Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Top 20 Films of the Decade

Just for fun I thought I'd cmpile a list of my favourite 20 movies of the decade. These are not necessarily the best films I saw, though I do like them a lot, but films that excited, thrilled and inspired me - made me want to keep fighting to be a filmmaker.

I've decided to take my 2 favourite movies from each year. OK here we go...

Memento: I thought this was a fantastic film. I was just coming out of college, having studio Animation for 4 years and realising I didn't want to do animation, but instead make films. I was in Australia, weighing up my options. I went to the movies and saw this. Blew me away. Helped me realise I was on the right path. I started writing my first feature screening play, largely inspired by this film, which I then gave to a guy when I came home to ask for advice, that guy was Thomas Kennedy, we struck up a writing partnership and have been writing since.

The Insider: A truly great drama, solid piece, brilliantly directed and acted. It's hard to believe that Russell Crowe was only 34 playing this role.

Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring: 2001 was a tough year for me personally. I had just come out of the 7 year relationship and was feeling quite lost and unaware of who I was on my own and what direction I was going in. One thing I was sure of was my passion for movies. This was also the year I met Thomas Kennedy and struck up a writing partnership that has lasted to this day. I saw this film at the end of the year and it thriller and exhilarated me. It made me feel like I felt when I was a kid. It was as if I had discovered film for the first time. I love these movies. I owe Peter Jackson a lot!

Spirited Away: Even though I gave up the medium I still love Animation, and the films of director Myazkai are by far my favourite, he is a master, both of his craft and as a storyteller. He is without a shadow of a doubt in my mind the greatest living director there is, in animation or live action. I love this coming of age story. Filled with magical moments.
Lord of the Rings The Two Towers : Again, these films brought that feeling of excitment back for me. In fact, the opening scene of this film is the most exhilerated I have ever felt watching a movie. When we flash back to half way through the first film, to the bridge of khazad dum and Gandalf is hanging on, and says "Fly, you fools..." and then lets go - except this time we following him, until he catches up to his sword and takes hold of it (I'm getting goosebumps writting this!) and then catches up to the Balrog... just brilliant!

The Bourne Identity: An unexpected surprise, and I love when movies do that. Injected some much needed new life into this genre. Matt Damon was a revelation. And one of the best hand to hand fight sequences ever put on film.

Lord of the Rings The Return of the King: A brilliant, sad and emotion end to three years of adventure. A monumental achievement in film. Plenty of people decided to nit-pic, but what do they know. Loved it.

Old Boy: I discovered director Chan-wook Park through this film. It is a brilliant piece of modern noir, mixed with greek tragedy and comic book violence.


Sideways: A hilariously tragic film about the lost and the lonely. Beautifully played and delicately directed.

Open Range: If pressed, and depending on what mode I was in, I might tell you that this has been my favourite film of the last ten years. I love westerns, it's my favourite genre. I grew up watching them, and some of my best film memories are with westerns, like my Dad letting me stay up late to what Bunch and Sundance. I loved The Searcher, Rio Bravo, Bend in the River - pretty much any western by Ford, Hawks and Mann. Even today, if I'm feeling slightly off kilter, or a little hung-over, either from alcohol or life, I'll but one of those films on and within minutes I'm feeling great again. This film is like that for me. It looks fantastic, it's brilliantly directed and wonderfully acted by everyone involved. I love the slow burning pace it begins with. The sense of impending danger that arrives. The first conflicts and build toward the inevitable outcome, the shoot out, which is done just brilliantly - I'd be hard pressed to say I'd seen a better action sequence this decade either, it's pure, simple and raw. I love the film.

Batman Begins: This set the bar to where it should have been from the start for comic book movies. It was how it should be done. It also gave me an image of Batman that I had longed for. Batman is my favourite comic book hero, I love the character, and to me, this was how it should have been done. And the film is full of so many brilliant moments.

The Proposition: A blistering Australian Western mad with the kind of raw intensity that only the Australians can do. It came out of nowhere, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and dragged me through the dirt. Epic and poetic.

Hidden (caché): Riveting. Superb performance from the two leads.

A Cock and Bull Story: One of the best films about making a film I've seen. I love the subversion, it's a film within a film about the film about a book about the writing a the book - figure that one out! The experience I had watching this was one of Joy. I think it captures perfectly the stress, passive aggressive behavior, exhaustion but fun, exhilaration and magic that happens on sets. The co-leads are brilliant.

Pan's Labyrinth: Open Range might have to fight this film for film of the Decade! I love this film immensely. I think it is an exquisitely crafted piece of storytelling and filmmaking. If it were possible, and if someday the movie gods see fit and believe that I am worthy, it's the kind of film I would love to make. A fantasy told as a drama set in wartime with brutal monster lurking in the halls of this pour girls new home, while creatures of fantasy stand as saviors on the edge of imagination. The faun is one of the best movie creatures ever created.

The Assassination of Jesses James by the Coward Robert Ford: It's beyond me how Roger Deakins didn't win the oscar for Best Cinematography for this. It is a beautiful looking film. A brilliant and dark character study by Pitt, one of, if not his best performance to date.

The Dark Knight: All hail the late great Heath Ledger. This was a very different film to Begins, it stepped outside the norms and conventions of the comic book universe and set Batman in a much more real world, unlike the amped up Gotham of Begins, it felt more like Chicago. But it worked. It was still jam packed with amazing sequences and jaw dropping moments. The Bat pod nearly had me wet myself... I love scenes like that!

There Will Be Blood: I always thought Paul Thomas Anderson is a very good director. I enjoyed Boogie Nights, while I wasn't as hot on Magnolia as a lot of people, it had a style that was undeniable and a relentless pace that suggested it was made my someone with abundant energy a true vision. I really like Punch Drunk Love. But then There Will Be Blood comes out and Paul Thomas Anderson goes from very good - to Great. This film was sublime. This film was pure cinema.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassuss: Gilliam is back. With a film that echos of his early work: Time Bandits, Jabberwokey, Brazil, the Adventure of Baron Munchhausen. This dream-like meander through the mind of one the most original directors living today is a delight from start to finish.

Coraline: Into the mind of Neil Gaiman via Henry Selick, I can't think of a better place to go or way to travel. This film was strangely controversial, it raised a lot of debate about how scary films should be for children. I don't think there is a debate... kids love being scared! I know I did. One of the main topics of conversation in the school yard was always what horribly frightening horror film something had managed to blag a botleg of! I saw American Werewolf when I was 10 and I loved it, it help shape my mind and my imagination. To me nightmares are like chicken pocks of measles, if you don't let your children get them while they're young they become much more dangerous when they're older.

This is a stunning looking film. Amazingly intricate and beautifully crafted. The character performance are enchanting and surprising. It is fun throughout and a pure delight to behold. I can't wait to own this so I can watch it over and over, and show my children... when they're young enough of course!

Well, that's my run down of the decade. I'm sure there are a hundred variation of this list I could right with different films, but these ones are pretty special to me. I hope you enjoyed them too, and enjoyed reading my thoughts on them. The naughties have been pretty good for film I must say. It'll be interesting to see what the teens bring.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Year in Review

Well, it's been a busy year, no question. I think I've achieved a lot of what I set out to do and more besides, as well as somethings I didn't get to do and some unexpected surprises.
The year kicked of with a reading of Ghoster in the Attic Studio, which was a great start to the year. Chased away those winter cobwebs and got things rolling straight away. I got a lot from that and had hoped to get a rewrite of Ghoster soon after, but as it happened, I haven't had the chance to do that yet.
Right after that came my first photography exhibition Old Shoes and Broken Walls and the screening of Bill, For Short. That kicked off at the end of January and ran all through February. I think went well, I had a lot of good reactions from it and people really seemed to connect with it. The RTE show Nationwide picked up the story and ran a piece on it, which really nice, my first dedicated TV appearance - and some welcome national publicity for the film.
That lead to March, which mainly consisted of organising, casting and raising money for my next short film, Slán agus Beannacht, which really happened thanks to JJ Rolfe, cinematographer, who called looking for scripts with an offer of time and equipment. Was a bit of a rush to get things done but we managed it and on the first week of April we were shooting. (It was right in the middle of this shoot that I found out my wife Maryann was pregnant - certainly put things into perspective after a stressful day of shooting!)
It was around this time that I came up with the idea for 140. That fairly took over my life there after and indeed ate into my editing time on Slán. After a great deal of thought, organising, emailing and press I managed to get 140 filmmakers and on June 21st we shot the film. What proceeded, right up until a couple of weeks ago, was a steady influx of clips from around the world.
I started cutting the film in September in a rush to premiere the rough cut at Hatch Fest on the 2nd of October, which we did, and by all accounts it was well received. I continued editing there after with several new clips.
Then I had the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland screening, where I screened the film to an intimate group for general feedback and constructive discussion. Gave me plenty of food for thought and some ideas to improve the film. So I'm still cutting.
Around this time I sign a distribution deal for Bill, For Short, last years short film, so I was happy about that. I also finally signed of on Slán agus Beannacht and held a screening in town where cast, crew, family and friends attended, again, well received. RTE's Nationwide also picked up on this story, at least the story of the man the main character was based on and ran with it. They came to Drogheda and spent the day with Bosco, with an interview with me at the end, another nice mention for Slán.

During all of this of course I was writing with Thomas on our second feature script together Night, now renamed Iscariot. A dark and twisted noir thriller that has so far divided readers right down the middle. We finished the first draft a couple of weeks ago and held a reading at the Attic Studio, which, once again, was huge help. The script is now in the hands of a few people who may be able to help get it made. But that's next years adventure!

So the year ends as it began, with a reading in the Attic Studio and lots in between. I'll be dragging 140 into 2010 and promoting Slán all through the year, hopefully getting into a few festival around the world with both. I hope to shoot at least two short films, I have the scripts ready and waiting. And it would be nice if we finally had some sign that a feature was happening, even if it looked like it would be until 2011! But we'll wait and see, you never know what's around the corner. This time last year I had no idea Slán would happen, never even heard of twitter let alone had any inclinations to make a worldwide film project and didn't imagine I would be a father by the end of this year - by far the biggest surprise and delight.

As I type this Maryann, my wife, is one day overdue, so any minute now really! And I'm sure once the little one arrives nothing will ever be the same again. Who knows what the future holds. So I guess I can say I've had a pretty good year.
God knows there have been disappointment and difficulties. Financial speaking things have been in the toilet! Plenty of stress and trouble with bills. It's been a constant struggle to stay afloat. We've spent most of this year in the red, only this very week getting back in the black. I had to close Pale Stone Productions, the company I personally have been working on for several years. I put a lot of time and effort into making that name mean something, but it wasn't to be. There were a couple of films I wanted to make that didn't happen, much to my disappointment, Caroline Farrell's Adam and my own Angelina. But they still might ;)

I'm hoping for balance in 2010, and perhaps to get paid for all this work!

Anyway, if I don't write beforehand, have a great holiday and best of luck for 2010. I'll see you there.