Cast Against Hype

Reflections on film and other forms of storytelling from a Swedish wannabe-storyteller…

Tag: Christopher McQuarrie

Death, Disappearing Acts and Details of Daily Life – My Favourite Films of 2018

So… Are these the very best? As always, I probably missed a few serious contenders. Also as always, this is about films released in Sweden during 2018 AD. Which, for example, might mean some Oscar nominees and even winners of last year could show up here. Do they? Let’s find out, shall we?

1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (directed by Christopher McQuarrie)

They run, hide, jump and fight to save the world. Many are called but few are chosen as well as Tom Cruise & Co in this surprisingly persistent and still vital movie franchise.  

2. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)

Grand and intimate, beautiful and troublesome, in this magnificent ode to life in Mexico City during times of turbulence back in the early 70’s. Though most of all, so impressive in its depiction of daily life and its attention to details. 

 3. Annihilation (Alex Garland)

What is it really about? What happened in that weird, glowing forest? We could discuss that for hours on end without completely reaching an agreement. Anyway, it’s one of 2018’s most consistently intriguing films. At least I agree on that. 

4. Coco (Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina)

Death. It’s really colourful and attractive, right? At least in this Mexicanized musical universe. 

5. Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Stefano Sollima)

Death. Sometimes it’s all too unnecessary, don’t you think? Can’t we all just get along? Still, entering this world means being trapped for two hours, wondering where it’s all going, whom you’re to supposed to sympathize with and why. 

6. A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper)

One is falling, the other one rising and they love each other. But… It’s complicated. Impressive directing debut for Bradley Cooper, who doesn’t let the actor Bradley Copper retain all that much dignity when the going really gets tough for the protagonist. Also, Lady Gaga is in the movie. You knew that, right? Come to think of it, she’s probably the real protagonist. She can sing! And act, incidentally. 

7. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Light entertainment indeed… Or, no. Ethan Hawke as a preacher with a tortured soul trying to figure out the purpose of his life at a point where he’s lost a family, maybe his faith as he used to know it and possibly hope for the future in general. What kind of catharsis could be in store for him – and us? Well, it is painful. And also somewhat hopeful. 

8. The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci)

Death. Again… Oh by the way, watching films on airplanes. What’s your stance on that? I did that in this case. Could it be this one deserves a higher ranking? Entertaining and shrewd satire. 

9. The Post (Steven Spielberg)

The Master’s ode to the Free Press. Traditional, highbrow, old-fashioned, maybe. But also entertaining and kind of… is it this little word important I’m really trying to emphasize here?

10. Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz)

Israeli drama, apparently not entirely appreciated by everyone within the country itself. It becomes political in a sense without really trying to be overtly that. It’s human, it’s complicated and deals with tragedy, sorrow and young lives put on the line in a way that you just don’t see every day. It’s got style. And substance. And might mess with your head in a constructive way. 

 

Honourable Mentions:

The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody

I could name a few others, but let’s draw the line here for now. Of course I will discover a few more masterpieces from 2018 eventually, which I’ve missed so far. Hopefully. Also, I am aware that none of my top ten this year were directed by women. ”Lady Bird”, mentioned honourably being the exception all in all. Yes, as I said, probably I have some more revealing discoveries coming up…

 

Last year’s top ten can be found here

Madness. Machines. Martians. And more Madness – My Favourite Films of 2015

Another year, another realization of how little I found time to write. About really, really important thing like films, for example… Now, as we’ve crossed over from 2015 to 2016, I feel compelled to, at least briefly, reflect on which of the films released really mattered to me – and maybe which ones turned out to be disappointments, duds or doomed beyond the possibility of salvation. Admittedly, I didn’t see enough, but here are the ten best that opened in my home country Sweden in 2015 and I had the chance to form an opinion about:

1. Mad Max: Fury Road (Directed by George Miller).

Yeah, basically it’s just one crazy car chase through the desert. But what a chase it is… What an attractive, beautifully realized madness is accomplished when Dr Miller defies retirement age, common sense, laws of gravity and just lets go. This year’s adrenaline rush – and best film in general.

2. Ex Machina (Alex Garland)

Artificial intelligence and natural charisma makes for a great combination in this cautionary (or maybe inspiring) tale of how a manipulative magnate and inventor meets his match in his very own creation. Smart, stylish and seductive like few other films lately.

3. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Alejandro González Iñárritu

More inspiring madness when Michael Keaton tries to realize a risky stage production in a fascinating, unusually organic and vivid depiction of showbusiness-people and their fragile egos.

4. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga)

…and yet more madness, when ”True Detective”, and ”Sin nombre” director Fukunaga rushes head first into the jungle accompanied by a bunch of kids and a vision not everyone in his line of work would consider it worth the effort to commit to celluloid. This must have been a logistical nightmare. Also, often a nightmare to watch, but thank you Netflix for believing in it and bringing it out there.

5. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (Christopher McQuarrie)

Ethan Hunt meets his match in the form of Ilsa Faust (what a name!) in this fifth instalment of a franchise that improbably seems to get better every time. Of course, as a patriot I don’t mind there being two Swedish actors prominently placed in the midst of this particular form of madness. They even get to speak some Swedish here and there…

6. Calvary (John Michael McDonagh)

Father James (the one and only Brendan Gleeson) is genuinely committed to taking care of his parish, but that ungrateful bunch of mostly bitter and resentful village people don’t seem equally eager to take care of him. Or commit to anything at all, unless – in one case – the expressed desire to actually assassinate the priest, for no apparent acceptable reason at all. Slow-burning existential piece that somehow manages to be unexpectedly funny as well.

7. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn)

Hey, I do like the James Bond adventures and the somewhat serious turn they’ve taken with Daniel Craig as 007. Still, this naughty, unhinged homage to a slightly more boyish Bond era of the past made for exquisite entertainment with a lot of twists and turns – and some seriously over the top-ultraviolence presented with what’s usually referred to as tongue-in-cheek attitude. And buckets of blood.

8. The Theory of Everything (James Marsh)

Surprise! Stephen Hawking is actually a human being, like most of the rest of us! Imagine that! Well-written, well-directed, well-acted and well-just about everything-drama, about the supergenius scientist sage as a young man and a slightly older one. Not least seen from the perspective of his former wife, which adds a dimension at least I hadn’t come across before.

9. Kill the Messenger (Michael Cuesta)

It seems he really was on to something. Although not without his personal flaws, in the 1990’s investigative reporter Gary Webb started looking into shady connections between the CIA and drug cartels during the US proxy war against the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua roughly a decade earlier. For some reason, that wasn’t a popular initiative among some influential segments of society. ’Based on a true story’-type drama/thriller of a kind I tend to appreciate, and we don’t see enough examples of these days.

10. The Martian (Ridley Scott)

And they say the kid in ”Home Alone” was in trouble. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself abandoned on Mars and has to find a way to survive until someone maybe, possibly finds out he’s still there alive and might consider giving him a ride back home. Inspirational NASA promotional rather than intriguing existential stuff like last year’s ”Interstellar” but nevertheless entertaining adventure.

Honourable mentions: The Imitation Game, Spectre, Selma.

Most annoying failures department: Terminator: Genisys. What went wrong, exactly? Trying to do too much at the same time? Confusing unnecessarily complicated story structures with epic ambitions? Joking around too much instead of establishing a concinving, appropriately dark and doomsday-oozing atmosphere such as what once worked so well in this particular universe? All of the above, to begin with. I could also mention… No, that’s enough for now. But I am concerned, especially if there is more to come.

San Andreas. This one is simply too stupid for its own good. Although some of the special effects are decent enough. A pity you’re not sure you want these characters to survive this disaster flick. The precious few we are supposed to care about, that is.

Some of the ones I haven’t seen yet but I suspect could have been real contenders for the Top Ten: Foxcatcher, Rosewater, Wild Tales, A Most Violent Year, Sicario… and judging from other reactions, Star Wars Chapter… yeah, whatever chapter it is this time, even though I’ve never been part of the ”Star Wars changed my life from an early age”-crowd.

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