Well, it's been a pretty good selection this year, actually - Reese
Witherspoon won for Walk the Line, which was unexpected (she's very
good in it), and the Wallace and Gromit film won Best British Film
(yay!). Brokeback Mountain swept it (I still haven't seen it),
which I suppose was expected.
predictions? I haven't seen Crash and Capote isn't out
yet, but I suspect Brokeback will take Best Picture too (the
BAFTAs and AMPAS membership overlap considerably.) Munich is the
best film out of the list I've seen. Witherspoon should get Best
Actress, W&G should get best animated (but I wouldn't mind if Miyazaki
got it either) and Robert Altman should have got his Oscar a long time
back, but at least gets an honorary one. Looks to be a pretty boring
year - too few choices.
And, in non-movie related news... Andy
Murray won his first ATP Tour title. Against Lleyton Hewitt. 2-6,
6-1, 7-6. Having beaten Andy Roddick already. Damn, he's getting
better quickly, isn't he?
ISX 2005 List #2: Films of Last Year
In a belated followup to the previous "music of 2005" list, as
discovered in my drafts folder, here's a grossly incomplete films of
Antibodies (saw at EIFF, so doesn't really count) - Truly
brilliant German serial killer movie with a psychological bent that
knows exactly how to involve its audience on a primal level; it also,
happily, knows both when and when not to use gore, much like
David Fincher's Seven (the last great serial killer movie). The
less you know about this movie, the better; I knew very little on
going in, and it only aided the experience. An absolute must see.
Batman Begins - It's a tribute to how good this movie is that
it ends up being the best comic-book movie of the year - in the year
of Sin City. Tim Burton didn't really get Batman (he got the
villains, though), and Joel Schumacher was, let's face it, crap,
although Batman Forever is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Chris
Nolan and David Goyer, on the other hand, do get Batman, and
also know how to write a decent motion picture; Batman Begins
is a comic-book movie with a immensely solid script structure, densely
interconnected and near enough making sense. The structure is
impeccable; the villain choice brilliant; the proto-Batmobile plain
cool and Christian Bale excellent. If only more comic-book movies
were like this.
Crimen Ferpecto (Ferpect Crime) - Yeah, another EIFF movie, but
a great one; funny, twisted and intricately done. Coincidentally, its
director Alex de la Iglesia was once attached to the Doom
movie, and may have made a better fist of it than the guys that did...
Downfall (Der Untergang) - Again, technically doesn't count
because it was made in 2004, but we only got it in 2005. It is simply
an outstanding achievement - by "humanising Hitler", as its detractors
put it, it shows us why people were so devoted to him and why he was
able to get away with it for so long. The movie feels real.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - It's a lot funnier than any movie with a
scene involving electrical genital torture has any right to be; to the
extent that even the genital torture is funny, in its own brilliantly
warped black way. A must see.
Land Of The Dead - I have a rather contrary opinion on Land;
it was one of the most engaging cinema experiences I've had this year,
pretty much non-stop zombie fun. Remember, fans loathed Day
when it came out as well; now, Day is seen as a modern classic,
and I hope that in the future Land will be seen the same way.
There already seems to be a fanbase growing...
Serenity - It's pretty well done, although uneven; besides, we
need more decent SF, it's a very underdone genre right now.
Sideways - That Paul Giamatti performance is really a thing of
wonder; it makes the movie, despite its slow start. Besides, it's
Sin City - See the Batman Begins review - Sin City,
like BB, is a comic book movie done right, true to its origins and
true to cinema as a medium.
The Aristocrats - The best one-joke film of 2005.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - If you hate Wes Anderson,
that's fine. I, on the other hand, rather like his films, and Life
Aquatic is no exception.
Wallace and Gromit in The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit - If you
don't like this movie, you have no soul. Period.
And the disappointments of the year (not necessarily all bad):
Doom - How on earth do you dumb down a videogame
plotline? The answer, unfortunately, is this movie: you swap demons
from hell with "mutations caused by 'Chromosome 24'", add a really
stupid first-person scene and rip off Aliens. Thanks,
Hollywood. The only reason this isn't in the next section is because
of the decent-to-not-horrendous direction, good DP, proper monsters
and the Clint Mansell score; if you want plot, not to mention have
some actual fun, go play the much misunderstood and majorly underrated
"Doom 3" instead.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind - Sorry, I didn't get it.
I got Adaptation, and I can tell that Jim Carrey puts in a
fantastic performance, but the movie really didn't grab me. Your
mileage may vary.
Napoleon Dynamite - I didn't get this either, and not in
a good way. It really is a one-joke movie, and the one joke is very
close to the end. Nicely quirky, but not satisfying at all. Again,
your mileage may vary.
War Of The Worlds - Spielberg ending strikes again; what is a
very well done freakout of a film ends up wrecking all its good work
in the last ten minutes. Shame.
Series 4 of 24 - (Sure, it's not a movie, but I
don't watch that much TV so it's going in here) - they really should
have ended after S3, rather than go to the contrived lengths they did
throughout S4 (and, according to the spoilers, in S5 too.) Sigh.
And by far the worst thing this year...
The Business - Loud, obnoxious and supremely idiotic. 'Nuff
Long time, no see
Just haven't been blogging all that much lately, or seen the need to
blog. But now I'm back in business, at least in a part-time sort of way.
So, how has life gone since I went away?
Movies: There are a few movie-watching controversies right now
that I'm going to have to give my position on: I'm pro-King Kong (I
even liked the first section) and pro-Jarhead. Didn't much take
to Narnia (the use of the "something's bad there... wait, no,
it's good" cliché over and over again really didn't appeal to my sense
of true movie-making, or to even the book, although I accept that they
did a pretty good job with what material they had). Missed The
Producers due to not being anywhere near a decent cinema over
Christmas and so will have to wait for a video rental. Saw Bittersweet
Life at EIFF last year; if you're anywhere near a cinema showing
it, please do, it's no Oldboy but it's still a worthwhile
watch. March of the Penguins is out on Region 1, so anyone who
wants to see it can. Must see Cock and Bull Story, which for
some reason is only at the Cameo (Cineworld are still showing Cheaper
by the Dozen 2, however.) I have no position on Brokeback
Mountain, because I haven't seen it.
Music: I've been listening to a lot of Kraftwerk lately, having
got the Minimum-Maximum DVD (lovely DTS track, by the way) and
an epiphany came to me: Electric Café isn't actually all
that bad, is it? Sure, it's no Man-Machine, but it's got a sort
of rhythmic undertone that propels the whole thing along in a very
listenable, almost dancey way; and "The Telephone Call" is
eight minutes of phone-sampling techno brilliance. Anyway, besides The
Mix it looks like an absolute masterpiece.
Blogging: I really need to get a better blogging system, but I
don't want to pay. Decisions, decisions...
is really depressing. As is George Galloway going on Celebrity
Big Brother. What the hell was he thinking? Obviously not about
So far, the best musical thing to happen this year should hopefully be
Shayne Ward getting kicked off the #1 position; which will probably
happen this week (to the Arctic Monkeys, dear God), at least according
to Popbitch. Else, I'm looking forward to the Belle and Sebastian album.
R.I.P. Richard Pryor (1940-2005)
"I had some great things and I had some bad things. The best and
the worst... In other words, I had a life."
Fuck, this has been a bad year for comedians...
"The whole sordid saga"
tale tells you everything you need to know about what's wrong with the
Hollywood system. More than a hundred rewrites, plot changes, a huge
number of different writers, more directors, and Jon "Wild Wild West"
Peters. What's worse is that this isn't the only such tale around - if
you've ever read about what happened to the script of "Last Action
Hero", the entire thing rings true.
And it makes you lose any respect for J.J. Abrams whatsoever...
Return of the Jedi in 211K: <http://www.b3ta.com/board/5280332>
Further on unexpected MP3 releases: Madonna's Confessions on a
Dancefloor (release date: 14 November) has now leaked, in
crap-o-rama if-that-was-originally-192-I'd-be-very-surprised quality,
despite apparently not even having been sent out as a promo yet. Isn't
it time for the record companies to admit that they can't win?
Now got my Cineworld branded Unlimited Card, funnily enough with the old
Cineworld logo on it and not the one they've repainted all the doors
at my local with. Hmm.
Polanski's Oliver Twist is sadly underwhelming, especially
after The Pianist. V. nice set design, though.
Batman Begins is still the second best comic book movie of the
year (after Sin City).
Depeche Mode's Playing the Angel CD (haven't tried the DVD yet) has
the worst mastering I've ever heard on an electronic album - someone's
pushed the knobs way too high at mastering stage and the obviously
unintentional clipping sounds truly dire on my separates hi-fi. Even
with this taken into consideration, it is still the best thing they've
done since Songs of Faith and Devotion, because it has
something that Ultra and Exciter don't: actual tunes.
I still haven't listened to Aerial yet, except for "How To Be
Invisible" and the single. Yes, I am going to buy it...
The search for Serenity
I saw Serenity last week. Having never seen Firefly, I
went into the cinema completely unprepared, with zero character
knowledge and just experience of the fandom to go on. This was slightly
offputting; "Browncoat" is possibly the worst thought-out name for a
fanbase since "Trekkie" (even if it is from series
lexicon), bringing out the griminess of the insane edge of SFF fandom in
its very syllables. And the fanbase makes every attempt to bring out
this aspect of their personality; reading anything Serenity
related on the movie message board of your choice (but especially AICN)
is a trial of patience, and the Wikipedia
entry for Firefly is one of those Wikipedia entries with
ludicrously unnecessary amounts of detail in supplementary articles
(although not nearly as bad as the Star Wars entries).
But I did see it, and lo, it wasn't that bad. Unfortunately, not all the
character interrelationships are set up properly: a big shock late on in
the movie obviously works for the fanbase (as can be seen from the many
gushing reviews on DVDF et al), but didn't for me at all. And there are
various other moments in the movie where, unless you're a fan, you just
feel somewhat confused - the characters, with a few notable exceptions,
are fully developed before they hit the screen. The same error, of
course, was made by Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a movie that
only makes sense if you're a massive Original Series fan; by the X-Files
movie, too, which is just an overextended, overbudget double episode of
Despite this, it is a really enjoyable movie: even if the plot is
basically Han Solo and Crew with a few psychic and kung-fu
elements. It's very well shot (by Clint Eastwood's DP), the script is
witty and engaging, and the all-round acting is very good: especially
Chiwetel Ejiofor as "the Operative" (a ruthless agent on the crew's
trail), another fantastic role for him. It's very much worth whatever it
costs you for a cinema ticket; especially if you thought a Han Solo
prequel would have been much, much better than what we got. In fact,
even though Joss Whedon pulls the "guy doesn't die until he's revealed
an important bit of information/bit of personal philosophy" overused
SFF/horror cliche, recommended.
The Wallace and Gromit movie is fabulous, by the way, so you
should all be seeing it. Oh yes.
ISX@EIFF2005 #3: "Don't See The Business", the last two reviews
entry posted by Inquisitor at 4:24
edited on: 29/08/2005 4:42.
Well, that's the end of my engagement this year with EIFF - I'm not
seeing any Best of the Fest films, since Serenity tickets were
somewhat unavailable - and it's been a decent festival. More on that
after the reviews, though...
12) Antibodies [Antikörper] (w/d Christian Alvart, Germany,
2005, no distributor)
Basically, if you're making a serial killer movie any time soon, you're
going to want to make one like this. If you don't, you're probably
insane. Antibodies follows the events after the capture of serial
child-killer Gabriel Engel; a religious, somewhat naive small-town
policeman is sent to interview him, questioning whether he had committed
a particularly nasty, haunting murder in his area. Unfortunately, Engel
knows exactly what he's on about and, as a result, starts to play with
Since there hasn't been a really good Hollywood serial-killer movie
since Seven in 1995, there's a gigantic void in the market for a
film like this. Antibodies, in fact, follows a similar
template to David Fincher's brilliant movie - letting the audience
imagine what the nastier things are instead of showing off poor gore FX
(and things sometimes get very, very nasty), atmospheric and very
effectively contrasting cinematography, and a very clever script
focusing on character conflicts instead of "how's the next guy going,
then?". It isn't, however, a ripoff; it is its own movie, and
brilliantly so, intertwining religious themes with high concept in a
compulsively watchable way. It shocks deep without once being gratuitous
- everything is important to the plot - which puts it miles above any of
the shit Hollywood's contributed to the genre recently. It is, in short,
the best film I've seen this festival; absorbing, brilliant, and almost
While the film was made on a small budget, it doesn't really look it -
it looks immaculately professional in every way, and is all the more
convincing for it. (The killer's performance is so good that Francis
Ford Coppola's already hired him for his next film, according to the
director...) This absolutely must-see movie is doing its festival rounds
right now - it's also at Frightfest in London, has been at Tribeca and
Montreal - and if you can catch it, do. If this doesn't get UK
distribution by the end of this year - the German distributors are
Kinowelt, who own Momentum Pictures over here - I'll be very surprised...
13. The Business (w/d Nick Love, UK/Spain, 2005, dist. Pathé)
Now from the best film of the festival to the worst film of the
festival, the Closing Night Gala of a World Premiere. And boy, is it
bad. In this piece of shit, Danny Dyer plays a young man by the name of
'Frankie', who after delivering a fatal beating to his wife-beating
father, is sent off to Spain to avoid the law and deliver a 'package' to
club-owner, drug-courier and ex-armed robber Charlie. Cue Frankie living
the 80s dream in sunny Malaga - tracksuits, sunglasses, mobile phones,
pool-side living, Duran Duran, organising Moroccan orphans to ship
cannabis across the straits of Gibraltar when the patrol boats are out
the way (and sometimes if they aren't), and so on. But then cocaine hits
the streets, he and Charlie get in above their heads, and the entire
enterprise falls in on itself in a fatal sort of way.
Now, if I felt that the movie couldn't have been better than its EIFF
programme description, or that any improvements would be minor, I would
be giving a much less harsh review; what really bugs me when film
watching are films that miss their potential, that could be much, much
better than they actually are, and The Business is one of these
movies (along with stuff like Alien Resurrection, Terminator 3
et al). If you're watching an Ed Wood movie, you're not exactly
expecting Citizen Kane - and Ed Wood's movies are actually very
enjoyable, although not on the level Ed expected them to be. Film
reviewing must be relative - it must judge by genre and its inherent
The Business has a lot to live up to. This movie wants
desperately to be Goodfellas meets Trainspotting (with a
large amount of theft from Scarface), but fails on every level.
The narrator's an obnoxious little wideboy shit who I was rather hoping
would end up getting killed nastily at the end a la the vice scene in Casino
(no such luck), and his character thus has absolutely no sympathetic
qualities whatsoever. This wouldn't be such a problem if the film wasn't
completely centred around him, as if the light of a thousand suns was
shining out his arse; or didn't obviously put him forward as a 'lovable'
example of his generation. Now, I don't find people who think that
Spanish customs machine-gunning Moroccan orphans is a cost of doing
business 'lovable', but it's obvious that the director does. Just in
case you think I'm judging on moral criteria, I'll explain my reasoning: Trainspotting
works because it makes it obvious that the addicts' halcyon view of
their existence is just that, a halcyon view with no resemblance to
reality. This film believes that halcyon view. Something like Casino,
which has no likeable characters whatsoever, works because the
characters are three-dimensional, multifaceted, brilliantly written;
even Joe Pesci's character has decent attributes, despite the fact he
enjoys torturing people with workshop equipment. No character in this
has anything more than one dimension - the likable wideboy, the
wideboy's nasty hard-man partner (and main villain), the slutty wives,
the villain's temptress girlfriend (who the lead must never touch, and
so of course does) and so on. What character development there is is
perfunctory (wow, they've lost all their money and have to steal their
ex-mates' wives' handbags - but they're still the same people really!)
This is the main problem with the film.
The film has other major flaws which make it impossible to like: the
casual misogyny may well be representative of the way gangsters think,
but having every single female character being either a wicked temptress
or a "slut" is a bit too revealing of the writer-director's own thoughts
on the matter; the film is somewhat amateurishly put together, with a
loud-at-all-costs sound design that makes a lot of dialogue completely
inaudible over badly mixed music (it's the film equivalent of an Oasis
album); and as previously mentioned the entire film has been put
together from cliché and whole cloth and smells distinctly of a large
number of much better movies (the low point being a theft from, of all
things, The Shawshank Redemption.)
What really hurts about The Business is that, in better hands, it
could have been a good movie; its art direction perfectly captures the
essence of the time, the cinematography is at least visually stylish,
the director at least doesn't have shakycam syndrome and the plot
synopsis is interesting - 80s gangsters enjoying the good life in
Malaga, in a black-humoured tale of drug-dealing gone wrong to a corking
soundtrack of the times. Shame it mostly isn't funny, apart from a
Maggie Thatcher joke involving her statement about sleeping only four
hours a night, the effects of cocaine and an implication that the two
things were related. But the soundtrack's OK, once you get past the
audio engineer's badly tuned compressor - using only minor amounts of
decent Duran Duran and giving a decent precis of what was big in the Top
40 at the time, even if at mostly inappropriate times and even though
there was much, much better stuff around at the time (some of it even in
that Top 40, like New Order 12" singles.) But basically, the main
problem with the film is its characterisation, or lack of same; it just
BTW: You may remember writer-director Nick Love - or his lead, Danny
Dyer - from such films as The Football Factory or Goodbye
Charlie Bright. While I don't generally do IMDB reviews (see the
spectacularly missing-the-point Starship Troopers reviews for an
example why), the UK-film ones are much better than the US-film ones;
hence here are some other people's clever one-liners on these films that
I haven't seen:
Unfortunately, this film has less to say on the subject of
hooliganism then Ron Atkinson has on how to kick racism out of football.
[IMDB user comments for The Football Factory (2004), a
surprisingly popular film following three guys in the Chelsea
Headhunters as they kick the shit out of opposing fans and each other,
user Bex_Bissell on 28.11.2004]
Or how about this one?
A well made but shockingly derivative Britflick.
[IMDB user comments for Goodbye Charlie Bright (2001), a
coming-of-age tale set on a South London estate, user Al-80 on
It looks like he's got a history of this sort of thing, hasn't it? The
film is too loud, too brash, too tasteless and too shit, and what's
worse, it could have been so much better. It is a laddish wet
dream of a movie, but that doesn't make it acceptable. Sorry, Nick, it's
easier to deliver a bad review than a good one, and this really is a bad
God, I wish I hadn't spent £7.20 on this.
Coming soon: The ISX Film Festival Awards. No prizes for guessing
which film wins the booby prize...
ISX@EIFF2005 #2: A bit late blogging...
...I've just forgotten. Still, too late is better than not at all, so...
(Previous entry has also been modified to put in a Magician
review - I somehow forgot about it when writing up the previous one.)
6) Popular Music [Populärmusik från Vittula] (w/d Reza
Bagher, Sweden, 2004, no distributor)
Based on a hugely popular novel, this coming-of-age tale centres around
two boys growing up in an outpost in the middle of nowhere, Pajala, the
kind of place where the locals are astonished at seeing their very first
black man (a Christian missionary) and everyone lives by a somewhat
restrictive moral code. Set during the 60s, it follows the boys' voyage
of discovery after discovering rock music and seeing their dreams of
becoming Rock Stars thwarted at almost every turn, until the outside
world finally starts to seep in.
There's nothing in this movie that hasn't been done 5000 times by
Hollywood already, but it does have a certain charm to it; besides, its
north-east Swedish location is very much at odds with the standard
Hollywood portrayal. And it does have some extremely inventive
direction, which for the visual purists among you will at least be an
attraction. But otherwise, one for the dedicated fan only, I think.
7) The President's Last Bang [Geud-dae geusaramdeul] (w/d Im
Sang-Soo, South Korea, 2005, no distributor)
Ultra-controversial in its native Korea, The President's Last Bang
is a historical tale about the 1979 assassination of General Park
Chun-hee, Korea's long-time army dictator, by the head of his own secret
service at a hired "entertainment venue". The movie chronicles the
incompetence and stupidity on all sides of the affair as the plan goes
wrong in far more ways than anyone involved can count.
Again, the movie is brilliantly styled; and gives an in-depth portrayal
of a world that is, thankfully, gone. It gives an insight into the
culture of the time, effectively recreating this lost world; and at the
same time, bringing to life the interplaying of characters in one of the
worst-planned (yet successful) assassination plots of all time. May be a
bit too dense for some, and possibly will only confuse the uninitiated,
but it's still very much worth seeing.
8) The Aristocrats (d Paul Provenza, USA, 2005, dist. Pathe)
This is almost certainly the funniest film I've seen at this EIFF, and
it's a very welcome entry. It's basically a documentary consisting of a
gigantic number of talented comedians talking about and telling their
own versions of the "Aristocrats Joke", a joke which is endlessly
improvisable on: all it is is a base framework on which to hang
And that's what's so great about it. The Aristocrats joke is different
for every comedian; the only thing that's consistent is the obscenity.
The film doesn't chicken out of this at all: this is why most of the big
US cinema chains are refusing to show it. Anyone easily (or even at all)
offended probably won't want to see this movie. Anyone else will have a
blast; the audience was laughing consistently throughout, as was I.
And if that doesn't sell it to you: there's a South Park version.
9) Low-Life [Haryu insaeng] (w/d Im Kwon-taek, South Korea, 2004,
Interestingly, this works well as a companion piece to The
President's Last Bang - it's set between 1957 and 1972. It tells the
tale of a young gangster working his way up the ranks in
pre-and-post-army-takeover-Korea; as well as kicking ass in various
A visual feast shot entirely on studio backlots, like the big Hollywood
musicals, it contrasts its Godfather-like gangster plotting with
kinetic, brutal massive fight sequences and a political tale of the
times. Thus it is completely unlike anything that the US film industry
would turn out; and isn't that what you go to a film festival for? It
deserves a much higher rating than the pitiful one it has on IMDB; it's
well made, affecting and brilliantly done, despite a few minor flaws and
a very sudden (and, sadly, unresolved) ending. Incredibly, it's the
director's 99th film - here's hoping for some bigger distribution.
10) Kinky Boots (w Geoff Deane/Tim Firth, d Julian Jarrold,
USA/UK, 2005, dist. Buena Vista)
From the people who brought you the surprisingly funny Calendar Girls
comes another true-life tale of surprising oddness. After his father
dies unexpectedly, marketing trainee Charlie Price inherits his father's
Northampton boot factory; discovering exactly what a bad state it's in
ends up as a hideously depressing experience for him as he has to lay
off dedicated workers who've been with the company for a really rather
long time; his salvation is cabaret drag queen Lola, played by the
stunning Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity, Dirty Pretty Things),
from whom he realises two things: that there's a niche market out there
for women's shoes built for men, and that he really wants to keep the
factory going and not sell it to a property developer. You can basically
guess the plotline from here on - Nick Frost plays Don, the man's man
who feels himself threatened by Lola's sexuality (and steals almost
every scene he's in); the old ladies of the factory rally behind the new
product line, they rush to meet a deadline for the Milan shoe fair etc.
It's significant to state exactly the main reason why you should go
watch the movie: Chiwetel Ejiofor. He wears the makeup and acts the
drag-queen believably, he actually sings the songs (confirmed by the
credits), he takes over the character. It's a tour de force
performance of magnificent proportions which the rest of the film really
doesn't deserve - it's nowhere near as funny as Calendar Girls,
although it does have its moments and isn't a bad or unfunny film at
all. But at heart it's a character piece, and as a character piece it
works, well; and that's mainly down to Chiwetel. Here's hoping he goes
big; with this and Serenity, he really deserves to.
NOTE ON: The List Surprise Movie
There was something of a heart attack moment just before the movie
started when the Festival director came out to give tickets to the
Business after-show party to anyone who guessed the movie he was giving
clues to: released on 30th September, set in Netherlands, concerning
prostitution and murder, rejected by a famed Dutch director etc...
someone then yelled out Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. And he
won the tickets. People actually walked out on hearing that - "Sorry,
but it was the best we could do," as the director sadistically put it.
But then, in typical surprise-movie style, it turned out he was actually
giving clues to a completely different movie than the one that was
rolling. Thankfully, this was pretty much revealed the second Jimi
Hendrix started blasting across the sound system - after all, the estate
wouldn't dare license to Deuce Bigalow, would they? The movie
was, in fact:
11) Lords Of Dogtown (w Stacy Peralta, d Catherine Hardwicke,
USA, 2005, dist. Columbia Tristar)
Thank God this wasn't Deuce Bigalow 2. Anything would seem better
than that hunk-o-shit, and Lords of Dogtown turned out to be a
very acceptable alternative. Set in the skateboarding scene of the
mid-1970s, as the sport went pro, it follows three of the talented
boarders who made it go that way; all real people. In fact, the writer
Stacy Peralta was one of these people, and thus someone actually
plays him in the film he wrote.
It's based on a documentary Stacy Peralta made, Dogtown and Z-Boys.
Dogtown is Venice, CA - "ghetto by the sea" according to one of
the Z-Boys, the board team. The film offers an often melancholy look at
times gone past and gone, of a sport tainted by professionalism and
"sold out"; at the same time, there's a humour about it, and a truly
wonderful rock soundtrack put together by Mark "Devo" Mothersbaugh
(Hendrix, Bowie, Sabbath, Iggy, Neil Young... everyone but the Zeppelin)
which perfectly evokes the spirit of the time. If you give this movie
time, it rewards; it perfectly evokes the skateboard lifestyle, in
imagery and in style. It is what it is and it's proud of it; without its
flaws, it wouldn't be as convincing a portrayal as it is. Think of it as
Stacy's own view of the time, and it fits; and well. Recommended.
Coming soon: German serial-killer flick Antibodies and the
closing gala, 80s-set Brit-gangster yarn The Business. Reviews
probably will be uploaded on Sunday.
ISX@EIFF2005 #1: The first five reviews
entry posted by Inquisitor at 24:38
edited on: 27/08/2005 24:27.
Well, as promised, I am at the Edinburgh
International Film Festival, a highlight of my year - and, if you're
a film-lover, it should be a highlight of your year too. This year, I'm
seeing a wide variety of wildly differing films; linked only by what I
most liked the look of. And isn't that just what you want to do at this
As previously mentioned, I didn't manage to get Serenity tickets
and didn't bother with Paul Schrader's Dominion, the two biggest
tickets this year. But I do have some very fun (and big, as well) films
lined up, and I will buy tickets for Best of the Fest when they're
released on Monday, so a Serenity review from a non-Firefly fan
may still be upcoming. In the meantime, here's some reviews of what I've
1) Wah-Wah (w/d Richard E. Grant, UK/France, 2005, no distributor)
Wah-Wah is a semi-autobiographical tale of a young man growing up
in colonial-changeover Swaziland, dealing with his father (a high-up in
the colonial administration), his lovers, the internal tensions within
the aristocratic community and the man's self-discovery. The young man,
of course, was Richard E. Grant himself; the names are changed in the
movie, but he admitted as much in his introduction.
It's Richard E. Grant's directoral debut, and he comes through it with
style; making full use of his Swazi and South African locations, and
using some very creative camerawork. Wah-Wah is a seriously good
movie, well-made and affecting; which makes it such a surprise that it
took him five years to collapse together the funding for it - with
backers pulling out all over the place and very limited funding. This
thus begs the question: if a star on the magnitude of Richard E. Grant
can't get film funding for an obviously high-quality film, is there
really any hope for the British film industry?
If you want to start a film festival with a bang, you could do worse
than a movie like this; it may not be a Hollywood blockbuster like they
get at Cannes, but at least it sets the quality threshold.
2) Ferpect Crime [Crimen ferpecto] (w/d Álex de la Iglesia,
Spain/France, 2004, dist. Warner Spain)
Ferpect Crime is described in the Film Festival programme as "Are
You Being Served? on crystal meth", and on this I'd have to concur.
The writer-director, Álex de la Iglesia (Perdita Durango, Acción
Mutante) is from the same school of Spanish filmmaking as people
like Guillermo del Toro: directing fast and furious, black-humoured grand
guignol on a massive scale. This is, of course, massively
entertaining and, most importantly, very funny.
The plotline is set in a big Madrid department store, where two salesmen
are at war over the coveted floor manager position: Rafael (Guillermo
Toledo), a perfectionist Casanova who has slept with every single female
member of staff bar one, and Don Antonio, who's more interested with the
men in the sportswear department. Don Antonio ends up getting the post,
hurting Rafael's chances with the ladies and worse hurting his work
output, and the rivalry intensifies to its logical and somewhat nasty
conclusion... especially when someone else gets involved.
This is a slickly made, hilarious, glorious mess that really needs to go
unspoiled - especially since the EIFF programme itself goes too far - so
if you've got a dark sense of humour, go see.
3) The Magician (w/d Scott Ryan, Australia, 2005, no distributor)
This micro-budget - and when I say micro, I mean micro - DV
feature is another example of the Australian cinema that brought you Chopper
- unafraid to be charming, even when it's considering the darkest
topics. In this case, The Magician takes the form of a
'documentary' about assassin Ray Shoesmith (played by, er, Scott Ryan),
'made' by his film student neighbour Max, following Ray as he goes to
work on whichever poor sods he ends up getting paid for.
Now, this could have been very Man Bites Dog, but the film
remains compulsively watchable: mainly because of the black humour in
the situation. (Amongst other things, Ray discusses subjects such as
whether Clint Eastwood was in The Dirty Dozen while he's about to
make an unfortunate guy dig his own grave.) It's inherently Australian
sentiment thus saves the day - it makes the movie more than just the
shockfest it could have been, and instead an intelligent, funny and
shocking movie emerges out the end of it. Highly recommended.
4) A Bittersweet Life [Dal kom han in saeng] (w/d Kim Jee-Woon,
South Korea, 2005, dist. Tartan Films)
Yes, it's a film from Korea. As you may be aware, Oldboy was my
favourite movie out of last year's EIFF selection, and A Bittersweet
Life is cut from the same cloth - a twisted little revenge tale from
director Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters).
The less you know about the movie, the more you'll get out of it - and
it's possible to get a lot out of this movie. Suffice to say that it
combines all of the standard elements of the SE Asian revenge tale -
graphically depicted but mostly off-screen physical torture, inventive
ass-kickery, black comedy and a lonely lead character - into something
of its own. It's not at all like Oldboy plot-wise, but you can
compare it to Chan-wook Park's previous Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
- Sympathy is more profound, but this is still a very good movie.
It has excellent widescreen cinematography, decent music and fantastic
fight choreography. What more do you want from a movie?
5) Land Of The Dead (w/d George A. Romero, USA/Canada, 2005,
A zombie movie doesn't really need a plot, but a Romero zombie movie
does: as it is possible to see from the title, zombies have taken over
the earth. In Pittsburgh, the city has been sealed up; the rich live in
the "Fiddler's Green" shopping development, the poor scavenge a living
on the streets. The city, run by sorta-Republican Kaufmann (Dennis
Hopper), has its food needs catered for by raiding abandoned
supermarkets in the countryside around; the film follows the people who
do it, on their hi-tech tank the 'Dead Reckoning' (the original, much
better title). At this point, the zombies start to learn how to use
tools, led by ex-petrol station attendant 'Big Daddy' - and lead an
assault on the place from whence the Dead Reckoning came.
George A. Romero invented the zombie as we know it, and has been sorely
missed since the release of the hated-at-the-time Day of the Dead
back in 1985. He therefore has more right than anyone else to change the
zombie film, and Land's evolving zombies perfectly tap into this
requirement - and, of course, he's being slated for it in places like
the IMDB boards or Ain't It Cool, both not exactly known as the place
for reasoned criticism but also representing the opinions of fanboys all
over the world.
I, obviously, think they're wrong. What the IMDB board people are
missing: this movie is fun. It's well-made, it's satirical ("We
don't negotiate with terrorists"), it has all the necessary social
references, it has the gore and it's fun. Day isn't fun.
And that's why I liked Land - it's its own movie, and it's a
bloody good one.
BTW: how on earth did it get a BBFC 15 when there's more intestine
visible than at your local farmer's market? (One suspects it'll be an 18
on video - although Shaun of the Dead wasn't uprated, so you
never know.) It's amazing what they allow through these days, isn't it...
Anyway, coming up: "Popular Music", a tale of wanting
to be a rock star in a place where even the Beatles are considered
satanic. Surprisingly, this isn't the Deep South, but Sweden in the late
60s. Stay tuned...
A short hiatus (to dial-up land)
At least two weeks, maybe three, and since I'm unable to update the site
properly from non-blueyonder space this means blog silence. However, I
will return in time for the new, incredible blog series:
Inquisitor At The Edinburgh International Film Festival 2005! Yes
- bigger and better than last year, hopefully.
Over the period from the 17th of August to the 27th of August, I will be
attending rather a lot of screenings - including both the opening and
closing night films, and the List surprise movie. (I know this because I
just bought the tickets. Get yours now!) I will not, afaik, be attending Serenity,
because all the tickets for that have gone already - although if any
turn up for Best of the Fest and aren't in the way of planned
screenings, I'll grab them.
Handy hint if you're booking tickets - if you have a Cineworld Unlimited
Card (no longer UGC, sigh, they've even rebranded the doors), and you
plan on booking before the start of the festival, head over to the desk
there between 5pm and 9:30pm and you get two-for-the-price-of-one if you
show your card. In case you're wondering, this has just saved me £30
(the cost of the Unlimited Card for three months). There's probably
something in this year's programme, if you pardon the cliche, for
everyone - Korean revenge thrillers, Scandinavian comedy, Spanish
weirdness, Land of the Dead, the lot.
And I will be reviewing, for this site, only a small fraction. But will
it be worth it? Almost certainly.
Sin City - a non comics-reader's view
(Frank Miller will hate me for not calling it a graphic novel,
Sin City is unrelentingly grim, morally suspect at best,
profoundingly depressing and, to put it somewhat plainly, screwed up.
But since that's exactly what you would expect from the movie in the
first place, this isn't a criticism. It's basically an interconnected
anthology movie (similar in interconnections to something like Pulp
Fiction) relating three only slightly different storylines from the
seedy side of the tracks: one where Marv (Mickey Rourke) takes revenge
on the surprisingly large conspiracy that killed his prostitute
girlfriend, one where local boy Dwight (the surprisingly good Clive
Owen) gets into trouble when his girlfriend's somewhat dodgy ex-lover
'Jackie Boy' (Benicio del Toro) turns out to be much more of a problem
than anticipated, and one where vice cop John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is
taken revenge on by a paedophile (Nick Stahl) that's too high in the
political food chain.
It does have a truly impressive visual style. Robert Rodriguez has taken
every effort to replicate the visual style of the "graphic novel", and
succeeds remarkably. Most attempts at CG-sets look horrible, and out of
place; the most obvious recent example being Sky Captain and the
World of Tomorrow, which uses the same techniques as Sin City but
doesn't have a good reason for using them, and hence just feels
disjointed and over-enthusiastic. For Sin City, a world told
pretty much entirely in black and white, the stylisation does
have a purpose and it works; you don't notice the unreality of the
CG-sets since the film works because it is unreal. It is thus a
remarkable triumph of style benefiting substance, where Sky
Captain was style over.
Certainly, it's a grim movie, but it is benefited by a truly enormous
amount of black humour; especially in the Marv section, which despite
being the most nasty of the three sections (and that's some achievement,
folks) also contains Marv's sardonic commentary, pumping out his
somewhat single-minded philosophy in the most well-constructed of terms:
e.g. before a back-alley beating, "I love hitmen. No matter what
you do to them, you don't feel bad." Sin City has the
ability to be funny in the most unexpected of places, and that saves the
movie from being as vile as it sounds from the descriptions; it really
is worth watching. So much in the movie has the opportunity to go wrong
- the near-permanent CGI, the use of HDTV cameras instead of film, Clive
Owen - but it doesn't, and that can only be put down to the strength of
the source material and the talents of Rodriguez and Miller. Really,
it's a must-see.
And Batman Begins comes out in two weeks - David Goyer's a good
writer and Christopher Nolan's a good director and together, they could
create a really good movie. And the trailer's decent too.
ISX at EIFF 2004
1) Oldboy (South Korea, 2003, dist. Metro-Tartan)
action cinema in general is undergoing a major renaissance right
now - having suffered a small downturn after John Woo began sucking in Hollywood
- and this film is part of this new guard. Basic, non-spoilerific plotline:
guy gets snatched off the street for (apparently) no reason, and is locked
in a room for fifteen years. When he gets out, he's determined to seek revenge
for whoever locked him up; people who still have an interest in him.
Thus, ass-kicking ensues; but, unlike most of the revenge genre, there are
a few rather surprising twists in the tale.
A particular pivotal scene near the beginning will have both sealife-lovers
and the BBFC choking on their dinner, which should make Metro-Tartan's
upcoming battle with the censors interesting to look out for. Don't let
this put you off; it's extremely well done, stylishly directed by Chan-wook
Park (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), brilliantly acted by his cast.
Also, Quentin Tarantino - according to the rumour mill - wanted this to
win the Palme d'Or, but got outvoted by the rest of his Cannes jury. It
got the Grand Jury Prize instead, which is still extremely respectable
- so go see this movie, if you can stomach it.
2) Pearls And Pigs (Helmiä ja sikoja) (Finland,
2003, no distributor)
This was a blind entry picked by me out of the
EIFF catalogue - and, honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect from
it. It was an extremely pleasant surprise; here we have a well-timed,
decently directed, honestly funny little film of a sensibility surprisingly
close to our own. And it worked for me.
Basic plotline: a closeknit, layabout, oddball family is thrown into
turmoil when their father is sent to prison (for a completely botched-up,
badly staged raid on the local liquor store), the local mafioso want lots
of money from them, and their father's neglecting ex dumps her nine-year-old
child on them (with the line "It's his bastard".) They then
hatch a scheme to get the nine-year-old into a local Pop Idol style talent
search, after hearing her singing voice. The only problem is, she's extremely
This says nothing about the many great running gags, perfectly timed
humour or the characterisation, which are pitch perfect. The film is so
assured of itself, it's able to pull off an extremely surprising Princess
Diana gag out of nowhere without making it seem tasteless or out of place
and being very, very funny. If you can read subtitles, it's a nice cheery
This film does not currently have a UK distributor. It should get one.
3) Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster (USA, 2004, dist:
Some kind of monster indeed: this somewhat overlong documentary
(at two and a half hours), culled from 1800 hours of film, takes you
directly into the recording process for Metallica's "St. Anger" album,
involving missing band members, unintentional comic moments along the
lines of This Is Spinal Tap (Lars talking about his art collection,
Kirk Hammett getting pulled over by the cops), lots of therapy, complete
fuck-ups, massive guitar riffs and auditions for bassists. And yet
it doesn't cover why exactly the band were allowed to get away with lyrics
like "My lifestyle determines my deathstyle".
Still, I don't like the current era of Metallica much (I am listening
to Kate Bush right now, but then so is Big Boi from Outkast), while a
lot of people in the audience with me loved them. I still liked the documentary
- basically dissecting the working band unit - so it's worth seeing if
you're into music of any sort. Those who remained in the screen - UGC's
largest, so that was quite some people - had a Q&A with the co-director,
Joe Berlinger (who apologised vehemently for giving the world Blair
Witch 2, which was a nice touch), in which he revealed the band didn't
actually ask for any material to be removed; extremely surprising, since
it isn't an altogether 100% positive look at the internal Metallica structure.
This should at least make you respect them, if it still doesn't make you
like "St. Anger".
4) Inside I'm Dancing (UK/Ireland, 2004, dist. Momentum)
I know I'd get done by Private Eye for saying this (if I wasn't
an unknown tool writing online with a readership of about three),
but this film is the new Billy Elliot in more ways than one:
i.e. a very funny, traditional-ish comedy with a subversive edge.
Directed by Damien O'Donnell (East Is East, Heartlands),
the storyline involves two heavily different personalities meeting
up, and helping each other to discover new fields inside themselves.
Oh, and they're both heavily disabled: one almost uninterpretable with
cerebral palsy, the other (the only person in sight able to interpret
him) unable to move most of his body due to Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy.
The place they meet up is a Dublin residential home - "A Special
Place For Special People". In short, the plan is to completely subvert
people's perceptions of disability.
Yes: now we have a film that treats disabled people as human. And it's
very funny. Due to various problems in finding disabled actors, Damien
O'Donnell had to use able-bodied actors for the lead roles (with heavy
consultancy from various disability advisors), but you really can't tell
- the actors both give exceptionally committed, heftily convincing performances.
Add to this an excellent supporting cast (of unknowns), fantastic 2.35:1
cinematography (this film will lose lots when panned and scanned), and
a soundtrack which features the Avalanches, Raging Speedhorn and Johnny
Cash covering Nine Inch Nails. This could well be one of the best British
films of the year, up there with Shaun Of The Dead; making it
a very good year for WT2, Working Title's experimental division (which
I managed to get a ticket to what was the gala premiere, thus gaining
the privilege of a Q&A with director and cast and an introduction
by Tim Bevan (runs Working Title); and if this film doesn't win the Audience
Award (it's ranked #1 after my screening, something which I aided by filing
my card as EXCELLENT), I'll be very surprised.
5) The Far Side Of The Moon (La face cachée de la lune) (Canada,
2003, no distributor)
This film is based on a one-man play by and starring
Robert Lepage, is directed, produced and written by the very same
Robert Lepage, and features him in a dual role. It's a rather wonderfully
staged look at two competing brothers that appear to be as different as
possible but really are different sides of the same coin; the metaphor
used being the US and Russian space programmes. It's run through by a
very dry humour and pathos that managed to get the usually rather cynical
EIFF crowd (when there's no-one involved with the film in the screen)
clapping at the end, which is saying something. And unlike most flickery,
forgettable DV films (which we can blame Lars von Trier for), it uses
the freedom of DV to allow imagery to build rather than speed by; it contains
much that is beautiful. A great movie.
6) Saved! (USA, 2004, dist. Momentum)
Whilst the American teen movie is usually the home of godawful moralising
from the likes of the Olsen twins or Lindsey Lohan, there has been a long
tradition of teen movies that go against the grain. Everything from many
of the John Hughes movies (much more subversive than history has made
them seem - look at something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off,
where the school system is not favourably portrayed at all), through high
school allegories like Election, to the ultimate high-school
hate movie Heathers - all these movies have bitten the status
quo, in some cases leaving it permanently changed. Christian fundamentalism,
however, has been a topic so far unchallenged; and yet it is deeply engrained
in the psyche of modern America, as can be seen from the intense overreaction
over Janet Jackson's breast and the national beating of hands every time
abortion, contraception or evolution comes up.
High-school Christian fundamentalism therefore has been well due a satiric
battering and, thanks to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. (the producer), it's
happened. The film is set in the suburbs of Baltimore where a group of
intensely Christian high school students are starting the new year at
a private fundamentalist high school. One of these students, however,
gets herself in a very sticky ethical dilemma when, to "cure" the
fact her boyfriend is gay, she has last-resort sex with him... and suffers
the consequences, including the boyfriend getting sent to a "de-gayification" centre
called "Mercy House" and a very unexpected pregnancy. In between,
the film takes swipes at practically every tenet of fundamentalist Christianity:
showing off your faith, predictions of the 'end-times', homophobia, attempts
to 'convert' unbelievers (such as the only Jew in the school, a rather
classy troublemaker with a liking for one-liners), speaking in tongues,
gun culture, 'down with it' preachers like the school's principal Pastor
Skip, protesting abortion clinics, visions of Jesus, Christian rock, Jesus
Christ Superstar, the money issue and exorcism. With lots of cute
"Oh my God - the Jew is speaking in tongues!"
The film is directed fairly well and acted mostly superbly; although
Mandy Moore as the popular, ultra-fundamentalist school bitch ("Sorry
about Dean's faggotry") comes off somewhat on a one-note level,
she is in this uncannily like many Christian fundamentalists
(and she never stops being funny). Macaulay Culkin in particular, playing
Mandy Moore's wheelchair-bound, agnostic brother, is non-annoying and
Sadly, the film runs out of steam in the third act where it goes straight
for the morals and forgets about the one-liners, although they do return
by the end. IMDB trivia says that the ending in the original draft was
that Mandy Moore's character would shoot up the school; a very Heathers move
that could very well have kept the movie running at full-pelt throughout,
although it probably would have led to arson attacks on Deep South multiplexes
if it had ever got in. In this, therefore, the movie fails to live up
to its potential - but it's still a funny, well-done Cruise missile into
the American heartlands, which we can all be thankful for.
I've just been reading the IMDB board for the film, which has been completely
astroturfed by fundamentalists who haven't even seen the film - it flopped
hard in the US, despite the fact the film is way funnier and much more
thought provoking than anything Mary-Kate and Ashley can give us. It's
very sad that many Americans won't even get the chance to see the film;
cinemas and video stores in the Bible Belt like to play it safe. You really
think Wal-Mart is going to stock a film that insults their very constituency? Nah.
7) Hamburg Cell (UK, 2004, made for Channel Four)
controversial, it got on Reporting Scotland, Hamburg Cell is
the events of 11 September 2001 told from the hijackers' point of
view. In particular, it centres on Ziad Jarrah, the intended pilot of
the United Airlines plane, intended for the Capitol, that crashed in
Pennsylvania; and his conflicting relationships between his home life
and his increasingly militant religious beliefs.
The production team knew that if they got anything wrong, they'd be in
deep trouble. So while the project started very soon after the 11th September
attacks, it took several years to composit the lives of the Hamburg cell
together from court transcripts, interviews, the Commission and so on.
According to the director Antonia Bird (Priest, Care, Ravenous),
at today's post-film Q&A, they were re-editing the film for accuracy
right up to only a couple of weeks ago, and it shows. The film has truly
convincing acting, is almost entirely on target, and doesn't flinch from
the implications. An absolute must-see.
It's being screened on Channel Four next Thursday [the 2nd of September].
Channel Four should really be ashamed that the film is going to be
shown on TV so soon - it deserves a UK theatrical release. But it isn't
going to get one: this puts it in the same category as such great films
as Dominic Savage's Out
of Control (EIFF Michael Powell Award winner in 2002, shown on BBC1
a few months after), the documentary Control Room (shown at EIFF
this year, on BBC2 last Saturday), Ken Loach's The Navigators (Venice
nominee, ending up shown on Channel Four) et al. Please watch this
movie - it will change your preconceptions.
8) The Big Red One: Reconstruction (USA, 1980/2004,
dist. Warner Home Video)
Sam Fuller's great war movie, featuring Mark
Hamill acting in a non-Skywalker role, was severely butchered by
its distributor, Lorimar, on its original release - fairly obviously by
people who didn't understand what the film was about. Incredibly,
a great but flawed film survives after the film's slashing; an even greater
film emerges after its reconstruction.
Sam Fuller actually did fight in World War II, in the 1st Infantry (their
patch being the Big Red One of the title), and the film was extremely
close to his heart. So the distributor cutting it basically wasn't good
news for him. Robert Carradine, who was at the screening, pointed out
that a huge number of memorable scenes had been cut out of the original
version; these, thankfully, have been reconstructed, so that the film
is now near-enough identical to the shooting script, and thus an hour
longer than the Lorimar cut.
So it's a vastly better film. When it turns up on DVD, take a look; what
you get is an intelligent, anti-war film with a sense of very, very heavy
realism. Highly recommended.
9) Hero (Ying xiong) (People's Republic of China, 2002,
dist. Miramax/Buena Vista)
I'm still undecided about Hero. Amazing
scenery, great battle FX, well-timed cinematography, and a deeply
dodgy political compass. If you ignore the politics, it's a very rewarding
movie; lots of thieving from Kurosawa, Rashomon in particular,
in order to provide for a developing flashback plotline. Unfortunately,
I can't ignore the politics, so the movie somewhat creeps me.
Obviously, discussing the politics is going to spoil the movie - and
polarise a lot of people - so I'm not going to. You can see the same basic
discussion on the IMDB boards for the film, if
you so desire. All I'm going to quote is Samuel Johnson: "Patriotism
is the last refuge of a scoundrel". Work it out for yourself.
The Festival this year was extremely entertaining,
filled with great cinema from around the world. Inside I'm Dancing,
the right film, won the Audience Award, and I'm pleased to see they're
exploiting that on the new poster. Also, I got into the closing night
party, and it had a free bar, leading to a fairly obvious hangover
the next morning.
How To Get Into The Closing Night Party:
Be in the right
place at the right time. I was: I went to the UGC half an hour before
my screening of "Pearls And Pigs", and got caught by a survey-taker
working for EIFF. I gave them my personal details. Result: they picked
me for a focus group regarding the marketing of the Festival, at the
wonderful Sheraton Hotel, and as a 'thanks' for taking part we all
got tickets to the party. The friend of mine I went with thinks he
spotted one of the guys off EastEnders. I spotted an MSP or two. And
we got to drink lots of alcoholic produce in the grounds of the Edinburgh
College of Art. There can really not be many things better. Can there?