Sunday, January 15, 2006

What's wrong with Kong (it's too damn long)

Enough already. Peter Jackson's King Kong is not a masterpiece. Or a classic. It's not even a very good film. It's an entertaining 90 minute popcorn movie inflated to a monstrous 3 hours by a director too in love with his subject to edit for his audience. Not that a lengthy running time is in itself a crime - Downfall warranted every one of its 156 minutes - but Jackson's mantra whilst editing (or rather, not editing) Kong appears to have been 'Why show something once if you can show it three times?'

Maybe its because I saw it around the same time as Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit, which struck me as an infinitely more nuanced piece of filmmaking. Weighing in at a slender 85 minutes (vs. Kong's 187 minutes), Wallace & Gromit is a masterclass in cinematic economy, where every frame is made to count, brimming with a level of detail which demands repeat viewings (I find it hard to imagine Nick Park okaying the ropy CGI on display in Kong's Brontosaurus chase). Wallace & Gromit also delivers a more compelling narrative arc and three-dimensional characters you can engage with. Much has been made of the emotion conveyed by Kong's facial expressions, but for my money Gromit achieves a far greater range with his plasticine mono-brow.

The harsh reality when it comes to big screen blockbusters is that size does matter. By stuffing Kong until it was twice its original size, Jackson was hoping for the cinematic equivalent of Fois Gras. Unfortunately he's wound up with a bloated turkey of a film, which tests both the patience and posterial circulation of its audience.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

My Top 25 Films of 2005

Reserving the right to make a few alterations once I've caught up with the films I missed at the cinema on DVD, below are my Top 25 Films of 2005. It's been another good year for films based on real events, be they dramatisations (Hotel Rwanda, Downfall, Ray, Vera Drake) or documentaries (DiG!, Beautiful Dreamer, Guerilla, Inside Deep Throat, Tarnation, In The Realms of the Unreal). The UK managed to keep its end up with an impressive range of dramas (Bullet Boy, Pride & Prejudice, Vera Drake and Wallace and Gromit's first big-screen outing) whilst mainland Europe produced it's statutory three outstanding films (The Edukators, Downfall and The Beat That My Heart Skipped). Even Hollywood managed to tackle some potentially thorny topics with some aplomb (Hotel Rwanda, Crash, The Woodsman). Anyway, enough waffle, here's the list...

1. The Edukators (dir. Hans Weingartner)
2. DiG! (dir. Ondi Timoner)
3. Sideways (dir. Alexander Payne)
4. Hotel Rwanda (dir. Terry George)
5. Downfall (dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel)
6. Crash (dir. Paul Haggis)
7. A History of Violence (dir. David Cronenberg)
8. Ray (dir. Taylor Hackford)
9. Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (dir. Steve Box & Nick Park)
10. Silver City (dir. John Sayles)
11. The Beat That My Heart Skipped (dir. Jacques Audiard)
12. Everything is Illuminated (dir. Liev Schreiber)
13. Million Dollar Baby (dir. Clint Eastwood)
14. Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson And The Story Of Smile (dir. David Leaf)
15. Guerilla: The Taking Of Patty Hearst (dir. Robert Stone)
16. Bullet Boy (dir. Saul Dibb)
17. Inside Deep Throat (dir. Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato)
18. The Woodsman (dir. Nicole Kassell)
19. Tarnation (dir. Jonathan Caouette)
20. Vera Drake (dir. Mike Leigh)
21. Broken Flowers (dir. Jim Jarmusch)
22. Closer (dir. Mike Nichols)
23. Lower City (dir. Sergio Machado)
24. Pride & Prejudice (dir. Joe Wright)
25. In The Realms of The Unreal (dir. Jessica Yu)