Entres les murs (Laurent Cantet, 2008 )
An exceptional film, the premise suggests something cliché, but the film is anything but. It has a cinema verity atmosphere, very real and raw. It’s incredible how most of the cast comprises of non-professional actors, many of whom were involved of the events described in the events of the book the film is based on. It works on a very shallow level, pure entertainment and surface value, and thrilling political an ethical subtext. The school room setting works very well as a microcosm of society, exploring the nature of relationships, especially between authority figures and their subservient.
I Married a Witch (Rene Clair, 1942)
A charming, if not somewhat clumsy romantic comedy that inspired by famous television series Bewitched. Veronica Lake was never better in the title role, a charming witch who moves from sinister to love sick within the film’s short run-time. March plays wonderfully against her and proves once again, why he is mostly underused as a comic actor. The premise though intriguing is both rushed and underdeveloped, it’s unfortunate that Preston Sturges apparently quit after a conflict with Rene Clair over creative differences.
Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)
Much like A Nightmare before Christmas, this film left me somewhat underwhelmed, though I think this is a much stronger film. The premise is intriguing, and points to very strong source material, and while the film is beautifully realised on a creative and visual level, it’s missing something. It teeters too closely between cute and terrifying, and loses the overall impact. It has a real fairy tale quality, without being too broad. It shows parental neglect, but also genuine remorse and humanity from the parents. Overall, I’ll recommend it quite highly, especially in 3-D.
Friday the 13th (Sean S. Cunningham, 1980)
Not among my favourite horror films, this film is still refreshing amidst the terrible horror films I’ve seen in recent weeks. Though it lacks much in terms of commentary on relationships, politics and human emotion, it has a slow boil dread that pervades through the film. The opening prologue is truly frightening and I’ve come to realise how crucial that first scare has become. Your reaction to that first jump or shock, will set you up for the rest of the film. If it fails, or elicits the wrong reaction, the rest of the film will really have to struggle to maintain an atmosphere that isn’t properly established. The final big scare, which was still unspoiled for me, was truly terrifying and surprising. A great twist ending.
Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008 )
Though not quite as remarkable as I would have hoped, this portrait of rebellion and revolution is bleak, frightening and often stomach turning. The first half chronicling the life within a political prison, while the second, about the leader of a hunger strike in particular. It examines both the ethics of revolution and the delicacy of the human body. The portrait of hunger is truly terrifying, and I still marvel at how it was realised for the screen. The film points to both the lunacy and the dedication of these men, how hunger strike on paper really doesn’t not begin to illustrate the true horrors of the event. It reminds me of religious sacrifice especially, and I doubt the comparison was lost on the filmmakers, it was even referenced in the screen play as a priest accuses Bobby of creating a martyr of himself.
Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008 )
Another big surprise for this year, this film is far from the conventional bio-pic. It’s experimental and loose in nature, as much about the gay rights movement as it is about Harvey Milk himself. On paper, the film’s popularity seems to buy into the idea that American film audiences can only accept films about the homosexual experience, when it ends in death or punishment. Though for anyone who knows the story of Milk, know this is the case, Gus Van Sant takes the high road, making the film inspirational, even more importantly offering a huge amount of hope in the film’s incredible final scene. As Milk said “Without hope, life’s not worth living.” Without having seen 3 of the nominees, it’ll be hard to beat in the best picture category… at least in terms of quality.
Friday the 13th (Marcus Nispel, 2009)
Goes from laughably bad to just bad VERY quick.