Tuesday, 27 October 2009

You wrote a bad song Petey...

I could have written so much more, but i'm 100 words over the limit already. Just go watch it, you'll love it, i promise.

Fantastic Mr Fox

People who haven’t seen this film have issues with it. I’ve been looking forward to it for months, but it seems like every time I bring it up someone pipes up with a contrary opinion. True, the voices are American, the directors and writers and producers are American, only the bad guys have English accents, but really, are we so closed minded as to reject a film based on the fact that it’s an American adaptation of a British story?

True, Wes Anderson is American, but so what? Fantastic Mr Fox was the first book he ever bought, he begged for the rights to it over 10 years ago, he gained the approval of Roald Dahl’s wife, and he lived in Dahl’s house whilst writing the screenplay, all of the sets and props in Fox’s home are exact replicas of the furniture in Gypsy house. What more do people want? Yes the story is fleshed out, but it is a short story. As Dahl’s wife puts it, “it had to be embroidered.” Anderson and Noah Baumbach retain the core of the story, stating that they “wanted to write a Roald Dahl movie,” rather than just taking the story and running away with it.

The story follows Mr Fox (Clooney), his wife (Streep) and his teenage son, Ash (Schwartzman) as they move to a new tree near the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, the three meanest farmers in the world. Mr Fox has given up his bird thieving ways to become a newspaper man, but the proximity to the farms proves too tempting to resist, and he’s soon back to his old ways. What follows is a kind of Ocean’s Eleven meets The Animals of Farthing Wood, but far more whimsical.

The stop-motion animation in the film is wonderful, lending the film a handmade, old fashioned quality. It isn’t slick, but it’s not supposed to be. Seeing the workings behind it, looking out for the imperfections, is what makes the whole film work. It’s not perfect, but it is created out of love, its flaws are what make it special, a theme reflected through the story and the characters.
What I love about the film is that it is still so obviously a Wes Anderson movie. The direction and the storytelling hasn’t changed to fit the animated genre, he adapted the genre to perfectly fit his own directorial style. The dysfunctional family dynamic recognizable in all of Anderson’s films is still there, as is the trademark shot composition and the hilarious deadpan dialogue. If anything it works better animated than it does in live action.

A fantastic vocal cast, stunning visuals, hilarious dialogue, and genuinely captivating set pieces, could you really ask for anything more from an adaptation of one of the most popular children’s stories of all time? This is an adaptation for people who grew up with the story, it’s a kids film for adults, and i urge everyone to go see it right away.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Probably a very bad idea.

My new laptop, Joe Kavalier, has a built in camera. I abuse this feature regularly by annoying my friends on facebook, and i thought i'd try posting a video on here too. In retrospect, i probably should have thought of something to say before embarking upon this exercise. Sorry for that.

Wow, the image is completely messed up, i have no idea why that happened, it was fine when i reviewed at after filming. Also, i think the sound is a little bit off, giving me a king of freaky ventriloquist effect. All in all i think the experiment failed, but i'm still posting it because i think if i sort it out it could be kind of a fun addition.

Anyway, tell me whether this is a good idea or a bad one and i'll react accordingly.

My brother can write things too.

Hitler Moustache is Richard Herrings 25th Edinburgh show on the trot, and there is a reason he is a fringe favourite. His current mission is to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy , “taking it away from Hitler and giving it back to Charlie Chaplin, two contemporaries whose careers, it's fair to say, dropped off after the Second World War."

To this end he has taken it upon himself to grow the offensive ‘tasche and has been parading it about for many months risking possible violence from the general public for appearing to be a Nazi crackpot, but generally just appearing to be “a bit of a dick”. The show opens with his musings about why the moustache and seems to have taken the blame for Nazism, the effect his new moustache would have upon those he met, and more importantly what affects it might have on himself; “was it the toothbrush moustache that was evil? Would I become evil if I grew one” The program is full of his thoughts on the subject, but the show rapidly moves onto more substantial material.

Herrings satirical point, that a racist is less racist than the rest of us, because a racist sees the world as only a handful of different skin tones, where as the rest of us feel the need to divide the world into 195 different nationalities, is possibly his finest work. "If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves the way a racist sees them – 'What are we doing? Why are we fighting? I'm a Paki, you're a Paki.'" He is able to construct this argument so well into his candour that any inappropriateness is forgiven.

As Herring himself wrote to the Guardian, defending his show from reviewer Brian Logan “The show examines our attitudes to ethnicity and questions whether the way humans choose to divide themselves is obfuscating their essential similarity. It challenges racism, but also liberal assumptions about cultural identity”.

A trait that is common in Herring’s stand-up, is the clear feeling that they don’t have to pander to an audience. Just over half way into the show Herring embarks on a good 10-15 minute, largely jokeless, tirade against any member of the audience who did not vote in the last European election, thereby allowing the BNP to gain 2 seats in the European Parliament.

Using this to point out that fascism is not dead and gone, but “it is, and always has been, inherently ridiculous, and it can be damaged and even destroyed by laughter”. If every photo opportunity Nick Griffin has for the BNP had a backdrop of people wearing a toothbrush moustache (Herring helpfully hands out square inches of Velcro after the show from a bucket marked with a swastika, the Hindu symbol of peace) they will never be taken seriously again.

At points the performance does start to lag, but all in all the show is often hilarious, constantly thought provoking, and a highly complex take on the attitudes of the society surrounding us, with a bit of silliness thrown in for good measure.

"men so skinny that i like to think this date could be their last"

Simon Amstell and I have the same love life. During the course of his show I came to realize that he and I not only have the same taste in men, but the same pathetic way of not getting them. His comedy is personal, heartfelt and sincere, far removed from the acerbic barbs for which viewers of Never Mind the Buzzcocks know and love him. His routine started off with a lament to the amount of sinks in his bathroom and how they daily mock his loneliness, a point he circles back to on a couple of occasions, heightening the idea that what he is telling us is not a one off, bad dating story, but instead a pattern which dictates his romantic happiness, or lack thereof. There are several moments where the audience aww him instead of laughing, a new experience for me at a comedy show, but a very pleasant one. Throughout Amstell’s show, through his nervous stance and slightly hesitant delivery, the audience is entirely on his side. He is a comedian it is almost impossible to dislike, a comedian our generation has grown up with on Pop world and Buzzcocks. We feel we know him, so to see him in such a different and revealing setting is both refreshing and strangely unsettling. I’m sure I’m not the only one in the audience who wanted to run on stage and give him a hug.

His show leads the audience through his romantic failings on a charming journey of self discovery through repeated mistakes. Amstell talks us through ideal men, falling in love with fantasies, and how not to chat up movie stars (upon meeting Jared Leto, his perfect man, at a full moon party in Thailand, he apparently uttered the immortal words “Your beauty in Requiem for a Dream detracted from the narrative.” Mr Leto walked away.).

An idea which lingers throughout is that life is short and that everybody dies, perhaps not the richest vein of comedy gold, but a surprisingly uplifting one. Amstell convincingly argues that in order to be happy, and get your requisite amount of “rumbly-tumbly” you have to live in the moment. Perhaps it’s time for he and I to take control our identical love lives. The worst that can happen is we create some new material for a stand up show. If I get rejected, I’m blaming you Mr. Amstell.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

"It's just a house."


Pixar’s latest offering, the story of Carl, an old man who flies his house to South America to fulfil a lifelong dream, has already garnered a huge amount of praise. No doubt it will win Oscars and be held in the hearts of young and old alike. This is Pixar and that is what they do best. The amazing thing is that every film of theirs is better than the last. You think they’ve hit their peak with Ratatouille, and then Wall-e comes out. You think Wall-e is animated film perfection, and here comes Up. The company seems unable to do wrong, and in my opinion Up is their greatest film to date, which automatically puts it as one of the best animated features in cinematic history.

This is, of course, a very strong statement, and one that I do not make lightly. Almost everything about the film is pitch perfect. The vocal talent is outstanding, the animation is beyond compare, and the set pieces in either 2d or 3d (yes I did watch it both ways, more on that later) are breathtaking. Pixar know how to make a film that will delight every single audience member, and they do it by never talking down to their audience.

The writing of the film is extraordinary in its subtlety. The opening montage, which by now you will undoubtedly have heard about, takes the viewer through the lifelong relationship of Carl and Ellie in less than 5 minutes, leaving not a single dry eye in the house. The sequence contains no dialogue, and yet effortlessly portrays the enduring love, hardships and heartbreak of this couple’s life. This may be the first children’s film to deal with infertility, ageing, death and abandonment, and it does so in such a way that children will understand and empathize with, without having it spelled out for them. A similar display of restraint is in a scene where Russell, the chatty yet charming Junior Wilderness Explorer accidentally brought along for the ride tells Carl about his Dad. No description of his situation is given, but in a few well chosen words his whole home life is revealed. It is this saying so little which says so much.

This is not to say that the film is all tears and intensity, it’s also one of the funniest Pixar have ever done. The cast of supporting characters, including Kevin the giant bird and Dug the talking dog (a clever plot device wherein the dog’s master creates computerized voice boxes for all his pet dogs sets up some of the funniest dialogue in the movie) are all hilarious without pandering to kids film clichés. Again, the comedy comes just as much from the writing as from the visuals.

The look of the film is absolutely stunning. There are moments that are almost photo-real, especially smaller details which, when put in the picture lend a sense of reality to the whole film. The lead characters are allowed to be more caricatured when put in this realist setting without us losing any connection with them. In 2d the film is breathtaking, beautiful and fun, but in 3d it becomes real. As with a lot of the 3d films coming out at the moment, the extra dimension isn’t used for thrills so much as to add depth and realism. Things don’t jump out of the screen at you as much as gain due prominence whilst others fade into the background. The only downside of 3d is the lack of vibrancy of colour. Because the glasses are tinted at times it feels like watching a film with your sunglasses on, but the loss is hugely outweighed by the gain.

So Pixar have done it again, they have made a beautiful, hilarious, heartbreaking film which leaves you uplifted and wanting more, and they do it by respecting their audience both young and old. This is a lesson other animation studios need to learn if they are ever going to try to compete. Pixar are so far ahead of the game that it is difficult to imagine anyone else come close, but if it means more films of this calibre then I, for one, would like to see them try.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Belle and rebel

So a couple of weeks ago i had an adventure.
I went up to London to see my friend Poli, whom i love and who is moving to Nottingham, along with my best friend Kelsea. This means i shall have to occasionally venture into the midlands and that makes me sad. Before she left, in a bid to postpone that inevitable journey, some quality London time was suggested, and so we met up.

If you read this blog with any regularity, or even if you just look at the pictures, you might notice i have a minor obsession with a certain fabulous french blogger named Garance Dore. If you read her blog you will no doubt know that for London fashion week GAP asked her to design a range of ridiculously limited edition t-shirts for them, in conjunction with an exhibition of her drawings and photographs and anything else she wanted to put up. If you've seen me in the past month you will have seen me wearing one of these shirts. I love it.

I went to the exhibition on the first day it opened, looked around with Poli, and bought one of the shirts. Its the first time i've been on the ball enough to snap up anything limited edition, and i was very pleased with myself. The only bad thing was that both Poli and i forgot our cameras.

I went back up 2 weeks later because Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist himself was in town to do a book signing, and i had to see him in the flesh. Since Garance is his girlfriend i thought she might be there too, and if truth be told i was more excited about meeting her, she has one of those blogs that when you read it you immediately feel that you two would be great friends.

So i'm strolling down Carnaby Street, after spending ages picking out my outfit, and i walk straight past Scott, flanked by his assistant Tracy and gorgeous Garance. He looks like a mobster from an old film, short and stocky in a perfectly tailored suit, with a girl on each arm. I immediately text everyone i know. I go in to Liberty, where the book signing is going to be later, and they have no books for sale yet, so i head back to the GAP, armed with my camera this time, and begin snapping away at the exhibit.

Suddenly i turn around and who should be there but Garance herself, looking radiant and approachable at the same time, a glass of champagne in one hand and killer heels on her feet. I mustered all my courage and said hello. We talked for a little while about blogs and fashion and what i study at uni and films and how Scott might be directing one (you heard that here first, he hasn't even said it on his blog yet!) and got on just as well as i assumed we would. She offered me some champagne and asked me to stay around for a drink while she did some interviews. Of course i accepted.

Next thing i know, the doors of the shop have been closed and there's a bouncer with a guestlist checking people's ID's. I have stumbled into the midst of a genuine London Fashion Week party, rubbing shoulders with he editor of french Elle and being complimented on my hair accessory by a writer for i-D. I turn around and there is Scott, the Sartorialist, right next to me, looking slightly shy and in deep conversation. I don't have the balls to say hello to him, he's far too cool, but i watch him for a while and even snap a dreadful picture, just to prove to you that he really was there.

I stick around, drinking Bellinis and pretending to be a reviewer for a magazine so cool and underground that none of these old world fashion moguls will have heard of it. I work for Cheekbone, delivered by ninjas every half hour because that's how fast our trends change. And i people watch. I wish i had better pictures, because the people were amazing. Unnaturally beautiful, so stylish you immediately feel like a bag lady, and yet so friendly. I want one of these parties every day!

The room was crowded, and at one point i got punched in the arm. I turned to see who it was and there was Scott, again, looking very apologetic and asking if i was ok. I mumbled something unintelligible and grinned, and he turned back to his conversation. Verbal communication with the Satrorialist. Now when i die i'll go to fashion heaven!

Then he ran off to go to the press opening on his signing, and i decided that i should probably eat something, so i left, saying goodbye and thank you to Garance, who gave me a hug and told me good luck with my films, and exited back into the real world. I ate something and then went to go to the book signing, and this is where disaster struck. I had decided to wear heels, and after being on my feet all day and walking all across London (because it's too pretty to take the tube) I was beginning to regret that decision. My feet were aching. I went into liberty and immediately faced the longest queue I'd ever seen. I took my shoes off and settled in for a long wait.

About 5 minutes later a security guard came up to us and asked if we had books already and that if we didn't we should go buy one somewhere else because they had sold out. It was 7:05 and the books had gone on sale at 7. I put my shoes on and headed up to Oxford street to buy one from borders. Borders had shut down. I dragged my aching feet down Regent street, but there were no bookshops. My numbed toes went all the way through Soho and were bleeping by the time i got to Shaftsbury avenue, only to find out that they had sold out too. There were no sartorialist books in London and the tip of my toe had dislocated.
I decided to give up. I had met Garance, been punched by Scott, gone to a fashion week party and drunk slightly too much champagne, and my feet were hurting so much a considered walking across London barefoot. I snuggled up in a chair in Starbucks and read vogue, and felt very fashionable indeed.