Sunday, January 16, 2011

It’s Only Real when you’re not around (Screening log 10/01/11-16/10/11)

I watched three films this week, all 2010 releases, two set in Boston, one set in between a rock.

127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)
You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve heard the hype, you know what it’s about. And, not that I take IMDb ratings as a messiah, but, it received a pretty high rating on IMDb, and truth be told, I expected more. Instead, I found 127 Hours to be fairly boring at points; quite clearly what we have here is about 60 minutes of material dragged out into a cinema release with the help of some fancy effects on the computer. But on the bright side, James Franco is excellent; he almost makes the film worth watching and although his character seems fairly everyday and I found it hard to care about his “flashbacks” to mistakes he’d made, his survival strategies when stuck made for compelling watching. Needless to say, I was more than a little grossed out by THAT infamous arm amputation scene, but I thought Franco’s dedication to the role and all-round performance was brill. He, and he alone, ensures that this film was not a total bust. Must try harder Danny Boyle; Slumdog Millionaire and Sunshine this most certainly ain’t.

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
Two years ago, two of the five (remember when the Oscars only nominated five films for Best Picture? Those were the days) Oscar nominated films for Best Picture were Slumdog Millionaire, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by Danny Boyle, and David Fincher, respectively. In the case of those two films, I loved the former, didn’t mind the latter. Now the tables are turned, though not totally; I think 127 Hours is “alright”, and The Social Network is “very good”, though the intensity of my feelings toward it aren’t anywhere near as strong as they are towards Slumdog (do you remember when I first saw it, how hard I bummed it on my blog , in a manner that I save for bumming films I only truly really adore a film, as I did with Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds). Random bout of nostalgia is random, I know, but my point is, I find it quite sad that as of yet, no film in 2010 has really blown me away. I really like Toy Story 3, but I like it less than I liked Up, Inglourious Basterds and Fish Tank, my top 3 from 2009, and less than I like Slumdog Millionaire and WALL-E, my top 2 from 2008, and less than The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Atonement from 2007. Every year there’s one or two films that really blow me away. I need a film from 2010 to make me go “woah”, and to quote that whiny do-gooder Bono, "I still haven't found what I'm looking for."
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I enjoyed The Social Network a fair bit. I didn’t think the story of how the smug anti-social nerd who invented Facebook would be of interest to me, but I got extremely engrossed in it and, lamentably, recognised myself in him. Obviously I’m never going to be a billionaire, of course not, but what I recognised in him was how he came home from a bust date and went straight on livejournal to whine about it. Now that, is familiar behaviour, haha. I think Jesse Eisenberg did a very good job in the lead role, making his hard-to-like character at least compelling to watch, and his on-screen chemistry with wingman Andrew Garfield was nicely done. I LOVED Andrew Garfield in it (surprise, surprise), his “you’d better lawyer up, asshole” speech was mega, and his character gives the film sound grounding. Justin Timberlake was an embarrassment, I can only imagine Fincher bunged him in the film to get teenage girls to watch (a similar strategy that is employed by Ben Affleck with Blake Lively in The Town, more on that debacle later) and there were various other supporting actors who didn’t cut it for me. But overall, I found the story of the origins of Facebook just about justified a two-hour screentime, with some moments of comic relief coming from these two twins and Max Minghella’s character. Also, I’m not purposely being a philistine here, but I did detect tones of Citizen Kane throughout, especially in the ending, when Zuckerberg, having made his dynasty and lost some money in the settlement (but what’s a few million for the creator of Facebook?) just sits there and refreshes the page constantly after adding his ex-girlfriend on Facebook. The message could not be more clear; he wanted to be a billionaire, so frigging bad. But it couldn’t buy one thing, no matter how he tried. That, right there, is Mark Zuckerberg’s very own Rosebud moment.

The Town (Ben Affleck, 2010)
PhotobucketFrom the trailers, I was all over this film, and was deeply disappointed when I couldn’t go see it with my housemates, time constraints non-permitting. However, I managed to watch it on a sleepless night this week, and I’m… still in two minds about the film. On one hand, you’ve got a perfectly interesting heist movie with a glittering A-list cast and some tense, gripping scenes (Jem surprising Doug when Doug is on a date with Claire, the woman they took hostage when carrying out the first bank robbery). On the other, it just… didn’t really do it for me. One of my main problems with The Town was Blake Lively’s acting (or lack thereof); obviously as a non-Bostonian I can’t rip her too hard for the accent, but from the likes of Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River, I have a vague idea about how it’s supposed to sound, and I think she got that, and turned it up to 20. Her acting was also just terribly over the top and all-round cringe inducing; I totally get that her character is clutching at the straws and realising that the one thing she has – her beauty – isn’t enough in this day and age, and that’s a terribly sad revelation, but instead of making Christa a tragic icon, she was just, well hilarious, with her half-drunk stagger and mumble mouth. Ben Affleck was tolerable, John Hamm has the blandest of characters but does well with him, and I’m undecided about whether Jeremy Renner’s surly, borderline psychopathic turn as Jem was genius or ridiculous. Pete Postlethwaite, in his second-to-last performance, is fairly terrifying. But the one standout performance from the film comes from Rebecca Hall, and oh how she lights every scene she’s in. It’s her and her alone that makes The Town worth watching; Claire is just about the only character I didn’t find totally deplorable (apart from the police) and we, like Affleck, find ourselves falling in love with her. And, whilst the whole “bad-guy-gone-good due to his love for a beautiful woman” isn’t exactly new, I did like the romantic strand of The Town, and I found myself half-rooting for the Affleck/Hall romance, half wanting Rebecca Hall to get with John Hamm for some reason. Lol. Oh, and the score irked me, scored by David Buckley and Harry Gregson-Williams, it was clearly a case of “too many cooks … decided to plagiarize Thomas Newman”, because I heard shades of the Cinderella Man and Shawshank Redemption scores throughout. Furthermore, the ending, that was all a bit Shawshank-y, but, unlike Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption, I didn’t find myself ever wanting Ben Affleck to have a happy ending. Plus, I don't take too well to having my favourite film plagiarized, funny that. Thus, I have very mixed feelings towards this film. If there were any justice in the world, Rebecca Hall ought to be garnishing awards buzz for her turn. The rest of the movie? I can live without it, truth be told.

As for TV, this week I've been watching Come Fly with Me and Not Going Out, both which make me chuckle. The banter is strong in the latter! Oh, and Hollyoaks! The lulz.


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