Tag Archives: 2012

PPH end of year round-up part 3 | Events, acknowledgements and hopes

It was a year of new departures for Permanent Plastic Helmet, as we got into the events game.

Our first of three events at London’s Clapham Picturehouse – a 35mm screening of Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing on July 5 – drew a large crowd, who wolfed down the free pizza before falling under the spell of the New Yorker’s incendiary 1989 masterpiece. Incidentally, in case you didn’t know, the blog’s name comes from a line spoken by Samuel L. Jackson’s character Senor Love Daddy in this film.

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Oh, and Spike Lee liked the poster so much that he asked for a bunch of copies to be sent to him:

Our second, a super-rare theatrical screening of Michael Rapaport’s documentary Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest on September 27, was a complete sell-out. Before the film (and after the now customary pizza), a patient crowd politely waited for me to carry out one of the most protracted prize raffles in history.

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In December, for our third and final screening of 2012, scores of people braved the cold (and presumably turned their backs on Christmas parties) for our 20th anniversary showing of Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump on December 6. Following an hour of classic 90s hip hop and R&B in the bar, I took a leaf out of Gloria (Rosie Perez)’ book, and ran a ‘things that begin with the letter ‘Q’ quiz. Here’s a nice shot of folks in the bar beforehand:

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I’d like to thank the team at Clapham Picturehouse (in particular Clare Binns, Kate Coventry and Dan Hawkins) for being so supportive of the events and super helpful in running them. Thanks to Yves Salmon for photographing the second event. And a massive, massive thank-you also to the outrageously talented Piccia Neri, who was responsible for poster artwork for all the events.

We’re going to continue with our programme of events in 2013, so stay tuned for upcoming announcements. We’ve got some crackers lined up.

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Holy Motors

It’s been an interesting year on the blog. I’m delighted that the readership has increased (incidentally, December 2012 has been the best ever month for hits on the blog), but I’ve found myself with less time to work on it, such has been my workload elsewhere this year. (I’ve started freelancing for Sight & Sound, Little White Lies and Grolsch Film Works, among others). I also got married!

Consequently, huge credit must go to the team of contributors, who have furnished the blog with some really intelligent, incisive work over the last twelve months.

These contributors are (each name is hyperlinked to their Twitter account, so you can follow them): Guillaume Gendron, Ed Wall, Cathy Landicho, Basia Lewandowska Cummings, Sophia Satchell-Baeza, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Fintan McDonagh, Dylan Cave, John McKnight, Michael Mand, Joseph Walsh and Tom Cottey.

I’d also like to thank each and each every person who read, recommended, RTd, or Facebook ‘liked’ PPH, or simply stumbled across the blog searching for actual plastic helmets (this happened more than I’d care to admit).

Thanks also to all the distribution companies and PRs who have been kind enough to keep inviting us to screenings and sending us DVDs. Couldn’t do it without ya.

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Michael-Fassbender-in-Shame

Finally, here are some things from the blog this year that I’m particularly proud of/enjoyed:

My opinion of Prometheus as expressed through the facial expressions of Eddie Murphy – review

The Expendables 2 – review | Ed Wall

Shame and Gender  – feature | Cathy Landicho

Music Video Week – David Wilson – interview

Music Video Week – Sound and Vision: A Potted History of an Artform – feature

Moebius: Human After All – feature | Guillaume Gendron

Ira Sachs – interview

Killer Joe – review

Cyrobra or: The Three Ages of Tormented Man | Sophie Monks Kaufman

In the next year, I hope to streamline and simplify both content and design, and introduce a whole bunch of new contributors and regular features.

Watch this space in 2013

Thank you for reading.

A

PPH end of year round-up part 2 | Dogs, disappointments and discoveries

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With my year-end Top 10 done and dusted, it’s time to engage in some good old-fashioned negativity, and reveal my least favourite films of the year. Before I continue, I should say that while there were probably plenty worse films out there (in terms of technical quality etc, not to mention all the stinkers I mercifully avoided) this is a completely personal take. What follows is an account of the films that particularly irritated, bored or offended me (or in some frightful cases, all three). Who let the dogs out?!

Cabin In The Woods (dir., Drew Goddard)

In stark contrast to screenwriter Whedon’s sprightly Avengers Assemble, this clever-clever novelty was slathered in a suffocating sheen of smugness; it was almost as though the film kept pausing itself to explain to us – the poor audience – how awesomely intelligent it was. But it fell at every hurdle: not scary enough to work as a horror, not funny enough to work as a comedy, and not smart enough to provoke thought. The film that fell between all these stools was, in its own repellent way, the real stool.

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Damsels in Distress (dir., Whit Stillman)

When critics wrote effusively of Whit Stillman’s “light, frothy” campus comedy, I wondered if they’d watched the same film as me. On the contrary, I saw an airless, smug, joke-free mess with precisely as much respect for its characters as its audience: zero. One of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had in a cinema – I couldn’t wait for it to end.

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The Darkest Hour (dir., Chris Gorak)

Had the filmmakers been honest, they’d have called it The Darkest 89 Minutes. This desultory sci-fi shambles about hungry electrical monsters (I know, I know) was a thrill-free ordeal.

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The Dictator (dir., Larry Charles)

Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest was an ugly, flat, mean-spirited shambles full of lame jokes, pathetic toilet humour and hapless, dated attempts at satire. Another bad sign was the reliance on the celebrity cameo for chuckles; a conceit which underlines the nagging feeling that Baron Cohen – now a major league Hollywood player – is part of the smug, self-congratulatory gang he purports to lambast.

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation (dir., Adrian Grunberg)

“Mad” Mel Gibson’s comeback as an action star was a noxious, derivative blast of casual racism (when will we live in a world where filmmakers will refrain from shooting Mexico through sulphurous filters?), gratuitous, nasty violence and beyond-retrograde sexual politics: ‘spicy’, brutalized Latina maidens were so 1985, guys.

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The Imposter (dir., Bart Layton)

Was there a more appropriately titled film released this year? Sure, Bart Layton’s film had a great story to work with (it’s explored brilliantly in this New Yorker article), but the director completely failed to trust said material, smothering it with pointlessly slick formal jiggerypokery. Worse still, I got the strong feeling that the filmmakers didn’t really give a toss about any of the characters they were dealing with. Contrast the humane way in which the New Yorker article treats the people involved with the cold calculation of the film. A real missed opportunity.

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Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy (dir., Rob Heydon)

This ridiculous low-budget Canadian adaptation of an Irvine Welsh short story fused the production values of Hollyoaks with the clarity of insight and intellectual rigour of Hollyoaks. A spectacularly misconceived fiasco bereft of a single redeeming feature.

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A Man’s Story (dir., Varon Bonicos) | full review

Varon Bonicos’ deeply boring and hagiographic effort was less of a documentary than an extended electronic press kit. Its biggest crime was to make its fascinating subject (fashion designer Ozwald Boateng, who became the youngest, and first black man to open a shop on Savile Row) seem like a total dullard.

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Red Tails (dir., Anthony Hemingway)

When watching this cheese-sodden, horrendously inept would-be epic about the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There’s a tough dilemma at the heart of the act of responding to the George Lucas-produced Red Tails: should we be simply happy that this important story is being highlighted for a mass audience, or dismayed that it’s been handled so badly? There’s room for both emotions, but it’s little short of a tragedy – and an indictment of Hollywood’s racial mores – that a film this poor had to fight so hard to get made.

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The Sweeney (dir., Nick Love)

I maintain that, despite the critical opprobrium he’s always received, there’s a decent filmmaker lurking somewhere within the bowels of Nick Love. His debut Goodbye Charlie Bright was a truly decent effort, and the first half of The Business showed a hitherto undiscovered lightness of touch. Sadly, his witless, crass, pointless remake of the 70’s TV cop standard reminded us of the reasons for his current standing. Further minus points for wasting some great London locations.

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Dishonourable mentions go to: Christopher Nolan’s bombastic, self-regarding and stupid The Dark Knight Rises thank God that trilogy is over; Oliver Stone’s laughable Savages (only a man with the hubris of Stone would try and get away with one of those pretend endings in this day and age); Cameron Crowe’s nauseating We Bought a Zoo the moment where the director’s giddy optimism crossed the divide from heartwarming into terrifying; rubbish Canadian comedy Starbuck, which wasted a great premise with slack, cartoonish execution; and Michael, a shallow and repugnant Austrian film which played like a bankrupt man’s Michael Haneke remaking Misery after reading about Josef Fritzl. I found its ending (I won’t spoil) particularly unpalatable.

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A quick round-up of disappointments

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Perhaps 2012 found me in a particularly crotchety mood, but I was largely unimpressed with a vast swathe of the year’s biggest critical darlings. The two films I’d most been looking forward to – Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (feature) – both ended up being my least favourite films to date from their respective directors. I found the former to be a disjointed (no pun intended, Marion) and manipulative – if well-acted and occasionally powerful – affair, replete with weirdly dated sexual politics and hilariously fetishized notions of masculinity.

Anderson’s film, meanwhile, looked and sounded great, but after a superb opening, simply disappeared in a feeble puff of ineffectuality. I was compelled enough to watch it twice (not least so I could further bask in Joaquin Phoenix’s unhinged performance), but was even more bored and confounded the second time round. I think Anderson is a visceral and propulsive filmmaker rather than a cerebral one, and The Master betrayed signs of its creator either lacking ideas or simply failing to communicate them adequately. However, it deserved serious credit for refusing to spoonfeed its audience, and for being such a genuine oddity in the oft-restrictive context of mainstream American cinema. It also inspired some truly outstanding writing, not to mention some lively pub discussion.

Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild was another critical favourite which, despite its undeniable energy and originality, left me cold. I found it hokey, shallow and not a little patronizing. Another film to depend heavily on young actors – Wes Anderson’s ever-so-precious Moonrise Kingdom (full review) – felt like a serious case of diminishing returns even though it looked gorgeous. Early stills and teasers of Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly had me hot under the collar, but the end result – a hectoring, gratuitous and self-satisfied mess –  poured ice down my trousers.

There was plenty of praise for Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, but I found this broken-backed film hard work, and seemed to be alone in preferring the austere first half to the colonial-era second. However, in the interests of full disclosure, I watched it on a laptop on a timecode-inscribed DVD screener – hardly optimal conditions for a film which many described as one of the year’s most visually lush. If it’s playing on a big screen near me any time soon, I’ll make sure I give it another go.

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Discoveries

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I managed to keep a complete record of everything I watched on every format this year, so I thought I’d whack together a couple of (alphabetical) Top 10s of some great stuff I saw for the first time:

Cinema

2001: A Space Odyssey | dir., Stanley Kubrick, 1968 | BFI Southbank

Faces | dir., John Cassavetes, 1968 | BFI Southbank

Hyenes | dir., Djibril Diop Mambéty, 1992 | IFI Dublin

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie | dir., John Cassavetes, 1976 | Prince Charles Cinema

Ordet | dir. Carl Theodore Dreyer, 1955 | BFI Southbank

Ornette Coleman: Made in America | dir., Shirley Clarke, 1985 | IFC Center, New York

The Passion of Anna | dir., Ingmar Bergman, 1969 | BFI Southbank

The Purple Rose of Cairo | dir., Woody Allen, 1985| Arsenal, Berlin

The Spook Who Sat By The Door | dir., Ivan Dixon, 1973 | BFI Southbank

Yeelen | dir., Souleymane Cissé, 1987 | IFI Dublin

 Home viewing

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould | dir., Francois Girard, 1993

All That Jazz | dir., Bob Fosse, 1979

The Bad and the Beautiful | dir., Vincente Minnelli, 1952

Blue Collar | dir., Paul Schrader, 1980

Chameleon Street | dir., Wendell B. Harris, Jr., 1989

The Hit | dir., Stephen Frears, 1984

Safe | dir., Todd Haynes, 1995

Sisters | dir., Brian de Palma, 1973

Spider | dir., David Cronenberg, 2002

Wonderland | dir., Michael Winterbottom, 1999

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Thanks for reading. Tune in tomorrow for the final part of PPH’s end-of-year round-up.

Bandwagon jumpin’ | PPH’s Top 10 films of all time

Last week, Sight & Sound magazine announced the results of their wide-ranging, decennial poll of critics and directors to find out the “Greatest Film of All Time”, in which Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo finally toppled Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane to head the list. Meanwhile, a really interesting alternative list of bloggers’ choices was recently published by HeyUGuys.com, seeing Steven Spielberg’s Jaws crawl out of the water to claim first prize.

I didn’t submit a ten for that list, because I couldn’t get my thoughts together quickly enough. However, after a little time – and because making lists is always fun – I’ve put something together. My ten, in no order, and presented without comment (because all have affected, enlightened, entertained, surprised and moved me in incalculably different ways, at different points of my life), are as follows:

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Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, US 2000)

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Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, US 1989)

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Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, France 2000)

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Singing In The Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, US 1952)

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Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, US 1993)

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The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy 1970)

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Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, US 1984)

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The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, US 1983)

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A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, France 2009)

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Pressure (Horace Ove, UK 1975)

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Films bubbling under included, but were not necessarily limited to: Drugstore Cowboy, La Haine, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, To Live and Die in L.A., The Elephant Man, Babylon, Shallow Grave, Local Hero, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Knife In The Water, Fresh, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, The Night of the Hunter, Stop Making Sense, Chameleon Street, Killer of Sheep, The Long Goodbye, Nashville, Southern Comfort, The Driver, The Warriors, Vertigo, The King of New York, She’s Gotta Have It, Hoop Dreams, White Men Can’t Jump, Beverly Hills Cop, Glengarry Glen Ross, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Naked, Angel  (Neil Jordan), Leon, The 400 Blows, Barry Lyndon, Reservoir Dogs, Children of Men, Being John Malkovich, Midnight Run and This Is Spinal Tap, many of which, on another day, could have easily sneaked into the Top 10. All academic really, but glad to have got it out of my system! Comments/feedback/your own lists welcome below.

Journeymen: an independent short film project

Hello, just a quick post in which I’d like to direct you to the IndieGogo funding page for a short film project being undertaken by my colleague, actor/director/musician Vee Vimolmal (@VeeVimolmal). The film’s entitled Journeymen, it’s going to be shot on Canvey Island, it stars Doctor Who alumnus Katy Manning, and it needs some funding! Click HERE for more info.

Finally: Cliff Richard and Danny Dyer on screen together

In flagrant lieu of a proper post, here is some “Friday Fun”™, and I’m pleased to announce (a full month after a number of other outlets have already broken the news) the 2012 release of the film you’ve all been waiting for. That’s right, it’s the film adaptation of Ray Cooney’s “adult” play Run For Your Wife, which has had ’em rolling in the aisles for almost 30 years.

With the most confounding British cast assembled since Michael Winner’s Parting Shots (Ben Kingsley, Oliver Reed, Chris Rea… CHRIS REA!!), Run For Your Wife boasts a leading role for the charming Danny Dyer, as well as major parts for Lionel Blair, Neil Morrissey and Denise van Outen, and cameos from Cliff Richard, Rolf Harris and the ubiquitous Ray Winstone, all of whom have generously waived their fees to appear.

So we can all celebrate in unison, here’s the video of Cliff’s greatest song ‘Wired For Sound’, in which our slender Peter Pan-esque hero rollerskates through Milton Keynes clad in some serious leather. If you are ever asked the question, remember that Cliff likes tall speakers, small speakers and wall speakers, but most of all he likes loud speakers. FYI, like.

Thanks to Tweeter @brusma for alerting me to this in the first place. Have a great weekend.