The Golden Globes, the run-up to the Oscars – an interesting exercise in how the industry (‘the business’ according to yesterday’s Guardian) is feeling about itself, the whole process is still annoying in terms of what gets recognised and what doesn’t.
People I meet on courses or at events often ask me what I think about this or that film and they seem surprised that I haven’t seen such an important film. I’m not sure if this is true for everyone who teaches film, but I certainly don’t get to the cinema as often as I would like (lack of organisation, probably) and when I do get to a screening, it’s often a film I’ve booked or I’m considering booking for a course. Although I do often see films for work, I do enjoy seeing films just for fun, but then I choose very carefully. The more hype a film receives, the less I am likely to see it, unless something specific in the promotion (or word of mouth) attracts me. In 2006 I saw just over a film a week at the cinema. Here is the list of titles, leaving out multiple screeenings of the films I used on events:
The Departed, Red Road, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Host (S. Korea), Shanghai Dreams (China), Ghost World, A History of Violence, Princess Mononoke, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Man Push Cart, The History Boys, American Psycho, Love + Hate, Tsotsi, Three Times (Taiwan), Tickets, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Last Picture Show, Brokeback Mountain, Hi-Lo Country, Volver, Innocent Voices, Kiss Me Deadly, The River (Renoir), The Bad Sleep Well (Kurosawa), Twilight Samurai, An Actor’s Revenge (Japan), 36, Down in the Valley, Inside Man, Untold Scandal (S. Korea), Taxi Driver, Confetti, Life is to Whistle (Cuba), The Waiting List (Cuba), Omkara (India), Miami Vice, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Superman Returns, Marie Antoinette, Shaun of the Dead, La Haine, Sweet Sixteen, Crash, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Hidden, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Intimacy, Memories of Murder (S. Korea), My Sassy Girl (South Korea) Nowhere to Hide (S. Korea), Le Doulos, Les Armees des Ombres, Paisa, Dirty Pretty Things, Edward Scissorhands, The Notorious Bettie Page, Walk the Line, A Cock & Bull Story
Out of these, there was only one that wasn’t worth the bother – Confetti. From the rest, I can select some possible award winners from this year’s releases:
Best debut picture: Red Road for its intensity and roller coaster last third and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada for being the best Peckinpah-style movie since Sam went (would be good if the same director and writer tackled Cormac McCarthy’s border stories)
Best re-release: Les Armees des Ombres (see my earlier blog entry)
Most enjoyable: Volver
Most adventurous direction: Children of Men – lots of holes in the story, but a brave and technically skilful rendition of the UK in 20 years time with good performances.
Most unjustly ignored in the UK: The Host – the best action film I’ve seen, a mammoth blockbuster in East Asia, its shunning by UK audiences is shaming.
Most over-rated film: Hidden – supposedly the favourite film for discussion around the dinner tables of North London. Certainly a well-made film with good performances and a couple of stunning moments, but I sense an emptiness where it purports to be saying something profound.
Best picture: Pan’s Labyrinth. A wholly deserved triumph for Guillermo del Toro – perhaps someone will now re-release The Devil’s Backbone on 35mm, since it disappeared soon after its first outing.
2007 has started well and A Prairie Home Companion was hugely enjoyable and a fitting send-off for Robert Altman.