Thursday, 13 March 2014

Forget Hollywood, Inside No.9 is utterly harrowing.

After watching a trashcan full of Hollywood horror movies, one could be forgiven for completely giving up on the genre.  The Conjuring, Mama, Insidious and not forgetting those horrendously dull Para-boring Activity films have been recent viewings.  Predictable, ridiculous, tedious.

Yet, just as all seems lost within the world of spooks and scares, there is a candle-light of hope flickering in the black.  The BBC's new series, Inside No.9, written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen, Psychoville), ended last night with a finale that was far too terrifying to watch before bedtime.  While the first five episodes contained an outstanding under-current of humour with sprinklings of darkness, the final chapter was more a case of darkness with a dash of humour; ending a series that has been a momentous return to form for the League of Gentlemen duo.

Last night's installment, entitled The Harrowing, certainly lived up to its name.  It began with a teenage schoolgirl named Katy, wonderfully portrayed by Welsh actress Aimee-Ffion Edwards.  She has been hired to take care of Hector and Tabitha's mansion for the evening.  The gloomy, gothic house is always kept at -3°C for Tabitha's unseen disabled brother, Andras, who lives upstairs and is said to not have a mouth; instead, keeping a bell, which he never uses, beside his bed. Katy is told not to go to the upstairs floor where his room is.

The fear doesn't hit you immediately.  Hector and Tabitha are quite simply horror movie caricatures.  The dark, dusty mansion is filled with (obvious) distressing paintings.  And sooner or later, you know that the aforementioned bell is going to ring.  It all just seems too predictable.  However, what makes The Harrowing such a downright horror success is what happens once that bell rings.  You, quite simply, will not see it coming!  When you hear it tinkle, you begin the ride towards the inferno; ending the episode (and the series), in spectacularly frightening fashion.  The word "mischief" will haunt you for the next few days!  It's utterly brilliant.

With Shearsmith and Pemberton having fully earned their horror stripes, many fans eagerly anticipate a feature-length terror-fest for the big screen.  And, if recent viewings have anything to go by, Hollywood could learn a lot from two of Britain's brightest writing talents.

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Golden Tippy (2010-2013)

The Golden Tippy is awarded for achievement in a feature-length comedy film.  That sounds posh doesn't it?  Basically, films I found funny.  Previous winners include Funny People (2009), Burn After Reading (2008), Hot Fuzz (2007), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Thank You For Smoking (2005), Sideways (2004), School of Rock (2003), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Shallow Hal (2001) and Me, Myself & Irene (2000). The award is named after my hilarious cat, Tippy.

The Way Way Back
Runners Up:
Despicable Me 2
- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa 
- 2 Guns
- We're The Millers

Runners Up:
- Django Unchained
- Wreck-It Ralph
- Seven Psychopaths
- The Dictator

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Runners Up:
- Puss In Boots
- The Inbetweeners
- Bridesmaids
- Horrible Bosses

Cemetery Junction
Runners Up:
- Scott Pilgrim vs The World
- Get Him To The Greek
- The Other Guys
- Cyrus

Monday, 3 March 2014

The List Hero View: The Oscars

In case you haven't heard, the Oscars were held last night.  Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie that contained a celebrity net worth of over a billion dollars; a photo that was so popular, apparently, that it caused a Twitter meltdown.  Leonardo Di Caprio, yet again, had to put on a fake smile as somebody waltzed away with his Academy Award.  And Steve McQueen was robbed of becoming the first black director to win the top directing award.

So, here are the results, and whether or not I agreed....

Best Picture 12 Years a Slave
Do I agree?  Yes.  Among a selection of great films, this was certainly a worthy winner.

Best Actor in a Leading Role Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Do I agree?  Yes.  Sorry Mr Di Carpio but this was the performance of a lifetime.

Best Actress in a Leading Role Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Do I agree?  Yes.  To be honest, nobody else came close.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
Do I agree?  Yes.  This was easily the strongest acting category, with solid performances from Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave and Somalia's Burkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips. However, Leto's performance alongside Michael McConaughey as an aids-riddled transvestite is truly exceptional.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
Do I agree?  Probably.  Despite an outstanding performance in the year's best film, Jennifer Lawrence's performance in American Hustle went some way towards carrying that particular film and was my personal favourite.  However, it can't be denied that Nyong'o is excellent in 12 Years.

Best Animated Feature Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)
Do I agree?  Absolutely not.  Hated this movie from start to finish.  Anything else would have been preferable, especially the Academy-snubbed Monster University.

Best Cinematography Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)
Do I agree?  Nope.  12 Years a Slave was the most beautiful film of 2013.

Best Costume Design The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)
Do I agree?  No.  American Hustle did a fantastic job of transporting audiences back to the 70s and should have grabbed this award.

Best Directing Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Do I agree?  No.  Despite its admirable technical achievements, I cannot support a film that is so utterly boring.  Steve McQueen should have picked up the award, or Martin Scorsese (but I'm always biased towards Scorsese).

Best Foreign Language Film The Great Beauty (Italy)
Do I agree?  No.  I could not get on with this film at all.  For me, it had to be Denmark's The Hunt.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews)
Do I agree?  Yes.  Although many would have wanted American Hustle (which, bizarrely, wasn't even nominated) to win, the detail on Jared Leto's make-up is outstanding, especially as the character falls deeper into the clutches of the Aids virus.

Best Original Song Let It Go - Frozen
Do I agree?  No.  Cheese-on-toast.

Best Visual Effects Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)
Do I agree?  Yes.  Obviously.