Wednesday, December 27, 2006

AKA Year in Review 2006: The Movies – Part Two

Time for the rest of my dirty dozen. Let’s get on with it:

Snakes on a Plane – The movie that was supposed to change the way that films were marketed, and was then deemed a flop when the massive online push for this modern-day B-movie was not enough to make it a hit. Who gives a shit about box office? This was still great, unashamed popcorn movie-making. Sam Jackson spends a sprightly and hugely-enjoyable 105 minutes getting some motherfucking snakes off a motherfucking plane. It’s time to open some windows…

Thank You For Smoking – Aaron Eckhart at his fast-talking, scumbag best, as the leading spokesman for Big Tobacco, beset on all sides by a stupendous supporting cast made up of Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Maria Bello and Rob Lowe, amongst others. Maybe not as smart and as funny as it thinks it is, but still smart and funny enough to make my Top Twelve.

United 93 – Paul Greengrass’s clinical dissection of the events of 9/11, with the focus on the fourth plane. Never judgmental, and all the more powerful for it. The line between documentary and fiction is blurred to leave a painful exploration of an important moment in recent history. Everyone needs to see this.

V for Vendetta – Comic book adaptations are notoriously hit-and-miss. When you add Alan Moore adaptations to the mix, the misses far outweigh the hits. After all, comics have an unlimited effects budget, and the only limitations are the creative ones in the mind of the writer. I went into V for Vendetta expecting the worst, and ended up being delighted by it. Hugo Weaving is masterful as the titular V, in a performance of subtle physical acting, using his impassive porcelain mask as an asset, rather than being hindered by it, and the subtext of Thatcher’s Britain updated to Blair’s Britain didn’t hurt one bit. Remember, people should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Wolf Creek – A movie I finally caught up with on DVD. Where most horror movies use well-worn variations on long-established genre tropes such as the things hidden in the black of night and the claustrophobic confines of the cabin in the woods, Wolf Creek spins it around to the vast, endless expanses of the Australian outback in the blinding bright light of the brutal sun, and there’s still no-one coming to the rescue. With one single, solitary line of appropriated dialogue, John Jarratt becomes of the great movie monsters. That’s not a knife, this is a knife!

Zatôichi the Fugitive (Zatôichi Kyôjô Tabi)
– Made in 1963, and I finally got to see it in 2006. In the only night of pure self-indulgence I allowed myself this year, I settled in for an evening of cult Japanese movies at the NFT, one of which was this, the fourth entry in the long-running series about the blind swordsman. There are no words to describe the brilliance of Shintaro Katsu as Zatôichi. My face hurt from the perpetual grin I had smeared across my face watching this. Perfection.

And that’s almost a wrap. If everything had gone according to plan, this would have been posted before Christmas, and I would have ended things with the final part of the Sucker Punch Christmas Advent Calendar Funk Nuggets. But everything seems to accelerate out of my control before Christmas, and this got side-lined. And then on Christmas Day, I heard that one of my musical heroes had died. So this final piece of funk history should be given to Soul Brother Number One, The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Mr. Please Please Please, Minister of the New New Super Heavy Funk, Mr. Dynamite, The Boss, The Godfather of Soul and a man who was the living embodiment of the funk. Mr. James Brown, take it to the bridge…

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