Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

If you want blood, entertaining grindhouse thriller Revenge has plenty of it

The rape-revenge film is a tricky one to pull off. Focus too much on the horrific act itself, and you’re likely to create a lurid, repulsive mess (see: I Spit On Your Grave). Skip over the rape entirely, and you risk trivialising a subject that should be taken seriously. There are few truly successful entries in the genre, but Coralie Fargeat’s directorial debut Revenge just about works. Building up an atmosphere of sleazy unease before unleashing a torrent of  gore, Revenge is a fun, empowering take on the genre, even if it’s a little rough around the edges.

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Sunday Short: The films of Jim Cummings

Rather than focus on just one short, today I’d like to look at one of the most prolific and original short filmmakers currently working: Jim Cummings. Known for character studies of crumbling people filmed in unbroken takes, Cummings has found success at festivals and online, attracting funding and reaching wider audiences since his first short in 2016. His feature debut, Thunder Road, recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, but the film first started life as his breakthrough short back in 2016.

Thunder Road

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Charlize Theron gives an outstanding performance in the otherwise-predictable Tully

After directing two critically-reviled dramas in 2013’s Labor Day and 2014’s Men, Women and Children, Jason Reitman has reunited with Diablo Cody and Charlize Theron, respective writer and star of his 2011 black comedy Young Adult, for another bruising comedy drama. Focusing on the pressures and struggles of motherhood, Tully is another fantastic showcase for Theron’s acting talent, but the predictable narrative prevents the film from reaching the heights of their previous collaboration.

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Sunday Short: 7:35 de la Mañana (2003)

If animations are responsible for the most innovative and unique short films, surely no short film is more intriguing and gripping than a good mystery. Some of the best short films I’ve ever seen establish a strange ritual, then slowly reveal its meaning. In such a short space of time, there’s no chance for the audience to grow bored or restless; the mystery can as dense and confusing as possible, just as long as you pay it off in a satisfying way.

Today’s short is one of my favourite examples of establishing a weird scenario with an ingenious hidden meaning. Nacho Vigalondo is now best known for the Anne Hathaway monster drama Colossal, but back in 2003, he made a name for himself with this Oscar-nominated short, 7:35 de la Mañana. The first time I saw this film in a Screenwriting class, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to figure out what was going on. A unique mix of eerie mystery, against-the-clock thriller, and heartfelt musical, Vigalondo’s film takes its time adding more and more inexplicable details before building to an explosive climax. It’s hilarious and more than a little disturbing. You can watch it here:

By Harry J. Ford

 

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Modern Masterpieces #8: Dogtooth

Imagine misanthrope Michael Haneke directing a twisted, perverse edition of the Twilight Zone written by the nightmare of suburbia, David Lynch. You’ve just imagined the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. Since his directorial debut Kinetta in 2006, Lanthimos has risen to arthouse fame as the director of bleak, extremely-weird dark comedies. While his two English language collaborations with Colin Farrell, 2015’s The Lobster and 2017’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, might be his best-known work, it’s his 2009 breakthrough that remains his greatest film to date. For unique ideas, despairing humour, grisly violence and uncomfortable performances, Lanthimos has yet to top the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth.

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Sunday Short: Edmond (2015)

In this new feature, I’m going to be recommending a different short film every week. Whether debut films from now-legendary filmmakers or bold new works from emerging voices in cinema, I hope to shine a spotlight on some shorts you not have seen.

I don’t watch enough short films. I occasionally watch an award-winning film out of Sundance or Cannes, or early works from great filmmakers, but otherwise, I don’t go out of my way nearly enough to find great short films and filmmakers. 

That’s going to change.

Recently, I’ve been forcing myself to seek out more short films, and it has taught me that shorts are home to some of the most creative, ingenious filmmakers and stories out there. Freed from the shackles of long form cinema, short films are a wonderful way to tackle noncommercial narratives, experiment with new means of storytelling, and create a uniquely personal vision. There’s a reason great directors like Christopher Nolan, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold and Ruben Ostlund started out making award-winning shorts before leaping to features. 

In particular, animated shorts have been home to some extraordinarily creative and clever filmmakers in recent years. As the first ever Sunday Short, I chose to focus on critically-acclaimed animation that absolutely knocked me out when I first saw it. Winner of Best Animated Short at the 2015 BAFTAS, Nina Gantz’s dark drama Edmond is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The moving stop-motion tale ofa depressed cannibal and his traumatic life, Edmond uses gorgeously-rendered puppets and dazzling match-cut editing to transport us over decades of time. In just 9 minutes, Gantz crafts a genuinely-moving, original take on a horror trope that ends on a truly transcendent note. 

A stunning achievement and a deserving award-winner, Edmond offers poignancy, creativity, and stunning animation, all in under ten minutes. You can’t ask for much more from a short film. Watch Edmond here:

By Harry J. Ford

 

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I’m back

Hello faithful readers (or people who stumbled onto this through my articles praising Bojack Horseman or hating Life is Beautiful),

It’s been over a month since I lasted posted on the site. There’s no sinister conspiracy behind my disappearance; I’ve been completing my university degree, and while I used to think I’d be able to juggle work with blogging, the final few weeks before hand-in proved pretty impossible. Since early April, I’ve watched maybe a handful of films and a tiny amount of TV, so even if I wanted to post a blog, I’d have nothing to say.

However, I’m finished with university now and back to my regular schedule of watching as many films and TV shows as possible. In the next few weeks, I’m hoping to see a bunch of films at the cinema, including Jason Reitman’s motherhood comedy drama Tully and Andrew Haigh’s Lean On Pete. I’m also going to be starting a new section each week looking at short film. Short films are home to some of the most creative, technically-brilliant filmmakers in the world, and I’d like to shine a spotlight on some of the best films out there. Also, there’s a new project I’ve been working on that I’m hoping to share with you soon… so keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you to everyone who continues to read the blog. This really is just the work of one Northern guy with a love for cinema and a need to share film with as many people as possible. As long as people keep reading, I’ll keep writing and crossing my fingers that at least one of you will watch something I recommend. I couldn’t do it without all your great support. Now let’s all celebrate like Greta Gerwig:

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Until next time,

Harry

The Best Films You’ve Never Seen #4: Tony

In this semi-regular feature, I discuss some of the best films which had low box office earnings, found little audience, or have otherwise been forgotten about over time.

So far, this column has looked at a cult Japanese musical, an award-winning Irish drama, and a bleak American character study. Whilst all three films failed to find the audience sthey deserved, at least they received some acclaim (The Happiness of the Katakuris was beloved by Takashi Miike’s fanbase, What Richard Did was the highest-grossing Irish film of 2013, and Afterschool earned an Independent Spirit nomination). The film I want to highlight today didn’t earn similar levels of acclaim when it premiered in 2009. It debuted at the Edinburgh Film Festival to mixed reviews, few people saw it during its limited British theatrical run, and those who did found it to be a thoroughly-disturbing experience. An unnerving character study of an unemployed, antisocial loner who turns to murder, this isn’t one for the faint-hearted.

Tony (also known as the more exploitative Tony: London Serial Killer) is an unusual entry into the longstanding tradition of British Social Realist Horror. Most of these films tend to demonise hoodies (Eden Lake, Harry Brown) or infuse the mundane with a nightmarish other world (Kill List, The Ghoul), but director Gerard Johnson seems less interested in standard tropes; for long stretches of the film, you might not even suspect Tony of being a genre film. The setting and supporting characters wouldn’t look out of place in Nil By Mouth, while Tony himself – a lonely loser with a brush moustache and ill-fitting glasses played by Peter Ferdinando – could be the comic relief in a Mike Leigh film. It’s only when Tony picks up a hammer that you understand how horrific the film will get.

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Lynne Ramsay makes a welcome return with the nerve-shredding You Were Never Really Here

Since her 1999 directorial debut Ratcatcher, Lynne Ramsay has graced cinemagoers with just three subsequent films. 2002’s Morvern Callar stripped a novel famed for its first person-narration of any inner monologue, giving Samantha Morton her greatest role as a quiet checkout girl who reacts blankly when her boyfriend commits suicide. Nine years later, she returned with 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, another radical and disturbing book adaptation which took a fragmented, hallucinatory-approach to the story of a grieving mother and her demonic son.

After another seven years of waiting, Ramsay has finally returned with You Were Never Really Here, an adaptation of a Jonathan Ames novella that, upon first glance, seems like it could be a Taken-style vigilante thriller. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a tormented former soldier sent to rescue a senator’s daughter (Ekaterina Samsonov, unforgettable) from a child prostitution ring, You Were Never Really Here sounds like a change of pace for the auteur, but within minutes, it’s clear Ramsay is back with a vengeance.

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Guillero del Toro’s amphibian romantic fantasy The Shape of Water wins Best Picture

After a closely fought battle in which it held off Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water took home Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards. A beautiful, violent, entirely-unique mixture of romance, fantasy and fairy tale, The Shape of Water seemed an unlikely Oscar favourite but ended up being the most successful film of the night, winning awards for Best Production Design, Best Score, and Best Director for del Toro.

Was it my favourite of nominees? No. Did I think it would win? I put my money on Three Billboards. However, The Shape of Water is a genuinely original, entertaining studio film, and it’s hard to begrudge a filmmaker as talented or as personal as del Toro his big victory.

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Three Billboards may have lost the big fight, but its talented cast were handsomely rewarded with Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. Both were terrific, and both deserved their prizes. While I’m not quite as keen on Gary Oldman and Allison Janney winning Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (much more interesting performances were ignored for their “Oscar-friendly” roles), it’s hard to begrudge the Academy awarding actors for a lifetime of great work.

While it was disappointing to see Lady Bird walk away with nothing and Phantom Thread gain a single Best Costume Design win, there were pleasant surprises throughout the night. Jordan Peele’s Get Out was reward with Best Original Screenplay, making Peele the first black writer to win the award. Dunkirk’s fantastic technical work earned it prizes in Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Editing (sadly beating Baby Driver). Best of all, Roger Deakins proved 14th time lucky, finally winning Best Cinematography for his beautiful work on Blade Runner 2049.

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My predictions weren’t 100% correct, but I can’t deny the Academy got it mostly right this year. Great films were nominated, outstanding actors were rewarded, and a weird little romance about a woman fucking a fish took home Best Picture.

See you again next year.

By Harry J. Ford

 

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