Monday, September 24th, 2012
Last week, I heard about, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, a new documentary about the legendary fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, and vowed see it immediately. Lucky I found out about it when I did because it’s only showing for a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dates in the UK. I treated myself to a viewing at the Curzon Mayfair on Saturday afternoon and have felt inspired and creative ever since. I cannot recommend this film to you enough.
Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
I’m not really one for TV. Unless it’s Mad Men, Girls or The Wire, I find most things to be a bit ‘meh’. Documentaries however, I love me a good documentary. I’ve recently had, what basically amounts to a film festival in my house – with my own private screenings of some wonderful docs. Some I’ve watched for the first time, some are old favourites that I watch fairly regularly for inspiration and because I’m such a giver, I thought I’d share with you my top 10. Check ‘em out…
Tags: A Tribe Called Quest, Adrian Grenier, Beats Rhymes and Life, Being Elmo, Bill Cunningham, catfish, documentaries, Film, Inside Job, Michael Rapaport, Mike Tyson, Miss Representation, new york, Orthodox Stance, Public Speaking, Teenage Paparazzo
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Monday, April 16th, 2012
Up until last week, I had heard of Secret Cinema, but not Future Cinema. Future Cinema specialise in creating living, breathing experiences of cinema. So when I was invited along to their showing of Bugsy Malone, which just happens to be one of my favourite films, I could hardly say no.
Monday, January 31st, 2011
Hate to give away the ending right off the bat, but a dude cuts his arm off in this movie. But don’t let that put you off. This real life story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) is about way more than the arm, or lack of it, or whatever. And while yes, you do spend much of the movie on the edge of your seat, waiting for that inevitable moment, the lead up to it is so beautifully constructed by director Danny Boyle, that in that moment, you just want to be there to help him.
Ralston is a charming outdoorsy type who, in 2003 decided to explore Blue John Canyon in the remote Utah desert, something we get the feeling he has done many times before, only this time, for some inexplicable reason, he didn’t tell anyone where he was going. From the outset of the film, we’re struck with incredible expansive landscapes, the type that you don’t really believe are real as you only see them in movies like this. The way Boyle shoots, with a dizzying array of wide shots, close cuts, hand held video cameras, quick edits can leave your head spinning somewhat, but it all adds to the sense of adventure.
It’s not long into the film when Ralston jumps down into a crevasse and a boulder decides to follow him, trapping his arm. What follows is five days of what can only be described as sheer hell as he fights to survive, break free from the death grip of the boulder, ponder life and what he imagines will be his inevitable death rather matter of factly and ultimately tries to stay sane. This part of the film, as we are down there in that crevasse with him, is claustrophobic without a doubt.
I always marvel at tales like this where survival instinct just kicks in. Given, Ralston was a keen outdoorsman but I was nonetheless uber impressed with his ability to use everything he’d packed in his bag; ropes, water, pen knife, watch – to ultimately set him free. Watching him experiment with different ideas was fascinating and when it came to that heart wrenching moment, where he was all out of options, where there was no other choice but to amputate his own arm with a blunt knife, you willed him on to do it, because someone so charming, so resourceful, witty and resilient deserves to get out of that goddamn crevasse any way he damn well can.
It should be said that James Franco puts in the performance of a lifetime. For much of the film, he is alone (save for a few flashbacks of family life) and it’s no easy task to keep an audience engaged for that long. If I was a bit wishy washy about Franco before, he’s proved his acting chops with this little nugget.
Overall, this film made me think: could I do it? Would I do it? Would I fight with everything in me to survive or just accept death in what seems like an impossible situation to escape? But not only that, would I step up when it matters in other areas? Could I fight off a would-be attacker? Could I save someone else? It really makes you question your own character and if you’d have what it takes to do what’s necessary in those fight or flight moments. For me, this story of pure, unadulterated grit and determination couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.
To describe the film as ‘enjoyable’ would be off the mark, but it is an intense journey in every sense and well worth a watch.
Monday, January 24th, 2011
I hadn’t read any reviews of Black Swan before going to see it last week. I’d seen the trailer once. All I knew was Natalie Portman, ballet and some kick ass eye makeup. I usually require a little knowledge before deciding on seeing a film, but that seemed like a good enough basis on which to see it. And as I sit thinking about it more than 24 hours later, I still can’t decide whether it was good, bad or truly awful.
In many ways, it plays up to a lot of tired stereotypes. Portman plays Nina Sayers, a dancer with a ballet company in New York, desperate for the role of the Swan Queen in the company’s ‘visceral and real’ performance of Swan Lake. The company director, Thomas Leroy (played with brilliant flair by Vincent Cassel) gives her the role, but doesn’t believe she can embody the rawness of the Black Swan. The White Swan though, Sayers can play to perfection – she is, after all, sweetness and innocence personified. (Stereotype number one)
And we see why when we see her home life. She’s in her early 20s and shares a small apartment with her mother. A music box with a spinning ballerina plays Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to get her to sleep (Stereotype number two) and her overbearing mother still tucks her in at night. Her room is pink and overcrowded with stuffed animals – her mother is imprisoning Nina in her youth. Unsurprisingly, the mother used to be a dancer and is living out her dream through her daughter (stereotype number three).
Nina must find a way to connect with the Black Swan, to bring that side of her performance to life. Company director Thomas encourages her to be bad, to live a little – and so naturally, suggests she masturbates, because that’s what bad girls sit around doing all day apparently. But Vincent Cassel is so charming and persuasive in his role that quite frankly, he could tell you to moonwalk off a cliff while singing the national anthem and you’d do it. So masturbate she does, and in quite epic fashion.
Her little self love experiment seems to help her channel into a better grasp of the role, but now there’s a new girl on the scene, Lily, played by the dark and seductive Mila Kunis, and while Nina has all the technical brilliance required for the Swan role, Lily brings an edge and realness that the Black Swan requires. She is made understudy. A rival (stereotype number four), Nina wholeheartedly believes Lily is out to destroy her (stereotype number five), she’s a doppelganger! And could potentially take away the role of Nina’s life! (Stereotype number six). At this point you start to feel a little battered around the face with all the cliches.
While all of this is going on, Nina is quite clearly descending into madness – she’s jumpy, hallucinating, obsessive, catching weird reflections in mirrors. Basically, the role is making her absolutely bat shit crazy. And while at first, you’re on that journey with her and feel sorry that her feeble little soul is going through it, after a while, it becomes so overbearing as to be comical. There were points where the audience laughed, though I’m sure we weren’t supposed to, at the utter ridiculousness of it all.
But for all the nutso-ness, you cannot escape the brilliance of Portman’s performance. She trained for 10 months and while director, Darren Aronovsky, relies heavily on upper body shots and avoids any full length ones, presumably in an effort to disguise her technical shortcomings, her commitment to the role and sheer grace is astounding. This is somewhat of a warts and all expose of what ballet dancers put their bodies through for their art.
All in all, it was watchable, visually very nice, Portman’s great, but I know I wasn’t the only one who came out of the cinema saying ‘what the f***?’