in Scotland.

Anyway, we seem to be stuck with it for the moment. In that case, we should have a bank holiday on Monday rather than a short weekend. Failing that, move the clock change to Easter weekend. I get little enough sleep as it is.

27-3-2006 (archived)

I have yet to read Alan Moore's original book, though I have bought it, so I come to “V for Vendetta” without preconceptions. It was, of course, heartily slagged off by the Guardian critics, but then that is nothing so much as a recommendation these days; checking Ebert, as I usually do after seeing a film, it seems that he agrees, largely, with us. I thought the couple we left the cinema behind had it exactly right, though: this is a film you will either love or hate. We loved it.

Weaving plays V about as well as a man in a mask can be played, and Portman is absolutely brilliant in the lead. Any film with Stephen Fry in it is, of course, better than it would have been without, and everybody else does well too, particularly Stephen Rea. There is a film with blacks and greys of character, but no pure heroes, and it is all the better and stronger for it; parts are genuinely shocking, and of course it is all almost unbearably stylish, and more a movie of ideas than almost any other action film. Comparisons to The Matrix are not ridiculous, and given the Wachowski involvement probably inevitable, but this is less crushingly cool and much better acted. Brilliant.

29-3-2006 (archived)

Very uncharacteristically and entirely unintentionally, I've acted like a Proper Film Reviewer by seeing “Failure to Launch” before it, well, launches; I apparently saw a preview without realising it was a preview. Unlike every Proper Film Reviewer (I suspect), I rather liked it. There are three films going on here; one is a fairly conventional physical-humour boy movie, involving a great deal of being bitten by animals (which may not be clever but was funny enough for me). The second is a rather sketchy romantic comedy, played as knowingly but nothing like as well as Hitch, between McConaughey and Parker. The third, and probably best, is the one with the excellent Zooey Deschanel in it (though admittedly she's not working hard here); some of her scenes with Parker might have come from a good movie.

This is not a good movie. It is pretty funny, though.

1-4-2006 (archived)

We went to see a production of “The Visit” a couple of nights ago. It was the sort of small ensemble production where most actors took multiple roles, and was played almost without props and costume changes, and with some inspired use of mime - what I am going to call “chamber theatre”, by analogy with chamber music and because I don't really know enough about theatre to know what the proper term is. I should really do this sort of thing more often - it was extraordinarily good. Like almost everyone I know, I wish I did more “culture stuff”, and when I do it's usually excellent. The cure for this is, I suppose, pretty obvious.

4-4-2006 (archived)

Now, I believe as much as much as the next man that the water companies are, by and large, a bunch of inept thieving parasitic bastards preying on the remnants of what should rationally be a nationalised industry, but really, surely the Today programme should have better rationality than to say (paraphrase) “shouldn't this only be happening in exceptional circumstances" moments after saying that this has been the dryest pair of winters in something like seventy years? How exceptional would you like it to be, pray? And complaining about the low percentage of rainfall collected really doesn't, pardon the phrasing, hold water unless you're going to let the company put up a vast collection umbrella over your property. No, didn't think so.

Dear people: if you want to be able to use water profligately, try not living in a dry and vastly over-populated part of the country.

6-4-2006 (archived)

There is quite a bit wrong with “Inside Man”. Most notably, there is a subplot which does nothing to advance the action and features Jodie Foster being deliberately and pointlessly irritating, though I suppose you can argue that her job is to tell us that the bank robbers are not the bad guys. This does nothing to help with the major problem, which is that it's really long.

On the other hand, there's a lot right. There's great cinematography and excellent performances. Then there's the interesting and unusual structure, a certain sleight of hand in the execution and the plot, and some comic relief (notably, for me at least and predictably enough, a running joke about cleavage). Most of all, there is a near overload of charisma from Christopher Plummer, Denzel Washington and my own favourites, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Clive Owen. I would see any film with those two in, and it's just a bonus when it's a very watchable and enjoyable one as well, albeit that it should have been twenty minutes shorter.

8-4-2006 (archived)

Another hundred posts means another brief self-analysis session. I'm unsurprised to see that the proportion of film reviews has increased, to 61 of the hundred posts, and that other significant original content is down again, though I don't think it's entirely permanent. Partly it's because I'm seeing more films than I was, partly that weight training takes up more of my life than ever before, and partly that these hundred have spanned the toughest part of the year for a teacher: from the start of September to the Easter vacation. After this, we have just three more weeks in steadily improving weather until our exam groups leave and the pressure drops off, leaving far more energy to think and thus to write. The same reasons explain why, more and more often, posts are Saturdays rather than Fridays; I keep my schedule, but it stretches.

Traditionally in these roundups I've written about readership statistics, but not far into these hundred posts we suffered an apparently insurmountably failure to make my site stats accessible to me (at least, it has not been surmounted). I miss them less than I would have expected. I have, now, no idea how many of you are reading, but I'm glad and not a little surprised that you are. On the other hand, those of you (particularly with Hotmail) who have had email to me returned to you as “probably spam” have my profound apologies; I am in the process of moving my email hosting away from the idiots responsible for using a relay blacklist (a policy they have not informed their customers or prospective customers of anywhere, making them not just stupid but dishonest). That is one of the several things on my “to write about” list, just waiting for the time and energy to do it. Hopefully, between now and 700, that will come.