I don’t watch many films these days. I don’t like going to the cinema; before this year, I think the last time I went was to see X+Y when it came out in 2014.
Jetlag has meant I haven’t been sleeping especially well recently, so last Friday I decided to take myself to the cinema at 10pm since I wasn’t going to be falling asleep before about 3 anyway. I went to see Hereditary, because it’d been praised as genuinely creepy by film critics. I’m not a fan of jump scares because I don’t find them scary, but genuine creepiness can be quite fun. I loved The Orphanage, for example, because the ending was so banal that you could see the events of the film unfolding in your own life.
Endings are so important, aren’t they? They can make or break an entire movie. Unfortunately the ending of Hereditary broke it. Read more
Why in the world I keep taking myself to the cinema when I know I don’t enjoy the experience is beyond me. I’ve been twice in the past few weeks – before that I hadn’t been for years. I don’t like cinemas for the simple reason that there are other people in them. Although the screens are much better than the one on my little Macbook, I am more than happy to deal with a lower resolution if it means I don’t have to sit in a room with humans.
However, when Guillermo del Toro brings out a new film I find it hard to resist, because I love his work and want to support him. So off I went to see The Shape of Water, which was beautiful and had Doug Jones in it, whom I also love.
Last week I was invited to go along to Shorts On Tap’s Two Become One film night. There were ten films shown, and three other judges – Sebastian, Mujden and Michael – and I had to choose three winners for the evening.
Below are the trailers for the films, in the order in which they were shown on the night, followed by a brief commentary about each one.
Short Love Story
My initial thought at the opening of this film was ‘Well, this has been done before’. And it’s true: using plastic models and miniature sets certainly isn’t something new. But the full-length feature was nicely arranged, and made you think about its themes: something about being removed from the scene not only by viewing it through a camera lens, but also by it being created completely from inanimate objects, worked really well. It was a touching sequence with a predictable yet still poignant ending.
Scar’s notes on the night:
It was unanimously decided by all the judges that this was the worst film of the night, which is a shame because I love Glastonbury and I like folky music. This sort of killed them both. A vapid, vacuous video in which a woman sings what is essentially a throwback to Wonderwall, the most overdone busking song of all time, but calls it Wonderman instead. Another woman walks around Glastonbury and keeps seeing those irritating “Don’t-worry-bee-happy” type quotes staring up at her in ugly fonts from the backs of buses, the windows of shops, etc. And then a bird shits on her hand and she takes ages to wipe it off because she’s in such a dreamy state that her brain’s been sucked into a vacuum of hippy crap.
Ahem. Sorry. Didn’t like it though. Can you tell? 😉
Scar’s notes on the night:
In Berlin We Die Alone
I don’t have a trailer for this one unfortunately; it was, however, a reasonable film about going out and partying hard as a young gay man. I didn’t feel much during it, but I thought it could have potential if the storyline had been more developed.
Scar’s notes on the night:
You get the whole film for this one, not just a trailer. I thought it was passable, but it looked like a coffee ad, and I felt like the ending was trying to add meaning to something that ultimately wasn’t very interesting. Having said that, one of my friends whom I brought along for the evening loved it, so it can’t be all bad.
Scar’s notes on the night:
Another full video – a music video, this time. I felt like this one was a shame. The director obviously has a way with the camera, he knows how to make a good film. I asked him why he’d shot it in black & white, and he replied that he wanted to make sure he understood black & white before he moved on to trying to understand colour. I do like a perfectionist.
However, the guy singing makes me want to punch him in the face, which doesn’t help, and he horrendously overacts throughout. I felt like the director knew this – he kept saying that the singer had had a lot of input into the video, and that he’d made some decisions that the director didn’t really agree with.
I wanted to like the song – one of my friends loved it – but the guy’s voice had that overly-educated vibrato going on. He’s studying music at Oxford, and you can kind of tell. Personally, I prefer my music a bit more raw and gutteral. But, you know, A+ for effort.
Scar’s notes on the night:
Another one where you get the whole thing. In this case, though, the whole thing was quite short. I asked the director why this was, and he replied that it was an entry for a film competition and there was a limit on the length. I felt like it would have benefitted from being longer, and also from having better actors, but it was a lovely concept and the execution was ultimately pretty good.
Scar’s notes on the night:
And here is the whole of this one as well. I didn’t actually make any notes on the night, other than giving it 8/10, because I was just enjoying watching the film, which is always a good sign. I thought it was a funny, poignant take on how a relationship can become routine, and the weird things which can end up reminding you why you love the person you’re with.
The Station Master
Just a trailer for this one. I didn’t love it as much as the other judges did, but I thought it was good. A bit overblown, and a bit of an overdone concept, but good.
Scar’s notes on the night:
How To Date
This was alright – an accurate take on the awkwardness of dating – but it was so short, and not particularly well-acted. I’m not a huge fan of shaky-cam either.
Scar’s notes on the night:
Full video above. I thought it was interesting – definitely a change from all the other videos of the night – and I didn’t take any notes, beyond giving it 6/10, because I was too busy watching it. Definite shades of Lars & the Real Girl, but in documentary format. I liked it. I learned something, and I enjoy doing that.
We put our heads together and judged all the films – there wasn’t total agreement, but we came to a compromise.
Ultimately, the three winning films of the night were Short Love Story, The Neighbours and The Station Master. We also gave an honourable mention to Beyond Darkness for having a great concept, and Honey Pie for being interesting. We all hated Strong Heart. The rest of the films fell somewhere in between love and hate for most of us, though one judge also liked In Berlin We Die Alone.
Shorts On Tap is a fun film event that’s definitely worth a look – I took three friends along and they all seemed to enjoy themselves as well. You can find out more by following them on Facebook, and if you’re a director, send them your short film to be featured. Most of the judges probably aren’t quite as harsh as I am…
J’aime bien le cinéma d’auteur. Les films français tombent souvent dans ce champ et l’année dernière je me trouvais heureuse de découvrir qu’on voit de plus en plus les films français dans les cinés et magasins DVD en angleterre. Plein Soleil et Populaire sont de bons examples.
Donc quand j’ai été invité à une projection du nouvel flick L’Inconnu du Lac, j’étais impatiente de le voir.
L’été. Un lieu de drague pour hommes, caché au bord d’un lac. Franck tombe amoureux de Michel. Un homme beau, puissant et mortellement dangereux. Franck le sait, mais il veut vivre cette passion.
Fort intéressant, non ?
J’aurais dit “oui”, mais…
TANT DE PÉNIS
Je présumais qu’il y aurait des scènes de sexe. C’est un film sur la drague, qui se passe sur une plage naturiste. Mais non. Le film entier est une scène de sexe, et pas une scène ‘sexy’, mais une scène ennuyeuse, une scène dont les personnages n’invoquaient pas de réaction émouvant.
Si vous aimez regarder la sexe monotone, ou les personnages ennuyeux, ou les histoires qui vous donneront le cafard, vous allez bien aimer ce film. Sinon, je recommande n’importe quel autre film qui sera mieux, sans aucun doute.
Summer time. A cruising spot for gay men, tucked away on the shores of a secluded lake in rural France. Franck falls in love with Michel, an attractive, extremely potent but lethally dangerous man. Franck has witnessed this first hand, but his desire for Michel knows no bounds, this is a relationship he must have – at any cost.
I took my friend along to see this, because he also likes interesting arty movies, and he’s into world cinema. I did not expect to sit through what was essentially a really, really bad porno.
It was laughable, really: the whole film was just that scene from Team America on repeat (you know the one), and they really didn’t hold back on showing the details either.
I’d expected a couple of sex scenes, and there were significantly more than a couple, but I hadn’t expected to actually watch someone jerking his companion off. I also hadn’t expected to watch a load of blow jobs and see So. Much. Jizz.
Really, I should have expected this from the fact that there’s someone getting a blow job in the actual poster (see above),but somehow that escaped my notice.
I felt like Doge.
This film is awful, and just about any other movie you could ever watch will be better. It wasn’t even interesting as a porno, it was just kind of really disappointing sex repeated over and over and over again.
Well, any movie that starts with that line and goes on to be narrated by Death himself all the way through must at least be worth watching, right?
I got the email inviting me to this screening and sighed. Translated from PR speak into Beth speak, ‘based on the book’ means ‘probably not as good as the book’; ‘set in World War II’ means ‘expect lots of historical inaccuracy and gratuitous violence’ and ‘the story of a little girl’ means ‘saccharine characters you’ll want to punch in the face’.
Well, the only thing this movie punched in the face was my expectations. And it would have punched my heart in the face, too, if I had a heart. And if hearts had faces.
Anyway. The synopsis:
Based on the beloved international bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, an extraordinary and courageous young girl sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany. She learns to read with encouragement from her new family and Max, a Jewish refugee whom they are hiding under the stairs. For Liesel and Max, the power of words and imagination become the only escape from the tumultuous events happening around them. The Book Thief is a life-affirming story of survival and of the resilience of the human spirit.
I often find that films set in wars are just too overblown. They spend a lot of time demonstrating people’s horrific injuries – “OMG! ANOTHER LEG BLOWN OFF!” – and not enough time showing how wars actually rip people apart on a deeper level than just the physical. I’m not so interested in skin-and-bone wounds – if I want that, I’ll watch Machete – from a war movie, I want something that’ll show me what it’s actually like to live in constant fear that everything around you will literally be blown to smithereens any minute now.
I also want something that shows the effects of loss on a person, and The Book Thief definitely does that. Bit by bit, Liesel loses pretty much everything she loves in her life – her mother, her brother, her home, her old friends, some of her new friends – until towards the end of the movie I was internally begging the cinema gods behind the screen to please just spare her this next horror.
It is a film with a realistic soundscape. Not too many sobbing violins or foreboding cellos. The odd bit of accordion music from Hans, Liesel’s adoptive father. The firework screeeeeeeech-BOOM of bombs dropping on houses. There are a lot of silences, and they deepen as the film goes on and the audience forgets to breathe.
It is also a film with realistic, well-developed characters. Liesel wants to be strong, wants to do what is right, but ultimately she’s a small girl with a big heart that’s being gradually ripped to shreds along with everyone she loves. Rosa, her adoptive mother, is one of those harsh-on-the-outside, heart-of-gold-on-the-inside characters that have a special section reserved for them in my own secretly-not-as-cold-as-pretended heart. Rudy, Liesel’s best friend, is a lovely little boy who you know just has to survive, because he’s a beautiful character, and they couldn’t kill him off. Could they? Of course not. Max, the Jewish refugee in the basement, is a vibrant man, full of life even when he’s hiding below ground.
The way it’s directed is subtle enough to chill you to the core: seeing children dressed in Nazi uniforms, singing “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles”, and then running through streets hung with Nazi flags on their way home from school, demonstrates the way Hitler’s regime took over everything and became just a normal backdrop even for those, like Liesel’s adoptive father, who didn’t agree with what was going on. And the cinematography is fantastic. Beautiful shots of serene landscapes juxtaposed with horrific imagery of war-torn towns, close-ups that dwell for just long enough to allow us to know what the characters are feeling. And one or two of those shots you look at and think this has to be turned into a painting.
I liked it. Can you tell?
The end of the film was very silent. The credits rolled and we sat suspended for a few moments. On the way out I passed two other reviewers, both tearstained and sniffling. “That film was brutal!” we agreed. Brutal, but excellent.
The Book Thief will pierce its way into your heart and stick around there for a long time. It comes out in UK cinemas on the 26th of February 2014. Go see it.
Game of Thrones Season 3 comes out today, the 17th of February 2014, on DVD and Blu-Ray. To celebrate, HBO put together a load of fun events, and we went along to take a look.
The first was a Red Wedding themed evening at the Soho Hotel last Tuesday. Upon arrival, we were given a glass of wine and led into the Crimson Bar, where we found the most amazing cake:
It was commissioned especially for the screening and was created by the cake artists at Choccywoccydoodah, who sculpted the outside from chocolate (and Stark blood, apparently), and filled the inside with rum (lots of rum!) and raisin.
We then entered the screening room, where we were treated to a preview of the hour-long documentary about the making of the Red Wedding episode, which is included in the DVD set. It’s definitely worth watching – seeing how the CGI effects are layered onto the scenes was especially interesting.
Maisie Williams also graced us with her presence, and was questioned about previous GoT episodes and the upcoming season. When asked to comment on the Red Wedding episode at the end of season three, Maisie replied: “You know you’ve done a great job when the audience are crying”, which is possibly my favourite GoT quote of all time.
Apparently in season four we can expect even more bloodshed and lots more action – rather than building to a peak, this one will just be a peak all the way through – and Arya’s relationship with the Hound grows and deepens.
Not content to just give us an excellent screening, HBO have now set up an installation in Spitalfields market, where they have collaborated with street artists Joe and Max to create a huge piece of 3D art depicting the Wall. You can go and pose as a wildling, or as Jon Snow, or just as a confused human wandering the gap between the worlds, near Liverpool Street station today:
Season Three is out on DVD & Blu-ray now, and Season Four premieres on HBO on April 6th, 2014. Here’s a teaser if you can’t quite wait that long:
This film doesn’t seem to have a story. Which is strange, because it definitely has a plotline.
Chinese business professor Damien is asked by his partner, Iva, to help out a friend of hers who is about to be deported. Damien’s father is a senior member of the French Council of State, and everyone assumes that Damien will be able to persuade him to help. But Sebastien is an absent man at the best of times, and trying to get his father to sit down and talk through the case is practically impossible.
In the meantime, Damien’s home life is unravelling. He’s fairly sure his partner is cheating on him, and their son Noé’s apathy towards his mother is gradually developing into full-blown hatred. The only positive points in his day-to-day life are the moments he spends talking to Aurore, a woman who frequents his favourite bookshop and who he sometimes bumps into on the street.
Along the way, Damien finds out things about his life that turn his world upside-down. He doesn’t know who to trust and his personal identity is brought into question.
It’s not a bad movie. It was entertaining enough, and at no point did I find myself thinking “I’m bored, I want to turn this off.” But when the credits started rolling at the end, I somehow didn’t feel like I’d experienced a story unravelling in front of my eyes. I felt more like I’d seen an extended version of that first part of most movies where you’re not really sure who the characters are.
It was a reasonable film, and I wouldn’t run screaming from anyone who suggests watching it, but I wouldn’t go and hunt it down either.
Cornelia is a lady at the top of her game. Rich, beautiful and well-connected, she spends her days living the high society life with her friends. But behind her well-groomed exterior hides a distraught woman whose estranged son haunts her every waking moment. All she wants is to be reconnected with him, but Barbu has cut her off from his life, a situation that Cornelia blames on her son’s girlfriend, Carmen.
When Barbu is involved in a fatal collision, Cornelia rushes to the rescue, accompanying him to the police station and bribing as many people as she can to ensure that her son stays out of jail. Her attempts to save the day work, up to a point, but will they be enough to repair the bond between them?
A low-budget film about high-budget society, what it lacks in poise it makes up for in intrigue. This winner at the Golden Bear Berlin Film Festival gives a glimpse of how domineering parents and family feuds span cultures, classes and personality types. Worth a watch if you’re into gritty world cinema.
Sam is an adorable, clumsy, nervous young lady whose life is not going the way she had hoped. Caught up in dreams of doing better, she meets up with Michelle, an old friend from college, and her glamorous, beautiful Parisian friend Jess. Sam has been enviously following Michelle’s life on Facebook ever since she moved to France, and hearing about her engagement and successful job first-hand only serves to increase her envy. Sam finds herself painting her life in a more positive light than it really appears: she invents a career as a lawyer and pretends she’s still with her old boyfriend, Sean.
All seems to be going to plan and she appears to have been accepted by the glamorous ladies. But then her old friends show up. Loud, bawdy and thoroughly dysfunctional, Chanel, Saskia and Paige do not back up the impression that Sam is trying to give. Desperate not to let her carefully constructed lies fall down around her, Sam spends the evening avoiding both groups of women in turn, trying to pretend that nothing is wrong whilst desperately hoping she can keep it together just for one night.
The storylines intertwine nicely and there are a few subtly-explored themes, too: the music that plays when Michelle is snorting lines in the cubicles is the same as the tune that accompanies the underage girls who stand in front of the mirror obsessively reapplying make-up. The sense of euphoria on all their faces is much the same, and you realise that the older girls are just that: people play-acting at life, none of them actually realising who they are yet, even if they’re pretending to have it all sorted out. The parallels between the beautiful Parisiennes and the pseudo-glam of the fourteen-year-olds might seem to be few and far between, but scratch the surface and you’ll find they’re pretty much the same underneath. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.
It is a movie about obsession and desperation. Obsession with other people’s lives and with an idealised version of what your own could be; desperation to fit in, to make people believe your world is better than you yourself believe it to be. It’s about how worries and problems present themselves in the digital age: how people construct a social identity that makes their lives seem so much better, so much more fulfilled, than they actually are. About how we all put up walls all the time, but how social media has made it easier to paint beautiful murals over what is really just crumbly bricks; how easy it is to pretend that everything is fine, and how friendships can break down due to such a lack of honesty.
It’s a bit of an odd premise, a film set almost entirely in the women’s toilets, and it’s not the best acting I’ve ever seen. There were parts that felt very much like an A level drama performance; a good one, admittedly, but not quite movie quality. And yet, despite all this and despite the storyline being quite bleak, I left the cinema feeling strangely uplifted.
The band deserve a shout-out, too: Spice-Girl-infused-grunge-punk band Fake Club were one of my favourite parts of the movie, and definitely helped to move it from just a bit of an odd movie into something I’d probably watch again.
Worth a night out with the girls if you’re feeling like seeing something unusual, comical and quintessentially English in the most current sense of the term. Powder Room comes out in cinemas on the 6th of December 2013.