Tag Archives: Filmspotting

EIFF Off

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The EIFF is over for another year.

It’s a shame I never got round to posting fresh analysis and opinion on the films as I saw them but to be honest, my desire to type has been waning of late. It seems like the only thing I’ve done for the last 2 years is type so I thought it best to take a break and regain my thirst for communicating. Via the gift of innocent smoothies and some decent sleep, it seems to be back.

It was a good festival, maybe not as complete an experience as last year due to my work commitments but I got along to a decent amount of stuff and met some cool people.

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The opening film was the new Sam Mendes pic AWAY WE GO which had John Krasinski (star of the US comedy TV show The Office) and Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live) in the leading roles. It was a good natured, whimsical start to the fest which neither offended nor inspired me. The dudes at Filmspotting ripped it to shreds but the picture, in my opinion, doesn’t strive to be anything beyond what it is on its surface, 2 people in love trying to find their way after discovering they have a child on the way. Mendes himself came out and introduced the film and his summing up of what we were about to see was in no way weighty or philosophical. And that’s ok by me. You can’t sit and watch PERSONA over and over after all.

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The EIFF wouldn’t be what it is without its weird midnight pictures. Those pictures that may not see the light of day beyond the festival circuit. These are the real finds and it always annoys me that these little gems are what make a festival, but very few people get to see them.

One such example is White Lightnin’.

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The film stars up and coming Brit actor Edward Hogg as Jasco White, a real life character from the deep south of America who has his troubled life dramatised in this picture (Jasco, incidentally, is currently in jail) Hogg does a tremendous job bringing this hardened individual to life. There are moments of striking beauty despite the grimness of the subject and I never once felt that director Dominic Murphy pushed things too far. I loved this film and would say it was the best of my festival. I hope this picture gets a release, if it does it’ll probably run late at night, it’s worth staying up for!

The real highlights for me this year were the In Person interviews. I took in Darren Aronofsky, Bill Forsyth, Roger Corman, Sharmila Tagore and Joe Dante sharing their cinematic views live on stage. It was especially pleasing to see my college tutor Jonny Murray doing a great job interviewing Bill Forsyth. It’s now clear in my mind that Scottish cinema can be funny, insightful and important without having to resort to drab, arbitrary stories of drink, drugs or violence. Our nation has more to offer, we just don’t know how to fund it.

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Kim Newman interviews Roger Corman

I’ll lastly mention the Roger Corman retrospective that was running as a compliment to his In Person appearance. I’ve mentioned Corman a few times on this blog but I don’t think his contribution can be overstated. I had the pleasure of watching THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, THE INTRUDER and THE RAVEN on the big screen, more on THE INTRUDER soon as I’ve bought it and will dedicate a full post to the flick. People need to get into this guy. The films, although quite rough around the edges in many cases, show an ingenuity, a passion and an energy for story so often lost on glossier, more expensive productions. This freedom, I believe, is now returning thanks to the digital age, how that freedom will be utilised is another discussion altogether.

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That Night We Went Trashy

My girlfreind Cindy has stated on several occasions she doesn’t really want to go to the cinema with me. She’s a girl who likes to take in a picture without the 2 hour post viewing analysis. That’s fine with me, her cinematic approach works for her and provides pleasure…. So does mine. It’s all about recognising and accepting the differences isn’t it?…..

She came to visit at the weekend and, on the promise I didn’t bang on about it afterwards, we went to the movies. Now there was method to the selection. I figured that if we went to see something COMPLETELY trashy, I’d have nothing much to say afterwards, making my promise all the easier to honour. Aliens Vs Monsters seemed like a good bet but the guys from FILMSPOTTING had lots of good things to say about it….. Everything else was extrememly middle of the road (watching real rubbish is always better than merely adequate rubbish) or interesting leaving only one option:

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Director Steve Carr’s 5 pictures before this effort give a very clear idea of what was going to be served up on screen. Such memorable movies such as NEXT FRIDAY, DR. DOOLITTLE 2, DADDY DAY CARE, REBOUND and ARE WE DONE YET point towards an experience that was destined to be forgotten as soon as we left the foyer but hey, that was always the intention.

Kevin James (who co wrote the picture) plays Paul Blart, our portly protagonist. Size plays a major part in the plot of this movie as does Hypoglycemia, the condition Blart suffers from that prevented him from being a bona fide state trooper and relegated him the the ranks of mall security guard.

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Lacking the respect of just about everyone, Blart spends his time yearning for a crack at the big time of policing and the love of an obligatory attractive mall worker. Fate comes to his rescue when the mall is taken over by the least convincing bunch of terrorists I’ve ever seen on screen who (unsurprisingly) kidnap the object of his desires. He has the chance to earn the respect of his colleagues, the cops and the girl by taking down the crooks and rescuing the kidnapped mall workers, all this unravels in a very DIE HARD-esque fashion….. Yes, it really is that formulaic.

The film is a series of fat / hypoglycemia “jokes” woven together with the aforementioned plot that, at the end of it, makes you want to wash your eyes out with malt vinegar.

That asside, there were laughs in this film…… 2 of them. Cindy was tickled by a scene right at the start when Blart’s 2 wheeled mobility contraption crushed a yappy little dog and I laughed too, not at that scene but somewhere. Thing is I can’t remember what the scene was. Honestly, that’s how forgettable this film is.

Oh, and can anyone guess how everything turns out?

Go see Aliens Vs Monsters……….

CHE

I’d gone to the cinema yesterday hoping to witness first hand what the fuss surrounding SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was all about. There’s more hyperbole flying about for that picture than there is for Barack Obama.

As usual, I hadn’t checked the schedule beforehand and was early… or late, so rather than wait in the bar for an hour I decided to select an alternative.

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Steven Soderbergh is a director who’s generally been under my radar. I recall watching SOLARIS (the only pre CHE Soderbergh film I’ve seen) and hating it! Now I’ll generally try to find at least one redeeming feature about a film but I felt that watching George Clooney in this movie was like being trapped in a very boring washing machine. I’ve now decided to watch the Andrei Tarkovsky version and the Soderbergh version back to back. More on that next week…… If I don’t find myself trapped in suspended animation.

CHE was rather good though.

Walking to the cinema I happened to be listening to the Filmspotting podcast and they were speaking to Soderbergh about this very film that I never knew I was going to see. A couple of things he said struck me as very interesting.

Firstly he spoke of the method, the approach to making the picture. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the iconic standing of the man. One only needs to walk down a street, into a student union or go to any music festival to be faced with countless t-shirts showing his image. The story of Alberto Korda, the man who captured the famous image, is an interesting one. Read a little here.

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Anyway, Soderbergh quite rightly decided to discard this almost mythical reverence and concentrate purely on method. He’s interested in showing us how, not why. That, I think, is a brave approach and one which he should be applauded for. The Filmspotting interviewer thought he came out of the film knowing no more about CHE than he did before, which was very little, but with a better understanding of the process surrounding revolution. I’m not sure I agree with him on that. Of course, a bio pic is probably the worst route to gaining an understanding of anyone but I do feel you get an idea of his commitment, his beliefs and his morality, all important facets of a person and they were shown extensively here, albeit through the subjective lens of the filmmaker.

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Secondly, on a more technical level, Soderbergh spoke of shooting the entire film on the digital RED ONE camera. This is a smallish unit which records the image onto a flash card which can then be loaded directly into editing software…. I’m sickened to say this but it looked amazing. It’s truly the first digital example that’s made me think twice about my staunch and stubborn love for celluloid or rather rethink my consistent cynicism surrounding digital technology. That’s not to say I’m going to curb my desire to shoot a number of films on film……

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Benicio Del Toro, as always, is superb in his understated portrayal of Che and Demian Bichir is a very convincing Fidel Castro. These are only 2 great performances amongst a solid cast.

If you’ve screwed up the timings of the film you’ve gone to see and find yourself at a loose end, I suggest you check out CHE. Hell, why not check it out intentionally?

Oh, and I also recommend the Filmspotting podcast. Available on itunes or at their website here.