thu 18/04/2024

Film Reviews

Shame

Sarah Kent

When it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, Steve McQueen’s second film, Shame, got rave reviews from male critics. Michael Fassbender (who played Bobby Sands in McQueen’s splendid debut feature, Hunger) is brilliant as Brandon, a successful thirtysomething New Yorker. His screen presence is so appealing that one could ogle him for hours and if, indeed, that is his body sauntering naked past the camera, he is well hung as well as handsome.

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A Useful Life

Tom Birchenough

Richly nuanced in its sideshot view of Uruguay’s film world and Montevideo street atmosphere, Federico Veiroj’s A Useful Life is a small film that picks up on suppressed emotions which are only released in its second half. Its black-and-white images (actually transferred from colour, in a manner consciously evoking previous eras) recalls something of European cinema of the 1950s and 1960s.

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War Horse

Matt Wolf

The thrilling does battle with the banal and just about calls it a draw, which is a synoptic way of describing the effect of Steven Spielberg's film of War Horse, based on the Michael Morpurgo novel that spawned the now unstoppably successful play.

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Margin Call

Jasper Rees

Margin Call, a smart, taut and brutally frank portrait of the money game, asks a lot of its audience. A movie about traders as, if not quite good guys, then at least rounded guys? It’s not a trick Oliver Stone ever managed to pull off, and he tried twice. Refusing to deal in the Hollywood placebos of idealism and redemption, this is not a product that the big studios would have gone anywhere near.

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Tatsumi

Nick Hasted

The Western image of manga comes from the thick volumes of knicker-flashing schoolgirls and lurid s.f. teenage boys pore over, and the anime (cartoon films) which adapt them. Singaporean director Eric Khoo’s animated adaptation of five stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, framed by details from his graphic autobiography A Drifting Life, reveals a radically different medium.

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The Iron Lady

Jasper Rees

There is a moment some way into The Iron Lady when its titular heroine presides over a celebratory domestic soiree. Around the table are arrayed ageing Tory nabobs and their peachy consorts, one of whom at the evening’s end tremulously approaches her hostess, sitting apart in an upright chair.

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Goon

Adam Sweeting

A capsule summary of Goon doesn't sound very appetising - slow-witted hockey player with awesome fighting skills helps lift the Halifax Highlanders out of their low-achieving doldrums. Yet within the film's oafish wrapping lies a touching little tale of oddball relationships and characters struggling to find their place in the world, set against a melancholy backdrop of small-town Canada in iron-hard winter weather.

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2011: The Arts Brought to Book

Matilda Battersby

In the year that Kindle electronic downloads surpassed book sales for the first time, the influence of literature on the wider arts is still as pertinent as ever. Cinemas have been filled with titles first read on the bestseller lists, from Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to the second instalment of J.K Rowling’s final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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2011: Tinker Tailor Minchin Sheen

Jasper Rees

On Easter Monday, as the sun came down over the sea, a crowd of 15,000 – it’s not quite right to call them theatre-goers – followed Michael Sheen as he dragged a cross to Port Talbot’s own version of Golgotha, a traffic island hard by Parc Hollywood. The culmination of a three-day epic, The Passion of Port Talbot was street storytelling at its most transformative.

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2011: The Triumph of Authenticity

mark Kidel

In a year of mounting turmoil and uncertainty, it was easy to fall back on safe bets and comfort-zone reassurance. Addictive TV series offered a welcome haven from the angst of financial meltdown: Sarah Lund’s melancholy airs in The Killing offered a homeopathic cure for the gloom of double-dip recession. Breaking Bad, the saga of the cancer-struck physics teacher who takes to a life of crime was dark, funny and endlessly surprising.

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2011: The British Are Climbing

Graham Fuller

My Top 10 movies of 2011, in order, are: Mysteries of LisbonMelancholiaMeek’s CutoffA Dangerous MethodAuroraHugoThe Princess of MontpensierCity of Life and DeathThe DescendantsMidnight in Paris.

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2011: From Russia - With Love?

Tom Birchenough

It took a relatively little-noticed television documentary, Vlad’s Army, broadcast in Channel 4’s Unreported World strand to confirm that theartsdesk has a readership in Russia. Peter Oborne’s film (the presenter pictured below) caught the pro-Kremlin youth movement, the Nashi, with its defences down, and the result depicted, no holds barred, how politics works there today.

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2011: Ballerinas, Cuts and the Higgs Boson Theory

Ismene Brown

The year’s best arts story was not the cuts (which isn’t art, it’s politics), but the appearance in Edinburgh of a mysterious series of 10 magical little paper sculptures, smuggled into the city’s libraries by a booklover. No name, no Simon Cowell contract - it proved the innocent gloriousness of the human impulse to make art, a joy that has no expectation of reward but without which no existence is possible.

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2011: A New Jerusalem, Madness, Mephistopheles and Magwitch

Nick Hasted

My highlight was the sudden, last-gasp chance to see Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron in Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, on its unexpected return to the West End. A cheap weekday matinee ticket found me in the front row, Rylance looming over me from the high stage, spewing alcohol; an unsteady, limping Lord of Misrule and, if he only could pull himself together, of a new Peasant’s Revolt against the unjust times we’re suffering.

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The Artist

Emma Simmonds

One of film’s most inspiring artists, Walt Disney, once said, “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.” With the seemingly anachronistic The Artist, French director Michel Hazanavicius proves this to be as true as ever - even in this technologically adventurous age with its all too frequent bombastic sound.

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2011: Siren Songs, Top Tales, and Farewell to the Mavericks

graeme Thomson

We have, thankfully, long since moved beyond the point where there's any need to delineate or categorise works of art according to gender. However, looking back at 2011 it's hard to escape the conclusion that the most compelling music emerged from the mouths and minds of women.

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