Archive for January, 2010

Podcast Ahoy!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 13, 2010 by babydylan

The slightly less productive and distracted half of babydylan has started up a podcast! After realising there was access to a recording studio and a whole plethora of filmnerds, CineCultania was born.

Check out the first episode over at: http://cinecultania.libsyn.com/

Ben and Alex talk about our top 3 films for the year and the decade and a whole lot of other semi-useful facts. You want random tangents, you want a bit of swearing, you want us giggling at nothing in particular and revealing our embarrassing film loves? It’s all there. Tell us what you think.

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The Academy and Taxi to the Dark Side

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 8, 2010 by babydylan

 

In 2003 Michael Moore won a Best Documentary Academy Award for Bowling for Columbine, a year and a half after September 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and no less than a month before George Bush’s first proposed assault on Iraq. The public at that time were being kept in the dark, trusting their president and being lead to believe in the shaky link between the September 11 attacks and the upcoming invasion of Iraq.

Michael Moore wasn’t being kept in the dark, after a standing ovation and accepting his award, he preceded to rant about being living in “fictitious times, where a fictitious president can win a fictitious election” and that they were all “against this war“ and that George Bush should be ashamed. The initial cheers rapidly turned to boos as most of the crowd tried to drown him out, and as the music came on he left the stage saying “if the Pope and the Dixie Chicks are against you then your time is up Mr Bush”.

In 2008 Alex Gibney won the Best Documentary Academy Award for Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about a taxi driver from Afghanistan who was arrested on suspicion of being involved in terrorism, sent to Bagram Prison, and tortured until he died, five days later. The crux of the picture is about prisoner abuse at Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and the policies behind the treatment of prisoners. To the solders involved, there were no clear laws as to what they were and were not allowed to do, their instructions involved ‘getting results’ and to the officials in charge the Geneva Convention was ignored, with the abuse apparently justifiable if it results in information, but only if the information is of equal value to the brutality of the abuse being delivered, but only if the tactics are approved by an official, an official who has to first see the information delivered, information which can only come after endless torture…. Etc Etc and so on and so forth. Basically, the officials speak in circles, blame is deflected from one to the other, with no one taking responsibility until it becomes clear (from the interviews gathered) that the torture may in fact be encouraged by those in charge. The film ends with Bush finally signing a declaration that states that the U.S. Military have to abide by a section of the Geneva Convention which guarantees safe treatment of prisoners, yet hidden in that same declaration is a safe passage for Bush and other politicians. All of them are immune from being tried for war crimes.

What happened in the five years between when Michael Moore was boo’d off stage for criticising Bush, to when Taxi to the Dark Side actually won the Oscar for best documentary? How is it that a film can win approval by the Academy when it is so scathing, so critical, so honest, so judgemental, so shocking and so hateful of Bush, when five years before no one on the same stage could be speak badly of the man?

Obviously in that five years his approval rating has plummeted, but its remarkable how much has been released that concerns Bush and the conflict. Feature Films such as Redacted, W, In the Valley of Elah, Rendition, Stop-Loss, and The Hurt Locker. Documentary’s such as The Road to Guantanamo, The President vs David Hicks, The Soundtrack to War and Fahrenheit 9/11 (which coincidently is Americas highest grossing Documentary). Television shows such as Generation Kill (based upon a book by the same name) and a comic book called The Pride of Baghdad.

Its going to be interesting to learn about previous war based films, and what is similar or different about this conflict and the way it has transposed into cinema. The profoundly negative opinion on this war will be a new and interesting factor.

Paul Thomas Anderson: New Film to be ‘The Master’.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 3, 2010 by babydylan

Paul Thomas Anderson is a rare director with the ability of continually improving on his work whilst making films that are individually amazing and flawless. Hard Eight his 1996 feature, was an intense character study concerning the supposedly benevolent character Sydney (Phillip Baker Hall) a professional gambler who is unwillingly drawn into the personal lives of both John and Jimmy (John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson respectively) two other professional gamblers. It’s miniscule budget and studio interference lead to a film different that what PTA originally hoped for and so to appreciate it or at least understand its significance next to the amazing Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will be Blood – you have to look deeper to view the picture Hard Eight was intended to be.

Subsequently PTA demanded total control over his remaining films, as he is acknowledging of Hard Eight’s flaws and considers it to be different than his other work (to be honest, it is tedious and less entertaining). This includes a final cut of his pictures as well as input into its marketing and promotion (both the trailers and posters for Magnolia were cut and designed by PTA). If total control had not been possible, as his films are studio pictures and not complete independents, then he continually specifies to the thought police in control just how different the film will be from a normal classic Hollywood picture. Whilst making Boogie Nights, PTA continually retold his producers that the pictures glorious opening shot was going to be the one long take, without any cuts (in case they didn’t understand).

However, as respect for him grew PTA was largely left to his own devices – it was now trusted that his finished work will be quality – making films that satisfied his own creativity whilst being popular with the mainstream audience (to an extent). Punch-Drunk Love was an offbeat love story cut in with trippy, surrealist moving paintings by ‘outsider’ artist Jeremy Blake, and with a strong, believable performance by Adam Sandler (proving before Reign Over Me that he was a great actor).

There Will Be Blood was a departure. A period drama focused on the one character Daniel Plainview, with a grinding score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and understated direction that made film less self-referential than previous work (at times you forget your watching a film), his trademark long takes are there, but are less noticeable. Some of PTA’s regular collaborators were also not used: composer Michael Penn, and actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and Phillip Baker Hall. Finally, the picture was his most widely praised, with proper acknowledgement by the Academy. The film was nominated for best picture and PTA for best director, whilst Daniel Day Lewis won best actor for his intense, amazing and strangely heartbreaking performance as Daniel Plainview.

Considering PTA’s reputation for continually improving on his work, questions soon arose as to the nature of his next film. How could he possibly top what is considered by many to be a perfect film, and one of the best not only of 2007, but of the last decade?

In December of last year Newsinfilm published rumours of Anderson’s next film, a thinly disguised biopic on the founder of Scientology – Dianetics – L. Ron Hubbard. Tentatively called ‘The Master’, the film, said to be set in 1952, is about a charismatic master of ceremonies who decides to start his own religion, with the pictures focus being on the relationship between the master and one of his original followers, who begins to doubt the religion as its popularity grows.

The key word there is Doubt, for in 2008, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won praise for his performance as the priest Brendan Flynn in highly acclaimed film of the same title. Possibly due to his performance, or maybe because he’s a regular PTA collaborator (of course with the exception of There Will Be Blood), Seymour Hoffman is rumoured to be cast as the Hubbard-Esq master of ceremonies.

Those involved in the film have quickly denied any similarities between the picture and Scientology, defending it as an attack on all organised religion, as opposed to just the one.

However the film is coincidently set in the same decade as when Dianetics (Scientology’s original book) was first published, and Seymour Hoffman does resemble L. Ron Hubbard. Also, Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan, two artists from New York who were both friends with PTA, committed suicide during the making of There Will Be Blood. According to friends and family, both artists were under attack from Scientologists since deciding to leave the church, leading to constant bombardment from other believers and in some cases, attempts to ruin both Blake’s and Duncan’s credibility (it is not proven that their suicides was a direct consequence of the Scientology believers, but it is commonly accepted).

Coincidently, I was taking notes on an article I was wanting to write about Blake and Duncan when I saw the news bulletin about PTA’s next film. Like Boogie Nights, The Master maybe a broad satire whilst still being an indirect biopic on the one person (like with the Dirk Diggler/John Holmes character). Either way, it’ll be interesting see its reaction against the success of There Will Be Blood.