Film Here are then and here we go with the final, the last of these sometimes weekly what turned into film review posts. Back at the beginning of the year when I said, "I'm going to try and keep a running record of the films I've watched in 2014" I didn't realise, as I so often don't when beginning these projects how elaborate a process it would become with hours spent trying to find something useful or interesting to say about films which probably don't deserve either. In that original post the comments are pretty brief and it's not until mid-March that the format settled down into something resembling a more formal film review post each weekend. There probably isn't much of a coincidence that this was also the time when Doctor Who would previously have begun and I'd be writing Saturday night anyway. Then later in the year, of course, Doctor Who actually began and I'd have to find some other time to knock these out too.
Writing these posts has given me a new appreciation for the work of professional film reviewers, especially those who work for the nationals who have to comment on all the films released in a given week. We all have tastes and interests and yet a Kermode or Bradshaw has to have an opinion about everything and knowledgeable. That explains why in some cases one of their reviews is little more than an elaborate synopsis and a star rating; there's no much that can be said about pretty generic *** or ** film that does its job but is nothing remarkable other than to say that it does its job and is nothing remarkable especially in a week then some oscar contender or big summer blockbuster is released. No wonder they enjoy carving up the turkeys. They're doing all the work of the team of reviewers on one of the monthly magazines themselves so it must be fun to let loose once in a while at the new The Hangover sequel.
The final post will analyse the results and suggest a potential list of the best and worst films I've seen this year. How useful or interesting has this been for you? At a certain point I did forget that I was only ever supposed to be doing this for a year in homage to Review 2004 until a few weeks ago when it dawned on me that I wouldn't be completing #disneywatch in the public gaze. Glancing through the stats, the readership for the posts has averaged at about a hundred and fifty which seems large enough to me, though the most visited with 556 page views was episode #38 where I didn't list or review any films and posted a Norah Jones video instead. No idea why. Either way I'm heading into next year with only vague notions of what to write about other than the usual but I'm genuinely interested - have you used any of this as any kind of a recommendation?
Hemingway and Gellhorn
The Lone Ranger
It's a Wonderful Life
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Lilo & Stitch
Superman: The Movie
Superman and the Mole Men
Let's begin with Christmas. Happy Christmas. Snowglobe is amongst the ABC Family movies which litter Netflix and and about the only one whose poster doesn't feature a smiling blonde woman or a puppy. Christina Milian is the daughter of a family of Cuban bakers whose desperate for some independence and finds it extra-dimensionally within the world of titular magic snowglobe which is delivered to her by persons unknown. A surprisingly effective mash-up of Pleasantville and The Purple Rose of Cairo (yes really) it benefits from a funny script which understands its debt to and comments on Capra-corn and committed performance from Milian and notably from Matt Keeslar as Douglas the snow shoveller she meets in the other reality who has the Jeff Daniels role in seeing his globe view shatter. By a wide, wide margin I enjoyed this more than Elf and the Doctor Who Christmas special too if I'm being honest.
Having bought Dad the dvd for Christmas, we sat and watched Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that evening. He's one of life's film talk-throughers, but I noticed after the initial scenes with Mark Strong and the wig he was quite most of the time which I think means he enjoyed it. Which he should because it's a modern classic. It's not until watching this third time, in this setting that I realised that it's actually a pretty Christmassy film with all the important flashbacks to the storm before the calm when all of the spies were still a team, at an office party complete with a Santa Stalin. Victorian vibrator, Dickensian dildo comedy Hysteria also ends on Christmas Eve just as it should with its overall theme about the spirit of giving. Having decided before the festive season not to watch too many Christmas films this year, a couple turned up anyway and surprised me. Hysteria's great by the way. It's The Road to Wellville with sex toys.
The season's other rewatches: It's a Wonderful Life is a horribly depressing film if watched at the wrong moment and Christmas Eve was dicey. The BD includes a trivia track which only pops up about every ten minutes mostly to tell us which awards it's won or lists its appeared and contains the horrific colourisation with its pastel skin tones. Having been given the boxed set for Christmas I've begun working through the Superman films again beginning with The Movie which just as I remember has a magical, epic first hour, a nonsensical time travel ending and a depressingly generic middle though its interesting to note how few superhero films do stop in the middle just to show magical having powers can be. My New Year's Eve film choice this year is Strange Days which looks all the more prescient and whose squid technology can't be too far away from happening in some form now.
Hemingway and Gellhorn, the HBO mini-series-movie with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as Ernest and Martha has numerous problems. In seeking to tell us about the whole of their life together we're left watching a bitty, episodic, narrative mush especially once they've left the Spanish Civil War which would have had more than enough material and feels like it could have a clearer shape on its own. In order to justify hiring Owen and Kidman for the roles its desperate to give them both some agency which means that although its Gellhorn's story, sequences which should be about her are regularly given to him for no good reason. Plus there's the astonishingly weird decision to Forrest Gump them into contemporary footage for long stretches which never quite looks right in the way Eric Rohmer achieved on purpose with paintings in The Lady and the Duke. Oh and it has one of the worst Orson Welles impressions I've ever seen.
The Lone Ranger on the other hand was a pleasant surprise, given its reputation. Johnny Depp as Tonto is problematic in a way that not even the presence of so many real native americans can quite excuse as is the odd flashback structure. But director Gore Verbinksi's embrace of the source material is admirable and what many critics don't seem to have noticed is the extent to which filmmakers have consciously referenced the vast history of the Western genre from its roots in silent film when it wasn't even a genre yet as such right through the Philadelphia western to whatever it is that we do now. The final half hour, which has one of the best choreographed action sequences I've seen this decade is a loving homage to Buster Keaton, notably The General but also some other shorts and one shot in particular had me cheering. Arguably the film's main problem is its length. With some judicious cutting there's a magic two hours in here.
#disneywatch continues onward. For some reason the original dvd release of Atlantis: The Lost Empire is "full screen" panned and scanned and it's not until returning Amazon afterwards that I realised I could have bought the special edition widescreen version for the same price. Apparently there's not a shred of Joss Whedon left in the screenplay which is surprising - the sense of the team dynamic feels very much like something he'd do and it does retain the sense of what Disney originally asked him for which is "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" meets "The Man Who Would Be King". Finally seen Lilo and Stitch which is as brilliant as everyone says it is though it shows just how far Disney's identity crisis had gone at the turn of the century that this re-imagining of ET was sandwiched between Atlantis and Treasure Planet. You might well also ask how they went from releasing something as smart as this to Home on the Range within two years.