Friday 31 December 2021

My Top 20 Films of 2021

12. Surge

1. Annette [above]

In memoriam: Jean-Marc Vallée (Telegraph 31/12/21)

Jean-Marc Vallée, who has died of a heart attack at 58, was a versatile, compassionate filmmaker who emerged from the French-speaking Canadian cinema to work in the UK and US, winning great acclaim for his handling of true-life dramas
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Wild (2014) and cable-TV hits Big Little Lies (2017) and Sharp Objects (2018).

His trademark was an unforced affinity with outsiders, as he discussed in a 2019 interview: “I have a thing for underdogs, where they’ve got to put up a fight to find their happiness and to find themselves. I guess I had to do it, too, and that’s why… I like to present and defend these characters and serve these projects.”

Yet he also became beloved of the Hollywood A-list, coaching Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Reece Witherspoon to awards recognition, and affording stars a rare creative freedom on set: working office hours wherever possible, shooting quickly and allowing performers to determine their own movements rather than putting them through a punishing rehearsal schedule.

Vallée’s empathetic streak shone through his international breakthrough feature C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), a period coming-of-age saga centred on a teenager wrestling with his identity amid the turbulence of the 1960s and 70s. A raucous crowdpleaser, it swept the Canadian Oscars, the Genies, taking home gongs for Best Film, Direction and Screenplay, before repeating its success at the French-Canadian equivalent, the Jutras.

It was distributed widely, convincing producers Graham King and Martin Scorsese to hire Vallée to direct Julian Fellowes’ script for The Young Victoria (2009). Though respectfully received, this heritage drama proved a little bruising for its maker: “I lost creative control… We weren’t making the same film, and it took a while before I realised.” Nevertheless, it put Vallée on the Academy’s radar, as the film earned three Oscar nominations, winning for Sandy Powell’s costume design.

After returning to Canada for the overdetermined weepie Café de Flore (2011), Vallée rallied with Dallas Buyers Club. Inspired by the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a Texan rodeo rider who smuggled illegal drugs from Mexico to help himself and his fellow AIDS patients, it found eccentric, lively rhythms that shook off worthiness and stuck with viewers and voters alike. It won three Oscars, for McConaughey, Jared Leto (as Woodroof’s transgender associate Rayon) and make-up, and was nominated for a further three, including Best Picture.

Attempts to repeat that film’s success were mixed. The following year’s Wild was a sturdy study in self-determination: adapted by Nick Hornby from a memoir by Cheryl Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone after her divorce, it landed Oscar nods for star Reece Witherspoon and Laura Dern in a supporting role. Yet Demolition (2015), with Jake Gyllenhaal as an investment banker sent spiralling after his wife’s death, disappeared without trace commercially. And a planned Janis Joplin biopic, starring Amy Adams, unravelled amid legal battles.

With superhero movies muscling thoughtful, adult drama out of the multiplex, Vallée pivoted to television, directing two high-profile HBO series in quick succession. The first season of Big Little Lies was polished, illustrious, Emmy-winning soap; the Adams-starring Gillian Flynn adaptation Sharp Objects was more formally daring, its intricate editing (by Vallée himself, under the pseudonym Jai M. Vee) unpicking the layers of childhood trauma repressed by its reporter heroine.

Despite that show’s psychological complexity, Vallée insisted he was still the same creative he’d always been: “I love it. You know, I’m like a kid on a set, a kid playing with a huge toy and having fun.”

Vallée was born on March 9, 1963 in Montreal, the youngest of two brothers. A tempestuous teen (“I had a little bit of an anger management problem, and would kick and put holes in the walls”), he found an outlet in music, DJing at parties with records his father, a radio-station programmer, had brought back to the family home.

He studied business management and film at the Collège Ahuntsic, before making his name as a director of music videos and short films in his early twenties. His feature debut came with the legal thriller Liste noire/Black List (1995), a major Quebecois hit; Mario van Peebles, whom Vallée had directed in a 1996 episode of the anthology series Strangers, then recruited the promising tyro to direct Los Locos (1997), a standalone Western sold as a sequel to van Peebles’ earlier Posse (1993).

At the time of his death, he was attached to direct Gorilla and the Bird, based on Zack McDermott’s memoir about a lawyer who experiences a psychotic break. He was also developing a feature about John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

A keen motorcyclist in his spare time, Vallée received the Order of Canada in 2017 and the National Order of Quebec in 2020. Interviewed in 2019, he confessed to wondering about the future: “We’re here for 80 years—90 if we’re lucky. Particularly us men. But the trip is amazing. Life is precious. I’m 56 and I’m starting to go, '80?' That means I have 24 years left. Why are we here? Why am I doing this? Art has this… power, maybe? To change mentalities or maybe change perceptions. ‘Oh, I see this differently because I saw this thing. I was told this story.’”

He is survived by Emile and Alex, his two sons with the writer Chantal Cadieux, whom he married in 1990 and divorced in 2006.

Jean-Marc Vallée, born March 9, 1963, died December 25, 2021.

Thursday 30 December 2021

My Top 50 TV shows of 2021 (and Where To Find Them)

Feels something like anathema to be writing about television on this blog, especially given the absence of film coverage here over the past few weeks. (Apologies for this; life got in the way. Aiming to get back up to speed in the New Year.) Yet where the movies came to feel like an increasingly distant former love during lockdown, and then a troublesome tenant when cinemas finally reopened, TV has been a good friend these past twelve months: refocusing the mind, keeping me amused and entertained, keeping me sane. The best shows on this list gave me the same thrill of anticipation and the same hit of dopamine I once got from setting foot inside the multiplex - pure pleasure, where American movies now more often than not inspire the questions "oh, so we're doing this now, are we?" and - somewhere between five and ten minutes in - "do we have to?". And so, in reverse order (and at hopefully forgivable length):

50. Dexter: New Blood (Sky Atlantic; NOW TV)
Still a touch pallid, but narratively a step back in the right, pulpy direction. Just don't mess up the ending now.

49. The Cleaner S1 (BBC iPlayer)
Greg Davies, good at television and good for television: aside from the reliably excellent Taskmaster and the surprisingly agreeable Never Mind the Buzzcocks reboot, there was this nimble, lockdown-shot character comedy - adapted from a German original - in which Lichfield's tallest son mops up crime scenes with genuinely amusing consequences. Didn't find its ideal audience on Friday nights; deserves a second season in a new slot.

48. Physical S1 (Apple TV+)
A Rose Byrne vehicle, so automatically A Good Thing - but also an unusual, fascinating, sometimes tricky show, tied up with female body image, which seemed to be working itself out as it went along. By no means perfect, or indeed an easy watch in places, but a strikingly chancy offshoot from the post-Bridesmaids Messy Women cycle - and anything that casts Lou Taylor Pucci as a surf-dude pornographer must have at least a couple of good ideas up its sleeves. 

47. Bloods S1 (NOW TV)
That rare thing: a funny Sky Original comedy. Also broke with the aggravating trend for North London-based comedy writers writing endless North London-set comedy by relocating all its ambulance chasing to... South London.

46. The Family Man S2 (Prime Video)
Took me a while to get round to the sophomore season of this Indian comedy-thriller - think True Lies in New Delhi - but once I did, I was reminded of just how much I enjoyed Season 1. Manoj Bajpayee remains cherishably crumpled - almost a walking nicotine stain - in the lead role, but his onscreen kids (Vedant Sinha and Ashlesha Thakur) continue to steal off with the domestic scenes.

45. Nine Perfect Strangers (Prime Video)
Somewhat underrated, in the same way The White Lotus was somewhat overrated. (Good to see Melissa McCarthy approaching her best form, and Samara Weaving really has great comic chops.)

44. The Simpsons S32-33 (Disney+)
An eternal tonic. I don't care how good or bad it is in comparison with your childhood.

43. Awkwafina is Nora from Queens S2 (iPlayer)
Less fresh on its second run, but still doing something highly pleasing at the intersection of funny and sweet. Lori Tan Chinn makes the world better.

42. Bob’s Burgers S11-12 (Fox; NOW TV)
As with The Simpsons, only grimier. We still have the movie to come.

41. Can’t Get You Out of My Head (iPlayer)
Still haven't figured out whether Adam Curtis is making the world more or less confusing, but his output is at least TV that makes you properly think, whatever you think. Some earlier thoughts here.

40. Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled S6 (UKTV Play)
Not the kind of show that typically features on year-end lists, but this year's run was filmed shortly after lockdown ended in the UK, and there was something oddly touching about watching people gathering anew to talk, laugh and share their experiences. (The audience seemed genuinely ecstatic to be in the presence of others again; it was the same atmosphere you felt at comedy gigs over the summer.) When you go to Europe, you switch on the TV and see night-long current affairs shows where public figures commune around a disproportionately big table to pick over the day's events. Being a fundamentally unserious nation, this series is as close as we get to that. The advantage is that the guests are funnier.

39. Calls S1 (Apple TV+)
Fell under the radar, but this was rather great (and different): an American adaptation of a French series with Rod Serling-ish DNA in which some sort of apocalyptic scenario is described via phone calls alone. The kind of TV it must have been comparatively easy to facilitate amid a pandemic - the unseen performers, who included Aubrey Plaza, Paul Walter Hauser and Rosario Dawson, could literally have phoned in their contributions - but very deftly written and illustrated in such a way that elevated the results some distance above the average radio play.

38. Back S2 (All4)
They had me at hedge vodka.

37. The Investigation (iPlayer)
Tobias Lindholm's sober account of the Kim Wall murder case was a lesson in how to do true crime while staving off grisly opportunism and honouring the victim. 

36. The Grinder S1 (NOW TV)
Faced with a mid-lockdown dearth of programming, Fox's UK arm reached into the cupboard under the stairs and pulled out this one-season wonder from 2015, a sitcom blessed with a solid-gold premise: Rob Lowe plays the preening star of a TV legal drama who returns to the family home and starts interfering in the life of his brother Fred Savage, an actual lawyer. Lowe's timing remains as sharp as his cheekbones, Savage is a tremendous sport, Natalie Morales has the best face in anything this year, and matters get meta when Lowe finds out he's being replaced in the show by Timothy Olyphant, further improving the show by turning up as himself. That American viewers failed to tune in is almost as damning an indictment as the result of the 2016 election; in a happier timeline, this would have run for at least a couple more seasons, and earned itself the tag of the new Arrested Development.

35. The White Lotus S1 (NOW TV)
Enjoyed it immensely while it was on; grew increasingly irritated by the discourse; forgot more or less entirely about it as Omicron cases spiked. (Is this a common throughline?) Where was Twitter when nobody was watching Mike White's superior Enlightened (also on NOW TV)?

34. You S3 (Netflix)
A better Scenes from a Marriage redo than Scenes from a Marriage managed, made by people who are having just the most enormous amount of fun making television.

33. Ladhood S2 (iPlayer)
Liam Williams is doing something special on the margins (or on BBC Three, which may be the same thing). I still think that offputting title was a mistake, but the writing elsewhere remains sharp and (usefully, necessarily) self-lacerating: it's a sitcom that continues to dig into difficult areas for men to address.

32. Ramy S1 (formerly All4, now Prime Video)
Channel 4 exported this sharply observed US character comedy to help fill a lockdown programming gap, hesitated about releasing it all, and don't seem to be especially pressed about showing subsequent seasons. A shame.

31. Lupin S1 (Netflix)
The first set of episodes were as giddying as freshly squeezed orange juice; if some of the zestiness wore off as the plot played itself out, Omar Sy remains a preposterously charismatic figurehead - you'd follow him anywhere - and this show stands as a model of how to update yellowing source material. Plus it's hard to object on any level to a show that's geared towards putting the fun back in Ludivine Sagnier's daily life.

30. In Treatment S4 (NOW TV)
Another successful refresh. A terrific show in its first incarnation - up there with HBO's best in terms of writing and performance - the new In Treatment replaced Gabriel Byrne's coiled, cerebral Dr. Paul Weston with Uzo Aduba's warm yet no-nonsense Dr. Brooke Taylor, expanding the parameters of these mindgames even before the set designers had their way. (We're talking Nancy Meyers levels of domestic aspiration.) A new star was discovered in Quintessa Swindell, but Brooke's sparring sessions with John Benjamin Hickey's Colin were the recurring dramatic highpoint.

29. The Problem with Jon Stewart S1 (AppleTV+)
A show with a fundamental insecurity at its centre (and in its title, and in its opening credits): how do you follow a phenomenon like The Daily Show? And how do you follow The Daily Show when Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has already claimed that particular territory? The proposed solution is to do everything The Daily Show did so well, but over 50 rather than 25 minutes, allowing for a slightly longer interrogation of the matters in hand. I wish they'd drop the slightly toe-curling behind-the-scenes footage - you don't need to show your working! We're pretty sure you've hired good people! - but the front-of-house business has been funny when it needs to be and sobering when it needs to be that. And that's good enough, some nights.

28. Curb Your Enthusiasm S11 (NOW TV)
Increasingly, a cartoon - and one you feel was a solitary, barnstorming Tracey Ullman turn away from some very unsettling analyses of its gender politics. (The discourse has gone elsewhere this month.) But it still has the funniest comic ideas on television.

27. Alexei Sayle’s Cyclogeography (formerly Alexei Sayle’s Lockdown Bike Ride, YouTube)
Began as quirky free content during lockdown - veteran comic roamed deserted London streets with a GoPro taped to the front of his bike - before venturing further afield (Milton Keynes! Canvey Island!) as the year went on. Retains the fascination of those phantom carriage films Mark Cousins talks about at the start of The Story of Film, only with a bonus layer of gruffly Marxist social commentary over the top. Had a marvellous pay-off, too: Sayle being invited into the ITV4 commentary box for an hour during this summer's Tour de France.

26. Gods of Snooker (iPlayer)
Brought the 1980s back to life in raucous, thrilling, occasionally tragic fashion, with superlative soundtrack cues (and "The Romford Rap") and John Virgo liberated from Big Break duties to share tremendous anecdotes of off-baize waywardness. Now want them to do the rest of the Matchroom Mob in a follow-up series. Who was Neal Foulds, truly? How many "Big Bill" Werbeniuks could you fit in the back of a Mini? Was Len Ganley ever made aware of "The Len Ganley Stance"?

25. Search Party S4 (currently unavailable in the UK)
Another show Channel 4 quietly dropped - and, really, just as it was getting going. In retrospect, the amazing thing is that this sharp-clawed social satire has been continuously finessing the same story - yanking it, and its peerlessly clueless characters, in ever more perverse directions - over a full four seasons. No idea where the incoming fifth season will take everybody - or when we'll get to see it over here. If any show needs a search party...

24. It’s a Sin (All4)
As good as the reviews suggested, and set for multiple awards successes over the months ahead. Maybe not quite as rigorous as its French equivalent 120 Beats Per Minute? (Such are the limitations of making TV in the UK, rather than cinema en France.) But damning as and when it needed to be, and plenty emotional. (I know of several people who wouldn't ordinarily have gone near what The Sun might once have synopsised as a "C4 gay drama", who were drawn in by that cast, and who came to find it profoundly moving, not to mention instructive.)

23. Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing/Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Christmas Fishing (iPlayer)
An ongoing moment of Zen. Even amid [gestures with hands] all this.

22. Pretend It’s a City (Netflix)
You'd forgotten about this one, hadn't you? First week of the year, binged on Netflix, then buried in the imagination under another twelve months of Covid. (Making it the Tiger King of the chattering classes.) The waspish Fran Lebowitz may be the definition of an acquired taste, but if she's making Martin Scorsese laugh this much, then she's doing all right by me.

21. Mythic Quest S2 (Apple TV+)
Took a big step forwards in its second season, carrying it even further away from both its Always Sunny... roots and the workplace comedies that influenced it. Even if being on Apple TV+ means only six people in the history of mankind get to see it, it shall forever be the world's only gaming sitcom to have paired off F. Murray Abraham and William Hurt. Good writing of any stripe attracts great actors; game recognises game.

20. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia S15 (Netflix, to follow)
A shorter run this year - eight episodes, rather than the usual ten, with four of those a post-Covid diversion to/deviation via Ireland. But still a delight, mischievously integrating the pandemic, cleverly (and conscientiously) revisiting those old Lethal Weapon episodes, and bringing us all the treat of Colm Meaney as a genial cheesemonger.

19. What We Do in the Shadows S3 (iPlayer)
Only gets better the sillier it gets. (Funniest running joke on TV: Laszlo's inability to refer to Colin Robinson using anything other than his full name, a tic football commentators used to have around the former Norwich winger Ruel Fox.)

18. The Good Fight S5 (More4, ongoing; All4)
Not as dynamic as previous seasons, granted: its problem is what now to do with a show that so closely defined itself in opposition to the Trump presidency, and the loss of Delroy Lindo has been felt. But still capable of eccentric, brilliant televisual gambits: doing an entire episode as a "Previously on..." recap, say, or the costumes in Judge Mandy Patinkin's kangaroo court, where Judge Judy meets The Masked Singer.

17. Spice Girls: How Girl Power Changed Britain (All4)
Given that it featured no input from the Spice Girls themselves - who were plenty outspoken at the time, and perhaps felt they'd said all they needed to say - this probably should have been awful. Instead, it was genuinely illuminating about the vagaries and hypocrises of mid-Nineties lad and ladette culture, assisted by expert firsthand witnesses and some truly damning archive footage. (Noel Gallagher and Chris Evans would do well never to show their face in public again.)

16. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver S8 (NOW TV)
Back in the studio at last, and still doing what it does exceedingly well - but newly relaxed (and able to think about more than just the political sphere), which must be what happens when you're not having to hold a tyrant to account.

15. Whose Line is it Anyway? US S1-6 (Dave, ongoing; UKTV Play)
Another lockdown buy-in: Dave reached over the Atlantic and imported the US version of the old Friday night improv standby. Inevitably, this being the American version, it takes place in what looks to be the Houston Gigantodrome and features a crowd who simply cannot wait to be pulled out of their seats. (IIRC, the Clive Anderson version was shot in a cupboard, featured a cast who all appeared sorely hungover, and relied upon the murmured suggestions of an audience who squirmed every time the camera pointed their way.) In any event, it immediately leapt out of the nighttime schedules by being a) not a panel show, b) an unbounded joy (in serious times, there is a special release in watching people being expertly silly) and c) a funny sort of metaphor for the world we're living in (in that we're all improvisers now). Aisha Tyler: call me. 

14. Inside No. 9 S6 (iPlayer)
You judge this series by previous instalments - it has its own history. No obvious standout episode this year, just a wickedly consistent ingenuity.

13. The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)
Harry and Meghan aside, the year's biggest TV event. Longer thoughts on its strengths (and weaknesses) here.

12. The Chair S1 (Netflix)
Netflix's smartest new dramedy: a six-part bounce around a snowy Midwestern college campus that set up enough of interest to sustain multiple seasons, Netflix's slightly screwy recommissioning policy notwithstanding. A B+ for its first term; could become the new Mozart in the Jungle with the right encouragement.

11. Saturday Morning All-Star Hits S1 (Netflix)
A latecomer, sneaking onto the Netflix algorithm (and this list) in the dying embers of December. A note-perfect deconstruction of early Nineties' kids TV presented in VHS form, with animation that's been worked on for long hours to appear as cheap as most animation did in the early Nineties, it quickly suggests the presence of an entire world (and many sinister hands) behind the camera. The Lorne Michaels credit and its onscreen longhairs might see it framed as a Wayne's World prequel, but it's also a horror show, a love story, and a brilliant, ultra-attentive work of parody. (The fake ads - generally an indication of first-rate television minds at work - are top-notch.)

10. The Underground Railroad (Prime Video)
Stretches as vivid and potent as anything Barry Jenkins has directed for the big screen, which left some of its other episodes and byways looking a little prosaic or drifty by comparison. A bold, imaginative job of adaptation nevertheless, forever returning to that subterranean metaphor to carry it far beyond the usual costume-drama complacencies. And Thuso Mbedu, tamping it all down, is often just astonishing.

9. Time (iPlayer)
No flash, no fuss: a Jimmy McGovern drama that gripped just by doing all the dramatic essentials meticulously well. (No show in 2021 was better built to last: it could have aired at any point in the last thirty years.) You know by now that you're not going to get any nonsense from Stephen Graham, but I don't believe I've ever seen Sean Bean so vulnerable on screen.

8. Exterminate All The Brutes (NOW TV)
Raoul Peck made a counterhistory series for HBO - unpacking the sorry tale of colonialism across the globe - and it was as if Godard himself had woken up from his Swiss slumber with one almighty, long-suppressed ragehowl. Needling, ever-provocative collaging of archive footage, personal testimony, film clips, pop songs and onscreen text, with Josh Hartnett making the mother of unlikely comebacks as the face of white supremacy in the show's dramatised cutaways.

7. Girls5Eva S1 (Peacock, via NOW TV)
Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's new series Mr. Mayor (also via NOW TV) was merely okay: it had to hide the fact it was conceived as an Alec Baldwin/Jack Donaghy spin-off, and seemed unsure what to do with Ted Danson in the title role. Girls5Eva, produced by Fey and Carlock for their protegee Meredith Scardino, felt closer to a 30 Rock continuation, studded with great gags, sidebars and pop-cultural footnotes, but also demonstrating an underlying affection for its plucky, embattled heroines. British viewers: you owe it to Sara Bareilles to watch, given our collective failure to make "Uncharted" as big a hit as "Love Song".

6. Taskmaster S11-12 (All4)
In the midst of a pandemic, a happy place. Greg and Alex are our Vera Lynns, you know.

5. Blindspotting S1 [above] (Starz, via Prime Video)
I liked the movie a lot, free-ranging and chaotic though it was. The TV spin-off expanded admirably on it while allowing itself the time and space to go deeper into issues of structural inequality, and even tries out one or two new things per episode: they don't always come off, but the energy and imagination on display, wedded to the resilient good humour ported over from the source, easily make this one of the year's most welcome new shows. Helen Hunt! She doesn't do any old shit, you sense!

4. I Think You Should Leave S2 (Netflix)
With our current direction of travel as a civilisation, a show that started out as madcap ad libs is soon going to seem like the sanest document of our times.

3. How To with John Wilson S2 (currently unavailable in the UK)
Still astonishing: there are fictional films that would kill for the twists and turns in these narratives. (And the American cinema would do well to take onboard some of Wilson's bedrock curiosity in real people.) Why no British broadcaster has stepped up to take on this outstanding, one-of-a-kind series continues to be a real source of bafflement. HBO can't be charging that much: it's almost visibly a show held together with safety pins and stickytape, and all the more cherishable for that.

2. McCartney 3 2 1 (Disney+)
See, by the end of Get Back - and as at the end of a lot of heavily-trumpeted auteurist dream projects - I'd pretty much had my fill of Get Back. By the end of McCartney 3 2 1, with its carefully filleted, artfully arranged discussion of the Macca back catalogue, I wanted two, three, four more seasons of it. Do a whole season on the Frog Chorus!

1. Only Murders in the Building S1 (Disney+)
A murder-mystery that works. TV that knows it's television, and functions as such. People whose company is a pleasure. It really shouldn't be that difficult. But you'd be surprised how difficult it often is.

My top 20 films of 2021 will run here tomorrow. 

Friday 24 December 2021

For what it's worth...

Top 10 films at the UK box office (for the weekend of December 17-19, 2021):

1 (new) Spider-Man: No Way Home (12A)
2 (2) Clifford the Big Red Dog (PG)
3 (1) West Side Story (12A)
4 (4) Encanto (PG)
5 (3House of Gucci (15)
6 (5) Ghostbusters: Afterlife (12A) **
7 (new) Pushpa: The Rise - Part 1 (12A)
8 (10) A Boy Called Christmas (PG)
9 (9) Elf (PG) **
10 (new) The Nutcracker - Bolshoi Ballet 2021 (U)

(source: BFI)

My top five:
5. The Matrix

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (new) No Time to Die (12) ***
2 (3) The Grinch [2000] (PG) ***
3 (2) Elf (PG) **
4 (1) The Grinch [2018] (U)
5 (4) The Polar Express (U)
6 (6) The Suicide Squad (15) *
7 (8) Paw Patrol: The Movie (U)
8 (9) Arthur Christmas (U) **
10 (11) Fast & Furious 9 (12)

My top five: 
1. Zappa

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:
1. Meet Me in St. Louis (Christmas Day, BBC2, 12.50pm)
2. Singin' in the Rain (Boxing Day, BBC2, 12.40pm)
3. Bringing Up Baby (Wednesday, BBC2, 8.40am)
4. Casablanca (Christmas Day, BBC2, 11.10am)
5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Thursday, C4, 6.45pm)

Friday 17 December 2021

For what it's worth...

Top 10 films at the UK box office (for the weekend of December 10-12, 2021):

1 (new) West Side Story (12A)
2 (new) Clifford the Big Red Dog (PG)
3 (1) House of Gucci (15)
4 (2) Encanto (PG)
5 (3) Ghostbusters: Afterlife (12A) **
6 (5) Eternals (12A)
7 (re) Home Alone (PG)
8 (6No Time To Die (12A) ***
9 (14) Elf (PG) **
10 (11) A Boy Called Christmas (PG)

(source: BFI)

My top five:
5. The Matrix

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (1) The Grinch [2018] (U)
2 (3) Elf (PG) **
3 (2) The Grinch [2000] (PG) ***
4 (8) The Polar Express (U)
5 (11) The Last Duel (18)
6 (5) The Suicide Squad (15) *
7 (15) Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins (18)
8 (7) Paw Patrol: The Movie (U)
9 (10) Arthur Christmas (U) **

My top five: 
1. Zappa

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:
1. Die Hard [above] (Wednesday, ITV, 10.45pm)
2. E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (Wednesday, ITV, 11.30am)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (Christmas Eve, C4, 2pm)
4. North by Northwest (Christmas Eve, 3.20pm)
5. Great Expectations (Saturday, BBC2, 2pm)

Thursday 16 December 2021

For your consideration: my Critics' Circle votes 2021

(Beware any critic who claims to have seen everything released in the past 12 months. This year more than ever, it was humanly impossible.)

Director of the Year
2. Alonso Ruizpalacios, A Cop Movie
3. Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh, Gagarine

(Honourable mentions: Celine Sciamma, Petite Maman; Kelly Reichardt, First Cow; Leos Carax, AnnetteNobuhiko ÔbayashiLabyrinth of Cinema; Aneil Karia, Surge; Sean Durkin, The Nest; Naomi Kawase, True Mothers; Mari Selvaraj, Karnan; Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah.)

Screenwriter of the Year
1. Murilo Hauser, Ines Bortagaray [above] and Karim Aïnouz, The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão
2. Max Borenstein, Worth
3. Emma Seligman, Shiva Baby

(Honourable mentions: Will Berson and Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah; Naomi Kawase and Izumi Takahashi, True Mothers; Kelly Reichardt, First Cow; Harry Macqueen, Supernova; Gonzalo Delgado and Ana Katz, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet; Patricia Rozema, Mouthpiece.)

Actress of the Year
1. Hiromi Nagasaku, True Mothers
2. Carrie Coon, The Nest
3. Rachel Sennott, Shiva Baby

(Honourable mentions: Barbara Sukowa, Two of Us; Max Eigenmann, Verdict; Laure Calamy, My Donkey, My Lover and I; Natasa Stark, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.)

Actor of the Year
1. Jean Dujardin, Deerskin
2. Adam Driver, Annette
3. Oscar Isaac, The Card Counter

(Honourable mentions: Nicolas Cage, Pig; Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah; Michael Keaton, Worth; Bob Odenkirk, Nobody; John Magaro, First Cow; Luca Marinelli, Martin Eden; Daniel Katz, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be Quiet.)

Supporting Actress of the Year
1. Aju Makita, True Mothers
2. Martine Chevallier, Two of Us
3. Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah

(Honourable mentions: Adèle Haenel, Deerskin; Emma Thompson, Cruella.)

Supporting Actor of the Year
1. Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog
2. Toni Servillo, The Hand of God
3. Stanley Tucci, Supernova and Worth

(Honourable mentions: Orion Lee, First Cow; Pineapple Tangaroa, Drunk Bus.)

British/Irish Actress of the Year
1. Nika McGuigan, Wildfire
2. Ruth Negga, Passing
3. Tilda Swinton, The Human Voice and The French Dispatch

(Honourable mentions: Clare Dunne, Herself; Emma Thompson, Cruella.)

British/Irish Actor of the Year
1. Ben Whishaw, Surge
2. Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
3. Colin Firth, Supernova

(Honourable mentions: Jude Law, The Nest; Neil Maskell, Bull.)

Breakthrough of the Year
1. Aneil Karia, co-writer/director, Surge
2. Ben Sharrock, writer-director, Limbo
3. Chloe Fairweather, director, Dying to Divorce

(Honourable mentions: Jason Ferguson, director, Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In; Celeste Bell, co-writer/director, Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché.)

Young British Performer of the Year
1. Daniel Lamont, Nowhere Special
(...and I still think we ought to replace this category with a Best Animation prize.)

The London Film Critics' Circle nominations for 2021 were announced today, and can be seen in full here; this year's awards ceremony follows on February 6, 2022.