MKAS Advent Calendar 2017

Contents as voted by a humble yet mighty Facebook group
Data collated by Alan Whyte

1 2 3 4 5
Monday
25
December
2017
Sunday
24

December
2017
Saturday
23

December
2017
Friday
22

December
2017
Thursday
21

December
2017
6 7 8 9 10
Wednesday
20

December
2017
Tuesday
19

December
2017
Monday
18

December
2017
Sunday
17

December
2017
Saturday
16

December
2017
11 12 13 14 15
Friday
15

December
2017
Thursday
14

December
2017
Wednesday
13

December
2017
Tuesday
12

December
2017
Monday
11

December
2017
16 17 (joint) 17 (joint) 19 20
21 22 23 24 25


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Rounding up 2016: Two years in film

I love films, but I’m currently not a regular cinemagoer. My cinema visits in 2016 can be counted on one hand, and involved only one new(ish) release:

Because I watched everything else at home — hence waited for films to become available for (legal!) downloading or streaming — I’m going to list two Top 10s of 2016: one of 2016 films and one of 2015 films watched in 2016:

My personal top 10 of 2016 films

  1. The Brand New Testament
  2. Weiner (documentary)
  3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  4. Midnight Special
  5. Sing Street
  6. Hail, Caesar!
  7. Eddie The Eagle
  8. Holy Hell (documentary)
  9. Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia)
  10. The Secret Life of Pets

My least favourite film of 2016: Imperium (I wrote and posted a review of this film here).

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My personal top 10 of 2015 films watched in 2016

This Top 10 “goes to 11” with two titles sharing third place:

  1. The Hateful Eight
  2. Je Suis Charlie (documentary)
  3. Brooklyn
    Spotlight
  4. He Never Died
  5. Janis: Little Girl Blue (documentary)
  6. Bone Tomahawk
  7. What Happened, Miss Simone? (documentary)
  8. Creed
  9. Concussion
  10. Spectre

My least favourite film of 2015 that I watched in 2016: The Witch

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Film review: Imperium

While I don’t often write film reviews (aside from short opinions on iTunes, perhaps), once again I felt compelled to; this time after watching the dross that is Imperium.

***WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS***

British actor Daniel Radcliffe plays an FBI agent who goes undercover with white supremacists and for the most part he does a good job. It’s just that his American accent occasionally slips and his short stature affects his credibility as his character’s undercover alter ego. Clearly, this lack of credibility is only obvious to the viewer, because on screen, Radcliffe’s character Nate has no trouble fitting in with various groups of neo-Nazis and appears to infiltrate with comfortable ease and at remarkable speed, deflecting any tension with wit and intelligence. Hopping from one racist clique to the next, Nate is always the smartest in a room full of white guys; he has an answer to every question and an explanation in response to any doubt raised. If it wasn’t for all the other white blokes being so thick, no doubt his cover would have been blown faster than you can shout ‘White Power.’

Meanwhile, Radcliffe’s Australian co-star Toni Collette‘s American accent is better than his, but her problem in this film is that she seems to parody rather than just play an FBI supervisor. In Wittertainment parlance, it’s a performance turned up to eleventy stupid. The less said about it, the better.

The most believable acting performance in Imperium comes courtesy of Tracy Letts. By the time we learn the truth about the radio presenter he plays in this film, I sincerely wonder how many broadcasters, columnists and other professional opinion-givers in the real world have built their careers on a similar earning model to that of the fictional Dallas Wolf. It makes sense. He makes sense. Letts’ convincing performance is let down, however, by how poorly his part has been written into the plot; it’s a storyline that might have worked better before internet radio and podcasting blurred state lines and country borders, but I’m not sure it stands up in 2016.

Taking cues from American History X and The Firm —the one with Gary Oldman, not the one with Tom Cruise— only illustrates how good those films were and how not-very-good Imperium is. Moreover, unless my memory is deceiving me, there’s one specific scene early on that I feel I’ve seen before, at the end of I.D.:

What, if anything, did I learn from this film? Two things. Firstly, that going undercover doesn’t require FBI training or experience; reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People should suffice. Secondly, once you pretend to be a white supremacist, you will no longer need your glasses; then, when you stop pretending to be a white supremacist, you will need your glasses again. (Mind you, with a frame as ill-fitting as Nate Foster‘s, I doubt glasses are of much use in the first place — he must have been peering at the rim more than through the actual lenses.)

Imperium is currently on limited release in UK cinemas and available to stream from We Are Colony and Amazon Prime (other options or services may be available) For a proper film review, I refer you to Mark Kermode’s one here.

 

Five-star movie, one-star review

This is my first (and possibly only) ever movie review that I would like to share with you.

It started with a tweet – this tweet, following the release and subsequent promotion of Argo, which is directed by Ben Affleck:

At the time it was read out on air and retweeted by Kermode & Mayo (a.k.a. @wittertainment) so I felt I ought to follow up on my tweet. Sadly, cinemas are expensive, and generally not my favourite places to be. Last night I was delighted to see that Argo is already available on iTunes! I downloaded it, watched it, and afterwards was so in awe of what I had just watched that I just had to submit my review on iTunes:

If you can forgive [Ben] Affleck for not sticking to the exact story, I think you may love this movie. You see, while Affleck does drift off from the exact events that inspired this work, we all know its conclusion and to then make it into a movie that is so intense and so full of suspense, yet with enough focus on the characters – all of them – to keep them human… that’s no mean feat, yet Affleck nails it.

I disagree with other reviewers who call this a “re-writing of history”; when you watch Argo you may find, as I did, that there are various specific points in its screenplay where Affleck could have just veered off and really make this into a bloated, chauvinist re-writing of history (possibly riddled with plenty of action scenes, special effects, CGI and other pompous drivel)… yet at those very points you can see he has held back and kept it together; I feel that’s what makes this movie all the more intense. Argo is no flippant or shallow piece of ‘strong and clever American superheroes vs. nasty and dumb non-American evil-doers’ fiction, when Affleck could quite easily have made it into that, and other directors probably would have done so.

On paper, this movie probably wouldn’t have appealed to me, exactly for the aforementioned reasons raised against it by other reviewers (reasons that I disagree with now that I’ve seen the movie). It was Ben Affleck himself who made me want to watch it when I heard him being interviewed about it by Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo last year. He was so tremendously engaging and intelligent in that interview that I felt compelled to go watch this movie. Tonight I have watched it and I am immensely grateful that I did. It’s sublime.

I forgot to include a health warning with the above review, so I feel the need to correct that mistake here: I really only ever watch anything when I go to bed. Usually that helps me unwind and then I tend to nod off into a relaxing sleep (quite often even before the ending of whatever it is I am watching). On this occasion the suspense was so great that I found myself wide awake and mildly hyperventilating for at least half an hour afterwards. So please, be warned.

Further reading: ‘Argo’: The Movie vs. The True Story, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History and The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.

Further viewing (SPOILER ALERT): Argo: The Reel Story: How the movie Argo downplays Canada’s role in the rescue mission (CTV W5 2013).