Atonement | Old Briony's Confession
The ending here is a twist to those who do not know the story, as was I before I saw the film. It is significant because it asks the question of what endings are for, why do we have good or unhappy endings; 'to what purpose ...', as Old Briony puts it. Director Joe Wright is particularly interested in the idea of endings.
Michael Clayton | Michael Clayton's Revenge
This is the only moment George Clooney's character shines in the film while he completely pwns a very nervous Karen (brilliantly played by Tilda Swinton). Watch how the final blow and the aftermath of the scene is shot in just one take - if you ask why that is important, then you don't get it and you won't.
There Will Be Blood | Daniel Plainview Torments Eli Sunday
I've heard some bewildering comments that some of the people who saw the film hated the last 15 mins of the film. I couldn't imagine why - I didn't see anything weird about it. It's a fun scene, the culmination of years of back and forth one-upping of each other between those two aggressive characters.
The Bourne Ultimatum | Waterloo Station Hunt
This ten minute sequence deals with at least five different POVs, but the film was so exceptionally adept at switching between them (a careful cooperation between direction, cinematography, score and editing) that all the time we know what is going on. Also the way Bourne instructs and shields Simon Ross to safety is brilliant on its own.
The Bourne Ultimatum | Tangiers Chase Sequence
A perfect mixture of a highly kinetic score that stops and starts along with the images (listen carefully to how the percussions pounces and then brakes towards the end) and provocative images - Nicky crumpling her cellphone, Bourne flinging off the scooter and taking off in one movement, Bourne leaping across the alley, etc. The three-way chase, of course, ends in the most talked-about fight scene of the year. The film has garnered the first Best Stunt Ensemble Award that is given out by the SAG.
4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days | Shot Of Otilia At The Party Dinner Table
A film that has to be seen to be believed how simple and yet how brilliant it is. This ten minute shot doesn't move away from our protagonist as she sits at one end of a party dinner table while everyone else talks around her, her mind far away - and we're with her every uncomfortable second. One of the tensest shots of the year, and yet on the surface it shows nothing happening.
Lust Caution | Wang Chia-Chih's Rape
Everything about this scene is so unexpected that it accomplishes its job of shocking us; the fact that it's Tony Leung doing this; the fact that he's interested in more than just usual sex; the fact that Mak Tai Tai's sex education to prep her for this is so grossly lacking; the fact that he whips her.
The Simpsons Movie | Marge Simpson's Taped Goodbye
This is the most dramatic moment in the entire history of the Simpsons, as far as I know. Many have commented how heartbreaking this scene is, and it is – aided by Marge's gruffier-than-usual voice.
Charlie Wilson's War | Charlie Wilson Deals Alternately With A Scandal And A Meeting With CIA Man Gust
A fun little scene.
A Mighty Heart | Marianne Pearl's Cry Of Grief
The director made a decision to stay on Marianne as she receives the news that her husband is dead, and it is heartbreaking to see it. And it was after that that they tell her the next devastating bit - that he was decapitated, and her response changes to outright furiousity. Angelina Jolie should have been nominated on this scene alone (not that she cares, no doubt).
The Namesake | Ashima's Reacts To Ashoke's Death
The movie sinks us, at this point of the movie, into a state of complacency so that when Ashima receives the news, it is shocking to us as well as her. And then she reacts, in a way at once devastating and yet beautiful - she trails around the house in her sari, switching on all the lights, trying not to hyperventilate, before venturing outside to cry, and it all says just one thing - her life has fallen apart, there is nothing to live for. I felt that. I told Tabu her hands were trembling throughout that scene; she says she didn't even notice that.
Blind Mountain | Finale
A devastating film - from beginning to end it gets more and more heartbreaking and not once does it let up, achieving it by giving us hope and letting us believe it every so often before yanking it away from us. And then we come to the end - and as the situation gets more chaotic, the very last act in the film is struck and the entire cinema experiences a communal catharsis, both relief and knowing heartbreak at the same time. Alas, this is not the ending you will see in Chinese cinemas (and online Chinese video sites which does show the entire film) - they released a happy ending version there. I say, as much as you think you'd like the happy ending, trust me when I say you will remember the film much more if you saw the shocking one instead.
Ratatouille | Anton Ego's Food Review Monologue
It is a strange scene, because everyone will find (though no one is manly enough to admit) that they couldn't concentrate on BOTH the ending montage and Anton Ego's monologue. Nevertheless, it's a very well-written monologue that ties up the film very nicely and also justifies Ego's sudden change of heart.
The Kingdom | Opening Titles
I really loved this opening title sequence. I loved the graphics style used - very political-oriented - where images and figures and facts flashed here and there. Never mind that it also does a very good job of setting up the world of the story for the audience so no one gets left out.
Hors De Prix | Irene Teaches Jean
In the scene where Audrey Tautou teaches Gad Elmaleh how to get one's way with their rich master/mistress and obtain whatever they want (by not ending their sentences), Tautou did such a good job that I was completely sold, as was Gad Elmaleh - Elmaleh was lurching forward bit by bit for what he thinks is the impending kiss, whereas I as lurching forward emotionally thinking this is the point Tautou's character realises she loves him ... and then you find out that's not the case.
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01/18 | CLOVERFIELD
You should watch it if you haven't. Trailer
01/25 | 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS
Limited release in the US. 2007 Palme D'Or, Festival de Cannes. A groundbreaking, simple film. Short clip
02/08 | IN BRUGES
From the brilliant Irish playwright who also wrote The Pillowman. Expect a lot of (fun) profanity. Trailer
02/08 | FOOL'S GOLD
From the director of Ever After, Anna And The King and Hitch; an action romantic comedy reuniting Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Trailer
02/14 | JUMPER
From the director of Mr And Mrs Smith. First action film about teleportation. Will Hayden Christensen finally be accepted now? Trailer
02/15 | DEFINITELY, MAYBE
Ryan Reynolds plays the father, Abigail Breslin plays the daughter, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher and Elizabeth Banks plays the ex-girlfriends. Love that casting. Trailer
02/22 | VANTAGE POINT
Dennis Quaid. Sigourney Weaver. Forest Whitaker. William Hurt. Matthew Fox. And one of the most explosive trailers of the last six months. Trailer
02/29 | THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
Eric Bana. Natalie Portman vs Scarlett Johansson. All brilliantly displayed in a poster that makes its characters looks like it's about to pop out of the frame. Trailer
02/29 | PENELOPE
Christina Ricci. Reese Witherspoon. James McAvoy in yet another film with Simon Woods. A quirky comedy I've been waiting since last year. Trailer
03/07 | 10,000 B.C.
From the director of Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow. A special effects laden action epic film set 12,000 years ago. Trailer
03/07 | THE BANK JOB
Jason Statham. Saffron Burrows. A scruffy Stephen Campbell Moore. Daniel Mays (you last saw him in Atonement). And quintessential Poirot David Suchet! About the most scandalous bank robbery in England that threatens to bring down the royal establishment. Trailer
03/28 | 21
From my favourite rom-com director, Robert Luketic, who brought to the world Legally Blonde, Win A Date With Tad Hamilton and Monster In Law! Except that this is a dramatic thriller about mathematics and cheating and gambling. Trailer
03/28 | RUN, FATBOY, RUN
A British rom-com. Starring the ever funny Simon Pegg. Directed by a surprising David Schwimmer. Trailer
03/28 | STOP LOSS
Kimberley Peirce's first film in 8 years, since she last made Hilary Swank famous in Boys Don't Cry. Story of a US soldier who refuses to be sent back to Iraq after having just returned. Ryan Phillippe. Abbie Cornish. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Trailer
04/04 | NIM'S ISLAND
Abigail Breslin. Gerard Butler. And Jodie Foster in a comedic role, finally! Kids adventure film that I'd like to watch too. Trailer
04/04 | LEATHERHEADS
A rare Hollywood screwball comedy directed by George Clooney. Starring him too. And Renée Zellweger. And the rising John Krasinski. Trailer
04/11 | THE BROTHERS BLOOM
From the director of Brick. Rachel Weisz. That would've been enough. Also Mark Ruffalo and Adam Brody.
04/25 | HAROLD AND KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY
I laughed at the trailer. And I like John Cho and Kal Penn as actors. Trailer
04/25 | BABY MAMA
A comedy starring the capably funny Tina Fey, and her SNL costars. Trailer
05/02 | MADE OF HONOR
A rom-com about weddings starring Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan. Trailer
05/02 | IRON MAN
05/09 | SPEED RACER
This one will be weird. A comeback film for the Wachowski brothers. Trailer
05/16 | THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN
My most anticipated film of the year! Trailer
05/23 | INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Steven Spielberg's first film since he last toiled over a major sci-fi thriller and a serious Oscar film in one single year three years ago.
05/30 | SEX AND THE CITY
The girls are reunited. Trailer
06/06 | THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE
The film I'm most anxious about. I loved the book, LOVED the book, wanted to do it myself, connected so much with the story ... and of course it had to be the one book that made history coz Aniston et Pitt bought the rights of the book before it was published. Good casting choices.
06/06 | YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN
An Adam Sandler movie. Trailer
06/13 | THE INCREDIBLE HULK
Ed Norton and Liv Tyler in a film by the director of The Transporter.
06/13 | THE HAPPENING
M Night Shyamalan's very, very last film in his career, I hope.
06/20 | GET SMART
A bungling spy comedy starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway. Trailer
06/27 | WALL-E
I don't care for this film. Like Cars. Trailer
06/27 | WANTED
Only coz it has James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie in it. Didn't watch Ночной Дозор. Trailer
07/04 | HANCOCK
Partly shot near where I live. The trailer made me lol'ed! Can't wait. A comedy from, surprisingly, Peter Berg. Trailer
07/18 | THE DARK KNIGHT
Christopher Nolan's first film since The Prestige with such stars as Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Maggie Gyllenhaal (look at those last two names again), Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Cillian Murphy. Trailer
07/18 | MAMMA MIA!
This is for you, Hern Gene. Main girl played by that dumb blonde in Mean Girls, and looks nothing like her there. Trailer
07/25 | UNTITLED X-FILES SEQUEL
The first X-Files movie was a competent sci-fi thriller. I await this with some anticipation. And welcome back David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.
08/01 | THE MUMMY 3: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
Brendan Fraser and John Hannah is back, alas without Stephen Sommers or Rachel Weisz (replaced by an American Maria Bello). But stars Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li though.
08/29 | BABYLON A.D.
Stars Michelle Yeoh and Vin Diesel in a futuristic action thriller directed by Amélie's boyfriend (one of my favourite French actors). Featurette
10/03 | VALKYRIE
Bryan Singer's new film. United Artists' next film. Tom Cruise's next film. Those three didn't have a good last film. Trailer
11/07 | QUANTUM OF SOLACE
The versatile Marc Forster directing. Starts 10 mins after Casino Royale's story. Twice more action, the producers say. Bad guy is Mathieu Amalric, who was last seen in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. Can't wait for the trailer!
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THE DOCKING OF THE BANANA BOAT
And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from... And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. - fragments from TS Eliot's 'Little Gidding'
Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, To seize everything you ever wanted, Would you capture it or just let it slip? - Eminem
If you march your Winter Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin's egg. - Cherry Apsley Garrard ('The Worst Journey in the World')
The journey is the reward. - Lao Tze
"Do you really think we just got off the banana boat?" said the latest letter. "Riding a BICYCLE round the WORLD?! If you want a bike why not get a job like everybody else? Nobody is going to fall for such a ridiculous suggestion." My search for sponsors to support my idea of cycling round the planet was not going well. Five years later it takes a lot of self-restraint not to tell you the name of the prominent British bike company who sent me this reply in response to my suggestion that a company linking its products to a journey across 5 continents would benefit in return. The urge now to turn up on their doorstep with a large bunch of bananas and a grin is strong. But I will not, partly because nobody really expected me to finish what I had started in reckless pub conversations and unrealistic daydreams in the dusty recesses of my mind back at University. For the duration of my ride I carried with me a sentence torn from an email I received from a well-wisher at the beginning: "I will be stunned if you complete it," he said. He was not the only one. The biggest doubter was me. From the moment I 'left my front door and stepped into the road' until, more than two years later, I sailed out of Colombia bound for Panama, I knew that my plan was beyond me. I KNEW that I would quit. It was simply a question of 'when'. The gradual realisation then that I was actually going to accomplish my goal has been a constant source of surprise. I thought that it was impossible for me to achieve this. But as Mohammed Ali said, with swagger, "Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." I am stunned that I have completed it.
Now that I am back on 'this sceptred isle set in the silver sea' after a 1500 day sabbatical, I cannot help but think (like Cherry) "was I mad? What was the use...?" Before I began I had several motivations for wanting to attempt to ride round the world. I wonder now whether I accomplished those aims, what unpredicted benefits there were and what were the downsides of a project that has been my sole occupation for so long. What did I learn, and what lessons do I hope to take on from the ride into my future life, whatever that may hold? I decided to begin as a quest for adventure ('yes'- I got that), a desire to see the world (again, 'yes') and to escape mediocrity and England ('yes'). (As Tim says in the TV show 'The Office': "It's like an alarm clock's gone off, and I've just got to get away. I think it was John Lennon who said: "Life is what happens when you're making other plans", and that's how I feel. Although he also said: "I am the Walrus I am the eggman" so I don't know what to believe.") I longed to escape from routine ('yes and no': in many ways my life on the road has been so routine ('new roads: new ruts'). Ironically I also found myself missing the ease of a regular, comforting routine), to find excitement ('yes') and to challenge myself ('yes'). I was inspired to follow faintly in the bold footsteps of great men and women who had gone before me and told mighty tales in epic books. I wanted to see whether I could do anything remotely similar. I wanted to do something that I would certainly fail unless I poured everything I had into it- I wanted something difficult. And I got it: this is the hardest thing I have ever done: physically, emotionally and morally. As Lance Armstrong wrote, "It's not about the bike. It's a metaphor for life. It poses every conceivable element to the rider and more. During our lives we're faced with so many elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and have a little hope."
I wanted to try and forge for myself a career as a travel writer and speaker, as someone getting paid to travel, to write, to talk about his favourite subject (himself), and to avoid a 9-to-5 torture. Whether or not that will materialise I will discover over the next months as I sit down to test my brain and write the book of the journey. I am pretty disciplined now at making myself cycle all day long; whether I can make myself sit still and type so efficiently I rather doubt! Whether anyone will pay to endure my extreme version of 'death by holiday snaps' I am not sure about either. Ironically in recent months I have even felt that I have at last cured my wanderlust. Perhaps I don't even want to be a travel writer at all after so much travelling! Or perhaps a few months of computer screens and rainy days will have me stretching for the atlas and the panniers once again. I do not know. My imagined careers over the last few years have been so wide as to suggest that really I do not have a clue what I want to do next: being a writer, becoming a McDonalds 'Employee of the Month', the Foreign Office, working in a bookshop, the Foreign Legion, a teacher, charity work, a journalist, an Olympic curler, the Territorial Army and working in a coffee shop have all felt like serious options at various times ...
Another motivating factor for the ride was as a way of combining my own personal ambitions and desires with the gnawing feeling inside of me that life in Britain is so staggeringly wealthy, inward-looking, fortunate and easy whereas the vast majority of humanity live lives that, frankly, suck, through little fault of their own. I hoped that my ride could be a good medium for telling people at home about the realities of life as lived by most people on Earth, to serve as a wake-up-and-smell-our-lucky-coffee and to promote the work of 'Hope and Homes for Children' (www.hopeandhomes.org) who have been doing magnificent work for orphaned and abandoned children for a decade. And in this I certainly succeeded in breaking my own personal little comfort bubble, having being forced to face the struggling masses and now unable to ignore these issues quite as guilt-free as I used to do. Whether or not I have made any impression on anybody else is not really important to me any more. For I no longer think my ways superior to another's and do not venture to judge. I try to see things with fresh and open eyes, to praise when I can and to be silent when I can't. We make our own choices. But I do also love Jesse Jackson's fiery speech ".if, in my high moments, I have done some good, offered some service, shed some light, healed some wounds, rekindled some hope, or stirred someone from apathy and indifference, or in any way along the way helped somebody, then this campaign has not been in vain ..."
I over-estimated the physical side of the expedition. Over such long periods of time my body had time to rise to the challenges of whatever fitness levels were required of me. It has been a real thrill to become so fit. To be able to ride 100 miles a day, spending 8 hours in the saddle on a very heavy bike over demanding terrain and to wake the next morning and do it again, and again, and again is a feeling I am very grateful for. We greatly under-estimate our bodies. So many people say to me "I could never ride that far". For most people that is nonsense. I am no genetic-freak Lance Armstrong superstar, I was never in any good sports teams at school, I realised sadly young that I was never going to play for Leeds United and in Los Angeles I nearly lost an arm wrestle to a 50 year old woman. But now I ride more hours a day than Armstrong (so I can eat as much food as I want and I will not get fat) and I can sing very loudly as I ride easily up Alpine mountain passes. I feel tired but satisfied at day's end. It feels good. I hope not to relapse into the sedentary life of our rich world where even children do virtually no exercise, we drive everywhere, eat crap food, stay indoors and forget that doing exercise is something that actually makes you feel good, not bad.
But if I over-estimated the physical aspect, I also under-estimated the mental challenges. Being away from friends and family has helped me to appreciate their true importance. Leaving my girlfriend, Sarah, made the journey so much more difficult and made me question, on innumerable occasions, what on earth I was doing. Being alone for so long (great adventures or not) made me realise that there is even more to life than seeing spectacular places, being carefree and wild, facing fresh challenges and new experiences. I realised that what I really want to do is to share these things with somebody else. Being alone means you are completely reliant on yourself for motivation. Nobody is checking up on you, nobody praises you if you ride an extra long day, nobody gets mad if you slack off and camp at 6 o'clock, nobody knows (or cares) if you take a bus, nobody raises an eyebrow if you take an easy option, or if you spend frivolously your too-few funds, or if you avoid a challenge that frightens you or if you walk over a mountain pass you could have ridden. Nobody gives a damn. Nobody except you. I realise now the importance of self-respect for how happy you feel within yourself. I realise how tempting it is to take the easy option. On your own you stand or fall by your own efforts or shortcomings. I have harboured horrible thoughts and resentments that disgust me to think back on, but when you are alone you cannot blame these on anyone but yourself. Without the comforting option of being able to pass the buck you are really forced to face your demons on the bike. Trying to persuade myself not to quit, to keep going, not to take the easy options has been the single hardest aspect of this ride. But it makes the end product sweeter. It doesn't have to be fun to be fun.
I believe that we underestimate our capabilities. Too often we strive for and achieve only that which we believe we can achieve. We should aim so much higher. Aim for the sun- you won't hit it, but you'll get pretty high. We settle for too few accomplishments and we are not satisfied with what we have. That is the wrong way round. We sink too often into pointless retrospective regrets of "would have, could have, should have" about our lives. But like Frank Sinatra I must say "Regrets? I've had a few." I regret wallowing too often in self-pity. I regret how the sheer scale of the solitary ride often overwhelmed me and left me wishing the road away, dreaming of the end. I regret that I was not allowed into Iran (or DR Congo or Angola), but I look forward to visiting there in the future (inshallah). I have been disappointed in my efforts to raise publicity for 'Hope and Homes for Children'. I hope that I can improve this over the next months and have set myself the challenge of raising a 'Pound per mile' on my new donations page alone (http://www.justgiving.com/roundtheworld ). But above these small regrets is the reassuring notion that I will never regret that I began this ride. 'I took risks, I knew I took them; things came out for me, and therefore I have no cause for complaint' is what I wish RF Scott could have written.
This journey was a wonderful learning experience for me, not only because I had hours free each day in which to read, read, read. Talking with people of every race, religion, political view and wealth level has also been eye-opening and helped widen my horizons. From having to make countless snap judgements on who to trust or not to trust I saw that first impressions can be misleading, but usually they are not. I have been helped by so many strangers, many of whom have become friends and inspirations and without whom I would never have succeeded. (I never learned the difference between 'who' or 'whom' however). I have become convinced of an essential goodness to the human race (tainted of course with bad parts to everyone, and a tiny news-grabbing minority of evil, desperation and lunacy). Almost everybody in the world has treated me well. Nobody ever refused me water. I was only refused permission to camp twice (both in Europe). Everywhere else in the world I was given at least a safe place to camp, and often a bed, shower, feast and unexpected adventures and friendships. Everybody in the world laughs at funny things. Everybody has hopes and dreams and loves. Don't believe what you see on the TV: the world really is a good place.
Putting the world to rights is one of the great privileges of the solo cyclist with too much time and silence on his hands. So what issues have I highlighted to be solved with a single swipe of my mighty sword when I become master of the universe? 'Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and hatred': I would make everybody ride a bike for 6 months through the country of the people they think they hate and have insoluble differences with. That would cure them. I am frightened by the Public Relations disaster that America is currently engaged in. Every day more and more people are turning to hate the USA, one of my very favourite countries. The arrogance of its regime (and her lapdogs) and the myopia of its supporters puts global stability ever more at risk. It is not a good idea to try and destroy a wasp's nest with a baseball bat. On the other side of this clash, I believe that the massive majority of good Muslims around the world need to take a loud, proud, powerful stand against the evil few who are hijacking their faith to use it as a growing instrument of irrational hatred. Clean water, a basic right and necessity, is becoming ever scarcer because of uncontrolled industrialisation and population increase. We are ignoring our environment to our own peril. If we keep burying our heads in the sand there will eventually be no nice beaches left to head-bury on. We must stop ignoring the issues of pollution, waste disposal, environmental destruction and toxic emissions. Which brings me on to cars- one of my biggest enemies! Never mind the pollution, overcrowding, congestion, road rage, stress, expense and slothfulness linked with cars: I hate them because of the morons (read 'young men') who drive like lunatics leaving swathes of slaughter in their wake. After four years spent at 10mph within inches of racing tonnes of metal, cars scare the hell out of me! Riding a bike is so much cheaper, healthier, greener, more fun and often faster. I wish we would stop tolerating the unfulfilled promises our governments make about doing something to redress the cruel imbalances in the world. Half the children on earth still live in poverty. At the same time I wish the developing world would act more themselves to squash the corruption, incompetence and infighting that hampers so many development efforts. Finally, universal primary education, empowerment of women, health and birth control education, micro-credit for the establishment of small businesses and expansion of public transport networks are also some of my favourite inexpensive sustainable development aims.
What am I looking forward to in the future? Well I have not yet figured out what my New Year's Resolution will be. But I have had so much time to dream of what I would do when I got home again. I certainly daydreamed about this far more than was constructive during my ride. It is nice now to have the chance to put them into practice. Not surprisingly perhaps, I do not drool particularly much about the English food that I have been missing, though I look forward to ice cream, beans on toast, curry, fish fingers, and Marmite and I shall certainly be spending my first paycheque on an espresso machine. I am looking forward too to having a paycheque! Living on such a tight budget that buying a coke or a chocolate bar was a big deal is wearing and stressful. I am not bothered about having loads of money (which is lucky given my likely careers!), but I do want some money. I dream of long runs in the hills, of fierce and muddy football matches and patrolling the covers on a summer's cricket match. I have really missed team sports for the camaraderie and communal effort. I eagerly await Leeds United's return to where we belong. (I am already in contact with all my Russian friends hoping that we can find a blatant criminal to come and buy us some shallow glory. Get ready all of you who have recently traded your Man U shirts for Chelsea ones...). I am looking forward to "Match of the Day". I look forward to spending time with friends, to no longer be living out of four small, smelly bags and to spend far too much time and money in bookshops. I look forward to sleeping in the same place two nights in a row and knowing where to find the glasses in the kitchen. I am really excited to explore and discover London, about which I know far less than many other far-flung cities. I want to spend lazy Sunday mornings drinking fair trade coffee and reading newspapers. Travel does not yet feature in my daydreams. Perhaps this is not surprising. But I do hope to be in Germany next summer for the World Cup. And there is still so, so much of the world that I have not yet tasted.
A great deal of what happens next depends on how my book writing and slideshows go- whether I can find a publisher, whether anybody buys the book, whether anybody will invite me to give talks and slideshows. If so, perhaps I can make a career as a writer and keep close to development issues through that. I certainly want to live overseas and would love to work in a second language: most likely Spanish. I want to do an Ironman and various other silly things like that. And of course I still need to cycle to the South Pole.
Finally, I have had much time to read and reflect on all those books and adventurers who inspired me and who continue to dazzle. I tried to find common threads to them, defining traits that I could borrow to help me along my own road. Certainly they must be "tough enough to fight, tender enough to cry, human enough to make mistakes, humble enough to admit them, strong enough to absorb the pain, and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving". The ideal person for undertaking a great and difficult journey (and sadly I know now that I am far from ideal for this) would be one, I believe, who could leap (or at least climb over) the hurdles laid down by Kipling's "If", whilst bearing in mind also the finest travel advice I know: the words of Ben Okri's poem 'To an English Friend in Africa'.
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This is the first film I saw at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. That imitation pagoda building next to the Kodak.
A decade ago, there was The Blair Witch Project. It suffered the same fate as Titanic - back then, everyone who saw the shaky, mostly B&W film were vomiting at the cinemas because of how scary it was; today, you can barely find half a dozen people who would admit the film is good. The point is, The Blair Witch Project ushered in a new age of hyperreality filmmaking - I'll call it hyperrealism, in case there isn't already a name for it by film scholars - where the entertainment factor of a film is based on the audience REALLY believing what's happening on the screen is real, at least for the duration of the film, if not beyond it. Obviously, no one dared touch that style of filmmaking after that - no one wants to be called a copy cat. Actually, Hollywood couldn't give a flying fuck about being called a copy cat, but there really isn't anything the producers could do to recreate that kind of success.
The next hyperreality film, as I see it, is United 93**. Outside of the film, the thinking viewer wouldn't be so daft as to mistake the film as a reenactment. However, the experience of watching the film is such that it feels like it's happening, just like that. This is Paul Greengrass's goal in every film he makes - the feeling of spontaneity onscreen, or what he calls unconsidered, 'like it just happened, right in front of you'. You can see it in both Bourne sequels, though without the naturalistic acting (necessary ingredient for hyperrealistic filmmaking).
And then there's Children Of Men. (This is debatable, you might say, but this is my article so ...) Children Of Men's contribution is the extensive use of the long tracking shots, of course, which really helps to make the suspense, dialogue and war scenes feel that much more 'real' to the audience.
Then, Cloverfield is the fourth. And right now many producers are paying attention. Paramount head Brad Grey bragged to the New York Times earlier this week about greenlighting this film so fast that director Matt Reeves was "stunned". The film is reported to have cost $30 million - most of it going to special effects. If it had been done conventionally, it would easily have cost 5 times more. Instead, this film opts for the Blair Witch idea of filming the experience of a bunch of friends who witness the destruction of New York City by a monster - using no name actors, concentrating on naturalistic acting (what The Blair Witch Project and United 93 strove for), having the camera shake violently and not necessarily showing you in detail what's happening, and consequently making it necessary for sound editing and sound re-recording and mixing to be exceptionally good. I'm not sure whether it was really done with a DV tape, but point is, by doing it this way you'd have shrunk the cost of most of the scenes to the bare minimum, but with lots of visual effects work to be done. And, as I understand it, it's actually harder to composite visual effects into DV than it is into HD or film.
Cloverfield also contains JJ Abrams' style of holding back information from the audience - but making sure the audience knows that the information exists ... what Donald Rumsfeld calls a 'known unknown'. For example, you catch a glimpse of a potential problem, and even though you don't see the thing fully you know it's going to come back to haunt the characters and you're just waiting for it to happen ... or sometimes you wait for it to happen or for some explanation and it doesn't come. Also, just like Children Of Men, it doesn't bother to explain to the audience why what is happening is happening or where it came from; it just is, and our characters have to deal with it, simple as that. This is what I like to call 'importing the randomness of real life' - I do that in my own stories too; I leave red herrings that some audiences might get uptight over because they followed it in vain, or I concoct a complex plot structure but don't reveal most of it so that the audience sense that there is a logic in what's happening (the dumber or over-intelligent ones will question it) but aren't given privy to what that logic is.
It's confusing to the audience if you do that, so says my teachers at my film school, as well as many of my friends. They say it like it's a bad thing. I've always said that if the shakycam is the trademark of the cinéma vérité era in the 60s, then confusion is the new cinéma vérité. I like the audience to be in confusion, as long as they are aware that the filmmakers know what they're doing.
When you think about films as an experience rather than just another activity with people staring at the screen, you kinda begin to make comparisons with actual theme park rides. There are a few times when that idea came into my head while watching the film. At one point, our characters get strapped onto a helicopter - no surprise there, you saw it in the trailers - and the action of them being strapped in with seatbelts just reinforces that idea. I don't know about you, but I suspect that for most people, certainly me included, cinema has stopped being an 'experience'. We no longer cower at the sight of a train barreling towards us onscreen - that is replaced with visual effects, which matured in the 90s, but already it's not enough. We are already cynical about the giant monsters and huge tornadoes and massive clashing armies and gigantic explosions and so on. At this point, only hyperrealistic filmmaking remains to put us back in that state of actually going through the same emotions the characters experience - well, that and really, really, ridiculously good dramas and thrillers.
Of course, the other innovation Cloverfield brought was its marketing campaign. And it's not just the teaser trailer. Marketers of film would do well to study the Cloverfield promo campaign. It helps immensely that the film is actually worth watching.
I was watching out for Lizzy Caplan, but forgot about it once I was into the film. It was only after the fact that I realise which one she was - she's so thin now, in this film. Caplan was previously in Mean Girls, playing Lindsay Lohan's cynical and loud-mouthed Goth friend.
As far as themes go, there is really only one - the fact that we're into the era handphone camera journalism with the Youtube combination.
The end credits came up and to my surprise, there's actually end credits music; and it was grossly wrong for the film because it was bombastic and even contains a slightly classical feel to it. I was guessing it's the work of JJ Abrams' long time collaborator Michael Giacchino, even though the music sounds nothing like his style - and it turns out that I was right. The music is titled "ROAR! (Cloverfield Overture)". Do stay on after the film ends to listen to it.
Fine, yes, this isn't really a review, but if you haven't figured out by now - I shouldn't tell you anything about the film. You should go see it for yourself. Oh, btw, those of you who complain that the movie is too short, there is a reason to that - DV tapes only have so much space, even at LP mode.
If the Oscars were fair and allowed nihilistic films to be nominated, then this would've been the first Best Picture contender (I didn't say nominee) of the year.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 9.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 8.5/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 10 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Editing
** When I think about it, the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan (1998) counts as hyperrealistic filmmaking as well. But the following 2 hours didn't.
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LONGFORD (UK, 93 mins)
This just won a total of 3 Golden Globes last week (more than any other film, in fact), including Best Mini-Series/Motion Picture Made For Television, Best Actor (Jim Broadbent) and Best Actress (Samantha Morton); which is why I was interested in seeing this. Longford tells the story of Myra Hindley and Lord Longford; back in 1965, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were charged with the murders of three very young children, and the anger towards Myra was particularly vehement due to the fact that she is a woman. She writes to Lord Longford, a tireless man who conducts prison visits to help reform an assortment of murderers and rapists, asking for his help, and through a series of visits Longford sees the good side of her and is convinced that she can be reformed - much to the chagrin to his wife (Lindsay Duncan, always good to see her) and children. Then he visits Ian Brady, who proceeds to tell him that it was, in fact, Myra who 'egged him on' the killings of the children. The screenplay is written by Peter Morgan (screenwriter of The Queen, and again here the story essentially focuses on two characters, and we seesaw between feeling sympathy and suspicious towards Myra. Longford himself is to endure terrible repercussions to his reputation due to his insistence in defending Myra against the angry mob of Britain.
Not an easy one to watch - perhaps the wrong choice to watch first thing in the morning - but it has great performances all around; Samantha Morton is intensely low-profile but present, as ever, while the Golden Globe-nominated Andy Serkis is menacing as Ian Brady. The ending is bittersweet, meaning that the film takes a point of view about Myra. In actual fact, Myra died in 2002, and we shall never know what kind of person Myra really is.
RUN, FAT BOY, RUN (UK, 95 mins)
Story of a fat bloke who runs the London Marathon in order to win back the ex-fiancee he very unceremoniously dumped five years ago at the altar. I wanted to see this because it has Simon Pegg in it, and more interestingly, it is directed by David Schwimmer. A British comedy. Anyway, this is a fun one, perhaps not a masterpiece but it generated a few laughs - the blister-popping scene is actually funny despite the gross factor - while Dylan Moran and Harish Patel were great supporting characters. Also, there were a couple of moments where I could see how Simon Pegg might be headed to a future in dramatic acting.
ALONE IN FOUR WALLS (Germany, 85 mins)
Premiering in Sundance this weekend. A documentary detailing a year/a day in the lives of Russian juvenile delinquents (so juvenile some look 10 and none look older than 14) in a home. Many have records in burglary and theft, a few are murderers. And yet, the thing that struck me most was how orderly and organised and polite and disciplined these boys are. I do not know whether it's the effect of having the camera crew around. Thing is, in most films involving juvenile homes, you almost always see a newbie getting initiated into the home with much jeering and taunting and threats; and later the kids would dream up something that gets all or some of them into trouble; or at least they would talk dirty stuff or talk behind the backs of the guards. There is none of that here. The documentary mostly observes the kids in their chores, which they do diligently and without a single complaint. Sometimes we see a kid cry. When asked to talk, they talk about how they miss their parents, the sort of problems they have at home (surprisingly universal, for instance, brothers in prison, a murdered sister, drunk father who beats up mother, etc) ... and their misdeeds in the past. At some point, it actually gets rather boring going through the documentary - it almost seems like the kids will turn out fine, they look so well-behaved.
Then the title cards appear in the end and says that "91% of these kids will end up behind bars again". That's depressing.
BOY A (UK, 100 mins)
Premiered during the last Toronto International Film Festival. I was interested in this due to the casting of Andrew Garfield, who was recently seen opposite Robert Redford playing a disillusioned American student in Lions For Lambs. Here, however, he plays a very British character - turns out Garfield was born in the US, then moved to the UK at the age of 4. I have said that I'm pretty good at spotting rising talent before they are called rising talents by the press; Anton Yelchin and James McAvoy come to mind. Well, I think Andrew Garfield is next.
Boy A is inspired by a true event in England, when two 10-year old boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables kidnapped 3-year old James Bulger, tortured and then killed the toddler before leaving it on a train track to be sliced. The boys were later arrested, convicted for murder, and placed in sentence for 10 years. 8 years later they were out - and this is where we get to the meat of the story - and the British tabloid press were furious (more so than the British public). Their identities were kept secret so as to protect them, but the tabloid has always led a hunt to identify the boys, leading to an Anastasia type phenomenon where multiple characters were first identified and then rejected as the grown-up versions of the boys, while a public debate rages on on whether they should be kept behind bars longer, or that they should really be left alone because they have reformed. I remember reading about this a couple of years ago, and felt strangely sympathetic towards the boys - particularly coz it must be interesting when they got out - the world has changed so much since then. Are their mentalities still stuck at the age of, say, 12? We'll never know.
Here, Andrew Garfield plays Eric Wilson, now Jack Burridge, a 24-year old who survived his incarceration (his friend and partner-in-crime Philip did not) and is secretly released into the world with the aid of a nurturing social worker/mentor Terry (Peter Mullan), who helps set him up at a flat and a job. The film essentially shows his life after being released, interrupted by multiple flashbacks of his time with Philip when they were still boys (Philip was his only friend then). Andrew Garfield plays Jack with such wild-eyed innocence it is easy to wish his character the best, and indeed, for much of the film, things go well for Jack - he makes friends with his co-worker Chris (Shaun Evans, whose performance I liked in Being Julia), he gets into a nurturing relationship with another co-worker Michelle, and even saves a girl's life at one point. As Terry keeps reminding him, the 'him' of the past is gone, forgotten, and that he must keep that past secret and live the one he has as best as he could. And yet, throughout these happy going-ons in his life, there is always a dreaded sense that something will go wrong - hints of such things surface like the bounty on his head (20 grand, says Terry). And then things start going wrong, and it is heartbreaking, just heartbreaking to see the future of this young man get destroyed, and as much as we wished things would go his way we can see how the world is going against him.
Very affecting film, and a lot of it is due to Andrew Garfield's performance.
ABSURDISTAN (Germany/Azerbaijan, 88 mins)
Premiering this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival. Set in a small, remote village (with just 14 families) in an unnamed former Soviet republic - the village itself is forgotten anyway so it doesn't matter - Absurdistan tells a fable-like story of the perennial battle of the sexes played out in two fronts: between the middle-aged men and women, where the men are useless pigs who crave sex while the women are hardworking and resourceful; and between Temelko and Aya (the only young people in the village), who are told that they have to wait for 4 years for the stars to align before they can have auspicious sex (and should be preceded by a 'bath'). As we get closer to the end of 4 years, it is discovered that the village is in dangerously short supply of water. The men, however, resort to all sorts of (funny) ways to avoid doing anything about it, while the women resort to declaring a 'no water, no sex' strike. Battle lines are drawn. All sorts of tactics played against both sides. While the only one doing anything about it is Temelko, running around trying to fix the pipes while trying to avoid being dragged into the skirmishes of the elders (but failing each time) in order to ensure he gets to have sex.
It is a slightly expressionistic portrayal, and very humorously done by German director Veit Helmer. Worth watching. In fact, probably the only film of those I saw today that I'd watch again. It's a little bit like Amelie - here, the story is told entirely in narration while the characters almost never say a word to each other.
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Anyway, about this nominations list. BAFTAs have always sung to its own tune, and perhaps only half of its nominations would match the American film awards, and, on top of that, just to be even more rebellious, it often awards Best Film to a film that has no chance of winning the Best Picture Oscar (like that time when they gave it to Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World).
So, I'm pretty okay with this list, even though it did give far too much to No Country For Old Men, and it differs quite substantially from my list.
I'm not gonna talk about what film will most likely win in the categories, nor do I want to talk about the films they excluded. I'll just pick out the ones I thought deserved the most, given the choices here.
AMERICAN GANGSTER – Brian Grazer/Ridley Scott
ATONEMENT – Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster
THE LIVES OF OTHERS – Quirin Berg/Max Wiedemann
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Scott Rudin/Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – JoAnne Sellar/Paul Thomas Anderson/Daniel Lupi
I'll go for: ATONEMENT
BEST BRITISH FILM
ATONEMENT – Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster/Joe Wright/Christopher Hampton
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Frank Marshall/Patrick Crowley/Paul L Sandberg/Paul Greengrass/Tony Gilroy/Scott Z Burns/George Nolfi
CONTROL – Orian Williams/ Todd Eckert/Anton Corbijn/Matt Greenhalgh
EASTERN PROMISES – Paul Webster/Robert Lantos/David Cronenberg/Steve Knight
THIS IS ENGLAND – Mark Herbert/Shane Meadows
I'll go for: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD
for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in their First Feature Film
CHRIS ATKINS (Director/Writer) – Taking Liberties
MIA BAYS (Producer) – Scott Walker: 30 Century Man
SARAH GAVRON (Director) – Brick Lane
MATT GREENHALGH (Writer) – Control
ANDREW PIDDINGTON (Director/Writer) – The Killing of John Lennon
I'll go for: SARAH GAVRON
ATONEMENT – Joe Wright
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Paul Greengrass
THE LIVES OF OTHERS – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Paul Thomas Anderson
I'll go for: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
AMERICAN GANGSTER – Steven Zaillian
JUNO – Diablo Cody
THE LIVES OF OTHERS – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
MICHAEL CLAYTON – Tony Gilroy
THIS IS ENGLAND – Shane Meadows
I'll go for: JUNO
ATONEMENT – Christopher Hampton
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – Ronald Harwood
THE KITE RUNNER – David Benioff
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Paul Thomas Anderson
I'll go for: ATONEMENT
FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – Kathleen Kennedy/Jon Kilik/Julian Schnabel
THE KITE RUNNER – William Horberg/Walter Parkes/Rebecca Yeldham/Marc Foster
THE LIVES OF OTHERS – Quirin Berg/Max Wiedemann/Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
LUST, CAUTION – Bill Kong/James Schamus/Ang Lee
LA VIE EN ROSE – Alain Goldman/Olivier Dahan
I'll go for: LUST, CAUTION
RATATOUILLE – Brad Bird
SHREK THE THIRD – Chris Miller
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE – Matt Groening/James L Brooks
I'll go for: RATATOUILLE
GEORGE CLOONEY – Michael Clayton
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS – There Will Be Blood
JAMES McAVOY – Atonement
VIGGO MORTENSEN – Eastern Promises
ULRICH MÜHE – The Lives of Others
I'll go for: JAMES McAVOY
CATE BLANCHETT – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
JULIE CHRISTIE – Away From Her
MARION COTILLARD – La Vie en Rose
KEIRA KNIGHTLEY – Atonement
ELLEN PAGE – Juno
I'll go for: MARION COTILLARD
JAVIER BARDEM – No Country for Old Men
PAUL DANO – There Will Be Blood
TOMMY LEE JONES – No Country for Old Men
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN – Charlie Wilson’s War
TOM WILKINSON – Michael Clayton
I'll go for: PAUL DANO
CATE BLANCHETT – I’m Not There
KELLY MACDONALD – No Country for Old Men
SAMANTHA MORTON – Control
SAOIRSE RONAN – Atonement
TILDA SWINTON – Michael Clayton
I'll go for: CATE BLANCHETT
AMERICAN GANGSTER – Marc Streitenfeld
ATONEMENT – Dario Marianelli
THE KITE RUNNER – Alberto Iglesias
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Jonny Greenwood
LA VIE EN ROSE – Christopher Gunning
I'll go for: THERE WILL BE BLOOD
AMERICAN GANGSTER – Harris Savides
ATONEMENT – Seamus McGarvey
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Oliver Wood
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Roger Deakins
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Robert Elswit
I'll go for: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
AMERICAN GANGSTER – Pietro Scalia
ATONEMENT – Paul Tothill
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Christopher Rouse
MICHAEL CLAYTON – John Gilroy
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Roderick Jaynes
I'll go for: THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
ATONEMENT – Sarah Greenwood/Katie Spencer
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE – Guy Hendrix Dyas/Richard Roberts
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX – Stuart Craig/Stephenie McMillan
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Jack Fisk/Jim Erickson
LA VIE EN ROSE – Olivier Raoux
I'll go for: ATONEMENT
ATONEMENT – Jacqueline Durran
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE – Alexandra Byrne
LUST, CAUTION – Pan Lai
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET – Colleen Atwood
LA VIE EN ROSE – Marit Allen
I'll go for: ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
ATONEMENT – Danny Hambrook/Paul Hamblin/Catherine Hodgson
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Kirk Francis/Scott Millan/Dave Parker/Karen Baker Landers/Per Hallberg
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – Peter Kurland/Skip Lievsay/Craig Berkey/Greg Orloff
THERE WILL BE BLOOD – Christopher Scarabosio/Matthew Wood/John Pritchett/Michael Semanick/Tom Johnson
LA VIE EN ROSE – Laurent Zeilig/Pascal Villard/Jean-Paul Hurier/Marc Doisne
I'll go for: ATONEMENT
SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM – Peter Chiang/Charlie Noble/Mattias Lindahl/Joss Williams
THE GOLDEN COMPASS – Michael Fink/Bill Westenhofer/Ben Morris/Trevor Woods
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX – Tim Burke/John Richardson/Emma Norton/Chris Shaw
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END – John Knoll/Charles Gibson/Hal Hickel/John Frazier
SPIDER-MAN 3 – Scott Stokdyk/Peter Nofz/Kee-Suk Ken Hahn/Spencer Cook
I'll go for: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END
MAKE UP & HAIR
ATONEMENT – Ivana Primorac
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE – Jenny Shircore
HAIRSPRAY – Nominees TBC
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET – Ivana Primorac
LA VIE EN ROSE – Jan Archibald/Didier Lavergne
I'll go for: ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
THE PEARCE SISTERS – Jo Allen/Luis Cook
HEAD OVER HEELS – Osbert Parker/Fiona Pitkin/Ian Gouldstone
THE CRUMBLEGIANT – Pearse Moore/John McCloskey
DOG ALTOGETHER – Diarmid Scrimshaw/Paddy Considine
HESITATION – Julien Berlan/Michelle Eastwood/Virginia Gilbert
THE ONE AND ONLY HERB MCGWYER PLAYS WALLIS ISLAND – Charlie Henderson/James Griffiths/Tim Key/Tom Basden
SOFT – Jane Hooks/Simon Ellis
THE STRONGER – Dan McCulloch/Lia Williams/Frank McGuinness
THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD
I'll go for: TANG WEI
I like the nominations given to There Will Be Blood, even though I love the film less than some - for example, the nomination for Best Music and Best Supporting Actor just proves that they were really watching the film ... unlike the Americans. I am quite dissatisfied with the Best Music nominations in general. I'm happy for Atonement to get 14 nominations, and even happier to see that they actually recognise The Bourne Ultimatum with 6. I'm surprised they love Das Leben Der Anderen all that much, and I think 7 for La Vie En Rose is overkill. And as usual, the Orange Rising Star Award continues to be the fairest nominations in any category in any film awards this year - meaning that I am actually undecided about who should win in that category, such is the strength of every one of those nominated.
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As you can see, as a result these films were punished with fewer audiences - only two made it past $10 mil and made it into the Oscars. In this order:
1. Sunshine - earned $3.7 mil
2. Lions For Lambs - earned $15.0 mil
3. Atonement - earned $50.9 mil
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days - earned $1.0 mil
5. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford - earned $3.8 mil
6. Once - earned $9.4 mil
7. I'm Not There - earned $3.5 mil
8. No Country For Old Men - earned $74.3 mil
9. Fair Play - unreleased
10. Tell No One - unreleased
** US box office gross figures
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This is the seventy-seventh film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
It had just won the Golden Globe for Best Picture - Musical/Comedy. What?
The first hour was boring. I kept thinking, oh come on, move on already. The problem with musicals, of course, is that it has to finish a song before it can move along, so it's a disaster if the songs aren't all that engaging. The problem with the film is that it spends a lot of time in inaction. 80% of the film is setting up, or the mundane stuff - Mrs Lovett singing about her meat pies, Sweeney Todd singing about the past, Johanna singing about ... herself, Sweeney Todd singing about himself, then singing about himself again. Well, get to the slashing already! Where's all this blood I keep hearing about? (People were sniggering to themselves that the title There Will Be Blood really belongs to this film. Lame joke.)
Then we got to the slashing part - in what feels like an hour and a half into the film. Three quarters of the way into the film before we get slashings. And people dare complain about Hulk, eesh. The slashing montage is fun, morbidly funny and all that. I was enjoying myself.
The slashing montage lasts all of five minutes. That's it? And the crazy fans dare call the film 'the bloodiest film you'll see all year'?
The songs were a bit off, as were the singing. Though in the beginning, when the songs began, it felt like going down memory lane - the melody, often going into the minor keys, felt very 60s-musicals, for the obvious reason that it was composed by Stephen Sondheim.
Storywise, there were too many contrivances than I could bear. I had to physically remind myself that I should suspend disbelief, this is a bloody musical after all. Crucially, Sweeney got so close to his enemy and had to let him go just because he wanted to ... sing and shave. Well, if Sweeney cut him there then there would be no film, some of you say. No, I say. Make it harder for Sweeney to get to his enemy, I say.
Johnny Depp didn't really deserve the Golden Globe with this film, I felt, and neither did the film. Young Ed Sanders, however, who plays Toby, was remarkable. For a moment there I though he was flirting with Mrs Lovett ... but too bad the film didn't go that way.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
How Much I Liked It: 6/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 45 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design
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This is the seventy-sixth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
The film can be described as this thing happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. It's not that there isn't a logical chain connecting the scenes - on the contrary, the transitions were working, otherwise I would've been bored shitless in a 2 hour 40 min film. No, what's weird about it is the we the audience aren't really privy to the logic that forms the connecting chains. It's one of those movies where we spend a long time exploring a very specific period of the character's life in detail, then jump forward to the next period and exploring THAT in detail - with a huge ellipsis in between. In other words, it's like Oliver Stone's Alexander. And in the end, we're left with the portrait of a person.
People seem to be enamoured with Daniel Day-Lewis's performance, awarding him Best Actor left right and centre. They call his character anti-social. I think if that's all they see in the character then the audience isn't anti-social enough and therefore aren't worth my time. I think Day-Lewis played the character well but the amount of awards he's getting these days is just pointing at residual-awarding complex - the compulsive and neurotic need to recognise stars by giving them awards this year for previous accomplishments.
So what am I saying? Well, I'm saying we're left with the portrait of a very particular person who can't be pigeonholed into any category. Which might be why the film is so long.
Not a particularly interesting character though.
Paul Dano's acting is great. He claims that he was only there for a bit part, but Paul Thomas Anderson asked him at the very last minute to take on another very major role, and he did. And he created a monster of a character - an irritatingly charismatic preacher who is not what he seems to be. But the actor I paid attention most to is young Dillon Freasier, who plays the protagonist's son. Very engaging performance, and his presence is felt even when he is absent from the screen. Paul Thomas Anderson always seems to have interesting child characters in his films.
Paul Thomas Anderson also pays great attention to sound in his films. There's the much talked about score by Jonny Greenwood, a member of Radiohead whom I've never heard before. Here the score he created is a distorted form of sparse, classical music - mostly violins (?), and quite often the violins are stretched to an ugly sound, creating a sense of an impending locust swarm. Dissonance is the keyword here - there has never been more dissonance in any film. Quite often the score completely overpowers the images, or the music just doesn't quite match the images. All intentional. (This has certainly been a year for experimental scores, from Atonement to No Country For Old Men.) As for sound, it is very vivid, sometimes uncomfortably loud - deserves a Best Sound (Mixing) nomination.
Story itself ... don't go for the 'story'. You'd be disappointed.
And what the heck does the title have to do with anything anyway?
Still, I applaud the way the director allows the film to be confusing - including the way he casts Paul Dano, for example.
One last thing. The film honestly doesnt deserve all the Best Picture awards it's winning. It's an interesting film at best, but only the pretentious and the desperate non-conformist would claim to like the film so much they'd want to watch it over and over. (Though I would rather ANY film win over No Country For Old Men.)
How Good I Think The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Liked It: 7/10
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Sound, Best Original Score
PS - Here is an excerpt from the Flick Filosopher.
There Will Be Blood slaps you in the face. It’s Joe Pesci in GoodFellas raging, “Do I amuse you? Do I entertain you?” in that way that suggests that it could not give two figs what you think of it. It says, “What the fuck do you think you’re doing, sitting there in the theater?” Blood is not contemptuous of you -- it just doesn’t care what you think about it. It is not there for you, for your amusement, for your entertainment. It is there for itself. It is a found object that might well have sprung in its entirety out of the subatomic froth of the universe. In the superbly philosophical vernacular of the moment that encompasses all the randomness of the world into a whaddaya-gonna-do shrug, it is what it is.
And that is what’s so thrilling about it. Movies pander to their audiences, give them what they want, even when they’re not obvious about it: the indie that avoids a sentimental happy ending because it’s trying to be “real” for a smart audience does that as much as a bottom-of-the-barrel-scraping studio film aimed at everyone and their grandmother. Not Blood.
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Anyway, here goes:
Best Picture - Lord Of The Rings ... and not because it really deserves to win ...
Best Actor - Johnny Depp - please! prove to us that Academy is not made up of old men
Best Actress - Charlize Theron - first time you can tell Best Actress just by looking at the trailer
Best Supporting Actor - Tim Robbins ... going for the Golden Globes decision
Best Supporting Actress - Renee Zellweger ... also Golden Globes way ... but does she deserve it?
Animation - Finding Nemo ... though Triplets Of Belleville has a chance
Directing - Clint Eastwood - I'll take a chance
Tell me what you think.
To which he replied:
Heh. Remember how you used to diss the Fantasy genre? And now, everyone in Hollywood are finding it hard to remove their lips from Tolkien's ass? Here's my prediction then.
Best Picture = LoTR. The crowning momemt for a piece of cinematic history.
Best Actor = It's either Bill Murray or Sean Penn. Their chances are even, but the former has a better chance due to the fact that Sean's always a no-show. I like Depp, but his nomination was already a reward by itself.
Best Actress = Yeah. Charlize Theron.
Best Supporting Actor = *sigh* Tim Robbins.
Best Supporting Actress = Goddamn. Scarlett was robbed. And once again, Renee, whom I used to like, will win.
Best Director = Peter Jackson (though Sophia has a chance)
Original Screenplay = Lost in Translation (In America has a chance)
Adapted Screenplay = LoTR. Hopefully. Though Mystic River seems like a more logical choice.
Animated = Brother Bear... just kidding. Finding Nemo.
Score = LoTR.
Song = LoTR.
Sound = LoTR
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2 - LUST, CAUTION (Review)
3 - KABLUEY (Review)
4 - HOT FUZZ (Review)
5 - PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (Review)
6 - LIONS FOR LAMBS (Review)
7 - THE SIMPSONS MOVIE (Review)
8 - THE NAMESAKE (Review)
9 - STARTER FOR TEN (Review)
10A - HORS DE PRIX (Review)
10B - RATATOUILLE (Review)
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Most of the following scripts were from the Black List. I've arranged them in the order of my preferences.
by Jon Spaihts
Synopsis - Romantic Sci-fi Comedy
800 years into the future, a spaceship transporting 5000 passengers to their new life in another planet accidentally wakes up one of its hibernating passengers - 30 years into its 120-year journey. The man is forced to accept his fate - that he will die before he even reaches the new world, accompanied only by helpful maintenance robots and an infinitely insightful bartender robot. Then he sees a beautiful woman among the hibernating pod, and makes a fateful decision ...
I loved, loved, loved this script. The main characters are very likable - very important considering it shares the same predicament as Castaway and I Am Legend - and surprisingly, even the robots are cute and funny in their neutrally intelligent manner. (And this just by reading the script, having to visualise everything myself.) This is an example of a high concept - the premise is really good, original in the 'why didn't anyone think of that before' way, and easy to explain to people. Many of my friends who read it liked the romantic comedy aspects of it, but personally I see it as a sci-fi comedy, in the vein of Galaxy Quest. In fact, Dean Parisot is probably the best director for this script. But to be honest, I really, really want to direct this myself. The only problem is that the budget for this isn't low (arbitrarily, I'd say at least $40 million), and the one way I think this could be made cheaper is if they used a high-class shopping mall for the spaceship interior scenes.
THE FORGE OF GOD
by Ken Nolan
Synopsis - Apocalyptic Thriller
(Note: Ken Nolan wrote the screenplay to Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.) Strange events happen - Europa (Jovian moon) disappears, and an alien being appears in the middle of the desert warning of impending annihilation, and then more alien beings appear with contradicting information while small spidery robots crawl about with a secretive mission. Soon, the scale of what is about to happen is revealed, ending with no less than the complete destruction of the Earth and its inhabitants, in a totally scientifically plausible manner involving dense-as-black-hole particles - and there is nothing the humans in the story can do about it. The story ends with perhaps the most plausible, most reasonable theory about why it is that we will never hear from alien civilisations: that the Universe, like a forest, is full of predators and prey, and only the most infantile prey (like our young civilisation) cry out for attention, allowing predators to track us down and take us out.
Whilst reading this, I felt like I knew how to direct this. It starts off sinister and mysterious, where things don't seem to make sense, then as it goes along we get a larger and larger picture, and by the time we are halfway through despair begins to set in, and from then on it is one straight ride into hopelessness and how people deal with it. All of that coupled with the most spectacular images of a dying Earth, with strange physical phenomena such as a bubbling ocean releasing oxygen (consequence: excess oxygen in the atmosphere will begin to kill humans and allow for easier combustion). Thing is, it all reads out quite scientific - meaning, some stuff the dumber audience won't get it unless they've at least had science education during elementary/primary school, because they involve seemingly intangible connections, which is what I like. The ending is utterly pessimistic and melancholic, and the aforementioned theory about the absence of science of ET intelligence just makes me really, really want to make the film. Problem is, this looks like it'll cost $100 million; and also the fact that studios seem to operate under the assumption that unhappy endings are to be avoided. Is there a company out there daring enough to hire me to direct this? (Last I heard, Warner Bros has the option to this.)
THE WEDDING PARTY
by Francesca Marciano
Synopsis - Drama
A triangular love story between two young men and a young girl played out over family politics, set in a staunchly defensive Afghani village as seen through the eyes of a British officer, a Russian soldier and an American marine - all three of whom are the same men. Yes, it pulls the trick of having the same village, and the same characters (except for the foreigner) playing out their story over the course of 2 centuries, making the point that in remote, desolate parts like Afghanistan (or Central Asia in general) life never really changes - they will always be poor, and specifically to Afghanistan, they will always be invaded.
I love it when scripts pull off an unconventional structure - and succeeds. The relationship dynamics between the teenagers and the elders are all very convincingly portrayed, involving young love in a completely restrictive society, questions of honour and how that decides the outcome of an arranged marriage, of friendship. Then there is also the foreigner, who embodies similar characteristics through all three different incarnations - that of an admirer of other cultures, think Capt. Algren in The Last Samurai. Again, I would love to be able to direct this - I'm good with unconventionally-structured stories - and this one is actually achievable. Expected budget is $10 million or less. Would rather a British production company work this one - BBC Films? Working Title Films? One major star (Christian Bale? Heath Ledger) who can pull off playing British, Russian and American accents and look different each time should give this promo power, while the rest of the cast should be unknowns.
by Adam Covad
Synopsis - Political Action Thriller
An economist (!) working for a Dubai-based financial hedge fund finds his very comfortable life torn apart, his wife kidnapped, and having to be on the run when he is framed in a wide-spanning conspiracy masterminded by the Iranian government in order to bankrupt multiple governments (starting with Iran's itself, allowing itself to profit from its loss ... yes, bizarrely in finance, you're able to destroy yourself and profit from it ... if you knew before hand exactly what is going to happen ... rational expectations gone down the drain), bring down the dollar, and pretty much cause a worldwide economic and financial meltdown that leaves only Iran standing. Our hero fights back, however, and gambles with everyone's life in order to submit the proof of said conspiracy, while a complex showdown of American soldiers, the CIA, shady elements within the hedge fund, the Dubai prince ensues.
This is a well-written thriller - it is exciting and, 40 pages in, once it starts, it never lets up, as the bulk of events occur pretty much over a single 24-hour day and night. Involving scenes of torture, espionage, hiding from terrorists in an office, relentless and cold killing of innocent bystanders, the cliched but ALWAYS effective trying-to-get-to-the-US-embassy scenes, and, during the climax, an unusually long explanation by the hero about exactly what would happen if the bad guys get away with their plan - almost entirely in economic language. This is what I really liked about it - the hero has to go through a series of physical challenges just like any action hero while dealing with a situation that is only understandable in economic terms, which means some of the audience just won't get it, the dumbasses, that is. I'd like to think that I'm qualified to direct this simply because I took economics in university and I doubt there are anymore than, say, five directors in Hollywood who did.
by Ben Ripley
Synopsis - Sci-fi Thriller
A man sits on a train, uncertain how he got there. He realises he is hypersensitive to everything that is happening on the train - every sound, every tiny detail. He looks into a mirror in the bathroom, and realises he is inhabiting a different body. He looks into the vent above the bathroom, and discovers a bomb. It blows up ... and he is not dead. He is now in a pod. People talk to him - he doesn't know what they are talking about. Then he is sent back - and everything repeats again. Over the course of the story, we (and our hero) begin to piece together what is going on, twisting and turning each time, getting more and more tense each time, leading to a suspenseful climax.
As I read the first 15 pages, the thing that went through my head was, "Shit, someone combined the premise of my first two screenplays." (The element of being in someone else's body, and the element of killing off the protagonist in the first ten minutes of the film.) Of course it isn't exactly like that. In fact, the rest of the story is compelling, a well-executed story considering there are really only three locations in the entire film - a claustrophobically-sealed pod, the train, and a train station. It's not the hardest thing to shoot - just needs care to milk the maximum amount of suspense. Expected budget is $10 million or less. Must cast a soon-to-be-known actor - like casting Leo DiCaprio for Titanic or James McAvoy for The Last King Of Scotland.
GIANT MONSTERS ATTACK JAPAN
by J. F. Lawton
Synopsis - Comedy
An American father takes his son along with him to Tokyo in order to start a new job at a Japanese firm - and finds out, to his surprise and to his son's excitement, that all the weird Japanese entertainment culture elements (giant monsters, ninjas in hiding, physically impossible martial arts with lasers and the power to control the weather, giant robots to defeat giant monsters, etc) are real, which the Japanese take for granted. A sort of madcap version of Lost In Translation. The American father and son have to quickly adapt to their surreal new world in order to defeat aliens from outer space and the giant monsters.
A very simple premise, milked to its end as every single Japanese anime and giant monster cliche is pulled out and made for satirical and farcical fodder. A great and funny read, and I certainly would want to see this get made into a film. I wonder how the Japanese would take it - do they have enough sense of humour?
by Don McKellar
Synopsis - Drama
Based on the novel by José Saramago. A man screams hysterically inside his car, his car blocking the road as the traffic light turns green while cars behind him start honking. When passers-by come to his aid, he exclaim that he is blind - which is odd. This begins the saga of a blindness epidemic that begins to afflict the entire country, leading to the internment of the blind in hospitals in order to prevent contagion. We follow an assortment of characters as they spend their lives inside the isolated and guarded hospital, and as resources become scarcer as the rest of the world implodes, a Lord Of The Flies type story emerges as warring wards do everything they can to stay alive - including making very uncomfortable choices. The ending is bittersweet and hopeful. (Note: The film is presumably in post-production, directed by Fernando Meirelles who also directed Cidade De Deus and The Constant Gardener, and starring Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Gael Garcia Bernal.)
No idea how closely it follows the novel. It has a very distinct atmosphere - people seem to be genuinely nice, genuinely polite to each other. It is surreal, unlike the real world. Not to say there aren't villains in this piece - I guess the word is that it feels rather black and white. Much isn't explained - people who know me know that I like this - such as why the blindness is happening and why one person stays un-blind. The blindness epidemic is just the catalyst to make the story happen, which illustrates the kind of social breakdown that happens when an entire population loses one of its senses. That, the story did very well - and I do mean uncomfortable, even for me, even though the uncomfortable stuff that happens is by no means original or innovative. It's just that the author did a good job in letting us feel the full force of how uncomfortable what the women had to do for survival is.
by Demetri Martin
Synopsis - Comedy
Some of you will know Demetri Martin from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - yes, the guy who hosts Trendspotting. The story is sets in a world where there is an alternate dimension peopled by people whose jobs are to write down the destiny of Earth people - as in, their every move and speech is dictated by scripts. As such, chaos ensues when a half-done script is accidentally approved, leading our loser hero, Will, to discover that he suddenly has complete free will (an obvious play on the name and title). This leads to absurd consequences as Will breaks away from his loser self and starts doing anything and everything he likes, improving his own fate, while characters he is supposed to be having a conversation with start talking to themselves as if he is there. Soon, that anomaly is found out and the people from the other dimension start hunting Will down to revert him back to the scripted state.
A very interesting idea, written in Martin's deadpan humour, both in terms of what happens and the dialogue, at the same time questioning the idea of free will - do we have it? How are we using it? Are we using it to the fullest?
THIS SIDE OF THE TRUTH
by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson
Synopsis - Comedy
Again, set in a hypothetical world - this time, one in which lying was a nonexistent concept. Humorously absurd scenes follow - a date in which the man is completely honest in how much of a loser he is and the woman is completely honest at how disinterested she is; the movies consists of a man sitting on a chair reading out history; and so on. Then our hero, pushed to desperation due to financial trouble, makes a lie - and gets away with it. Realising how easy it is, and that no one else understands what he just discovered, he uses it to his advantage, lying his way to a dream job, a dream wife, and a dream life in riches. Along the way, he makes such lies about heaven and religion - satirising those elements of our real world.
It's a trippy one from beginning to end, with such lines as "I have an erection now because I assume you began masturbating once we stopped talking." or "Hi Mark. Everyday I realise more and more how over-qualified for this position and how incompetent you are at yours." It exposes how funny and absurd our world would be if no one lies, and how different too. Definitely worth a read - you'll be chuckling in manner of ROTF LMAO.
ENRON: Conspiracy Of Fools
by Sheldon V. Turner
Synopsis - Legal Thriller
Self-explanatory - the events leading to the much-publicised downfall of energy company Enron. What is revealed here is no less shocking in the audacity and stupidity of its players, half a decade after the fact.
This script is lucky in that it found a character whose eyes we use to follow what happens, as the enormity of what is about to happen slowly unravels - making the story surprisingly cinematic.
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