Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2, 2010 by babydylan

 

Describing The Age of Adz as more focused and dare I say it, ‘normal’ than Sufjan’s other albums indirectly describes his back catalogue; his eclectic music occupies its own niche as burlesque and theatrical, yet poignant and significant.

The sounds in The B.Q.E took us the bustling American highway and left us there, as did the state’s history crammed into Michigan and Illinoise. The headspace of Adz however, is of heartache and loss; by the end of it we know that Sufjan has matured, as both an artist and a person.

On first impression Adz seemed an uncreative effort, an album that after first listen would normally be shelved as ‘okay, but not brilliant’. Yet lyrically, Sufjan is at his most personal and honest; a more O.T.T. effort would distract us from this. Futile de Vices states that ‘I do, still love you’ and Too Much claims ‘I’ll try love, I want to see it’. The screaming of ‘I’m not fucking around’ in I Want To Be Well confirms the lyrics significance. Sufjan has fallen out of love, either with God or a Woman. Maybe both.

Adz will work in delighting everyone. Enthusiasts will enjoy the lyrics in the deceptively simple tracks. Newbies will find it accessible and easy listening, a good way to start their exploration of the enigma that is ‘Sufjan’.
Persist with this one, its awesome.

4 ½ stars out of 5.

Advertisements

James Watkins; or where do we go after a perfect debut?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2010 by babydylan

 

James Watkins’s 2008 debut feature Eden Lake offered a gloriously nihilistic view of English Chavs (those that are Council Housed and Actively Violent). In the film, couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (a pre-I’m in everything Michael Fassbender) head to a disused quarry for a hopefully romantic weekend away, where instead of solitude and animals and stuff, they encounter a loutish group of Chavs who are intent on ruining Jenny and Steve’s weekend.

Upon release in the UK, the feature won applause for its wickedly realistic portrayal of Chavs, and of the precise ‘moment’ when we, us, anyone can sense a situation becoming violent. The turn of events which leads to the films shocking ending are realistic and instinctive, with each event occurring naturally after the other. Not only does this render what is happening on screen to be intensely believable, but it sets the feature apart from normal ‘this shit is getting real’ type of films (Very Bad Things, Fargo, etc). Eden Lake did wicked business in the UK, earning the mantle of a cult film ‘not for the faint of heart’ whilst announcing the arrival of a remarkable talent, James Watkins, a young director whose nihilistic vision ranked him amongst the best of the ’Splatter Pack’

Ol' James.

Soon after Eden Lake’s release, Watkins was headhunted as a director for the highly anticipated remake of The Woman In Black, a not particularly well know television movie from the 1980’s. Joining the crop of young, supremely talented foreign filmmakers who have been poached to direct American features – such as Alexandra Aja, who followed up his amazing debut High Tension with The Hills Have Eyes, and Dennis Iliadis, who followed up Havoc with the horrific The Last House on the Left –  Watkins’s skills have been snapped up to bring an updated version of this criminally overlooked film to the big screen.

Yet in a world where Hollywoodized (aka butchered) remakes are hitting the screens like white on rice, it seems strange that the original ‘Woman in Black’, and the novel upon which it is based, would be unknown and virtually overlooked amongst ‘scary stuff’ discussions. The current wave of remakes are often based on classics, prompting the word ‘unnecessary’, yet The Woman in Black, predicted for release in 2011, seems to have come from nowhere.

 

the original poster

The novel itself was released only a few years prior to its adaptation. Written by crime novelist Susan Hill, the story was crafted as both a homage to the writers Hill admired whilst growing up, such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce and Henry James, and as an attempt on her own behalf to write an old fashioned, scary ghost story.

And she succeeded. At a short 150 pages, the novella packs enough of a scary and emotional wallop to fill a thousand books. Set in the late nineteenth century, the story involves Arthur Kidd, a young, freshly naïve solicitor who, as a first assignment, is sent to settle the estate of a recently deceased widow in the seaside town of Crythin. Once there, Arthur realises that there is more to this assignment than originally thought; the locals are reluctant to discuss the house or help him in any way, and he is alone and secluded whilst working in the property due to a high tide which cuts off the house from the mainland. From there, things start to go bump in the night. He hears children’s laughter and furniture is thrown around, and a mysterious woman, dressed all in black, begins to watch and follow Arthur’s every move. At first he mistakes her for a local, but soon he realises that she, or it, is a malevolent and evil force that becomes fixated on ruining the lives of its latest conquest. At first it was Arthur’s client, who the Woman in Black forced to live alone and apart from her family, and now it is Arthur, who she (or it) will follow until his life is ruined.

 

your mum

The stage show adaptation of The Woman in Black has received a largely uninterrupted theatre run since its initial release in the mid 1980’s (ironically, Melbourne hosted the play at the CBD’s Comedy Theatre a few months before I started working as an usher, a job which would have had me see the show for free).

The 1989 Telly-movie – directed by Hubert Wise (maker of nothing note worthy, save for episodes of Kavanagh QC and A Touch of Frost), and written by Nigel Kneal (creator of the acclaimed Quatermass series) – is an old school, smoke and mirrors ghost story, similar in style to classics such as The Haunting, House on Haunted Hill, The Queen of Spades, Cat People, The Changeling, The Innocents and Rosemary’s Baby (sigh). With an absence of special effects, the film abandons wam bam editing (a scary token of today’s horror films) in exchange for a slow-burning menace that pervades the whole feature. When Arthur first encounters the woman in black, at the funeral of the elderly widow, she begins as a ‘presence’ signified by a ringing in the film’s score. Arthur feels the back of his head, sensing something is there, then as he turns around he sees The Woman in Black standing there, just staring at him. She continues to show up, often in the distance, sometimes while Arthur is on the ground of the property, and once floating above his bed whilst he is trying to sleep. As the frequency of her appearances increase, so to does the nastiness of the evil that follows, culminating in the films climatic and shocking end. (The flashes of The Woman in Black’s appearances were recounted to me on and oft whilst I was growing up. Mum had seen the telly-movie on its initial release and, like many others, she hadn’t been so quick to forget it. ‘I think the film was called The Woman in Black, or The Lady in Black, or something, and there was a scene where this guy was on a boat and this mysterious woman in black was suddenly in the boat with him, and it was so sudden that I just started screaming, and then there was another scene, where the main guy was in bed, and suddenly the woman was above him, screaming’)

The most interesting part of the story, and an element which sets it apart from most horror, is that the woman is neither a ghost, nor a person, but a freaky pseudo evil combination of both. The locals can all see the woman, their reluctance to help Arthur stems from experiences they have had with her before, which implies that her presence is physical and strong. Yet she floats above Arthur’s bed, and moves between locations, eventually following Arthur to his home town. It is thogh she transcends everything else, with the pervasiveness of her evil overriding any label.

Apart from the few that remember the film, as mentioned before, the picture was largely forgotten after its initial run. It is never screened on television, it is yet to be released on dvd, and any vhs copies have long been deleted.

Which begs the question, how did I see it? Well some kind soul uploaded it the whole film onto you tube, in eleven or so parts. If you have a lot of time on your hands, I would strongly recommend watching it (although the thrills of the picture is lost this way).

Following on the current wave of 3D motion pictures, The Woman in Black remake is apparently using this new technology for its 2011 release. Considering both the popularity of 3D, and the success of Watkin’s home grown feature Eden Lake, its hard not to guarantee that the film will deliver a few scares and put some bums on seats. Whether the picture retains Watkin’s gritty vision, and is actually any good, remains to be seen.

 

Some Days Are Better Than Others.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17, 2010 by babydylan

Some Days Are Better Than Others, the debut feature from renowned artist and music video director Matt McCormick is due for an Australian release in the upcoming few months. Produced by Neil Kopp and David Allen Cress of Paranoid Park, Old Boy and Wendy and Lucy fame and staring James Mercer of The Shins and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney (and not to mention the score by Matthew Cooper aka shoe-gazer musician extraodinaire Eluvium), this little indy film that could may become one of the sleeper hits of 2010. Considering the talent in this collaboration and the raw emotion behind the recently released trailer, all signs are pointing to Yes.

Cronenberg and Cosmopolis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 9, 2010 by babydylan

Post-Modern author Don DeLillo has written three novels since his magnum optus Underworld was released to critical acclaim in 1997, The Body Artist (2001) Cosmopolis (2003) and Falling Man (2007).

Although applauded by critics, director David Cronenberg’s last two features, A History of Violence (2005) and Eastern Promises (2007) have been a departure from his previous work. Neither were Science Fiction or Horror films, neither were written by Cronenberg and, depending on who you talk too, they are his most accessible and straight forward pictures.

Since Cosmopolis’s release, and since audiences and critics alike noticed the shift in his work, rumours began circulating that Cronenberg’s next feature would be an adaptation of DeLillo’s book, a project that has been in and out of development since early last year and since the release of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

Considering his later films, it is understandable what may have drawn Cronenberg to this materiel. His films have evolved from focusing on the disintegration of the human body through sex, disease and violence, through to a focus on the break down and reconstruction of the individual and their minds (his frank depiction of sex is comparable to the style of filmmaker Catherine Brellait). His protagonists have a conflicted, mysterious, unreadable quality and despite feeling like we know them, Tom Stall in A History Of Violence and Nikolai in Eastern Promises remain as mysterious as the actions of his characters in his previous films. Eric Packer, the protagonist of Cosmopolis, is similar to Stall and Nikolai, and will be as equally charismatic and mysterious if portrayed properly on screen.

Throughout the course of one day, Packer, a lonely, shy, conflicted 28 year old multi-billionaire asset manager drives around the streets of Manhattan in his limousine on a quest to get a haircut. The city is at a standstill, his limo interrupted at several points by the funeral of a slain rapper, a presidential visit and a protest. He speaks to his friends, his assistant, and his wife, who he keeps on accidentally seeing at different points on his journey. Outside two unseen enemies plot to attack him. When Packer’s fortune is stolen he makes sure that it has all been taken, so as his burden of wealth and his responsibility can be alleviated. He arrives home happier than he has ever been, only to have the second enemy waiting there to kill him.

Instead of feeling excited about the adaptation because I love Cosmopolis (like other adaptations I have written on) I am more curious to see it complete the loose trilogy that began with A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. The subject matter of all three will be similar, each focusing on a strong male protagonist who seems well rounded and easily understood but inside is vulnerable, conflicted and mysterious. The moments of change, the sequences when audience realises the protagonists aren’t so complete, have always been finely captured with Cronenberg’s direction. Seeing the style grow and the moments become more realised, will be something to look forward too.

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.

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.