De omnibus dubitandum
19 Dec 2013
I’ve decided I’m a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn.
The Danish film director is a bit of a controversial figure due to the fact his films tend to sit firmly on the ‘obscure, arty, pretentious’ side of the cinematographic spectrum.
I’m usually not the type to indulge in arthouse-type films (heck, I professed my love for that most obscene example of Hollywood-blockbusterism: Transformers 2) but I’ve now seen three of Winding Refn’s films, and I love them all.
My first exposure to Winding Refn’s work was the critically acclaimed Drive, featuring truly superb performance from its lead actors as well as some scenes of brutal, unglorified, unstylised violence.
Recently I caught Valhalla Rising on TV, and its hypnotic mood, surreal plot, and anticlimactic finale, all contributed to a cinematic experience that I enjoyed profoundly. Mikkelsen is astounding in the lead role and manages to captive and intimidate without speaking a single word in the entire film. The film is now sitting near the top of my top 10 all time favourites.
Then earlier this week I saw Only God Forgives, and once again I was mesmerised. At first I thought the film indulged a bit too much in those dialogue-less scenes where the actors brood intensely, but as the plot unfolded I realised those scenes are significant and serve to expose inner turmoil hinted at in later scenes. And the ending is, in typical Winding Refn fashion, entirely un-Hollywood and deeply unsatisfying and, because of that, paradoxically, very much satisfying.
Obscure and pretentious? Yes. Powerful? Very much so.
His style is not for everyone. I do think he’s one of those directors whose output you genuinely either love or hate. There’s not much room for fence-sitting where his films are concerned.
But for me, to date, I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp, eagerly awaiting his next cinematic endeavour.
11 Jun 2012
I saw Prometheus yesterday. It’s definitely a film that needs to be properly digested.
Below my thoughts on what I liked, what I didn’t like, and some theories about events in the film and possible answers to some of the questions arising from the film’s plot.
SPOILER ALERT. If you have not yet seen Prometheus, don’t read any further. (more…)
9 Jun 2010
I can’t. Hate Tom Cruise, that is. I can’t help it, I love the guy.
Yes I know he’s a Scientologist, that totally bizarro-world nutcase religion with some really whacked-out ideas about space thetans and trillion-year old aliens, the same religion that’s not above using violence and extortion to keep their secrets intact. But hey, at least they don’t rape kids.
It’s not that all of Tom Cruise’s films have been so awesome – some have even been pretty damn bad. Really, really bad. But you have to admit that many of his films have been pretty good. Some films have even been really, really good.
But none of this really matters. Because the main reason I can’t hate Tom Cruise is because he doesn’t take himself very seriously.
This is one of Hollywood’s leading men, a one-man box-office hit-generator who is arguably one of the most famous people alive on the planet, and he goes around and does things like this:
And then, for no other reason than because he wants to, he goes ahead and repeats it on one of TV’s biggest annual events: the MTV Movie Awards.
(Unfortunately there’s no video available outside of the US due to Viacom’s anally retentive copyright-obsessed lawyers denying the rest of the world the glory of Les Grossman via legitimate means, so I suggest you find the video on your favourite file-sharing site.)
A man that is that famous, and yet possesses sufficient quantities of humour and self-mockery to do this sort of thing and enjoy it, deserves praise.
So there you have it. I like Tom Cruise. I really do.
17 Feb 2010
Last night when I left the office I noticed a huge sign going up on the pub next door. This morning I saw the sign in all its glory:
It’s for a scene in a new film called Killing Bono, whose final scenes are due to be shot just outside my office building this week.
Apparently they’re still looking for extras.
27 Aug 2009
I came across this today: Jedi Knight Training Event in Belfast!
A part of me really wants to go to this, just to see what it’s all about…. But another part of me – the part called reason – thinks it’s all a gimmicky scam.
“Rory, creative thinking expert and creator of Rory’s Story Cubes, will join me to offer Northern Ireland’s most exciting/only Jedi training event of 2009. Rory and I will explain the famous Jedi Mind-Trick by showing how to gain control over and from the minds of others. Rory will explore the subjects of Energy Psychology and Subtle Energy fields to gain modern insight in the mystical Force. I will then walk participants through the films to see those psychological skills Luke Skywalker gained in becoming a Jedi, and those Anakin lacked in his fall to the dark side.”
I wonder what the practical applications are in modern life. “These are not the tax return forms you are looking for….”
Update: Allen Baird, one of the event’s organisers, has responded in the comments. Be sure to read it, he makes a good point.
1 Jul 2009
There have been a lot of negative reviews of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. And when I say negative, I mean negative:
“Transformers 2 has a shot at the title Worst Movie of the Decade”, “a horrible experience of unbearable length”, “a pile of glittering junk”, “infantile”, “despicable”, and “tumescence”. (Yes I had to look that one up too.)
Transformers 2 even inspired this satirical review on io9 that, while brilliant in its execution, boils down to a verdict of cinematic excrement.
But I liked Transformers 2. Actually, that doesn’t describe my enjoyment of the film accurately. I fucking loved it.
Now according to the prevalent opinions of movie critics around the world that can only mean one thing: I’m an adolescent, intellectually-challenged and hopelessly insecure male geek. Well, two out of five isn’t bad, I suppose. (Hint: it’s not anything before the word male.)
I loved Transformers 2 because it delivers everything it should. It’s got supermassive robots rampaging through industrial cityscapes, sufficient explosions to vaporise the moon, abundant views of Megan Fox’s abundant curvature, a ginormous Transformer composed of multiple smaller robots tearing through an ancient Islamic state’s most holy archaeological sites, and Optimus Prime punching through another transformer’s chest.
Let me repeat that. It shows Optimus Prime punching his fist through the chest of a Decepticon. If that was the only thing the movie showed, over and over, for its whole two and a half hour length, it would still rock.
Yes, the plot is vague, incomplete and rather superfluous, but how many art-house films provoking rave reviews have simple, inane plots you can describe with a single sentence? (“Man has memories of failed relationship erased” anyone?)
Yet the crippled plot seems to be the central issue reviewers have with the film. The plot sucks, the plot is vague, the plot serves as nothing more but a flimsy curtain rail to hang countless over-the-top action sequences from, yadda yadda blah fucking blah.
Yes, we get it. The plot sucks! Guess what? I DON’T FUCKING CARE. Transformers 2 isn’t about the plot, you Merlot-sipping, Camembert-nibbling, pseudo-intellectual elitist movie-critic twit. It’s about robots beating the shit out of other robots and blowing up half the world while they’re at it.
And you know what? Transformers 2 does that VERY WELL. I can’t wait for number 3.
31 Mar 2009
Today it’s exactly 10 years since The Matrix premiered. This cinematographic amalgam of pop-culture and sci-fi influences is arguably the most important movie of the first decade of the 21st century. The impact this film has had on modern culture is difficult to overestimate. So let’s give a big Happy Birthday to Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and Agent Smith.
“Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”