Staggering along under a weight of folksiness, much like its old-guy hero is staggering along on his beat up legs, Alexander Payne’s latest movie is sweet and wry but let’s not all get too excited. The film certainly doesn’t.
Bruce Dern is the old guy, an amnesiac oldster with a “beer isn’t drinking” drink problem who reckons he’s won some obviously fake mailout sweepstake – “you could already have won a million dollars” kind of thing. With nothing else to live for, and getting under the feet of his wife (June Squibb), Woody decides he’s going to get to Nebraska any old how to pick up his winnings, even if it means walking.
Enter Woody’s second son (Will Forte), a milquetoasty soft touch who decides, eventually, after harsher counsel from both his mother and older brother (Bob Odenkirk), to take the old guy to Nebraska where the winnings will most certainly not be waiting to be collected, rub the old guys face in the fact, and then be done with it once and for all.
The stage is set for a road movie that also functions as a rite of passage – the child becomes the father of the man and grows a pair, while the old guy slowly, through what may be entirely bogus mental confusion, slowly comes to realise that this trip is his last hurrah.
While this is happening, Payne lays on the full Frank Capra – a film shot in black and white like some dustbowl photograph by Andrea Lange, a host of faces from the back end of the casting catalogue, a down-home soundtrack of country fiddle and lonesome piano, long shots of the highway, the road to nowhere.
Add to these sobering stylistic choice the fact that the film is a good 20 minutes too long and if you’re anything like me you’ll be just starting to get restless by the time the end starts pulling into view.
I feel terrible even saying this, but there it is, I got a bit “meh” somewhere on this journey, even though I was particularly enjoying Dern’s sly old dog performance as the perhaps not so befuddled oldster, June Squibb as the wife obsessed with who wanted to get into her pants when she was 50 years younger, Stacy Keach as a friend from Woody’s hometown who’s not quite the friend at all. And in particular Tim Driscoll and Devin Ratray as Woody’s thick-as-pigshit odious snickering nephews sharing about one half of either Beavis or Butt-head’s brain.
Squibb gets the best lines, and spits them out with style, which is absolutely as it should be since the film is so much about the sheer weird inadequacy of men unless they have a project on the go – entire rooms full of guys who can only break away from the TV when the talk turns to cars.
Because Payne made About Schmidt, which was about an old guy, and Sideways, which was about a road trip, it’s tempting to describe Nebraska as being a hybrid of the two. But it isn’t. Though it does share the elegiac tone – for its characters and the USA – of those films, that’s something Payne is always interested in. Even in films, such as Election or The Descendants, which swim in more youthful waters.
On this day in 1958, in Leith, Edinburgh, Irvine Welsh was born. Or was he? After a police arrest in 1996, just after fame had hit him like a heroin rush, the police revealed that he was in fact seven years older, so born in 1951. Or 1961, if the BBC’s Writing Scotland website is to be believed. But 1958 is what the author maintains (I say “maintains” though his own website is silent on the subject), so let’s stick with that. After growing up in nearby Muirhouse, Welsh moved to London in the late 1970s at the time of punk, played as a guitarist in a string of gob-spangled bands including Pubic Lice and finally moved back to Edinburgh, where he worked in the council housing department. Remembered as a well dressed young man who never seemed the worse for drugs, he was apparently destined to “go far” in local administration. All the while Welsh was writing short stories, many of which featured in local literary magazines. Trainspotting was his first novel, a tale of drug excess, depravity and skanky humour among a small group of heroin users, delivered in phonetic street-talk. The lack of moral centre, the refusal to be PC and tone it down made it one of those books read by people who don’t read books. Welsh, in effect, became the heir to the New English Library output of Richard Allen whose books (Skinhead, Suedehead etc) had had a similar effect a generation before. Secker and Warburg, his original publishers, were convinced it would never sell – the original print run was 3,000. Well, they were wrong there.
Trainspotting (1996, dir: Danny Boyle)
“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television.” The soliloquy from Trainspotting, as spoken by Renton (Ewan McGregor), our likeable, voluble, eloquent guide to the more depraved side of Edinburgh life in Danny Boyle’s adaptation of the book. Having popped his head over the critical parapet with Shallow Grave, Boyle was propelled to international renown with Trainspotting, thanks to his ability (and that of screenwriter John Hodge) to safely transfer Irvine Welsh’s high energy, loud humour and foul mouth to the screen intact. With a largely Britpop soundtrack that wasn’t just cool but also appropriate (Iggy Pop, Primal Scream, Underworld, Blur, Leftfield), restless camera and some bravura stunts (Renton diving into The Worst Toilet in Scotland to rescue the opium suppositories), the effect was of a particularly nasty music video, or of a night of druggy excess, now exhilarating, now terrifying. McGregor’s heroin-chic cheekbones sold the film on posters, but great though McGregor’s performance is, Robert Carlyle as the insane Begbie is even better, one of the few instances of menace actually transmitting off the screen and into the audience. People took Trainspotting the film to their hearts the way they had the book, because it dared to say something that goes unsaid – the reason why people take drugs is because they enjoy it, simple as. And let’s not forget how funny it is – as Renton says about the group’s dealer, “We called him Mother Superior on account of the length of his habit.”
Welsh’s best book, Boyle’s best film
Party like it’s 1996
A cast largely of unknowns at the start of interesting careers
Buckle up for the “Worst Toilet in Scotland” scene
“That penis is getting dusty” – a line of dialogue in wonky auteur Guy Maddin’s latest film, another arthouse exploration of arthouse themes delivered in high contrast monochrome, from a camera on a bungee and via an editor with attention deficit disorder.
There are a couple of famous names too, just to lure in the unwary, or more likely to open the wallets of the various art foundations that funded this mad collision of references. Isabella Rossellini, longtime Maddin collaborator and utterer of the great line in his film The Saddest Music in the World – “If you’re sad and you like beer, I’m your lady” – she’s here. So too, as you can see from the above picture, is Udo Kier, a guarantor of oddness and, usually, of awfulness too.
Plot? Well, it hasn’t got much of one. Jason Patric – I don’t think I’ve seen him in a film since Speed 2 and age has improved him, wiped some of the shit-eating smugness off his face – plays a kind of Humphrey Bogart Mr Big, pinned down inside a house with his gang and expecting an attack by the police any minute. Until that comes he wanders about a bit, discovering stuff’s all a bit weird in there. There’s a naked old guy on chain tied to Rossellini’s bed. It’s meant to be her dad. We can see his penis, in fact Maddin shows it to us a couple of times quite gratuitously, as if this were one of the proofs that what we’re watching is arthouse. So, a bit Key Largo with nudity, then. That Patric’s name is Ulysses is significant; Maddin is adding a layer of Homer’s Odyssey for extra artistic kudos to a film that’s already thick with allusion – Universal monster movies of the 1930s, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Citizen Kane, James Whale.
The effect of this opaque plotting, old-time set-dressing, bizarre characterisation – I didn’t mention the soundtrack that seems to have been put through a wonkalizer but it’s there too – the effect of all this is to produce a film not unlike David Lynch’s Eraserhead in look and tone. And I bet you that isn’t what Maddin was after. But being born in 1956 means Maddin has taken a full hit of Lynchian radioactivity and the filmic genes have mutated. The Guy can’t help it.
So by the time we get to “that penis is getting dusty” – it’s an erect wooden one sticking randomly out of a wall in a corridor – uttered by Patric in passing, we really don’t care any more. The next cut is to a woman licking the stump of an arm-amputee and I have to admit that at this point I rolled my eyes and quietly groaned “for god’s sake”. You’d think a guy nudging 60 might have got that kind of artschool nonsense out of his system.
On the upside. Thinking long and hard here. I’m going to digress a bit. Maddin does understand how gorgeous black and white can be and he does make interesting films – somehow managing to be frenzied and languid at the same time. The Saddest Music in the World is even odder than Keyhole but it does at least have a plot (a competition to find the saddest music in the world, with Rossellini playing a brewery heiress, hence her hilarious line), and it’s got a sense of humour. Maddin’s My Winnipeg, a very odd portrait of his home town, is a poetic meditation on the power of native towns on the psyche and has the same nightmare (and yes, Lynchian) texture as Keyhole. But it too is about something and once Maddin’s dreamy, oblique modus operandi has been absorbed, it’s a really powerful film.
This has all the hallmarks of Maddin’s unique (if we ignore David Lynch, or possibly even Terence Davies, at a push) style of working (see Davies’s Of Time and the City for a lovely, dreamy and ranting portrait of a home town, Liverpool in his case). In Keyhole Maddin is working the “other” avenue of film-making, the one that lost out to the Hollywood style when silent movies were still king, the one that proceeds by layering impressions, atmospheres, sounds and edits together to produce something less linear, more poetic, often more disturbing.
On this basis alone Keyhole is a film worth watching, that it represents the other way of doing it in a world that doesn’t seem to have much time for it. The various foundations that funded Keyhole will certainly be very happy – all those arthouse tickboxes filled in. Or maybe I’ve read it all wrong and Maddin was actually having a laugh at the institutions’ expense – delivering arthouse by numbers. I wouldn’t put it past him.
Berberian Sound Studio (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
“A dangerously aroused goblin prowls the dormitory” – a line that says it all from the never-seen film that soundman Toby Jones is working on in Peter Strickland’s follow-up to the brilliant, Romanian-set Katalin Varga, a brilliantly overheated, Italian-set homage to 1970s “giallo” horror. Really worth watching with headphones on, this one.
One of the most gripping films of 2012, a semi-documentary about how a 20something French juvie managed to pass himself off as a missing 16-year-old from Texas. And why the family bought it. A remarkable film that I’d just about got my head around, when off it went in another quite a different and shocking direction.
If you could cross the TV comedy series Father Ted with a big-budget Hollywood monster movie, this no-budget Irish tale of pissed-up yokels having a close encounter of the absurd kind would be it. This is a superbly cast and directed film and deserves to become a real cult gem.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (StudioCanal, cert PG, DVD)
Anyone with a love of the arch, the meta, the theatrical will love Alain Resnais’s masterly retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story as a play within a play within a play, embracing a stack of interesting themes, not least the ageing of the boomer generation, one self-defined by youth. It’s got a cast of big names, headed by Michel Piccoli, and shows that even at the age of 90, Resnais, director of 1959’s Hiroshima Mon Amour, has still got it.
Take This Waltz (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
The always excellent Michelle Williams plays the dithery wife being tempted by the artist over the road, while Seth Rogen plays it straight as her apron-wearing, recipe-writing stay-at-home house-husband in a drama from director Sarah Polley which, like her more potent Away from Her, examines a relationship under stress.
The French director Pascal Thomas takes an Agatha Christie story, adds 1960s sports cars, glam European locations and loads of Hart to Hart “playboy detective” nonsense then leaves boulevardiers Catherine Frot and André Dussolier to get on with it. Gorgeous to look at, and sleep through.
This is more Joe Orton than Jo Nesbo, who wrote the original book, a jokey oompah-oompah about a bunch of criminals who win the lottery and then start killing each other. It’s Scandinavian, it’s bloody and if you’ve not OD’d on Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, there are worse and far less entertaining ways of watching people die.
In Love Story, the 1970 weepie in which boy meets girl and girl dies – sorry, that’s it – it is, let me reiterate, the girl who dies. It always is, sickness being part of the female condition, in mainstream Hollywood of the era anyway. Different decade same idea in Now Is Good, a boy-meets-girl-and-girl-dies weepie with Dakota Fanning as the pale, interesting girl, Jeremy Irvine as the boy she falls for and leaves behind.
To go into further plot detail is pointless – the publicity material points out that Tessa (Fanning) has a bucket list and that losing her virginity is at the top of it. But that’s little more than a tease, because the film is really all about the dying – anyone remember any actual plot detail from Love Story? So let’s talk about Fanning’s British accent, which is terrible. For some reason if you’re blonde and an American actress then it’s just a matter of time before you’re required to lube up and insert that British stick up your ass – Witherspoon, Johansson, Zellweger, Paltrow and Williams (Michelle) have all done it.
Now it’s Fanning’s turn and what a cacking mess this accomplished actress makes of it. And it’s not for lack of trying. This girl is putting so much effort into getting the vowel sounds right – “I don’t caaah” she tells someone at some point – that she completely loses touch with the rhythms of the language, leaves dangerous pauses where there shouldn’t be any, jumps onto the ends of other people’s sentences when she can’t logically yet know quite what they’re saying. It’s so bad, in fact, that it throws everyone else off too – including the excellent Kaya Scodelario, who plays Tessa’s naughty best friend, her coltlike beauty knocked back a fair bit by the make-up department (mustn’t upstage the star).
Now Is Good is a Mills and Boon or Harlequin story for girls who like horses. Enter Jeremy Irvine – still glowing from War Horse – playing the boy next door (literally) whose backstory about a dead dad is touched on just enough to let us know that he is damaged. And he makes a pretty good stab at being the lead, lovely hair, lovely jawline, though he’s going to have to get himself to the gym if he’s going to make the transition to proper masculine acting.
So I hated it? Not entirely. Too fragrant when dealing with the shitty decline that leukaemia brings with it, and buggeringly awful though the acting was for the most part, the film managed to pull the odd weepie moment out of the bag, in true ta-daaah style. These came mostly from the interaction between Paddy Considine, playing Fanning’s tough, devastated dad and Olivia Williams, playing her flighty, drinky me-me-me mum.
But there was the big one, where Fanning and Irvine first kiss, after he’s run a mile from her after realising he’s falling for a girl who’s not going to be around for very long. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she asks him, attempting to get him to kiss her. “It’ll hurt,” he replies – meaning when she’s gone. “It already hurts,” she says in a little choked voice, clinching the deal. And a little tear sprang into my eye unbidden.
All distribution, certification info applies to UK only
The Dark Knight Rises (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)
The series has been overpumped but Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film is definitely the best of the bunch, a luxuriously long, character-packed comicbook adventure all the better for featuring Christian Bale’s caped crusader very little.
New Year’s Eve (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)
A Love, Actually idea – a parade of largely unlovely people finding their inner human – gilded with a cast of Famous Actors (De Niro, Efron, Pfeiffer, Biel, Heigl and on and on). The end-credit blooper reel is worth waking up for.
One of the most classic animes ever, looking razor sharp in Blu-ray, full of action, incident, sex and blood and a forceful reminder that even Scooby Doo animation technology can produce something of expressionistic loveliness.
Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (Revolver, cert E, DVD)
A 1995 interview with the Apple founder recorded a year after he’d been fired from his own company. Covering his past (a geek at 12), the current scene (“Microsoft is McDonalds”) and the future (“the web, it’s going to be huge”) it’s honest, relaxed, fascinating.
A restoration of one of the most famous films ever made, Georges Méliès’s 110-year-old 16-minute sci-fi and special effects motherlode – in colour too, every frame hand painted. The soundtrack by Air is as impish as the film itself, and there’s a well researched accompanying doc.
007 first strapped on an Omega watch in 1997. Since then the once-ailing franchise has gone from strength to strength. Coincidence?
Every human being on the planet, even those in Bhutan, or out in the rainforest distilling poison from tree frogs, knows who James Bond is. So ubiquitous is he that even people who haven’t yet been born have a favourite James Bond actor, a favourite Bond girl, a favourite Bond movie, Bond song, car or baddie. In fact even as I write these words images of Louis Armstrong, Daniel Craig, an Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaws and Denise Richards (wrong, I know) are flashing across my cerebral cortex. But, now that Adele has belted out the theme song to Skyfall, the 23rd “official” Bond movie, here’s a question that’s rarely asked. What’s your favourite Bond watch?
It’s not as dumb a question as it might at first seem, either. As Daniel Craig pulled on a Tom Ford shirt and suit – again – to play 007 for the third time, he also slipped on the John Lobb shoes and an Omega Seamaster, as might befit a Royal Naval Commander and a spy who’s licensed to kill. Perhaps it’s the self-winding co-axial escapement, the silicone balance spring, the power reserve of 50 hours. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s easy to take off – let’s not forget Bond’s reputation with the ladies.
This puts Bond in interesting company – Mao Zedong, who was called Mao Tse Tung when Sean Connery first played Bond 50 years ago – wore an Omega. Prince William wears an Omega. Buzz Aldrin wore one when he went to the moon. So, for that matter did Neil Armstrong, but he left his back in the lunar module when he made his first “one small step” moonwalk (some malfunction in the onboard computer meant a proper timepiece was suddenly required) so it was Aldrin’s that became the first watch actually on the moon.
It’s a cool looking watch, the Seamaster, rugged, masculine, dark of dial and stout of hand. Good for up to 600 metres below the waves. Which makes it ideal if you’re trying to escape from a flooding submarine with, say, only Denise Richards to help you.
But it hasn’t always been Omega. “He could not just wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex,” is how Ian Fleming put it in the book Casino Royale. But that was quite a long time ago now and the Rolex wasn’t quite the name it is today. It was a bit more niche. “Sean Connery wore a Rolex, but we thought they’d become a bit ordinary,” is how Lindy Hemming, costume designer on the first three Brosnan Bonds put it, explaining the switch to Omega.
Ordinary? Now this is not the place and I’m not the man to referee a handbags-at-dawn Omega/Rolex stand-off. So let’s look instead at that first Bond movie, Dr No, when Rolex were approached to supply a timepiece – nice bit of product placement – and declined to offer one to a going-nowhere British film based on the sort of paperbacks you’d buy from a railway station. So the Submariner you see on Sean Connery’s wrist is the one that belonged to the film’s producer, Cubby Broccoli.
Connery’s borrowing didn’t end there though. A working class lad by birth who’d spent time in the Navy, worked as a milkman, done a fair bit of bodybuilding, he certainly filled out that Lanvin shirt and that single-button Anthony Price dinner suit (Brits were resistant to the term “tuxedo”) he is first seen in. The one he’s wearing when utters the “Bond. James Bond” line for the first time ever. As for the rest of his performance, it’s a beautifully wrought almost-impersonation of the film’s ladykiller director, Terence Young – a son of the Empire, public school, Cambridge, Irish Guards – the drawl, the semi-smirk, the whole effortless entitlement-shtick of the born to rule.
“Terence Young was James Bond” is how Bond expert Robert Cotton once put it. But it’s also true that Connery internalised an awful lot of Bond’s (ie Young’s) mannerisms. Then the wind changed and they stuck. Through Connery’s long career if you looked at him to catch a reminder of the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, he was hard to see. If you looked for traces of James Bond, there he was – in The Untouchables, The Rock or playing Indiana Jones’s dad – greyer, balder but still 007.
Successive Bonds have done something similar, absorbing enough of Connery’s original reinterpretation of Terence Young and adding their own twist. So did Bond’s dressers. George Lazenby’s dinner suit in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is by Dimi Major and, like Connery’s in Dr No it’s in midnight blue – black being a bit, you know, common. Single breasted with a single button fastening and with peak lapels, it’s such a classic suit that Pierce Brosnan is wearing something incredibly similar 30 years later. As is Daniel Craig in Skyfall, another ten years further down the road. Connery might have given us the archetypal Bond but that shawl collar on his tux in Dr No is not archetypal Bond style. Nor is his homburg hat or chesterfield coat. George Lazenby may only have played Bond once but he did leave a legacy, and that dinner suit is it.
Roger Moore’s time as a model for knitwear seems to have primed him for a career in bad outfits. But with his big barrel chest and narrow waist, Moore just didn’t look good in the same sort of clothes as Connery or Lazenby. Which helps explain the wide lapels, flared trousers, the blouson jackets and all those many variations on the safari suit which he wore while he was James Bond. Though nothing, I’m afraid, excuses the powder blue leisure suit from Live and Let Die. However when things got really serious (a rare thing in a Bond film at the time) even Moore would default back to classic Bond attire – a one button dinner suit. Moore’s version in For Your Eyes Only had a notched lapel (sloppy), a trouser with a silk stripe down the side (naff) and was worn with a cummerbund (a bit paunchy, old Rog).
There’s no escaping the fact that Timothy Dalton’s Bond wore horrible clothes. Flappy overpadded jackets made with acres of material. It was the 1980s and clothes were about as untimeless as you can get. Which is a surprise because in many respects Dalton’s Bond is a clearing-the-decks figure, an attempt by a now old Cubby Broccoli to get Bond back on track. But how? Broccoli decided on realism. Enter gritty Tim in his chinos, and in suits that looked like they were off the peg. The argument probably went that a real British spy would be shopping at Man at C&A rather than Turnbull & Asser. But without glamour, what is James Bond? Answer: not very much at all. Dalton’s two Bond movies are joined by Roger Moore’s A View to a Kill as the three lowest grossing Bonds ever.
So we come to Pierce Brosnan, the “caring sharing” Bond. But though we see him suffer and struggle with his conscience – gentlemen, Mr Bond also grows a beard – Pierce Brosnan does manage to dress properly, in well structured suits, often from the Italian tailor Brioni, with the lean, strong, faintly military look you might expect from a Naval commander. Brosnan’s Bond also wears the classic dinner suit with peak lapels and one button. Daniel Craig sticks with Brioni in his first outing as Bond, before shifting to Tom Ford for Quantum of Solace, during the making of which he destroyed 40 bespoke Ford suits – “It really is a crime. It makes me weep every time. They’re great suits,” said Craig.
Sartorially, thematically and financially, Dalton’s Bond signals the shifting of the Bond engine into neutral, before Brosnan’s 007 puts it back into gear, after which Craig’s accelerates off with the spoils. Which makes Craig’s choice of dinner suit in Quantum of Solace all the more interesting – one-button midnight blue with a shawl collar, almost an exact copy of Connery’s.
So, for those of you wondering where I’m going with all this, and how Omega fits in, the simple answer is: seamlessly. In Bond’s first outing as Sean Connery, he wore a Rolex Submariner. It didn’t do much apart from look good. In From Russia with Loveit was again the Submariner. No gadgets, just a watch. There was a gadgety watch in this film, but it wasn’t worn by Bond but by the other guy, Red Grant (Robert Shaw). It dispensed piano wire. Handy if you fancy garrotting someone. Which Mr Grant did like to do, being a murderous Soviet assassin.
Connery wore the Submariner in all his Bond films, though we did get glimpses of other watches – a Breitling with a Geiger counter in Thunderball, for instance. George Lazenby wore a Submariner too, and we even got a glimpse of Red Grant’s watch again in a drawer 007 had filled with memorabilia (the sentimental old fool).
Something interesting happens when Roger Moore takes over. Bond gradually goes from being a Submariner kind of guy to being a Seiko Quartz kind of guy. And with it the purity of hand-to-hand combat, hard logic and ruthlessness gave way to a raised eyebrow, an arch comment and as many gadgets as can be squeezed into a watchcase. Suddenly it’s all teleprinter tape (how quaint), explosives, digital message displays, direction finders. The sort of thing an iPhone now does without too much fuss, apart from the explosives (now that would be a killer app).
Look for watches in the Dalton era and it’s the same as the clothes. There’s a glimpse of a Submariner 16800 but no one really seems to be bothering with the “small stuff”. Forgetting that the “small stuff” is what Bond is actually all about. Dalton’s Bonds are a rudderless ship. It’s only with Brosnan, Goldeneye and the beginning of the modern Bond era that rigour returns, in the shape of the Omega Seamaster – a quartz 2541.80 model that comes with laser cutter and remote detonator, though you won’t find those extras in the catalogue. As befits a ship that’s back on course, the gadgets are simple, stylish and effective. That fabulous vault out of the window that Brosnan’s Bond does in The World Is Not Enough, his death on the pavement below prevented by the 50 metres of microfilament contained in his Seamaster – now that’s what we’re talking about.
Which brings us up to date with Daniel Craig’s 007, who also wears a Seamaster. And his does… nothing. Just as in Mr Connery’s era the watch just looks good, it tells the time. It might have a chronometer but that’s about it. The stripped-back ethic of the film, the style of clothes and the functionality of his timepieces all tell the same story. What Craig is doing is bringing Connery’s Bond back to life and laying claim to the 007 heritage in a way that no one has dared do before.
Incidentally, and bringing us properly full circle, when Mr Craig is off duty, he actually wears a Rolex, the Submariner 6538 with regimental stripe band to be precise. Which means he really is taking this Connery thing more seriously than he’s possibly letting on. Somewhere out on a golf course in the Bahamas, a retired Scottish body-builder is smiling.
For research I am indebted to Matt Spaiser’s website thesuitsofjamesbond.com – hugely informative, written with style and wit and with more information about cocktail cuffs, trilbys, grenadine ties and other 007 apparel than most mortals will ever need.
From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations.
The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of the sentimental, the melodramatic and the brutally direct often jars for the wrong and the right reasons.
A fluffy TV reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) lucks into the biggest story of her career by accident as a TV news crew is trapped inside a zombie house. Aficionados will recognise this as a scene for scene, stroke for stroke English language remake of Spanish horror [REC]. How wise not to change a thing.
Into the bafflingly busy Iraq War with an embedded Rolling Stone reporter in this multi-stranded, vibrant 7-part TV series adapted from journalist Evan Wright’s book and brought to the screen by the team behind The Wire. Another triumph.
One of director Curtis Hanson’s sweet run of great films in the 1990s and one of the must-watch movies of 1997. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey play cops up to the oxters in celebrity sleaze – hello Kim Basinger in Veronica Lake pose – in this lush, noirish evocation of the tawdry 1950s.
Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo keeps it feelgood in this harmless comedy about an old and rubbish rock drummer 20 past his sell-by joining a young band. Yes, it’s a School of Rock knock-off, and yes Rainn Wilson is working his way through Jack Black’s list of buffoonery and goofery.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Momentum, cert PG)
Frances McDormand joins a crack team of British thespians (Stephanie Cole, Shirley Henderson, Mark Strong) to demonstrate how to strangle the English accent in a flimsy wannabe screwball comedy set between the wars and stolen comprehensively by Amy Adams.
Following on from last year’s Back Soon, Rob Williams’s state-of-the-gay-nation outing sees eight men hopping beds and baring souls for a weekend in a drama avoiding waspish stereotypes as it follows its central relationship into meltdown. Warning: may contain nuts.
Chaotic throwback to cyberpunk 1980s – 2000AD comic, Brazil and Blade Runner – with a physically impressive if wooden Bai Ling as a ninja she-assassin. Quite what Faye Dunaway is doing here is a mystery.
Directed by Saw 1-4’s set dresser – a franchise this established will eventually direct itself – the gorno franchise finally runs out of wit, though the early DIY tracheotomy scene catches the breath and proves there’s still some ingenuity left in the tank, unpleasant though it is.
Talking of which, here’s what Saw II,III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman’s been up to, a tin-eared Rocky Horror-ish trash-glam musical on nitrous. Motley crew Alexa Vega, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brightman, Anthony Stewart Head and Paul Sorvino make it oddity of the week.
Based on the same novel Hitchcock made into his 1927 silent classic, a lumpen Ripper tale set in LA, starring a wasted Alfred Molina as detective and Hope Davis as lonely housewife who let out a room to a mystery man (Simon West) who might be a killer.