Review Of 2014: The 10 Least Best Films I Saw In 2014

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When it comes to end of year lists, most people will provide you with a Best Of, their choicest cuts of the year in list form. You’ll also find a fair few people giving you their worst of the year, as I have for the past three years. I commented last year that this was an increasingly futile exercise for me as I am a film blogger, not a reviewer and I actively avoid the dregs of the cinema releases unless I have a particularly burning desire to see them for reasons such as childhood memories or nothing better to do at the time. It’s been the same again this year; if anything, my overall level of quality has gone up further, so out of over 150 new films seen at time of writing I’ve only watched eleven which I would rate as being one or two stars on a standard five star scale.

There’s another problem with “worst of” lists; it’s inherently negative and it can all get a bit petty and unnecessary. While it’s great for me as a reviewer to let off steam sometimes, and for you the reader to enjoy my pithy rejoinders and endless sarcasm, it’s not really a solution to the problem. No one wants to make a bad film, let alone sit through one, so what does it achieve (other than scoring some cheap points) to sit and slag off people who’ve actually been making an effort, albeit a somewhat misguided one?

So I thought about what I’d do in a work situation, and styles of feedback. If you’re trying to give someone some constructive feedback, then you should tell them what they’ve done well in a given situation, and then what they could do better, rather than what they’ve done wrong. So this year I present my ten least best films of the year – there are undoubtedly many more than ten worse films that have disgraced the inside of cinemas this year but I’ve not seen them – but for each of these films, I’ll outline the good points and the areas for improvement. Can’t say fairer than that.

10. Hercules – 4/10

While everyone admired his Lion-O from Thundercats fancy dress costume, it was a shame the soiree was black tie.

What you did well: Dwayne Johnson is an undemanding lead who’s got just enough charisma to keep you interested. There’s gravitas in the form of John Hurt and Peter Mullan, and Ian McShane is clearly on an agenda to have fun for his pay cheque. The end credits also feature some great artwork which applies some narrative linking to what we’ve seen in the film.

What you could do better: We’ll see if this becomes a theme as we go through, but the biggest warning for anyone attempting to make a film such as this is not to get caught between two stools. In trying to reimagine Hercules as a feasible real world hero, the adventure feels somewhat diluted and that also creates a chasm in tone between Ian McShane, who’s aimed where the rest of the film probably should have, and everyone else, who just takes things a bit too seriously. So it’s not really thrilling enough, and Joseph Fiennes’ character also feels weak and underwritten. It would be too easy to put all the blame at the foot of the door of Brett Ratner, but this is another black mark on an already smudged résumé.

9. The Congress – 4/10

The Congress
The John Lewis lighting department was becoming increasingly avant garde.

What you did well: Certainly, after the success of applying animation to the documentary format with Waltz With Bashir, it was intriguing to see what Ari Folman would do in applying this to a narrative concept. If you’re looking to fictionalise this around the downward career trajectory of an actress, then Robin Wright is as good a pick as you could imagine.

What you could do better: This is, to quote the old footballing cliché, a film of two halves, and oddly it’s the first half in the real world that works better, with real emotion in the scenes leading up to the journey into the animated world. But that section, which takes as its inspiration a novel by Stanislav Lem, kind of works on it own terms but doesn’t gel at all with what’s gone before, and the film is a terrible mismatch. It’s a good job this is the only case this year of a novel adaptation becoming flawed after being padded out with new material. *cough* Hobbit *cough*

8. Maleficent – 4/10

Planned sequels for Angelina Jolie to tackle include the Queen from Snow White, Man from Bambi and Scar from The Lion King.

What you did well: What an opportunity to allow Angelina Jolie to play evil, and how fantastic is she as the wicked Maleficent? With cheekbones that could cut glass and a deliciously evil smile, she’s perfect casting and the film itself also has a more balanced portrayal of female characters than most fairytales (if you can excuse what they’ve done to the three fairies).

What you could do better: I know I said I was trying to remain positive but seriously, you could have let Angelina Jolie be evil for more than about forty seconds?!?! For most of this misguided attempt to reinvent her as a tortured antihero, she either wails in pain after being brutally attacked or mopes around outside windows looking gooey-eyed. As the nominal villain of the piece, Sharlto Copley is so anonymous that I had to Google who he’d played after the film, Sam Riley is also under served as Jolie’s feathery sidekick and it’s one thing to look to balance our your female characters; it’s entirely another to just copy the end of Frozen. Top tip to film makers: at least try to put an original slant on your endings. Also, not every film set in a mythical kingdom needs to have a sub-Lord Of The Rings CGI battle with no weight or emotion.

7. Lucy – 4/10

Yeah, you thought I’d take the easy option and put in a picture of Scarlett Johansson, didn’t you? Well, now I wish I had.

What you did well: You hired Scarlett Johansson, then you hired Morgan Freeman. Er, that’s about it.

What you could do better: Probably just re-release Leon for its twentieth anniversary. It’s difficult to reconcile the quality of that film, which was offbeat and eccentric while still having heart, soul, an air of menace, Gary Oldman chewing off bits of scenery and some great action beats, with this high concept anti-action movie. By giving Lucy rapidly escalating powers that far outmatch anything that anyone can throw at her, any sense of tension is lost and we’re just left with a collection of increasingly unlikely imagery. Even the Matrix sequels, for all their faults, recognised that a godlike hero needs similarly powerful adversaries to combat. Also, best not to base your entire premise on the old myth that we only use ten per cent of our brains, given that just about everyone knows now that this just plain isn’t true, no matter how you try to twist it.

6. Stage Fright – 4/10

Stage Fright
I’ve told you eighteen times, I would do anything for love, but I still won’t do that.

What you did well: A film I caught at FrightFest, and it was the late night Sunday showing which should maybe have been an indication that this wasn’t likely to be the greatest horror movie of all time. Still, I was just after campy fun, and the inclusion of both Meatloaf in a supporting role and a cameo from Minnie Driver. And what’s not to love about a slasher musical?

What you could do better: Plenty, as it turns out. It’s all going well through the over the top intro and the opening big number, with just the right tone, and then the film decides to abandon the musical concept for around 45 minutes and instead become a sub-Glee – sub-Kids From Fame, even – story of children of all ages being mildly terrorised and moderately bored. Consequently, by the time the songs kick in again and the killing wraps up, it’s become difficult to care about anything, other than the fact I could have been home and in bed by now. So if you’re going to make a film with the courage of your convictions,

5. The Canal – 4/10

Open-mouthed staring auditions for bit parts in the new Godzilla movie were going well.

What you did well: Another good concept here, with the idea that there’s terrors lurking in old film stock and films from over a century ago.

What you could do better: Maybe get a second opinion on your film before you start, as it almost feels as if the film makers didn’t recognise they had a great concept on their hands, as they ignore it after the first ten minutes for long periods. It also appears phenomenally easy for the lead characters to get film developed and processed in this digital age (not to mention when characters are under suspicion), and I suggest a different casting director may also help as almost every role here feels miscast. Steve Oram is the prime example of that as a weary policeman who seems to be wandering in from an entirely different film whenever he appears, and that’s a shame because I like Steve Oram.

4. Transcendence – 3/10

Depp’s insistence on method acting began to cause problems when his consciousness came into conflict with the studio’s anti-virus software.

What you did well: Quite understandably, when Christopher Nolan’s director of photography decides to become a director himself, attracting a high calibre cast isn’t a problem, with Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy being a list of names that would flatter any film, even before you mention Johnny Depp.

What you could do better: If you’re going to write a script in the world of science fiction, I cannot but feel it would be helpful to actually watch some science fiction first. The core idea is a worn out science fiction cliché that has appeared in some form in any long running sci-fi TV series you’d care to mention, and the script adds nothing here. It also makes you realise that being a director is not just about the composition of a visual image – and there’s too much of that going on in a way that doesn’t advance the plot, and often makes the film feel remarkably small scale for a big budget sci-fi – but it’s also about getting the actors to put in a level of performance, and while Rebecca Hall tries her darnedest, she’s swimming against the tide.

3. Robocop – 3/10

“Look, if it doesn’t work out, maybe you could turn up in the new Star Wars as one of those chicken-walker thingies?”

What you did well: So, Transcendence, I trump your casting with Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Ehle, Joel Kinnaman and Gary freakin’ Oldman. I then further trump it with some good performances, particularly from Keaton and Oldman. In addition, director José Padihla came with the pedigree of two Elite Squad films behind him, and the Robocop concept is ripe for remake (given how poorly the Frank Miller scripted sequels exploited the concept, although I still have an undeserved soft spot for Robocop 2).

What you could do better: I have a section in each of my film reviews called “What about the rating?” I didn’t see this in a cinema, but if I had I’ve would’ve had plenty to say about the rating here, which was 12A for “moderate violence, injury detail and infrequent strong language”. If you’re going to portray a cyborg police officer dealing with the scum of society, giving it a child friendly rating leaves it totally neutered and this is an action movie with almost no action in it; what’s here isn’t really any good. When you think that the original Robocop was originally submitted in a cut form to get an 18 certificate, and that it even had two trailers that got an 18 rating on video (when did you last seen an 18-rated trailer?!), then it’s clear where the gap is.

2. That Awkward Moment – 3/10

That Awkward Moment
That awkward moment when Imogen Poots called her agent.

What you did well: Another tale of good casting, but this time the rating was a 15, so there were no holds barred on the language and That Awkward Moment could be a scabrous, raunchy comedy with the bonus of Zac Efron to draw in the teenage crowd.

What you could do better: Have you ever told your friends a joke that you heard and thought was really funny, but they just pull a face and suggest that it was in really poor taste? This is the 94 minute cinematic equivalent. Calling a woman a prostitute to their face, but then them overlooking that and still falling for you, might be achievable in an innocently cheery way in safer hands than these, but here it’s one example in a whole film that comes over more as uncomfortably sleazy. If that’s a fine line, then That Awkward Moment is staggering about drunkenly on the wrong side of it for an hour and a half.

1. Nymph (Killer Mermaid) – 2/10

Unless that’s a script for a Django sequel in your hand, turn around and walk away.

What you did well: Well, you hired Franco Nero, that has to be a good start. And who couldn’t love the concept of a killer mermaid? Trashy horror movie staples on the SyFy channel have come off with a lot less to work with.

What you could do better: I appreciate that it may be a little difficult for you to judge my least best movie of the year when you probably haven’t seen it and never will, so just have a look at the trailer.

Maybe if this had gone for a campier tone or been in any way fun, it could have worked (possibly under the alternative title of Killer Mermaid), and I can’t bring myself to criticise because I cannot help but feel that the film makers’ hearts were in the right place, but there’s so little here of consequence happening that the film becomes a tedious domestic drama where people eventually end up running around a deserted island castle because they have nothing better to do. You can see what they were trying to achieve, but the film is criminally dull and the strains of the low budget are seen creaking at regular intervals, without the rough charm of any entertainment to encourage you to gloss over them. I only hope that, for those involved on the creative side, this is a lesson learned and that they can come back stronger for it. I’m off to watch Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie or Postman Pat The Movie, or possibly as much of Transformers: Age Of Extinction as I can stand, as to call this my least best movie of the year feels terribly harsh. Sorry, everyone.

Previous years:

The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2013 “WINNER” – A Good Day To Die Hard

The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2012 “WINNER” – Seven Psychopaths

The 10 Worst Films I Saw In 2011 “WINNER” – Battle: Los Angeles

Forty Films To See Before I’m Forty: Your Help Needed

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You're only as old as you feel... Yes, that cracking noise *was* my hip, what of it?
You’re only as old as you feel… Yes, that cracking noise *was* my hip, what of it?

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Tell me what films I should have seen before I turn 40. I would like to make a list of 40 of them, and then make sure I’ve seen them before I hit the big day. Scroll down to the bottom if you need some inspiration.

USUAL EXTENDED WAFFLING: I reached a significant milestone in my life in February last year. I had some very nice cards, but didn’t have a big party or a massive celebration. Because, for some reason I can’t begin to fathom, it’s not seen as a major achievement by most to be 20,000,000 minutes old. To me, birthdays are boring, one year passes so slowly and small numbers don’t have the fascination to my mathematical mind that larger ones do. So in my own little universe, I’ll be more interested in March 2015, when I’m 15,000 hours old, or December 2037 when, God willing, my age in minutes will be a perfect number – 33,550,336 – which, unless I turn out to be the Highlander, will be the last time in my life when any measure of my age (years, days, hours, minutes or seconds) will be a perfect number. But for those who are in thrall of society’s conventions, today could almost be seen as a significant day, for today I am exactly six months away from my fortieth birthday. I am, sigh, thirty-nine and a half years old today.

Except: hold that sigh. There’s nothing wrong with being forty any more. It might be the half way point for most people of average life spans, but that just means that, barring illness or injury, I’ve got the chance to double up the amount of life experience I’ve already had. I had an existential life crisis when I turned 25, for I felt I hadn’t achieved anything significant with my life: I was stuck in a menial job, having not been able to find suitable work after two different university courses, I was renting a tiny room in a run-down house, I’d never had a steady girlfriend, I couldn’t drive, I’d been abroad for a grand total of one day, and so the list went on: I didn’t feel I’d managed to achieve anything significant with my life.

Now I’m on the cusp of middle age, I’ve removed any possibility for grumbling. From that menial job I’ve built a worthwhile and well paid career, with a wife who loves me and puts up with all of my more insane addictions, I’m ten years into a twenty-five year mortgage, I’ve done 40,000 miles driving in a year and a half for work and to the cinema, I’ve been to three different continents – as well as seeing a lot more of this country and realising you don’t always need to go abroad for a great holiday – and as well as the film blog and the various other media contributions I now make to film studies such as Bums On Seats, I have my name on a plaque on a church wall that may well outlast me, and I conduct my church choir, write occasional music for them and even have a qualification in doing it. I also managed to run 10k last year in under an hour, and if I can ever get this persistent ankle injury sorted I still have hopes of something much longer. I’m pretty happy at this point with the hand that life’s dealt me.

Sure, I’m starting to feel my age a little. There’s just the odd wrinkle appearing at the corners of my eyes, which are now covered by glasses that little bit thicker than when I was 25, and the lithe and limber frame of a skin and bone teenager who could put his legs behind his head has given way to a creaky middle-aged man with a slight paunch who can barely touch his toes, but on the up side I still have all my own ginger hair and three quarters of my own teeth and I can still run up the stairs two at a time, so for now the idea of being forty isn’t filling me with too much dread. But there’s just one area where I feel I have a gap in one of my regular interests that I’d like to use my last six months of thirtyhood to address, and you’ll be relieved to hear – given that you’ve had to read four paragraphs of my rambling before I’ve gotten to any kind of point – that it’s film related. (If I ramble this much now, what am I going to be like when I’m 33,550,336?)

The attempt to get 33 million candles on the birthday cake was falling well short...
The attempt to get 33 million candles on the birthminute cake was falling well short…

Down to business, then: I still feel there are some significant gaps in my film knowledge, and I’d like to plug a few of them before I hit the big four-oh. Unless you’re a paid up film reviewer, you’re not going to have seen everything, and there’s bound to be a few gaps in the knowledge of just about everyone. Last Friday, for example, I saw Time Bandits at the cinema, and I was concerned that I’d be in the minority, not previously having seen it; as it turns out, of those I spoke to the majority were Time Bandits virgins. (My review? It’s great, see it if you get the chance, it’s held up well for something well over thirty years old. I’d like to think it’s not alone.)

But there are some major holes in my film knowledge that I feel would improve the blog, and my critiquing in general, were I to fill them. I do always try to judge each film on its own merits; for example, in my Frances Ha review recently, I wondered if knowing that Greta Gerwig running down the street to David Bowie is a reference to Denis Lavant doing the same in Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang improves your understanding of the film. In my view, such moments need to work on their own terms, not purely the self-referential, so I still firmly believe that your knowledge of other film merely enhances, rather than defines, your understanding and enjoyment of any given film. At the same time, it can’t hurt to have a bit of insider info.

So what I intend to do over the next six months is to plug up to forty of the most significant gaps in my back catalogue, and this is where I’d like your help, faithful reader. I’d like you to tell me, via comments here, social media or just accosting me in the bar of one of my local cinemas if you see me (I’m easy to spot – tall, ginger hair, runs up the stairs two at a time) what films I should have seen. Over the next six months I will use the blog to catalogue my efforts, I’ll see any of the films nominated in the cinema, and by February next year I’ll produce a list of not only what I saw, but what I think any reasonable cinephile should have ticked off as a bare minimum.

I did try to assess the list myself, but there are so many gaps I’m not really sure I know where to start. I do feel I’ve made progress over the last five years of cinema obsession, and as well as an evolving fascination with Haneke and a reinforced love for the Coens, I can now tell my Kiarostami from my Kaurismaki, I’ve opened myself up to classic British film makers from David Lean to Mike Leigh and Ken Loach and since I started the blog I’ve mopped up everything from the likes of Chinatown to Battleship Potemkin and The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie, but in my quest to watch films in their best environment (the cinema, obviously) I can only be served by what’s showing at any given point.

The use of technology or established writing to try to compose the list just complicated the matter further. The Internet Movie Database have a Top 250 list, and if you’re logged into the site and have rated the films you’ve seen, it will tell you how many you still have left to see. Which in my case is 130. (Gulp.) I also own a number of film books, one of which is called “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, and mathematically speaking, the list of films I’ve actually seen is notably dwarfed by the list of films I haven’t even heard of.  There’s even a list that the BFI put together in 2005 entitled “50 Films To See Before You’re 14“, of which I’ve mustered a grand total of 13. (*beats head repeatedly against wall*) So you can see that the position is pretty desperate.

So tell me. Tell me what I should have seen. Tell me what are the classics, the simple pleasures, the pivotal moments in cinema history, or just the films that you keep going back to. I can’t undo all of those repeated childhood viewings of Return Of The Jedi or Beverly Hills Cop 2 or Space Camp or even Dirty Dancing – my mother’s favourite film at the time, and with only one colour TV in the house I could probably recite most of it word for word, even now – but I can look forward, and make amends for the sins of omission of the past by hammering the internet and my LoveFilm account for the next six months. Then who knows where these new avenues will take me?

You can nominate as many or as few films as you like, but I just ask two things: please make a list of less than forty, otherwise you’re just not helping, and if your choices are likely to fall into the “you probably won’t have heard of it” camp, then I might ask you to justify your reasoning somewhat. Don’t be afraid to nominate things you might have seen, I’d rather have a Spielberg or a Scorcese film on the list if it’s important and it might just be the one I’ve missed. But please be vocal, and get nominating now!

To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of my ten most sinful omissions, the ten biggest gaps likely to get me drummed out of the local film reviewer’s circle and shunned to the back row of the greasiest multiplex imaginable, all of my cinema memberships revoked in disgust. Please don’t restrict yourself to just items on this list when making suggestions; there are bound to be some other horrendous voids in my knowledge, these are just to get the ball rolling. You may well be appalled at some of the things on this list, you might even find yourself making a sharp intake of breath at some points in sheer horror, but that’s fine: the whole idea is to plug these gaps before it’s arbitrarily too late. You might want to nominate films from these lists, or others entirely, but I will respond to any and every suggestion. Probably at great and waffly length.

1. Westerns


For some reason, the thought of Westerns has always left me completely cold. Maybe it’s the (completely incorrect) mental connection between country and western music, which also gives me mental shivers, or maybe it’s just all of those grubby men in badly fitting clothes grumbing in the desert that just never engaged me. To give you an idea of just why this is the number one gap on the list, here’s the Time Out list of the 50 Greatest Westerns. How many have I seen? Two. And one of them’s Blazing Saddles.

2. Japanese cinema

Seven Samurai

I’ve seen a lot of Korean cinema over the past few years, from Oldboy to The Host and The Yellow Sea, but the fact that Confessions was my favourite film of 2011 sits as something more of an anomaly in my viewing habits. I bought a batch of around 40 DVDs from an employee of mine a few years ago that contained large amounts of Kurosawa (all still unwatched), the likes of Ozu – who sits at third on the most recent Sight and Sound poll of the greatest films of all time – have completely passed me by, and my viewing of Studio Ghibli extends to those films released in the past five years. If there’s one country I’d love to visit, it’s Japan, but I fear I may need to watch more of their films before they consider letting me in.

3. Billy Wilder

Marilyn Monroe

This is where I must really hang my head in shame. I’ve not seen many Westerns or Japanese films, but the DVDs are sat at home waiting for me to watch. Apart from the last 20 minutes of Some Like It Hot, I’ve never seen, and nor do I own, any Billy Wilder. Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, The Spirit Of St. Louis, Witness For The Prosecution, Irma La Douce, The Apartment – the list is as long as it is painful, and surely must be redressed somewhere in the forty. Or should it?

4. The martial artists

Bruce Lee

Saw a fascinating documentary at the Prince Charles Cinema last year called I Am Bruce Lee. I just hadn’t seen most of the films that the documentary actually referred to. I am already hoping at this point in the list that at least knowing what I haven’t see is counting somewhat in my favour.

5. Early Woody Allen

Woody Allen

Another monumental director whose work I’ve only engaged with since I started regularly visiting the cinema as an adult. In this case, anything good from Mighty Aphrodite is likely to be on the seen list, anything prior is likely to be up for debate. Woody’s the main example, but pick any major director and there will be the odd one or two films in just about anyone’s portfolio of work that I’ve so far missed. In Woody’s case it might just be one or two dozen. Ahem.

6. The French New Wave

400 Blows

I made a joke in my Frances Ha review recently that some people think that Francois Truffaut is just the French guy from Close Encounters. While I’m not quite that bad, my list of films influenced by the French New Wave, from Wes Anderson to Michel Gondry and Quentin Tarantino significantly outnumbers the list of films from the actual French New Wave that I’ve seen. (Just reading this is depressing me, if it’s any consolation.)

7. George Romero

Dawn Of The Dead

As we get down the list, the balance between the seen and the unseen starts to tip further in the other direction. I can claim to have seen The Exorcist on a very scratchy print at a cinema back in the Nineties before it became widely available again; I recently ticked off one of my other major gaps of The Evil Dead trilogy before the release of the new version this year, and I have history in everything from Peter Jackson to Eli Roth. (Not that I see that as necessarily a good thing.) But the biggest gap in my backstory is George Romero’s Dead series, which has still eluded me more effectively than a fast zombie running in the other direction. Also probably worth me dropping in Dario Argento’s name here as well, just in case you weren’t depressed enough already.

8. Silent classics

Buster Keaton

Charlie Chapin? Nope. Buster Keaton? Nada. Laurel and Hardy? Forget it. I wouldn’t blame you for disowning me at this point, I really wouldn’t.

9. Classic musicals

Singin In The Rain

Thankfully we’re into the realms of barrel scraping here. Not only can I cover the modern exponents like Chicago or Moulin Rouge, I can lay claim to having seen earlier classics from Grease to The Sound Of Music and The Wizard Of Oz to The Blues Brothers. Unlike the list of westerns, I’ve seen around half of this list of 50 Greatest Musicals but that still leaves about half of the list open to selection – including, shamefully, the one in the picture.

10. Blaxploitation


And finally, in the name of true diversity, an example of another whole genre that’s completely passed me by, with the exception of send-up Black Dynamite. Is any such list complete without the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks? You tell me.

So get nominating. E-mail me at the address in the sidebar of this page, tweet me at @MovieEvangelist with the hashtag #Forty40, find me on Facebook, accost me in the cinema or in the street or sit outside my house late at night, shouting general abuse. Just let me know, and I’ll keep you regularly updated on progress. Thanks in advance!

Desert Island (Digital Versatile) Discs

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Right, which palm tree do I hang the plasma on?

My wife has been responsible for many of the most positive changes in my life, including wearing posh aftershave rather than Lynx, eating Thai and Japanese food and owning a cat (and here was me thinking I was only a dog person). She’s also the person who introduced me to Radio 4, dragging me kicking and screaming from my working class roots to what looks likely to be a much more middle class old age. One of our hymn choices at our wedding was even a tribute to the “One Song To The Tune Of Another” round from I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. Could I BE any more middle England?

If you read this blog often enough, you’ll know that I have a particularly bad version of the male compulsion to make lists. From 25 Things I Want From A 24 Movie to 88 Reasons Why I Love Back To The Future, readers of this blog are never knowingly underlisted, and there’s one show on Radio 4 that understands that passion more than most – Desert Island Discs. I’ve often wondered what my list would be if I were to be asked on the show, and frankly I only need to become (a) famous, (b) popular and (c) interesting to actually make it on, so I’m just a whisker away. A couple of weeks ago, I felt I had finally settled on my selection of eight, and because this blog would be almost nothing without its lists, here’s mine:

  1. Messiah – And he shall purify the sons of Levi (G. F. Handel)
  2. Symphony No. 9 in D minor (Choral) – 4th movement (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  3. Finlandia (Jean Sibelius)
  4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Official Soundtrack – Duel Of The Fates (John Williams)
  5. Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel)
  6. Meet James Ensor (They Might Be Giants)
  7. You Stole The Sun From My Heart (Manic Street Preachers)
  8. Bones (The Killers)

For the true obsessive compulsive, you can now search the online archives of previous panellists to see who’s picked your selections before. Only three of my list actually have actually been picked by famous types: the Beethoven symphony is the most popular, having been chosen by the likes of 97 luminaries of the likes of Jeffrey Archer and Enoch Powell; Finlandia was a favourite of  20, including Robert Maxwell, and the only person who’s ever picked Solsbury Hill is Jeremy Clarkson. Additionally, it wasn’t the same song, but David Cameron did include a track by Brandon Flowers and his cohort in his list. Not entirely sure what my musical choices say about me now…

Read the rest of this entry »

Oscars Countdown: Do We Really Need Ten Best Picture Nominations?

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Yesterday the countdown began to the biggest night in movie self-aggrandisement of the year, the 83rd Academy Awards. The cycle of the modern era is thus: everyone from top print critics to plebs such as myself produces end of year lists, then spends the next couple of months being repeatedly and increasingly disappointed when their favourites are overlooked. I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the Oscars for just that reason, but old age and boredom have led me to realise that while I may not enjoy them as much as I once did, I still have an opinion on them. In that respect they’re like the weather or The X Factor – you may not really enjoy them, but it’s good to have an opinion on them.

So between now and the big night in a little over a month, I will, whenever I get bored of talking about other things, give my view on some of the big issues surrounding the Oscars. The biggest talking point after the nominations is couldn’t they have found anyone more interesting than Mo’Nique and that old guy to announce them why your own personal favourite didn’t make the cut, of course. As much as I was pleasantly surprised that Dogtooth made it into Best Foreign Language or that The Illusionist made the final cut for Best Animated, my disappointment at such exclusions as Christopher Nolan for Best Director, Andrew Garfield for Best Supporting Actor, Tron: Legacy for Best Soundtrack and especially Lesley Manville for anything at all just increases my frustration with the whole process.

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5 Top Tips for Using IMDb To Feed Your Movie Obsession

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Seeing as many movies as I do at the cinema isn’t something you can do blindly or without careful preparation and planning. (Well, you could, but you’d have to be really not fussy about what you saw. All About Steve, anyone?) So there are a number of tools I use to help me decide what I’m going to spend my hard earned cash on. First and foremost among these is the Internet Movie Database, or IMDb for short.

Anyone who’s ever seen a film has probably been to that site, but not only does it contain masses of useful information on each film (as well as TV series, games, bus stops, kitchen sinks and the like), it can also be used to build up a useful profile of what you like and what you should be seeing. Read the rest of this entry »