Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Plonked in front of an unassuming fireplace in one of the least De Palma-esque shots it's possible to compose, the 76-year-old director opens up about the highs and lows of his career over 110 minutes of delicious tittle-tattle and self-deprecation, while his interrogators regularly intersperse the chatter with clips from his remarkable 50-year filmography. It's as prosaic a format for a talking head as you could get, but it doesn't matter a hoot: firstly, BDP is so comfortably avuncular you just want to bathe in the glow of his chubby cheeks and tales of Hollywood madness, and secondly, most of the clips are so exhaustingly kinetic that anything more exciting than a septuagenarian in front of a fireplace would wear you out by the halfway mark.
It's not all scandal and scuttlebutt though: De Palma talks at length about the difficulty of swimming against the Hollywood tide, particularly in the context of his movie brat friends Marty, George, Francis and Steven. "What we did in our generation will never be duplicated," he proudly boasts, but fully admits that his path was not necessarily as successfully navigated as those of his contemporaries. "I'm driven by unrealistic ideas [...] my movies tend to upset people a lot," he understates while musing on some of his frankly numerous critical and commercial failures. But his sheer energy and ambition shine through, emanating from the same well of indomitability that makes all his films fascinating to watch even when they spectacularly fail.
Baumbach and Paltrow bookend their film with clips from Vertigo, and not without good cause: De Palma's well-documented love of Alfred Hitchcock not only set him on his way but has also been the source of some of his fiercest criticism. He ends the interview with a rousing defence of his decision to frequently homage the master of suspense so blatantly, and it's hard to counter the argument without coming across as the dullest of sticks. Ultimately though, his work speaks for itself and for him, and the carefully curated clips within this loving tribute illustrate this. As a document of its subject's fury, obsession and passion, De Palma is untouchable.
Friday, 16 September 2016
I'm very happy about all this, because Taika Waititi seems like a decent chap, and he certainly makes interesting films. I'm just not quite sure if they're *good* enough, and while I don't really care a right lot about whether or not Thor: Ragnarok is premium Marvelry, I wouldn't want a bad blockbuster to have an adverse affect on a promising career, because I still think Waititi's best film is ahead of him. All of which is an inordinately long-winded and convoluted way of saying that Hunt For The Wilderpeople is fine but could have been better. I don't know why I didn't just say that to begin with. Sorry.
Neill and Dennison are a joy to watch, tramping through the wilderness like Up's Carl and Russell made flesh. Neill's beard and chunky-knit sweaters made me want him to hold me throughout the entire winter, while Dennison is a 12A version of Summer Heights High's gloriously awful Jonah Takalua, a wannabe gangsta who composes half-baked haikus as a form of anger management. Supporting characters are mostly successful, not least Rachel House's unbalanced social worker Paula, although what seems like an obligatory cameo from Rhys Darby (alumnus of Waititi projects Flight Of The Conchords and What We Do In The Shadows) feels like it stumbled in from a much broader comedy.
Hunt For The Wilderpeople's appeal stems more from its situation than its comedy (one incident recalls The Revenant, probably inadvertently but no less amusing for it), to the point where a good proportion of the jokes stumble when a more honed script and tighter direction and editing could have made them soar. I suspect I'm in a minority, but I had this problem with Waititi's Eagle vs Shark and What We Do In The Shadows: great ideas that just felt a little lacking in the execution. Characterisation is the director's strongest point though, and - like those earlier films - Wilderpeople boasts enough of that to forgive it its flaws. And if Waititi can find a part for Dennison in Thor: Ragnarok, I'll forgive him anything.
Thursday, 15 September 2016
Top Cat Begins not included
It didn't last, though. Like when you pass a horrific car accident on the motorway so get off at the next exit and come back for a better look and a few selfies (come on, we all do it), I couldn't resist finding out exactly what was so grim about this summer, so I binge-watched much of it in the last couple of weeks. Turns out it hasn't actually been apocalyptically bad, so much as just stultifyingly average. Not a single one of these films has improved my existence, and only one of them made me want to scoop out my eyeballs, although I have thus far avoided Suicide Squad. So here's a look back at some of the humdrummery that's passed for entertainment in cinemas recently, which might come across as an exercise in futility but does at least get rid of that X-Men: Apocalypse still.
The Nice Guys
The Neon Demon™ finally (and quite deliberately) becoming the thing his critics have been accusing him of for years: a vain, surface-obsessed director wanking himself silly over the beauty of horror at the expense of logic and plot. It's a celebration of superficiality, as pretentious and vacuous as its subject matter... or is it? As monstrous greed and ambition plague an industry where purity has a brutally short shelf-life before it's devoured by envy and success from within and without, The Neon Demon might just stand as one of the most honest semi-autobiographies ever filmed. I just have no idea if I like it or not.
Star Trek Beyond