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Monday, 31 August 2009

Actors & Their Egos

The actors I love working with are the ones who turn up, maybe ask a question or two -- and then I don't see them for a while. When we're ready to shoot, there they are. "Action!" is called out and then the actor becomes the character.

That is all an actor is. Just like a man sweeping the streets is someone who sweeps the streets, and just like a Police officer is someone who arrests people and does his best to prevent crime. To put it even more succinctly; an actor is someone who plays a character whilst a camera is rolling. The problem is, some actors are not content with being a character on screen, they also want to be one off of it. They begin to play the role of an actor.

In Hollywood, of course-- actors have privileges. When Tom Hanks or Johnny Depp are on board, their names and their performances guarantee a large chunk of income for the studios, so the actors are treated amazingly. They're driven around, given giant trailers, given anything they want. They want a call girl? They want drugs? They want a monkey that can juggle? You got it. These actors are so important to the productions and to the people financing them, that anything will be done to keep them happy. An extra $5000 for a better hotel room is no problem when the actor is bringing them an extra $50million in box-office revenue.

The problem is that sometimes actors who are starting out are influenced by this, they think that this is how an actor should behave, to expect privilege. I have worked on absolutely zero budget films with first time filmmakers.. and it's 3am, in a freezing cold field. The Director and Producer have not eaten in three days, the camera man's feet are so cold it could well be trench foot, but the actors are wrapped up in warm blankets, drinking hot soup. Meanwhile, little Abdul, the 17 year old runner, hasn't eaten, slept or been allowed a toilet break in four days.

Sometimes, you see it the minute an actor walks on set. They'll turn to the nearest person and say "You think I could get a coffee? Two sugars." And sure enough, they'll get what they want. No-one is quite strong enough to say, "Sure, the kitchen is upstairs."

Don't get me wrong, there is a hierarchy on film sets, and it's there for a reason. When you're in the middle of a scene, it would be inappropriate and time-consuming for an actor to make their own coffee. But when the entire cast and crew are on a break and the actor is standing right next to the coffee they have no right to expect anyone but them to be making the coffee. Someone needs to tell them, "make your own coffee, it doesn't interfere with you saying words in front of a camera one hour from now."

The industry is flooded with young, upcoming actors. If you put an advert out for actors, you are bound to have thousands of messages flooding your inbox. The majority of the time, they all sound the same. It's not their fault, it's just that they're all in the same boat. They're young, talented, eager for roles, and look very attractive. Finding someone who truly loves films and the acting process is tough, they don't always jump off the page. But then, neither do the actors you want to avoid. Sometimes you can see their ego just from their emails, but sometimes, you won't see it until they audition. An actor with a large ego will ask a lot of questions, and some of these questions will be an attempt to catch you out, to make you look like you don't know what you're doing. Ego-driven actors can be very insecure deep underneath everything, and if they make you feel belittled; they feel better about themselves.

I should add the point that we're all insecure. Actors, Directors, Road Sweepers. We all have our issues. The problem is, the ego-driven "I deserve special treatment" actors use their insecurity to make everyone else feel bad.

One of the biggest problems is that a well-trained and clever egotistical actor will be able to hide this trait throughout the audition process. They'll be happy to take the role, even on a zero-budget short where nobody is getting paid. Here, they are able to feel vastly superior to everyone, because they feel like they've done you a favour. This is especially true if back in 1997 they did a Colgate commercial and got $5000 and a big-trailer. You are below me and I am doing you a favor, thinks the actor.

Can someone get me a tea?
I need an hour to make some calls.
I'm coming in late tomorrow.
How about shooting it from another angle?
Back on the set of some obscure film from 1998 they always made sure we had.....

The thing to realize, and I am talking mainly here about the low-budget-we-are-all-in-it-together-arena is; WE ARE ALL IN IT TOGETHER. None of us are getting paid much, none of us are sleeping, none of us want to be carrying equipment through the mud on a rainy night at 4am, but we are doing it, together. As a group. The actor is part of that group.

Even if the actor is Tom Hanks himself. Tom would have known, upon signing up, that this is a film being made for $500. Therefore, Tom isn't going to get his trailer. Tom isn't going to get to go and make calls for three hours as there is such a tight schedule.

The egoic actors are one of the sad parts of the industry. It's not always just actors; you can have any role on a set and you can be angry that you're not getting paid more, bitter that the food isn't as amazing as that big-budget shoot you did last year, disappointed with how your career is turning out. But it gives you no right to think you're better than anyone else on the set.

If you are in a big-budget film, by all means, enjoy your privileges. You'll be surprised to find that many of the actors are very modest and humble about the wonderful things they are given, which is exactly how all actors should be right the way down to a first-time student film. Actors, like everyone else on the set, are normal human beings. The whole team are on set for the same reason, the common goal of making a great film. Remember that's why you're there, and think about you wanted to be treated and treat others.

Acting is not about privilege. It's about doing things in front of a camera. That's all.

Care to share?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

'How I Got Lost' Trailer.

I really, really, really, really like the look of this film.



Seems to be doing a few film festivals at the moment, not sure when I'll actually be able to see it, hopefully sometime soon!

Care to share?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Should they really be making all these Holocaust films?

When 'Schindler's List' came out it touched everyone in a way that I don't think any film ever had before. It proved that a film can have a lasting effect on its audiences. It proved that a film can make a difference in the world. The one thing we know for sure about the Holocaust is that it must never be forgotten, and what better way to do that than have the world's most successful film director Steven Spielberg making it.

I do a lot of work with Holocaust survivors, and I have been involved in some film projects about it too, but I often find myself asking; should all these films be getting made? There was a time when I would always have said a definite yes. I've done work in schools where I've seen children having absolutely no knowledge of the attempted extermination of the European Jews and it brings me to the conclusion that we should keep on making these films, keep on getting them out there.

I didn't like "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas," it seemed distastefully Hollywoodified to me. But then, I was doing a workshop with Holocaust survivors in a school last year and the students were really passionate about it. These children were beginning to have interesting ideas and lots of compassion towards Germans, whereas I remember when I was in school we were all "I hate Germans!" which was based mainly on ignorance and stereotyping.

Let's cut to the chase though. The Holocaust films coming out of Hollywood today aren't being made to honour the memory of the millions who were tragically lost. They're being made to line the pockets of the producers with lots of money. Far from being like Steven Spielberg, crying during scenes whilst filming in Krakow, Poland-- they're sitting in their warm Hollywood studios raking in the cash.

From a storytelling perspective, the Holocaust is gold. There are so many millions of untold, complex stories-- and they all revolve around the power, relationships, good versus evil, alienation, confusion, heartbreak, death, etc. Everything you could want from a story you can get, easily, every single time - whenever you venture into the events of Hitler's Final Solution. But this doesn't make it okay.

I find myself asking that a lot now whenever I see a World War two film. Is it okay when a stupid, pathetic horror film like "The Unborn," takes the Holocaust and uses it as a device to illicit more emotion from its audience? Is it okay when Quentin Tarantino has revengeful Jews running around scalping people's heads for fun in 'Inglorious Basterds'? Is it okay when Tom Cruise and his co-stars are playing Nazi's but have perfect American accents, in 'Valkyrie'? You see, the Americanisation of the Germans in 'Valkyrie' wasn't so that people could understand the events better, it was so that the film would be more marketable.

The Holocaust survivors are still here, with us. They are still coming to terms with what happened and they are still sharing their stories. When they share them, there is nothing more heartbreaking or profound. When you hear a Holocaust survivor tell you how their family got shot in front of them, how their kids were taken away-- the importance of it hits you. It impacts your life in ways you couldn't imagine. I don't feel it is fair to these people to turn the death of six million Jews into big screen fodder that lines the pockets of filmmakers with millions and millions of Dollars. The subject is too important for that.

Do I think films should be made on the subject? Yes. Films like 'The Counterfeiters,' help us understand, they help us learn and they help us grow. In the film, Salomon Sorowitsch and Adolf Burger are two Jews who are counterfeiting bank notes for the Nazi's. They do it to survive, it's their only choice. But the two characters are caught in their belief systems. Salomon does what the Nazi's want, because he feels it's the only way he is able to survive. Whereas Adolf has major problems with it because he feels it is unethical and helping the German war-effort. The palpable conflict between the two characters is mesmerizing and you can't help but put yourself in their place and question what you would do. That is powerful filmmaking -- and it's important filmmaking. Perhaps the difference is that this film, like the incredible 'Downfall,' was made in Germany by German filmmakers. The German attempts to understand their history through these films in recent years is remarkable, gut-wrenching and moving. The films are important. The same, I feel, cannot be said for the constant Holocaust themed movies rolling off of the Hollywood production line.

It's time to stop and think. The Holocaust MUST be remembered and we MUST find ways to make sure future generations learn about and feel about the Holocaust. But we must do it right.

Care to share?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Bizarre Nature Of Creative Juices.

Yesterday, the Director Of Photography of my latest film was coming round to grab some footage and take a look at the rough edit. And I was like 'Aghhhh, this film looks like crap.' So to make myself feel better, I rushed to polish up a montage scene I'd been meaning to do. It looked great. And then the DP showed up.

And he liked what he saw from the roughest of rough edits. We chatted some more, threw ideas around-- and then I closed Final Cut Pro. But as I did, it asked me if I wanted to save my changes. I figured I'd already saved my montage bit so I said 'No.'
So the DP went home and that was that.

And then today, I jumped back onto the edit, only to discover, of course, that the montage scene wasn't there. I was immediately grumpy and angry and began throwing my weight around. But luckily I don't weigh much so it wasn't a big deal. Anyways, I got my head together and set to work.

But I couldn't! I couldn't edit the scene, because I knew I'd already done it. I kept going back to it again, but my head was like "No! No Way! You've done this! I don't want to do it again!." I threw one shot into the edit, and I was immediately told, by myself, "This sucks, this looks like shit. Yesterday was better!."

This kept happening and I just knew I wasn't going to get it done today so I gave up. Instead, I felt a desperate urge to watch a movie. I chose 'Reign Over Me.' Not totally sure why, I just really fancied it.

I watched twenty minutes of 'Reign Over Me.' It was definitely the right choice as I was loving it and connecting with it deeply. But then, suddenly, these wave came over me. A wave of purpose and feeling and creativity. That voice in my head had changed his tune rapidl. He was saying 'go and edit! go and do it now!' And I suddenly felt certain I could get the montage edited even better than yesterday. At this exact same point the Dave Matthews Band song 'Two Step' sprang into my mind. YES! The perfect music to go with this scene! (of course, I won't be able to afford the rights to it but it serves as a good temp score for my composer later on).

I edit. I edit quickly. It looks GREAT.

And I can't help but be a little fascinated by my process. Probably because I have no idea what my process is. Did I need to watch twenty minutes of an Adam Sandler flick? Did I need to go through that, 'this looks like crap!' rampage in my head or could I have skipped past it? Was it something about 'Reign Over Me' or could it have been another film? Why did the DMB song enter into my mind today and not yesterday? If I had remembered to save my work yesterday, I wouldn't have had to re-edit it today-- so would I not have thought to include the DMB song?

I'm not suggesting you can answer my questions, I just find the whole thing pretty fascinating. If I could figure this all out maybe I could edit films ten times as fast.

Care to share?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Reasons why 'Home Alone' is possibly the greatest film ever.

In case you've forgotten, here are some magic moments which help explain why 'Home Alone' is amazing.

Culkin miming 'White Christmas' in the mirror.


The party that never was.

Joe Pesci covered in feathers.



John Candy continuously talking about Polka music.


Culkin saying to the cashier; "Ma'am, I'm eight years old. You think
I would be here alone?" (scrunches face) "I don't think so"


"I'm gonna give you to the count of 10, to get your lying, yellow, no-good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead! "


People continuously crashing into the statue.



Last, but not least - my favourite moment...
"Fuller, go easy on the Pepsi!"


Care to share?

Sunday, 16 August 2009

I make films for you.

You may think you're ruining me, but you're spurring me on.

You think you can undermine me, you think you can tell me I'm not strong enough, or not talented enough, you can say whatever you want.

You think I don't work hard? Well that's just fine.
You think I just sit around watching films? Well that's just fine.

My life will be filled with beautiful films that I've created. I'll have the art, the money, the women, the big house, the love, the friends.. and I'll do it all for YOU.

YOU, the one who tells me I should get a real job.
YOU, the one who tells me that I'm not going to make it.

I see your hate.
I see your jealousy.
I see your pain.

It gives me vision.
It gives me strength.
It gives me determination.

You could be right;
I may just be nothing.
But I am giving it everything.
I am giving it everything.

Nearly everything I do, on nearly every single day, is in some way related to, or because of; the very things I am focusing my career and my life on. You can tell me it's pointless, you can tell me I don't know what I'm doing, you can do that little chuckle you do when I show you my work, you can even tell me 'your idea has been done before,' - but I will not react with anger, or hate, because I am not the same as you.

You can stay on the platform,
because I am taking the train out of here.
it's a train full of dreamers and workers and singers and writers and dancers,
and we're getting the train out of here.
we know where we're going.

Care to share?

Make Your Short Film On a ZERO Budget.

I meet some crazy people. In fact, I meet some sane people, too -- both types seem to be under this crazy illusion that making a short film has to cost money. I have had my zero-budget films screened in festivals next to films that cost $20,000; and the difference in quality has been minimal- and quite often my films were better received than the big-budget ones.

Now, I'm not saying that bigger budget short films suck, nor am I saying that a zero-budget film is better; it of course comes down to talent, luck, script, etc etc. But the way I look at it is: if your film is going to suck anyway, you're better off doing it for $5 than $5,000. I've made some TERRIBLE short films, but have been lucky enough in that they only cost me about ten coffees to make.

I write this post because I have met many upcoming Directors who have erred on the side of doing nothing because they "need $5,000 to make this short film." I am here to tell you that you need about $80 to make your short film, if that.

So you need locations. Locations can cost $1000, or they can cost nothing. And it's entirely up to you. You can say "I would like to film in your Doctor's surgery, how much does it cost?" or you can say -- "I am a young, upcoming film director and I would love to shoot in your surgery. I've been coming here since I was three years old, it's a part of my life and I'd love for it to be in my film. I'm doing this film on a zero-budget, using actors and friends from our community to help out. Would we be able to film in your surgery? It would only take one evening, we can do it after you close."

And they'll say "No.".

But then you say, "Is there any way you can help us out? It would be great fun for any of your staff who want to stick around, we'll make sure they're well fed and they can even be extras! I really want to film there because I can't imagine the scene being anywhere else, it would mean so much to me just to film inside the walls of the surgery! Let me know what I need to do to make you feel comfortable and safe with us being there, and I'll make sure you are happy with it."

And then people begin to open up, they begin to see your passion for the project and they realise they can be a part of making movie magic happen.

Think of ALL the people you know. You know people who live in houses, in apartments, in disgusting rented rooms that have leaks; you know people who work in schools, in offices, in the government, in the streets, in charities; wow -- you know so many people! Think of all the locations you can get!

Short film making is not about signing cheques; it's about filmmakers discovering their art and pulling off miracles with no money. When you make people realise this; and show them how they can be a part of it, they will almost always be willing to help. Two years ago I wrote a script set almost entirely in offices. I wrote to a company who I found by searching 'rent office space london' in Google, and within a week they had given me new office space for a whole day, for absolutely no cost. I promised them that 'when I shoot the big movies a few years from now, I'll come back to you." And it's the truth; because now, if I need an office location, they're the first people I'd contact.

A camera does cost money, I know this. But you can get creative here. Maybe the film would be great if it had a rough and raw documentary feel. Maybe you could just shoot it on your Aunts old camera. Or maybe you need something better. But you look online and the rental companies say they want $400 a day for the model you want. Well, that price is flexible. The minute you say "student," or "low-budget" or "upcoming" they'll immediately modify their quotes. If you have a script, if you have passion, they'll see it-- they'll smell that, five years from now, you might be in a position to help them more. Also, most rental companies are closed on the weekends; so if you get a one day rental on a Friday, you may get to keep the equipment until the Monday. In fact, I did that on my last shoot when I rented a monitor and four lights. It wasn't free, but it wasn't very expensive either.

Maybe you know film students who have access to cameras, or maybe someone who shoots wedding videos for a living. Whoever you are getting a camera from-- you can offer them a film credit, you can offer them a banner on your website, you can offer to advertise them to your 1,024 Facebook friends-- you don't HAVE to hand over cash to get the equipment you need. Be creative.

One thing you can't avoid is the need to feed everyone on your set. Well, I've seen people avoid it-- but I don't agree with it. Especially when everyone is working on your film for free. Why are they working for free? Because you're working for free. You're making a film to show everyone your genius as a Director, despite the lack of money and resources. You're giving the actors the chance to show their genius despite the lack of money and resources. The same rule applies for all of the crew. Rather than 'oh, there's no money' - make it positive! What a wonderful film, filmed for absolutely nothing!! And we all had so much fun doing it!

Anyways, food. A few years back I was about to embark on making a short film, and rather than spend a heap of money on drinks, I wrote to a big soft-drinks company. I told them all about my project; I told them how passionate we all are- doing this amazing project for no money, just with love and hard-work. They wrote back, said they liked what we were doing, then sent two big parcels of drinks the night before the shoot. Everybody got to drink their tasty beverages, and it hadn't cost me a penny. You can't guarantee you'll get freebies like this-- but if you don't ask, you don't get.

I learned a lot about catering a film last year, on a feature-film I produced. I was authorising hundreds of pounds a day to go on food. As the shoot was nearing an end, I was looking at our bank balance and getting that concerned producer's look on my face. But then two of our lovely runners came over to me and told me they could take care of dinner for about £8 a day.

They brought in a giant pot and the ingredients; on one day they made Chilli Con Carne, on the other day they made a little pasta and meat sauce concoction. Suffice to say, it was the best food we had on the whole shoot and it had cost me less than £20 over two days. Of course, it can be really difficult on a feature film when you are shooting for weeks, if not months-- but your short film is only taking up three or four days. So why not send out a message to your Facebook friends and say "would anyone like to make dinner for my gorgeous actresses?" - there is bound to be someone you know who loves the idea of cooking their signature dish and bringing it to your location. In fact, they'll be so proud of their culinary genius, they'll probably pay for it all themselves.

Whatever you are shooting, whatever you needs, and wherever you are filming -- there are ALWAYS ways to do it for nothing. Be creative, ask around, and don't take no for an answer.

Care to share?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Changing Face Of Independent Film Distribution.

Here's an interesting article for any independent filmmakers who may be reading. It talks about how distribution has changed.

Here's a snippet of the article, 'Independent Filmmakers Distribute On Their Own,' from the New York Times.

"The glory days of independent film, when hot young directors like Steven Soderbergh and Mr. Tarantino had studio executives tangled in fierce bidding wars at Sundance and other celebrity-studded festivals, are now barely a speck in the rearview mirror. And something new, something much odder, has taken their place.

Here is how it used to work: aspiring filmmakers playing the cool auteur in hopes of attracting the eye of a Hollywood power broker.

Here is the new way: filmmakers doing it themselves — paying for their own distribution, marketing films through social networking sites and Twitter blasts, putting their work up free on the Web to build a reputation, cozying up to concierges at luxury hotels in film festival cities to get them to whisper into the right ears."

Read the full article here.

Care to share?

Saturday, 8 August 2009

What impact can we have as filmmakers? And with impact, do we have responsibility?

I'm interested in whatever any of you might bring to this discussion -- be you a film director, a writer, a film-lover, someone who hates movies, or even someone who's never seen one. Whoever you are, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. What is the maximum impact we can have as filmmakers? Can films really change lives? Can they make us act for social change? Can they change us for the better?.

There is a lot of room for films as pure entertainment. Most of Hollywood's output is exactly that. But sometimes, we can do more. Whether it's a little documentary making you aware about a new topic, or 'Shawshank Redemption' offering you hope-- ocassionally, a film can have an important and influential effect on you. But how big is that effect? On a personal level-- has a film ever changed the way you feel about a matter? Has it ever inspired you to do something that you wouldn't have done without it?

Documentaries, of course-- offer us a direct line into an issue. But what difference do they really make? For example, if you take a look at Michael Moore's documentaries (especially the older ones) they brought a lot of issues to a wider audience, for example gun laws-- and for a while, it looked like he could change America. In fact, he was certain he would with 'Fahrenheit 9/11' - but he didn't.

Of course, the problem for Michael Moore and indeed for most documentarians who touch upon politics and issues, is that they are tainted by their persuasions. They are an extension of a journalist, or a politician; they're just part of the cycle of partisan politics. Even in one of my favourite documentaries, 'When The Levees Broke' - Spike Lee can't steer clear of politics. NOR SHOULD HE HAVE, but my point is that as a result of that, some viewers are going to feel polarized.

As fictional writers and directors; we are able to have a dramatic impact on audiences. Right now, films like the Harry Potter Series and 'Twilight' are watched and loved by millions of teenagers worldwide. Do the makers of these films have only the need to entertain, or is there a responsibility regarding the message and intended meaning of these films?

I don't wish to get into a conversation about whether violence in films causes violence in the streets -- I'd like to skim past that and look at it more positively; and ask--- do we have an opportunity to change the world, for the better, with the stories we tell? And how should we go about doing that? It's a tricky thing to approach. I remember watching 'Wall-E' in the cinema and being completely turned off because of it's overt messages about the environment. Yet at the same time I've watched many other films and enjoyed the political intent behind them. Does it come down to personal taste, or is there a way of storytelling that is appropriate? Do we know where that line is?

It's also worth addressing the fact that It'd be a shame to swing too far in the way of responsibility and political correctness. A film with absolutely no violence, no jokes pertaining to race or sex or sexual-orientation would be boring. It wouldn't be real life. Is it wrong to have pure violence? Is it wrong for Tarantino to rewrite the most important death in modern history? What responsibilities do we carry as people putting our creative ideas into the open?

I often feel a limitation as a writer. It's a ghost role that says 'You will only have a certain amount of impact.' And I just wonder, does that limitation really exist? I am unsure if a film has ever changed the world. And even if it hasn't, I'd like to believe it can. I'd like to believe that motion pictures could fulfill a role that is different to that of leaders, policy makers, and celebrities.

I'd like to facilitate an open forum discussion through the comments section below. I hope we can better understand each other and discuss our beliefs in terms of the true power of movies. What impact can we have? And with that impact, do we have responsibilities?

Care to share?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

RIP John Hughes, Director of 'Home Alone' and 'The Breakfast Club'

'Home Alone,' 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off,' 'Miracle On 34th Street,' 'The Breakfast Club,' 'Sixteen Candles,' 'Planes, Trains, And Automobiles' - I could name many more. John Hughes, to put it simply, is an iconic legend, whose creations are some of the most loved films of the 80's and 90's. 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' defined the 80's, 'Home Alone' was my favourite film for years after it came out. I still watch it every Christmas. For me, 'Home Alone' and 'Home Alone 2: Lost In New York' are THE quientessential Christmas movies.

He passed away suddenly today at the age of 59 - of a heart attack whilst taking a morning walk.
Variety.com reports that "In the last decade, he stepped back from the legacy he created to enjoy time with his family, maintain a functioning farm in northern Illinois and support independent arts. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, John and James, and four grandchildren."

It's great to know that he left us a great legacy of truly brilliant, often heartwarming films-- and didn't feel the need to stick around in Hollywood cashing in everywhere he could. Instead, he made his masterpieces, and then became a family man.

RIP - John Hughes. 59 is way, way, way, way, WAY too young. The only comforting thing when this happens in our industry is to know of the legacy that has been left behind - and in Hughes' case; it's enormous-- and I am sure his work will mean something to everyone who reads this. What could be better than that?

Care to share?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Open-Air Screenings Bring A Slice Of Movie Magic To London.

I love open-air cinema. It's quite a rare treat in London because of the miserable weather. But any time somebody foolish attempts it, I always make sure I am there. Because when it does happen, it's magic. I get to live my Cinema Paradiso fantasy.

So this is Somerset House.
And here are film lovers.
As the day began to fade, the smell of cinema was in the air.
And before we knew it the time had come to watch 'Don't Look Now' (Nicolas Roeg, 1973) - starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. Prior to the film we were treated to an introduction by
Steven Frears (Director, 'High Fidelity,' 'The Queen,' etc)

People were gripped by the classic piece of cinema, the beautiful
surroundings, and the rare London calm.

But for me, the best part of the night was in Covent Garden,
hearing this wonderful man since a bunch of Cat Stevens songs.

'Don't Look Now' is part of the Film4 Summer Screen series. With notable films such as 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'Slumdog Millionnaire' already screened, we're left with 'Strangers On A Train', a double bill of 'Cool Hand Luke'/'Road House' - and it ends on Saturday with 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark.'

Raiders is sold out but Thursday and Friday have limited tickets available on the door, from 5.30pm onwards. See you there. If you love films and are in London, this is the perfect way to enjoy a film, along with 2000 of your closest friends.

Care to share?

Monday, 3 August 2009

Frankie and Johnny is AWESOME!

I just watched 'Frankie & Johnny' for the first time and just wanted to say -- what a great, great, great film.

I love films like this, and we don't really seem to get them anymore. I'm talking about those gritty New York pictures about trying to get by, trying to live your life. Frankie and Johnny is the tale of two characters played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, who are just trying to get by in life. Just trying to make a living. But Johnny (Pacino) is fresh out of prison and after meeting Frankie (Pfeiffer) he falls in love.

This is Pacino playing Pacino, but in a way you rarely see. He's still got all the answers and is full of confidence, but you can also see how breakable he is, and how needy he is-- he needs Frankie from the second he meets her, and nothing will deter him. But it's Michelle Pfeiffer's performance that's really incredible. Frankie is a woman who wants to live comfortably, working by day and then sitting at home on her own with her VCR (it was 1991). And when Johnny comes after her, she resists it and fights it, basically for the whole movie.

It's a film about past scars; it's about not wanting to be vulnerable to being fucked over again. In that respect it's something pretty much everyone can relate too. Pfeiffer's performance is beautiful-- she doesn't even have to say a word, you see the conflict and fear in her eyes and her bodily movements. She's fighting Johnny, she's fighting herself, she's fighting everything-- it's powerful viewing.

The thing that's sad is that we just don't get these movies anymore. Throw a man and a woman together now and it needs a sell-able gimmick, like 'She has to get married to stay in the country' (The Proposal) or a man who knows the formula to winning women can't get it to work on the woman of his dreams (Hitch) -- basically every romance or comedy you see comes with a concept, something amusing or silly that the plot revolves around. It's much harder to sell a studio exec or producer on "Two New Yorkers who work in a cafe argue and fight a lot, and struggle to accept themselves and each other." Nobody wants that. But they should, because it's films like 'Frankie and Johnny' that really speak something truthful and honest, and they get great performances from some of our finest actors.

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Sunday, 2 August 2009

Errant Thoughts From A Week Of Movie Watching.

'The Proposal' is a film you see with your girlfriend. If you're girlfriend's not available, you download it illegally. If you can't find it online, you wait for DVD. And preferably, you wait for a girl to watch it with. Or you do what the Kid In The Front Row did, and go see it on the big screen, alone. I was surrounded by either twentysomething couples, or thirteen year old girls. Either way, I was completely out of place.

But, as usual-- once a film starts, I couldn't care less. And surprisingly, I kind of enjoyed 'The Proposal'. It's got a lot of crap from people for being formulaic, predictable, etc etc-- and they're probably right, but I was able to forgive it -- I just enjoyed drifting into the light fluff and being swept away in beautiful wide shots of Alaska, and the simple, fun comedic happenings on screen. It was a perfect way to begin my week of movie watching. A much different experience to...

'Trouble The Water' is a documentary showing a very personal account of Hurricane Katrina, filmed by an amateur filmmaker on her little camera, as it was happening. Seeing the effects of the Hurricane and what the people of New Orleans went through is uncomfortable, yet riveting viewing. And of course, like the Spike Lee documentary 'When The Levees Broke' (which I feel is a far superior film), the main thing that comes across is the complete ineptitude of the Governmental response. I'm not a particularly political guy, and it's rare you'll see me ranting about stuff on here. But in a country like America; the way the people, mostly black, of the poorest areas of New Orleans were treated is unacceptable. America can get aid to all areas of the world in no time at all, America can send armed forces anywhere in the world in no time at all -- and perhaps the most important thing, America can build incredible, amazing buildings and structures anywhere in the world in no time at all. But they couldn't get help to the people of New Orleans, they couldn't get them food; they couldn't provide New Orleans with an adequate Levee system. In a country like America, it just seems unacceptable to me to leave your own countrymen in that kind of predicament. The worst part is that I wasn't aware of the scale of neglect until a few filmmakers told me about it. It makes you wonder about the media.

But yeah, go watch 'When The Levees Broke' and 'Trouble The Water.'

Watching the original 'The Blues Brothers' in the cinema is a great experience. It reminds you of everything that is incredible about the movies. 'The Blues Brothers' feels like it's been written by a hyperactive fourteen year old. You can imagine him writing the script "um, I know! And then a lady shoots them outside a hotel. And then a thousand police chase them into a building! And then all the police cars crash! and then they sing an old song! yeahhhh!" The strange thing is that it actually works. It's funny, it's entertaining, it's action-packed, it's heart-warming. It's everything. What a wonderful, wonderful film. Magic. And even more so when viewed on the big screen, as I was lucky enough to do last week.

'Duplicity' with Julia Robert and Clive Owen looked pretty interesting. After twenty minutes, I gave up.
'Revolutionary Road' is a film I'd been meaning to watch for a long time, but I had kept putting it off due to my belief that all Kate Winslet films look really boring. I eventually rented it. And I kinda enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it in a way where I was easily distracted and more than happy to go stop and start, finding time for mini Facebook intervals, raiding the fridge intervals, daydreaming intervals.

The film was a little pretentious, at times. I guess that was kind of the idea, I mean-- Kate and Leo's characters both think they're better than everyone and destined for great things, despite getting caught up in the mess of life like everyone else. Come the end, I felt I was right in my assumption about Winslet films. Because despite being watchable and occasionally intriguing-- 'Revolutionary Road,' for the most part, was quite boring.

Did I watch as many films as I'd planned this week? No. But I watched quite a few. And I did manage to write 51 pages of a feature script, so all in all, it was a good week, film-wise and other-wise.

Care to share?