Friday, 15 December 2017

The Infamous Closet

I think my ultimate goal is to raid the Criterion Collection closet. My dream is that they are all UK releases. Or at least compatible with my Blu ray player.

I first came across this particular closet earlier this year when I saw director Barry Jenkins picking out films on the Criterion Collection Youtube channel. Usually a place for video essays, interviews and trailers for new releases, these videos of actors and directors picking out films and talking about them was strangely satisfying. I've always had a thing about shelves and filling them. Whether they are bookcases, or filled with movies or collectables, I like to stare and see what everyone has on display without really having things on display. Shelves are technically storage but they serve as open display cabinets for all to see. For me, they are very pleasing to the eye. For some reason, watching people pick out films from this amazing closet, filled to the brim with films, is also, very pleasing.

It's interesting to see what films directors and actors pick and why. The more modest closet pickers pick only a handful and give in depth (sometimes) reasons with a story behind it. Others empty the shelves getting excited about being able to take as many as they wish. Those in between usually have the best observations. They obviously love films and have a vast collection themselves (I can relate to this) but they also have reasons for their selections. The Criterion Collection Blu rays are coveted releases and no matter who you are, if you are able to take a bundle of ones for free, you're not going to say no.

Back in 2008 when my collection of films was housed on my desk, I used to boast that I remembered exactly how I had aquired each film. Over the years, things have changed slightly, I do forget how I ended up with the likes of 'Goon' and 'Iron Man 3' in my collection and wonder why I still don't own 'Thelma & Louise', but for the most part, I can still recall how my collection came to be.

Every few months I claim to be slowing down and I have big medium slight clear out and start selling a few things. Soon after, I go to Fopp (my weakness) and bring back a big DVD haul. In fact, between my frequent trips to Fopp and the internet, I've clocked in a fair amount. I even saved my pennies for the big guns, a special edition 4K edition of Blade Runner (not pictured). I said to myself, during the last haul and during the purchasing of various DVDs, I should stick to special editions instead. Its working out. I think.

 As I have been gathering films from around the world for my Around the World in 80 Films challenge (ongoing), I have also been growing my Criterion collection AND am always looking out for childhood memories, hence the Amazing Mr Blunden DVD stuck in there. Arrow Video has been a friend to me lately, as I have indulged myself with a very pretty pair of limited edition Blu rays; Four Film Noir Classics and a beautifully crafted Carrie. I think its obvious to say, I have a weakness for 'special' editions.

My obsession with the closet has got me thinking of doing my own version of the closet as some of friends have impressive collections of their own. Watch this space in the new year.

If, like me, you enjoy watching people pick up free movies and talk about them, take a look at the videos and the closet that inspired this post - The Criterion Collection.








Thursday, 14 December 2017

Thursday Movie Pick - Small Towns

To be honest this theme would have worked for TV as there are so many great shows about small towns. Opportunity for great characters all together in a small space, Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, Agatha Raisin, Haven, Eureka...

A surprisingly though provoking and beautifully laid out, Pleasantville is a fictional show/town within in fiction. Two siblings (Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon) are trapped in a 50s set TV show where everything is just like the name, pleasant. At first trying to work within the system, they each begin to grow while helping change around them, affecting all the townsfolk at the same time. Having character change from black and white into colour showing they have become enlightened or experienced something new and exciting is a fantastic touch.

This well hidden gem from the 90s, an attempt to bring the cartoon sailor who experiences a surge of strength when he eats spinich to the big screen was odd. I used to love this film when I was younger, I had no idea it was despised at all. I still enjoy the songs and thought Robin Williams as Popeye himself was actually pretty darn good but Shelley Duvall steals the show as she is perfectly cast as Olive Oil. The design of Sweet Haven is amazing, with a great shot of the whole town right from the start, visting all the familiar characters while they sing a song about the town. One day maybe people will appreciate the jokes and strangeness of it all.

Hot Fuzz
 One of my all time favourite films, this Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg penned now modern classic, which had its 10th Anniversary this year is spoof comedy at its wittiest and best. Takes swipes at buddy cop movies, conspiracy stories and horror elements, the town of Sandford, Village of the Year winning town, has all the weird and wonderful characters to offer. It has some of the best shoot out scenes as well as iconic and bloody death scenes, with some of the best British talent delivering some hilarious lines. What more could you want??

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

BIFAS 2017

On Sunday evening myself and my colleague were very lucky to attend the BIFAs (British Independent Film Awards). It was an exciting more glitzy then expected affair. Wandering the vast room filled with famous faces, supporters of independent film, flashing lights and a hell of a lot of champagne. 

Seated at Table 66 for dinner and the awards portion of the evening, we got to witness some great speeches from Vanessa Redgrave and Gary Oldman who were each honoured and won special awards, as well as the 'stars of tomorrow' being honoured themselves. The big winners of the evening were Lady Macbeth, I Am Not a Witch and God's Own Country. As a fan of all three of these films, I am over the moon for the winners. 

Before I get played are the nominees and winners, followed by a few highlights.

Best British Independent Film
The Death of Stalin
God’s Own Country
I Am Not a Witch
Lady Macbeth
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director
Armando Iannucci - The Death of Stalin
Francis Lee - God’s Own Country
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Rungano Nyoni - I Am Not a Witch
William Oldroyd - Lady Macbeth

Best Actress
Emily Beecham - Daphne
Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margaret Mulubwa - Am Not a Witch
Florence Pugh - Lady Macbeth
Ruth Wilson (“Dark River”)

Best Actor
Jamie Bell - Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Paddy Considine - Journeyman
Johnny Harris - Jawbone
Josh O’Connor - God’s Own Country
Alec Secareanu - God’s Own Country

Best Supporting Actress
Naomi Ackie - Lady Macbeth 
Patricia Clarkson - The Party
Kelly MacDonald - Goodbye Christopher Robin
Andrea Riseborough  - The Death of Stalin
Julie Walters - Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Best Supporting Actor
Simon Russell Beale  - The Death of Stalin
Steve Buscemi  - The Death of Stalin
Woody Harrelson - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Ian Hart - God’s Own Country
Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Screenplay 
Alice Birch - Lady Macbeth
Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin - The Death of Stalin
Francis Lee - God’s Own Country
Martin McDonagh - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Rungano Nyoni - I Am Not a Witch

Best Casting
Shaheen Baig  - Lady Macbeth
Shaheen Baig, layla Merrick-Wolf - God’s Own Country 
Sarah Crowe - The Death of Stalin
Sarah Halley Finn - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Debbie McWilliams - Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Best Cinematography
Ben Davis - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
David Gallego - I Am Not a Witch
Tat Radcliffe - Jawbone
Thomas Riedelsheimer - Leaning Into the Wind
Ari Wegner (“Lady Macbeth”)

Best Costume Design
Dinah Collin  - My Cousin Rachel
Suzie Harman  - The Death of Stalin
Sandy Powell  - How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Holly Rebecca - I Am Not a Witch
Holly Waddington  - Lady Macbeth

Best Film Editing
Johnny Burke  - Williams
David Charap  - Jawbone 
Jon Gregory - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Peter Lambert - The Death of Stalin
Joe Martin - Us And Them

Best Make Up & Hair Design
Julene Paton - I Am Not a Witch
Jan Sewell - Breathe
Nadia Stacey - Journeyman
Nicole Stafford - The Death of Stalin
Sian Wilson (“Lady Macbeth”)

Best Original Score 
Carter Burwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Fred Frith - Leaning Into The Wind
Matt Kelly - I Am Not a Witch
Paul Weller - Jawbone
Christopher Willis - The Death of Stalin

Best Production Design
Jacqueline Abrahams - Lady Macbeth
Cristina Casali - The Death of Stalin
James Merifield - Final Portrait
Nathan Parker  - I Am Not a Witch
Eve Stewart - Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Best Sound 
Anna Bertmark - God’s Own Country
Maiken Hansen - I Am Not a Witch
Andy Shelley, Steve Griffiths - Jawbone
Joakim Sundström - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sound team - Breathe

Best Visual Effects 
Nick Allder, Ben White - The Ritual
Luke Dodd - Journeyman
Effects team - The Death of Stalin
Dan Martin - Double Date
Chris Reynolds - Their Finest

Best Documentary 
Almost Heaven
Half Way
Kingdom Of Us
Uncle Howard

Best British Short Film
Fish Story
The Entertainer
Wren Boys

Most Promising Newcomer 
Naomi Ackie - Lady Macbeth
Harry Gilby - Just Charlie
Cosmo Jarvis - Lady Macbeth
Harry Michell - Chubby Funny
Lily Newmark - Pin Cushion

Best Debut Director
Deborah Haywood - Pin Cushion
Francis Lee  - God’s Own Country
Thomas Napper - Jawbone
Rungani Nyoni  - I Am Not a Witch
William Oldroyd - Lady Macbeth

Best Debut Screenwriter
Alice Birch  - Lady Macbeth
Gaby Chiappe - Their Finest
Johnny Harris  - Jawbone 
Francis Lee - God’s Own Country
Rungani Nyoni - I Am Not a Witch

Best Breakthrough Producer
Gavin Humphries  - Pin Cushion
Emily Morgan - I Am Not a Witch
Brendan Mullin, Katy Jackson - Bad Day For The Cut
Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly - Lady Macbeth
Jack Tarling, Manon Ardisson - God’s Own Country

The Discovery Award
Even When I Fall
In Another Life
Isolani R
My Pure Land

Best International Independent Film
The Florida Project
Get Out
I Am Not Your Negro
The Square

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Its the Rumour, the Legend, the Mystery...

I'm hoping that everyone is continuing to sing the lyrics after reading the title.

Back in 1996 my Dad worked for a newspaper and used to get tickets to press screenings. This is how my family got to see the era defining Spice World: the Movie and the ever remember able, Home Alone 3 (which neither my Dad or me enjoyed). We also got to see a Don Bluth film called Anastasia.

Anastasia is of course the 1997 hit animated musical film about the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II who escapes from the Bolsheviks during the Revolution in 1917. But during her escape with her Grandmother she is separated and loses her memory. Years later rumours start to circulate that Anastasia is still alive and con artist Dimitri decides to take advantage of the reward The Dowager Empress (Anastasia's grandmother) is offering for the Princess' safe return. He meets Anya (Anastasia) by chance who remembers bits and pieces from her past thinking they are just dreams, and convinces her that she could be the missing Princess. Along with Dimitri's friend and former aristocrat Vlad the three travel to Paris. Along side their journey and really right from the start, Rasputin, a former confidant of the Tsar takes revenge on the royal family and it is hinted that he assisted in the revolution through dark arts. After falling through the ice he enters limbo until years later he is awoken to continue his evil plan, thwarting Anya's journey with nightmares and train issues (down playing it here) along the way. It all ends in Paris BUT if you haven't seen the film yet (if not why not!?!) I'll stop the synopsis there. With a cast including 90s darlings, Meg Ryan as Anya, John Cusack as Dimitri and Kelsey Grammer as Vlad and of course the one and only Christopher Lloyd as Rasputin, the film couldn’t put a foot wrong. But the poster was terrible, they are standing in rom-com stance.

The story is based on real life characters but the story is extremely fictional. Although there was a woman who claimed to be Anastasia until the day she died, there wasn’t much evidence to proof her claims were true. Although Rasputin was not necessarily a soul selling limbo dwelling murderer, he wasn’t a pleasant person. He became the Tsarina’s confidant and had too much power of her; he was cast out and murdered. With a dark story to start with, namely the Red Revolution, it does seem odd that an amazing somewhat happy film follows. 

The music was an important aspect of the film that I didn’t notice when I was younger as I just thought ‘yey music’ but looking it, the songs move the story along and paint a picture for what was happening at the time, ‘Paris Holds the Key’ in particular. All the songs are fabulously catchy and have a beat that you can’t stop listening to. I have the soundtrack (of course) and I used to listen to this on repeat when I first discovered them. Although I love all the songs, my favourite is the ‘Life is a Road’ which just plays in the credits, but its worth sitting through the credits for. Plus later 90s star Aaliyah sings her version of ‘Journey to the Past’ right at the end too, a hidden gem and easily forgotten about now. 

In my household, we all loved Don Bluth as we were fans and owners of the VHS of American Tail and The Secret of NIMH, so this was just another exciting free cinema trip to see an animation with Doc Brown doing one of the voices (my 8 year old self was thinking). I remember absolutely loving the film and becoming a little obsessed. I now wish I had been so obsessed that I had owned the Anastasia dolls/action figures but I wasn't like that. I was more the sticker book and stationary kind of child fan. Unfortunately apart from a couple of random stickers all of the treasure is now lost. What did have and collect were these little plastic hologram locket type things that you got free in cereals (remember those days?). Four to collect but I only had three, now only one in my current possession which I am holding onto for dear life. 

At school quite a few people used to say to that Anastasia was one of their favourite Disney films as this was back when everyone thought all animation was from Disney. I would have to correct and remind them that Anya is no Disney princess, she's her own character and in fact it is based on a story about a women who claimed to be the missing Russian princess, even to her death. But these corrections were met with mild interest or blank stares. It was tough back in primary school.

The film still has fans getting excited about it being on TV one day or in my case over joyed when the film appeared on Netflix for a while. Appreciation posts from Buzzfeed have also popped up reminding us how much we all love Dimitri and well as just saying how great the film was and still is. Dimitri is actually a really popular ‘prince’ role, he was the charming thief with a secret romantic side (remind you of a certain Flynn anyone?). Its amusing to think that the animators wanted to make Dimitri unappealing and unattractive and instead they made the opposite. Even the floppy hair works.
Looking to the legacy of Anastasia, I often used to say the film would make a great musical with just a few more songs and with the announcement last year (can’t remember when exactly, did I write a post?) I was buzzing with excitement. Tracking the progress of the show on Twitter, Instagram and preview show reviews on Youtube I finally got to see my wish come true, sort of. The show has ditched Rasputin (booooo) along with his song (boooooo) and replaced him with a more realistic villain and a billion more new songs. All the originals from the film are there otherwise, slightly altered and extended but alas not my favourite credits song. I’ve heard the music and songs (couldn’t resist on itunes) and I’m sad for the massive changes but I’m still so excited and just waiting for the day it comes to London town. Sooner rather than later please. 

Looking forward to the musical, looking back at when the film was first released, it was and always will be a classic. A great story and even better music, everyone wants to venture into the world of Anya and sing along with her ‘on this journey to the paaaaaast!’.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

For the Love of FitzSimmons


Yes. That's right, its another FitzSimmons appreciation post.

I didn't write a post like this during season 4 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, there didn't seem to be a need. The scientist duo were cannon, a couple, whatever you want to call it, it was solid. Except they barely had any screen time together and next to no scenes showing that were even a couple! The fans were cheated out of this happy period and thrown straight into the fire of the Framework part of the show. The terrible soul sucking Framework that was actually great for the TV show itself but the worst that could happen to the pair, thus proving they really are cursed.

With a tiny slither of hope at the end of the season, there was hope FitzSimmons could build up what was nearly destroyed. BUT as the writers of the show literally have nothing better to do than to use the most unoriginal plot device in the world, break a couple up then have then try get back together, again, the beacon of hope that was once FitzSimmons is now hurtled into the unknown. With Fitz being the only character left behind (oh for f***'s sake!) the couple are once again separted by time and space and all that alien crud in between. Seriously, will our scientist geniuses ever catch a break? And I don't mean in fan fiction or the excellent tumblr blogs but within the show.

Having now seen the opening two episodes of season 5, I have to say, although I'm super excited to see everyone in space and SPOILER the post apocalyptic future no less, I'm still sad to see Fitz not amoung them. I'm not the only one disappointed that there is one team member left behind. Cries out across the fandom and Twitter in general, all wondering where Fitz is. Iain De Caestecker wouldn't let much slip in an interview teasing that Fitz would return after episode 2, whichw as in a double season opener, so Fitz could literally turn up at anyone moment. But seeing as the next two episode titles echo what has already been mentioned in the opener 'A Life Spent' and 'A Life Earned' I don't see Fitz turning up yet (annoyingly) but as the 5th episode is called 'Rewind' it might be a Fitz heavy episode back in present day Earth with Fitz tryin to find out what happened. Speculating even further, the show might be going the same way season 3 did with Jemma in her own episode having her own adventure/nightmare alone on a strange planet. Now it's Fitz's turn? Half of me hopes this is the case, half me hopes Fitz shows up sooner.

With even more speculation already taking over that new character, Deke, is a relation of FitzSimmons, there is hope that Fitz and Simmons reunite and actually stay together to have a family... Deke built his own framework (yep, that old nightmare chestnut isn't dead yet) and seemed to know quite a bit about the engineering behind it. Plus, a notebook with calculations was found in short lived character Virgil as well as a postcode saying 'Working on it - Fitz'. Ties might be closer than expected.

Either way, seeing Fitz in similar clothes to the rest of the team gives hope, but with way more questions that answers I really just want to see what happens next. But I do long for the days of season 3, can we bring back that excitement minus the silly 'Will' story? Why not a FitzSimmons solo mission? That would be amazing to see.

We'll have to see FitzSimmons fans - we can beat this curse yet!


Friday, 1 December 2017

November Watch List

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
As a huge fan of The Lobster, I was keen to see what Yorgos Lanthimos would follow with. Of course it was always going to be a psychological horror inspired by the Greek play Iphigenia in Aulis by that cheerful guy, Euripides. A surgeon has a strange friendship with a teenage boy who wants to meet up with me, meet his family and invite to dinner with his mother. The surgeon has a wife, also a doctor, and two childre, a boy and teenage girl. But as the film unfolds the strange boy starts to take things too far, becoming an even more uncomfortable presence. Eventually it is revealed that his father was a patient of the surgeon but died during surgery and he holds the surgeon responsible. He therefore sets up a punishment that cannot be altered. A brilliantly executed story, its a slow hideous burner of a film as it cleverly unfolds showing cracks in a perfect set up. The horror comes from the unnatural and helpless feeling of losing control, there is literally nothing the surgeon can do to stop what will happen. It was not disappointing and left a horrible lingering pain in my mind due to the outcome of the ending. 3/5

Chronicling the story of two families, the white McAllens and the black Jacksons, in rural Mississippi as they deal with the living on a farm, trying to get through the day to day, the fallout from war and the disappointments with life. Overall I found the film depressing with a few hopefully moments, including the ending. But the outlook is bleak from the start, with a narration from Carey Mulligan's character Laura who marries her brother's boss even though she isn't particularly fond of him. Soon he moves her and their daughters to a farm, taking her away from the city. Their tenants, the Jacksons are a close knit family, encouraging each other to succeed, working hard so they can have a place of their own. The film talks covers everything it can from the period, rascism, lonliness and surviving war being the main themes. The multiple narration is perfect for this story, especially as dialogue is somewhat scarce, making the characters seem isolated and lonely even when surrounded by others. 3/5

Fack ju Göhte
 After seeing a trailer for the Mexican remake of this German original, I tracked down a copy of the German film and became a little obsessed. I just wanted to know the ending. What I thought was goingto be a comedy about a criminal upon being released from prison finds out his stash has been buroed beneath a school gym, pretends to be a supply teacher in order to get in. What I got was this and a hell of a lot more. This was very universal. I could have imagined this with a British cast too. It was hilarious. There is actually two sequels for this film! God knows why it was needed, but I suppose sequelling a film to death happens everywhere.

Blade of the Immortal

I missed this at LFF so booked tickets immediately whne the preview came up. But then I missed out on seeing the Franco brothers in person for a Q&A and preview of The Disaster Artist to see Blade of the Immortal. At first I was slightly worried I made the wrong choice BUT after a few minutes, I was hooked into the world of Manji and Rin. Based on the manga of the same name, this samurai revenge story literally spills blood every minute (almost). Manji, after avenging the murder of his sister right in front of him lies dying until he is saved by a mysterious old lady who makes him immortal. Decades later, Rin, daughter of a fencing teacher seeks revenge for the murder of her parents. She teams up with Manji to kill the rebel group responsible. Its bloody, crazy and down right brilliant. Peppered with humorous moments, usually involving Manji having to retrieve body parts, the dark nature of the characters isn't swept aside. There are some spectacualr fight scene as well as quieter moments to balance the gore out. An excellent film that really deserves a proper release. 4/5

 Jim & Andy
Watching Man in the Moon some years ago, I really had no idea who Andy Kaufman was. I guessed he was a 'big deal' in the US so I had to do a bit of researching before, after and during the film. Having a larger than life actor like Jim Carey play a odd and larger than life entertainer (as he is being described as) such as Kaufman was excellent casting. I thought the film was ok but very stressful as it seemed not many people understood Kaufman's humour or his comedy. The strange but true occurances of what happened on set were beyond bizarre as Jim Carey took method acting to the extreme when he acted as Andy on and off camera and as Tony Clifton the awful lounge singer. The film is a long interview with Carey as he relates the story which is intertwined with footage from the documentary crew who were allowed to film on set back in 1999. Its fascinating to see people's reaction to the characters as well as seeing 'Andy' back. It is emotional and disturbing at the same time, especially as Jim says that 'Andy' took over during filming, often refering to Jim as someone else as well as revealing some deep seated insecurities. I think this is a role Jim Carey will always carry with him. 4/5

Beach Rats
A story about a young guy struggling to come escape the boundaries of his Brooklyn life and try to understand his sexuality. Frankie seems to do the same thing every day, smoke weed with his friends trapped just like him in their neighbourhood, hang out at Coney Island at night and chat to men in gay chat rooms online. It's a question that come up, 'what do you like?" and Frankie's answer is 'I don't know what I like'. He's still trying to figure who he is and what he likes. With pressure from friends to be and seem masculine, trying to date a girl is painful to watch, and with the death of his father, things just get slowly worse. Its so brilliantly acted by Brit actor, Harris Dickinson, its heartwrenching seeing him try to surpress his real desires. Directed by Eliza Hittman, questions about the female gaze and how it works so well within this genre, its so rare to see a film with these characters from a female perspective. Although a somewhat bleak out look, I hold hope for Frankie to fid a way to be happy. 4/5

Thursday, 30 November 2017

You're a Dangerous Girl

For the past 12 weeks I have been on a course for those interesting in film programming. I did post up earlier this month about a screening event my group and I were holding at Deptford Cinema. We had a modest turn out and the quiz went off without a hitch! It was has been a rollercoaster 12 weeks with some amazing speakers from different organisations and freelancers alike, all very inspiring and helped to get the creative film related juices flowing.

Part of the course was to create a programme for a festival/season of films that we'd like to 'put on'. Mine was hypothetical as I made up dates, location (I had dreamed that the Prince Charles Cinema wanted to host the events) and guests for panels and Q&As. I put it all together into a zine (getting the hang of these) and shared it with the class. Here it is in all its glory, well the best I can do anyway.

 Maybe one day it will become real...

For more information about the course, check out Screen/Play over at Cinema Forver HERE.