Thursday, January 31, 2008

A snippet of conversation

between myself and a friend who attended last weekend's SAG Awards:

Him: You know how when you're in a crowded room and you have to sort of squeeze past people?
Me: Sure......
Him: Well, I rubbed my cock against Zac Efron.
Me: I'm sure he loved it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

So anyway, about those Oscar nominations

Now that Heath Ledger's death has not been revealed to be some sick practical joke, I guess it's time to blog about something else that happened on Tuesday: the Oscar nominations.

Best Picture

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

So am I the only person who was not knocked off his chair by Michael Clayton? It has been hailed as an intelligent and complex thriller. Actually it just jumbles up the narrative in the hope you won't notice how resoundingly straightforward it is. It's bolstered by some classy performances, which have also been recognised, but that's about it. I saw No Country For Old Men this week and up to that point I was all for Atonement winning lots. No Country blew that right out of the water.

Best Director

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

That being said, I am gutted for Joe Wright. His direction is absolutely masterful and I would have nominated him over Gilroy.

Best Actor

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

And I also would have knocked out Jones for James McAvoy. I am sure he's wonderful in Elah but I couldn't understand him in No Country and will never ever ever forgive his wholly undeserved win over Leonardo DiCaprio.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

So many fabulous nominations so little time. I am so super excited for Laura Linney and Ellen Page. Neither of them will win, I wouldn't think as this is a two horse race between Christie and Cotillard. I desperately fervently want Cotillard to win, my feelings on this are well documented. I suspect though that Christie will take the prize.

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Ruby Dee was a surprise, I must say. The only one here though. The rest are all very expected and very deserved. I would love Amy Ryan to win but Blanchett will more than likely take it.

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

So Hal Holbrook scores a nomination for Into The Wild but Emile Hirsch does not? Whatthefuckever. I am torn by Casey Affleck, who deserves to win for this nomination as well as Gone Baby Gone, which he is not even nominated for. But Javier Bardem is absolutely fucking extraordinary in No Country. A true masterclass in the "less is more" school of acting, Bardem doesn't raise his voice and barely modulates his facial expression throughout and yet is so menacing, so chilling, so downright fucking terrifying that it has to be seen to be believed. The scene where he terrorises the gas station attendant ("Now is not a time, what time do you close?") made me want to hide under my seat and put my fingers in my ears.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Away from Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

I have said it before and I will say it again: Atonement

Best Original Screenplay

Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
The Savages

I am so pleased to see Lars And The Real Girl represented. It won't win of course, I would imagine the Oscar here belongs to Juno.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger RIP

I was going to post about the Oscar nominations, but the completely shocking news about Heath Ledger being found dead has derailed that. I've been a fan since Ten Things I Hate About You and was of course mesmerised by his intense performance in Brokeback Mountain. The way he handled the attention that role brought him made me respect him so much. I was really looking forward to seeing him as the Joker in The Dark Knight this summer. He was ideally cast in the role and now what should have been one of many highlights in his career will be his epitaph. So sad.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oh it's a jolly holiday with PCB

I'll be leaving in a few hours to go to the airport. Whee! Nine whole days of relaxing in the sun in Tenerife. I can't wait. Going from this

to this

for a week and a bit is not to be sniffed at. And it's funny I should mention sniffing since I have started to come down with a lovely cold and have spent the morning alternating between packing my suitcase and sneezing. Brilliant. I'm sure I'll perk up. The crazy disabled lesbian is already there, having spent a few days on La Gomera at the health retreat (where she managed to lose her room key and destroy an ornamental candle holder by, of course, setting it on fire. So business as usual then), before joining me for 9 days with my parents. It does mean 9 days of no blogging as my internet access is going to be massively limited, but I'll be back on the 21st to bore everyone with tales of sunshine and laziness.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What's in a name?

I am surely not alone in finding ridiculous names absolutely hilarious. I love it when I am reading a magazine or watching a movie to catch an absolutely ludicrous laugh out loud name in the credits. My current favourite is Antonia Feduchin-Paté.

Well, I found the book that is frankly the holy grail of bonkers names. Potty, Fartwell & Knob delivers crazy name after crazier name and they are all 100% true, verified, confirmed. So I thought I would share some on the blog. They range from the sublime to the ridiculous and I thought what better way to start than with one example of each. I'll leave it up to you to decide which is which.

Ok first up:

Erasmus Bugger (Born in North Shields in 1876).

And then:

Lyonesse Matilda Dora Ida Agne Ernestine Curson Paulet Wilbraham Joyce Eugénie Bentley Saxonia Dysart Plantaganet Tollemache-Tollemache (born 1874)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hot Guy Monday: Casey Affleck

I spent some time yesterday waxing rhapsodic over Casey Affleck giving two of the best screen performances of 2007. So his appearance here today is kind of inevitable.

And if we're being a bit hair splitty about it, he's really more cute than he is hot. But still.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The 2007 Cinema Hall Of Shame


There were many films vying for the top spot on this list, but Next is in a class all its own. The goodwill that Nicolas Cage amassed in Leaving Las Vegas has long since run out (he's been running on empty, pretty much, since Windtalkers) and casting 12 year old Jessica Biel as his love interest is really truly the final nail in his coffin. But more pressing, what the hell is Julianne Moore doing here? Can NONE of these people read? A stupid premise, a horrible script and the worst "Bobby Ewing in the shower" cop out ending since Identity this is an embarrassment for everyone concerned.


I have already had my say about this travesty.


And this one.


Wow, this was bad. A punishing running time (just 12 minutes shy of THREE HOURS), an incomprehensible plot that was, literally, all over the place, some horrible horrible horrible jokes and some equally poor performances. Please god there won't be another installment.


A statement I could repeat here. The first installment was actually enjoyable, or at least I thought it was. I was looking forward to this sequel, the trailer was all dark and exciting and the interviews from the director leading up to the release acknowledged that the first one had its shortcomings, not least that it was pitched at slightly too young a crowd, errors that would be addressed this time around. And a lot of the reviews noted that this was an improvement on 2005's freshman effort. Well all that did was set up a Galactus sized disappointment. If anything, this film was pitched even younger, with atrocious fart gag level humour and an offensively simplistic plot. A mercifully short running time of just 92 minutes felt so so so much longer.


While we're on the subject of short films that feel much longer, this little baby clocks in at a mere 86 minutes. Felt like a lifetime. How could it go so wrong? Well, let's start with Harold fucking Pinter who delivered the most inelegant, cloth eared, blunt edged travesty of a screenplay. And then move on to Branagh whose solution to shooting a two hander with one set was to have about 800 different camera angles for each scene, some of them provided by CCTV. Oooh, how up to date. Then there's the oversights like Michael Caine apparently being able to control every whizzy gizmo in his painfully modern house with the remote control that comes with the Apple iBook (there's even a close up with the Apple logo visible just to ensure there's no remaining doubt). I haven't even gotten to the performances yet. How Michael Caine has been getting away with for over 50 years now is a real mystery to me. And dear Jude Law, how you had it all for the taking after Talented Mr Ripley. And how you buggered it all up.


One of two films that has received almost universal acclaim to open this year that I feel like I missed the point of (the other, which didn't make either list, is Todd Haynes's I'm Not There which I sporadically enjoyed but it is nowhere near the masterpiece it thinks it is). I should have learned my lesson after Elephant. I should have listened to my friend Lottie who warned me this film was bad. But I still went into it thinking that surely all the good reviews must count for something. Ha! A non professional cast recruited from MySpace (none of whom can actually act, something that a lot of reviewers found "endearing", while I would opt for "embarrassing" and "painful to watch"), it's frustrating that it takes what could have been an interesting film and buries it in pretentious tedious wank. Apparently, Gus Van Sant was too busy indulging himself to notice one of the worst continuity errors I have ever seen. There's big fat spoilers coming up for anyone who wants to see the movie and hasn't yet. So in the pivotal sequence where Alex causes the accidental death of the security guard, he pushes him and he falls on his back, his torso on the train tracks, his legs hanging off the tracks. The train comes along and severs him in two. In the next shot, a horrified Alex looks on as the severed top half of the guard drags itself, belly down, leaves his legs ON THE TRAIN TRACKS, as it pulls itself towards Alex. Well, he was not alone in being horrified. I was slack jawed with disbelief at just how terrible this scene was that I burst out laughing. Not the reaction Van Sant was hoping for, I'm sure.


The best thing about Hannibal Lecter was that so little was known about him before he makes his first appearance in the fiction world, in Red Dragon. There were hints here and there and hopefully like all good authors, Thomas Harris knew the back story of how one of literature's most memorable monsters came to be. And really, that should have been enough. He didn't need to share it with the world, and he certainly didn't need to do it in such a poorly written piece of crap like Hannibal Rising. So it's no surprise that the inevitable film adaptation (the script was written pretty much in tandem with the novel) would also be a big pile of suck too. Harris wrote them both so he only has himself to blame. Every last drop of creativity has now been wrung out of the Lecter franchise. I hope.


In which Jim Carrey took the career points he'd earned with Eternal Sunshine and pissed them up a wall, while Joel Schumacher showed once again that Tigerland really was a fluke. An initially intriguing idea, this just doesn't know where to go with it and flounders around in a quagmire of ridiculousness before finally collapsing in on itself with a laughable third act. Almost as laughable as casting the not very good Rhona Mitra, who is 32 and looks every day of it, as someone almost a decade younger than that.


This sounds like it could be the most relentlessly terrifying movie ever. A bunch of vicious vampires descend on an Alaskan town and have a whole month of darkness to play with. But sadly, the terror never comes. A lack of back story for everyone except Josh Hartnett and Melissa George meant I didn't care who ended up with their claret all over the lino. More of an issue was that I found George so irritating I found myself wishing for her to find herself on the wrong end of a bloodletting. Quickfire editing continually destroyed what should have been unbearable tension until the film became just so much gore. And gore is a whole different matter. It's not scary, it's just bloody. And the ending felt tacked on out of nowhere to boot. A gigantic missed opportunity.

The 2007 Cinema Hall Of Fame


Aka La Vie En Rose. It is a testament to how poor a cinema year the UK experienced in 2007 that a film I have a few minor quibbles with should be my number one film. I am not certain that a chronological jumbling was a wise idea and there were a couple of other directorial flourishes that I didn't think really sat well with the film. However, said quibbles fade into nothingness when Marion Cotillard is taken into account. Her performance is absolutely extraordinary. She so embodies Piaf that it is as if there are four different actresses in the role. It's the performance of the decade, in any medium, by anybody.


This was a truly unexpected treat. A distinctly American novel transported to France, adapted and directed by the guy who Virginie Ledoyen dumped in The Beach? How on earth is that going to be good? Well, it's more than good. It's a taut, gripping, atmospheric thriller which, if it were adapted from better source material, would probably have eclipsed Rose for film of the year. Unfortunately, the novel's reach somewhat exceeds its grasp and the screenplay is a little too faithful to it. Up to the overextended ending though, this film is relentless in its grip.


This film has had its UK release indefinitely postponed due to similarity with the Madeleine McCann disappearance which is why I made the point of seeing it while I was on holiday in New York. One of Pajiba's twelve best films you didn't see in 2007, I echo their sentiment that is a real shame this film was so ignored. It seems poor Ben Affleck can do no right, even when he is behind the camera. Damn you, Jennifer Lopez. I really hope this has its day when it makes it to DVD because otherwise one of the best directorial debuts in recent times will have been unjustly dismissed. A great script that manages to be a crime thriller and pose difficult moral questions (refreshingly not giving an easy answer), this also has some outstanding performances in it too. Amy Ryan was critically lauded at the time and is starting to see nominations coming her way. But Casey Affleck is every bit as watchable as she is, in a fantastically understated way. Ed Harris and Morgan Freeman bring the gravitas but it's the locations and the extras that add the veritas.


I am as surprised as anybody that this film made the list at all, let alone as high as it did. I think it's because I never in a million years expected the film to be any good. In fact, I was so uninterested in the movie version of the musical of the movie (apparently now called movicals) that when I sat down to watch it a few days after it opened, I realised that beyond the casting, I didn't know a damn thing about what had been altered for the stage to screen transition. It was the casting that caused my lack of interest. As soon as John Travolta was cast, I gave up hope. Well I was wrong. He is great, quite clearly having the time of his life with the role and everybody else in the cast does a bang up job too (biggest surprise? James Marsden). A joyful and life affirming film that made me weep tears of happiness. Several times.


How do you make an interesting movie out of a true story that doesn't really have an ending? Well, if you watch Zodiac, you will find out. Intertwining three strands of plot, each with a strong performance at its centre (from Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo) ensured the film never sagged. Unflinching and unsettling recreations of the Zodiac killer's crimes made sure the audience cared as much as the characters did. Never less than engrossing, this also has the most intense and suspenseful scene of the year in it, when Jake Gyllenhaal pays a visit to someone who it turns out might just be the killer.


Another unexpected treat. I really hated the book and my distaste for Keira Knightley is well documented. She's ideally cast as a brittle upper class girl though so it kind of worked. What worked far better was the elegant adaptation and the flawless direction (the rightly celebrated tracking shot on Dunkirk beach is wondrous). And it's pleasing that the supremely talented James McAvoy is being noticed, having been overshadowed by Forest Whitaker this time last year.


I was not pleased when this film beat out Pan's Labyrinth for the Oscar. Well, I take that back. It's not a fun or easy film to watch but it is a riveting and sometimes unbelievable one (and of course, the parts you can't believe are all true). Telling the story of the Stasi through one target and the operative who is assigned to him made an impossibly huge story intimate and personal. Anyone who was dry eyed in the heartbreaking last few minutes has no soul.


Emile Hirsch has been proving himself as one to watch for quite a while now and with this film, hopefully people will start watching (and hopefully for reasons other than the fleeting glimpse of his cock in a nude scene). The story of Chris McCandless, who rejected society to live off the map and died for it, is an endlessly fascinating one and so is the film that tells his story. Graceful direction and a refreshingly unpretentious adaptation of the book, this is another overlooked film of last year that deserves to be seen by far more people than it was.


Crazy title, glorious film. As beautiful to look at as it was fascinating to watch, this film could have been the most tedious pile of shit in different hands. But somehow it works and it works well. It has a host of good performances contained in it, but there is one truly outstanding performance on show here. Casey Affleck, as the titular coward, is absolutely unfuckingbelievably amazing. I have been a fan since American Pie and pledged my undying love after seeing him on stage in This Is Our Youth in 2002. He's seriously talented and he is this film's rock and anchor. If only for him, see it.


What? So I have an inner child, so what? I unashamedly and unabashedly love Disney animated movies (but not blindly. Pocahontas? Fuck off.) so when I heard about this I thought it was the best idea ever, couldn't think why it hadn't been thought of before. To make the utterly insane plot work, the performances have to be spot on. And they are. Amy Adams, James Marsden and Patrick Dempsey are all pitch perfect with how they handle their roles. The script is sweet, funny, charming and cute (but not cloying or cutesy). The big musical number in Central Park is just one of many many highlights. I loved it. I laughed, I cried. I laughed again and then cried some more.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Homosexuality Reality Checks

Now, there is no denying the fact that I have a touch of the gay about me but there are moments when I am reminded in glorious technicolour. And I don't mean when I'm getting it on with another guy or watching porn or anything, but when something happens or I do something that reminds me, without a shadow of a doubt, that I am undeniably GAY.

Such a reality check happened to me just the other day. I bought the double CD of Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall and loaded it on to my iPod and was listening to it walking to and from work. When it got to the medley of "You Made Me Love You/Me & My Gal/The Trolley Song", there was something so glorious about his rendition of the latter song, that it made me get all tearful. On the street. So there I was, listening to a gay man performing the signature song of THE gay icon and it made me all weepy. And I just thought to myself, "wow you are such a FAG!"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

January Blues

January is so not a fun month. Today I, like gazillions of others, will be returning to work after the festive period. I also was at work 27th-28th December, but that doesn't really count. Now there's a long stretch of cold dark mornings and long dull workdays ahead. So to shed some light into that murk, here is January's naked farmer.