Monday 28 February 2011

The Oscars: A Photographic Odyssey

Despite being almost perversely determined not to enjoy the Oscars, I did attempt to actually enjoy myself last night. I stayed up till 5.30am and everything, armed with a laptop and a mobile phone and ready to blog the shit out of those Oscars. Unfortunately they were as predictably tedious as I tediously predicted, and innumerate technical failures during the evening caused me to use language that would have made Melissa Leo blush.

Nevertheless, here's a vague representation of the evening via the magic of the Nokia 5800 Xpress Music's on-board camera.

First things first: provisions. Almost everything you see in this picture had been consumed before anyone set foot on the red carpet.

This cat spent vast swathes of the evening showing me his arsehole. I wouldn't normally share such a private moment but, unbelievably, the cat's name is Oscar and I felt like he was making an erudite comment on proceedings.

There were some serious bow tie issues as far as horizontality was concerned. I was pleased to note that Mark Ruffalo and Jude Law had the same problem.

Several times during the evening our live stream froze. On the first such occasion we had to stare at AR Rahman for something approaching six minutes. After four we noticed that his ears were unfeasibly massive.

With the excitement building to almost bearable levels, we made our predictions on a handwritten form that felt like completing a complex tax declaration in a foreign country:

And then my laptop crashed, my phone chose to connect to the internet only when Natalie Portman appeared on screen and the live stream stopped and started more often than Colin Firth in The King's Speech. I managed to squeeze a few tweets out, and if you were lucky enough to miss them, here's the one that got retweeted the most and therefore wins the Oscar for Best Tweet by The Incredible Suit:
I'm not sure I understand it myself and I wrote it, but then it is 6.09am and I could do with some kip. Goodnight.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Everyone's Excited About The Oscars

It's the Oscars tonight, hooray! And when I say "hooray!" I mean "oh God, the Oscars. How I hate them and everything they stand for." Yet despite my curmudgeonly view of this annual orgy of self-congratulatory pizzle, I shall be attending an Oscar party, if only because it gives me an excuse to wear a bow tie for the first time since the sixth form summer ball. With any luck the evening won't end the same way as that one did, because that would be horrific, painful and socially awkward for everyone involved.

If you'd like to have your enjoyment of Oscar night brought down by the blogging equivalent of Marvin the Paranoid Android, you can do so in a variety of thrilling ways:
  1. Sit next to me all night and listen to my incessant, foul whining. Spaces are limited.
  2. Keep across @IncredibleSuit on Twitter for incessant, foul whines of 140 characters or less. Expect a steady decrease in coherence throughout the night.
  3. Keep an eye on the Picturehouses live video stream, for whom I will be appearing in increasing states of distress (and possibly undress), as the evening progresses. That is if we can get it to work. Expect lots of this:
Of course the one mandatory exercise even the most indifferent observer must undertake is the annual attempt to guess which backs will be slapped the hardest on Oscar night, and inevitably The Incredible Suit is no exception. I hauled my Oscar Predict-O-Matic out of the shed, filled it with high-octane fuel (some of which I set aside to drink just before the Best Documentary Short Award) and fed it a gutful of stats, but I'll save the resulting predictions until later on. Suffice it to say that if The Social Network, David Fincher, Colin Firth and Jennifer Lawrence don't walk away clutching stiff little men then I will have wasted some perfectly good isopropanol and the Predict-O-Matic will be on eBay before Monday lunchtime.

Wish me luck, and don't expect too much from me in the way of articulate analysis of cinema as an art form tomorrow. Or any day in fact.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Saturday Playlist #20: Oscar's Greatest Scores

One category in tomorrow's Oscars that I'm actually interested in is the one the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences don't call "Best Score", but just "Music (Original Score)", the word "Best" deemed unsavoury in these modern times when it's all about the taking part, not the winning. Unless it's "Best Picture" you're after.

What better way to prepare for Hans Zimmer being crowned King Of Brrraaaaaaaaaaahmmmm, then, than by casting our hearholes over some of the bestest tuneage to win an Oscar from the last seven decades? No better way, that's what better way.

So sit back, turn up the speaker devices and pray for Der Zimmer as you...


Friday 25 February 2011

I'm A Bit Busy At The Moment

But here's a new trailer for Source Code, which I found on Empire Online and which still looks to be the knees of the bees:

Here's The Social Network distilled into a single .gif, which I found on Filmdrunk:

And here's a lovely portrait by Anthony Pedro of, in his words, "Janine, the cute and witty receptionist from the classic 80's comedy The Ghostbusters" that I found on Slashfilm:
This blogging malarkey is a piece of cake.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Animal Kingdom

Let's not fanny about here, Animal Kingdom is the best film I've seen this year and probably better than anything I saw last year. In fact the last time I remember a film grabbing me by the balls like this and refusing to let go for two hours of slow-burning tension was Let The Right One In nearly two years ago, and it's a good job there was such a long gap between the two films because my balls had only just recovered. Now I'm back to typing while standing up.

The poster's not too shabby either, even if it is almost collapsing under the weight of gushing quotery:
Hey, if Harper's Bazaar says it's "Unmissable", you better listen up.

An Australian crime drama about a young man inadvertently but unavoidably caught up in the self-destructive maelstrom of a family of crooks, Animal Kingdom is essentially The Godfather with Aussie chavs. Like Coppola's masterpiece, the hierarchy within the family is constantly in flux, and the central character must find his place within it while it slowly consumes him from inside. Only in this film they have more barbies.

David Michôd directs his first feature from his own flawless script with no fuss or in-your-face bravado but with absolute respect for an intelligent audience and an eye for poignant minutiae - a silhouetted bracelet hanging from a limp wrist here, an affectionately straightened collar there - all of which carry multiple, often menacing, meanings. Meanwhile the story keeps you guessing at every turn; it's a rare thing to find a crime film so completely unpredictable without veering into silliness and self-parody, COUGHguyritchieCOUGH.
The uniformly fantastic cast of mostly unknowns have no place being this good. Guy Pearce is the only real "name", and it's not stunt casting. His character requires the subtlety and familiarity he brings, but by no means is he the star. It's difficult to say who is: Jacki Weaver's Oscar-nominated turn as the brassy matriarch is both moving and monstrous, while newcomer James Frecheville, as the 17-year-old protagonist, is so restrained he could be sleepwalking - which makes the final act all the more nail-biting since it's impossible to guess what his motives or intentions are. But it's Ben Mendelsohn as the blackest sheep in a family of black sheep who stays with you after the credits, his performance intimidating and unnerving without resorting to showboating.
Animal Kingdom has taken about nine months since its Australian release to travel the ten thousand or so miles to the UK, but believe me when I say it's been worth the wait. As Australian exports go, it even almost makes up for Dannii Minogue.


Wednesday 23 February 2011

The Disney 50: The First Five

If you've produced small, noisy versions of yourself who need constant entertainment, why not use them as an excuse to see every animated Disney feature during 2011 at London's BFI? Hey, you can even let them deface the lobby with abstract renderings of their favourite Disney characters - one such interpretation is hidden in this very post. Can you spot it?

Disney films never really tickled my pickle as a kid; I was more interested in the anarchic fun of Warner's Looney Tunes than a load of fairytale schmaltz and cute woodland creatures. Now that I'm old and boring though, I can appreciate the undeniable skillz that went into the animation and storytelling of Uncle Walt's greatest works. Also I thought I should see them just because I never have, and it might stop people laughing and pointing at me in the street.

Here's what I thought of the first five, before Disney went broke and mad and started making cartoons about how America should really try and get on with Venezuela or some such cabbage.

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Disney's first animated feature is technically astonishing given its age, but at 83 minutes it's about 70 minutes too long. I understand the desire to show off a lengthy dwarf-washing sequence or hearty dance-off, but when the flimsy plot keeps stopping to boast more of this new-fangled technology it's easy to lose interest. Over 80 years later, Disney still haven't learned their lesson. Have they, Tron Legacy?

Also, I don't want to spoil the ending, but Snow White: what a selfish, shallow bitch.

Pinocchio (1940)
Disney did some serious game-uppage in the three years between Snow White and Pinocchio. The latter is a non-stop torrent of set-pieces with all the classic tunes and breathtaking animation for which the studio deservedly became famous. Each of Pinocchio's incarnations - marionette, wooden boy and real boy - is rendered differently and completely convincingly, foreshadowing the genius of the Toy Story films (especially the 'Woody's Roundup' TV show sequence) some 60 years later.

I'm concerned there's still an island populated entirely by donkey-boys somewhere though, and I'd also like to know if the US Postal Service still deals in whale-mail.

Fantasia (1940)
A series of unconnected, animated videos for classical music's greatest hits, Fantasia tests the patience of all but the hardiest Disney fans. Don't be fooled by the abundance of Mickey Mouse imagery in the marketing: the massive-eared rodent doesn't appear until half an hour of abstract, avant-garde claptrap has passed, and then it's only for ten minutes of vaguely entertaining broom-related mayhem.

The most fun is to be had in the 'Night On Bald Mountain' sequence, which features a giant demon summoning all manner of devilry for no apparent reason except that that's what giant demons do. This section's influence on The Lord Of The Rings' Balrog and Raiders Of The Lost Ark's climactic ghostfest is undeniably obvious.

Dumbo (1941)
The animators of Dumbo show off considerably less than in Disney's previous features, but what's there - not least the almost illegally lovable title character - is carefully designed to yank your heartstrings out of your body till you cry. Which you will. And the sequence in which the pissed-up pachyderm hallucinates like he's done enough acid to kill, well, an elephant, is utterly amazing.

The story is so tight that just when you're getting ready for some final-act excitement the film abruptly finishes, which is slightly disappointing given that it's been so good up to then. Better to leave the audience wanting more than outstaying your welcome though, eh Snow White?

Bambi (1942)
Again, Bambi's animation feels less ostentatious than previous Disney films (due in no small part to the economic restrictions of a country at war), although Bambers himself is a wonder, not least his uncoordinated and uncooperative excuses for legs. Apparently the animators strapped stilts to the arms and legs of a child, fed him four bottles of bourbon and shoved him onto an ice rink for their inspiration and amusement. That's a cast iron fact that I certainly didn't just make up.

With its universal but somewhat tedious "circle of life" theme, Bambi feels like a dry run for The Lion King, with all its key scenes and characters repeated to more impressive effect in the later film. Even (spoiler) Mrs Bambi's notoriously kiddie-damaging death scene is less dramatic than (spoiler) Mufasa's, and way less traumatic than I expected: there weren't nearly enough children in the audience having their realities brought into sharp and painful relief for my liking.

On the plus side, Thumper is brilliant. I want one.

It's also worth mentioning the shorts that precede each feature shown at the BFI: most (though not all) are little slices of genius, and it's easy to see where Pixar got the inspiration for their award-winningly fantastic mini-movies. Here's Flowers And Trees, which played before Bambi. Enjoy it, it's aces.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four has so far done a bang-up job of failing to make itself known to the general public to the point where a straw poll conducted exclusively for The Incredible Suit revealed that out of two conveniently-passing people, neither had heard of it. Extrapolate those figures and it soon becomes clear that the entire population of the universe is blissfully unaware of the film's very existence.

For the benefit of everyone then, here's the plot in a nutshell:
Why they're trying to kill each other is unclear. What is clear, thanks to some hackneyed character signposting, is which are the good aliens (conventionally good-looking humanoids) and which are the bad aliens (conventionally hideous humanoids with long black coats, tattooed heads, red eyes and pointy teeth. Think bald Gary Busey).

Cuboid-headed charisma vacuum Alex Pettyfer plays Number Four, the good alien, who uses his alien powers to suck all of the film's fun into a black hole where his personality should be. Pettyfer's remarkable talent and range can be demonstrated by this tired old visual gag:
You may remember Pettyfer from Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, a teen-targeted potential franchise which stalled after just one film. Only time will tell if his presence here causes the same fate to befall this teen-targeted potential franchise (Crazy prediction: It will).

As Number Four is the most hunted alien in the galaxy he does his best to stay hidden by going to school in broad daylight every day, rather than staying at home and playing with all the product placement provided by Apple. At school he meets a series of stereotypes, one of whom (clue: not the jock or the nerd) he falls in love with despite the fact that she's a) the world's least convincing photographer and b) intent on using up the world's supply of question marks in her text messages.
Eventually there's some fighting and shooting and an unintentionally hilarious CGI dog which probably shouldn't remind you of The Mask, but none of it approaches anything that could be described as original or interesting.

I could go on and on but that's the film's job. Basically if you enjoy films in which Timothy Olyphant is the best thing, then not only is I Am Number Four for you but you also need to watch a lot more films.

Monday 21 February 2011

I Can't Wait To Say I Saw I Saw The Devil

At a time when even trailers for films like X-Men: First Class and Thor fail to push my heart rate above its usual seven or eight beats per minute, it's worth noting a new trailer that's so ludicrously exciting that I had to have serious words with myself for not seeing it at the London Korean Film Festival last year when I had the chance. Idiot.

I Saw The Devil is a new (stand by for possible favourite genre) Korean Revenge Thriller from Kim Ji-woon, who made the deeply unsettling A Tale Of Two Sisters in 2003 and the frankly a bit rubbs The Good, The Bad, The Weird in 2008. The quality of a director's films is irrelevant, however, when his IMDb profile picture looks like this:
Sadly that's more to do with the IMDb's formatting than a conscious decision to frame yourself almost entirely out of your own photo, but still: Amazing.

So here's the trailer that's got my trousers aroused, followed by six stills chosen from it completely at random to illustrate how fantastic it is in case you're a bit thick and can't tell.

The cop's phone has this incredible but pointless
posterisation feature when he takes a photo!
Granted, that's not very exciting. But it is very, very cool.

He kicks a dude in the chops even though
he's wearing a motorcycle helmet!
This kind of thing is going to hurt the kicker more than the kickee, I'd wager. Still, BOOM!

The subtitles aren't anchored to
the bottom centre of the frame!
I love this kind of shit.

Choi Min-sik is ROCKING the slicked
back hair, aviators and glowing cigarette!
Hard to believe this is the same guy who looked like he was permanently plugged into the mains in Oldboy.

How about that bit where the trailer
went all breaky uppy and jumpy?!
I love this kind of shit even more than the subtitles thing.

There's that bit with a scalpel, an Achilles
tendon and a horrible sound effect!
 I don't know how I'm going to keep my eyes open or my lunch down for this bit.

And if that isn't enough to make you inadvertently blow a hole in the front of your pants, check out this mofo:
Yummy. See you on April 29th.

Friday 18 February 2011

BlogalongaBond / From Russia With Love:
The Fight That LITERALLY

With Dr. No out of the way and James Bond firmly installed in the cinemagoing public's hearts, From Russia With Love wastes no time plunging us into a labyrinthine Cold War spy thriller. We haven't quite got Bond right yet - playing the crashingly loud theme over a scene of 007 bimbling about in his hotel room is a rare misstep - but this is still both a glorious snapshot of 1960s cinema and a film years ahead of its time.

Before Goldfinger's needle found the series' groove there was still time for subtlety in Bond, and From Russia With Love contains some of the most understated moments in the franchise. Rosa Klebb's terrifying seduction / recruitment of Tatiana Romanova, Red Grant's silent guardianship over 007 for most of the film, Bond's tender squeeze of Kerim Bey's arm when he finds his dead body - all these and more point to writing and direction that rarely felt so confident again until Timothy Dalton took over 24 years later.

Triumphantly, all the sneaking about in the shadows and mumbling secret codes that could have made From Russia With Love a catatonic yawnfest are not just beautifully shot, edited and scored, but are contrasted perfectly with the action scenes - the revolutionary nature of which often goes overlooked. Take the brutal, bone-crunching fight on the Orient Express between Bond and Grant, who, incidentally, is so hard that when he whacks Bond in the chops he momentarily becomes Kenneth Williams.
The fight begins when Bond's standard issue "ordinary black leather case" explodes in Grant's face and ends exactly two bruising, breathless minutes later with 007 calmly straightening his grenadine silk tie and buttoning his Anthony Sinclair suit jacket. Between these two now-iconic elements of Bond lore, several people go to work on one of the greatest fight scenes in Bond - and cinema - history.
As soon as the fight begins, director Terence Young makes three genius decisions. First, he refuses to have music over the fight. He wants us to hear every punch, kick and grunt. Second, he has Grant inadvertently shoot out the light in the carriage, bathing everything in a disorientating, nightmarish moonlight blue. And third, Grant's flailing arm smashes the window, allowing the roar of the train wheels to flood in and heighten the mood even further.

Almost every sound you hear in those two minutes was created by dubbing editor Norman Wanstall and his team of noise wizards. Many of the crashes, bashes and smashes are exaggerated to the point where it sounds like someone shoving a drum kit down a stairwell, yet it never sounds unrealistic. Just very, very painful.
Young rehearsed for two days with Connery, Shaw and stuntmen Jackie Cooper and Peter Perkins to choreograph the scene to within an inch of its life. By the time it came to cut it together, Connery and Shaw had the ballet down so well that only one shot of the stunt doubles was required, and it's almost impossible to tell which shot this is.

Which brings us to editor Peter Hunt. With footage from three cameras at his disposal, Hunt cut the fight like nobody had ever cut a fight scene before. Many of his edits make no sense in isolation or are deliberate jump cuts - watch when Bond shields his face with his arms - but in context they transform the fight from a bog-standard punch-up to a gladiatorial rumble. There are quick cuts to heighten the tension, but Hunt isn't afraid to linger on the odd shot to show how titanic this struggle is. And, most importantly, it's completely possible for the audience to keep up with who's kicking whose ass during the bout - something crucially forgotten during the editing of Quantum Of Solace's fights.
It's no exaggeration to suggest that between them Terence Young and Peter Hunt changed the action genre forever with From Russia With Love. Every on-screen scrap since owes something to those amazing 120 seconds in a tiny set at Pinewood Studios.

It's a proper spy thriller
Made during a particularly chilly part of the Cold War, From Russia With Love is shot through with paranoia, double-crosses and shadow-cloaked deaths at every turn. Everyone's being followed by everyone else, people use ridiculously convoluted recognition codes, and there are hidden cameras and microphones everywhere. It's arguably the only Bond film that could be labelled a "spy thriller" before the series became a genre in itself, making it not just a great Bond film, but a great film full stop.

John Barry's score
"Tania Meets Klebb"

If you've ever skulked about in a Turkish mosque, watched two improbably beautiful gypsy women scratch each other to shreds or stolen a Macguffin from the Russian consulate in Istanbul, this is the music you would have been humming to yourself along the way. Perfect in almost every way.

Red Grant
Where the book's Grant becomes a raving psychopath with every full moon, Shaw sensibly goes for the cool, calculating, brick shithouse approach, setting the template for Bond henchpersons for the next five decades. The way he puts his gloves on before he kills anyone makes me do a little poo.

And finally: All hail the first barely-disguised reference to Little James:

You're one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen.

Thank you, but... I think my mouth is too big.

No, it's the right size... for me, that is.
BlogalongaBond will return with Goldfinger

What the hell is BlogalongaBond? I'll tell you.
Further BlogalongaBondareading here

Thursday 17 February 2011

Brand New Black Gold Images!

I had a lovely email from a PR type the other day sending me stills from the forthcoming Antonio Banderas film Black Gold. I've never heard of Black Gold but it looks absolutely unbelievably brilliant from these shots. They are possibly the only stills you need to see from any movie released this year. They're that good.

The email came with specific instructions regarding the attribution of the photos:
Well far be it from me to deny such a request, and I really wanted to share the images, so here you go.
 Looks amazing dunnit?

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Trailer Science: The Law Of Inverse Proportionality

Something to bear in mind as you watch this:

This one goes to eleven. That's one unfunnier.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Jesse & Andy's "Great Telly Moments"

Welcome to the first in an unlikely-to-continue series of posts in which The Social Network stars and bezzie mates Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, via the medium of animated .gifs, recreate their favourite moments from British television.

Episode 1
gif animator
Tune in next week for Episode 2: That time those two fat girls had that punch-up on The X Factor that time, remember?

Monday 14 February 2011

Two Tired Old Jokes For The Price Of One

Yes, I'm aware that I should have done something about the BAFTAs today, but frankly I couldn't give a shit. Um... Rosamund Pike was good wasn't she?

Saturday 12 February 2011

Saturday Playlist #19: John Powell

If I had a pound for everyone who's ever emailed me and said "Why haven't you done a John Powell playlist yet? Love, Simon Renshaw" then I'd have a pound. You may be aware of Simon's work from the ROFLacious Picturehouse Podcasts he does with his young ward Sam Clements, but what you may not know is that a) he's the world's biggest John Powell fan and b) he owns Europe's largest collection of identical blue jumpers.

So what better way to silence his foul whining than to get him to compile the playlist himself and pass it off as my own, especially as I know next to nothing about John Powell's work? Simon gets his playlist, John Powell gets a bit of publicity, you get to hear some music you otherwise wouldn't have heard and I get the day off. Everyone's a winner, petit dejeuner.
If you're a bit simple and still haven't downloaded Spotify FOR FREE, Simon has kindly linked to some of Powell's movie tunage on the interwebs, which I include here for the sake of completeness, especially as I dumped several tracks off his playlist for being a bit dull.

"Helicopter Dance" from Rat Race

"Furniture" from Face/Off

"Tango De Los Asesinos" from Mr. & Mrs. Smith

So sit back and do something that pertains to something that happens in the films that John Powell scored, I don't know, train a dragon or something, and...