Monday, 22 March 2010

Red Road

Andrea Arnold, 2006

Having seen the superb Fish Tank, I went back and got her other feature film. And it readily stands alongside.

Rather like the Mike Leigh slice-of-life films, it's a harsh emotional landscape of contemporary Britain, realistic, and yet with an almost unbearable tension sustained. Andrea Arnold is a serious talent.

Shot on a bottom of the pile Glaswegian tower block estate, the cow count is predictable.

No cows.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Last Detail

Hal Ashby, 1973

The fact that this was directed by Hal Ashby two years after Harold and Maude, and stars Jack Nicholson two years before One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest should get your attention.

It's certainly a serious precursor to Nicholson's role as McMurphy; the same delicious headstrong cockiness and that prominent level of unfocussed intelligence that isn't quite as high as he reckons.

Two soldiers accompany a third across the country to a long stretch in military prison for stealing 40 dollars. It's an allegory about the way the military brutalises its recruits, for the way it brutalises society at large, even at a stretch for the arc of an individual life itself. Our guardians flail around offering us a good time for a short interval, but it's only ever going to have one outcome in the long-term.

As with many Coen brothers pictures, the wide American landscape offers plenty of opportunity for cattle, yet we're left wanting.

No cows.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Karel Reisz, 1960

Another film - like A Taste of Honey, Up The Junction, Kes and The Man In The White Suit - that has me marvelling at smoky mid-century Britain.

'I want a new house, one with a bathroom and everything,' says Doreen.

No cows, but this is definitely the first movie I've seen with moorhens. Not that they appear on screen, but the scene at the end where Arthur explains why he's seeing Doreen clearly has two moorhen chirrups.

No cows.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Haunting

Robert Wise, 1963

Overplayed acting, bizarre camerawork and exaggerated effects should make this hammy, but actually they work as intended. This is one of the scariest films I've seen in a long time, even allowing for the late at night lights off environment. I physically jumped several times, and had more moments where the hairs on my legs stood up than I can recall. An absolute masterpiece.

And despite being set in a haunted house, they still managed to get a horse in there. Yeah yeah, we've seen loads of horses. Bring on some variety. Even if it's not cows a good goat'd do.

No cows.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Alien Resurrection

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997

This is a pedigree. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, having done the creepy nightmarish Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, about to embark on the luminous magic of Amelie and A Very Long Engagement.

Written by Joss Whedon, having written Toy Story and just starting to do Buffy. his gang-show approach is in full force, and his deep love of the Alien mythology shines through, with a sustained rich humanity.

And it's in deep space far in the future. Humans only.

No cows.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Science of Sleep

Michel Gondry, 2006

Horses are the Stephen Fry of livestock in movies. They're really good and everything, but do they have to be so prevalent?

This brilliant, playful movie - written and directed by the guy who directed Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind and a bunch of Bjork and White Stripes videos - features a horse dressed up as a toy horse. Nice variation, but still, it's the most overexposed animal.

No cows.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Road

John Hillcoat, 2009

There is much to recommend this film, a great premise, a continual tension, a look as bleak as the psychological landscape it explores, a superb performance from Viggo Mortensen.

But never work with children and animals, as the actors cliche goes. And not just because they're unpredictable on set, but because they can't fucking act. Dogs barking at people don't look alarmed, they look like a dog trained to bark on cue. Children don't have the requisite emotional experience to carry a film.

In something like The Road, a child needs to exhibit severe trauma. And be emaciated like Viggo, but of course you're not allowed to starve children for weeks before the shoot. So we end up with a plump child whining like he's being told he can't have money for a Wii.

At the start, this movie explains that all livestock is dead. Yet even before they've told us that there's a horse, one of only two animals in the whole movie (the other's an insect). The horse is such an overexposed animal, there's barely a film without one. Come on directors, give the equines a day off for once.

No cows.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder, 1959

Quite possibly the funniest movie ever made, the quickfire chemistry of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis just sparkles, and every frame with Lemmon's face in is a comedy classic. Couple this to the unerring luminous fabulousness of Marilyn Monroe and you have a movie that will never tire.

And let's say a small prayer of thank that the roles didn't - as was nearly the case - go to Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope.

It is a wonderful, brilliant movie. It is, however, not perfect.

No cows.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer

Kevin Billington, 1970

Two words: David Cameron.

I defy anyone to watch this film and not think of him. The stuffy old Tory leaders being superceded by a supercilious man from the PR industry telling you his clamour for power's really all about giving power back to you.

Written by the director with Peter Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, it usually gets belittled in reviews. Like How To Get Ahead In Advetising and Cecil B Demented, it's two-star decried for being a heavy handed rant dressed up as a fictional plot. Which is exactly the reason I'd give those films four stars.

As with the Python's other work, they cannot write parts for women (what do we expect from a bunch of men who went to posh single-sex schools?). But if we leave aside what it doesn't do and concentrate on what it does, it's superb.

Despite numerous opportunities for cattle, there are none to be seen. However, there is a goat, standing on a bench with the prime minister.

No cows.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Stanley Donen, 1967

Peter Cooke and Dudley Moore in a fabulous 60s rewrite of Faust. They, as you'd expect, play a variety of roles. Eleanor Bron - who weirdly enough had a cameo with John Cleese in a 1979 episode of Dr Who written by Douglas Adams - matches up with a range of foils for them.

It's not just the script and acting but the setting. It's made me want to dig out a bunch of 60s British films I've not seen for a couple of decades - Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, Up the Junction, Alfie, and The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer. Hopefully some of them will have a better cattle count.

No cows.