It’s London Film Festival time! This year I have the money to attend, but not quite with as many films as I usually try to get in. As always, I went for the postal option as past experience as shown me that the BFI website crashes almost instantly the day priority booking opens and people get quite irate if they can’t get their film picks – as with every postal booking I don’t actually know if I’ve been successful with any of my bookings. Fingers crossed.
I went for:
Gravity (out on the 9th November so not long to wait if I don’t get it)
The Armstrong Lie (quite keen to see this documentary)
Saving Mr Banks (closing night gala, not holding my breath but you never know!)
Kill Your Darlings (I do know I’ve got this one as I booked it online about an hour ago).
Will report back.
Due to illness, I ended up missing ‘Carancho’ and ‘The First Grader’; wish I hadn’t missed ‘The First Grader’ as it looked like an excellent film. Oh well, I’ll keep my eye out for the release! I’m also going to be missing the Russian Film Festival for the first time this year but I did get given a leaflet about the Iranian Film Festival so might check that one out.
‘The Kids Are All Right’ (USA, 2010)
Completely charming, moving and wonderfully acted. There was a danger of going down the path of the worlds worst cliché, but it pulled it off in an utterly believable way and without making me angry. Every character felt real, and it’s rare to have a Hollywood film that’s about marriage that includes the marriage.
Annette Benning is outstanding, I hope she gets at least a best actress nomination at the Oscars this year. Highly recommended.
‘Truce’ (Russia, 2010)
I got confused, then I got lost and then I got bored. Avoid. Would love to know why it was selected for the LFF (Sorry, the only trailer I could is in Russian).
‘Never Let Me Go’ (UK, 2010)
‘Never Let Me’ is a hauntingly powerful film, expertly adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Carey Mulligan, Kera Knightly and Andrew Garfield star as Cathy, Ruth and Tommy there clones who exist for the single purpose of donating their vital organs. They start their lives at Hailsham, watched over and taught by ‘guardians’, encouraged to be creative for reasons they can only grasp in an almost childlike way, leading to one of the most disturbing scenes of the film. Cathy, Ruth and Tommy have a childlike innocence that is slowly eroded away as they really start to understanding their reality. The film is dark and raises interesting ethical and moral questions. Highly recommended.
‘Black Swan’ (USA, 2010)
An uncomfortable take of passion, obsession and desire. Darren Aronofsky makes you feel every moment, every impact and every decision, and it’s relentless. Like Natalie Portman’s brilliantly flawed Nina, we are given no breaks, no time to relax and kept on the edge of your seat for the entire film unable to resist.
Portman is outstanding as the tragic Nina, trapped within her passion and lost in obsession, Mila Kunis is delightful as the would-be-successor, in fact everyone is wonderful – you can’t help but believe every aspect of their characters. There is no single weak moment in the film, every second is a visual treat and it’s a hugely evocative and emotive film that is just beautiful to watch. Do not miss.
‘Brighton Rock’ (UK, 2010)
This years ‘surprise film’ really did take my by surprise – I didn’t know anyone was remaking the 1947 film! (Sorry, apparently it’s ‘like Shakespeare, worthy of multiple adaptations’). Based on the 1938 Graham Greene novel, this version moves the action forward to 1964 and puts it slap bang in the middle of the ‘youth revolt’.
‘Brighton Rock’ is your typical average gangster flick, the same unsympathetic and rather stupid characters who thoroughly deserve everything that happens to them. It looks and feels like something that started life as a two part BBC4 special, and it probably plays better on the small screen.
Decent acting all round, but John Hurt and Helen Mirran were completely wasted.
‘Conviction’ (USA, 2010)
‘Conviction’ is the latest film in a long line of American films that explore the idea of the ‘American Dream’. A horrific murder is pinned on the local bad boy (brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell), convicted by unconvincing testimony and circumstantial evidence (he had the same blood type as the perpetrator), Kenny is sentenced to life without parole, only his sister (convincingly played by Hilary Swank) believes in his innocence. Spurned by her belief, Beth is inspired to get her GED, go to college and complete law school, all while juggling two boys and her ex-husband. It’s all very channel 5 afternoon movie territory, and will no doubt be on the Oscar shortlist.
The performances are fine, but the directing and script were pedestrian – nothing happens that isn’t about moving us from A to B to C and pivotal moments (the DNA, finding the evidence etc…) are treated mundanely. There was a moment when one of Betty-Ann’s boys implied she had wasted her life, and I had to agree – Betty-Ann seemed very one-note and actually came across as more selfish than heroic, something which I’m sure isn’t true of real life.
A decently made film, but nothing worth waiting for.
‘Nothing’s All Bad’ (Denmark, 2010)
A touching, shocking, bizarre and farcical debut from Danish director Mikkel Munch-Fals. Ingeberg (Bodil Jørgensen ) has just retired and her lost her husband, her daughter Anna (Mille Lehfeldt ) is recovering from a mastectomy, Anders (Henrik Prip) has just lost his wife and son Jonas (Sebastian Jessen ), who will ultimately link them all together in one of the most awkward Christmas dinners seen on screen!
Searching for company, Ingeberg encounters Jonas selling himself at a local bar, she takes him home and pays for his services. Anders is unable to control the urge to expose himself in the park, Anna becomes one of his unwitting victims. In a search to feel something, Anna takes part in a dingy amateur porn film with Jonas her partner and in an desperate attempt to control his sexual urges Anders attempts to mutilate himself before finally encountering Ingeberg at the hospital.
It’s a joyous farce! The only weak note was an extended section where a homeless Jonas is taken in by a seemingly nice couple but they are not as they appear to be. Great performances from Kurt Ravn (one of my favourite Valjean’s) and Michelle Bjørn-Andersen.
‘The Book of Masters’ (Russia, 2009)
This is Disney’s first Russian production and it’s certainly an odd one! A fantastical mix of several traditional Russian folk tales held together with a central tale of the stone countess. Visually, it looks a lot like the Disney films from the early 1980s, with little moments of primitive CGI effects (the creation of the stone warriors and the talking ball of wool).
It’s charming and has a nostalgic feel about it but I don’t think it’ll be wowing audiences and it’ll also be interesting to see what’s next from Disney-Russia.
‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ (USA, 2010)
A charming if sometimes unconvincing comedy from the creators of ‘Half Nelson’. It’s very aware of its associations and of the clichés the film creeps around but rather than feeling self-indulgent, they feel like polite nods to the audience.
The characters for the most part are believable, they fall down with their attempts at off-the-wall but Bobby (Zach Galifianakis ) and Craig (Keir Gilchrist ) are the most believable. There’s genuinely touching moments and the laughs don’t feel forced. Recommended.
This year is my first trip to the LFF as a member of the BFI, last year I joined shortly after the festival. I generally split my time between the National Film Theatre and my local cinema, the one thing I regret about this year is having to drop out of going to see Ray Harryhausen present ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ (curse you kidney infection!)
Being a member this year meant I got to join in the fun that is priority postal booking. You pick the films you want tickets for, send off the form and then wait – luckily this year I got all my picks – hurray :). I went to see ‘Never Let Me Go’ earlier today, it’s an excellent film and I’m sure it’ll be appearing on the Oscar shortlist! Carey Mulligan is a really talented young actress, I can see her going very far! It’s also a really good book adaptation, so it’s unsurprising that the author is one of the executive producers. It’s out on the 21st Jan next year, and it’s one you should be anticpating.
Other films I’m seeing are: ‘Black Swan’ (really looking forward to this), ‘The Kids Are Alright’ (another one I’m looking forward to), ‘The Book of Masters’ (Disney’s first Russian co-production), ‘Conviction’, ‘Nothing All Bad’ and ‘Truce’. I also have tickets to the ‘Surprise Film’, which better be better than last years Michael Moore documentary!
Fantastic Mr Fox – 2/5
Lacked the charm, the darkness and the humour of the original book. Trying too hard to be clever and far too long. Not sure who Wes Anderson made the film for, I was bored and accidentally went during half-term and based on the moaning children I don’t think they were too engaged. Looked pretty though.
Plan B (3.5/5) (London Film Festival)
The basic premise was a guy dumps his girlfriend because he’s bored, sees girlfriend with another guy and hatches a plot to get back together again with the girlfriend by seducing the new boyfriend… the new boyfriend and the guy end up falling in love. A rather sweet, gentle film considering the plot could have turned malicious, it struggled towards the middle and the passage of time stills got a bit over-long. The characters were very believable and it was played very well.
The White Space (3/5) (London Film Festival)
A teacher in Italy gives birth to a three month premature baby, and the film is set in the premature baby unit at the hospital where the mothers wait for their babies to be ‘born’. A very different sort of film, nicely shot and with a very intriguing plot. In a way it made me think of Pedro Almodóvar’s films in that women are the central characters and it’s about them rather than the people around them.
Glorious 39 (3/5) (London Film Festival)
Stephen Poliakoff’s return to film. A very televisual tense second world war conspiracy thriller. Great performances from the cast, interesting story with a twist that even though I could see coming didn’t feel forced. Did feel a little long in places and felt like it would have played better as a two part TV drama but that’s not exactly a criticism. It goes on general release soon and I think it’s worth checking out, good Sunday afternoon flick.
ASSA II (3.5/5) (Russian Film Festival)
I’m afraid I don’t know how to describe this film, other than it’s a follow-up to what I believe is a generation defining Russian film (ASSA). Bizarrely compelling, amazing visuals and one hell of a soundtrack (I think Shnur is kinda the REM of Russia… I think). I don’t even think this is going on general release in Russia but if somehow you can get hold of a copy it’s worth giving a go… I saw it last Sunday and I’m still mulling over how I felt about the film. I’d really like to see ‘ASSA’ but it’s hard to find.
Very intriguing plot with some very interesting ideas, visually it’s absolutely amazing – steampunk fun! It’s not the best film I’ve seen but certainly something I would like to see again because the ideas are very big, and the story is… pretty dark. Worth seeing, but whether or not you see it at the cinema is another matter… might be worth it just for the design.
An Education (4/5)
A very British sort of film, with a compelling plot and interesting characters. The lead actress is being tipped for an Oscar and I think that if she got it (or was even nominated) it would be very deserved. Definitely a film to watch on an evening out with the other half.
‘Cracks’ is the début feature from Jordan Scott, Ridley Scott’s daughter. It’s an adaptation of the book by Sheila Kohler, with the action transported to Ireland and changes the time period to the 1930s – having never read the novel I can’t comment on whether this works but I plan to track a copy down. ‘Cracks’ tells the story of a group of girls at an isolated boarding school, they’re coached on the swim team by the incredibly charismatic ‘Miss G’ (Eva Green) who tells exotic stories of her life and tells the girls the act and think freely. The status-quo of the group is upset by the arrival of a new girl from Spain, Fiamma (María Valverde) which leads to a betrayal, seduction and ultimately tragedy. It’s a mesmerising dark film, beautifully acted and wonderfully shot.
A question from the audience accused Jordan Scott of continuing the stereotype of the ‘mad, sad and bad’ lesbian and I feel that there is a tendency from the LGBT community to see things that aren’t really there. The film is not about a lesbian relationship, it’s about obsession, about desire for what you can never have and a betrayal. The fact that it leads to a very uncomfortable scene where the deeply flawed Miss G seduces the unconscious 16yr old Fiamma does not make it a lesbian film. Nor do I feel that the character of Miss G character is a lesbian – she’s someone who has never (despite her stories) lived beyond the closeted walls of the school, living very much through other people and wanting to become Fiamma, who has lived the life Miss G can only dream.
The film goes on general release in December and it’s one I recommend catching.
As for the ‘surprise film’ which turned out to be ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ – I was thoroughly disappointed in.
Michael Moore documentaries are things you make an informed decision to see. A little over 2hrs is a long time to tell us that congress is ruled by Wall Street, that people have been screwed over by high risk mortgage lenders and that some companies are not the most conscientious of employers. If I didn’t already dislike Michael Moore’s documentary style, I certainly do now. I took a gamble on the surprise film and it didn’t work out for me… will I think twice next year? Probably.
I checked the trending topic on Twitter and noticed that Guy Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ was being suggested as the surprise film… would to be honest, much as I hate the idea of it, would have been fun to see early – get a review up on my Holmes blog before the other Holmesians can 😛 (plus it couldn’t be worse than a Michael Moore documentary could it?