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ewan mcgregor Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Review: Rust and Bone, A Lady in Paris and Jack the Giant Slayer

By Cinema and Reviews

Rust and Bone posterIt’s no disgrace to come second at Cannes to Michael Haneke’s Amour, especially so when your film is Rust and Bone. Writer-director Jacques Audiard has a track record of unsettling and confronting dramas, starting (for New Zealand audiences) with Read My Lips in 2001 and — most recently — prison drama A Prophet in 2009. Rust and Bone is equally rugged but with some beauty to balance the violence and despair.

Acadamy Award-winner Marion Cotillard is the big name on the marquee but the film really belongs to Matthias Schoenaerts who lays down a portrait of wounded masculinity as riveting as any of De Niro’s classic performances. He’s Alain, a drifter and waster who lands in picturesque Antibes with his young son. He’s useful in a scrap but useless as a parent and some of the most difficult scenes in the film are of him failing to look after the boy.

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2011 Wellington Cinema Year in Review

By Cinema

I’ve been watching reactions to other people’s “Best of 2011” with interest. It’s fascinating to see online commentors insist that films they have seen are so much better than films that they haven’t. Even though I do, in fact, watch everything I’m not going to pretend that this list is definitive — except to say that it gets a lot closer than most…

I also don’t believe in the arbitrariness of “Top Tens”. I have my own entirely arbitrary scale: Keepers, Renters and Respecters.

Secretariat posterKeepers are the films that I loved so much I want to own them — films that make me feel better just having them in the house. The first film I adored this year was slushy Disney horse racing story Secretariat. It should have been everything I hate — manipulative, worthy, a faith-based subtext — and yet I cried like a baby — expert button-pushing from director Randall Wallace. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was my favourite blockbuster. Superb direction by Rupert Wyatt overcame the flaws (ahem, James Franco, ahem) and it carefully walked the tightrope of both respect for its predecessors and kicking off something new.

The Tree of Life posterTerrence Malick’s The Tree of Life is my favourite film of the year by a long stretch. A second viewing allowed me to stop thinking about it and just feel it, meaning that I got closer than ever before to the soul of a film artist. Profound in the way that only the greatest works of art are. Tusi Tamasese announced himself with one of the most mature and considered debuts I’ve ever seen — The Orator placed us deeply inside a culture in a way that was both respectful and challenging of it. That film’s journey hasn’t finished yet.

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Review: Beginners, Contagion, Happy Ever Afters, Last Train Home, Eco-Pirate and 13 Assassins

By Cinema and Reviews

Beginners posterI really don’t want much. It’s simple. All I ask is for someone with talent to take some of their life experience and merge it with that talent in the hope that the resulting work of art might help illuminate some aspect of my life. That’s all. And yet it rarely happens. Which means I’m very grateful that with Beginners, Mike Mills has done exactly that and produced a terrific film that is intensely personal — both to him and to me.

Ewan McGregor plays a gloomy Los Angelean illustrator: lonesome, introspective, self-sabotaging; all lessons learnt growing up an only child in a household where his father was a closeted gay and his mother lived a constrained and lonely life of imagination. When she dies of cancer, McGregor’s father (Christopher Plummer) is freed from the bonds of marriage, comes out at the age of 75 and throws himself whole-heartedly into the the LA gay scene — including posting revealing personal ads and starting a relationship with a budding pyrotechnician named Andy (Goran Visnjic). And then he gets cancer.

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Review: The Social Network, The Ghost Writer, Matariki & Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones

By Cinema and Reviews

The Social Network posterFrom the tour de force of A Few Good Men in 1992 (“You can’t handle the truth!”) to the winning Charlie Wilson’s War in 2007, Aaron Sorkin’s sparkling dialogue and intelligent characters provide (all too rare) beacons of brilliance among the parade of dross that is most commercial cinema.

And that doesn’t count his contribution to television. I’m one of those people who love “The West Wing” so much that I wish I could simply mainline it direct into a vein, so a new Sorkin script of any description is an event.

Torn from the blogs (and a best-selling book by Ben Mezrich), The Social Network is the heavily mythologised story of the invention of Facebook and the legal tussles over the plentiful spoils. Sorkin is in his element, here: He doesn’t write action or gun-battles, he writes smart, literate people arguing over ideas and it’s an unending pleasure.

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