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Non-Review Review: Trance

Trance is a dirty, messy little film. I’m not talking in terms of gore or graphic violence – although there is a surprising amount on display here. Instead, Trance feels like Danny Boyle is trying to get back in touch with his roots, the sort of stylishly shot, haphazardly structured and uncomfortably candid films from his earlier career. Boyle has, after all, gone from an underground auteur to a part of the cinematic establishment.

After all, we’re no longer talking about the director you constructed such grubby little pleasures as Shallow Grave or Trainspotting. Danny Boyle has an Oscar on his mantelpiece for Slumdog Millionaire, and a two nominations for 127 Hours. This is a man who organised and oversaw the London Olympics last year. You don’t get more legitimate or mainstream than that. Trance reads like an attempt by Boyle to prove that he hasn’t ventured too far away from his cinematic origins, and can still turn out a grubby little niche thriller starring a cast of sociopaths just waiting for an excuse to turn on one another.

Trance lacks the broad appeal of Slumdog Millionaire or even 127 Hours, but I’d be lying if I said I could resist its trashy pulpy charms. There’s a thrill here in watching the cinematic sleight of hand, observing as a veteran master of illusion proves he still can handle the old standards. It isn’t anything new or revolutionary, and there’s the constant threat that it might unravel at any given moment, but the thrill of Trance is watching Boyle trying to hold it all together. He doesn’t quite make it look effortless, but he gets there in the end.

It's a frame!

It’s a frame!

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Is It Just Me Or Does The Artist Backlash Seem a Little Half-Hearted?

The annual Oscar race is a process so predictable that it could be a movie formula all of its own. You have your initial race to nominations, with various films falling at certain hurdles, leaving you with a fairly well-spaced field. You have the frontrunner surging ahead, but a dark horse waiting in the wings. And, every year, you have a very eager publicity industry ready to launch a very vehement attack on that frontrunner simply because it has the tenacity of pulling ahead. This year is no different, and The Artist seems to be seeing its share of controversies. However, these seem to be unfolding simply because it’s expected at this point in the race. I can’t help but feel like any of the attacks on The Artist are anything more than half-hearted.

Barking up the wrong tree?

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Meme of the Moment: Desert Island CD’s

This blog post is part of “Desert Island CD’s”, a blogging event being hosted by those gents over at Anomalous Material as a sort of a spiritual successor to last year’s “Desert Island DVD’s”. Check out the link above for everybody else’s list.

Movie soundtracks are a strange beast. They say that memory is most strongly associated with the sense of smell, but – since I guess we can’t smell movies outside of Hans Laube’s somewhat misguided “Smell-O-Vision” – I am never less than amazed at the capacity of a piece of music to take me back to a film. Whether it’s a piece of an orchestra score, a pop song featured in the background, an original composition for the film or even a piece linked to a particular trailer, film music has a strong tie to my memory. To show you that I am not kidding, thanks to the following truly corny international trailer, I can’t hear The Sun Always Shines on TV without thinking of Slumdog Millionaire. You may think I’m bluffing, but skip to about a minute into it.

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Non-Review Review: Sunshine

Sunshine is a science-fiction movie. Well, duh, you proclaim, looking at the screenshots or having read the plot synopsis, it’s about a bunch of people in space flying to the sun. Of course it’s science-fiction! It’s hardly a comedy or musical! However, I’m talking about something more essential than its setting or its superficial elements. Although the story of a bunch of astronauts planning to reignite the dying star at the centre of our solar system may distract you, Sunshine works so well because it grabs the sorts of philosophical ideas at the heart of the best science-fiction: it’s an exploration of the conflict between the rational and the irrational, the logical and the emotional and the place of man and his understanding of the world around him. It’s movie that is far smarter than it pretends to be.

Going for gold...

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Reaction to the Best Picture Oscar Nominations…

Well, it’s been a week since the nominations were announced. I think I’m as adjusted as I’ll ever be to this year’s crop of Oscar contenders. Am I happy? Relatively. Am I delighted? No. Am I as filled with disappointment and rage as I was last year? Not nearly. Does this mean we can judge the ten horse race a success? I’m not so sure. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the worse of this year’s nominations, snubs and just inexplicable nods. I’ll be taking a look at the acting nominations later in the week, because this post just ballooned. Rather fitting given the expansion of the category, no?

Let the speculating and analysis and moaning begin...

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Looking Back at This Year’s Best Picture Race

I’ve finally gotten to see all the five Best Picture nominees for the 81st Academy Awards. I’m honestly disappointed it took me so long, but that’s what happens when a flood of prestige movies hit the cinemas over three weeks in January and the Academy doesn’t even pick the good ones. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about the contenders, in retrospect. The previous year’s awards featured a fantastic line-up – Juno, No Country for Old Men, Atonement, Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood – that hit just about every demographic and represented the awards at their best. This year, we got a closed shop.

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

The statuettes are actually quite creepy when you get to looking at them...

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Non-Review Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Probably the only “feel-good film of the year” to involve excrement-covered urchins, the blindng of beggars and brutal police interrogation methods within the first half-hour of screentime.  I have to admit I love the marketing for the film, which has pitched it as a movie that will leve you feeling as though you just spent two hours basking in sunshine. I’d suggest the experience is somewhat different. That’s not to say I didn’t greatly enjoy the film – it was one of the best of the year – just a warning to viewers not to expect sunshine and lollipops for most of the film’s runtime. So, how does the official Best Picture of 2008 stack up?

Jamal noticed he was getting a lot more attention after he went on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Jamal noticed he was getting a lot more attention after he went on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

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