- Major spoilers for everything on the ballot!
- Reviews in order of reading/watching.
My current ranking is:
- Pacific Rim
- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- No award
- Iron Man 3
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My current ranking is:
The background to Surrogates is that the bulk of the American population (and, by inference, the rest of the rich world) has recently and rapidly started using mechanical “surrogates” in their daily lives, with their real bodies staying at home in control rigs. As you might expect, the surrogates are almost universally tall and beautiful, though there remains a substantial spread of skin colors: the intro says that discrimination is ended, but evidently not simply because everybody migrated to white skin.
The plot begins with a murder - an unusual occurence in this world. Into this are mixed Bruce Willis as detective, his colleagues in the police, the inventor of the surrogates and a colony of Dreads (who reject - violently - the surrogates and everything to do with them).
On past form Willis should have been well cast in non tough-guy mode, and indeed for much of the story he plays his role well. However on a couple of occasions his character descends into a violent anger which seem a better fit to Die Hard than the rest of this film.
The biggest fault in the film is that it does not really take on the big question: are the surrogates (i.e. and therefore techonologies that impinge on our way of life) on balance good or bad? Crime is down (etc), but almost all human contact is buffered via the surrogates. Some characters do directly address these questions, but they are all clearly presented as Bad Guys, rather sabotaging their contributions. Others seem to stray into the territory but are evidently basing their decisions upon their personal concerns: they may indeed be in entirely character but again, as a contribution to the wider question, it is undermined.
In the end, it seemed better to understand the film as a satire on Hollywood and how we see actors: hiding behind every strong, physically perfect, immaculately groomed surrogate is a ordinary person, scrawny, unbeautiful and unkempt, and sooner or later it matters.
Songs From The Second Floor
I’m not sure I understood.
Excellent French spy thriller. Fred Ward does an excellent Ronald Reagan, and I was amused to note who the French hero worked for.
Surprise Movie: Chico & Rita
Animated Spanish love story, with touches of Grant Theft Auto: Havana.
I think L’Affaire Farewell and World’s Greatest Dad were the pick of the bunch for me. (Tamara Drewe was excellent too but I’d have quite clearly seen it outside of the festival so it doesn’t feel like it counts.)
Based on the graphic novel by Posey Simmonds, of which I thought it a pretty decent adaptation. Love and lies in a modern rural setting.Blindsided
Highly entertaining short concerning a blind woman and a criminal.
Two people travel across alien-infested Mexico. Competent in its own way but didn’t quite seem to know what it wanted to say.
Wagner And Me
Stephen Fry discusses the man and the music, and his reactions to both. I really enjoyed it.
World’s Greatest Dad
Robin Williams as teacher and unsuccessful writer whose life is turned around by tragedy and a well-meant lie.
Bleak Iranian film. I enjoyed spotting Farsi cognates to English words though (dokhtare daughter, to thou, shish six).
I plan to go to lots of films at the Cambridge Film Festival.( My notes so far )
I haven’t figured out how to resolve the clashes yet, or decided which of [maybe] will become [yes]. If anyone wants to coordinate (or say “Don’t watch X, it’s awful” or alternatively “How could you possibly miss Y?”) please comment.
I watched The 13th Warrior, in which Ahmad ibn Fadlan (of Viking funeral fame) takes a month or so out from wandering round southern Russia to take part in Beowulf. I enjoyed it. Reading about the book it's based on I'm glad the one of the more implausible elements was removed (or at least left sufficiently implicit to ignore). Possibly a shame they couldn't have found an Arab actor for the Arab hero, though.
I went to the British Museum's Moctezuma exhibition, which was interesting. They seemed keen to emphasize the identity of the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan as Mexica rather than Aztecs. Regardless of how they identified themselves the impression I got was of a pretty bloodthirsty lot.
I tried the Royal Mail's print-your-own stamps facility. Perhaps old hat to everyone else but new to me. It just worked (...well, I don't know that the letter arrived yet I suppose.)
I've been doing a lot of bike maintenance: two puncture repairs (the second due to inadequate checking during the first), a new saddle, and various bits of work on the mudguard fixings.
Syriana is a political thriller involving the Middle East and the oil industry consisting of several somewhat related subplots: an oil firm's legal struggles, an emirate's economic and succession questions and an oil analyst caught up in them, and a Pakistani migrant worker suffering the fallout of the manoeuvrings of the powerful. Less clearly tied to any one thread are American and Iranian spooks.
The film is very opaque, taking show-don't-tell to ridiculous extremes. My current plan is to watch it again, having read the Wikipedia plot outline, to see if I can get more sense out of it.
Jamal Malik, call-centre chai wallah, has just reached the last round of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. How did someone largely schooled by hard knocks come to know the answers (and will he be able to answer the final question)? Danny Boyle shows us how Malik's life led to this point, to the answers, and more.
I really enjoyed this film. The Mumbai slums and the gangsters that prey on them are vivid and menacing, and Jamal and his brother Salim are entertainingly streetwise and enterprising. On the gameshow Jamal appears at first cowed but it soon becomes clear (not least to the presenter) that he's still got his smarts.
Salim is the most complex character in the film, deeply flawed but never satisfied with his fate, and shielding Jamal where he can. Few other characters in the film display real depth, instead serving as a canvass for the brothers paint on but (especially in the more hectic earlier parts of the film) this is no real complaint. I think the arrest subplot is the weakest: best to see it as framing device than part of the real story, indeed.
Very much recommended.
Tang Chinese Buffet Restaurant
Where the Ancient Druids used to be. One of the things I like about Chinese meals is that you can get a wide variety of things to eat within one meal. Since this place is organized as an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can widen the variety even further, without having restaurant portion sizes or your fellow diners complicating matters. We greatly enjoyed our meal.
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Facile, clichéd and nonsensical Keanu Reeves vehicle.
They look rather unprepossessing but in fact were perfectly pleasant.
Encounters At The End Of The World. A charming ramble around Antarctica. Does include the odd penguin despite the early disclaimer. Recommended.
How To Lose Friends And Alienate People: Simon Pegg goes across the Atlantic in an adaptation of Toby Young's book. Funny and merciless.
A Quantum Of Solace: I quite like Daniel Craig's Bond, but I think this film was let down by a weak plot (by Bond standards, granting that Bold films at their best are not the most sophisticated things on celluloid) and a rather wet villain.
xXx 2: The Next Level: a poor sequel to a mindlessly entertaining action film. Don't bother.
Shrek The Third. Not quite as strong as its predecessors but should still be worth watching if you liked them.
Madagascar. OK at what it does but nothing special. Funny penguins.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Well done, Jack Nicholson sensibly cast as Jack Nicholson, intensely depressing.
The Last King Of Scotland. That Idi Amin was a real piece of work.
I think going to the Milton Maize Maze after watching A Scanner Darkly rather than before would have been much more disturbing. For all that I've read the book a couple of times I think it's worth watching twice, to see how it stands on its own rather than understanding it through familiarity with the source material. And I would say that the answer is that it does it well.
(Also it's long enough since I've read the book that the film is forced to stand alone now...)
Total Recall plays a bit with questions of reality, but Arnie's never really fooled for long ("consider this a divorce"). Scanner does a much better job: it's much clearer to the viewer that the characters are having real trouble with distinguishing reality from the effects of the drugs they're taking. Freck and Barris are obviously not the sharpest tools in the box, but Arctor's hallucinations are shown as coherent and inescapable; his personal experience of reality has unambiguously shifted.