Saturday, January 09, 2010


Already into the second week of January in this year of 2010, it seems a little late to start adding to the avalanche of 'best of year's and 'best of decade' lists that spread through the world of written media like a particularly infectious rash. Do these lists ever get used as a way to avoid the mistakes of the past? Sure, there's value in revisiting and praising great art, especially if it was passed over the first time around.

Music is a particularly hard one to put down. Ever since I started using an mp3 player to feed me tunes, I've found myself a fan of the shuffle and therefore have trouble naming a given track, let alone the album it's from. Plus I can't pin somethign down as a 2009 release or one of the last decade without a lot of trawling back through my ipod's listings.
Perhaps a top ten 'most played' would serve as some indicator, in terms of songs?

Films are easier to pin down by virtue of the relative density - it's a lot harder and more expensive to make a film, so there are fewer, especially those that gain distributiom. But still, without referring to a list of what I've seen this year it's easy to forget some gems, what with the dozens upon dozens that I've sat through on the big screen in 2009. I can sympathise with, if not forgive, the lazy journalism that sees the lists populated by the more obvious contenders, as those which took the most bank or column inches are more likely to be remembered. Although a little more recent, and having the advantage of me seeing it twice at the cinema, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs is genuinely my favourite film of 2009.
Not tending to keep up with the developments of family cinema, the film only came across my radar very close to release and not having read the book all I had to go on was the quirky name. I only got round to watching it a few weeks after release, after getting seeing the generally positive swathe of reviews that it earned.
Making a special trip out to Chelsea early on a Saturday, as it was only screening in early weekend time slots, I found myself surrounded by a number of families. At this point in my cinemagoing career I have come to tolerate certain behaviours - talkign through adverts is perfectly acceptable, people being a bit noisy is okay if it's not too frequent and the film isn't the kind of thing that necessitates intense concentration (stuff like the Twilight sequel or Paranormal Activity for example), so I wasn't automatically in violated mode at the prospect of infant burblings - ths was a kids film after all, and I felt confident I could follow the plot even with a few interruptions.
It turned out I had more to wory about from my own behaviour - Meatballs is a delight, rather than going the more recent kids film route of 'one for the kids, one for the parents' joke rationing to keep everyone happy, it seems that Meatballs just decided to have a fuckton of jokes that everyone would find funny all the way through. One particular scene, my favourite - and you should probably skip this paragraph if you intend to see it - involved a scene where our hero, amateur inventor Flint Lockwood, discovers snow (or rather vast quantities of ice cream having fallen from the sky) for the first time. Having never been in a snowball fight, he relishes the experience and joins the fray with gusto, leading to a scene whih plays out with an over-the-shoulder handheld cam style, following Lockood as he delivers headshots in a strange reading of slasher flick visual stylings that had me in literal danger of bursting into uncontrollable laughter - the prospect of which may no doubt have rather worried the parents in attendance at that screening.

I wrote about the film elsewhere:

"Excellent stuff, packed full of great characters, one-liners, visual gags, play-on-words, slapstick and it has a talking monkey. One scene in particular threatened to start me off on a giggling fit; I was expecting something at least passable and quirky, and came out very impressed. I didn't find out until later that the writer and director team were also responsible for Clone High - I can definitely see a similar scattergun approach to the humour and some of the mannerisms and movement of the characters. For a crazy gag-packed kids animation, this is up there with Emperor's New Groove"

Clone High was an MTV cartoon show that I caught thanks to the internet and is one of the few greats that it seems that I still don't know anyone who has seen it. The premise is that historical figures have clones made of them using their DNA, and are all sent to high school together. Abraham Lincoln, gangly and awkward, is the focus of the show, and from what I gather the series was cancelled after complaints from India over the portryal of Ghandi, whose clone finds the weight of history so heavy to bear that he shrugs it off and instead launches into a hedonistic part due lifestyle. The show is wonderfully written, packed full of throwaway gags, visual motifs, recurring in jokes and laughs based on character development and interaction, not to mention the occasional interjection of historical personality quirks when appropriate. Quick snippet - the school principal is a would-be evil genius who has a robot butler that refers
to everybody as 'Wesley'.

Although Clone High was very much aimed at a teen audience, the creators seem to have had no trouble redirecting their mirth targets to a group altogether more wholesome, and manage to fit in some sort of Lynchian nightmare into the final climactic act.

Once the DVD is released at the end of January, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs could easily become my favourite film of 2010, too.

Oh, and Bruce Campbell does one of the voices.


My updates on this web space are pretty erratic, and hardly thematically consistent. In an effort to keep myself writing more often I have pledged to write about every single film I see this year, whether it is the Oscar baiting The Road which I will no doubt see shortly, or the Sunday afternoon TV screening of Uncle Buck that I caught last week. There's little point in linking just yet, as I've not finished writing about anything I've seen in 2010 just yet (I think it's six so far, which isn't bad for nine days), but if last year is anything to go by the updates will be thick and fast, or at least thin and often.