Farewell & Adieu

Folks, it's the news you have been dreading. From January 2020 The Fast Picture Show will cease trading in its current format, so get your stocks and shares sold when you have the chance. This is the Last Post and chorus.

Unfortunately, my other responsibilities as a philanthropist, astronaut, criminal mastermind, spy, deep sea diver and compulsive liar mean I don't have the time to maintain the site at the high standard you have become accustomed to. If you are insane enough to want to follow my adventures in film, I'll still keep a record here with the Letterboxd guys. Nonetheless, this site will remain in place until it is put out of its misery, both for posterity and as a cautionary tale to historians about letting people with no experience loose on the Internet. Still, it's been a good run and there were even times I thought it was quite good, although those days were few and far between. Maybe, one day, when there are no fields round here anymore, you'll look back and think 'I remember that site - it wasn't so bad'. Well, it's a nice dream to hold onto.....

So look, if you're browsing the site sometime, thanks for the adventure, now go and have a new one. And you might see me round, but not if I see you first. Although in case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight. So live long and prosperyou stay. I go. No following. If you do, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. I know it's gonna be so hard to say goodbye, I love you all too. But remember, I'll be right here, because, well, I need the eggs. We'll meet again, I'm sure, O captain, my captain, so be excellent to each other, and Party on, dudesSee you in the next life.

Top 20 Films of the 2010s

So, in a daring move no-one else has thought of, the Top 20 Films of the 2010s will be revealed here in reverse order, as selected by an expert team. Although when I say team, I mean me. And when I say expert, I mean hopelessly amateur. No matter! It's happening, so get your arguing hats on and lets begin!


Moana (2016)
Not as successful as Frozen, or as innovative as Inside Out, or as moving as Coco, but this was more enjoyable than them all. Partly because it smartly subverts the Disney princess clichés, partly because the animation is eye-wateringly beautiful, partly because of The Rock, but mostly because it has as a jewel-encrusted crab belting out a fabulous Bowie-esque tune about how it what’s on the outside that matters. See it with kids and feel SHINY!!


Eighth Grade (2019)
A number of terrific coming-of-age films were released this decade, but this one set itself apart with its astute and sensitive depiction of how social media adds an extra layer to teen angst. Featuring a wonderfully natural performance from Elsie Fisher, it's a touching, thought-provoking reminder that becoming a teenager is pretty damn stressful. (Although not as stressful as being the parent of one).


Incendies (2011)
Denis Villeneuve may have gone on to bigger things in Hollywood, but he has yet to match this ingeniously constructed French-Canadian drama, which moves back and forth in time to tell a gripping, moving tale about atrocities in the war-torn Middle East. Best seen without knowing anything else about it. You can thank me after.


Bone Tomahawk (2015)
For most of its running time this is a great Western, with flinty, squinty frontier characters, fabulous scenery and leisurely dialogue which is both funny and moving. And then the film enters into different territory altogether, during which a bone tomahawk does indeed make an appearance, to memorable, cover-your-eyes effect. An underrated gem.


Train to Busan (2016)
My favourite of several smartly satirical horrors this decade, this is much more than its simple 'zombies on a train' premise would suggest. Yes, it is an immensely enjoyable ride with exciting action, tense set-pieces and efficient characterization. But there’s intelligent satire here too, about the global recession, class differences and anti-immigrant sentiment. And it has a gut-punch of an ending. George A. Romero would be proud.


The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
A wonderful screwball comedy about murder, theft, prison, war, cakes and OAP sex. Smartly assembled, beautifully shot and very funny, thanks in no small part to a hilariously dead-pan performance from Ralph Fiennes. A quirky delight - the hotel now even has its own entry on TripAdvisor. 


The Florida Project (2017)
Several films this decade have gone for the child’s-eye view of life, but none was as impressive as this funny, vibrant and touchingly authentic portrayal of a cash-poor community scraping together a living on the fringes of DisneyWorld. Heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measures.


The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Scorsese’s funniest film in years is a wildly entertaining ride through the life of crooked stockbroker Jordan Belfort, with all the director’s trademark flourishes, soundtrack and profanity in place; 'Greed is Goodfellas'. Some accused him of glamorizing its subject, but Belfort hardly came out of it looking good. The Wolf of Wall Street might have been an obnoxious dickhead, but The Wolf of Wall Street is a very good film indeed.


What Richard Did (2013)
Lenny Abrahamson’s superb coming-of-age film features a star-making performance from Jack Reynor as the teenage Richard, who commits a crime and gradually realizes that his easy life may be supported by cowardly elders and a rather rotten Celtic Tiger society. Too slow and low-key for some, but I thought it was, loike, a really super orthouse film.


Booksmart (2019)
An enormously enjoyable revamp of the high-school movie, fizzing with an energy of buddy action-comedy and with a stonkingly good soundtrack of hip-hop tunes and old school classics. Add in the immensely likeable performances from the two lead actresses and you’ve got a film that is funny, warm and, yes, smart. See it, or you'll be left with a serious case of FOMO.


The Social Network (2010)
Given the medium being used here, this is a fitting entry on the list. It might take liberties with the truth and I doubt Mark Zuckerberg and friends are as erudite and quick-witted as the snappy script makes them sound, but this superbly told story astutely skewers the heart of the entire social media phenomenon. Please like. Please?


What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
A perfectly-pitched horror-comedy mockumentary about four co-habiting vampires. The laughs come thick and fast, as every vampire cliché is mined for maximum comic effect, but there's even room for a little bit of poignancy near the end about their plight. The funniest film of the decade. If you don’t agree, bite me.


The Act of Killing (2013)
A strong decade for superb documentary features, but this rose to the top by transcending the genre to become a profound commentary on the evil that men do. An astonishing, frightening, sickening, brilliant film. I never want to see it again.


Song of the Sea (2014)
The best animated film of the decade is not by Disney, or Pixar, or Ghibli, but Kilkenny’s own Cartoon Saloon. A simply gorgeous slice of animated folklore which blurs together the real and mythical worlds in a parable which explores themes of family, grief and loss. Watch it if you've ever believed in faeries, or listened to a sea-shell, or loved a pet dog, or rubbed dockleaves on a nettle-sting. Simply magical.


The Babadook (2014)
A terrific decade for horror films, but this was my favorite because it was the one that I found most (a) scary and (b) affecting, thanks to claustrophobic presentation, intense performances and a strong emotional core. Cult classic status was ensured when The Babadook himself was adopted by the LGBTQ community as a gay icon.

Inception (2010)
Proof that Hollywood Blockbusters can have both brains and brawn. A breathless action flick that also credits its audience with the intelligence to keep up with the brain-teasing ideas and developments presented. In particular, the hotel zero-gravity scenes rank as a thrilling piece of cinema, both in concept and execution. People frustrated by the ambiguous ending may disagree, but Je Ne Regrette Rien.


We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
An immaculately assembled psychological thriller, moving back in forth in time to reveal how one terrible crime has affected a mother (a superbly brittle Tilda Swinton) and her family. For any parents battling with a 'terrible twos' stage, potty-training or sulky teenage children, it'll be more unnerving and disturbing than a hundred horror films. Outstanding.


The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)
Not the US remake, but the Argentinian original, which is the only film on this list I watched twice in one day. Everything you could want from a great thriller; intelligent plotting, surprising twists, suspense, mystery, great performances and an emotional wallop to boot. Plus a dazzling 5 minute Steadicam shot following a chase through a football stadium. You don't get that on Sky Sports. Superb.


Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
VVROOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!! Who’d have thought that octogenarian director George Miller would return to the trilogy that made his name with such magnificent results. Not only did he deliver an extraordinary feast of insane carmageddon action, but he managed to turn the most macho of genres into a feminist classic, when it becomes clear Mad Max is very much playing second fiddle to Charlize Theron’s ferocious Imperiosa Furiosa. The greatest action film of the decade and the only film on this list to feature a flame-throwing guitar solo from a gimp suspended by bungee ropes atop a war jalopy. Utterly, brilliantly mental.


A Separation (2011) 
What??!! The best film of the decade is an Iranian film about a relationship break-up? You better believe it. This is everything great cinema should be. A beautifully acted and directed affair, which stimulates both the emotions and the brain. A compassionate, engrossing drama which is more gripping than a hundred conventional thrillers. And it has a brilliant, BRILLIANT script, which keeps our sympathies shifting and our expectations subverted in telling a story with no heroes, no villains, just people. A masterpiece.

And there we have it. There's other best-of-decade lists out there, but mine is clearly the definitive one. I'll fight anyone says different.


Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2019)

What's it about? 13-year-old Kayla (Elsie Fisher) navigates the last few days of middle school, in a touching portrait of teenage life.

Is it any good? A great coming-of-age film for our times, sensitively and honestly exploring teenage angst in a world pervaded by social media. All the normal teenage anxieties are present and correct - there will be few viewers who do not recognise something of themselves in Kayla, as she frets about her appearance, her dreams, her crushes and her social circle. However, it's the astute examination of the online pressures which now inform all these aspects which gives this a contemporary shot-in-the-arm, demonstrating how social media can exacerbate, rather then relieve, loneliness, especially at this vulnerable stage of growing up. It should certainly help any parents out there empathise with their teenage children when they're gazing feverishly at their mobile devices. It also helps that the remarkable Fisher gives a wonderfully natural performance, conveying all the awkwardness, shyness and desperation of early teenage years, as well as a more confident persona in her online vlogs which is perhaps aimed at herself more than anyone else. There's not much of a story here, but it's a tender, deeply human film as well as providing further proof, if proof were needed, that becoming a teenager is pretty damn stressful. But not as stressful as being the parent of one.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Universally praised by critics, it also gained recommendations from the likes of Barack Obama and is gathering good word-of-mouth among impressionable teenagers. So this sensitive depiction of a teenage girl's life must mean director Bo Burnham is a female, right? Wrong. He's actually better know as a YouTuber and internet comedian, so has brought that experience to the (pool) party, but nothing in his record suggested he would turn out something as deft as this for his debut film. Let's also hope it catapults Elsie Fisher to stardom. Here's a nice interview with them both about their inspirations for the film.

What does the Fonz think? Awkward Days

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)

What's it about? On the the eve of their high school graduation, hard-working overachievers Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) discover that their less committed student peers have nonetheless also gained acceptance to their chosen universities. Aghast that they may have missed a trick by working hard and not playing enough, the pair set out to make amends by partying hard for one night at least.

Is it any good? Oh yes. Funny, warm and, yes, smart. It helps that it is blessed with two energetic and immensely likeable performances from Feldstein and Dever, utterly convincing as teenage best friends finding their way in the world. Even as events around them are exaggerated for comic effect, the chemistry between the lead duo feels real and gives the film a palpable emotional center. Around them, an equally likeable cast of supporting characters provide laughs, oddball diversions and drama as the riotous night barrels from one set-piece to another. And it is here that Wilde's direction and her team of writers have really freshened up the usual high-school movie tropes. There is booze, drugs, unrequited love, embarrassment, bonding and so on, but it all fizzes with an energy that makes it feel modern, not least because the action is smartly set to a stonkingly good soundtrack of hip-hop tunes and old school classics. And how nice to see female sexual desires so frankly discussed, but not as titillation for the male characters or, crucially, to shame the female characters. Okay, so the whole thing is clearly artifice - no-one's secondary school education is really this exciting, chaotic or fun (or maybe I just missed out?). But who cares when it is as wildly entertaining as this?

Anything else I should know? This is Wilde's debut directorial feature and she has received much praise for her accomplished end-product. Unsurprisingly, she's a big fan of the 80s high-school movie genre, but also interesting to see her cite Training Day, the Denzel Washington buddy cop-movie, as an inspiration.She has spoken eloquently about her experiences making the film - see an example here. Sadly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, Booksmart hasn't set the box-office alight, but as word-of-mouth builds, don't be surprised to see this gain similar cult appeal as Mean Girls, American Pie and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. And I'm not even joking?

What does the Fonz think? See it, or you'll be left with a serious case of FOMO.

Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)

What's it about? A family on a beach holiday are threatened by their evil doppelgängers. Is it all somehow linked to a childhood trauma of the mother, Adelaide ( Lupita Nyong'o), at the same beach?

Is it any good? On paper, this is a promising concept, with plenty of potential for both scares and ideas. In practice, however, it doesn't quite satisfy. Compared to Peele's excellent debut feature Get Out, which had a clean satirical theme skewering its horror, this adopts a more ambiguous position. Perhaps it is about the dark shadow-self that resides in everyone? Or maybe it's a swipe at American propensity for violence against those different from them (amusingly captured when the family compare kill-counts). Or is it a topical political treatise about American fear of immigrants taking over. It could be all, or none, of those things, or indeed about something else entirely. Thing is, the film itself doesn't seem too sure, so it never really delivers a knockout blow, with the humour undermining, rather than accentuating the horror. As a result, it's not that scary, although there's some creepy moments thanks to some tidy editing in the climactic scenes, and to Nyong'o, who is clearly having a ball in her double role. It's still entertaining enough, but it might have worked better in a tighter format as a Twilight Zone episode if anyone were ever to reboot that series.

Anything else I should know? *Cue Twilight Zone music* Well, well, turns out The Twilight Zone has indeed been rebooted by none other than.....Jordan Peele. It's an inferior imitation of the old series though.  As it turns out, it was indeed an old Twilight Zone episode, 'Mirror Image', which sowed the seed for Us in his brain. Here's some thoughts from him on his inspiration for Us.

What does the Fonz think? 11:11 out of 20:20