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  • Margaret 2011

    ★★★★½ Watched 28 Aug, 2012

    This is quite simply one of the best American films of the past decade. It's also, possibly, not for everyone. An extraordinarily ambitious melodrama, Margaret threatens every minute to boil over into outright hysteria, but never quite does. This is partly because while the film has a central plot, it contains dozens of competing and complementary stories, which give the film room to breathe and lend it the impression - rarer than you might imagine - of being drawn from…

  • Lifeforce 1985

    ★★★ Rewatched 09 Aug, 2012

    Watching Lifeforce is a weirdly nostalgic experience. Its plot has the patient logic and pacing of early British SF (The Day The Earth Caught Fire, The Quartermass Experiment, etc.) spiced up with self-consciously modern helpings of special effects, gore and nudity. That these two elements don't quite go smoothly together is part of the film's considerable charm - Lifeforce is too odd to ever be dull - but it should be noted that even the modern stuff has started to…

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  • A Serious Man 2009

    ★★★★ Rewatched 09 Aug, 2012 3

    A common criticism of the Coen brothers' films is that they have a tendency towards a kind of studied neatness. The plot will tick over nicely, the patiently conceived ironies will all come to the boil at the appointed times, every gun on stage will eventually be fired: everything runs like clockwork. The result being that while their films contain many scenes of individual brilliance, the whole is often dry and lifeless. Starting with 2004's No Country For Old Men…

  • The 39 Steps 1935

    ★★★★½ Watched 23 May, 2012

    A work of splendid silly brilliance, The 39 Steps in many ways anticipates the freewheeling atmosphere of North By Northwest (1959). If it lacks an iconic scene to match the Mount Rushmore conclusion of the later film, it gains in having a more consistent - and grittier - tone.

    The plot is pure corkscrew craziness, with unlikely twists and narrow escapes every few minutes, but from its first minute the film is so entertaining that disbelief actually becomes part of…