A filmic ride through 2015

citroen Bafta

In 2015, I jotted down the title of every film I saw, with a couple of lines to remind me what I liked or didn’t like about them.  Here are a few of the most memorable.

I started the year off with GRAVITY in 3D, (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock), thinking it was not my sort of film. I was duly persuaded to go and very glad I did.  I would have missed a technically brilliant piece of filming.  It was also very enjoyable in a spooky, spacey way.

I bought a DVD of the WOODY ALLEN documentary, which I’d seen in the cinema the year before.  When his films are good – e.g. BLUE JASMINE – I love them and it was interesting to see him pootling around in daily life.

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA (The Life and Times of Liberace) with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.  The height of Las Vegas glitz and tackiness.  Wonderful performances by both actors.  I loved this film as much as John loathed it. The music and the costumes fabulously OTT. Tarnished. Finished up watching (more than once!) a Liberace video on YouTube where he engages the audience – hey!! Worth a whirl through!

THE GREAT GATSBY (Baz Luhrmann edition) was a suffocatingly sweetie of a confection.  G’s comment said it all. ‘It was as if our teeth were rotting as we watched’. Then there was FADING GIGOLO, (John Turturro and Woody Allen) – full of ‘delectable’ females and horribly self indulgent on the part of JT and WA.

Image of OTT glitz

Image of OTT glitz

John thought INTERSTELLAR very good but I felt it was dispiriting  and a bit clunky, although the time lapsing was a brilliant idea.  We both loved THE IMITATION GAME – about Alan Turing at Bletchley Park during the war.  Benedict Cumberbatch and Matthew Goode stood out.  Keira Knightley too.

THE LUNCH BOX was a present ( DVD).  It’s set in Mumbai and about a relationship which grows between a man and a woman who have never met but she sends a daily lunch box to his office and gets a note in return.  I adored ‘Auntie’, who lives upstairs and screeches down advice but is never to be seen.  A ‘life in the day’ film, beautifully realised, heartstopping at times. Appealing, funny and bittersweet.

'Auntie's' beady eye!

‘Auntie’s’ beady eye!

Another DVD  – FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – .  This mysterious woman was a nanny in America in the 1950s but also an obsessive, secret photographer, who took over 100,00 photos.  Somebody bought a cache of negatives in old boxes at an auction, not knowing what they were, then hunted down others and gradually collected  and then mounted an exhibition of them in New York. All these photos are a record of everyday life in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and worldwide.  The negatives got lost when VM didn’t keep her storage fees up.

This film has been put together by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel.  It is riveting.  To find out more about Vivian Maier, look up Wikipedia.  Utterly fascinating biography. Watch the film and find out more details with personal interviews of people who knew, or said they knew her.  Vivian Maier’s talent was almost lost – thank you to those who uncovered it and persevered in bringing it to a wider world.

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING – the story of Stephen Hawking’s life.  He was played by Eddie Redmayne with Felicity Jones as his wife.  ER was rewarded with an Oscar. When Stephen Hawking saw the film he said he thought it was himself – ER was so brilliant!

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE.  I saw this French film on TV.  Very much the type of French film where you just drop in on somebody’s life day to day.  It was thoughtful and empathetic to the young lovers.  Good locations down by a picturesque river, the seaside in Denmark and Paris. Slight and gentle.

X+Y.  This film is about an autistic boy who is also a maths genius.  After he loses his father, he joins other geniuses at an Olympiad, travelling from home in England to Taiwan. This almost seemed like a documentary and may be based on one.  I loved the cultural exchange scenes with the Chinese.  Nathan (Asa Butterfield) was excellent and you found yourself very much on his side as he struggled with everything new.  A great story.

THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER (DVD) was one of the first  English ‘Maigret’ films, where Charles Laughton plays the detective (1949).  It shows how far we have come cinematically since then.  It encouraged me to buy a boxed set of ‘MAIGRET’, made for TV in the 1990s.  Michael Gambon plays the detective and most corresponds to my personal image of what Maigret should look like.  Apparently, Rowan Atkinson is set to become Maigret on TV this year?!

'Maigret' style image

Atmospheric Image ‘Maigret’ style!  

ENOUGH SAID was the last film made by James Gandolfini.  He was a much loved actor  –  generous and sensitive.  About older people looking for a lasting relationship and about how trust between them is as important as having fun.

WOMAN IN GOLD, starring Helen Mirren and based on fact didn’t get very good reviews but I thought it was well put together.  It’s about ‘Adèle’, a woman painted by Klimt, whose painting was stolen from her family by the Nazis.  The story is about how a descendant of the family, who had to flee to California during the war, tried to get it back.  Tense, drawing you in, rewarding and ultimately satisfying. Helen Mirren in tenacious form, becoming an inspiration to her rather meek nephew.

Viennese gold

Viennese gold

L’ECLISSE was made in 1962 with Monica Vitti and Alain Delon.  It plays out in a weird, surreal dreamscape.  Monica Vitti  is mysteriously beautiful  but it was that time in the 1960s when to be nihilistic was ‘cool’.  Quite a lot of silent navel gazing which seemingly added up only to wasted lives. Very dated and excruciatingly slow moving.  Good as an example for an archivist of 1960s films.

I can’t leave out ‘PETIT NICOLAS’.  A DVD based on the stories (in French) of a small schoolboy and his parents by René Goscinney and illustrated by Jean-Jacques Sempé.  I read these wonderfully humorous stories years ago and found them enchanting.  A triumph!  Just how the world should be from a child’s point of view.   I enjoyed the film but the stories should be read and kept alive, as should the biographies of Goscinney and Sempé. The French is simple and a good way to enjoy learning another language.

Le Petit Nicolas


LOVE AND MERCY – the story of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. A tormented genius.  John loved this.  it was well made and well cast. Great for Beach Boys fans.

SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN.  What happened to this talented musician?  In this DVD we find out how two South African fans investigated and brought a fabulous story to the screen.  A very extraordinary and moving film.  Thank you to the fans who made it happen.

MISTRESS AMERICA with Greta Gerwig is a rather crazy black comedy of manners with a melancholic streak of ‘growing up’  – what happens to people in real life  – when it would be great to have had the  gift of hindsight.  Greta Gerwig was also in FRANCES HA, where she played a character along the same lines – MISTRESS AMERICA was more substantial.

THE NEW GIRLFRIEND with Romain Duris as a cross dressing husband who has lost his wife was enjoyably eccentric.  His gender fluidity, told through a prism of grief, creates an upsurge of empathy for him and his situation.  Slightly slow in parts but worth seeing.  An uplifting ending.  (I love his face!).

THE LOBSTER gets one of two prizes for worst film.   I found it mean and as boring as an old, grey dishcloth and didn’t find it easy to connect with anybody in it. At first, I thought the Colin Farrell character might benefit from a retreat for ‘singletons’ but this was a  particularly vicious cult.  It made me angry that it contributed to making him even more unhappy and unstable. I found the psychological cruelty in it very disturbing.  It was as if you were condemned to share your bed forever with a rotting lobster.

Oddly, I read an article about Sartre by Roger Lewis (The Times 20.2.16), reviewing a book ‘At The Existentialist Café’ by Sarah Bakewell.  Neither are complimentary about the existentialist movement, dismissing it as adolescent and egotistical. A lot of hot air!  Apparently, when Sartre took mescalin, he had ‘nightmare visions of snakes, toads, vultures and beetles. For months he thought he was being followed down the street by a lobster’!  It all confirms my instinctive revulsion of this film.

The other worst film for me was LE WEEKEND.  I found this offensive, depressing and hopefully unbelievable.  All the people in it were people I would never want to meet.  Somehow, it’s OK for pop groups to trash hotel bedrooms but not the likes of John and I.  Maybe that’s why some people found it amusing. But I found it hugely embarrassing and best forgotten!

ABOUT TIME (DVD).  Something to watch on a Sunday night. A  Richard Curtis film with Bill Nighy.  Cosy, like a lightweight duvet.

SKYFALL (James Bond) was excellent.  I think my favourite Bond movie is CASINO ROYALE but this comes very close (directed by Sam Mendes).  Last rites for Judi Dench.

The last three films are the ones I give five stars to.

Not because we were invited to the première – which was a great experience – but STEVE JOBS is a film of quality.  It hangs together well and is totally believable.  I could see myself as the desperate Kate Winslet PA character.  Both she and Michael Fassbender were excellent.  Having an ‘Apple’ myself and knowing the history of Steve Jobs and the company made the film even more satisfying for me.

Steve Jobs was a man with a mission  –  often these types of people are charismatic but obsessive and driven  –  and can be very unsympathetic and unpleasant in their dealings with other people in order to achieve their goals.  Emotional intelligence suffers here for genius in other quarters! Danny Boyle, as director, understands the man, who is also portrayed perfectly by Michael Fassbender. I loved this film which honours the memory of  a great mind.

Finishing on a high note with two films I loved so, so much.

BROOKLYN is just one of those films that hit the spot in every direction.   The screenplay is by Nick Hornby from the book, ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín.  Saorse Ronan would be my choice for  best actress – forever remembered in that yellow frock.  And it is a frock (rather than a dress!)  –  the clothes, the settings, the characters are so true to life and the film is very true to the book. Set in the 1950s, when many young Irish emigrated to New York to find jobs, this is a jewel of a film and so very enjoyable. Two handsome men – one choice!

And I finish off with CAROL  –  another film which stopped my heart.  Based on the book by Patricia Highsmith, first published in 1952 as ‘The Price of Salt’ under a pseudonym and now republished as ‘Carol’.   The film is wonderfully atmospheric, conjuring up the life in New York in the 50s as the soft snow falls romantically on the big Buicks and the perfumed women in their furs – or chaps the poor, rough hands of the shopgirls, freezing in their cheap boots and scarves as, after a hard day’s slog in the department stores, they trudge home to their gloomy, cheap apartments.

The photography is exquisite, the faces of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara forever in my head, the story by moments heartwarming and sad, beautiful and exciting  –  yet tense with warning as to what the future will bring.  A cinematic treat.

cadillac yellow


‘Her eyes were grey, colourless, yet dominant as light or fire,  and, caught by them, Therese could not look away’……. ‘ her voice was like her coat, rich and supple, and somehow full of secrets.’ Quote from the book, which I’m reading now.

If I was on the Oscars committee, I couldn’t choose between ‘BROOKLYN’ and ‘CAROL’ for best film, so I would give it to ‘STEVE JOBS’.  The first two are both exquisite, sparkling jewels, with fire at their centre.  Both great achievements, which brought tears to my eyes for the way we are.

‘STEVE JOBS’ tells the history of a technology which has and will continue to push us into an ever expanding ‘brave new world’, full of exciting possibilities and discoveries and ever more dangerous risks, which will both enhance our minds and also threaten to obliterate them.

Quote from The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through The Looking-Glass’.  “Now here, you see,  it takes all the running you can do, to keep in one place.  If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

And so we must run with that neverending tide –  ever onwards into 2016 and to what will become of us.

carol and brooklyn

P.S.  There was an article in ‘The Times’ very recently, listing successful European drama series on British television, like Scandi noir. To my mind, they missed out a terrific thriller. This was a Belgian series of twelve episodes, called SALAMANDER. Written by Ward Hulselmans  –  the main character played absolutely brilliantly by Filip Peeters.  Greatly recommended. A follow-up is on the way.







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