Tuesday, 28 December 2010

MyFilms Review of the Year 2010

"MyFilms" started as a result of my keeping a "Little Otsu" film diary over the course of 2009.

During that year I saw 140 films at the cinema and got a real thrill out of writing down what I thought about them.  It provided a nice little snapshot of my year...the fact that the diary included space for who had accompanied you to the cinema meant I was able to keep a track of not only where I had seen certain films (from London to Utah), what I had seen but also who had come with me.  At the years end I thought that it might be interesting to set myself a few film related goals for the coming year;

  • To see more films than I had in 2009
  • To write a review of every film I saw
  • To get a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival

The first two seemed manageable and the third was a complete fantasy rooted in my love of, not only, film but of the EIFF.  So I logged into blogspot and created MyFilms.  During the month of January I decided to watch one film I hadn't seen before every day...despite the fact this meant I watched "Another 48 Hours" from start to finish it also meant that the year got off to a hectic start and I was forced to get into the habit of writing reviews quickly.  As the weeks then months progressed I found that I was gaining "followers" and that people were actually reading the blog...this was a huge surprise to me and, if I am being honest, very humbling.  I'm not (clearly) a journalist, a writer or anyone who really knows anything about films...I'm a movie fan, I like going to the cinema and I love seeing the work of people who are infinitely more talented than I am.  

The year started with, possibly, the high point of Japanese cinema with a showing of the Ozu masterpiece "Tokyo Story" which, despite my love of Japan and Japanese cinema, I had managed never to see.  Sitting in the Filmhouse (the best cinema in Britain and, quite possibly, the world) I was struck by how beautiful the film was...a look at a world that is, sadly, disappearing; a world of honor, love and humility as well as order and tradition.  Later in the month I caught the Oscar winning "Departures" which highlighted the fact that the very world being mourned by Ozu was still alive in Japan.  Telling the story of a failed musician turned funeral director "Departures" was funny, poignant and very, very Japanese.

Oscar nominated "Un Prophete" was another highlight of the month and until I caught the winner of the Oscar for best foreign language film ("The Secret In Their Eyes") later in the year I felt sure that the Academy had made entirely the wrong decision.  I'm still not sure that "Un Prophete" didn't deserve the Oscar but even without that recognition it managed to find an audience outside of the arthouse crowd and it stands up as one of the finest films of the year.

George Clooney starred in one of my favourite films of the year... "Up In The Air" was a brilliantly cool and prescient comedy drama that showed us all the reality of the current economic crisis (despite the fact the source material pre-dated the recession by years) and it also highlighted just how good Clooney can be.  Playing a self-centred professional who is tasked with firing people from jobs where their own boss is too afraid to do it he was terrifyingly convincing...cool, detached and totally shallow.


February brought MyFilms to its first film festival...the GFF (Glasgow Film Festival).  Too late for press accreditation the kind souls in the West instead gave me tickets to a selection of films and with work to contend with I took residence in a hotel for a weekend of movie going.  "Rookies" was a Japanese comic book adaptation about a high school baseball team, "Savage" was exactly that, "Con Artist" was a great documentary, "American: The Bill Hicks Story" screened in front of a sell out crowd and was as brilliant as its subject matter but the highlight of the weekend for me was Mark Collicotts fabulous "A Congregation of Ghosts" which was also Edward Woodwards last ever film.  The GFF is a wonderful festival and I'm really excited about next years already.

An unexpected treat arrived in the shape of a documentary that screened on More4; "Your Fathers Murderer: A Letter to Zachary" which was one of the most moving and impressive documentaries I have seen.  As far as I know it isn't available for purchase but if you see it in your TV listings then please find the time to catch it.


"Kick Ass" and "Shutter Island" were the headline grabbers in March...rightly so as both were terrific films.  A more left-field hit came with "The Headless Woman".  The highlight of the month though (and possibly of the year) was Warwick Thorntons debut feature "Samson and Delilah" which has to be one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking films, well, ever.  It didn't make it to the multiplexes but it deserves an audience so please find it, watch it and then thank me for recommending it to you.

It wasn't all good news though as we were also subjected to the awful "I Love You Phillip Morris" where Jim Carey and the inexplicably still working Ewan McGregor made a desperate bid for an Oscar nod by playing gay men.  Gosh!  Look...they're kissing and everything!  Trust me...this was just dreadful.  If I were gay this may well have had me considering fighting my natural state to give heterosexuality a shot.


The big event in April was the FAB Fest, three days (which spilled over into May) of horror, cult and genre cinema run by FAB Press and held in the Filmhouse.  With appearances from all sorts of really interesting directors, writers, actors and producers FAB Fest was a terrific event.  With a rare screening of "Combat Shock" the cult Vietnam war commentary from Buddy Giovinazzo, Darren Wards "A Day of Violence" and an Indonesian martial arts kapow-athon in the shape of "Merantau" all featuring there was a something for everyone...if by everyone you mean the sort of people who enjoy really violent and disturbing cinema.  The two films that really stood out for me during the weekend were "The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle" which was as brilliantly weird as the title and "Neighbour" which has to be one of the most stomach churning films I've seen.

This month also brought three outstanding foreign language films; "Dogtooth" a Greek psycho-sexual, tragi-comedy about the worlds most unusual family, "Lions Den" which took us deep inside the world of a female prison in Argentina and "She, A Chinese" which did exactly what it said on the tin by telling the story of she, a chinese.


May was a very quiet month for MyFilms but two films that provoked a lot of discussion were "Vincere" which the critics fell over themselves to praise and "City of Life and Death" which was also lavished with praise.  Both films were historical dramas with "Vincere" telling the story of Mussolini's private life and "City of Life and Death" the horrific events of the rape of Nanjing.  Very strong performances from the key players made "Vincere" worth watching but, really, it was just a bit, well, meh.  "City of Life and Death" was terrifying but beautiful.

May also brought the sad news that Dennis Hopper had died.  A true legend and a powerhouse of an actor Hopper will be missed by film fans the world over but the joy of cinema is that those favourite actors never really leave us...one click of the play button on our DVD player and we can enjoy them again and again.


June is all about one thing for a film blog based in Edinburgh and that's the EIFF,  This year turned out to be the last with Hannah McGill as director and her departure will be a huge loss to the festival.  This years festival included some truly memorable films and performances but the highlights for me were Rona Marks twisted treasure "The Crab", Ryan Denmarks gloriously left-field rom-com "Chase The Slut", Brian Cox in "The Good Heart" and the towering "Get Low" which featured Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray and a career best performance from Bobby Duvall...which is really saying something.

As ever with festival programming it wasn't all good news and I had the misfortune of having to sit through one of the worst films I have ever seen in the shape of "brilliantlove" which stands head and shoulders above any other film you can imagine for sheer artlessness.



France delivered us from the worst excesses of Hollywood in July with a trio of wonderful films.

"Barbe Bleue"from director Catherine Breillat was a modern telling of a classic French fairy tale and was magnificently dark, delerious and deranged.  Made on a shoe string budget it was also proof positive that you don't need the power of a major studio behind you in order to make films.

"Gainsbourg" was a delicious telling of the life and loves of Serge Gainsbourg...from his childhood to his wild love affairs with a variety of beauties and his groundbreaking musical legacy to his demise and battles with inner demons.  Using puppetry and fantasy to flesh out the biopic genre this was truly original cinema.

"Heartbreaker" featured a fabulous performance from Romain Duris who managed to be both dizzyingly good looking and brilliantly funny as the man who can break up a relationship with a simple flash of his smile and the twinkle in his eye...for a fee.  A rom-com that breathed new life into a genre that Hollywood has done it's very best to destroy.

Oh...this was also the month that saw the hideous "Inception" hit the screen.  Beyond awful.  Trust me...this isn't one of those "Oh, everyone else liked it so I'm going to be all contrary" moments this is one of those "Sometimes the fact that everyone says they liked it is simply evidence of mass hysteria provoked by a multi-million pound advertising campaign and the paying off of journalists" things!


A very quiet month for MyFilms but one film really stood out and that was "Please Give" which was a really great American indie movie with the ever magnificent Catherine Keener playing the wife of Oliver Platt...the two of them own a furniture store which specialises in quirky and vintage pieces.  This was sweet, poignant, realistic and moving.  A real hidden gem which really deserved a bigger audience.

The television festival brought a preview screening of Shane Meadows "This is England '86"; a follow up to his film "This is England".  A four part made for TV drama this was the show that heralded the dawning of Channel 4's post-Big Brother era.  The preview was of episode one which re-introduced many of the characters but that also showed that the focal point of this time would be rude girl Lol (Vicky McClure).  Interviews with three of the shows main actors, Jo Hartley, Vicky McClure and Johnny Harris gave a great insight into the people behind the characters.


M. Night Shyamalan returned this month with "Devil" and immediately audiences remembered why they had forgotten all about him!  Has there ever been such a dramatic collapse in a directors career as Shyamalan?  From "The Sixth Sense" and "Unbreakable" he has simply disappeared deeper and deeper inside his own anus.  It's horrible!

At the other end of the horror spectrum came "The Last Exorcism" which combined "Blair Witch" reality with a "Rosemarys Baby" sense of hokum and managed to deliver a really frightening movie.

The real highlight of this month though was "Winters Bone" which was a brutal, realistic and shocking American drama.  With a performance from Jennifer Lawrence as "Ree" which should, in a perfect world, ensure her a career and an Oscar alongside a script that was totally convincing this was serious film-making.


Halloween and the release of "Let Me In" was the event that had MyFilms trembling with fear...how could Hollywood possibly do anything other than ruin one of the finest horror films of all time?  Well, they managed not to do that and instead delivered a film that was, if not the equal of its older sibling, certainly a very fine horror film.  Special mention should be made of the frighteningly talented Chloe Moretz who will, surely, become one of the greats with a little luck and the right choices along the way.

The appearance of "Paranormal Activity 2" was another treat for horror fans and for those who enjoy a bit of German, Expressionist psycho-horror the Filmhouse gave a screening of "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari".


George Clooney popped up on UK television screens in an advert for a coffee making machine...that was immeasurably better than "The American" which gets my nod for most disappointing film of the year and possibly for the worst film of the year too.

Much more enjoyable was "The Social Network" which is receiving a lot of "buzz" about possible Oscar nominations and wins for director David Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and maybe, just maybe, a best supporting actor nod for Justin Timberlake.  For me it must win best screenplay because, well, it was!


The year ends on a sombre note with, yet another, French film; "Of Gods and Men" which tells the true story of a group of monks who were caught up in the violence in Algeria in the early part of the nineties and who, ultimately, were murdered.  Without a doubt the most beautiful film of the year and certainly the most thought provoking.

Controversial documentary "Catfish" was another film that prompted much thought and debate.  Is it real?  Is it fake?  Is it a bit of both?  Does it matter?  Produced by Andrew Jarecki ("Capturing the Friedmans") what is absolutely certain is that it is entertaining and provocative.

So with 215 movies viewed in total and reviews of all bar "Greenberg" and "Gainsbourg" (I don't know why!) it has been a busy year for someone who only does this for his own amusement and certainly not for any financial reward!

A huge thanks to all those people with infinitely more talent than me who agreed to be interviewed over the year; Rod White (Head of Programming at the worlds best cinema, the Filmhouse), Hannah McGill (the then director of the EIFF), Alain Whyte (musician), Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Adele Bethel (Sons and Daughters), Vicky McClure, Jo Hartley and Johnny Harris ("This is England '86"), Kristin Hersh (musician), Boz Boorer (musician), Darren Ward (director) as well as several others who have been interviewed but who haven't yet been published.

Thanks too to all of you for reading the blog, registering as followers, making comments and emailing...I'm genuinely very grateful to you all and hope that you will carry on reading next year and beyond.

The biggest thanks must go to Kitch and my dad for attending so many of these films with me...thank you so much!

January 2011 will bring the much anticipated "MyFilms Awards" where the winners (and losers) of 2010 will be announced and I am already looking forward to another year of blogging about film.  See you in the Filmhouse bar!


  1. This has reminded me of several films I totally meant to see this year and didn't get round to, as well as a few I did and really enjoyed, so thanks Paul!

  2. You are very welcome! I have a few of the films from this on DVD so let me know which ones you are interested in seeing.