After all, it's just a ride….


The Toast Of Croydon……

Now that’s what I call synchronisfuckingnation, as we stroll out of the London Film Festival on Sunday, into my third day job assignment of the year down in deepest South London – welcome. OK, OK, once you’ve stopped chuckling at my fortune with such salubrious surroundings I at least had perhaps the most entertaining induction today, two hours of calmly and carefully being advised of the specific protocols, projects and procedures, followed by three hours with the woman I’m replacing who insisted I forgot everything I’d just heard as our mutual colleague was (and I quote) ‘a fucking idiot’ – welcome to local government. The entire day reminded me of the US comedy series Parks & Recreation which I gave a second chance after a lacklustre BBC4 outing a few years ago, and I’m glad I did as the slow burn of the characters and local government milieu are finally paying dividends. I’ve still not seen a filibuster of this quality but believe me, those evening cabinet boards battles can get pretty darn racy;

So I just wanted to wade into a recent controversy of Paul Schrader’s latest debacle, as once again it seems the final film has been taken from him and edited into a completely different picture, leading to the rather unusual occurrence of star Nic Cage, director and executive producer Winding-Refn distancing themselves from the final product and shrieking of artistic interference. Here’s the trailer, what do you think?

Yeah, didn’t exactly quite get my blood pumping and I love Paul Schrader, although after the diminish returns of his recent movies there has been some dark mutterings in certain corners of the interest that there is ‘no smoke without fire’ and maybe his cuts really were very bad and required such unprecedented interference – we should see in a few months. I’ll be damned if I can find that clip from Iron Man III about ‘the toast of Croydon’ but here we are……and yes this made me giggle.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Nine

And that’s a wrap, I thought about attending the final gala press screening of Fury but c’mon, 9.00am on a Sunday is bloody pushing it for a film being released next Wednesday, not to mention the picture doesn’t particularly appeal to me. So lets mop up a few other films I caught before we take a breather of precisely two days before the BFI Days Of  Fear & Wonder begins with my first Southbank Screening – no rest for the wicked indeed;

Have you researched your Latvian slasher movies recently? It’s a miniscule genre with a body count of one, as this is the first ever made. Alas, it was exceptionally unmemorable, and even its austerity theme of the evil oligargs deserving their cruel despatch it lacks any spark of originality or indeed, dread.

Whilst I didn’t see the Festival Surprise Film which they always keep shrouded in immense secrecy I was pleased to see it was Birdman, a project which has been steadily soaring to the lofty peak of expectations. The enormous praise has been unanimous from other festival showings, and although I’ve read some intriguing elements of the film production and construction I’ll keep them quiet for now. The London critics were just as impressed as the TiFF and Venice contingent, so I’m really looking forward to this now.

Restoration is always a pleasure at a festival, alas I missed The Tales Of Hoffman (which truth be told is not one of my favourite Powell & Pressburgers) so I went in a rather different direction with this Chinese Wuxia classic. Like many of my generation I grew watching all the Bruce Lee pictures (The Big Boss, Fists Of Fury, Game Of Death) and some of the early Jackie Chan’s (Snake In The Eagles Shadow, Drunken Master), but generally speaking 1960’s martial art remain something of a blind spot. Review here, and here are my warblings on The Tribe.

My final picture was Jamie Marks Is Dead, which immediately put me in the mind of the 1980’s teen alienation classic Rivers Edge. Although it suffers in comparison his was good though, a little creepy, and again a palpable sense of isolation which seems to be a recurring theme. So that’s that for another year, for the final tally The Tribe, Foxcatcher, Whiplash, Spring and The Duke of Burgundy were the highlights. So now its time to take to the stars, and the good news we have a mission clearance for all eight of the tickets I initially applied for so prepeare for hyperspace etc….

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Eight

Another thing I enjoy about film festivals is the detection of trends. Sometines, certainly not all the time but sometimes when you see a cluster of material some common manifesto can emerge, either through themes, through technology or sometimes a hybrid of both, across a number of movies. The presence and potential of such cultural readings of cinema caused a little storm in a tea-cup earlier in the year when a number of commentators began to read movies such as Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes as metaphors for Israeli & Palestine, or a concealed plea for gun control, a contention that the esteemed film scholar David Bordwell firmly dismissed here. I’m not going to get into that wider question here of cinema as reflection of wider society – not enough space, not enough time – but seeing another American mentor / mentee picture within 24 hrs of Whiplash with similarly powerful character driven performances obsessed with the pursuit of perfection, well, it does make you think;

What is strange about this film and which doesn’t penetrate through the trailer is just how exhausted it is, it’s an American mediation on class and privilege with a clear commentary on our wonderful era of austerity despite occurring twenty-five years ago, of the arrogance of the elite and how all the material and influence in the world can still leave you deeply and irrevocably fucked up. Steve Carrell will definitely get an Oscar nod and it is a fine performance, but I think Ruffalo and Tatum are equally as strong.

I’ll tell you what, as the lights dimmed on this one and the Annapurna corporate logo shuffled into view I knew we were in safe hands, as again they display that their hands-off, sign the cheques and let the creatives get on and make the film they want approach continues to pay artistic dividends, next up from their stable is the trifiling matter of Inherent Vice...erm Sausage Party? So we’re coming to the end of my coverage now, I’ve got a little wrap up to construct over the weekend and that’ll be it for this year….

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Seven

Now this is what I’m talking about, a full day of film festival fun, two movies (it would have been three but Xavier Dolan’s Mommy was ‘sold out’ by the time I got there) and another press conference, all cantering around this jazzy little number;

Fantastic movie, pure and simple. Incredible, committed performances, evasion of the expected mentor/pupil genre traps (the film has a Sundance rather than say a Warner Spotlight vibe) and a narrative which fulfils its emotional waypoints. Just to join the choir on stating the bleedin’ obvious but J.K. Simmons is 100% an absolute lock for a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and he was quite the charmer at the post screening press conference over at the Mayfair Hotel;

So just about enough time to wolf down a sandwich before tearing the pavement up back to Shaftsbury Avenue for the second screening of the day, Greg Araki’s hard edged fairy tale White Bird In A Blizzard;

This was an unexpected treat, I’m glad I took a risk as other options were on the menu. It’s no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but as a well baked blend of Douglas Sirk and John Hughes it works as a coming-of-age tale within an eerie mystery.  After her turn in The Descendants and a reasonable anchor in the mediocre Divergent franchise Shailene Woodley is going from strength to strength, and if nothing else the film has a period specific soundtrack – 1988 to 1991 – which seems to have been directly culled from I and my mates playlists of that period; The Jesus & Mary Chain, Echo & The Bunnymen, New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode and most esoterically This Mortal Coil. Twice.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Six

Whilst I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to the Industry Seminar on the Southbank featuring none other than mega-media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg on Day Six I had other plans, there was just no way I was going to risk missing one of the most provocative and fascinating films of the year;

Ok, here we go. I think by now we all know I’m something of a specialist of challenging and outre cinema, of material destined to turn stomachs and cause appropriate offensive in lesser gnarled spirits, but my god although I’d heard this was a ‘tough’ watch I wasn’t expecting such a hardcore experience. I’m not kidding but this film actually shook me up as it is very much in the vein of Irresversible, A Serbian Film, or god help us all Marley & Me. It certainly ‘earns’ its violence, is not for a single nanosecond exploitative and is a remarkable piece of cinema, I just never, never want to see The Tribe again. Here is a complete change of tack, not even remotely related to the LFF, which will hopefully distract us from the darkness;

Reviews have been a little ‘meh’ from a very selective North American run, I just like the attention to detail with the production design which makes it look like fun., hopefully in a Galaxy Quest kinda way. I will say however that I caught a film at the LFF (review incoming) which has Liv Tyler playing a middle aged mom, and boy did that make me feel old. When did she get into that casting bracket? So finally for today although I have been thwarted from attending festival events such as Q&A’s and Masterclasses this year, another casualty of some unfortunate schedule clashes, the LFF have hosted some intriguing seminars such as this;

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Five

Another hilariously early start for Day Five, but hey if Reese Witherspoon can walk unaided for 1,000 miles then I can brave another rain-swept rush-hour to support her in such an endearing endeavour;

This is Jean-Marc Vallée’s directorial follow-up to Dallas Buyers Club and while he does have a talent with focusing and examining a central characters flaws and foibles, of people being irrevocably changed by extreme extenuating circumstances the film is rather flat as it meanders through all the expected trials and tribulations that you’d expect – wildlife, exhaustion, unexpected succor and threats. Still, here’s the press conference;

Regrettably, deeply regrettably in fact I had to skip the anticipated screening of Leviathan as other non-movie priorities reared their ugly head. This is the biggest miss of the festival so far as I was really looking forward to a dense, international art house themed drama for some reason, the only consolidation being I’m sure it will get a limited release outside the festival in the new year.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Four

Another one of the best things about a film festival screenings is the lack of extraneous nonsense when you actually get into the theatre, otherwise known as adverts and trailers. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a well constructed, enticing trailer as much as the next cine nerd, but they’re just so damn full of spoilers and outline the entire premise of a movie these days it’s really best to expose yourself to one viewing, and making up your mind to see the picture or not from there. At LFF screenings its straight into the action, which makes for a more continent experience. Today started with a little more international action;

This was a gentle and affecting little comedy drama, although I’m not so sure the ‘weight of one’s love’ metaphor managed to squeeze through the mild mannered artifice. The movie has been selected for Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar which should earn a well deserved wider audience. Speaking of a man with a wide audience, here’s John Stewart’s directorial debut;

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, I think I liked it even if was preaching to the choir of fellow left of centre communist agitating libruls such as yours truly. Here is Jon Stewart on the red carpet which provide more texture;

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Three

Day three arrives and like a champion cyclist I decide to take a rest day, partially because there wasn’t much on offer which tickled my bones, and some urgent attention was required on some Admin tasks. Still the festival seems to have sourced it’s first breakthrough film, as The Duke Of Burgundy has got the glitterati all a flummoxed on social media, and we finally have a clip to share;

Mark my words, this film will be heading up many domesticly sourced films of the year lists, my thoughts are here. Some sad news next, John Boorman, whose new film Queen & Country (a loose bio-pic to his earlier reminiscence Hope & Glory) is showing caused consternation when he announced that this was his last, and after a long career he’s finally hanging up his viewfinder.

Finally here is some footage of Mike Leigh’s latest Mr. Turner, which I also missed. I realise this makes me a bad film critic, and especially a bad British film critic, but I dunno I just find his films a little……worthy. Some of the cinematography looks amazing though……

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day Two

Two more movies for Day Two, taking us to a grand total of thirteen flicks so far. Thankfully the press screenings have been secured at the Odeon Covent Garden rather than the hideous Trocedero where they were last year, that really was London’s worst central cinema centre so the recent news that Picturehouse have acquired and are regenerating the site is terrific news. The press screenings give us a chance to test drive the various screens at Covent Garden for free which is cool (I wouldn’t pay to see a film in the cramped conditions of Screen One for example) where I saw the following;

I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to Pasolini.  Like any fan of outre cinema I’ve seen Salo of course and his The Gospel According To Matthew is essential viewing, but philistine that I am I’ve not even seen Therom on the small screen. This bio-pic centres on the last days of the Marxist maestro before he was murdered by a rent-boy, although the film evades any suggestion that his murder was orchestrated by the Italian state due to his political agitating. It was fine, a good primer on the man and his work, with a solid central performance from Willem Dafoe who looks eerily like his part. It’s also my first Abel Ferrera film seen at the cinema. Which is nice.

Speaking of firsts, White God is my first Hungarian canine apocalypse uprising film. This is the kind of film festivals were invented for, an absolutely bonkers premise for a film which you’d never dream of seeing in general release, I thoroughly original idea which won the un Certain Regard prize at Canne this year. This is a satire of American films, complete with high-octane action chases, anthropomorphizisation of the animals, including a central mutt out for well deserved vengeance. It shouldn’t work but it does, howlingly funny with a bit of a Twilight Zone lecturing on how we treat animals which is something to chew on. Here’s some more red carpet nonsense for Jason Reitman’s new film which I had to miss due to day job priorities, it’s been slated across the board but I’ll still track it down when it gets a domestic release;

BFI London Film Festival 2014 – Day One

What fresh madness is this? My alarm screeching me awake from some pleasant, engulfing dream, sent shrieking back into the pallid consciousness of a thoroughly miserable and overcast London morning. I swear, if I ever get my hands on whatever genius programmed these Press Screenings for 9:00am I’ll give them a damn good thrashing, of a verbal persuasion anyway. So somehow I managed to rise from my crypt and shouldered my way through rush-hour to get over to the Odeon Leicester Square, to kick-start the official beginning  of the London Film Festival with a preview of the Gala Opening Screening – The Imitation Game;

I’ll admit it, this trailer left me a little meh as I’m definitely not one of the ‘Cumberbitches’ as I heard a fellow critic remark, but I’ll concur that this film was a lot stronger than anticipated, heck it even got a light round of applause which is quite rare for us jaded and cynical wordhounds. It was quite the melancholy experience to wonder over to the Corinthia Hotel for the press conference after the screening, winding past Trafalgar Square and peeking down the main rivulet of Her Majesty’s Government, when considering that if it wasn’t for the breakthroughs of the abominably persecuted and discarded Turing then that might have been Himmler’s Square and swastikas might still be festooned down Whitehall.

I can see the numerous BAFTA nominations from here, you don’t have to be any breed of movie savant to predict that the film is going to hoover up all the prestige awards next February, and maybe give the Oscars a few runs for it’s money. So here’s the red carpet nonsense, if you are so inclined – more international flavoured material tomorrow;


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