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‘Editorials’ Articles

2009: The Worst

Least favourite of 2009

The Spirit (dir. Frank Miller)
The Reader (dir. Stephen Daldry)
Valkyrie (dir. Bryan Singer)
Halloween II (dir. Rob Zombie)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (dir. Patrick Tatopoulos)
Crank: High Voltage (dir. Neveldine/Taylor)
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (dir. Gavin Hood)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (dir. Michael Bay)
The Final Destination (dir. David R. Ellis)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (dir. Chris Weitz)

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2009: The Best

The Runners-Up (in no particular order)

The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (dir. Terry Gilliam)
Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli)
Up (dir. Pete Docter)
Watchmen (dir. Zach Snyder)
The Boat That Rocked (dir. Richard Curtis)
Drag Me To Hell (dir. Sam Raimi)
Inglourious Basterds (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Where the Wild Things Are (dir. Spike Jonze)

‘Drag Me To Hell’, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ and ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ represent three veteran masters producing some of the best work since the beginning of their careers.

‘Watchmen’ achieved the rare feat of being both utterly faithful to its paper counterpart whilst never being afraid to be its own stylistic beast. Zack Snyder offered up some great renderings of beloved characters, sharp visuals and aggressively energetic direction. It’s the adaptation I’d always dreamt of.

‘Up’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ may be pitched to a younger audience, but have just as much (if not more) to offer seasoned viewers. Rich with emotion and artistry, they represent some of the best studio filmmaking the year had to offer.

‘Paranormal Activity’ and ‘The Hurt Locker’ came out of nowhere and completely frazzled my brain. They strike with an earthy, visceral impact totally lacking from most Hollywood product. I was left reeling for days.

I may revisit ’The Boat That Rocked’ more then any other film released this year. The camaraderie and affection amongst the cast paper over any editorial indulgence – Richard Curtis’ enthusiasm for the era as vital a character as Ifans, Frost or Hoffman.

My Favourite Film of 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (dir. David Fincher)

David Fincher once said that good art shouldn’t entertain – it should scar. His interests don’t lie with things that soothe, but those that cut and penetrate deep into the consciousness. ‘Benjamin Button’s’ success largely stems from its rejection of conformity and its unrelenting support of Fincher’s worldview. It’s almost unheard of for technologically progressive, vastly budgeted awards season fare to be splashed with such an unusual view of love and relationships but Fincher’s film is rich with alternative, refreshing ways of looking at the world. It might be the most unconventional, offbeat $200+ mill blockbuster ever put out in Hollywood, with a true visionary artist guiding the ship through the stormy waters of love, death and loss.
Steven Spielberg has called the film “an American Classic” I wouldn’t disagree. It’s marvelous, joyful cinema at its finest. It’s the best film of 2009.

Near-Misses

Synecdoche, New York, Gran Torino, Milk, Che: Part 1, Star Trek, The Wrestler, Role Models, Frost/Nixon, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Jennifer’s Body, District 9, Avatar

Favourites of decade coming soon….

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Academy Awards 2009

Some Academy Award thoughts….

“I think the Oscars are an odd phenomena because what they’re really about is not the best movies of a given year, but the American film industry’s image of itself.”
-A.O. Scott

Best Picture Nominees

Frost/Nixon
The Reader
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

I’m in a dangerous place. For the first time in about five years I come towards Oscar night without actively disliking any of the major nominees. Of the big five, only ‘The Reader’ irks me to any degree – primarily as it has supplanted three or four superior contenders for that fifth position.

* ‘Frost/Nixon’ is sublimely entertaining but it probably won’t pull in any of its five nominations.

* ‘Milk’ is a terrific film, rich with great performances. It’s the best work of Gus Van Sant’s career with phenomenal work from Penn. In a weaker year it could easily take big prizes. As it is, its only chance seems to (rightly) be in the Best Actor category.

* Polished though it is, ‘The Reader’ provides nothing in the way of emotional resonance or intellectual stimulation. It should not have been nominated.

I make no secret of my obsessive adoration for ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, but realistically I can only see it walking away with a handful of technical trophies. Awards for visual effects, makeup and production design are likely certainties. Were the film released ten or fifteen years ago, the Best Picture prize would be a certainty. As it is, apathy towards epic Hollywood storytelling has set in and much as with the unexpected (but welcome) victory of ‘Million Dollar Baby’ over ‘The Aviator’ a couple of years back, the lower budget underdog (haha!) will triumph. One hopes that much like Ang Lee with ‘Brokeback Mountain’, industry admiration for David Fincher pushes him to a deserved Best Director statue. I truly believe what Fincher’s created here is indescribable and transcendent, going beyond the realm of award contests and box-office to slot immediately amongst the best of the era. To reiterate my Steven Spielberg quote; it’s “an American Classic”.

Unlike poor choices of previous years, I don’t begrudge ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ any of its plaudits. I’m still not sure if it’s great cinema (moreover; how kind time will be toward it). Eitherway, Danny Boyle has shot a tremendous crowd-pleaser complete with stunning editing and an electric soundtrack. Forgettable it might be, but it’s damn likeable along the way. It deserves every award it wins.

My predictions:

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Best Actor
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Best Actress
Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Animated Feature
Wall-E

Film Editing
Slumdog Millionaire

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2008 FILM REVIEW

My 5 favourite films seen in cinemas in 2008:

There Will Be Blood
The Dark Knight
Appaloosa
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
Hellboy II

I struggled to pick a list this year as my viewing experiences have been so underwhelming. Only ‘There Will Be Blood’ stands out as being excellent, the others ranging from good to tolerable. I wish there had been more drama of TWBBs calibre for me to sink my teeth into, but alas I have to fall back on the likes of ‘Appaloosa’, which intrigued me with its duplicitous and unusual characters. I had a lot of fun with ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Indiana Jones’, but overall deem them too lightweight and forgettable to warrant entry. ‘Hellboy II’, for my money, had more heart then any of the other summer fare. ‘The Dark Knight’, of course, remains endlessly watchable.

Note – I suspect if I had rewatched ‘No Country for Old Men’ before the years end it would have featured. Wall-E and The Strangers also came close.

My 5 least favourite films seen in cinemas in 2008:

I am Legend
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Wanted
Get Smart
Max Payne

Of these five, only ‘Max Payne’ is truly awful. ‘Wanted’ features a reprehensible protagonist, utterly bereft of a single likeable trait. The same logic can be applied to ‘There Will Be Blood’, but with no hook or complexity to latch me into a character study, I just felt nauseated and disgusted by the experience. It is a wasted effort anchored to mediocrity by the aforementioned concern. ‘I am Legend’, especially in the opening hour, has a lot to offer. Sadly it squanders its promise with unnecessary deviations from the source material, poorly animated vampires and a shocking third act. ‘Get Smart’ and ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ were both a waste of time and talent.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hate any of these films. They just irritated me.

Note – I will not be seeing ‘Twilight’ or ‘Australia’ until early ’09, I thoroughly expect one or both would have been present on this list. They may feature next year.

My 10 most anticipated films of 2009:

Watchmen
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Wrestler
Synecdoche, New York
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Time Traveller’s Wife
Avatar
Green Zone
The Fantastic Mr.Fox
Where the Wild Things Are

Okay, there we go. I’ll be back next year with thoughts on the January crop.

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Dave Camp on Film

I’ve decided to set up a blog to catalogue my brief opinions on each film I see on DVD, television, cinema release and any other medium. This is a big year for me, as I’ve just moved within shouting distance of a multiscreen cinema and thoroughly expect to see every major UK language release worthy of my time. Unlimited card in hand, I’m pretty fucking excited. I’ll try to keep on topic, but no apologies if I veer off onto other subjects from time to time.

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