Friday, 31 December 2010

Top Ten Things of 2010

As I don’t get to the cinema that often, but don’t want to be left out and feel as if I should post something on the blog this year at least, I’ve knocked up a wee list of 10 things of note from the year from my completely irrelevant perspective. I’ll steer clear of mawkish stuff about my family who are always the highlight of the year for me and stick with more personal stuff. No particular order btw.

The Chilean Miners

Charlie Brooker pretty much summed this up on his excellent (if slightly overlong) 2010 wipe the other night, but I have to admit I shed a wee tear when the first guy came up and his wee girl came over to hug him.

This was a genuinely pleasant story, during which the vagaries of the “24 hour news cycle” seemed slightly less irksome. There was still plenty of narrative fabrication and absolutely loads of reporters standing around reporting on sod all from where sod all was happening (live!) but all in all it was nice to see the news media focus on a positive event for once rather than see them default to their seemingly natural position of spouting a generally inaccurate and ceaseless account of world wide fear, death and disaster.


This astonishing film (#2 in Tom’s annual Top Ten) was so good, it made me forget that I was watching what was in large part a fairly dry tale of industrial espionage involving the highly unethical mental manipulation of an unwitting individual. The fact that you are rooting for characters who are to say the least ethically suspect provides an aside about the power of cinema and indeed perspective. This result is achieved thanks to a series of excellent performances, (particularly from Tom Hardy) and visual effects that leave you little time to ruminate on any fleeting misgivings.

It’s also of course at its heart a love story and it is the compelling, passionate tragedy of this aspect of the story that provides the beam on which the rest of the film is balanced.

A sensational, brilliantly executed film from one of the most exciting talents in Hollywood. I cannot wait for The Dark Knight Rises.

Getting an Xbox 360

Self-explanatory really – one of the main reasons I have written nothing of any great substance this year.

Discovering Spotify

I tend to rely on Tom when it comes to finding out about new online thingamajigs and thankfully he managed to persuade me that Spotify was worth a try. And what a joy it is. As much as I’ve enjoyed the playlists of many friends and strangers alike, what I really love about it is you can find something to match your exact mood at any given time of the day. This has led me to discover that Saturday mornings are all about disco era Kiss for me, and how could I have possibly been expected to live without knowing that about myself?

Getting a Smartphone

What a revelation this was. As you may have guessed from the last entry, I am a bit rubbish when it comes to embracing new tech. This is partly because I’m not easy and need be wooed over a lengthy spell – it’s also probably because I’ve never really had the money for gadgets before so have consciously or otherwise characterised any new development as crap in order to assuage disappointment in not being able to join in.

Peer pressure eventually told. Genuinely bewildered by the various options, I got a Blackberry because all my mates had one. As soon as I joined them they almost all switched to the iPhone, as if my joining the Blackberry squad was in itself some kind of jump the shark moment. But to say I’m happy is an understatement. I can’t imagine how I functioned in what I now lovingly refer to as “the before times”.

The 75th Anniversary of DC Comics

The 75th Anniversary of DC Comics has been marked by some wonderful books and ephemera celebrating the home of Batman, Superman and many, many others.

My personal favourites have been the vertebrae crumblingly substantial “The Art of Modern Mythmaking” by Paul Levitz and "DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book".

“The Art of Modern Mythmaking” is a 720 page, beautifully presented tome weighting in at 15.9 pounds and is genuinely difficult to read without superpowers of your own. It’s worth the extra effort though and is brim full of Levitz’s taut, scholarly prose and amazing artwork from down the years reproduced on high quality heavy stock paper. Some may find it a bit pricey at £76.23 (Price from Amazon 31/12/10).

"The 75th Anniversary Poster Book" is slightly less of a struggle coming as it does in softcover. Here, we are treated to page after page of full colour reproductions of classic DC covers down the decades, each page perforated in case you want to neatly pull one out for framing. It’s just a very nice, simple and effective encapsulation of what has made DC a veritable icon factory over the years and it’s a bit less of a strain on the pocket as well at a modest £12.49.

Getting Worryingly Enthusiastic About Toys

Bad enough really that I never chucked a lot of my old ones away, however this year has seen me buy among other things a Blammoid Batman (Series 2) and Mini Mate versions of Booster Gold and The Blue Beetle, the latter mainly so I could recreate this harrowing scene of senseless murder from classic DC crossover series "Infinite Crisis"…

Having More Money Than Usual

This year has pretty much been the first that I’ve been able to pay the bills and have some money left over. Not loads, but some. I mention this not to suggest I’ve achieved anything because of course I haven’t but really because it’s been the most unnerving and unsettling experience. Proper weird. Having never had any before, I genuinely don’t know what to do with any extra money. If I do spend some, I second guess the purchase to death and think of 10 other things I should have done with it instead. If I save it, I worry some disaster will hit the house or the family and it will be gobbled up in one. It’s been a long road leading me to the final conclusion that I’m a twat who should worry less. Now excuse me while I head over to Amazon…

News of the Avengers Movie

People who aren’t into comics, sci-fi or all that gubbins will have no idea what I’m talking about but the few of us who do will know what a huge waste of time comic/pop culture conventions are. If you actually go, you pay through the nose to fight with other allergy infested nerds for panel seats on the off-chance that someone might say something that hasn’t already been all over the internet. If you don’t, the Internet is fairly bulging with sites and bloggers dying to feed you every tiny mini-morsel of what can often be laughingly referred to as “news”.

But…once in a while, a convention produces a spine tingling moment, and so it was at the San Diego Comic Con when Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. brought on the full cast for the Avengers film followed by director Joss Whedon. A whispered half-rumour for such a long time, the fact that this film will finally be made with this cast and director is possibly the most exciting movie news I’ve ever heard.

Discovering Twitter

By far and away the most impactful discovery of the year for me was Twitter. Again, I have to thank Tom for persevering with me on this – I resisted for a looooong time.

As dull as it can sometimes be and as full of bots and twots as it plainly is, Twitter is also home to a huge array of just genuinely brilliant people, communicating away right in the face of all the doomsayers who tell us the dialogue is over, that people just have nothing left to say to each other. What rot.

I started tweeting in March and so far I’ve reconnected with people I’d lost touch with, made some new and very amusing pals and have even managed to make a few quid in the process.

I should have realised really that this 140-character world would be the ideal place for a lazy but attention seeking plum such as myself.

2010’s been a mixed bag really as years tend to be. A lot of good, some bad and the hardest part to get through, the vast grey bulk that makes up the lion's share. But at least there have been a few things, people and events worth pulling back the covers for. See you hopefully a bit more often on Talking Pish in 2011.

Tom's Films of 2010

It’s that time of year you’ve all been waiting for where I unveil my top 10 films of the year. Like last year I’ve left it too late to write anything insightful about any of them, so I’ll just try to link to other people’s thoughts. So here we go...

1. Four Lions

Directed by Chris Morris
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar and Craig Parkinson

Funny and surprisingly moving the eagerly awaite feature film debut from Chris Morris takes my top spot. For everything Four Lions related head over to the Cook’d and Bomb Four Lions forum thread.

2. Inception

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine

A stunning piece of filmmaking from one of cinema’s most exciting filmmakers.

What the hell was it about? The best analysis of it can be found on the excellent blog ‘Go Into the Story’. Scott Myers offers his own and links to several other theries and opinions on it. If you’re interested start with this one.

3. The Social Network

Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Brenda Song, Rooney Mara and Rashida Jones

A film written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher was always going to be a must-see for me. Not much happens in the film, yet it’s still absolutely compelling. Here’s Go Into the Story again on why The Social Network should not have worked, and why it does.

If you want some more reading here’s an in-depth article on the film from New York magazine. It also goes into some detail explaining how although Sorkin’s script was credited in the film as being an adaptation of Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”, he could be nominated for an Oscar in the Original Screenplay category.

4. Up In The Air

Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick

A Terrific script, superb cinematography, some great acting and a story that doesn’t really go where you expect it to.

Here’s Go Into the Story on the relationship between the two screenwriters Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner.

5. Precious

Directed by Lee Daniels
Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and Sherri Shepherd

Brutal yet, on occasion, funny. Amazing performances from Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique. Yes, Mo’Nique really is fantastic in this.

Here's an interview with screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher from the Writers Guild of America, West.

6. Big Fan

Directed by Robert D. Siegel
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rapaport, Marcia Jean Kurtz and Matt Servitto

A career best performance fromone of my favourite comedians, Patton Oswalt. A dark comedy in the vein of The King of Comedy.

Here’s an interview with Siegel and Oslwat from Cinema Blend.

7. A Prophet

Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup and Adel Bencherif

The only foreign language film in my top ten. This brutal French prison drama was gripping, with a fine central performance from Tahar Rahim as a young man who grows in prison.

Here’s Blog on the Box talking with Rahim.

8. American: The Bill Hicks Story

Directed by Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
Starring: Kevin Booth, John Farneti and Bill Hicks

An interesting well-made documentary that takes a device seen in ‘The Kid Stays in the Picture’ to tell the story of Bill Hicks. The DVD has a wealth of interesting extras that makes it well worth a purchase.

Here's a video interview with the directors from Screen Rush.

9. The Town

Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper

Affleck's d├ębut feature 'Gone Baby Gone' topped my list in 2008, so this film now confirms him as one of my favourite current directors. Great to see Mad Men's Jon Hamm starting to get meatier film roles now too.

Here's a screenwriting analysis of it from Go Into the Story.

10. A Single Man

Directed by Tom Ford
Starring: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult

An incredibly stylish film I don't think anyone on screen this year looked better than Colin Firth.

Here's an interview with director Tom Ford from The Guardian.

This has been the seventh Talking Pish round up of the films of the year. You can find the others below.

Tom's Films of 2009

Tom’s Films of 2008

Tom’s Films of 2007

Tom’s Films of 2006

Tom’s Films of 2005

Tom’s Films of 2004