Pursued by a Bear »

  • I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look

    February 9, 2010 @ 4:02 pm | by Fiona McCann

    I love country music. I’m also very fond of Jeff Bridges, so I was particularly well disposed towards Crazy Heart, the film that’s already garnered him an Oscar nomination, as well as one for his co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal. Based on a novel by Thomas Cobb, it’s the tale of one Bad Blake, a whiskey-sluggin’, geetar playin’, fading country music singer whose star has fallen so low when he first hits the screen that he’s playing bowling alleys for cash. And then he meets a younger – waaaaaaaay younger – woman, which encounter might make you feel a little squirmy if it didn’t seem so strangely credible. What makes the viewer suspend disbelief in this unlikely love is the undeniable charm of a 57-year-old chain-smoking alcoholic who tells a pretty girl, perched on the sofa of his cheap motel room: “I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look.”


  • Free free free!

    February 5, 2010 @ 1:19 pm | by Fiona McCann

    In case you’d forgotten, what with all the social activity about these days, tomorrow is Open Day at the Irish Film Institute which means it’s free – FREE! – in to every film all day. The open day screenings kick off with Ponyo, an animated story of a fish-girl by Hayao Miyazaki, he of Spirited Away fame. Also on offer is the much-touted Crazy Heart, which has already earned its two stars, Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Oscar nominations this year, and Tom Ford’s film debut A Single Man. The open day film finale is a screening of The Lives of Others, which topped the IFI’s online poll for the People’s Choice Awards, in which eighteen hit films – one from each year the IFI has been open – competed. Full, recession-busting schedule below, while tickets are allocated on the day for those who show up from 11 a.m. onwards.


  • JDIFF countdown and Slamdance delight

    January 29, 2010 @ 12:30 pm | by Fiona McCann

    What a week for Irish film. Not only does Conor Horgan’s haunting debut feature One Hundred Mornings get a Special Jury Mention at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, but the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival has launched its programme with plenty of cinematic goodies to look forward to. The latter kicks off with the European premier of Neil Jordan’s Ondine, while also featuring a celebration of Kristin Scott Thomas’ French film work, including the Irish premiere of her new film Partir. Then there’s the screening of I Am Love with director Luca Guadagnino and actor Tilda Swinton in attendance, Woody Allen’s Whatever Works starring Larry David, Tim Burton’s glorious-looking Alice in Wonderland 3D, a Russian season that includes a screening of Mermaid, a Korean season with Bong Jun-ho’s Mother, a screening of Horgan’s aforementioned Slamdance hit, a tribute to this newspaper’s late film correspondent Michael Dwyer which includes a series of films he particularly championed, and lots more to be found hereSome Blind Alleys gives its documentary tips here. Any other recommendations? (more…)

  • It’s a blue, blue world

    December 29, 2009 @ 4:43 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Oh. Em. Gee. It’s like the most hyped and hyper publicised film, like, EVER. I mean, at least since Titanic. So I succumbed and pegged it out to see Avatar last night. And it was about as predictable as a film about massive blue humanoids struggling to save their planet from smaller, mostly pinky-white humanoids (a.k.a. humans, I guess) can be. Which didn’t make it entirely unenjoyable, mind: there were some cracking action scenes where the dumb dialogue ceased to matter, some pretty cool concepts (call me a tree-hugger, but I liked the neat bonding mechanism with animals slash nature) and the heavy-handed eco-moralising was at least on the right track. My weary eyes are still getting used to 3D, but it served up a good dollop of vertigo and made more than one cinema goer duck bullets and wince at flying particles. It’s cinema by numbers, mostly, and you can’t help but feel that James Cameron could have done so much more with a whole new planet to work with. Instead, it’s another hetero-romance wrapped up in a global conflict. Which makes for decent on-screen entertainment without stretching the intellect, and will surely send box offices into overdrive. And yeah, let’s face it, this is one you probaly shouldn’t wait to see on DVD. But it still kind of grates that Cameron’s imagination couldn’t stretch to a more challenging alternate universe, and that we’ll all reward him for it anyway. But don’t take my word for it: check out what my colleague Donald Clarke had to say about it. And then come back here and tell me what you thought.

  • Why they’re all wrong about the Wild Things

    December 11, 2009 @ 3:54 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Nobody I’ve met so far has been particularly positive about Where the Wild Things Are. Reading lukewarm reviews complaining it’s too hip, too unstructured, too scary/dull for kids, too sacrilegious, too tedious, too Spike, too meh, I wonder if I saw the same film at all. Here’s my colleague Donald Clark’s take on it, not exactly a glowing review. All I can say is I disagree. Well, not all I can say, clearly, as here I go: This is probably the first film I’ve seen in my adult life that brought home to me how the sensitivies and fears of my childhood were a natural part of growing up, and went hand in hand with the wild joys I remember too of being a kid. Max is utterly convincing – heartbreakingly so – as a young child struggling with demons within that become the charming, out of control and tender demons without. It’s frightening, it’s exhilarating, it’s astoundingly empathic and it’s my favourite film of this year so far. And yes, I’ve seen the White Ribbon too.  Am I alone in finding something splendid there? Over to you . . .

  • How did he do it?

    December 1, 2009 @ 12:03 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Come up with the Ten Commandments, I mean. Because limiting myself to the ten most influential books of the noughties was a fierce challenge altogether, the results of which will be made known in tomorrow’s Irish Times. Many thanks to all the suggestions and contributions: I have been strict in adhering to the caveat that the final inclusions must have been published within the decade, which meant we had to chuck out Dreams of my Father and Harry Potter, both of which made their first appearances in the nineties. But while you’ve all been ruminating on books, I’ve been catching up on other arts, notably Strandline at the Project, the new Abbie Spallen play. Set in a small coastal village in Northern Ireland, this is a play about secrets and lies, perhaps a fitting theme for our times given all that’s been revealed about the church of late. A cracking cast works hard to play with shifting audience sympathies against a fittingly cold and stylish set by Sabine Dargent. Looms loom (yes, I  have waited some years to be able to say that), and dialogue crackles, while Fiona Bell plays the best stage drunk I’ve seen in quite some time. Here’s what Peter Crawley had to say about it, and if you’re convinced, you’ve got till Saturday to catch it. If Strandline doesn’t float your boat (SWIDT?), then this week’s highly recommended movie must is Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. Beautifully shot, achingly suspenseful, fittingly slow-paced and with incredible performances elicited from a cast of fabulous faces (yes yes, actors, I know, but the close-ups are expressive and hauntingly memorable), this film leaves the viewer with a myriad of questions, and a discomfort reflective of life’s eternal failure to tie things up satisfactorily. Go. See. It.

  • One Hundred Mornings

    October 29, 2009 @ 12:33 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Finally got to see Conor Horgan’s exceptional debut feature, One Hundred Mornings, last night. Though set in a post-apocalyptic Ireland, this subtle, intelligent film focuses on the human drama played out among its four central characters rather than the science fiction future of a Western world that has somehow fallen apart. Beautifully shot in muted, earthy colours, One Hundred Mornings is both harrowing and humorous, though the overarching tone is one of grim stoicism. Horgan elicits some fine performances from his tiny cast, and a cloying claustrophobia is expertly juxtaposed with a vast, surrounding emptiness. The film premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in July, but has yet to get a general release: in case it does, I won’t go into any further detail though I’d love to witter on about the joy of a new film talent and the finer points of the flick, but if it does, and you do get a chance to see it, then do. And you don’t have to take my word for it: here’s what yon Screenwriter Donald Clarke said about it.

  • If you believe . . .

    August 4, 2009 @ 11:56 am | by Fiona McCann

    Duncan Jones’ Moon (reviewed here by Donald Clarke) is a beautiful thing, all solitude and lunar landscapes, a kind of meditation on loneliness that sets your spine tingling. The plot has its own delights, and observations on business and science and the essence of human experience, but what is haunting about this film (seen last night in the Lighthouse Cinema, which cinema is worth a mention in its own right) is how it examines the solitary nature of existence and our need for contact. Where it works is not, however, in its sci-fi twists and hints at the manipulative realities of profit-mongers, but in its portrayal of the machinations of the human mind. Sam Rockwell is affecting, the pocked face of the moon a beauty, and the distant backdrop of this small drama played out among the stars somehow brings it closer. Go see it.

  • Romantic Comedies

    July 17, 2009 @ 11:27 am | by Fiona McCann

    Been thinking about romantic comedies. You know, the Sleepless in Seattles and Roman Holidays, and the one I saw most recently, The Proposal (being dubbed by some in the media as The Formula, for reasons that will become clear should you ever see this predictable Anne Fletcher flick, which is rescued somewhat by a few genuinely funny moments, and the presence and timing of its watchable leads). Sure, the notion of a romantic comedy is as old as Shakespeare and older again, but so many of the more recent iterations are – let’s not mince words, here – predictable pap. Yet given that rom coms do follow a formula, what makes one work over another? Because occasionally – admit it, you cynics – a romantic comedy appears that manages to be both romantic and funny. It may be a rare breed, but I would solemnly submit that such was the case with When Harry Met Sally and Sideways. So what’s the secret? The gags or the chemistry between the protagonists? And what – speak up now, you closet romantics – are the best of a much maligned genre?

  • Public Enemies

    July 6, 2009 @ 12:18 pm | by Fiona McCann

    Sure, it’s damn pretty and Johnny Depp is always watchable, but was there really anything new in this? Formulaic deification of the cocky gangsta with the heart o’ gold, who always looks perturbed when the rest of his gang start shooting people (despite having armed them with guns) and makes all the law enforcers look just plain dumb by walking right into their offices and saluting them with a cheeky grin. Those very law enforcers who just happen to look away, or bend to light a cigarette or fall asleep just at the EXACT moment the bad guy chooses to run by. (I get it! It’s stylized! That’s just not enough of an excuse, I’m afraid.) Then (spoiler coming, look away) there’s that poignant moment when his best friend tells him he feels his time is up  and guess what? OMG, no WAY! It was like he was TOTALLY prescient! I know lots of people thought this movie was the dog’s, er, testicular area, and it ain’t bad watching, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the best thing ever. Depp is deadly. Bale is bland. Cotillard is lovely and the love scenes are smokin’. But honestly – it’s a good film that is seductively atmospheric but not the great movie you’re probably expecting. Course, why trust me – this is what Donald Clarke had to say.

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