Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Best of 2015

 

big-short

The Big Short: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling

Film:
The Big Short

Grandma
Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
The Hateful Eight
Chappie
Ex-machina
Amy

Male Lead:
Steve Carell – The Big Short

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Samuel Jackson – The Hateful Eight
Oscar Isaac – Ex-machina

Female Lead:
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Anne Dorval – Mommy
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Greta Gerwig – Mistress America

Male Support:
Christian Bale – The Big Short

Ryan Gosling – The Big Short
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Female Support:
Jennifer Jason Lee – The Hateful Eight

Cara Delevingne – Paper Towns
Rooney Mara – Carol
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Julie Walters – Brooklyn

Director:
Adam McKay –The Big Short

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Paul Weitz – Grandma
Xavier Dolan – Mommy
Asif Kapadia – Amy

Writer:
Adam McKay –The Big Short

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Paul Weitz – Grandma
Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach – Mistress America

Editing:
Hank Corwin – The Big Short

Film Music:
Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

Single/Song:
Long Strange Golden Road – The Waterboys

Listened to this year:
Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana

Album:
Modern Blues – The Waterboys

Van Morrison – Duets
Covered – Robert Glasper Trio
The Epic – Kamasi Washington

Gig:
The Waterboys – Roundhouse

The Waterboys – Colosseum, Watford
Van Morrison (No. 3) – Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club
Van & Tom Jones – Blues Fest – Millennium Dome
Marc Almond – Empire Shepherds Bush

Play:
Beautiful – Aldwych

Death of a Salesman – Noel Coward Theatre (Anthony Sher)
Guys & Dolls – The Savoy

Art Exhibition:
Peter Lanyon: Soaring Flight – Courtauld

Barbara Hepworth – Tate Britain
Frank Auerbach – Tate Britain

Book:
Purity – Jonathan Franzen

Read This Year:
The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Then Again – Diane Keaton

TV:
Humans

Walking the Nile
House of Cards S3
The Murder Detectives
And Then There Were None

Sport:
All Blacks in Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham

Event:
Paris climate change agreement

Dearly departed:

  • BB King
  • Warren Mitchell (Alf Garnett)
  • Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
  • Ron Moody (Fagin)
  • George Cole (Arthur Daley)
  • Anita Ekberg (Sylvia, La Dolce Vita)
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Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

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My Favourite Movies

It’s that end of the year time when lists beckon. I’ll be doing my annual list of the best of the year in the next 36 hours or so but before I embark on that I was out with my youngest nephew the night before last and he showed me his Top 10 Films list on his Christmas-new iPod Touch (he’s got very refined taste for an 11 year old and I liked most of his choice which included great American indies like The Way Way Back) so I took the opportunity to jot down my Top 10 on my phone. Not an easy task once you get thinking (so I’m including my bubbling under list with a view to expanding it to my Top 20).

1 Modern Times

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Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard

2 Apocalypse Now

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Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard

3 Blazing Saddles

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Mel Brooks: “Dey even darker den us!”

4 City Lights

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Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill

5 The Godfather

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Al Pacino as the unspoiled Michael Corleone

The Big Chill

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Watching J. T. Lancer

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Twisting & Shouting

8 My Life as a Dog

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Mitt Liv som Hund

9 The Big Short

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Of these 4 great performances Steve Carell’s is the biggie

10 The Wolf of Wall Street

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Jonah Hill and Leonardo DiCaprio horsing around in wolf’s clothing

BUBBLING UNDER…
  • The 39 Steps
  • The Unbelievable Truth
  • Blow Up
  • La Haine
  • Diner
  • The Breakfast Club
  • I Know Where I’m Going
  • Black Narcissus
  • The Godfather 2
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Serpico
  • Chinatown
  • 20,000 Days on Earth
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Mississippi Burning
  • Casablanca
  • West Side Story
  • Silver Linings Playbook

 

Picture of the Month: He Came He Soared He Conquered – Rosewall by Peter Lanyon

(c) Sheila Lanyon/DACS; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Rosewall – Peter Lanyon (1960)

As we approach the new year it feels like a good moment to reflect on changing perspectives. ‘Rosewall’ is the first of Peter Lanyon’s gliding paintings. Born in St Ives at the end of the Great War and central to the St Ives Group during the 50s, he took up gliding in 1959, inspired in part by observing the flight of seabirds over his native Cornish landscape, the subject at the heart of his painting. This painting was completed in January 1960, four months after Lanyon started his glider training. Before taking up the glider, he was keen on dramatic high perspectives like cliff edges and hilltops. Rosewall is a hill in Cornwall.

So ‘Rosewall’ was his first work to benefit directly by this new aerial perspective. We are used to the sky sitting blue at the top of the landscape but here it is what frames the whole experience. And the experience is a vortex of air, light and wind. Swirls of white air between us and the green grass and brown earth.

I’m not big on totally abstract painting – I prefer the kind with vestiges of the figurative – grass, earth, sky, clouds, the components of landscape, but combined with the feelings it provokes – vertiginous spectacle, thrill and fear, soaring freedom. Abstract expressionism of a rooted kind. While its head is in the clouds its feet are on the ground. At once airy and earthy.

Lanyon explained his motivation for gliding: “…I do gliding myself to get actually into the air itself; and get a further sense of depth and space into yourself, as it were into your own body, and then carry it through into a painting.” He linked his practice at this time to Turner and saw himself as part of a core English tradition of landscape painting. I love the notion of making possible for yourself a physical expereince so you can subsequently capture it in paint.

For the first time ever a comprehensive collection of Lanyon’s gliding paintings is now on show – in an exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, London (running until 17th January 2016). Filling just two rooms, it’s a small but perfectly formed show, well worth catching to experience the ambitious scale of the artworks. This 6′ x 5′ painting normally resides in Belfast in the Ulster Museum.

Lanyon was taught by Victor Pasmore at the Euston Road School and Ben Nicholson in Cornwall. Nicholson was a contemporary at the Slade of Paul Nash whose aerial paintings like Battle of Britain (1941) would seem to be not-so-distant cousins of the Gliding Paintings. I love the landscapes of Nash for their combination of modernity and deep-rooted tradition, as much in the spirit of European Surrealism as in the heritage of English Romanticism. Lanyon is a worthy successor and deserves to be better known.

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Peter Lanyon in his glider (1964)

***

Previous Pictures of the Month.

Learned from the Movies

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Anne Hathaway with her movie baguette

  • All grocery bags contain at least one French bread stick {Most lessons we can learn from movies are already all around us in real life. I learned of the baguette rouse when I was 17, from one of my first girlfriends. She always carried one under her arm when out and about. I eventually asked her about it and mentioned that I’d never seen her eating the bread. She looked at me aghast and informed me that they weren’t for eating but were there to make her look worldly and sophisticated. She was 16. [Thomas Johnston]}
  • A detective can only solve a case once he has been suspended from duty
  • You can run faster than the supersonic shockwave and flamefront in an explosion [Patrick Uden]
  • You can survive the battle as long as you don’t show anyone a picture of your sweetheart back home.
  • No-one will ever think of looking for you in the ventilation system of a building
  • Beds have special L-shaped top sheets covering women to their armpits but the men beside them only to the waist
  • Never be at the back in the jungle… [George Falconer]
  • No married or romantic couple can redecorate a flat without playfully starting to flick paint at each other. [Peter Bradshaw]
  • The Eiffel Tower is visible from every window in Paris.
  • More often than not colliding cars burst into flame.
  • A single match can light up a room the size of a football pitch.
  • All bombs are fitted with timers with large red numbers – just in case you need to know when it’s going to go off
  • That bomb with the red numbers counting down, it also has a red and a blue wire. Don’t worry which you cut with 2 secs to go – you’ll always snip the right one.
  • All police investigations involve visiting a strip joint at least once
  • Police departments have special personality tests so they can assign officers a partner who is the exact opposite
  • Women have shaved their armpits throughout all history [Catherine Bray]
  • You don’t need to say goodbye on the telephone, just hang up when the relevant information has been conveyed[Catherine Bray]
  • There will always be a free parking space right where you need it [Catherine Bray]
  • No one ever goes to the loo [or cleans the home] – it just happens by itself… [Sarah Haque]
  • When you close a mirrored bathroom cabinet, there’s always a monster / bad guy behind you in the reflection… [George Falconer]
  • The protagonist can never go for posh dinner at any restaurant anywhere without seeing his nemesis on another table [Jason Loader]
  • If you’re being chased in an underground car park you’ll probably be alright but it will be a close shave [Jason Loader]
  • When you drop your books, papers or groceries in public, there’ll always be a good-looking, kind-hearted, awkwardly romantic person ready to help you pick them up [Juliet Landau-Pope]
  • And when they drive to a restaurant, they always find a parking space right outside [Juliet Landau-Pope]
  • No-one ever needs a wee no matter how long they are chasing or being chased. Unless the script calls for toilet humour. [Deborah Mules]
  • Women never carry handbags [Caroline Ratner]
  • We gain profound philosophical insight in the moment before death [Irshad Ashraf]
  • evil has a foreign accent [Irshad Ashraf] or British/English English
  • In the absence of the L-shaped sheet, it doesn’t matter as both lovers have usually – in the heat of passion – totally forgotten to take the lady’s bra off [Moray Coulter]
  • Nobody uses parking meters [Geoff Langan]
  • high heels are suitable footwear for running from dinosaurs [Zoe Collins]
  • You can always reload your gun even if you haven’t been carrying any ammo. That’s if you need to reload it at all. Ever.
  • To pass yourself off as a German officer, don’t waste your time learning the language – a German accent will do. (Altogether now: I luff chess musik.)
  • Although mothers cook eggs, bacon and waffles every morning, husbands/children never have time to eat it.
  • The Chief of Police will give you 48 hours to finish the job before you get suspended/reassigned/in big trouble.
  • Any job in a romcom based in London or NY can afford you a lovely flat in a swanky area of the city. [Helen Newton] Or a broom cupboard. Which by the end is replaced with a swanky apartment.
  • iPhones in the movies don’t need to be plugged in every three hours. Unlike the real world. [Helen Newton] ditto Apple laptops
  • Your average laptop is powerful enough to hack into most alien systems.
  • Everyone’s computer is an Apple Mac
  • Mediaeval peasants had perfect teeth.
  • When you wake from a nightmare you sit bolt upright and pant
  • You can always park straight outside the building you’re visiting
  • If you can’t pick the lock with a paper clip, then a credit card will do
  • TV news bulletins always contain a story that affects you personally at that exact moment
  • When you switch on the TV, the news will be talking about your story at that very moment, but you will still switch it off again half-way through the report (although you show no symptoms of acute ADD in any other part of the film) [Moray Coulter]
  • All albinos are evil
  • At least one of every pair of identical twins is born evil
  • You won’t show any pain when taking a ferocious beating but when a woman tries to clean the wounds you’ll wince like hell
  • If you decide to start dancing in the street, everyone you come across will know all the steps
  • Don’t worry if you are outnumbered in a martial arts fight – your enemies will patiently wait to attack you one by one by dancing around in a threatening manner until you’ve disposed of their colleagues
  • When you turn out the bedroom light, everything will still be visible, just bluish
  • Honest cops get shot within a week of retirement
  • Beer is always drunk with the brand label clearly on display. Ditto all bottles of champagne, spirits etc. [Catherine Considine] and Coke
  • Why waste a bullet when a complex contraption with laser beams or a rotating saw will do?
  • just bribe the bell boy / receptionist / valet and they’ll break data protection laws [Irshad Ashraf]
  • A sharp knock on the skull will always render the victim unconscious for a short period, after which they will wake up otherwise unaffected [Moray Coulter]
  • The etiquette is to answer the telephone with a stacatto announcement of ones surname [Irshad Ashraf]
  • If your life is in danger you should always walk into a dark room and wait a bit before you turn the light on and/or have a shower [Helen Milner]
  • The single biggest TV drama cliche of all is perhaps one that no- one really notices. The drinking of whisky, miraculously produced from beneath a desk, or handily sitting on a kitchen top, in anticipation of a difficult conversation. Not wine, not gin, not beer (that’s the American version) but the golden spirit, whisky. [MT Rainey]
  • There are no black people in Notting Hill [Irshad Ashraf]

This post began as an idle conversation on my Facebook page. I’ve preserved here some of the ones that most resonated with a view to adding to the list, especially in the wake of Christmas movie viewing. And of course I’d love further suggestions below if any occur to you.

What else have you learnt from the movies…?

Four

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Update: 28/12/15

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The Black Lesbian Handbook

This is a documentary project I’m really proud of. I recently commissioned the 2nd series this time set in Atlanta, Georgia but featuring some of the people who appeared in the London-based 1st series.

Channel 4 has really got behind it promotion-wise and it’s doing really well, finding a significant audience on All 4.

What’s particularly pleasing is the warm reception online like these:

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The films were directed by Andy Mundy-Castle and produced by Rukhsana Mosam at Ten66 in Sussex.

Me & Alfonso & The Dying Girl

I’m writing this one in a colourful armchair in the Soho Hotel off Dean Street. It’s around the corner from an innocuous newsagent, the locus of my first movie industry memory. I was about 6 and I got out of the car, looking up at this particular sign with scrolling. It’s still there – I took a photo on the way over here:

We walked down Dean Street – me, my mum’s friend Brenda and Sarah-Jane (her daughter, my age) – down to De Lane Lea sound facility where Louis Elman, Brenda’s husband, was localising Eastern European puppet shows and we’d been brought along to enjoy the spectacle (I remember it being more technical than entertaining).

So directly in that heritage here I am just off Dean St having just attended a BAFTA screening. It was my second viewing of Me & Earl & The Dying Girl – one of the best 2015 contenders in my humble opinion – and a massive hit at Sundance. I’ve just had a chat with the director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, formerly an assistant of Martin Scorsese. His producer, Jeremy Dawson, was also in attendance. They shot this beautiful, dynamic film in 24 days.

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Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

There was a Q&A by Kevin Macdonald (Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void – both Film4) and his brother Andrew (Trainspotting, ExMachina – both Film4) was also present. In honour of my nephew Jake I asked a question about casting. Me & Earl is Jake’s favourite book so I asked about the disparity between the main characters – Greg (chubby), Rachel (plain) and Earl (short) – in the book and in the final film. Could it have been cast like the book, rather than Greg (Thomas Mann – charming), Rachel (Olivia Cooke – cute) and Earl (RJ Cyler – 6’2″ & cool) as in the movie? Alfonso explained they tried the chubby Greg route but it skewed the script in a particular direction and he got better chemistry from Olivia with Greg – they had to have a particular type of relationship which was largely non-sexual. RJ was a late addition – never acted before and showed up just as things were getting desperate in closing the casting.

Kevin and Andrew of course are the grandsons of Pressburger, as in Powell & Pressburger. Greg and Earl make little movies in the film using the target & arrows logo of P&P’s The Archers film company. And Alfonso was Scorsese’s assistant earlier in his career, a great champion of Powell & Pressburger.

Scorsese made Raging Bull and that chain links me to something else special about today. Frank Sinatra considered (another Jake) Jake La Motta, the bull in question, “lower than whale shit”, “the worst living American”. “He dumped the fight to Billy Fox and never told his father, who bet his life’s savings on Jake.” As low as you can go in Sinatra’s eyes. I believe in the fundamental goodness of Frank and above all in his music. Today is his hundredth birthday. Now I’ve written this I’m going to relax in this here maroon, yellow and orange deco armchair and read more of Pete Hamill’s Why Sinatra Matters. Hamill writes about the quality of great art which makes the listener/viewer “more human” through connection. Frank does that – and so does Me & Earl & The Dying Girl. Both represent “the ultimate triumph over the banality of death”. Happy Birthday, Frank.

 

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon questioned by Kevin Macdonald

Postscript: On the way home I listened to more Frank on my new little red iPod and dropped in to Alan’s Records on our drizzly, dark, cosy, getting-Christmassy high street. I leafed through a fairly healthy Sinatra/Rat Pack section and picked out these two beauties. Essence of Frank. That perfect middle period – not too skinny, not too fat, of face and voice. I won’t go into the whole story but suffice it to say Alan gave me these two LPs out of kindness. That’s the kind of place it is. Frank Sinatra secretly paid for Sugar Ray Robinson to be looked after in the fighter’s old age. That’s the kind of guy he was.

 

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To celebrate Frank’s birthday – from Alan’s Records, London N2

The Reaper Grim and Not So Grim

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Youth

I’ve had three interesting encounters with Death – of an artistic kind – in the last few days of variable quality and insight…

Close Encounter of the 1st Kind: Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

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Me & Earl & The Dying Girl

I took my 11 year old nephew to a screening of this movie as it is a book he really likes, plus he has impeccable, mature taste in movies. He is the only other person I have met, for example, who noticed and loved A Long Long Way Back in 2013. We both really enjoyed Earl (one of the best two BAFTA/awards season movies I have seen so far) and in the wake of our evening out he lent me the book – and he, like me, both being Virgos, is very fussy about the state of his books.

I enjoyed reading the book – he had bunked school the day before the screening so he could read all day and finish the novel, be fully prepared.  I see it as being in the tradition of A Catcher in the Rye (i.e. a quality coming of age book) and it is interesting on being self-effacing to avoid engagement as well as on dealing with death close at hand. I also like what it has to say on just being, being together, hanging out. It would be a great book to give a teen in the face of cancer or other terminal illness in their close circles.

Close Encounter of the 2nd Kind: Here We Go

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Here We Go

Here We Go, apart from being the first book I ever read (Look, John, look),  is a new short play by Caryll Churchill. I used to go, taken by my mum, with her and my younger brother most Saturday mornings to get cheap tickets for the National Theatre. What sometimes seemed like a haul then we are both profoundly grateful for now as we saw the best of theatre in a golden era for the NT. So the three of us reunited for this trip. Unfortunately it was a pretty provocative piece. Us two siblings pronounced on it on exit and it turned out our judgments exactly matched the two reviews (of the previous night’s opening performance) we read on the way home. He said it was more like an arts performance piece. I said it was not right for such a big venue of that kind (the Lyttleton).

The first of the three scenes that make up the 40 minute piece (ticket cost over £20 – not right) is made up of fragments of conversation at a funeral party. The next scene is a monologue conducted in a spotlight in the dark by the dead man. The last scene is the most provocative – but also the most thought-provoking. The dead man, flashing back to his last years, is in an old age home. His care assistant gets him dressed for the day, slowly and deliberately, in real time, with all the appropriate health and safety precautions. He shuffles a few feet across to his armchair. She then gets him undressed and ready for bed. He shuffles back to the bed with his zimmerframe, sits down and she starts getting him dressed again. It takes about 10 minutes to do the whole process. It was repeated twice in its entirety. No dialogue. All through the second cycle you’re thinking, they’re going to pull the plug on this any minute …surely. They don’t. As the third cycle starts the scene very slowly fades to black. Thought-provoking but bloody annoying and arguably not the stuff of theatre in this kind of context. I just came away thinking whatever happens, never get yourself into a situation where every day is the same as the last …and the one before that.

Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind: Youth

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Youth

I went to a BAFTA screening in a cosy hotel screening room (Ham Yard) of this, the second English language film of Paolo Sorrentino, due to be attended by Michael Caine and Rachel Weitz. As it turned out the latter was unfortunately detained on set but the former was more than enough to make the screening special. What a grounded man for a famous movie star – and very funny, in a lovely dry London way (he’s from Elephant & Castle, similar territory to my hero, Charlie Chaplin). When asked how he felt about getting old, he replied: “Not too bad, considering the alternative.” Good perspective, one we often forget. That very English “Mustn’t grumble” is true.

I asked him a question about his fellow cast – How was it working with Harvey Keitel, and did he learn anything from him? He said the main thing was that they had both served in the infantry and that gave them both important common ground on which they founded a friendship.

The film was a free-ranging reflection on youth, age and approaching death – not totally my cup of tea but interesting, entertaining and original. The Grand Hotel Budapest meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. What was most inspiring was the dignity and joie de vivre Michael Caine aka Sir Disco Mike brought to being in your 80s. Certainly something to aspire to…

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