The Guest / Thou Wast Mild And Lovely / Maps To The Stars
My first two film of the month picks share quite a lot, not least the fact that their directors have previously collaborated with each other. Adam Wingard's The Guest and Josephine Decker's Thou Wast Mild and Lovely both come out of the mumblecore movement and engage with the horror genre. The Guest strikes much closer to generic territory, looking to the neon stylings of 80's slashers and paying tribute to John Carpenter with a retro-synth score. Thou Wast Mild And Lovely keeps its generic influences more muted, reflecting Terence Malick as much as it does any horror filmmaker. Both suggest interesting directions for the genre, and for this group of diverse filmmakers.
Maps To The Stars also, like most of David Cronenberg's work, has some horror elements, but unpicking this everything and the kitchen sink Hollywood satire is going to take several more viewings. There is undoubtedly brilliance here though, from the outstanding performances (Julianne Moore hasn't been this good in over a decade, and Mia Wasikowska's off-kilter presence suits the director's universe perfectly) to Cronenberg's always striking visuals. I get the sense that this could end up as one of my films of the year.
Worst Of The Month
Warrior King 2 / Taking Lives
Tony Jaa hasn't made a film I've been particularly impressed with since his debut, Ong Bak, but Warrior King 2 is just dreadful. Jaa is as much of a charisma vacuum as ever and, once again, his performance is unable to deliver even with a plot as simple as "give me back my elephant". The action is fine, but it's substantially marred both by the dull and silly plot and by some incredibly ropey CGI, the whole selling point of Jaa used to be that he didn't use CGI and his work is less impressive with it.
I have a theory that if Ethan Hawke, one of the most underrated actors working today, is in a film it can't be wholly bad. Taking Lives REALLY challenges that hypothesis. It's a very bog standard serial killer movie with few surprises and a laughably miscast Angelina Jolie barely even showing up as a brilliant FBI agent. Stupid rather than silly, it's a huge waste of time.
I nicked these categories from my friend AJ, who has been asking people to fill them out each month for many years at the joblo.com message boards. Only first viewings are eligible. If there is a tie films are listed in the order in which I saw them.
Best Actor: Ben Wishaw: Lilting
Best Actress: Maggie Cheung: Actress / Julianne Moore: Maps To The Stars
Best Director: Walerian Borowcyck: Goto, Isle Of Love
Best Screenplay: Hong Khaou: Lilting / Josephine Decker, David Barker: Thou Wast Mild And Lovely
Best Visuals: Immoral Tales / Goto, Isle Of Love
Best Use of Music: The Guest
Biggest Surprise: Lilting (particularly Cheng Pei-pei's performance)
Biggest Disappointment: The Devil And Miss Jones
Most Fucked-Up Movie: The Satellite Girl And Milk Cow (Though in a family friendly way)
Coolest Title: Thou Wast Mild And Lovely
“Why Is He/She Still in Movies?”: I hate to say it but... Al Pacino, dreadful in Salomé and executing Wilde Salomé poorly as a director
One To Watch: Sophie Traub: Thou Wast Mild And Lovely / Evan Bird: Maps To The Stars
Movie I Finally Got to Friggin’ See: Killer Klowns From Outer Space / Porky's
Hottest Ladies: The female cast of Immoral Tales: Lise Danvers / Charlotte Alexandra / Paloma Picasso / Pascale Christophe / Florence Bellamy