Tag Archives: EIFF

The ‘This is Not a Best of List’ Film List of 2012

3 Jan

Films of 2012

I have a confession to make. Actually, I have two confessions to make. First of all, I hate these ‘Best of 2012’ lists that have been popping up everywhere since mid November. I find, for me, that they get very tiresome very quickly; especially if they are published before the end of the year; Christmas isn’t the only thing that happens in December, lest we forget.

My second confession is about the films themselves. The truth is, when I sat down to write this list, I realised that while I had seen lots of films in 2012, they were either new, and as yet, unreleased films shown at festivals, or they were one-off screenings of classic films that I hadn’t seen before, so they weren’t exactly ‘new releases’.

So after much thought, here is my ‘not a list, don’t call it a list’ of my three favourite films of last year.

The Shining (1980)

Ok, I know that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation Stephen King’s most famous novel, The Shining, isn’t a brand new piece of cinema, but the release of the extended US cut of the film in the UK in November brought a new dimension to Kubrick’s cult horror. While the US cut, which features an extra 24 minutes of footage, which were omitted from the European release, wasn’t Kubrick’s favourite version of the film, this cut brings something else to the familiar plot. Initially ignored and misunderstood upon its release for its ‘Art House’ style, and also due to Kubrick’s many changes to King’s story – which King didn’t approve of – The Shining has now become a right of passage for almost every film fanatic.

Featuring Jack Nicholson’s infamous turn as the out-of-luck writer with a dark past, this film showcases both Nicholson’s performance and Kubrick’s ability to create real, lasting tension and unease. In part, King’s tale of a haunted hotel and the evil of the spirits contained within, The Shining is also a piece that explores a family at breaking point, and analyses the effects of isolation whilst delving into the more extreme aspects of mental illness. Intriguing, masterful and still chilling more than 30 years after its original release, the extended version of the film is an unforgettable piece of late 20th century horror cinema.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott’s long-awaited addition to his Alien franchise, Prometheus was released to great fanfare in June, and quickly split the critics and the viewing public. Featuring an all-star cast, the film was initially marketed as a prequel to Scott’s highly influential 1979 sci-fi horror, however, Prometheus, while featuring terrifying creatures like ones featured in the original film, was designed to be a companion film, and not a prequel.

Although the film came under some harsh criticism for its somewhat unexpected back story, and a few other plot points – Guy Pearce’s make up, anyone? – Prometheus is, at its heart, a film that’s less about sci-fi and more about horror. Exploring Alien‘s existing themes of body horror, gender, and perhaps, most importantly, of violence, rape and unwanted pregnancy, Prometheus is concerned with humanity, and our fears. It taps into our most basic terrors; the fear that we are not alone, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are powerless and important when compared to the vastness of the universe.

Best viewed as a companion film to Alien, rather than a direct relation, the thing to remember about Prometheus is that while it can’t emulate the shock  created by or be the game changer that Alien was, it doesn’t have to, it’s concerned with deeper things.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Killer Joe (2012)

When I saw Killer Joe at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival, I couldn’t speak properly for a few minutes. I hate writing in clichés, but William Friedkin’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ 1993 play of the same name does everything film is meant to do. It entertains, it unnerves, it terrifies, it shocks and, most importantly, it gets into your head and stays there. A tale of a dysfunctional family hiring a contract killer that they can’t afford – the ‘Killer Joe’ of the title, expertly realised by Matthew McConaughey – to kill their mother for her life insurance takes the viewer on a number of twists and turns throughout. But the real power of the film lies in its overarching theme of exploitation, and of course, the film’s final scenes, which culminate in an explosion of violence so unexpected and so frightening, that they really has to be seen to be believed.

A true return to form after Friedkin’s last few films, Killer Joe was not only one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but also one of the strongest new releases of the year. For me, this tale of contract killings, exploitation, selfishness and greed is perfectly realised and completely and utterly disturbing. A must see.

You can read my review of the film here.

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Killer Joe

27 Jun

William Friedkin/2012/USA/ 103 min

Showing @Festival Theatre, Wed 20 June, 21:30

4 Stars

William Friedkin’s long-awaited Killer Joe, adapted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, Tracy Letts from his play of the same name, is this year’s Festival’s Opening Gala film. And while this darkly comic thriller has been the most anticipated film at the festival, they hype is to be believed, as Friedkin, Letts and Matthew McConaughey have committed one of the most inspired and memorable pieces of film committed to celluloid.

When Chris (Emile Hersch) needs $6,000 to pay off a debt, he and his family (Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church) decides to hire ‘Killer Joe’ (McConaughey) to kill his estranged mother in order to get at her $50,000 life insurance policy, which will be paid out to his younger and very innocent teenage sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). But the lack of a cash deposit for Joe’s services means that he has to take a retainer, in this case, Dottie, before he carries out the murder, which takes Chris and his family into a deadly game of betrayal, violence and degradation. A strong mix of black comedy, thrills and explosions of violence, Killer Joe is a defiant and unapologetic film that explores and questions just what we would do for money by presenting this question in an extreme situation. While the film does leave certain questions unanswered and maintains a certain air of ambiguity throughout, the strength of Friedkin’s piece lies in its ability to not only get under the skin, but also to sink its teeth into your skull. Completely mesmerising and ultimately unforgettable, Killer Joe is an utterly unique and powerful film, that shows how vulnerable we all truly are, and how easily situations can spiral out of control. McConaughey’s turn as the cold, calculating, yet complicated hired killer, is both terrifying and inspiring; his performance is flawless, natural, and completely believable. Perhaps one of the darkest, yet most impressive films on the festival programme this year, Friedkin and Letts have created a simple yet catastrophically effective new piece of cinema that could become a masterpiece.

This review was originally published on Caledonian Mercury

The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus

27 Jun

Alexandre O Phillippe/USA/2012/English, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian Dialogue with English subtitles/72 min

Showing @ Filmhouse Fri 22 June @20:45, @Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 15:05

4 Stars

Returning to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, following the success of his standout documentary, The People Vs George Lucas, director Alexandre O Phillippe, turns his unique style of filmmaking towards the world’s most unlucky football pundit, an octopus named Paul, in this witty, funny and thought-provoking film, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

Beginning with the oddly moving scenes of Paul’s cremation, Phillippe’s film uses interviews with those closest to the mysterious cephalopod to create a portrait that says more about humanity and world culture, than it does about Paul’s infallible legacy. Filmed in locations across the globe, including the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia and Paul’s former home at the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen, Germany, and featuring songs, films, animations inspired by Paul, the film delves into a number of issues ranging from the mathematical, the psychological, the philosophical, the mythological and the absurd. Like The People Vs George Lucas, Phillippe’s latest documentary, while impeccably researched and filmed, is very aware of its limitations; after all, just how much can you say about a supposedly psychic octopus? But what Philippe is concerned with is creating a film that presents all the sides of the story of Paul’s unique rise to fame, resulting in a piece that is well-rounded, philosophical, and at points, side achingly funny. From Paul having his own agent, to the ongoing debate about Paul’s official nationality, to a discussion about whether some animals are psychic, this film is as fulfilling as it is entertaining. While Paul’s position as a modern-day animal oracle is argued well, logic and numbers are also at play, as Paul’s chances of correctly guessing eight out of eight games at the 2010 World Cup are revealed to be 256 to one. A highlight of the festival this year, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus is a surprisingly educational but ultimately cheeky new documentary.

This review was originally published on Caledonian Mercury.

Sun Don’t Shine

27 Jun

Amy Seimetz/USA/2012/79 min

Showing @ Cineworld Thu 21 June @ 18:30, @ Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 13:05

Rating: 2 Stars

The great American road movie has come in many forms over the years, and while Roger Corman’s The Trip is probably one of the best-known examples of the genre, Sun Don’t Shine, written and directed by Amy Seimetz, attempts to bring a new dimension to the road trip movie, but fails because of its clichéd and dull characterisation.

Following young and dysfunctional lovers, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) as they drive across the US to Florida, in the stifling heat, whilst trying to hide a terrible secret, the film’s premise is promising, but the characters’ odd relationship soon makes Sun Don’t Shine difficult to watch. While Seimetz does attempt to challenge the audience with flashbacks, allusions to mental illness, abuse and an overall sense of foreboding, her characters simply don’t sit well within the piece. Crystal, is emotional, stressed and childlike, while Leo is insular, violent and unpredictable, and together they are a volatile and toxic combination. And herein lies the problem with Sun Don’t Shine; the audience simply can’t sympathise with the two main characters. This could be Seimetz’s intention, given the name of the film, but all road movies, especially those about couples on the run from the law, the audience need to be able to sympathise with them, to make them the heroes, to want them to escape from the authorities. But it’s impossible for the audience to like Crystal and Leo, because of their irrational behaviour, due to their past circumstances, and their conjoined history is irritatingly ambiguous, and the few clues to their past actions introduced a little too late. While the acting is strong, and the film harks back to a very different age of cinema, this tale of love, crime, fear and betrayal it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as the films in the same genre that came before it.

Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape (Soma kanka: dai ichi bu – ubawareta tochi no kioku)

27 Jun

Yojyu Matsubayashi/Japan/2011/Japanese dialogue with English subtitles /109 min

Showing @ Filmhouse Thu 21 June @ 20:05, @ Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 18:50

Rating: 3 Stars

The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in April last year is the basis of Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape, a new documentary from Yojyu Matsubayashi , the director of the 2004 documentary For Those Who Work. Filmed just one month after the tsunami and the associated nuclear disaster at the Fukishima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant devastated north east Japan, freelance filmmaker, Matsubayashi travelled within 20 km of the plant in order to document the effects of these destructive events on the remaining residents, including the inspirational Tanaka family.

Moving, informative and entertaining, Fukushima is more concerned with capturing the very real human cost of these disasters than it is of sensationalising the events of last year. Through interviews with survivors, Matsubayashi paints a portrait of contemporary Japan through the eyes of the older generation; revealing a country on the verge of great social change. This snapshot of Japan in its most vulnerable and most transitional state is what gives this film its power, as alongside scenes of destruction, are moments of comedy, tragedy and selflessness from all the film’s subjects, including the Tanakas. Issues of tradition are also brought to the forefront of the film, as the desecration of old temples and other ancient structures is juxtaposed perfectly with the film’s documentation of the younger generation’s apathy towards the older generation. A thought that’s only cemented by the elderly subjects of the documentary having to cope on their own, without the help of their children, or even their grandchildren. While the film does reveal some painful truths, it’s in essence, a celebration of all the contrasting pieces that make up humanity, including our fallible nature, our need for comfort, and above all our instinctive desire to survive, Fukushima provides a fascinating glimpse into the changing nature and attitudes towards the elderly in a country scarred by terrible natural disasters, but manages to remind us that hope and patience can get us through anything.

Originally published on Caledonian Mercury

Him, Here After (Ini Avan)

27 Jun

Asoka Handagama/Sri Lanka/2012/Tamil dialogue with English subtitles/104 min

Showing @Filmhouse Tue 26 June @21:00, @Filmhouse Fri 29 June @17:45

***
The legacy and social problems caused by the Sri Lankan civil war is the subject of Asoka Handagama’s Him, Here After, which has its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The first film since the war ended in 2009 to discuss the lasting effects of the war on everyday Sri Lankans, this piece presents the challenges of trying to rebuild shattered lives after a prolonged and deadly war.

When a former Tamil rebel fighter (Dharshan Dharmaraj) returns to his village following the end of the war, and after a year of ‘rehabilitation’, he finds that his former neighbours both fear and despise him. But as he attempts to create a new life, the ghosts and actions of his past continue to haunt him, and he soon takes a job that could not only threaten his own life but the lives of those closest to him. The UK premiere of Handagama’s film, which is one of only a handful of films made in the Tamil language directed by a Sinhalese director, is a hard-hitting portrayal of country struggling to rebuild and create an identity following a 26-year long war. While issues of betrayal and death are apparent throughout Him, Here After, this is a film that’s primarily focused on forgiveness, inner strength, and repairing both the country’s and that of its inhabitants’ fractured psyches. Compelling, absorbing, but most importantly, eye-opening, this film sheds new light on contemporary attitudes towards war and conflict, and most importantly resolution. While the civil war is over, the fight that the characters in Him, Here After fight every day is one against ignorance, one for forgiveness, and above all, a desperate battle to survive. Moving, uplifting and absorbing, if a little long, Handagama’s latest film is a compassionate and thoughtful representation of the very human costs of war, where casualties continue to mount up long after the physical battle has stopped.

This review was originally published on the Caledonian Mercury website. 

Trash Does the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival

27 Jun

Hello world!

This is my first post, and even though I’ve had this blog for a long time, I’m only just updating it. In fact, I meant to start updating it when the Edinburgh Film Festival started last week, and I didn’t.

However, I have been busy writing reviews for the 15+ films I’ve seen so far, which have been published on the great Scottish independent news and reviews website Caledonian Mercury. So I’m going to pop them up here too.

First blog post down. Now the fun can really begin.

KNUT

DIY or DIE

Deeply Fascinating

Thoughts on contemporary performance

Lili La Scala

a collection of words and pictures

The Arabic Apprentice

A native English speaker's attempts to master Arabic

Stroppy Editor

Minding other people’s language. A lot.

Keren Nicol

Thoughts from an arts marketer living in in Scotland. Not always about arts marketing

EYELASHROAMING

A blog by Ashleigh Young. A burning wreck

monica byrne

writer . playwright . artist . activist . traveler

Grey Carnivals

Close, but no cigar

Captain Awkward

Advice. Staircase Wit. Faux Pas. Movies.

Planet Edinburgh

Strange and exotic anecdotes from the planet Edinburgh

Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Annalisa Barbieri

Writer and broadcaster

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