No Country For Young Kids

No Country For Old Men

Despite first impressions, this is not the slogan for a Swiss euthanasia clinic. Instead we swap the death valley of the Alps for the death valley of rural Texas, where there are more ways to die than there are toothpicks in a roadside saloon. Visionary directors, Joel and Ethan Cohen, capture just a few of these untimely demises with impeccable timing of their own. To be honest, a small part of me longed for a cameo from former president and resident Texan, George W Bush. He wouldn’t have had to appear in it long. Just long enough to cause a mess on American soil one more time.

The first time Tommy Lee Jones appeared on screen I thought these prayers had been answered. Surely I’m not the only one who sees the resemblance between him and Bush? Tommy is like a poorly drawn caricature of George; one scribbled by a child or, just as likely, a self-portrait by the great ass clown himself. Thank God, there’s more artistry in Tommy’s performance. His role as the aging Sheriff, Ed Bell, is far more assured than anything his doppelganger has put his name to and all without fluffing a single line.

Sheriff Bell is on the hunt for a man, but that’s not to say he’s unlucky in love. In this particular circumstance, the man in question is elusive sociopath, Anton Chigurh (Bardem) and he certainly isn’t the type to bring home to your mother. In fact, you’re better off not answering the door to him at all…not that this is always enough to stop him. In what becomes a Rio Grande Theft Auto, Chigurh draws the attention of the police, by leaving a bloody trail of breadcrumbs behind him. Every town he visits is left with a brand new crime scene, as if it’s no longer enough to simply write your name in the hotel guest book. I guess this would be too conspicuous or perhaps the real motivation behind this maniac’s behaviour is a fear of listed names. No one mention the Yellow Pages.

Chigurh finally seems to have met his match in Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) though – a deer hunting, mustache sporting, all-american export, with a dress sense more rooted in the Lone Star State than drunken gun fights or drinking sweet tea like it’s going out of fashion. It seems the Milky Bar Kid has grown up to be stronger and tougher than he’d ever dreamed he could be. Sadly, he has done nothing to melt Chigurh’s heart, after taking off with a briefcase full of the madman’s money. Now, I’ve done my fair share of inadvisable things in the past  – for example I once tried to drain my spaghetti with a tennis racket – but, if I was to wander into the aftermath of a failed drugs raid, I’d at least stop to think about the consequences of taking a million dollars from a truck laden with heroin. Or perhaps I’m just being too cautious; perhaps the next time I’m out having coffee in Starbucks I should just take the money from the tip jar and leave my obviously named cup in its place.

As in every great Western, a shootout is inevitable and in NCFOM Stetson’s are brutally ruffled at every opportunity. Armed with a weaponised air tank, Chigurh begins his vengeful pursuit of Moss, gambling with the lives of a few civilians along the way. At first, he is outwitted by some intuitive thinking from his target, but, alas, Moss must eventually find somewhere to bunk down and rest his weary mustache for the night. From then on it is only a matter of time before Chigurh catches up with him. After all, how hard can it be to find one man in the USA’s second largest state?

With guns, neckerchiefs and men whose accents are thicker than the hair on their chests, NCFOM is certainly a deadly homage to the spaghetti westerns of old. Add in plot elements borrowed from the Big Lebowski and the Cohen brothers have once again created something worthy of its Oscar winning credentials. It just breaks my achy breaky heart that Billy Rae Cyrus was overlooked for a role he was so surely born to play.

Position in IMDb 250: 164

Position in My 250: 120. Also the number of Texans who weren’t offended by this review. 

Inglorious Basterds

Brad Pitt’s a Basterd. Michael Fassbender’s a Basterd. And Tarantino is the biggest bastard of them all. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to hear that the movie industry’s biggest ego has decided to alter the history of the biggest war the Earth has ever fallen victim to. In fact it’s a mystery how our planet manages to contain the sheer bulk of his inflated head. If he wasn’t such a genius, he’d be mocked in the streets and kids would use his skull as a tether ball.

My first impressions of Inglorious were as follows: Why did Mike Myers not stick to doing more cameos like these? Is that Quentin’s head peeking from behind the bell tower in the final chapter? And why do so many films seem to depict milk as the drink of the devil? This last point deserves particular attention. From Alex DeLarge in Clockwork Orange to Ron Burgundy in Anchorman and now Lando (Waltz) the Jew Hunter – each one of them is flawed with the same predilection for larceny and lactates.

But can this delicious fatty liquid truly be the reason for some of film’s most notorious villainy? The evidence appears to cry yes. In all honesty, I think we should start banning it from our primary schools now. For all we know we’re the width of a cow’s teet away from the next Genghis Kahn. If that’s not enough to convince you, you simply have to sit through a Cravendale ad. The cats are coming; and when they get here it won’t just be Jews they’re after. I imagine the mouse-lims should worry too. I guess we should all just be glad they’ll spend most of the time fighting their own reflections in the hub caps of parked cars.

Anyway, back to Nazi occupied France (which I hope is something I never have to say out loud). Lando came here to do two things: drink milk and hunt Jews… and he’s just finished his milk. Personally, I’d never follow milk with Jews – it tends to lead to curdling in your stomach. But, this man is unsettled at the best of times and he exacts his misguided righteous tyranny on the family of stowaways living under the floorboards of an Alpine farm house. Unfortunately, the hills are only alive with the sounds of gunshots and all but one member is brutally murdered. This rather sets the tone for the rest of the film and, most likely, all of Tarantino’s dinner parties to date. More fortuitously, the survivor, a young girl, is able to flee from the scene, just thankful to be alive with anything.

In France puberty passes in the blink of an eye and before we can say ‘outdated scene change’, our young survivor, now going by the assumed name Emmanuelle, reappears 5 years on, clearly having run into some luck along the way. In circumstances that are never fully explained, Emmanuelle finds herself at the helm of a small town cinema. Now, I imagine either Emmanuelle really does have relatives in the film business or she ended up making a risky investment on Gumtree – either way she is stuck with her great shining ode to German culture.

And soon she finds herself saddled with the great shining oaf of German culture too: Basterd number 4, Fredrick Zoller (Bruhl). Freddie is the guy you meet on a night out who insists on getting your number even after his exaggerated stories about spear fishing fall flat. Whatsmore, he’s a nazi, a damn good one in fact, and is therefore worth less to Emmanuelle than the mould on her morning croissant. Long story short (and believe me, this story is biblical) Freddie does not beddie his girl.

Meanwhile, in another area of war torn France, Lt. Aldo Raine is doing everything in his power to cut the fascists down to size – namely by taking a big knife and sawing off their scalps. With a collection boasting over a 100 Nazi head tops, it’s clear who’s taking this war a little too seriously. Come on, Aldo. Why don’t you take up something useful like sports, rather than itemising your scalps all day? I hear the Bear Jew has a baseball bat you could use.

The rest of the film drags on a bit. It drags beautifully may I add, but to save us some time I’ll end on a quick summary:

Freddie continues to flirt aggressively with Emmanuelle; Aldo continues to flirt aggressively with Nazis; both plot to end the war for good; Michael Fassbender, a British German, plays a Brit playing a German; Lando spills more than just his milk. What a bunch of utter Basterds. I’m almost glad the war is over.

NB: Freddie never convinces Aldo to join him spear fishing.

Position in IMDb 250: 103

Position in My 250: 73 – but is that the German or the British 3?

Shutter Island

If you’re looking to embark on a mad overseas romp with the lads, then Shutter Island might just be the ideal destination for your debauched needs. Sure, the weather is temperamental, but the girls are wild and you’re guaranteed to lose your shit before the day is out. Maga’s dead, Ibiza is on it’s way out, Shutter Island is about to shut them all down.

For Sergeant Teddy Daniels (Di Caprio) the island’s pull is too strong to ignore. What occurs in the following 138 minutes is carnage on a whole new scale. Daniels is a mess before the ferry even docks, spewing over the deck on arrival. Usually this would be greeted by a large, guttural cheer from Fat Jez and the boys, but this is the 50s and only the sergeant’s partner Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) is on hand to pick him up and redundantly ask if he’s okay. Daniels choked reply of ‘I can’t stomach the water’ probably doesn’t bode well for the hours of binging the pair had planned. Looks like Chuck will be finishing those final flaming sambuccas on his own. I guess since prohibition only ended 20 years earlier, the guy’s got a lot of catching up to do.

It’s around noon that things really start to kick off though. One islander strays from the complex and in the drunken haze of the party everyone assumes she’s thrown herself from the cliffs. To be fair, it’s not an implausible conclusion – I once saw a man get stuck in a revolving door for days after one sniff of communion wine. Drink makes monsters of us all and YouTube stars of many.

‘One drink’ Daniels is determined to get to the bottom of both the incident and his pint. Chuck believes their victim might have just gone for a cheeky Nando’s on the mainland, but Daniels believes there is more than spiced chicken at the heart of this. Under the careful supervision of the resort manager (Kingsley), the duo begin to pull apart the bare bones. And with their chicken platter finished, there’s the less tasty task of rounding up the Island’s population and using them to solve a problem everyone only seems to be half interested in.

It’s only about an hour into the film, when the second bottle of wine slips from your grasp, that you realise maybe you were the one who was drunk the entire time. Suddenly, what seemed like a documentary on Shutter island’s club scene turns into a eery depiction of human sanity. As Daniels delves deeper into the island’s methods and practises it is clear something is off. Who in their right mind orders macho peas as their main side?!

Position in IMDb 250: 195

Position in My 250: 77 – the number of units you’ll consume on the Island in one evening

Amelie

Si vous ne lisez pas mon blog, je vais chier travers ta chatière!

Everything sounds better in French. Thierry is a connoisseur of fine wines and fine women. His English equivalent, Terry, is a coinnoisseur of Newcastle Brown Ale and ailing attempts to find his wife’s sweet spot. All in all, the continental charm of Parisian culture is much more suited to a film about rekindled values than the beer garden at the Black Dog. That being said, there is often a certain romance to the piss soaked bins at the back of your local. Perhaps it’s just the memories that accompany them.

Amelie Poulain (Tautou) is also attracted to the finer details in life. Whether she’s running her hands through other people’s groceries or listening to the population orgasm from her balcony window (Terry take note), Amelie is determined to make the most from every experience. She’s like that girl on Facebook who insists on chronicling her happiness for 100 days straight. This kind of person is so wrapped up in framing the perfect moment that they seem unable to function in reality. If you’re out on an all-day bike ride 3 times a week, when are you finding time to feed your 4 illegitimate children? Or are they forced to choke down your bullshit too.

Childhood for Amelie was hardly a walk in the park either. You’d figure the moment you saw your mother crushed beneath the body of a rooftop jumper you’d no longer remain satisfied by the prospect of extra dessert. But for Amelie it is merely a pavement stain on the path to true happiness, as she continues to wolf down her second helping of life. Only Batman has bounced back from a family bereavement with more heroism and he had the millions of inherited dollar bills for company.

Left alone with her fast withdrawing father, Amelie decides to move on to bigger and better things. Whilst Bruce Wayne paces through Wayne Manor, our young heroin lounges in the third floor squalor of an inner city apartment building and waits for the city to call her. Trained only as a part-time waitress, the chances of a wide scale cry for help is small, but Amelie is the barista Paris deserves, not the one it needs right now. In fact, there is rather a long list of far more competent employees before her. In 90 minutes of film not one single table is waited on.

Instead Amelie insists on surreptitiously manipulating the lives of others. Forget that cup of coffee you ordered 20 minutes ago, now you’re dining on a whole new change of perspective. Tastes sweet doesn’t it? Almost like you’re chewing on the fluffy bit at the end of a fairytale. Do you have bones as brittle as Rolf Harris’s defense case? Then Amelie will set you up with videos of everything in the outside world you’ll never be able to come into contact with. Saintly.

Unfortunately, there is one thing Amelie can’t control. Who falls in love with her. Oh wait, she has a convoluted plan for that too. First snare the ideal man – he’ll be the one working split shifts in a sex shop. Then, do everything you can to fuck things up. Putty in your hands. He’ll have no reason not to move into your pokey little crap hole. As ever, love in Paris is as inevitable as a boner the minute before your big school performance.

In a nutshell, Amelie is France’s answer to The Wombles (stay with me on this). A warm, fuzzy character, reveling in the things that ordinary folk take for granted, is content to live in cramped conditions, while keeping her existence in society to an almost inconspicuous level. Pretty sure Uncle Bulgaria wouldn’t look quite as flawless with that bodacious bob cut though.

Position in IMDb’s 250: 73

Position in My 250: Cinquante (translation – a number higher than 251)

American Beauty

Dear Diary, the other day I saw an upturned trolley silently drowning by the bank of a river and sighed. How can something so beautiful be treated with so little dignity? Don’t these people see its struggle?

The life of Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) must be rife with entries like this; bemoaning the sight of an empty yoghurt pot, drained mercilessly of its purpose, or the victimised velcro that’s lost its desire to just keep clinging on. For Ricky all life is beautiful, even the matted hair at the centre of your plughole. What this says about his girlfriend, Jane Burnham, is beyond me. I can only imagine the similes used in his Valentine’s cards: My love for you is like a broken watch. Timeless and highly erotic.

Jane is the product of her parents beautiful union. A union that has aged horribly over the years, much like Lindsay Lohan’s drug caked face. Her dad’s yoghurt pot is definitely half empty and it’s all down to the sour disposition of his wife. Yes, for Lester Burnham (Spacey) life is the kind of beautiful you find on the dancefloor at the end of a night in Hull. Jerking off in the shower just isn’t the stimulation he needs and it probably isn’t going to get a paying audience where they want to go either. What Lester really needs is life lessons from an 18 year old. Cue Ricky Fitts.

Despite his dad’s misguided assumptions, Ricky is not about to jump into the shower and lend a hand. Instead, he rolls up a joint, gifts it to Lester and quits his job all in one nonchalant scene. A benchmark for all rebellious suburban teens and a defining moment in Lester’s ethos. He’s hooked on a renewed vigour for life and the dope that’s slowly working its way through his mind. A clear clouded vision of the future. Perhaps Ricky has this all figured out after all. Life coach with a roach. Get them stoned and show them they can be whoever they want to be….as long as they continue to shell out 2 grand for the privilege.

At least Lester no longer feels like a loser. He is winning the human race without moving a muscle and every fibre of his being is reaping the rewards. Unfortunately, his wife is a few miles back, hauled up in a motel, taking a well earned rest between the legs of the real estate king, Buddy Kane. Normally, this would be enough to send any man over the edge, but in his state of enlightenment, Lester merely stumbles, falling head over heels for Jane’s classmate, Angela. So how best to seduce her? Build up the muscles you’ve neglected in your pursuit of happiness. There is nothing that gets a girl going like naked bicep curls in the garage. If you don’t believe me, sneak into your loved one’s house and give it a go.

In just a few weeks, Lester is a changed man. His body has bulged and his prospects have grown with it. Now employee of the week at a fast food franchise, he is living a dream few have ever dared to imagine. Covered in grease from both the fryer and the nightly garage workouts, Lester slides his way into Angela’s affections. Sure, she’s barely of age, best friend’s with his daughter and overly fond of root beer, but Lester’s worked hard for this. His wife is still shacking up with Buddy and the shower just isn’t going to cut it anymore. He’s trying desperately not to appear middle aged and it seems it’s a straight up choice between an illicit affair and a sordid round of golf. Since his hands are too slick with oil to wield a club, Lester is holding on to the only thing he can.

American Beauty is a sensual  look at what the world perceives as beautiful. For Lester it is loving the life he lives, for Carolyn it is wealth and success and for Ricky Fitts it is everything that falls in between. I once joked with a friend that his soul was like a wet Tesco bag full of broken glass and for a while I believed that was as condemning an insult as you could get. But through Ricky’s eyes I have learnt a simple truth. A plastic bag can in fact be beautiful. If this is truly the case, then I may never see Pamela Anderson in the same way again. I’ll just be sure to consult my Life Roach first.

Position in IMDb 250: 62

Position in My 250: 25. Just like a broken watch.