25 February 2011

Disappointing Leftovers: Another Inception Year (Films of the Year 2010+)

These two leftover-from-a-previous-post titles - Another Year and Inception - were not bad 2010 films by any stretch. But both left me underwhelmed or disappointed. Inception, which I initially had marked as a high-level Top Ten Film contender, was perhaps more sci-fi style, less sci-fi content; it didn't have the forceful impact on me that I'd hoped it would. And I was very much looking forward to Another Year, but was shocked by what I found was an overvalued film with a rather uneven tone and some generally clunky scenes. I wasn't completely unaffected by it, however. It's just that, ultimately, the lasting feeling I got from it was one of empty sourness. Either way, here, for the sake of it and because when I compiled my original ten disappointments these two found themselves left out at numbers 11 and 12, are some scribbles on two leftover 2010 titles.

It goes without saying that a disappointing film is only (possibly, probably) a good film in waiting. In an ideal world we'd all surely see every film twice or more...

Above all the other titles Inception was the was one film which had so many ingredients mixed in to curry my favour - eclectic cast, sci-fi trappings, acres of mystery - but resulted in so few reasons to be gleefully satisfied come the end. It was all slick style yet little actual pizzazz. Clever technical showboating, yes, but hollow, somewhat po-faced and, despite some nifty interplay with its admittedly great score and some truly dazzling effects work throughout (the gravity-free dream hotel, the Escher-like stairs, Mirrored archways and crumbling nightmare cities being many visual wonders), a little on the flat side. For a film that probes the depths of the human mind to plant ideas intended to inspire fresh thought, it’s baffling that the film ended up being more than a little bit dull. And although I may not have wanted all-out monsters in Monsters, I did want better, more exciting genuine science-fiction in Inception. Call me hard to please, if need be. But, as I've surely mentioned on Dark Eye Socket before – this goes for Sofia Coppola’s films too – I don’t think I’m ever going to truly adore a Christopher Nolan film. C’est la vie. (More on Inception)

I’m back and forth, hit and miss, with Mike Leigh, so I went into Another Year with a healthy curiosity. You could say it was about a content, warm-hearted, near-retirement-age couple experiencing various ups and downs with a ragtag handful of troubled friends and extended family whilst settling into their golden years. Or you could say that it's about a self-satisfied pair of underwritten caricatures who condescend to the few friends (and sometimes family) they have around them in a very underhand way. I'm just saying. I debated this film with several people last year and we all had such wildly various takes on it, so let’s say the jury’s still out - the fact that the jury was buzzing in the first place speaks plenty about this divisive film. But overall it left me with a very sour cloud of feeling toward it. I'm unsure why, fully, but it might depend on how one sees Leigh himself fitting into the picture perhaps. I’m willing to watch it again (the winter section contained the heftiest emotional wallop and most sincere acting), only if I can shake off the nagging certainty that I’d never want to meet any of these characters in any capacity ever again. After each seasonal segment closed, I was left with very little absorbing insight into any of the characters’ lives, apart from the fact that things sure can be tough sometimes. And to paraphrase one of his older film titles, I'm not totally convinced it's actually saying anything more worthwhile than: Life Is Sad.

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