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Caren Pistorius in Slow West

The Best Films of 2015

There’s a tendency among people who watch a lot of films to boost ones that stand out rather than ones that are good. This can lead to some perverse choices in the “best of” lists that proliferate at this time of year. So that probably explains the rogue nature of the list below – ha ha. If you’re expecting to find Spectre (not at all bad) or the latest Marvel movie or Jurassic World, look elsewhere. These are just the films, of the maybe 350 films or so that I’ve watched in the past 12 months, that jumped out and grabbed me. Some of them are 2014 releases. Ten Best Paddington (dir: Paul … Read more
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I Became a Ukrainian Vodka Baron

Meet Dan Edelstyn. He’s made a film, he’s resurrected a vodka brand and he’s reviving the fortunes of a faraway Ukrainian village Halfway through making a documentary about his grandmother, director Dan Edelstyn realised he was going to have to start all over again. The film he’d been shooting since 2005 – working title From Bolshevism to Belfast – had been a great story. It told of his Jewish grandmother’s sudden exit from Ukraine in the aftermath of the Russian revolution. How privileged, pretty Maroussia Zorokovich had wound up in Belfast, where her husband, Dan’s grandfather, had promptly gone native and become more staunchly Orange than the Paisley family. It was the story of … Read more
Stan Laurel as Rhubarb Vaselino

100 Years of… Mud and Sand

Before Laurel and Hardy there was Laurel and Laurel, and in 1922’s Mud and Sand we get to see Stan Laurel’s original silent-movie partnership at work. The film is a longish short (40 mins) spoofing the Rudolph Valentino hit Blood and Sand, the story of a poor Spanish toreador who hits the big time and has his head turned by the wiles of a vampish older widow. Tragedy ensues. Turned out within three months of Valentino’s all-action spectacular – one of the biggest films of the year – Mud and Sand’s target is obvious, with Stan Laurel playing the slick-haired accidental toreador hero and irresistible love icon Rhubarb Vaselino. (The on-screen intertitles call him … Read more
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The Smell of Napalm, Now in Glorious Technicolor

A brilliant restoration of Apocalypse Now means another fresh ride for Technicolor, the process behind some of cinema’s greatest artistic triumphs Great news. Apocalypse Now has been restored and is back in cinemas and in pin-sharp Blu-ray, later in 2011. Yes, the “best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films” – according the revered Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times – is back. And it’s back in Technicolor. So now a new generation can marvel as choppers swoop to the sound of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie, thrill at Robert Duvall’s “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and stare in slack-jawed amazement at the sheer size of Marlon … Read more
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100 Years of… Grandma’s Boy

A prime slice of Harold Lloyd, Grandma’s Boy isn’t as famous as Safety Last! (the one where he dangles from a clock), but it is just as good as an example of his skills. Like the other two members of the Big Three of silent funnymen, Lloyd, like Chaplin and Keaton, often found himself tangling with men much manlier than himself. But whereas Chaplin’s Tramp and Keaton’s Stoneface had a steely puckishness and an aggressive intelligence, Lloyd’s “Glasses” character (as he called the guy in the specs) did not. He was generally speaking more the have-a-go Ordinary Joe. In Grandma’s Boy, “Glasses” is also a weakling and a coward, a Mummy’s Boy squared, … Read more
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The Brooding Intensity of Michael Fassbender

Passion, power and emotional ferocity are all hallmarks of aMichael Fassbender performance. But is he just a kitten in real life? Here’s a funny thing. I’m in the audience at the New York Film Festival. On stage director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender are answering questions about the disturbing, brilliant film that’s just been shown. Shame, McQueen and Fassbender’s follow-up collaboration to the gruelling Hunger has Fassbender delivering a volcanic performance as a sex addict who’s either dialling rent-a-hooker, beating off at work or devouring porn at home. Intense, dark stuff. Someone from the floor asks Fassbender a question about the relationship between the two damaged lead characters, a brother and sister … Read more

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