Friday, 3 June 2011

Filmic 6 is Finally Here

Much delayed issue due to university commitments but that just means there's plenty of content. 42 pages in fact! The likes of Pirates of the Caribbean, Thor, Paul and Tangled get reviewed and there's some cool features packed in there too. And one of my favourite covers for an issue. Pretty darn pleased with it (apart from the one typo in the Editors Note...see if you can spot it >_>) Read below or help our figures by clicking through to the actual site page here. You can even download a copy there if you want. Cheers!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

In Which We Go Back to the Now Available #248

Film #248: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring (2003) 103mins

After getting slightly ahead of ourselves in my last post, we can now take a step back and return to #248 on the list. And I'm very happy to do so.
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring focuses on the life of a Buddhist monk by showing us five seasons taken from different points in his life. We begin one Spring, seeing him as a young child who lives with his master on a small wooden hut floating in the middle of a tranquil lake. The lake is surrounded by countless old and majestic trees, the sound of birdsong and running water mildly punctures the peaceful silence, and a pair of painted wooden doors sit at the end of a path leading down to the water. We get a shot of these doors opening to introduce the beginning of each new season. The master wakes the young boy and kneels before a buddha statue, hitting a wooden block with a stick. It is clear that he leads a very structured life - not a lot changes here but the old man is content. Soon we see the young boy chuckling away as he ties small rocks to a fish, a frog and a snake. The master watches, unobserved by the child. When the boy awakens the next day he finds himself encumbered with a large rock tied to his back. When he complains the master asks him what he thinks happened to the animals and tells him to find them. Both the fish and the snake are dead. The boy cries his eyes out as he learns the repercussions of his actions.

I will not spoil the events of the proceeding seasons, but with that outline I hope you can get an idea of the atmosphere in the film. We watch the boy grow into a teen, a man in his 30s, a middle-aged man, and then an old master himself. To think that someone could spend their life in one small area simply praying, reflecting and surviving may seem very strange to us and also probably sounds like a painfully uneventful film. The boy does go through a rebellious phase though which provides the main focus of the narrative, only later in life redeeming himself for the actions he takes as a young man. But this isn't to say the film ever enters a period of frantic action; we always remain at the lake, the old master ruling with a calm authority even as the boy grows older. Yet the serene fascination one has in watching life unfold on this floating hut is enough to keep you hooked.

What's more, there is comparatively little dialogue in the film. It is completely happy to let the images do the talking instead - the picturesque settings and the expressions of the characters are often more than enough for us to fully appreciate the power of a scene. And there are plenty of powerful moments. Love, hate, cruelty and redemption all feature prominantly in the film.
This isn't a particularly shocking or intense piece, but it certainly has the ability to stir the emotions of its audience. The most powerful moment of all though may well be the ending which suggests that, despite everything that might happen along the way, the circle of life continues undisturbed. It isn't immediately gratifying, but it is the kind of thing that will stick in your mind and stay with you for a long time afterwards. Highly recommended.

As ever, hit the IMDB tag underneath this to see my other Top 250 related posts.

Monday, 31 January 2011

So, any Hayao Miyazaki Fans Reading?

Film #247: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) 116mins

If we do have any Miyazaki fans here, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know this is just the first of five films he has on the list. Two of them in particular are in very respectable spots as well. For now though we'll concentrate on Nausicaä, a film of Miyazaki's which I have to admit I hadn't seen until yesterday (though out of the other four on the list, I have already seen three of them. So not too bad, yes?) Anyway, for anyone not familiar with Miyazaki he's a Japanese director/animator who has created some of the most memorable and revered animation films of all time, such as Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Whereas I would usually choose to watch films like this in the original Japanese with subtitles, I did on this occassion opt for the dubbed English soundtrack. Why? Because it featured such great voice talents as Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, Edward James Olmos and...SHIA LABEOUF!! I just couldn't resist. I admit it probably took me out of the film a little, but it certainly didn't hamper my enjoyment.

ä is set in a post-apocalyptic world, 1000 years after war destroyed civilisation and the majority of the worlds ecosystem. Now human colonies live apart and are isolated from one another by patches of 'toxic jungle', areas where the air is unbreathable and huge insects and plants attack those who approach. The Princess of one of these colonies, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, has an uncanny ability to communicate with the creatures of the jungle and seeks to find answers regarding the origins of it. When the embryo of a Giant Warrior (a powerful creature that could be used to destroy the jungle) is found by humans, Nausicaä embarks on a journey which results in startling discoveries about the jungle and the effect that destroying it will have on the world.

I will start off by saying the film is visually stunning. The various creatures that appear throughout are both amazing to look at and yet often quite grotesque. The air battles that take place are hugely dynamic and enthralling to watch, and the sight of Nausicaä flying around on her futuristic jet glider is a truly iconic picture. Somehow the animators get it just right and the large, swirling movements of the glider seem completely realistic and almost hypnotising. The climax of the film, featuring a stampede of infuriated jungle creatures, is massive in scale and surely alone took months of work to complete. Forget the story for a second, this film is a must-see simply on the basis that it is a thing of absolute beauty.

Nausicaä likes what she sees!

The story itself, as with pretty much all of Miyazaki's films, is wonderfully absurd, but from the offset you can see that the narrative is inspired by real-world predictions of humanity slowly killing the environment. The WWF logo (the panda guys, not the wrestlers) even flashes up before the film starts. Despite the ideas of global war taking place between humans in command of giant legendary warrior creatures, there are moments that modern humanity can relate to and you can see parallels between the film and what is happening around us today. Politics also rears its ugly head, as the leaders and armies of many of the human tribes decide they want the Giant Warrior for themselves, even at the expense of the rest of humanity. Meanwhile a lot of the every-day folk see the dangers that are presenting themelves and seek to help Nausicaä rather than lock her up as a rebel. Whilst these kind of serious themes are present though, the film is never too preachy about them and can of course just be watched as an enjoyable futuristic fantasy film.

Though I would personally prefer to see, say, Akira on the list in its place (it has a few similar themes. Ish.), Nausicaä is a fantastic achievement and deserves to be recognized as such. It seems strange to me though that the prevailing animation films on the list are Miyazaki films and Pixar films. There isn't a single classic Disney film to be seen. Odd.

Lastly, the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed I've skipped film #248. The library has it out on loan
to someone else at the moment but hopefully I'll be able to get hold of it in the next few days. If you've missed any of my previous IMDB Top 250 blog posts, just hit the IMDB tag at the bottom of this one.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Let's Go Back to #250

This is it. I'm now officially starting my IMDB Top 250 challenge. I already watched Toy Story as a tester, but now I'm starting from the bottom and working my way up to #1. I have a print out of the list from January 5th so that's what I'll be counting as 'my' 250. I won't stick rigidly to the order because it might take a while for me to get hold of some of the films, so if I get stuck on one I'll move onto the next one and watch it later. Clear? Good. Let's go!

Film #250: Talk To Her (2002) 112mins

We start with the first of an impressive amount of foreign language films on the list - Talk To Her is a Spanish film focusing on two men whose lives are hugely affected by the women they love being in comas. One of the men, Benigno (Javier Camara), is a nurse at the hospital and has looked after Alicia (Leonor Watling) for four years, talking to her every day and gradually falling in love with her, though obviously the feelings are one-way only and Benigno daren't tell anyone what has happened for fear of losing his job. The other man, Marco (Dario Grandinetti), was in a relationship with bullfighter Lydia (Rosario Flores) when she was gored by one of the bulls. Marco's love was returned, though unbeknownst to him Lydia was preparing to leave him. The two men meet in the hospital and become great friends due to their somewhat similar circumstances. As they grow closer Benigno reveals his secret to his new friend just as a remarkable, and criminal, discovery is made concerning Alicia.

The film explores some pretty dark themes such as loss and loneliness, though it never lets the audience forget that there is also hope and love in the world. Benigno is an interesting character. There is no doubt he loves and cares for Alicia but you cannot deny that it's all a bit strange and he does at times come off as a bit of a pervert, especially when 'massaging' and 'washing' a bare breasted Alicia. You sense from the start that something a bit funny is going on, and when Benigno eventually reveals to Marco that he wants to marry Alicia it's hardly a shock. Marco's relationship is much less complex, but when he finds out about Lydia's plans to leave him he must suddenly come to terms with splitting up with a coma patient. It's crushing to think how that must feel - being at the side of the woman you love for nights and days on end, praying for them to wake up, only to find out they were about to leave you. For whatever reason though Marco never actually seems too upset by it. Weirdo.

The direction by Pedro Almodovar is inspired. At one point it is revealed that Alicia is a big fan of silent cinema and Benigno goes to the cinema every week to see a silent film 'for her'. As he sits and describes to her what this weeks film was about, the picture changes and we see the film for ourselves, silent and in black and white, with title cards and everything you would associate with the era of silent cinema. It's a bold thing to do but it works, especially as what happens in the silent film becomes more important later on and is somewhat revealing as to the overall story of Talk To Her. Seeing the images of the silent film provides answers to some of the questions later on in the film, without us initially being aware of it. Very clever.

Overall I enjoyed the film, though I couldn't say that I'd put it on a personal top 250 list. There are plenty more foreign language films to come, so I'm hoping this project will help me discover a lot of great foreign films I might not otherwise have thought to watch. I'm sure this is just the first of many.

Film #249: Rope (1948) 80mins

Here we have an ingenious experimentation with the art of filmmaking from the master of cinema himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The whole film takes place on a single set, the apartment of young intellectuals Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger), and is made up entirely by a number of long, unbroken scenes with few edits. The film begins as Brandon and Phillip murder their friend David, strangling him with a piece of rope. They hide him in an old chest and go ahead with a dinner party which they hold in the very same room, with David's father invited, Brandon revelling in the fact that they are deceiving so many people and are so close to being caught out. Phillip is less thrilled by the idea and proceeds to get more and more anxious and drunk as the night goes on. One of their guests is their old schoolmaster Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) and as the party guests grow increasingly worried as to the whereabouts of David, Rupert begins to piece together what has happened.

Each shot in the film runs continuously for up to ten minutes and there are only nine cuts throughout, necessary because of limitations on the amount of film that could fit into the camera. Hitchcock masks half of these cuts by having, for example, someone walking past the camera so the picture goes black and he can switch to the next shot fluidly. This means that in the end there are only four visible cuts to a new camera setup, something which may be hard to comprehend for anyone used to watching modern action films in which you could see four cuts in less than four seconds. The way the film is shot really draws the audience in as you spend all of your time with the same characters, watching as Phillip slowly has a breakdown and Brandon's plans fall to pieces. Both are superb and Dall portrays Brandon's strange pleasure with the situation with rather disturbing authenticity. The shining star though is James Stewart as Rupert, in his first of four Hitchcock-directed films. Stewart plays Rupert's discovery of the murder clues very subtly and, though you can always see his mind whirring away and his suspicions rise, the audience is for a time left wondering if Rupert really has figured things out.

The intensity of the scenes is only heightened by not cutting away from the tense atmosphere, always confined exclusively to being inside the walls of the apartment. To make matters worse the murder weapon of the films title persists in constantly showing up during the party, always serving as a reminder to the audience and Phillip in particular as to what has happened. The focus of the camera often coming to rest on the old chest with the body in it, and the party guests proximity to it, raises the tension further still. The direction, as you would expect from Hitchcock, is fantastic and the style of filming has been borrowed and payed homage to many times since, most enjoyably in an episode of the BBC's comedy series Psychoville. That the film is still so fondly remembered today is a sure sign it deserves its place on the list, though I might have placed it a little higher myself. It is one film, as I suspect many on this list will be, that I think everybody should see.

Film #48: Black Swan (2010) 108mins

I saw Black Swan at the cinema this week after its UK release on the 21st Jan. It seems to have made a good impression on a lot of people, managing to make its way up to #48 very quickly. I suspect that's just over-enthusiastic fans rushing to give it a 10 rating, and it'll even out to something lower eventually. It is very good though and I'll be providing a full review of it in the next issue of Filmic. Anyhow, it is now crossed off my list. Taking into account Toy Story, that's 246 films to go...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Filmic 5 is a Bumper Special and news on the IMDB 250

It's a bit late but Filmic 5 has arrived. Hope you all enjoy it, its jumped from around 20 pages to a huge 34 pages! Pretty proud of this one. Read it below or follow this link to boost our views on the host site and maybe even download your own copy!

In other news, I'm back at uni now so I can start work on my IMDB Top 250 challenge. I have a print out of the top 250 from around the 5th of Jan so I'll work from that and attempt to do it roughly in order from 250 downwards. Look out for my first post some time in the next week :-)

Friday, 7 January 2011

It Begins...

Here we go then. Just to be clear, I'm starting a quest to watch all of the films on the IMDb Top 250 list, even if I've seen them before or own them on DVD or whatever. I'll be keeping track of how many I've watched in the various posts I make and I'll also include the ranking number of the film before the name so y'all know how popular it supposedly is. I wasn't gonna start this for a week or so yet but I noticed this film was on Disney Cinemagic HD and couldn't pass up the opportunity. So, let the epic (read: crazy) journey begin!

Film 1: #149 Toy Story

Firstly, this film is criminally low on the list. But that's more than made up for with the ranking of Toy Story 3 which we will of course come to at a later date. For now though, I'll look at one of an impressive seven Pixar films on the list, and fittingly it's Pixar's first feature length film. I've discussed my love for Toy Story a few times on this site and in Filmic, so I don't really need to express my feelings again. What I will do though is examine more closely why this first film is so fucking awesome and cinematically important.

The characters are definitely some of the most interesting and funny characters ever animated, and the character development of both Woody and Buzz throughout the film is highly engrossing. I never really thought about it when I was a kid, but Woody becomes a real dick when Buzz turns up. Jealous, abusive and turning on the other toys, his supposed friends, just for liking Buzz. Then he tries to knock Buzz down the side of the cabinet, it goes horribly wrong, and still all he can think about is pretending he didn't do it and defending himself! Thankfully, he softens a lot as he gets to know Buzz better and starts to become the selfless, caring leader we get to see a lot more of later on. Buzz on the other hand goes from thinking he's a real space ranger to spiralling down into mass depression when he realises he's just a toy, and then later regains his confidence when Woody convinces him that being a toy is actually pretty cool. For a film of just 80 minutes this packs in a whole lot of story and some very compelling character archs.

Potato Head, Hamm, Rex and Slinky all stand out as well of course, but it wouldn't be until Toy Story 2 (which for some reason isn't on the list at all, despite every fan knowing it is very close in quality to this first film) that they really got to join in the adventures and shine as well as they can. Still, there's some classic stuff from them here and we become familiar enough with each of their distinct personalities in the short time we have with them. Sid's mutant toys are also interesting additions, and even though he's an evil son of a bitch I always liked the character of Sid. The showdown with the toys breaking the rules for the one and only time across the 3 films and 'coming to life' in front of Sid is truly gratifying and rewarding after watching him destroy toys for the whole film. I always wanted to know if Sid was scarred for life by what happens here, though his little cameo in Toy Story 3 as a binman would suggest otherwise. Maybe he mentally blocked the whole thing out. Poor guy.

Being the first completely computer animated film, Toy Story broke new ground and was very revolutionary at the time. It will always be down in film history as being a landmark achievement. Today these kinds of films appear all the time, but it still looks great and I had no complaints at all when I went to see it in 3-D at the cinema just over a year ago. Now Toy Story 3 has been released though, and after watching that film about 4 times over the Christmas period, I really noticed how much the technology has advanced in the 15 years between the two films. It was like watching the original through new eyes and served to make me even more impressed with what Pixar acheived in animating Toy Story 3. You just need to compare Buster the dog in the newer film with Scud the dog from the original as a perfect example of how the animation has come on so much. Still, you can't deny there are some truly stunning shots and sequences in this film and it deserves to be remembered as being an influential and important example of what can be done through this method of animating.

As usually happens when I get talking about a film I adore, I've gone on for longer than I intended here. Not all of the 'meant to be small' review pieces for the 250 films will be quite this long but whatever. I've written it now. Basically Toy Story is awesome but should be rated higher. 1 down, 249 to go!

EDIT: I have discovered a possible (definite) flaw in my plan - the Top 250 list has changed already. Does it get updated daily? I'll have to look into it. If it does, it means that by the time I actually get round to watching all of the films the list will have changed and there'll be new films in there that I haven't watched. I may do a print out of the list as it is now and just watch all of those. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Filmic Update and Recompense

Hello everyone. Did you enjoy Christmas? Sorry I couldn't bring you the gift of a Christmas Filmic but I got ill and the planned release didn't happen. We'll still put out the feature looking at Christmas films but we're kind of combining last issue with the next one to make a bumper one now. Additionally due to my dissertation and essays and crap we're gonna make Filmic bi-monthly for a bit (that's once every two months rather than twice a month - it is THE stupidest word to have two meanings isn't it?). That will give me extra free time that I should use to do uni work.

However, in a bid to make up for this I had the idea to watch the IMDb top 250 films (which you can see here) and do little capsule review/opinion things on each of them for the blog. Which, if comitted to fully, WOULD take up the extra time I gained from not doing Filmic and therefore completely negate not doing Filmic to help my dissertation. So, I am going to watch the films, but it's not going to be one of these things where I put a time limit on it or watch one a day or so many in a week. I'll just see what I can fit in and post when I can. I'm not even going to watch them in strict order! That way if I can't get hold of something at a precise moment I can just watch something available to me. It's not the best way of doing it tbh but I'll be helped a lot by my uni's library of DVD's so I wanna start now. Seriously, they have pretty much everything. I'm pretty sure there'll only be like 3 or 4 things on the entire list that they don't have anyway so if I get started now it'll be much easier to see the films.

So I'll work on finishing up Filmic in the next few days and then make a start. Filmic won't be out until after The Green Hornet by the way as I'm putting a review of that in. So look out for it some time after the 14th Jan. I'm going to go home and re-think my life now. Adios and wish me luck!