nmg: (Default)

All things considered, we're doing pretty poorly at seeing films in the cinema of late. Finally dragged myself off to see Watchmen last night, which meant the late night slot (2245) at the big Odeon in town (not my favourite cinema).

Overall, I enjoyed it, even though it wasn't the film I'd hoped it would be. [livejournal.com profile] elseware, you can stop your sniggering now and just say "I told you so".

The good bits )

The film has a number of flaws, some serious, some less so.

The not-so-good bits )

I don't regret seeing it, although £7.50 is rather more than I would have liked to pay for it. There is a strong element of spectacle, so it was worth seeing on a big screen. I would quite like to see it again (when I'm less tired), but that can wait until the DVD release (hopefully with The Tales from the Black Freighter and the other goodies).

nmg: (Default)

Doing the rounds in abbreviated form from various people. I've decided to mutate the meme, because 1980 feels like a very artificial start date for film-watching. The full list is taken from here; for each year, the first film listed won the Oscar. Titles in bold are ones that I've seen.

1920s ) 1930s ) 1940s ) 1950s ) 1960s ) 1970s ) 1980s ) 1990s ) 2000s )
nmg: (Default)

I'm a bit of a cineaste, albeit one that doesn't get to see many films these days. As a child, I grew up with depictions of World War Two on television every public holiday: Easters and Christmases were filled with Where Eagles Dare, The Battle of the Bulge, A Bridge Too Far and the like. While I still have a bit of a soft spot for these, their depictions of WWII are often close to revisionist in the way that they play fast and loose with the facts. I've come to appreciate the very specific genre of British-made films, and the way that they portray the British experience in WWII. Moreover, I have a specific interest in those films that were made during WWII, when an Allied victory was by no means a certainty. These films are propaganda - I can't deny that - but they speak volumes about contemporary British society through the way that they try to engage with and exhort the British viewing public.

There are number of films about the British experience that have failed to make it onto this list for one reason or another. To my undying shame, I've failed to watch all of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I haven't seen any of A Canterbury Tale. Rest assured, both are on my to-see list.

Mrs. Miniver was excluded from the list as a US production, while the marvellous A Matter of Life and Death was released in 1946, one year too late (The Way to the Stars fails by an even narrower margin, being released a scant month after VE Day).

5. Night Train to Munich (1940)

Still )

This is a bit of a cheat; it isn't strictly speaking a film about the war in Europe (or the war at home, for that matter), but a thriller set against the backdrop of the German invasion of Prague. A Czech scientist and his daughter flee the Nazis, with Rex Harrison playing the hero, Paul Henreid playing the villain (though he makes a better hero than villain, as in Casablanca (1942) for example), and Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne reprising their roles as the cricket-mad English duffers Charters and Caldicott (previously seen in Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes).

I have to admit, Charters and Caldicott are my main reasons for choosing this film. They appeared in two other wartime films: Crook's Tour (1941) and Millions Like Us (1943). I've not seen the latter, unfortunately; by all accounts, it sounds a little like The Gentle Sex (1943) without the (unintentionally) patronising voiceover.

4. The First of the Few (1942)

This is a film with local appeal for me. The First of the Few follows the development of the Spitfire by R.J Mitchell; I live on the northern edge of Southampton, a brisk ten minute walk from the airport from which the Spitfire took its maiden flight. Few also has the distinction of being Leslie Howard's last film; he died in 1943 on the way back from Lisbon when his plane was shot down over the Bay of Biscay

For a film about the Spitfire, it has remarkably few flying scenes (unsurprising, given that the Spitfires were in greater demand in the theatre of war than in the studio). If I wanted something more spectacular in that line, I'd choose the 1969 film Battle of Britain, but not for this top five.

3. The Way Ahead (1944)

Still )

A fairly standard training tale, directed by Carol Reed and script-written by Peter Ustinov. David Niven as the commander of a unit of new recruits, with William Hartnell as the sergeant trying to turn a mismatched group of civvies into soldiers. Excellent realistic cinematography, with pleasingly unstereotyped performances from the ensemble cast.

2. In Which We Serve (1942)

Still )

Noel Coward's contribution to wartime morale, supposedly based on the exploits of Lord Louis Mountbatten. Notable for the screen debut of a very young Dickie Attenborough, and a nicely measured role by John Mills (I almost put 1943's We Dive at Dawn in this slot, on the strength of Mills' role there, but Attenborough's presence meant this won out).

1. Went the Day Well? (1942)

Went the Day Well? is a film by the redoubtable Ealing Studio. Based on a story by Graham Greene, it follows the inhabitants of the sleepy village of Bramley End when they are invaded by German paratroopers disguised as British soldiers. It's a genuinely shocking film to those raised on the easy certainties of WWII films of the 1960s and later, and a very effective piece of propaganda; characters are killed without warning, and there are a couple of false starts before the situation is resolved.

Watch on Google Video )

In the running, but not placing, were the Powell and Pressburger collaborations One of our Aircraft is Missing (1942) and The Silver Fleet (1943) - embarrassingly, no Powell and Pressburger films have made my list, though A Matter of Life and Death only missed out due to its release date.

nmg: (Default)

So it's Saturday night, I'm not at Picocon, and I'm idly surfing the Web...

One of my film society contemporaries from my undergraduate days at Warwick was a chap called Paul Hardy. After we graduated, he threw himself headfirst into film-making and the whole starving-in-a-garret lifestyle (there was a time when I visited and found his flat empty of food, and the fridge with nothing in but a reel of 16mm film that he'd spent that week's food budget on). He's had some success over the years, with a BBC Drama Award for one of his shorts (Eyeball Tennis), he's had a book on microbudget film-making published, and he's been working with a couple of small production outfits in Coventry (Call the Shots and Leofric Films) more recently.

This is all rather besides the point, however. In 1999, Eyeball Tennis was in competition at the Bristol International Short Film Festival. Although it didn't win that time, it was shown as part of a competition for ninety second-long films. Ninety seconds isn't a great amount of time, without space for a conventional narrative, so the films in the competition tended towards the quirky and iconic. My favourite by far was a film by Tom Baxandall; introduced as Atomsk-16, the real title of the film was the rather less snappy Experiment 60713/B. Sadly, it too didn't win, coming runner-up to Rachel Tillotson's As I Was Falling.

I've seen this film exactly twice: once at the festival, and once when Paul lent me his video copy of the competition entries. Fortunately, the film is now available from the AtomFilms website - well worth a view.

nmg: (malcolm)

O Lucky Man! arrived in the post this morning, and looks great. Thank you!

nmg: (malcolm)

I have a favour to ask of LJ friends...

One of my long-standing filmic gripes is that so few of Lindsay Anderson's films are available. Britannia Hospital is available on DVD, as is This Sporting Life. Neither If.... nor O Lucky Man! are available on DVD; both have been on video, but even those are now out of print.

It turns out that Sky are running a 'Not Available In The Shops' season on Sky Cinema 1, and that they're showing O Lucky Man! at 10pm on Thursday 30th November. Would one of you lovely, lovely people on LJ with satellite TV be able to record it for me in exchange for a redeemable favour? The film's three hours long, so you should just be able to fit it on an E-180 tape (alternatively, if you're able to burn it to a DVD, that would be preferable to video tape).

Len Lye

Jul. 27th, 2006 12:11 am
nmg: (Default)

While I'm not currently a member of a film society, I don't regret the 10 years that I spent with film societies and the BFFS. For one, I've ended up married to [livejournal.com profile] ias as a direct result, but more importantly, I've been introduced to a wide range of cinema and filmmakers that I just wouldn't otherwise have been exposed to (and I'm fairly certain that [livejournal.com profile] ias would probably have put those in the same order).

One such filmmaker is Len Lye, a New Zealander who worked in the GPO (General Post Office) Film Unit in the years before WWII. During this time, he produced a number of experimental films using a technique he called direct animation, in which the images were painted or scratched directly onto the celluloid. In order to justify this work to his paymasters, the films usually had some postal-related advertising message tacked on at the end.

The GPO Film Unit was a incredible hotbed of talent; headed by John Grierson, it employed a number of the leading experimental filmmakers of the time, including Lotte Reiniger and Norman McLaren (best known for his later work for the National Film Board of Canada).

But back to Lye. Last week, [livejournal.com profile] ias and I took a day off to see the Modernism exhibition at the V&A (more in another post). Tucked into one of the later rooms was a video loop showing Lye's Rainbow Dance; the music from this film was on a constant loop, so we'd had an inkling of what was to come. I was so distracted that I quite failed to drool over the Tatra T87 in the same room...

So, gleaned from YouTube (thank heavens for Web2.0), here are three of Len Lye's finest, three joyful, jazz-infused paeans to parcel rates, post office savings accounts and the importance of posting early:

A Colour Box (1935) ) Rainbow Dance (1936) ) Trade Tattoo (1937) )
nmg: (grimacing)

I've been looking forward to the release of V for Vendetta with some trepidation since I first heard that an adaptation was seriously in the offing (see my previous posts). [livejournal.com profile] ias and I went to see it last night; I'm hoping that she will also post her views on the film, because unlike myself she hasn't read the comic and has a different (and more positive) take on the film.

Without spoilers, what are my feelings on the success of the film?

Is it a bad film? No.

Is it a good adaptation? Sadly, also no. It isn't a disaster, but I wouldn't class it as a success.

Do I think that Alan Moore's condemnation of the film is unjustified? No.

In many ways, the film reminded me of the Morecambe and Wise sketch with Andre Previn; all of the right scenes, just not necessarily in the right order.

Further analysis, with spoilers )

For those that are interested, Charlie Brooker has a rant on V for Vendetta in today's Grauniad, and there's a rather good V for Vendetta in 15 Minutes that's going around LJ.

nmg: (Default)

A little over a year ago, I commented that I hadn't heard that the Wachowski brothers were working on an adaptation of V for Vendetta.

Yesterday, Warner Bros put out a press release stating that they're going ahead with the project. There's a poster image for people to drool over:

For what it's worth, they appear to have cast Natalie Portman as Evey, which might work.

nmg: (Default)

IMDB Top 100 film meme )

Following [livejournal.com profile] nannyo's post, I thought I'd try and list my top ten. There are quite a few films from my personal top ten that don't appear in the IMDB meme, so in no particular order:

Funny Bones
A delight - much underrated British screwball comedy, with several seemingly unrelated plots that only gel after the first half hour. Jerry Lewis, Lee Evans and a cross-dressing Oliver Reed.
What's Up, Doc?
Continuing the screwball comedy theme - snappy script, beat-perfect slapstick and some lovely turns from Streisand, O'Neil and Kahn (The Palm Beach Story is a runner-up for my favourite screwball comedy, but doesn't make the top ten).
If....
Lindsay Anderson's finest film, with revolution in an English public school and Malcolm McDowell. Unavailable on DVD, which is a crime.
All the President's Men
Watergate docudrama starring Redford and Hoffman - gripping, even though the ending is known.
Exotica
A haunting Atom Egoyan film that I've seen exactly once.
Sleeper
Woody Allen stars as an unlikely Buck Rogers (plus the orgasmatron and the president's nose).

Appearing in the IMDB meme were: Dr Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Third Man, and Cidade de Deus/City of God.

Of course, this is this month's list; I tend to waver quite a lot on some of these films, so my top ten at any other time may vary by as much as 30% from this list. In addition, I've not listed any of my favourite short films, but that's fodder for a future post.

nmg: (Default)

I hadn't heard that Alan Moore was retiring from the (mainstream) comic industry.

I hadn't heard that the Wachowski brothers are to make a film of V for Vendetta.

I am deeply worried by both of the above.

nmg: (Default)

Following in [livejournal.com profile] ias's delightful footsteps:

BFI Top 100 British Films ) AFI Top 100 US Films )

As [livejournal.com profile] ias points out, some films appear on both lists...

nmg: (Default)

Went to see Minority Report last night with various TotL folk, and was pleasantly surprised. Without giving any plot details away, the art direction is excellent (although the future product placements are a little heavy-handed in places), and Spielberg manages to restrain his sentimental urges for the most part (compared to the horror that was AI, that is).

On the other hand, the PKD short story didn't have any sentimental sequences, so they aren't really a necessary part of the narrative. As a PKD adaptation, I'd rank it on a par with Blade Runner (possibly slightly higher, given that Blade Runner ended up being stuck with the title of a completely unrelated Alan Nourse story), and considerably higher than Total Recall (mistitled, bolt-on action plot and a lead actor with the acting ability of a pound of lukewarm mince). Haven't seen Screamers, so can't comment on that.

However, in my mind, Spielberg's success with Minority Report still doesn't make up for his hatchet job on AI (change the title, change the plot and add an extraneous hour and a half of outtakes from Mad Max 3, Pinocchio and Close Encounters).

At least it wasn't Verhoeven again.

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Nick Gibbins

August 2010

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