Crazy, fascinating, confusing and somewhat pointless… but nevertheless very cool.
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Category Archives: films
Crazy, fascinating, confusing and somewhat pointless… but nevertheless very cool.
Although the use of the word ‘adult’ may seem dubious, I struggle to find a better term. I’m not talking about R-rated films or the kind that come in red DVD cases. And these aren’t ‘mature’ necessarily. Not obviously comedies, although probably funny. Just unusual films, not designed for kids. Yes, I am trying to shake the idea that I, like my sister, have a penchant only for films with talking animals. I have diverse taste. Really.
A Serious Man is the story of an ordinary mans search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik (Tony Award nominee Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous acquaintances, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larrys unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job.
Finally, this trailer needs to be watched. It can’t be explained really. Just watch it.
The Men who stare at Goats (or in glorious quicktime… on Apple).
Just a quick little heads up to a couple of kiwi film makers done good.
After months of hype, a box office bonanza, almost universal praise and a flame war that started because one critic dared to give it a negative review, Hilleke and I finally got around to seeing District 9.
This one might just be for the kiwi’s but the trailer looks pretty darn good. For those of you outside of NZ, the Topp Twins were around long before Flight of the Conchords, but may well have inspired their tag-line!
It recently won the Audience award for Top Doc at the Toronto Film festival. Awesome.
Trailer for Leanne Pooley’s “The Topp Twins,” about a New Zealand lesbian C&W singing duo:
Earlier this year I optimistically listed all the films I was was looking forward to seeing this year. Some of these we have now seen, and mostly enjoyed (Watchmen, Milk, Benjamin Button, and especially Coraline). Others, like Up, we are still anxiously waiting for, although much of the rest of the world has already partaken of the Pixar magic. Dr Parnassus (29th October) and The Lovely Bones (11 Dec) are also due out later this year, as is Where the WIld things Are (11 Dec). Some I sadly lost interest in as time flew by and film-going budgets shrank (Vicky Christina Barcelona, W.). But a few other films have since appeared on the edge of my radar and are, I think and hope, worth mentioning.
Mike has already written a detailed review of Moon, a throwback to traditional sci-fi, ala Alien or Bladerunner, directed by first-timer Duncan Jones (yeah yeah, he’s David Bowie’s son, but I think soon enough he’ll be a name to remember in his own right, if he continues along this track at least). Sam Rockwell spends three long isolated years alone on the moon, slowly going crazy, with only Kevin Spacey’s voice (as computer GERTY) for company. ‘Nuff said. Brilliant old-fashioned sci-fi/suspense/drama. We’ve already seen it obviously, but as it will be traveling the art-house circuit for a few months yet I thought it worth adding to the list! If in doubt, watch the trailer (go on, click on large!)
A film getting a lot of attention from various note-worthy internet reviewers (aintitcool, Empire and Roger Ebert have certainly become the ‘go to’ sites for movie reviews) is The Hurt Locker. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, known for Point Break (amongst other cult hits) and once being married to James Cameron, this is the film to watch out for come Oscar time. While it is destined to be an arthouse film, it sounds impressive, and will hopefully get the audience it deserves. The story follows a bomb disposal squad in current day, war-torn Iraq. Not the safest job in the world, the drama and tension easily build, and the situation gets to some of the squad. Roger Ebert’s review is worth reading for more info – he’s actually seen it, I just hope to sometime soon. The inevitable comparison to Transformers 2 has been made; Transformers 2 received the most support from all 4 branches of the US military of any film ever. And when asked about it’s realism, a US general replied that if the world were attacked by giant transforming robots that is exactly how the military would respond. In contrast, The Hurt Locker, which received almost no help from the military, depicts a very real situation. No glamour or heroics for the stars of this film, it’s all sand, sweat and damned scary situations. It sounds like one of those painful to watch, edge of your seat, no break to pee in movies which will haunt you for days or weeks after. Can’t wait!
District 9 is obviously a biggie. Produced by Peter Jackson after his project with newbie film director Neill Blomkamp, Halo, fell through. District 9 is based on a short film made by Blomkamp, available on youtube, called Alive in Jo’burg. Aliens land on earth, but the leaders of their hive-like society are all killed and so the drone-type population are at a loose end and don’t know what to do. They have the technology and ability to destroy humans but lack the leadership. So they get interred in apartheid style camps in Johannesburg, where humans taunt and interrogate them. MNU agent, van de Merwe, gets to know the aliens a bit better than he would like.
Looks amazing, effects are – as always when it comes to PJ – brilliant, and it has a interesting story and story-telling technique. Even the website is pretty cool. It even had a 100% positive feedback rating on Rotten Tomatoes, until troll-critic, Armond White, gave a predictably bad review (see here the whole saga, and see here the list of films White does and doesn’t like – you can make up your mind whether he’s nuts or just messing with people). And yes, several of my friends/former colleagues were involved in the production so I might be just a little biased. I’m not saying it’s ‘the best film ever’ yet, but I am excited about seeing it.
A slightly less serious but curiously interesting film, Julie and Julia, is coming out soon. Based on the book of the blog based on the book of cook(?)/author Julia Childs. The trailer shows two parallel stories – one of Julia Child who follows her diplomat husband to Paris, where she takes up cooking lessons as a hobby. The French are appalled at this American woman’s lack of grace, skill, etc as they would be in the 60s/70s when this took place (and probably still would be today). But she fumbles through the lessons and at the end of it writes and publishes her hit book on Mastering the Art of French Cooking – now unsurprisingly on the bestseller charts after 40 odd years. Cut to the 2002 where New Yorker Julie Powell finds her life unfulfilling, and decides to embark on a year long mission – cooking every one of Julia Child;s recipes in one year. And writing about it. This was back when blogs were a fairly new concept (and not flooded with muppets like me sharing every boring detail of their lives and or opinions!). A pretty tough challenge on a good day/year and bound to result in many humorous, inspiring and possibly poignant situations. Trailer looks good. Even the boys at aintitcool like it, so it can’t all be silly chick-flick drivel. Plus I’ve found a newly undeveloped desire to learn to cook, so this may yet inspire me! Hope it’s playing on the flight home next week 🙂
Another short film to gain enough notice from the right people (TIm Burton and Russian director Timur (?) are good names to have on your call sheet) is ‘9‘. The short is available on youtube and is now being developed into a feature length film. It’s a touching animated tale of a professor who creates 9 puppets each with a part of his soul in them to protect humanity from complete extinction (at least that’s the way I read it). Crazy Bosch or steam-punk inspired machines roam the earth seeking the last traces of humanity and attempting to destroy them. The flimsy stuffed dolls seem no match for these evil devices. The animation is stunning – watch the short film to get a sample – and the online viral campaign has very passionate followers (see facebook group). It’s one to watch out for.
A wee bit further into the future, but starting the promotional drive already, is Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (March 2010). Predictably it stars Burtons’ best-friend-for-life-Johnny Depp (Mad Hatter) and wife-Helena Bonham-Carter (Red Queen), but also attracted a couple of British comedy acting talents; Stephen Fry (Chesire Cat), Matt Lucas (Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle Dee), American Anne Hathaway (White Queen), and newbie Australian Mia Wasikowska as titular Alice. The film apparently combine Lewis Carroll’s two Alice novels – Through the Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland, and features a teenage Alice returning to Wonderland after loosing all memory of having been there before. So far only production stills and promotional shots of the cast have been released, but the crazy costumes and combination of talents are enough to whet my interest.
I’m sure I’ve overlooked plenty of exciting films coming out soon (I haven’t even mentioned the new Twilight film…), but this should at least keep me going for a wee while. Any thing else worth looking out for will, of course, be added to the blog in due course. In the meantime, enjoy your popcorn!
I’d love to know where this picture came from originally (please comment if you know), but I think it illustrates quite nicely what Mike and I thought of Kung Fu Panda!
(click to embiggen)
Earlier this year it was announced by Tom Tykwer, that the Wachowski’s had bought the rights to Cloud Atlas, a novel written by David Mitchell. Tykwer is adapting the screenplay of the award winning 2004 novel, although it is unclear who is set to direct, at this stage.
This news got Mike and I very interested. The Wachowski’s are of course best known for The Matrix (one of Mike’s favourite films) and the hugely underrated but very entertaining, Speed Racer. Tykwer’s Run Lola Run is, amongst others, one of my favourite films. The combination of filmmakers was sure to be an intriguing and successful one.
So, we kept an eye out for the novel at the heart of this collaboration, and I’ve recently finished reading it. There’s just so much going on in this book, that I want to get it all straight in my head, and the best way to do that, is to put it down on (blog-)paper. So here goes…
Wikipedia has a very nice plot summary, so I won’t go into too much detail here – best read it (or the novel) for yourself. The basic gist of it is this: Six seperate stories are nested within one another. Starting with an Amercian notary aboard a ship in the Pacific, set in the mid-19th century, followed by an English musician fleeing debtors to Zedelghem, Belgium to work (and hide) with a talented composer, then a journalist investigates corruption at a nuclear power plant in 1970’s California. The next story finds us in early 21st century England, where a book publisher finds himself trapped in a nursing home, then the novel takes a spin to the future, with the futuristic story of a fabricant (clone) in what-was-once-Korea who realises there is more to life than enslavement, and finally it goes post-apocolyptic with a campfire tale on Hawaii about a tribesmen meeting one of the last ‘civilised’ people left on the world.
Sounds like six completely different stories then. Why are they bound in the same cover? Well, this is where it gets clever. Yes, they are very different stories; not only are the characters (with the exception of one who is mentioned in two stories), the setting, and the time period completely different, but so is the genre for each story and the ‘mdeium’ in which it is written. But we discover, as we continue reading, that the stories are all linked. A character in the second story finds a copy of the ‘diary’ of the first character. He describes this in letters to a friend, who then gives these letters to the journalist in the third story. The journalists story is turned into a novel and this manuscript finds itself in the hands of the book publisher from story number four. He in turn, talks about how his life would make a great film, which, not surprisingly, it did – and the fabricant watches it before telling her tale to an ‘orison’ (holographic video recorder), and after the apocoplypse this orison falls into the hands of the tribesmen on Hawaii.
Sounds complicated, and on the upwards ride it is. But luckily, there is a downhill slope where it all becomes just that much clearer. The tribesmen ‘plays’ the second half of the orison, as we read the rest of her story. She in turn has a last request to finish watching the film about the book publisher, who at the end of the film sits down to finish reading the manuscript, etc. The whole novel becomes quite more-ish as you get caught up in each story, only to be abruptly ripped from it into a new world. I found the whole thing quite hard to put down.
So how would this work as a film? The film would have to remain faithful to the structure of the novel, or it would miss the point. Can you fit six different stories, each a different style, tone, pace and genre, with different characters into one film? Will the audience sit through it??? I have no idea.
As a novel it melds into one continuous arc. Despite the story within a story structure it feels like one story. There is a hint at the main characters all being the same reincarnated soul (except the last story, where it isn’t the main character). David Mitchell has confirmed this in an interview:
“All of the [leading] characters except one are reincarnations of the same soul … identified by a birthmark. … The “cloud” refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the “atlas”, which is the fixed human nature. … The book’s theme is predacity … individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations.”
And this brings me neatly to the next point… The novel’s scope covers the full circle of modern human society and it’s destruction. And it does seem destined to be cyclic in nature. At some point humanity will reach such a high point in technology and power that it will have nowhere to go but back down. This is illustrated in the fabricant’s story, where clones are created and manipulated to be agreeable drugged slaves. Much like the slave-trade alluded to in first story in the Pacific – of course by this point in history keeping slaves was frowned upon, but teaching Islanders to smoke – and become addicted to – tobacco was still fair game. The futuristic world of the fabricant seems to be the height of what human society can achieve, and we discover in the next story that not long after her escape from enslavement, her whole society fell, along with most of the civilised world.
“Yay, Old’uns’ Smart mastered sicks, miles, seeds an’ made miracles ord’nary, but it din’t master one thing, nay, a hunger in the hearts o’ humans, yay, a hunger for more… Human hunger birthed the Civlize, but human hunger killed it too”
(Cloud Atlas, “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After”, p. 286.)
There are as many messages to be taken from this novel as there are readers of it. It’s cleverness lies in how stories are incorporated into the previous story, especially on the downward spiral. Are they real or are they all fiction? Are some more real than others? Are we just another part of the story, and by writing this and referring to the book I am now part of it???
Books don’t offer real escape but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.
(David Mitchell in Cloud Atlas, “Letters from Zedelghem”)