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Non-Review Review: Cherchez Hortense

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Inoffensive. That might be the best way to describe Cherchez Hortense, a French comedy of manners about people trying to figure out how to get what they want from life – and each other. The cast do a great job, especially Jean-Pierre Bacri in the lead role of Damien Hauer, who just about manages to give the film enough weight to stop it floating effortlessly away. There’s nothing wrong with some light character-driven comedy, but Cherchez Hortense suffers from the fact that it seems like even one direct conversation would sort absolutely everything out. Okay, that’s a slight oversimplification (it depends which direct conversation), but it’s not too far from the truth. While the script is sharp and witty enough that the actors never feel like they’re just going in circles, there’s a weird sense of contrivance around Cherchez Hortense which gives means it’s hard to get too invested in anything that’s going on.

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Look! Jack Kirby’s Designs for Argo!

I’m actually reasonably happy with Argo winning Best Picture. I’ve given up on the idea of the Academy Awards ever mirroring my own tastes, and Argo is a pretty great film from a director who is developing into a wonderful talent. And the awards last night spread the love around. It’s hard to hate a ceremony that can give Quentin Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Django Unchained.

Anyway, in celebrating the success of Argo, how about a look at Jack Kirby’s original designs for the fictitious movie Lord of Light (which became Argo)? Kirby was a comic book legend, who created The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, Captain America, Thor and countless other iconic comic characters. In the seventies, Kirby had an ever heavier science-fiction bint, creating his wonderful Fourth World and The Eternals and O.M.A.C. As part of the operation to rescue the escaped diplomats, Kirby designed these storyboards for the movie, which actually hit upon several of the author and artist’s favourite themes – including advanced god-like beings and the merging of the rational with the mystical.

Check out his sketches below. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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Dario Marianelli at the National Concert Hall (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival)

This event was part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

I’ve argued it before, but one of the best parts of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival is the way that it isn’t just confined to the cinemas. The feast of fine Irish and international cinema is something that any film fan can celebrate, but the capital city itself becomes a hotbed for the celebration of film as an artform. So there’s all manner of wonderful extras going on – from classes in film criticism to workshops with Robert Towne, to the Jameson Cult Film Club screening of L.A. Confidential. The National Concert Hall typical does a nice job of getting into the mood, hosting celebrations of the sound of cinema. In the past, for example, they hosted the newly-written live musical accompanyment to The Four Horseman and a tribute to Danny Elfman.

This year, they invited composer Dario Marianelli over to showcase and introduce several selections of music from his distinguished career. It’s always a fantastic time to recognise and to celebrate Marianelli’s work, but to host the composer in Dublin less than a week before the Oscars is a very rare pleasure indeed.

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Who We Are In The Dark: Zero Dark Thirty & Torture…

That Zero Dark Thirty should come under fire for its use and portrayal of torture is not surprising. The film deserves to spark debate about how we respond to these sorts of threats, and critically examine our claim to the moral high ground. However, the debate seems overly simplistic. It has been suggested that the controversy over torture cost director Kathryn Bigelow a Best Director nomination, and that’s a shame. The fact she’s felt to the need to respond to these relatively shallow commentaries is less than heartening.

Zero Dark Thirty has a lot to say about torture. It’s a lot of thoughtful and insightful and nuanced stuff, and Zero Dark Thirty actually gets to the nub of the issue, very clearly condemning the culture of “enhanced interrogation”, in a way that is much more effective than any of the commentators seem to realise.

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Non-Review Review: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln might just be the most fascinating exploration of the overlap between legal, moral and democratic power ever produced. Abraham Lincoln’s name might brand the film, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ sensational performance might hold it together, but there’s a very clear sense in watching Lincoln that the film is more preoccupied with lofty philosophical questions about the role of a ruler in a democracy. The Civil War and the 13th Amendment provide a backdrop, but Lincoln seems more concerned with how those elected must wield the mandate given from the people. Must they always represent the views of the people who elected them, or is their job to lead?

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter...

Note: Not a Vampire Hunter…

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“It’s None of Your Damn Business What I Think About That”: Tarantino and the Limits of Film Directors…

It’s a clip that’s gone viral. Tarantino lashing out at Channel 4 interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy has become something of in internet touchstone. “I’m shutting your butt down,” the director protests after getting another of those inevitable questions about the link between movie violence and real-life violence. It’s cringeworthy and awkward, and it plays into Guru-Murthy’s hands better than a straight answer would have, but I can’t help but empathise with Tarantino’s position.

Incidents like the shooting in Aurora or Connecticut shooting are truly horrifying and very hard for us to contextualise. I can understand Tarantino not wanting to get into that debate, because it’s really not the place of anybody involved in cinema to talk about it. It’s arrogant for anybody with any film background to try to relate their work to it, and it’s negligent of any journalist to try to sensationalise a link between film violence and real violence when the real questions are tougher, more uncompromising and more uncomfortable than a quick jab at Tarantino.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: Chris Cooper Raps (The Muppets)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #1

If you ever need proof of how delightfully absurd The Muppets was, the sight of Oscar-winner Chris Cooper dancing and rapping across his desk, only to unleash a storeroom full of chorus girls while Jason Segel looks on in confusion should do the trick. It’s a fantastic moment because it’s so ridiculously surreal. Cooper is rapping for about a minute of screen-time, meaning that it’s over before it has really begun – leaving both the characters and the audience wondering what the hell just happened.

In a great way.

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My 12 for ’12: Silver Linings Playbook & Earning Your Happy Ending

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #7

The term “uplifting” is thrown around a lot these days. Happy endings are very funny things. They seem to be a given for most major Hollywood films, and so there’s a degree of predictability to them. And yet, despite that, there’s also usually a sense that they are somewhat contrived or manipulated or otherwise the result of a rigged game. In order to raise the stakes, films will generally put our characters in peril, and create a massive sense of jeopardy for our heroes to overcome in order to secure the inevitable happy ending. However, as time goes on, we become increasingly cynical and sceptical, so those stakes get higher and higher. The ending remains guaranteed, so making the threat so much more menacing means we have to suspend greater and greater levels of disbelief in order to accept that everybody involved lived happily ever after.

Your ability to accept Silver Linings Playbook will directly correspond to your ability to accept an improbably neat happy ending. However, what distinguishes David O. Russell’s latest film from the bulk of the other “uplifting” examples of modern cinema is the fact that the stakes manage to seem far more emotional and psychological than literal and tangible, and that the characters involved feel so much more real.

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Winners of the 2012 International On-Line Film Critics’ Poll

The International On-Line Film Critics’ Poll has just published the winners of their 2012 poll. I was honoured to take part, and I was very glad with most of the results. You can read the nominations here, but the winners are listed below. The superb Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was the biggest winner – winning Best Film, placing on the Top Ten Films, taking home Best Director, securing Best Actor for a very deserving Gary Oldman, along with Best Cast and Best Adapted Screenplay to boot. A host of other wonderful films (including The Master) did very well as well.

Results after the jump.

Looks like we're all Smiley's people...

Looks like we’re all Smiley’s people…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: September (Intouchables)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #11

Apparently there was a great deal of upset when Intouchables was chosen ahead of Rust and Bone as France’s Oscar nominee this year. While I’d argue that any film that restricts nominations to one-per-country is a little bit daft (even if I can understand the practical concerns), I can’t help but feel like France made the right choice here. The Intouchables is a superb piece of feel-good cinema that works much better than one might expect. Even my inner cynic was convinced. And I was convinced, conveniently enough, by the opening sequence, which features a joy ride to the sound of September by Earth, Wind and Fire.

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