The first ever Shadowplay Review of the Year, 2010. I would have done this before, but it wasn’t 2010 before.
January: The year got off to a spectacular start with the release of Robert Zemeckis’s STICKS: 3D. The first 3D movie to feature a cast made up entirely of sticks, this movie was made even more impressive by virtue of being made with motion control. To get those sticks to poke the audience in the eye for 129 minutes, Zemeckis first had to shoot his actors in live action, wearing special humiliating costumes. Zemeckis searched the world for the most talented thin actors to play his sticks, then cast Tom Hanks anyway. The film was a huge smash, especially in rural areas. “Sticks Pic Clicks with Hicks,” wrote Variety.
February: It’s been suggested that by persuading Tim Burton to adapt Robinson Crusoe, Warners were actually conspiring to stop him casting his current girlfriend in every film he makes. If so, the plan backfired when Burton announced that Helena Bonham-Carter would play every role in the planned feature. Quizzed as to whether blacking up Miss Bonham-Carter to play Man Friday would be un-PC, Burton replied that this was a “re-imagining” of DeFoe’s yarn, and it was Crusoe who would be black. Also, the island he is shipwrecked on is heavily populated. And he immediately escapes. “Crusoe No Snooze, Oh!” wrote Variety.
March: In the rush to adapt every superhero comic into a film, preferably the same film, the obscure Silver Age character Alanman had been previously ignored, but that oversight was corrected by the Warners production ALANMAN: WHEN TRUTH HURTS. Alanman (Ben Affleck) develops the powers of anybody called Alan after being struck by a radioactive meteorite made of alanite. Gambling that everybody called Alan would want to see this film, Warners is also developing a slate of similar films, including PEDROMAN, SUSANWOMAN, GEORGIEGIRL… “Name Game Claims Fame,” wrote Variety.
April: In April, Hollywood suddenly went aphid crazy, with the release of aphid-themed movies from no less than three major studios. DreamWorks attempted to graft the animated insect approach, so successful in ANTZ, onto the biblical epic style of PRINCE OF EGYPT, with uneasy results, in APHID AND GOLIATH. Disney retaliated with TRULY, MADLY GREENFLY, a romantic comedy in which the hero attempts to carry on a romance after dying and being reincarnated as an aphid, but this queasy combination of necrophilia and zoophilia pleased no one. Warners sought, with PLANT LICE LOST, to bring Milton to the masses, with an aphidoidean twist, with man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree translating easily to insect terms, but Ralph Fiennes turned down the lead. “Ralph not avid for Aphids,” wrote Variety.
May: Steven Soderbergh made the first movie shot entirely with cameras attached to the actors’ shoes, entitled COBBLED TOGETHER. Some complained of motion sickness during the chase scene, and actual sickness during the footsie scene. “No Business for Shoe Business,” wrote Variety.
June: Having experimented successfully with sucking the life out of animation, Robert Zemeckis broke new ground with his adaptation of MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT, made using the revolutionary technique of “cel live-action.” In this new method, life-sized images of the characters are painted onto clear plastic, and waved in front of the camera in real time by offscreen actors, including Ray Winstone and Sir Ben Kingsley. Perhaps the first Dickens adaptation in which all the actors have to shout to be heard over rippling plastic, it was a predictable box-office smash. “Cel Dickens Sells Tickets,” wrote Variety.
July: After admiring the restored METROPOLIS, with its badly scratched scenes taken from a damaged 16mm print, Oliver Stone decided to rerelease his 2004 flop ALEXANDER, with selected scenes duped down onto 16mm and trampled on the laboratory floor to simulate the effects of great age. “I always knew this film would eventually be seen as a classic,” said the director, “I just didn’t want to wait fifty years.” The few who paid to see the “new” version did report some improvement: “You could see less of it.” Variety wrote, “Alexander the Grated: Slightly Less Hated.”
August: Belated sequels dominated the summer, with NIMH: LEGACY, ANALYZE THOSE! and WAY DOWN EAST II: THE LEGEND OF CURLY’S GOLD vying for attention. The most unusual sequel was probably RAPE II, the follow-up to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s experimental film, which consisted of an array of shots of bare bottoms. For the follow-up, which is estimated to have cost 500,000 times the budget of the original, an impressive range of above-the-line talent was assembled: Ralph Fiennes, Sean Penn, Lauren Bacall, Jonathan Lipnicki and Whoopi Goldberg all appeared. Jack Black’s ventriloquial performance won plaudits. “Free Pass for Black Ass,” wrote Variety, somewhat controversially.
September: Sleeper hit of the summer was Michael Haneke’s second remake of FUNNY GAMES, entitled JUEGOS DIVERTIDOS. Haneke had decided, after his English-language remake flopped, that the way to bring his important message about violence being bad to the widest possible audience would be to remake the movie as an art film. When it was pointed out that his original version was an art film, he gruffly explained that the first version had not been a flamenco musical. Variety dismissed the project: “Hoofing Horror is no Saura.”
October: Trend-spotters were quick to point out the surprising number of new releases featuring actors dressed as confectionary. Bruce Willis, a great fan of the donut, fulfilled a dream by appearing as one in DUNK ME, turning down PIE HARD, while Michael Chiklis played a wedding cake figurine in WITH THIS THING I THEE WED. It wasn’t entirely clear if Paris Hilton was playing a cream pie in JILTIN’ HILTON, but that was the assumption made by many viewers. “Bake a Big Cake and Rake in a Big Take,” Variety said, struggling.
November: The Keystone Company’s reinvention of itself as specialists in adult entertainment was generally deemed a misjudgement, with movies such as FATTY’S WILD PARTY, MABEL OVER THE TABLE, BATHING BOOTIES and KEYSTONE KOPS: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT being seen as either grossly distasteful or even less funny that the original releases. Stars such as Chesty Conklin, Muck Swain and Bun Turpin were soon seeking new employment and new pseudonyms. “Dirty Kops Flops,” was Variety’s succinct verdict.
December: Rumours have surfaced that Warners, after dividing the last part of the HARRY POTTER franchise in two, plan to spin out the saga by splitting the second part in two again, and so on. The infinitely sub-dividing sequel will be padded out with stock footage and deleted scenes from the previous entries, new special effects, slow motion sequences, actual bloopers, extremely comprehensive credits sequences, including filmographies for all cast and crew, and lots more quidditch and camping. One 165-minute movie will consist entirely of shots of Rick Mayall as Peeves the Poltergeist breaking wind into a soup tureen while Rupert Grint makes his amusing comedy face. If the approach is successful, there are plans to retro-fit already successful movies as HARRY POTTER films, by digitally inserting Daniel Radcliffe into GODZILLA and THE CAT’S MIAOW. “Wizard Goes Lizard with Izzard,” wrote Variety.
For purists who prefer to see the unaltered versions, special glasses will be sold that filter out Radcliffe. It is not yet known if these will also work on HARRY POTTER films.