Summing up 2014 – first of all the filmsWednesday, 7 January 2015
I’m going to run through my movie going (about two dozen of them), plays at the theatre (similar number), interesting hotels, interesting restaurants and anything else I can think of.
- Best hotel film – Grand Budapest Hotel – wonderful – which was pretty much the same feeling from everybody else. It definitely would make you want to visit the Republic of Zubrowka, if it existed. In fact it was filmed in Germany.
• Italian meltdown versus US meltdown – well that’s Great Beauty (which I loved and there’s no question Rome comes across as a great beauty) versus The Wolf of Wall Street (which for me was just stupid-stupid-stupid, shouting-noise-shouting and way too long. I’d have been quite happy to cut it back from three hours to two although I’d have been even happier to have missed it altogether). But each summing up economic collapse in their own country’s individual fashions.
• More travel films – Tracks (Robyn Davidson’ camel trek across Australia) – an amazing trip and wonderful to watch. Living is Easy With Eyes Closed (Franco’s Spain during the Beatles era) – a delightful quiet little movie and a look at a Spain that simply does not exist any longer. What We Did on Our Holidays (divorcing parents, wise-beyond-their-years-children and a visit to Scotland) – a thoroughly nice little film and I found it very funny. Inside Llewyn Davis (Greenwich Village just as Dylan is about to appear on the scene plus a trip-from-hell to Chicago) – it would put you off US road trips.
• City films – Mumbai – Lunchbox (a little love story entwined around the dabbawallahs who deliver Mumbai office workers their daily tiffin box) – I wrote about the system in the very first edition of Lonely Planet’s India guide. Hamburg – Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man (a ‘last film’ for Seymour Hoffman) It’s from a dark Le Carre novel with a screenplay by Australian Andrew Bovell who also wrote Lantana. Typically dispiriting, we don’t trust anybody do we? Belfast – ’71 – the only film I walked out of this year – in fact I think it was a good film, but it was that time when things started to go horribly, horribly wrong and I know what happened – that you couldn’t trust anybody, that it wasn’t just one side and another, that everything splintered. The pub explosion scene, self-inflicted, loyalists are putting together a bomb in the back room, was more than enough for me.
• Best documentary – Finding Vivian Maier – not just the story of her obsessive photography, but John Maloof’s equally obsessive pursuit of her story and the circle of people whose lives she moved through. It’s a wonderfully wacky account and, of course the photos are often wonderful as well.
• Another documentary – Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth is half documentary, half a ficitonalised life story and totally a wank. Well Mr Cave is from the Australian town of Wangaratta and it makes you wonder if it could be renamed Wanker-atta. It does nothing for rainy Brighton either. The night before I went to a Nick Cave concert in Melbourne, which was a bit of a wank as well.
Still more documentaries – I also went to the Full Frame Festival of documentary films in Durham, North Carolina. Favourites there:
• Last Days in Vietnam – historical footage and current day meditations on the mess as the US scrambled out of Saigon in April 1975. I was in Singapore putting the first edition of Lonely Planet’s South-East Asia on a Shoestring together as it all went belly up.
• A Park for the City – Detroit’s abandoned Belle Isle Zoo gets taken over by the immigrant wildlife, although I doubt this is all done with surveillance cameras.
• Olga – To My Friends – a young woman living alone on a reindeer herding in the frozen north of Russia wonders what it’s all about and what happens to her if the post is shut down. Reindeers or alcoholism? I think I’d have been driven to the alcohol.
• The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed – JFK handles a minor scandal over some pricey bedroom furniture in the last summer of his presidency, very short and very funny and some great presidential bad language. It reminds me of that ‘LBJ orders new pants’ recording.
• 112 Weddings – filmaker and part-time wedding videographer ponders how things have gone since the wedding day. Not always well.
• The Notorious Mr Bout – my favourite from the festival as Viktor Bout ponders why on earth he should be bad mouthed as an international arms smuggler. The amazing thing about the movie is most of it is put together from Mr Bout’s own home movies. He started his career bringing consumer goods into consumer-goods-starved post-Soviet Russia and started using one of his own imported video cameras.
• Films made over many years or many weeks – Boyhood, terrific idea, but then I’ve also liked the ‘every 7 years’ series and the before/after/midnight/dawn franchise. 52 Tuesdays – low budget Australian movie shot in Adelaide on 52 consecutive Tuesday, another clever idea.
• And finally – Her, which lots of people loved and I simply could not believe in, ‘excuse me, you do realise you’re just talking to a computer?’ Although I did like Shanghai as the LA of the future. Nothing like Blade Runner as the LA of the future. St Vincent, yeah mildly funny, but you could see exactly where it was going every step of the way. Mr Turner which made lots of Victorian England look very interesting although modern Margate has changed too much to be used in the film.