Tag Archives: Dreams of a Life

Best Films on TV. Week commencing 4th February 2013.

We’re trying to add a little order and class to the proceedings, so from this week we’ll be publishing our popular (but erratic) #bestfilmonTV recommendations from Twitter in advance. This week’s choices are from our esteemed leader,  James Diamond.

kiss kiss bang bangMonday 4th February – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, ITV2 at 23.00

Shane Black doesn’t write boring films. Sod it, he doesn’t even write bad films. The man who wrote Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout, and The Last Action Hero finally stepped behind the lens to direct this 2005 LA noir-thriller starring Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer (in a role that I chose as one of my Top 3 Val Kilmer performances in this podcast). It’s very funny and self-referential, but unlike recent attempts at this kind of film *cough* Seven Psychopaths *cough*, it has a gripping and clever plot with some great action set-pieces.

Tuesday 5th February – The Silence of the Lambs, ITV4 at 22.00

The pendulum seems to have swung back against this film, and it’s gone from being a celebrated thriller that won the ‘Big Five’ at the Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay) to being seen by many of my contemporaries as slightly dated and paint-by-numbers. I still disagree, and it’s my favourite from an over-saturated genre of procedural films involving the police hunting serial killers. Anthony Hopkins walks a fine line between the sinister and the theatrical, while Jodie Foster has never been better.

Wednesday 6th February – Tyrannosaur, Film 4 at 22.50

Simply put, one of the finest films (British or otherwise) of the last ten years. Paddy Considine’s directorial debut stars the wonderful Olivia Coleman as the charity shop worker who offers redemption to Peter Mullan’s self-destructive Joseph. Uncomfortable and essential viewing.

Thursday 7th February – Dreams of a Life, Channel 4 at 22.00

The winner of our coveted ‘Best Documentary of 2012’ Failed Critics Award, Carol Morely’s documentary about Joyce Vincent (who died alone in her flat and lay undiscovered for three years) is as much an exploration of the break-up of society as it is an investigation of the facts, in this compelling and disturbing case.

Friday 8th February – The Birds, ITV1 at 22.35

Today sees the release of Hitchcock (review to follow later this week), so what better time to watch the Master of Suspense at the peak of his powers? Tippi Hedren stars as the out-of-towner trapped in a seaside town, terrorised by psychotic feathery beasts.

Saturday 9th February – The Fly, Film 4 at 00.40

Whatever happened to Jeff Goldblum? That may be a spoiler for my choices in this week’s podcast (Top 3 Film Comebacks We Want to See), but if you watch David Cronenberg’s sci-fi classic you’ll be reminded of how great a screen presence Goldblum is. I just hope he’s signing up for Jurassic Park 4…

Sunday 10th February – The BAFTAs, BBC1 at 21.00

I know it’s not technically a film, but there will be plenty of great film clips on offer during the programme. Stephen Fry will do his impression of a classier Jonathan Ross, and the great of good of the film world on both sides of the Atlantic will join together to mutually back-slap each other and pretend this means something even close to the Oscars.

For helpful reminders of when each film is on during the week, follow our Twitter account @FailedCritics

And the winner is…

avengers-assembleThe votes have been counted and verified, and we can now announce the first ever Failed Critics Awards winners!

On a chilly night at the end of December, the team from the Failed Critics Podcast recorded a virtual ceremony, complete with tuxedos, alcohol, and debauched behaviour. In other words, James treated it like every other podcast recording.

So for anyone who was too hungover to turn on their computer, still too drunk to operate it, or simply too sensible to listen to our inane ramblings; here are the results.

Thanks to everyone who voted!

Top 10 Films of the Year

1. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE

2. Skyfall
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. Amour
5. The Raid
6. Looper
7. The Intouchables
8. Argo
9=. Rust & Bone
9=. Safety Not Guaranteed
9=. 21 Jump Street

Best Performances
Omar Sy (The Intouchables)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Best Foreign Language Film
The Raid

Best Soundtrack
The Dark Knight Rises – Hans Zimmer

Best Documentary
Dreams of a Life

Worst Film
Dark Shadows

Whine on You Crazy Diamond – Found Wanting

Welcome to another helping of the scooped-out mind-innards of yours truly. This week I want to talk about a style of film-making and, some might say, a genre in its own right – Found Footage.

On Saturday I went to see Paranormal Activity 4 (featured on this week’s Failed Critics Review podcast) and it reaffirmed all of the issues I have with found footage films. They are completely unrealistic, and actually alienate me as a viewer.

First let’s look at the reason people make found footage films. The bottom line is that they are cheap. Very, very cheap. The original Paranormal Activity only cost about $15,000 to make, and The Blair Witch Project was also made for peanuts. Studios love these films because they represent a low-risk green-light decision, especially in the horror genre which, more than any other genre it seems, has an inbuilt audience who are willing to give films a chance.

The reason these films are so cheap to make is not just because they don’t use expensive sets and equipment, but also because the people involved are cheap to hire. From the director, to the screenwriter (especially with a number of these films improvised in nature), to the actors (usually unknowns who are cheap, and this also helps make them seem more realistic. No one is going to believe Brad Pitt in a found footage movie).

So from a business point of view I totally get it. I even admire these films.

But from an artistic point of view?

The other argument I have heard in support of found footage films is that they are ‘more realistic’ and that in the horror genre this makes them scarier. This is where I have to disagree. In my opinion, found footage films are less ‘realistic’ than any stop-motion film, CGI-powered superhero film, or badly dubbed and bloodily violent 1970s kung-fu film.

Let me explain.

Cinema has been around for over 100 years. In that time, as a species we have evolved our perception of cinema as art-form and entertainment, and can now put ourselves in a state of suspended disbelief when watching a well-crafted film. When I watch The Exorcist, or Ringu, I forget that I am watching a film and get drawn into the horror that the characters are facing. This is despite the fact that I am seeing things that I couldn’t possibly see in real life – including camera angles and special effects. A well-directed and shot film feels ‘real’.

So any attempt to consciously make a film appear real has the opposite effect on me. My suspicions are instantly raised. I can’t suspend my disbelief and find myself asking questions – why are they talking about boring things in a film? Who ‘found’ this footage? Why are they recording this seemingly random set of events?

And that’s the killer for me – I spend the majority of every found footage film questioning why a character is filming that particular footage. Once a film sets itself up as being ultra-realistic, the slightest crack in the façade ruins the whole pretence. I have the same issue with 3D films presenting themselves as being more immersive, when in fact the opposite is true – but that’s for another day…

DVD – New out this week is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – and you can hear what we thought of that on the podcast here. Instead, why not treat yourself to one (or both) of the lovely re-releases of classic films available for the first time on Blu-ray. Steven Spielberg’s E.T., or Powell and Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

TVLayer Cake. Film 4 on Fri 26 Oct at 9pm. If you’re not going to see Skyfall on Friday night, then why not watch Daniel Craig’s breakthrough performance in Matthew Vaughn’s debut film that is that very rare thing – an excellent, modern British gangster film.

Lovefilm InstantClose Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). If you’ve heeded my advice above and forked out on the Blu-ray release of E.T., then make an extra-terrestrial night of it and watch Spielberg’s other ‘they came from the stars’ classic from the era in which he could do no wrong.

Netflix UKDreams of a Life (2011). Recently discussed on the Failed Critics Review, this fascinating documentary investigates the circumstances around the death of Joyce Vincent who died in her bedsit aged 38, and lay undiscovered for three years.

Failed Critics Review: Brave

Welcome to this week’s Failed Critics Review – coming to you live from, among other places, James’ car. That’s right.

This week our main review is Pixar’s latest film – ‘Brave’. As well as giving our opinions on the film, we discuss the success of the studio and whether or not they’re a bigger draw these days than the Disney brand.

In other news James finds a film that didn’t make him cry in The Expendables 2, Gerry ponders society after watching Dreams of a Life, Steve continues to confuse himself with time-travel films by watching Twelve Monkeys, and Owen finally finds a Tim Burton film he can get onboard with in Ed Wood.

The critics also pay tribute to Tony Scott, while the Quote Game makes a return after literally no one realised we’d forgotten in for the last few weeks.

We’re back later this week with ‘Triple Bill: Based on a true story’, and in next week’s review with Total Recall.

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