28 July-3 August 2008

August 5 2008 at 10:21 pm (The list)

Yes! I’m back in the game. Two films from the list last week plus another which might as well be. Incidentally, the shame list is currently undergoing some changes which will ultimately mean that I have to watch even more films than before. I’ll explain more soon. Anyway, from the list:

Shine (1996)
The trouble with biopics is that they fool you into thinking that people whose lives are worth documenting can be summed up in less than two hours with a neat character arc and heavy symbolism. The truth is that people’s lives just aren’t like that. Still, this is one of the better ones about a lesser known genius. Shine is the story of Australian piano prodigy David Helfgott, who escapes the brutality of his father (brilliantly played by Armin Mueller-Stahl) to study overseas. However, after a particularly stirring performance he suffers a breakdown and returns to Australia to spend years in an institution. Geoffrey Rush rightly won an Academy Award for his portrayal of David as an adult – it’s the kind of powerhouse performance that tends to wow critics and awards panels – but praise must also go to Noah Taylor whose portrayal of David as a younger man takes up much of the film and is just as affecting.

Rating: 4/5

Frankenstein (1931)
Having read Frankenstein at university, I understand how compelling and complex a story it is. Although not the most faithful adaptation, it is one of the best. Horror guru Kim Newman describes as ‘the single most important horror film ever made’ and he’s not wrong. Set design, makeup, performance, direction – it’s all here. Colin Clive gives an icy performance and Boris Karloff is terrifying as the monster, even though watching this for the first time in 2008 conjures up images of Herman Munster. Still, the influence of James Whale’s classic cannot be denied or ignored.

Rating: 5/5

Shame list total: 766

The last time I updated the shame list, it comprised 769 films. No I haven’t forgotten how to count down – I’ve done a bit of a recount.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
This being one of the most critically well received films of the last year, I was worried that this would suffer from the Juno factor: a film so universally adored that would never live up to the hype. Plus thanks to Empire’s classic scene from July of this year, I’ve done the cinematic equivalent of reading the last page of a book before reaching the end. The odds were stacked against my appreciation of this film. Thankfully, I found it spellbinding. The film is Daniel Plainview and Daniel Day-Lewis is a force to be reckoned with. From one-man oil magnate to big tycoon, Daniel lets nothing stand in his way. An epic character study and so much more, the film is about corruption, religion and money. It’s long but no longer than it needs to be since nothing is wasted. You simple couldn’t take anything away without losing something vital. Jonny Greenwood’s atonal music is occasionally creepy but that just adds to the film’s power. Not as accessible as Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous films, this is still compelling viewing. While perhaps not as inspired or perfect as some very vocal critics have made out, this remains a considerable achievement.

Rating: 5/5

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