Hi there folks – a new week, the sun is shining (but it’s making no impact on the snow in my garden, and the car windscreen isn’t going to clear for a while), Buddy Miller is doing his thing on the – what do you call ‘em these days? hi-fi?, a sealed Netflix envelope is preparing for its journey back to wherever sealed Netflix envelopes go (‘Downhill Racer‘, if you’re interested. I’ll post something later in the week. It’s pretty good. Winning is everything, apparently.), the first cup of coffee has been downed, and I’m cranking up for the day.
The weekend’s plans were curtailed by the winter storm, so my birthday party shrank to the two guests within walking distance; we ate Hungarian Goulash and didn’t talk about ‘Inglourious Basterds’. It was fun. And warm. What better way to spend late Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights than blanketed in front of DVDs. (Hadn’t seen ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ for a while – the intentionally funny one – and boy does it stand up as a gorgeous example of 80s kitsch, and a reminder of the genuine comedic chops of Rick Moranis – a man who can fake naivety and still come across as strong; I wheeled out Herzog’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’ again – second time this week, an endlessly fascinating film that takes crime, punishment, trauma and policing far more seriously than most, and ends up being both more life-affirming than ‘Cagney and Lacey’ and less violent than ‘The Dark Knight’ (and turns out to be hilarious and grave at the same time; it has a profoundly moving last scene too); and then I got around to seeing ‘An Education’, which turns out to be one of those British films that US critics like a lot more than UK ones do, because we actually live there. Or used to. (Carey Mulligan’s grand, Alfred Molina’s the perfect-as-usual Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson has three delicious scenes, and director Lone Scherfig captures the reality of British grammar school life in the 1960s, but Nick Hornby’s script veers between profundity and blunt cliche; and at the end of the day, [spoilers ahoy] a film that climaxes with an Oxford University acceptance letter accompanied by swelling strings ends up producing a sense of disappointment that the protagonist has settled for so little. It’s like ‘Up in the Air’ without the coruscating heaviness of utter despair for the future of the human race.
This week we’ll be reviewing the ‘Red Riding’ trilogy, made for UK television, but described by no less than David Thomson as the best films of the past year; along with Andrea Arnold’s ‘Fish Tank’, the best hair in Hollywood in his presumably Oscar-winning performance in/as ‘Crazy Heart’ and ‘Edge of Darkness’, which I can’t allow myself to hope will be as good as the TV series it’s based on, despite being made by the same director.
Meantime, just a couple of things to bring to your attention, Dear Listener. As you know, here at TFT we’re fans of decent film writing – don’t have to agree with a critic’s thoughts as long as they’re interesting; and for my money there’s no more provocative, and in one sense that has to mean interesting, critic working today than David Cox. Cox writes for The Guardian, and doesn’t seem to like movies all that much, but he usually has something fascinating to say about whatever he’s just seen. I agree with him about a third of the time – but I always value the fact that he’s one of the few people writing about film in a national English language publication who seems to understand that art and people are contextualised together, and that the shibboleths of either the naysayers who consider ‘Hollywood’ to be the root of all evil or those who deny any relationship between movies and life in the ‘real’ world are at best simplistic and reductionist, and, at worst, dangerous to the common good. Have a read, if you’ve got the time, and see what you think.
And a friend of The Film Talk and Man-With-One-Of-The-Largest-Privately-Held-Collections-Of-16mm-Films-In-The-World emailed me a link to a splendid piece of film history/technicality/jiggery-pokery in the form of an analysis of film and performance speed in Charlie Chaplin’s ‘A Dog’s Life’. It’s more esoteric than even that description sounds, but also delirious, wondrous entertainment for 4 minutes and 45 seconds:
Hope we all have a good week.