2010’s In Film: Part One (2010+2011)

So we’ve reached the end of the year, and the end of the decade. Well, this is weird, isn’t it? There are people who voted in the last election who weren’t alive when 9/11 happened. That’s weird. Time is strange. So to cope with the inevitable passing of time, I’m going to make you all feel really f*cking old and briefly talk about one film from every month for every year of the past decade. Some of these films I haven’t seen, particularly before about 2015 when I started to go to the cinema more. We’re going to start at the beginning, because we’re not Memento.

January – Tooth Fairy

God damn you 2010. This is why this blog is hard, January 2010 was, well it was not good. Here’s a list of films released that month that I’ve heard of: The Book Of Eli, Bitch Slap, Tooth Fairy, Youth In Revolt, Leap Year. That’s it, it does feature two films that share a name with bigger things though: Girl On The Train, Stranger Things. That was a terrible start to the decade and I really hope the year gets better. I chose Tooth Fairy because it’s weird to look back on a film before a time where The Rock was legit the biggest action star on the planet. To be honest I’m not even sure how that even happened. I personally can’t pinpoint the film which launched him into superstardom, I’m guessing Fast And Furious because of the mainstream appeal those movies have. Nonetheless, this is a strange film to watch, is kind of cute and funny. Not something that will stick with you, but a film you’d probably watch if it was on and you were bored. Also, it has Julie Andrews on it, which is always nice.

February – Ponyo

Originally released in 2008 in Japan, this film FINALLY saw a UK release in 2010. I love this film. It’s one of the most adorable films you will ever see in your life. It is just so cute, the cinematic equivalent of a lovely hug. Ghibli can do incredibly mature and depressing films (Grave Of The Fireflies being a notable example), this isn’t one of them. Yes it has mature moments, but it is overall a kids film, and has all the positive things that that entails. It reminds me of the live-action version of The BFG (which sadly almost nobody has seen, but they REALLY should).

March – Alice In Wonderland

Damn this movie to Hades. This film made Disney realise that they can just do live-action remakes/re-imaginings instead of coming up with new versions. I hate this trend and refuse to watch them. I watched the live-action Jungle Book they made a few years ago and disliked it because it didn’t stand on it’s own merits; it made so many references to the animated film that you couldn’t watch it as a stand-alone movie as some of it wouldn’t make sense, but they’re not going to be better than the originals, and they’re also not going to be different enough to justify their existence. So really, what is the point of them? So yeah, damn this movie.

April – Iron Man 2

You can read my thoughts about this movie here, this is only here to make you realise how old this franchise now is. How the cinema landscape has changed and yet this franchise is still going strong. I remember people really liking this film when it first came out, yet now everyone hates it. It’s the opposite of Iron Man 3 (which I have always loved btw).

May – Four Lions

This month is the opposite of January. In this you had this film, Hot Tub Time Machine, A Nightmare On Elm Street (shut up, I like it). All films I love, albeit two of them as guilty pleasures. This is probably my favourite though. It’s one of my favourite films of all time, and is still depressingly relevant today. Really you do HAVE to see this film, it’s funny and horrifying and then back to funny again, and then back to horrifying as you realise how true most of it is.

June – MacGruber

I weirdly like this film despite knowing nothing of the character (SNL isn’t really a “thing” in England. Like A Christmas Story, Kiss, or deep-fried butter, it’s huge in the US, ignored over here). This is not the greatest film in the world, but it is a fantastic way to kill some time, and I wish I saw this at the cinema when I had the chance, or that I had watched it with people. I imagine this is great when high, not that I would know of course.

July – Toy Story 3

It was either this or Inception. I went with this instead because this film made me cry. There’s not much I can say about this that hasn’t already been said. It’s the perfect closer to a great trilogy. It’s so good I didn’t want a fourth one to exist, although when it came out I was very glad it did. Pixar are magical.

August – The Human Centipede

Yet again, a film I haven’t seen. So why am I talking about this? Look, I know I’m incredibly immature at times, but this film made me realise that I do have some sense of maturity. It made me realise I had outgrown the “watching shocking things for shocking things sake” stage. It made me realise that I didn’t want to waste my time with ugly art.

September – The Town

Damn I love Affleck. And this film is just more proof of why. I really wish he was given a MAJOR film, he deserves it as both a director and a screenwriter.

October – Despicable Me

Yup, those little yellow bastards have been with us for an entire decade. Now used almost exclusively by middle aged women on facebook to admit they’re massive alcoholics but it’s okay because it’s gin/wine, which is socially acceptable for some reason. “It’s always Gin O’Clock” is something you can proudly put on facebook, yet “I’m going to down a bottle of vodka on my lunch break” isn’t.

November – Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Another cinema-ruining movie. A film which made studios realise that they no longer have to make self-contained films, they can just split them into two double their money. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t (Twilight, The Hobbit). Here’s the thing though; I can’t remember how this film ends. I know the plot of both of them, but I can’t remember what happened in each separate film. Compare this to Infinity War/Endgame where I know what happened exactly in each part (or even the IT films). These films do seem like one film that was just cut into two, rather than made as two. I didn’t watch any of the films before the last one came out, and this is partly why; I don’t want to wait a year to see the end of a film I just paid to watch.

December – Little Fockers

Depressing point; kids today might recognise DeNiro mainly from comedy films rather than what he’s best at. That seems wrong. I kind of enjoyed the first two films, but I had no desire to see the same jokes repeated again, and the fact that NOBODY speaks about this film says a lot about it.

Now onto 2011. It doesn’t get much better

January – It’s Kind Of A Funny Story

This is here just to remind me that I really need to read this book, it’s been recommended to me by quite a few people so I should get round to it at some point.

February – Big Momma’s: Like Father Like Son

Ah, remember when this series was a thing? Quick question, did anybody actually ever like these films? You never hear anybody say anything about them, they’ve made almost zero impact on pop culture, yet somehow it still warranted sequels. Tax dodge?

March – Submarine

Oh, so I guess 2011 was just “films I should have seen but didn’t but will get around to one day”? Stop making me feel bad! And I know “why don’t you just pick another film for this month?” Because almost nothing was released this month.

April – Scre4m

Terrible title aside, I do genuinely like this film and I think it features both the best opening, and best villain motivations, of the series. The scene where the killer is injuring herself are brilliantly psychotic and looked like a lot of fun to film.

May – The Hangover: Part Two

I have a weird relationship with this film series. It boils down to me not respecting the people in it that much, and that’s down to this film. Australian racist Mel Gibson was supposed to have a cameo in this as a tattoo artist, but the cast and crew stopped it happening due to him being a drunk nazi. Now I’m not saying he should have been in it or that nazi’s should be allowed in films. But I will point out they had Mike Tyson in this series, and he’s a rapist. Yet the public seem to have forgiven him. So I don’t think it was down to morals, I think it was down to “this will make us look bad” rather than a genuine worry about ethics.

June – X-Men: First Class

The film that saved the X-men franchise which was in desperate need of saving after Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine. In the end it kind of ruined the franchise though as it led to too many discrepancies between timelines. It also led to Dark Phoenix, and fuck that film. But this did show that you can save a franchise thought to be dead. All it takes is to make a good film and people will, well not “forget”, but certainly forgive the sins of the past films.

July – Cars 2

Because even Pixar make mistakes. And for them to put three of their worst films in one franchise is admirable. Still, made a lot of merch sales.

August – Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Yes! Now we’re talking. This is one of the most complete trilogies of all time. It follows one story arc but each film is self-contained. Everyone was wary about this film when it was announced, and for good reason. Thankfully it turned out great. This is a trilogy where any film in it could claim to be your favourite one. The fact it lost the academy award for best visual effects is a travesty. As is no nominations for Andy Serkis.

September – Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil

Yeah everyone should have seen this film by now. It’s hilarious. It’s one of those films that you feel has always existed, like the fact that there was a time before this film existed is strange. A bit like Led Zeppelin, but with more woodchipper deaths and less raping of underage girls.

October – Tyrannosaur

Are you a happy person? Do you wake up with a spring in your step and a desire to smile and sing and bring joy everywhere? Watch this film, it will soon cure that. When Olivia Colman won an Oscar earlier this year, the collective thought from everybody who saw this film was “it’s about damn time”. I haven’t seen The Favourite, but I really struggle to see how it can be better than her performance in this. It’s completely heartbreaking and wonderful and depressing. I love it so much.

November – 50/50

The best Seth Rogan film. This film makes me tear up everytime I see it. Based on a true story and all the better for it. The cast are on top form; Rogan plays the role he played in real life, so brings an emotional honesty to the character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt puts his puppy dog-like face to the best possible use. Plus it has Anjelica Huston, and I love her. It also has the best possible use of “To Love Somebody” you’ll ever see.

December – A Very Harold And Kumar Christmas

These films don’t get the love I feel they should. They’re REALLY funny and have something to say. This one is oddly mature compared to the others, but still juvenile in the right ways.

The Day Shall Come (2019)

Anybody who has spoken to me for more than a few minutes knows I LOVE the work of Chris Morris and have been a fan of his since I first saw The Day Today being randomly repeated at some point in the late ’90s after Never Mind The Buzzcocks. I consider it the most important show to shape my comedic stylings and tastes, particularly in regards to British television. This is partly because he always works with such a great team of people;  Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Doon Mackichan, Mark Heap, Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Riz Ahmed, Benedict Cumberbatch, Armando Iannucci, Charlie Brooker, Julian Barrett etc are all people I first became familiar with through their work on a Chris Morris show. This continues in this film, with a GREAT performance from Marchant Davis.

So yeah, it’s fair to say I hold the work of Chris Morris in very high regard. This can work against him as I have such high expectations means that anything less than great is regarded as a disappointment. As such this is a slight disappointment. It is funny but more “slight laugh to self”, not as many laugh out loud moments as their should be. The satire at times seems a little unfocused. Because it’s based on lots of different stories there are moments where the film is so concerned with telling those stories that it doesn’t tell a narrative as quickly as it should. It feels like a piece of work for people who already like Chris Morris, I can’t imagine someone hating Four Lions but then liking this. That being said, when it does hit, it hits fucking hard.

Often people say “it’s funny because it’s true”, that definitely applies to this film, but since it’s Chris Morris, it’s kind of depressing for the exact same reason. That’s why I do love this film, I found it very funny, but I do also find it hard to be incredibly excited about it. It’s the kind of film that makes you realise that the world is fucked and the current method of dealing with terrorists is not fit for purpose and is more pre-occupied with results than accuracy, it would rather jail 1000 innocent people than give them trials and find out they’re innocent. It’s the kind of film that should inspire you to fuck shit up and fight against unjust laws, yet also makes you realise that doing so would do nothing, it’s hopeless to fight against and try to change things, so you just have to curl up in a ball and weep at the current state of affairs.

Still funny though.

The Big Sick

After the craptastic double bill of Valerian and The Emoji Movie last week, finally I see something amazing (although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t exactly expect Emoji Movie to be anything other than bad): The Big Sick This film was as great as the combined awfulness of those two films. Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film.

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Probably because it’s based on his real relationship with his wife (pictured here)

I’ve seen a lot of films at the cinema this year (45 to be precise), and this has had the best instantaneous audience feedback I’ve seen. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that.

It’s not a perfect film though. As much as he nails the performance 95% of the time, there are a few heavily emotional moments where Kumail Nanjiani looks like he’s desperately hiding a smirk, robbing the scene of some of the emotion. It’s not helped by how great the rest of the cast are; Holly Hunter is superb, Ray Romano is perfect in this, and I really want to see Zoe Kazan in more stuff now.

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Also random appearance of Vella Lovell which made me happy. New eps of Crazy Ex Girlfriend soon 😀

This is definitely the best rom-com I’ve seen at the cinema all year. Not too difficult though, as it’s the only rom-com I’ve seen this year. There’s actually not been that much romance in cinema this year, the only films where the main focus of the film has been romance have been:

  1. This.
  2. La La Land (musical drama)
  3. The Space Between Us (science fiction)

That’s a shame though as despite being deeply cynical and incapable of love or any positive emotion towards others, I do have a soft spot for the genre. Definitely Maybe is the film that fully cemented my Ryan Reynolds obsession, and Chasing Amy did the same for Ben Affleck. I think it’s because they’re usually very people-based. Action films are about the set-pieces, horror films are about the effects, but for a rom-com to work you need two things:

  1. Believable characters.
  2. Great dialogue.

They’re basically my kryptonite, especially dialogue. I’m a sucker for great dialogue, it’s probably why I seem to be the only person who liked Table 19 (actually I didn’t like it, I LOVED it, genuinely one of my favourite films of the year). It’s also a genre that doesn’t really get affected too badly by the quality of the way you’re viewing it. Some genres are really badly affected by what you watch them on. Horror, for example, is not exactly something you can appreciate watching on a small television screen on an airplane. So many films are “you have to see this in the cinema!”. Think of Avatar, that film is the biggest grossing film of all time. When was the last time you watched it? Do you know anybody who has watched it at home?  As Scott Mendelson wrote in Forbes almost 4 years ago

“Kids don’t play ‘Avatar’ on the playground nor with action figures in their homes. There is little-if-any ‘Avatar’-themed merchandise in any given store. Most general moviegoers couldn’t tell you the name of a single character from the film, nor could they name any of the actors who appeared in it … ‘Avatar’ didn’t inspire a legion of would-be ‘Avatar’ rip-offs, save perhaps for Walt Disney’s disastrous ‘John Carter.’ It didn’t set the mold for anything that followed save its use of 3D which turned the post-conversion tool into a valuable way to boost box office overseas”

With advances in technology happening at an astronomical rate, spectacle fades, good writing doesn’t. The best rom-com’s; When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall etc, all have one thing in common; fantastic writing. You can watch them again and again and still love them. They also have a wide audience. As much as I do love odd films like Buried (Ryan Reynolds in a box), Bogowie (a Polish film about heart transplant) and Four Lions (a comedy about suicide bombers), I’m not stupid enough to think they have mass appeal. They’re too weird. Rom-coms are for everyone though. They have universal themes that almost everybody can identify with.

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So where does this film stand compared to the greats of the genre? It’s a little difficult to tell at the moment, but I have a feeling that if I was to sit down in a years time and watch this, I’ll still love it. It also has the best 9/11 joke you’ll likely to hear all year.

5 Best Films Dealing With Dark Subjects (A.K.A: How Films Help Us Cope)

Starting this Sunday I’ll be launching a new blog over here. Having two separate blogs dealing with similar content matter has meant I’ve been somewhat neglecting that one. As such I’ve decided to keep them completely different, all my reviews and end of year lists etc will be placed here, which begs the question, what do I do with the other one? The answer is simple: news. Every Sunday I’ll be posting a round up of the last weeks news. I picked probably the worst week to start with; Brock Turner, Orlando, and now Jo Cox, all news that broke this week, the same week I decide to start the news blog, now I’m not saying I’m to blame for all of it. So when the world seems to be turning to shit, who you’re going to call?

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No, not them. Never them.

On an individual level people turn towards music, most people have that one album they turn to in times of need (for me it’s I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning) but on a wide scale it’s films. It’s films that give us hope, that force us to stare into the abyss and envelop us. Films can effect us in a way other media can, music you can take in bitesized chunks whereas films you usually take it all at once. And unlike books everybody experiences it at the same pace, everyone is going through the same journey at the same time. So which films are the best at dealing with these kind of subjects? Well, these.

1. The Middle East – Persepolis

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Yeah, I know I mention this a lot. But it is very good. A bleak, yet still hilarious account of growing up in Iran during the most turbulent time in their recent history, made all the more depressing when you realize it’s all true. It’s one of those films that really makes you realize how awful it is over there, you realize exactly why hordes of people are attempting to escape, and how it was all kickstarted by British and US governments attempting to install a puppet dictator during the Second World War. That’s the great thing about being British, you look over the world, at Israel/Palestine, at Iran, at Ireland, and you can just sit their thinking “See that chaos? We did that”.

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Just one moment of many which is made better when you realize it happened.

2. The Holocaust – Life Is Beautiful

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I was torn between this and Schindler’s List. What won this one over is the fact that it doesn’t start awful, the holocaust elements don’t happen until about half way through the film. Before that it’s a somewhat silly Italian romcom, and I think that is kind of essential. The characters characterization is as a jokester, a clownish figure surrounded by horrific things. That’s what drives his character, it influences his relationship with his son, with the other inmates, and (spoilers) even his death. That’s why the first part is needed, we need to see the character in his natural environment, we need to establish his character. As such this film is, without a doubt, the best holocaust-based comedy of all time. Although the only competition is apparently awful and hasn’t been released.

3. World War 2 – Grave Of The Fireflies

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There are two types of people in this world, those who cry at this film, and those without a soul. Animated, and done by a company generally known for doing the kind of heartwarming fantasy tales that used to be the forte of Disney, only with more violence and raccoon testicles. The typical US attitude to nuclear power is it causes superpowers, Japan see’s it as either unleashing monsters or causing horrific events, it’s almost as though they have completely different views on nuclear warfare for some reason.

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Can’t imagine why.

This, alongside Barefoot Gen create a horrific narrative. One which focuses on the impact that war has on people. How much someone’s life can change and be impacted by somebody with no idea of what he’s done, somebody who never has to look into the eyes of the people he’s killed. This films is generally seen as an anti-war film in the US. Which is a bit weird, all this is doing is showing the effects, this is not anti-war, it’s just honest about what it entails. It could just as easily be seen as pro-war, you could argue that “we need this war to stop things like this happening”.

4. Heart Transplants – Bogowie

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Or, as it’s often called by me: “Fucking Bogowie! Holy shit!” Without a doubt the best film ever made about a ragtag group of misfit heart surgeons in 1980’s Russian-occupied Poland. This film is not just about surgery, it’s also about just living in that area at the time, how you could not get anything done without some form of bribery. You can really feel the frustration going through everyone involved. I knew this was based on a true story, but I didn’t realize how big the story was until the final moments, where it showed a picture from the aftermath.

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The above image (taken by photographer James Stanfield) was chosen as one of the best 100 photos ever published by National Geographic. The picture shocked the world, a doctor, carefully watching out for the patient, whilst another doctor sleeps in the corner. The patient, laying there, his life in the hands of equipment which is (let’s be honest) not fit for purpose. People were wondering if the patient will survive the week, yet he’s still alive today (sadly, unlike the doctor, the cigarette smoking former Minister Of Health Zbigniew Religa, who passed away from lung cancer in 2007). Look again at that picture, see the exhaustion on the doctors face, that’s there for good reason; the surgery itself took 23 hours, the doctor in the corner isn’t being lazy, he couldn’t physically stand anymore. It was physically and mentally demanding, as can be seen in this video (it’s in Polish, but worth watching purely for the footage of the surgery). Today, heart transplants save lives all over the world, and it’s thanks to doctors like Religa that that happened, but importantly, it’s also down to photographers like James Stanfield that we can truly get a glimpse at their dedication.

5. Terrorism – Four Lions

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A somewhat different one from all the others. This is the only one on the list which isn’t based on a true event, but it’s still important and relevant. This a film that managed to annoy everybody, the tabloids were annoyed because “it’s mocking dead terrorist victims” whereas terrorists were offended because they were made to look like idiots. The thing is, when you watch it, it’s actually not that offensive. The subject matter itself is the only offensive thing about it, there’s nothing in the film really that makes you thin “ok they’ve gone too far now”.  Basically, he made an inoffensive film about the most offensive subject matter, for some reason I really connect with that. This film does have one thing in common with the rest of these films though: they’re all films which I would consider to be among the best I’ve ever seen. This is one of only two films I’ve seen applauded mid-film (the other was the sublime In The Loop)

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So that’s our favourites. I think the lesson from this is this; it’s okay to talk about dark themes. You need something to shine a pinprick of light into the darkness. So bring on the darkness! Let me dive headfirst into oblivion so that I can burst out the other side with a new viewpoint on the world, so I can be permanently scarred and changed by what I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, being needlessly shocking or offensive is just lazy (seriously, fuck A Serbian Film, a film I’m lucky enough to have never seen) and pointless. But films that will shock you, and keep you entertained? That’s just the perfect mix. So I’ll end it there, if anybody needs me I’ll be swimming in a pool of nothingness.