In honour of Metropolis’ iconic robot Hel, this week I mechanically salute my top ten movie robots.
1. R2D2 (The Star Wars series)
2. Robocop (Robocop)
3. T-1000 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
4. Ash (Alien)
5. WALL•E (WALL•E)
6. Number 5 (Short Circuit)
7. Hel (Metropolis)
8 and 9. Evil Bill and Ted (Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey)
10. David (Artificial Intelligence: AI)
Happy 2009 everyone.
Despite all the relaxation over Christmas, last week’s films took the theme of labour and graft. However, I was too busy eating chocolates and getting drunk to discover any more than one new film.
Many people only know of Metropolis because it was used in Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’ video but it’s so much more than a film about a robot who turns human. Fritz Lang’s masterpiece has lost none of its magic over the last 81 years and the themes are universal. Freder Frederson (Gustav Frolich) is the son of Joh (Alfred Abel), the lord and master of the titular city. When Freder meets benevolent prophet Maria (Brigitte Helm), he goes on a voyage into the depths of the city and learns some harsh truths about the way things work and the savagery of man. With some then-incredible special effects (the birth of the Man-Machine with the semblance of Maria in particular) and truly amazing sets it is a visually arresting achievement of colossal proportions – the magnificent cityscapes were obvious influences on the likes of Blade Runner and the Batman films. With some great scenes including a disturbing dream sequence and a gripping finale atop a church, this visionary piece of work really deserves a more mainstream audience. If you haven’t seen it, watch it quickly before Hollywood decides that a soulless remake is in order.
Shame list total: 1,226
I also watched:
Based on legendary drunk Charles Bukowski semi-autobiographical novel, Factotum is a slow and steady indie comedy. Protagonist Henry ‘Hank’ Chinaski was Bukowski’s longstanding alter ego, appearing in several of his works. In this, Hank (a gruff Matt Dillon) meanders from job to job and from woman to woman. He and his sometime girlfriend Jan (a squeaky Lili Taylor) live a simple and joyless life of poverty (breaking into cars to steal cigarettes, trying to work out the time by a broken clock). Chinaski lives a seemingly joyless life – he rarely smiles and spends most of the time he’s not working writing short stories. It’s quite atmospheric but the film is as nomadic as Hank – it has little sense of direction and is ultimately a somewhat bleak experience.
OK, so it’s completely unrelated to last week’s film Timecode, but I have to put these up here before the end of the year. Here are my ten favourite films of 2008.
1. The Mist
2. In Bruges
3. Son Of Rambow
5. The Dark Knight
6. There Will Be Blood
7. No Country For Old Men
9. The Orphanage
10. Iron Man
I would like to have included The Diving Bell And The Butterfly in this list like a lot of film magazines did. In fact, it may even have reached the number one slot. However, it was released in the UK in 2007.
Happy Christmas everyone.
Again, just the one film this week, but it’s nearly Christmas so there’s a lot of parties to attend and drinks to consume which gets in the way of film watching somewhat. Plus I’ve been spending much of my time watching the first two seasons of Lost.
Confusing and occasionally pretentious, Mike Figgis’ Timecode is nothing if not ambitious. Set in and around an LA film production company, a number of characters’ stories cross-cross, interweave and overlap. What sets it apart from the likes of Magnolia and Short Cuts is that the screen is split so that the viewer sees the same hour and a half from four different perspectives… at the same time. Not one to watch with a hangover, headache or under the influence of anything other than large doses of caffeine, the soundtrack fades in and out in order to focus on relevant bits of dialogue and action. To keep the viewer’s attention level up, there’s a lot of sex and drugs, with such clichéd characters as an alcoholic studio boss Alex (Stellan Skarsgård), a wannabe actress (Salma Hayek) and her jealous girlfriend (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Worth watching for the sheer audacity of its construction (a note at the end reveals that it was filmed in four continuous takes and that all actors improvised around a basic structure), it remains a flawed but interesting piece of innovative filmmaking.
Shame list total: 1,227
Less a top ten this week, than ten random speccy characters – literally the first ten I could think of.
Isaac Davis (Woody Allen, Manhattan)
Austin Powers (Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery)
Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman, Stand By Me)
Clark Kent (Christopher Reeve, Superman)
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)
Joe (Daniel Craig, Enduring Love)
Louis Tully (Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters)
Juror 4 (E.G. Marshall, 12 Angry Men)
John Williamson (Kevin Spacey, Glengarry Glen Ross)
Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas, Wonder Boys)
Sorry, it’s a bit late but here’s a review of the only film I watched last week.
Woody Allen’s love letter to his home town of New York City must be one of the most beautifully shot romantic comedies in screen history. Isaac Davis (Allen) is dating 17-year-old girl Tracy (Mariel Hemingway, who was nominated for an Academy Award), but starts having an affair with Mary (Diane Keaton) who happens to be his married best friend’s mistress. There’s also an early screen appearance by Meryl Streep as Isaac’s lesbian ex-wife who’s writing a book about their relationship. Shot in black and white for a gloriously romantic look, the film is full of striking images, such as an unforgettable shot of Isaac and Mary sat on a bench with the enormous 52nd Street Bridge looming above them. The music of George Gershwin is also used to great effect. It’s so well paced that you barely notice how much is going on. Allen’s tight script is full of sparkling dialogue (‘I like the way you express yourself; it’s pithy yet degenerate’), by turns dauntingly intelligent and disarmingly warm. More than anything, though, in just over 90 minutes Manhattan encapsulates succinctly the whole arc of a doomed love affair from first meeting to ugly break-up.
Shame list total: 1,228
They may be ghosts, they may be figments of a character’s imagination – in honour of this week’s one and only film Play It Again, Sam here are my ten favourite ‘invisible’ characters.
1. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, Fight Club)
2. Frank (James Duval, Donnie Darko)
3. Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall, Drop Dead Fred)
4. Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze, Ghost)
5. Jamie (Alan Rickman, Truly Madly Deeply)
6. Parcher (Ed Harris, A Beautiful Mind)
7. Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy, Play It Again, Sam)
8. Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense)
9. Capt. Daniel Gregg (Rex Harrison, The Ghost and Mrs Muir)
10. ‘Mentor’ (Val Kilmer, True Romance)
Just the one film again this week.
Play It Again, Sam (1972)
Allan (Woody Allen) has recently divorced from his wife Nancy (Susan Anspach) and is encouraged to start dating again by his best friend Dick and his wife Linda (Tony Roberts and Diane Keaton). His obsession with film manifests itself with the appearance of an imaginary Humphrey Bogart (played with frightening accuracy by Jerry Lacy) who acts as his mentor in the ways of the woman. It soon becomes clear that Allan and Linda have feelings for each other but Allan doesn’t want to hurt his best friend. Play It Again, Sam is essentially a prototype for Annie Hall and the first time Allen and Keaton were on screen together. Their chemistry is palpable and the film is full of wonderful scenes of Allan bumbling his way through a series of misguided dates and romantic encounters while Bogie eggs him on.
Shame list total: 1,229