The Half Dozen: Anniversary Special – Your Help Needed
There were seven wonders of the ancient world, but apart from the Pyramids of Giza they were not wondrous enough to stand the test of time. There are probably more than seven wonders of the modern world, if you were to try to count them up, but one of the most significant is undoubtedly the fact that I’ve managed to keep churning out this blog to the same middling quality for almost a year now. Yes, on the 27th April I will have been writing this blog for a year, so I thought I needed to do something to mark the occasion, and that seeing a whole day’s worth of films would be as good as any option.
It’s a regular occurrence for me to spend the day in the cinema, and seeing four or five films in the course of a day is not an uncommon occurrence for me. Indeed, I’ve managed to squeeze in seven a couple of times, and I’ve also achieved some other feats of endurance, including seeing over 100 films in a year at the cinema twice, and a period last year when I racked up 21 in 11 days during the Cambridge Film Festival. Over the next month, I’ll be blogging about all of these feats, and also why – and how – you should give them a go, if you haven’t already.
My infernal iPod brain and its Genius capabilities
Whenever I see anything, and I do mean anything, that may have an association with some piece of music, my brain, which appears to have been designed on the same principle as an iPod / iPhone with Genius built in, automatically finds a track that is appropriate and starts playing it in my head.
For example, whenever I watch the weather, I will get a wide variety of tunes, depending on the prevailing forecast, from “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”, through “Windy City” from Calamity Jane to “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.” (I live in England so I don’t need songs about the sun.)
Due for release today is a movie that’s driving my poor little movie brain and my iPod brain mad together. It’s the very promising Noel Clarke’s latest.
And now, every time, and I do mean every time, I see the name of this movie written down, this starts playing in my head. (Crucial bit is about a minute in, if you’ve never heard this before.)
It’s driving me very quickly insane. Possibly in around four-three-two-one-seconds. (Go baby go baby go, don’t upset the rhythm… AAARRRGGGHHH!!!) Any helpful hints to deprogramme myself appreciated.
Review: Dogtooth (Kynodontas)
The Pitch: It’s a family affair, but probably more Manson than Partridge.
The Review: Sometimes it’s hard to recommend a film you’ve enjoyed, simply because it’s something of an acquired taste. That can be made even harder if the film itself is difficult to pigeonhole, or even to describe. How about, “if Michael Haneke remade Napoleon Dynamite as a Greek sex education film?”
Not a description that really does this film justice, which at its core is a contemplation of the dangers of how much trying to protect your children from the dangers of the world can create its own problems.
But there’s so much more going on here that it’s better to allow the film’s pleasures and shocks to come through unannounced. The acting, which at first feels slightly stilted, suits the style of the story and helps to create the isolated world that most of the characters inhabit. Random pop culture references later in the film add further levels of both enjoyment and strangeness.
Eventually you become as tied into the world created by the film as the characters, and it’s difficult to leave at the end, so oddly compelling is their existence. But it’s even more difficult to know exactly who to invite into this world in the first place.
Why see it at the cinema: If for no other reason, to say you actually did. True film obsessives, apply here.
The Score: 9/10
Review: Shutter Island
The Pitch: In their fourth movie together, Scorsese tried to drive DiCaprio to madness.
The Review: Ever go to the freezer for chocolate ice cream, because you think you have luxury chocolate ice cream and it’s one of the best things ever? Except when you look in the freezer, there’s only vanilla. It’s nice and all, but you were really in the mood for chocolate. Well, this similarly promises something for the first half an hour or so, then turns out to be something entirely different, and not as satisfying as what you thought you were getting.
Mind you, what’s here is pretty good. Martin Scorsese is probably the greatest living American director and the class shows in both the direction and the cinematography, with a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere enhancing many of the later scenes.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Leonardo Di Caprio, but he turns in some excellent work here, nuanced and restrained to just the right degree. No-one else has much chance to show range, but there isn’t a false note among the cast.
And when the truth is finally revealed, it turns out to be more chocolate frozen yoghurt – an ending that makes more of what’s gone before and is closer to what you wanted, but still never quite fulfils that original promise.
Why see it at the cinema: Scorsese’s masterful direction and the sharp cinematography, coupled with some very striking images.
The Score: 8/10