Friday, December 31, 2010

Wonderful new Boxing Day movies

The King's Speech is well worth seeing, although you sort of have to put up with all the emotional tics of the blue rinse set who mostly make up the audience - all their oohs and aahs as the (later) Queen Mum and the little royals (Elizabeth and Margaret) are played as ever so loving and cutesy. This movie is sentimentality writ large. Nothing is spared to tug at the heart strings of even the most cynical in the audience, let alone the aged and faded monarchists flocking to it. Colin Firth is suberb as George VI, and even Geoffrey Rush, of whom I've never been a great fan, portrays a likeable Aussie without stooping to the cliched Bazza Mackenzie oafishness. Hugely enjoyable. 

I debated with myself whether I'd see Blue Valentine, as I don't relish overripe scenes of domestic strife a la Americain. But this exceptionally good movie rises above the usual cliches of the genre. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling should both get Oscars for their performances. They manage to convey the rawness and richness of these ordinary working class lives, yet with a subtlety that simply left me speechless. And there is so much going on in this movie, that only occurs to you afterwards, maybe days afterwards. It is simply brilliant. A classic.

Somewhere, the new one from the marvellous Sofia Coppola, is receiving both highly positive and highly negative reviews from a variety of critics. Margaret and David both loved it, but Jim Schembri from The Age hated it, calling it 'cosmically ponderous'! I had to see it! I was fully expecting to agree with Jim, who nailed it on the new Harry Potter after all, and he reminded me how much I disliked Coppola's Marie Antoniette.
Nevertheless, he was wrong. Somewhere is every bit as good as Lost in Translation, if not better. It's a distillation of all Coppola's obsessions, and done with poetry and enormous suggestiveness. Virtually every frame is full of resonance. Lives of quiet desperation, with little meaning or connectedness, a painful emptiness, a constant longing - these are her themes. Here again I've been thinking about this movie for days, relishing it and marvelling at how she managed to convey so much with such economy. Just see it.

For some light relief I thought I'd see the new French romcom Heartbreaker, starring the impossibly handsome Romain Duris and Johnny Depp's lovely French wife Valerie Paradis. I enjoyed it a lot. Three and a half stars.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Top 10 books 2010

Here, in order, are my Top 10 lists for fiction and non-fiction for 2010. I've posted reviews of most of these titles on this blog previously.


Eva Hornung, Dog Boy
Ian McEwan, Solar
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
Orhan Pamuk, The Museum of Innocence
Philip Pullman, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
Paul Murray, Skippy Dies
Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones
Jeremy Chambers, The Vintage and the Gleaning


John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, Race of a Lifetime
Michael Lewis, The Big Short
Sarah Ellison, War at the Wall Street Journal
Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Nomad
Tony Blair, The Journey
Geoffrey Robinson, The Case of the Pope
John B Thompson, Merchants of Culture
Timothy Wu, The Master Switch
George Megalogenis, Trivial Pursuit