Sunday October 16th 2011
Sincerity isn’t cool at the moment, and it’s hurting Hollywood. Last year’s big disease comedy Love and Other Drugs was actually a deeply affecting study of a young couple’s relationship crippled by the effects of early onset Parkinson’s. But because that plot line alone might have been considered corny (or worse, old fashioned) the filmmakers also crowbarred in a half-arsed satire of the pharmaceutical industry, a Roger Dodger-style ode to male chauvinism and some of the lamest ‘raunchy comedy’ since The Heartbreak Kid.
50/50 is something of a spiritual successor to Love and Other Drugs, both in its playful but poignant treatment of a serious subject matter and in its eagerness to shoot itself in the foot. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is heartbreaking yet understated as twenty-something cancer sufferer Adam, and a pair of bang-on supporting performances from Anjelica Huston and Anna Kendrick as his mother and therapist respectively introduce plenty of new ideas into the habitually formulaic Cancer Movie™ genre, without fucking up the emotional backbone of the film.
But other elements, namely Seth Rogen’s dislikable best friend character Kyle and an inexplicably evil girlfriend played by Bryce Dallas Howard, are straight out of misanthropy-fest Get Him To The Greek and feel wildly out of joint with the rest of the film. They’re mainly there to facilitate comedy set pieces, like the one in which Adam and Kyle try to pick up women by playing the cancer card, but there’s little need for these self-consciously ‘edgy’ scenes when the movie’s already very funny on its own terms.
As with Love and Other Drugs, the elements of 50/50 that do work are strong enough to carry the film along and affecting enough to bring losers like me to tears in their cinema seats. And the elements that don’t work … well, at least they don’t include an extended sequence in which Jake Gyllenhaal can’t get rid of an erection.
Saturday October 15th 2011
Above: a limited edition ‘mirrored’ Shame poster on display at last night’s London Film Festival gala after-party. Once you’ve finished admiring its beauty, start making peace with the fact that you will never own one.
Friday October 14th 2011
British filmmakers aren’t allowed to make decent love stories any more (Gnomeo & Juliet obviously notwithstanding), but the team behind Weekend don’t appear to have received the memo. With a pair of remarkable performances from new faces Tom Cullen and Chris New, the film is at once a heartfelt romantic comedy, a touching rumination on sexual identity and a striking look at what it is to be gay in 21st Century Britain.
Recommended viewing for anyone over or under 18.
Tuesday October 11th 2011
When The Hangover Part II came out earlier this year, a lot of people (and critics) were so blindsided by its use of full frontal male nudity that they could talk of little else. It was hardly surprising given that the MPAA’s draconian attitude to nudity on screen continues to impose a taboo on straightforward depictions of the human body, creating an international audience largely desensitised to violence and horror but physically shocked by the sight of an adult male’s penis.
Much the same thing appears to be happening to Shame, which — since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last month — seems to have acquired the alternate title ‘Michael Fassbender Penis Movie’ in large sections of the press. He does indeed go full frontal in the film, but not in the sort of Brüno-esque crotch-to-the-camera close-up manner that the hype might have you believe. Like most aspects of the film Fassbender’s nudity is naturalistic and vital, and it’s actually very sparingly employed. In a movie that focuses solely on one man’s self-destructive addiction to sex, it’s remarkable that there are only one or two true sex scenes.
Instead, the film wallows in the mundane to-ings and fro-ings of Fassbender’s perpetually distracted Brandon, whose highflying but nondescript Wall Street career fuels his insatiable sexual compulsion. If there’s a plot it’s the sudden introduction of his sister Cissy (Carey Mulligan) into the proceedings, but don’t go expecting any ‘we’re gonna turn your life around!’ self-help montages: this is bleak, bleak stuff and it only gets bleaker as Cissy starts getting under Brandon’s skin.
Both Fassbender and Mulligan give stupid-good performances (if only there was a way to transplant all of the latter’s An Education accolades onto this far superior turn) and director Steve McQueen seems to have fine-tuned his ability to make silence physically painful even further since Hunger.
It’ll be interesting to see what the BBFC make of the film, because in truth there’s probably only thirty seconds or so of actual content keeping Shame out of the 15 category. Tonally however, it’s bold, ambiguous and unnerving, which may well affect their decision. Of course, it’s precisely this tone that makes the film work as well as it does, and ensures that Fassbender’s thousand-yard stare will stay with you long after you’ve recovered from the shock of seeing his genitalia.
In short, my most anticipated film of the LFF is already my favourite.
Sunday October 9th 2011
The gem in London’s glittering film calendar (fuck what you heard about ‘the BAFTAs’) comes around once more this week as the 55th BFI London Film Festival opens its doors to the public. As ever, Jameson Irish Whiskey are a sponsor, and this year they’re even opening a ‘pop-up’ (kill me now) bar just around the corner from Leicester Square. BRING ON THE PRESS RELEASE:
The Jameson Apartment will be open daily from 12th – 27th October 2011, from 5.30pm until late and is located at 39 Greek Street, Soho, London. More information on the Jameson Apartment, including full details of the schedule and secret password can be found at jamesoncultfilmclub.com or Facebook.
That’s right: they’re calling it an ‘apartment’ and you have to say a secret password to get in.
get some free advertising celebrate, they’ve given me a pair of tickets to give away for the first LFF screening of This Must Be The Place, which I can confirm is properly 4-star great.
Here are the deets:
Wednesday 26th October – 8:30pm
Screen 7, Vue West End
Director Paolo Sorrentino will be in attendance
To be in with a chance of winning, just ‘like’ one of these three frogs …
… and then tell me your favourite thing about frogs in general:
Best answer wins the tickets. You must be at least 15 years old to enter yadda yadda yadda.