Popcorn Taxi: The Last King of Scotland

“But you should have persuaded me!”

I would love to be the most trusted advisor of a mad dictator. I can imagine the trajectory that this would take, in stream of consciousness:

What a nice man! Check out these sheets! Ooh! A fast car, for me? How kind! Dear lord! Who is shooting at me?! Dear lord, why are we shooting at them?! OH GOD MY NIPPLES NOOOOOOO

… Nope. Still don’t want to go to Africa. The British are killing your tourism industry, Africa!

The Last King of Scotland is the first feature film from renowned director of such documentaries as One Day in September (about the Berlin hostage situation that inspired Munich), Roger Macdonald. For a first time director making a film in one of those countries without a film industry, having to train much of his crew on the job, he’s done pretty well for himself.

Dreamgirls

“We’re your Dreamgirls, and have we got news for you!”

Stories about stratospherically popular musical acts that rose from nothing have a tendency to be the same. Of course, sameness is not a crime when it’s done well. Dreamgirls has many of the popular elements of the superstar genre and, the story essentially being “borrowed” from the Supremes and Motown, so it’s not all original.
What it is is all singing, some dancing, high kicking character action! Ten years of epicness in an industry that can make you or break you!
Dreamgirls: the musical that forgets that it’s a musical, rather than a movie with songs, then suddenly remembers … and consequently takes over your world for the remainder.
From Bill Condon, the man who brought you Chicago, Dreamgirls is a musical that won’t make you feel dirty afterwards. While I don’t care about the “legitimacy” of song in musicals, this movie makes each song seem at least vaguely realistic as a story telling device, if not always good.

Pan’s Labyrinth

You mustn’t eat anything.

To say that Pan’s Labyrinth was “unrelentingly horrible” would not be entirely true. To say that its ending was sad would be entirely subjective. To say that it was “wicked awesome” would be somewhat immature yet also entirely accurate.
Pan’s Labyrinth is a movie with violence of the variety that sends entire theatres into repulsion; a movie where the right person getting stabbed can elicit cheers from the audience; a movie where the bad isn’t always bad and the good not always good.

Through Pan’s Labyrinth we are forced to remember that childhood can be a dark and terrible place, and that unless dangers are made real then nothing can be learned.

Apocalypto

Bee throwing action!

Is it wrong to dislike Mel Gibson’s movies based on his anti-Semitic exploits? Unless that movie condemns Jewish people straight up, probably. It is not right to dislike a movie because of the personal lives of its staff, but it is okay to dislike a movie because of its overuse of slow motion, under use of dialogue for minutes at a time in which nothing but scenery happens, and general spottiness.
Apocalypto is not a bad movie: it is frequently visually and narratively arresting, but never consistently so.

Blood Diamond

“Relax, brew.”

Having come hot off the heels of The Queen, it was really strange to see Tony Blair turning the suffering of Africans into diamond money. Before that, I had made jokes about this movie being about Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly wresting diamonds from the hands of a not-so-much-evil-as-misunderstood David Bowie. What I saw was a movie that reinforced for me once again that, while the world is beautiful, humans are ugly. I reflected that I have not seen one movie that has made me want to go to Africa.

Blood Diamond is not going to make you want to go to Africa – at least the Sierra Leone of eight years ago. From the director of The Last Samurai, this is a different movie: Leonardo DiCaprio does nothing to save the people of Africa from themselves as Tom Cruise so nobly did for Japan a few years ago. It’s good, if not great, and very, very long.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, despite being one of my favourite films of 2006, has received only two short mentions on this site, one of which was totally … Arbitrary.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is Tommy Lee Jones’ directorial debut, filmed in glorious and oppressive low rise. The borders of America have beautiful scenery, but not the architecture to match. The atmosphere is stifling; here is a place where the only releases are friendship and sex. This is a movie about lonely, unfulfilled people, yet it is ultimately about decency and the transcendental nature of emotions.

Tenacious D at the Hordern Pavillion: January 16, 2007

Last week I saw Tenacious D at the Hordern Pavilion. They had a really good “He is Real” shirt for the tour, but the ATM at the venue (one ATM at a venue that holds thousands? Good idea!) was broken. The night got off to a sour start as a result. The support act, a pair called TnT … I have no idea how good they were, because they tended to sing about the sort of stuff that appeals to “all young men in Australia except for me” … which indicates they were probably too generic for the rest of the audience, because do you really want to hear songs about going out and drinking with your friends?

The concert itself was fun, although it was strange to see JB and KG stringing a story onto the stage. The songs that I knew went down a treat but, because the danged movie hasn’t been released out here yet, I didn’t know a lot of the rest.
This would not have been a problem had the D not gone electric (me! Judas!). The acoustics were not really calibrated for electricity and vocals, so I had no idea of a great deal of what Jack Black was singing. The band – consisting of the Anti-Christ on electric guitar, Charlie Chaplin on bass and Colonel Sanders on drums – was good, but it all became as so much noise to me.

It was a fun night, but not as much fun as I would have liked. I prefer the D when they treat a concert as a concert rather than a performance – and when using the Saxaboom makes sense!

For this reason, I present to you my write up of December 30th, 2004: the Day of the D.

Contains frequent profanity!

More awards?

Not from me, no, these are the 2006 Kaedrin Movie Awards! Mark’s awards are particularly notable in that they embrace arbitrariness without being as thoroughly useless as my own criteria, and that he is actually able to focus on the good of Mission: Impossible III without his brain trying to eat itself from reminding the sheer stupidity of Ethan Hunt finding a tennis ball launcher in Hong Kong in the middle of the night in less than half an hour.

Better yet, it looks to be a daily occurrence! That’ll keep you occupied while I spend my time watching movies about Mexico.

Arbitrary Awards 2006

I had been asked what my pick of 2006 was shortly after I finished the 12 Months of Movies feature for 2006. It’s a feature that I probably won’t do at the end of 2007 because I will hopefully have made a proper portfolio this year, although I can’t write reviews for every little thing I see.

What I likely will do is this feature: The Arbitrary Awards! Highlights of the year, picked for categories you’re unlikely to see at any other sham awards ceremony this side of the MTV Whatever awards! (In the UK, the Arbitrary Awards have been nicknamed the “I Want That Ones”).
Keep in mind that this is not a top ten list. It is a collection of movies that I liked and would rank among the best of the year, although not always for the most honorable reasons. The best thing is that some categories actually have multiple candidates (where multiple means “two”).

The Queen

Nobody knows the people of England better than she.

It did not take me long to realise that Stephen Frear’s The Queen is a delicate story of Upstairs and Downstairs relations. Here, however, the Upstairs is directly accountable to the Downstairs; Downstairs being as they are, what they want does not always seem the classy option. The Stairs themselves are therefore precariously balanced with reconciling those above and below them, all the while trying to balance their own interests.

What was once a simple and elegant metaphor for English society grew laboured in my telling, but Upstairs is the British Monarchy, Downstairs the increasingly cultureless citizens of England, and the Stairs Tony Blair’s government.

Being as this is a movie about class, it’s no surprise that it’s a classy movie. It sympathises with Queen Elizabeth II, who seems more personable than any of the limited times I’ve seen her (although she seemed quite nice when Rolf Harris painted her). The situations presented are almost entirely based on conjecture about the events of a few weeks in 1997. While they may not be strictly true, they feel genuine; these real world people have become fully realised characters for the sake of a film.
While there are some who will be offended by the idea of an author writing a situation that may have happened (and was pretty well researched), anyone else with a vague interest in the Royal Family and the death of Diana will be well served to see The Queen.