The Films I've Watched This Year #20

Film Having been out in the world a bit this week, there's not been much time for the watching of films. Before writing up the visit to Norton Priory on Monday, I watched the BBC Four piece about the Hay Festival which in truth felt much like one of the pieces often produced for The Culture Show before Sky bought the rights so that as usual they could insure that as small an audience as possible could have access to anything to do with the thing. This is an inherent problem with a lot of this BBC Arts stuff, a lack of distinctiveness, though in fairness, the fact of its very existence anyway is just about enough for now.

As period recreations of old-syle episodes of The Culture Shows go, The Town That Loves Books was fine though would probably in general be of greater interest to someone who reads books. The section about celeb biographies was perhaps the most accessible and worth it at least for the Carrie Fisher interview in which talks about facing down internet abuse. The whole fact of her agreeing to appear in the new Star Wars is endlessly fascinating to me. She doesn't need to. Presumably the money's especially good. Which it must be. Perhaps its just a cameo? These are questions that weren't addressed.  Sorry, straying off the point a bit.

But the problem with these kinds of shows is that they're essentially posh version of This Morning, the contents effectively advertising whatever literary masterpieces are being hawked around the festival and because they're not part of some greater ecosystem of television programmes about books, you do wonder why we should be interested in hearing about Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård's printed LiveJournals, an interview which lasted ages over the three seconds dedicated to the Shakespeare piece. But I'm biased, obviously. It's still the first time I've seen a "Corrections and Clarifications" section on a BBC Programme page. More please!

Yesterday was of course dedicating to watching the very moving coverage of the D-Day commemorations, including the stonking piece of interpretative dance in the middle with its "sporting opening ceremony" big reveal at the end.  People who  ignorantly don't "understand why we're in Europe" would presumably have been unmoved by the thing I'm not going to spoil in case you haven't seem it yet, but I was in pieces.  I'll defend Europe and our place in it until I'm old enough not to remember or care and to drag this back to film, I hope that's after we've had a reason to use Preisner's Song for the Unification of Europe for real world reasons.

Red Corner
Dallas Buyers Club
Blazing Saddles
Enter The Dragon
Evil Dead II

It's always a "dangerous" when a magazine like Empire publishes a big long list of films collected together due to some popular poll, because the first instinct of the average film buff is to (a) check where there favourite film is (151? Really?) and (b) count how many they haven't seen.  Of the 301 included in what's supposed to be their biggest ever (even though there were 500 last time) I was missing about fifteen.  Welcome to my film memory 260 and 112 and on both counts I sort of which I hadn't.  Perhaps there's a point where a film has become so much a part of film consciousness that it's impossible too watch it like anything else, you're watching its added decades of referential context.

Perhaps that's what I only laughed once during Blazing Saddles at something Gene Wilder said, especially since I had two of its other main gags spoiled during a lecture when I was at film studies.  Perhaps it is just that I've never been a big fan of Mel Brooks in general anyway, not even Spaceballs.  Perhaps if I'd come to Evil Dead II on release I would enjoyed its surprises, which was difficult to now that its been parodied and homaged in everything from Doom to Spaced to Cabin in the Woods.  Especially Cabin in the Woods.  None of which has stopped me from putting Evil Dead III on my Amazon Rental list and look forward to seeing the remake of the original.

Red Corner isn't on the list, but part of my own personal fringe event to watching my way through tiff & BFI's A Century of Chinese Cinema, I'm watching the odd western film set in the country.  A fairly typical Richard Gere blinkathon with a somewhat one dimensional approach to the political situation, it does at least give Bai Ling's character a good forty-odd percent of the narrative agency which is more than most similar characters get in these kinds of films (much as I admire A Few Good Men, Demi Moore is in support mode) (see also Rachel Weisz in The Runaway Jury).  Also has Bradley Whitford, still pre-Josh in full on yuppie mode, which has its own pleasures I suppose.

Speaking of back catalogue, having finally seen Dallas Buyers Club, which technically isn't yet, I'm rather interested in watching Ghost of Girlfriends Past, the last film to star McConaughey and Garner.  I know it's from his leaning phase and garnered (sorry) utterly terrible reviews, but I feel like I've missed some pre-history.  How do actors quantify these jobs?  It's only five years since then and both have pretty much re-engineered themselves as serious actors.  Does on-screen chemistry transition in the same way?  I'll report back, god help me.  Having entirely missed most of McConaughey's leaning phase, I have feeling I'm now going to be making some very bad viewing decisions.

Compare McConaughey to Steve Coogan who can be a remarkable actor when he wants to be, usually when he has an accent (see Happy Endings) and is very good indeed in Philomena, especially when Martin Sixmith's full of righteous anger but oddly it's still more akin to his character roles.  It's replete with accidental Partridges and it's impossible to see him as anything other than Steve Coogan rather than the man who recorded this brilliant BBC Russian history series.  From the brief moment I've seen of his appearance at the Hay festival with director Stephen Frears, it was a problem he was well aware of.  Now I'm off to watch the rest it.  Cue the TS Elliot quote.

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