Archive for the ‘films’ Category

Dear Dear Dickie – 4 ways to remember Richard Attenborough

The Great Escape (1963)

This one (from the year I made my debut on earth) is for me his most memorable role as an actor – as Bartlett, who can forget that tragic end, machine-gunned in a field by the heartless Nazis alongside his stalwart Scottish buddy, MacDonald (played by the ever dependable Gordon Jackson)?

The Great Escape poster Richard Attenborough

 

In Which We Serve (1942)

His fresh faced debut, already a screen presence to be reckoned with. Directed by David Lean and Noel Coward, a suitably English place to start.

In_Which_We_Serve richard attenborough actor

 

Chaplin (1992)

My hero well captured by the talented young Robert Downey Jnr. under the assured direction of Dickie.

richard attenborough chaplin robert downey jnr director

 

Cry Freedom (1987)

I remember this one opening my eyes to the outrages of apartheid South Africa back in my university days. Denzel Washington was powerful as Steve Biko and first came to international prominence under Dickie’s direction.

cry_freedom_denzel washington kevin Klein steve biko donald woods

Richard Attenborough was instrumental in the establishment of Channel 4 – Deputy Chairman from 1980 to 1986 as it got on its feet and Chairman from 1986 to 1992 through its golden age.

He was also a key leader in BAFTA, associated with the Academy for 30 years and President for over a decade.

richard-attenborough oscars academy awards

I interviewed Lord David Puttnam about him recently for my book, When Sparks Fly. I was thinking of including him in the Film chapter (Choose Life) which focuses on Danny Boyle. With its central theme of the creative rewards of openness and generosity, Attenborough struck me as the cinema embodiment of British public service values. Channel 4 and BAFTA are just two of many appointments which demonstrate his prodigious energy and unfailing commitment to public service media/arts, from the brilliant Chickenshed Theatre to the Mandela Statue Fund.

1964

1964

 

 

Chapters and Verse (Phase 2: Weeks 12 & 13)

Danny Boyle Oscars winner

joyful

Took a moment to look back over the chapter titles I’ve fixed so far and enjoyed seeing them arranged together:

  • With a Little Help from My Friend
  • Take A Chance And Say You Tried
  • The Rock of Change
  • Give Away Everything You Know
  • (Everyone you meet is) Fighting a Hard Battle

All but the first are quotes from the chapter protagonist. I was taking stock in a comfy hotel room in Toronto where I headed for a few days peace&quiet. The crappy English-type weather helped focus the mind, and together with the jetlag that had my brain pin-sharp at 2am, meant it was a productive trip. I alternated between processing Joan Littlewood-related interviews (interesting to listen back with a few months separation) and starting my next chapter, the one on Film which focuses on Danny Boyle. He represents a different kind of openness and generosity from what I’ve covered so far – his centres on bringing out talent in others and sharing the praise, very much leadership qualities which is the essence of being a film director.

While I was away I had the pleasure of meeting various directors at Hot Docs, the annual international documentary film festival (billed as the biggest in North America). I particularly enjoyed chatting with Charlie Lyne whose film Beyond Clueless was playing and James Motluk who is working on a really interesting Dylan-related doc.

london 2012 olympics rings

danny boyle london 2012 olympics model

clueful

Trainspotting choose life ewan McGregor renton

beyond clueless still small

beyond clueless

 

 

First hand account (Days 93 and 94)

Spark between fingers

Good vibrations

Well, the day had to come – today is the last day of my sabbatical. It’s been a trip. I rounded this phase off by completing the Outline document to accompany the manuscript-to-date. It’s pretty substantial – 14 pages long – covering all the basics from target market to competition, from elevator pitch to marketing tactics.

Day 93 began with a phonecall from Terri Hooley, on his way to a funeral in Belfast. The dear departed in question, appropriately enough, was a second-hand bookseller who had got many a Belfast writer, poet, artist and musician into reading with a first inspirational tome. We chatted about the Good Vibrations movie being named No. 1 of 2013 by Mark Kermode (with Gravity no less at No.2). After that the day was bitty and I repaired to the walled kitchen garden of Kenwood (which has emerged as my favourite mobile office thanks to its tranquil and reliable emptiness and its sun-catching qualities) for some ultraviolet-assisted tapping away and the reward of some reading/research (Barry Miles’ Beat Hotel book). I knocked off early for a functional outing with the Enfants Terribles which proved a fun ending to a just moderately productive day.

Today was way more concentrated, with a complete pass at the Outline, which I think reads well. I had lunch with the Other Half at the local Italian to mark the occasion, then kept my head down, with accompaniment ranging from Day 1’s Hot Rats to my current craze, John Newman, until I finished at 7:15pm, just ten minutes to spare before I had to leave the house for an appointment.

I’ll write a separate post reflecting back on all 94 days later this week – I head back to Channel 4 tomorrow morning. The bottom line, I’ve had a liberating and creative time – and When Sparks Fly is nearer finished than not by a reasonable margin. My aim is to finish by the summer. At this point I’ll switch to weekly updates (this phase ends with Simple Pleasures part 4 having had over 567,000 views).

The hand of Adam

The hand of Adam

Best of 2013

[work in progress]

wolf-of-wall-street-jonah-hill-leonardo-dicaprio

Film:
The Wolf of Wall Street
The Way Way Back
Gravity

Male Lead:
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Lead:
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Judy Dench – Philomena

Male Support:
Matthew McConaughy – The Wolf of Wall Street

Female Support:
(Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine)
(Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle)

Director:
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity

Writer:
Nat Faxon & Jim Rash – The Way Way Back

Single:
Love Me Again – John Newman
Down the Road – C2C
Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
Where Are We Now – David Bowie
Get Lucky – Daft Punk
Nothing’s Changed – Tricky (with Francesca Belmonte)
Hang Me, Oh Hang Me – Oscar Isaac

Album:
Quality Street – Nick Lowe
Cecile McLorin Salvant – WomanChild
Big Inner – Matthew E White
False Idols – Tricky
(Lee Perry presents – Candy McKenzie (1977 reissue))

Gig:
Van Morrison at Ronnie Scott’s

Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium (Darkness on the Edge of Town)
The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park
Dexys – One Day I’m Going To Soar – Duke Of York’s Theatre

Play:
Othello at Olivier Theatre

Art Exhibition:
All that is Solid Melts into Air (Jeremy Deller), Manchester

Sport:
Andy Murray winning Wimbledon

Event:
My birthday party – incorporating The Box

Mick Jagger

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Argofuckyourself – Oscars 2013 Update

Oscars

This is an update to my Oscars 2013 post which set out how things would pan out if the world were a just or tasteful place…

So how just were things?

I was on the money for Best Actress (not an obvious one with Emanuelle Riva in contention) and Best Screenplay, both Original and Adapted. I also nailed Best Cinematography and Best Documentary.

I still back Silver Linings Playbook for Best Picture. Dave Sexton sums it up pretty well in tonight’s London Evening Standard: “Yet [Argo] is only moderately good, telling a story that has no long-lasting or deeply personal resonance for the viewer. It’s well made, quite exciting at the start and at the finish, and it has some funny lines. But it’s not a film you would want to see twice, I’d say.” I’ve now watched it twice and he’s right – it’s not a fulfilling experience second time round, largely due to its thriller nature. Ben Affleck’s performance looks better on second viewing and his direction very well pitched and restrained. But SLP has more substance in the long run, more legs and more emotional resonance.

Ang Lee as Best Director I can swallow as Life of Pi is a real handful to master and it is quite some spectacle, one of the first artistically successful 3D movies (I suspect even Kermode would agree on that front). I also embrace Daniel Day-Lewis as Best Actor as he clearly is one of the all-time greats, and he brings Abraham Lincoln fully to life. Christophe Waltz merits his second Best Supporting Actor gong – the way Django Unchained spins out of control after his demise indicates the importance of his performance, even if it gets a little mannered at points.

2012-13 was a really rich year for cinema in contrast to most of the last few years. I’m glad therefore that no movies dominated the Oscars, especially Lincoln and Les Miserables, the one too talky (my Twitter review: Overlong, overtext and over here) and the other too singy. It was a bit harsh on Zero Dark Thirty but all in all justice largely prevailed.

Oscars 2013

OscarsIf the world were a just or tasteful place, this is who’d be getting a little golden man this year:

BEST PICTURE

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST ACTOR

Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST ACTRESS

Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

Argo Alan Arkin

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Alan Arkin (Argo) or Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Helen Hunt (The Sessions) or Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio, Argo or
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Documentary Feature
Searching For Sugar Man

Cinematography
Claudio Miranda, Life of Pi or Roger Deakins, Skyfall

Best Original Score
Thomas Newman, Skyfall

More on Silver Linings Playbook here

More on Bond music here

Best of 2012

[a work in progress]
Silver Linings Playbook

Film:
Silver Linings Playbook
Runner-up: Untouchable

Speedy – accompanied by Evelyn Glennie & Talvin Singh (Not So Silent Movies)
West Side Story with live orchestra (Albert Hall)
Searching for Sugarman
On The Road
Woody Allen: A Documentary

(2011 winner: Midnight in Paris)
(2010 [reluctant] winner: Toy Story 3)
(2009 winner: Inglourious Basterds)

Actor:
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runner-up: Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom)

(2011 winner: Owen Wilson (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network))
(2009 winner: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds))

Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runner-up: Helen Hunt (The Sessions)

(2011 winner: Carey Mulligan (Shame))
(2010 winner: Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright) )
(2009 winner: Carey Mulligan (An Education) )

Supporting Actor:
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths)
Alan Arkin (Argo)
Xavier Bardem (Skyfall)
William Macy (The Sessions)

(2011 winner: Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are Alright) )
(2009 winner: Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) )

Supporting Actress:
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)
Helen Mirren (Hitchcock)
Kristen Stewart (On The Road)

(2011 winner: Shailene Woodley (The Descendants))
(2010 winner: Rebecca Hall (The Town) )
(2009 winner: Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy) )

Director:
David O. Russell  (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runners-up: Walter Salles (On The Road), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)

(2011 winner: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: Ben Affleck (The Town) )
(2009 winner: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) )

Script:
David O. Russell  (Silver Linings Playbook)
Runners-up: Chris Terrio (Argo), Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)

(2011 winner: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris))
(2010 winner: The Social Network)
(2009 winner: The Hangover)

Cinemtography:
Roger Deakins (Skyfall)
Runner-up: Eric Gautier (On The Road)

Dean and Marylou getting it on

Dean and Marylou getting it on

TV:
Olympic Opening Ceremony (BBC1)
Runner-up: The Audience (Channel 4)

Homeland, seasons 1 + 2 (Channel 4)
Grand Designs  (Channel 4)

Gig:

Van Morrison – Ronnie Scott’s
Dexy’s – Empire, Shepherds Bush
Bat for Lashes – The Forum

Gregory Porter – Bloomsbury Theatre
Patti Smith – Troxy, Limehouse

(2011 winner: Sinead O’Connor – St Johns at Hackney church)
(2010 winner: Gil Scott Heron – Somerset House)
(2009 winner: Hothouse Flowers – Community hall, Baltimore, West Cork)

LP:
One Day I’m Going to Soar – Dexys
How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? – Sinead O’Connor

This is PIL – Public Image Ltd.
Holly Cook – In Dub

(2011 winner: Johnny Boy Would Love This – various)
(2010 winner: Praise & Blame – Tom Jones)
(2009 winner: Sea Sew – Lisa Hannigan)

Single:
Harder Than You Think – Public Enemy
She Got a Wiggle – Dexys
One Drop – Public Image Ltd.
Reason With Me – Sinead O’Connor

(2011 winner: Movin’ Down the Line- Raphael Saadiq)
(2010 winner: What good am I? – Tom Jones)
(2009 winner: Glass – Bat for Lashes)

Book:
The Typewriter is Holy – Bill Morgan

(2011 winner: The Sisters Brothers – Patrick de Witt)
(2010 winner: Freedom – Jonathan Franzen)
(2009 winner: The Great Lover – Jill Dawson)

Art:
The Mystery of Appearance (Haunch of Venison)

Musee d’Orsay (post 2012 revamp)
(Preraphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (Tate Britain))

(2011 winner: Angelheaded Hipsters – Allen Ginsberg (National Theatre))
(2010 winner: Paul Nash – The Elements – Dulwich Picture Gallery)
(2009 winner: Dream – Jaume Plensa)

Can We Talk About This?

Can We Talk About This?

Play:
Can We Talk About This? – DV8 (Lyttleton, NT)

Travelling Light – Nicholas Wright (NT)
She Stoops to Conquer – Oliver Goldsmith (NT)
Singing in the Rain (The Palace)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Millennium Dome)

(2011 winner: Frankenstein (NT))
(2010 winner: Jerusalem)
(2009 winner: August: Osage County)

Sports event:
London 2012 Olympic Games

Website:
Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

(2011 winner: Instagram)
(2009 winner: Posterous)

Saddest loss:
Neil Armstrong
Dave Brubeck

One Day i'm going to soar cover
Best of 2011
Best of 2010
Best of 2009

4 reasons to see Silver Linings Playbook

silver linings playbook

I’m just back from a screening in the plush, cosy screening room under the Covent Garden Hotel in Monmouth Street (which has the best Christmas lights in London). I’ve been chatting with the very charming, unpretentious, part-Irish Bradley Cooper who I mainly knew beforehand from great silly films like The Hangover and Wedding Crashers. Silver Linings Playbook is a very different kind of comedy, subtler, more authentic and more romantic. I laid my newly hatched theory on him that Jennifer Lawrence in this movie is very like Meg Tilly in The Big Chill, that vibrant young sexuality allied with a strong individuality, they even share that slightly oriental look – and she does a load of stretching and dancing stuff in that movie, Bradley kindly added to the theory. I think he was convinced – or just very polite. Especially for someone who’s just arrived this evening from LA (where he half lives, the rest of the time residing in his native Philadelphia). We talked a bit about acting with De Niro (he said how generous De Niro was on set to support his performance) and how strong De Niro’s performance is in this film, standing out from almost all of his recent roles. And then a bit about NFL, the older Enfant Terrible being the proud owner of an Eagles shirt from before his defection to the Patriots – which got us into teens and how this film has much of use to say about resilience and taking control in adversity. It’s a pretty much flawless script from David O. Russell, complemented by perfect, judicious improvisation. I asked him about the latter and he highlighted scenes where they went most to town, though within well defined parameters, De Niro’s method, like the parlay betting scene and the comparing meds scene. So the 4 reasons are…

1 The powerful chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, not least in the dancing scenes

2 The exquisite direction by David O. Russell, which has the confidence of a man with a real vision (and a script he’s spent five years honing)

3 A fantastically diverse soundtrack which makes great use of Led Zep (What Is and What Should Never Be), the recently departed Dave Brubeck (Unsquare Dance and Maria) and the classic duet of Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash from Nashville Skyline (Girl from the North Country)

4 The uplifting treatment of a difficult mental health issue, highlighting the ubiquity of craziness and how positive and energising it can be.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Meg Tilly

Meg Tilly

Jennifer in 2010s dancing gear

Jennifer in 2010s dancing gear

Meg in 1980s dancing gear

Meg in 1980s dancing gear

Let’s Zep

LedZeppelinCelebrationDay630_091312

Just back from watching Celebration Day at The Phoenix, the concert film of Led Zeppelin’s tribute gig at the Millennium Dome in memory of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun (on 10th December, 2007). Stunning performance from them all, with Jason Bonham standing in for his dad on drums. John Paul Jones is striking with his elegant, intense cool, those long fast fingers, that laser concentration. Stand out songs are In My Time of Dying (the blues roots), Dazed & Confused (virtuoso psychedelia from Jimmy Page) and Kashmir (exoticism from John Paul Jones’ keyboards and Robert Plant’s wails).  As a souvenir, with the music still ringing in my ears, here are the heroes…

john paul jones

john paul jones – elegant intensity

jimmy page - mind bending notes

jimmy page – mind bending notes

robert plant - elder statesman of the wail

robert plant – elder statesman of the wail

john bonham - wild and heavy

john bonham – wild and heavy

heavy blues

heavy blues

My Bond’s My Words & Music

Tunes Galore

Last night I went to listen to the Philharmonia performing music and songs from all 23 plus 2 Bond films as recently listed in My Bond’s My Word. Carl Davis, who came to prominence through Channel 4 Silents in the early 80s, conducted this 50th Anniversary Bond concert at the Festival Hall and the ever elegant Honor Blackman (aka Pussy Galore) gave context to the music between each of the 25 pieces. It seems like a good opportunity to extend the list from My Bond’s My Word to summarise who sung what when in the world of Bond. The highlights yesterday evening for me were You Only Live Twice, Moonraker, Octopussy and Licence to Kill. What was striking was the amount of very effective quotation and echoing of earlier themes in the later scores, not least in the recent Skyfall.

Dr. No (1962)
Music: Monty Norman
Words: -
Performed by: John Barry & Orchestra

From Russia With Love (1963)
Music: Lionel Bart
Words: “
Performed by: Matt Munro

Goldfinger (1964)
Music: John Barry
Words: Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse
Performed by: Shirley Bassey

Thunderball (1965)
Music: John Barry
Words: Don Black
Performed by: Tom Jones

Thunderball (1965) Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Music: John Barry
Words: Don Black
Performed by: John Barry (Dionne Warwick – wasn’t used in final cut)

You Only Live Twice (1967)
Music: John Barry
Words: Leslie Bricusse
Performed by: Nancy Sinatra

[Casino Royale (1967)]
Music: Burt Bacharach
Words: -
Performed by: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Music: John Barry
Words: -
Performed by: The John Barry Orchestra

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) We Have All the Time in the World
Music: John Barry
Words: Hal David
Performed by: Louis Armstrong

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
Music: John Barry
Words: Don Black
Performed by: Shirley Bassey

Live and Let Die (1973)
Music: Paul & Linda McCartney
Words: Paul & Linda McCartney
Performed by: Paul McCartney & Wings

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Music:John Barry
Words: Don Black
Performed by: Lulu

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
Music: Marvin Hamlisch
Words: Carole Bayer Sager
Performed by: Carly Simon

Moonraker (1979)
Music: John Barry
Words: Hal David
Performed by: Shirley Bassey

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Music: Bill Conti
Words: Michael Leeson
Performed by: Sheena Easton

Octopussy (1983)
Music: John Barry
Words: Tim Rice
Performed by: Rita Coolidge

[Never Say Never Again (1983)]
Music: Michel Legrand
Words: Alan & Marilyn Bergman
Performed by: Lani Hall

A View to a Kill (1985)
Music: Duran Duran, John Barry
Words: Duran Duran
Performed by: Duran Duran

The Living Daylights (1987)
Music: Pal Waaktaar & John Barry
Words: Pal Waaktaar
Performed by: Aha

Licence to Kill (1989)
Music: Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen, Walter Afanasieff
Words: “
Performed by: Gladys Knight

GoldenEye (1995)
Music: Bono & The Edge
Words: “
Performed by: Tina Turner

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Music: Sheryl Crow & Mitchell Froom
Words: “
Performed by: Sheryl Crow

The World is Not Enough (1999)
Music: David Arnold
Words: Don Black
Performed by: Garbage

Die Another Day (2002)
Music: Madonna & Mirwais Ahmadzai
Words: “
Performed by: Madonna

Casino Royale (2006)
Music: David Arnold
Words: Chris Cornell
Performed by: Chris Cornell

Quantum of Solace (2008)
Music: Jack White
Words: “
Performed by: Jack White & Alicia Keys

Skyfall (2012)
Music: Adele & Paul Epworth
Words: “
Performed by: Adele

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 141 other followers

%d bloggers like this: