Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ten educational title suggestions
for the next Bourne film

There's a new Bourne film on the cards from Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, which is great news if you like the Bourne films I suppose. Let's be honest, it can't be any worse than The Bourne Legacy.

Obviously the most important consideration is what they're going to call it, and I don't know about you but I've always felt the Bourne films' titles to be a bit simplistic. So I've raided my Oxford Junior Illustrated Dictionary to come up with ten suggestions designed to a) be relevant to the plot, and b) teach everyone a new word. Let's vocabulate!

In which Bourne attempts to sell his unique skills to two competing buyers who, between them, force him to lower his price.

In which it is revealed that Aaron Cross was grown from within Jason Bourne.

In which Bourne, in hiding, makes a living as a botanist bemoaning the fact that he only has spores of one kind. Possibly not the most thrilling Bourne film.

In which Bourne canters about with a long face, eating hay.

In which Bourne must stop enemy agents from stealing the relics of long-dead saints from his local church.

In which Bourne masquerades as a European who makes a fortune in India.

In which Bourne, stranded miles from civilisation, kills an enemy agent and is forced to eat his raw flesh to survive.

In which Bourne attempts to answer the question of why God permits the manifestation of evil.

In which the key to proving Bourne's innocence depends on the forensic examination of microscopic slivers of wood.

Jeremy Renner stars in this vapid and unsophisticated Bourne film.
Oh no hang on that was The Bourne Legacy.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Richard Kiel

"                                          "
- Jaws, The Spy Who Loved Me / Moonraker

The Guest

In an ideal world, none of us would be spending this week talking about Scottish independence, royal babies or new-fangled technowatches, because all of those things are just silly. Instead we should all be talking about The Guest, a film which is equally as silly as all those things - like, REALLY silly - but is also totally, 100% aware of it. I mean, that bag of inbred cells that's currently fourth in line to the throne has literally no clue how silly it is. None whatsoever.

Arriving from nowhere and probably, due to its low marketing budget and lack of big names, heading back there in a matter of days, The Guest is a tremendous, bonkers and deliriously retro thriller that's the perfect antidote to the pompous pish that's hogging screen space at cinemas in this arid swathe of the movie calendar. It's absolute rubbish, but it's the most gloriously entertaining rubbish I've seen for an achingly long time.
Mysterious stranger and former soldier David rocks up at the home of his deceased warbuddy, swiftly inveigling himself into the lives of mom, dad, bullied younger brother and hormone-soaked sister, and the fact that they more or less take him in without question gives you some idea of how seriously to take this film. It's as if nobody in the family has ever seen a movie about a mysterious stranger, or indeed any movie at all, ever. After a first act that takes a little too long to say not much, things move from mundane to mental, not least as the film's brakes fail and it barrels wildly towards its ludicrously stylised climax.

It's hard to judge how far horror hacks Simon Barrett (writing) and Adam Wingard (directing) intend The Guest to be deliberately funny: it's not a comedy by any stretch, but it's packed full of more cheese than a Frenchman's fridge, and given the right circumstances - say, a Friday night in a packed cinema after a few beers - it nails a tone that renders it insanely joyous. The mood is defiantly '80s, bolstered by a terrific synth score that sounds like the b-sides of everything on the Drive soundtrack and a wodge of cheerfully ironic slo-mo sequences (two words: laundry basket). Nods to the likes of Commando and The Terminator abound, and it's that audience - the one that's been disappointed by the failure of the Expendables films to recapture a schlocky, Cannon-era '80s spirit - that will invite The Guest into their hearts. There's a latticework of plot holes and a disappointing attempt to explain exactly what the chuff is going on, but if it's a worthy chin-stroker you're after then you're in the wrong film. I'm sure Night Moves is still on somewhere.
Star Dan Stevens, thus far famous for appearing in some TV show or other and for manually relieving the sexual frustrations of our transatlantic cousins, cements his rep as a name to watch. Apparently the result of a genetic experiment to crossbreed Bradley Cooper and Daniel Craig, he's not yet as good as either, but have patience. If his agent hasn't already had a phone call from a breathless Barbara Broccoli, I'll be amazed; he's the epicentre of The Guest's mirthquake and has presence to burn.

Distributors Icon can't hope to slay the box office with The Guest, but the film is destined to find its true purpose in the home entertainment market. Until then, it is incumbent upon you all to seek it out at your nearest picture house before it disappears, so that come next week - if there's any justice in the world - all of us are talking about it.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Two Days, One Night and the
BBFC's spoiler-happy guidelines

*** WARNING ***
Contains spoilers for Two Days, One Night

I went to see the Dardennes brothers' tremendous Two Days, One Night with the great unwashed of the Curzon Soho last week. It's riveting stuff: as a woman swallowing every last morsel of pride in order to beg her colleagues for her job back, Marion Cotillard makes you work as hard as she does for results.

As a foreign language arthouse film, Two Days, One Night arguably attracts a certain type of audience: one who, at the very least, has gone to the trouble of finding out the thrust of the story in order to decide whether or not to see it. So it's fair to suggest that most people watching the film in a cinema know that it concerns Cotillard's character, Sandra, struggling to get her job back by pleading with her workmates to convince them to forego their bonus.

What, then, does that audience think when the words "suicide attempt" appear on screen as a warning about the film's content, alongside the BBFC's '15' certificate, mere seconds before it starts? I can't speak for everyone, but my own thoughts went something along the lines of: "Oh right, so at some point things will get so bad that Sandra will try to kill herself. I'll just sit here with that information stored away, waiting for it to happen, shall I? THANKS A RUDDY BUNCH, THE BBFC."
Also it turns out her husband was dead all along

Maybe I'm overreacting, but to me this seems like a counterproductive measure by our friends at 3 Soho Square. Of course it's important to protect sensitive viewers from potentially upsetting material, but is the 15 certificate alone not enough to warn audiences of "adult themes"?

The BBFC's new Classification Guidelines, which are the result of a lengthy public consultation, have the following to say about suicide:
"Portrayals of potentially dangerous behaviour (especially relating to hanging, suicide and self-harm) which children and young people may potentially copy, will be cut if a higher classification is not appropriate."
In the case of Two Days, One Night, that higher classification was deemed appropriate and the film was passed uncut with a 15 certificate. Some time ago the BBFC introduced BBFCinsight, a feature on their website which goes into detail about why a given film was passed with a given certificate, and so if you want to know precisely why Two Days, One Night is a 15 you can find out here. Now I have no problem with this, and in fact have used BBFCinsight a few times to answer the concerns of friends who want to take their kids to the cinema but don't want them to be subjected to, for example, domestic abuse, animal cruelty or Shia Labeouf.

But with that information available online, is it also necessary to summarise it in cinemas on the black card when it reveals crucial plot details? The "suicide attempt" warning also appears in the summary at the top of Two Days, One Night's BBFC page, making it even easier to have your experience spoiled:
I contacted the BBFC to question the wisdom of their decision, and was told that
"the specific details of the event - i.e. exactly who the suicide attempt concerned, where it occurred in the film and other details - are not mentioned."
But let's be honest: an audience who knows what Two Days, One Night is about doesn't have to make a herculean leap of reasoning to infer that it's probably the character undergoing an emotionally turbulent 48 hours who will, at some point, give up in the most final way. What's more, the suicide isn't attempted for a good hour or so, so no matter how successful or not Sandra is in persuading her colleagues to give up their bonus so she can earn a living, we spend two-thirds of the running time waiting for her to hit rock bottom. The emotional impact of the journey we're on, which is at the heart of the film's success, is lessened by the knowledge of what's to come.

The BBFC are very keen to trumpet BBFCinsight, and even commissioned this cheery video to promote it:

You'll notice the video posits that we already live "in a world overloaded with information", and that BBFCinsight exists "so that you can get the lowdown, then sit down, relax and enjoy the film." I'd be tempted to argue that, in the case of Two Days, One Night, the BBFC have overloaded the audience with more unnecessary information, and have in fact negatively affected our capacity to relax and enjoy the film.

I don't want to appear insensitive towards the issues the BBFC are attempting to address here, and I'm not for a moment suggesting that the mass enjoyment of a film is more important than the prevention of even one suicide. But I'd be fascinated to know exactly how many people, after arranging a trip out to the cinema, buying their tickets and popcorn and taking their seats, made the decision to get up and leave with seconds to go before the film starts based entirely on the information given on the black card. I'd hazard a guess that it's approximately zero, while the muttering that immediately followed the certificate's appearance in the Curzon Soho last week suggests that the number of people browned off by the appearance of an unavoidable plot spoiler is significantly higher.
The BBFC have an unenviable job trying to get the balance right when classifying films, and I'm not about to tear them a new one on the basis of one film. I'm not criticising Two Days, One Night's classification, nor the BBFC's explanation for it, but I would hope that they carefully consider whether revealing that information to an audience unable to avoid it is the best course of action when it has the potential to diminish the cinematic experience.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

36 tweets I drafted for this morning's London Film Festival launch that I didn't get to use because the films aren't showing

Over the last week or so I've gone through my annual ritual of scouring film festival roundups from the past few months in order to predict what might be on at this year's London Film Festival. Based on this information, plus a few wild guesses about stuff that's released later this year and so hey why not, I drafted 51 tweets which I intended to deploy during this morning's LFF Press Launch in order to make it look like I had my finger on the pulse of cutting-edge movie journalism. I even pestered the BFI to find out whether they intended to use #LFF or #LFF2014 as the official hashtag, the outcome of which was that I had to delete "2014" 51 times.

By and large, the entire exercise was a disaster. I was always uncertain as to whether or not my attempt to successfully predict one fifth of the festival's output was an act of idiocy (I was always going to miss some biggies), vanity (LOOK AT ME I'M HERE AT GROUND ZERO AS IT HAPPENS) or both, but I soldiered on nevertheless. At least six films had already been announced, so I tweeted those before the launch, then settled in with the obligatory pastry and opened up my drafts.
In the interests of "colour", here is a pastry a bit like the one I ate

Immediately I realised this was essentially going to be the world's worst game of bingo. The films we already knew about were announced, followed by a couple of successful guesses (thank fuck for Foxcatcher and Whiplash), and then a deluge of movies I'd never heard of or come across in my research. My phone lay flaccid and untouched in my lap like a pathetic, useless penis. Which, incidentally, is oh no hang on that's another story.

Out of 45 remaining tweets, I was able to publish nine. NINE. Out of 245 films. I am officially the worst forecaster of LFF screenings, like, ever. I'm the Michael Fish of the film festival circuit. Now you might think that perhaps the BFI is to blame; after all, why isn't Birdman showing? Or The Clouds Of Sils Maria? Or 99 Homes, or The Theory Of Everything, or She's Funny That Way, or Olive Kitteridge, or A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, most of which have been lauded at Cannes, Venice and elsewhere this year? Even Ryan Gosling's widely-despised directorial debut Lost River is nowhere to be found in the pages of the programme.
No existence-contemplating pigeons for you, London

Well, you might think that, but obviously you'd be as wrong as I was. There's plenty to get your teeth into at the 58th London Film Festival, including but not limited to The Imitation Game, Fury, the aforementioned Foxcatcher and Whiplash, Wild, Mr. Turner, Wild Tales, The Salvation, The White Haired Witch Of Lunar Kingdom, The Duke Of Burgundy, The Falling, The Keeping Room, The New Girlfriend, Son Of A Gun, '71 and It Follows, all of which look fantastic, and all of which (plus truckloads more) can be found at the official LFF website.

But I couldn't let the remaining 36 tweets go to waste. They may not be gold and they sure as shit won't win any awards for Excellence In Tweeting (or in Film Festival Programme Predicting), but I did spend ages writing them, and even if some of them are preposterous (Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was, admittedly, something of a long shot) I'm going to put them out there where they belong. By which I mean on a blog that almost nobody reads.

So sit back, relax and enjoy ill-informed descriptions of 36 films you won't be seeing at the 2014 London Film Festival:

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence: [spoiler warning] a pigeon sits on a branch reflecting on existence #LFF 
Lost River: Ryan Gosling's Cannes-infuriating directorial debut #LFF 
The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: first of a trilogy telling 1 story from 3 perspectives, with Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy #LFF 
The Search: Michel Hazanavicius follows The Artist with Chechnya-set war drama. Unlikely to feature comedy dog #LFF 
Clouds Of Sils Maria: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Moretz headline Cannes-pleasing drama #LFF 
The Voices: Ryan Rodney Reynolds argues with his pets. Cat prefers Gosling, dog is Triple-R all the way #LFF 
Olive Kitteridge: Lisa Cholodenko's epic four-part miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins and Bill Murray #LFF 
Black Sea: treasure-hunting misfits under the command of Jude Law join the search for his career #LFF 
The Book Of Life: animated fantasy rom-com #LFF 
The Judge: Bob Downey Jr, Bob Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Bob Farmiga star in legal com-dram #LFF 
What We Do In The Shadows: horror comedy vampire mockumentary with Jemaine Clement. FRIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS LOL #LFF 
All Is By My Side: Largely fictitious Jimi Hendrix biopic starring Andre 3000, whatever that is #LFF 
The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones-directed western. Sounds boring #LFF 
The Skeleton Twins: Kristen Wiig is in it. Everything else is immaterial #LFF 
Life Itself: doc about the late great Roger Ebert, based on his memoirs and optioned before his death #LFF 
The Third Person: Paul Haggis weaves three stories together for a film that, by all accounts, is a third as good as it should be #LFF 
Interstellar: Chris Nolan's touching paean to reassuringly expensive French lager #LFF 
Horns: Harry Potter and the Forehead of Protuberances #LFF 
Hyena: good cop bad cop shenanigans (minus the good cops) in leafy West London #LFF 
Exodus: Gods And Kings: Christian Bale blows the makeup budget in Ridley Scott's God-botherer #LFF 
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Guy Ritchie directs this ugh sorry I can't go on #LFF 
Unbroken: Angelina Jolie's sequel to Unbreakable (note to self: check this before tweeting) #LFF 
Ex Machina: Alex Garland, Oscar Isaac, robots. It had me at Alex Garland, Oscar Isaac, robots #LFF 
Inherent Vice: PT Anderson's latest attempt to impress me (actually Punch Drunk Love was quite good) #LFF 
Birdman: like Batman but birdier #LFF 
Enemy: remember Denis Villeneuve's last Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer, Prisoners? Hope this is better #LFF 
Fifty Shades Of Grey: the LFF is definitely not dumbing down, no way #LFF 
99 Homes: Andrew Garfield sells his soul to Michael Shannon to avoid more Spider-Man films, oops, I mean, to keep his home #LFF 
Good Kill: Ethan Hawke (autocorrect: Ethanol Hawkesbury) and January Jones star in Andrew Niccol's drone pilot thriller #LFF 
The Look Of Silence: Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up to The Act Of Killing #LFF 
Cymbeline: The Milla Jovovich-starring Shakespeare adaptation the world's been waiting for #LFF 
Burying The Ex: horny zom-com from JOE FLIPPING DANTE #LFF 
She's Funny That Way: highbrow festival favourites Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston reunited for the first time since Marley & Me #LFF 
The Sound And The Fury: James Franco's experimental take on another of William Faulkner's "unfilmable" books #LFF 
Reality: more surreal gubbins from crackpot Rubber director Quentin Dupieux #LFF 
The Theory Of Everything: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones compare cheekbones in Stephen Hawking biopic #LFF

I'm calling it now: Fifty Shades Of Grey for the Surprise Film.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Richard Attenborough

"I've travelled so far, and all I've done is come back home"
- Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi