Saturday 30 June 2018

Ed Film Fest

It's been pretty quiet here on the blooging front but I have an excellent reason why...

Over the past week, well from 22nd to 27th I was at the Edinburgh International Film Festival armed with my press pass, heavy catalogue and a coffee for nearly every screening.

There other film festivals that I should but have yet to make it to, (Berlin, Rotterdam, I'm coming for you next year!) and I'm working my way up to the festivals much further a-field, such as TIFF and Sundance and who knows, maybe I'll get to Cannes one day. But for now, I'm happy with my Scottish adventure 3rd time round.

As I wa spart of press, most of my reviews will be up on Vulturehound - links to follow - with one or two up on here. This was my watch list for the festival, an assortment of press screenings and ticketed events:

Every time I go to Edinburgh I usually save a day to go exploring BUT as this was delightfully full on week, I didn't but I get to try out a few new places such as The Owl & Deer cafe not far from where I stayed (they make the best french toast) and The Elephant House, the place where J.K Rowling wrote her Potter books, but I went for the great coffee and cake! And of course I had to go to my favourite place, Saint Giles Cafe & Bar, where the house speciality is always a treat. Fun fact, its the only dish I where I'll eat bacon and brie (usually hate both, the food is that good). If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh, definitely try at least one of these places!

Post to follow or keep an eye on the FESTIVALS page for links!



Thursday 21 June 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Juvenile Delinquents

All pass the Bechdel Test!

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang
There have been plenty of stories about gangs of boys so its about time there was one about girls. This is actually the second adaptation of the book Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates about a group of girls who form a gang in 1950s New York. Truthfully I haven't seen the whole film but from I did see, the girls take revenge on a teacher who is molesterer and start to get a reputation around town after they commit petty crimes. They start to become more violent in their acts when they beat up one of the girls' uncles after he sexually assults her. The leader of the gang ends up in jail after stealing a car  and (that's all I remember) I think they all end up in a house together where they extort money from guys to pay the rent....

Co-written by director Catherine Hardwicke and a then 14 year old Nikki Reed, the film is a semi-autobiographical story about two girls in their first year of high school and how they become more reckless. Tracy (Even Rachel Wood) is a good girl but after becoming teased at school for how she dresses, she ditches her nice girl clothes and attitude in order to make friends with the 'cool' kids. She becomes fast friends with Evie (Nikki Reed) who is seen as a bad influence on her, getting in invloved with drink, drugs and sex, as well as shoplifting. There are some painful scenes and truths that come out and it is basically the destruction of a young girl before she's even grown up. Evie, although is ultimately the liar and instigator, she is also desparate for a proper home and thinks that this is the way to get what she wants.

Daphne is arrested for theft and taken to a Youth Detention Centre where she meets Josh. She offers to help patch things up between him and his girlfriend who is on the outside but the two soon start to fall in love, sending each other secret messages and watching each other through the bars of their windows. The boys are girls are housed separately but are together every Sunday for mass and as a treat at New Years Eve for a party. The story is about young love with the barrier being prison, but the two leads are so adorable together they make the story. Some of the actors were actual inmates including Josciua Algeri who plays Josh. Daphne Scoccia who plays Daphne was a waitress in the restuarant opposite the filmmakers' office and cast in her in the role from this chance meeting.

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

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Remember that show... Teachers

Back in the early 2000s, there was comedy drama that I was really obsessed with for an encapsulated amount of time. As one who really hated school (pre-college/Uni), it may have been odd that I loved a show called ‘Teachers’.

I had missed the first series and caught the back end of the second and rewatched taped episodes of the third. I had been very very excited for the fourth only to be extremely disappointed by the departure of my two favourite characters and the merger of the school where the show is set with another school with three new teachers, meant to replace the missing originals but never could achieve this.

Centred around a group of secondary school teachers in Bristol, the show boasted the best of early 2000s TV talent, most of which I saw once or twice in  random bit roles. It seems that Andrew Lincoln seemed to have made it out of Summerdown Comprehensive to become a ‘name’ across the pond and Shaun Evans who was in series 2 got a starrinf part as Detective Morse in 'Endeavour', but that second might be just for the UK fans. I think that is part of the charm of the show, no big names, just actors you remember and see from time to time.

Teachers came and went throughout the 4 series, some with a very obvious reason, others with none. What set the show apart from others of the era, was the humour, dark, depressing was very funny. The show also took a somewhat surreal take on how schools run and I have to say, watching this show while at school, I could relate. The main reason for me watching the show was my love for on screen best friends Brian and Kurt. A loveable actually quite decent guy and an arsehole who couldn’t face up to his issues. Loved them to bits. Adrian Bower and Navin Chowdhry didn’t return for the fourth series. I was so devastated I almost gave up on the show, but I stuck around to watch Matthew Horne (pre Gavin and Stacy) as an RE teacher who was going through a crisis.

The show was nominated for BAFTAs and at the British Comedy awards, it even spawned an American remake in 2006 which survived 6 episodes and was cancelled. This is probably due to the show being, dare I say it, a British show that wouldn’t translate well over the pond.

Running from 2001-2004, the show wasn’t renewed for a fifth series due to the negative or lack of response to the fourth series. It’s annoying as the third ended on a high and had an open ending. I like to think it ended there.

Just before I end it there, I found this post about the cast and 'where they are now' which, to new viewers might like to see HERE

Monday 18 June 2018

Parck Circus: Fail Safe

Having not seen Fail Safe before, settling down after lunch to watch a film about a military computer error which results in a squadron of American SAC bombers being sent to Moscow, at first seemed like an unusual pick. But Sidney Lumet’s ensemble piece is far more than it seems. Seen entirely from the American’s point of view, we seen how all the people involved react to the impending disaster and the fallout from their choices.

Beginning with a dream sequence of a bull being killed in a bull fight, a traumatised Brigadier General Warren A. "Blackie" Black wakes up confused about who the bull is and who the matador is. The dream foreshadows what is to happen later, especially when it revealed that he has to attend a meeting at the Pentagon. Morbid straight talking Professor Groeteschele, scientist who claims to know what will happen if there was nuclear war is also attending a meeting at the Pentagon. Further setting up the impending feeling of doom.

Various politicians and military personnel are assembled at the Pentagon, as well as officers at the Strategic Air Command at an airbase in Nebraska. During a visit to the base, the early warning radar indicates that an unidentified aircraft has entered USA airspace. The aircraft is soon identified as a civilian airliner that has gone off course. But due to a computer error, a bomber group receives orders to attack Moscow. Everyone tries in vain to contact the pilots but due to the Soviets jamming their radios, the bombers pass the fail safe point and won’t turn back. What follows is a nail biting and harrowing film that focuses between the bombers, the airbase, the Pentagon and the President in a small room with just a phone and his interpreter. Desperate attempts to warn the Russians this isn’t war, this is a mistake, are all in vain. With no where to turn, the President does the only thing he can, offer to sacrifice an American city to make up for the destruction of Russia.

Set during the Cold War the characters represent various attitudes of the day. The terrifying thought of war and the death of millions is overwhelming, but the ones who hold their composure in the face of such tragedy, the film focuses of the lengths that people will go to avoid a war no one really wants and the misplaced trust we put in machines. It’s unsettling to think of the loss of life all because of a computer error.

The film which we got to see had been restored using a 35mm Original picture Negative, a 35mm Duplicate Negative and 35mm Original Soundtrack Masters. Previously there had been three reels of original negative missing. But in the 15 years when restoration first began, two have been located. The challenge of of making the image quality of the replacement material match the surviving negatives was achieved by Colourist Sheri Eisenburg at Roundabout where she referenced archival prints to achieve an authentic look of the film.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Thursday Movie Picks: Legend/Mythology

The Sword in the Stones
There have been many versions of the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. MY favourites include the British TV show that felt like Monty Python for kids, Sir Gadabout, which my sister and I loved (still no DVD release which is insane) and the last few volumes of the comic Fables, reimagining Rose Red as Arthur and Snow White as Morgana (its a tad twisted). BUT Disney's animated fantastical and literally magical story of Arthur, known as Wart, before he was king. His lessons with Merlin are amazing and terrifying at the same time, being turned into a bird, fish and squirrel and caught in a wizards duel with Mad Madame Mim. From the moment the music that gives you good chills begins to final scene where Merlin comes back from Bermuda, its entertaining and fun way to think things went down in London town. I still sorta tear up when he pulls the sword from the stone. Beautiful moment.

Robin Hood
Just like Arthur there have been countless interpretations of Robin Hood. This is one of my favourite Disney films for many reasons, one being Robin and Marian are portrayed as foxes! But also Peter Ustinov as King John and Terry Thomas as his royal side-kick, two legends themselves, are pitch perfect. With animals stepping in as characters in the legend, proportians aside, this is almost a precurser to the more recent Zootropolis. Moving on, the film is often underrated but there's wit, humour, actual danger and one the greatest chase scenes ever. Oo-delally!

I didn't watch Hercules until I was in my twenties. Yes, I know. How could I have left it THAT long. Well, I wasn't keen on the animation when I was younger, but with age, you grew to appreciate the amazing film. The music, jokes, a bit of mythology info and Hades (perfect casting James Woods). I went to a sing-a-long a few months back and it made me love the film even more.

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

Monday 11 June 2018

Park Circus: Why We Programme Classic Films

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a screening day hosted by Park Circus to celebrate their 15th Anniversary.

Screening a few classics such as the 4K restoration of the 1988 action genre godfather, ‘Die Hard’, Billy Wilder’s ‘The Apartment’ and the film that most of the audience hadn’t seen in a long while, Sidney Lumet’s 1964 film, ‘Fail Safe’. There was also a panel to discuss the importance of screening classic films on the big screen.

Watching ‘Die Hard’ in the morning was a smart move on a programming side of the event. It definitely woke everyone up and got everyone, dare I say, pumped up and excited for the panel.

Chaired by writer and film critic Simran Hans (@heavier_things), the panel included Clare Binns (@ClareLBinns); Joint Managing Director of Picturehouse Cinemas, Shira MacLeod; repertory film programmer and Cinema Director of Regent Street cinema, Roman Wood; (@rowanwoods) co-founder and co-runner of programming collective Misc. Films and Development Executive at BBC Films and Jason Wood; (@jwoodfilm) Artistic Director of Film at HOME, writer and Professor of Film at Manchester School of Art.

One the main questions that was asked of each panel member was why they thought it was important to still programme classics:

Shira: Old films are more honest. Before they started making blockbusters, they used a typewriter, before they used special effects, there’s something about the writing that forces you to look at the acting. {Classic films] just better.

Clare: I love films whether they are old, now or films in the future but I think it’s often we find with our [Picturehouse] vintage season, its people who haven’t seen these films on the big screen bfeore that are coming to see them, its not old people coming to see these films, its younger people who may have seen these films on TV, online or Netflix but we all know seeing a classic film in the cinema with other people is something like nothing else in cinema, it brings people together. Those films are wonderful, they have stories to tell and the other thing is of course a director like Hitchcock never made a film over 2 hours. They get to the point, they do what they say on the tin and it’s just extraordinary to show these films in cinemas, so I’m a big fan.

Roman: I think we show old films for the same reason that we read Dickens or read Middlemarch [or intend to read Middlemarch]. I think its about cultural heritage and its about the enrichment you get from engaging with something that’s just good enough to be endured that long. I think watching old films helps to contextualise the newer films we watch. There are really compelling cultural reasons why we should engage with classic cinema but also, in a more practical sense its increasingly difficult to fund/find classic cinema/films outside of cinemas. Twenty years ago TV was a real home for classic film and for enriching your film history or blockbusters or the aisles of HMV or Fopp and now its increasingly hard to find those films and they’re not available that much on streaming services and there isn’t the same kind of careful curation on streaming services. So if you don’t know what you’re looking for and if you’re not looking the hot new release, its hard to know where to look. I think the careful curation of classic film in cinemas is really important for preserving the history of an art form and for catering to existing audiences and for the hunger that is out there and for developing knowledge and passion with a new audience. It’s also really important to make a case for preserving film as an art form and not just another form of content.

Clare: Because of digital, we show films in 35mm and we’re [Picturehouse] currently showing ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in 70mm. Digital had allowed these films to be shown. Back in the day when we showed ‘Some Like It Hot’ it was inevitable that most of the prints didn’t have the last line on it because someone had taken it off, the reel was so badly damaged. There were so many films we used to show in rep (repertory cinema), the prints were in terrible condition and now because of digital and companies like Park Circus, we can see these films in a way that I’ve never seen before and look so good. This is another way that film has really benefitted and we can now show films the way they’re meant to be seen.

Jason: We have to recognise that film did emerge from a vacuum and its good to go back and revisit history. I think its important, that if you look at the screen behind me, there is a huge difference here and screen 1 and from watching a film on your phone or at home. The rise of online service providers, particularly Netflix, we need to remind people how great it is to see  a classic film on a screen like this. Its also great to revisit films that have been bulldozed over by history, like ‘Daughters of the Dust’  which was rediscovered last year and premiered at the London Film Festival and the upcoming ‘Just Another Girl on I.R.T’ at Cinema Rediscovered, its important to look back at some these classic films by female filmmakers, black filmmakers, LGBT filmmakers and drag them out from the vaults to remind people of some the great filmmakers of the past.

Die Hard celebrates its 30th Anniversary this year and will be released at Christmas, the perfect time for this festive film.

Monday 4 June 2018

Sundance London: The Tale

The subject of filmmaker Jennifer Fox's latest film is a hard hitting subject even without the fact that her film is a true story, her story. Recalling her time spent at an intensive horse riding summer camp when she was 13 years old, where she befriended the woman who ran the camp and the running coach/neighbour and later was sexualy abused by the latter. Before the film even starts, it has to sink in that this is a real story and that Fox, who was present at the screening, had bravely shared her story.

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker and professor Jennifer is cutting her latest film when her mother calls her frantically about a story she wrote when she was a child. At first Jennifer waves this off as just a story about her 'older' boyfriend when she was younger. This is the moment when Jennifer becomes curious about a summer she spent with Mrs G, her horse riding instructor and her neighbour/running coach Bill. Jennifer reads through old letters and seeks out her two other girls who were there at the same time and even Mrs G, who she admired so much. Cutting between the present and Jennifer's investigation to what really happened and the past when she was sexually abused by Bill. Coming to terms with the truth and how she remembers the events, Jennifer peices together what happened and begins to see how she survived.

The film is played out as if it were a fictional story but uses documentary like techniques, such interviewing characters while hearing adult Jennifer asking questions. The use of voiceover, whenever Jennifer's story is read out signifies a change to a memory and also to hammer home that she wrote a fictional version of real events. She credits the story she wrote when she was 13 years old for school homework saying the film is based on that. Fox really does lay herself bare through this film and her amazing composure at the screening (although she was very upset when her credits were cut short for the Q &A) is to be admired, not just in how she was able to make the film but in the end result.  Laura Dern is fantastic portraying Jennifer, bringing gravitas to a 'character' that could be seen in a multiple of ways. She gives Jennifer a voice where she able to be confused angry and even happy at the memories of the past. A potentially difficult role is carefully constructed into a woman coming to terms with what was done to her and Dern is a superby cast.

A brilliant film that continually provokes questions and isn't afraid to go deeper under the skin, no matter how uncomfortable the audience feels, this needs to be seen.