A year in film

De­spite a gloomy fore­cast and the loss of a trea­sure of Ir­ish cin­ema, there was cause for some cheer in movieland this year, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Review 2009 -

THIS TIME last year, had you asked a movie pun­dit to paint a pic­ture of the cin­e­matic land­scape in late 2009, he or she might have imag­ined some­thing a lit­tle like John Hill­coat’s up­com­ing film ver­sion of Cor­mac McCarthy’s The Road. Those few still liv­ing will find them­selves stranded in a wretched, de­nuded waste­land, its grey­ness bro­ken only by the bloody corpses of re­cently can­ni­balised refugees. Films cost a lot of money, you see, and, by last Christ­mas, there was no money left in the world.

Well, there are plenty of rea­sons to be cheer­less. Last week, The Kino cin­ema in Cork – for 13 years a rare art-house oa­sis out­side Dublin – closed its doors for the last time.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, An Bord Snip Nua rec­om­mended the abo­li­tion of the Ir­ish Film Board. Later, the Re­newed Pro­gramme for Gov­ern­ment ap­peared to save that body’s skin, but cuts and com­pro­mises do still loom.

For all that, the at­mos­phere on Planet Cin­ema is far from apoc­a­lyp­tic. The Gal­way Film Fleadh launched an im­pres­sive se­ries of do­mes­tic fea­tures: fine work such as Conor Hor­gan’s One

Hun­dred Morn­ings, Ken Wardrop’s

His & Hers and Bren­dan Mul­downey’s Sav­age. Tomm Moore’s fine an­i­ma­tion The Se­cret

of Kells played in com­mer­cial cin­e­mas and picked up the au­di­ence prize at the Ed­in­burgh Film Fes­ti­val.

When news ar­rived this week that His & Hers is to play at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val – where John Car­ney’s Once be­gan its as­sault three years ago – street prophets be­gan re­con­sid­er­ing their plans to drag out the “End is Nigh” sand­wich boards.

Fur­ther afield, the good burghers of Pittsburgh, Portsmouth and Ph­nom Penh flocked to the cin­e­mas in ever-greater num­bers. What they ex­pe­ri­enced was of­ten uned­i­fy­ing. We have yet to see what sums James Cameron’s Avatar will take, but, at time of writ­ing, the cretinous, ca­cophonous Trans­form­ers: Re­venge of the Fallen re­mains the big­gest film of the year in the US and the ef­fi­ciently slav­ish Harry Pot­ter and

the Half-Blood Prince tops the world­wide 2009 fig­ures. But what about the sur­prise smash of the year? No, not The Hang­over, but the most jaw-drop­ping box-of­fice suc­cess of the year re­mains a dis­tinctly or­di­nary, some­what ugly sec­ond se­quel to an an­i­ma­tion that

wasn’t that good in the first place. Driven by huge ticket sales out­side the US, Ice Age: Dawn of the

Di­nosaurs has some­how taken in al­most ¤600 mil­lion and is cur­rently the sec­ond-big­gest film of the year and – get this – the 15th big­gest of all time. You could ar­gue that the re­gret­table rise in 3-D is re­spon­si­ble, but Pixar’s vastly su­pe­rior Up, also avail­able in the process, has ac­cu­mu­lated only about two-thirds of Dawn of the

Di­nosaurs’ tak­ings. Go fig­ure. Never mind. The re­ally good news is that, 2009 turned out to be an­other fine year for qual­ity cin­ema. The ubiq­ui­tous JJ Abrams and the ris­ing Neill Blomkamp proved with, re­spec­tively, District

9 and Star Trek that the main­stream can still ac­com­mo­date in­tel­li­gent, beau­ti­fully-crafted en­ter­tain­ments. Else­where in the mul­ti­plexes, tiny bud­geted flicks such as Moon and Para­nor­mal

Ac­tiv­ity tri­umphantly de­fied the usual or­tho­dox­ies of movie fi­nanc­ing.

So ev­ery­thing’s great? Not quite. Movies take a long time to fi­nance and even longer to pro­duce. The ef­fects of the eco­nomic down­turn may yet rav­age the high­ways of Cin­ema City. By all means put the sand­wich boards away, but re­mem­ber where you stored them.

Let the Right One In: scary chil­dren top­ping the list

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