Monday, December 18, 2017

Listomania! My Favourite Films of 2017

Time, once again, for my entirely arbitrary and idiosyncratic Films of the Year list. Because I love you, here are a bunch of links to sate your overwhelming desire to catch up with my lists from years past:

2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016

All caught up? Excellent!

I was going to write an elaborate, scene-setting preamble about My Year in Film, but I feel like I’ve been unwillingly subjected to the detailed opinions and tepid “hot takes” of Everyone On The Internet all year long, so I’m doing us all a huge favour by saying as little as possible about my choices this time round. As Dirty Harry Callahan said in his belated not-very-good sequel The Dead Pool: “Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”

In that spirit, in no particular order, and for our collective amusement, it’s time to moon you with My Top Ten. Here we go:

Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo)

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Chad Stahelski)

Get Out (Jordan Peele)

Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson)

The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi) (Chan-wook Park)

My Life as a Courgette (Ma vie de Courgette) (Claude Barras)

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler)

Blade of the Immortal (Mugen no jûnin) (Takashi Miike)

The Disaster Artist (James Franco)

The Florida Project (Sean Baker)

It’s a small world after all.

Just under that formidable Top Ten is another honestly-just-as-good Ten - any one of which could have made it onto the main list on another day depending on my mood.

Close But No Cigar:

The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
Kong: Skull Island (Jordan Vogt-Roberts)
Logan (James Mangold)
The Love Witch (Anna Biller)
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica) (Sebastián Lelio)
The Merciless (Sung-hyun Byun)
On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl) (Ildikó Enyedi)
Silence (Martin Scorsese)
Thor: Ragnarok (Taika Waititi)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Listomania! It Is Happening Again

What year is this?
Before we get to my now-traditional and oh-so-eagerly-awaited Films of the Year list, let’s get this out of the way first:

Twin Peaks
was the best thing I saw all year. I don’t know if it’s one eighteen-hour movie or eighteen one-hour movies or just the third season of a beloved television series, and I really don’t care.

I do know what it is for me, though. It’s dissonant industrial noise and mist-wreathed mountains and kabuki and “Squeeze his hand off!” and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and slippery in here. It’s blood and static and slapstick, candyfloss clouds and “Fuck Gene Kelly, you motherfucker!” and yrey very good indeed. Jerry Horne screamed “I don’t know where I am!”. I knew exactly how he felt, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a helluva ride, and it was undoubtedly my favourite slab of storytelling of any length this year.

I don’t watch much television at all any more, but I do want to give an additional shout-out to both Samurai Jack and Vice Principals for deeply satisfying conclusions to their respective sagas too.

Next stop: My Actual Films of the Year List! I can taste your anticipation from here.

Friday, June 09, 2017


Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I’m stuck. I’ve got a grab bag of tricks for getting unstuck. They don’t always work. Here’s one that helps sometimes, and I’m putting it here because I have a tendency to lose this whenever I need it most. It’s the script for “Arctic Radar” the tenth episode of the fourth season of The West Wing, written by Aaron Sorkin. One scene in particular. Here’s the set-up: Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) is stuck. In the sort of peppy, verbose meet-cute that Sorkin excels at, Toby swaps speech drafts with prospective speechwriter Will Bailey (Joshua Malina). There’s a lot more going on than that (and you can read the whole thing here), but here’s the bit that I’m particularly interested in:

This is incredibly good, Will. "Never shrinking from the world's..." "...a fierce belief in what we can achieve together." I used to write like this. It was ten months ago. I don't understand what's going on. I really don't. I've had slumps before. Everybody does, but this is different. I'm sorry, we don't know each other, but there aren't that many people I can talk to about it. I don't understand what's happening. There's no blood going to it. I never had to locate it before. I don't even know where to look. I'm the President's voice and I don't want it to sound like this. And there's an incredible history to second inaugurals. "Fear itself," Lincoln... I really thought I was on my way to being one of those guys. I thought I was close. Now I'm just writing for my life and you can't serve the President that way. But if I didn't write... I can't serve him at all.

Yeah. Can I tell you three things? You are more in need of a night in Atlantic City, than any man I've ever met. Number two is, the last thing you need to worry about is no blood going there. You've got blood going there, about thirteen ways. And some of it isn't good. Once again, I say, "Atlantic City." I'd say sit down at a table, go for dinner, see a show, take a walk on the boardwalk and smell the salt air... but if you're anything like me, nothing after "sit down at a table" is going to happen.

What's the third thing?

You are one of those guys. This is an inning of good relief pitching from a fresh arm.

Starting to realise that I really need a night in Atlantic City...

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Full Clip #6

“A man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiasms... Enthusiasms... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy?” -- Robert De Niro as Al Capone in The Untouchables

Haven’t done one of these for years, but I feel like now is the ideal time to unapologetically geek out about the stuff I’m digging at the moment, to turn away from the overcast Perpetual Rage Engine of Twitter and towards the light of Fun and Art and Excitement and Sheer Unalloyed Joy.

Brothers, sisters, we don't need this fascist groove thang! Here we go...

Jackie Chan Hasn't Seen His Original Stunt Team In Decades. Then Realizes They're All Standing Behind Him. A band of professional bone-breakers have never been more heart-warming. I’ve got something in my eye...

There are people in this world who think that Nic Cage is a joke or a meme. And I get it. Really. But to those people I say: what the hell do you want from a movie star? Personally, I want someone unpredictable and inconsistent and Not Like Other People. Fortunately, I am not alone in this. Nicolas Cage Attended This Year’s C4GED Marathon At The Alamo Drafthouse In which minds were blown in Austin.

When it comes to the whole chin-stroking “Should we punch Nazis?” argument, I fall firmly on the side of the argument that says: Yes. When individuals aggressively advocate or encourage the genocide of entire races, I don’t think a roundhouse to the jaw is unreasonable. What’s a couple of loose teeth in the fight against murder on an industrial scale? Sooner or later, talk of Nazi-punching inevitably circles around to Captain America. Which leads me to this…”Released in the summer of 1982, “Captain America” #275 was by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck and John Beatty, and it sees Steve Rogers attend a protest of a Neo-Nazi group along with his girlfriend, Bernie Rosenthal (the protest was organized by Bernie’s ex-husband). It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but then someone just couldn’t put up with the hate speech that the Neo-Nazis were spouting…”

Mark Kermode remembers William Peter Blatty “the writer of both the funniest Inspector Clouseau film and ‘the greatest film ever made’, a mesmerising novelist turned filmmaker whose investigations of faith and evil across The Exorcist, The Ninth Configuration and The Exorcist III (aka Legion) were testament to his belief in an afterlife.”

Coming Attractions Part 1: It’s been thirteen years since the last episode but now, at last, Samurai Jack is Back. Watch out!

Coming Attractions Part  2: I don’t think I can adequately convey in words just how insanely excited I am about the impending return of the unkillable John Wick. Bring da motherfuckin' ruckus!

Currently Reading: Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

And remember: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” (tl;dr: Evil only triumphs if you do nothing. Thanks, Edmund Burke!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Listomania! My Favourite Films of 2016

So if 2014 was all about the eyes and 2015 was all about the ears, then 2016 was The Year of The Divertissement.

Escapism: the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.

It’s been a trying twelve months. And not because of our shared shit spectacle of the BowiePrinceBrexitTrump variety. It’s been a trying twelve months for other, more personal reasons. It hasn’t been terrible, but it has been tough and I’m bone-tired - and so my cinema-going needs were different this year. I didn’t particularly desire cinema that made me think - I craved cinema that made me feel something (and let's just take it as read that the two aren't mutually exclusive). I wanted the prima materia of the movies - that ineffable Good Stuff that provokes an emotional response -  and the darkened auditoria didn’t let me down...

..."I like the beats and the shouting". The USS Franklin takes out a swarm of attack ships by harnessing the devastating destructive power of “classical music” - the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage - in Star Trek Beyond. "Good choice"...

...Overweight high-school outcast Robbie “The Rock” Wierdicht busts some serious moves in the shower to En Vogue’s My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) in Central Intelligence - a cuddly warm grin of a movie that provides refreshing evidence that mainstream, big-budget Hollywood comedies can still be kind-hearted, body-positive and genuinely funny without coating themselves in a filthy patina of casual racism, sexism, homophobia or hackneyed "bro" antics…

...Chris Hemsworth. Melissa McCarthy. Kevin’s job interview in Ghostbusters. Michael Hat...

...I had something in my eye watching Creed, I thrilled at The Purge Election Year and Don’t Breathe, I took inordinate pleasure at Abbott & Costello references in three of the year’s finest movies (Arrival, Paterson and The Nice Guys), I sought out and embraced the joy of the movies…

So. Here we go. In no particular order, my twelve favourite films of 2016:

Creed (Ryan Coogler)

Some Creed stats:
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes dance numbers: 1
Times I almost burst into tears: 2
Uncontrollable excitement: 2
Uncontrollable grinning: lost count
Some of these estimates might be a bit low (apart from that Harold Melvin one - that's pretty accurate)

Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier)

High-Rise (Ben Wheatley)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi)

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch)

Only Luddites Left Alive. “There’s always another day, right?”

Room (Lenny Abrahamson)

Spotlight (Tom McCarthy)

The Big Short (Adam McKay)

The Nice Guys (Shane Black)

A film so simpatico with my predilections and obsessions that it felt like Shane Black made it just for me. Ryan Gosling absolutely nails his Lou Costello riff, and I'm a sucker for a Jim Rockford Easter egg. Outstanding - My favourite film of the year. (Later on in the year, John Michael McDonagh’s disappointing War On Everyone landed. Whilst The Nice Guys is a rye-soaked Rockford Files riff, War On Everyone is an over-stylised, faux-nihilistic, not-as-funny-or-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is Streets Of San Francisco.)

The Wailing (Goksung) (Hong-jin Na)

Train to Busan (Busanhaeng) (Sang-ho Yeon)

Bubbling under my Top Twelve, the now-customary Close But No Cigar:

10 Cloverfield Lane (Dan Trachtenberg)
Arrival (Denis Villeneuve)
Central Intelligence (Rawson Marshall Thurber)
Chicken (Joe A. Stephenson)
Hail, Caesar! (Joel and Ethan Coen)
Kubo and the Two Strings (Travis Knight)
Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
The Club (El Club) (Pablo Larraín)
The Shallows (Jaume Collet-Serra)
Tickled (David Farrier and Dylan Reeve)
Your Name (Kimi no na wa.) (Makoto Shinkai)
Zootopia (Zootropolis) (Byron Howard and Rich Moore)

Sunday, September 18, 2016


A brief, rare despatch from The Year I Miss Stuff, washing up on the shores of this blog, ready to uncork. Hello.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 
-- Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

This is one of the former. Although I think I detect the gradual shift towards the latter. Maybe it’s the change of season. The leaves have started to fall from the trees, and at the same time the tumblers slowly fall into place with an imperceptible click.

I am here, after a fashion. Just not quite as “here” as I’d like to be just yet.

It's Samuel Johnson's 307th birthday today. And so I depart again with his words:

“…one enquiry only gave occasion to another, that book referred to book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not always to be informed; and that thus to pursue perfection, was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chase the sun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

United in Diversity

It feels like we've had months of vitriol, lies, acrimony, hatespeech, distortions and frequent examples of Reductio ad Hitlerum. It's exhausting.

So I'll be the soul of wit and declare my intentions for tomorrow's EU Referendum vote, fervently hoping that there are enough like-minded souls out there to join me.

The time has come for the Haters to suck it. I'm So IN.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On the QT

There are a lot of reasons why this blog has gone dark in recent months, none of which I'm inclined to go into now. But with the passing of Garry Shandling last week, here's an apposite quotation from the man himself:

"The world is too noisy and distracted to probably ultimately survive. Everyone needs to shut the fuck up. The answers are in the silence. Monks set themselves on fire to protest and to make this point. Just consider it."

I'll be back. No flipping!