Sam’s Top Ten of the Year
You can listen to us discussing these films at length on the podcast on the show, but please do check out the list below for perpetuity. Sam’s list is annotated and included below, Tom’s is not annotated and its right here. This just means you will have to check out the podcast to hear Tom’s viewpoints. So check out Sam’s choices after the jump, along with a few choice thoughts and honourable mentions. Enjoy!
Costner and Lee Jones for Company Men
Kevin Costner and Tommy Lee Jones have joined the long-attached Ben Affleck in The Company Men, to be directed by John Wells.
The story, also written by Wells, follows Affleck’s high-flying stockbroker who loses everything and ends up taking a construction job arranged by his brother, Costner. Tommy Lee Jones will play a principled senior partner in the firm Affleck worked for who struggles with the immoral and ethically-dubious actions of his fellow board members.
Sounds very topical and hot-button, but it seems to me as though the films which will succeed in the downturn are not the ones explicitly about the financial systems and corporate greed. Those films are more likely to be misinterpreted in the same way Wall Street so famously was. The films which will be popular will be those celebrating the beauty of the smaller, freer things in life, hence the astonishing success of Slumdog Millionaire which, although a film in which the lead character is competing for millions of rupees, is essentially a story about love conquering all. Films which concern themselves overtly with corporate ethical issues are likely to fail, partly because nearly nothing they make up could possibly match the AIGs and Lehmans of the world.
Film4 May be In Danger: Ross
Film4 could be among the casualties of the problems currently plaguing Channel 4 amid the recession, according to statements made by Tessa Ross to the House of Lords Communications Committee. Ross, the controller of film and drama at Film4, said her operation would be “foolish” not to have any concern over its future, additionally suggesting that one method to aid the film channel would be to redraft the public services remit of its parent broadcaster to bring Film4 into the fold.
ScreenDaily cites recent quotes from Ross on the future of Film4:
“The current economic climate has put pressure on Film4’s budget and Channel 4 is having to respond to market conditions, protecting commercial programming while also fighting to preserve areas like film which makes Channel 4 distinctive and offer huge cultural value to our audiences. Film4 is a unique home for British filmmakers and we are passionate that we should be able to continue to take the risks that allow projects like Slumdog to get off the ground.”
Ross is making the move at a good time as Slumdog Millionaire has given the organisation currency to try and promote its economic viability. The Film4 remit remains pretty strong, especially given as few free film channels exist and even fewer which show interesting and challenging movies without having to pay up to Murdoch’s Sky empire. Channel 4 itself too should be making its case more often, especially given the relevance and quality of its service when compared to the BBC. Channel 4 continues to provide the world with great documentaries, an excellent selection of films and original programming and easily the most reliable news coverage in the UK. It should be rewarded and the BBC should be, if not punished, certainly subject to a more stringent oversight of how taxpayer money is being spent. This is particularly frustrating given the galling nature of modern programming on the BBC, too much of which involves reality television and repeats which seems not to serve its responsibilities as a public service broadcast network.
Time for a shift in the power axis of television I think, even if it’s days in its traditional form are numbered. Channel 4, and Film4, deserve some assistance from the government to make sure we don’t ever have to rely on getting our television news from the BBC or, God forbid, ITV.
UK Box-Office: March 13-15
Marley and Me strode to the top of the UK-box office this week as Watchmen tracked its heavy second week drop off seen in the US. Marley and Me opened with a pretty strong £4.4m, adding to its blockbuster levels achieved in the US. Watchmen racked up GBP1.4m in second with Gran Turino, Slumdog Millionaire and a strong showing for The Young Victoria making up the top five.
The latter was a good showing, although not surprising given the predilection of people in the UK to see homegrown movies which avoid too much sex and violence. As an addition to that, Bronson, to be reviewed on our podcast this week, came in tenth place amid controversy from the Daily Mail crowd that it glorifies violence, an opinion likely only backed by conjecture from conservative papers and not by actual experience of the film. Although, reading Tookey’s review, you’d have an argument that you can see the film and still not have an educated opinion.
Full charts here.
US Box Office: 13 March
So Race to Witch Mountain has outrun Watchmen to the finish post this week with the Rock-starring Disney reimagining putting up a pretty average $25m opening. Watchmen took a hair over $18m to finish in second, boosting its total to over $83m thus far, still a little disappointing for such a super-hyped, uber-promoted blockbuster, no matter the length or difficulty. The glossed-up remake of exploitation horror ‘classic’ Last House on the Left took only $14m with the only other new release, the awful-looking Miss March, wheezing to a $2m opening, not aided by dire reviews.
Other notables include another $6m for the Liam Neeson sleeper Taken and just over $5m for Slumdog Millionaire. Both of those are now looking at totals by the close of around $140/150m domestic.
Full table here.
Review: Slumdog Millionaire
Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto, Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal
Director: Danny Boyle (Loveleen Tandan, co-director)
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, from the novel by Vikas Swarup
Lauded prior to release on our side of the pond, Slumdog Millionaire is a pretty outstanding piece of British filmmaking, one of the fine times when Danny Boyle’s stylistic ability converges with a sense of powerful emotion. Not only that, it’s one of the first mainstream attempts by a movie in the UK to engage with the cultural melting pot which exists, primarily made from Asian and English personage.
We follow Jamal, a young kid from the slums of Mumbai, then Bombay, as he stands on the verge of winning the top prize on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. As he gets to the last question, Jamal is carted off by authorities who accuse him of cheating. The film then structures out to explore a series of events in Jamal’s life which have given provided him with all the answers to be able to win the quiz.
Promoted as a feel-good movie, it’s one of the strangest forms of such a sub-genre. The vast majority of Slumdog Millionaire sees the horrific life of a slum child in India across the poverty of his early life and his witnessing of the building up of the new India. Some scenes of the film are truly horrific and the tenor of that part of his life seems hopeless, only pulled back from the edge of depressing by Danny Boyle’s kinetic direction and a sense of hope that the movie plumbs constantly to remind us of the adage that true love will eventually prevail. If this subtracts from the film’s ability to surprise, making it relatively predictable in terms of getting from A to C, the B section is where we, and Jamal, earn the happy ending.
The events that occur in Jamal’s life are horrendous, frightening and deeply troubling; from his life working in a harem of beggars for a master willing to do anything to make them more likely to solicit sympathetic donations to his constant battles and ventures into the darkest parts of town to continually find his love, Latika. But they begin by the close for form a semi-biblical trial that Jamal must go through, reconciling his relationship with his brother and, with the gameshow, giving himself a sense of closure on that part of his life and a new beginning to look forward to. The relationship with his brother, the wayward Salim, is maybe the strongest part of the film. The two are not diametrically opposed and manage to capture the anger and forgiveness balance that is necessary within a brotherly relationship.
Boyle’s direction is constantly outstanding, visually superlative and infusing what could be a slog of a film with a vitality and energy that drags it through any of the more disturbing elements of the story. The performance match this well with both Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, as Jamal and Latika respectively, are wide-eyed and naïve filled with the possibilities of love and drawing the audience into their relationship enough to mean that few will begrudge Boyle his climactic moments. Also outstanding are Anil Kapoor as the host of Millionaire, just smarmy enough to be entertaining during the show, and the always-excellent Irrfan Khan as the police inspector questioning Jamal.
I would struggle to entirely characterise this as feel-good given the journey needed prior to any real feeling good. But this is a superb film, hugely enjoyable and brilliantly made and will surely be making year-end lists across the UK.
MOD Rating: ♦♦♦♦