Becky Haltermon posted a list on her blog, Pump Up the Frump, to share the songs she fell in love with over the past year. It's a great idea, so I'm stealing it. Here's a short and eclectic sampling of songs that enjoyed a good workout in my music rotation. Happy listening!
The big picture of it all is that Hugo is, in detail and scope, a beautiful piece of filmmaking that illustrates in craft what it can only hint at through dialogue. Scorsese delivers so many details to please the cinephile – from a small but benevolent role for the ever-charismatic Christopher Lee, to a humane and top-form performance from Ben Kingsley that reminds us why he’s such a pleasure to watch, to period costumes and locations that dare the audience to resist the urge to crawl into the picture frame – that the film itself becomes testament to why we love letting the movies, and rhetoric about the movies, carry us away.
If there’s any astonishment to be had from this little comedy, it lies in the way it manages to deliver some amusement despite employing all the clichés involved in the story of a hit man who falls for his intended target and subsequently turns on his client. Then again, when you have Bill Nighy as a well-mannered assassin in thrall to his mother and the family business, it’s not that surprising that Wild Target gets close to the bullseye every so often. Co-stars Rupert Gint, playing Ronald Weasly without the Potter character’s wit or pluck, and Emily Blunt as the erstwhile and rather obnoxious victim, are well-matched to Nighy in delivering the shenanigans, yet also unable to rescue the film from mediocrity. The trouble is that the film employs not only a lighter shade of black comedy but a morally superficial, even juvenile, sense of humour. At its best, black comedy highlights the absurdities in our human response to horror and tragedy. Wild Target relies on its cheapest manifestation, in which the tragic, horrific, or otherwise unpleasant is itself the punchline. Thus, the murder of an innocent woman mistaken for the intended victim is played as slapstick and then promptly forgotten. Only the film’s cheerfulness manages to compensate, in part, for these lapses although it might be more accurately described as glossing over. It’s enjoyable enough as a rental, but for a really funny and clever take on the hit man and his unwitting accomplice, The Matador starring Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear would be a better option.
Just as hate might find the source of its progression in fear, despair might find its roots in nostalgia. No wonder, then, that Hollywood finds such a powerful figure in the aging star wilting without the sunlight of celebrity. The emotion is strong enough for any drama, but holds particular resonance for an industry in which fame is fleeting, prone to fickle public tastes and subjected to the never-ending parade of Next Big Things. Thus, films featuring characters reacting to the loss of a glorious present to the irrevocable past in ways ranging from the psychotic break of a Baby Jane Hudson (as memorably played by Bette Davis) and Gloria Swanson’s seminal Norma Desmond to the creeping melancholy of a waning magician in last year’s animated feature and reflective Jacques Tati tribute L’Illusioniste.