September 2014

“Did you sept emb ‘er?”
“No, I oct obe ‘er!”

(Don’t worry, it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s move on…)


What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…?

This month’s WDYMYHS film was the massively appropriate Braveheart. I also watched a film actually about a public vote on the future of their country, No. About a nation seeking to get rid of a nefarious ruler who had reigned over them with malicious intent for far too long, the Scottish referendum is what connects these two movies. (Ho-ho!)

On the topic of WDYMYHS, I also finally posted a review for one of last year’s movies, Touch of Evil. I’ve still got Seven Samurai and The Night of the Hunter to go, as well as one other review, and then I’ll finally be done with 2013. (I’ve been exceptionally tardy with that, haven’t I?)


But back to 2014:

September’s films in full
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
#81 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
#82 Crimes of Passion: Death of a Loved One (2013), aka Mördaren ljuger inte ensam
#83 Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)
#84 Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
#85 The Grey (2011)
#86 Dark Shadows (2012)
#87 Braveheart (1995)
#88 Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Frankenweenie#89 The Spirit (2008)
#90 The Wall (2012), aka Die Wand
#91 Frankenweenie (2012)
#92 Always (1989)
#93 American Hustle (2013)
#94 Mad City (1997)
#95 Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
#96 No (2012)
#97 This is Not a Film (2011), aka In film nist


Analysis

At the start of the year, there’s rarely very much to say in these sections; by this point… oh, there are so many ways to look at the data! September is where that really kicks in, because it’s a month in which I’ve twice reached #100, the earliest I’ve ever managed it. That means “how near is #100?” becomes a very viable proposition; plus, I tend to get very watch-y as the big target nears — when it’s only a few films away, why not squeeze in a couple more than normal and get there sooner?

On that last point, it’s perhaps interesting to start with previous Septembers. Last year was my best-ever tally for the ninth month, by some 23% as well… and yet I didn’t reach #100 until two months later. In part that was just the aforementioned pushing on to get closer to the end — the same thing happened in October, and after I actually reached #100 (in early November) I only watched a couple more films. This September, meanwhile, is 31% higher than last year’s — or, to put it another way, 55% better than the best-before-2013 was. And yet I still haven’t reached #100…

What viewing 17 films this month does mean, however, is that it’s my joint-second highest month ever — hurrah! That’s tied with March 2013; it would’ve needed only one more to be outright-second (oh well), two more to be joint-first (looking right back to December 2008 for that), and (obviously now) three more — i.e. have reached #100 — to set a new record.

What does having reached #97 mean for the rest of the year? Well, it’s the furthest I’ve ever gotten by September without reaching 100. Next nearest was last year, when I was at #84. From there, I went on to #110, which is another 26 films — if I do the same this year, I’d reach #123, which would become my second-highest total ever (behind 2007’s 129 and just ahead of 2010’s 122). Widening the parameters to include all previous years, my average total for the year’s final three months is 27 — making last year the most average of the lot, in fact.

That might be the most accurate predictor of where I’ll end up (though still prone to wild variation: I may’ve watched 26 more last year, but the year before that it was only 16, and in 2009 it was up at 40), but let’s use the rest of the 2014 to make some wild assertions anyway. So, my year-to-date average suggests I’ll reach #129, which (as mentioned) would put 2014 equal-best with 2007; pushing a tiny bit harder would leave me with a record-setting 130 films. The most recent months bode well for that: if I maintain my average viewing from the last three months, I’ll reach #139; if I keep up the average of the last two months, however, I’d make it all the way to #145; and if I kept pace with September, I’d make it all the way to #148!

Will any of that happen? Probably not (never say never!), but it’d be nice to end up in the 120s at least.


Slipping…

A side effect of the higher-than-average viewing is that the extent of my backlog has worsened. You may have noticed the number of new reviews step up a little in the past few weeks to try to stave it off, but in the end I had to relent: having kept the “coming soon” list at no more than 49 films ever since July 2012, it slipped to 50 this month. Ah well. Efforts will continue to stop it growing any longer.


This month’s archive reviews

A bit of a lax start to the month means just 17 archive re-posts this time…

Also this month, the two bookend posts from my 2011 David Fincher Week. Most of the reviews featured therein have already been brought over to this blog, but Fight Club and Panic Room will round them out tomorrow and Friday.

(You may have noticed my Se7en review appeared here before this post, but as that’s technically the archive repost for October 1st it’ll be in next month’s update. I am nothing if not precise about these things that don’t really matter.)


5… what?

This is the second month in a row without a “list of five”, but they have not necessarily gone the way of the dodo — last month I couldn’t think of anything worth doing; this month I’ve run out of time.

I was considering “5 favourite Tim Burton films”, because I finally caught up on both Dark Shadows and Frankenweenie this month. My list would probably have included Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride and Sleepy Hollow (along with a fifth, obviously), and definitely would have left out Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks and Beetlejuice. (Lest you judge my selections harshly, bear in mind I still haven’t got round to Ed Wood or Big Fish. Or Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.)

What about you, dear reader?


Next month on 100 Films in a Year…

98…
99…
100!

101?

Braveheart (1995)

2014 #87
Mel Gibson | 178 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

BraveheartI figured I ran the risk of affecting the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum if I posted this review yesterday (because of course I have that kind of reach and influence), but after Mel Gibson’s historical(ly-dubious) epic wound up on my 2014 WDYMYHS list, it seemed too good an occasion to miss. So whether Scotland is about to become independent or not, here are my thoughts on a movie that hopefully didn’t actually influence anyone’s vote…

I say that because Braveheart, for thems that don’t know, is the Oscar-winning story of William Wallace (Mel Gibson), a Scot who led a rebellion against English rule and King Edward ‘Longshanks’ (Patrick McGoohan) at the end of the 13th Century. That much, at least, is true — I think. Y’see, Braveheart has been described as “the least accurate historical epic of all time”, its plot and subplots riddled with changes that go above and beyond the usual tweaks needed to make a coherent narrative out of a true-life tale. You don’t have to dig very hard on the internet to find those errors catalogued, so I’m going to set them aside: this is a movie, not a history lecture; and while I can completely understand the frustration its inaccuracies must provoke in those who’d rather see the truth on screen, it’s not as if rewriting the past is anything new for dramatists (to stick with Scottish examples, Macbeth — resplendent as it is with cold regicide and prophetic witchcraft — is based on history), and we can (should?) view it as an entertainment rather than an education.

Blue da-ba-deeJudged as that, Gibson’s three-hour (near as damn it) movie is a pleasingly traditional epic. Many big films these days are just long, but the story here has scope too — it’s about a war, essentially. And war means battles, which are a particular highlight. The standout is surely the famed Battle of Stirling Bridge — you know, the one where the Scots moon the English. Funny and all, but just a small part of a larger sequence. Gibson has the confidence to show the build-up to the fighting, outline the tactics that will be used, and only then launch into the fray. It’s this measured approach that makes it so effective, rather than the crash-bang-wallop straight-to-the-slaughter style of more recent movies. Due to its notoriety I’d assumed the aforementioned clash was the film’s climax, but it’s actually the centrepiece, pretty precisely in the middle of the film. Fortunately there’s enough else going on (because this isn’t actually An Action Movie) that it doesn’t make things feel lopsided.

A big plus comes courtesy of the era the film was made in. It’s the mid-’90s, still a few years away from “let’s use CGI for everything!”, so it was all done ‘for real’. That means great sets and location builds, stunning scenery that’s beautifully photographed, and swathes of extras in the battles. There’s something much more viscerally exciting about watching a few hundred men run at each for real than watching a few hundred thousand polygons do it. The downside of the aforementioned era is some occasionally dated direction, in particular at least one sequence that goes overboard with the slow-mo, but almost everything becomes dated with time — it’s not as bad as, say, Robin Hood with a mullet from Prince of Thieves.

Evil KingIt also doesn’t suffer from that film’s accent issues. Mel Gibson isn’t an American-Scot (or an Australian one), instead delivering an accent that sounds passable to this Englishman. He believed he was too old for the part, which may well be true, but when the rest of it is so inaccurate what does that matter? He’s a solid leading man and a commanding-enough presence. The supporting cast are an array of recognisable Celtish faces — including at least one Irishman playing a Scot and a Scot playing an Irishman — and, because they’re from our fair isles, of course they’re all brilliant. Best of all, however, is Patrick McGoohan. He makes for a fantastic Evil King, given some juicy lines that are even juicier thanks to his delivery. He may not be moustache-twirling-ly memorable like an Alan Rickman creation, but any scene is enlivened by his presence.

Interestingly, Braveheart’s Best Picture Oscar win was the only time it took that gong — no other award or critics group saw fit to deem it 1995’s best movie. So what’s wrong with it? Well, that’s hard to pin down precisely. It’s a little politically simplistic, with the Bad Oppressive English and the Good Honest Scots, including inventing all sorts of stuff to sway the arguments in both those directions. Plenty of old-fashioned epics do exactly the same thing, but I guess by the ’90s we were demanding a little more nuance. The same can be said of the characters — there’s nothing wrong, but aside from Gibson’s grandstanding speeches and McGoohan’s first-class villainy, the only really memorable turn is from the morally-troublesome camply homosexual prince — and that’s a whole can of representational worms.

Royally f**kedThen there’s that issue of historical accuracy. I know I said we should ignore it, but even if you accept fiction films shouldn’t be slavish history lessons (and not everyone does), how far can they ignore the facts? Often with such films the viewer assumes they’re true until someone says, “actually, I think you’ll find in reality…” Not so with Braveheart: you don’t have to know anything of Scottish history to guess that the face-to-face chats (and more, wink-wink-nudge-nudge) between Wallace and the future-Queen must be almost entirely poppycock (and, in fact, you can drop that “almost”).

How much that matters — indeed, how much any of those issues are a problem — will vary from one viewer to the next. For some, Braveheart goes beyond the pale. It does make for a rollickingly good story, though.

4 out of 5

Braveheart was viewed as part of my What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen…? 2014 project, which you can read more about here.