I went to the movies five times (and I liked it)

Craig Angus

Ah, the cinema, fond memories. Pic ‘n’ Mix, “put it back son, that’s £8.45 of wine gums and strawberry laces you tit”; spilling popcorn all over the corridor; being asked to leave during M. Night Shyamalan’s classic ‘The Village’ – yep, I really do love the cinema. The overall experience; the ticket stubs; popping across the road to the shop that sells Chocolate Eclairs at a reasonable price. Fantastic. Anyway, this month I thought I would shy away from the music, and take in a new form of art for my monthly cultural mumble. The cinema, and all that comes with it.

First stop, Bowness on Windermere, a small town located on the east bank of Lake Windermere.  It’s January 2nd, and having exhausted every pub, every café, every duck feeding spot this delightful little place has to offer, it’s time for a trip to the Royalty Cinema to see The Life of Pi. I approach this venture with a fair degree of trepidation, the overall consensus beforehand being that it’s probably better than Jack Reacher. I’m pleasantly surprised though, The Life of Pi  – based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name – is exciting, visually spectacular, and amazingly the 3D element isn’t overcooked and thrown in your face too much. For a film with a fairly simple storyline: tiger’s are cute, but don’t stroke them or you’ll be squashed like a lame goat; it does well to hold my attention, probably due to the way the past and present alternate. It’s pure fantasy – don’t try this at home stuff, but worth the entry and 3D glasses. Poke the lenses out afterwards and use them as a disguise.

With all this far-fetched stuff floating around in my head, it was time for a healthy dose of realism, and so Quartet was next on the list – a film dealing explicitly with old people: ergo mortality, right? There’s no point lying, the story is wishy washy, the jokes aren’t always there (Connolly isn’t at his best, and Maggie Smith’s joke about ‘skiing down’ is a real stinker) but you know what? I enjoyed this. My female companion weeped at the sad bits, I smiled and laughed at the funny bits, and no-one got hurt. I feel like the elderly aren’t well represented in this particular area of the arts as they could be, and Quartet is a reminder of this, as well as an amiable motion picture aside from that.  Tom Courtenay steals the show, with some interesting comparisons between hip-hop and the opera, musing that it’s all about expression of feelings.  He’s right, and it would be good to see more films that illuminate the pathos associated with ageing.

What Richard Did is in some respects the antithesis of Quartet, an independent picture about youth – but it’s also one of the finest films I’ve seen in the last 12 months. A breathtaking piece of cinematography that deserves to win bucket loads of awards, and is bound to make a star of it’s young star Jack Reynor.  Reynor plays Richard – a young, talented athlete from Dublin with the world at his feet – who falls in love. Things then take a turn for the sinister in a heady concoction of jealousy and testosterone fuelled violence. I can’t speak highly enough of this film, it’s crafted meticulously, intelligently even, but contains enough raw emotion to really make you squirm.  It’s not an easy watch, but the tone is lightened somewhat by a screenwriting masterclass from Malcolm Campbell (Skins, Shameless) who makes the inter-youth patter seem as natural as the air they breathe.  A final mention for Lenny Abrahamson, who’s now on a hot streak after Adam & Paul (2004) and Garage (2007). If he keeps this up, he’ll be considered one of the finest filmmakers in the continent in no time at all. A masterpiece.

After seeing something so intense, so moving and so real, it was obvious that the only way was down. Gangster Squad did not disappoint. Hey, I watched the whole thing, I didn’t have a compulsion to leave at any point (Gangster Squad 1, M. Night Shyamalan 0), but it was average at best and frequently quite shoddy, ultimately a tired rehashing of an already exhausted genre, and one that offers nothing to that particular oeuvre. Plus points: Josh Brolin does well and is not party to any of the failings here. Likewise, Gosling, who is of course devilishly handsome – a fact not lost on me or the two men sitting either side of me. Negative points: everything else. The movie starts with man being pulled apart, with his limbs attached to 2 cars, something which should probably disgust/please you, depending how you score on the torture porn spectrum. It provokes nothing from me and is perhaps is a suitable metaphor for the operation as a whole.  Violence can be done well – and I’m not talking about Tarantino, believe it or not. I’m looking at David Cronenberg – in Gangster Squad, however, the violence it’s just watered down. The characters live and die without much fanfare, Gosling’s character is moved to tears early on by the death of a shoe shine boy, I’d have taken the time to weep myself, if I’d known who he was.  It’s not an atrocity but it’s average, dispensable, and doesn’t deserve your hard earned cash.

Finally, what can we say about Les Miserables? Firstly, I’m astounded that Victor Hugo’s classic – already a well established hit at theatres worldwide – has taken so long to hit the big screen.  Now it has, and it comes bearing Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway as it’s stars. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being disappointed with this, however Jackman in particular goes a long way towards convincing me that he’s not just a pair of claws and a tank top. It’s long, they sing at each other instead of speaking (what is with that?!) but it’ll clean up at the Oscars. It has reduced men and women alike to weeping wrecks of themselves, and will inspire another generation who haven’t already seen it at the Edinburgh Playhouse with Mum and Dad after a nice tapas meal and glass of sauvignon blanc. It’s a classic tale (a real classic – not like the way you young people band about the term) and deserves this platform.

And so concludes the movies, but only temporarily! Glasgow Film Festival is almost upon us, so I bid you goodnight – stay away from Gangster Squad and go support the GFT.