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Archive for the 'film' Category

Best Films of 2012

On the final day of the year when I know I cannot possibly squeeze in seeing another film, I’ve compiled the complete list of movies I have seen at the cinema in 2012.

Listed below, they are in order, my best film being “Amour”.  It dealt with a very heavy topic and was, in parts, a difficult slow watch but the power of this film directed by Michael Haneke was immense, no wonder it won the Palme d’Or.

There are plenty I never got to see, wonder what gems I missed?

 

My favourite film in 2012 Amour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2012 LISTED IN ORDER with marks out of 10 given first.

9      Amour

8      The Artist

8      A Separation

8      Martha Marcy May Marlene

7½   Untouchable

7½   Your Sister’s Sister

7½   Shame

7½   Monsieur Lazhar

7½   The Kid with the Bike

7½   Breathing

7½   Searching For Sugar Man

7¼   Rust and Bone

7¼   Sightseers

7      Ginger and Rosa

7      Argo

7      The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

7      Shadow Dancer

7      Take This Waltz

7      The Hunter

7      Jar City

7      Carnage

6½   Beasts of the Southern Wild

6½   The Master

6½   The Descendents

6½   Patience (After Sebold)

6      The Imposter

6      Lawless

6      Rampart

6      The Angels’ Share

5¾   Moonrise Kingdom

5½   Muppets

5½   The Dark Knight Rises (Batman 3)

5      The Hunger Games

5      Killing Them Softly

 

 


Film Review “Breathing”

Poster for the movie "Breathing" "Atmen"

Film Title:  “Breathing”

subtitled and released in UK May 2012

origin: Austria

dir: Karl Markovics

starring: Thomas Schubert

 

PLOT: An institutionalised teenager comes of age working in a mortuary.

STYLE: Austrian realism.

MY THOUGHTS: Director’s debut film.  It’s involving, moving, has natural acting, slow paced, non-preachy and interesting.

MY MARKS: 7.5 out of 10

 

Other reviews:

Sight and Sound,  The Guardian,  Mark Kermode,  Little White Lies

 


My Best Films of 2011

 

9/10 Blue Valentine

Dir: Derek Cianfrance  (USA)
Actors: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams

Plot: The story of a young, blue-collar couple living in smalltown America which cuts back and forth between the start of their relationship and their troubled present.

 

 

My thoughts: Realistic, Quirky, Moving, Slow. Nice Filming. Great Acting. The unfolding story is engaging and in contrast with the majority of Hollywood films the central relationship feels natural, boosted by real charisma between the two leads.

 

 

8.5/10  Snowtown

Dir: Justin Kurzel  (Australia)
Actors: Craig Coyne, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris, Lucas Pittaway

Plot: A charismatic drifter brings horror to an Australian suburb in this shocking take on a notorious real-life crime.

My thoughts: An exceptionally difficult watch, not sure I’d recommend to everyone, but v glad I saw it as it adds real insight into a horrid topic which one probably would not take time to read about.  Powerful stuff, very atmospheric NOT the side of Australia you usually see, deprived, no hope, dysfunctional families and society.  The acting is brilliant and uncomfortably real, probably due to the fact that only the lead is a professional actor. Lasts long in the memory and with much to think over. Outstanding film-making from a debut Director.

 

 

8.5/10  The Skin That I Live In

Dir: Pedro Almodovar (Spain)
Actors: Antonia Banderas, Elena Anaya.

Plot: Almodovar in dazzlingly idiosyncratic form; a sexual melodrama on gender issues and human identity. Features the visual austerity of his more recent work with elements of sheer Almodovarian entertainment.

My thoughts: Gothic, horror and humour make for a weird mix but one I hugely enjoyed.  Thoughtful and distinctive, a true auteur Almodovar makes films for himself with no compromise.

 

 

8.5/10  We Need To Talk About Kevin

Dir: Lynne Ramsay
Actors: Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller, John C Reilly,

Plot:The mother of a troubled teenage boy tries to deal with her feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions, based on Lionel Shriver’s award-winning 2003 novel.

My thoughts: Dealing with blame, guilt, gender roles, society pressures and stereotypes, this is a provocative and often bleak film with no easy answers but stimulating in its approach. A superb adaptation, extremely visual and bold which enhances the narrative.

Lynne Ramsey’s first film since 1992 Morvern Caller it marks her out once again as a powerful director with an individual vision. Deliberately confusing in parts and featuring many crimson-tinged flashbacks, the ride is not smooth, but it forces the audience to think. A chilling and powerful antithesis to the “happy family” Hollywood blockbusters we usually get presented with. The novel and film provides a voice for thoughts, feelings and discussions which are seldom heard and for that alone it deserves a place in my Top 6. Never mind the powerful and nuanced performance of Tilda Swinton who totally convinces in a difficult and complex role. She effortlessly reveals the contrasting layers of emotion such a horrific scenario must provoke.

 

 

8/10 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Dir: Tomas Alfredson (France | UK | Germany)
Actors: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong.

Plot: A flawless cast and stylish direction creates a masterful new rendering of le Carre’s classic spy thriller.

My thoughts: Slow but engrossing and complex, woven beautifully together by “Let The Right One In” director Tomas Alfredson.  Gorgeous muted colour palette, attention to detail and sharp framing entertain the eye.  Each role is perfectly cast and every actor is flawless, especially Oldman who gives Smiley an intense mesmeric centre ensuring we are totally drawn into this Cold War chess.

 

 

 

8/10  127 Hours

Dir: Danny Boyle (USA | UK)
Actors: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn.

Plot: A mountain climber becomes trapped while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive. Based on a true story.

My thoughts: Danny Boyle’s best film since “Trainspotting”. He brings this story to life and keeps the audience gripped with stylish direction and superb editing. The bulk of the film is set in one location and in the hands of a less-skilled director it could easily have become laboured. Boyle uses lots of tricks and techniques to allow the tale to unfold whilst the tension racks up. The clever script allows plenty of scope for the emotions of the narrative to be shared with the audience.  James Franco imbues the role with charisma and physicality, creating a courageous and strong-willed character with a huge will to live. Engrossing and inspirational.

 

And the Rest:

7.5/10    The Kings Speech

7/10        True Grit,   The Guard,   Drive,    Hugo 3D

6 ¾/10    The American,    Contagion,

6.5/10     Submarine,   Senna,   Jane Eyre,   Ides of March

6/10        The Way Back,   The Fighter,   The Big Picture

5.5/10    How I Ended This Summer,   Sarah’s Key

5/10       Black Swan

4.5/10   Wuthering Heights (such a massive disappointment as I loved the Directors last film “Fish Tank” which was my Best Film for 2009)

 


Best of 2009: Music and Films.

2009_bestfilms_music

Indeed, it is that time of year again when a cultural reckoning is required.  Did you have any favourite films this year and what was cooking up a storm on the music front?  Just like a friendly chinwag round the internet campfire, all are welcome to spend their two-pennies worth, please share your own Best Of’s for the Year 2009 and leave a comment.

I shall kick things off with my choices:

Best singles:

    Laura Marling – Alas I cannot swim (came out in 2008)
    Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
    Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
    Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
    The xx – xx
    Wilco – Wilco
    Wildbeasts – Two Dancers
    Yeasayer- All Hour Cymbals

Bubbling under
Tunng- Good Arrows (came out in 2007) / The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love / School Of Seven Bells – Alpinisms / Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz / Polar Bear – Polar Bear / Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs / The Antlers – Hospice

Best Films
(roughly in order, best first)

    Fish Tank
    The Damned United
    Mesrine Killer Instinct
    The Class
    Moon
    Caramel (2007)
    Sleep Furiously
    Coraline
    Doubt
    35 Shots of Rum
    Frozen River
    Let the Right One In
    The Reader
    An Education
    Inglorious Basterds
    Slumdog Millionaire
    Syndoche new york
    Public Enemies
    State of Play

…. sadly there were others but they didn’t even make the cut.

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“Arty Wow Moment”: Review of Angels of Anarchy @ Manchester City Art Gallery

 

UPDATE ADDED:  5 March 2012.  Tremendous blog post on Francesca Woodman and her work over at Wayne Ford’s Posterous.   Her tragically short life is put under the microscope and the resulting post is a wonderfully informed and a comprehensive look at her background, work and influences.  Thank you Mr Ford!

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It has to be said I probably attend my fair share of exhibitions, but what doesn’t happen very often is that I enjoy one so much I feel a powerful urge to blog about it.  But the “Angels of Anarchy” exhibition currently in residence at Manchester City Art Gallery really does deserve to be seen by anyone with even the vaguest interest in the visual arts.

angelsposter

My last real big “arty wow moment” in Manchester was back in 1997 at the David Hockney exhibition, the one with all his photocollage stuff.  OK, well yes, I did also have one seeing the footage of Gandhi visiting Darwen at the Procession exhibition (Cornerhouse, Summer09).  But that doesn’t really count as it wasn’t the art that made me hold my breath with wonder, rather the actual event happening at all and being recorded forever by someone with a movie camera.

pearblossom_hockney

To be truthful, the only reason ‘Angels of Anarchy’ even twitched on my radar was due to the inclusion of some of Lee Miller’s photographs.  I am not really a big fan of Surrealism.  A few years ago, when I got to see some of Dali’s best work up close, I could appreciate the beautiful brush work but I didn’t find myself particularly moved.  It was all a bit too clever for me.

Surrealism emerged in the mid-Twenties, a potent, shifting and bubbling period in the art world.  Most of the celebrated artists and thinkers were male (Breton, Dali, Freud, Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso) and these are the names which are inextricably linked with the movement and whose work we have become accustomed to seeing.

Where the curators of this new exhibition have struck gold is by choosing to limit things to a unique viewpoint, namely the part women played as creators.  This helps to make the work relevant, it introduces a much more human aspect and allows the viewer to better understand and feel the emotion pouring out from the artists work on show.

Exhibition spaces can often feel cavernous, cold and intimidating.  Manchester Art Gallery have got things right here though.  Subdued lighting, warm rich colours and intelligent grouping of images make for a meandering and intuitive journey.

The work takes all forms, from painting and photography through to film, sculpture, books and poetry.  Many of the pieces can usually be found ensconced within numerous different private collections, there are 150  images from the 1920’s through to the 1970’s.

After viewing the exhibition I came away with much to think upon.  Many images deal with the representation of women as sexual objects; beautified, empowered, sad, disconnected, shackled.  Sometimes it felt like a celebration, stumbling into someone else’s party, women united and enjoying each others artistry, support and friendship (Lee Miller’s portrait work).  This is women experimenting and questioning, using their art to examine traditional roles and their place within a wider world and trying to find a voice.

leemiller_plate

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to see powerful work such as Lee Miller’s ‘Severed Breast’ (a freshly removed female breast is photographed served up on a dinner plate complete with cutlery on a white linen tablecloth, the was showcased in Vogue the magazine Miller worked for at the time) and Meret Oppenheimer’s wickedly disturbing “Fur Gloves With Wooden Fingernails”.  I really like the work of Manchester-based artist Rachel Goodyear and I believe her images would feel right at home in the slightly gothic and fetish-themed room where Oppenheimer, Penny Slinger and Josette Exandier’s work is displayed. Within this leatherbound haven you will find a fur teacup, a blonde human hair whip (fairytale/Rapunzel?) and bird skeletons.

meretoppenheimer_furgloves

Argentinian painter Leonor Fini’s work stands strong and powerful.  A remarkable women, artist, costume designer and novelist.  I was wowed by her “Little Hermit Sphinx (1948)” with it’s subtle colours and exquisite technique, capturing decay and innocence, a guardian for life and death.

leonorfini_littlehermitsphinx

Batting for the British corner I found Edith Rimmington’s painting “The Oneiroscopist (1947)” haunting, weird and beautiful.

edithrimmington_theoneiroscopist

Photography is well-represented in the exhibition.  I mentioned Lee Miller’s work earlier, but there is an abundance of powerful work.  I discovered the images of Francesca Woodman (Kate Bush a big fan apparently).  This US artist took the photograph chosen for the Exhibition poster and “Untitled” (1977) a self-portrait showing her hanging from a doorway really stayed bouncing round my mind long after I had left the gallery.  Using long exposures she generates a ghostly atmosphere, made all the more powerful when you discover she had a troubled life and committed suicide aged 22yrs.

francesca-woodman_doorway

Dora Maar’s photographic portrait of an armadillo embryo is freakish, spooky and rather innocent, whereas her “Sans Titre” seashell with a hand is classic surrealism, another of her prints hints at her striving towards a more documentary style and one can understand there is a truth to rumours of her appreciation of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange .  Maar is perhaps better known as Picasso’s muse, but I would love to see more of her photography.

doramaar_pereubu_36

A big star of the show is Frida Kahlo, probably acknowledged as one of the more celebrated female surrealist artists, her work is vibrant and pulses with it’s own distinctive style,  symbolism and themes.  I must make an effort to see the film “Frida” based on her life,  she overcame huge odds to create such powerful paintings.

fridakahlo_diegoyfrida

A new discovery for me was Kay Sage, an American painter working mostly with oils.  She created beautiful, linear landscapes filled with futuristic structures all coloured from a sublime palette.  Sage’s work felt decidedly modern and distinctive, her painting “The Hidden Letter” immediately made me think of Phillippe Starck’s famous iconic lemon squeezer (or am I alone in that thought!).

kaysage_starck

This really is a feast, an exciting opportunity to see such a range of high quality work in one place.  The Gallery has made sterling efforts to enhance the experience, with a programme of talks and tours, games and interactive websites.  All part of a quietly terrific marketing and social media campaign, steered by Wilmslow agency Wonder Associates. Fantastic to see an arts organisation making such an effort to find and engage with their audience.

Further reviews of the exhibition can be found at the Guardian, Independent, Prospect Magazine, creativetourist.com and for a queer slant try Chroma Journal. Angels of Anarchy continues at Manchester Art Gallery until 10th January 2010 and was curated by Dr Patricia Allmer, MIRIAD, Manchester Metropolitan University.

UPDATE: Nov 2010.  Just found a well-written piece in The Telegraph newspaper (England) today on Francesa Woodman.  It’s well worth a read, particularly  if you have an appreciation of Francesca’s work and would like to learn more about her (sadly) rather tragic and short life.  It also highlights the fact that some of Francesca Woodman’s work will be on display at the Victoria Miro gallery in London 17 Nov 2010 – 22 Jan 2011 and also in the New Year 2011 a major retrospective will be on show at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and then on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012.

Next year, a major Woodman retrospective will travel to San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art, and on to the Guggenheim in New York in 2012. Before that, though, an exhibition of around 50 of her photographs, including some rare colour prints, opens at the Victoria Miro gallery in London on Wednesday.

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Shooting the city @ night with Christina Seely & her “Lux” project …

christinaseely_lasvegas_lux

A few weeks ago I was privileged to help out a wonderful US photographer Christina Seely  shooting her latest project “Lux”.  I became aware of her work after a call out on Mark Page’s excellent Manchester Photography website back in June.

A number of reasons prompted me to answer the request for assistance.

  • I checked out Christina’s website and I really liked her work.
  • Her own areas of interest happen to be ones I share a passion for too; namely the planet, our relationship with nature/the environment and the effect of one on the other.
  • Personally, I have found collaborations are a good thing if one has a gut-feeling to do it.
  • It presented a great opportunity to learn from a successful photographer who has drive, talent and belief in abundance.
  • A  measure of helping is always good for the Soul Department.

The gist of the “Lux” project as explained by Christina (from a blog interview with Plazm magazine) :

“A few years ago I rediscovered the NASA map of the world at night and I kept coming back to it over and over again. I was captivated by the beauty of the light on the map and also the complexity of what this light represents about us.  The conclusion is that this light obviously equals an intensely negative impact on the planet.  However, since it’s inception, man made light has also represented; ingenuity and progress, innovation, growth, prosperity, amusement, romance, optimism and promise – basically fundamentally positive and hopeful things. My real interest lies in this complexity and what it reflects about our current relationship with the planet.

The final body of work will be made up of photographs that document the artificial glow produced by the 43 brightest cities at night.”

This is a 4 year, worldwide project and a great deal of organisation, skill and research has been required for each of the shoots to go ahead.  Many artists mention their process when they discuss their work, when you read Christina’s “Lux” blog, one can gain a very real sense of this being more akin to a quest.   It highlights the efforts an artist has to put in behind the scenes to deliver; including battling an airport theft (Madrid) and a fire (Edinburgh).

My role for the Manchester and Liverpool shoots: location scout, navigator, car driver, equipment carrier, safety-in-numbers guard, torch bearer, stopwatch watcher, umbrella handler, local guide and regional catering advisor.

christina_and_camera

Christina uses a beautiful handmade 5×4 field camera to record her work, modelled by Christina in the above phote.   For “Lux” the aim is that the finished prints will be large and so the rendering needs to be as detailed as possible.    After copious testing, her chosen film for the work was Portra 100T negative, which presented a problem as Kodak decided to discontinue the whole range once shooting had commenced.  I think by scraping Ebay Christina should just get through to the end of the project (however, if anyone knows of any further sources then please do get in touch).  Average time for exposing the film was 3 hours.  This is due to the effects of reciprocity failure.

The spot I thought might work for the Liverpool shoot was Bidston Hill on the Wirral, close to Birkenhead (thanks also to Chris Coles for help scouting locations and research).   However, I must admit I was a little worried about wandering a lonely location such as this in the dead of night.  Due to it’s landmark windmill, it is a popular meet-up place for the local youth.  Thankfully,  despite the shoot starting around 11pm on a Friday night, we were bothered only by moths and a shooting star, a hooting owl provided the odd punctuation mark.  Manchester was captured from a field near the summit of Hartshead Pike, Mossley.  No threat of hassle, just a wonderful night sky, a few curious horses, low-flying bats, great company (Richard Brook from MMU also helped on this shoot) and a tiny bit of drizzle.  Both shoots were surreal, magical and very special.  I do not think I have ever sat and consumed the same scene for so long.

lux1_manchester

This project is now nearing completion as regards photography and there is already interest worldwide concerning possible sites to exhibit the body of work.  I cannot wait to see all of the filmic images displayed in one place.   Especially the shoots I tagged along for, will those two sheets of 5 x 4 film reveal the same things I conjured and remember so vividly?  Will they even make the finished cut … as I know some degree of image editing will be necessary.

A final footnote, Christina has been in touch to tell me about another project she is involved with called the Civil Twilight Collective who have been busily working on a fantastic idea: Lunar Resonant Streetlights.  It has been nominated for the prestigious Index Award (the world’s largest design award 500,000 euro prize-money) in the Community category.

lunarresonantstreetlights

There are some amazing ideas shortlisted, all along the theme of “Design to Improve Life”.  It merits a blog post of it’s own and if you have an interest in this subject you will find it well worth a visit.  Whilst there, you can cast your vote for the People’s Choice (I have) but be quick as voting ends tomorrow Friday 28th August when the winner is announced.

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