Sunday, 28 February 2010
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
Apart from the horror of Ross giggling at his own jokes, attempting to buddy up to the assembled A listers and generally behaving like a total git the BAFTA awards managed to bring a little glimmer of hope into my life...they didn't give the best picture award to "Avatar" or best director to James Cameron. Both of these are good things, especially if they are repeated at the Oscars. Fingers crossed boys and girls.
Best film went to "The Hurt Locker" or, as I rather unkindly called it when I saw it at last years EIFF, "Dude, Where's My War". Having seen the film again since then I think I may have been overly critical but whatever my reservations it was a film about something important with well drawn characters and emotional depth, unlike...well, I'm sure you can guess. I was also pleased that director Kathryn Bigelow won for best director...a female director working in a male dominated world and producing a very masculine film; she deserved her award.
Colin Firth picked up the award for best actor and I can't say that I disagreed with that. His turn in "A Single Man" was excellent and, although again, I didn't particularly love the film he was impressive. The same could not be said for the winner of the best actress which went to simpering public school girl Carey Mulligan who played...a simpering public schoolgirl in "An Education". How anyone could take to this wet blanket of an "actress" who makes Kiera Knightly look animated is beyond me. Anyone with a heart and a modicum of understanding of film could see that Katie Jarvis in "Fish Tank" was the outstanding female performer of the year.
The two awards which pleased me the most were Duncan Jones who picked up Outstanding Debut for "Moon" which was one of my favourite films of last year and "Fish Tank" winning for best British film...which it was...by a mile...so there.
My one major complaint would be the insistence on ghettoising films by not allowing the years outstanding picture, "A Prophet", to be judged alongside English language films. "A Prophet" in any language was the best film of the year...it was devastatingly beautiful (not easy to achieve when most of the film is shot inside a colourless prison), totally convincing and contained performances that outshone any of those in the English language nominees. However, the fact that it won for best film in a foreign language is some consolation.
Overall the BAFTA awards were given to worthy winners and if they are replicated at the Oscars film fans the world over will be happy enough...especially if you know who for you know what walks away with only a couple of technical awards.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
The land of the free and the home of the brave.
The land of opportunity.
All men are created equal.
In the case of the American and the America portrayed in this stunningly original biopic there was precious little opportunity, even less freedom, equality was questionable and the only bravery on display was from him.
Ladies and gentlemen...Bill Hicks.
Stand up comedian, visionary, prophet and the most aggressively honest man on earth?
If you’re reading this in Britain then you probably agree with all of that...if you’re reading this in the USA then you may well be asking; “Who the hell is Bill Hicks and why has anyone made a film about him?” The answer to that lies in the fact that Hicks was the most dazzling, energetic, witty, insightful and devastating performers of his day...and of anyone elses day.
Having waded through hundreds of hours of footage of Hicks (much of it previously unseen), 1500 photographs from family and friends and even more hours of their own footage of interviews with friends and family the directors have produced a film that bares no resemblance to any other biopic you will have seen. Using a fabulously inventive animation technique and mixing it at appropriate points with Hicks performing you are given a truly intimate look at a man who was driven by a desire to reach out to as many people as possible with his ideas. Don’t think for a minute that because he was a comedian that there is anything throw-away about what he has to say.
By shying away from hagiography and sychophancy “American” manages to tell a deeply emotional story and to take a genre in a new direction...no mean feat. Hicks was an original, a one off and a warm human being...this films greatest success is in replicating all of those qualities.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Friday, 19 February 2010
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Monday, 15 February 2010
Sunday, 14 February 2010
Friday, 12 February 2010
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Tuesday, 9 February 2010
In Powell and Pressburgers "A Matter of Life and Death" there can be no doubt as to which they are. This is a very British film. It attempts, successfully, to show everything that is good about the notion of "being" British. Most of those things are romantic ideals, based more in fiction than fact but attractive nonetheless.
David Niven plays Peter Carter a bomber pilot making his way home after a mission in his badly damaged aircraft. With his engines losing power, his crew bailed out or dead, no parachutes left and no hope of survival he makes radio contact with June, a beautiful young American radio operator based in England, and tells her that his only option is to crash the craft into the sea in order to avoid crashing and injuring innocents. He gives a few rousing and bullish last words and then...silence. June assumes that this brave young man is dead and we have no reason to believe anything different.
When next we see Peter he is washed up on the shore. He trudges slowly over wet sand and stumbles upon a naked youth playing the pan pipes (a pastoral notion of Albion) and asks him where he should go to check in...Peter clearly believes he has died and gone to Heaven. This idea that Britain, even at the height of war, could pass for Celestial glory may seem at odds to those of us living in "broken Britain" but at the close of the war it would have been an uplifting and inspirational idea.
Of course Peter is not dead, he is alive and well, but how?
The answer lies in Heaven where we are next transported and discover that the angel sent to bring Peter through the pearly gates has missed him in a real pea souper of a fog and thus enabled him to cheat death. The angel is a French aristocrat and this image of a Brit cheating death by evading it in the form of a Frenchman would also have appealed strongly to a post-war audience...it does to me even now.
What follows is a remarkable film as Peter splits his time between the "real" world, where he has fallen madly in love with June, and the spirit world where he must eventually stand before a Celestial court to plead his case to remain amongst the living.
Powell and Pressburger have a good case for being hailed as the finest film makers ever to work in Britain and, for me, "A Matter of Life and Death" is the greatest of their films and the greatest British film ever made. It is, as with so many of their films, visually stunning with scenes shot in glorious colour and startling black and white to show the difference between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The ability of Powell and Pressburger to push the boundaries in an era when the sort of technology that film-makers now take for granted was, literally, fantasy is another testament to their genius.
This is a film that is moral without ever being condescending or preachy. It celebrates a set of values and ideals that could be embraced by people everywhere...the fact that Peter is an Englishman is not really significant; it is what he embodies and represents that is significant. He is honest, gentle, brave, fair and dignified and in a world where those qualities are increasingly difficult to find Peter offers an inspiration to those of us who would like to see them return.
Sunday, 7 February 2010
Friday, 5 February 2010
Thursday, 4 February 2010
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
This years festival promises to be one to remember with showings of Michael Moores "Capitalism: A Love Story" at one end of the spectrum and the remake of "The Crazies" at the other! Of particular interest to me is the season of Japanese cinema which is forming a key part of this years programme with classics like Kurosawas "Ran" and the legendary animie "Akira" showing with the latest offering from Takashi Miike.
While the "other" film festival in Scotland attracts greater attention it would be wise for genuine fans of cinema to keep a close eye on the GFF which, while a toddler in comparison, has a vibrant and exciting programme of films guaranteed to keep audiences entertained, shocked, thrilled and, possibly, confused.