Having lived in the Limehouse area of London for a few years until my recent decant this interests me, and the book was fairly interesting;
I’ve been reading an extended article in this months Sight & Sound on silent cinema, and I happened upon this which apparently is noted for its ‘vibrant ethnic diversity of Limehouse’ – which is my current manor. Maybe one last chance to see the local dens of iniquity before they all get submerged by a roaring Thames as the UK’s worst storm in 25 years ominously approaches?;
So how was your Xmas? I had a quiet one with the parents, hung out with Sweetberry and Zipzee, business as usual really. Unsurprisingly there wasn’t much on TV although I did enjoy the Cecil B DeMille documentary on More 4 and am enjoying the repeat of the BBC’s 1986 series on RKO Studios that is currently airing on BBC4. Film-wise 2008 was a pretty good year I’d say, I’ve identified some new cult and genre movie fissures to mine in 2009, I caught up with some world cinema classics by the likes of Fellini, Dreyer and Antonioni and there is plenty to look forward to over the next twelve months so I can’t complain. So let’s begin, as a general rule there will be minor spoliers with some of my comments so read at your peril – I won’t be disclosing major events such as the ending of ‘The Mist’ though as that is something you have to see for yourself. Yeah, I know….
‘There Will Be Blood‘ – Film of the year. Mark my words, this is the one they’ll be talking about for years to come. If you believe as I do that truly great films are a synthesis of outstanding achievements in each of a films major ingredients – the story and how that is constructed in the plot, the performances, the soundtrack, the cinematography, the direction, the editing and that most elusive of qualities which is a film that carves its moment in time in terms of theme, style and relationship to the world in terms of a work of art – well then sorry Oliver Stone, here is the definitive film of the past eight years of US hubris and beyond. I’ve picked it up on Blu-Ray and whilst the extras are woefully short the transfer into the small screen does not diminish its incredible power. In addition I’m wracking my brains to think of a film this year that has genuinely achieved a classic line that will be embedded in cinema history so the final word is ‘I Drink Your Milkshake‘.
‘The Mist‘ – A perfect companion piece to ‘There Will Be Blood’ if you consider the shift from an epic, big, sprawling ambitious film to a tight, compact little B movie that both reference the times we live in in their own idiosyncratic ways. This was just so much fun and I love the sense of urgency that seeps into the movie from the films production given its tiny budget, minuscule shooting schedule and need for old school improvisation on set in terms of cutting corners and coverage of scenes – take a look at the DVD extras to see what I’m getting at. The black and white version of the film on the DVD which echoes its 1950’s inspiration is good fun (yes you can just adjust the contrast and colour on your TV anyway but hey), in either version this is simply brilliant good old school horror fun that takes itself seriously and ditches any tiresome tongue in cheek winks to the audience. Its ultimate achievement of course though is that shattering conclusion. Stephen King is on record as saying the only reason he didn’t include such a nihilistic and shocking ending is that he never thought of it himself and I think that is the best praise that Darabont could expect.
‘No Country for Old Men‘ – Or ‘No Place For Old Bastards’ as my Dad amusingly called it. The best American chase movie that I’ve seen for quite some time on a second viewing you really absorb just how taut and lean a film this is, there is almost no extraneous filler to distract from the relentless chase that forms the films spine. Bardem has already gone down as the best villain in American movies since Hannibal Lektor and this was the film that has really catapulted Josh Brolin into the A list stakes, I do love how the final act goes into some unexpected places and fucks around with some conventions (what, he’s dead? But how did that happen?) and also screws around with some other screen expectations – the final scene is outstanding. I hope that after cleansing their system with ‘Burn After Reading’ that the Coens come back with another serious film, looking at their IMDB profile they have a number a new projects in various states of development – we shall see.
‘Wall-E‘ – Yeah, I know, a frickin Disney movie in the top films of the year? What’s happened to gore-hound Minty? Well, it was a tight run race with this and both ‘Hunger’ and ‘Four Months, Three Weeks & Two Days’ but having caught this again last week it just nudges itself in amongst the extremely dark and ominous films I’ve really enjoyed this year. It really is a beautiful, genuinely magical film and represents a quantum leap forward in animation. It’s almost photo-realistic, once these Silicon Valley visual creatives nail CGI eyes and hair on screen I swear all the new actors and actresses in, well, say 2025 will be digitally generated. After they get to outer space it does vaguely lapse into Pixar by the numbers stuff but that brand of criticism is testimony to the strength of the exquisite opening thirty minutes in my book. I mean tell me that this isn’t enchanting. I admire the premise of the film that should seep into the kiddie audience subconcious and what more can you ask of a massive mainstream animated production which is obstentiously for the ankle-biters these days?
OK, here’s the deal. I’ve obviously missed something but to be honest I’m still working on a certain other picture which rounds off my films of the year, my thoughts on that movie have grown particularly unwieldy and has distracted me from posting on the usual retrospective pictures I’ve loved in 2008 and what I’m really looking forward to in 2009. So, to break with tradition I’m gonna post each section separately as I finalise and polish my posts on the latter two elements of Minty’s cinematic year. Below is a quick sypnopsis of the slighly marginal movies I’ve got marked on the calendar, I’ll get the other stuff up within the next week or so. As a taster here is my favourite scene of the year, ‘There Will Be Blood’ aside that was the most electrifying five minutes I’ve spent in the cinema in 2008.
In addition I’m looking forward to the previously mentioned third world SF movie ‘Sleep Dealer‘, Rian Johson’s ‘The Brothers Bloom‘ is still awaiting a UK release date although the trailer is hardly inviting, Scorsese is back with ‘Shutter Island‘ then there’s ‘Synecdoche, New York‘, the hugely praised ‘The Wrestler‘ by Aronofsky, the horrific ‘Martyrs‘ ( if it doesn’t get buried – no pun intended – by Miramax like they did with ‘À l’intérieur‘), Ash is kind of back and most importantly John Carpenter is back with, err, well, a Nicholas Cage movie. The tagline is ‘Uncaged’. Look, it might be good, alright? It…well it…….it might….anyway some other exciting news here which will no doubt be redundant by the time you read this. So there you have it. I think it’s been a great year for movies and plenty to look forward to next year, personally speaking I’ve found a brilliant place to live and a new assignment with some other opportunities in the pipeline so am looking forward to what suprises the new year will bring. There is at least one, possibly two Best Man privileges to navigate. The US election result aside it’s hard to imagine a more disruptive year in global events but let’s not dwell on such downers, in order to combat the dark clouds I guess I’m gonna have to remind us all of the code with which to live your life. Happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2009….
Life moves pretty fast. As my diary slowly begins to fill up with interviews I am trying to cram in some further excursions before I’m locked back into the dull spiral of working and commuting. I’ve been meaning to explore one portion of the Thames Path as it runs from my place all the way up to central London, as a friend was over from Australia to attend his brothers wedding this week it seemed an ideal opportunity to combine a little exploration and a meet-up in Leicester Square.
Starting in Limehouse the path meanders through Shadwell before skirting through Wapping, taking you all the way up to Tower Bridge, not always straddling the Thames waterside by occasionally diverting pedestrians inland through small business parks and converted warehouse yuppie condominium estates. Although I set off early (and the photos should indicate what wonderful weather I was blessed with) it took me about an hour door to door to reach the St. Katherine’s Docks development where I paused to take a well deserved coffee break in the shadow of Tower Bridge.
What I had misjudged is the distance from that landmark to the West End, reaching the Millenium Bridge half an hour later I jumped on a bus for the remainder of the journey to ensure I reached Leicester Square with ten minutes to spare for the rendezvous. After a quick lunch we popped over to the British Museum for a wander round and brief look at the American Prints exhibition I had mentioned earlier.
During my journey I stumbled upon the Alfred Plaque which was established in 1986 to mark the 1,100 anniversary of King Alfred rescuing London from the clutches of the evil Danes. Cool. One of the things I love about London is that combination of old and new, modernist glass hued testaments to the capitals global financial status nestling next to Victorian tenements and world famous structures. One thing you should do when exploring London is to look skyward, to see beyond the street level identikit Starbucks and fast food joints in order to absorb the real sense of scale and history of London – particularly good for this is Regent Street and many of the furtive side streets in Soho and other parts of the West End.
In the evening I saw Juliette Binoche interviewed at the NFT to celebrate the opening of a film season of her work. First of all, I have to say that she is far more attractive in real life than she is in the movies and this is from someone who never really found her that alluring on screen. Hmm, reading that sentence back I’m sure I’ve just won some points with the feminist lobby. Anyway, the interview was a bit dull to be honest although it has put me on the trail of some of her early films that I’ve always meant to track down such as ‘Les Amants du Pont-Neuf‘, ‘Mauvais Sang‘ and ‘Damage‘ looks worth a revisit, I remember quite liking that film. It was revealed that she turned down the Laura Dern part in ‘Jurassic Park’ for the lead in <MAJOR SPOILERS> ‘Three Colours: Blue‘ which I think is superb – I like ‘Jurassic Park‘ don’t get me wrong but ‘Three Colours: Blue‘ is just an outstanding film with one of the best central performances I can recall seeing, I think it’s head and shoulders above the other entries in the trilogy which I actually find a little overrated.
So, here’s some random London film links with no particular unifying theme, (proper old school credits there but anyway….) just a celebration of some of the great films that have been made in my beloved city. As part of their 75th anniversary the BFI are conducting a ‘Visions For The Future‘ programme to get the public to nominate a film which they feel should be preserved for future generations. Not a bad list with some unusual nominations I have to say (‘Back To The Future’? ‘The Fog Of War?’ are both good but c’mon…) so to be contrary UK wise and avoid the obvious Kubrick nominations I have opted for Lindsay Andersons ‘If…‘ which is one of my favourite British films and serves as an ideal companion piece to my international choice, <SPOILERS again> ‘Fight Club‘ – if you can’t leave future generations the lessons of rebellion, to constantly distrust and question authority then what can you do eh? Anyway, this is always worth another look and finally, some sad news – Don La Fonatine has passed on. Who’s he? I hear you ask, well maybe this link will give you an idea.
Well, its been an eventful couple of weeks. Finished my assignment at Tower Hamlets, had my birthday and fitted in an exhibition, some cinema visits and a gig – entries are being prepared for the last two. I’m looking forward to relaxing for a couple of weeks now before actively seeking anything new, I’ll enjoy exploring my new part of the world and there are some other exhibitions and places I’d like to check out.
A week on Saturday I celebrated my triple celebration – my new place, my birthday and being unemployed!! After a exploration around Limehouse and Canary Wharf we hit some pubs and had what I think was a pretty good curry – things were getting sketchy at that point so I can’t testify to the food’s quality. In any case, many thanks to all my mates who visited and here are some amusing film clips which (Spoliers beware, more on this film below and thank you Neil for my present, it rocks) should stir some dormant memories….
I paid a visit to Tate Modern and had a look at the ‘Street & Studio‘ exhibition that has been praised in the press. It was very good, I gravitated to the Weegee and Diane Arbus photos but my favourite was this which looks like its escaped from a fashion shoot from ID magazine in 1994 – quite remarkably it was actually shot in 1949.
BBC4 are continuing a fine mini season of films from some mainstream and neglected genres – the Western, the British B Movie (which showcased this masterpiece) and this week Courtroom Films. The 90 minute documentaries to accompany the seasons have been pretty good, and I strongly urge you to catch ‘The Verdict‘ which is on this week as it is something of an overlooked treasure with probably Paul Newmans finest performance.
We will also be treated to a documentary on the great Werner Herzog this week as part of the Imagine strand, maybe he can explain his recent exodus to Hollywood and shed some light on the disappointing ‘Rescue Dawn‘ which I reviewed here. More distressing is the mooted remake of ‘Bad Lieutenant‘ which is a great and very challenging film in its own right, of all the projects he could secure why on earth has he opted for this with Nicholas ‘Possibly the worst actor in Hollywood’ Cage in the title role? Anyway, no I’m not going to link to that scene in the movie (if you’ve seen it then you’ll know what I mean), so here are some clips which may give you a feel for the film.
Staying with the film theme for a change, I am excited to see that the Barbican is hosting a film season on Alex Cox which gives me the opportunity to see one of my favourite ever films on the big screen – ‘Repo Man‘. It’s a shame that Cox has never matched the achievement of his cult debut and some of his recent efforts have been mediocre to say the least. Still, I still haven’t got round to catching up with this which is supposed to be good and discussions of this event on some of my favoured film sites have led me to some terrific free downloads of the Moviedrome programme notes which is cool. On the bad news fromt, it appears that Tartan films has finally folded which is a real shame as they are responsible for bringing many superb films to the UK and arguably are most responsible for bringing the phenomenon of Asian J Horror movies to our shores. RIP.
Finally, just to disprove my cold cynical image here is a link that bought a mist to my eyes and rendered my bottom lip all a quiver. All you cool kids who know your way round the Interwebs may have seen this before but it’s new to me. If it doesn’t activate a tiny spark of shared optimism in our future in an era of sabre rattling in the middle east, global financial holocaust, energy and foot riots coupled with climate catastrophe then nothing will. Even if he is a smug lucky git who has travelled the world. Bastard.
Success!! After four weeks of negotiation, subterfuge and machiavellian plotting I have finally received the keys to my new place and moved in last week. Having taken a couple of walks around the area over the weekend it’s really only just sinking in just how lucky I have been with this, the location is incredible with everything I need within a very short walk. When I first moved to London back in 2000 I was working for this crew and my old office is now just round the corner so I know the area well, but it’s amazing just how much (2002) its changed in the mere five years since I moved on (2007) the obvious one being of course the skyline. If I step outside my front door then I’m on the Thames Waterside which of course means I’m fucked when this happens, but until then I’ll soldier on. I have a pretty good cinema on my doorstep and easy transport links into the West End too.
It’s funny, I was born a little further down in South East London almost 35 years ago and here I am back with the first place of my own. Life eh? It is expensive but not a huge amount more than places I’ve looked at over the past few weeks and the proximity to work and location more than make up for the cost. Heck, even if worse comes to worse and the contract work dries up – something significantly more likely with the recent Tory gains in the local elections – then I can always land a job back in the private sector in Canary Wharf or I might try for the City itself. OK, tricky.