Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Boxing Day

Have you ever opened a novel half-way through and begun reading until the end? No? But perhaps, over this Christmas season, you switched on the television and watched a movie that's already started? Why is there a difference? There shouldn't be. The problem is that most books you read you will have paid for, whereas the television is free (relatively speaking). As another excuse, there is the semi-tragic sentiment 'there was nothing better on'. Also, unless you have Sky plus, you can't rewind films once they've started, where you can just turn back the pages of a book. You might also say that films take less effort, they aren't as serious a medium, and it is much easier to 'figure it out as it goes along'. These are weak excuses, but based on some reality: many more movies are light-entertainment than books, especially those you'll find on television. Its shorter history and method of distribution means it is a popular medium, where much of literature aims at high art. This difference explains why most of us have seen many films more than once, but hardly read any books twice. These comparison might be meaningless, or banal, but it is insightful sometimes to question our practices, before assuming them. Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 23 December 2007


You can sometimes guess how good a film will be by how much the studio publicises it. I heard very little about Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Of course, studio publicity and press coverage form a symbiotic cycle of sorts, but in this case the little advertising the movie received seemed to match the overall quality. I wanted to like it. After all, I loved Anchorman, and love Will Ferrell's performance in almost every other movie. Plus, this film had John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. It's possible I wasn't in the right mood (I am a great believer in matching your mood to a movie). I have been quite ill recently. On the day in question, I struggled to eat a sandwich, ran out of breath, sweated, and eventually gave up. My eyes were watering almost constantly. So, not ideal conditions. But this film's problems go beyond my physical condition. At its heart was that Will Ferrell's character isn't very likable. You can't sympathise with him in the same way that you can in Anchorman. This is a great problem seeing as, despite the context, the plot is exactly the same. And, the context is a sporting movie, which are very hard to make interesting, set around motor racing, which is perhaps the hardest to pull off. So, we have to judge the film by the quality of the jokes. Yes, sometimes I did laugh out loud. But it wasn't enough, and it wasn't frequent. I read that Knocked-Up and Superbad with their sensitive humour have sidelined Will Ferrell, and that he may struggle to command such large budgets anymore. On the evidence of this, I wouldn't disagree.

Saturday, 1 December 2007


Renting videos has become quite difficult lately. I went in to my local store yesterday looking for a new release to watch, only to find that I'd seen virtually all of them already at the cinema. Those that I hadn't seen, I didn't want to see. Most of the time, it seems, I will just have to choose between those that I liked the first time. Luckily, however, there was one movie (and I'm pretty sure only one) that I hadn't seen in the theatre, but had wanted to see: The Black Dahlia. This seemed to me like a bad copy of L.A. Confidential. Perhaps the novel by James Ellroy was good, but the adaptation seemed unnecessarily confusing (although watching it in parts over five hours might have hindered me there). Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank were good, but Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson were miscast. Hartnett was ok, and could be good in this sort of role, but Johansson was too innocent and blank to pull off this role. She has no character or interest. Overall, the film seemed too light, too clear and colourful. The mood wasn't right at all. I was especially disturbed by the unexplained first-person steadicam shot we got at one point of Hartnett greeting Swank's family. Very odd. If it's referencing something else, fine, but it left me perturbed. I've never particularly got along with Brian De Palma. I thought this film might change my mind. It almost did, but not quite.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino has said he'll only make ten films, and then retire. I don't know if he still stands by this statement, and if he does we ...