Thursday, 26 January 2012

New York at The Movies

The city so nice, they named it twice.  Concrete jungle where dreams are made.  The Big Apple.  The city that never sleeps.  There's only one New York.  Capital city of the world.  Home to the Bronx, Manhattan Island, Queens, Wall Street, Tribeca, the Knicks, Woody Allen, what was the World Trade Centre, the Empire State Building, Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn and Central Park.

Taking 31 media and performing arts college students to the great city on Monday presents many challenges but it's always a priviledge to walk the streets of one of the most filmed cities in the world.  With a 3 hour tour of film and TV locations, it's also a chance for me to reflect on some of my favourite 'New York' movies.

The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)  Working class, alcoholic, determined but bigoted New York cops Vs gentleman French upper class drug dealers in an incredibly gritty New York of the early 70s where you could walk in a bar and every guy in there would be carrying knives or drugs.  Gene Hackman gives a great un-starry performance as Popeye Doyle giving full commitment to the role including doing much of the driving for the still nail-biting celebrated car chasing a train sequence.  Very unexpected ending too.

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976) More scum needing sweeping from the streets with another icon of the 70's doing the dirty work.  This time De Niro gets tooled up, shaves his head, taunts a mirror and takes on the pimps to save a young prostitute.  So far, New York looks like a pit of depravity so let's move on.

Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979) The first Woody film I've actually really liked.  How things have changed in the few years since Taxi Driver with this tale of middle class, intellectual art buffs bed hopping to the sounds of Gershwin.  New York is suddenly transformed in my eyes to a beautiful, wealthy playground for the priveleged few who only have to be concerned about the next art gallery they will visit and the next partner they will screw.  Great opening shots of the city and Allen at his most witty and honest.  Self-indulgent but romantic, funny and moving.

Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) Featuring the opening in the New York public library that also provides refuge for the cast of The Day After Tomorrow and ending with the giant Marsh Mallow Man trashing the streets of New York, this film and it's sequel are filled with iconic New York imagery.  The Statue of Liberty is even made to walk the streets in the sequel.  What could be more New York?

Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989) One hot, hot summer day in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn as temperatures and tempers soar and racial tensions simmer before boiling over.  Mostly complex characters, a difficult message and challenging represntations for many viewers, it's a film that requires repeat viewings to appreciate it's depth.  Apart from the 'evil' cops, there are no good guys or bad guys here, just ordinary people figuring out what the 'right thing' to do is.

Kids (Larry Clark, 1995) Shocking, depressing look at the lives of New York kids wandering the streets, spreading Aids, taking drugs, screwing each other literally and figuratively.  It's a diffincult and at times disgusting watch.  Director Larry Clark is a strange director who lingers on young flesh in disturbing ways and there is often the sensation that his documentary style is revelling in the antics of his young cast.  Nevertheless the film has a powerful, shocking end that delivers a hard-hitting message.

Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) Set around the former glory but now decaying sights of Coney Island, the cinematography and editing in this film grip you from the very start even if the downright depressing tale of the downward spiral of a group of drug addicts doesn't.  Bleak but beautifully shot, it makes Coney Island look worth a visit. 

Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003) The typical representation of New York as a pretty hostile place, especially when it's people are confronted by a bit of a wierd looking outsider (see also Borat) is clearly demonstrated here.  Buddy arrives to find out his Dad (who works at the Empire State Building) is on the naughty list, the yellow cabs don't stop, the gum on the sidewalk isn't free candy and snow fights and horseman rangers are a risk in Central Park.  This list had to include a Christmas in NY movie.

Enchanted (Kevin Lima, 2007) I hate musicals but when Amy Adams' lost princess breaks into song, it's enchanting, hilarious and the sequence in Central Park is a spellbinding showcase of what makes this oasis of green in amidst the grey jungle of the rest New York so truly wonderful.  Amy Adams is sweet, funny and beautiful and Central Park becomes a magical place when she sings and the crowds dance along to her tune.  It's enough to make the hardest New Yorker's heart flutter.  Check it:

Cloverfield (Matt Reeves, 2008) Shamelessly riffing on 9/11 imagery, this could easily be seen as a tasteless 9/11 exploitation movie.  And it is.  But unfortunately for any people still senstive to the tragedy, it's also a great little monster-movie that shows New York under attack from God-Knows-what.  The handheld camera technique is used brilliantly and the destruction of New York is incredibly visceral and frighteningly real.

Honourable mentions must go to; Spiderman and particularly the original trailer that had Spidey catching crims with a web slung between the Twin Towers, and Wall Street and the greed is good excesses of two Sheens and Michael Douglas' still relevant evil bastard Gordon Gekko.

Also a quick shout must go to Rage Against The Machine's Michael Moore directed music video for Sleep Now in the Fire in which they occupy Wall Street way before it became the in-thing to do.  See it here:

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Big Ones: Oscar Nominations 2012

So 9 best film nominees this year.  Has The Descendants nailed it already?  Does The Artist have a shot?  Do War Horse and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close deserve to be here?  Did Drive deserve a nod?  

Why on earth is there no Transformers 3?  Best Film
The Artist
The Descendants
War Horse
The Help
Midnight In Paris
The Tree Of Life
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

Battle of the big boys: Best Director (No women again!)  Can Hazanavicius snatch this from the heavyweights?
Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist
Martin Scorsese - Hugo
Woody Allen - Midnight In Paris
Alexander Payne - The Descendants
Terrence Malick - Tree Of Life

Best Leading Actress:  a.k.a The Meryl Streep award
Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady
Viola Davis - The Help
Rooney Mara - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Glenn Close - Albert Nobbs
Michelle Williams - My Week With Marilyn

Best Leading Actor:  Can Dujardin beat Clooney?  Who the hell is Demian Bichir and where the hell did he come from?
George Clooney - The Descendants
Jean Dujardin - The Artist
Brad Pitt - Moneyball
Gary Oldman - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Demián Bichir - A Better Life

Best Supporting Actress:  Go McCarthy... that would be brilliant!
Berenice Bejo - The Artist
Jessica Chastain - The Help
Octavia Spencer - The Help
Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs
Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids

Best Supporting Actor:  Does Plummer have any real competition here?
Kenneth Brannagh - My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill - Moneyball
Christopher Plummer - Beginner
Nick Nolte - Warrior
Max Von Sydow - Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Foreign Language FilmA Seperation is probably the shoe-in here is it not?  Anyone seen any of the others?  will the voters have seen any of the others?
A Separation
Monsieur Lazhar
In Darkness

Best Animation:  Please please please give it to Rango!
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss In Boots
A Cat in paris
Chico & Rita

There's many more categories but that's all I've got time for.  I'm off to see The Grey a.k.a. Liam Neeson VS The Wolves.  Shame it came out now, it coulda been a contender!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Crazy for another Blue Valentine

Lost love.  Relationships cracked, shattered, torn apart.  Another realistic Blue Valentine type love story/misery-fest coming up.  A great cast, this time tragically seperated, emote their way through a soppy-song-filled trailer.  It also looks a bit like One Day but we can't hold that against it yet.  Throw in a hint of 500 Days of Summer but without the mood-lightening laughs and you've got Like Crazy.  It's out in the UK on Friday and I'm off to see it now!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Film VS Digital: The Documentary

Just found out from the wonderful Empire that Keanu Reeves is presenting/starring in a new documentary, Side by Side, about the evolution of filmmaking from traditional celluloid means to the current trend for digital technologies.  The Empire article seems to suggest that Reeves has played a big part in rounding up the many big-time directors interviewed in the film and I'm sure his presence has no doubt helped in getting the likes of Scorsese, Fincher, Cameron, Soderbergh, Lynch, Boyle, Linklater and many others to show up and give their opinions.  But I'm equally sure credit must go to director Christopher Kenneally and his production team.  Check out the trailer below:

Side by Side Official Trailer (2012) from Company Films on Vimeo.

Look at that list of names!  The last time I saw so many great directors in a documentary was The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing and that has been an essential teaching tool for me ever since I came across it at university.  See part 1 below:

If Side by Side is even half as good as that was at explaining things, I will be very happy.  I am not a technophile.  I find technology very difficult to understand.  I can sometimes see the difference between digital and film.  I know I'm not generally a fan of 3D because I don't think it adds much to the pleasures of cinema.  But that's about it so I can't wait to hear from the experts. 

Side by Side premieres at the Berlin Film Festival in February.  I wonder what they shot it on?

Five Great Books About Film

Kim Newman's ridiculously comprehensive examination of the horror film since the 1960's, Nightmare Movies, is a book that occasionally feels like a list of all the films the writer has ever seen.  Since starting to plough my way through it's dense breadth, I've realised that it probably works best as a reference book.  Dipping in and out of it using the index would be extremely useful for anyone researching or writing about the modern horror film. 

The scope of the book is just phenomenal.  Newman's knowledge of the genre is breathtaking.  He has either seen every film you can think of (and many, many more besides) or he knows about it and can write enough about it to mislead you into thinking he has seen it.  I have no doubt Newman has seen every one of the films mentioned in the book.  His monthly 'Video Dungeon' page in Empire Magazine and appearances in things like Jake West's 'Video Nasties' documentary attest to his absolute commitment to watching and writing about all horror films; no matter how trashy, low-budget, or downright despicable many might find them. 

Newman is a connoisseur and as a result his book can be tough going for anyone not as familar with the genre as he is.  Sometimes you can feel swamped by all the obscure titles that Newman is listing, though his chapters and analysis do help the reader to see where all these films fit into the broader picture.  His chapters take in all the genre's usual suspects; the living dead, Hammer, the devil, rednecks, auteurs, psychos, ghosts, cannibals, vampires and many more.  If you love horror, it's a must read.

That said, it's not the most entertaining film book I've had the pleasure of reading.  So what books would I recommend to film lovers interested in boadening their knowledge and just having a bloody good read?  Here's my top five:

5. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (Peter Biskind, 1998)

Full of great bits of gossipy tittle-tattle about the movie brats (who was doing the most drugs, who was screwing who), more importantly it also chronicles the production of some of the greatest and most influential films of all time.  It predominantly details the 1970s, one of the greatest decades of cinematic history, starting with Easy Rider and ending with Raging Bull and taking in many of the greatest films ever made along the way, including The Exorcist and Star Wars.  As the old studio dinosaurs began to relinquish power to young auteurs, Biskind argues the last Golden Age of Hollywood was born.  If you love Spielberg, Scorsese, Jack Nicholson or George Lucas, it's a fascinating read. 

4.  High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess (Charles Fleming, 1999)

Like Biskind's book, this one is also full of scandalous gossipy bits but this time in a less innocent, free-love, experimentation-y kind of way and more in a hoovering down obscene amounts of nose candy, waving guns around like a lunatic and abusing prostitutes kind of way.  Simpson comes across as a heinous individual; just the kind of mad-as-a-bag-of-spanners lunatic that frankly deserved an early death.  If Fleming's book speaks the truth, then Simpson's screen output as one half of producing partnership Simpson/Bruckheimer is the least interesting thing about the guy.  Though responsible for many over-bloated blockbusters, there's also some classics on the resume that can't be ignored and Simpson made some smart decisions.  But read this book really for the seedy stories of Simpson's sadistic, coke-fuelled shenanigans. 

3. Dark Eye: The Films of David Fincher (James Swallow, 2003)

Probably the first film book I read from cover to cover, I snapped this up the moment it came out.  I might be biased as a devoted Fincher-fan but this takes the reader through the director's career from early music videos and adverts through feature debut Alien 3, to underrated thriller Panic Room in a hugely informative and accessible read.  Detailing the production of each film meticulously (and the meticulousness of the productions) and with some limited input from Fincher himself, it is always interesting and has been a good reference when writing an article on the collaborations of Fincher and Brad Pitt.  It also has a final chapter, 'Fincher's future' that reveals possible projects the director was potentially going to tackle on completion of Panic Room.  Interestingly, none of Fincher's actual output of films since 2003 are mentioned, but some of the projects that are there are still mouth-watering prospects that I hope Fincher might get round to now he's (hopefully) done making pointless remakes of perfectly good foreign films.

2. Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film (Peter Biskind, 2005)

Highly critical of Harvey Weinstein (who sounds like a slightly less demented, deranged and disturbed version of Don Simpson), this book combines details of Weinstein's monstrous behaviour (tantrums and tormenting) with an almost respectful account of how the Weinstein's commercialised independent film through their distribution company.  Brothers Bob and Harvey used festivals like Sundance to pick up and propel filmmakers like Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino to huge success, making independent film profitable and taking small films to Oscar glory.  From Redford's opening of the Sundance Film Festival through to 2002 and to be honest a bit of a non-ending, Biskind bemoans the commercialisation of the independent sector and picks away at Weinstein but nevertheless shows what an exciting time for cinema the period has been.

1. Blockbuster: How the Jaws and Jedi Generation Turned Hollywood into a Boom-town (Tom Shone, 2005)

Another utterly entertaining read that takes in all the greatest blockbusters since Jaws with interviews with all sorts of key people involved in their making.  Shone's writing is witty and well-informed with a fantastic argument and he is clearly more of a film lover than critic, analysing the success of these popular but often critically neglected films.  He acknowledges that blockbusters are sometimes out-of-control bloated messes (who could argue?) but ends the book with the optimism of the Oscar success of LOTR: Return of the King and a potentially positive future for the blockbuster.  It's easy to read and a brilliant tour through recent film history from the perspective of the box-office behemoths.  Their impact on the industry, like it or not, is undeniable and this book covers them with the respect they often deserve. 

But as always, that's just my list and after I finish Nightmare Movies (eventually!), I'll be looking for another film book to get stuck into.  I've already got my eye on Jason Zinoman's Shock Value but other than that, I'm open to suggestions!  Any recommendations? 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Harry Potter and the grateful it's all over!

Finally, as the franchise closes, Radcliffe becomes quite a good actor.  He carries the burden of the final film and never fumbles the performance like in so many of this film's predecessors. 

The story is still a bit of a jumbled mess from the point of view of someone who has not read the books but at least all the recognisable characters are back for the, pretty impressive at times, Battle of Hogwarts.


Voldemort, despite a fine perfomance from Fiennes is still just not scary or evil enough to match the truly great villains of fantasy cinema.  He looks the part but the character fails to have the full impact he should.

It's great to see actors of Rickman and Fiennes' calibre sharing the screen but now the franchise is finished, I only hope that all this talent can be put to better use.

I don't wish for all the hours I spent watching these back but I do wish the money lavished on the budgets could have been spent on more interesting and better-written projects.  Potter fans will no doubt love the climax, the showdowns, the romance, the deaths but the rest of us will probably just remain a little baffled by the mind-blowing popularity of it all.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Pointless Predictions 2012: Golden Globes

It's time for bad boy of Brit-Sit-Coms Ricky Gervais to lay into Hollywood royalty once more.  Here's my utterly unscientific predictions for the winners on Sunday night.  I stress that it is highly unlikely I will be right about any of these as I'm just going on other people's predictions and what I've heard.  In green, are the few nominees I've actually seen, in red my predicted winner, and god forbid I've actually seen what I predict will win, then the film will be in blue.  Got it?

The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March
War Horse

The Artist
Midnight in Paris
My Week With Marilyn

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J.Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin

Jodie Foster, Carnage
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Kristin Wiig, Bridesmaids
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Kate Winslet, Carnage

Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Joseph Gordon Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Crazy Stupid Love
Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer, Beginners

"A Separation" (Iran)
The Flowers Of War" (China)
"The Kid With The Bike" (Belgium)
"In The Land Of Blood and Honey" (USA)
"The Skin I Live In" (Spain)

The Artist
The Descendants
The Ides of March
Midnight in Paris

Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"
Abel Korzeniowski - "W.E."
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Howard Shore - "Hugo"
John Williams - "War Horse"

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss In Boots

So, in summary, I've seen 5 of the 35 nominees in these most major of categories and am therefore a complete failure at being a film fan and blogger.  My predictions are mostly a mash-up of other people's opinions and therefore sit very close to worthless.  You might as well have read the predictions of somebody who had actually seen more than four of the listed films.

While these films have been dazzling cinema audiences across the globe, I've been watching Hobo with a Shotgun, countless found footage horrors that look like they were made by film students with extreme epilepsy, and generally waiting patiently for Lovefilm to send me the DVD/Blu-rays so I don't have to fork out for ridiculously priced cinema tickets.

But, in short;
  • I think Hugo doesn't deserve to win much (unless its competitors are not very good) but The Artist deserves to win more than it probably will
  • 50/50 and Bridesmaids were great but probably not awards worthy (except perhaps for JGL's acting)
  • Rango surely has no competition in the animated category

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Why I love that Sundance Film Festival

It's just a week until the Sundance Film Festival 2012 opens its doors on 19th January.  Showcasing new work from independent filmmakers from all around the world, it's always a good place to start searching for the next big thing.

Documentaries, dramas, short films and features are all given their time to shine in the many venues of the festival, held annually in Park City, Utah.  Peter Biskind's brilliant book Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film details the festivals humble origins through its rise to the largest independent film festival in the USA.  Biskind's book is highly critical of Harvey Weinstein and is less than complimentary about the success of Miramax through it's distribution of indie films often picked up at the Sundance Film Festival.  But the book does highlight why Sundance is such an influential and important fixture on any movie lover's calendar.

People might be wary of the commercialisation of the independent sector and film festivals like Sundance and Cannes that are becoming more and more about selling mainstream product masquerading as quirky indies but there is no doubting the importance of this festival and others like it to young, low budget drama and documentary filmmakers.  Incredibly popular films like Saw and Four Weddings and a Funeral got a huge boost from their screenings at Sundance before becoming box-office behemoths. 

Sundance has also kick-started the careers of some of the most excting directors of our generation.  Tarantino took Reservoir Dogs in 1992 and despite not winning anything in competition and a slow-start to the box-office success of the film, there is no doubt that its popularity is indebted to its start at Sundance.  And without Tarantino, we wouldn't have the masterpiece Pulp Fiction and one of the most exciting prospects for 2012, Django Unchained.  The same year, Robert Rodriguez took his $7000 action movie El Mariachi to the festival and the praise heaped on it kicked off his career that would take in kids movies (Spy Kids), Tarantino collaborations (Sin City, Grindhouse) and sequels/remakes (Desperado) to his original DIY creation. 

Similarly, Sundance can be thanked for the career launching of indie/mainstream straddlers Kevin Smith and Richard Linklater.  Clerks and Slacker, none more cheap, independent and inspiring were screened at the festival leading to interesting and diverse careers for both filmmakers.  Smith might misfire every time he tries to go mainstream (Jersey Girl, Cop Out) but his recent Red State suggests a return to form as well as a risky move away from letting the big corporations handle distribution.  Linklater has similarly flirted with the mainstream with the successful School of Rock but is probably best loved for his indie charmers Before Sunrise and Sunset.

Among other films that have benefitted from their showcasing at Sundance are Primer, Memento, Precious, Little Miss Sunshine, the phenomenon that became The Blair Witch Project and last year's Another Earth.  And that's without even mentioning some of the great documentaries that have been given an all-important push by their prize-winning turns at the festival; Hoop Dreams, When We Were Kings, Murderball, Supersize Me and Senna among many, many others.  It really is a breeding ground for young talent who have struggled to make interesting, independent films on small budgets.  And if they happen to get picked up by rich distributors ready to spread the word of these little gems in return for profits, then so be it. 

This year Quentin Dupieux brings his surreal-looking follow-up to Rubber to the festival.  Despite being titled Wrong, I hope it gets it head-fucking right.  The First Time sounds like a sweet bit of teen romance and The Imposter looks like one of the documentaries to keep an eye out for.  But after Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom's success, perhaps new Aussie mystery Wish You Were Here (again starring Joel Edgerton) is the film that has the biggest chance of smashing through to the mainstream.  Only time will tell.  One thing I know for certain is that I wish I was at the Sundance Film Festival to find out.

The festival kicks off next Thursday and just in case you didn't know, unfortunately I won't be there.  Anyone reading this going?  Anyone heard of any other hot tips for this year?  Anyone think indie film is being ruined by the commercialisation of film festivals like Sundance?  I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2011 List #7: Missed opportunities

I don't get to the cinema nearly as much as I'd like.  As a result it would be silly for me to do a Top 10 of 2011 list at this stage, particularly as I have so many excellent sounding films to consume.  Here are the top 10 films of 2011 I still need to see.  As you can see, most of these films are in many people's top 10 lists.  Until I see these, I cannot make the all-important decision on my favourites of the year.

In alphabetical order:

A Seperation (Iranian divorce drama critics and bloggers have been raving about)

Drive (Violent, stylish, great music and Gosling and Mulligan- hope this lives up to expectations!)

Incendies (Bleak, twisty Oscar-nominated family drama)

Moneyball (Love Pitt and Hill, sounds like a sports movie with a difference)

Senna (love a good documentary and this has been very highly rated by many)

Snowtown (sounds like a very difficult watch, just the way I often like it)

Take Shelter (one man's descent into madness, right up my street)

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo (unnecessary remake of a film that I thought was ok but this is Fincher)

Troll Hunter (love a bit of found footage, especially when it's done effectively)

Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine directs, Peter Mullan stars, loads of awards, must be good)

There's a few more that might have a shot but, from what I've read and who directs them, are less likely to make my top 10 I suspect.  These include; We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Skin I live In, Melancholia Contagion and Midnight in Paris.  The love that these films have been getting is huge and I have seen them in many best of the year lists so depite not being a big Almodovar or Woody Allen fan, I am keen to catch them before making my own top 10 of 2011 list.

Then again I might be wrong and I might well have already seen my favourite films of the year.  Perhaps Bridesmaids, Animal Kingdom, Attack the Block, Submarine, True Grit, 127 Hours and Rango will all remain in the top 10 films I have seen this year.  We shall see.

Therefore, please wait in barely concealed anticipation as I Love That Film unleashes it's Best of 2011 list... (cough)... sometime in the future.  Let's meet back here in December 2012 and I might be done!  I hereby declare my new year resoultion is to get to the cinema more this year.  Stop relying on Lovefilm to deliver me DVD's and Blu-rays months after the films have left the cinemas and get out and catch them on the big screen as they were intended.  Anyone else feeling that there's a few films you are ashamed to say that you have outrageously missed last year?

Thursday, 5 January 2012

2011 List #6: Highlights

Beginning the year with an advance screening of 127 Hours followed by a Q&A with one of my favourite directors, Danny Boyle, was my absolute highlight of the year.  Not only did I get to see one of the best films of the year, I also got to ask Mr Boyle a question.  My career in film journalism failed to take off immediately as I'd hoped but my burning desire to tell everybody about this incredible moment was what got me starting this here blog.  Thanks again to Lovefilm for organising this event and for giving me the opportunity to speak to one of my heroes.  See the video of my nervous question-asking here.  That's me asking the first question.

Here are some frankly pretty poor photos of Mr Boyle I took with my crappy camera.  


My other highlight was an advance screening of Attack the Block followed by a Q&A with director Joe Cornish and stars John Boyega, Jodie Whitaker and Luke Treadaway.  Here's another pretty poor photo featuring from left to right: John Boyega (Moses the badass), Luke Treadaway (the posh one), Jodie Whitaker (the nurse in distress) and Joe Cornish (debut director extroardinaire).

Another excellent screening organised by Lovefilm that I was lucky enough to get myself tickets to, the film is another of my favourites of the year and it was great to ask the cast what Joe Cornish was like as a director.  Sadly there is no video evidence of this.  However what was cool was that more of the cast were in the audience and so was a certain Mr Edgar frigging Wright, producer of the film and director of Shaun of the Dead!!!  Here is possibly the worst quality photo of Joe Cornish ever taken. 

After the film and Q&A, I managed to get a few sneaky photos of the cast outside the cinema.  I was convinced this film would be easily as big as Shaun of the Dead and really enjoyed seeing the young cast members hanging around outside like ordinary mates before they get super famous.  John Boyega seems to be on the way to doing bigger things with Spike Lee's new TV series Da Brick already in the can.  As for Franz Drameh and Alex Esmail (also pictured here), the future looks less bright for now.  But here's hoping at least Esmail who played Pest, the comical runt of the gang, can get more work.

And here is the mighty Edgar Wright, who I managed to sneak a quick handshake with before he disappeared.

So those were my two main highlights of the year.  As I have posted about before here, this is the year that I tried really hard to get to as many preview screenings and Q&A's as possible.  Lovefilm, Total Film and ShowFilmFirst have been brilliant, but also Paramount Pictures put on a couple (Footloose and Tomorrow When the War Began) too.  Like an astronomer, I got to see the stars up close including Anna Faris, Jessica Brown-Findlay and Rachel Hurd Wood and I also got to review some films before they actually came out such as Bridesmaids, Stake Land, What's Your Number?, Real Steel and Life in a Day

I also got to go to a test screening of the directorial debut of Ben Drew (aka Plan B) which was a really interesting experience, particularly as I teach about these to media students and have recently written an article for Media Magazine about them. 

I only got up to the London Film Festival once but I got to hear a talk from Kevin MacDonald (director of Life in a Day), Asif Kapadia (director of Senna) and Carol Morley (director of Dreams of a Life) on the boundaries between fact and fiction.  I also met Jonothan Rhodes in the audience; star, producer and co-writer of the great short film Big Society

Another very personal highlight is that this year I started my PhD.  My supervisor introduced me to the director of supremely sick but hugely influential masterpiece/abomination Cannibal Holocaust, Ruggero Deaodato, before a special screening of the film in London.  Here's a sneaky picture I took.  The girl in the background is his grand daughter who I can thankfully add did not stay for the screening.

Finally, every time I get a comment or I see that the pageviews on my blog posts have gone up has been a highlight for me.  I love writing about films and I love doing this blog.  I'm sure many people would think I'm far too old to be starting a blog but it is giving me great joy and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.  So this a massive, huge, incredibly soppy thank you to anyone reading this, and to everyone who has read, commented on or left a link to one of my posts this year.  Special mention must go to Scott at Front Room Cinema who seems to comment on everything I write and every other blog I read and to CS at Big Thoughts from a Small Mind who has posted many a link to my blog. These guys have fantastic blogs and their encouragement makes me feel stronger when I worry that my words will not be read.

And if anyone has any advice about how to get in to more preview screenings, I will be eternally grateful.  Happy New Year everybody and here's to all the film bloggers and makers out there, may you live long and prosper!