Thursday, 26 July 2012

Challenge Excepted: France

A historical drama that has hardly been mentioned. It is France this time and the film, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky.

I saw 'Coco Before Chanel' (2009) in the cinemas and didn't think much about the film. I thought I would get an insight to one of the most famous people in fashion and one of the most infamous women of the 20th Century, but I didn't really. When she finally started wearing men's clothing and cutting up material, that's when the magic happened. I started to become interested in her affair with the British polo player, Captain Arther Edward 'Boy' Capel but the film ended before that was explored.

As I had never researched or had reason before to look up Chanel I was amazed to see so much about her. I am not a fashion follower and know nothing of fashion history. But I was surprised to see that 'She was the only fashion designer to be named on Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century'.

While 'Coco Before Chanel' ended with Coco's relationship with 'Boy' only just starting, in this film, he dies just after the first few scenes. But this film isn't about him and her. It's about what happened after the love of Chanel's life dies in a car accident and Stravinsky's 'The Rite of Spring' causes one of the most famous classical music riots in history.

The film begins in 1913. The premiere of Stravinsky's latest work, The Rite of Spring, is performed. There is riot, the audience is outraged by the composition of the music. Coco Chanel is in the audience.

Seven years later, Chanel and Stravinsky meet again. Chanel's business in fashion is flourishing but she is still mourning the death of Boy. Stravinsky and his family have decided to flee Russia and the revolution and live in France but they are almost penniless. When these two meet there is, yes, immediate attraction, as well as sympathy.

Chanel invited Stravinsky and his family to live in her villa outside Paris. The family move in and things start to get better for the Russian family. But of course, during the summer months, Chanel and Stravinsky begin an affair.

You may think when reading this that I've given everything away. I haven't. The film is amazing to watch if not for the effortless shots but for the actors who embody their characters so well that I forgot who they were. Anna Mouglalis, a past Chanel model and Mads Mikkelsen are perfect as Chanel and Stravinsky. The glances and silences they share were captivating, it didn't matter what scene it was, they had chemistry that some films miss where a love affair is concerned.

I enjoyed this film more than 'Coco Before Chanel' because this didn't feel like it was catering for the masses. The masses that only speak english anyway. It had a different quality that felt like a true french film. CBC (I'm shortening it now) felt more like a commercial that english speakers could watch and say they'd seen a foreign film. I really loved Coco & Igor, it was simple, sad and passionate, couldn't ask for more.

 End Line: Music + Fashion + Perfume x Frustration ÷ Passion = Yes, it was erotic

Next: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Iceland, Sweden, Hungary & Romania, Mexico

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Return of the Phoenix

We all remember when Joaquin Phoenix went crazy in 2008 and 'retired' from acting to pursue a music career. We all thought that he might go into country music, as he did so well in 'Walk the Line'. But no, he decided to pursue a rap music career. He grew that hobo beard and acted strange and unnerving on the David Letterman show. But in 2010 we breathed a sigh of relief, well those who didn't realise that this 'act' had been all for a mockumentary, when he appeared on David Letterman's show again. He explained he and brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, had been filming this all for 'I'm Still Here' and that he had been playing a character.

I saw 'I'm Still Here' in the cinema with my sister, fans of the Phoenix for years and it was amazing. It was hilarious, it was hard to think how people thought it was real. Phoenix was a genius and an amazing actor and he has been missed from the screen. His last acting role (not including his own film) was back in 2008 and the upcoming film, The Master will his first since that date.

The story has been compared to the life of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard but is in fact nothing to do with the man. The story is similar though, as Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, who forms his own religious movement during the 1950s. Phoenix is playing the role of the young protege.

When I first heard of this film and saw the trailer, I literally screamed I am that excited to see Phoenix in films again. Especially after hearing rumours of him appearing in others films such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Speilberg's Lincoln. A lot of Lincoln there.

Here is a link to The Master trailer:

And a link to an article:

The film is set for release this October. He has also been filming a few other films and thanks to this link below you can feast your eyes on these stills.

I told everyone that Joaquin Phoenix would rise again.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Challenge Excepted: Lebanon

I loved 'Caramel' and I love Nadine Labaki. My friends and I am had been waiting years for a follow up second feature, as Labaki directs lots of music videos too, and finally the film arrived in UK.

The story is set in a remote, isolated and unnamed village in Lebanon where Muslims and Christians live side by side. The village is surrounded by land mines with only a small bridge with access in and out of the village. When civil strife consumes the country, the women of the village are first to hear about it and try their best to prevent the men from finding out in fear that they too will take up arms against each other. In various ways, some very amusing they try their best to keep the men in the dark about the world outside the village.

The opening sequence is beautiful. No other way, apart from very sad, to describe it. All the women in the village, dressed in black, walk to the cemetery to morn the men who have died in the war. This sets the tone of the film, a serious drama about women suffering together and trying the keep the peace. Not to paint the the film as a depressing story, the film has some truly comical situation and scenes not to mention the amazing and sudden outbursts of song and music. the best musical number being when the women bake hash into sweet pasteries for the men without their knowledge.

Women are a common theme in Labki's films, both Caramel (2007) and Where Do We Go Now? are centred around women and their friendships which overcome all obstacles, especially in the latter. The friendships she presents feel real, which has a great deal to do with the fact that she uses non actors. The cast on a whole are brilliant, including Labaki herself, they manage the changing tempo of comedy and tragedy.

The title may seem strange and odd at first by in the last few minutes of the film, it becomes so clear what the film is trying to say, where do we go now? Well Labaki can only do great things. Just wish her films were shown for longer than a week.

I admire Labaki so much as she writes, directs and acts in her films and she is actually appreciated in the film industry. There are too few female directors who are respected and Labaki gives me hope for the future.

End Line: Women are proved to be the real strong characters in a world of chaos.

Next: France

Enter the Car Park, If You Dare

Last week was number two of RAAR! Films short film shoots in preparation for Flamingo Close. This time it was in a car park, at night and with the most important ingredient, ZOMBIES!

Seeing as it was a night shoot cast and crew gathered in a car park in St Albans at 18:00. Cast got into make up and crew set up the shots. My role this time was round was production assistant and I had great fun wondering around, checking we were on schedule, getting forms signed and carrying my rucksack around. I got called Dora the Explorer, which was amusing.

This shoot was also quite special for me as I wrote the script, 'Cass' so I was very excited on set. Playing the part of Cass, the woman in the car when zombies attack, was played by Laura Lexx. For those who saw my film Space Detective, you might recognise her. Playing her friend fetching the supplies was Katherine Rodden and what a marvelous team they are.

This short was funded by friends, family, supporters and those who love film on IndieGoGo and there is actually a teaser up on the website. Link is below:

Keep your eyes peeled for more news of the finished film. In the meantime, head over to RAAR! Films Facebook page

And have a read of Laura Lexx's blog and webite:

Here are some black and white stills from the shoot, just to keep you excited for more Flamingo Close goodness.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Can't Stop the Rush(es)

This time last week it was the Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival (a mouthful) and I was volunteering!

It was only one shift as I had other plans that weekend (RAAR! business, post to follow soon) but it was the most fun I had had on an unpaid job.

I arrived promptly, not knowing what to expect, then I was taken up many stairs, which seems to be a running theme of all these jobs. I was then greeted/bombarded with loads of runners all rushing everywhere in the kitchen and the terrace area. I was introduced to people throughout the evening while moving boxes and boxes of wine, beer and other assorted drinks.

The first job of the evening was to move furniture into other rooms and then clear the outside terrace area so that people, when they arrived had time to mingle.

But my job was to work the bar. Excellent. I was working on the bar with another volunteer who was really fun to work with. She had done this sort of thing before and showed me how to pour beer properly.

Our bar was, unfortunately, outside and in the rain. It was freezing cold so we were given Rushes jackets and macs to keep off the rain. We totally kept them after. We were also told that we could have as much of the drinks as we liked. This was amazing news. But I thought to keep it professional I wouldn't drink until the end.

It was a slow start to the party but eventually it became to crowded in the other bar so people did drift up to ours, in the rain. We did have a cover but that didn't prevent the rain falling just between where the bar was and the cover.

We got to serve actors, directors, producers and organisers all night, which was actually really fun, especially when they got really drunk. Some highlights were watching/listening to Nick Moran (actor/director) chat up a woman for about an hour, right next to the bar, then at the end he and his friend were smashed. There was another film festival organiser who kept leaving her wine on the bar and walking away then panicking when she couldn't find it. We kept it safe and she was eternally grateful and suggested that we helped at her festival, but it was in Cornwall. I also got to talk to 'Dreams of a Life' producer, Cairo Cannon, who was really excited to know that I saw the film at N21 film festival and wrote about it. She kept asking to read what I wrote but I didn't know how to show it to her . . . 

At the end of the party, well when the bar was closing, I and my fellow volunteer decided it was time for a drink. So I drank three cups of rose wine and a very nice Portuguese beer. I was very tipsy going home. Everyone was so nice and great fun to work with, I had a great time and definitely will volunteer again.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Watching the Famous From a Safe Distance

The busy time is over and so now I have a little more time to write.

Back to the blog world!

If anyone went to the London Film and Comic Con this year you might have noticed the excellent new venue, the mighty Kensington Olympia and all the glorious space. And you might have noticed that talks aren't free anymore which is great shame. Whenever I have been to the event in previous years whether I had money or not I could always go to a talk. But this year all the talks (worth going to) were very expensive, £15, which is as much as some autographs. I noticed that next to no one was at these talks either. This meant for both Game of Thrones and Firefly talks I had to watch from outside the practically boxed off talk area.

 The Bat Mobile was there

In fact some of the more famous/popular actors were boxed off from others in the autograph signing section. Security was also tighter, no one could hardly stand close enough to take photos anymore. I saw several security people go and shout at people standing near the signing section who were holding cameras. 

The stalls were just as good but I couldn't find any Fables or Vertigo comics. My sister went the day before and she found loads. I guess there's always next time. Finding no comics aside, I did find the amazing mug stall, so many mugs and I got my usual postcard and a few badges. I saw this blast from my childhood past.

Thought this was a gem

What I did love was the independent artist rows, all the indie comics drawn, written, made by the artists. I got a few things from an illustrator I saw last year, Jess Bradley's drawings are so cute and fun. I also got a new comic called Madame Butterscotch who is a hired assassin and tea shop owner.

Here is the link to website:

And here is Jess Bradley's blog link

Although I didn't get any autographs I had a good time but I'm still annoyed about having to pay for talks.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Osterley in Black & White

As promised, here are the photographs in glorious black and white film. Shame I couldn't develop the prints myself but Snappy Snaps did a good job. All the photos came out superb.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bashing Those Cables

I realise looking at the dates of my posts its been almost a week! But I have some very good excuses. I have been on shoots, working, sleeping, on shoots, working, going to comic con and such. I have a few more posts lined up but that will be for later.

In advance, sorry for no photos, there really wasn't time or the right moment.

On Thursday and Saturday I trained it up to Cambridge, a place I had been only once before. The first time was a film festival and my dad scaring me while punting on the river. This time it was a shoot.

We were filming a lectures on explosions at the Chemistry department of University of Cambridge and it was actually very exciting. Professor Chris Bishop was the scientist conducting these experiments and lectures. If you are interested to learn more about these lectures, there are two others online, but it is best to click on the link above and go from there.

For the shoot was the cable basher, a role I hadn't really done before, but as you can guess it involves me looking after cables and making sure the camera operator doesn't trip over and have enough cable to get round the lecture table and experiments.

The first lecture was amazing, we got see all kinds of explosions and even though it was aimed at children I still found it fascinating. I got to sort of watch from the floor as that is where I mostly was. I was crawling around on the floor holding, pulling and sliding cables all over the place. Luckily no one tripped up or fell over. Although some very stupid children still managed to trip a few times walking across the front of the lecture theatre which they weren't supposed to be doing. Fools.

For the lecture on Saturday we had two extra cameras to film the entire lecture and because the close up camera and mysekf were at the front we had keep down, very close to the floor the whole time. After the last lecture I asked the producer if everything had gone ok and she said that they couldn't see me or the camera op, we were very well hidden. So well hidden she started to worry where we had gone. This meant I had done my job perfectly. Phew.

Great shoot, great crew and awesome explosions, an unsual shoot and a fantastic experience, even those my legs are quite bruised.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Challenge Excepted: Canada

Without realising it I watched my Canadian film. While watching it I wondered if it was an American but then I remembered Cronenberg's other films were Canadian and there you have it.

So Cosmoplis is my film from Canada.

If you have seen the strange, fast paced and very short trailer, be warned, the film is not like the trailer at all. This could be seen as a good and a bad thing.

Based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo the story follows billionaire Eric Packer who rides in his limousine, which he uses as an office, across Manhattan. He is told by his head of security, who practically never leaves his side, that the President is in town and there is traffic and advises him to stay at the office. But Packer is adamant he wants a haircut and his preferred barber is across town. Packer takes meetings in the limousine as well as having sex a few times. He only leaves the limo to talk to his new wife on three separate occasions. While the limo crawls through the city, Packer is also informed that an threat has been made on his life.

The plot is quite straight, it is actually so simple, rich man wants a haircut and has to deal with scenarios on the way. He only seems to meet with one person at a time, except when he has a meeting with his Chief of Finance while having his daily medical check up. These one on one conversations feel like scenes in a play. One character leaves, another enters, but Packer is constant, in every scene.

The film reminded me of Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control because there is one main character in every scene and he only ever has one on one meetings with various other characters. The main character, 'Lone Man' is also on a journey and each character he meets gives him a clue or advise. As the films goes on, it is understood that this 'Lone Man' is a hitman.

In Cosmopolis, Packer's financial state becomes clearer, he is losing money by the second and doesn't do anything about it. He treats the news that someone wants to kill him in the same way. But at the end, when he has his haircut, he seeks out his would-be assassin and confronts him. After this conversation, the film is left on a cliffhanger.

Each character is impressive and linger in your mind after the film but Robert Pattinson as Eric Packer is brilliant. Miles away from his annoying hero vampire persona that was very two dimensional, this feels like his first chance to actually act. He portrays the spoilt screwed up billionaire very well. If he takes more roles like this then more people will take him seriously.

Overall I'm not sure I enjoyed the film. I changed my mind throughout depending if the scene was compelling or not. I did wonder what the time was more than once and for me, that's quite bad. I never look at the time. I thought the characters were interesting but at times the dialogue was lost on me, it was too philosophical and maybe even dull. I was excited to see Paul Giamatti in the film and the role he had but his scene was very disappointing, it was way too long and took ages to get to a point.

I was interested in reading the book instead, maybe there something in the book that the film lacked.

End Line: Basic story of financial commentary lost in a riot

Next: Lebanon

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Climbing on Rooftops and Running up Stairs

This Saturday I spent the day in Brixton at the World Basketball Festival. Why? Well I was on a shoot, why else would I go to a basketball event?

Just in case anyone does enjoy basketball here is a link to the festival:

The day started at 5:00am for me as I had to be at a meeting at 7:30am in Brixton, ready to start the day. After the initial meet and greet of the runners we all walked over to the production office for the first part of the day. We carried all the equipment across the road to Windrush Square where the main action was taking place. This where is starting pouring down with rain, and that is where we waited for a good 30 minutes.

Finally the rest of the crew arrived, the camera operators, the directors and the producer. We all went on brief tour of the event grounds and got told our jobs. Each runner was meant to be assigned a camera operator to assist but there were more runners so me and runner pal for the day were left to watch over the van with all the equipment. But first were responsible for giving out all the radios and coverts to each crew member then we stood by the van for a few hours. We ran some cards and batteries to various camera ops but until about 12:30 we just stood in the sun.

At 12:30 I was told to climb on to the roof and watch over a time lapse. Getting on the roof was terrifying enough, mostly because to get on the roof, I had to climb up a rickety looking ladder. Once on the roof, I had a fantastic view of the entire court and got to actually see all the events going on. I admit, after about 15 minutes the novelty wore off. Because I was high up, the wind was quite violent, I had to make sure the camera didn't tip over and I was freezing. The guy who lived in the flat we used to get access to the roof, very kindly brought me a blanket. After about three hours I was told to come down.

After another few hours of waiting, this time by the side of the court, I had to run up and down to the production office to pick up and drop off batteries and cards. Six flights of stairs because there was only one key for the lift and the people in the office had it. They stayed in there the whole time by the way.

I once again had to run up to the roof and back a few times on false errands and up to the production office too. By the time we had to move location I was in so much pain. But so was everyone, mostly the runners.

Once at the Brixton Academy, all the operators were in place, as were the runners, except me. I had been told to collect equipment from the production office and bring to the van but the van had left without me. So I was late to the academy and was left to hang around in corridors until I was needed. I did get to watch the show at the same time make sure my earpiece was in place with the volume on loud. I was sent a few more false errands and got some operators in the pit their lunch.

By 10:15pm we were all ready to go home. I had to collect and pack up all the radios and earpieces and then it was a mad dash to pack up the van and be on our ways.

When reading this, is may sound bad and that I'm complaining. I am, of sorts. It was a fantastic experience and I got to work with some great people. I got to stand on the stage, even though it was back of the stage at Brixton Academy, I got to stand in the pit during performances, I had an all access pass and literally got to go everywhere I wanted at both locations. Those things alone were thrilling. It made me love filming fiction more though, live action may not be my passion but at least I got to take part.

June Watch List

 Very few new films this month, but then again, there have been some transferred to the World Film Challenge. Here are the precious few.

1. Tucker and Dale vs Evil
Set up like a typical horror film, a group of young college students go camping in the woods but get caught up with a couple of murderous hillbillies. Except they don't. Tucker and Dale are just two best friends going to spend a weekend in their newly rented holiday cabin. Unfortunately the cabin was were gruesome murders took place decades before. And the main reason why the college kids think they are murderous is because a guy in the group told them of a really twists tale. Fantastic idea with a great cast. Each accidental death is hilarious, especially the wood chipper one. Only one gripe and this may just be personal taste, but I think the roles between Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine should have been reversed, Alan Tudyk is far more convincing as a lead and Labine plays a good side kick. 3/5

2. Snow White & The Huntsman
We all know the tale of Snow White but this film twists that tale (or was meant to) ever so slightly. Instead of Snow White falling for the Prince, which she kind of does, she likes the Huntsman. Actually I'm not too sure as Kristen Stewart was really difficult to read. She either looked sick or pissed off throughout the film. The other twist is that she leads the charge against the evil Queen. She gives the most unconvincing speech beforehand. Otherwise, the film had similar pattern with slight changes to the original tale. I thought Chris Hemsworth wasn't that impressive either, he wasn't sure what kind of character he was playing, plus his Scottish accent was dodgy. The dwarfs were amazing as was the special effects, particularly the evil Queen's mirror. Apart from these small things and the fact that the filmmakers completely ripped Princess Monoke, the film was ok, but I did expect more as the trailers were epic. 3/5

3. Man on a Ledge
Just like the film 'The Ledge' this film was about a man, standing on a ledge. The title is self explanatory. Sam Worthington is a wrongfully accused policeman and part of his plan is to stand on a ledge to proof his innocence. I thought this film was about nothing. I kept expecting the film to pick up to a big climax but nothing happened. Ultimately this was a big hyped film that was dull. Even Jamie Bell couldn't pick it up. By the end I was just glad that I never paid to see it at the cinema. 2/5

4. Goon
When this film first came out, I really thought it was utter mush and predictable sport/emotional journey with violence and comedy. Oh how I was wrong. Sean William Scott is Doug, a bar bouncer who has the amazing ability to beat people up. He is quite simple but so adorable. He gets the chance to be the enforcer on a minor leage ice hockey team and things start to change for Doug.

At first I was put off by SWS himself but he play Doug so well, I actually cared about this character. The fact it was a sort of sport film put me off too, but the games in the film are awesome, everyone gets beaten up, I loved it. The script, if a little thin but still enjoyable, was written by Canadian actor Jay Baruchel (who is also in the film) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad writer), this is their first duo script. A really fun film and an excellent example of when I have misjudged a film. 4/5

5. Prometheus
Review to this follow soon!

6. The Other Guys
I have wanted to see this film for ages, mostly because Micheal Keaton was in it and partly because Mark Wahlberg was doing a comedy. The story is basically this, Allen Gamble (Will Ferrel) a annoying paperwork enthusiast and Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) a hot headed cop with anger issues, are New York City detectives, but are over shadowed by all the other cops. They stumble upon a financial conspiracy and have to learn to work with out each other. I really enjoyed this film, the story was clever too but I really didn't like Ferrel's character. I found him infuriating and blank, he had a few funny moment, particularly when he was telling a story of when he was back in college but otherwise disappointing. Both Keaton and Wahlberg was hilarious and the latter had the best line of the film "I'm a peacock, you gotta let me fly!". Funnier in context. 3/5

7. A Monster in Paris
An over looked piece of magical animation. Set in Paris during the Seine flood in 1910, Emile is a shy projectionist and is in love with Maud who also works at the cinema. Emile's friend Raoul is an extravagant delivery driver and inventor. The two of them, on a routine delivery, end up at an scientist's lab. After an accident with some chemicals and a flee from a monkey, a 'monster' is created. This flee has not only grown 7ft in size but has also gained some musical talent. He ends up on Lucille, a cabaret singer's doorstep. She takes him and makes him part of her act. They are a huge hit but when Chief of Police, Maynott finds out the whereabouts of the 'monster' the group have to hide the 'monster' and save him from being hunted. The film was so much fun and such a difference from all the other animated films that have been released recently. It was just a shame that it never got the release it deserved or the recognition. 4/5

8. Like Crazy

This film touches on those trans-Atlantic romances and long distance relationships that happen. The couple in the film, the marvelous British Felicity Jones and the awesome American Anton Yelchin. Writer Anna (Jones) is studying in L.A when she meets and falls in love with furniture designer Jacob (Yelchin). She decides to spend the summer in America with Jacob knowing her visa has expired. When she tries to re-enter the country she is sent home with a ban on any further visas, keeping the couple apart. The script was entirely improvised and you can tell as the emotions and conversations feel real. The pain that these characters are going through is laid bare on screen and you genuinely want these characters to find happiness. It was heartbreaking to the end and although people have said the state of their future relationship is unclear I like to think they recapture what they has from the start. 4/5