Film HITLIST THE BEST FILMS
DOCUMENTARY UNDEFEATED (TBC) 113min ●●●●●
The winner of this year’s Best Documentary Oscar, this big-hearted film centres on Bill Courtney, an inspirational volunteer coach for a struggling high school American football team. A principled straight-talker and a none-more-Southern white Christian husband and father of four, Courtney perfectly fits the stereotype of the American movie coach, even down to his unerring ability to produce a stirring motivational speech in the wake of victory or defeat. ‘Football reveals character’ is his mantra, and he makes no secret of the fact that his role as coach for North Memphis team the Manassas Tigers is as much about trying to set a positive example to the as-good-as-fatherless students as to get them to win football matches. Directors Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin’s film never escapes the feeling of being a true story shoehorned into a conventional Hollywood narrative but, even within that structural straitjacket, the people they focus on are worthy of the screen time; this is a valuable story from what one interview subject aptly refers to as the ‘have-nots’ of one of America’s richest sports. (Paul Gallagher) ■ Selected release from Fri 3 Aug.
Brave The Scotland-set animation about feisty Princess Merida finally arrives in cinemas. Judge for yourself whether Pixar’s latest lives up to their reputation. See review, page 113. General release from Fri 3 Aug.
Our week with Marilyn The Filmhouse marks 50 years since the death of Marilyn Monroe with a retrospective featuring some of the iconic star’s finest moments. See feature, page 113. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sun 5–Sat 11 Aug. I Was Born, But . . . A rare chance to see renowned Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu’s silent film I was Born, But . . . with a live piano accompaniment. Presented by The Hippodrome Festival of Silent Cinema. Summerhall, Edinburgh, Sat 4 Aug.
Margaret Tait: Film Poet A documentary made by Glasgow Women’s Library celebrating the Orcadian poet, artist and filmmaker Margaret Tait. CCA, Glasgow, Sat 4 Aug. Undefeated An all-American story about an underdog football team and their inspiring coach. Winner of this year’s Best Documentary Oscar. See review, right. Selected release from Fri 3 Aug.
112 THE LIST 2–9 Aug 2012
PRISON DRAMA OFFENDER (15) 99min ●●●●●
Billed as a 21st century Scum, this derivative contemporary British revenge thriller is the debut feature of commericals director Ron Scalpello. Scripted by Paul Van Carter, it’s the wildly melodramatic story of a teenage labourer, Tommy (Joe Cole from Skins), who deliberately assaults a couple of policemen during the 2011 riots in order to get himself sent to a young offenders’ institution. Through flashback sequences we learn that his pregnant girlfriend Elise (Kimberley Nixon) has recently been beaten up so badly by gangsters that she suffered a miscarriage. Having learnt that the thugs responsible for the attack, who include the formidable Jake (English Frank), are being held in a juvenile prison, Tommy vows to track them down and deliver his own bloody form of justice. Watching the low-budget The Offender, one can’t help thinking of the superior films it references. There’s Alan Clarke’s Scum in its borstal setting, its vision of a sadistic regime of incarceration, and its climactic riot, there’s Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible, in its nightmarish portrayal of a cycle of revenge-fuelled violence, and there’s also Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet, in the way it highlights ethnic tensions amongst the prisoners. Yes, there is an undeniable viscerality to the performances here, especially those of Cole and hip hop artist Frank. Yet the relish with which Scalpello films the scenes of violence and the way the camera lingers on the lividly bruised and battered faces of his characters, plus the clichéd use of slow motion, epitomise the film’s limitations.
Elise, whose fate is so important in propelling Tommy’s relentless pursuit of vengeance is particularly underwritten, while the ludicrous characterisation of Nash (Shaun Dooley) – a former army tank driver who smokes skunk with Jake’s mob in their cell – undermines the filmmakers’ claims of authenticity. (Tom Dawson) ■ General release from Wed 8 Aug.