Tuesday 31 March 2009

Waiting for the Wild Things

If, like me, you're counting the days until Spike Jonze's movie version of Maurice Sendak's classic Where The Wild Things Are finally arrives, here's something to tide you over.

And here's the trailer for Jonze's movie.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Magician With A Movie Camera: Nicolas Roeg

Yesterday's BAFTA tribute to Nicolas Roeg was a fitting reward for one of the two greatest directors that Britain has ever produced. (The other being Michael Powell, in case you're wondering.)

The evening was the brainchild of Danny Boyle and was designed to celebrate Roeg's illustrious career not through the contributions of those who have worked with him, but those filmmakers whom Roeg has inspired and influenced. On stage to talk about their love and admiration for a filmmaker who Boyle equates to Picasso were three Oscar-winning directors — Boyle, Kevin Macdonald, and James Marsh — as well as Stephen Frears and novelist Richard T Kelly.

There were also filmed contributions from Todd Haynes, Guillermo Del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Chris Nolan, Paul Greengrass, Mike Figgis, and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, as well as the world premiere of a Roeg-inspired short from Steven Soderbergh.

In the audience were Julie Christie, James Fox, Amanda Donohue, Jeremy Thomas, Sandy Lieberson and Allan Scott who joined Roeg, assorted family members, and the various presenters on stage at the end for a group photo.

Everyone talked about Roeg's remarkable skill as as cinematographer, director and all round cinematic artist, his masterful and experimental editing technique, his use of montage, of sound, and his movies' fractured timelines which laid the groundwork for so much of what we take for granted in movies today. Without Roeg, claimed Nolan, there wouldn't be a Memento. What he produced, Boyle, Del Toro and others insisted, was Pure Cinema, plain and simple.

Boyle had his editor Chris Dickens cut together a four minute condensed version of Don't Look Now which was brilliant; Marsh showed a clip from the same film in which Donald Sutherland falls from the platform in the church he's renovating in Venice that was an inspiration for him during the making of Man On Wire; Madonald said the third shot in Touching The Void was of a lizard, in homage to Walkabout; Frears, who lives down the road from Roeg, wanted him to come on stage to explain how he created the astonishing opening sequence of Don't Look Now. Roeg declined.

The event culminated in Roeg being presented with a BAFTA ("the first award I've ever won," Roeg quipped) from Walkabout stars Jenny Agutter and Roeg's producer son Luc.

All in all it was a splendid evening. Congratulations to everyone involved. And to Nic, of course.

Friday 27 March 2009


Off to a screening. Followed by a tribute to the genius that is Nic Roeg at BAFTA this evening.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

What I've been watching...

The Small Back Room (1949)

Seven Pounds (2008)

Martyrs (2008)

Sunday 22 March 2009

Fellowship Of The Rid

Last night I had the good fortune to be present at the BFI Southbank for a Conversation With Sir Ridley Scott that marked the conclusion of a special Blade Runner Day (which included discussions, documentaries and a Q&A with Rutger Hauer).

The BFI used the occasion to bestow upon Scott a BFI Fellowship which was handed to him on stage by BFI Governor Stephen Frears who revealed that Scott had asked him to direct Thelma & Louise back in the day but, of course, he'd turned it down.

During the hour-long celebration of his career, Scott discussed his first film, Boy And Bicycle, which he made for £65 while a student at the Royal College of Art (he shot it over one summer with his younger brother Tony as star and crew), his time at the BBC working as art director and director, and his years in advertising, before breaking into Hollywood.

Scott said that he starts shooting Robin Hood a week tomorrow and has his next three films already planned, following Robin Hood with Gucci, before moving on to an adaptation of Tom Rob Smith's novel Child 44 and then his version of Joe Haldeman's science fiction book The Forever War. Scott also revealed that James Cameron had shown him some footage from Avatar and it was so amazing he was probably going to have to film Forever War in 3D.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Wherefore art thou?

Answer: I'm still here.

Sort of. I'm juggling several deadlines at the moment, meaning my attention is elsewhere. Sorry.

Friday 13 March 2009

Alice In Wonderland

I have article in the premier issue of new Disney publication D23 (Disney twenty-three) regarding a film you might interested in — Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland. It's the first article anywhere on Alice and features an interview with Tim as well as the first official look at the movie, with concept art and a photo of Mia Wasikowska's Alice. Scans of the feature and the art have already appeared online.

Disney twenty-three subscriptions are only available by becoming a member of D23: The Official Community for Disney Fans. Individual issues retail for $15.95 and are exclusively available at all U.S. Barnes & Noble booksellers, Disneyshopping.com, all domestic Disney Stores, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Back issues will be available at Disneyshopping.com.

Thursday 12 March 2009

The French Action Hero

Back in the 80s and 90s I was a big fan of Luc Besson. Le Dernier Battle, Nikita, The Big Blue, Leon (aka The Professional) all rocked my world to varying degrees and I even liked The Fifth Element. But then Besson decided he wanted to be a producer instead of director and run his own studio to boot. He's been very successful at it, churning out a series of internationally successful movies, among them the Transporter series and Taken which has been a sleeper hit in the US this year. Here's how he did it, in the words of screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen who's written most of them.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Tony Gilroy

The New Yorker has a great interview with Tony Gilroy, writer-director of Michael Clayton and the forthcoming Duplicity.

Monday 9 March 2009

Monday musing

So Watchmen made in excess of $55 million at the US box office at the weekend, plus an additional $27 million internationally, and yet it's been pegged as a disappointment by certain sections of the media. I know Watchmen cost a sizeable amount and the marketing budget in the US was said to be $50 million. But still people. Come on. Then again, maybe I shouldn't be surprised after seeing some of the harsh reviews that the film generated from some quarters. I know it's flawed, I know it's not wholly successful and, just to repeat myself, they might have helped themselves but not being so reverential, so slavishly faithful to the source material. Maybe they should have "adapted" it a little bit more. But it's not the worst film of all time, as I read one critic call it. Snyder's no idiot. And he's no hack. The man's talented and I really do believe he tried to do right by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' creation. And did. Sure, I'd like to have felt a bit more emotional connection to the characters but did you notice the decor in Dr Manhattan's bedroom? It was straight out of 2001. Personally, I loved that. And I, for one, can't wait for Snyder's promised Director's Cut. I think it was Devin from chud.com who likened Watchmen the movie to Blade Runner, in that it will find both fans and acceptance on DVD and Blu-ray. Let's hope so. But it would be great if it made even more money theatrically first. If only so that big Hollywood studios will continue to make dark, decidedly unmainstream material, then promoting the hell out of it.

And speaking of Stanley Kubrick as I was, tangentially, it was the tenth anniversary of his death on Saturday. Shame on me for not mentioning earlier...

Friday 6 March 2009

Looking good

Watchmen thoughts

Seeing Watchmen this weekend? I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Red Riding trilogy

May I direct UK readers to Red Riding which begins today on Channel 4 at 9pm. Brilliantly directed by Julian Jarold, Arnaud Tucker and James Marsh, this three-part series based on David Pearce's quartet of cult novels 1974, 1977, 1980 and 1983, has been adapted by Tony Grisoni, produced by Andrew Eaton and Michael Winterbottom's Revolution Films, and is some of the best television you're likely to see this or any year.

For more info click here.


I'm a huge Michael Mann fan. Throw Depp into the mix and you've got a movie that can't come soon enough. This first look at Public Enemies only confirms my expectations and excitement, and I love the way Mann's brought his Hi Def style to a period piece.

Monday 2 March 2009

Monday musing

I have been mostly absent here of late and for that I'm sorry. Life intervened in such a way that I wasn't able to devote much if any time to this site during the last couple of weeks, but a corner has been turned and with it a more regular service will resume.

It seems that some of you have been waiting on my thoughts regarding Watchmen

In lieu of a proper review, I offer you these thoughts to be getting on with. 

Watchmen is a superior film to 300 in every way and while it's not without flaws, it's probably the closest, most slavishly faithful approximation of Moore and Gibbons' work that we were ever likely to see on screen. 

Director Zack Snyder deserves credit for just putting it up there. It's bold, it's dazzling at times, and it doesn't pander to the mainstream in anyway. 

And there are moments in it that are quite simply breathtaking. The Dr Manhattan back story, for instance, which almost completely, frame for frame, adheres to the book, works best of all. Effects wise, emotion wise,and  dramatically.

Will people unfamiliar with the source material find it confusing? Probably.

Would I have preferred it had been adapted more, and not so rigidly followed the comic book? Perhaps. But considering the fuss made over the squid (or lack thereof) can you imagine the reaction.

Do I wish it had been longer? Definitely. 

Talking to Snyder and Gibbons at the premiere party last week about the scenes they'd had to snip to make the theatrical cut, and therefore the scenes that will be included in the Director's Cut, I wish I'd seen that version. 

That said, for sheer ambition it can't be faulted.