Archive for June, 2009

A Short Piece on ‘The Ghost’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 24, 2009 by babydylan

Roman Polanski fans from all around the world (myself included, in fact…I am the frontrunner of his fan base) rejoiced at the news of his upcoming feature, titled The Ghost, because many thought that it would literally be about a ghost, and thus be a new horror film.

The disappointment was due to the fact that Polanski directs the most amazing horror, from the overtly scary, ie. Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion, The Tenant (which form a loose trilogy) and The Ninth Gate, to those which take place in a subtle, morally corrupt world ie. All of his other work. Polanski thinks of himself as having a total rational view of the world, he is a complete agnostic, and therefore does not believe in any supernatural, either evil or good. Thus his work is afflicted with that shred of rationality, that maybe the ‘evil’ which takes place in his horror is not supernatural, but is real and that humans can be held accountable for it. Fan boys wanted to see Polanski take the genre and yet again smack it down the ball park, however the plotline for his next picture is far removed from any ghost story, although it could still be called a horror film.

A Ghostwriter (someone who writes the ‘autobiography’ of someone else) is employed to ‘write’ the memoirs of Great Britain’s last Prime Minister. A leader who was elected under the promise of bringing change to England, and who was representative of overturning ‘Thatcherism’, but who was forcibly retired under allegations of corruption and of encouraging the war on terror (its impossible to have a war against a bloody emotion, but I’ll keep my feelings aside). As you may have guessed, the British Prime Minister in The Ghost, Adam Lang, is a not so subtle representation of Britain’s ex Prime Minister Tony Blair. Whilst writing the memoir the Ghostwriter encounters scandals and what not and trouble starts to brew……

I’m currently reading the book at the moment (I’m interested in how it’ll compare to the film when it comes out, its due for release in 2010) but I know that whilst its not conventional horror materiel, Polanski will still create a totally amoral, corrupt world in the film that will rival most horrors, and because of the relevancy of its topic, Polanski will not doubt create a thriller that will be all the more scary and horrifying because it is partially based on fact. A reminder to us that evil and yuckiness can exist, a sentiment echoed in all of Polanski’s work.

As soon as some pictures from the film are released they will be uploaded quicksticks.

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Play It Again, Sam.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 16, 2009 by babydylan

For the first time on babydylan, Alex and Eugene have roped good friend and fellow blogger Jamie (check out his Learning the Lingo blog) into contirubting a little somthingsomething for their humble site. Hopefully to be the first of many additions, inspiring us to get our arses into gear, Jamie talks of his love to SCORE!Firstly, we know that’s not the actual quote from Casablanca. I believe Miss Bergman said “Play it, Sam. Play “As Time Goes By””. But this is not a post about mis-quoted movie quotables. This is about my love for film composers. It has only been in the last few years where I realised the difference a score can make – turning a good film into a brilliant one.

 

My awakening occurred with Philip Glass’ score of The Hours. This was just some kind of symphony that, for me, came out of nowhere. I’d never heard anything like it in a film, where the music was literally striking a chord within me. His orchestrations were as critically important to the story, as were David Hare’s adapted words from Michael Cunningham’s amazing novel. I still play the CD of his score to this day, and “Morning Passages” is the deepest way there is too wake up in the morning.

If the cast wasnt enough to inspire SQUEEING, the score is sure to make you do so.

If the cast wasn't enough to inspire SQUEEING, the score is sure to make you do so.

Soon this pattern started emerging in more films that I watched. I’d be taking mental notes of who was composing what, and before I knew it, I’d be eagerly anticipating who would win Best Score at the Oscars instead of the Acting categories.

And it’s not just me who sees the significance of music in film. Recently I stumbled across some interesting quotes on the Sight and Sound website where many influential directors had been asked how music influences film. Cameron Crowe notes that the best music just bypasses your mind and transports you into another world. Sidney Lumet says that music should be treated as a character that can reveal something that the movie does not explicitly deal with. Fernando Meirelles sees music (or its absence) as the soul of a film. For more amazing quotes click here.

I could (would and should) literally spend hours writing about ALL of the films that tickle my fancy regarding film scores that changed my life, but alas, I doubt I have the amazing talent as a writer to pull one’s imagination for the length of a mini thesis. So here are some mini snippets of film composers I love.

PHILIP GLASS – As evidenced by the reasons mentioned above. Also, his whole career is worthy of a check out, but do see Notes on a Scandal, not just because Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett want to make you rip off your clothes in a self sacrificial “I’m not worthy” stance, but because this sometimes over bearing score is still a must see/listen experience.

Phillip Glass

Phillip Glass

THOMAS NEWMAN – Not only is he one of the most sought after film composers, but he did the amazing theme for Six Feet Under!!!! (where the main titles were made around his score – can you tell I kinda like the show?) Newman has composed many amazing scores (Road to Perdition, HBO’s Angels in America, The Green Mile) but it is the score of American Beauty that stands out in my mind as well as probably every other cinephile.

ROLFE KENT – A composer to many of Alexander Payne’s films (as well as Nurse Betty, Thank You for Smoking and Mean Girls), my favourite Kent score is 1999’s Election. It’s the perfect combination of quirkiness and humour that is required, with that little bit of pathos on the side.

GUSTAVO SANTAOLALLA – his Oscar winning score is that made Brokeback Mountain simply unforgettable to me. The piece “Wings” would not leave my head for weeks, even after many listens. The mark of a great artist. His score in Babel also won him an Oscar, and his next score will be on Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s latest work Biutiful.

ALEXANDRE DESPLAT – It was Stephen Frear’s The Queen that made me realise that Desplat is a gem among 21st Century cinephiles everywhere. Since then he did the score of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and many more will follow. Also, see his scores in Birth and The Upside of Anger.

Alexandre Desplat

Alexandre Desplat

HANS ZIMMER – Three words The Lion King. Four more words. The Thin Red Line. If you haven’t seen either of these films, or the scores do not ring a bell, then do yourself a favour (as well as the karma gods and cinephiles everywhere) and buy the hell outta these films.

It’s also interesting to note the directors that use certain composers time and time again, such as the aforementioned Santaolalla with Innarritu, Kent with Payne, and other teams of Burton and Elfman, Spielberg and Williams, Badalamenti and Lynch, Eastwood with Eastwood (with a side of Eastwood). The list is endless.

Now, maybe you’re wondering where John Williams is in this. Don’t get me wrong, he is amazing and a living legend in film composer movie world. But while he is almost in another league compared to these dudes here, I still haven’t had the amazing connection to his film scores. They are more like themes. The most amazing and recognizable themes out there. It’s just a different league.

Also worthy of honourable mention goes to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue heard in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. So this is not a piece of music written specifically for the film, but when you see the sequence in the film, (besides jizzing your pants over the black and white wonderment that is Woody Allen and the island of Manhattan) something so indescribably moving, haunting and evocative of pure beauty is merged with the classical composition and the film that looks like a black and white postcard.

Woody Allen and his island

Woody Allen and his island

Sarah Watt on new film, ‘My Year Without Sex’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 12, 2009 by babydylan

Airing between 3pm-4pm on Sunday the 14th of June, Alex (the radio girl of Babydylan) had a speical interview with Sarah Watt for the release of her new film. Feeling very nervous to be interviewing one of her idols, they had an enthused chat and hopefully didn’t babble too much. Posted here just for Babydylan readers is the transcript of the interivew. Hope you enjoy, Alex & Eugene.

Sarah Watt

Sarah Watt

ALEX: Good afternoon, you’re listening to Arts Mitten on SYN. And today we’re talking to Australian writer and director Sarah Watt about her latest film, My Year Without Sex. How are you today, Sarah?

SARAH: Good, thank you.

ALEX: Good, great to have you on the show.

SARAH: Thanks for having me.

ALEX: For those who haven’t seen the film, could you give us a brief introduction or overview of what it’s all about.

SARAH: So hard to say, trying to cram so much in. In its wholeness it’s a portrait of where a very average family was in 2006 when I wrote it. Also about consumerism and how we get through our days and what meaning we can derive from them. It’s also a kind of love story, but about a whole family of four people and how they reassess their lives after a major event.

ALEX: It’s a really interesting film. Everyone I’ve spoken to has really related to the family and seen themselves in it either through the parents or the children. You’ve captured that really well.

SARAH: That’s great!

ALEX: I was wondering how you came up with the idea? Was it something from your own life or from something you’ve observed?

SARAH: In the beginning I was more interested in society and how it felt so wrong and unsustainable. Through what we consume and what we didn’t care about. I had a particular beef about how everyone wanted a swimming pool in their own back yard rather than caring about the community. So it came out of ideas like that. But then the actual story of a way of looking at society came out of my own life but also a friend of mine who had a medical shock. So I kind of used both; my thinking of ‘what are we here for?’

ALEX: Just taking bits from things you’ve heard in your own life and other people?

SARAH: Yeah, I’m a bit of a magpie like that. (laughs)

ALEX: I think that’s interesting, as it feels very real and it’s come across quite well.

SARAH: You know it’s quite hard to do that. I think some people have looked at the film and thought, ‘Oh it’s just like you’ve walked into a house and grabbed this documentary style.’ When it’s actually a really constructed film and very tight and it kind of feels like it’s too real for some people.

ALEX: I really liked how real the dialogue felt because it’s nice to see an Australian film that’s not all about drugs and death. This was really warm, especially the ending of the film how it ended with hope. Because there is so much going on that is quite sad but it ends on such a positive note

SARAH: That’s the thrust of the film. Just because all these bad things can happen in the world doesn’t mean they are going to happen. So in the meantime you might as well live with the glass half full. I’m a real stickler for that real dialogue. I can’t watch any film where one character you don’t believe and you can see the acting. I fall out of believing it.

ALEX: I was wondering about that, with the casting of the film. I know you’ve worked with Sacha Horler before on Look Both Ways. When you were writing the film, did you have her in mind for the casting or did she come about through the audition process?

SARAH: Just through auditions. I find it difficult to write with people in mind. I think the audition process is really good. Australia has so many great actors, it’s really good to explore that. It’s the beginning of giving away the characters from the writers head to the directors head and so it’s a nice process to have to go through.

ALEX: I thought the whole family was amazingly cast, especially Ruby.

SARAH: Isn’t she great!? Her parents are going to find it hard to keep her off the street.

ALEX: She’s fantastic. There is one scene I love when they are sitting in the service station and the kids are bickering and she uses the menu to tease her brother. That’s such a wonderful moment you captured. Was that your direction or her own?

Films charming family

Film's charming family

SARAH: A lot of it was her. She’s a real bright spark and one of the most pleasant kids I’ve ever met which you think wouldn’t go with her character.

ALEX: The whole film seemed to hinge on the family being real and I found myself looking at the children and thinking ‘That was me!’ I was so obnoxious and annoying. It really made me sympathise with my parents and I feel I owe them an apology.

SARAH: (laughs) That’s gorgeous of you.

ALEX: I was also curious about the location of the film. Because it’s a really Melbourne film and it was really nice seeing Melbourne as it is, not disguised as something else. There’s been a lot of films out recently that have used Melbourne as something else, such as The Knowing or Ghost Rider. It’s interesting to see Melbourne as it is.

SARAH: Yeah, well I didn’t particularity want to set it in the Western suburbs, just because I live there and it’s an eaiser commute. It could have been set in anyone of those ring suburbs. I love Melbourne, I think it’s a great city and I would have loved to have made something that celebrated other aspects of it.

ALEX: I was really interested in how you’ve taken things that aren’t sterotypcially Melbourne, but if you live here you would know them. Places such as the Russell Street cinema. There is one shot you have used framing the roof and how it curves up. It’s such an interesting place to put the camera. I would never have thought you could make this old cinema look so beautiful. Did you just go to the location and decided there to do that?

SARAH: We just always loved that location. With cinemas it’s virtually impossible to get. We couldn’t get a location that was a big suburban megaplex. So we used the Russell Street cinema.

ALEX: I think it’s really familiar for all the people in the city.

SARAH: It had the feel of the big suburban cinema and you just couldn’t not photograph that roof!

ALEX: I’ve been there so many times, I never thought it could be shot like that. I saw My Year Without Sex in a packed cinema and the guy beside me saying, ‘That’s beautiful!’ And there was another scene I thought captured that quite well. The scene where Matt Day is sitting outside the house at Christmas time. This comes back to before, where you were talking about capitalism and consumerism. All the celebrations are meant to be such a joyous time and yet, they can’t be happy unless they have the latest ipod. And the image of him sitting outside, with the lights behind going off slowly, eating the carrot with the dog on his lap. It seemed to sum up everything he was feeling.

SARAH: I don’t know whether you noticed, but in the background you can hear the neighbours further away having a party. It’s the whole thing of Christmas Eve in Australia as a time to get totally written off (laughs).

ALEX: And he is sitting there with his wife inside, chewing the carrots pretending to be the reindeer…

SARAH: I love that moment.

ALEX: I was wondering how you found the house as it is such a character as well.

SARAH: I was looking before Christmas, looking to see if we could get some shots before we were financed of the Christmas decorations, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford to do it. So I was driving around, with my kids in the car driving around trying to find houses with lights. And my daughter saw an elephant! Something completely ridiculous to see when driving around Altona North. We’d actually stumbled across a film shoot of ‘Elephant Princess’ which I think is a TV series. And next door to this elephant house there were these fantastic Christmas decorations. And when I went across the road to take photos, I stood in the yard of this house and turned around and thought, ‘This is it. This is a great house.’ And it just turned out that that house was empty and the owners were going to renovate it to rent it out. So we rented it out and it was all perfect. A nice bit of serendipity.

ALEX: That’s a great story!

SARAH: And I was so close to saying, (patronizing voice) ‘Yes, dear!’ and driving off!

ALEX: Getting back to your earlier films, in Look Both Ways and your short film you use a lot of stop motion animation which it was quite famous for. Yet in this one you didn’t use it as much, more for the transition scenes between the months and the use of stock footage.

SARAH: I liked the artificial structure around the realism. In Look Both Ways it was an organic part of the story, needing to know what those characters were thinking, projecting something different than what they were really thinking. And there just wasn’t room for it in this one.

ALEX: I think with Look Both Ways, I think it fit well with those characters – her being an artist it was organic. But as you said, it might not have worked as well for this film. I’m sure you’ve thought about it a lot more than I have.

SARAH: Sometimes it just starts being an indulgence or you start adding more to make it interesting, but I feel it has to come out of the characters and what the film is actually trying to say.

ALEX: And that is where the transitions between scenes worked really well.

SARAH: I liked that, as I think a lot of the film I about what happens off screen as well as on screen.

ALEX: A lot of people have liked the unique way of changing scenes, not just a subtitle on the bottom, just something different.

SARAH: And it was meant to be, it has a reason outside of it. You’re inside this little family, in this little suburb and then you get to see they are part of a huge world, then back to the little world. To try and tie the big and little world together.

ALEX: Sadly we are going to have to leave it there today, I would love to chat for a lot longer. Thank you for coming on the show.

SARAH: Thank You.

ALEX: You’re listening to Arts Mitten on SYN.

Thanks for your time Sarah.

Thanks for your time Sarah.

Dark Star (aka I Know You’re Flawed But I Still Love You)

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on June 11, 2009 by babydylan

When I was a youngster I watched a series of docos on SBS that taught me a lot about film. I knew that I was into it, but I also knew that I knew nothing. I had just watched Fargo and decided that it was the greatest thing ever made, but I knew that I was just beginning to scratch the surface of what films had to offer, so I decided to make a conscious effort and learn more about it.

My first steps involved hiring out different books from the library, and getting my parents and their friends to write down lists of films that they really liked. Also, there was a series of docos advertised on SBS about different filmmakers, which I made a point of watching. The weird guy who used to introduce films on SBS (the one with the lopsided mouth that made him look like he had a stroke) used to introduce an hour long doco on a director, and then two of their films which would play after.

The first I think was on John Waters (try and imagine the effect he had on me, I was ten. I remember seeing Divine Trash eating a dog turd off the ground and a lady with crazy pink hair keeping someone prisoner is their basement, things that stay with a boy for life. But I learnt soon after that the turd was a metaphor for like….violence or rubbish in the media so I tried to view it from that perspective, but it still puzzled me). The second I think was on Mario Bava and the third was on Dario Argento (again this had an unsettling effect, I was beginning to regret my decision on trying to learn about new filmmakers) the other two I can’t remember but the last, the lucky last….was on John Carpenter.

Dark Star - note the buttons, actually ice cube tray. Rocking the budget.

Dark Star - note the buttons, actually ice cube tray. Rocking the budget.

He really struck a cord with me because he wrote the music for all of his films, and he seemed to be the most normal of the filmmakers that had been interviewed so far. Because I was young I was still naïve enough to think that all films were made for entertainment, yet these doco’s were teaching me that films were also a form of expression. Some directors were using that medium to create art, or as John Water’s put it, to ‘shock, tease and excite the viewers’. Because Carpenter and his work seemed to be the least challenging at the time, I decided that he was the director who I was going to be obsessed with, so I wrote down the names of all of his films and tried to watch them as soon as I could.

The doco on Carpenter was followed by two of his most ‘important’ pictures, Halloween and Dark Star. Both had been discussed quite a lot in the doco, Halloween because it set the precedent for films like Scream and I Know What You did Last Summer (and pretty much every slasher film after) and was incredibly popular upon its release, and the later because it was Carpenter’s first feature and was made over a few years on a ridiculously small budget.

That barely begins to touch the surface of why Dark Star is so amazingly awesome, and so perfectly perfect. It began as a short film about four astronauts who are far away from home, they have been stuck together for too long and are slowly going insane….

Amazingly awesome cover

Amazingly awesome cover

Carpenter completed the film whilst at film school and after it was finished, he could see its potential to be a full length feature film. He drafted a longer screenplay with his collaborator Dan O’Bannon, who also stars in the film (yes the same Dan O’Bannon who wrote the screenplay for Alien, my heart truly weeps at the amount of talent in this film). They wrote an extended story based on the footage already shot, and then they began to build the props and sets for the film using simple house-hold items.

This is the films shining light, the stupidly quirky and quaint props that look authentic and real, but at the same time incredibly out of place. The dials and knobs in the shuttle are actually beer cans sawed in half and cup cake trays spray painted and stuck on the wall, the space suit is an old Halloween costume with a painted vacuum cleaner stuck on the back, and the alien, the token monster in the film who is onboard their space ship, is a painted beach ball with two rakes as its feet. To use a shameless ‘Clueless’ quote, the film is a Monet. If you view it from far away, with your eyes dimmed, you’d think it was a big budget sci-fi film with top notch special effects, but when up close you realise how low budget and old school it is, like the sets are made from sticky tape and optimism. Personally, this is why I love it. Its like a three legged dog or a toddler with a mono-brow, you just want to give it a hug as soon as you see it because its so special and cute and it tries so hard…..

The monster = scariest beach ball ever.

The monster = scariest beach ball ever.

Also, Carpenter didn’t need special effects or a bid budget to convey the boredom and insanity of the characters, which is the point of the film. The most poignant scene is towards the beginning of the picture, when the characters converge in a bedroom which looks like an abandoned bomb shelter (chances are it probably was one). One of the characters reads an old copy of Playboy, another puts on a novelty pair of glasses (not sure why, he just does), someone else plays that knife game with his hand (he stabs one of his fingers and doesn’t even notice) and someone else puts a rubber chicken in his coat and then surprises his friend with it. These characters are so bored, and we don’t need elaborate sets or props to understand that.

This is a film I can watch over and over again, it introduced me to the idea of ultra-low budget filmmaking, which prior to this film I never really knew existed (as sad as that is). I should write a second part to this piece talking about its amazingly awesome screenplay and Carpenter’s little tricks to make the film look more professional (he created different names for himself so it looked like more people were involved in the film than they were) but that would give too much away. Go find the film and watch it.