You may or may not know, but I don't like the new Batman films. This is partly due to the fact that I think Michael Keaton did a fantastic job and I would have preferred to see a rematch between him and Nickleson's Joker instead of the faux-relevant; 'psychological' punch punch kapow of the Dark Night Returns. But Nolan's back and he's still using 9/11 imagery for his teaser posters.
Oh whoopde-do, this is a post 9/11 superhero! A super rich vigilante, who doesn't give a shit about collateral damage, who is, in an inspired twist of characterisation, himself damaged. You could make this film more about American foreign policy by making Batman really fat and having The Joker be on a dialysis machine. Did we all just get a taste for watching tall buildings explode back in 2001? Maybe we've just come to accept that our huge, shiney, phallic edifices are done for now like the political and economic systems that made them.
So the priority is selling this ideal of modern Shiva-esque creation and destruction to a far away country, outsourcing our rubble fetish, just as we outsourced our theocracy and call-centre fetishes. Huzzah for the West, huzzah for IMAX, huzzah for gravelly-voiced swear-factory Muslim Bale.
If you're looking for a more rational response to this "teaser" poster (oh really, you're doing another one? In summer 2012 you say? Will climbing up the side of a sky-scraper on a gattling-hook be an Olympic event?) then why not have a look at Ultra Culture's take on things with a bat cut into them: http://www.ultraculture.co.uk/7818-more-objects-with-bats-cut-into-them-batman-poster.htm
Norweigen Wood - Walkout
Countdown to Zero - Urgent
Battleship Potemkin - Relevant
Tabloid - Timely
If you get the chance see the last 3. The first is pants and a half.
I'm super excited about two films coming out soon. One is the brilliant looking Attack the Block. 'Inner City vs. Outer Space'. I know who my money's on. My mate, the lovely Mr Joel Stokes worked on some of the creature effects and I met some of the young stars at the première of the absolutely insane Heartless. They were great and from the looks of the trailer the film is going to be great too, coming as it does from the mind of Joe Cornish of Adam & Joe fame. So far all of the critical reception has been really positive, so I simply can't wait until May when it comes out!
The other flick I'm pumped about is Werner Herzog's The Cave of Forgotton Dreams in 3D. The film captures Man's oldest surviving works of art (or representation, or reverence or madness). I absolutely adored his Bad Lieutenant starring Nicholas Cage, which was an absolute artistic and dramatic assault and the beautiful, and shockingly sad Grizzly Man. I saw Bad Lieutenant with Gill, an anthropology student, and we both loved it (it completely changed her opinion of the amazing Nic Cage) and she was telling me about these paintings and how they were drawn around the geometry of the cave formations just before I heard about this film. This concept, that the meaning and impetus and the intended impact of these pictures was written into the three dimensional shapes pushes the use of 3D in this case beyond the technological novelty that Hollywood has made it. I hope this film can push right back into the past and transcendentally into our understanding of what we humans are and where our representations and dreams come from. So good luck Herzog, I'm expecting big, 3D things!
I had the pleasure of going along to a BFI Member's exclusive screening of Alan Parker's Screen Epiphany Lindsay Anderson's If.... (1968)and in his introduction he compared the lead toff/bully Rowntree to David Cameron. It is certainly a film that holds relevance today when our political leaders all come from the same background of privilege and want to enforce the hierarchy/status quo and revolutions instigated by young people are taking place around the world.
UK is, right now, in Mick Travis' place, being forced into taking a cold shower before the brutal paddling for insubordination begins in earnest. The drastic cuts and austerity measures we're being forced to swallow appear to me to be collective punishment for not accepting the status quo, for not forgiving the expenses scandal and the financial quagmire our political elite helped get us into and of course for forcing a hung parliament. I get a chill whenever Cameron or one of his lackeys talks about discipline in schools when the millionaires who sit on the benches in the house of "commons" act jeer and howl like feral jackals.
Anyway back to the film. It's usual to say that a film feels like a cliché when after time you have just forgotten (or weren't around to notice) that it invented the cliché in the first place. The satire is really sharp and often quite funny. However there is something about the film that disappoints. The sequences which are more surreal surprise at first, giving a glimpse at the world outside the bubble of the school where sexual, political and cultural liberation was breaking into the mainstream. However this break from the reality of the school undermines the final sequence's violence as nothing more than a boyish revenge fantasy; the 'if' of the title.
Parker insinuated that the use of occasional black and white footage was more or a practical decision than a purely stylistic one and I'm inclined to agree as it doesn't bring much to experience. For an artful use of black and white there's no better example than A Matter of Life and Death (1946).
I generally enjoy witnessing the fantastic mixing with the mundane, but I can't help but feel that there wasn't any need to venture so far when the premise provides many less than mundane avenues of interest. Apart from Malcolm McDowell's simmering Mick Travis and Robert Swann's cruel Rowntree the most interesting characters are the underused adults. Peter Jeffrey's Headmaster gets a fair crack at the whip, but Dad's Army's Captain Mainwaring Arthur Lowe and Waiting for God's Graham Crowden get short shrift.
If.... lacks focus and too many story elements get started and then dropped, most notably the first young school boy 'scum' we're introduced to gets sidelined in favour of a feminine looking contemporary with a homoerotic subtext, and the new teacher at the school arrives and is packed off to an attic never to be brought to the fore again. At 111 minutes it lacks a tautness it could have benefited from but nonetheless it is 111 minutes packed with invention and creative flourishes that are hallmarks of the Free Cinema movement of which Anderson was a founder, albeit in a fictional and fantastical narrative setting.
I was very glad to see the film on a big screen as I think I would have been underwhelmed by the scale of its ambition on a small screen. However I feel that while it achieves many of its ambitions the film as a whole has lost the power to shock that it might once have had. The real impact of the film is its impressionistic commentary on the revolutionary spirit which has always failed to take hold of the public imagination in England in the way it had in the places featured in the pictures cut from the pages of Paris Match that collage the walls of Travis' den.
If you liked this you might like: Gus Van Sant's excellent and meticulous depiction of a high school shooting Elephant (2003) or for a good mix of fantasy, class divide, choral music and gun toting schoolboys check out the excellent Doctor Who episodes Human Nature / The Family of Blood:
Question of the week: Can you think of any other films that use a mix of black and white and colour photography to interesting effect?
Generally, I don't give a rats arse about the Oscars... Today is no different. I dislike the split between best film and best foreign language film, cos it's at best cultural imperialist and at worst plain racist. I don't see what the point is in awarding best actor and best actress, it's just sexist. Why not just have the best performance award? Is that feminism gone mad? It's not like in sports where there is a physical difference limiting women from achieving on a level playing field with men. I suppose this is just feminism gone mad on my part but the cynic in me is put off by the pomp and ceremony and the focus on beauty in the ceremony and coverage of the awards rather than a purer recognition of skill.
I simply don't understand people who take it so seriously without seeing it as part of a gigantic unsustainable marketing machine. I have a lot more time for people who use it as an excuse for a party or to stay up late and eat popcorn, much like the super bowl or the Eurovision Song contest.
I can't make a comment on what should win having not seen many of the films but I will say this; Inception should win nothing except maybe art direction, The Social Network will probably win quite big, and Javier Bardem should win best actor although it's more likely to go to the Firth. I would have had like to have seen The Illusionist in the running for best film, but I hope it wins the animation category anyway.
Here's an hilarious video from CopeandDalton which sums up pretty much what I think about these little gold dudes this year better than those last two paragraphs:
True Grit is undoubtedly a very accomplished genre piece, playing all of the Western iconography straight and in the old Hollywood style plus adding to that tradition with a deftness that you naturally expect from film-makers of the calibre of the Joel & Ethan Cohen. But the film appears to owe a lot more to the macho Hollywood westerns whose rugged homosocial milieu always remained unquestioned and uncontextualised against an equally rugged landscape. Compare this to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone whose sweeping camera work and trance like Ennio Morricone scores always left room for questions, humour and beauty amongst the honour and savagery of frontiers men and women. Obviously the Mattie character as excellently played by Hailee Steinfeld is a window onto a new world where headstrong and intelligent women (and younger folk generally) are able to hold their own in an old, white and male dominated world, which is still something our modern societies should be taking on board. However this message is diluted somewhat in the final act where Mattie reverts to helplessness and the film reverts to clichés; for example Mattie only tracks down Bridges' Cogburn a few days after he passes away.
The film is not without it's powerful moments and impressive cinematography but some artless lapses such as the too numerous dissolves indicating travel some of which are poorly composed. The most Cohen-esque moment is the bear medicine-man passing through on horseback as it begins to snow, however this is a bit of a throw-away sequence with little impact on the action or plot. It is as if someone suggested that the film wasn't Coheny enough.
The strongest message of the film is that the bad guys aren't essentially bad, they're stupid and they've fallen through the cracks, which in the West are wide... and full of snakes. One of the men that Mattie witnesses being hanged pleads "Don't let my boy fall in with bad company" which appears to be what has happened with the crew of the outlaw gang led by Lucky Ned Pepper (who is played by his namesake; the ever interesting Barry Pepper). One member of the outlaw gang makes animal noises instead of speaking and then there's the hunted simpleton Tom Chaney, played by the woefully under-used Josh Brolin. These are clearly men to be pitied despite their violent lives which contrasts with the authority figures who live in the town. The trader who tries to bargain down a recently bereaved girl and the gallows man who shoves a bag over the native American's head before he gets a chance to say his final words are designed to be laughed at in passing rather than deeply criticised or understood.
Jeff Bridges turns in a respectable performance and is, as ever, eminently watchable even if much of his dialogue is incomprehensible. You get the impression that a lot of what he's saying is inconsequential as he is a man of actions not words, which adds a nice layer of realism to the portrayal. The scene where Cogburn is running with the Mattie in his arms reminded me of the scene in the Big Lebowski where The Dude, in a halucinagenic state, runs along a Los Angeles freeway from a giant scissor-wielding nihilist.
My main gripe with the film is that despite all these great performances, it actually lacked grit, and the ability to shock. The Cohen's last film, the subtle and challenging A Serious Man, ends with a dark storm arriving. Unfortunately True Grit doesn't pick up where that film left off. It isn't that dark storm and yet it had the potential to be the Cohen's darkest film to date as well as asking some bigger questions of its characters, society and its audience than it does.
Cinema has always been my primary pastime and constant source of inspiration for me. I suppose it had something to do with not being interested in sports as a kid, and not being very good at video games and initially not having much patience for novels. I love the grazing on chocolate and popcorn, the tease of the coming-soon trailers and comfy seats as much as the dark & dreamy world that you venture to with friends but share with strangers, where a man can stand 20 feet tall and a look can kill. I'm lucky enough to have immersed myself in film for all of my adult life. At Warwick University I read Film & Literature (summarised by the great Al Murray to me as "sitting in front of the telly with a book in your lap"). After my undergraduate degree I studied Creative and Media Enterprises also at Warwick which gave me the opportunity for work placements at BBC Films, Optimum Releasing and finally at the BFI where I now work as Marketing Assistant.
I have always enjoyed making films, Sweding blockbusters and classics long before Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind coined the term. My favourite was the colour remake of Psycho made by my male cousins and I, where I had to take on the Janet Leigh role, on account of the fact I had the longest hair. More recently I've been involved in several short film productions in various roles, including actor, unit manager etc. But one of the greatest moments for me recently was seeing a film I directed, as part of a 48 hour film project, screen at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Sq. I made the film with my wonderful friends at Tea Fuelled Art, we scripted, shot and edited the film all within 48 hours and I'm dead chuffed with it. We were given some fixed elements to include which were a runner called Sam, a prop (a bone) and a line of dialogue: "I was expecting something bigger".
I'm going to use this page to update on my experience in the world of film, projects I'm involved in as well as talking about important film issues that grab my attention, and I'm going to try and do at least brief reviews of films I see (but I do see a lot) and films I love/hate. I hope you find something of interest here. Why not start with my film A Lie on the Lips which you can see below: