Kailey is in Toronto, Dan is in rainy Wellington and between them they review Kelly Reichardt’s “thriller” Night Moves and the dystopian nightmare of The Giver starring Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges and some kids, plus Robin Wright playing several versions of herself in Ari Folman’s The Congress.
Once again the Coen Brothers set a standard for every other film to try and match. True Grit is every bit as brilliant as its reputation would suggest: the best western since Unforgiven and a central performance from Jeff Bridges that is twice as good as the one he secured an Oscar for last year (Crazy Heart).
Bridges plays irascible one-eyed Deputy Marshall Rooster Cogburn, a man with a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later, a man with a taste for whiskey and a distaste for authority. He is hired by spunky 14 year old Mattie Ross (astonishing newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) to hunt down Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her law abiding, decent, citizen father. Also, hunting Chaney for a huge Federal reward (that dwarfs Mattie’s small bounty) is suave Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) and soon the chase is on, into lawless Indian territory where the fugitive is holed up.
So, after trawling through the many thousands of words written about cinema in these pages this year, I suppose you want me to come to some conclusions? Do some “summing up”? Help guide you through the great video store of life? Well, alright then. Here goes.
We don’t do Top Ten lists here at the Capital Times – they are reductive, facile and, frankly, you have to leave too many titles out. I have taken to dividing my year’s viewing up into categories: keepers are films I want to have in my home and watch whenever the mood takes me; renters are the films that I could happily watch again; then there are the films that I enjoyed but am in no hurry to repeat, the films I might have misjudged first time around, the films I can’t get out of my head (for better or worse), the films I am supposed to love but you know, meh, and most important of all – the films you should avoid as if your very life depends upon it.
First, the keepers: a surprise for some will be Fantastic Mr. Fox which was released after my 2009 Year in Review was submitted and the only film in the list that I already own. Animal Kingdom was the film I most recommended this year – a stunning, tense piece of work that gripped me totally.
Consistently hilarious throughout, Boy steers a very careful course once it becomes clear that there is a very real heartache behind the laughter. A less confident filmmaker wouldn’t have even tried to perform that conjuring trick but Waititi turns out to have the talent to pull it off.
It’s 1984 and in the tiny East Cape village of Waihau Bay 11-year-old Boy (born as Alamein, after his father) has been left in charge of the whanau while his Nana goes to Wellington for a tangi. His little brother Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and his young cousins are looking to him for some parenting but the unexpected arrival of Alamein (Taika Waititi) sends all those plans packing.
Indulge me for a minute – it’s Christmas. Back when I was a little nipper, me and some mates took a rare trip into the City (“Up London” we called it) to see what we thought was going to be the biggest movie event of our lives so far. At the Odeon Marble Arch (supposedly the biggest screen in Europe!) we sat ourselves in the middle of the front row and prepared to be blown away. By TRON.
It was the first film to contain computer generated effects and graphics and the first to make a direct appeal to the nascent home computer generation who would go on to define our future. The idea of being sucked inside a computer to play the games for real didn’t do much for me but the metaphoric idea of losing oneself in the Grid (or the Net as we came to call it)? That had a lot more appeal.
There’s something very odd about the opening scenes in Shutter Island and it takes the entire film for you to put your finger on it. Shots don’t match between cuts, there’s a stilted quality to the dialogue (too much exposition for a Martin Scorsese movie) and the pacing is off. For a while I found myself wondering whether Marty had lost the immense influence of his great editor Thelma Schoonmaker, but there she is, still in the credits, as she has been for Scorsese since Raging Bull.
Several years ago, Scorsese played a practical joke on me (personally, it felt like at the time) when an entire reel of The Aviator was treated to look like faded 1930s Technicolor – I went to the Embassy counter to complain and felt very sheepish to be told by Oscar, the projectionist, that the director meant it that way. So, this time around I decided to trust the maestro and roll with the strangeness and was rewarded with one of the best (and cleverest) psychological thrillers in many a year.