I’ve put off trying to write this review until the last-minute because I genuinely don’t know how to feel about this film. I knew that I wanted to see it because I think Margot Robbie is a great actress and I’d probably totally adore Allison Janney in anything. But, being a British person who has never been very interested figure skating and was only 6 when Tonya Harding was stripped of her title, I also wasn’t exactly knowledgeable about the story. I mean, I knew the basics of Harding’s story but it’s not as if I’d ever had any reason to go an delve deeper into her backstory. So, as much as I wanted to see this film I wasn’t sure I’d be the right person to appreciate it fully. Still, Mark Kermode was raving about it about a month ago and we’ve been on the same wavelength for a while now. I felt like it was the least I could to do to give the whole thing a try.
Sunday night was the annual BAFTA film awards and it was the usual mixture of glitz, glamour, and massively unnecessary shade. Now, obviously, as a sane young woman I am a massive fan of the whole Times Up and #metoo movement. However, there was a lot of over-the-top bitchiness that appears to have come out of the ceremony. The first, regarding the Kate Middleton’s dress is insane. Surely, as a royal, she wouldn’t have been allowed to make any outright statement by wearing a black dress. She did, however, get pretty damn close to the colour women were wearing in solidarity to the movement, so I think we know where she stands. Number 2, Salma Hayek. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I read about her introduction to the Best Actor category and I’m still dumbfounded by it. I don’t really see what her point was. She went in knowing she was going to present an award to a man yet decided to make a pointless and ineffective protest about men whilst doing it. It wasn’t a powerful message and, if anything, damaged the movement by making it seem like women are standing up against men in general. It adds to all the talk of “witch hunts” and, quite frankly, was a dick move in relation to the winner. Gary Oldman deserved his moment to win an award that was and always has been gender specific. Natalie Portman had a great point at the Golden Globes when she bitched about the all male Best Director category; Salma Hayek looked like a fucking idiot to be protesting a man winning a male only award.
When I first came up with my Throwback Thirty idea there were a handful of movies that I was super excited about. This week’s film is one of the most exciting. I have always loved a good B movie and, despite my avoidance of traditional horror stuff, will always have time for a worthy comedy horror film… especially one starring aliens that look like clowns. I know a lot of people who are freaked out by clowns but I’ve never seen it. Maybe it helped that I never accidentally watched IT when I was a kid but I’ve never really been fussed either way about clowns. I did work with a guy who was absolutely terrified by them. I admit, we all kind of abused the situation and I was, at times, guilty of humming circus music whenever he was around. It genuinely used to freak him out because he was that scared. Yes, it was a dick move but, in my defence, it was really funny too. So I’d imagine that he’d never seen the 1988 classic Killer Klowns From Outer Space because that would be mental. Like the girl who was in the year below me at uni who was afraid of balloons and, during out college’s end of year party, freaked out during the balloon drop. I’d grabbed a balloon and she forced me to pop it. I was fucking livid! Mate, if you get so freaked out by balloons then why turn up to a place where you know there’ll be shit loads of them???? Not that I’m still bitter 10 years on or anything…
Without being too mean, my neighbours are weird. Well, the mother is super weird. She has this incredible obsession with her garden, which causes her to lose her mind every so often. At the end of October it was fucking windy as Storm Brian passed over the UK. Overnight the weather went mental and blew over a few of her plants. The wind didn’t really let up for the entire weekend but that didn’t stop my insane neighbour wrestling with her trees to get them to stand up. It was quite a sight. It’s not the first nor will it be the last time she goes on a crazy gardening rampage. She’s the kind of woman who, when you accidentally cut your hedge too short, will start having an emotional breakdown in the garden because she doesn’t like it. But, hey, we’ve all been there, right? Am I scared that one day her intense love of horticulture will lead to more violent pursuits? Sure. You might say I’m being paranoid but it’s probably got more to do with the fact that I’ve just watched The ‘Burbs. But you have never seen my neighbour. If you told me she had a big collection of bones hidden under her house then I probably wouldn’t be shocked.
I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not really feeling today’s TBT review so it’s gonna be brief. I watched The ‘Burbs because it had come up in a recent conversation and happened to be on Netflix. It was a perfectly enjoyable film. It’s an underrated 80s comedy thriller type thing with starring Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman and Bruce Dern. I mean it’s probably not aged as well as other films from the 80s and the ending sort of loses its way but, for the most part, it does it’s job pretty well. The story is a simple one: a group of suburban neighbours begin to suspect that the new faimly on the block is up to no good. When they operate stranger machinery and dig up their garden late at night, a paranoid Ray (Tom Hanks) decides that his mysterious new neighbours are hiding secrets. Spurred on by the supposed disappearance of another resident of the street, Ray and his friends decide the family are murderers and head out to find the body. Obviously, chaos and hilarity ensues.
So the premise ends up being a fairly interesting and pretty understandable one. Especially in the days when people don’t really know their neighbours anymore. How do we really know what anyone is up to? It’s like on the news when people always say the man who turned out to be a serial killer was a quiet, seemingly normal man. It brings about a certain amount of humour and there are some great moments. It’s not one of Tom Hanks’ most memorable roles but it’s fine. Corey Feldman is perhaps the greatest member of the cast simply because he’s the one that gets to have the most fun.
My only real problem with this film is how far off course it goes. It’s got that 80s thing where it just gets excessively insane without ever really knowing what to do. As the film progresses things seem to get more away from the story and the ending just ends up being a little too weird. It’s kind of like the last few novels Stephen King has released: building up tension to a point where it just goes too batshit crazy to be scary. Although, The ‘Burbs isn’t trying to scare it’s audience, per se, but it does end up taking the parody of a horror film too far. There are better comedy horror films out there but The ‘Burbs has a certain amount of nostalgia to it. It’s definitely not the worst thing to come out of the 80s but there’s probably a good reason it hasn’t really stood the test of time.
Thanks to a 20 year old hispter I work with I’ve spent the last few months revisiting the music of my youth. We’ve had a bit of a 90s revival recently which consisted of the two of us singing the Spice Girls and B*Witched as loud as possible to the alarm of our coworkers. It’s now moved on to the 80s focusing mainly on The Smiths and Spandau Ballet. I used to love The Smiths as a teenager but my tastes have grown up with me. Thankfully I’m less of a pretentious dick these days. However, it’s fucking sad that such a large part of my musical soundtrack has just disappeared. I’m madly making throwback Spotify playlists as I type. I mention it because as I watched today’s film pick I heard so many songs I haven’t really listened to in years that the wave of nostalgia left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Something it’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, normally fails to do. It was only after he got my seal of approval in Swiss Army Man that I decided it was time to give some more of his post-Potter films a chance. He was kinda funny in that so shit can he be in the rest, right? I’ve always liked the sound of Horns. I’ve never read the book by Joe Hill because, as anyone who’s ever read my Sunday Rundowns will know, I’m pretty shit at getting books read. However, from what I knew of the plot I figured it would be an interesting concept. Would the film live up to my own hype though?
In an attempt to leave behind the boy wizard that made him a household name, Daniel Radcliffe has gone to great lengths to pick weird and unusual roles. In Horns he plays a young man accused of murdering the love of his life who begins to turn into some devilish being. The story opens with Ignatius Perrish (Radcliffe) being vilified by his hometown and local news outlets for the rape and murder of his ex-girlfriend Merrin Williams. Ignatius is adament he didn’t kill Merrin but the only person who believes him in his childhood friend Lee (Max Minghella). Although handily for Ig he’s a lawyer who accepts his case. When Ig wakes one morning to find demonic horns sprouting from his head he discovers a whole host of powers that he uses to find the real killer.
Horns is a difficult film to give a genre to. Is it a horror, a romance, a thriller or a dark comedy? Who fucking knows? Well, director Alexandre Aja certainly doesn’t if the finished product is anything to go by. I wanted to like Horns and, for a brief moment, I really did. Then it bipolared its way through another 90 minutes and I found my attention going elsewhere. There was plenty of potential here for a weird black comedy which I loved. The opening 30 minutes of the film is genuinely enjoyable as Ig comes to terms with his horns and new powers. The scenes where the townspeople become compelled to reveal their darkest secrets and act on their basic depravities is comedy gold. I mean it’s the kind of shit I used to love on shows like The League of Gentlemen. It’s clever, silly and really fucking funny.
Unfortunately, the story has to continue. It moves between flashbacks of intense YA romance with images of floaty dresses and dancing in treehouses, to Ig’s crime thriller investigation, and ending on a CGI horror-style showdown. Any comedy that once existed is quickly replaced with uber intensity. Within Horns a great story exists but it is just too bloated and self-indulgent. Had Aja picked a tone and stuck to it the whole thing would have felt slicker but instead it’s all over the place. There are certainly some great moments but as the shows keeps going on they get fewer and fewer. There is so much potential in that initial plot but it’s just lost within the trappings of a Hollywood film.
There is so much that is overlooked and plenty that is dragged out longer that it deserves. The cast are, for the most part, given little to do and fail to make much of an impression. Daniel Radcliffe gives it his best but the whole concept of this film lets him down. I can’t even tell if I actually liked him or not because I was so fucking confused by what was going on. I can see why people enjoyed it but it certainly deserves the roasting that most of the professional critics gave it.
Writing this now, it seems weird that there was a time when Richard Ayoade was just that weird yet hilarious bloke from Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosh, Nathan Barley and The IT Crowd. Yes, he was a comedic force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t until the release of his directorial debut that we all realised how much filmic potential lay underneath the surface. Submarine was the film that had film critics all over the world proclaiming that Ayoade was destined to be the next big thing in British cinema. It was also the only film I was thinking about after watching The Fundamentals of Caring recently. That’s the great thing about this TBT feature; whenever I can a hankering to revisit an old favourite I can do it with the excuse of writing a post. If this means I get to feel less guilty about hanging out watching a film I love and listening to nothing but Alex Turner for the next few weeks then it’s an added bonus.
Submarine is the coming-of-age story of 15 year old Oliver Tate, a loner who is desperate to fit in with his school mates. Like every other teenage boy Oliver is obsessed with girls and sex so sets his sights on losing his virginity with the mysterious Jordana. After a successful first tryst, Oliver finds himself trying to come to terms with the realities of being in a relationship whilst worrying about his parents dwindling marriage. Ever since his mother’s (Sally Hawkins) ex-boyfriend (Paddy Considine) moved next door, Oliver has been worried about how far apart his parents having been getting. His mother is chasing the past and his father (Noah Taylor) is spiralling into a depression. Oliver decides that, before he can settle down with Jordana, he needs to fix his parents.
Submarine sounds likes a thoroughly bleak affair and, really, Oliver’s continued voice-over does little to discourage this idea. In the film’s opening, Oliver imagines the impact his death would have on the people around him. He dreams about the girls at his school lamenting about their wasted romantic feelings and is parents woefully making statements about their son. Yet, within this darkness there lies an undeniable humorous tone. It is the kind of humour that comes out of discomfort and the awkwardness of weird adolescent drama. It is certainly uncomfortable and frank but it’s undeniably funny.
Something that director, Richard Ayoade, certainly knows how to work with. As someone who has made a name for himself thanks to the weirder side of comedy Ayoade is on familiar ground here. When you consider this was the film that introduced him to the list of British filmmakers to watch you can undertand why people were so quick to hail the comedian for greatness. Submarine is a self-assured and stylish debut. It has many connections with the world of cinema and has more than a few similarities to the likes of Wes Anderson. I mean, if I had to quibble, I would say that the voice-over and subtitles thing was a little played out even by 2011 but, if that’s the worst criticism I can muster, it’s hardly a catastrophe.
Submarine doesn’t exactly sit within our reality, which lends itself well to Ayoade’s style. The characters are all just a little too quirky and their thought processes are a little too skewed. Oliver, in particular, feels a little too out there to really resonate on anything more than a strange, comedic level. At his worst he is contemplating killing his girlfriend’s dog to prepare her for the potential death of her mother. At his best he is creating a pamphlet to help a victim of schoolyard bullying fit in better. This is the kind of film in which an adulterous mother explains to her son that she just gave her ex a hand-job instead of dealing with the issue in private. It’s all very funny but sometimes it’s hard to connect with.
Still, Submarine is an undeniably adorable and unforgettable portrait of those awkward teenage years where you’re trying to make sense of yourself and the world around you. It’s captured brilliantly by Ayoade and the amazing cast he assembled. The two leads, Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige, have great chemistry and a great understanding of their character’s eccentricities. If I’m being honest, Submarine won’t be for everyone but, if you can get on board with it, you’ll find yourself revisiting it plenty of times.