Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2004

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, here is the group which didn’t quite cut it: Napoleon Dynamite. The Passion Of The Christ. Team America. The Terminal. Dead Man’s Shoes. Hellboy.

r-point

10: District 13 (France) Pierre Morel

9: A Very Long Engagement (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

8: R-Point (SK) Kong Su Chang

7: Shaun Of The Dead (UK/US/France) Edgar Wright

6: Spider-Man 2 (US) Sam Raimi

5: House Of Flying Daggers (China/HK) Zhang Yimou

4: Saw (US) James Wan

3: The Grudge (US) Takashi Shimizu

2: Kill Bill Volume 2 (US) Quentin Tarantino

1: Dawn Of The Dead (US) Zach Snyder

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: x

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

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Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2003

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

As always, the not quites: Big Fish. Freddy Vs Jason. House Of 1000 Corpses. Dogville. The Last Samurai. School Of Rock.

10: The Dreamers (UK/US/France/Italy) Bernardo Bertolucci

9: Underworld (US/UK/Hungary/Germany) Len Wiseman

8: Kill Bill Vol 1 (US) Quentin Tarantino

7: A Mighty Wind (US) Christopher Guest

6: The Curse of The Black Pearl (US) Gore Verbinski

5: Zatoichi (Japan) Takeshi Kitano

5. Oldboy (SK) Chan Wook Park

4: A Tale Of Two Sisters (SK) Kim Jee Woon

3: Ju On (Japan) Takashi Shimizu

2: The Return Of The King (NZ/US) Peter Jackson

1: X2 (US) Bryan Singer

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Three (Including the top grosser)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One – the winner

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2002

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

Lets get the almosts done first: Dog Soldiers. Bubba Ho-Tep.

10: City Of God (Brazil) Fernando Meirelles

9: Equilibrium (US) Kurt Wimmer

8: Hero (China) Zhang Yimou

7: Infernal Affairs (HK) Andrew Lau/Alan Mak

6: The Pianist (France/Germany/Poland/UK) Roman Polanski

5: Dark Water (Japan) Hideo Nakata

4: The Eye (HK/Singapore) The Pang Brothers

3: The Twilight Samurai (Japan) Yoji Yamada

2: 28 Days Later (UK) Danny Boyle

1: Sympathy For Mr Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One (The Winner)

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two

Fantasy Festival Line Up – Day Two

Wake up, rise and shine – it’s another jam packed day of music and fun! No, you don’t have time to wash, and I don’t want to hear any crap about hangovers – grab another cider and keep her lit! Check out Part One here!

9.30 – 11: Basil Poledouris

Keeping with the instrumental start to the morning as exemplified in Day One, we kick off Day Two with the greatest underappreciated composer in Hollywood History. Poledouris sadly passed away a few years ago, but as this is fantasy he has been resurrected say thank ya. I’ve talked about his Conan The Barbarian score being the best movie score ever written, but he is also known for many other personal favourites and classics – Robocop, Starship Troopers, The Hunt For Red October, Free Willy, Lonesome Dove – all of which would sound epic on stage with a full orchestra.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

11 – 12: Lene Marlin

Lene Marlin is primarily known for her late nineties hit Sitting Down Here, which many people probably view as a quirky one hit wonder. While she is in no way prolific, she has released several superb albums – Sitting Down Here is not the best representation of her music, sounding light and fun. The vast majority of her output is dark and what the average fool on the street would consider depressing – highly melodic but often horribly sad. Who said festivals needed to be a superfunhappy time? Nevertheless, her songs introspective quality balanced against the hooks would set the scene for an intimate, emotional gig.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

12 – 1: Mika Bomb

We’d need something faster and more upbeat after Lene – who better than a bunch of punk ladies from Japan with songs rarely going beyond three and a half minutes. With only two (great) albums in almost twenty years, the band remain essentially unknown, but a big festival performance could be what they need to fire them into the spotlight – songs like Bettie Page, Super Sexy Razor Happy Girls, Contact Tokyo, Heart Attack, Shut Your Mouth, and more, these would get the crowd pumped up and ready to smash the place up. Possibly the most fun, buck nuts gig of the weekend.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

1 – 3: Tori Amos

It’s a bit of a jump about day – with Tori we’d return to a more settled calm. Naturally, the super fans will clamour to the front while others may want to grab some lunch and keep an ear out for the songs they know. There are few artists now with such an eclectic and long history as Tori – you never know what you’re going to get from one of her shows. Performing since the 80s and still going today, you can be sure to get a range of angry piano led alt rock classics, tempestuous epics with orchestral backing (maybe Basil would like to join in), and ballads to poke holes in your soul.

Have I Seen Them Live: Yes – Belfast

3 – 5: Alice In Chains

As a grunge kid, I never managed to actually see any grunge bands live. Alice In Chains are still going today after a lengthy hiatus following the death of Layne Staley – they’re still a great band today but if we’re seeing them live then it has to be the original line-up. Normally I’d have them nearer the end of the night, but as you can see from the rest of the night – we’re jam packed. On a Summer afternoon, the band’s blend of fury and despair is a great lead in to the coming darkness.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

5 – 7: The Doors

It’s The Doors. If you like music and writing and poetry like me, then you fall in love with The Doors at some point. I was never the most obsessive fan in the world, but I do have all the albums, a bunch of bootlegs, and I’ve visited Jim’s grave. I feel like they are a band best experienced in the dark but having them slightly earlier in the evening might allow them to hit that pre-sunset reflective atmosphere – the day winding down while the band knock out the hits. Having been born after most of these bands were done, there are always a handful that you wish you’d had the opportunity to see – The Doors are going to be high up on most lists.

Have I Seen Them Live: No

7- 9.30: Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd are more than just a band – seeing them live is more of an experience than a concert, what with the lights and sets and everything else. Two and a half hours doesn’t seem like enough for them, but in that time they could play large chunks of The Wall, Dark Side Of The Moon, Animals, Wish You Were Here, along with some of their earlier Syd era stuff and later material. They’re a band you want to see in the dark, the full effect of their stage show taking on a transcendent quality once the sun sets.

Have I Seen Them Live: No, but I did see the Roger Waters show at Glastonbury which was essentially Pink Floyd’s hits with a few solo efforts thrown in.

9.30 – 12: Led Zeppelin

Who else but Zeppelin to close the night? Again there are so many songs that two and a half hours doesn’t seem enough, but after hours of standing up and jumping around to great music I think we’ll need a kip by midnight. Two hours should allow for songs from each of their albums (maybe not Coda) and sufficient room for their instrumental freestyling which often stretched the songs to two or three times their original length. This being a fantasy festival, we’d have Bonham back behind the kit and kicking ass. This would be a thunderous, spiritual way to end the second day, and send the punters back to their tents knowing they’ve just been part of something special.

Have I Seen Them Live: No, but I have seen Robert Plant play at Glastonbury.

Let us know what acts you would stick in your dream festival line-up!

 

Best Cinematography – 1974

Official Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Earthquake. Chinatown. Lenny. Murder On The Orient Express

Three period pieces and two disaster movies make up the list this year, with Joseph Biroc and Fred J Koenekamp picking up a deserved win for The Towering Inferno. Earthquake is a fun, effects filled movie but pales to the winner in most aspects, while Lenny is the least interesting looking of the period films. Murder On The Orient Express uses all of the landscape and sets inherent in the story well, while Chinatown has an almost sepia touch throughout giving a subtle sense of age.

My Winner: The Towering Inferno

My Nominations: The Towering Inferno. Chinatown. Murder On The Orient Express. The Godfather II. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Blazing Saddles.

Three make it to my list, and joining them is The Godfather Part 2 – lets face it, it’s probably going to be nominated for every applicable category. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is another unsurprising inclusion by me, a film with a look which has been mimicked countless times, but never matched – not even when Daniel Pearl returned for the remake decades later. Blazing Saddles gets on because it’s always nice to nominate when a comedy has a more or less unique look, while The Conversation has a moody, claustrophobic feel glimpsed through the narrowed lens of long distance shots. Finally, The Sugarland Express sees Spielberg make his first outing with the renowned Vilmos Zsigmond – a partnership which would eventually lead to an official win.

My Winner: The Godfather Part II

Let us know in the comments which film you pick as winner!

Ring

*Originally written in 2003

Just when horror movies were slipping back towards mediocrity and worse, after the high of Scream and the many lows which followed, Hideo Nakata decided to bring Koji Suzuki’s hit novel to the big screen. The result is the most terrifying movie of the decade, and one of the most chilling movies of all time. Made on a tiny budget the film is relentlessly evil, the tension never gives in, and you will not forget it for the rest of your life. Stylish, borrowing from other films and surpassing them, Ringu is a demon reincarnated as a movie, its effect on us everlasting, ensuring we spread the word…

The film opens with a Scream-like scene and the tension is already high, our wrists put in a deathly grip from the outset. Two teenage girls are discussing a video one of them claims to have seen, saying it is the scariest thing she has ever see. Once you watch it the phone rings, and a voice tells you you will die in seven days. The girl though says she is joking. Then the TV switches itself on and she hears scratching noises. It has been seven days. We cut to a reporter, Reiko Asakawa who is doing a story about the video curse. She investigates some local deaths, including her niece and soon realises that all her niece’s friends are dead too, having watched a mysterious video. Leaving her son behind she goes in search of the video. Eventually she finds it, watches it and answers the ringing phone. Convinced she is going to die she contacts her ex-husband and tries to find a way to save herself. He is not convinced, and watches it as well. However, later that night their son Yoichi also watches, so they all try to solve the curse, uncovering the story of the Yamamuras, in particular – Sadako.

Aside from having one of the most frightening climaxes in movie history, one which the recent remake completely failed to resurrect, there is an eerie atmosphere throughout the film. There are many other moments which add to the atmosphere and build towards the infamous final scare. The last 15 minutes are extremely scary as Reiko and Ryuji search for Sadako and feature some of extremely nail-biting scenes. Everything in the film is designed to unsettle – the unearthly soundtrack reminiscent of Argento and Goblin’s works, the fixed and cornered camera angles so we can never see what is near, the grim surroundings, the complete lack of humour, the use of colour etc. The performances are all very good as well, Nanako Matsushima as Reiko swiftly moves from confident to frantic wreck, and exudes every possible emotion. Hiroyuki Sanada is extremely strong, slowly coming to realise the truth, conveying guilt over his son and remaining both mysterious and strong when his ex-wife gives up. His final scene is perfectly acted, heightening the overall effect. Rikiya Otaka as Yoichi manages to be creepy, but his role becomes more central in the second film. The rest of the cast are all immensely good. The inclusion of the timer is also highly effective, ensuring the tension rises as we know time is running out.

Of course the film has its flaws. Some people will be put off by the slow nature. Some people will feel the need to have every question answered, and Ringu leaves many unanswered – that is the point. If we were in this situation we would be looking for answers – anything to help us, to relieve the fear, something real to hold on to, but nothing is given. As we are left wondering, the film will stay with us, continuing to haunt us over time, ensuring we do not escape the ring. As it was adapted from a novel, certain inherent difficulties arise. In the novel it is a man who is the reporter, his wife is barely around, and his near-sadist friend takes up the Ryuji role, hoping to put some excitement into his life. In the book, beware all reflective surfaces. The curse is more of a disease than a ghost. Nakata takes the best elements, and makes the story his own. There will be some confusing moments, but the constant threat of something happening will mean you will continually be focused on the film.

The sense of isolation is strong, and there is a coldness surrounding the film. Many rooms are blank, places lack expression, and people speak in monotone, and avoid eye contact. Nakata explores Japanese culture and mythology, showing the intrusion of the West via moments which remind us of past films. There is more than one reference to The Terminator – the final shot, the dates, the relentless evil of Sadako, technology backfiring, and it recalls other films such as Videodrome, Eraserhead, Straw Dogs, and there is veiled thanks to Stephen King. (Translate the name of a certain familiar Stephen King town into Japanese). Nakata shows himself to be the new master of tension, and along with Miike, Kitano and others is proving that Japanese cinema is a force not to be taken lightly. I first saw this around 5 years ago, and it is still rewarding and scary today. The themes of abandonment, fear and guilt stay with the viewer, coming out more with each viewing, once the initial fear has gone. This is one horror movie everyone should see, vastly superior to the remake which opted for cheap scares, flashy camera-work and loud noises. This is subtle, both nightmarish and real, and uses one of the most effective themes of horror movies to the fullest – the inevitability of death. We are doomed and there is no escape, but that should not stop us fighting for each other and ourselves, no matter how invincible our enemy.

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2001

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

It has been another rough week – one of my friend’s sons was shot and killed in San Jose a couple of days ago. It’s hard to point fingers but it’s even harder to not feel angry at a world which allows such acts to take place. One of my picks is a film I remember him always watching as a kid.

As always, lets get the almosts out of the way: Brotherhood of The Wolf. Enemy At The Gates. Spirited Away. Donnie Darko. Y Tu Mama Tambien. Monster’s Ball. The Happiness Of The katakuris. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back

10: The Majestic (US) Frank Darabont

9: Ichi The Killer (Japan) Takashi Miike

8: Session 9 (US) Brad Anderson

7: The Mummy Returns (US) Stephen Sommers

6: Frailty (US/Germany/Italy) Bill Paxton

5: Bully (US) Larry Clark

4: Visitor Q (Japan) Takashi Miike

3: Mulholland Drive (US/France) David Lynch

2: The Fellowship Of The Ring (NZ/US): Peter Jackson

1: Amelie (France/Germany) Jean Pierre Jeunet

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One

Best Animated Feature – 1974

My Nominations: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat

While there were a few animated films released this year, most were made for TV or simply not very good – meaning we only have a single nominee who therefore becomes our winner. The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat is arguably better than the original, though most critics dismissed it as more of the same, or simply lacking the initial shock value or wit of the first one. Either way, both are an acquired taste.

My Winner: The Nine Lives Of Fritz The Cat

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2000

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

First, the almosts: Brother.  American Psycho. Amores Perros. Baise Moi. Erin Brockovich. In The Mood For Love. Memento. MI 2.

10: Almost Famous. (USA) Cameron Crowe.

9: Gladiator (USA/UK). Ridley Scott.

8: Best In Show (USA). Christopher Guest.

7: Dancer in The Dark (Denmark). Lars Von Trier.

6: Unbreakable (USA). M Night Shyamalan

5: Pitch Black (USA). David Twohy

4: X-Men (USA). Bryan Singer

3: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/HK/Taiwan/USA). Ang Lee.

2: Final Destination (USA). James Wong

1: Battle Royale (Japan). Kinji Fukasaku

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: Two (including the winner)

Annihilation

The furor around streaming versus big screen is an interesting one – everyone has an opinion on it. Personally I feel that if the director’s intention (as was the case here) was for the film to be seen on the big screen then that is where the film should debut. If I had the power (and in another part of The Spac Hole I do) I would want every film to debut in Cinema. Hell, I would want to watch every TV show on the big screen too – the quality of television these days almost demands that shows with spectacle such as GOT and TWD should be seen with a crowd on a massive screen. However, the world is continuing to move away from such things – films are now becoming available on smaller and smaller screens, in more and more portable ways, and are becoming both more personal and less engaged experiences. Personal in that you can sit watching with headphones in bed or on the train or on the trap with no-one else annoying you, but less engaged in that you’re more likely to watch the movie in short bursts instead of a single sitting – something which I can’t stand but freely admit to doing more and more.

Annihilation is the latest film from Alex Garland – riding high after Ex Machina – with this film being another intelligent entry into a new wave of sci-fi movies. Based on the story of the same name (nope, haven’t read it) it follows an all-women group of scientists and soldiers as they venture into a wavering phenomenon which has arrived in the USA and has been growing steadily. This shimmer, as they call it, appeared three years ago, and all attempts to investigate successfully have failed – recording equipment yields no results, data is cursory, and any people who have gone into it have never returned. That is until one solider, Kane, returns home after having entered the shimmer a year earlier, although he has no memory of his lost time and is disoriented and sick. His wife, played by Natalie Portman, joins the all female team to enter the shimmer and find some answers once and for all.

I haven’t read many reviews of the film so far, but I imagine comparisons to 2001 will be frequently made. The film is a journey of body and mind – not quite the action epic I was anticipating when I first heard about it. There is action, but this is more akin to something like Moon than Aliens. There are meditations on guilt, depression, hope, and a lot of digestible science to chew on, though it might take multiple viewings to fully swallow and appreciate. The visuals are often stunning and the performances are uniformly strong, albeit mostly on the samey side – almost every character seems to be in a malaise of some sort and it’s really only Portman and Leigh’s characters how generate and depth or feeling. On a visual level it’s undoubtedly a success, from a thematic and philosophical perspective I imagine it will have more supporters than detractors, while on an emotional level the coldness left me… cold. The struggles near the end reminded me of the similar struggles for survival of Gravity but didn’t affect me on as personal a level. Another watch might make me think differently, but at this point in time it’s not a film I feel that I need to see again.