Tuesday 2 October 2012

What if it was a conspiracy?

What if the next twenty years of smartphones had already been developed and they were leaking them to us bit by bit in order to take our money every year?

What if Facebook knew everything about us and knew what we do, where we go, the things we wear and the people we spend time with? What if Facebook had information that could get us sacked, embarrass us, change our lives?

What if there was a mass attempt to dumb us down? Can you imagine if the tabloid magazines, reality TV shows and soaps were just a way of keeping us out of trouble, indoors and in line?

Can you imagine if movies were so predictable and unimaginative that we could get used to and comfortable with their patterns? We'd begin to crave the same ideas, same clichés,
the same feelings. 

Maybe the films and soaps and reality shows would convince us that if we stay in line, work hard and tweet, maybe we'll be successful one day. Maybe we'll be discovered. Maybe our luck will turn and we'll get an abundance of riches and beaches. Maybe these dreams and dilusions would keep us doing things we loathe day after day, week after week, ever hopeful that someday something might change while we watch the world from distances and devices.

Think of what it would be like if Google knew what you'd searched for, what you'd looked at, and all the bizarre thoughts and curiosities that are inside that head of yours. Can you imagine if the government could use all your emails and Facebook messages as evidence against you? 

What if kids got bullied in school for not wearing Nike? What if girls wouldn't wear the same dress more than once because everyone on Facebook would see? What if people felt insecure because the tiny logo on their shirts weren't as good as the tiny logos on other people's shirts?

What if phone apps were killing our brain cells? What if we were being hypnotised and sedated by technology and brands and television? What if the unique and inspiring artists were blocked out of the film industry? What if we were all conforming to lifestyles based on the types of clothes we wear? What if those with different opinions were ridiculed?  What if the people around you were so disheartened and depressed that they said "who cares! This is just the way things are!"

If these things were true, would you change how you live? 

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MISSED CONNECTIONS Review - Raindance Film Festival 2012

When I first looked at the programme for the Raindance Film Festival, I immediately picked out 'Missed Connections' as something I wanted to see. Why? Because tiny indie flicks about relationships are often my favourite films. 

But then again, I'm just as likely to hate them.

When done well; these types of down-to-earth films can be highly relatable pieces that have some great insight into what it is to be a twentysomething or thirtysomething struggling to figure out what the hell you're doing with your life. You know the types of films I mean; like 'Once' and 'Your Sister's Sister'.

But when they're bad, they're bad. Highly indulgent nonsense about privileged white people who stroll around drinking coffee, talking bullshit and generally just being a pain in the ass. 

So which of these was 'Missed Connections'?

Well, I'll be honest with you. For the first twenty minutes, I feared the worst. I wasn't totally into it, I wasn't relating. It felt, dare-I-say, a bit run of the mill. Like, oh-here's-a-guy-who-got-dumped-and-now-here's-his-quirky-friends-and-now-he's-quitting-his-job-blah-blah. 

And I started doing that thing that I sometimes do, which I hate, but I can't stop it-- where I start writing a review in my head while the movie is still playing ---- but then that stopped. 

Because the movie grabbed me. And it grabbed me right at the point where the concept kicked in. 

Neal's (Kenny Stevenson) friends have a theory that women on Craigslist, in the 'missed connections' section; are so desperate and lonely that they're almost certainly a sure thing, sex-wise. And I realise, as you read that last sentence, it'll sound shallow and like a typical American Pie guy-movie, but that isn't what this is. It turns out, the women in this movie are just as devious and messed up as the men. But to go into too much detail on that point would ruin the story for those of you who are going to see it. 

Here's a clip from the movie:

But how, where and when are you going to be able to see it? This, of course, is the all important question. But first, let me go back a step, to how this film got made. 

They funded it on Kickstarter. Well, it had a bit of private funding too. But mostly, they made their way on generosity. And it's great to see a Kickstarter project that works. How many people ask you to fund their projects? Hundreds. How many get the things completed and out there? Precious few. That's where 'Missed Connections' succeeds. And not only did they complete it, but it's great! 

What was evident in meeting the cast and crew; is how much of a great team they are. It helps that the lead actors and co-writers, Kenny Stevenson and Dorien Davies, are married to each other in real life. And in Lisa Rudin they've found a producer who gets them. People go their whole careers without finding the right producer. But here, Lisa Rudin has managed the small miracle that so many people want: to make a great movie for $25,000. 

It's directed by Eric Kissack. I don't have a lot to say about the direction, not because it wasn't great ---- it was --- but because, his style was unobtrusive, and simple (at least, deceptively). He lets the story do its thing, lets the actors have their space, and most importantly of all; allows the comedy to flow.

'Missed Connections' is about the weird and bizarre things that people get up to on the internet. And while you might think it's because they're just plain weirdo's, 'Missed Connections' considers that maybe they're just lonely, and finding the best way to protect themselves. 

This is the type of film you go to film festivals to see. It makes the whole thing worth it. A gem of a movie, with talented everyman Kenny Stevenson and an intriguing performance by Dorien Davies. Go see it when you get a chance. 

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Networking in the Film Industry

One angle is this: networking is where you sell yourself and convince people to hire you, cast you, give you money.

The other way to look at it is: networking is when you meet the people who are like you who want to do the projects you want to do.

And of course, it's a needle in a haystack. But when you meet someone on the same wavelength as you, you'll know it.

So what are you waiting for? You think you'll meet the writer you need while browsing the internet or sitting in a park?

You've got to go where creative people are.

I say this as someone who hates to 'network'. I sit in the corner at film events and screenings, mostly uncomfortable in my own skin and desperate to leave.

Except for when I see a great film, or an inspired acting performance. Then I'm desperate to meet the talent. I get confident, because I know we'll get along. When someone nails it on screen, it means they've gotten through to me, that I related personally.

So then networking at a screening or party isn't so intimidating, because we have a shared experience, we have something to talk about.

And things leap forward when you make the effort to talk to people. The people who make things are people, simple as. So go talk to them. Get over your discomfort. They're just like you. 

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Raindance Flops - Raindance Film Festival 2012

'Vinyl' (Dir. Sara Sugarman)

There were some good moments, some laughs; but generally this movie fell flat on the small audience at Raindance.

'Vinyl' is the story of a punk band who reunite for a night after 20 years apart and accidentally record a great track. Their optimism soon turns sour when the record label refuses to listen to their track due to them not being the target 'demographic'.

So, the band hire a bunch of pleasant on the eye teenagers to stand in for them, to mime to their tracks, so they can swindle the radio stations and record label into making them pay attention and rekindle their careers.

A fun concept, in a film interspersed with good moments. But ultimately, the film disappoints-- the story taking turns that manage to be unrealistic yet also entirely predictable.

The best thing about the film is the performance of the underrated and always hilarious Perry Benson. I just have to look at him and I laugh. A fantastic talent who lights up every scene he's in.

'Vinyl' is watchable, could have been great - but in the end was average. 

'Frank' (Dir. Richard Heslop)

'Frank', unfortunately, is the dullest and most uninspired film I have seen in a long time. Speaking to a few people afterwards, it appears, I wasn't alone with this view. There were also more than a few walk-outs; with each one giving the next early leaver the impetus to get the hell out as quickly as possible.

I realise we all have different tastes, different things we enjoy about films-- but  'Frank' just felt insulting on the viewer. No relatable characters, no energy, and a narrow representation of OCD and schizophrenia.

Perhaps there are people who think this film was great. Indeed, something about it made Raindance select it; yet myself and many others remain clueless as to what it is.

I feel I should be more objective in my review, or perhaps explain what the movie is about, but I'm too baffled and, to be honest, bored by what I saw!

Just because a film is low-budget, or artistic, or about a mental illness--- that doesn't mean is has to be impossible to relate to. And I get it I get it, the guy had mental illnesses, and the film was trying to depict what it is like --- but why keep the character at such a distance from the audience? That's what pisses me off about a lot artsy indie films, they try to keep you at a distance, try to be meaningful. If you want to be meaningful, don't try, just be truthful. 'Frank' is a huge disappointment. 

Wild In The Streets (Dir. Peter Baxter)

This documentary was about an intriguing bunch of people who live in Derbyshire, who once a year stop everything they're doing to fight over a medium-sized ball, and don't stop until somebody wins or everyone is hospitalised.

Sadly, there wasn't enough juice for a whole documentary. The sport, 'Shrovetide', is much like a celebrity sex video, you're curious at first but soon extremely bored and are ready to move on. Watch the clip below-- you'll find it interesting, and confusing--- indeed they are a curious bunch. But I don't recommend the documentary.

Glorious Deserter (Dir. Gabriele Neudecker)

I was looking forward to this film, a lot. The subject is fascinating, and the Raindance programme notes had me sold. 

But how can I describe this film to you? Essentially, a bunch of Austrian guys walk around, and we hear their voice overs, talking about the war. Occasionally, one of the characters looks directly to the camera, and talks a bit more about the war.

Nothing happens. 

Really. Literally. Nothing. No story. 

The film just wanted to give us a history lesson. 

And it's such a shame because, potentially, this movie could have been great. Such a fascinating and important topic --- but awfully handled. 

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Monday 1 October 2012

Do We All Need To Move To Austin, Texas?

In response to my grumble about people using their phones in the cinema, Joel Valle left this comment which made me want to pack my bags and start a new life in Texas!
"We are lucky here in Austin, Texas. There is a Theather chain known as the Alamo Drafthouse where they have taking watching movies to a whole new different level. The theather is decorated with posters of classic cult movies. They don't show commercials, only clips from movies or funny videos that have similar themes of the movie you are about to watch. Meanwhile a waitress takes your order of specialty food like Pizza or fries, wine, etc... But best of all, they strictly enforce a no calling or textphone rule. If you violate the rule you are escorted out of the theather without a refund. It's a film lovers paradise!"

Care to share?