It’s not often I break the movie nonsense for world events but sometimes, y’know, you just have to pay some strange modicum of respect on a stupid little blog. This recollection from public testimonial contributors to The Guardian has just destroyed me – ‘It was my honour to help organize Madiba’s first visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I met and talked with him before he faced the politicians and I was moved to tears when he insisted in struggling to his feet (against my protests that he should save his energy) with the statement “Young man, I will always stand for anyone who has done anything for me, big or small”. I was speechless and settled for a big bear hug from the man. No photos, no ceremony, just a very personal memory of utmost dignity and humility that I will cherish to my dying day’. How can you possibly add to that;
I must admit to being somewhat bemused by this project. Given that he’s the screenwriter is Aronofsky trading on his post Black Swan clout to finally get that thwarted epic out of his system after the downgrade of The Fountain? Is he genuinely a religious type who feels compelled to tell this story? Is it a cynical ploy to court the religious dollar? Either way I think it looks like a biblical mistake;
Maybe its me but I’ve had enough of Ray Winstone as an unconvincing tribal sort, and Anthony Hopkins left credibility town many years ago. What a strange-looking film……
It makes my soul supernova with an intergalactic glee to see how this film has really gripped the popular imagination now that is has launched into multiplexes throughout the world, it’s pretty darn rare for such an anticipated film to meet such lofty expectations, so although I have already written my review having seen the film for a second time with friends at the weekend I thought it was appropriate to briefly craft a revisit here at the Menagerie. For my money it has been one of the most debated and dissected films of the year, not exactly starved of coverage given its epoch defining technical achievements, with many critics citing the film as a return to the genesis of cinema by invoking Melies, Griffith and the purely spectacle side of the art-form which have been sorely lacking through a decade of deadening digital pyrotechnics. The numerous scientific audits have amused me as of course the Cuarón’s have been faithful to the spirit of space exploration whilst some of their shortcuts are necessarily unrealistic, as even on a second viewing I could swallow a narrative which essentially can be reduced to some vertiginous game of Frogger. The rather odd narrative flourish at one point in the film which I thought could be problematic was diminished on the second viewing (if you’ve seen it then you probably know what I’m talking about) but whilst the intention was to run a diagnostic on some of the films manufacture I found myself genuinely swept up in the story again, and although the emotional framing is a little sleight I do think you needed some arc in order to really get a satisfying splashdown.
So minor quibbles aside I’d judge this as almost a masterpiece, an unquestionable step forward for SFX in the digital wake of Avatar, I almost don’t want to know how they achieved some of those effects and movements from a technological perspective as that peek behind the curtain might spoil some of the fun (oh, OK here’s some intel), but from the dark side of that moon I’ve heard that these revelations have actually deepened fans appreciation of the film stratospheric reputation so I’m torn - in any case this mission is definitely getting a debut day Blu-Ray acquisition in 2014. I’d wager that technical Oscars across the board are guaranteed, with further nods but no wins for Bullock and Cuarón, as there is still some prejudice against this sort of thing from a best picture or acting perspective and besides, 12 Years A Slave has those categories locked down next February. Here is a instructive is a technical article I’ve sourced, and isn’t it interesting that the overall aesthetic intent was specifically looking to achieve as long a shot as possible, a gravitational reaction to the hyper cutting, serrated and frayed edges of Greengrass et al. and the still prevalent vogue of so-called ‘chaos’ cinema?
One arena I couldn’t get into before was the 3D presentation and its increasingly firm cementation as a viable format, would you Adam n’ Eve it but even the legendary bulwark against the format Mark Kermode has even reluctantly come out and said that yeah, you really do need to see this one in stereoscopic surroundings. My position has always been clear, when used appropriately the format is just as proficient, illuminating and illustrative as any other stylus in a filmmakers arsenal – sound, colour, composition, pace, figure movement, set-design, performance styles, film-stocks and treatments, and well, I could go on – as long as it’s deployment serves the story, and given that the approach in Gravity is to plunge the audience into high-orbit I think they’ve achieved their goals, and incidentally tackled the whole light-loss complaint that often provides ammunition to the detractors. Speaking of sound the soundtrack is astounding (from the UK’s Steven Price) and the sound design is a whole other continent, a fantastic addition to the jaw-dropping visual sheen, after Director mate Del Toro convinced Cuarón that his original intent to keep entire sequences silent might be scientifically accurate but alienate the wide audience he was hoping to reach. I’m also told that in the spirit of international co-operation they approached David Fincher for advice, he said they’d need to wait seven years for the technology to realise their ambitions (it took just under five) whilst James Cameron thought while it sounded fantastic it would cost $400 million – they did it for a cool hundred.
In terms of the films themes or assignations I don’t have much to add, I just love it when creative souls have a vision so vast, so galactic that the technology itself to represent that imagination needs to be constructed in order to be achieved. It’s a process of discovery and experimentation which in turn shapes the designs and the final piece, as reading around some of this films five-year history has deeply reminded me of the similar gestation period and organic evolution of Kubrick’s 2001. Simple and pure human ingenuity, a sense of spirit, perseverance and endurance which can be considered a meta level component of the film itself. So finally I have been amused to see that co-screenwriter Jonas Cuarón has filmed the reverse scene of one portion of the film which should be interesting, and here is a fantastic discussion with Emmanuel Lubezki whom is one of the great cinematographers of our fragile new millennium. Some of the smarter reviews I’ve consumed have remarked on the film’s interior qualities, of how this is a tale shining with a sense of cool melancholia, both with a sobering austere reduction of our attempts to conquer this impossible horizon and a programme which looks inward and back to a return to Earth, rather than outward to the infinite cosmos and the stars. The padded gauntlet has clearly been thrown down for 21st century filmmaking, a film marrying ideals of survival and loss under the digital infrastructue of modern cinema - so over to you Jim and J.J. for 2015 eh?…..
Details seem respectively sketchy but it’s sad when any talent passes, especially a female director whom are obviously annoyingly underrepresented in the industry. Anyone who can annoy the Catholic Church – or any money obsessed hypocritical church for that matter – is OK in my book. Here’s one of her underrated and little known films which is worth a few watches;
Curiously enough one of the questions at this evenings Roger Corman BFI event concerned his patronage of female directors, more on that soon…
So how are things going gentle reader? I have been mostly considering economic and intellectual decay, the discovery of the most remote galaxy known within human existence, and the unsurprising revelation that the powers that be are religiously scrying our ‘Allies’ alongside neutral and antipathatic nation states – but it’s OK though, Cap will save us;
Redford as a cloaked villian I reckon, that could be a fun inversion. My mild prejudices of this character were assaulted by a reasonably entertaining origin film which balanced fun and flags – that’s what a solid journeyman director like Joe Johnson managed to rally – so I think I’ll give this a chance. As for Thor II which opens here in the UK tomorrow, well I guess I should see it to keep abreast of all the cross Marvel movie circlejack references and post coitus stings, but that red shift revelation of the infintite pointlessness of existence makes me wonder…..
Quite frankly I’m still exhausted from recent excursions hence the criminal lack of interruptions, my next planned cinema visit is for Prisoners next Monday night at a local Cineworld preview – in the interim I guess I’m obligted to post this;
So we final enter the final stretch, as the press screening schedule declines precipitately after today so I may resort to some sight-seeing to fill my remaining days – what a tough gig. I see from my Twitter feed that the usual problems with public bookings for the LFF are causing the usual frustrations, with the exception of Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davis all I′m interested in is correcting some of the films I couldn′t slot in here – Only Lovers Left Alive, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, The Double and 12 Years A Slave. Oh, and of course this;
Can Terry give us a updated Brazil? It got slated at Venice though, but what do we stupid critics know eh? Anyway, back to Toronto, and an evening double bill began with this paranoid thriller;
Very good it was too, superbly edited and a fine thriller which zips around Seoul with a Tony Scott hyperkinetic speed, it also had a finely detailed use of the technology and modern surveillance techniques used to combat a genuinely badass nemesis - unsurprisingly its already been picked up for US
rape remake. I′ve desperately wanted to find at least one good horror film here given the thin offerings of Inferno and Cheerleaders so I took a chance with Oculus, a film I knew precisely zero, zip, nada, nil point etc. about, again no trailer for the film but I subsequently found this which is a glimpse of the short that the film was expanded from;
Wow, I cannot stop raving about this film, its the best American horror film I′ve seen in a decade at least, up their with Excession and Orphan as simultaneously inventive, unusual, and genuinely creepy. The premise sounds ridiculous on paper – oooh, a spooky haunted mirror – but believe me what newcomer Mike Flanagan manages to achieve is worthy of comparison to early John Carpenter with serrated fragments of The Shining – this my learned friends is praise that is not given lightly.
Final movie day tomorrow, we’re winding down now….
We’re finally here gentle reader, work has been concluded, out of office notifications programmed, bags are packed and itineraries scrambled – TiFF 2013 is finally a go. So my intentions which will no doubt be obliterated when ‘in country’ is to produce a daily round-up style post and ad-hoc full reviews over at my patron sponsor Sound on Sight, like the LFF the maple syrup brigade produce daily video summaries of the red carpet activity so I’ll try my best to post those alongside any blistering hot press conference action to keep things simmering here at the Menagerie. Some more new trailers have slowly begin to struggle for the light, this looks like it should generate some debate;
I am intending to take a couple of ‘rest’ days and actually, y’know, go for a nose around Toronto whilst I’m there, given the fact that one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring natural features is only a couple of hours away I’d quite like to slot in some traditional tourist gawking as well – that’s where some of Superman II was shot, right? Then again, speaking of awe-inspiring natural features Scarlett Johansson is in town (for a full list of confirmed attendees check this out) so maybe I’ll just hang around the posh hotels and, erm, see what comes up;
Now that looks mildly terrifying (shivers), and early reviews from Venice are throwing around five star kudos and muttered allegations of a ‘masterpiece’ – wow. With a gobsmacking range of forty to fifty film screenings every day – yeah I know and that’s just the fucking press schedule – I’m certainly not going to be bereft of movie choices, thankfully some of the hot ticket items (your Gravity’s, your12 Years A Slave etc.) are getting duplicate screenings in order to sate outrageous demand, although I’m not entirely confident on how the various tiers of prestigious access badges will unfold out on the battlefield. One thing I hadn’t considered is the side strand of industry talks, discussions, workshops and debates, it honestly sounds as if the entire city goes celluloid crazy, so as initial sortee I’m aiming for a production discussion with the terrificly talented Sarah Polley and if I’m lucky a seat at the Spike Jonze interview and Q&A. So that’s that, please do bookmark my and my colleagues feed over at the impregnable Sound On Sight and we’ll see you on the other side;
Yes I know I’m a few days behind the curve on this sad passing, but for reasons that will soon become obvious why I can’t let this go unremarked. I find it deeply irksome that all those AICN styled sites and the wider press have been weeping over the loss of the cinematographer of their beloved Star Wars, when in fact he has a much more interesting history in the medium, primary example numero uno;
Can we also admire Ice Cold In Alex, The Omen, Repulsion, Frenzy, the terrifically moody 1979 Dracula and, erm, Losin’ It. He had a few choice recollections of working with Mr. Lucas as well, you can find those morsels yourselves. Anyway, whilst we’re on the subject of titans of the photographic form;
The sleaze of the 1970′s knows no borders, as perusing London’s film listings last weekend* I alighted upon a curiously titled Swedish film – Call Girl. Not wishing to sound some lecherous swine but this piqued my interest for a couple of reasons, firstly a more story driven, character and performance based piece was more attuned to my palette after the exhausting array of digital pyrotechnics of the last couple of months, and I have heard some reasonably good things about this film from its festival flashes, it’s certainly made quite a splash in its native Sweden – more on that later. The film arrives on these emerald tainted shores in the wake of a continuing sordid avalanche of sexual transgressions of yesteryear, with the Yewtree investigation continuing to unearth nausea inducing revelations of bell-bottomed celebrities using their cloak of fame to conceal their predatory pedophilia, shattering a generations sepia toned reminiscences of a collective fondly remembered childhood. If you thought that George Lucas ‘raped your childhood’ – an absurdly overwrought and frankly offensive declaration given the real world pain and suffering caused by such repugnant behaviour - it’s almost hysterically comforting in a way to learn that these transgression were not restricted to our inbred Island, as it appears that the very highest echelons of the Swedish state was also shabbily screwing everything it could in an early fluid streaked iteration of the European Union.
Call Girl is partially based on the true life controversy of a 1970′s sex ring managed by Dagmar Glans (Pernilla August), a manipulative madam of extortion and psychological seduction who procured naive and bruised young women from foster care and neglected backgrounds to sexually service the top-tier of government and civil service of Stockholm. Iris (Sofia Karemyr) is committed to a Laissez-faire foster centre which encourages a progressive approach to social rehabilitation, although it is forbidden a tacit blind eye is turned away from inmates sloping away in the middle of the night to go partying and petting in the nightclubs of the capital, the care workers taking a ’girls will be girls’ option of treatment in the shadow of a sexually liberated, wider social contract. When Iris’s old friend Sonja (Josefin Asplund) unexpectedly arrives at the centre the duo are inexorably sucked into Madame Glan’s swollen orbit, and plied with champagne and coke they are soon coerced into offering sexual favours in return for a charade of empathic nurturing from their middle-aged preening pimp. In a twin track narrative the film also follows the investigations of an idealistic young officer (Simon J. Berger) who clandestinely monitors the activities of Dagmar’s sordid conspiracy, with the resigned support of the Swedish Secret Service who are privy to the existence of the illegal encounters, their redacted intelligence less concerned with the underage transgressions or any potential political scandal than the possibility of precious state secrets being revealed through secretive post coital pillow-talk.
Unlike some of its fellow celluloid denizens of the bordello of Seventies porno chic – I’m thinking along the lines of Boogie Nights, Wonderland and more recently The Look Of Love and upcoming Lovelace this film doesn’t glaze the sleazy couplings with the veneer of a burlesque seduction, there are no visions of sequins glittering in titillating twirls, no cheeky winks to a mildly aroused audience, as Call Girl is more serious-minded fare with its coldly unadorned gaze at unapologetic adolescent exploitation, and the overarching temperature is to jump in a cleansing shower as the credits roll. Call Girl is a cold and distanced, an almost resigned report on this sorry episode of Swedish social engineering, it doesn’t resort to the salacious or titillating, in fact some of the early glimpses of the underage undressed is almost mechanistic in its tedium, in its perfunctory presentation of the pubescent female form. Sofia Karemyr give a mildly intrigued performance which slowly dissolves to a compelling revulsion at her smothered social destruction, her coldly cruel madam hissing that ‘how would your parents like to know what you’ve been doing?’ once she is firmly enmeshed in the clutches of the oldest profession in the world, trapped in a web where her 14-year-old runaway word carries no weight against the objections of the respectable political pillars of society.
For another change to the usual paradigm the cops domestic status is also detailed with a modicum of reality, he isn’t some maverick hotshot who doesn’t take orders from the stiff necks down at City Hall, he’s just a career policeman, increasingly disgusted by what he records and observes, stonewalled and sidestepped by his superiors as he slowly realises that the conspiracy may reach to the very apex of the Swedish state – the film has been cut following a lawsuit in its native Sweden following scenes which outrageously alleged that the then Prime Minister may have been involved in the flagrant flesh-fair. The film doesn’t adopt a full neo-realist posture however, with a seductive and seething Giorgio Moroder influenced score from Mattias Bärjed which doesn’t always sit well with its quietly smouldering rage, in a rather uncomfortable mixture of nostalgia inflected period detail and disturbing in flagranti incidents. The film lacks focus when making some loosely spurious connections between Sweden’s sexual liberalism of the period where in one scene we are informed that incest was abandoned as a criminal concept on the statute books and equally shockingly the legal definition of ’rape’ could only be proved through a prosecutors successful evidencing of ‘overwhelming aggressive force’, and it never quite puts its finger on the sexual momentum which made these pinnacles of the establishment feel that they could safely conduct such behaviour, the political elite tacitly supported and shielded by all covenants of the state. The closing frames suggest little in the way of redemption or escape from a life forever blighted by a naive manipulation, a sobering reminder that although the film is couched in a historical pseudo fiction some things never change;
* Good news for you Upstream Color infected out there who are eagerly awaiting a release into the water-table, the trailer is now showing at the Picturehouses which means that prints (or rather hard drives) are in the country so I’m guessing that after a modest London release a few screenings will percolate out further throughout the country….
Well, that’s not a bad way to start the week – I have a new assignment, down in deepest, darkest south-east London. A two-week turnaround from the last place is a personal best, I knew there was a reason I specifically moved into the regeneration, sustainability and economic development spheres, they’re one of the last bastions in local government as they actually bring in funds to a local authority, and the politicians love ‘em as there are plenty of opportunities for launches and press events where they get microphones shoved in their hand and their boatrace on the local TV station or in the local paper. Why am I sharing the fascinating insight with you on this film dedicated site? Well, quite amusingly amongst other things I shall be managing the staff responsible for the development of a certain notorious housing estate:
I was going to mention I had visited the borough during the interview, except y’ know I’m not a total idiot – stop sniggering. In an explosion of other good news the BFI’s Gothic season begins soon, and I can’t wait to see a scrubbed up ornate new print of The Innocents, one of cinemas genuinely scary chillers;
Given the news that a unexpurgated copy of The Wicker Man has recently been discovered, the so-called longer ‘middle-cut’, I suspect we’ll see some pagan burning as well…
A couple of trailers ahead of todays epic BFI visit, one of my essential Tiff movies has recently released a trailer, if you liked the Qatsi trilogy then get your squirming ear holes around this;
It’s getting a world premiere at Tiff with the Toronto Symphony performing the Philip Glass composition – so yeah I think that’s one for me, although I guess it will be faintly impossible to get tickets. I also like the look of this;
This vaguely reminds me of this terrific story which is positively begging for an adaption….
There’s not many actors who can maintain magnetism when Jack’s on-screen, but she managed it;
Yeah, so then, this is doing the rounds – it’s pretty exhausting;
Good Ole Stanley would have been 85 today, so as is my idion here is a little tribute on a day that a BFI contributor set up a twitter feed for people to submit reports of films Kubrick is on record as stating he liked – hmm, not the worst idea ever made;
Anywhy, it’s an nteresting day for me as when 5.00pm strolls around I shall once again join the hordes of Osbourne’s unemployed. August is traditionally dead in Local Government as everyone is on recess or their summer holidays so I very much doubt there will be any activity for a while, then of course there’s Toronto in September (I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to update my CV’s Other Interests section and list myself as a ‘correspondent for the LFF, Sundance and Toronto film festivals’) and then the day after I’m back Grand Theft V comes out – it’s almost as if someone doesn’t want me to get another assignment. So I’ve got a reading list to consume, I need to finish The Last Of Us and Borderlands 2, and crucially there is a fair amount of movies coming out to keep me occupied. If all else fails I do have another hero to emulate in order to retain my sanity, right?;
Well, doesn’t this second trailer make my jaunt to Toronto for the American premiere slightly more jaw-dropping;
For the record Cuaron’s fairly furious with his marketing colleagues for adding sound effects and Foley elements to the trailers as in the finished project everything plays out in realistic silence, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey - are you excited yet? That’s the best Hollywood trailer I’ve seen since Dragon Tattoo, except perhaps for Prometheus but we all know how that turned out eh? So while I continue plowing away at my opening list of twenty or so essential Toronto films article I just wanted to infect your psyche’s with this, quite incredibly this little B movie has gorged itself on an impressive $40 million opening weekend (more than Pacific Rim and the behemoth marketing muscle that project could accrue) so what do you make of The Conjuring?
I think it still looks pretty standard jump-scare polluted Sinister style fare but I’ll give it a whirl on the same weekend as Only God Forgives, this weekend we’ve got Francis Ha and Wolverine to get through which makes for an interesting team-up. So I finished work at one of the sites today so we went out for a team lunch which was warmly pleasant, inevitably when colleagues get wind of my other ‘career’ the inevitable question is forthcoming – ‘so what’s you’re favourite film then?’ Dear reader it never fails to amuse me when I see the waves of incomprehension wash over these civilians faces as I airly pluck out ‘Irrervsersible has its qualities although Salo also has its moments, then again there is The Men Behind The Sun and the Japanese Guinea Pig series is essential viewing…..’, it’s almost as amusing as imagining their reactions should they in an idle moment Google any one of those atrocities…
The feverish anticipation is over, as the Toronto Film Festival team unvielied their 2013 programme this morning including the opening film The Fifth Estate, and closing film Life of Crime which I can’t even find on IMDb – what a professional eh? Perhaps more exciting for this reviewer are new films from Atom Egoyan, Steve McQueen, Jason Reitman, Don McKellar, Paul Greengrass, Jonathan Glazer, Stephen Frears, Kelly Reichardt, Kiyoshia Kurosawa, Jim Jarmusch and, erm, Ron Howard;
Plus the Cannes winning lesbian flick, and oh yeah, the North American premiere of Gravity which I’ve been waiting three years for. The genre festival strain of Midnight Madness isn’t announced until July 30th so there is more to come. I’m putting together a more detailed overview for Sound On Sight, so watch this space….
Ah, this is a shame. Like many I have a fond spot for Midnight Run which is great fun;
I love that fucking scene, it’s fucking impeccably fucking executed. It’s a shame that Luck was cancelled as that was shaping up to be a pretty good series, like many of Mann’s casting choices the collaborations had a genuine authenticity as Farina was a bona-fide Chicago cop before moving into acting. I hope he’s enjoying a fine cup of joe and a vintage cuban in interrogation rooms anew….
Is this the end, beautiful friend? The apocalypse continues on the silver screen as after the disappointing financial returns of Edgar Wright’s comic book adaption Scott Pilgrim Versus The World the energetic young whippersnapper has retreated to pastures well trod in his earlier geek friendly films Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, the first two movies in the now oftly cited ‘Cornetto’ trilogy. With The Worlds End* the chillingly refreshing circle is now complete, as teaming up with his star co-writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost they have almost obliterated the rotting memories of the execrable Paul, and delivered a frequently hilarious, throughly enjoyable SF inflected romp through sleepy middle-class Britain. It may be slightly uneven, it’s certainly self-indulgent, but it has a sense of invention and bravado rarely seen in UK productions these days, even if you get the sense that they started with a finale and worked their way backward with this one. Like This Is The End the theme pivots on a boozy affair of blokes approaching middle-age and ruminating on their successes and failures, with a sense of perpetual adolescence that runs through the trilogy like a shard of devilish dark chocolate, with a surprisingly emotional rumination of the gulf between youthful exuberance and a sense of carpe diem being disemboweled by the sobering realities of adult life. As someone of exactly the same generation who shares an identical horror, SF and comic book obsessed adolescence as Wright and Pegg which was also scored to the psychedelic sounds of ‘madchester’ they have always generated enormous affection in I and my peers since the first small screen outing Spaced, although the films are great fun they have always been a little too flimsy to harbour any enduring love for me although they certainly have their worshippers, but as a blast of raucous and cleverly (and self) referenced humor, of demented pop-cultural plundering and blitzkrieg filmmaking there is a great deal to saviour in The Worlds End which thankfully doesn’t suffer that ‘third movie in a trilogy’ syndrome which can hobble a series just as it triumphantly approaches the finish line.
Ah, sweet, idealistic youth – in the early nineties a group of young British friends in the sleepy town of Newton Haven finish school and bask in the knowledge that their whole lives are lying before them, to celebrate the misbegotten freedom the cheeky young chappies embark on a legendary bender around the town with the epic ambition of twelve pints in twelve pubs. Smash cut to twenty years later and Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) is yuppie incarnate, fond of money and eager to make his next million, Peter Page (Eddie Marsden) is largely content as the assistant director of the family car showroom. Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) holds a torch for his teenage crush Sam (Rosamund Pike) who just happens to be Oliver’s sister, whilst Andrew Knightly (Frost) has embraced the corporate life and abandoned the booze due to some unspecified, tragic incident a few years back. Pulling the gang together for one final grasp at immortality is Gary King (Pegg), a narcissistic, arrested development definition of a man whose two decades have passed in a blur of self medicated maudlin misery, with a delusional mind-set he believes that reprising their legendary pub-crawl and actually making it through to their twelfth pint at the final destination – The Worlds End – will resurrect his imploding and desolate life. Complicating the alcohol fuelled escapade is not only the married ones antipathy to such teenage excess but the rather more sticky problem of a clandestine alien invasion, I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers other than to say think Village Of The Damned, think Body Snatchers, think They Live and an absolutely livid Max.
Edgar Wright is renowned for his breakneck, flashy editing and pacing style, perhaps a visual gloss to cover the rather hollow cores of his hyperkinetic movies, impressively The Worlds End actually improves as it incrementally accelerates its momentum, the gags get better and the combat scenes get the geriatric blood-pumping as the expertly chosen score idolizes those baggy golden days of yore like a floppy fringed greek chorus. It’s a bittersweet shame that like a slightly inebriated uncle it veers off the path in the final stretch with a duo of climaxes which don’t mesh very well with the previous definitions and loosely considered ideals, as clearly the initial brainstorm session yielded numerous ideas which Wright and Pegg have bolted in to make a rather clumsy but undoubtedly loveable contraption. Like Scott Pilgrim battling through his girlfriends previous suitors The World’s End has a clearly delineated progressive structure, moving from pub to set-piece to character reveal then repeat to a stupored conclusion, the fight orchestrations are absolutely first class and possibly the most handsomely mounted element of the entire movie, even if it initially takes a little time to digest a significant tonal shift from a riotous UK comedy to these early middle-aged actors careening around the screen like a troop of red bull guzzling Jackie Chan’s. Working again with cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix, Spider Man 2, and some other early Raimi pictures) Wright ups the ante on his visual dexterity, it’s not quite as lens flare-tastic as the current fleet of SF movies than it is a middle class cybernetic Mike Leigh, the soundtrack alone is a greatest hits compilation of my generations youth with appearances of the obvious – Primal Scream, the Roses, the Mondays, Blur and The Charlatans – pulsing alongside slightly more esoteric fare from Definition Of Sound, The Soup Dragons, St Etienne, Silver Bullet and the almighty Sisters.
The crew have clearly mustered a conscious effort to craft a more emotionally charged and considered work than the previous installments, wrapping these ambitions around the gags which ricochet at a machine gun rate and don’t always graze the bullseye, although there are certainly a half-dozen times when I was doubled up in my chair with wracking laughter which I’m sure means that the film will reward frequent re-watches to assimilate all the easter eggs and in-jokes. Clearly they’ve thrown everything including the kitchen sink into the finale which means that the climactic contortions are a little exasperating as it appropriates both the works of Douglas Adams and a notorious antipodean anti-semite in a rather fitful and bewildering fashion, I’m also not so sure that consciously situating the film in a landscape of identikit high street retail units maps to the middle-aged ennui which the film strives to achieve, but for a ferocious assault of comedy, combat and genre celebration then you’ll struggle to find a superior generation to this strangely affectionate if uneven blend of three different movies. Then again, to be fair they have always excelled in melding genres (Shaun as rom-com-zom, Fuzz as giallo-conspiracy-action parody) so at least they’re consistent, and The Worlds End does contain the finest through-line gag of the whole trilogy in one perfectly elusive moment. With a cameo appearance from Pierce Brosnan and considering Timothy Dalton’s appearance in Hot Fuzz all they need to do is quietly go back and CGI in an appearance of Roger Moore or George Lazenby into prints of Shaun Of The Dead and they will have a Bond trilogy to compete with the ice cream franchise, if Lucas can continue to tamper with his creations and alleged molest our childish memories then I don’t see why Wright can’t follow an identical fashion, after all, it’s not the end of the world;
*It’s not often we European geeks get to lord it over our American colleagues but the film doesn’t open until last next month in North America, in the meantime certain circles have been boasting about their mastery of this list, for the record I’m on 136 and quite strangely was watching Extreme Prejudice over the weekend (the last film on the list) just as this started to do the rounds.
Clearly someone is fucking with me from above as the old-fashioned good news / bad news dichotomy strikes the menagerie with a vengeance. So I got my Toronto press accreditation confirmed today - not bad for a first time try – and I’ve just had my day-job assignment terminated at the end of next week. It makes you wonder just what sense of humor the alleged pranksters upstairs may have;
To be fair this has been on the cards for a while, it was supposed to expire at the end of last month but my leader managed to get a modest extension, alas significant – and I mean significant - budget cuts are again about to rape local government, mark my words there is going to be blood on the streets. Anyway, I like to take solace in fictional worlds as per the proverbial ostrich sticking its head in the sand, so I guess I’d best start looking for some funds for the flight and accommodation then eh?
Another weekend, another gleaming vision of hellish catastrophe and destruction. After the comedic carnage of This Is The End, the leveling of Metropolis and Smallville in Man Of Steel, the crashing starships and terrorists strikes of Star Trek: Into Darkness and I’m told the nuking of London in G.I Joe: Retaliation this summer has been one terrifying orgy of pixellated havoc, and one longs for the quiet desolation of Oblivion, the smooth search for identity amongst the lethal drone strikes and technological oppression. You might think that someone was trying to tell us something, that the cultural manifest was expressing some submerged fear of ecological or social devastation, and the permeation of these global dreads into kids movies is a rather worrying development for which we can conclude that the worlds global Armageddon clock has ticked one minute closer to the apocalypse. OK, OK, maybe its the heat stroke ’cause I’m exaggerating of course, but with the arrival of Pacific Rim, Guillermo Del Toro’s clanking, braying CGI tour-de-force which pits gargantuan para-dimensional Kaiju monsters – think Godjira or King Kong or Mothra - against building sized robotic juggernauts I am curious to see the younger generations response to this dazzling conflagration of extinction threatening violence, as make no mistake this is a film very much aimed at the younger cinema-goers of the ten to fourteen age range, rather than the slightly older teenage demographic which dominates the lucrative summer season. In terms of full disclosure I must admit that I was in a somewhat fragile, self-inflicted hungover state when enduring this berserk blend of movie genres, my expectations weren’t stratospherically high other than potentially enjoying some destructive eye candy and a couple of hours of throwaway popcorn attuned fun with perhaps a buttery smattering of Del Toro’s empathic monster-mash-ups, what I witnessed instead was a rather frustrating combination of broad clichés and juvenile plot contrivances bolted on to his otaku obsessions, a three star movie housed in the shell of cavernous cinematic promise.
The near future, and some barnacle encrusted boffins have made a slightly worrying discovery – a para-dimensional portal rift has seared through the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean, and this tear in the space-time continuum rather irritatingly appears to be coughing out mega-behemoth monsters to rampage through the shrieking populations of the Oriental plate and the western seaboard of North America. This humongous plague brings the world community together to launch a mechanical counterstrike which is christened as the Jaeger program, the ambitious construction of similarly sized robotic guardians piloted by two psychically linked souls due to the neural operative pressures being too much for a single pilot to handle alone, a hilariously implausible and unwieldy concept called “Drifting”. This international force achieves some early victories in fending off the devastating attacks, but a sinister intelligence behind the onslaught is revealed as the rate and size of the invasion exponentially grows, causing the worlds government to seek alternative methods of a hopeless defence. Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) a one man charisma vacuum and sole survivor of one of the initial alien sorties is lured back to the programme through the barking persuasion of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba and no, I’m not making that name up), teamed up with tear-stained newbie Mako Mori (Rinko Kicuchi) this new couple must find their courage and forge a mutual trust as two deeply irritating scientists conduct some desperate R&D in an effort to build a strategy to counter the threat, played by the sneering suit Stryver from the The Dark Knight Rises (Burn Gorman) and
J.J.Abrams Charlie Day a final desperate mission is hatched to assault the rift and close the breach, and as the trailer so cringeworthy instructs us to ‘cancel the Apocalypse’….
I was musing over the potential reaction to this film from the numerous trailers that have escaped into international digital waters over the past year or so, with a quiet mental prediction that many of Del Toro’s local acolytes would be crushed by disappointment by a diluted directorial force following the severe setbacks he suffered with his exit from The Hobbit project, so I find myself in the rather unenviable position of siding with the annoying crowd as any sense of Del Toro as a filmmaker of the calibre of Pans Labyrinth or more crucially the rewarding Hellboy pictures which of course gleam closer to the spirit, size and sensibilities of this species of colossal blockbuster – any sense of an ‘authorial’ film has been completely obliterated from this film, apart from his trademark sense of creature design and dimensions which I’ll come to shortly. Now I know I have frequently expressed the view that you should review the film that was made rather than the one which you wanted to see, but unfortunately Pacific Rim’s numerous failures and long stretches of tedious, bland characterisations interfere with would could and should have been an entertaining, titanic rollercoaster of a movie, rather than a waterlogged wreck which springs more narrative leaks and clichéd asides than a swiss cheese schooner. It’s a film for twelve years olds and has clearly been developed with a whole series of toy franchises, duvet covers and comic book tie-ins which is to be expected (what marketing dolt thought up the tagline ‘Go Big Or Go Extinct’ though? Idiot) and I’m certainly not criticising it for that, but as a singular entity, as a film alone and adrift from the associated revenue streams it cuts rather a forlorn figure, occasionally punctuated with a few set pieces which certainly raise the temperature and the heart-rate, but all the fun of a fantastical, SF, comic book ensemble that he has brought to his previous big-budget excursions is singularly silent. He never plays with the concepts of ‘drifting’ and how this could gel with concepts of a shared heroism, there is no tacit tackling of a world united against one great threat and a shared humanity, instead Pacific Rim posits a very black and white, good/evil dichotomy with blandly sketched character longueurs which rot at the films tsunami damaged thermonuclear core, and that is simply just as faintly insulting to kids of whatever age as it is to adults.
That said there is some earthy elements to enjoy, unlike most current fare the 3D is expertly arranged and avoiding a mild spoiler I’ll just say that Del Toro’s skills at wading into world building waters are fully on display with an alloy of a society which would adapt to the presence of super Kajiru in both a physical and environmental fashion (genre hero Wayne Barlow was involved in much of the creature design and organic work), the battle scenes unlike its metamorphical stablemates are clearly defined and bellowingly brutal, through robust editing and compositions you instinctively grasp a firm sense of the space and the definitions of the melee maelstroms which are clearly designed to embrace the z axis format, and the Hong Kong set-piece is the films indiscriminate climax which may serve as the best single combat sequence of the year. Del Toro’s favourite actor Ron Perlman is fitfully amusing as a gold brocaded, sleazy Kaijun artefact black marketeer and you have to applaud the directors steadfast conviction of placing a woman in a central action and narrative role, not objectifying her to some crop topped wearing, hot pants sporting sex vixen that the camera drools over as she sweatingly conducts some ‘super hot’ repairs – thankfully despite its similarities to the Transformers pictures this ain’t no Michael Bay atrocity to celluloid equality – but by the same token Mako is the single, solitary speaking-role female character in the entire movie, so why were there no other vaginas deployed among the scientific support team or military brass? Well, OK there is a Russian pilot but she is barely seen and doesn’t hang around for very long, I guess unlike the hulking strides of the Jaeger colossus these things have to change in incremental baby steps.
Writing this review to the soundtrack of Man Of Steel certainly makes this review feel more epic than it sounds, I know you’re probably thinking I’m being far too serious for a $250+ million film of this ilk but I think you’ll appreciate my concerns when you get round to seeing it, if you have kids of an appropriate age then do take them to it as you will be the greatest father/mother in the world, and your brood will probably be of the opinion that the movie is the greatest achievement of human civilisation thus far – if I was that age I’d agree. The best news is I’m writing this on my lovely new iPad, given the desolate plateau of depression that was my so-called birthday last month I figure that you have to treat yourself sometimes, as it appears that no-one in my social or genetic circle is fucking prepared to do so, it’s a wise acquisition to prepare for Toronto as I needed a tablet of some description to power out the imminent – fingers crossed for the press accreditation – reviews. Anyway I digress as I’m already being diverted into alternate waters, I do hope Pacific Rim is a hit so Del Toro gets to resurrect his Cthulhu dormant Lovecraft project, if that fails then we can only hope he gets back to the smaller films and musters another minor masterpiece, until then I guess we should start quietly praying for the imminent screen return of the outer dimension ancient ones……
OK, speed review time so I apologise in advance for any inconsistencies, to continue my mental gymnastics as the intellectual training continues – picture a Rocky montage if you like. If I had to select one theme to encapsulate last weekend’s viewing activities it would have to be misguided youth. From one side of the spectrum we have a brood of furtive & idealistic eco-terrorists, taking the battle to the boardrooms of corporate America in the rather mysteriously titled The East, on the other a sly celebration of adolescent vacuousness and their orbit of a a fathomless moral void in Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. Both films champion the young and idealistic as our eyes into our shared world, whether it’s the grimy scrubland of Louisiana or the Rodeo Drive commercial Gehenna of Beverley Hills, where capitalism in its all pervasive hegemony is the lurking antagonist driving the jejune antics, with entire swathes of new graduates and the young furtively divining for a career it’s an interesting time to see them represented on on-screen, especially when two pictures emerge which are attuned to the most prevalent big-screen demographics (16-24 age with a median household disposable income) which doesn’t spring from a comic book or established franchise. Now, before we get into the reviews proper I very quickly want to touch on the announcement of the new Terminator franchise upload which was announced last week, whilst this was inevitable I am quietly excited that this is being spearheaded by Annapurna pictures whom you may know is the production company of billionaire daughter Megan Ellison, they have been responsible for the recent critical triumphs The Master and Zero Dark Thirty and have thus already established themselves with a reputation for quality and artistic integrity. If I was them I’d programme something radical and go back to the first movie blueprints for a modest $30 / $40 / $50 million rebrand, pick up some hot and hungry new talent and force them to improvise with meagre resources to keep it lean. mean and keen, and not include a single, solitary reference to Ahnoldt whatsoever to break from the bloated past and signal a fresh direction – this opinion is probably why I’m still not a top-tier studio executive eh? So let’s stick to what I do know, and that’s taking movies more seriously than they were probably intended;
It’s a stalwart scriptwriting tool to plunge your hero or heroine into a moral quagmire by punting them in ‘so deep s/he doesn’t know which way is up’, in The East former FBI agent Claire Moss (Brit Marling) is an ambitious corporate security executive whom is desperate to ascend the career ladder at Niler Brood, one of North America’s most prestigious corporate security firms. With friends in high places the group specialise in Intel acquisition, Executive safety and run interference on the numerous hydra headed anarchist collectives that are ideologically idling across North America, pitted in a covert battle of wits between obscuring and disseminating the truth. Headed by the callous, greedy and similarly ambitious CEO Sarah (an underemployed Patricia Clarkson) Claire is awarded the prestige contract of infiltrating the secretive cell known only as ‘The East’, one of the most feared and secretive eco-insurgants famed for their media attuned conscious raising pranks and home invasion incursions, taking their collective battle for the environment directly to the homes and families of the most pathologically indifferent Chief Executive Officers. After ingratiating herself with the self-righteous membership Claire begins to develop feelings for her misguided colleagues, with Alexander Skasgard as a trust-fund doyen igniting some sexual tension whilst the brittle Izzy (Ellen Page) is bristles as an ideologically spurned daughter of a major petrochemical heir, both supported by Toby Kebbell (Dean Mans Shoes, Control) in his first American production. When their plan to activate a series of high-profile ‘happenings’ strays into the realm of human casualties Claire must decide where her loyalties lie, and maybe her new clandestine comrades have a few surprises in store for her as well….
The East takes a serious subject with a serious rancor, and like the groups it examines is a rather droll and humorless affair, with a righteous idealism smouldering at its eco-friendly roots. One glaring error for a thriller is something of an absence of actual nail-biting moments, as The East prefers to grow and inculcate Claire organic character alteration, her beliefs and views evolving as her ambition are warped by her experiences, as the scales fall from her eyes and she understand the sheer scale and human costs of the West’s veneration of profit as the absolute apex of existence. These illuminations ignite an ethical revaluation as sure as a flint spark can preamble a forest fire, and Marling is convincing as a conflicted ideologue being turned from the flock, but the lack of a commitment to thrilling twists and turns does pitch the film as something of a dour affair, without even facsimiles of real world figures of hate like the Koch Brothers or the Occupy movement generating an emotional sneer from either side of the political culture wars. It raises some interesting and difficult questions in relation to 21st century First World collusion, how one can simultaneously prosper in a commerce worshiping society and retain ones individual moral code? Is that moral code polluted and twisted in the first place? How can you divine right from wrong in a system whose manipulation by self-interest groups rigs the game in their privileged favor? How do you make the impossible compromises to progress one’s career at the sacrifice of others lives and localities? The film certainly has its heart in the right place and is appropriately ambivalent with its shakily sustainable conclusions, but is a little ungamely and hesitant in delivery, particularly when dissolving the driving factor behind specific individuals to psychologically simplistic paternalistic issues rather than a genuine passion for social and environmental change, The East tills fertile ground for further discussions of the social consequence of a so-called ’lost’ economic generation but a little more Hitchcock would have welcome among the histrionics.
A thousand miles away both geographically and figuratively is The Bling Ring, another installment in Sophia Coppola’s aureate abasement of the privileged and wealthy, based on the 2010 Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales the film takes an almost psuedo-documentary approach to a recent spate of high-profile burglaries of the rich and famous among the Hollywood hills. New to Tinseltown is Marc (Israel Broussard) who quickly makes friends with a clique of squawing pubescents who share his fascination with fashion and the lifestyles of the celebrity circus, besotted with the blossoming beauty of Rebecca Ahn (Katie Chang) Marc finds himself embroiled in her frequent acts of petty larceny, pilfering wallets and watches from the unlocked vehicles of their entitled communities. Like any addiction the appetite for more risky and rewarding returns soon grips the pair and aided and abetted by their two friends Nicki (Emily Watson) and Chloe (Claire Julien) their antics accelerate to the actual breaking and entering of celebrities homes who rather conveniently signal when they will be absent by hosting MTV parties in Miami or Grammy shindigs in Manhattan, the banusic quartet feasting in an orgiastic display of enough Chanel, Gucci, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, Cartier, Rolex and Tiffany to stock a buffalo’s boutique. With the genius level intellect afford them by their similarly vacant parents the group parade their booty through social media boasting and status enhancing jibes at the next socially imperative party, leading the authorities to apprehend the group only for the symbiotic serpent of fame to devour it’s own tail….
One can only satanically hope that the next school shooting – and let’s be honest here, we all know there is going to be another massacre as sure as day follows night – one can only hope that the next maniac attends the Hollywood Hills High school and decides to inflict his wrath on these vapid abuses of Deoxyribonucleic acid, an unholy prayer which might just pause our inevitable plummet from civilisation given this generations ascension to any positions of influence or power. There is not a single solitary creature with whom to sympathise here, Coppola giving her ‘ohmygod’ squeaking parasites just enough celluloid rope to hang themselves on the altar of irritation, and the only adult character (Nikki’s mother) with a notable role is similarly infuriating as a home schooling airheaded nutbag whom insists her children gather for a faux pseudo self-help religious prayer every morning and holds seminars on how to purge corrosive life forces from ones inner self. It’s these scenes with Leslie Mann as the similarly narcissistic matriarch which provides most of the films cautious chuckles, the scene where she attempts to usurp the spotlight of her daughters fame being a rare moment of levity among a knuckle chewing litany of image obsessed, intellectually castrated cultural psychopaths. Coppola gets a fair amount of criticism for her gilded vision from within the bubble of the rich and famous, but if the adage of ‘film what you know’ is accurate then I’m not quite sure what her detractors expect, and I rather like the airless, hermetic and slightly daydreamish qualities that quietly permeates her films, although The Bling Ring certainly lacks the levitating lethargy of her earlier accomplishments The Virgin Suicides or Lost In Translation. As you’d expect the film also has a bruising soundtrack which is expertly cut to the montages of commercial cocaine, like a Vanity Fair advertising insert come to life Coppola revels in the ornate trappings of elite clothing, footwear and jewelery of which a single piece would equate to a small South American countries GDP, whilst the vacant and materialistic prada heeled urchins never once refer to their crimes as transgressive infractions, merely as ‘shopping’ as a victimless exercise in self-absorbed idiocy.
There is one directorial flourish at the midpoint of the film which neatly encapsulates the entire thematic and cultural malaise in a single evocative shot, one home invasion which plays out in a slow zoomed single take, like a 21st century Edward Hooper landscape the minimalist interior suggesting the goldfish bowl prism of the modern celebrity and marketing machine. Similarly affecting are the infrequent sequences of these young mistresses of the universe writhing in slow motion projection like a bacchanalian tribute to their neophiliac narcissism, but the film itself is somewhat transparent and doesn’t linger in the memory, there’s no real commentary or contemporary illumination being provoked here, and the film lacks any real satiric venom which could have been injected by a script pass by the likes of a Bret Easton Ellis and his immolating immediacy - The Bling Ring is Coppola treading water in her beachwear line of Jimmy Choo’s, rather than finding inspiration in her ennui afflicted individuals. The film is dedicated is the memory of the brilliant cinematographer Harris Savides and this was the last film he worked on, which is enough of a reason to see the film for cinema fans, an elite class collaborator with the likes of Coppola, Fincher and Gus Van Sant.
There’s a few of these reports doing the rounds, given the subject matter you’d think someone would have invested in a stabilizer but here we are;
That’s probably the most exhaustive video out there, I’m not in any way a camera nerd but to see some of those technological artefacts that were used to film Lyndon, Odyssey, The Shining and others is quite exciting to see. This closes in LA today, and yes one is feverishly praying that some London museum steps in to host the next phase of the exhibition – given that Kubrick lived in the UK for almost forty years where many of these masterpieces were crafted is that too much to ask?
Honestly, the things I do for you people. I’m not sure how to start this report from Tuesday’s curious evening at the BFI, other than to say that I loathe John Travolta. Now I have nothing against John Travolta as a human being of course, I’m sure he’s exceedingly generous with charitable donations, loves his wife and kids, and hugs puppies and promotes equal rights for all, what I’m referencing is of course ‘John Travolta’ the screen persona, the actor who for reasons I can’t quite logically articulate or justify I can barely watch on-screen without feeling an indistinct stirring of irritation and mild hatred. I’m not sure why this is, I’m certainly not proud of the antipathy, but I think we all have for some horrible reason an aversion to certain people and public personas who just wind us up for intangible reasons, as I’m betting there is some celebrity figure from the realm of media, entertainment, politics (actually scratch that one, most of them are irritating aren’t they?) whom also riles you up and makes your skin crawl, and you will actively go out of your way to avoid a movie, a TV series, a chatshow appearance or interview which includes this frustrating figure. It was therefore with a mild sense of nausea that I attended the UK premiere screening of his new film Killing Season followed by an exceptionally rare Jonathan Ross hosted Q&A on Tuesday evening, and already the event had irked me as it clashed with a screening of Herzog’s Stroszek which I had to cancel, as in the interests for the blog I thought that this might be of a slightly higher film culture visibility than one of Werner’s suicide inducing screen ballads. In any case it was quite a curious event, so let’s begin with the trailer and a capsule review of the film;
As you may have gleaned from that the trailer the film was terrible, a supposed cat and mouse game between retired US veteran Benjamin Ford (De Niro) and the hilariously incomprehensibly accented Emil Kovac (Travolta) twenty years after De Niro’s UN platoon discovered a massacre during the Yugoslavian war, and decide to take justice into their own hands and summarily execute the Serbian marauders led by Travolta. This ludicrously offensive films begins with a portentous context setting crawl about how serious and solemn the conflict was before hard cutting to an exciting twitchy-cam combat sequence – and this tonal repulsion is only compounded by a script which then meanders through the most pedestrian route of character development and conflict interaction between the slumming leads. You know a film has rejected any semblance to credulity or emotional engagement when in one scene one of the characters instructs the other to stake himself to the ground by inserting a steel rod and tassel through the void created by an earlier arrow wound, and this is just one of the early problems of tis deeply tedious and tawdry film which increasingly obeys the simple ‘I’ve got the upper hand, no a-ha now I’ve got the upper hand’ model of so-called tension and suspense. You can pretty much chart the entire trajectory of the mercifully short 90 minutes directly through to the final shot, and as usual Travolta is just hilariously serious and studious with an approach to acting which finishes with plastering on some make-up, adopting some ridiculous facial features and emitting the worse accent since Don Cheadle’s Ocean’s 13 cockney rhymed Jeremy Hunt. In short, avoid at all costs.
I do like Jonathan Ross as a UK movie culture figure (I haven’t watched any of his chat show stuff in decades) as he clearly has a genuine breath, knowledge and passion for the artform from obscure B movies and exploitation pics out to the established and revered classics, we all remember the fantastic shows he fronted and commissioned back in the 1980’s don’t we? On stage you can see just what a brilliant interviewer he is, he’s quite disarming and isn’t afraid to prick that self-important celebrity bubble when the occasion demands (‘John, exactly what accent was that you were using in the film?’) and he asked the more serious instructive questions on Travolta’s collaborations with De Palma and Malick alongside the inevitable attention lavished on the likes of Saturday Night Fever and of course Pulp Fiction. I thought Travolta was quite a guarded persona despite his batting away Wossy’s most direct questions – ‘You’re seen as something of a remote figure, do you take refuge behind any screen persona? – with a simple ‘This is me, what you see is what is get’ reply, although of course he did shy away from any Scientology queries or indeed any reference to the classic Battlefield Earth which curiously was also omitted from a ten minute context setting montage that the BFI threw together to inaugurate the interview.
There were some reasonably smart questions from the audience as well, one asking his insider opinion on the current state of the industry which he lamented for the move toward spectacle and away from character driven pieces. Well, this is course a perfectly fair point and it’s all very well bemoaning the lack of character based vehicles in todays American marketplace but when you’re actively producing unimaginative, formulaic dreck like Killing Season which from its script stage must have blatantly obvious that it isn’t delving into anything other than Hollywood archetypes of conflict equaling character, of violence eclipsing any other solution to progress (which is exactly the point the film is so wistfully and therefore hypocritically espousing) then you really don’t have a wounded leg to stand on, not to mention how you’re devolving an incredibly complex array of social, historical and political forces which led to the conflict down to two guys violently fucking each other up for an hour without any real consequence or physical cost. Still, I did warm to Travolta a little when he got on to the fun they had shooting Face Off between Nick Cage and John Woo impersonating each other, I must give that another watch as that was a fun action movie and there was a fairly amusing running gag about how Richard Gere essentially wouldn’t have a career if he didn’t seize upon the parts which Travolta had rejected like discarded crumbs from his table (American Giglio, An Officer & A Gentleman, Days Of Heaven), although I was surprised to hear that with the latter Travolta was Malick’s first choice for the male lead, and it was studio machinations to award Gere the part which heavily contributed to his disgust with the industry and self-imposed Paris exile for the next twenty years. I was also just as intrigued to see Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston in the audience a few rows from me, she’s an actress in her own right which you may recognise from the likes of Jerry McGuire, Twins and the yuletide ‘classic’ Jack Frost, I have some slightly more formative adolescent memories of her from the movie Mischief which I’m sure some of you hairy palmed perverts will also fondly remember…..