Premature Exasperation – The Films of the Year (So Far)


Yes, I realise its March, but my obsession with lists has prevailed. Plus, I saw Let The Right One In yesterday and felt the need to pay homage to it.

5. Gran Torino


Although not quite as poetic as it believes itself to be, Gran Torino is still an entertaining effort which ultimately resembles a Clint Eastwood greatest hits package. Despite scenes occasionally verging on self-parody, the old workhorse gives a commendable performance as cantankerous ex-Korean war veteran, struggling to come to terms with the perils of old age. Incorporating some nicely judged humorous touches, intriging meditations on race and enough moments of gripping tension to keep the average Clint fan happy,  Gran Torino constituted a satisfactory farewell to acting for this screen legend.

4. Il Divo

If Gomorrah was Goodfellas minus the chutzpah, Il Divo continued European cinema’s recent fixation with Hollywood style genre pictures in this surreal and humorous re-imagining of The Godfather that includes an enigmatic, Don Corleone-esque protagonist. In his investigation into the trial of ex-Italian Prime Minister, Giulio Andreotti (for alleged Mafia dealings), director Pablo Sorrentino demonstates an idiosyncratic style (see the face-off between Andreotti and the most sinister cat ever depicted on film) and a visual flair that  should propel him to the forefront of Europe’s finest filmmakers in years to come.

3. Let The Right One In

If Ingmar Bergman had ever made a vampire picture, then the result may have been similar to Tomas Alfredson’s second feature. Featuring astonishing performances from its two young leads, Let The Right One In also evokes classic Gothic romances of the past such as Rebecca. It is a story of the archetypal loner schoolboy, Oskar, who is perpetually bullied by classmates. In spite of the interminable misery which Oskar endures, hope suddenly arrives in the form of Eli, a mysterious girl with whom he develops an intense bond. Therefore, it is as much an idyllic portrayal of young love, as it is a chilling, atmospheric shocker, encompassing intelligent visual metaphors and pertinent societal observations abound.

2. The Class

For sheer bravura acting among an ensemble cast (particularly in its opening half hour), The Class is unsurpassed. Revolving around an array of troubled inner-city youths and their idealistic schoolteacher, it subtly highlights a society inflcted by the ramifications of racial strife and urban alienation. It is all too rare these days to witness such a film as this one so alive to the possibilities of cinema, with its inventive camerawork and dialogue so realistic it feels like you’re watching a documentary. The film’s remarkable audacity and ambition is epitomised by ex-teacher François Bégaudeau, whose memoir the film is based upon and who excels in the dual roles of screenwriter and lead actor.

synchenote1. Synecdoche New York

My initial reaction upon leaving the theatre after watching Charlie Kaufmann’s directorial debut was one of sheer bewilderment at what I had just seen. However, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it is clear that this is the type of film that needs to be watched twice in order to be fully appreciated. Incorporating a reliably exquisite Jon Brion score, it tells the tale of an obsessive theatre director (basically Nic Cage’s character in Adaptation with a different occupation) who seeks to stage a play that will do justice to the beauty and grandeur of New York City. Though less patient viewers will be frustrated by the film’s many inscrutable moments, others will marvel at the poetry which relentlessly infuses its dialogue. To quote David Lynch, “Life is very, very complicated and so films should be allowed to be too”.

The Best Old Film I Have Seen This Year

The Apartment (1960)

The film of the sixties anyone? For years, I had been meaning  to watch Billy Wilder’s story of the unlikely romance of hapless office worker, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), and feisty elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (Shirley Valentine), yet for reasons unknown, I ignored this gem of a film for far too long. Be prepared for some of the sharpest dialogue ever to come out of Hollywood and, in Baxter,one of the most lovable goofballs to grace the silver screen. Unsurprisingly, this is one of Stephen Merchant’s favourite films of all time, as fans of The Office and Extras will undoubtedly discern traces of these shows combination of searing humour with an emotional core.