Posts Tagged ‘ FILMS 2013 ’

GRAVITY

Gravity
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From its slow panning opening shot closing in on a group of Nasa specialists carrying out routine maintenance on their space shuttle Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity never lets up from being a visual cornucopia of impressive treats. It is without doubt one of the most stunning visually enhanced films of recent times and one totally worthy of its 3D release. Without this added quality it would be relegated to your bog-standard sci-fi movie. In this case however the 3D enhancement is essential, as opposed to merely a gimmick, raising the whole film to an unprecedented level.
The only thing that occasionally drags it down is the overly chummy buddy-buddy routine between its two main stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney who we are reminded that even though they spend most of their time in unflattering and non revealing space suits are exceptionally good looking.
The plot –which is secondary to the atmosphere and visuals-, revolves around the traditional outer space as inner space theme, along the way harnessing the feeling of emptiness alongside the freedom of floating but always returning to the primal instinct of being grounded.
After being hit by fall out debris of a Russian satellite the two survivors find themselves drifting with two options: one is to retrieve their shuttle and attempt to make their way home whilst the other is to float into the abyss. The feeling always is that only one, if any, is going to survive and unfortunately Clooney’s moment of heroic self sacrifice is delivered as a jokey metaphorical high five which comes across as empty as the void he is about to drift off into.
From this point Bullock becomes a Sigouney Weaver as Ripley/ Linda Hamilton in Terminator type figure in skimpy vest with stamina driven determination and, similar to those other two screen heroines, thoughts of her child –in her case already dead- steering her to her destiny and home.
The outcome when it comes is predictable but with it having been such a heady rush of a movie throughout-several times I felt myself instinctively ducking as debris narrowly ‘missed’ my head- this was not a disappointment. At times I also felt dizzy, nauseous and disorientated with the darkness of the cinema itself taking on the role of outer space and this is solely due to the expertise of the effects which make the viewer feel as if they are actually part of the action. Predictable conclusion aside this is a film well worth seeing not only for the effects but for the feeling of being integrated with them.

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JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday  September 27th

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  Today sees the official release of Jon Blair’s interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s so called ‘un-filmable’ novel Filth. Having already seen the film at the Edinburgh premiere, with the author, director and lead actor –James McAvoy- in attendance, I can reliably report that although the first twenty minutes or so do their best to capture this un-filmable quality by being unbearable and occasionally unwatchable it eventually turns a corner and  becomes a far more inspiring and rewarding experience.

 Once settling down into a more coherent narrative to become less shaky, haphazard and disjointed it actually emerges as a good movie. Until this point it falls into that most of annoying of things, a ‘try-hard’ experience’ and although the triumvirate at the centre of its creation warned us before it played that this might be the case, in its early stages it was still something to endure. A full review of the film can be found here.

 There was of course the prerequisite after party in the Caves following the screening and for obvious reasons- the characters Welsh surrounds himself  with in his home city fuel many of his literary characters and in reality many are more colourful than their written about counterparts- I had higher expectations of this than the film. It was however a pleasant experience but brought home that what once would have been a raucous affair probably extending itself over several days was neatly wrapped up and over by midnight.

The most riotous thing to happen all evening was someone being thrown out for smoking upstairs-rock and roll!- and the sight of a twelve year old boy masquerading as James McAvoy before the realisation that said twelve year old was in fact McAvoy himself.

Running around like a pre-pubescent scamp with purloined and illicit cigarette behind his ear it was hard to coalesce the hard core character of the film we had just seen with the diminutive character –in bios he claims to be 5’7’’ which is the same height as me although I have decided by this reckoning I am now 6’2”- scampering round the venue looking aggrieved and harassed. Only his arrogance remained from his screen persona. His young appearance contrasted squarely with most other attendees whose more ‘mature’ approach and behaviour indicated that middle age had caught up with their rock and roll lifestyle or perhaps the fact it was on a Monday evening meant that such behaviour would simply be too disruptive to their well organised and structured weeks. Age catches up with all of us in the end I suppose and in some ways it is a good thing.

 Talking of growing older there has been much discussion this week of the raising of the retirement age to sixty eight. As usual the loudest dissenters would appear to be those in the teaching profession. Although I understand that this is a highly stressed profession- I know this as they never shy away from telling us this at every given opportunity- it can only be more discouraging for a worker in MacDonald’s or some other fast food chain say who is now looking forward to another few years shovelling chips and burgers for an unappreciative clientele who are essentially as faceless and anonymous as they are.

 Personally I reckon I will have to work until I drop and I know several others who are also in this boat and after watching Channel 4’s ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ last week wherein six women of seventy plus showed us all how good and rewarding growing old can be.  Each and every one of them still works and actually embraces it as a worthwhile thing which goes someway toward keeping them young in their approach. Apart from one former dancer who now teaches dance there was not one teacher among their ranks. Just saying!

 Last week I mentioned I had put my central heating on and am happy to announce that was a temporary measure and a slight rise in temperatures has postponed this need for a week or two yet. It did gladden me however that Labour plans to introduce capping prices on fuel companies in their election manifesto. Other parties should follow suit as the increases introduced over the last few years –which in 2009 and 2010 housed tow of the coldest winters in living memory- were ludicrously high and financially crippling to many households. Matters were not assisted by there not being much of an improvement during the summer months-this year’s heat-wave aside- which often found many reaching for that dreaded heating switch in a bid to keep warm at a time generally considered to be of a more temperate climate.  The fact we live in Scotland never guarantees this however and it will be interesting if this issue raises its head during independence debates.

This weekend sees Neu Reekie 39 light up Summerhall and the last weekend of September. The line up includes Billy Letford, The Wellgreen, Linden, Professor Elektric Al and Pumajaw none of whom I am familiar with so I am expecting to be bombarded with a whole new set of experiences by the end of the evening, I am sure I will not be disappointed.

DIVING

Diving.

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 Moving forward from last years Naked Touch exhibition photographer Gavin Evans has decided to transfer his talents to film making accompanied by musical accompaniment by violin virtuoso Richard Moore. Just as confrontational as his naked portraits, which stripped the subjects bare, his exploratory nature inspired him to take these themes several steps further by creating nine short silent films visually applying psychology to portraits using subjects with strong back stories-loss and alcoholism are just two things which have brought his subjects to where they are in their lives today-  hopefully providing a sense of illumination for the audience.

 Acting as the antithesis to the never ending-and generally unfunny- comedy acts most mistakenly assume are the central focus of the Fringe, ‘Diving’ instead offers a sense of catharsis not only for the artist and his subjects but also the audience themselves as the material asks them to question their own prejudices and preconceived notions. Generally the subjects of these films have overcome conditions or situations that most of society would consider to be either defects or drawbacks-perhaps even both- and the strength they have had to muster up in dealing with these things allows another dimension of the film to unfold.

Using the basics of one light, one camera and one subject, Evans strips things back to basics and provides a visual metaphor for the shaft of light a dive into the sea leaves behind. Whilst the light reveals, the dark in contrast hides but simultaneously also leaves a lot open to suggestion.

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Wes Westenburger who appears in one of the films actually had an accident in the sea which left him a paraplegic so this adds further depth as the name and subject matter were already in place before a chance meeting led to their eventual collaboration. Likewise unconventional and innovative choreographer Javier De Frutos had an innate understanding of movement, light and the use of music so his film will incorporate these elements in a totally different way from most of the others.

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 Alongside these moving portraits by Evans will be impromptu violin scores created by Richard Moore who is an equally vital component in the project. His contributions will be all the more interesting as he will be perceiving these visions through the eyes and mindset of a healthy young man who has yet to endure or experience many of the hardships the subjects  within the films have been through. This provides a different narrative and yet again even more depth to an already multi-textured experience.

Gavin Evans & Richard Moore

 Showing only for two nights –August 6th and 7th– tickets for this show are bound to be in demand so it may be wise to book in advance although there may be another date towards the end of the festival but as yet nothing has yet been confirmed. Definitely a thought provoking show and whilst some may see it as slightly macabre with a deliberate intention to shock this is not  the case but if it does actually manage to shock well perhaps that could also be perceived as a good thing.

Diving is showing in the Dissection Room at Summerhall on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th August at 7pm.

Details can be found here http://www.summerhall.co.uk/

All photographs and stills courtesy of Gavin Evans

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday July 5th

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 Allegedly there is a heatwave on the way! At last, is all I can say, as I really need to see lots of lobster coloured people walking the streets of Edinburgh moaning about the unbearable heat and forgetting that only a short while ago they were complaining just as bitterly about the cold/wind/rain/wind (delete as applicable or don’t delete if all apply) and wishing it were a little warmer/ sunnier/drier (delete as applicable again). It is about time we had a semblance of a summer in Scotland and 2013 has not been too bad thus far although the traditional storm clouds gathered and torrential rain made a fleeting appearance as soon as the Scottish school holidays began.

Perhaps we should just reconsider when these holidays take place or whether they are necessary at all! It is definitely worth a try suspending them indefinitely if the end result is we all get better weather.  Just a thought!

 The Edinburgh International Film Festival ended last Sunday and I must admit it was with more of a whimper than a bang. Totally underwhelmed not only by the films but also by promotion of the event I find it amazing that when I am out and about so many local residents are unaware  it is even taking place. Being one of the world’s longest running events of its kind s to sweep it to the side is pretty unforgivable and shows a lack of concern for Scottish culture which is constantly undervalued anyway. Apparently one of the big sells this year was that they were showing many films which had been refused by other similar film festivals although whether this is a good or bad thing is still unclear in my mind. Did we show the cream of the crop or were we scraping the dregs from the bottom of the barrel.

Not everything was bad however and for a more detailed report of what is and isn’t worthwhile just click here for more detailed insights and reviews.

 Next week sees T in the Park make a return which means that inevitably so will the rain. Last year was more T in the Swamp and turned into a totally washed out mudfest. I am being pressured into going to see Kraftwerk on the Friday evening-which I am convinced would be really quite something- on the premise that I will be in the VIP area. I must admit to being tempted but would be more tempted if I was being transported in and out via a specially chartered helicopter.

Much as I love Kraftwerk I have seen them live before in much more suitable pristine surroundings and they were simply outstanding and among one of the best live shows I have ever seen. I am not sure I want this memory sullied by mud and the indignity of portaloos.

 This weekend there are two interesting events occurring though as luck would have it they are both on at the same time. First up is the launch of Neu! Reekie co-founder Michael Pedersen’s debut poetry collection, Play With Me, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Several years of hard work finally comes to fruition at this event which also features appearances by former Fire Engine and current Jesus! Baby singer Davy Henderson alongside fellow Neu! Reekie cohort Kevin Williamson among others. Definitely one to check out if you can although if you miss it there will be a similar follow up event on Friday 16th August as part of the International Book Festival.

 Elsewhere an intriguing and adventurous new night featuring live music within a club environment called Rammed is launching at the Speakeasy in the Voodoo Rooms at 8pm. Its creators claim they are trying to put back some of the elements missing from Edinburgh nightlife over the last few years whilst adding a few new elements to ensure that proceedings remain both current and relevant. Musical acts for the launch are the unforgettable Homesick Aldo and the riotous Andy and the Prostitutes with DJ sets by the Baron and Anna Kissed. There is already a buzz about this event and if toxic glamour and excellent music is your thing then I suggest you make sure you don’t miss it.

 That is it for this week and I am off out to bask in, what I am hoping by now is tropical sunshine. Either that or I am staying indoors to hunt out a pair of wellies and parka to go and see Kraftwerk. Now that is a sentence I thought I would never write!

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

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Well that is it for another year then. The A-List stars have departed whilst the opening and closing galas provided a maelstrom of dramatic flourish, flamboyance and glamour to our usual grey days and the momentum of the event provided ceaseless conversations amongst the locals. Except none of the former really happened did it?

 In fact the whole event passed pretty much unnoticed to local residents- and even to me who was a participant- and if pushed for a comment many would even have failed to notice it was actually taking place. Matters weren’t even helped by the fact the weather was remarkably pleasant with sunshine days and warm balmy evenings being the norm. Compare and contrast with last year when it rained torrentially and incessantly.

 The ultimate disappointment though must lie in the choice of movies selected with few of the films making too much of an impression either way. If honest I must admit the best film I saw during the whole thing was the 1971 Richard Fleischer classic, shown as part of a retrospective, 10 Rillington Place starring a suitably creepy Richard Attenborough as serial killer John Christie. It was the only film among the many I attended that held the audience in its spell throughout with a tension which was palpable; a matter confirmed when at a crucial moment I tore my eyes away from the action to observe an almost trancelike state audience caught up in the drama. I witnessed nothing like this sort of effect at the many new films I attended.

Mind you this may be because I attended mainly press showings but everyone knows how cynical a group of film critics can be. I am not sure this still applies to the younger ones who appeared to be barely out of diapers but wore their miserabilist tendencies in plaid with carefully selected geek chic glasses.

 Of the new films premiered the best, in my opinion, were Svengali, The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Oh Boy, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and a Russian offering, Betrayal. The latter I haven’t got around to reviewing yet but it is an Almodovar styled film with the vivid colours and fiery passions replaced with Soviet chill to disorientating effect. The plot is highly implausible and relies on the viewer’s suspension of belief, but somehow this works to its advantage as opposed to its detriment.

 The opening film Breathe In starring Guy Pearce and the patriotic, set in Glasgow, closer Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan were slightly underwhelming if the truth be told. As were the opening and closing parties which followed if I am being even more honest. In fact the best party I attended during the twelve day duration down as the most memorable film festival of recent times it is also not the most forgettable was nothing to do with the film festival but was held in an empty art studio with a bunch of non celebrities who could show the organisers of these stilted industry affairs how it should be done

 On the plus side the event was still a step in the right direction away from the low key efforts of 2011 which abandoned all parties and celebrity attendances. It also had the best and most consistent weather of any Scottish festival in recent years and perhaps this onslaught of sunshine distracted from the event as who wants to sit in a darkened cinema when it is sunny outside. Particularly to a nation as deprived of vitamin D as us Scots are.

 Now that it is all over however I must say that the best summary I can offer is that although 2013 will not go!

MISTER JOHN

 

Mister John

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Featuring a flawlessly understated performance by Aidan Gillen Mister John adopts its own languid pace and despite threatening to erupt into something more dramatic and thrilling on several occasions it somehow manages to reinforce restraint and draw itself back in thus achieving individuality as opposed to generic type. This does not mean it is without its shortcomings however, it is just that often these shortcomings work in its favour.

 Travelling to Singapore after his brother John’s death-the Mister John who lends the film its title- Gerry(Gillen) attempts to sort out the estate of his more financially successful brother. After his luggage goes missing he borrows some of his brother’s clothes and in the process slips into imagining the alternative lifestyle of his more flamboyant sibling. For someone seemingly so withdrawn and wearing a cloak of sadness this new role is an extremely attractive proposition.

 It would seem sex is seemingly permanently on offer to Gerry as he assumes this new role but he has trouble connecting emotionally as he is still haunted by his wife’s infidelity back in London. Stranger still he becomes emotionally drawn to his late brother’s beautiful widow Kim(Zoe Tay) and the tension of their encounters teeters on the precipice of an affair but his emotional withdrawal prevents him from embracing this complicated entanglement.

 More of a character study than anything else Mister John relies heavily on the plausibility of Gillen’s performance and he manages to capture the pathos of his character in sublime fashion. His awkwardness is cringeworthy and this is what gives the character credibility and emotional depth.

 The screen writing and director team of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler made a brave and admirable decision in not allowing their vision to be tampered with merely to fill a specific genre or type as this emerges as the film’s main strength.

WE STEAL SECRETS:THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS

 

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

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Surrounded in hype, recriminations , accusations and clouded truths, when the scandal surrounding Wikileaks- a website intent on revealing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of the twenty first century- and its founder, Julian Asssange, broke it was hard to decipher any semblance of the truth. With one faction claiming the documents which were leaked were in the interest of the public, the other denied this and counteracted the very same information placed the public, and whole countries, in severe danger.

The truth is hardly any clearer after watching this documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney, which admittedly falls on the side of Assange and his organisation, but what is clear that accusations of a smear campaign against Wikileaks and its founder are lent a considerable amount of gravitas whilst those who went out their way to destabilise their credibility-including some of the most powerful people in the world- are left looking rather suspect.

 The leading cast in this tale include the formerly named Assange- a blonde haired Australian hell bent on discovering the truth about the war in Iraq- a teenage hacker and Bradley Manning, a gender confused American soldier serving in Iraq with access to highly sensitive documents and footage. Without thinking of the consequences Manning shared this classified information with Wikileaks and to this day still languishes as a detainee in jail even though he has never actually had a trial convicting him of any specific crime.

 Assange on the other hand was briefly awarded rock star status when he leaked the contents of the documents on his site but this small victory was soon snatched from him when two accusations of rape in Sweden arose. These is where things get rather cloudy and off balance as the accusations of rape seem to come from two women who had consensual sex with Assange but one freaked out when the condom broke during the act whilst the other claimed he never used one. This led to claims he may have impregnated them or shared a S.T.D. and  a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he refused to take an HIV test the charges were immediately changed to rape and thus the conspiracy theories about a smear campaign began.

 At this juncture a media campaign to discredit Assange and Wikileaks-interestingly the Guardian and New York Times who shared the information he provided were absolved of any blame- began and in one of the films many incidences of black humour the phrase ‘he has blood on his hands ‘is trotted out ad infinitum via various major news stories around the globe as if to detract from the real issue at hand; war crimes being committed in Iraq.

These war crimes provide some of the most shocking images in the film and early on we are shown a helicopter attack on innocent civilians and Reuter journalists after one carrying a camera with a long lens is mistaken for a Militia with an Ak47. What is almost as shocking as the horror of this footage is the clearly audible laughter, sheer flippancy and derogatory remarks emanating from the attackers about the dead bodies they have left on the ground. Further footage showing innocent families and children being slaughtered-either through carelessness or incorrect intelligence- is equally unsettling and Assange’s claims that this is what the public need to know about the realities of war start to make a lot more sense than the counter argument that knowing and seeing such things places us all in greater danger.

 A fascinating and revealing insight into a recent scandal- Assange is still under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy-this documentary provides very few answers but it does raise a hell of a lot of questions.

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