Monday, January 30, 2012

Review - The Descendants

Island Hopping

It's been an Alexander Payne week here at Film Ha Ha: starting the week with his gloriously subversive debut Citizen Ruth, and ending it with his latest work (the first in seven long years). And, overall, it's been a pleasure reacquainting oneself with one of American cinema's most consistent directors.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Belated Analysis: Citizen Ruth

The choice is yours

For me, great comedy serves two functions. The first is so obvious it's barely worth pointing out: to make us laugh, or at least chuckle heartily. The second, IMO, is almost as important, and tends to be what separates the good from the great: comedy needs to say something. It needs to send up society's absurdities, cultural eccentricities and political insanities. It's that extra bite alongside the giggles that defines the timeless likes of Dr. Strangelove, This is Spinal Tap, The Big Lebowski, Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Gold Rush. Great comedy satirises and provokes. Hilarity is a welcome bonus.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review: Troll Hunter

They see me trollin'. They hatin'.

What a difference a decade can make. Blair Witch Project wasn't the first found footage film, and it wasn't even the first horror movie to use the gimmick. Yet its low-fi aesthetic and clever marketing were novel ideas, no matter what you thought of the final product (I'm actually relatively fond of it). However, originality soon became cliche as countless filmmakers jumped on the bandwagon with their own faux 'discovered' footage. We've had aliens / monsters (Cloverfield), we've had ghosts (Paranormal Activity), and we've had quarantine zones and weird supernatural girls who live in the attic (REC and its numerous remakes, sequels and sequels to remakes). Most of these have been entertaining to various degrees (at least harmless fun), we've also had quite a bit of out-and-out shit, like the laughably poor efforts The Fourth Kind or Apollo 18. And now we have trolls.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review: Shame

Sex in the City

Steve McQueen's second feature, following the provocative and extremely powerful Hunger, is the tale of a upper-middle-class sex addict in the Big Apple. Interpreted astonishingly by Michael Fassbender, Shame's protagonist Brandon Sullivan is a man living a life dominated by emotional disconnection. He ignores or harshly criticises his loving but troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan). He pushes away - consciously and subconsciously - anyone he's close to making a connection with. He lives a life of internet pornography, pent-up frustration and regular visits to prostitutes. And he hates himself for it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: The Artist

Silence is a virtue

Silent cinema is the artform that died too soon. Having watched a number of the classic silents over the last year or so - including Metropolis, Battleship Potemkin and the glorious Sunrise - I've been amazed at how well they've held up. In the absence of sound, film-makers were forced to tell their stories in a whole new way, while revolutionising their chosen medium in the process. Indeed, many of today's film-makers could still learn a thing or two about pacing and editing from Eistenstein. But, alas, along came sound and killed both the artform and its stars. A very small amount of exceptions aside, silent cinema was all but murdered. While no-one could every begrudge how sound liberated cinema, it's always fascinating to think what the great silent directors would have achieved if they had another decade or two to hone their craft.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Mysteries of Lisbon

Rumour Has It

I'm trying to recall if Mysteries of Lisbon is the longest film I've ever watched.  It's twenty minutes longer than the extended cut of Return of the King. It makes Love Exposure seem comparatively brisk and lean. And I still haven't got around to that extended cut of Fanny & Alexander. So for now, weighing in at 272 minutes - not including the mandatory bladder-emptying intermission - I'm pretty sure Mysteries of Lisbon is the lengthiest single cinema trip I've ever had. Was it worth it?