#ThisIsYourFilm

Being a person that can’t resist making lists, I went ahead and did the #ThisIsYourFilm hastag on Twitter. The basic idea is that you pick a film from every year of your life.

To make things easier I used the IMBD release dates and filtered by the films I had rated on the website. I then did my honest best to pick the film that meant the most to me from each year, picking personal nostalgia/engagement over “gravitas”. I had to use gut instinct or the list would have been too pretentious. What I found interesting is how much the list reflects the era I grew up in and the films that were really popular on DVD at the time: films like Goodfellas, Toy Story, Jurassic Park and Battle Royale hold a great deal of nostalgia for both childhood and university. More than I expected.

What also surprises me is how many of my favourite films are missing, having come out before I was even born. I am also slightly disappointed that there are only 9 foreign language films on there, although just under half (14) are not American productions.

Here is the list in full:

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 12.16.16

A new golden age of horror?

After a period of major studio remakes and found footage knock-offs, it feels like scary movies are once again being reclaimed by intelligent film makers outside of the mainstream. Subsequently, the last four years have had loads of great releases and it has felt like a new golden age. Let me explain further…

The seeds of this revolution may have been sown by Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish language films, as well as Tomas Alfredson’s Let The Right One In, J. A. Bayona’s the Orphanage and Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others. The literary tradition of the gothic horror genre has always lent it respectability, but the critical plaudits received by these films have surely helped usher in a new indie credibility.

girl

 

Recently, indie filmmakers seem more interested in adding a twist to the classical gothic themes, such as the Iranian vampires in A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) or the hipster romantic vampires of Only Lovers Left Alive (2013). It Follows (2015) gave us modern fears wrapped up in a supernatural curse and we got one of cinema’s most convincing devils with the goat Black Philip in The Witch, 2015. We have even had ghost stories, the best since Japan started exporting haunted videotapes, such as the Babadook (2014) and Under The Shadow (2016), set during the Iran-Iraq war.

Away from the gothic, Bone Tomohawk (2015) transported a group of Cravenesque cannibals to the classical western movie genre and Green Room (2015) played up to prescient fears of neo-nazism in a stunning confined-space thriller. Zombie movies had become as dumb as their protagonists (especially when trying to complete with the epic Walking Dead on TV) but Train To Busan (2016) and the twisty Girl With All The Gifts (2016) show there is somehow life left in the undead. Even some mainstream hits such as Don’t Breathe (2016) and M Night Shyamalan’s big return in Split (2017) (which I found slightly overrated) were interesting.

under-the-shadow

I am yet to see The Wailing (2016) and I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016) but I am convinced that horror is as strong as it has ever been: the year ahead looks excellent with Prevenge, The Bad Batch and The Love Witch all due out. The world is becoming a scarier place every day, and horror movies have a way of feeding off modern fears. Let’s hope they continue to do so in such original and interesting ways.

 

 

My top top films and albums from the past year.

I think everyone has pretty much acknowledged by now that 2016 was a little bit shit. The human suffering in the Middle East doesn’t seem to be abating, there was a pretty dodgy referendum vote in the UK, many of our favourite pop and movie stars have passed away (Bowie, Cohen, Prince, Carrie Fisher…) and as for America, the less said about that the better! The rise of hatred and fear so close to home is a genuine worry and 2017 will probably turn out to be this year’s hangover.

img_1862
Notebook of films released this year that I got to see, either at cinema or on DVD/On Demand.

What we have all needed is escape and thankfully (I think at least) this has been one of the best years for movies in a while. 2016 has not been all bad, honest! I am a huge fan of genre films as anyone who follows my twitter would know, and this year has been a stellar year. 2016 has given us gems such as Bone Tomohawk, Hateful Eight, High Rise, Green Room, The Girl With All The Gifts, Don’t Breathe, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Witch. We have had some good arthouse movies too, not least American Honey, Paterson, Nocturnal Animals, there have been some good major releases including Room, Spotlight and the Revenant at the start of the year. We also got the biggest laugh for ages from the hilarious Deadpool.

There have been some good music releases too and even though I am always a bit behind on the times when it comes to music, I have enjoyed the new albums from Parquet Courts, Car Seat Headrest, Angel Olsen and PJ Harvey. There were some good gigs in Dublin and we got to see Suede, Neil Young, Mitski, Dinosaur Jr and Danny Brown. After a year like this it will be interesting to see where film and music will go: I imagine darker, but who knows. Maybe we will instead clamour for more love, happiness and understanding as the real world is already dark enough.

eots_poster_full_20d6ac4ac0daa3059bac6aa9499a8348-nbcnews-fp-360-360

My 15 favourite movies:

Managed to see a good portion of films released in 2016 thanks to Irish Film Institute membership and a Cineworld Unlimited Card. I also ended the year binge watching a lot that I had missed. The only rule for this list is that the film had general release into the cinemas in 2016, here are the 15 best I picked out:

1.Embrace of the Serpent

2.Green Room

3.Hell and High Water

4.Bone Tomohawk

5.The Nice Guys

6.10 Cloverfield Lane

7.Victoria

8.Hunt for the Wilderpeople

9. When Marnie Was There

10.The Revenant

11.Nocturnal Animals

12.Anomolisa

13.Room

14.Everybody Wants Some

15.High Rise

a1136135788_5

My 10 favourite albums:

I always end up listening to the best releases from a certain year too late to make a meaningful list but below are the albums I enjoyed the most. Special shout out to new albums by A Tribe Called Quest, Bon Iver and Frank Ocean which I am currently listening to and enjoying, but haven’t heard enough to make a meaningful judgment.

1.Angel Olsen – My Woman

2.Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial

3.Mitksi – Puberty 2

4.Danny Brown – The Atrocity Exhibition

5.Parquet Courts – Human Performance

6.PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project

7.The Avalanches – Wild Flower

8.Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

9.Solange – Seat At The Table

10.Nao – For All We Know

My thoughts on Prince

I’m not one to get worked up about celebrity deaths, but Prince; man, that was unexpected. There are so few artists that I have such a deep affection for, almost an obsession with, that have died in living memory that it’s weird to take in. I remember first hearing the album Purple Rain as a teenager – it had been copied onto a battered 320MB pen drive by a friend. I didn’t think I needed to listen to Prince at that point: I was into punk rock and thought he was just a foppish singer from the 80s, but after hearing the rolling organ intro to Let’s Go Crazy, the winding guitar in When Doves Cry, the grinding Darling Nikki and, of course, the epic title track, I was hooked.

I kept loving Prince throughout University and wanted to share how brilliant he was with everyone. I remember drunkenly hijacking a party playlist at a scientific research institute in Germany, playing nothing but Prince songs from the Love Symbol album. I can think of at least 4 girls I dated who were forced to sit through a double bill of the films Purple Rain and Sign O’ The Times (with footnotes on how amazing Sheila E’s drumming is). I often played Prince songs far too loud and drove atleast one flat mate crazy. I first got together with my girlfriend because I needed someone to dance to Prince when it came on at a clubnight (Death By Shoes in Sheffield). Everyone knows I love Prince – I got plenty of Facebook comments and messages yesterday.

motorbike19842-1_zps33924def

There is something weird and thrilling about Prince as a person. The fact he could barely get through a song without some sort of horny break down. The obsessive perfectionism: there are a huge number of his songs where he played every instrument on the recordings, even adding female backing vocals by speeding up his own voice. There was that weird period where he changed his name to a symbol to try and get out of a record contract, and that even weirder time when he decided to release a (pretty piss poor) album exclusively in the Daily Mirror (as good as Prince’s classics according to, er, The Daily Mirror). He also shared a lot of his best songs (Manic Monday, Nothing Compares 2 U) with others and helped out a lot a musicians, giving a lot of fantastic female performers a platform that is hard to find in a male dominated industry.

Prince has always been both a huge talent and an enigma. The obituaries out today may mention Purple Rain and Nothing Compares 2 U, but my favourite songs include Cream, Get Off, Housequake, Little Red Corvette, Sign O’ The Times, Raspberry Beret, Kiss, My Name Is Prince, Sexy MF… there are just too many to mention. I am gutted I never will get a chance to see Prince live, as he is remembered as a fantastic performer as well as a great recording artist, but I am glad I discovered his music when I did. Here’s to Prince, rest in peace you sexy motherfucker.

Prince Live At The Forum

A cinema adventure 2016 – the first 3 months.

I barely saw anything at the cinema in 2015, so this year I decided to give myself a good kick up the backside and go as often as possible. My first step was a subscription to Cineworld Unlimited, so I would be guilt-tripped into making sure I at least got my money’s worth (and it would maybe encourage me to see films I wouldn’t usually rush to see), and my second step was to renew my subscription to the IFI so I could still enjoy their more obscure film selection.

The first quarter of this year kicked off with 3 Westerns (and Jane’s Got A Gun is out soon), making for a sort of surprise renaissance. The most talked about of these was The Revenant, which is partly a dark masterpiece and partly a giggle at the lengths Leo will go to win a Best Actor Oscar (I spent the entire film wondering what crazy thing he was going to do next). Seriously, I kept forgetting I was watching a movie and instead felt like I was watching a bizarre episode of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, where a washed-up Leo has to fight a Bear and then eat a Bison liver to win meals for his camp-mates.

large_3WhTPTpjWGfq31xhZQaxoF7FnJs

The Hateful Eight may have lacked the propulsive narrative of the best Tarantino’s, but I still thought it was a great ride – especially at the stunning 70mm presentation I saw at the IFI. The epic white shots of the landscape had the same atmospheric efficiency as its obvious influence the Day Of The Outlaw, which set it apart from the more scenic landscape of the other “Western in the snow” this year, The Revenant. As good as it was though, the best Tarantino-esque Western of 2016 so far isn’t by Tarantino: it’s by a new guy and it’s called Bone Tomohawk.

Yes, Bone Tomohawk is very Tarantino. As well as sharing his sharp ear for dialogue and penchant for extreme violence (actually, to be honest, the ending is closer to the brutality of Takashi Miike’s Audition), Bone Tomohawk also borrows its structure from From Dusk till Dawn. But, like all the best Tarantino films, it has bags of originality alongside the influences. Somehow the “The Searchers meets The Hills Have Eyes” plot really works and it is also very scary in places. Another great entry into the “new wave” of more interesting horror that is currently building momentum in the post “torture porn” world (see also, The Babadook and It Follows).

TheAssassinCannes-1024x682

The film I most need to re-watch so far is martial arts film The Assassin. This is partially because it was filled with beautiful images and atmosphere – filmed in an unusual aspect ratio for an epic – but also partially because it was impossible to follow. That’s not really a criticism, the dreamy logic was part of what made the film great; even if I did, at times, wish I wasn’t deliberately being held at such distance by the director.

Heading deep into Oscar Season we had plenty of serious films, made by serious people and filled with serious performances, to enjoy. It doesn’t get more serious than Spotlight, which was an enjoyable twist on All The President’s Men. Room, along side the Revenant, was the best of the Oscar contenders, turning a pretty dark concept into something great that was filled with humanity. These films really earned their nominations, but I was disappointed not to see Straight Outta Compton up there too.

BB8-Star-Wars

Its not Blockbuster Season yet but we have already had some good ones. Mercifully, The Force Awakens wasn’t a let down, largely thanks to BB8. Seriously, I could have happily spent the 2 hours watching him roll about with no plot or context, and would have still bought the T-shirt. Deadpool is the breakout super hero of the year (although not as original as some people claim, has everyone forgotten Kick Ass?) and it was a great romp.

For pure entertainment value this year though, there hasn’t been a film to beat Disney’s Zootopia. It is up there with Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E as one of the best cartoon films since the start of the computer animation boom. The world building of the city is outstanding, showing up many more serious sci-fi and fantasy films with its vast levels of detail, really showcasing the potential of CGI. Kung Fu Panda 3 may have paled in comparison, but was still an enjoyable watch – perhaps the best of an already solid franchise.

tom-hiddleston-high-rise-naked

As well as films by Tarantino and Iñárritu, the other great directors to release a movie this year were the Coen Brothers. Hail Ceasar! is enjoyable, filled with pastiches of Hollywood and nods to Barton Fink, but is also possibly their least emotionally engaging work to date. Ben Wheatley’s High Rise was even more decisive and even though I loved it, many didn’t and at least 10 people walked out of the showing I was at. I missed Ballard’s prose but enjoyed the laugh-out-loud dark humour (which you would expect from the team behind Sightseers). It may be a failure in some ways, but I prefer interesting failures to boring successes.

…and that was the first 3 months! 12 films is already more than I saw all of last year, so lets keep this up. What have I got to look forward to? Lots! A new X-Men film, Suicide Squad, Finding Dory…lots of good looking independent releases. Pheww!

Movie stuff: The closeup.

We connect with others through our eyes, so it is no surprise that the close up is one of the most powerful shots in cinema. If done well, a single expression can say more about a character in that moment, than any page of complicated dialogue. After re-watching the powerful performance by Renée Jeanne Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, I got to thinking about other memorable close ups that have stayed with me long after seeing the movie. Here are a few off the top of my head…

f591380327d4e0d9e405cee17930b259

Passion Of Joan Of Arc

37f1e91a86744a1d0e78571892e343c8

Battleship Potemkin

1ffb7304abf4573f82a924cdfdfd9fdf

Paths Of Glory

b784c956fa02680a2285d283124f41fbd8350662126eb0079d3b8b3af3972149

Black Narcissus

bb055d392fa087b4474a1045d4d992e3

Nosferatu

78467f575c40aacff3a3474b7edf830f

Aguirre The Wrath of God

002d0202c49bf19f28aa321e1e188d23

Raging Bull

2ce9dde98b7899f724404648284a249f

Tenebrae

4c56241a4b4591508a483c6aa0c8bdb5

Brazil

30a292d05f543125858096f29bf7b284

Apocalypse Now

33e7af9a1d6ae7a8e29f72abb82bcfa0

Jurassic Park

148d8f39c00edc9c617e5249696bd5f9.gif

Jaws

65ab6572df6e970534da7d750afdea26

Taxi Driver

403cea21033e9bccbc4de8b17d410b99

Clockwork Orange

2229dde9434d7c72895b6fef6687bf20

The Good The Bad & The Ugly

6951bfe83f8def150717be0b71d708f9

Amelie

battle-royale-2

Battle Royale

f9da5a04d03d6a5049f32aff31e13055

tumblr_n5p8y9Q1H21qg4blro1_500

Kill Bill

Suede, live in Dublin! February 2016

Suede110912.jpeg

I got excited about Suede again when I saw, on TV, how glorious they were at Glastonbury. I got even more excited when I heard how good their new single (and then, new album) were, how a band from that era could still sound vital and embrace their maturity. Attending the gig in Dublin was therefore a real no-brainer and I have been waiting (im)-patiently since I booked the tickets.

As surprisingly good as the new album is, more surprising still is how they chose to present it. Played in its entirety, from behind a giant screen, the first half of the gig is a film (made by Roger Sargent) with the band only visible by occasional pinpoints of light during key bits (choruses, guitar solos and the like). This works surprisingly well – not only giving an unique slant on the new album, but also giving a more intimate chance to focus of the subtler aspects of Brett Anderson’s voice.

The second half of the gig is then far from subtle, hit after hit performed a full speed and intensity with Anderson dancing, high kicking and diving into the crowd (as well as getting heavily molested by an excited group of female fans). Within 10 minutes they have already performed my two favourite songs (Trash and Animal Nitrate) and the highlights just keep coming in. A gig of two halves then, both great in their own way. I have seen some great gigs since moving to Dublin, and this is right up there with them.