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17. Manchester by the Sea – This Just In (#178)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, This Just In is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea.

podcastmanchesterbythesea

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Non-Review Review: Triple 9

Triple 9 looks great.

Although it set in modern day Atlanta, director John Hillcoat seems to frame Triple 9 as a grim companion piece to The Road. Hillcoat captures the horrors of urban decay, creating a world that seems to teeter on the edge of the abyss. The camera pans through abandoned tenement buildings and lingers on graffiti; bodies are found in shopping trolleys while tinted windows serve to conceal immediate dangers. As filmed by Hillcoat and filtered through the lens of cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, Atlanta seems to be composed of slums and overpasses.

Traffic stop...

Traffic stop…

From the impressive opening heist set piece, Hillcoat saturates the film with red, as if our heroes are only glimpsed through the light of hellfire. That red comes from multiple sources; a red dye pack that explodes at the worst possible moment, the boots worn by one of the characters, the lights from a police car, the fire from a distant (and somewhat anticlimactic) explosion. Triple 9 is oppressive and grim, with Hillcoat threatening to bring the world collapsing down upon his protagonists.

The problem with Triple 9 has nothing to do with Hillcoat’s aesthetic. Instead, the film suffers from a generic and unfocused script populated by characters who lack agency and identity. The main figures in Triple 9 often feel like pieces of paper caught in a breeze, moving in any given direction at the whim of the plot rather than through any essential quality of their own. Things happen not because they are organic (or even inevitable), but because they are convenient. There are points at which it seems like maybe the characters are not in hell; maybe the audience are.

Married to the mob...

Married to the mob…

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Non-Review Review: Tower Heist

Hollywood has always had a strange way of reacting to current trends and realities as they exist outside the multiplex. Films tend to take a while to react to shifting cultural phenomena. That said, changes in response to particular incidents can be relatively swift. Gangster Squad was famously re-shot following the Aurora shootings and released less than a year later. Although still in the early stages of its production, Zero Dark Thirty was heavily re-worked after Osama Bin Ladin had been shot and killed. However, it’s the broader changes that Hollywood takes longer to acknowledge.

The Dark Knight was praised by The Washington Times as “the first great post-Sept. 11 film”, but this was in 2008 – almost seven years after the attacks. The 9/11 zeitgeist still lingers over American film and television. However, it’s telling that – only recently – have we seen reactions to the financial crisis creep into contemporary blockbuster cinema, as the studios try to acknowledge the shifting economic reality.

Tower Heist is very clearly an attempt to capitalise on some of the anger and the hurt generated by the failure of banks and official bodies to protect the average citizen from the financial collapse. It’s confused, muddled and a little disjointed, even if the intentions seem noble. It still feels a little disappointing that it took almost half a decade to produce this rather bland reaction.

A crash course in economics...

A crash course in economics…

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: “You’d Love My Boyfriend, He’s a Total Chick Flick Nut” (ParaNorman)

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 #7

I’m normally hesitant to involve politics in this blog. It is, after all, a blog about popular culture. Indeed, I am the first to complain about obnoxious celebrities standing on their soapbox espousing their political beliefs. It’s not that I disagree with them, or that they aren’t entitled to their opinion, I’m just uncomfortable with the idea that being famous makes you an expert to speak on a particular cause or issue. Still, in the spirit of Christmas, allow me one small digression.

That said, I couldn’t help but smile at the climax to ParaNorman, a solidly entertaining family adventure that took its own message to heart. Embracing the idea that there’s nothing scary about something just because it’s different than you, it earned the wrath of the extreme right because it dared to suggest that one of its character might be in a loving and stable homosexual relationship. It’s great to see a family film actual acknowledge that sort of diversity, particularly in a way that doesn’t sensationalise the matter in hand. It’s a damn funny one-liner to boot, and the fact that it’s willing to call the audience on their assumptions is particularly endearing.

paranorman7

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Non-Review: There’s Something About Mary

There’s Something About Mary is easily one of my favourite comedies of all time. I don’t like to think I’m especially crass or low-brow, and I don’t have much love for the work of the Farrelly Brothers outside this film (though Dumb and Dumber was charming while Kingpinwasn’t all bad). However, there’s just something so wonderfully chaotic and random about the wit on display in the film, which manages to encompass old-fashioned physical slapstick, situation comedy, grossout humour, character-based laughs and all manner of subversive charm. All those elements and styles are at play in the film, under the watchful eye of the Farrelly Brothers conducting: they know it would be too easy to hit a bum note, but instead they manage to keep pretty much everything playing in symphony.

Had me hooked from the start...

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Non-Review Review: Ocean’s Eleven

Everybody likes to take it easy sometimes. Just because we generally work hard on offering some sort of deep insight on the way that people (or the world) work doesn’t mean that – every once in a while – you want to just kick back and take things easy. And so it is with Ocean’s Eleven, which is considered (along with its two sequels) among the lighter work in Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious filmography. If you ever wondered what the man responsible for ambitious (if not always effective) movies like Che and Traffic does to relax, I can’t help but imagine it might look a little bit like this. Ocean’s Eleven is a triumph of style over substance. There’s not a lot going on underneath the shiny surface (hell, for all I know it’s dead under there), but the exterior just oozes effortless cool.

A drop in the Ocean...

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