I have now returned to work to pour pints to people who tell me that Coronavirus is a myth. Yippie. I guess that means my lockdown is over. However, for all of you still stuck with your bottoms on sofas, here is some inspiration for what to switch on that screen you’ve been ogling for the last few months. But, try to keep those eyes circular.
Booksmart (dir. by Olivia Wilde)
The new Superbad with girls in the leads. Endlessly rewatch-able and relentlessly heartfelt and funny. An ayahuasca scene for the ages.
The Servant (dir. by Joseph Losey)
A socio-political drama with devilish characters and punctuated by Harold Pinter’s screenplay where power struggles simmer underneath seemingly trivial dialogue. On top of this, it is a cinematographer’s dream. Anyone that uses a camera should watch the films of Joseph Losey.
Paddington series (dir. by Paul King)
Both films ooze charm and King directs with fun and a real proficiency for set-pieces. The look of both films also remind me of Wes Anderson and his pastel palettes. The use of set-up and pay-off added to the cohesion that allowed me to smile through the thick layer of cheese.
- Paddington – 7.5/10
- Paddington 2 – 8/10
The Wild Goose Lake (dir. by Diao Yinan)
Neon lit neo-noir set in Wuhan. A non-linear pulp approach to storytelling that is cool with substance and subtlety. It’s one I want to watch again.
The Godfather Part III (dir. by Francis Ford-Coppola)
Finally got to it. The failure of this film is the product of its predecessors’ brilliance. I mean, Brando, De Niro and then… Andy Garcia? Meh. Michael Corleone was better when he was a grade A sonofabitch.
John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski)
Flashy. Fun. The world’s favourite ‘bad’ actor. Despite the awesome fight choreography, the third act loses all momentum and the tension is never really there. I did enjoy all the illusions to the Greek underworld however.
Bacarau (dir. by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)
This won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes last year so I was excited. It looked and sounded cool. The build up was intriguing. The social and political messages hit their mark BUT I’m still mourning the lost potential of some of Bacarau’s inhabitants. Instead, a lot of the film focused on bland stereotypically 80s antagonists.
The Royal Tenebaums (dir. by Wes Anderson)
It’s Anderson. It’s gorgeous and quirky. That’s a given. But these characters are just lacking compared to his other works and the emotional beats didn’t really work for me.
Irreversible (dir. by Gasper Noe)
Abrasive. Disorientating. It accomplishes everything that it sets out to do but you need damn thick skin for this one. It appears I don’t.
Silence (dir. by Ingmar Bergman)
When you watch it, you’ll get why it’s called ‘Silence’. It’s what it’s all about and what isn’t said in this film says more than most modern movies do.
Nosferatu (dir. by F. W. Murnau)
Silent yet scary… surely not? It amazes me what auteurs were once able to do with so little. It’s time to immerse myself with more silent age cinema.
The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. by Carl Theodore Dreyer)
So I did. This film made the close up what it is today. If I was to rate it on the basis of its technical brilliance in the context of 1920s cinema, it’d be a straight 11. Silent cinema, however, is something to be revered, admired but not something you invite your friends over to watch.
The Vengeance Trilogy (dir. by Park Chan Wook)
Brutal but brilliant. An idiom that reads true for much of Korean cinema. If you haven’t seen or heard of Oldboy then grow up youngen.
- Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – 7.5/10
- Oldboy – 8.5/10
- Lady Vengeance – 7.5/10
Enjoy these films? Enjoy Parasite? Check out Park Chan Wook’s The Handmaiden. It’s brilliant. Maybe don’t watch it with your parents though.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Honey Boy (dir. by Alma Har’el)
You can just tell that this film came from the depths of Shia LaBeouf’s soul. I hope this film revitalises his career and establishes Har’el’s as this deserved much more award’s recognition.
Maybe too many chickens for an alektorophobic like myself.
Room (dir. by Lenny Abrahamson)
I was surprised by how little I had heard about this film. It is the most emotionally charged film I’ve watched in a while, led by two stellar performances. Disclaimer: there may have been a little tear.
Want a similar concept with a tone that will make you bite your nails till they bleed? Watch Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane.
The Disaster Artist (dir. by James Franco)
An endearing and hilarious tribute to one if cinema’s most mysterious and inspiring productions: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.
The Martian (dir. by Ridley Scott)
I tried to watch this a year or so ago and found myself unable to. Whilst I can barely fault the film itself I just felt no connection to it.
Midsommar (dir. by Ari Aster)
Ari Aster is a name that is going to be on everyone’s lips for years. Hereditary is my favourite horror of the last few years and Midsommar is even more beautiful – the editing (the cut to Florence Pugh on the aeroplane, wow), cinematography and general technical proficiency is plain as Swedish sunlight.
But I couldn’t help but find the story lacking, if not, pretentious. Regardless, I’m very excited to see what he does next.
Moonlight (dir. by Barry Jenkins)
Blue, black and beautiful. A modern masterpiece crafted with the simplest and most effective techniques. The use of contrast and fragmentation metaphorically and literally forming a fully rounded and multifaceted protagonist.
Tokyo Story (dir. by Yasujirõ Ozu)
A simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming drama about family estrangement in the midst of Japanese post-war modernity.
A minimalistic look that packs the emotional weight: a rule breaking 360 degree editing, perfect framing and blocking that expresses the disconnect. The quiet fragility of this film made me appreciate my family after I watched it.
Le Doulos (dir. by Jean Pierre Melville)
The French are cooler than you, deal with it. And believe me, they’ve influenced every modern film you love.
Shoplifters (dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda)
This naturalistic tale of an odd family of petty thieves is an example of how tender cinema can be. The characters steal from their local shop and they stole my heart.
Les Diaboliques (dir. by Henri-Georges Clouzot)
In a famous story elucidated to me on Roger Ebert’s website, a man wrote to Alfred Hitchcock: “Sir, After seeing ‘Diabolique,’ my daughter was afraid to take a bath. Now she has seen your ‘Psycho’ and is afraid to take a shower. What should I do with her?” Hitchcock replied: “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
The fact that it is mentioned in the same breath as Psycho should be reason enough to watch it. And I promise you, the final line is perfect.
2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)
I think that trying to explain why some films are so good can almost do them a disservice – they are meant to be experienced. Kurbrick’s finest hour is one such film.
The Tree of Life (dir. by Terence Malick)
This is another such film, but since you may know less about it, I will indulge you with some of my feelings towards it.
After watching the film, my senses felt heightened, my eyes opened and my heart imbued with things I did not and still, do not fully understand. The camera appeared to act like time itself. In some ways, I feel like it is a spiritual descendent of Kubrick’s 2001, yet grounded on the earth amidst the sense of the otherworldly, of things humanity can experience but not fully understand. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but in my opinion it is poetic transcendence.
The Godfather (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
There’s nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said. Sit back, watch it and feel the three hours fly by.
The Godfather Part II (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
It builds on its predecessor as well as could be imagined. Personally, Brando’s presence edges the first film in my eyes.
Seven Samurai (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)
I urge anyone who has apprehensions about watching either foreign language or black and white films to start with this. Those apprehensions will be shattered.
Love Star Wars and noticed the connections? Watch Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. There’s heaps more.
Pulp Fiction (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
My favourite film of all time. Yes, I know, I’m a basic bitch but it made me think about what makes films special for the first time and when a film starts past midnight on TV and you just HAVE to watch it all, you know it’s special.
Hot Fuzz (dir. by Edgar Wright)
And now for my most re-watched film of all time. Edgar Wright is the most underappricated director around, in my opinion. Whilst Shaun of the Dead is arguably slightly less flawed, Hot Fuzz holds a special place in my heart.
Love Edgar Wright like myself? His Channel 4 comedy Spaced is new on Netflix.
Spirited Away (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
I don’t know if there is a world depicted in cinema that I want to see explored more than the one created by Studio Ghibli in Spirited Away. It is Miyazaki’s magnum opus.
The Shining (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)
Gorgeous horror. I guess that’s an oxymoron?
Inglorious Basterds (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
“This just might be my masterpiece” – not quite, but I’d say you’ve set the bar pretty high, Quentin.
Howl’s Moving Castle (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
A childhood favourite. I had to indulge myself when Netflix added it to its catalogue. Only the before-mentioned Spirited Away blows it away.
The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (dir. by Gore Verbinski)
I want to write a pirate-centric screenplay every time I watch these films. A combination of nostalgia and escapism allows me to overlook their cheesiness and occasional incoherences.
- The Curse of the Black Pearl – 7.5/10
- Dead Man’s Chest – 7/10
- At World’s End – 8/10
And yes, the third is my favourite, get over it.
The Inbetweeners Movies
They’re hard not to watch when they’re on TV. No TV show has defined my sad little generation better. And I’ll probably be that creepy old dude still laughing at it when I’m bound to my wheelchair.
- The Inbetweeners Movie (dir. by Ben Palmer) – 7/10
- The Inbetweeners 2 (dir. by Damon Beasley and Iain Morris) – 4.5/10
BEST OF THE REST
Rear Window (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)
Ditatched yet intimate. Voyeuristic yet leaves you feeling a strange breath on your shoulder. Hitchcock is the seer of suspense, the master of manipulation, one of the best ever.
Vertigo (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)
Hypnotic and psychedelic before it was cool. Just edged out by Rear Window as my favourite Hitchcock film.
Ran (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)
Only Kurosawa can make epic seem effortless.
Do The Right Thing (dir. by Spike Lee)
Necessarily in-your-face from the get go. Firstly, the screenplay is fantastic. Influenced by Mohammed Ali to The Night of the Hunter and has influenced the likes of Tarantino – “you shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologise”, sound familiar? Secondly, the actors elevate the words the a rhythm that mirrors Lee’s American world. Thirdly, it is eternally relevant and essential viewing. Fight the power.
Breathless (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)
The French New Wave should wash away your plans to watch yet another Judd Apatow comedy. Seriously, go watch it now.
Sunset Boulevard (dir. by Billy Wilder)
“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” Every single line of dialogue in this film is a dream. Billy Wilder as the best screenwriter ever? A claim as big as one of Norma Desmond’s and probably one with much more credence.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. by Céline Sciamma)
Every frame is a painting. How appropriate.
Die Hard (dir. by John McTiernan)
The blueprint for what every action film should do. And every Christmas film.
The Conformist (dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci)
I’m lost for words to describe this film’s cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro. The light and shadow constantly tread the line between seduction and restraint. It is a film that will leave you questioning your own allegiances.
Collateral (dir. by Michael Mann)
Whilst I find most of Mann’s filmography pretty ugly, this film fares well in the night-time LA setting. The true triumph of this film is its script, a budding screenwriter’s wet dream.
The 13th (dir. by Ava DuVernay)
The first and only documentary on this list, it is one of incredible importance. Sleek and informative throughout, it is essential viewing. My rating is based upon my feelings of how well it is developed from a filmmaking point of view.
American Beauty (dir. by Sam Mendes)
A touching interior to a film with a creepy exterior. It is an inspection of the American Dream in a Fitzgerald-esque mood.
The Matrix (dir. by The Wachowski Brothers)
It’s a crime that I had never seen it before. It is also a crime how exposition was relentlessly dumped upon me in the first act without me even noticing at the time because of how damn entertained I was. And that hallway shootout: disgustingly good.
Shadow (dir. by Zhang Yimou)
Whilst I found the plot slightly lacking at times, this film is BEYOND beautiful. Whilst the action scenes are imaginative and supremely done.
Want some samurai action but want your eyes to be bombarded with colour? Try Yimou’s 2002 film Hero.
Raising Arizona (dir. by Joel Coen)
You know something is going right when a would-be despicable tale is fucking hilarious.
The Grandaddy of Pegg and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, which if you haven’t seen, don’t speak to me. And go watch them. Now. NOW.
Zodiac (dir. by David Fincher)
Mysterious, gritty and prime Fincher. The man’s a genius.
Roma (dir. by Alfonso Cuarón)
As personal a film as you could find. And the story of how the lead actress, Yalitza Aparicio, was casted is as beautiful as the film itself.
The Conversation (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)
This one makes you think. The sound design forces the viewer to share the obsessive POV of a man who listens to a secret recording whilst engulfed by guilt and paranoia that sheds away his faith and personal space.
If you like The Conversation, try Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.
Training Day (dir. by Antoine Fuqua)
Whilst the direction is bland, this film is a testament to what a good script and an animalistic performance from Denzel can do. It also shocked me how similar the first act is to one of my own scripts. If the third act stuck the landing, it’d be one of my faves.
Your Name (dir. by Makoto Shinkai)
Probably the most beautiful and cinematic anime I’ve seen in a long while. It was a brilliant concept and fusing of genres but it got a bit too melodramatic for me. The spoon-feeding voice-over was unnecessary when the emotional beats would’ve landed without it.
Army of Shadows (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)
An existential war film about resistance fighters doomed to failure but with the strength to try anyway, by any means necessary.
Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. by The Coen Brothers)
Not my favourite film from the Coen’s. Nonetheless, it’s intimate, ironic and the script is insanely good. No shit, Sherlock.
Da 5 Bloods (dir. by Spike Lee)
Spike Lee is a cinematic prophet, who is currently more relevant than any other filmmaker. But the film itself is worth watching and Delroy Lindo is superb. Despite this, I felt there were some pacing issues and it didn’t always weave together seamlessly.
E.T. (dir. by Steven Spielberg)
For some reason whenever I think of the term ‘movie magic’, this film and the iconic image over the moon is what comes to mind. Having watched it for the first time since I was a child, I think Spielberg’s magic is found more in his other films.
Un Flic (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)
The more I watch Melville, the more I recognise his influence. The painstaking emphasis on character’s actions and skills? Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Who shot first? Han Solo did. He was even the one who told Godard to cut to the best parts of his shots, hence initiating the jump cuts that became a stylistic staple of the French New Wave.
Alphaville (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)
This film includes the precursor to Kubrick’s HAL-3000 but with a philosophical and insecure edge. Unfortunately, this film poses questions rather than tells a story. Whilst quintessentially Godard, it isn’t as fun as his other works. Worth a rewatch.
Fedora (dir. by Billy Wilder)
No one shows off the old Hollywood like Wilder. But this seems too much like an echo of the past, with almost self-indulgent similarities to Sunset Boulevard. Whilst the first half is excellent with a killer twist, the second half is killed by exposition. Regardless, a few iconic shots and Wilder’s whip smart writing makes it worth a watch.
What We Do In The Shadows (dir. by Taika Waititi)
Taika Waititi is the best type of weird. And weird is good.
Kiki’s Delivery Service (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
I want Jiji.
Black Mass (dir. by Scott Cooper)
Since when I first watched it, the only thing I remember is that Depp is excellent in the role of Whitey Bulger and a brilliant dinner table scene where David Harbour soils himself. I watched it again a few weeks back, and again, that (along with dodgy pacing and story structure) are the only things I remember.
A History of Violence (dir. by David Cronenberg)
The themes resonate. The performances are strong. But I just felt the premise could have been stretched to greater potential.
The Death of Stalin (dir. by Armando Iannucci)
Jet-black political satire that had me laughing but not in stitches. The chemistry of the great cast made it but I miss it when a film appears to lack any proper weight.
Free Fire (dir. by Ben Wheatley)
Messy, senseless fun about people with bad aim and bad legs.
The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)
Just a big old yawn. Whether you’ve watched this film or not, you’ve seen it all before.
Ponyo (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)
Cute. Beautiful. Forgettable.