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Non-Review Review: Maps to the Stars

It is a cliché to suggest that Hollywood loves movies about Hollywood.

Sure, quite often these are celebratory meditations on how great Tinseltown is – Argo was the story of how Hollywood saved the lives of Americans caught up in the Iranian Revolution; Hitchcock celebrated the making of Psycho. Sometimes these are more cynical and jaded explorations of how Hollywood works, seeking to expose the community’s seedy underbelly to the world – Robert Altman’s The Player remains the definitive example, but films like What Just Happened probably count as well.

These stock Hollywood-story-about-Hollywood are the weakest aspects of Maps to the Stars. The movie often feels like it’s trying too hard to add a surface gloss of what people expect from a film about Hollywood, on top of a much more interesting and compelling tale of dysfunction and decay. Maps to the Stars is held together by a rake of terrific performances and a wonderfully creepy central metaphor, but it feels let down by the more superficial elements of the script.

We're all in the gutter...

We’re all in the gutter…

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My 12 for ’13: Django Unchained & Suckerpunching Expectations

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 2…

Slavery seems to have been bubbling away at the back of the American pop cultural consciousness this year. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln were both Best Picture nominees at this year’s awards ceremony. 12 Years a Slave is making pretty impressive head-way for next year’s Oscars, embarrassing moments like the film’s European marketing aside. They are all superb and moving films, but Tarantino’s Django Unchained is probably the strongest of them.

djangounchained8

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Non-Review Review: AntiViral

AntiViral is a dirty film. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. It’s unnerving. It’s not for the squeamish. And I mean that in a good way. It’s a fairly disturbing exploration of the public’s (and the media’s) relationship to celebrity, and the lengths to which people will go in order to insert themselves into the life of their idol or role model. It’s a vicious and sometimes unsettling look at what our attitude towards those people says about us as a society, imagining a world that sadly isn’t too far from the world as we know it. I think that might be the most disturbing facet of AntiViral. It’s not too far from where we are now.

What a vial trade…

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Tall Tales from a Lincoln Test Screening: Critiquing the Critics…

Apparently there was a test screening of Lincoln in New Jersey. I know this because the film media has gone absolutely wild over it. What’s astonishing about this coverage is the fact that it’s less about how rare it is to test Spielberg movies (Hook was the last one tested, and we know how that turned out), but more about the perceived responses to audience comments coming from that screening. Critics and pundits were quick to dismiss audience members speaking out as “anonymous jackasses” or to question their critical faculties…

Which all seems a bit much, doesn’t it?

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Non-Review Review: A Dangerous Method

Charles Issawi once formulated Syre’s Law, named for noted academic Wallace Stanley Sayre. “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake,” he argued. “That is why academic politics are so bitter.” Set in the shadow of not one but two looming European conflicts, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, adapted from the play The Talking Cure, makes sure that we know just how bitter academic politics can be. Ably supported by two strong performances from its three leads, the movie is at its most fascinating in exploring the ideological and personal relationships of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, but loses a large amount of momentum when we’re asked to accept Keira Knightley as a mad Russian.

Psycho-analysts, assemble!

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Non-Review Review: Three Colours Blue

This week we’re taking a look at Krzysztof Kieślowski’s celebrated “Three Colours” Trilogy. We’ll be publishing reviews on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so check back and sound off.

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy is generally regarded as one of the landmarks of European cinema, one of the great cinematic accomplishments of the past few decades. I find it hard to disagree. A cynical and bittersweet (and, occasionally, just bitter) look at the ideals of the French Revolution (liberty, equality and fraternity) filtered through the three colours of the French flag, Kieślowski’s three films are powerful studies of human nature, exploring the way that we react and interact in this strange and surreal world that we share with everybody else.

Deep...

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Meme of the Moment: Double Feature Blog-A-Thon… or why I should never be allowed to run a cinema…

Hey, I was invited to take part in the latest movie blogger meme by the wonderful Marc over at Go, See, Talk. The idea is to pretend you run a movie theatre and schedule a week of double-bills for that cinema. There are no other rules, save for the fact that you run a triple-feature on Sunday. So I peered into an alternate universe where I was allowed any sort of responsibility, and came back with a handy brochure for Cine-Moi, the exclusive high-end movie theatre experience that my alternate self has somehow bamboozled his way into running (not into the ground… so far). Let’s see what a typical movie schedule might look like.

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Non-Review Review: Wild at Heart

I’ve always had a soft spot for David Lynch, if only because – much like David Cronenberg – you always got the sense that his artistic vision was pretty unfettered by concerns about broad appeal or studio policy or anything like that. There’s a wonderful sense of freedom, in how he works. There’s a great quote from the guys at Pixar that they don’t make movies for kids, they make movies for themselves – if other people happen to enjoy it, well… that’s great too. That sums up a lot of what I respect about Lynch. Wild at Heart isn’t perhaps one of those moments where Lynch’s interests manage to overlap with truly great cinema (as they do, I would argue, for Mullholland Drive, Blue Velvet and The Straight Story), but it isn’t so completely scattershot as to be impenetrable, either.

Dancing in the... highways?

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Scary Monsters and Super Freaks…

D’you know what would have been scarier than nothing?

What?

Anything!

– Bart and Lisa discuss Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, The Simpsons

The week before last, in reviewing Insidious, I made the observation that director James Wan made the mistake of “showing too much” in his horror film, and that movie itself suffered because it didn’t show any restraint in how it handled its creatures and monsters. The always wonderful Justin, in fairness, called me on my assertion correctly – who ever stated it was a rule that horror films can show too much? Surely it’s possible to show as much of something as you might want, provided you have enough talent and skill to do it well? Surely showing too much only becomes a problem when you aren’t skilled enough to deliver something genuinely terrifying?

Or is it something more primal? Is what you don’t see scarier?

Do I have a point?

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An Evening With David Cronenberg…

The University Philosophical Society of Trinity College Dublin hosted an interview with David Cronenberg, the self-proclaimed “baron of blood” last night. I was honoured to be invited to attend (one of the perks of being an old hack, I suppose – I even got to dine with him beforehand) and it was a great informative evening for my inner film buff, as well as anybody with an interest in cinema. I’m sure they’ll have photos or recordings of the night up soon, but I thought I’d give my own impressions.

Anything but Depraved...

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