Monday, 27 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 11

Here it is, the last day. Much like the last day of term; there was no real structure to the day, so most people wandered around waiting for the clock to hit 6 o'clock so we could drink. After a delicious meal at Wagamama's, I caught the final hour of The People Vs. George Lucas, which was a mismatch of angry fans telling me how rubbish The Phantom Menace was. Sometimes amusing (mainly through clips from shows such as Spaced and South Park), but also severely schizophrenic - skipping from one opinion to the next without any real hesitation.

New York, I Love You was thankfully more consistent with it's message: love is nice. From the same producer as Paris, Je t'aime, comes another collection of short stories made by a variety of filmmakers, starring a whole bunch of fairly well-known actors, all set in New York. Overall the film works pretty well, with only a few shorts falling flat (the Shia Labeouf one is particularly wanky), and reaffirmed my love for Ethan Hawke and his ability to inapporpriately approach women.

After the film we went downstairs where we drank, did some mandatory dance moves ('the weatherman' was a new one for me), followed by some unnecessary whooping and yelling. All in all, a great evening to round off a great experience.

But I'm very glad I have the day off today :)

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 8 + 9 + 10

Ok, I'm getting lazy.

Days seem to blur now as the festival starts to draw to a close. Most activities involve mad dashes around town and nagging bloggers to post stuff about the festival. However, in between such riveting activities I have managed to catch a couple of films.

After lots of women ran around screaming how good Babies (or Bébés if you insist on calling everything by its original title), I had to see what all the fuss was about. A documentary about 4 babies growing up in 4 very different parts of the world (Namibia, Tokyo, Mongolia, and San Fransisco) had the potential of being an extended episode of Americas Funniest Videos. However, turns out it's a funny, emotional, and extremely well made documentary about the nature of growing up. Despite the vast differences in cultures, all the babies exhibit similar desires and needs: their mother's attention, exploration, mischief, tormenting animals. It obviously avoided all the worst parts of childhood - late night tantrums, nappy changing etc - but that wouldn't make for a very entertaining 90 minutes.

The next film was not so great. The Masks of Mer is a documentary about some guy going to some island and talking about aboriginal masks, blah blah blah. I was dragged in, and call me ignorant but it was fucking boring. Probably still better than Round Ireland with a Fridge though.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 6 + 7

I was too busy/lazy yesterday to blog so I've lumped 6 + 7 together. Hope you don't mind.

So day 6 was same old - selling films that no one wants to see. I was asked to take some fliers out to all the oriental/asian markets around Cambridge. I didn't feel racist until I saw the flier was advertising a Kung-Fu movie.

Day 7 and things are sloooowing down. As there are less and less films to advertise there's less to do (for me anyway). Which meant I had time to sneak off and see a film! Unfortunately I chose very poorly - Round Ireland with a Fridge starring Tony Hawks (not the skateboarder). Not that I'm saying it's bad... just not my type of comedy. Should have known really, as it was the same director who made My Family. Anyway, they fed whiskey to the crowd so there was a good atmosphere.

The 2nd most famous Tony Hawks in the world introduces the film

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 5

Phew, nearly halfway through, but its taking it toll on some people. I might suggest 'nap time' tomorrow. After the heavy weekend it felt a little more subdued today, which was a nice change of pace.

Today I coordinated an interview between a journalist and a filmmaker, which was quite fun. As she hadn't seen the film that was being shown at the festival, I took the journalist to a screening room so we could both watch the short feature. We were quite enjoying the tense narrative and surprisingly good acting, but at the end of the film we turned to each other and almost simultaneously said "I don't get it". The open ending left so many questions! The journalist looked a bit terrified of how she was going to interview someone who's film she didn't quite understand - I wonder how she got on...

And my diet seems to be mainly caked-based at the moment:

Monday, 20 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 4

The days are going so fast now! Already on day 4 (also known as 'Mark Kemode' day). Along with the usual flier making (getting pretty good at these), I was assigned 2 intros today. 2! First one was ok until a German woman shouted at me for not speaking loud enough; very off putting. Then the 2nd was the reissue of From Here to Eternity which had to be my biggest crowd yet, ie. more than 30 people. I got through it with my dignity intact. A fellow intern resorted to telling 'knock knock' jokes to fill in for a delayed performance, so could have gone worse.

Mark Kemode performed with his skiffle band, then did an impromptu introduction to Cronos. But the highlight of my day, however, was helping out on the Fitzwilliam outdoor screenings, which replaced the Magdalene Street Screenings this year. It was basically a free event of silent cinema with live musical accompaniment held on the Fitzwilliam lawns. It was great. Even though I was a lowly steward I got to watch the whole thing!

Working at a film festival, you really do cherish the things you get for free.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 3

The weekends at Film Festivals are always notoriously busy and today was no exception. After battling with seperate printers, I finally had copies for our daily meeting at 12; where we were told which films needed the most plugging - all of them. So we got busy flier/poster making!

Today I was asked to do my first ever introduction to a film, which was extremely exciting. Only problem was I'd never heard of the director or the films they were showing - Roy Andersson Shorts (he's Swedish or somefink). So I did my research, then 5 minutes before the screening I was whisked off to perform in front of an astounding 20 people! I did a perfectly adequate introduction - even if I did a patronising little "hope you enjoy!" at the end. My day was then rounded off with the usual guarding a tent for 2 hours. Huzzah!

Didn't take a picture today so here's Lily Allen dressed in a panda costume.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 2

Only on our 2nd day and already the festival feels like it's in full swing, with screenings starting before I'd even gotten into the office! Everyone seems very settled into their roles and look like they know what they're doing - glad someone does. Today consisted of more writing for fliers, printing, laminating (which I find strangely satisfying), and generally running around the cinema like a headless chicken. I was lucky enough to catch my first film of the festival - Stephen Fry's Wagner and Me, which was fantastic. I must admit, being the ignoramus that I am, I've never really bothered listening to Wagner but Fry's enthusiasm is infectious!

I've recently noticed that I'm becoming approached by more filmmakers to help promote their movies. This is both flattering and terrifying. Having only dealt with promoting films via a DVD box and a brief synopsis, it's great to finally meet the filmmakers themselves and talk about how they would like to expose their films to the British press. I was even chatting to a New York filmmaker about how good the American accents were in The Wire courtesy of the British actors. I felt proud. Plus there were CAKES!!!!

How can you eat a piece of art? Quite easily apparently

My last task of the day was slightly more humbling: being asked to guard a tent in a shopping centre for 4 and a half hours. Film Festivals, eh!?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Festival Diary - Day 1

Opening the doors to the usually vacant Cambridge Arts Picturehouse in the morning, only to find 50 or so students lounging around the bar and mezzanine. Presuming the festival had started already, I hastily ran up the stairs, where I was informed it was simply a free lecture held by ARU. What a waste of energy! Met the 6 volunteers who were all very keen and young. Feel like they're gonna look very different by the end of the festival - old and haggered like the rest of us.

(A very dark) Tony Jones gives his speech before the opening film.

It was a great start to the festival, with no obvious hiccups (apart from losing a german director in Cambridge), which has made me feel quietly confident the festival is going to do well this year. Tony Jones, the festival director, gave a very heartfelt/angry speech about the troubles the festival had encountered this year, which was greeted with much agreement and support from the Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec audience. Here, here! Didn't get to watch any films, but I'm sure I'll catch some later on in the festival.

Oh, and spent the last 2 hours of my day fixing a printer. I hate PCs.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cemetary Junction

Some people would have you believe The Office or Extras was Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's greatest achievement. I, on the other hand, would have to disagree. Their brilliance was never bettered than their fleeting years on the Xfm show back in the early 2000s, because Gervais and Merchant are at their most magnificent when they are just being themselves - genuine, witty, intelligent, and downright charming men.

It then pains me to say that Cemetery Junction does not convey their natural affinity with the human condition. Set in 1970s Reading (not too far from where I grew up), three early-twenty-somethings try desperately to escape the fate of their parents in the dead end town of Cemetery Junction. Certain elements are noticeably autobiographical with Gervais' own life: a working class up bringing in Reading, surrounded by low ambitions and even lower salaries. This film promised to see a more serious side of the writing partnership, as Gervais exclaims in Empire Magazine "It's the best thing we've ever written!". It's a mystery then that the film is, quite frankly, lightweight. Think The Inbetweeners meets The Full Monty.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting Nil by Mouth, but I was hoping the grittiest thing in the film wouldn't be the overuse of the word 'cunt'. Gervais and Merchant play the tough game of juggling drama and comedy, and ultimately fail to deliver a tonally consistent film; as the characters are a mismatch of absurd Basil Fawlty adults and hard-as-nails youths, all living in the same universe. It should also be noted that Gervais' appearance is about as necessary and M. Night Shyamalan's ridiculous cameos.

Winstone in Nil by Mouth: Wife beating, alcoholic scumbag
Gervais in Cemetery Junction: Bit of a tit

The film succeeds the most when they're playing for laughs, as that's what Mervais (I'm coining this) are best at. The three main characters obviously have a very natural 'banter' with each other, making them highly watchable as they verbally rip each other to shreds. They always said The Office was centred around Tim and Dawn's romance, but without the comedy it would have been a pretty flimsy plot. The thing that stops the film from being a charming British comedy (and more a Hollywood melodrama) is the relentless 'dead-end living' nonsense. The metaphors and concepts are so heavy handed that you feel like you've stepped into a self-help class on 'How You Should Do Something With Your Life'. It just comes off a little pretentious and whiny.

I do not want to belittle Mervais' talent for filmmaking, as altogether its a fairly cohesive piece of light entertainment. I was just hoping for something a little less froffy.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Rise and Fall of Richard Kelly

Richard Kelly's Career

I had always prided myself on the fact I was the one who 'discovered' Donnie Darko. I know everyone thinks this, BUT YOU'RE WRONG. After reading a short film review in the Sunday Times Culture about a teenager who sees giant bunny rabbits and forsees the end of the world, I quickly rushed out to my local Blockbuster (remember those!?) and rented a copy. Hours later, my teenage mind was literally being blown by Kelly's incredible knack for adolescent dialogue:

I can honestly say it was the film that sparked my love for cinema: It was interesting, yet entertaining. It was arty, yet funny. It was a sci-fi movie, yet a good sci-fi movie! A true David Lynch for the next generation. And the amazing thing was: people went nuts for it! When you overhear a group of chavy teenage girls on a train discussing the possible philosophical endings of the film, you know the film's reached mass appeal.

Then 5 years later, Kelly brought out Southland Tales... ahem.

Despite an amazing (and yet highly deceptive) trailer, the movie was an absolute stinker. Taking on board everyone's (including critics) rather hyperbolic comments on Donnie Darko, Kelly's head understandably grew very big. So big in fact, that his next movie was inevitably going to be a self-congratulatory mesh of convoluted ideas. His faith in his audience to research the film (via graphic novels released before and after the film) was simply arrogant, especially for a second feature.

Despite bad casting choices, I think they did quite well considering the script.

When it premiered at Cannes in 2006 it was greeted with an average 1.1 rating from the dailies, and even booing at the screenings (not very common for a prestigious film festival). Kelly jumped to it's defence, stating the critics "didn't get it" and enforced the fact it needed to be seen as a whole multi-media package (internet, comics, animations etc). Since then Kelly has struggled to get any decent gigs in Hollywood, before finally landing on The Box in 2009. I haven't watched it yet, but I've been told the ending is reminiscent to the ending of Indiana Jones 4; bullshit basically.

So do we have a new M. Night Shyamalan on our hands, or can Kelly redeem himself before it's too late? He is currently working on a thriller "set in Manhattan in the year 2014. We hope to shoot the movie in 3-D, and part of the movie would be filmed using full CGI motion capture."

Lets not get our hopes up, eh?