Monday, 30 January 2012


I've had a flurry of cinema attendance since the turn of the year, with mixed results. For anyone who feels they might share my taste in films I thought I might jot down some thoughts.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The

This being the English language version starring Daniel Craig. Ridiculously, I have yet to see the original film (which even my mother-in-law has seen!), so I came to this without a bias towards either that or Stieg Larsson's novel. I did come to it with a less-than-healthy opinion of Mr Craig, who despite someone once telling me I look like him (I don't), has to date struck me as possessing the emotional range of a common house brick. Not that that quality isn't suited to this particular role - I just don't think he needs to be THAT understated THAT often. Mara Rooney comfortably outshines him here in the title role, and Christopher Plummer's typically assured performance is worth a fair chunk of the admission fee by itself. As remakes of Scandinavian films go, I get the feeling that this isn't as successful as the 2002 Pacino/Williams version of Insomnia, but that doesn't mean this is a bad film - just a slightly pointless one, perhaps. I should warn that some of the action is fairly graphic, but although I don't think it quite reaches offensiveness (though one or two scenes do come close), I wouldn't recommend going to see it with your mother-in-law. Take mine instead.

Iron Lady, The

This has ignited an interesting debate about acting versus impersonation. Meryl Streep is apparently nailed-on for Best Actress at the Academy Awards, and hers is undoubtedly a superbly observed portrayal well worth seeing no matter what your views on Margaret Thatcher. However, it seems to me there is some merit in the view that acting is really about creating a fictional character from scratch, or at least from a personal interpretation of the vision of a director and/or screenwriter. After all, Michael Sheen's performances as David Frost and Brian Clough (possibly Tony Blair - not seen that one) are equally remarkably caricatures, but I don't see any Oscars on his mantelpiece. On the other hand, I wouldn't dare to suggest that Ben Kingsley or George C Scott should be stripped of their acting awards for Gandhi or Patten. Not that Scott accepted his anyway. And on another other hand, those films were conventional biopics whereas The Iron Lady certainly is not.
I triple-digress. It's a good film. Could be better, but still good. I don't know how successful the dementia-angle they took with the film was - it makes for one of Jim Broadbent's more superfluous appearances as the hallucinated Dennis - and I think I'm with those who would have preferred more focus on 1979-1990.

War Horse

Once again, I must declare that I haven't read the novel, nor have I seen the play. Sorry about that. Actually though, I'm almost glad I haven't, since I'm reasonably sure this film would have been a disappointment to me. As it was, I thought it was watchable enough, though utterly ridiculous. Rural pre-war Devon was full of hopelessly depicted cartoon-like characters, the events of the film seemed to span a couple of months at most as opposed to the more than four years of the war, and in general Mr Spielberg's schmaltz-meter must have suffered a spectacular malfunction. For sheer unbelievability in a semi-historical yarn, I'm not sure I have seen anything to touch this. On the plus side, Jeremy Irvine. Yes I did mean to conclude that sentence quite so abruptly.

Descendents, The

This is the kind of film I get on with. No far-fetched stories about murder or adventure, or even romance. No special effects. No fluffy animals, talking or otherwise. Just actors acting. Pretending to be real people and telling a human story, of events that could conceivably happen to you or me, albeit probably not in Hawaii or in the context of a multi-million-dollar land deal. Well, I didn't say it was perfect, did I? The theme of past (and now irrelevant) infidelity put me in mind of Death of a Salesman, which has to be high praise, doesn't it? The child acting is remarkable, Clooney is excellent, the locations are at times spectacular. My pick of these four by a distance.

I suppose there was a spoiler or two amongst the above. Sue me.

Question: One of the four films mentioned moved me to tears three times. One (just) did so once. The other two did not. Can you guess which is which?


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Ben:
We are cinema devotees but not, alas, in England as the price of admission is ridiculously high and in every cinema which we have frequented in the UK people eat throughout the performance and stand up, thereby obscuring, the credits at the end.

We have, therefore, not seen any of the films you mention here yet but can only think that the 'Iron Lady' and 'The Descendents' would be on our list.

Spielberg's spectaculars have little appeal for us and friends who have seen it agreed with you that there are parts of the film which are simply laughable in their authenticity.

Stieg Larsson's trilogy we have read and that is, perhaps, where we shall rest our case. The violent scenes on the pages are quite graphic enough and we cannot bear to think how they translate to the big screen!!

Will you be going to see 'The Artist'? That is currently top of our list. Could it have been 'Warhorse' which reduced you to tears?

Ben said...

Jane and Lance:
A £6.00 matinee special is about the cheapest I find near me. I'd guess that prices are higher in your English neck of the woods. London cinema prices are eyebrow-raisingly high for a provice dweller like me.

There's plenty of good Spielberg around, but most of it is not recent. Jaws is probably in my top ten.

I may try to see The Artist this weekend, if I can persuade anyone to come with me!

You're wide of the mark with your guess, I'm afraid!

Jack said...

Hey man! Didn't know you wrote film reviews. Get chatting about some of the classics!

Ben said...

See what I can do, dude.