Tag: Submarine

Back Catalog Review: Breathless

Breathless

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all the movies I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films. 

I missed a step. Somehow, in the space between going to a lot of movies in my childhood to today when I own what some would call too many Criterion and other movies, I missed the French New Wave. I knew of it, of course, but my first-hand experience with it was almost entirely lacking. I could see in movies like Submarine and Reservoir Dogs a kind of shared reference point and I could figure out what that reference point was by seeing what those kinds of movies had in common. However, when that actual reference point would come up in conversation, I’d just nod and smile. I started fixing this last year with The 400 Blows, which I absolutely loved. I picked up Breathless and Hiroshima Mon Amour recently thanks to that movie and we’ll see how it works out for me.

Breathless is one of those movies where it feels like you’ve seen it even when you’ve missed it for 29 years of your life. The details are intriguing and pulled me along when things felt a little rote. For example, the plot is such a straightforward genre type that when the movie focuses on that part it feels like almost any other crime thriller. The bits in between those standard plot beats are what make Breathless a movie to pay attention to, even though I didn’t end up loving it. There is a part of the film that ends up being almost a third of its 90 minute length which might have been five or ten minutes in another movie. It’s the seduction scene that takes place almost entirely in one room and features both Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo at the height of their strange mix of chemistry and philosophical musings. In what amounts to a short film on the topics of purpose, meaning, and desire, the two of them dance around each other wonderfully. Here are the beginnings of the Before Trilogy except I don’t particularly care if the two end up together or not. But then there’s 20 minutes of “necessary” cat and mouse policing and kind of standard moral conundrums that make the genre what it is and I start to disengage.

Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS (1960). Courtesy Ria

The ending is really great, though, especially after Seberg’s Patricia decides to turn her lover in for his murderous past. The consequences of this play out in two long shots that first map the dissolution of their relationship and then his bloody (almost comically dragged-out) end. Here Godard breaks from what has become the film’s most important feature–the jump-cuts that almost accidentally revolutionized filmmaking–and because the rest of the movie is full of moments spliced together which unmoor the audience to some degree, the long takes that close the movie brings everything crashing back down to earth. It’s a great effect and it’s these shots that I’ll remember from this movie, along with that audacious seduction scene. I’m not sure I’ll revisit this lovingly in the future, but I’m glad I watched it (and own the disc which features a lot of great supplements that I will seek out as I continue to learn more about how movies work. I’m glad I’m finally filling in this hole in my movie knowledge, and I’m excited to check out Hiroshima Mon Amour to see if Resnais can bring the power of Night and Fog to a feature film.

B

2011 Film Awards: Part 1

It’s the beginning of the new year which means it’s the end of the film year. With the Oscar nominations soon to be announced I figured it was time to give out my own awards. These are kind of my top five in each category along with some other fun categories. I’ll write a little bit after each section just for fun. Enjoy.

Best Picture

  1. War Horse
  2. The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Hanna
  4. Drive
  5. The Tree of Life
War Horse

That’s two Spielberg films at the top. I wouldn’t consider him one of my favorite directors but I guess he’s pretty ok. Hanna is just a lot of fun. Drive is stylistic as hell and a great time. And The Tree of Life is beautiful and meaningful. A good year.

Best Director

  1. War Horse – Steven Spielberg
  2. Hugo – Martin Scorsese
  3. I Saw the Devil – Kim Jee-woon
  4. Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn
  5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson
Drive

War Horse perfectly captures the classic Hollywood style of John Ford and Frank Borzage and feels perfect throughout. Scorsese’s film is old and new at the same time, with wonderful 3D. I Saw the Devil is a film I don’t wholly love, but it moves like a rocket and works so well. Drive, like I said before, is super stylized, but the mood is perfect. And Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the most packed movie I’ve seen this year, both visually and thematically. It’s subtle and intense without any action.

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Attack the Block – Joe Cornish
  2. The Guard – John Michael McDonagh
  3. The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick
  4. Rango – John Logan
  5. Submarine – Richard Ayoade
Attack the Block

Four of these guys also directed their films (Rango’s John Logan is the only outlier) and three of them are debut films (only The Tree of Life and Rango, again). Each of these films are the very definition of original, whether it be the plot or the style of the writing or both.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Adventures of Tintin – Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan
  3. Drive – Hossein Amini
  4. Winnie the Pooh – Stephen J. Anderson and company
  5. War Horse – Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
The Adventures of Tintin

Are you starting to see a trend here? War Horse just keeps showing up. It is that good, though. For real. Also, Tintin has three of the best screenwriters going and Winnie the Pooh captured the feel of the original stories perfectly. It doesn’t shy away from the meta aspects and the songs are great.

Best Actor

  1. Brendan Gleeson – The Guard
  2. Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  3. Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class
  4. Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Hunter McCracken – The Tree of Life
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard

I’ve always liked Gleeson and his role in The Guard is genius. Andy Serkis (and the animation crew) somehow made a chimp an effective and emotional character. Fassbender is Fassbender (and might get replaced by the Shame version of himself if it ever shows up around me). Oldman is quiet and very real. Hunter McCracken is a talented young actor with a big role that he played very well.

Best Actress

  1. Saoirse Ronan – Hanna
  2. Viola Davis – The Help
  3. Elena Anaya – The Skin I Live In
  4. Brit Marling – Another Earth
  5. Sally Hawkins – Made in Dagenham
Viola Davis in The Help

Hanna continues Ronan’s work with Joe Wright and she’s just as good as she was in Atonement, if not better. Viola Davis first broke my heart in Doubt and she continued to do so in The Help, a surprisingly ok movie. Elena Anaya does very well for herself playing a complicated and difficult role. Sally Hawkins makes her character real and powerful.

Best Supporting Actor

  1. Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  2. Michael Fassbender – Jane Eyre
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  4. David Tennant – Fright Night
  5. Brad Pitt – The Tree of Life
Benedict Cumberbatch in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Alan Rickman started his movie career with one of the best villains of all time (Hans Gruber) and has now brought to life one of the best conflicted characters in modern cinema. Fassbender is, again, Fassbender. Both Cumberbatch and Tennant proved that they can play roles other than the ones that they played on BBC shows. And Brad Pitt fully embodies his stern father role. I lost him in the performance, which is a pretty great feat for such a movie star.

Best Supporting Actress

  1. Cate Blanchett – Hanna
  2. Elle Fanning – Super 8
  3. Jessica Chastain – The Help
  4. Sally Hawkins – Submarine
  5. Emily Blunt – The Adjustment Bureau
Cate Blanchett in Hanna

I know a lot of people hated Blanchett in Hanna but I loved how arch she was. She played a great fairy tale evil queen. Elle Fanning is a new talent, just watch the acting scene in this film for definitive proof. I know most will probably go with Chastain in The Tree of Life for this category but I really liked what she did with her role in The Help. Sally Hawkins was basically the opposite of her role in Made in Dagenham and wonderfully weird. Emily Blunt’s chemistry with Matt Damon was the best part of The Adjustment Bureau, outside of the hats.

Best Ensemble Cast

  1. War Horse
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  3. Super 8
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Midnight in Paris
Super 8

I love everybody in War Horse, especially Hiddleston and Cumberbatch and Emily Watson. All of those sad men in TTSS were great (again, Cumberbatch). Super 8’s kids were wonderful, along with a few key adult roles. The Tree of Life, too, mixed great kid and adult roles. Midnight in Paris magically combines modern day elites and old-timey artists, all played to perfection (if exaggeratedly).

Best Non-English Language Film

  1. The Skin I Live In
  2. I Saw the Devil
  3. Trollhunter
The Skin I Live In

These are the only foreign language films I’ve seen. I am ashamed. They’re all good, though. The Skin I Live In is melodrama and horror mashed up into one glorious concoction. I Saw the Devil is a violent revenge tale, superbly directed. And Trollhunter takes the found footage horror film and amps it up a bit. Also, trolls.

Best Animated Film

  1. The Adventures of Tintin
  2. Winnie the Pooh
  3. Rango
  4. Batman: Year One
Winnie the Pooh

This was not a great year for animated films. Tintin is a whole lot of fun. Winnie the Pooh felt like an instant classic. Rango is a spaghetti western pastiche that works as a kids movie. Batman: Year One is basically Batman: The Animated Series, so it is great.

Best Documentary

  1. Bill Cunningham, New York
  2. Tabloid
  3. African Cats
  4. Cropsey
  5. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
African Cats

Bill Cunningham, New York is a pretty straightforward doc about a fascinating person (a fashion page photographer for the New York Times) but there’s a scene at the end that is truly amazing. Tabloid looks at an interesting case through the lens of the British tabloid system. African Cats is a movie about baby lions and cheetahs, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, so it is awesome. Cropsey examines an urban legend and takes a bit of time to talk about the horrible way the mentally ill were treated at one time in our recent history. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold takes a Super Size Me-esque look at the product placement industry. It’s fun and informative, even if I don’t think that product placement is the most evil thing in the world.

Sometime next week I’ll make the next post in this two part series. Exciting categories like Best Editing and boring ones like Best Comedic Scene and Best Line. Join me! Tell me what I missed!

Movie Review: Submarine (2010)

I’ve seen Richard Ayoade in a few things including The IT Crowd, a hilarious Britcom where he plays a socially awkward IT guy of the highest order. He is brilliant in the show but it didn’t prepare me for his superb directorial prowess. He directed the superb Pulp Fiction/My Dinner With Andre episode of Community earlier this year but even that didn’t let on just how good Ayoade is behind the camera. If there is one thing that Submarine has going for it, it’s the supreme technical craft of the film. Everything looks right, feels right, acts right. It’s a subjective film, we only see the events through the lens of Oliver Tate, and as such Ayoade is free to break reality as often as he wants. When Oliver mentions in an early voice over that this moment would be best suited to a rising crane shot but that the film of his life would only have the budget for a zoom out the frame predictably zooms out, even a bit awkwardly. People freeze while the camera moves and when his father talks about “being underwater” the next shot shows him hunched below the large fish tank previously hidden off-screen. But is that enough? Does the story work beyond the technical achievements?

Well, kinda. Mostly. Probably. Yes? The problem (or not) is that Oliver Tate needs a good slap in the face. He’s got a big ego with little to back it up. He’s the victim of bullying but bullies others in order to get the attention of a girl, Jordana Bevan. And she’s not immune to emotional problems. Their relationship seems to be based on doing as little as possible that could be perceived as actual fun. Or love. The practically torture each other, even though they both want to be with each other. It makes for difficult viewing. I just wanted to go into the screen and sit them down for a little heart to heart in the early goings. Tell them that they need to stop being so pretentious. Stop acting so uninterested in everything. Just enjoy things. Luckily, the film does that for me after the first section. With the reintroduction of Oliver’s mom’s old flame creating marital strife and Jordana’s mom having brain cancer these two teenagers are forced to deal with issues outside themselves. They’re kicked out of their own world and into reality, as much as they try to resist.

The acting in this film is phenomenal. Even if I didn’t care for the two romantic leads (Oliver and Jordana), their actors (Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige) perform them quite well. The adult actors play their roles well, too. Paddy Considine (pictured above rocking the silliest haircut I’ve seen outside a Coen brothers film) brings a kind of quiet humanity to a role that could have been over the top and silly, the spiritual new-age-y motivational speaker that used to date Sally Hawkins‘ Jill Tate (Oliver’s mom) before she married Noah Taylor‘s Lloyd Tate. This couple totally works. You can see why they were a good match for each other – the idea of Noah Taylor’s depressed, scraggly professor ripping his sweater vest off to woo Hawkins’ neurotic wannabe actress is one of the funniest images in the film, even though it’s not shown because they bring so much depth to such lifeless characters – and why they are drifting apart. This is where Oliver and Jordana could end up if they aren’t careful. So trapped in their own ways that seemingly nothing can break them out of their idiosyncrasies.

In fact, for all of my misgivings about the early parts of the film (which are spectacularly done, I must reiterate. I just couldn’t stand the characters), this story develops into something with real heart. It is, after all, a coming of age story – a bildungsroman, if you’ll allow me an English major word and let me justify the title of this blog – and Oliver and Jordana develop into better people. They understand that there is more than just their inner lives and that sometimes people screw up. They learn that relationships of any kind are hard to sustain and that the outcome is worth the effort. When the film ends you have hope that these two, and even the three adults, will be able to live with a little bit more compassion instead of the empty affectations they put on in the early goings. And it’s also quite funny. There are clever jokes and character moments and even filmmaking techniques that make the film flow with a quick wit and a quicker pace. Not since Edgar Wright‘s Hot Fuzz have I seen the kinds of filmic jokes found in this movie. It’s always good to see a joke whose punchline is a cut instead of an actual line. Ayoade’s technical and, more importantly, emotional awareness makes him a writer and director to watch out for.

Submarine (2010) – Written and directed by Richard Ayoade