Thursday, 26 August 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Finest Evening

I remember when I saw the first still of production from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. It sported George-Michael from Arrested Development with a flaming Katana, fighting some mysterious men on a giant neon pyramid. I did what any self-respecting unemployed person would do and marched to the shops in my pyjamas to spend money [I didn't have] on a book [I didn't really need]. From there stemmed a love affair with a comic that hit very close to home. Scott's a 23 year old slacker living in Toronto (I was living in Canada at the time), who's forced to fight the seven evil exes of his new girlfriend, in order to continue dating her. The similarities were... undeniable (apart from the whole evil exes thing).

Edgar Wright obviously saw potential in a young Michael Cera

6 months (and a hell of a lot of trailer watching) later, the film is finally upon us. I was lucky enough to attend a very special Ultra Culture screening of the film last night at the ICA, complete with wacky competitions, a currently unreleased Rockband 3, and video greeting from the cast themselves. A massive geek-fest basically.

The film is predictably great, perfectly syncing O'Malley's 6 volume relationship odyssey into one succinct story about love and 7 evil exes. Somehow it manages to cram more winks and nods to popular culture than Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz put together. You could say it's "like Spaced, but on Acid!" But I won't say that because I'm not a massive douchebag. Starting with a 16bit version of the Universal logo, the following 2 hours is a love letter to anything internet/Nintendo/indie related, and inevitably becomes a bit self indulgent at times. But that is the fun of Scott Pilgrim. It's very aware it has the attention span of a 7 year old kid on a coke zero bender - so an unabashed Wright fills the film with as many mind-bending sequences as humanly possible, and resoundingly succeeds. I think it's safe to say Wright has pretty much sewn up the market for hyper-intensive action scenes and innovative directorial in-jokes. A true auteur of our time, this man is going to be very busy in the next 10 years.

A game changer? If people let it be.

I appreciate the fact that a lot of people won't like Scott Pilgrim. I don't hold it against them (well, only a little), it's just a very particular type of film. Even my interest wained slightly in between fights 3 - 5; mainly due to the sheer number of visual references thrown at you in such quick succession. Some segments work brilliantly in it's bizarre alternate reality (the DJ-off, and the pyramid fight for example), whereas some parts feel a bit silly (ie. the vegan police, and the demon bollywood number). Perhaps Wright was too faithful to the source material? Who knows. Just don't expect huge Inception-type blockbuster appeal.

The biggest surprise of our evening, however, came when the credits had finished, as the man-of-the-hour (aka Edgar Wright) calmly walked through the door, greeted by hushed awe and incessant whispering. Looking like he hadn't slept for about a year, Wright answered questions with his infamous cheeky grin and geeky charm, leaving the whole audience feeling quietly humbled.

As you can tell, we got pretty close to the man who made Spaced

Anyway, I could probably ramble on about how amazing this film is, but you're either gonna see it or you're not. Perfectly described as a musical, but with Japanese styled fight scenes instead of songs; it is a film guaranteed to split audiences, and seal Edgar Wright's fate as King of the Chic Geeks.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


So I've just found out Airplane is 30 years old (thanks Gaurdian). Why this is still the funniest film ever made:

No Airplane, no Hot Shots. And what a sad world that would have been.

Monday, 16 August 2010

How to score chicks... in Independent Movies.

If I've learnt anything from movies directed by John Hughes, it's that if you're a massive weirdo with serious emotional problems, you're a guaranteed babe magnet.

Watching Thumbsucker the other day I had a slight revelation about where I'd been going wrong with women all these years. Near the end of the movie, the lead character wakes up on a plane to discover he's been sucking his thumb and making incoherent babbling noises. The cute girl sitting next to him doesn't shy away in disgust like most of us would, but instead is seemingly turned on by his toddler-esque habit, giving him some some serious eyelash flirtation in return. There was me thinking wit and charm were important, whereas a bizarre character trait (clearly brought on by a significant childhood trauma) is a far more effective in getting female attention.

It got me thinking of other unconventional ladies men in the Indie cinema world...

Lars from Lars and the Real Girl

We all identify with Lars in one way or another. His fear of large social situations, or his abhorrence to close physical contact with another person. Where we identify with him less, however, is his need to order a life size sex doll for a platonic relationship in order to overshadow his incapability of being close to a real person. Yet Margo, the cute girl from his office, has the hots for him. Even after witnessing him love, argue with, and finally bury a plastic doll, Margo is willing to go on a date with him. Why, oh why!? This man clearly has a very severe case of paranoid schizophrenia, yet everyone sees him as a sweet, lonely man who just wants love. Just don't come crying to me when you end up hacked up in a bathtub.

Donnie from Donnie Darko

"Sit next to the boy you think is the cutest" Drew Barrymore unrealistically says to Jena Malone as she goes to sit down in her new classroom, eventually picking a young Jake Gyllenhaal. What she doesn't know, however, is that Donnie is a crazy person. He takes pills, sees apocalyptic giant bunny rabbits, burns down houses, and stabs mirrors. Normal teenager then (sorry). Still, she puts up with his ridiculous, nonsensical antics and gets killed in the process. Should have sat next to Seth Rogen, shouldn't you!

Barry from Punch Drunk Love

When Barry isn't smashing up bathrooms with his bare hands, he spends most of his time crying and calling up phone sex lines. And still, Emily Watson (aka my future wife) follows him around like a bitch on heat. I know women like complicated men, but come on!

Anyway, I'm probably just jealous. Apparently there's a thing called 'personality' too, but we all know women are only after money and muscles. It's lucky that I'm a hot-shot banker who looks like Taylor Lautner then.

One last one... Woody Allen from Anything

'Nuff said.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Non-Music Related Big Chill Festival Activities

When I wasn't being dragged around by my far trendier festival buddies to see a band entirely made up of drummers, I managed to escape to the tranquility of the cinema tent.

Upon my first visit, it took me a good 5 minutes to work out that the originally programmed Son of Rambow (2007), was actually the family classic The Railway Children (1970). And whilst it wasn't exactly my cup of tea (children running around being all Victorian-y), I couldn't help but fall for it's overall good nature and simple storytelling. When my mates finally caught up with me I was quite reluctant to leave, but I could hardly say I wanted to skip out on some D'n'B just so I could see what happens to Bobbie, Peter, and Phyllis. Bit of a festival faux-pas. Last thing I saw was they found a disgruntled Russian man. Hope everything turned out ok...

My next visit was another surprise, although not quite as pleasant. Obviously made in an era where colourful musicals like The Umberellas of Cherbourg (1964) were very popular, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1969) is an almost exact copy, except British and without the charm or French tongue-in-cheek. Instead it's 30 minutes of nauseating musical numbers, strung together by some of the most bizarre directing I have ever seen. If you think you can stomach 3 minutes of this tripe, 'Julie's Song' is below.

Luckily, the next film was a bit of a fave of mine. Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) is not so much a film, but a series of well put together short stories about children and adults living in an LA neighbourhood. Recently, I've been on a bit of a tirade about so-called 'indie' films; slagging them off for their broad meandering themes and contrived plotting. MAYAEWK is an exception to this trend because it keeps to a single theme and completely nails it. The concept, adults acting like children and children acting like adults, is not an original idea by any means (Freaky Friday anyone?), but it's never been done so naturally before. Harsh yet sweet, romantic yet cynical - this is truly a unique Independent movie. It also helped that the audience I was with actually 'got it', as some of the more extreme scenes (all of which are inferred and never seen) put a lot of people off.

Plus the 'poop back and forth' scene is just hilarious.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Everything that's Wrong with the Contemporary Horror Film and How I'm Going to Save it

Remember in the mid 2000's when Channel 4 pumped out those '100 Greatest...' shows? Of course you do, as they seem to repeat them every three months on their various '4' channels. I happened to catch the 100 Greatest Scary Moments on E4 last night with the (thankfully) now under-exposed, Jimmy Carr. I love horror films. Ever since I was 12 and watched Scream 2 on a flight to Florida, I have been intrigued/terrified with the idea of 'horror' and the different forms it can take. This is why I spent the next 4 hours watching various spoilers from my favourite horror films, whilst Mark Kermode droned over the top of them saying how everything is to do with the fear of male rape.

The Shining was the overall winner, beating The Exorcist to the number 1 spot, which I full-heartily agree with. Even though it might not be the goriest horror film, or even the scariest, The Shining has something far more unnerving up it's bloody sleeve; the human brain. The best horror films don't just deal with monsters and demons, they delve into the most primitive thoughts of the human mind and, more scarily, into ourselves.

However, it was to my absolute horror that during the show I found myself flicking back and forth to Film4, where they were showing a recent British horror film called Donkey Punch (if you're over 18 and don't know the meaning of this, look it up). I, and probably several hundred other confused people, watched in absolute disbelief as six 20-something scumbags ran around a yacht throwing propellers at each other.

In order to try and salvage the horror movie industry single-handedly (that's right), I will now suggest 10 ways to save this dying genre:

1) Less evil children - Unless you're Stanley Kubrick or that guy who did The Exorcist, stop with the insanely clich├ęd 'kid who draws pictures of people with knives in their faces'. Generally the kid can't act so it just looks like a bad spoof.

2) Less gratuitous sex - Now that I'm over the age of 15, there is no need for a horror film to feature a sex scene with a big breasted woman. The looming threat of death doesn't really do it for me.

3) Less 'fake shocks' - It's cheap and obvious.

4) Less CGI - I don't think I have ever been scared by a CGI creature more than a film like The Thing or Evil Dead. The physicality of something, despite how cruddy it looks, is far more terrifying than something so obviously made in a computer.

5) Less Twists - You shouldn't rely on plot twists in a horror film, especially as we're all now looking for them (thanks a lot M. Night Shyamalan). The best horror films are the simplest ones.

6) More likable characters - Watch Donkey Punch and care for one of those characters. I dare you.

7) More suspense - Don't be afraid to keep the audience waiting for a scare, even if it takes an hour. If the scare is good enough, the audience will forgive you. See House of the Devil (2009) for a good example.

8) More gore - Might seem like an odd suggestion, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of old fashioned blood 'n' guts. It's amazing how many recent horror films cut away in order to get that 15 certificate.

9) More suffering on behalf of the actors - Sounds a bit sadistic but some of the best horror performances have resulted from tortuous film shoots - Shelley Duvall's frantic portrayal of Wendy in The Shining was due to 15 hour days and constant nagging from Kubrick.

10) More old women in bathtubs - Still can't watch that scene.

You're welcome Hollywood.