The Films I've Watched This Year #3

Film This is the 10,000th post on the blog, though that statement should be taken with a giant pinch of ish because there are bound to be unfinished draft posts and the odd duplicate thanks to absorbing other defunct blogs into its body here and there. But yes, as far as Blogger's concerned, 10,000. Anyway, on with the show.  Apologies if there are any spoilers for films that were released over ten years ago:

Death Race 2000
A Boy and His Dog
Big Ass Spider
Ikarie XB-1
Pitch Black
AI: Artificial Intelligence
The World's End
The Numbers Station
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Enchanted April (1935)

This was the last week of #futurewatch ending rather fittingly I thought with AI, which I've not seen after crying solidly for twenty minutes in the cinema and then part of the way home from Manchester on the week of cinema release and during which I once again cried like a baby, though not me as a baby because my thing was simply going quiet for long periods and creeping out of my parents.  Spielberg apparently says that despite him being accused of being an arch sentimentalist by creating an emotionally manipulative ending all of that was actually the part of the film's DNA which is all Stanley Kubrick. Presumably the answer's in his boxes somewhere.  Had Kubrick himself been alive to see the project through, it would have been an even more persuasive companion piece to 2001, the fates of the protagonists surprisingly similar from a certain point of view.

Ikarie XB-1 is a prime piece of Czechoslovak science fiction which thanks to a hacked, over-dubbed US b-release influenced Star Trek and oddly enough 2001.  Adapted from a novel by Stanislaw "Solaris" Lem The set-up's now achingly familiar, a group of humans falling in and out of love and losing their temper with each other in a spacecraft breaking the light barrier to reach Alpha Centauri in a great spirit of adventure, but with a Communist ideology following through their hearts and minds rather than the Capitalist motivations of the corrupt West.  All good fun and with some exciting set pieces, it's also a disappointing reminder of how some genres have subsequently been ceded to a Hollywood.  With the affordability of digital technology hopefully that will change.  I'd love to see a French film set on a giant space craft heading in to the stars.  Directed by Michael Haneke or Cedric Klapisch with Jamel as the Captain.

A Boy and His Dog and The World's End both suffer from similar issues.  The former is a mid-70s dusty adaptation of a Harlan Ellison novel in which Don Johnson plays a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic wasteland aided and abetted by a laconic telepathic dog called Blood.  The latter is (obviously) the final installment in the Pegg-Frost-Wright Cornetto trilogy about a fateful pub crawl.  The problem with both is that one perfectly enjoyable film is suddenly swamped when another, arguably less interesting storyline invades and in neither case does it look the like the filmmakers either noticed what they had or were willing to throw what they were doing in the bin and simply decide to go where that first half of the script was taking them.

In the former, the central relationship between Johnson and his dog is funny and fresh give or take some astonishingly dated gender politics and we enjoy their company, but they're broken up halfway through when Johnson decides to investigate the world underneath the wilderness and is plunged into a sub-Gilliamesque Norman Rockwell parody featuring Jason Robards dressed as a clown.  In the latter, the backstory of the characters, the conflicts and the chemistry between the five friends is strong enough to produce what could have been a very enjoyable, structurally sound ninety minute reunion piece, but apparent genre requirements lead to the whole thing going off in another rambling direction which is also brilliant in its own way but nothing we haven't seen before.  Put simply, Paul's better.  Eep.

The most surprising watch of the week was The Number's Station which based on the Netflix synopsis, poster and selected stills and the fact that it's post-2012 latter day aging Cusack looks like it's going to be a low-rent sub-24 Die Hard knock-off.  Actually, it's rather dark piece about a US government hitman trying to regain his focus having had a touch of the morals who finds himself defending the very broadcast unit which sends out the orders to his colleagues.  The central hour is a two-hander between him and the civilian cryptographer played by Malin Ã…kerman (Silk Spectre II in the Watchmen) who encodes the orders trapped in the station attempting to work out how they got into this mess, with Cusack knowing his duty is to shoot her but unable to pull the trigger.  Engrossing stuff, with Liam Cunningham as his boss.

The thing I drew most from Mitt, thanks to the director Greg Whiteley's choice of footage is that Romney's an ass tight political strategist who understands the process, understood his own place in the process but who in putting that understanding into practice stumbled due to his own inadequacies as a candidate.  In both election campaigns he predicted the outcome on a state-by-state level, realised when he'd given an excellent or poor performance in debates and that his campaign was effectively over after the 47% video and just seemed like someone who was in the wrong job but felt compelled to carry on regardless due to his family's history.  The interviews with his sons about the strain of a political campaign are perhaps most telling, especially in relation to the difference between the public face and the private pain.

After the sheer lunacy of last year's #whowatchorbust and #awardswatch, I fell a bit behind with contemporary movies and the general discourse so #futurewatch has essentially been replaced with #2013watch beginning with Oz: The Great and Powerful which against that discourse I utterly adored even if initially James Franco seems to be doing for Johnny Depp what Depp himself did for Keith Richards in the Pirates films.  Watching in 2D, the sections which are clearly supposed to wow us in 3D are all to plain, but what wowed me was Michelle Williams's perfectly observed recreation of original Glinda Billie Burke's body language especially the wand work and Mila Kunis's full on Margaret Hamilton impersonation.  Neither will ultimately ever be out of work as character actresses, will they?

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