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Non-Review Review: The Irishman

“Time goes by so fast,” Frank Sheeran reflects to a young nurse late in the movie. He adds, “You’ll understand when you get there.”

Of course, the nurse doesn’t quite understand the passage of time in the way that Frank does. “You’re young,” he explains. “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” In contrast, Frank Sheeran’s entire life seems to be left behind him. When The Irishman introduces the audience to its central character, he is already well past his prime. He is resting in a retirement community. He begins to narrate his story through internal monologue, but then decides to directly address the camera. After all, there is nobody left who might be exposed or shamed by his reminiscences. They are all long gone.

The end is DeNiro.

The audience really feels the passage of time in The Irishman. It is revealing that Frank’s most prized possession appears to be his watch. The watch itself changes as Frank’s situation does, becoming more ostentatious has his stock rises, but there is always a watch on the bedside table and it is always fixed first thing every morning. Even more than the ring that signifies his acceptance into the underground criminal fraternity, Frank holds tight to that watch. It measures the seconds that make up the minutes, the minutes that make up the hours, the hours that make up a life.

It is a critical cliché to praise a long film by saying that it doesn’t feel long, that the time spent watching a story unfold “flies by.” In some cases, that is true. Of this year’s hyper-extended offerings, both Avengers: Endgame and Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood move breezily enough that they never feel their length. In contrast, The Irishman does feel every minute of its three-and-a-half hour runtime. That’s part of the movie’s power. By the time that the audience has reached that conversation between Frank and his nurse, they have some small understanding of what he is saying. They have lived that life with him.

Get Hoffa his case.

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113. Once Upon a Time In America (#70)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.

Drawn back to New York City from a decades-long exile, retired gangster David “Noodles” Aaronson discovers that the past is not buried nearly as well as he might like. Navigating a complex web of secrets and betrayals, “Noodles” is forced to confront sins past; both his own and those dearest to him.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 70th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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59. Heat (#124)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall and Joe Griffin, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Michael Mann’s Heat.

Michael Mann’s Los Angeles crime epic finds lives intersecting and overlapping in the City of Angels. At the heart of the story, career criminal Neil McCauley and driven detective Vincent Hanna find themselves on a collision course that leave countless lives shattered in their wake.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 124th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: The Intern

The Intern is a likeable, competent movie about likeable, competent people doing likeable, competent things.

What is most remarkable about Nancy Meyers’ latest effort is the fact that there is no real tension at play here. Sure, there’s a three-act structure; there are revelations; there are insecurities; there is crying. However, it seems like everybody in the movie wants nothing more than to get along with everybody else in the movie. Sure, there are the obligatory comedy screw-ups and miscommunication, but there’s never a real sense of risk or stakes as the movie wanders politely from one work-related crisis to another.

Nobody gets too bent out of shape...

Nobody gets too bent out of shape…

It is not an approach that makes for particularly compelling or exciting viewing. Indeed, the characters populating The Intern seem terrified about the idea of getting anybody’s blood pressure up; whether that of septuagenarian Ben Whittaker or the prickly mother of executive Jules Ostin. Everybody involved in The Intern, including the characters themselves, are professionals. Sure, mistakes happen and people mess up, but it’s not the end of the world. There is something oddly comforting in that, even if nobody watching The Intern will be on the edge of their seat.

In the end, The Intern is a lot like the eponymous character; it is steady and reliable, amicable and inoffensive. It looks smart and it knows just what to say. Everybody’s just wary about getting that heart beating a little too hard.

"You feel tense..."

“You feel tense…”

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Non-Review Review: The Family

I can’t tell you what The Family is. Not because of omerta or anything as cliché as that, but because it seems like The Family itself doesn’t know. I can describe what happens in the film, taking you through the events as they unfold on screen. I can describe the set-up. I can talk about its obvious influences. But I can’t tell you what exactly Luc Besson’s latest film actually is, because it seems like Besson himself can’t make up his mind.

Is it an action film with a quirky and unconventional set-up? Is it a gangster comedy about a former crook trying to go straight? Is it a fish-out-of-water comedy of manners about Americans arriving in northern France? Is it a pitch black comedy about a self-justifying sociopath attempting to carve out his own place in the world? Is it a high-stakes thriller about a family putting their lives on the line? Is it a weird coming-of-age drama? The Family is all of these things at various points, but it never commits to any of them.

Instead, it uses these elements to just keep circling until the running time is over.

Family values...

Family values…

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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.

silverliningsplaybook1

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Non-Review Review: Silver Linings Playbook

It’s very hard to find a movie that deals with mental illness in a compassionate way, let alone without descending into cheap emotionally-exploitive hokum. The story of Pat Solitano, coping with his “undiagnosed bipolar” disorder by returning home, Silver Linings Playbook manages to be sincere without being cheesy, to be warm without being soft and to be human without being melodramatic. Returning to his parent’s house, Pat stumbles across Tiffany, another “broken bird” dealing with her own personal issues. Silver Lining Playbook is the story of two extremely damaged people helping one another in the most human way possible.

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