No. 162 – The Thing (1982)

In the interests of full disclosure – John Carpenter is one of my all-time favourite film-makers. His work had a massive influence on me as a younger man, and I honestly don’t think the man can do any wrong. He basically invented the slasher-movie template with Halloween, and his 1980s science-fiction films helped to define the genre. Even his apparently poor films thrill me.

So here is why you absolutely MUST watch his 1982 masterpiece ‘The Thing’.

Firstly, it stars Kurt Russell exuding effortless cool. He plays MacReady, a helicopter pilot for a US research station based in Antarctica. He drinks a lot, has access to weapons, and trashes primitive computers when they beat him at chess. Exactly the kind of man you need hanging around a scientific establishment.

Kurt Russell as MacReady in The Hangover 3: Aliens in Antarctica

The beginning of the film opens on some pesky Norwegians following a dog in a helicopter and trying to kill it with rifles and a fair few hand grenades. We’re immediately on the side of the dog at this point – cute little thing. Plus these Norwegians are useless with the grenades and haven’t bothered to learn English which obviously means we’re not meant to be too sad when they get themselves killed by the staff of a US research base.

But don’t you know – there’s something not quite right about that dog. He’s a nosey fucker for a start, and starts swanning round the base like he owns it. He doesn’t take to kindly to finally getting put in a kennel for the night with the other dogs. Mainly because he’s not a dog, he’s a shape-shifting alien who absorbs living creatures and takes their form. Ah, that explains it.

The rest of the film descends into a tale of survival in isolation, against a beast from the unknown. Standard stuff, but the genius of The Thing is that it doesn’t actually need to show it’s monster. The real monster in the camp (cue pretentious over-reading of the film) is the team’s paranoia and suspicion of each other. The ‘blood test’ scene is up there with Hitchcock at his best in terms of building up tension, and allowing the characters onscreen to psychologically unravel before our eyes. Much like the recent (and excellent) film version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy isn’t about spying, but rather about suspicion and paranoia – The Thing isn’t about an alien shape-shifter, but about the fact that no one in this camp can trust each other. Trust is the thing that keeps order in society – and if trust was totally removed then society would collapse.

And society in the camp definitely collapses. As does the camp itself, mainly due to weapons, explosives, and flame-throwers that I assume are commonplace in all scientific research establishments. Hell, CERN probably has an Apache gunship in the car park.

As I said, this film would work without ever showing the ‘true’ form of the alien. But it would be a lot less fun. Some of the effects in The Thing put today’s computer-generated graphics to shame. There is a soul to these hideous creations that can genuinely terrify you.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but this film is bleak and nihilistic in its tone from start to finish. There’s certainly no easy tying up of loose ends and the hero doesn’t get the girl and crack a joke at the end. Mainly because there is no girl. John Carpenter lives on a higher plane than gender politics, so let’s not go there.

Like so many films that are now considered classics, The Thing was a critical and commercial flop on release. It’s taken over 2 decades for it to complete its rehabilitation as one of the defining films of modern sci-fi – so the least you can do is set aside a couple of hours this month to watch the film that John Carpenter describes as his favourite example of his work. And John Carpenter is never wrong.

No. 64 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

This film was written by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and was the break-through feature from director Michel Gondry (Human Nature, and some of the most incredible music videos ever made including ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ and ‘The Hardest Button To Button’ by The White Stripes, and ‘Star Guitar’ and ‘Let Forever Be’ by the Chemical Brothers).

And I tell you what, it certainly picks you up by the scruff of the neck and lets you know it is the deranged love-child of Kaufman and Gondry. This film is one of the purest and most natural collaborations of writer and director of the last 30 years.

The plot revolves around the broken-down relationship of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), and their decision to wipe their memories of each other (and every aspect of their relationship) through a company that specialises in this sort of thing. This is a Charlie Kaufman film, remember.

The film opens however, in a very un-Gondry style. In fact the first 16 minutes (the first reel of the physical film) contain no credits, and a very subdued, realisticl visual style. The lighting is natural, and the only visual wonder comes from the beauty of the physical locations of the isolated beach in Montauk and a ethereal frozen lake upon which our star-crossed lovers have a very kooky and ‘indie’ night picnic and fall in love. Unbeknownst to them however, they have done all of this before.

Then the credits roll, and we are thrown into full-on Gondry mode as we are shown the story that led to Joel and Clementine finding each other (again). The history of their relationship is shown backwards as Joel’s memories are slowly erased one by one. While this is going on, Joel’s sub-conscious self is racing through his mind trying to save the memories having decided that he doesn’t want to lose the good ones. Sadly, it’s all or nothing in this science.

There are some breath-taking visual set-pieces that include cars raining from the sky, as well as some more subtle touches where, for example, adult Joel is inserted into his own childhood. The fact that Gondry achieved most of this without a hint of CGI is testament to the imagination at work here. In a scene where Joel walks in on his consultation with Dr Mierzwiak (played with typical pathos and gravitas by Tom Wilkinson – the British thespian who’s excellent American accent has allowed him to carve out a career in the US in exactly this type of role) rather than use a bit of simple camera trickery to have two Joel’s in the scene – Carrey physically played both roles at the same time by standing up and putting on a hat.

Despite all this, it’s the performances that really lift this film into the upper reaches of cinematic brilliance. Jim Carrey plays the vulnerable and understated everyman that he showed us in The Truman Show. The kind of performance that makes you want to give him an almighty slap when you see him turn up in ‘comedies’ like Me, Myself, & Irene. And Kate Winslet is a revelation, in a roll that she has previously stated is her favourite performance. She actually plays it very much like a more Jim Carrey character, but with the depth and mystery of an Oscar-winning actress. She is funny, and flighty, and exasperatingly kooky – but you can’t help but fall in love with her. Just like Joel.

No snarky comment, just one of my favourite shots from a film ever.

My one small criticism of the film is that at times looking back through their relationship you wonder why Joel is bothering to try and save the memories. The bad times seem to out-weigh the good, and at times they magnify their very worst instincts in each other.

[SPOILER ALERT]

 

 

 

It makes you wonder why they decide to give it another go, despite knowing that they will almost certainly make the same mistakes again. By wiping their memory, they are doomed to make the very same mistakes all over again and we are going to be in the same place in another 2 years time.
But maybe that is the point. That no matter what mistakes you make in a relationship – isn’t the existence of the relationship alone worth something? In a universe where we are mere specks of insignificance, is finding a few moments of happiness together with a fellow speck really what life is all about?

The Artist (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius)

Although I am writing this up as a new release post, I have already noticed that The Artist has already climbed to number 178 in the IMDB Top 250. Two birds with one stone – nice.

Anyway, I am probably already the fourth or fifth person to tell you to go and see this film. That’s right; I’m not going to bother stringing out what I think of this film for a few paragraphs. I loved it, and I am going to tell you why.

The plot itself is nothing hugely original – in fact, it’s very similar to the plot of A Star Is Born. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, one of the biggest silent movie stars in the world, and a ridiculously charming and handsome son of a bitch. His audiences love him, as well as his dog co-star. His wife seems a little up-tight, but life isn’t perfect – even in LA.

Then a chance encounter with Peppy Miller (an absolutely radiant Bérénice Bejo)- a young woman who dreams of becoming an actress – leads to Valentin giving her a helping hand into the world of show business. Soon she is becoming a star in her own right, while Valentin’s career crumbles with the advent of the ‘talkies’.

James Cromwell brings a beautiful dignity to Clifton, Valentin’s aide, and John Goodman revels in his role as a Hollywood big-shot producer. Uggie the dog is an absolute scene-stealer as well – and it pleases me so much to see an animal perform in such and old-school way without a drop of CGI in sight. This film is beautifully shot, and zips along at a fair old pace that meant I didn’t check the time one. I also shed a tear more than once.

Do, do, do believe the hype!

Oh yeah, and it’s silent, black and white, and filmed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Apparently this has caused some morons with the brain capacity of plankton to demand refunds. I will happily give another £10 to each of these idiots never to darken their local multiplex ever again. Without wishing to sound pretentious, elitist, or snobby – cinema doesn’t want, or need you. It is because Hollywood feels that it needs to aim films at these omnicretins that we end of with trash like Transformers, or needless remakes of excellent foreign-language films because these cunts can’t read.

By the same token, I really hope that some of the smug self-congratulatory arses who were present in the showing I went to actually use this as an opportunity to discover more silent cinema classics. I’ll be honest; I am not a silent cinema buff by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve probably only seen 10-15 of them, and I have convinced myself that I won’t like Chaplin or Keaton. The Artist made me laugh, gasp, and cry – and I am annoyed at myself for being so closed off. Sadly, some of the comments I have seen on Twitter and Facebook suggest that a lot of people went to see this for the novelty factor, and judged their enjoyment of it thus. It reminds me of the Susan Boyle phenomenon, and how people patronised her by basically patting her on the head for being a bit ugly, weird, and still being able to hold a tune. Well, I worry that people’s enjoyment of this film is with similar caveats – “bless this little film – it made me laugh and it didn’t even need any words!”

Then again, who am I to tell anyone how and why they should enjoy their films. Ultimately this is a victory for clever, independent film-making, and more importantly for the little cinemas and arts centres who rely on a crossover hit like this every few years to keep going, and to subsidise the rest of their other excellent, although overlooked programming.

I realise I haven’t said much about the actual film. I think that’s because I would struggle to add anything new to everything currently being written about this Oscar favourite. I am content to be the fourth or fifth person to tell you that you MUST see this film.

No. 68 – The Third Man (1949)

Okay, confession time. I decided to watch this film after a day of exercise, hard work, and having already watched the charming and surprisingly good Whip It beforehand. Towards the end, I did feel my eyelids dropping and my notes ran out – but I would hate to give the impression that this was the fault of the film.

Sir Carol Reed’s film (written by Graham Greene) is a taut, paranoid thriller – possibly the finest British example of the film noir genre. The basic premise is that Holly Martins, a broke US pulp novelist is invited to Vienna for a job by his best friend Harry Lime. However, upon his arrival Martins discovers that Lime has been killed in an accident, and that he was also suspected by the police of being a racketeer.

The beginning was a little tonally odd for such a film though. First there is the instantly recognisable theme (written and performed by a local zither player named Anton Karas who Reed apparently discovered playing in a Viennese beer garden while on location). It’s a jaunty little number – but the more you listen to it, the more you notice little bits of the tune that don’t quite fit. In fact, it seems to dip in and out of tune in places. You could argue that this perfectly encapsulates the aura around Harry Lime through the eyes of his best friend.

We also have an exposition sequence narrated by the director which with its montage cuts and relaxed, personal narration really reminded me of the work of Adam Curtis (documentary film maker whose work has been seen on Panorama and Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe – example here). The music, along with these scenes of Holly Martins arriving in Vienna felt like a silent film comedy at times. The tone shifts however when Martins gate-crashes Harry Lime’s funeral.

Soon Martins is drawn into a murky world of double-crossing, murder, faked deaths, and mysterious females who possibly shouldn’t be trusted. All noir staples.

What lifts this film above its peers for me though, is the way it puts the viewer firmly in the shoes of our protagonist. Not only do we learn significant plot points only when Martins learns them, but the location of Vienna also proves to be a stroke of genius in keeping the audience in the dark. In most scenes in the film someone is speaking German, or very bad English, and instead of subtitles we are left hoping that characters onscreen will translate for us – as is Holly Martins, the American outsider.

Who, me?

Those of you with prior knowledge of the film will already be aware of the fact that Orson Welles plays Harry Lime, and that his screen time is actually very limited. I found an intriguing parallel between the shadow that Harry Lime casts over the story and the experiences of Holly Martins in Vienna, and the shadow that Orson Welles casts over this film. I was enjoying the film, but in the back of my mind at all times was this sense that soon I was going to see what all the fuss about Welles in this role was about.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Shame (Dir. Steve McQueen)

A few people who know about my self-imposed challenge to watch the IMDB Top 250 have asked me why I am watching films that aren’t on the list. As if I should treat this like a weekly shopping list and just tick the films off and get the whole thing over and done with.

The reason for me doing this is primarily to reignite my love and watching (and writing) about films. It is a catalyst, an educational experience, and it isn’t meant to be a chore.

That’s why I have decided to expand the scope of this blog slightly, and also include my thoughts on notable new releases – and Shame is the first film in this series.

Shame has already gained some notoriety over its NC-17 rating in the US due to its explicit sexual scenes. I went to a preview screening last night knowing little more than this, and the fact that it starred Michael Fassbender (who I have heard of, but had to ask my friend if I had actually seen him in anything) and Carey Mulligan (who must get sick of all the nerds like me who fell in love, deeply and uncontrollably, with her in the classic Dr Who episode ‘Blink’).

The first 10 minutes or so of the film in concerned with setting up Brandon (Fassbender) as a sex addict. At least I think he is – the worrying thing is that I recognised more than a little in Brandon of myself. And this is the disturbing element of McQueen’s film (although to call it McQueen’s film I no small disservice to writer Abi Morgan who research the subject matter and co-wrote the script with McQueen), the fact that sexual addiction, unlike drug or alcohol addiction is something that most of us will experience for brief moments all through our life. Morgan spoke at a Q&A after the screening in which she pointed out that sexual addiction is the one addiction that you cannot truly give up if you want to be a living breathing part of this greater society.

That said, although on the surface this is a film about a sexual addict – the film works brilliantly as a study of the consequences of addiction and what happens when someone lets that need, the overriding need for pleasure – or release, take over their life.

Fassbender and Mulligan are extraordinary as siblings Brandon and Sissy – playing polar opposites in terms of their personality, dealing with a common troubled past that the film leaves unspoken for us to speculate on. The film doesn’t try to explain how or why Brandon became the person he is, because ultimately that isn’t the point. This is a film set in the here and now.

The film is beautifuly shot, as you would expect from a Turner Prize-winning artist-turned film-maker, and it paints a picture of a New York that I have never really seen on film, but that is still most-definitely New York.

By the end of the film Brandon and Sissy have laid their souls (and bodies) completely bare, and the viewer has been present in their most uncomfortable and intimate moments. Surprisingly, the scenes that sear themselves onto your mind are not the sex scenes (which are in some cases explicit, but never gratuitous), but moments like the single close-up shot of Sissy’s haunting rendition of New York, New York, or Brandon and Marianne’s (Nicole Beharie) walk to the subway after their date – full of awkward poses and ‘will-they, won’t they’ suspense.

The ending may not sit comfortably with everyone, but the third-act incident felt natural to me, and the ambiguous ending leaves many question unanswered – but those questions are mainly posed to the viewer, and it is only our answers to them that are really important.

No. 222 – Let the Right One In (2008)

I’m glad I waited until the next day to write this post about the Swedish vampire love-story Let the Right One In. Some films defy instant analysis, and need time to sink in.

This film, like a bite from the 12-year old Eli, leaves you shocked, stunned, and assaulted. Overnight you struggle to sleep, and when you wake the next morning all you are certain of is that you now have a craving that you can’t quite explain…

Oskar is a 12 year old boy, struggling with the twin horror staples of living in a single-parent family and being bullied at school. The poor bastard never really stood a chance. A girl who appears to be his age moves into his apartment block, and despite warning Oskar that they can’t be friends, they gradually form a bond over a jungle gym and Rubik’s Cube. Hey, it’s early 1980s Stockholm, it’s not like there’s much else for a scrawny young boy and a pale girl, who only appears at night, doesn’t feel the cold, and has dark red stains on her fingertips. Wait a minute…

Yes, this is a vampire story – but not as we know it. Eli (the young bloodsucker) isn’t cool or sexy. She doesn’t have fangs, or a cape. This is a depressing kitchen-sink drama of a vampire story. That said, the director Tomas Alfredson still shows a keen eye for vampire lore, and the conventions of a vampire movie.

The way to a girl's heart is through her love of cheap plastic puzzles.

At the start of the film, Eli has a guardian in the shape of an old man names Hakan. Now, how Eli hasn’t developed a vegetarian diet while waiting for this incompetent to bring blood home for her I don’t know. He does manage to successfully kill someone, and then proceeds to try and drain this poor chap’s blood from a tree in the middle of a forest. The problem is, people tend to walk their dogs in forests and Hakan has to flee the scene leaving the blood behind. A second attempt to obtain blood is equally flawed – plus he hangs around outside school gym windows, and drags uncovered dead bodies through the same woods. No wonder Eli has to take matters into her own hand. You do wonder where the local police are in all this as well.

Anyway, the crux of the story is the growing friendship between Eli and Oskar, and Oskar’s growth into a someone who will stand up to his bullies – the leader of whom struts about with the leather jacket and attitude of someone twice his age who was brought up on gangster films. These truly are star-crossed lovers, and the choices they have to make are gut-wrenching at times.

Horror is often derided as one of the poor generic cousins of cinema. However, Let the Right One In is not a movie, it is a cinematic work of art. Beautifully shot, and with a pace that allows the plot to develop without needing to hold your hand. And, and it’s one of the creepiest films I have seen in a long time.

No. 109 – Rebecca (1940)

Well, here is the first of the Hitchcock entries in the challenge. It’s the earliest of his films on the list (as well as being his first Hollywood picture), and you can definitely see a number of other influences at work here, unlike his later films which were almost completely dominated by the master of suspense alone.

I may keep banging on about it, but this film is yet more proof that a great story, acted well, will always make a great film. Some of the effects are laughable at times (the exterior shots of Manderley are clearly a model, when Maxim and the second Mrs De Winter are walking on the beach the background is moving quicker than they are, when driving in Monte Carlo Max pulls on the handbrake while the background continues to move), but everything else on screen makes you suspend your disbelief so much that you just don’t care.
A few years ago I went to see a theatre production of Rebecca starring Nigel Havers, and this film reminded me of that in a lot of ways. It’s a very theatrical film (as a lot of films from that era are), from the artificial sets, to the snappy dialogue. I was especially drawn in by the use of lighting to give the impression of fear and despair when Mrs Danvers is trying to talk the second Mrs De Winter (the film doesn’t give the heroine a first name, just as in Daphne Du Maurier’s original novel) into committing suicide.

The first half of the film is actually quite a light affair, and pretty funny at times – sometimes intentionally:

“Mrs. Edythe Van Hopper: Most girls would give their eyes for the chance to see Monte!
Maxim de Winter: Wouldn’t that RATHER defeat the purpose?”

And sometimes unintentionally, due to the difference in attitudes to gender politics between viewers now and in 1940, such as when Max proposes by saying “I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

The thing that really hold’s Rebecca together though the much darker second half, and stops it feeling too melodramatic or overlong, is the central performances from Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. Fontaine has been a little overlooked in the decades since this film’s release, as most reviewers have focussed on the character of Mrs Danvers. However, Mrs de Winter’s transformation from her schoolgirl crush to near breaking point is heart-breaking. Apparently, Olivier was a complete bastard to her on set as he had lobbied hard for his then-girlfriend Vivien Leigh to get the part. The story goes that Hitchcock harnessed this, and persuaded Fontaine that everyone on set hated her. Whether this is true or not isn’t important – what is important is that her performance makes this story totally believable.

As for Oliver, it is simply a pleasure to watch such a master at work. I think this may well be the first time I have seen him in a film, and I can’t believe it took me 32 years to watch one of his performances when I claim to be such a lover of film/theatre. As my wife (watching with me) pointed out – he looks so ‘modern’. He has that timeless quality to his screen-presence, and at times almost looks out-of-place compared to the other characters. Not in an awful, jolting way – more like one of the ancient Gods having come down to play amongst the humans.

I find it a little ironic that the least ‘Hitchcockian’ Hitchcock film was the only one ever to win the Best Picture Oscar, and although it doesn’t really feature any of the usual Hitch trademarks of innocent people on the run, charming sociopaths, maguffins, or the audience as voyeur – it is still recognisably Hitchcock, and still recognisably a great film.

No. 199 – Ratatouille (2007)

I’m starting to run out of juice here. Not because I have written 4 blog posts in a row, or even because I have watched 2 of those films today. But because I was watching The Lion King and Ratatouille with my 14-month old daughter. She still tires me out in an exceedingly short time – mainly because her attention span is about as short as mine.

So I could tell you that the film looked gorgeous, and I swear you can see each of the 1.5 million hairs rendered on Remy’s body. I could wax lyrical over the films ability to make jokes for the grown-ups that aren’t actually crude double entendres, but fully formed universal jokes (my favourite being when Skinner tries to report the restaurant to the Health Inspector, who opens a large diary and treats this request much like the maître de at a top restaurant). I could also talk about the film’s moral code, and how it teaches children (and jaded thirty-somethings) that anyone from any background can succeed. I could also describe how hungry the film made me.

Instead I’ll leave you with this thought. My daughter walked off 30 minutes into the film, and I left it on and watched it to the end. Something I would have done regardless of this challenge, and something that I will never regret. Brilliant film.

No. 111 – The Lion King (1994)

First, a confession. I never watched The Lion King as a child. I remember my sister went to see it with some friends for her birthday, but I instead went to see Exeter City get beat 0-1 at home to Aston Villa in the FA Cup 3Rd round. Dean Saunders dived for a penalty. I’m still a little bitter.

Anyway, the reason I mention this (apart from the free, rather low-tech form of therapy) is because I first watched The Lion King in my cynical twenties, without the innocence of childhood. This also means that rewatching it, I am unencumbered by the fog of nostalgia.

And despite all that, I loved this film. I continue to love it, and I will until the day I die. It is the perfect argument for just making a film the best film that you possibly can, and trusting children, families, and cynical twenty-somethings to love it on its own merits. Take a classic story (one of the production team describes it as Bambi meets Hamlet), get some great actors in to tell that story, and that’s it.

Only two films have made me laugh with fart jokes. This, and Blazing Saddles.

Not that I want to simplify the sheer effort that the team behind this film made to get it into the cinemas. It is a landmark of animation, and it’s still simply beautiful to look at – even if these current times of digital animation, 3D, and other visual flim-flammery.

Take care of the film, and the multi-million dollar marketing opportunities will look after themselves.

No. 149 – Trainspotting (1996)

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television to watch Trainspotting in glorious HD, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers.

Choose finding out what the fuck happened to Robert Carlyle’s career after this defining role, Choose putting two songs by Sleeper in a film

Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.

Choose feeling ever slightly so guilty over lustful thoughts of Kelly Macdonald, Choose to show this film to your kids at an early age to make sure they never touch heroin. Choose Ewan McGregor at his most lovable and charming (despite being a drug-addicted thief).

 

Choose vibrant, independent cinema that tells stories of people you know, people you pass in the street. Choose to support your national filmmakers, because they are to be treasured.

But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got Michael Bay films?

No. 187 – Network (1976)

As I have mentioned before, I think context is inseparable from your enjoyment of a film as an isolated piece of art. You a film through any number of filters – including your preconceptions and prejudices, right down to where you watched the film, and who you watched it with.

And one huge filter you view any film through, and one that changes from generation to generation, is the world you live in. You can’t escape the fact that the audiences watching Network when it was released view the world, especially the news media, in a totally different way to the way we do today.

This, in my opinion, is Network’s biggest problem. I am meant to be shocked that a news network would put a deranged ‘prophet’ on the air, but that shock is lost when you realise that Howard Beale would probably only be the third of fourth most unhinged member of the ‘news’ team on Fox. In particular, Glen Beck seems to have based his entire shtick on the character of Howard Beale, and someone must have told him to dial it up.

I didn’t find Beale’s breakdown believable at all – it seemed to happen overnight, and is possibly one of the least-deserving Oscar-winning performances I have ever seen. After the first 15 minutes Peter finch is Hollywood at its most self-indulgent.

I'm as mad as hell...that this performance beat Rober De Niro's portrayal of Travis Bickle to the Oscar for Best Actor.

 

The film was at least 20 minutes too long (it’s never a great sign when you are checking how long of the film is left), and the whole ‘terrorism on television’ plotline again seemed dated. There were a few funny moments in the plotline (the scene where the leader of the Ecumenical Liberation Army was negotiating contract terms), but it felt crowbarred in for the sake of the ending – which in itself felt rushed and filmed because they couldn’t think how else to get out of the narrative cul-de-sac they had positioned themselves in.

There were some good points though. Some of the dialogue was razor sharp, and zipped along at a pace that made it obvious that Network was a big influence on Aaron Sorkin. It’s just that Aaron Sorkin does it even better. The acting of the supporting cast was also excellent – Robert Duvall was even better than in The Godfather, and William Holden and Faye Dunaway were mesmerising in a romantic subplot that I found far more satisfying than the main plot. And I’m the type of person who hates romantic subplots.

Some may think I’m a heretic here, but I really didn’t see the fuss about Network. In fact, I’d be willing to argue with anyone that if the IMDB Top 250 really needs a psychologically-damaged, renegade newsreader film, then I would prefer Anchorman