Friday, 18 December 2009

Alternative 2009 film list

Another year draws to a close and another list of critic’s top ten end-of-year lists crop up everywhere. Although I have a top ten list of my own (including the likes of Star Trek, Inglorious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Funny People) I thought I would do things slightly different:


Film which has made some critic’s top ten lists, but wouldn’t feature anywhere near mine – Drag Me to Hell

I genuinely don’t understand why there was so much love for this film. Aside from a fun opening and a shockingly uncompromising ending, the film was very predictable (gee, I wonder if the boyfriend’s uptight parent’s dinner will end in disaster?) and, with the exception of Justin Long, poorly acted. I know it’s suppose to be a fun, popcorn horror, but surely star Alison Lohman could have at least looked remotely disturbed and concerned at what was going on around her!

The much raved-about séance scene, which many felt harked back to Raimi’s g(l)ory days, simply didn’t work for me. The level of CGI (particularly involving the possessed goat) looked overly cartoon-ish and just not scary. Even the gross-out stuff done in-camera didn’t push the boundaries enough, presumably to appease the intended mainstream audience. Shame.


Film which I really wanted to love but upon viewing, ultimately found it a little overrated - District 9

Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to admire in this low-budget (for the genre) sci-fi/action hybrid from South Africa, particularly the lead performance, the seamless and creative CGI and the pseudo-documentary narrative approach. I just wish that the second half hadn’t descended into a more conventional action route, complete with multiple gun fights and the snarling, bald bad guy who can’t shoot the hero without the clichéd menacing and protracted pause, allowing for him to perish first. It actually reminded me of those cheap DTV post-apocalyptic actioners from the 80’s. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be too much of a bad thing, but after the initial premise and set-up here, I felt the film was worthy of delivering so much more.


Biggest literary adaptation disappointment of the year - Revolutionary Road

I really love Richard Yates’ novel of the same name, so as you can image, I was a little apprehensive when I read it was being made into a film. I’m not a fan of Sam Mendes for starters, but I knew he was casting good actors and upon viewing the powerful Nina Simone-backed trailer (which even managed to make my girlfriend cry - a first for trailers possibly?) I started to put aside my preconceptions and began to get excited at a possible faithful adaptation. I was very wrong.

In a nutshell, all the nuance of the book was frustratingly whittled down into a dull, lengthy slagging match between Kate and Leo. My only consolation is that maybe others who were similarly disappointed will seek out the original source material.


Best older film find of the year – Matewan

This finally arrived in the post after being on my LoveFilm wish list for months and it was certainly worth the wait! A superb historical ensemble drama, this is up there with Lone Star as my favourite of John Sayles films.


Best non-distracting and effective cameo of the year – Guy Pearce in The Hurt Locker

Although I was already aware of his early demise before I watched this film, I think the strength of Pearce’s understated but solid performances in a very short time on screen, made me really wish what was coming to him didn’t. As for the unsuspecting audience, it's a nasty and unsettling surprise when the character you wrongly perceive to be the lead, is killed ten minutes into the film - nobody is safe after that. I don't know why this guy still isn’t in the same box office league as his LA Confidential co-star, Russell Crowe.


Best naturalistic, slice-of-life film, which would probably appeal to very little of my non-film geek friends who almost always insist on having a busy narrative and plot to follow, and use that as a means of judging the merits of a film – Wendy and Lucy

As I’ve eloquently described above, this film isn’t for everyone, but I really responded to the minimal approach on screen here – same way I did with director Kelly Reinhardt’s previous feature, Old Joy.


Best film of the year which I haven’t seen yet, but hear great things about – In The Loop

For one reason or another, I missed this on its cinema release and I’ve subsequently been told by many friends and acquaintances how fantastic it is and how I was a fool for not catching it on the big screen. It now tops my LoveFilm list, so it could make the 2009 best of as yet.


Best performance which successfully destroyed my innocent childhood memories – Carrie Fischer in White Lightnin

An incredible vanity-free performance from the artist  formally known as Leia Organa, playing a sexually-repressed middle-aged (and looking the part) housewife, who runs off and has lots of frantic sex with twentysomething Appalachian dancer Jesco White in this murky, stylised biopic. If you thought seeing Fisher getting it on with her own brother in a galaxy far, far away was weird, you should check this film out.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

'I liked it - it was different!'

We all know what a subjective medium film is. The same people who will defend a Sandra Bullock film to the death are hardly the type who will eagerly seek out Michael Haneke’s latest venture. My sister and I recently crossed cinematic paths for the first time in over a decade, the last time being my ill-advised suggestion that her and her friends should drop everything and go and see Boogie Nights immediately - a film I had fallen in love with and wanted everyone else I knew to feel the same. This turned out to be a slight misjudgement on my behalf, as you can imagine.

The film in question this time was Wes Anderson’s exhilarating adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which successfully managed to straddle the line between the mainstream and the more specialist, quirky indie-type fare, resulting in two people with diverse tastes coming together to lavish equal praise. It didn’t hurt that it was adapted from a well-loved children’s story, although that wouldn’t have helped quell any negativity if the film had been poor.

I love those rare occasions when films manage to cater for a diverse range of audience, breaking through to a group of cinema-goers who would, under normal circumstances, stay well away from such material, and in some cases, hold it in downright contempt. My friend’s mum and a group of her friends all ventured to see Lost in Translation (a film which was far from their normal cultural radar) when it was first released, with favourable results. Was it the May-December romance which potentially enticed them or perhaps it was the Oscar buzz (and the publicity around that) which was beginning to build which may have been perceived as adding some weight? Maybe she was aware of Bill Murray and was subconsciously intrigued as to how he would perform in a different kind of role. In the end though, I’m guessing the main reason which finally persuaded her to make that rare trip to the ‘pictures’, was her son’s enthusiastic recommendation. He too must have seen something in the material which made him believe that, although this was a departure from his mum’s normal viewing choice - she would be able to make the leap and appreciate the film. Sometimes what films of this nature really need is a supportive nudge from friends or relatives, rather than any well-mounted marketing campaign.

It also helps to infuse your film with universally recognised themes like love and poverty, combined with a large dose of wish-fulfilment underneath all the style, which Danny Boyle managed to successfully do with this year’s Slumdog Millionaire. This was a film which didn’t immediately scream mainstream, and at one point, looked like it may not get a cinema release at all. During the fantastic, rousing Bollywood-style dance sequence at the end, I couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of people who had flocked to the cinema to see this - many encouraged to do so by friends, relatives, work colleagues, etc. At that moment, all my cynicism fell away and I was genuinely moved by the cultural-bridging that I was experiencing right in front of me.

Sometimes the opposite can happen. The self confessed film snob that I am, I was dragged to a screening of the film version of Sex and the City by my girlfriend who had indulged my viewing preferences many, many time previously and now wanted to see something she was interested in. To my surprise, it turned out to be an enjoyable film. I’ve still managed to avoid Mama Mia at all costs however, and intend to do so until the end of my time in this world.

I wish more people would move out of their comfort zone and embrace films which don’t necessarily hold the type of overtly commercial appeal they usually opt for. On this occasion for me, all it took was a talking, cocky fox, traipsing around the countryside to the strains of Heroes and Villains, to bring together two siblings with polarising tastes.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The biggest star doesn't always equal the brightest

"A man’s gotta know his limitations"
Harry Callahan

I finally got round to seeing Zombieland at the cinema last week. A very entertaining and likeable film, thanks in part to the always welcome presence of Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is up there with the likes of Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson as one of those character actors you can always rely on to bring something interesting to a role, regardless of the quality on display in the rest of the film. I’m not placing the success of Zombieland firmly on his shoulders, but his performance definitely enhances this film, which is currently doing very well financially, both internationally and in the U.S, and on a relatively modest budget. It’s a perfect example of how Hollywood can still thrive in the current climate.

Studios should be making use of these character actors whenever possible. It’s crazy to think of the amount of expensive, big name ‘movie stars’ who often fail to deliver, and the amazing selection of actors available who would do a much better job, and for a fraction of the price. Post-Cheers, Harrelson seemed to move towards the leading Hollywood man in his early film career (with roles in films like Indecent Proposal and White Man Can’t Jump) before straddling the line between character actor in supporting parts and leads in smaller, independent films. Now in his late-forties, making no discernable attempts at disguising his baldness, nor revealing any (noticeable) tale-tell signs of trying to fight the aging process, he’s a refreshing and appealing alternative to the traditional Hollywood star.

Billy Bob Thornton, now the complete antithesis of this, is a fascinating example of an actor who has tried to navigate the opposite route and vie for the position of leading man after playing grubby, outcast character types. Go back and watch some of Thornton's earlier work (the undervalued and underrated One False Move and A Simple Plan are two fine examples) and compare them against some of his recent duds. He looks like a completely different person. Botox, hair-plugs, multiple face-lifts and a seemingly overriding desire to resemble Burt Reynolds, appear to be his biggest crimes. All the unique attributes that once made him immensely watchable and put him in the same dependable league as the likes of Harrelson and Giamatti, have now been physically air-brushed out, rendering him redundant as either the lead or as the quirky support. Once dubbed a “hillbilly Orson Welles” by Robert Duval, I hope his name won’t be only thing that will be reminiscent of this praise in the future.

Ben Affleck is another who tried to make the leap and scrambled to keep himself falling off the edge. Originally one of Kevin Smith’s stock players and genuinely hilarious as the savage school bully O’Bannion in Dazed and Confused, Affleck was ushered into the position of matinee idol to almost unanimous critical and box office failure. Why couldn’t he have realised where his talent lay and developed the everyman, indie character actor he originally made his name with? I can’t think of a more apt metaphor than the story I read about the studio that backed Armageddon, paying for him to have his teeth ‘fixed’ before filming began. Unlike Thornton, Affleck has since had the chance to redeem himself via his talent as a director and by choosing acting roles which play to his strengths, including his praised performance in Hollywoodland, which ultimately earned him the best actor award at the Venice Film Festival.

Now I can’t possible begin to understand the pressures and struggles faced when trying to make it in Hollywood, with all the countless egos encountered and battled with, but wouldn’t it make sense for actors on the cusp of fame and recognition to use their supposed boundaries as an advantage and not as a handicap. In the end, surely career longevity must be more appealing than a couple of years fighting to be top at the box office and trying to fit in a box you clearly aren’t designed for. Audiences, however fickle they may be, soon pick up on this form of cinematic subterfuge.

After all, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the cinema ticket-holder.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Behind the scenes of reel life

Making-of docs of some form or another usually accompany a film when it reaches DVD stage. Some are bog-standard disc filler, while others are more extensive and made by real fans of the actual the film in question, sometimes as a retrospective.

There are occasionally documentaries about film and filmmaking made which deserve to be viewed as a stand-alone to the actual films themselves. Famous amongst these are the likes of Hearts of Darkness and Lost in La Mancha but the three films I’ve chosen below offer a slightly different take on this sub-genre:



Overnight

Scanning Apple Trailers this week, I came across the sequel to a film which I thought was pretty terrible, but has turned into something of a cult classic – The Boondock Saints. My first exposure to this film came in the form of a making-of documentary, titled Overnight.


It’s a rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story of director Troy Duffy and how he managed to burn all his Hollywood bridges with a truly atrocious and repulsive display of ego. On the strength of his first screenplay, Miramax’s then co-head Harvey Weinstein, went to the unprecedented length of shelling out money to buy Duffy’s local bar for him, use his (awful) band to score the film and generally garnish him with loads of moolah and praise. Believing himself to be the next Scorsese, Duffy proceeded to slate every casting choice, ranging from Kenneth Brannaugh to Keanu Reeves (ok, that’s understandable), while constantly alienating himself from the people who were vital for him in achieving his vision - all this before he’d even shot a single frame of film! The end shot of this film is very similar to that of The Pledge, this time with Duffy replacing Jack Nicholson’s character in that film, framed in a single, solitary shot outside a club, looking like he’s on the edge of sanity.


That he managed to finally make the film (without major backing) and has now produced a sequel, probably sends out mixed messages to aspiring film-makers, but this documentary is a great cautionary tale and probably the best example available about a supposed artist’s dedicated and unwaveringly belief in his own hype.



American Movie

Working as a lo-fi, comedic companion piece to Overnight and set in the kind of America represented on screen by filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, American Movie transplants the tale of skewed egos to the Midwest. It focuses on deluded but amiable loser Mark Borchardt and his attempts to make the “great American movie” while unable to keep up with the child maintenance for this three kids, hold down any regular employment or pay back all the money his once-encouraging family have lent him throughout the years. With his best friend in-tow, a dead-behind-the-eyes acid and booze casualty called Mark, we follow the making of his low-budget horror short Coven, which he hopes will eventually fund his ultimate dream project.


There is some really fantastic material here and similar to the recent documentary King of Kongs: A Fistful of Quarters, even the most accomplished script-writers out there couldn’t come up with as funny and well-defined characters and scenarios on display here. Seeing Mark’s weak, elderly cantankerous uncle attempts at providing a dubbed line of dialogue in post-production and utterly failing each time is priceless. This has been shown on BBC2 a couple of times now, during the kind of hours where only post-clubbers or insomniacs would catch it. If it’s ever on again I would thoroughly recommend everyone who has Sky+ to record this or just stay up, as the film is a real gem.



Channel Z – A Magnificent obsession

This is the tragic story of Jerry Harvey, who was the founder of Channel Z, renowned for showing a wide range of eclectic and otherwise unobtainable films, and being one of the first pay-to-view cable stations in America. Harvey was someone who ate, breathed and slept cinema and really championed films which had been missed or ignored by the mainstream.


The documentary is peppered with talking heads from the likes of contemporary indie-in spirit filmmakers like Jim Jarmush, Alexander Payne and Tarantino (surprise, surprise) who talk about the influence the station had over them.


Coming across as some kind of cineaste groupie, Harvey even managed to befriend a number of his idols, including such luminaries as Peckinpah and Altman before it all went horribly wrong, ultimately ending with him shooting his second wife before turning the gun on himself. The incident is only covered towards the end of the film and doesn’t really offer any real insight into the possible correlation of his obsession with cinema and that of his deteriorating mental health, but you can bet the two would have been connected.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Stuff I own on Region 1

2. Thrashin'

I assure you there are some serious films in my DVD collection. It’s just some of the trashy flicks I like aren’t always available on Region 2, such as Night of the Comet and this gem from 1986.

Thrashin' is ostensibly a Romeo and Juliet-type tale of two warring ‘tribes’ of skaters played out against the backdrop of a very 80’s neon-heavy Venice Beach. With a title track performed by Meat Loaf (somewhat at odds with the rest of the garagy, west coast punk soundtrack) this is a totally rad film with some gnarly skating to boot. It also features an early lead performance from the now well-established A-lister, Josh Brolin. I always remembered seeing the film advertised in the pages of the DC and Marvel US comics I OD’d on as a kid, but I didn’t catch it until much later, when I was probably too old to really dig it as much as I did.

Like Breakdance: The Movie (aka Breakin’), a film from the same era cashing in on the then latest craze, the plot here is pretty much secondary to the real star of the show - namely the amazing skateboarding sequences performed by real professions (a teenage Tony Hawk being one of them). It’s a film very much of it’s time but I'm always interested in soaking up stuff that was produced in an era that I was old enough to remember and quite frankly, loved.

Although I suffer from zero balance and chronically awful coordination skills which have hindered my ability to skate, I’ve always had a fascination with the look and lifestyle. Films like this and Dogtown and Z-Boys have provided a fascinating (in my mind) look into the birth and development of a once specialist hobby which now have a significant place in modern culture. Just wish I could grind dammit!

Monday, 14 September 2009

People, it’s funny!

I went to see the latest Judd Apatow comedy at the weekend. It didn’t make a lot of money in America but I read some of the reviews and it sounded promising. On a side note, I don’t know why, but I’ve recently been looking at box-office figures overseas as some kind of yardstick in judging if a film is worthy of my time. I know its ridiculous and it’s getting really annoying, but it’s always there, subconsciously in the back of my mind when I’m choosing stuff to watch.

I’m happy to report that not only was this a fantastic film, but for my money, it’s the best so far from Apatow and competes with Punch Drunk Love (although a very different role and film), as Sandler’s greatest performance. In fact, I couldn’t believe how good he was in this film. He’s playing a pretty unlikeable character here, but by infusing him with believability and pathos, there’s enough for the audience to still sympathise and relate to. It’s also interesting to note that while perhaps not identical on a personality level with the star, this is probably the closest he’s come to playing himself - further enhanced by the meta-sprinkles of having early video footage of a pre-famous Sandler at the beginning of the film and the character’s chose of film roles within the film, mirroring that of Sandlers previous output.


This is definitely a more character-driven comedy than both the star and directors previous work and that’s why it works so well. As funny as The 40-Year Old Virgin and Knocked-Up were, they always seemed to me (particular Virgin) as a series of comedy set-pieces arranged around a plot. Funny People has a well-developed and satisfying journey for its characters, and it resonates more strongly because of this. Annoyingly, this was obviously too much of a leap for an American audience to make as so far, the film has made just over $50 million at the US box office – all the more disappointing when you consider it was the big, so-called comedy ‘tent-pole’ release of the summer.


When Apatow decides to make another film, I can just imagine the studio executives pressurising him to jettison all the stuff that made Funny People work. I sincerely hope that this doesn’t happen and on the strength of his earlier successes, I hope he has enough muscle to be able to still make what he wants. Sadly, I have a funny feeling that it won’t happen that way.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Cinematic sex fix

Film can be a wonderful teacher. Through the medium we can learn all about different aspects of human nature and behaviour. As you can imagine, as a young teenager the sex part of this proved particularly intriguing to me.

There was enough proper porn to educate my friends and I during the school holidays (thanks largely to someone’s dad who possessed a Larry Flynt-esque volume of shoddy, mostly unwatchable Betamax and VHS), but those weren’t the sort of films you could borrow for home use. I watched the mainstream products to educate myself, although there were a few distractions along the way:

I remember my sister, around six at the time, walking in on the scene with Richard Dreyfus banging the maid (rather enthusiastically I may add) in
Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Being in my early teens, it was still an awkward age for me to try and explain what was happening on screen, although any worries soon dissipated as my sister quickly deduced that the two were in- fact 'doing exercises' to which I wholeheartedly agreed.

My dad once recorded
Rita, Sue & Bob Too for me to watch when I was 13. I don’t know if this was some kind of half-hearted attempt on his behalf to stealthfully introduce me to the old birds and bees, or maybe he just genuinely thought his son would like to see what grubby sex could look like. Whatever his intentions, it was certainly an eye-opener. I’ve actually grown to really appreciate and embrace this film (anyone who says they don’t like it is being snobby) but the disturbing image of Bob’s ass frantically bobbing up and down, mid-coitus in the front seat of his Ford Cortina, has been forever seared into my brain. This was made by the late revered British film-maker Alan Clarke and it’s still the funniest and most realistic depiction of sex I’ve seen in a film.

If there was ever a need for a remote control which could magically rewind or fast-forward events in the actual real world, it would have been particularly useful for one evening in my childhood when I settled down to watch
Risky Business with my Mum present. To give you an idea of how young I was, I didn’t think to read the synopsis in the Radio Times and it was probably past my bedtime anyway. I’m not even sure my Mum knew what was on until she peered up from her newspaper about 20 minutes in to witness The Cruiser groping an semi-naked Rebecca De Mornay from behind, and then shluping her in all different positions and areas around his parent’s house, including the oak staircase.

It was one of those moments when any sign of movement on my behalf would have acknowledged the acute and overbearing embarrassment I was feeling. I think I actually held my breath for a couple of minutes before limply excusing myself. Was my Mum unaware of the torture that I was going through at that moment? - probably not. Situations like that are much more heightened when you’re at that age.

I think I was around the age of 14 when my parents (with my Mum's involvement this time) handed me a copy of an old (and very dated) 60’s sex farce called
Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush they’d recorded off telly the night before. It had been a film they had watched as a young couple (shudder) and for some reason, I guess they felt that this was something I might learn from or maybe it was their way of providing some kind of anthropological snapshot of their own teenage years. Whatever they intended, the film wasn’t sexy nor enlightening. It was shit.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Through The Wire

Well, that’s it - all five series of The Wire done and dusted. A noticeable chunk of my DVD collection now houses and proudly displays these box sets, but I do feel like a part of my life has come to a close - like I’ve just dropped my firstborn off at his/her's halls of residence, having gone through the various joyous stages of fatherhood. Slightly over the top perhaps? If you’re nodding your head in agreement with this, you obviously haven’t watched a single episode of this tremendous programme.

Actually, I’m not about to wax lyrical about The Wire (too much) as there’s so many writers out there who have done this more
succinctly and eloquently then I ever could. Suffice to say, this is some of the best writing that I have ever come across in any form of fiction. It’s a programme that when compared to the vast majority of contemporary Hollywood product out there, it really is impossible to believe that TV was once considered inferior to its big-screen counterpart.

Invariably, any fans you speak to will list their favourite series in this order – the best being the 4th, followed by 3, 1, 5 and 2. To put how great The Wire is into some kind of context, series 2, considered a slight departure in quality from the first one, focusing primarily on the grotty and less compelling milieu of the Baltimore docks, is still a billion times better than the greatest episode of The Bill ever produced.

That’s right, The Wire is that good. There is such a rich assortment of thoroughly fleshed-out and involving characters on display here, that you will argue and discuss for many hours with loved-ones, friends and work colleagues, who is your favourite. Gay, badass gangster Omar ranks quite high for some
people, but I find it hard to single anyone out in particular, although I have a soft-spot for the tough and principled police lieutenant Cedric Daniels.

A ‘better late than never’ shout-out must go out to the BBC who are now showing all five series on a nightly basis. However, for anyone who has yet to see this programme, I would recommend the box set approach as your level of investment and reverence will be compromised by having to wait for one episode a night - you will require a much quicker fix and the means of facilitating this. My missus and I have found ourselves taking in five or six episode in one sit-in, fully allowing ourselves to be immersed in one of, if not, the greatest TV programmes ever made. Much like the compromised and jaded figure of ‘Commissioner’ Daniels at the end of series 5, I haven’t been “juking the stats” when I make this claim.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Film talk for the (i)Podern era

Here is list of all the film-based Podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. These are all made with a great deal of love, care and attention and have more than once, saved me from throwing myself under the path of an oncoming tube train during my journey to work on another wet and dreary London morning. The fact that they’re all free to download only adds to the whole beautifulness of it all.

Filmspotting
A magazine-style podcast, this is made for Chicago Public Radio by two extremely erudite and intelligent cineastes, Adam Kempenaar and Matty Robinson. These guys have got great chemistry together, Kempenaar coming off as the more restrained family man and Robinson being the single, more flamboyant of the two, not afraid to gently rib his co-host, particularly when clashing over preferred film choices. A weekly section of film-centric topics is rounded off by a ‘top 5 list’ (surely a must for all geeks).

/Film
The biggest compliment I can give this weekly podcast is it feels like being at the local pub, chatting with a bunch of my fellow geeks (if they adopted American accents) for an hour. Hosted by David Chen and his two moderators, Adam Quigley and Devindra Hardawar, this is an extension of the /Film website and usually includes a weekly guest (some unknown by the name of Kevin Smith recently). These guys chat about TV and film stuff they’ve watched that week, followed by movie news they’ve read, followed by the big film release they’ve all seen that week. Simple yet thoroughly entertaining and engrossing.

If you enjoy these guys chatting, there’s an added bonus of an after hours edition recorded after the main podcast, which in the words of Dave Chen is a “pretty much free-for-all” with everyone riffing on anything film-related they feel like.

Mondo Movie
A rare good one from the UK. This is very customary British with a slightly ramshackle feel, which only adds to the charm as two old friends (Ben Howard and Dan Auty) chat mostly about genre/exploitation films.

The Hollywood Saloon
These two guys are incredible. Put them in a room together and they could probably talk film for eternity. One podcast has run for 3 hours but don’t let that put you off, these guys are so easy to listen to that by the end, you won’t want them to finish. They started charging for their shows recently but seem to have started to post them for free again, although the amount of pleasure you get from hearing these two talk film is probably worth an admission charge.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine
This is created from the recording of a post-screening Q&A with the film’s screenwriter (director sometimes included) and is moderated by the jolly and appropriately reverential Texas-born editor of the Creative Screenwriting Magazine, Jeff Goldsworthy. Again, this is a fascinating listen with Goldsworthy gently probing the guests to give up all their knowledge of this under-appreciated art form. Topics include history/writing habits/breaking-in stories and writers block.

I still love you Mann

My (remaining) friends can attest to how much I used to bang on about Michael Mann’s 1996 crime epic Heat, when it was first released. I saw it as a wide-eyed 19-year-old and proceeded to proclaim it to be the greatest piece of cinema ever. Being a little older and wiser now, although still guilty of the occasion bout of hyperbole, I think 1999’s The Insider is probably the best of his films.

Mann’s attention to detail has always been something to behold. His films manage to have a striking, otherworldly look about them - from Francis Dolarhyde’s minimal, trippy lair in Manhunter to a smoggy, neon Los Angeles at night in Heat. This was probably the initially drew me to his films but at the same time, I’ve never felt it was a case of style over substance in Mann’s work. The realistic, hard-boiled quality of his dialogue has always played nicely against the visuals. I think his genius and what sets him aside from other film-makers is his ability to maintain an understated atmosphere amongst the stunning aesthetics. Just watch Will Graham’s prison meeting with Dr Leckter in Manhunter – a far superior film to any of the later Thomas Harris adaptations. It’s an incredibly eerie and powerful scene, yet the performances and indeed the look are very muted and ordinary. The opportunity and temptation to embellish the style here would have been too easy in the hands of a lesser film-maker, but Mann does the opposite and reins it in. The same could be said about the now famous ‘coffee house’ scene in Heat - although all the good work Al and Bobby achieved here sounds like it has been undone from what I’ve heard about Rig(s)h(i)teous Kill.

After seeing Collateral for the first (and only) time, it felt like he had lost a little of his magic touch. It resembled someone doing an interpretation of what a ‘Michael Mann’ film should look like. After an interesting premise, there just wasn’t enough of the director’s usual craftsmanship to sustain it. I did like the opening however, with Jamie Foxx’s down-at-the-heels taxi driver, lamenting his life, while making his way around downtown LA , a soulful Groove Armada song on the soundtrack. Miami Vice was an even further step down and was pretty flat and empty really, with the exception of a couple of imaginatively staged action sequences.

This brings me to Public Enemies. I must admit, probably due to the other two disappointments, I wasn’t really excited before seeing this. Thankfully I was proven wrong. It’s not a perfect film (more of that below) but it’s much more reminiscent of his earlier films. The scope and craftsmanship is up there again on screen, as is the strong dialogue and memorable (mostly male) performances. I’m still having mixed feelings about his decision to shoot on digital though. I read an interview with him recently where he spoke about originally planning to shoot on film, but ultimately deciding against it as he wanted to make the viewer “feel like they were in 1933”. It’s an interesting idea that only works intermittently. This technology is fine for a film like Collateral with its contemporary, luminous L.A night-time setting, but period films benefit from that grainy, organic texture that film delivers and which digital can’t quite fully compete with (yet). Regardless of Mann’s intensions, the end results were a little too jarring at times to fully immerse myself in that world. To be honest, I wish he would stick to film with everything he shoots.

Maybe that’s why the last two before Public Enemies haven’t worked for me. Maybe you just can’t cover the same emotion territory through the digital medium in big, meaty Hollywood productions. Imagine if Edward Hopper had the technology at that time to produce his work on Photoshop instead – a justifiable analogy I think, but one I’m sure will be met with the unison of eye-rolls from friends who read this, all of whom are now tired of hearing about my love for the Mann.


Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Stuff I own on Region 1

1. Night of The Comet (1984)

Purchased on ebay recently, I first caught this memorable horror/sci-fi movie years ago when it was part of the screening programme on Moviedrome. I was in love with lead actress Catherine Mary Stewart at the time, having previously fallen for her after seeing The Last Starfighter a couple of years earlier. For her first scene in this film, she’s wearing what looks like a ‘Khan’ era Starfleet uniform, while try to beat the highest score on a video game in the cinema where she works. Hot on all counts.

The film is set in Los Angeles where a comet, initially perceived as harmless, has wiped out all humankind, turning everyone into piles of red dust. A couple of girls who manage to avoid obliteration, blond cheerleader Kelli and her older, headstrong sister Regina (Stewart) set out on a search for fellow survivors. This is end-of-the-world eighties style, with its light, cheery content at odds somewhat with the subject matter. Even the zombified humans, transformed as a result of red dust poisoning, aren’t particularly threatening. The two sisters, both tooled-up to the max, even take time to indulge in an ill-fated shopping spree in a huge, deserted department store. We get the obligatory fashion and frolics montage, with jump-cuts of various hats and items of clothing being tried on and paraded around, all to Cyndi Lauper’s hit of that era, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.

None of the comments above are meant as a criticism though, and for such a clearly low-budgeted film, it’s well made and actually looks great. From scenes of a deserted down-town LA, shot through red-filtered lenses, to the effective image a of toy frog swimming alone in the pool of an eerily quiet suburban garden, the imagery is equally as powerful as contemporary films in this genre. The opening credit sequence, which has scenes of huge crowds gathered around in a comet-welcoming celebration, must have only been achieved by the production team going to an actual event and asking attendees to hold banners adorned with hand-drawn comet and alien imagery.

Unfortunately the film falters after the second half, failing to deliver on its intriguing premise (probably due to budgetary restrictions) and opting instead for a fairly flat and contrived escape sequence involving the sisters and Hector (a truck driver they meet and Regina’s potential love interest) rescuing two annoyingly cute children from the clutches of some mad infected scientists. It’s still definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it however, if only for the comforting reassurance that the human desire to shop doesn’t diminish after most of the world has been snuffed out.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

No Springsteen is leaving this house!

I have a genuine fondness for a number of films, which if found out, would mean having my BFI membership card taken forcefully from me, ripped up and being permanently banished from that institute or any other cinema-related venue. Here is a small selection.....

Cocktail
On the surface (like there’s anything underneath) this has all the makings of your typical glossy, eighties Hollywood melodrama. It’s essentially a shallow morality tale about an equally shallow, materialistic bartender who comes to realise there’s more to life than the pursuit of money. So what is it about this film that I love? I don’t know where to start really. Maybe it’s Bryan Brown’s hilariously amoral performance as seasoned Aussie bartender and the Cruiser’s treacherous yet lovable mentor Doug Coughlin - always spouting his sage and cynical philosophising on life (“Coughlin's Law; anything else is always something better”). Maybe it’s the amazing choreographed cocktail-making sequences, set at one point, to a Cruise-initiated bar sing-a-long to ‘Addicted to Love’, or it could be the ridiculous romantic montage sequence in Jamaica during the middle act, which actually features Cruise and his leading lady, Elizabeth Shue, on white horses, galloping down the beach, resembling nothing more than an advert for the tourist board.

This has a dismal rating of 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and it swept the board at 1988’s Golden Raspberries, but I have to say, being harsh on a film like this is akin to chastising a young child for drawing on the wallpaper - it’s pointless because ultimately, it doesn’t know any better.

The ‘Burbs
There was something about this film that really captured my imagination when I first caught it on video. I liked how it portrayed the mundane, suburban existence, where non-conformity is met with intrigue and prying neighbours. I saw it again recently and although it’s a very silly and light satire, it does have some funny moments and remains really watchable, thanks mainly to Tom Hanks and the director, Joe Dante. Dante’s career has never really reached the same heights as his peers but I was always quite fond of his films back then, particularly Explorers and Innerspace. I think they possess that Spielbergian sense of wonder, combined with a real B-movie sensibility.

The Last Boy Scout
I remember when this was first released and the awful reception it got from the critics. They really seemed to be missing the point. It didn’t help that the star Bruce Willis, was coming off Hudson Hawk at the time (a film even I can’t bring myself to defend). This is a very funny deconstruction of the buddy cop films however - a genre which was incredibly popular around that time. The very fact that it’s writing by Shane Black, the guy behind the first Lethal Weapon, itself a landmark in the genre at the time, shows that he was well aware of what he was doing with the material. I was too young to see it this on the big screen, but when I finally got round to viewing it, I wasn’t disappointed. Although I make no excuses for my love of the likes of Cocktail, this film is crying out for reappraisal.

St Elmo’s Fire
“Take me where the future lies in St Elmo’s Fireee!” I still get goose bumps when I hear that rousing theme tune. Everything about this film is pure cheese. You’ve got bad hair, bad fashion, bad music (check out Rob Lowe’s Halloween-themed saxophone gig which encapsulates all of those in one scene) and cringe-worthy dialogue (“I’m obsessed thank you very much”).
This is the quintessential eighties bratpack ensemble drama, directed by the guy who went on to make (the markedly better, but equally of-it’s-time) The Lost Boys. Also, it’s worth noting the size of star Judd Nelson's nostrils – they’re the biggest I’ve ever seen, both in the movies and real-life. They’re double the size of any normal persons. It’s been a long while since I last watched this classic, but I could probably still recite most of the dialogue. Actually, there are some things that shouldn’t be shared...

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Death of the video shop

When I came across this article recently, it confirmed what I had feared for a long time - the humble video shop is finally nearing its end. It’s sad to see, but hardly surprising. Films seem to jump from the Cinema screen to retail DVD and Sky almost instantaneously these days and downloading (legally or otherwise) offers a way of viewing the latest Pixar masterpiece without making a trip outside your house (a topic for a future posting I think). I’ve even been lured into using one of the easy and stress-free on-line rental services available.

When I was growing up, there were three shops in my small town which stocked films. One was exclusively for video hire, another was a general store with a large selection and the other was the local Spar, which is now the only one which still rents films out. Spar’s video section back then was almost another shop in itself, housing hundreds of those huge, bulky VHS cases in every available space. Gradually through the years however, the stock has diminished to a point where the last time I visited, it had been relegated to a flimsy corner space, with literally a handful of DVD’s available, all mainstream studio titles.

Before the advent of digital, the video shop was a veritable treasure trove of cinematic all-sorts. Although I had much love for the big Hollywood titles on offer, I was equally enthralled by the multitude of cheap, straight-to-video genre B-movies available, with their lurid, air-brushed covers and trashy but always fun content. It also brings a smile to my face when I remember Crocodile Dundee being the most sought-after title back in the late-eighties. Seriously, that film was like gold-dust. I can still see my Dad, more than once, coming back from the video shops empty-handed, having been unable to procure a copy, much to the intense disappointment of his family. It was like he’d failed to provide for us that week or something. It was hilarious really. I mean, does anyone still remember that film now, let alone consider it a classic, worthy of a place in their all-time favourites list? My memories probably seem very quaint and whimsical now, but the local video shops really did possess a weird power over our community.

I think companies like Lovefilm offer a fantastic, alternative rental service for both the modern cineaste and any discerning film fan but they lack the unique experience that the video shop once offered. The opportunity to seek out or chance upon an unknown film, in both an intimate and tangible way, is a major loss to the young film-buffs of today - a similar grievance, I imagine, that lovers of vinyl have in the digital i-tunes age.

Look at me being all overly-nostalgic and wistful. You’d think these were the ramblings of an old man, not a sad thirty-something film geek. Perhaps I’ll console myself by watching Be Kind, Rewind again or Clerks for the 100th time.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

George, this is how you make a prequel

The new Star Trek is superior summer entertainment. Just as I was about to finally turn my back on the Hollywood mainstream and focus my energies on getting through the entire Peter Greenaway back catalogue, along comes a film which ticks all the boxes in terms of purely enjoyable popcorn escapism. These are some of the reasons why it worked so successfully for me.
  • I’m sure some Trek purists, however much they enjoy this film, will still proclaim “it’s not up there with ‘Khan’”. This may be true for those fans, but let’s be honest, in this day and age and with all the money and politics that engulf Hollywood, could they really expect another film of that type? If there are any naysayer’s (and I haven’t came across any as yet) I would ask them one thing – did you really want to watch your beloved franchise fizzle out or did you want to see it imbued with a great sense of fun and passion for the blockbuster age, maybe even converting non-believers onto genuine Trekkies? In order for anything to live on and evolve, changes need to be made, and the holy text that is Star Trek is no exception.
  • The special effects in this film really are ‘special’. Seeing the Enterprise in long shot, escaping from the pull of a huge worm-hole and the warp-speed sequences are truly awe-inspiring. Effects-wise, director J. J. Abrams knows exactly what he wants and how he wants the audience to feel. Film-makers like Michael Bay can throw whatever visual fireworks they want at the screen, but it really isn’t about dazzling and overwhelming, it’s still (and always has been) about capturing the intricate details, character involvement and responding to the viewer’s emotions. In this case, the simple image of a little federation starship against insurmountable odds has so much more impact than a thousand Transformers racing towards the cinema screen. If you want to see another director tackling CGI in the way it should be done, check out the plane crash sequence in Scorsese’s The Aviator.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but the introduction of the Enterprise in this film manages to accomplish the same level of wonderment as the original’s bloated, grandiose 15 minute sequence does, in roughly 20 seconds of screen time. This to me is really the key to the success of the new movie. There’s a respect to the old fan-base, but the film isn’t bogged down in trying too hard to appease these people – it also knows it has to connect with a new, modern audience, doing so in a succinct and efficient manner.
  • I was a little apprehensive when I read about the ‘parallel universe’ and ‘time travel’ angle, but again, this is an ingenious way of bridging the gap between old fans and newcomers. Rather than offer a contrived and forced introduction to the characters and their setting, the sudden distress signal from Vulcan throws them together in a conceivable and economical way. The point of no return for me in the Phantom Menace was the horribly strained attempt to shoehorn in characters and their origins (Darth Vader built C3-P0!?! I’m sorry, what?).

As you can probably tell, I’m genuinely in love with this film and I could talk for ages about its many fine accomplishments (performances, score, pacing). I have to say, if I was a maid at the Skywalker Ranch, I’d take extra care as to not leave any razor blades or stray shoelaces in close proximity to Lucas when he returns from seeing this for the first time. On screen here is everything he should have done to ensure his films met with the expectations in this era of fantasy film-making. The fact that Abrams not only had to work at building a new fanbase, but also had to breathe new life into a franchise (far less popular than Star Wars incidentally) which was essentially dead, makes his achievement all the more impressive.

I wish I could enter a wormhole like Nero, the villain in Star Trek, and arrive at the time and place when Lucas finally decided to take full authorship of his prequels. Unlike Nero, I wouldn’t have marooned his ass on a planet like Spock as phasers wouldn’t have been set to stun.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Cut to the Chase

National Lampoon’s Vacation was on a perpetual loop in my house when I was growing up. I would watch the Griswold family’s misadventures during their long trip to a Disney-sqe theme park as often as humanly possible. I’d cram it in during breakfast (often having to compete for airtime against my sister’s copy of The Little Mermaid) and the evenings, both weekends and after school. There was something about Chevy and his pratfalls that I just couldn’t get enough of. I also developed a love for all the classics from the Chase oeuvre at that time, such as Fletch, the first Caddyshack, The Three Amigos and Spies Like Us.

For me, although I was probably unaware of this at the time, it was his similar approach to Bill Murray in the understated, less-is-more style of comedy, which I was really responding to. This works so beautifully when characters are juxtaposed with larger-than-life situations, whether it’s battling spirits from another dimension (Ghostbusters) or the family holidays-from-hell (the Vacation series). Towards the end of that first film, Clark Griswold has a semi-breakdown following the many struggles and disasters he’s encountered along the way to his now fading dream holiday. It’s a very funny scene, but you also feel for him. Here’s a guy who loves his wife and kids and wants the best for them, but having strived for this has led him to act in all sorts of inappropriate ways, much to the detriment of his relationship to his family.

While there was a more cynical and cool streak to much of Murray’s humour back then, I found Chase the more endearing because he wasn’t afraid of playing the fool and having the audience laugh at him as well as with him. Having recently read John Belushi’s biography Wired, it came as no surprise to learn that Murray and Chase did not get on particularly well during their time on Saturday Night Live together.

Sadly, Chevy’s work began to seriously falter towards to end of the eighties/early nineties, where my loyalty to the great man was severely tested with titles like Funny Farm, Nothing But Trouble and Man of the House, although for some inexplicable reason, I had a soft-spot for the cinematic atrocity that was Caddyshack 2. I even ventured to the cinema to watch Memoirs of an Invisible Man, hoping for some kind of renaissance. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it was another below-par effort from both Chevy and a director who was also (and still is) in a creative decline; John Carpenter.

Where Murray has enjoyed a second career refining his talents for the new wave of Hollywood film-makers, Chase seems to have been unable to transcend his early work. Maybe he genuinely doesn’t care, which judging from the bad career choices above seems likely. His IMDB page looks particularly sparse over the last decade or so, with the odd TV guest spot and supporting roles in some really awful looking kiddie films. I once read an interesting rumour which claimed he was one of the first choices for the lead in American Beauty. I would have loved to have seen him attempt something like that and if he had pulled it off, I wonder if it would have propelled him into the same league as Murray, finding his own Lost in Translation and Rushmore audience?

Now in his mid-60’s, it’s probably safe to assume his days at the box-office are well and truly over. I would however, recommend to anyone who isn’t familiar with his body of work, to seek out his early stuff, particularly the first Vacation film, and see this underappreciated and sadly forgotten comedy king at his very best.

Friday, 27 March 2009

I made this


The last time I was back at my parent’s home, I had the opportunity to rummage through all my old childhood crap. This was actually at the request of my Mum, who has slowly grown tired of all her spare storage space resembling some kind of pop-culture dumping ground. To my delight, I came across this lovingly crafted homage to Star Wars made in infant school when I was 5 or 6. As I recall, my whole life at that age revolved around The Muppets and this
sacred trilogy.





It’s surprising how easy it is to pick out and recognise characters from the film on the cover and first page. I can’t decide whether it’s my uncanny artistic prowess at such a young age or that the characters are now so genuinely iconic, you could probably pick them out from undistinguishable blobs on a page. I think it’s probably the latter. That’s my teacher’s hand-writing on the cover by the way.





I think I’ve misunderstood a fundamental point to the Death Star and our heroes' introduction to it. They weren’t trying to get in the damn thing!





Proof of my early, active imagination as I surreptitiously place an Imperial stormtrooper on some ladders above the Vader/Obi Wan climatic fight scene. An example of thinking outside the cinematic box at such a young age.





Not sure what I had in mind when I created the red blob surrounded by a shimmering yellow light. Also, my interpretation of an X-Wing looks like a glowing candlestick holder with the bottom missing.



Notice how I deem the destruction of a major threat in the evil Empire worthy of some ‘prizes’ for Luke and co, as if they’ve just won the two-legged race at a school sports day.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Cinema Experience

Being an avid cinemagoer and living in London, I feel particularly spoilt for choice in regards to the diverse range of films available, although cinemas in the West End aren’t really the cheapest places to go if you want to see something (I paid £24 for two tickets recently). I love the Ritzy in Brixton and one of my fondest cinema memories is strolling out of there on a cool, summers afternoon a couple of years ago, having watched a re-release of Antonioni’s The Passenger.

Although I’ve visited what could probably be considered an unhealthy amount of both commercial and independent cinemas in both in London and elsewhere, my all-time favourite is still the The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds. Situated deep in the middle of a deprived housing area, home to both a large student and Asian community, the Picture House is truly a hidden gem. It’s a place I visited often during my student years and beyond, taking in some amazing pieces of cinema and genuine classics along the way (Far from Heaven, Morvern Caller, Mulholland Drive, Battle Royale, Y tu mamá también, Memento, Amores Perros.)

Built in the early 1900s, the cinema’s old, murky Edwardian décor, complete with a piano, organ and gas lighting, really provided a unique viewing experience. I mean, how many times could you actually claim to have watched a David Lynch film while sat in a building, the interior of which could have sprung from his own fertile imagination. There were times when I half expected to walk into a screening and instead be greeted to a strobing light and a backwards-talking dwarf stepping out from the cinema’s ancient crimson velvet curtains. This was by no means a luxurious place to watch a film however. A small, cramped counter housed both the snack bar and box office, ensuring chaos on busy evenings, and a packet of wet-wipes were always on hand in the men’s toilet as the taps didn’t work. A security guard was even employed during screening times as the cinema had experienced more than its fair share of robberies.

One of the many reasons why I love film is the notion of escaping your normal, drab surroundings for a couple of hours and being immersed in a world completed removed from your own. The Hyde Park Picture House best exemplified this for me. Whether having the opportunity to hang with a bunch of young, rebellious Californian skaters (Dogtown & Z-Boys), or observe two thirtysomethings wondering around the left-bank in Paris, rekindling a brief romance from the past (Before Sunset), the Hyde Park offered escapism in an area where it was much needed, enhancing the whole cinematic experience in the process. Just don’t get me started on how cheap the price of tickets was!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Dear Diary


I’ve just dug out an old journal which includes some entries on visits to the cinema. There are moments of drama, comedy and horror here, on and off-screen:

Red Shadow
I’m at the annual Leeds Film Festival where an overenthusiastic audience member juggling a days worth of cinema snacks (nachos with the works, popcorn, big-ass cup of Pepsi), trips and falls violently into the steps next to me. Carnage.

Hot Shots
Letting my hand wander to the side of my seat during the film, I find a strange object which, after much touching and groping, I eventually realise to be the foot of the guy who is sat behind me. Unfairly labelled a ‘dirty fucking weirdo’ by my so-called friends whom I mistakenly confess to afterwards.

Sleepers
Smack-head wonders into the cinema, making occasional indistinguishable noises as the film starts, then begins yelling “it’s fucking DeNiro!” as if he can’t quite believe who he’s seeing on the screen in front of him and wants to share it with the rest of the cinema. He exits soon after this.

Exorcist re-release
Regrettably attend a showing with an audience who have just stumbled out of seeing American Pie for the 24th time. Cue lots of uproarious laughter during serious scenes in film. I sit there quietly seething, wanting to scold these ignorant fools and explain how they need to understand the film in its original context, its images and power have been lost/diluted due to years of parody and homage’s, etc. Ultimately do nothing and decide to sit and suffer through it.

Kolya
Feeling particularly cultured, buy a ticket for acclaimed new Czech film. Grow increasingly confused as cinema begins to fill up with an excited Indian audience, many of whom have brought their whole families along. Realise my mistake when the opening credits to a Bollywood film called Koyla begin.

Battle in Heaven
Go on my own to see existential Mexican art-house kidnap drama. Opening scene starts in slow-mo and is an extreme close-up of a young girl fellating a sweaty, overweight gentleman who is considerably older than her. Suddenly I’m very aware of being on my own, and that the cinema is eerily quiet. It dawns on me that there are probably people in here with ulterior motives. Eugh!

The Phantom Menace

I’ve read the reviews. I convince myself that all I need to do is to lay low for a while, let the hype die down, then judge the film on its own merits. I mean, it’s Star Wars! The curtains go back and the familiar 20th Century Fox logo appears, followed by the glittering Lucasfilm one. Beautiful. My eyes begin to well up (slightly) as all the memories of the film which first awakened my passion in cinema all those years ago, come flooding back. Any hints of warm nostalgia soon disappear and after 115 minutes, I am convinced that I have just been witness to the biggest disappointment in my life. That night, I make the uneasy transition from boy to man.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Not such a Daft idea

There was much excitement when I read an article in the trades this week, stating that French electro duo Daft Punk will be supplying the score for the belated sequel to Disney’s 1982 cult classic, Tron. If the makers can successfully blend the film’s aesthetic with the retro-digital stylings of Daft Punk, this could potentially be a perfect marriage between movie and music. I’m actually surprised more directors don’t use electronic artists and after having sat through the painfully monotonous piano interludes in Revolutionary Road recently, I’m not sure I want to hear another traditional film score anymore.


There are a number of respected, electronic artists out there (Trentemøller, M83, Sascha Funke and Booka Shade to name but a small few) whose music sounds like it’s been purposely created and conceived to run alongside a narrative. A few have even been getting in on the act. Progressive, breaks/classical house band Hybrid have teamed up with Hollywood composers Harry Gregson-Williams and John Murphy in the past, while Underworld have contributed to the scores for Sunshine and Breaking and Entering. Daft Punk too, are familiar with this process, although in a reverse way. They commissioned a feature-length anime sci-fi film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, to work as a soundtrack to the tracks on their 2001 album, Discovery. One half of the duo, Thomas Bangalter, composed the frantic and literally nauseating score for Gasper Noe’s Irreversible (2002).


The film music of Tangerine Dream is perhaps considered the benchmark when it comes to electronic scores. Coming from a background within the Krautrock movement in Germany during the late 60’s-early 70’s, the band produced a series of film soundtracks a decade later, the majority of these which still sound fresh and innovative today (my ipod’s playlists are populated by many of them). Their ability to set the tone and mood of a film was often mesmerising, and it’s never more evident and captivating than a scene from the film Near Dark where Caleb and Mae, the film’s two young protagonists, meet for the first time at night, on a blue neon-spilled street.


I’m really eager for more contemporary musicians to follow in the footsteps of these guys. It would also make sense financially, for whoever’s funding a film, to seek out a well-known electronic artist. Daft Punk have got a huge following and I’m guessing there will be a lot more bums-in-seats when the sequel to Tron is released in cinemas, with fans of the group curious to hear what they have produced and how it’s been used on screen.


Come on Hollywood and Britain - start digging deeper when looking for artists to score your movies. There’s an untapped goldmine out there!