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Showing posts from December, 2014

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…

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22 Jump Street (2014)
22 Jump Street has been hailed as that most elusive of beasts, a (comedy) sequel that improves on its predecessor. That’s pretty much the case. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s second $300m+ worldwide grosser of 2014 cemented their King Midas status; Hollywood is now their oyster, and everyone wants to cut a deal to reap the greenbacks. That said, it should be noted that 22 Jump Street excels in one key area; being ultra-meta unto itself. The substance of the picture is guilty of the overstuffed and under-baked issues that afflict many a comedy running closer to 2 hours than 90 minutes. Lord and Miller’s trio of writers have self-consciously come up with similar-enough-to-21 Jump Street avenues to explore (college for high school, smart drug for synthetic high). As such, they (successfully) coast on its intrinsic meta-ness, ensuring instant forgiveness for its repetitions and lazy excesses.

Lord and Miller were already feasting on postmodern referencing of the sil…

I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is an unassailable classic, held up as an embodiment of true spirit of Christmas and a testament to all that is good and decent and indomitable in humanity. It deserves its status, even awash with unabashed sentimentality that, for once, actually seems fitting. But, with the reams of plaudits aimed at Frank Capra’s most enduring film, it is also worth playing devil’s advocate for a moment or two. One can construe a number of not nearly so life-affirming undercurrents lurking within it, both intentional and unintentional on the part of its director. And what better time to Grinch-up such a picture than when bathed in the warmth of a yuletide glow?

The film was famously not a financial success on initial release, as is the case with a number of now hallowed movies, its reputation burgeoning during television screenings throughout the 1970s. Nevertheless, It’s a Wonderful Life garnered a brace of Oscar nominations including Best Picture and…