With Eurovision fast approaching -- Saturday May 24th, mark your calendars -- you can expect me to be expressing my excitement in the next coming weeks via the written word. As ever, there's a chunky portion of madness. They never disappont. But more about that later! Remembrance Sundays are dedicated to my favourite British Eurovision winner, the glorious cheesefest that is 'Making Your Mind Up', by colourful eighties quartet, Bucks Fizz. Enjoy.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Mungiu's script is one that doesn't really need to go all-out to sell its story, because he seems to know his characters inside-out. On the face of it, each may slip into an available stereotype (the foolish pregnant teenager, the brash intimidating hard-man, the wronged partner etc.) but it teaches us so much about these people through their reaction to a compressing environment, and throughout the constant starkness and severity it's perhaps most interesting to note that I didn't really feel deliberately provoked (or even tested) as a member of the audience, but rather an enlightened voyeur looking in on the reality of a desperate mess of a situation.
Of all the nominees listed here this is probably the screenplay I'd most like to hold in my hand. I'm Not There is really such a creative vision that it's difficult to sense how much detail its script afforded, and how much of the final cut came about from the natural flow of filmmaking. Regardless, it's mighty ambitious, dissecting one man and implanting into six bodies a piece of him that can stand alone and relate back to the principle biographical whole. How Haynes and Moverman can integrate such a profound musical and cultural journey into as unorthodox a structure as this is anyone's guess.
I must say, I probably give musicals a hard time in the screenplay category. Logic suggests to me that already some of the work has been done for the writers. Not so with this little gem of a production. Of all the musicals I have ever seen, none have been able to get across the core of why people want to write music and sing songs in the first place, as well as Once manages it. The two leads have such a tentative connection, but a believeable one, and overall they feel so adaptive to their surroundings and the changing nature of their relationship that in the end you know what they've written and why they've written it.
Runner Up: Once
Sad to exclude: 2 Days In Paris gets the American/European cultural divide just right, and politically scythes through everything I hate. Black Snake Moan belongs in an originality contest but sadly couldn't make my final five, and We Own The Night really skates so confidently over what could have been such a routine setup.
David Mackenzie & Ed Whitmore
For a story that, on the bare bones of things, is a familiar evolution of a lost boy and his search for closure, Hallam Foe sails past any ocular buoys with fresh characterisation and interesting ideas about relationships. David Mackenzie and Ed Whitmore's thoughtfully-written screenplay constructs a character with richness, and curiously one that hardly realises he is grieving.
(Taken from review)
Into The Wild
Penn's clever adaptation of Krakauer's book disguises any chapters or 'stepping stones' that may have more traditionally been used to chronicle the type of journey, both physical and intellectual, that McCandless endures. His journey isn't just one road laden with interesting characters along the way; it's a cultural network that one probably will encounter in the course of a lifetime. So it's amazing then that the script can condense all of this into 140 minutes, make you his featherbed follower, and carry off its experimental style with epic ease.
I'd like to think that John Orloff got someone to roleplay with him while he wrote this. When you consider that there are police chases and investigations on television every day, it must be difficult to try and give your words some kind of original slant. He is of course lucky to have a subject as engrossing and complex as he does, as is everyone involved, yet while the script is littered with questions, questions and more questions, the emotional elements of the story always linger at just the right intervals for you to take a quick couple breaths before another inevitable onslaught of probing commences.
No Country for Old Men
Joel & Ethan Coen
A film with a perfect title, No Country is so successful as a screenplay because it manages to capture the pointlessness of crime and a shifting civilisation. These moments are best conveyed in Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's monologues, which frequently offer meditation on the films growing breed. The black comedy elements, toned down a little since Fargo, work because the characters (bar the Sheriff) aren't really treated as stupid, but culturally alien; a group more than willing to participate in this new game of life.
'Twisted' is a word I associate with Sleuth, or at least I did before I saw this version. It's essentially a very stagy set of mind games, but 'twisted' simply does not begin to cover this remake, which seems to take more from Shaffer's play than the original even could. Pinter forces Caine and Law to push themselves to the limit, giving their relationship a fascinating (and not unbelievable) subtext that turns the story on its head. He also plays on the artificial setup of the entire situation, creating a blackly comic yet thunderously laugh-out-loud exchange that's so perverse it's almost as if the guys are screaming to themselves inside, "Why am I here? I don't know! But I like it". They aren't the only ones.
One thing the WWE has done for the U-rated film is to give Johnson a platform to exercise his incredible natural charisma; a charisma that is perfectly suited to his role here. It's too early to tell whether Johnson's talent is a limited one -- two of his roles so far (Gridiron Gang being the other) have been American Football players (handy as prior to his wrestling days he once was pretty handy at football), appearances in The Scorpion King and Doom have seen him slip into badass action mode, and Be Cool allowed him to try his hand at being a (gay!) bouncer. That's diverse enough for me, but whatever the range of 'The Rock', his bright smile and irresistible charm is as mighty a weapon as his bulky physique.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
With the death of Anthony Minghella this week, remembrance Sunday will be dedicated to perhaps his least accomplished film, though nonetheless a ravishing one, the civil war epic Cold Mountain. I must admit there's something about slushy wartime romance that reels me in, but this is certainly an attempt that borders on ragged at times. Yet I largely don't seem to mind when watching it, regularly finding myself surrendering to its luscious ways.
"Come back to me. Come back to me is my request."
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Awful Truth has a simple concept -- a husband and wife (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) are on the brink of divorce. While the film never really addresses many of the reasons as to why their relationship has disintegrated, aside from Grant's infidelity, it at no point suggests that their marriage is unsalvageable. In fact, the chemistry between Grant and Dunne is such that you cannot doubt that the resolution of the film will involve a re-conciliation, and so The Awful Truth is a light and breezy account of, as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind so wisely put it, 'I'm fine without you' gender politics.
The constant one-upmanship of the pair instigates the question: why do they still care? And the film seems to approach marital conflict on the basis of a couple knowing each other perhaps too well. It's incredibly fun to watch, the ultimate joy being that their playful jibes and insistently independent facades matter little because each knows what the other is really thinking anyway. Their relationship seems a developed and lived-in one because the script and the actors seem to really understand how love can sanction and dismiss words as games of the heart: a truth that may be 'awful' in theory but a sheer delight to witness.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I never used to like Sundays. When you're a kid it means: church (for some), nothing good on TV, school in the morning, and general boredom. Now I work at 6am on Sundays, which is a bit crazy, since it means I lose any possible Saturday nights out (although it doesn't always stop me) and it all but turns me into a zombie for the rest of the day. That's why I can never really muster the energy to blazon my thoughts on the blog of a sabbath. But now, a solution.
My new feature is titled Remembrance Sundays, which usually connotes images of depression and grief (like D-Day and all that jazz -- Sundays are a bit morbid anyway, don't you think?) but will be largely a celebration of a great moment of the past that has been captured on screen, whether it be filmic, political, musical, or otherwise. This means that a) I don't have to think too hard, b) There'll always be a blog post on a Sunday, and c) That hopefully it'll spread some sunshine into your Sunday. First up, Meryl...
Friday, March 14, 2008
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Daniels
Thursday, March 13, 2008
As the no-nonsense abortionist he makes you feel his experience of the situation at hand, his methodical nature an effective contrast to the naivety of the two girls. He is aggressive in tone, and a huge presence, yet convincingly becomes less of a physical bully than a mental one; a manipulater of fear, tension, and vulnerability. He leads the encounter with probing questions and doubting urgency, but his honest, disorientating rationale makes us see him through the eyes of the two girls; a man they shouldn't have taken for granted.
When Dieter Dengler arrives in the camp in which he's imprisoned, he's not the only one facing a testing wake-up call. He's walking into a prison in which its American inhabitants have been repressed, both in physical and, particularly, political terms. Their thought and sense of duty have seemingly been rendered obsolete, this best embodied by an ailing Zahn, who, given that he has the task of representing a generation disillusioned with identity, expresses such an awful lot. His drained, stranded figure of pain a perfect personification of the war itself -- rescuable on the face of it, but when all is said and done, a thoroughly hopeless mess. Zahn is incredible because he never really is, or wants to be, the sidekick or accomplice; just the forgotten labourer in a laboured world.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Best Art Direction/Production Design
A war-torn world is hardly a pretty one, but you wouldn't know it from watching Atonement. Its obsession with gratuitous spectacle has certainly divided audiences but few war films truly refrain from glamourising their events. Wright's film refuses to detail the lurid effects of its personal and social conflicts through cheap shots and throwaway sub-plots, instead mirroring the dismantling of its central relationship with global disarray. Sarah Greenwood's designs perpetuate this, constantly imprinting something luscious and beautiful into destruction, whether it be of a country or a relationship. A limited job? Maybe not. An ambitious one? Certainly.
For what began as a play and evolved into a film in its own right, Sleuth really did need to give us something new in this widely-regarded-as-unnecessary remake. However stagy you might find the film (and I'll admit that I find that part of the charm) its layout could easily have felt dated and worn had it attempted to make its remake scene-for-scene. As it turns out the sets feel fresh, and help the script to demonstrate aspects of the characters previously unexplored. Their clean, surgical feel plays on the film's contrivance perversely, a bold risk, which encourages and enhances its psychoanalytical scope, absorbing more of Shaffer's comedy of sexual politics than even the original managed.
As a spiritual science fiction film Sunshine is much less eager to draw attention to itself than, say, Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. So there's much to be said for the production design that it visually enthralls at every turn and still remains flexible to the different elements of the narrative (spirituality, action, horror, psychological state). Tildesley's designs are organic in almost every sense, from the curiously-constructed oxygen chamber, a restricted and isolated suppression of nature, to the payload centre, the multi-dimensional ethical epicentre of the mission.
When Tim Burton does a musical, you know it's not gonna be all sunshine and roses. Ferretti understands this, and doesn't dilute any of London's infamous Victorian period, in which crime and punishment reigned supreme over England's capital. Mrs. Lovett's pie shop, and Sweeney's living quarters (and killing quarters) are prime examples of this. A peek at the squalid, empty life of a peasant; suitably ghastly as a capture of mood, and aesthetic companion to a grubby pair of irredeemable souls.
There Will Be Blood
A lot of Anderson's film is about human nature, and how it is demonstrated and extracted through the physical extraction of one of the Earth's natural fuels: oil. It's well-documented that there is no dialogue in the film for the first twenty-or-so minutes. That these minutes fly by is definitely a success for Anderson (and to a degree Day-Lewis), but primarily this sequence, and the wordless moments of the film in general, belong to Art Director Jack Fisk. His sets have such an ingrained, worn feel, that contribute to the essence of social paradigm, and together with the oil drilling equipment, represent the independent, fragmented and powerful intrusion of capitalism into a small town. Tremendous.
Runner Up: Atonement
Sad To Exclude: Lust, Caution's lusciously decorated Shanghai, Zodiac's polished, and edgy-when-they-needed-to-be designs, and Hairspray's vibrant, colourful business. A joy to watch.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
If you aren't British you probably won't understand this, but as a football fan I have to say something about today's two F.A. cup ties, which produced major upsets and blew, in my opinion, the best competition in the sport, wide open.
OK, so I’m not that deluded. But the fact that I can comment in a rather throwaway fashion about Sofia Coppola’s involvement in the film, a complete failure in casting and acting – and the only reason prior to 1999, aside from her familial connections, that anyone in film circles would refer to her -- is testament to how she has evolved into such a seminal creative figure in current cinema, and why she would unquestionably be my dream dinner date.
Her vision as a writer and director and the common themes and attributes of her films (youth, adolescence, women perplexed about the world and its expectation of them, avant-garde 80’s music to match her unique style) marks her as more auteurial than even her father, who despite having a definite visual style, enjoyed success in a diverse array of films. She may still have some way to go before eclipsing her father’s hugely impressive filmography, but the products of her fascinating mind thus far: the sinister yet luscious The Virgin Suicides (1999), the ravishing tale of a girl who happened to be a queen, Marie Antoinette (2006), and the life-changing (at least for me) encounter between two lost souls in a Tokyo hotel, Lost In Translation (2003), an on-screen relationship that remains one of the richest and most honest I’ve ever seen; are enough to ensure that she has inherited the filmic intelligence and desire of he before her.
2. Set the table for your dinner. What would you eat? Would it be in a home or at a restaurant? And what would you wear? Feel free to elaborate on the details.
If Sofia has had even an ounce of the Italian upbringing her name suggests, then I imagine she's had enough home cooking to last a lifetime. I also wouldn't bestow an Italian meal upon her, and I think she could be someone that values fresh ingredients and such, so I wouldn't thrust in her face anything English like Fish and Chips. In the end I'd probably opt to take her somewhere that serves lovely light, fresh meals, which would require me to do some research, since there's little hope of that where I live. I'm thinking chicken, salad etc. The dinner would take place around 6 or 7pm and we'd definitely drink cocktails. I'm thinking mojitos primarily.
3. List five thoughtful questions you would ask this person during dinner.
1. What does Bob whisper to Charlotte at the end of Lost In Translation? I know that this really is whatever you want, or need him to say. The beauty of not knowing is that you can interpret it for yourself, so maybe the question should be, What do you want him to say to Charlotte?
2. Which do you prefer? The Godfather Part I or II? I actually think The Conversation is a masterpiece, and the best film her father did, but separating the first two Godfather installments was a difficult one for me. I'm swayed by the ending of the second, which is so powerfully written and composed. We can safely say she's not gonna say the 3rd, right?
3. Disconnection and discontentment feature in all of your films. Is it fair to say that, having worked in various fields, and seemingly non-committal about which aspect of film you want to focus on -- whether it be writing, producing, directing, composing or otherwise -- you're a restless person?
4. You have such an amazing and diverse taste in music. Which artists working now are likely to find themselves in a Coppola film of the future?
5. It's been three and a half years since I've seen Lost In Translation, and although I've matured and changed a hell of a lot in that time, I think I'd have to ask her what Charlotte asks Bob: does it get easier?
4. When all is said and done, select six bloggers to pass this Meme along to. Link back to Lazy Eye Theatre, so that people know the mastermind behind this Meme.
Goatdog, Pete, Yaseen, Tim, Rural Juror and Zed are all getting tagged, although they shouldn't really need an incentive to participate in such a fun activity as this ;-)
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
So I thought I'd start with a fun category, 'Best Poster'. It's the only non-Oscar category I'll be putting together, except for Ensemble. I think posters are vitally important for films, and the ones this year were generally excellent.
Cleverly displaying Jackson and Ricci's conflict as more through similarity than difference, they are treated like criminals on a wanted poster. A pair of volatile social tearaways. Bonnie and Clyde eat your heart out.
The Brave One
Gorgeously composed, this poster for Jordan's The Brave One re-enforces the turmoil of its tarnished central character with a wonderfully murky stained yellow. It hints at a depth of theme that the film really struggles to control but totally sold me into seeing it all by itself.
This film is about Ian Curtis, yet as a character he is consigned to an almost tentative position in the poster. Perfect if you've seen Control, which definitely wants to give the impression that Curtis was over-awed and even perplexed with himself and his life choices.
Call this bravado, because Disturbia is a flashy, modern, and attractive film, entirely like its poster suggests. This funky and fresh design is as polished as the latest electronic offering from Sony or Apple, flaunting its market value. Don't you just love it?
With amazing framing, this poster puts forward its unusual fragmented style, while drawing humour from it. Most of the reasons why I love this film are encompassed here: its unique quirkiness, use of cultural elements, and unabashed rejection of neatness, most deftly represented by its title held up as a placard; a confession that even though you're going to watch a biopic, you won't know its subject back-to-front by the end of it.
Winner: The Brave One
Runner Up: I'm Not There
Sad to exclude: American Gangster, which I thought for certain would make my lineup after I saw the Crowe poster. They've all got style but this one oozes the stuff. Michael Clayton's poster is clever because it blazons its point so simply and yet I don't even seem to mind. The Savages has a poster that's so neat I wish I'd designed it myself.