Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Candidate # 9

(June 2010)

Though it did receive a number of Asian film awards, Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kokuhaku didn’t quite make the final cut into the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category; it got onto the shortlist but didn’t make the final five.
Still, this is a truly excellent and riveting cinematic experience. Based on the equally lauded novel by Kanae Minato, Kokuhaku begins in a raucous classroom as a schoolteacher (K-20: Kaijin Nijû Mensô Den’s Takako Matsu) lectures about the importance of milk during the teen years and proceeds to spiral inexorably into a dark tale of murder and revenge.

There is something both brutal and poignant about the intricacy with which the film’s narrative is structured, showing the audience (among other things) how self-absorbed and unprincipled youth can turn into inadvertent monsters, how tragedy can wipe out a person’s faith in humanity, how appearances can be deceiving, and, as much as we would wish otherwise, that time really does only move forwards, with the seeds of dire, implacable consequence lying at the bloodily beating heart of every action.

(Kokuhaku OS courtesy of redfordfilms.com; DVD cover art courtesy of nipponcinema.com.)

Friday, February 17, 2012


Candidate # 8

(May 2011)

As a feature debut, Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown--which chronicles the crossing of the paths of “Australia’s worst serial killer,” John Justin Bunting, and young James Spyridon Vlassakis--is an astoundingly self-assured piece that is a particularly difficult cinematic experience to sit through.
And I mean that in the best possible way.
This one has a profound sense of disquiet and unease that permeates its nearly two-hour running time, with riveting central performances by Daniel Henshall as Bunting, and Lucas Pittaway as Jamie Vlassakis. The fact that this is Pittaway’s acting debut (he was spotted at a shopping center and asked to audition for the role) makes his on-screen achievement even more noteworthy.
Fair warning though, as I said earlier, this one’s tough to get through, but what Kurzel manages to capture here is a level of disturbing that many straight-forward horror films never even come close to.

Parting shot: Snowtown will be known during its US release as The Snowtown Murders, actually the title of one of the books Snowtown’s script was inspired by.

(Snowtown OS’ courtesy of impawards.com)


Coming at us from Norway is Morten Tyldum’s Hodejegerne, an excellently executed thriller based on the novel by Jo Nesbø.
This one features Aksel Hennie as a corporate headhunter/art thief whose next target is Clas Greve (played by Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, familiar now to American audiences thanks to HBO’s Game of Thrones), a former military man who can track his prey like a bloodhound on performance-enhancing steroids.
Hodejegerne is getting the English-language Hollywood remake thing done to it, so best to check the brilliant original first.

(Hodejegerne OS and Headhunters UK quad courtesy of impawards.com.)

Monday, February 13, 2012


Since this is a film adaptation of a John le Carré spy novel, this may initially seem an odd title to get a mention here, till it becomes clear that this one is director Tomas Alfredson’s follow-up feature to past ¡Qué horror! title, Låt Den Rätte Komma In.
With an absolutely killer cast that includes Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy, this one should really be on any film enthusiast’s radar.
The recently concluded BAFTAs gave it the awards for Outstanding British Film and Adapted Screenplay (by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan); it had nine additional BAFTA nominations, including nods for Cinematography and Editing (by Låt Den Rätte Komma In tag team, Hoyte Van Hoytema and Dino Jonsäter), and Original Music (by frequent Pedro Almodóvar collaborator, Alberto Iglesias).
As a neat BAFTA capper, John Hurt was also recognized for Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema.
So, go. Really. Watch this. Please.

Parting shot: Sadly, the film seems to have been short-changed at this year’s Oscars, only receiving a middling three nominations, for Actor in a Leading Role (Oldman), Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay.

(Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy OS courtesy of aintitcool.com.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Candidate # 7

(March 2011)

Ben Wheatley’s Kill List is yet another of those films that’s best seen knowing as little as possible about it beforehand.
Suffice it to say it’s about a pair of hitmen (played by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley) who take on a job that goes way off the tracks into disturbing and unsettling territory.

Provided you appreciate horror that’s ambiguous and engaging, horror that leaves the audience anxious and contemplative long after the end credits have finished rolling, then Kill List is most definitely for you.

(Kill List UK quad courtesy of impawards.com; Mondo quad by Iron Jaiden courtesy of twitchfilm.com; composite assembled from images courtesy of thechurchoflondon.com.)