Posts tagged film

Visions of 2008

So what can be said about 2008 in the arts and entertainment?

Well, the films I enjoyed mostly during 2008 were the following:

P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood. Technically a 2007 film, but only released in Portugal on Valentine's Day (now, this is a date movie)! Anyway: One of the Best Movies Ever. I repeat, Ever. Fuck the Coen Brothers, No Country for Old Men is just good enough, this years' How Green Was My Valley, a pale effort in comparison to Citizen Kane. Paul Thomas Anderson's masterpiece kills God, and like the proverbial t-shirt, God may one day kill P.T. Anderson, but There Will Be Blood lives forever. Its final act satisfies the viewer's lust for blood in a way even Stanley Kubrick fell short of.

Alain Resnais' Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places. Despite the annoying defacement of the original stageplay's title (what the hell is the ideia with Hearts?), Alain Resnais is proof that not all old masters of French cinema descended into hypocrisy and critic-pandering. It's the movie about relationships made with such class, like a carefully handmade watch to Nora Ephron-esque Chinese Casio knock-offs. It has some of the best photography seen this year, and also shows the critics how careful use of CGI (as also seen in James Gray's incredible chase sequence in We Own the Night) can enhance a film rather than End Cinema.

Jonathan Levine's The Wackness. I was expecting a Sundance standard film when I went to watch Jonathan Levine's debut, instead I felt the Giant Hand of the Mighty Spirit of the Universe (or whatever) pointing at me and ennumerating the ways I suck. The right film at the right time, even if it has its weaknesses, so what can I say — even Ben Kingsley performance dialled down his creepiness factor by a few notches.

There's also another film I must mention, even if it'll mean nothing to the non-portuguese readers:

Miguel Gomes' Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto. Up until the day I watched this, I thought of Miguel Gomes as a symbol of what's rotten with portuguese cinema. Although I only knew his short films, they allways struck me as futile, publicly financed exercises in intellectual masturbation of the most serious kind, the kind of shit you just have to endure in film festivals while you wait for the short film you actually want to watch. But Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto is actually good... better than that, excelent. Its director is now a puzzle, this film being in my view the exact opposite of everything Miguel Gomes did before. It's a documentary about a movie being made in the Portuguese interior, and it is at the same time that movie, without conforming to the movie-within-a-movie formula. But what makes it special is that it is very enjoyable and not for one moment does the audience cease to identify with what the film presents — and that's what makes this movie so strange and up to a point an indictment for what's wrong with portuguese filmmaking, coming from the unlikeliest of sources.

Like 2007, I felt 2008 was a weak year for cinema, and probably that's why I only went 48 times to a proper theatre, by far my lowest amount of film-going since... erm... I became a film-going adult. And as usual, I saw half the year's movies from January to March — because that's when all the good For Your Consideration pictures come out in Portugal, and not just the American releases, European movies too. The usual spike in very good late summer releases (Portugal-wise, meaning films that appeared in Cannes or whatever) was once again nowhere to be found (with the exception of Aquele Querido Mês de Agosto and perhaps a movie I unfortunately missed, Abdel Kechiche's The Secret of the Grain).

Anyway, other films I enjoyed to a five star level were Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton and Jiri Menzel's I Served the King of England. Not much, even though I would rank many of the films I watched during the year at four stars, so I still enjoy my time at the theatre a lot more often than not. There were a few stinkers, though: the remake of 3:10 to Yuma was as necessary as a kick in the butt, Indiana Jones IV raped a lot of childhoods, including mine, Juno was a overrated piece of crap, a misleading anti-abortion pamphlet disguised in self-conscious coolness stolen from the likes of Ghost World, Youth Without Youth felt like a bad episode of The Twilight Zone, and Gomorra was yet another overrated — and badly directed — piece of shit, this one raping the one book it was supposed to adapt. Of course, I did refuse to go see things like Speed Racer (seriously, you can't get me to watch a film that looks like an unplayable Megarace — already one of the worst computer games I ever played), or else this list would be a lot bigger.

Television-wise, 2008 was the year of The Wire. I watched every single bit of every one of the sixty episodes, and it must be told that if this was a 60-hour movie, it'd be up there with There Will Be Blood, one of the best movies ever, with a storytelling scope such that regular feature films, at 3 hours or less, can only dream of.

And that's it for now. Check again soon for my thoughts about books and music.

Some closure

During 2006 I saw 65 different movies at the theatre, excluding festivals. 2005 was an interesting year in which my favourite three movies included a Hollywood film (which would then go to win the Oscar for best movie of the year — perhaps the first time a favourite of mine ever won), a French film and even a Portuguese film. The same thing didn't happen in 2006 though. There were many good American movies, but the European production I got a chance to see here was disappointing when compared to previous years. Here are the three movies I enjoyed the most in 2006:

Me and You and Everyone We Know, by Miranda July. It's such a rich film it's hard to describe in few words, but had me taken by the second minute, in a scene in which the kids are doing ASCII art in front of their computer. In its skeleton, is a simple boy-meets-girl story, but rendered in an delightfully artistic way. Exhibit A in the case to prove narrative and Art in film aren't — and can't — be mutually exclusive.

Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuáron. I believe it'll be seen as the Blade Runner of the next twenty years. Once you get past the somewhat silly main premise you'll see it's just a pretext for one of the most nightmarishly believeable visions of the future ever shot on film. Because it's about now.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy-Lee Jones. In contrast with the other two, here's a straight simple story about a cowboy's quest to bury his friend. But done so very right, touching at times, outrageously funny at others.

Other great movies of 2006 include:

- Match Point, by Woody Allen;
- Munich, by Steven Spielberg;
- Breakfast on Pluto, by Neil Jordan;
- The Departed, by Martin Scorsese;
- Inside Man, by Spike Lee;
- Volver, by Pedro Almodóvar,

So as you can tell, it has been a good year for big-name directors (Spielberg, if you recall what I said last year, once again proves his carreer is one sinewave alternating between genius and utter shit), with an exception of note I'll write further down. But it was also a very good year for some people who are bound to also join the Pantheon of Directing Niceness:

- Good Night, and Good Luck, by George Clooney;
- Marie Antoinette, by Sofia Coppola;
- The Secret Life of Words, by Isabel Coixet;
- Babel, by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Therefore it seems 2006 is the year of Mexico Triumphant. Don't forget that The Three Burials... is also written by Guillermo Arriaga, Babel's screenwriter. Interesting that the two Spanish movies I did see during the year got both my personal five-star rating.

What about the worst? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Da Vinci Code, Unknown, Dejá Vú, and The Black Dahlia were the year's canned turds. Let's not forget, these are movies actually worse than X-Men III. I never expect anything good from the likes of Brett Ratner or Ron Howard, but Brian de Palma is 2006 equivalent of Terry Gilliam in 2005.

An aside, I saw Catwoman the other day on television. I couldn't take my eyes off how bad it is. The editing is perhaps the worst I ever seen in a movie.