35. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

First Viewing.

I knew almost nothing about this film before viewing it, and perhaps it was helped by the lack of expectations, but this really captivated me from the opening seconds. No doubt this was helped by the stunning editing of Ryan Gosling’s Driver passing through LA, at night, cut to Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx. It’s a great way to start a movie (I never thought I’d get to namecheck some CSS with this film either!) Drive draws heavily from the film noir genre – little dialogue, a femme fatale-ish character, a mysterious protagonist, and all kinds of trouble going down – but it also has it’s own modern style. I suppose you could compare it to Rian Johnson’s Brick with it’s composition of the contemporary and the old noir. I’m also really starting to be impressed with Gosling’s collection of work, I know he has done some mainstream stuff to pay the bills, but Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, and the brilliant Blue Valentine are a fine trilogy (I’m looking forward to seeing The Ides of March at some point too.) The film never lags or feels bloated, despite the drawn out nature of some of the scenes, and it’s definitely one of the best contemporary movies I’ve seen in quite some time. The only downside to the movie is the relatively minor role Carey Mulligan has, she never gets much to say or do, and a little more interaction with Gosling would have been fun to see. Perhaps I was just hoping he could rekindle some of the electric chemistry he had with Michelle Williams, from Blue Valentine, back here with Mulligan. Nevertheless it’s a movie that cannot fail to impress.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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34. The Descendants – Alexander Payne (2012)

First Viewing.

I’ve been a big fan of Alexander Payne’s work since watching Election back at the turn of the century. He followed up Election with a couple of other very good movies in About Schmidt and Sideways. The Descendants, his latest offering, is another well made, nicely observed, witty movie, but, well, it’s all a bit forgettable in the end. It’s reminiscent of Clooney’s 2010 attempt at an endearing-Oscar-hoarding-type-movie; Up in the Air. It had all the same hallmarks as The Descendants and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to be remembering that in ten years time. Clooney, of course, is extremely watchable and puts in a very good performance, but, and I can’t quite put my finger on why or what, this movie just lacks a certain something. I’ve not got anything bad to say about it per se, it all works on paper, the Hawaiin location is stunning, and I enjoyed seeing it, but…..

Marks out of ten -Six

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33. Melancholia – Lars Von Trier (2011)

First Viewing.

“The earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it.” A masterpiece, a miserable, miserable masterpiece.

It’s been two years since I unknowingly ventured into the cinematic hell that was called Antichrist and I don’t think I’ve recovered from that experience yet. I’m still not able to look at a block of wood without breaking into a cold sweat. Thankfully, I guess, Von Trier’s Melancholia is just mental torture. The opening scene is magnificent, it’s so incredibly beautifully created that it would rival Werckmeister Harmonies’ opening scene in accomplishment. It’s a very beautiful movie from start to finish in truth, and it needs to be, the subject nature and script is so painfully depressing that one needs the distraction. I can’t think of a movie that’s ever left me feeling quite so empty inside. It’s really something. While Von Trier’s direction is essential to the film’s fascination it’s Kirsten Dunst’s performance that gives us a wonderfully controlled and convincing view of Justine’s depression. It’s painful to watch, but it never becomes unbearable or cliché. It’s hard to summarise a movie like this when it’s so powerful and affecting, it really needs to be seen to be understood. Be warned though, there’s not an ounce of fun to be had.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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32. Lbs. – Matthew Bonifacio (2004)

First Viewing.

Lbs. finally received it’s DVD release this month after being made on a micro-budget back in 2004 and it’s probably worth the wait. The most interesting and exciting element of the film is the parallel between the main character, Neil, and actor’s, Carmine Famiglietti, weight loss. The film charts Neil’s weight loss through seclusion in the middle chapter of the film and thus the dedication of Famiglietti to “get thin” for his art is an incredibly beautiful action. The film, by tackling such a difficult topic, asks interesting questions about self worth and human perception. It offers no answers in truth, but that’s by design, it avoids the obvious Hollywood clichés of self disgust being conquered and the protagonist snagging the prettiest girl in the town. The dialogue is also sharp, the acting spot on and the photography very competent. There are a few issues I have with script, it’s a little jumbled at times and occasionally lacking direction, but that doesn’t spoil the film. It perhaps leans a bit too heavily on the Italian-New Yorker stereotype too when it really doesn’t need to. It is, however, a good, thought provoking and, at times, uncomfortable movie to watch.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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31. Speedy – Ted Wilde (1928)

First Viewing.

This was the last silent movie the wonderful Harold Lloyd made, and it’s a piece of pure nostalgic candy-floss beauty. If, like me, you’ve got a special place for the city of New York then you’ll love this movie from a historical point of view and, even if you don’t, it’ll make you smirk, smile and chuckle for 80 minutes. Lloyd bounds through the boroughs with such whimsy and joy that you can’t help but fall in love with this flick. The section shot at Coney Island being the absolute highlight of the adventure, you can almost smell the popcorn and hotdogs. There’s also a great cameo from ‘The Babe’, so any baseball lovers will find this a treat too.

You can’t go wrong with watching this film, especially if you were let down with ‘The Artist’.

Marks out of ten – eight.

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30. The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius (2011)

First Viewing

First things fucking last, to quote Nice Guy Eddie, must be to say that Hazanavicius should be hugely congratulated for actually getting a silent movie made in an era of 3D and I’m-edited-so-fast-I-can’t-tell-what-the-hell-just-happened type films – Michael Bay, I mean you! So well done, Michel. Now, for my main gripe(s) with the film, it’s just a very average film. I’m certain had it been released in the 1920s it would have been lost amongst the superior Chaplin/Keaton/Lloyd models. One doesn’t even have the luxury of watching the movie as a historical document like one can with other silent films. There’s nothing actually bad about The Artist, but it just doesn’t do enough to stand out from the crowd, except, of course, there is no crowd now so it’s being treated as a masterpiece. (Michel you better clear your mantlepiece for all the awards coming your way) Also, if you’re going to stick to genre conventions (like making your movie silently) don’t start putting sounds in half way through the film. It ruins the whole damn illusion! I don’t get why you would want to do that…

It’s enjoyable, but it’s no The Cameraman or The Gold Rush

Marks out of ten – Six

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29. Shame – Steve McQueen (2011)

First Viewing

After a fair amount of hype about the provocative nature of Shame I can’t help but feel this is all style over very little substance. McQueen directs his arse off, but the audiences complete lack of connection with any of the characters makes the film an utterly aesthetic pleasure. The supposed depravity of the main character, Brandon (Fassbender), has been taken to greater lengths with far more shameful acts performed in appreciably more accomplished films (Gaspar Noé’s work immediately springs to mind) often with deeper, more interesting characters and considerably better scripts. Brandon trends too close to unintentionally pastiching Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman (from American Psycho.) I almost expected Fassbender to announce he had “some videotapes to return” and start chopping the heads off of unsuspecting hookers. The saving grace of Shame is the cinematography, it’s often beautiful and the extended, uncut scenes are wonderfully acted and composed, they really are the high points of the film. However it’s not enough to save the film for me, and, if anything, Shame doesn’t go far enough, it’s too much of a tease.

Marks out of ten – Six

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28. Manhattan – Woody Allen (1978)

Repeat Viewing.

I’m just going to come out and say it, Manhattan is my all-time favourite Woody Allen movie. I know, I know, I know, Annie Hall is fantastic, but this just edges it for me. It’s beautiful, and tragic, and it’s almost perfect. It even has a Kafka joke. I’ve watched it maybe ten times and each viewing leaves me wanting to instantly watch it again. There are more daring Allen movies that ponder far greater questions than the ones you’ll find here, but that doesn’t diminish Manhattan‘s importance in Allen’s filmography. The blend of humour and human failure are no more finely balanced in any other movie. Gershwin’s score and Willis’ photography only enhance this masterpiece. See this movie.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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27. The Future – Miranda July (2011)

First Viewing.

If only more contemporary movies could be this charming, funny and feature a talking cat. You’ll more than likely recall the charming, funny, but talking-cat-free debut feature of July’s called, um, now what was it? Oh yes, Me and You and Everyone We Know, it was full of subtly observed quirky human behaviour. The Future follows the same path, but adds a little more plot, a little more pathos and a little more wit. It’s certainly an improvement over it’s older sibling, and it’s not to be missed. Miss July is certainly proving herself to be a most talented writer, actress, and film-maker. We should all bow our heads in in gratitude as we- and I don’t just mean anonymous internet bloggers here- need more female filmakers.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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26. Giant – George Stevens (1956)

First Viewing.

Oh James. How could you leave us like this?

I expected too much from Giant, and thus it couldn’t possibly deliver. It’s a slightly above average film elevated by a fantastic cast. It’s frankly way too long and even I started to tire of James’ caricature of Kane. Of course every Dean fan will continue to seek out Giant on late night television or in creaking secondhand DVD stores, but I shan’t be in much of a hurry to watch it again.

Marks out of ten – Six

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25. Ghost Dog – Jim Jarmusch (1999)

Repeat Viewing.

An action movie without any action, well isn’t that just typically Jarmusch? The cross-over between Samurai movie, Gangster movie and beatnik culture is a rare treat. With RZA’s damn-right dirty score and Forest Whitaker’s finest work-  this role was made for him, literally so JJ says- it cannot help but entertain you if you put in a little effort. And I can’t let this review hit the press without a mention for Isaach De Bankole, perhaps the most under-appreciated actor ever. He should be a star.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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24. Early Summer – Yasujirô Ozu (1951)

First Viewing.

Reason to live number one;  all the unwatched Ozu films. I don’t need to write any more.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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23. Vampyr – Carl Theodor Dreyer (1932)

First Viewing.

Following on from possibly the coolest film ever made we have the perhaps the creepiest, fuck, it’s creepier than hiding in your mother’s closet and watching her undress.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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22. Le Samouraï – Jean-Pierre Melville (1967)

First Viewing.

Quite possibly the coolest film ever made.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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21. Dead Man – Jim Jarmusch (1995)

Repeat Viewing.

A trend I’ve picked up on Jarmusch movies is that his works really improve upon multiple viewings. It’s one of the highest compliments I could place on a directors body of work. Dead Man reveals depths that are hard to initially pick up on when you’re preoccupied with following the story, so I didn’t leave the cinema feeling blown away by it, far from it, but the film ate away at my brain until I felt compelled to view it again and that’s where it comes into it’s own.It’s been a criticism that Jarmuch’s work lacks narrative, which is naive crap frankly, but I would say that it’s not his primary goal in filmmaking- And thank fuck that a director (with English as their primary language) realises that there’s more to a movie than just telling a story, and, unsurprisingly, it’s taken a lover of Ozu and Vigo to show us it. Watch Dead Man, give it a few days, then watch it again. Repeat process until movie satisfaction is attained.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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20. The Trial of Joan of Arc – Robert Bresson (1962)

First Viewing.

After viewing the magnicient The Passion of Joan of Arc by Dreyer I felt compelled to check out Bresson’s own take, and, I have to confess, I felt a touch of disappointment. Bresson, of course, is working with the bare minimums here, he’s taking away everything to give us an unsentimental and real portrayal of Joan, but, by doing this, he’s losing the compassion one felt for Joan in Passion. This version is too cold for my liking, I can appreciate Bresson’s intentions, but, ultimately, it’s not close to Dryer’s version.

Marks out of ten – Six

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19. Mouchette – Robert Bresson (1967)

First Viewing.

The master of cinematic realism, Robert Bresson, gives us a sparse and poetic film about a young girl in a painful, desolate world. It’s an uncomfortable watch, for sure, it has the rape of a minor, animal torture, child abuse and so on. It may be great, but it’s not enjoyable. It’s hard to even articulate a movie like this into a few sentences such is the depth, beauty and depravity that encompasses the work. However, in the spirit of Bresson, I’ll strip this review down to the bare minimum, to a singular word; difficult.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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18. Splendor – Gregg Araki (1999)

First Viewing

Araki’s the kind of director you’ll either love or hate- he’s from the John Waters school of crudity and sexual morality. When Araki’s good he’ll make a gem of a movie, see The Doom Generation, Kaboom and Mysterious Skin, but this isn’t up to those standards. It’s lacking the wit and biting tongue of an Amy Blue, for example. It’s watchable without being anything more. Oh, and Kelly McDonald is wildly miscast as Mike.

Marks out of ten – Six

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17. The Passion of Joan of Arc – Carl Theodor Dreyer (1928)

First Viewing.

Wow. If Maria Falconetti’s performance as Joan doesn’t move you in a significant way then I would suggest contacting a therapist or, perhaps, an undertaker. I can honestly say that I’ve never been more captured and entranced by a performance than by what I have just witnessed by Falconetti, (which is saying something indeed when you consider this is a silent picture!) Richard Einhorn’s “Voices of Light” score, recorded years after the film’s completion, just adds to the everlasting beauty.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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16. Tokyo Story – Yasujirô Ozu (1953)

First Viewing.

One needs to view this movie in the same way you would handle a precious flower, with great tenderness, care and attention. It’s perfectly possible for one to allow this picture to be destroyed by expecting too much. It’s an incredibly subtle, and ultimately sad, depiction of family life and the human condition. It doesn’t need to be repeated that this is one of the finest movies ever made, but, in case of any confusion, it really is magnificent. It’s the kind of movie that cannot date, it’s subject will still  be relevant in any period of time and herein lies it’s greatness.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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15. The Limits of Control – Jim Jarmusch (2009)

Repeat Viewing.

As an unashamed Jarmusch lover I approached this film with unadulterated excitement back when I first viewed it in June 09. I enjoyed the movie, but ultimately felt confused by what I had seen. Upon closer inspection and a second viewing I can now see the film for what it should be recognized as; a masterpiece. With no expectations this time around I allowed myself to revel in the mastery Jarmusch and Doyle weave with their photography and visuals. To explain the film seeks only to distract oneself from the greater picture, this is Jarmusch beyond popcorn cinema, this is art.

Marks out of ten – Ten 

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14. Whatever Works – Woody Allen (2009)

Repeat Viewing.

Certainly not a classic Allen film, but then I think we’ve all given up expecting another Manhattan or Interiors. It’s amusing enough, it keeps ones attention and Larry David avoids the classic pitfall of playing the lead male in an Allen-less Allen movie; doing a poor Woody Allen impression. It’s better than Scoop, but not quite as good as Vickie Christina Barcelona.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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13. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? – Mike Nichols (1966)

First Viewing.

I’m sure this joke’s been made before, but you could be forgiven for thinking this is a documentary of Burton and Taylor’s marriage. It’s intense, it’s fiery, and it’s wonderful. Burton and Taylor devour Albee’s cruel and cutting lines and give, perhaps, their finest performances captured on film. The best moments of this film are Burton and Taylor going at each other, Segal and Dennis hold up their end of the picture, but there’s no doubt where the greatness in this movie lies.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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12. L’Atalante – Jean Vigo (1934)

Repeat Viewing.

Oh how I wish I could love this film. I want to love it, I’ve tried, but I just can’t seem to. It’s greatness doesn’t connect with me, I’m sure it’s there, but I can’t find it yet. I’ll see you in another five years L’Atalante and perhaps you’ll reveal yourself to me then.

Marks out of ten – Six

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11. LA Without A Map – Mika Kaurismäki (1998)

First Viewing.

Charming without ever being close to greatness. Vincent Gallo’s acting vacuum- as ever- is a reason to watch LA w/o a Map. Johnny Depp’s cameo(s) is amusing too. (And it has the bloke who was Doctor Who as the lead!) It’s predictable, formulaic and fun, there’s really not much more to say.

Marks out of ten – Six

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10. Beware Of The Holy Whore – Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1971)

First Viewing.

My head hurts- it’s punk.

Marks out of ten – Five

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9. The Cameraman – Edward Sedgwick (1928)

First Viewing.

An amazing piece of pure cinema. Buster Keaton is magical as he drifts through 1920s New York City. He captures everything that makes a person fall in love with silent cinema. Some movies are truly great, but it’s hard to actively love them beyond their artistic form, this, on the other hand, is enjoyable and close to celluloid perfection. It’s a film that’s beyond critique.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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8. Bob Le Flambeur (Bob The Gambler) – Jean-Pierre Melville (1956)

First Viewing.

The more Melville films I watch the more I want to be a criminal. And French. A French criminal. Who smokes lots. Like most Melville films it’s ice cold cool and says a lot without the need for words. It’s got girls and guns, what more do you need?

Marks out of ten – Nine

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7. Celebrity – Woody Allen (1998)

First Viewing.

I always enjoy Allen’s films, of course they’re not always great, but give me a mediocre Allen film over a James-Cameron-look-at-the-size-of-my-dick-in-3D shitfest any day of the week. This film is often criticized by people missing the point of what this film really is, it’s satire. Allen Loves Bergman, I love Bergman, You love Bergman, We all love Bergman, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have a laugh at Bergman and Bergman-esque movies. Get with the programme.

Marks out of ten – Seven

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6. They Live By Night – Nicholas Ray (1949)

First Viewing.

If you put a gun to my head and asked me to pick my favourite Nick Ray movie I’d have to give some serious thought to suggesting They Live By Night over the iconic Rebel Without a Cause or the perspicacious Johnny Guitar. Rebel’s always going to get the acclaim, and Johnny’s always going to get the intellectual treatment, but TLBN is great cinema. It’s simple in it’s structure and even simpler in it’s execution, and it confidently purrs along doing everything right. Perhaps Ray’s most rounded work…

Marks out of ten – Ten

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5) Somewhere – Sofia Coppola (2010)

First Viewing.

The daughter of a Hollywood legend decides to make a film about the shitiness of fame starring Stephen Dorff. Sounds crap, right? Well, it’s not. Perhaps I should rephrase that, it’s not crap to anyone who enjoyed Vincent Gallo’s Brown Bunny (so that amounts to me, Vincent Gallo, Sofia Coppola and some girl from upstate New York.) It’s not as entertaining as Lost in Translation, but it’s a deeper and more mature form of filmmaking by Coppola. She should be applauded for that.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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4. Howl – Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman (2010)

First Viewing

There’s a few fantastic moments, a few beautiful moments and rather a lot of forgettable moments. It’s really only worth searching out if you’ve got a lot of love for Ginsberg, I do, and yet I still found myself underwhelmed.

Marks out of ten – Five

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3) Kaboom – Gregg Araki (2010)

First Viewing

The most watchable and enjoyable of Araki’s film since the cult classic The Doom Generation. Whilst Kaboom never reaches TDG “heights” it’s a spirited enough attempt by Araki to rediscover his more anarchistic and destructive filmmaking talent. Naturally, being an Araki movie, plot and acting aren’t given too much thought, but pure excitement, spiky dialogue and aesthetic mayhem are. If that’s your kind of thing then give it a go…Or if you just like a lot of fucking and sex jokes in your cinematic experience do it!

Marks out of ten – Seven

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2) No Direction Home – Martin Scorsese (2005)

First Viewing.

Does a great director making a documentary about a great musician equal a great movie? Probably. But then It’s hard to be objective about No Direction Home when I’m such a huge Dylan fan. I wasn’t expecting an earth shattering deconstruction of Dylan’s work and psyche by Scorsese, and, of course, I didn’t get it. In fact, I don’t feel like I know any more about Dylan the man, but, what I did get, was a film about Dylan making it big. And It’s good, entertaining stuff.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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1) The Freebie – Kate Aselton (2010)

First Viewing.

As this is the very first review I’m going to be as brief as possible for purely selfish reasons and review this in precisely three words; “it was okay.” I should’ve picked a better place to start, oh well. It’s only up from now on, presumably.

Marks out of ten – Six

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