Monday, 31 January 2011

Harold Lloyd, The King's Speech and Tarzan's most annoying friend - Reviews #53

You know Harold Lloyd. Dark hair. Glasses. Smart suit. Hanging from a clock. I've been watching a heap of his films of late. Here's some stuff about them.

Harold Lloyd in...

For Heaven's Sake (Sam Taylor, 1926) - Wow. This will take some beating. A genuinely beguiling, hilarious Harold Lloyd comedy about a spoilt millionaire getting involved with a mission, to win the heart of a girl (Jobyna Ralston). I find Lloyd's work pretty variable. This is one of his less ambitious films but - along with The Kid Brother - the best I've encountered, with a touching romance, stunning set pieces and the funniest drunks that side of Frank McHugh. And the Robert Israel score is one of the loveliest things I've ever heard. (4)

Grandma's Boy (Fred C. Newmeyer, 1922) - Reactionary but charming and pastoral Harold Lloyd vehicle. Nearly missteps with a flashback sequence, then pulls it out of the bag, before climaxing in typically exciting fashion. (4)

A Sailor-Made Man (Fred C. Newmeyer, 1921) - Lloyd's first feature, coming in at a trim 47 minutes, isn't as good as Chaplin's (The Kid), but turns out better than Buster's (The Saphead), with neat characterisation, clever sight gags and an exuberant action climax. Pretending you're a cushion and then kicking someone up the bum so they fall into a swimming pool is always going to be funny. Special mention too for the penultimate scene, where Lloyd just can't get a kiss. (3)

Dr. Jack (Fred C. Newmeyer, 1922) - Unwaveringly pleasant Lloyd vehicle, with our hero as an idiosyncratic country doctor trying to save a sensitive, cloistered girl (Mildred Davis) from her fraudulent doctor, who keeps her dosed up and in the dark. Lots of gentle jokes, before a frenetic finale with more than a hint of Keaton's classic short The Goat, released the previous year. (3)

Why Worry? (Fred C. Newmeyer, 1923) - The first half of this much-praised outing is flatly disappointing, with a super set-up - a hypochondriac gets caught up in a revolution - thwarted by a succession of forced gags. Then suddenly the film bursts into life, climaxing with three hysterical fight scenes and some desperately tender, affecting romantic scenes opposite the wonderful Jobyna Ralston - by far the best of Lloyd's leading ladies, with an easy humour and tremendous natural warmth. There's a sublime closing scene too, which is anarchic, absurd and just plain old nice. (3)

The Cat's Paw (Sam Taylor, 1934) - *SPOILERS* Fine fish-out-of-water Lloyd talkie hampered by a notoriously bizarre final act in which he becomes a dictator. Una Merkel is a glorious leading lady. (3)

Movie Crazy (Clyde Bruckman, 1932) - I read a very enthusiastic review of this sound feature, which is what inspired me to dig out the Lloyd box-set in the first place (I bought it when it came out, watched half of the stuff on it, then got sidetracked and stuck it in a cupboard). Ironically, it's one of his weaker features, with its dearth of genuine belly laughs extending to a notably laughless, scoreless finale, which is essentially just a brutal fight. That's not to say the film doesn't offer plenty of enjoyment. Harold remains an engaging hero, Constance Cummings is a likeable and agreeably modern leading lady and there are some funny set-pieces, like our hero accidentally ruining her car, and his famous "magician's coat" sequence. But the Hollywood setting isn't adequately exploited (it hurts a little that there are no gag cameos; sometimes being independent must suck) and the highs just aren't as high as you'd hope, meaning it can't come close to matching Lloyd's silent classics. It would take Preston Sturges to give him the talkie - and the swansong - he deserved, some 16 years later. (3)

Hot Water (Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1924) - Little-seen Harold Lloyd comedy is disappointing, disjointed and stressful rather than funny, at least in its first half. Picks up a bit in the second, with a couple of nice thrill sequences. (2.5)

... and here are the rest of the January reviews:

CINEMA: The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) - Brilliant stuff. As my girlfriend said: "I thought Colin Firth would be Oscar-worthy, but I didn't know he'd be good as well." And he is. Astonishingly good. The script isn't always faithful to the history, we could have used a little less symbolic Churchill and there's a slightly saggy bit at the end of the first third full of Gambon and Pearce, but for the most part this is stirring, funny and riotously enjoyable, with super support from Bonham Carter, Rush and the ever-underrated Anthony Andrews. (4)

The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman, 1998) - I dismissed this somewhat on first viewing, as it can't touch Stillman's other entries in the "doomed bourgeois in love" trilogy, Metropolitan and Barcelona. Also, three of the characters look pretty much identical, which meant I found the plot a little hard to follow. Silly old me. A rewatch reveals it to be a minor classic, with Stillman's typically fine ear for dialogue, another brilliant Eigeman performance and plenty of astute commentary on youth, romance and popular culture. I'll catch it again soon. (3.5)

Let Him Have It (Peter Medak, 1991) - Excellent but virtually unwatchable recounting of the Derek Bentley miscarriage of justice. Powerful, polemical and superbly acted across the board, with Paul Reynolds (Press Gang's Colin) matching Eccleston and veterans Courtenay and Atkins. I'll never watch it again, though, as I still feel bloody dreadful a day after seeing it. (3.5)

Quick Change (Howard Franklin and Bill Murray, 1990) - Considered by everyone to be "the great lost Bill Murray comedy", which I think makes that untrue. It's funny, entertaining and offbeat, with a particularly strong opening 15 and plenty of surprises thereafter, even if it's marginally less compelling than Scorsese's unjustly neglected After Hours, with which it has much in common. (3.5)

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010) - Not quite great, but fascinating and entertaining, with a strong script and performances. (3.5)

The Night They Raided Minsky's (William Friedkin, 1968) - Not much story, but a dazzling evocation of burlesque in the '20s, with a wonderfully eclectic cast: Jason Robards, Jr., Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz), Britt Ekland, Norman Wisdom and Fender from Bilko. (3.5)

Flushed Away (David Bowers and Sam Fell, 2006) - I avoided this first time around, due to the apparently unappealing subject matter (I'm as up for a poo gag as the next man who finds poo really funny, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend a whole film down the toilet), so it's nice to find that it's actually a really refreshing movie. The animation looks a touch primitive compared to recent ventures and Hugh Jackman is all wrong voicing our toffish protagonist, but Winslet's love interest is appealing, the supporting characters are really funny and the chase sequences are genuinely thrilling. (3)

CINEMA: The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry, 2011) - It seems half-finished, with iffy retro-fitted 3D, extended comic interludes crowbarred in pretty much indiscriminately and a minimal amount of Gondry magic. I really didn't care, as it made me laugh a lot. (2.5)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010) - Flashy, memorable and yet still a bit disappointing really, given the fields of lovingly-tended hype surrounding it. There are loads of good things in it (sight gags, non-sequiturs, one-liners - "Your bad is saying 'My bad'"), but it doesn't quite work as a whole - like Igby Goes Down. And Kieran Culkin is the best thing on show - like Igby Goes Down. Wright's uber-stylised direction and cut-to-the-quick editing provides plenty of colour while cramming about eight hours' worth of stuff into just two, and the supporting cast is really strong, but Cera is uncharacteristically annoying (and, no, I don't think that's intentional) and his chemistry with Lucy McClane is non-existent. Added to which, her character isn't developed beyond a cool wardrobe. And most of the music is a bit weak. Sorry. Still quite good though. (2.5)

Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007) - Knightley is surprisingly good, as is the kid, and the Dunkirk sequence is a knockout (Wright is clearly a fine director), but I'm not sure what the point is. Is it clearer in the novel? (2.5)

Starsky & Hutch (Todd Phillips, 2004) - Good fun, with a few big laughs. I'll watch Owen Wilson in anything (except Meet the Little Fockers). Snoop Dogg has quite a high-pitched voice. (2.5)

Con Air (Simon West, 1997) - Vivid characterisations make this OTT actioner a touch better than average, but the last half hour is pretty boring, and capped off with a hideously ill-judged coda. Cusack and Malkovich are really effective, but then they always are. (2.5)

The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) - There are impressive things in it - particularly Mirren - but it's overly repetitive and, like so many of the supporting performances, contrives to just miss the target. Peter Morgan can only write one type of film, can't he? And this is no Frost/Nixon. We could probably all live long and happy lives without the stag metaphor. (2.5)

Torchy Blane.. Playing with Dynamite (Noel M. Smith, 1939) - We wrapped up another series with this one, the final entry in Warner's popular B-movie run of the late 1930s. Blane was the inspiration for Superman's Lois Lane, the name partly drawn from Lola Lane, who played the character in one outing. Glenda Farrell was the only true Blane, though, appearing in seven of the nine entries and getting it supremely, effortlessly right each time. Absent here, Farrell is obviously missed, but Jane Wyman does an unexpectedly strong job of deputising, and Allen Jenkins is very good as her cop boyfriend, replacing Barton McLane. Absent-minded desk sergeant George Guhl is also elsewhere (literally this time), but ever-present Tom Kennedy is back for more as Gahagan, the soft detective with a yen for composing verse. The key for the series was really the performances. The first Blane film, Smart Blonde, benefited from snappy, clever dialogue, but generally the scripts were rushed, meaning the plots were full of holes and the patter erratic. Here, the story is better than usual, with Blane getting slung in jail to befriend gangster's moll Sheila Bromley, though her tactic of getting there - raising 11 false fire alarms - is slightly questionable, and her supposed rivalry with the police evaporates after about 10 minutes. Still, it's tense and enjoyable, with an abrupt ending that works quite well. (2.5)

She Knew All the Answers (Richard Wallace, 1941) - Fun romantic comedy with Franchot Tone, Joan Bennett and such familiar faces as William Tracy (Pepe from The Shop Around the Corner), Thurston Hall, Chester Clute and Billy Benedict in support. Bennett is a showgirl trying to get her boyfriend's stuffy uncle (Tone) to approve of her, so as to free up his mammoth inheritance. He's inheriting money, incidentally, not mammothseses. Instead, Tone takes a bit of a shine to her. The film borrows liberally from Easy Living in its stocks-and-shares subplot - and can't approach the majesty of that cast-iron classic - but it's all very pleasant, and they go to a fair at Coney Island. (2.5)

Dark Alibi (Phil Karlson, 1946) - Unusually well-directed Monogram Chan with an atypically coherent plot. Among the best of the series, then, though still dirt-cheap, with the familiar paucity of scriptwriting class reflected in the cut-price aphorisms. It's worth repeating that these Poverty Row programmers aren't a patch on the Fox films, which are simply wonderful, but fans will probably want to investigate them, once they've worked their way through those earlier classics. (2.5)

I'll Be Yours (William A. Seiter, 1947) - Pretty weak remake of The Good Fairy, with excessive re-writing losing the essence of the original and Tom Drake completely miscast in the Herbert Marshall role. It's one of the final four Deanna Durbin films, which she derided in her 1983 interview with David Shipman. It's perhaps not quite as bad as she made out, but it's streets behind Three Smart Girls or Mad About Music. (2)

Pulp (Mike Hodges, 1972) - A smug, disengaging and often incoherent homage to pulp fiction. There are a few bright moments, a handful of funny in-jokes (that nevertheless betray a certain desperation) and Lizabeth Scott's only movie appearance since 1957, but really it's just a massive disappointment - like a failed version of Gumshoe. (2)

Turner & Hooch (Roger Spottiswoode, 1989) - I saw bits and pieces of this when I was little (I'm 6' 3" now), but thought it deserved a proper go because I read a post on Empire Online raving about it, albeit with the caveat that it had a nostalgic pull. It was alright: Hanks was pretty decent, I'm really not sure about the ending. (2)

Bridget Jones's Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001) - A zeitgeisty novel becomes undemanding, conventional romantic fare mining the comedy of embarassment. The three leads are all decent, but the script isn't. The Auschwitz joke made me wince. Death camp uniforms, lol. (2)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008) - Oh dear. Annoying dialogue, action scenes largely shorn of their trademark wonder, a laughably awful plot and a terrible baddie. Even John Hurt's rubbish in it. It makes Temple of Doom look nearly good. Half a mark for the ghost village and old times' sake. (1.5)

"Through the forest I carry the mail/Singing better than a nightingale/As great a lover as postman/And particular friend of the mighty Tarzan."
Tarzan and the Mermaids (Robert Florey, 1948)

The last, and by far the least, of the Weissmuller Tarzans. It's stultifying, truth be told, with a risible storyline utilising a hammy George Zucco, and an inexplicable number of terrible songs (please see above), crooned by John Laurenz. The only brightspots are the snippets of Robert-Florey-does-Robert-Flaherty faux-documentary footage, some decent underwater photography, a bit where loads of stuntmen leap off a cliff and the unexpected octopus duel (it won't be unexpected anymore; sorry). The remaining 61 of the 64 minutes consist of Tarzan swimming and people getting into and out of boats (calling to mind that famous review of They Were Expendable; alas, the similarities end there), as well as those bloody songs. Even Johnny Sheffield and the decent Cheetas had buggered off by this time. RKO's revival of the popular MGM series ultimately created one minor classic of its kind (Desert Mystery), two enjoyable timewasters (Triumphs and Huntress), a pair of iffy, cheesy romps and this dud. (1.5)

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Review: Kate Rusby at the Royal Hall, Harrogate

Friday, December 10, 2010

Surrounded by Christmas trees, fairy lights and a gaggle of cheery musicians, the “Barnsley Nightingale” brought an early festive treat to Harrogate.

“It’s very good to be in Yorkshire,” announces Penistone-born Kate Rusby as she strolls on stage at the Royal Hall, dressed all in black, save for a white necklace and bangle.

The county’s the only place on earth you can get a good cup of tea, she says.

For the next two hours she dazzles a three quarters-full hall with a catalogue of carols and a smattering of songs from her new album, Make the Light.

And while her vocals are plaintive and pure, her personality is playful - and as big as the Royal Hall.

She regales the audience with stories about her daughter and her dog, recalls some peculiar complaints about her performances - “Someone was very offended that I was singing songs about Jesus,” she recalls, while a BBC viewer balked at the sight of her knees - and accuses her multi-instrumentalist husband of being a cross-dresser.

Many of her festive tunes are drawn from the tradition of pub sing-alongs in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire pubs. While some were “thrown out by the Victorians for being too raucous”, there’s room for more reflective fare delivered in Rusby’s inimitable fashion: eyes closed, head cocked to one side, hands clutching the mic stand, her voice as crisp and clear as fresh snow.

The highlights include Here We Come A-Wassailing - even more joyous and knockabout than on the 2008 Christmas record from which eight of the songs are taken - The Holly and the Ivy, slowed down in a manner that makes it sound utterly new, and The Mocking Bird, a glorious cut from Make the Light that’s at once powerful and delicate, the soaring vocal sparsely backed by guitar and bass.

Even the decision to let husband and collaborator Damien O’Kane play the title track from his debut album Summer Hill pays off. Such concessions to a headliner’s partner are usually unwelcome, but O’Kane, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland, has a fascinating voice and Rusby’s harmonising on this lovely song is first-rate.

She rips through Sweet Bells - “an absolute favourite” - and offers a transcendent take on the elliptical Poor Old Horse, before closing with O Little Town of Bethlehem, an effective bit of staging placing the focus on the brass band.

Rusby’s announcement that it would be the last song had drawn groans from the audience. “Well, if you clap loudly, I’ll come back on,” she had added with a wicked grin.

And so she does, quipping: “It just so happens that we do know two more. That’s lucky.”

If Hark, Hark, What News is pleasant if unremarkable, Rusby pulls out all the stops with The Wren, the juxtaposition between her appealing, cheery banter and heart-stopping, often heartbreaking, singing never more pronounced.

Summarising the song’s roots in children’s Christmas tradition - “Look, we’ve got a bird in a box - some treats and money, please” - she recalls her own confusion at the lyrics, “We have cannon and ball to conquer them all”, which as a young girl she took to refer to the ‘80s comedians, then promptly launches into a spellbinding vocal that sends a shiver down the spine.

My dad, who was up in the dress circle, said it brought back memories of seeing Sandy Denny in her prime, which is as high praise as I can think of.

“I love Christmas,” Rusby had told us. Her Harrogate gig was a captivating evening that for a few hundred of us heralded the real start of the festive season.
This article was written by Rick Burin and appeared on Page 27 of the Harrogate Advertiser, December 24, 2010.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Review of 2010

Hello, it's been a while. Yes it has. But then I've been pretty busy, and there's still no-one paying me to do this (I know, extraordinary). Since most of us don't just watch films from the year we're currently in, here's a more realistic review of the year - a quick wrap up of the best stuff I saw in 2010. If you want to skip the stats and cut to the capsule round-up, you'll find it near the bottom. Haha. Bottom.

Top 100 of 2010

Features (>40 mins) - first viewings in bold

New view of the year: Elia Kazan's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

1. Remember the Night (Mitchell Leisen, 1940) (4)
2. Cinema Paradiso: Director's Cut (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988/2002)
3. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Elia Kazan, 1945)
5. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
6. Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 1941)
7. The Human Comedy (Clarence Brown, 1943)
8. My Darling Clementine – Pre Release Version (John Ford, 1946)
9. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
10. It's Love I'm After (Archie Mayo, 1937)

11. Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch, 1943)
12. Låt den rätte komma in (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) aka Let the Right One In
13. Roman Holiday (William Wyler, 1953)
14. One Sunday Afternoon (Stephen Roberts, 1933)
15. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
16. High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
17. Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, 1938)
18. Separate Tables (Delbert Mann, 1958)
19. The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
20. Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1936)

21. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
22. The Secret of Roan Inish (John Sayles, 1994)
23. Menschen am Sonntag (Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer, 1929) aka People on Sunday
24. La gloire de mon père (Yves Robert, 1990) aka My Father's Glory

25. Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch, 1932)
26. Il Gattopardo (Luchino Visconti, 1963) aka The Leopard
27. The Chorus (Christophe Barratier, 2004)
28. Lady for a Day (Frank Capra, 1933)
29. Little Voice (Mark Herman, 1998)
30. Trees Lounge (Steve Buscemi, 1996)

31. Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
32. One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder, 1961)
33. Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)
34. Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947)
35. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010) (Cinema)
36. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Phil Lord and Chris Miller, 2009)

37. La Haine (Matthieu Kassovitz, 1995)
38. It's a Great Feeling (David Butler, 1949)
39. Tirez sur le pianiste (François Truffaut, 1960) aka Shoot the Piano Player
40. X2 (Bryan Singer, 2003)

41. Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 1992)
42. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
43. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (Susanna White, 2010) (Cinema)
44. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin' Down a Dream (Peter Bogdanovich, 2007)

45. Confessions of Boston Blackie (Edward Dmytryk, 1941)
46. Midnight Run (Martin Brest, 1988)
47. Gumshoe (Stephen Frears, 1971)
48. Smart Woman (Gregory La Cava, 1931)
49. Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008)
50. A Guy Named Joe (Victor Fleming, 1943)

51. The History Boys (Nicholas Hytner, 2006)
52. Big Time (Chris Blum, 1988)
53. That's the Spirit (Charles Lamont, 1945)
54. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008) (3.5)
55. Major Barbara (Gabriel Pascal, 1941)
56. Tin Men (Barry Levinson, 1987)
57. Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo, 2007)
58. Le château de ma mere (Yves Robert, 1990) aka My Mother's Castle
59. The Sure Thing (Rob Reiner, 1985)
60. Wah-Wah (Richard E. Grant, 2005)

61. Love in the Afternoon (Billy Wilder, 1957)
62. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
63. Folies Bergère de Paris (Roy Del Ruth, 1935)
64. A Royal Scandal (Ernst Lubitsch, 1945)
65. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
66. La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1998) aka The Legend of 1900
67. Smart Blonde (Frank MacDonald, 1937)
68. Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson, 1945)
69. My Sister Eileen (Richard Quine, 1955)
70. Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995)

71. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
72. Frost/Nixon (Ron Howard, 2008)
73. The Amazing Mr. Blunden (Lionel Jeffries, 1972)
74. The Science of Sleep (Michel Gondry, 2006)
75. Cry of the City (Robert Siodmak, 1948)
76. Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore, 2009)

77. The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955)
78. Mesrine: L'ennemi public n°1 (Jean-François Richet, 2008) aka Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1
79. Sir Henry at Rawlinson End (Steve Roberts, 1980)
80. Three Godfathers (Richard Boleslawski, 1936)

81. Kiss Them for Me (Stanley Donen, 1957)
82. Pushing Tin (Mike Newell, 1999)
83. Educating Rita (Lewis Gilbert, 1983)
84. In the Shadow of the Moon (David Sington, 2007)
85. Drillbit Taylor (Steven Brill, 2008)
86. Torrid Zone (William Keighley, 1940)
87. Tom, Dick and Harry (Garson Kanin, 1941)

88. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1963)
89. Topkapi (Jules Dassin, 1964)
90. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter and Ash Brannon, 1999)

91. Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010) (Cinema)
92. Station West (Sidney Lanfield, 1948)
93. Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980)
94. Happy Go Lovely (H. Bruce Humberstone, 1951)

95. A Bug's Life (John Lasseter, 1998)
96. Stanno tutti bene (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1990) aka Everybody's Fine
97. (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009)
98. The Night My Number Came Up (Leslie Norman, 1955)
99. The Big Easy (Jim McBride, 1986)
100. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

Total films seen: 304

Decade-by-decade breakdown:

1920s: 2
1930s: 46
1940s: 53
1950s: 35
1960s: 18
1970s: 11
1980s: 21
1990s: 35
2000s: 75
2010s: 8

Rewatches: 42
Premieres (oh, alright, "first viewings"): 262

Assorted trivia:

Craze: Owen Wilson.

Crazes of the year:
Wendy Hiller, Giuseppe Tornatore, Pixar, Owen Wilson, Michel Gondry, Glenda Farrell, John Cusack.
Continuing preoccupations: Jason Robards, Jr., Lee Tracy, Emily Watson, John Sayles, spotty '80s action-comedies.
Revelation of the year: Leslie Howard - with comedy, a magician. Not so hot at drama, as we know.
Stuff I caught up on: Comic book films, Judd Apatow, '90s British comedy-dramas.
Happiest surprises: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (4) - which I'd hyped up quite a lot as it was - finding out that My Darling Clementine (4) was even better before Zanuck's uncharacteristically duff meddling, Let the Right One In (4), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (4), Drillbit Taylor (3.5), Little Voice (4) and the unheralded Wah-Wah (3.5), with Nicholas Hoult somehow matching Emily Watson's usual pyrotechnics. I found a new Thank Your Lucky Stars/Road to Morocco in the shape of It's a Great Feeling (4).
Biggest disappointments: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2.5), The Proud Valley (2.5), revisiting I'm All Right Jack to discover that I don't really like it anymore (2.5), much of Fellini's Roma (2), the stiltedness of Shanghai Express (2) (some breathtaking religious imagery aside), the second halves of Kick-Ass (3) and Le mépris (2), virtually all of Tati's interminable Play Time (1.5).
Some favourite moments: Peggy Ryan cutting loose with an exuberant dance number in That's the Spirit, Bill Nighy's monologue in Shaun of the Dead, a man putting another man in a bin in The Science of Sleep, James Dunn at the piano in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wendy Hiller saying "Not bloody likely" in Pygmalion, Big Spender from Little Voice, Michael and Vito's talk in the garden in The Godfather, Glenda Farrell saying, "I love you for doing this" in Lady for a Day, Edward G. Robinson's cameo in It's a Great Feeling and the final moments of Quai des Orfèvres.
Favourite joke (excluding all the ones I laugh at every year): Either "Lilliput!" from Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, or Dakin in The History Boys, talking about busy schedules.
Best film I saw at the cinema: Toy Story 3.

Best TV movie:
The Iceman Cometh (Sidney Lumet, 1960).
Best TV series: Press Gang (Various, 1989-1993), written by Steven Moffat.
Best gigs: Suede at the Royal Albert Hall, Ross Noble at the Grand Opera House, York.
Best goal: Matty Burrows, for Glentoran against Portadown.
Worst meal: Gone-off Quorn Lasagne (one mouthful).


Shorts (Top 10)

1. Presto (Doug Sweetland, 2008) (4)
2. Lifted (Gary Rydstrom, 2006)
3. DTV: Cracking Contraptions (Loyd Price and Christopher Sadler, 2002) (4)
4. Knick Knack (John Lasseter, 1989/2003) (3.5)
5. Field and Scream (Tex Avery, 1955)
6. Boundin' (Bud Luckey and Roger Gould, 2003)
7. DTV: BURN-E (Angus MacLane, 2008) (3)
8. One Man Band (Mark Andrews and Andrew Jimenez, 2005)
9. A Few Moments With Eddie Cantor (Lee DeForest, 1923)
10. Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1992)

Total shorts seen:
37 (all first viewings)