After all, it's just a ride….

TV

White Sands, New Mexico, 5:29am (MWT)

repoOrdinary fucking people, indeed. So, it’s been a strange year for the Menagerie. I oddly lost my intent and inspiration for crafting material during a period when ironically I had more time on my hands to devote to writing nonsense, as the day job possibilities took a major hit due to two outside influences. Firstly, the frustrating IR35 regulations wrecked havoc across the public sector, but I won’t bore you with such tedious opinions on that HMRC clusterfuck other than to say that if you think this country is going to deliver on the infrastructure and housing expertise that it needs to even remotely build enough stock and develop sustainable communities then think again – all the grizzled experts are retiring, and the intelligence loss is massive. Hmmph. Then things started to pick up my in industry just before the Grenfell tragedy which understandably  and appropriately froze much of the regeneration activities across London, in favour of massive swathes of audits and assessments – at Islington during my last contract I’ve seen first hand just how the technical and financial culture has changed. But, as Tyrell said to a mournful Roy Batty (next year, heh) all of this is academic, and we have other matters to consider, such as the shuttering of this blog. Here’s some Malick to set the scene;

If there is a theme for this final post then it’s transformation, this blogging activity has exhausted its purpose, and while I’d have liked to have covered all of Kubrick and all of Lynch (to name just two) I just can’t muster the mojo any longer. Heck, I was deep into reviews of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and a couple of other Marty’s from the January BFI season (and also a BFI screened 70mm print of Once Upon A Time In The West which is now for me the greatest Western ever made, full fucking stop) but gentle reader the spirit is extinguished, so they must remain incomplete and immaterial. I think part of it is just getting a little older and jaded with the web and its alleged force for good, recent political events are just so infuriating and deeply depressing, on both sides of the pond. Therefore I’m trying to extricate myself from so much artificial interaction, concentrating on other activities is simply essential, especially with the day job developments and the potential for the media to track down potentially damaging phrasing and inappropriate gags I’m sure I’ve made here over the past decade. I don’t wish to sound so self important (I’m really, really not) but on my last contract FOI’s have been issued, and that is bound to be repeated for 2018 given my new activities. Still, I got to go to TiFF and cover the LFF over many years, plus being invited to Cannes a few times was an ego boost and independently sanctioned my credibility. This blog has also influenced the day job, long story short but I had an intense (to say the least) three hour job interview with New Scotland Yard earlier this year, for various reasons that didn’t work out but some of the interview panel positively remarked on my independent writing background which made me grin. Closer to home I also got to meet Bowman and Poole so that fulfils some immortal bucket list from my teenage years. Also seeing one of the worldwide premieres of Gravity and the movie below are experiences I will always treasure;

Yeah, I’ll never forgot seeing that for the first time, I knew immediately that we were in good hands, cinematically speaking. Right, so, The Last Jedi, Star Wars n’ stuff. I suppose that requires some consideration. Seen it twice (technical appraisal), didn’t particularly care for it as a film either time, slightly enjoyed it more as a self contained cultural unit once I’d decompressed the franchise 21st century mandated experience, but have come to admire it more as a passing of the torch and the franchise’s natural evolution. The entire Ren / Kylo / Luke stuff was interesting – that’s Star Wars – the rest was dreadful. It’s just not that an important thing for me anymore, if you’d told me when I was 12 that there would be stand alone Han Solo and Boba Fett movies I’d be hyperventilating like a Sarlacc during its millennial mating period, now I just don’t care. Still interested in IX of course, but for me when it comes to screen SF there is only one mission;

Maybe at this point you are detecting some of my cinematic fetishes as I close this blog out  – all time favourite sequence of any film ever? See above. That’s what cinema can be all about, for me that is the moment when all this nonsense started, the experience of a 2D representation of ideas and imagination punctured everything, and all celebration continues. Is TV is approaching such marvels? (see below, which should be seen on a IMAX screen for full mind-bending reprogramming) Maybe. Before we finish yeah, OK, I know some of you were asking for Blade Runner 2049 views but no, alas, I’m not going to be providing that. I liked it on the first viewing (sans a terrible headcold), a fantastic experience with some reservations. Second time around (the technical appraisal) most of those reservations were dispelled, particularly around the emotional arc of the picture and the (must we do SPOILERS at this point?) introduction of siblings and Hollywood’s current fetish for CGI reconstruction, for mere reconstructions sake. At this point the movie is a rare beast that manages to appropriately continue a story in a world so beloved without fucking with some of the intrinsic elements, and I think Villeneuve etc. managed to take the concepts and environment culturally forward from 1982 to 2017. I also watched Arrival again a couple of days ago and that film gets better with every re-watch. Well played, I hope he gets that Dune adaption of the ground. Here’s something of a Menagerie attuned montage;

So, finally, enough is enough, the light fades and the interest dwindles. As I close this out and embark on a new phase of, well, something, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and that my mediocre efforts have turned you on to some movies, as that’s what this was always about, really. I think my friends would agree that I’m an opinionated jerk, but that such opinions come from a genuine love and enthusiasm for great and interesting movies and my enthusiasm for sharing them with like minded souls. If I’ve got you to watch one film you’ve never heard of or wouldn’t have seen then that is mission accomplished. In that vein I’ll just leave this sequence for absorbtion. It’s a tough one, and having seen it four times now within the context of the overall arc of the show it continues to yield mysteries and treasures, as it indicates the horrors of the past are still pregnant – Happy New Year;


Mulholland Drive (2001) Reprise & Twin Peaks (2017)

mullTo say that the Menagerie was excited for the return of Twin Peaks, or rather more specifically the return of David Lynch after a decade hiatus is a spectacular understatement. It is a wider cultural event, with an arch-auteur who has struggled in bringing stories to any screen adding his swansong chorus to the so called third ‘golden’ age of TV broadcasting, by returning to one core text which set the foundations of the modern media landscape of long-form, small screen entertainment. More importantly for me is the simple prospect of another 18 hours of Lynch’s mind – and what a strange, ethereal and occasionally petrifying mind that is – given that he is directing every episode and writing again with his original partner Mark Frost, the stabilising force whom arguably kept Lynch in check to enable some mainstream penetration back in the midst’s of 1990. Given the import of this phenomenon I embarked on a herculean effort of preparation, going to see Mulholland Drive at the cinema which itself was the result of a cancelled TV series, I revisited the criminally unappreciated Fire Walk With Me, squeezed in a screening of Inland Empire and tore through my third re-watch of the original two seasons, all 30 episodes, in a binge watching bloat of three days. To say I am severely Lynched out is another understatement, further compounded by a lovely Sight & Sound reappraisal in this months issue which makes some illuminating observations – given the undercurrent of psychological dread and abuse it references the series Freudian oral fixations (Coffee, Cherry Pie etc.), it situates the series as an early sprouting of contemporary media ‘Hyperdiegesis‘ around narrative properties citing ‘the creation of a vast and detailed narrative space, only a fraction of which is every directly seen or encountered within the text’ and from a cinema history perspective summarises Twin Peaks contours as a molestation of Norman Rockwell Americana by European surrealism, primarily the vein championed by Bunuel and Cocteau – Yeah, I think we may have detected where that serrated Black Lodge zig-zag production design element may have originated…..

mullsSo let’s start with some fleeting observations on Lynch’s genuine masterpiece, now widely regarded as one of the greatest films of this teenage century, 2001’s Mulholland Drive which has been blessed with a 4K restoration as part of the surrounding hysteria. I’ve already reviewed the film so this will be more of a collection of further reflections and detections that this screening yielded. Firstly the transfer is exquisite, it heightens the tones and stark symbolism of Peter Deming’s cinematography (a long time Lynch collaborator he’s also back on board for the Twin Peaks revival), which reminded me of David Thompson’s lovely phrase that the opening vistas of LA by night reminded him of ‘a scattering of precious diamonds over a black velvet drape’. For all the deconstructions and analysis of the film that has occurred no piece has ever done the film full justice in my mind, in this hopeless pursuit of connecting the narrative and excavating all the mysteries. Great art should always leave some space for the viewer to bring their experiences to the table, and whilst much of the DNA of the film has been codified I prefer for some elements to remain ambivalent and uncertain, as that makes every viewing a deeply satisfying and diverse experience. Case in point – I’ve seen the film a couple of  dozen times over the years, and have never noticed that the man who partially comperes the club sequence is the same man as Justin Theroux’s landlord in the sleazy part of town, another doppelgänger in a film infested with mirrors and obfuscations. I’m sure I’ve digested this elsewhere but the fact that we do indeed see the Cowboy (a Hollywood genre stalwart)after his original appearance another two times signals something,  Betty/Diane/Rita’s costume when they discover their a corpse is clearly modelled on Madeleine/Carlotta/Juila’s attire in Vertigo, (oh, also found this which is good), I’d forgotten how funny the film is (the botched assassination, the audition scene, Billy Ray Cyrus) and for me the entire Silencio sequence still remains one of the most eerily magical orchestrations ever committed to celluloid;

After this screening and that hearty binge watch I was suitably buzzed for the 2am UK transmission, after a patient wait of 27 years to return to this bizarre architecture of cryptic giants, menacing dwarves, and crimson draped para-dimensions. I was adrift in expectations after digesting the revelation that the first and last shots of the entire original series, after the title sequences that is,  are both scenes refracted in mirrors – and of course similar elements play heavily in Season 3. Welcome to the labyrinth, perverting genre concepts of the soap and procedural mystery show and driving them into more different and dark terrain, as when all is said and done Twin Peaks gravitates around a disturbing orbit of incestual sexual abuse and murder, revealing a web of moral degradation that lurks within an entire locality. I’m a thick skinned viewer but the killing of Maddy, and the ultimate reveal in episode S2E14 is distressing, even in comparison to today’s thresholds I can’t believe the former got through Standards and Practices a quarter  century ago.

anneAs an article upstream notes ‘Lynch convinced a major entertainment conglomerate to pay for 18 hours of new material by David Lynch, at the budget he needed, and with complete creative control. He hasn’t had this kind of financial support since he made Dune in 1984.’ That achievement alone is staggering, no? I loved staying up for this, a shared event around the world with like minded maniacs, and boy did if fucking deliver – as others predicted this is pure, uncut, undiluted Lynch, and I’m still processing much of the first four episodes which are positively infested with his earlier work, including long abstract stretches which are pure Eraserhead. So some scattered thoughts with MINOR SPOILERS – The title sequence elicited a Proustian rush, I was shocked at how much of this was set within the Black Lodge, and it was quite touching to see Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer back on screen, reprising an earlier incident way back in the European pilot. The appearance of Lynch alumni from other material – Brent Briscoe, Naomi Watts, Patrick Fischler & Robert Forster  – sets the mind spinning on a shared universe which I’m sure other cerebellum of the internet are already formulating. I thought the Michael Cera scene was fucking hilarious, and that encounter early on, well, I’m genuinely apprehensive at giving it another watch. Especially at night. I am sure it has baffled and agitated some of the audience, even the die-hard fans given where a certain character is taken, but I for one am fully on board as the pieces started to make sense around episode 4, although we still await a revisit to some core characters. Make sure you revisit this series this at night with the lights turned off and the audio on high, as the sound mix alone is staggering. Welcome back, old friend;


Catherine Coulson RIP (1943 – 2015)

Oh no, now this won’t do, this won’t do at all. Catherine Coulson wasn’t just the highly regarded Log Lady of Twin Peaks fame, she was an instrumental member of Lynch’s retinue throughout his career, charting back to his early short The Amputee and a crucial production assistant on Eraserhead. She was always in good spirits about her miniscule claim to fame in such a cult TV show, and I think she will be a douglas fir sized absentee in 2017’s return to that small, sleepy Washington town. Heck, she was even married to Henry for a few years, which in it’s own way must have been quite a trip. Rest in peace, and may your sprit fly swift to the White Lodge enigmatic Log Lady;


The Knick (2015) TV Series

A quick detour into TV courtesy of Mr. Soderbergh, I’m only three episodes into his Cinemax sponsored series The Knick and I think we’ve diagnosed the best series of the year. Set in a turn of the 20th century New York hospital the period design is incredible, with a fantastic coterie of characters with some very promising futures.

I also love the Clint Mansell score which in its seething electronica contortions should be incongruous with the period detail, but it works perfectly, in a very odd way. Soderbergh (who directs every episode of the ten episode run) also manages an absolute miracle, dissecting a charismatic performance from Clive Owen, who so often is something of a vacuum on screen – he plays a brilliant, visionary surgeon, who just happens to be a severe heroin addict. Be prepared through as it horribly gruesome, it doesn’t skimp on the horror of the period when it comes to medicine, racial and social conditions, and thankfully the second series has already been commissioned. Can’t wait to burn through the rest of the season…..


Let’s Tango….

Blah blah |Greek financial holocaust blah blah new Firefly is possibly back blah blah behind the scenes Star Wars footage. All of this pales in comparison to the real coup of the week, Ash is back baby;

Not all the jokes landed for me but it really doesn’t matter, this looks like gore drenched fun and defiantly in spirit with the best of the franchise. I can’t say I ever thought we’d see him back with Raimi and it looks like they’ve pulled it off – the Mint is a happy bunny…..


The White Lodge Speaks…..

What was that about not posting TV material? Well, after a rather hectic weekend I haven’t found the effort or inclination to finish my John Wick review, so instead let me join my voice to the chorus – c’mon Showtime, give Lynch what he wants, for everyone’s benefit;

Just to be a disgusting, facile male Madchen and Sherilyn are still looking cherry pie eh? Here’s some ephemera from the extra material of the FWWM Blu-Ray disk, sweet and unsettling dreams to all;


True Detective Season 2 Teaser

I don’t normally resort to TV postings but hey this has movie stars in it, so it counts – OK?


Oscar Winners 2015

2015Yes it’s Oscar time again, and I frivolously wonder what will be the new addition to this list. One thing’s for sure, I bet we wont get as memorable an acceptance speech as this. As usual I made some herculean efforts to see as much of the material as possible, with the exception of Mr. Tuner I think I’ve covered the majority of stuff, as I want to see that properly on the Blu-Ray to appropriately wallow in Dick Pope’s cinematography rather than watch the damn thing on my computer. I managed to track down Unbroken (run of the mill three star bio-pic), Still Alice, (strong but thoroughly predictable Alzheimer tear-jerker) The Judge, (tediously average moral transformation tedium) Selma, (moving and graceful historical picture, and yes it’s a deep disgrace that Oyelowo wasn’t nominated) Into The Woods (a musical ergo not my thing and Streep’s automatic nomination is absurd) and a cluster of the animated pictures – whew. So that’s almost all the high-profile and technical awards covered, shame I couldn’t find any of the animated live action or documentary shorts on-line but to be honest I didn’t try very hard this year. Here is a great article on the some of the most absurd upsets of the ceremony since its 1927 inception, from one of the best movie sites on the web – if American Sniper wins anything then I’m going postal. I’ve got a Hungarian and Argentinian TV feed running as insurance should one drop out, isn’t the future of telecommunications grand?

oscarAnd as usual the Menagerie standard disclaimer, I don’t treat these awards as anything other than a fun exercise, an adjunct to serious cinephilia, just like the BAFTA’s where Under The Skin was nominated and lost in precisely one category. Exactly which film will still be debated, dissected, admired and crucially inspire upcoming filmmakers in visual culture a decade from now? The Imitation Game? The Theory Of Everything? I won’t insult you with the answer to that puzzle. Industry observer wise though the awards are important, as potential winners will find themselves elevated to a new strata of importance with greater funding dexterity, and that is essentially interesting – just consider the A list dreck that superb actress Helen Mirren has been mired in since her 2006 win, and that’s just one example of multitudes. No, I’m not having a go at her specifically, it’s just an observation considering her pre and post win material, for example should Linklater win director or film will he be on the industry list for an adjunct  Star Wars picture? Yes, and that’s food for thought. If he’s interested. Anyway, you know the drill by now, right? I’ll be darting around with a few scattered thoughts on each nominee section I’ve listed below, apologies in advance for potentially incoherent and bdaly spelld reportage but we are eight hours behind here in the UK so the ceremony doesn’t even start until 1:30am.  Those I’ve seen are in bold, those I predicted would win are in italics, and those that did win are in gold, naturally. FINAL TALLY – I have no idea and at this point I don’t care, but I’m fairly sure that Boyhood was fucked…..

Best Film

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DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

I’m wasted yet first instincts are this – for the past three years we’ve had three films celebrating cinema and performance – The Artist, Argo and now Birdman. Solid films in their own way, but as a nest this is insular and uncomfortable. Not good, not healthy;

American Sniper – Clint Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper and Peter Morgan

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole

Boyhood – Richard and Cathleen Sutherland

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson

The Imitation Game – Nora Grossman, Ido Ostrowsky and Teddy Schwarzman

Selma – Christian Colson, Oprah Winfrey, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner

The Theory of Everything – Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce and Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook and David Lancaster

Best Actor

toe1

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Really? A great start, don’t get me wrong, a first act convincing physical performance but I can’t think that it didn’t quite continue for the rest of the film as this movie was more about other characters, especially when compared to the scope of the other nominees.

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper – American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Imitation Game

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Michael Keaton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Best Actress

alice

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

I’m a fan of Moore so great, good for her as its a reasonable film but it still smacks of the old yet appropriate cliché – illness equals Oscar. , ;

Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore – Still Alice

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Best Director

bm2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Yeah, he did well with a great panoply of material directing a play, but this film was all in the actors and cinematographer.  If that equals best assembly of material then fine, but I still can’t feel that Linklater was cruelly robbed,,,?

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood – Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game – Morten Tyldum

Best Supporting Actor

whiplash

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Well that ceremony opening from NPH didn’t particularly grab me but here we are – yet we are off with a first win, with a succinct speech from J.Jonah Jameson – a good start;

Robert Duvall – The Judge

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

 Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

 J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

by3

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Brilliant and utterly deserved, maintaining that performance was quite a thing over that breath of time, and a great, appropriate politically aligned speech – that one line she delivers in Boyhood was something else. Also immortal in Lost Highway of course;

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Laura Dern – Wild

Keira Knightley – The Imitation Game

Emma Stone – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep – Into the Woods

Visual Effects

interstellar

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Well of course. There has been some queries on the accuracy of the black hole realism to which I say this – erm, what? I’m running behind now but really, the accuracy of how we imagine black holes?…..

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy – Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar – Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Original Screenplay

night

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Maybe a late surge for the other awards? We shall see…..Nightcrawller deserved some attention though, but here we are…..in a modern world. Have I missed the….oh….

The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood – Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher – Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler – Written by Dan Gilroy

 

Adapted Screenplay

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DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Writers love the historical guess, a obvious choice.

American Sniper – Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game – Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice – Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything – Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash – Written by Damien Chazelle

 

Animated Feature

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DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yes, at this stage I’m doing well I think, losing count of my…..count. I’ve lost the Argentinean feed but the European  insurance is still going. Other options are being pursued. Can’t wait to see again Blackhat tomorrow either. Heh ;

Big Hero 6 – Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls – Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2 – Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea – Tomm Moore and Paul Youn

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya – Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

Cinematography

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DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

OK, things are getting little out of control, it’s late and the bourbon is bruising. But yes another win, for one of the greatest cinematographers drawing breath. Maybe one day Deakins will win but this is another appropriate award….

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Emmanuel Lubezski

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Robert Yeoman

Ida – Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner – Dick Pope

Unbroken – Roger Deakins

Costume Design

costume

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

He’s a great stylist and can certainly muster a brilliant crew but hey Wes, where is the human dimension to your fantastic, yet cold films?;

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice – Mark Bridges

Into the Woods – Colleen Atwood

Maleficent – Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner – Jacqueline Durran

 Documentary Feature

citizwn

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

For UK viewers its on TV on a couple of days. As I said before it is essential, brilliant, and terrifying in equal measure, and the craft, considering the pressure is impeccable;

CitizenFour – Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam – Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth – Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga – Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Editing

whiplash

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yes, and utterly deserved. That film lives and breathes on that scattered arrangement, and the whole jazz thing works wonders in this combination of the visual and sonic. That final scene is sublime, and simply would not work without a perfectionist. A perfect win.

American Sniper – Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game – William Goldenberg

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Foreign Language Film

ida2

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well that’s fair enough, my early streak is broken. I must see Ida again as although I enjoyed the film I did find it slightly unengaging, the fantastic B&W cinematography aside. I’ve heard great things about Wild Tales though, looking forward to that….

Ida – Poland; Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Leviathan – Russia; Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

Tangerines – Estonia; Directed by Zaza Urushadze

Timbuktu – Mauritania; Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako

Wild Tales – Argentina; Directed by Damián Szifron

Musical Score

gbh3

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well, I’ll fight this one on until the end of time, no I won’t as that’s unfair with what I’m doing now. Interstellar was great. It’s half four and eh? What. OK. Sorry…….(cries)…..

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Documentary Short Subject

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Sounds like a worthy winner, I’ll hunt it down.

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna – Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse – Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki

The Reaper (La Parka) – Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth – J. Christian Jensen

Make Up & Hairstyling

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES – So now we are three for three, this is a strong start….

Foxcatcher – Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy – Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Original Song

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Maybe should have been awesome, but nice to see Glory get some kudos. Good film, give it a watch.

“Everything Is Awesome” from THE LEGO MOVIE – Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from SELMA – Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
 
“Grateful” from BEYOND THE LIGHTS – Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

 

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from GLEN CAMPBELL…I’LL BE ME – Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from BEGIN AGAIN – Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

Production Design

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

And no surprise, one thing you can’t fault Wes is on the texture, but where’s the wider emotion?

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration)

The Imitation Game – Maria Djurkovic (Production Design); Tatiana Macdonald (Set Decoration)

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley (Production Design); Gary Fettis (Set Decoration)

Into the Woods – Dennis Gassner (Production Design); Anna Pinnock (Set Decoration) 

Mr. Turner –  Susie Davies & Charlotte Watts (Set Decoration)

Animated Short Film

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

So I did manage to see Feast as it played ahead of Big Hero 6,but I didn’t elect to win. Stupid me.

The Bigger Picture – Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast – Patrick and Kristina Reed

Me and My Moulton – Torill Kove

A Single Life – Joris Oprins

Live Action Short 

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Wow, total luck here, I guess I should give it a bell now….

Aya – Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham – Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak) – Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh – Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call – Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Sound Editing

DID I GET IT RIGHT? NO

Ah well these usually come in twos, but not this year. I have sourced a great piece on how instrumental this craft is for movies, gimme a few moments to track it down. Hopefully this is the only nod for Sniper.

American Sniper – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Martin Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar – Richard King

Unbroken – Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Sound Mixing

DID I GET IT RIGHT? YES

Yup, another one in the bag. Cool.

American Sniper – John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar – Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

 Whiplash – Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley


Penny Dreadful Season 2 (2015) Trailer

It’s rare for me to delve into the complex world of TV here at the Menagerie, but I will make exceptions for genuine hair-raising fare. In that light, here is the trailer for Penny Dreadful, probably my favorite TV series after True Detective of the last 18 months – this looks great;

Speaking of horror here is a legendary pairing which we never thought would come together – but talk about vomit-inducing results. Not rich enough already eh you greedy fucks? I am also contractually obliged like any film blogger to link to the days big trailer release, I’m drawing the embargo curtain over the inevitable trailers 3 and 4, and is it me or is the image quality of this footage strangely degraded?


It Is Happening Again…..

Fuck me gently with a chainsaw as Heather would say, yes I saw the rumors and the enigmatic tweets from Frost and Lynch over the weekend, yes it did play on my mind that something genuine might be afoot, but apparently after twenty five years – and never let us remember we have been instructed – it appears that we’re finally popping out for coffee again. This will take some time to percolate as quite frankly not every revisit / reboot / remake / over the history of communication entertainment has always been great, but the news that Lynch is directing all of the episodes and Frost is writing them, well, since Dave scuppered hope of any new film on the remote horizon a few months ago we can take this as some sort of consolation prize. Here, as I’m sure you are all fascinated to see is a deleted peek from the Fire Walk With Me Blu-Ray;

I wonder if they were waiting to see how much of a cultural and financial splash the Blu-Ray set made before making the final plunge? I dunno, I’m sure it will be fun but ever since the original mystery was solved the show went south almost immediately (as Lynch walked away to make Wild At Heart) but if they can come up with some new way to get us into the Lodge and find out ‘Where’s Anne?’……..oh, and apologies for the obvious post title which everyone else will use but hey, my mind is spinning…..


54 degrees on a slightly overcast day…..

Just a quick post – As we finally launch into the Blu of the activities of that sleepy yet sulphurous small town I have to say that the box set is a thing of particular ergonomic beauty, I’m wistfully reminded of seeing the opening of this legendary series in it’s European cut version;

I’m massaging a few other series – murdering Season 3 of the The Walking Dead, impeaching season 2 of House Of Cards (didn’t see that early collusion, huh?) but can I restrain myself from accelerating through to the extra 90 minutes of Lynchian backstory, despite some fantastic behind the scenes recollections on when and how that material was shot from the original culprits?  Who can say?

Heh. Anyway, our great chronicler of genre material Kim Newman has delivered a full article treatise of the enhanced and extended material which I have studiously ignored in this months S&S, a skim read assures us that the particulates of the mystery continues. I will be back once that extra FWWM material has been consumed, until then this walk down memory lane reminds me of that crucial era, a more innocent time which may thrum with more innocent chords;


James Gandofini RIP

Some sobering news to wake up to this morning, as Tony Soprano has finally been snatched up by the pizzeria in the sky. Fifty-one is absurdly young isn’t it? I think I first noticed him alongside many others in this infamous scene of True Romance, given it’s incredibly violent nature it kinda feels wrong to push that upfront in an obituary post, so lets open with his first big screen role what he earned when his small screen career really started to gain traction;

There was such a world-weary, hand-dog demeanour on one hand, with a quivering quiet menace on the other, you just know that if he had a couple too many drinks then things could get really ugly around this guy;

In two scenes he totally stole that movie. I also looked his turn in this, proving their was some breadth to his skills beyond Italian American nervous wrecks, and of course he also had a long and distinguished career in theatre before getting picked up by the small and silver screens;

He also had that working class, second son of immigrants aura to him, proudly American but also melded to his home country origins, I think we have to as be obvious as a corkscrew rammed through the ear and close this brief mark of respect with the role he was born to play;


Arrested Development Season 4 Trailer

Well, this has snuck up on me. If I had to choose the best ten TV series of the new millennium, as well as the obvious candidates like The Shield, Mad Men and The Wire I’d also nominate two comedy series, namely The Thick Of It although that might only fully connect with we UK government spads and Arrested Development which remarkably returns for a long lobbied fourth season via Netflix;

I remember starting to watch this on BBC2 late on Sunday nights and it took me a couple of goes to absorb the rhythm of the show, but once it had percolated it became an instant classic. It’s always a big risk that when you bring these series back you risk tarnishing the memory of the originals if you ain’t up to par, judging by that trailer we should be in for more hilarious antics of the Bluth clan. The running gags are absolutely unbeatable;

Gob is probalby my favourite character – can’t wait for more ‘illusions’. I guess I could query this whole emerging trend of Netflix acting as distributors of nerw material as with the successful House Of Cards, challenging the broadcast networks and studios hegemony over the means of consuming the product, I reckon in five years the old notion of a TV broadcast schedule will be well and truly dead….


Fringe (2008-2013)

Yesterday’s papers for most of you genre fans I’d wager, but for me this years early small screen discovery has been Fringe, the J.J. Abrams produced post 9/11 version of the X Files, with a dash of Lost and a sprinkling of CSI: Harvard scattered into the mix for good, paranoid measure. If I had a main criticism it would be that the two leads Anna Torv and that dude from Dawsons Creek are pretty bland, but they are overshadowed by Denethor from LOTR as quite literally a mad scientist, he can be quite an amusing character from time to time. It very much takes the monster / strange phenomenon / fucking mentalist weirdness of the week template and drives this into the ground, but as the show evolves it delves and develops its  background mythology with alternate dimensions and multi-planar warfare being secretly waged on our poor beleaguered reality, and that’s when things start to get interesting;

The show employs the same tech crew as J.J. Abrams earlier hit Alias – including lensflaretastic lighting techniques which I assume he was testing before the  Star Trek reboot and Super 8 – that earlier espionage show was good fun until it went stupid in the final seasons, I just hope the same fate doesn’t afflict this franchise which recently wrapped up its 5th and final season in the states to mostly critical acclaim. If you need a hint of its geek credentials then I’ll just quietly point out a modest detail in one episode where our heroes are rushing around a parallel dimension New York, and the camera lingers on a framed, 1st print mint condition issue of Frank Millers seminal 1986 graphic novel series, Dark Superman Rises. Everything’s, like, just a little bit different y’see…..

I’ve just started on Season 3 which is starting to get into Philip K Dick territory, or at least a reasonably decent diluted mainstream translation of such material that you’d expect of a modestly budgeted SF / Mystery series, not too taxing or ‘weird’ but inventive enough to hold the attention. It’s nonsense but good-natured and entertaining nonsense, perfect boxed-set fare which can be easily digested in four or five episodes a night chunks after a gruelling day at work – recommended.


House Of Cards (2013) Trailer

We don’t normally do Television here at the Menagerie, but for a series that looks this intriguing with David Fincher in the directors chair I’ll make an exception;

Beautifully lit huh? I loved the original UK TV series with the rattlesnake charming Ian Richardson in the central role of scheming, murderous politician, it looks like Spacey might be up to the task for this US centred remake.


Repo Man (1984)

Do you spend your life getting into, or avoiding tense situations? If you’re of the latter persuasion then get the fuck out of here you goddamn hippy square, we’re here to talk about Repo Man, one of the more genuinely niche cult movies of the irremediable eighties, the spiky debut of British born director Alex Cox whose patchy career has never equalled the delirious highs of this original, delinquent drive. I use the phrase ‘cult’ movie advisedly; it’s a notoriously slippery and elusive phrase that requires some clarification in this context, given its wide net of interpretations and assignations it is sometimes deployed lazily by commentators and critics like yours truly, so bear with me while I briefly accelerate down this tangent. The moniker ‘cult’ denotes a slavishly devoted and committed fan-base, passionate fans who devour every morsel of information on a favourite film’s production, who obsessively hunt down alternate versions of the film across numerous territories, habitué’s who can parrot details of the film’s production designer, gaffer or location manager, and more often than not also regale their terrified audiences with a half-dozen other releases that such crew worked on, or interject fascinating information on the numerous movie posters they have and the specific track listing on the Dutch soundtrack import they recently acquired which has a slightly extended version of track seven which is not available on the original Hong Kong imprint. OK, I exaggerate slightly but under that broad definition Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings could all be termed as cult movies given their notoriously obsessed acolytes, despite these being the most successful films ever made which are household names, what I’m driving it are films off the beaten track, films with unique and unusual ingredients that appeal to specific fans for specific reasons, I’m talking Detour or Turkey ShootMatango or Night of The Hunter, Fear & Desire or The Day The Clown Cried, oddball, offbeat and obscured episodes of cinema that don’t exactly end up on a Sunday afternoon terrestrial television but movies when dropped into casual conversation will immediately give you a signal as to the relative discerning merits of your companion  – I don’t think I could dislike anyone who enjoyed The Keep for example. This is a very long, circuitous journey of coming to probably the most ‘cult’ of my favourite movies (although on reflection Assault On Precinct 13 probably flags a close second), a movie which has finally bagged a long awaited Blu-Ray release under the highly regarded Masters Of Cinema home entertainment imprint, so let’s begin with those scorching, shrieking titles;

In cinemas finest example of a Sci-Fi inflected, nuclear nightmared, LA centred, punk-surf-comedy-romance Repo Man features the adventures of Otto (Emilio Estevez), a disenfranchised and disaffected teenager who quits his soul crushing retail job in a pique of existential ennui, before being hoodwinked by the grizzled Bud (Harry Dean Stanton in iconic cult movie gear) into stealing a car under the illusion that it’s his property and he needs to get it out of a bad neighbourhood. Yup, Otto has suffered his first introduction to the inalienable laws of supply and demand, and soon he is indoctrinated into the seductive, dangerous yet lucrative world of the Repo Men, those crazy, independent souls who live by their own twisted brand of ethics in pursuit of the reclamation of vehicles from recalcitrant clients, a motley crue of reprobates who operate on the fringes of the law in a sweltering, Reganite Los Angeles which is ‘Morning in America’ with a pulverizing hangover and amphetamine fuelled comedown. When a ’64 Chevy Malibu hits the news with a juicy $25K bounty Otto’s colleagues and their vicious opponents the Rodriquez brothers are soon on the case, little do they realise that the (literally) radioactively hot vehicle has been sequestered by the insane nuclear scientist J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris, evidently Dennis Hooper was too expensive) who is transporting a lethal top-secret cargo, as the Feds and a miasma of different groups close-in on their quarry Otto may have a few lessons to learn from some unlikely auxiliaries;

It’s difficult for me to be neutral when commenting on this jalopy as it was and remains one of my all time favourite vehicles, not because of its innate technical qualities or daring narrative functions, not because of its groundbreaking characterisations or genre bruising dexterity, it’s just the fact that I grew up with my best friends quoting the dialogue, digging on the soundtrack and most importantly appreciating the films irrelevant ethos, it still has a genuine, irrepressible spraycoat of authenticity that half the contemporary Sundance or other US independent movies lack, a throbbing purity under the hood which delivers misappropriated mirth, automatic amusement and some slight political commentary in a final, glowing aperitif. Cox managed to catch lightning in a bottle with this one, from Robby Müller’s terrific photography (he of course went on to illuminate the films of Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch with such brilliant passion), from the soundtrack which is a sampler snapshot of the alternate music scene of the time, and most importantly a genuine sense of place and time both politically and  culturally, if you recall this was the year that disembodied spirits were being hilariously tracked through the big apple and incompetent crew of buffoonish civilians were being training for law enforcement, so its nice to remember that there was some more credible, unusual, leftfield material on display.

A great cult movie usually makes up for areas it can’t possibility compete in – expensive production values, starry casts, technical elán – with those elements which cost nothing, chiefly great characters, salient dialogue, and if they’re particularly daring some ingenious, experimental use of locations and locales. Repo Man hits all three of the targets with unnerving accuracy, from the collection of junkyard oddballs that comprise Otto’s new crew (its taken me 25 years to finally realise that they are all named after American brands of beer), some convivial repartee (‘Nice friends Otto….’ ‘Thanks, I made them myself’) and memorable utilisation of both the Los Angeles storm drain infrastructure and my beloved Second Street Tunnel which crops up in numerous movies of note. The chaotic plot has links to UFO cults, incompetent government goons and brainwashed baby boomers, it’s very much a product of its era which still resonates today, and Cox’s subsequent attempts to weld together his Bunuelian flashes of surreal inspiration (plate of shrimp anyone?) with his anti-corporate manifesto haven’t achieved such giddy heights, from the product labeling prefiguring Naomi Klein by fifteen years to the dense plethora of cultural in-jokes populated throughout the movies mise-en-scene. You only need to look at a movie like Southland Tales to see how difficult it is to achieve such a tricky, accidental balance of entertaining exegesis, I’m also fond of the end titles inversion which has birthed its own mini movie genre,Repo Man would be ideally placed as the middle installment of a cult movie triple bill prologued with Buckaroo Banzai for a vision of what other neon oddness was on offer in 1984 followed with Dr. Strangelove for a subsequent dose of devastatingly radioactive humor, here is the genius ‘repo code’ which was partially concocted by the legendary Harry Dean Stanton in his most memorable of performances;

This Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray imprint of the film is as handsome a hardtop of the movie as you could expect, presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and 5.1 sound remix it holds enough horsepower to leave memories of those crushed small screen BBC2 viewings that I’m sure some of you joined me in back in the eighties and nineties coughing in the dust. There are plenty of extras for the aficionados to pilfer, as well as a deleted scenes montage with explanatory linking footage recently shoot by Cox we get a brief introduction that sets the context for the film, paying particular attention to how parent distributor Universal wanted to bury the film as potential subversive propaganda until the pre-release soundtrack started to get attention in the alternative music sub-culture network, with incremental word of mouth starting to build a modicum of buzz. A reminiscence  themed documentary with producers Peter McCarthy and Jonathan Wacks, and actors Del Zamora, Sy Richardson and Dick Rude are complemented with a feature commentary with Cox and the crew, I haven’t listened to that yet but I’m sure it will have a few amusing nuggets and insights for all the movies disciples who are literally ‘out there’. The prized steal however is a unique copy of the notorious ‘melonfarmer’ TV cut of the film which is a rare treat given its incorporation of alternate footage and hilarious swear word substitutions, an exclusive treasure alongside a hilarious half hour discussion with Harry Dean Stanton in which he is revealed as the cantankerous, difficult, prickly shaman that we all suspected him to be, at one pontificating that ‘Iraq, Napoleon, serial killers, everything is predestined man, nobody’s in charge and it’s all gonna go down the way it’s gonna go down’ – so take the man’s advice, submit to the irrepressible mysteries of our alchemist universe, and hot wire a copy of this cult classic as soon as possible;


BFI David Lynch Season – Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Grab yourself a cup of joe, heat up a wedge of that sweet, sweet cherry pie and smell those Pseudo-tsuga – we’re back in Twin Peaks. David Lynch’s hugely influential collaboration with writer/producer Mark Frost was a cultural bolt of lightning that screamed into the staid and formulaic TV landscape of the early nineties, a groundbreaking serial with its invasion of the surreal, the innovative and the macabre into the living rooms of millions of confused and beguiled Americans. Playing for an all too brief two seasons the programme followed the investigation of the murder of Laura Palmer, the high school sweetheart of a sleepy Washington town whose holier than thou, saintly demeanour wasn’t quite what it seemed. With its occult combination of small town Americana, horrific metaphors on the family unit and the potential for evil lurking behind those white picket fences the phenomenon got itself onto the cover of Time and rocketed Lynch’s profile beyond the chattering circles of cinema fans, and its influence on subsequently acclaimed series such as The X Files, Buffy, Eerie Indiana, The League Of Gentlemen, Carnivale, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Homicide, Northern Exposure*, Lost, Big Love, True Blood and other landmark small screen narratives is undisputed. After the second season ratings began to ebb, reputedly due to increasing executive meddling, the forced revelation of the mysterious killer behind Laura’s death and the introduction of increasingly absurd plotlines and schemes the programme was cancelled after a legendarily destructive finale, allegedly designed by Lynch and Frost to deliberately scupper the series and prevent any resurrection of their cherished creation. But Lynch couldn’t let it go and felt there was a still a story in this universe that he was compelled to tell, to return to the scene of the crime with what on reflection must be one of the first examples of the much maligned prequel, to chart the final days and hours of the doomed Laura, much to critics and audiences confusion who understandably wanted a resolution to the series clustered and challenging small screen crescendo. The first screening at Cannes prompted a hostile reaction of boos and disgusted walkouts – nothing new there – but the intervening years have seen the film achieve something of a critical re-appraisal as part of the directors body of work, and many Lynch acolytes (myself included) now include the film amongst the highest echelons of his work alongside Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, personally speakingthis was certainly up there amongst  the three most anticipated films for a menagerie big screen revision. So let’s get started with the proviso that spoilers will abound, both for the TV series and movie, both are over twenty years old but here we are…

Assuming that the audience knows the back-story – there are no scene setting montages or explanatory dialogue here – Lynch plunges straight into the action with two FBI agents  assigned to investigate the murder of Teresa Banks, a doomed young woman whose links with Laura are suggested with an identical autopsy revelation, a LSD suggesting microdot inserted under the fingernail that sports a cryptic letter. Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak, plausibly wooden) leads the duo as a stoic and no-nonsense lead officer, accompanied by the squinting, possibly aspergers attuned Agent Stanley (a squinting Kiefer Sutherland) who embark on this mysterious quest, their mission instigated with this memorable example of codes, glyphs and secrets. After circumnavigating the obstructions of the local  officials the team trace Teresa’s trailer park domicile and things start to turn strange. Cut to the drowsy lumbertown of Twin Peaks, a dreamy Washington state town where an amber light still means slow down rather than hit the gas. Enter Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the belle of the local high school, the pretty young cheerleader, head of her class, the girl next door and prom queen certainty. Unfortunately for Laura we happen to be in the Lynchiverse so it’s all a facade, and in fact she’s a coke snorting, whiskey gulping neurotic strumpet who happens to be banging just about everyone in town to feed her myriad addictions and has taken to hooking on the side, although you can’t really blame her for this behaviour as she also happens to be frequently raped by a homicidal demon who has possessed her father Leland Palmer (Ray Wise). Where the TV series opened with the discovery of her plastic entombed corpse floating down the river like some industrial sarcophagus, in Fire Walk With Me Lynch takes us back to the strange premonitions and twisted days leading up to her murder, her twin relationships with the wet biker James (James Hurley) and bad boy Bobbi Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and her suspicions that her life is sliding into an abyss that she can see no way out of….

Conventional wisdom dictates that when you have a beloved series with a cult like fan base, any movie spin-off would take the narrative further and answer a few questions left hanging at the finale. In Fire Walk With Me  Lynch performs the exact opposite, showing us different approaches and reveals to facts that have already been established, preferring to strengthen the uncanny mythology that the series built around the mysterious Black Lodge and White Lodge hidden out in the woods, around the relationship between the shivering Bob and the one-armed man, and the numerous eccentrics and criminals who orbit this supernatural fresco. We know that Laura dies and we know who killed her, but this sympathetic woman paralysed in a asphyxiating web spun by her father’s possession and serial abuse is a suffocating experience, with flashes of surreal humor to lighten the fragments of a terrifying, strobe lit screeching horror. The lack of a significant career for Sheryl Lee is as mysterious as this the series eerie whispers, she is a remarkable, charismatic presence who flits between distressed innocence and sultry temptation, I remember being a bit perturbed when she popped up in Winters Bone  as it took me a few seconds to place her. Kyle MacLachlan, along with some of his acting companions were reluctant to revisit their roles for fear of typecasting but Lynch persuaded him to step into Agent Coopers shoes one more time on the proviso that his role be significantly reduced, but he still appears in one of the films most memorable sequences;

One of Bowie’s more successful, albeit brusque acting performances if you ask me. Potentially ahead of the curve with unconscious commentary on an increasingly surveiled society (although I doubt that was the intention in 1992, although it is revisited in his next film Lost Highway but we’ll come back to that in the next review) Lynch is mining our subconscious fears and desires through eidolic symbolism, fabricated through his magnificent combinations of droning sound, porous images and hazy iconography. Again we are treading paths dark and twisted, the perverted and unholy sealed behind a perspex shield of rationality, inexorably scratching at the contours of our reality and sometimes finding purchase. I love the idea of the FBI as some sect of buddhist samurai with firearms, crisply pressed white shirts and crew cuts, these paladins battling these Cimmerian influences on behalf of some undefined, eternal power of love, or should that be transcendental love? The figures of the spooky Mrs. Tremond (Francis Bay) and her intense grandson obviously hark back to his first film The Grandmother, and Lynch’s fixation on head trauma also arises in a horrendously botched drug deal out in the spectral, flickering woods. It was in Twin Peaks that Lynch lifted the reverse cranking utilised by Jean Cocteau in the likes of Orphee to signal other dimensions, not to mention an obvious influence of dual psychologies, of portals and apertures leading to alternate realities and limbo like dominions, it’s one of the most successful techniques he has utilised to support and enhance his world view and world building activities, no-one to my mind has employed such a simple procedure to generate such unsettling power. He certainly has something about women in peril as it dominates all his subsequent works, from the doppelgänger Patricia Arquette in Lost Highway needing to evade her criminal pimps, from Betty’s tarnished career in Mulhollland Drive, or whatever the fuck is supposed to be happening to Laura Dern in INLAND EMPIRE  he seems to have a penchant for framing females as saintly angels or fallen whores, it’s no wonder that some critics have issues with this but I think they’re not entirely justified, he’s more interested in simple, direct dualities on which to hang his movies, like the church scene in Blue Velvet this is another heartfelt, ‘pure’ moment which can either succeed or fail, depending on the audiences predilections;

The final movement of the film, the crimson draped waiting room between our earthly pursuits and ecclesiastical bliss that is presented here in full spoiler sympathy is quite the big screen experience, and so far this is the most enjoyable and memorable viewing that I have experienced during the whole season. I was privileged enough to see the original foreign market VHS tape with the incongruous and memorable tacked on ending that was specifically shot for the international market, I will never forgot seeing this for the first time, my first exposure to Lynch (I’d certainly seen Dune and possibly The Elephant Man before this but of course didn’t recognise them as ‘Lynch’ works) and it always nostalgically reminds me of the years that have slipped away, in the most tender and affectionate way possible. Using my incredible deductive powers I have unearthed this mammoth fan edit of the whole sorry Palmer scandal, here is a funny documentary where a few notorious characters get to air their views, here is the background to that oft imitated and rave appropriated soundtrack and here are some browser crashing, behind the scene photos from the shoot and here is some fun, that site is certainly more effective than the sadly overlooked computer game. Finally, its taken me a week of searching and putting this together (and for some reason this has been a real struggle, only tonight have I really grasped my muse and powered through 3/4 of this) but I finally fucking found it, here is the extraordinary, depraved Red Room sequence which is amongst the best movements that Lynch has ever committed to screen, and beware as this music video might just make you crazy;

*Yes I know they started at the same time but that series clearly adopted some of Twin Peaks mannerisms and designs as its run continued. I’m not criticising as I fucking loved Northern Exposure, I’m just saying…..and I’ve just committed myself to seeing Inland Empire again to conclude this mammoth undertaking, god help my eternal soul….


Ulysses Reprise

After that dark and brooding take on Australian psychopaths let’s have some amusement to raise the spirits, I’m not usually one for tiresome nostalgia trawls but I must share this;

….so I can share this cluster of unmitigated, concentrated, sweded awesome;

Now there’s a kids TV show that would benefit from a 3D CGI heavy update. Speaking of kids stuff Hugo has been getting some amazing nods from the summaries I’ve skim read – one doesn’t read reviews until they’ve seen the film and one has collected ones own thoughts – but it looks like it’s visually dazzling and has a lot of submerged film nerd details to munch on. I’m really looking to forward to this now, thank god that horrendous trailer doesn’t (allegedly) reflect the final movie. We shall see….


Treme

What with the movies being poor this summer I’ve had to turn to the smaller screen for kicks, I’ve just finished the first season of David Simon and companies latest televisual novel Treme, a great opportunity to get some righteous indignation going at a clusterfuck of govermental proportions and a peek at a fascinatingly vibrant and proud city;

Terrific, irritating and inspirational three-dimensional characters, narrative arcs with time to breathe, the socioeconomic framing of New Orleans post Katrina, it’s all great stuff, and it’s cool to see Bunk and Lester back on-screen.  John Goodman and Melissa Leo are also provide some star wattage and I’m reliably informed by those knowledgeable in such matters that the jazz interludes and observations are impeccable. I don’t think it’s the critical smash of The Wire proportions but a second season has been commissioned. Don’t miss it.


CURTIS IDEA RESSERUCT AYN RAND ON BBC2

Another weekend, another abysmal failure in getting to the flicks. Well, in my defence there still isn’t much around and I did spend Sunday night and Monday morning staggering around Camden with one of our Melbourne correspondents who happened to recommend this which has only just been released down under (pretty amazing review here, trailer here) so this is another filler post I’m afraid.

So here’s a documentary that  hit my cultural radar for obvious reasons, then again I’d already heard about the Toynbee Tiles about seven or eight years ago through the magic of the internets. It’s finished its festival run in North America so hopefully it will be over here soon, I’m kinda fascinated by stories like this quite apart from the Kubrick connection and its been getting some great reviews. Oh, and congratulations to Terry, apparently he did turn up for the evening screening and all the press etc. were instructed to lower their camera’s to shoot at the floor (at his specific instructions before he came into the auditorium), he got on stage, hugged Brad Pitt and then left. Quite the enigmatic tease…..


Get it fast as I suspect that site will be taken down soon, of course the alternate method is to actually visit the iplayer although region restrictions may make that difficult.  Yes, a new Adam Curtis series of documentaries is always an event to celebrate, and as per usual he didn’t disappoint. There are usually some pretty large assumptions in any one of his thesis that I can’t agree with – in this case the assertion of Ayn Rand’s major influence on the ideology of the Silicon Valley pioneers (two interviews with two ‘unknowns’ doesn’t convince me) but no matter, as always he weaves together a truly phenomenal diatribe through the use of fascinating archive material, great soundtrack choices (special kudos to the use of The Fog and Moon for this series) and a contorting narrative that intertwines quite brilliantly at certain junctures. Here’s a link to a recent adaption of Atlas Shrugged which has been welcomed by the right-wing ideologues in the States, I think we can collectively agree, with an unswerving avoidance of altruism and an utter commitment to the individuals devotion to their own  selfish ends, that it looks like a big load of wank. To close I’ve had an idea for my 600th post and there is a bank holiday weekend coming (and I’m just ordered this of course), I’ve also got a screening booked at the BFI on the Monday and I’m definitely going to see this at some point – I promise.


Rip The King

I’ve been revisiting The Larry Sanders Show again, from Season 1, and whilst many fans of the show love Hank ‘Hey Now ‘ Kingsley I think Artie is the best –

It’s portrayal of the venal, paranoid narcissists of the Hollywood entertainment industry is slightly heightened but all too plausible, it’s also fun to see a young Jeremy Piven and Sarah Silverman as the seasons advanced.


考えと祈り

I perused some articles towards the end of last year which predicted that was 2011 was going to be a turbulent year, mostly due to the trifecta of a compounded energy crisis, growing food shortages and the consequential unrest in the developing* world, and the full impact of the 2008 financial holocaust finally hitting the middle classes in the West – I don’t think anyone expected events to get this crazy this early, we’re not even a  quarter in and severe civil unrest is percolating in the States  (the Wisconsin battle is fascinating I think, I imagine that much the same thing will start to happen in Europe), crazy insurrections (of mostly a good sort) in northern Africa which threaten to spread to the citadels of the oppressive Middle East autocrats, and now this morning’s cataclysmic shudder.

When I was over in  Tokyo a few years ago I distinctly remember seeing in every museum and art gallery I visited some sort of display concerning how the building had been designed to resist tremors, I’m no structural engineer but the way the foundations and supporting structure are cantilevered to absorb shock waves was quite interesting. Some of the footage is awesome – I mean that in a fascinating, awe-inspiring and horrific sense of the word of course – and some of the initial reports of whole ships and trains being engulfed is just….. numbing. It could have been so much worse of course, if it wasn’t for the Japanese governments insistence of strict building codes and not letting the free market exploit a void in state regulation then we would have seen those skyscrapers in Shinjuki and Shibuya collapse like a deck of cards (shudders). I don’t really know what the point of this post is, I’m not going to make any crass Godzilla or Cthulhu jokes or anything, I just wanted to write something down. I’m not sure how this going to make Battle Los Angeles feel tomorrow, although if Ebert’s incandescently scathing review is anything to go by I might just need a sick-bag….so here’s Alan;

I’m not intending to sound flippant, I just figured we could all do with a laugh, a screeching howl into the face of the abyss, that sort of thing….

*Yeah, I thought that was a parody as well for about 30 seconds. Then I got sad.


Forced Celebrity Breeding

I like the interludes. Even in Scotland.


Oscars 2011

Welcome to Minty’s red carpet – who are you wearing?  I’m bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a good bottle of scotch to hand, a day off work tomorrow and (hopefully) an iron constitution – this project won’t be finished until the early shades of Monday morning by GMT standards. I’ve been played this little game of predicting the Oscar winners for many years and its never been intended to be any sort of serious analysis of the evening, from a holistic perspective it is interesting to see the winners given the extra financial clout the conquering films attract and the subsequent effects on getting follow-up projects sanctioned,  but overall this is just an empty exercise in sheer Hollywood nonsense. I think I’ve excelled myself this year in terms of catching all the nominees, although my efforts in the categories of the Short Film (Live Action & Documentary) have been hobbled by a pittance of these being available on-line, at least in relation to my feeble google-fu skills. I’ve not done so well with the Foreign Film entries either but they are always difficult to track down, I’ve also made a point of abandoning a viewing of The Way Back as I feel that a Peter Weir film deserves a ‘proper’ viewing at either the flicks or a proper DVD release, not through the poor quality pirates that are rampaging around in cyberspace. That said I have seen all the nominees in the major categories (Actors and Actress, best film and screenplay) and the vast majority of the technical awards (Cinematography, Costume Design, Art Direction, the Editing categories, Visual Effects) and for once I actually saw most of them at the cinema, as god intended. For new readers I’ve  bolded the films that I have seen, I’ve italicized those nominees that I thought would win, so there should be some audit trail of my predictions – not that it matters. There has been a wealth of debate and analysis on the nominees since they were announced a few weeks ago, I’ve considered changing my mind over certain selections after seeing more of the competitors over the intervening period (I’m pretty sure that The Kings Speech will sweep most of its categories) but to be honest I can’t be bothered with changing my initial divinations, after all this is merely an exercise in fun so let’s not take it too seriously. The only difference is this time I am going to make an effort to ‘liveblog’ this, in the sense that this post should flow in tandem as the awards are announced, we’ll see how that exercise develops as the hours elapse and the scotch evaporates eh? I’ll probably throw in some ‘hilarious’ commentary and observations on the speeches and associated developments as the marathon continues. So dust off your bow tie, polish up your jimmy choos and let’s begin….

Art Direction

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No, Alice got it. Hmm…not a good start.

Hey let’s plan the entre opening around the film that won’t win – with an odd Back To The Future reference for good measure, way to hit those demographics. Urgh, boring family shout-outs, this is not funny. Ah, so they’re going with some old school Gone With The Wind references eh?  

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • Alice In Wonderland” Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
  • “Inception” Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
  • “The King’s Speech” Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
  • “True Grit” Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No. Fucking robbed, embezzled, conned etc… When will Deakins get it? I’m also amused that they’ve opened up with some technical awards, usually it’s some of the supporting players that begin proceedings….

  • “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
  • “Inception” Wally Pfister
  • “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
  • “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Actress in a Supporting Role

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No. This is a lot of knows. That was just cringe worthy embarrassing, yeah Kirk Douglas and Kubrick n’ stuff but crikey that man has had a lot of work. Melissa Leo was quite funny- F bomb bombshell –  but then went all luvvy….

  • Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
  • Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
  • Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
  • Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Short Film (Animated)

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Nope. I sense a theme. Can’t complain though as The Lost Thing was pretty good….

Animated Feature Film

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: The biggest non surprise of the evening, of course they did. And rightly so.

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
  • “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
  • “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, so that’s two eh? Short, punchy speech from Sorkin.

  • “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
  • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
  • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
  • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, and we’re mustering a comeback….

  • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
  • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
  • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
  • “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

Foreign Language Film

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No. Boring, what was wrong with Dogtooth? Well, to be fair In A Better World might be great so I shouldn’t be too dismissive…

  • “Biutiful” Mexico
  • “Dogtooth” Greece
  • “In a Better World” Denmark
  • “Incendies” Canada
  • “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

  Actor in a Supporting Role

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yup, and a punchy speech that delivered a knockout blow. Or something. Is that Four?

  • Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
  • John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
  • Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Music (Original Score)

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Certainly did. Nice one Trent. Five.

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
  • “Inception” Hans Zimmer
  • “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
  • “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
  • “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Sound Mixing

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Blast, I’m usually good at these. But Inception deserves it.

  • “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
  • “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
  • “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Sound Editing

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, one out out of two ain’t bad. The whole event though is really quite boring this year though, bring back Steve Martin etc….Six.

  • “Inception” Richard King
  • “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
  • “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
  • “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Makeup

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Whew, that was a good win. Yes, a fine legacy indeed, good to see Rick Baker on stage – he’s worthy of a lifetime achievement in 2030….

  • “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
  • “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
  • “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

 Costume Design

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, another one. Eight. I’ll keep my initial comments intact below as things are getting tricky:

I’m going with Colleen Atwood as she is a well-loved figure in the industry and she performed her duties amicably on Full Metal Jacket. So yeah, another wild guess really. It’ll probably go to The Kings Speech though, for aforementioned reasons.

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
  • “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
  • “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
  • “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
  • “True Grit” Mary Zophres

 Documentary (Short Subject)

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Nope, but it was hardly a level playing ground. That’s my excuse anyway.

  • “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
  • “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
  • “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
  • “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
  • The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Short Film (Live Action)

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Negative. Bollocks.

  • “The Confession” Tanel Toom
  • “The Crush” Michael Creagh
  • “God of Love” Luke Matheny
  • “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
  • Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Documentary (Feature)

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: The Banksy crew will be pissed, but Inside Job was more illuminating I think. Not a surprise.

  • “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
  • Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
  • “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
  • “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Visual Effects

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Re-fucking-salt. I really thought this was gonna go the other way but hoorah for old school machinations and ingenuity. A superb win.

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
  • “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
  • “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
  • “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Film Editing

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: What the fuck was I thinking? Oh well, the omission of Lee Smith for his sterling work on Inception, will always be debated.

  • “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
  • “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
  • “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
  • “127 Hours” Jon Harris
  • “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Best Song

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, I think. I’m now watching the Inception trailer in German – one of my feeds has evidently gone rogue. Quite indepentley this is a dull reason to be staying up. And all these grabs at some sense of historic majestic areb failing badly. Randy Newman wins again, big fucking deal. Eleven.

  • “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
  • “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
  • “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
  • “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Directing

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No. And why? Not deserved in my book. I’d seriously like to hear a rebuttal, honestly, bring it on.

  • “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
  • “The Fighter” David O. Russell
  • “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
  • “The Social Network” David Fincher
  • “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Actress in a Leading Role

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Yes, another deserved win. Textbook speech, no surprises.

  • Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
  • Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
  • Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actor in a Leading Role

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: Good stuff. Revisit his performance in Another County. At this point you can find your own links.

  • Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
  • Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
  • Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
  • Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
  • James Franco in “127 Hours”

Best Picture

 

 

 

 

DID I GET IT RIGHT?: No, but a final total of 13 equals last years predictions. What an utterly dull ceremony though, only Mellissa’s speech even approached anything interesting, cue the UK press going wild.

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

So that’s it for another year, I’m off to watch Battle Royale which popped through the post on Saturday in all its Blu-Ray glory, now that’s a film about competition eh?