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My 12 for ’13: Rush & Picking Sides

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 3…

Rush is something of a companion piece to Frost/Nixon. Writer Peter Morgan re-teamed with director Ron Howard to offer a definitive take on another contest of wills, documenting the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda across the 1976 Formula One season. An account of a rather famous piece of sporting history, you could accuse Rush of being a bit formulaic, but the key is the skill with which Morgan and Lauda manage to execute that formula.

rush2

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Non-Review Review: Rush

In many ways, Rush quite resembles the last collaboration between director Ron Howard and writer Peter Morgan. Both are built around contests between two larger-than-life personalities. One is old-fashioned and conservative, averse to risk and obsessed with victory; the other is young and impetuous, arrogant and self-assured without the experience to back that up. However, while Rush lacks the screen presence of performers Michael Sheen and Frank Langella, it benefits greatly from the fact that it refuses to choose a side.

As much as Frost/Nixon might have offered a slightly more sympathetic-than-usual Nixon, it was clear that the audience was intended to root against the corrupt former president, and champion the ascension of young up-and-comer David Frost. Rush manages a more delicate balance, firmly refusing to favour one protagonist over the other. Both the reckless young go-getter and the safety-conscious number-cruncher are portrayed as sympathetic and well-developed characters.

This makes Rush that rarest of sports movies: the one where the audience is rooting for both contenders.

Not quite to Formula...

Not quite to Formula…

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Non-Review Review: The Queen

The middle part of Peter Morgan’s “Blair” trilogy, sitting between The Deal and The Special Relationship, the movie is perhaps better known for its portrayal of the eponymous monarchy than of the controversial British Prime Minister. It’s also a rather wonderful exploration of the British monarchy, and how it struggles to remain in touch with the people that it (nominally, at least) rules, and yet remains heavily insulated from. Taking the death of Princess Diana, perhaps the most trying period in the reign of the current queen, as a jumping-off point, the film wonders what the public expects from their royal family, and how the public and private lives of those born into the family must be balanced.

A skilful portrait...

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Non-Review Review: The Special Relationship

The third part of Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen’s superb “Tony Blair trilogy” seems perfectly timed. In fact, being honest, I’m surprised that HBO couldn’t muster up enough enthusiasm for a small-scale cinematic release, what with Blair’s political memoir A Journey doing the rounds at the moment (I’m working my way through it and it’s probably the best political memoir I’ve read since Churchill). Blair is easily one of the most fascinating political leaders of the last few decades, and Morgan does well to juxtapose him against perhaps his greatest political influence: Bill Clinton. Still, all that being said, and with this reportedly the final part of the trilogy, it might have been best to focuse on his relationship with the leader who most strongly defined his legacy. However, Morgan has admitted time and time again that he simply didn’t want to write Bush. While I’m happy with what we got, it doesn’t exactly feel like a fitting coda.

Bro's before interns accusing you of gross impropriety...

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What’s so special about The Special Relationship?

I got to see the Irish premiere of Alice in Wonderland at the weekend, thanks to boards.ie and the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and afterwards there was a Q & A session with Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall. Michael Sheen casually remarked that we’d be seeing the last of Peter Morgan’s “Blair trilogy”, The Special Relationship, hitting screens in about mid-July-ish. It’s been on my must-see list for a while – and the Internet Movie Database had a release date in 2011 last time I checked – but I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised at this particular companion in the tradition “Tony Blair and x” double act format. The Deal gave us Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The Queen gave us Tony Blair and… well, take a guess. The Special Relationship gives us Tony Blair and a US President. Which one? Dennis Quaid (yes, Dennis Quaid) as Bill Clinton. Yep, that’s not the US President I was thinking of either.

The "Special" Relationship... It even sounds like a bro-mance...

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In Defense of the Sam Mendes and Bond 23 Rumours…

There’s been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing on the next Bond film, provisionally titled as Bond 23. This week has been a bonaza of news about the project, which has been slowly taking shape through dribs and drabs of information. On one hand, we had the official confirmation of what everybody really knew (but it’s nice to know for sure): the movie won’t get made until someone buys MGM or the rights. The other tidbit was much more interesting. Bond has a director: Sam Mendes. I think it’s a great idea.

Things at MGM are so bad that Bond can't even afford dry-cleaning...

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Michael Sheen to clean up as Blofeld?

I have to admit, the news that Paul Haggis would be replaced by Peter Morgan on writing duties at Bond 23 (because we don’t have a cool/confusing/pretentious title yet) was a little bit of a surprise, but not too much. The producers reportedly also attempted to coax Danny Boyle into directing the film, so I guess they’re trying one rung down on this year’s Oscar-nominees list. I’m not sure if that’s a good sign though. Don’t get me wrong, Morgan is amazing and I eagerly anticipate The Special Relationship (though I think he picked the wrong President), but I’m worried that the movies are creeping toward pretention. I like Casino Royale, it cleared away nearly forty years of rubble the franchise had accumulated – but it seems the producers picker up on the wrong message from its success. The Quantum of Solice didn’t give us back-to-basics Bond as much as it gave us a British Jason Bourne. Still, regardless of my feelings about behind the scenes, I am somewhat excited by the Michael Sheen as Blofeld rumours that are cropping up.

Isn't he just Darling... oh wait, wrong member of government...

Isn't he just Darling... oh wait, wrong member of government...

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