Archive for February, 2016|Monthly archive page

The Oscars: AG v Academy

I’m starting a movie project later this morning for Channel 4 /All 4 short form so what better way to get in the mood than comparing my votes for the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs) with the actual winners tonight for the American Academy Awards (Oscars). While I’m at it, I’m going to do head-to-head on the (acting) categories which are artificially split into genders – will they combine these one day or do a head-to-head given there’s no physical difference between the sexes in this regard?

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Best picture 
AG: The Big Short
Spotlight

Best actress 
AG & Academy: Brie Larson, Room

Best actor 
AG: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Leonardo diCaprio, The Revenant

Best director 
AG: Adam McKay, The Big Short
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

Best original screenplay
AG: The Hateful Eight
Spotlight

Best original score 
AG & Academy: The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone

Best adapted screenplay 
AG & Academy: The Big Short

Best supporting actress
AG: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Best supporting actor
AG & Academy: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Best costume design
AG: Carol – Sandy Powell
Mad Max Fury Road – Jenny Beavan

Best animated film
AG & Academy: Inside Out

Best documentary
AG & Academy: Amy

Best cinematography
AG & Academy: The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki

Best make-up and hair
AG: Carol [not nominated]
Mad Max: Fury Road

Best visual effects
AG & Academy: Ex Machina

Best sound editing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best sound mixing
AG & Academy: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best editing
AG: The Big Short – Hank Corwin [he was robbed!]
Mad Max Fury Road – Margeret Sixel

BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS: Brie Larson, Room

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/ACTRESS: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Tying some Oscar loose  ends including why I don’t reckon The Revenant

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To round off on this special day – being 29th of February, leap year day – I’d like to celebrate the considerable success of the UK film industry. I heard we had nominations in 21 of 24 categories (I haven’t counted them up to check). We had winners in 6:

  •  Best supporting actor: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies – in a league of his own
  • Best visual effects: Ex Machina – an amazing follow-up to Gravity’s success
  • Best documentary: Amy – masterfully realised by Asif Kapadia, fellow East Finchley resident
  • Best song: Sam Smith – raw youth
  • Best short: Stutterer – Anglo-Irish triumph
  • Best costume: Mad Max Fury Road

 

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Movie Without a Cause

As an antidote to Anton Corbijn’s terrible film ‘Life’ which I’ve just been watching (stijck to the stijlls Anton) here are a couple of photos/stills of James Dean by Dennis Stock and others to help me remember why he seared…

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by Dennis Stock

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In a NYC diner – by Dennis Stock

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crucified in Giant

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East of Eden

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Rebel Without a Cause

Van & Tom

I just found this on the phone I’m about to dump – meant to post it at the time (8th Nov 2015, just home from the gig) but must have lost it in all the excitement…

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Robert Elms introduced Van Morrison and Tom Jones tonight at Blues Fest in the Millennium Dome, saying this is the first time they’ve performed live together – I’ll believe it (though I’m slightly surprised).

Van played first, brought Tom on at the end of his set. Then Tom played with his young band and brought Van back on at the end. They didn’t look rehearsed which was good – small mistakes about when to come in is a small price to pay for some proper connection.

Van’s band was old and experienced; Tom’s was young and spunky. Van’s set was jazzy blues; Tom’s was raw chapel gospelly blues.

Van was in wry humourous mood (contrary to reputation); Tom was nostalgic in a forward-looking, energetic way.

Who in this generation (or recent ones) I wondered will be capable of doing a gig like this in 50 years?

Some highlights included:

Van:

* Making love in the afternoon – where the ‘high’ in ‘highway’ was brought to my attention for the first time, Van really getting into the sex&drugs groove

* Baby please don’t go – with drum beat gun shots at the climax

* No Plan B – Van’s band followed him to a higher place, building to a driving end of set

Tom:

* What is the soul of man – the stripped down blues of Praise & Blame

* I love you baby can’t help myself – beautiful sparse arrangement Tom made full use of

Van & Tom:

What am I living for if not for you & Strange Things – where the pair of them found their together groove

No Whenever God Shines His Light nor Gotta Serve Somebody but the event lived up to its promise and was more than the sum of its parts. Their connection through the Celtic and the Blues made it a match of the heavenly variety.

Van’s set

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Tom’s set

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In memory of Gary

This time yesterday I went to the funeral of my old friend Gary Watson. This could be him…

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…but actually it’s not. This could be him…

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…but actually it’s not. But it is in essence – sharp dresser, a bit of a geezer, totally committed to music, tall, swept back black hair, a wild side – these are him.

My favourite memory of him is at a party at a squat where he was living in Stamford Hill. I got there early evening and not much was ready – it was the end of a fine summer’s day and so a barbecue was in prospect. But the transformation was nigh on miraculous. First the speakers went out into the garden to get the groove going. Then the couch and all the living room furniture was taken outdoors. Next Gary and John Hand between them built a whole set of tables in a horseshoe around the garden – from scratch, off-cut timber. As they went about their work little heads started to appear over the fences and in the windows of the surrounding houses which were mostly home to orthodox Jews. Who are these strange men with their hucking and knucking and their music, living life to a different beat? Every kid in the neighbourhood started to come out of the woodwork. The tables and temporary furniture were constructed so swiftly and a fire lit with typical Irish efficiency (John using tried&tested techniques from Athlone of rolling and folding newspaper to help get the flames established) that there was plenty of time for artist and set constructor/designer John to also construct wooden sculptures on the trees to complete the outdoor decor. In under an hour an entire outside room was created for the evening’s shenanigans. As the sun set dozens of little bright eyes looked on with amazement and pleasure.

I got quite fucked up that night. In a good way. Didn’t sleep a wink. Had to go see my dad in Brighton the next day, when one of my favourite photographs of myself was taken. I’m standing by the breakwater wall of Brighton Marina with my dad, leaning on the concrete in a nonchalant way in a lilac jumper and tan austen boots. He’s beside me looking pretty relaxed. Little does he know how fucked up I am inside but a broad smile belies that. And I was happy thanks in large degree to Gary’s party.

I have only one thing connected to Gary – a beautiful thing. It’s a second-hand Frank Sinatra record he bought me – a propos of nothing I think. Not only had he clearly chosen the music with care (60s bossa nova Sinatra which I like for its cool stylish swing) but he’d decorated the cover with great care with a collage centred on the word “Incognita” from an old map. ‘Terra Incognita’ is ‘unknown territory’ in the world of cartography. And that’s where Gary is now.

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The last time I listened to this record (before using it to herald the funeral yesterday) was the last time I saw Gary, when he came round to our place for dinner. Una and I had been out for a walk along the canal near Clapton and I’d parked at Watermint Quay, HQ for the best of our partying in our late 20s with a Hibernocentric crowd of friends. It was through John’s sister that Gary came into our lives. As we walked from the car down to the canal past the door behind which all those parties took place the door swung open to reveal Gary. We promised to pull by for a cuppa on returning from our walk and then invited him over that same Christmastime evening to join our dinner with friends. A lot of talk was talked, a lot of drink was drunk, Frank sang and it was a fine night to go out on as things transpired.

At the funeral yesterday one of Gary’s brothers sang one of Gary’s songs – beautifully, full of the kind of feeling you can only get on such an occasion. And a recording of Gary singing was also played – he had real talent, even more obvious now. The event was enriched with a variety of stories about Gary’s generosity and kindness, things even his parents didn’t know about because he was quiet and no-nonsense in his giving. The single mum’s house he did up across the road at his own expense and effort. The Rolex he gave away to a waiter just because it made the man so happy. The muslim co-worker he joined on fast for Ramadan for 28 days as soon as he became aware of the rules (no tea etc.). But the story I liked most was Gary lying in the middle of a long straight road in the middle of nowhere in the north of Scotland as his pal sped by on his huge motorbike just feet away at 100 mph so Gary could experience the Doppler effect in a big way. So Gary. Risk life&limb for a good sound effect.

We finished the funeral day yesterday at a concert by Wynton Marsalis’s jazz big band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, at the Barbican. The encore turned out to be an old-style New Orleans funeral march. Meant to be. Music, soulful, sharp suits – very Gazza.

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Simple Pleasures from Belfast

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You Do Something to Me

The light just after sunset. Jogging. Peach Bellinis. The Style Council. Tuna tartare. Mixed race people. Propellor planes. Reading history. Editing film/video. Poached pear. Love songs. You Do Something to Me. You Do Something to Me video. Afros. Laying across big beds. Water (drink). Hugging. Pears. Orange (colour). Coincidences.

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He does something to Him

 

Two too

An away win at Man City, a good result for England in Rome and The Big Short winning the Best Adapted Screenplay BAFTA, it’s been a weekend of some fine wins…

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Movie awards season round-off

So it’s getting to that time in the year when various movie awards stuff needs tidying up. The BAFTA Film Awards take place tomorrow night, the Silver Surfer to the Oscars’ Galactus.

Let’s start with this race issue: my take on it is that it should have rung an alarm last year when our own academy (BAFTA) failed to recognise the excellent Selma and in particular our very own Brit David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, not to mention the director Ava DuVernay. I was on their case within minutes of the nominations announcement on Radio 5, both on my own SurrealThing Twitter account and in conversation with other friends&associates:

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The total absence of Selma stuck out like a dark deed in …something very pure and white. A bag of cotton wool. A bowl of vanilla ice-cream. A cloud. The North Pole. Dulux Pure Brilliant White. “Their” (case) – I mean “our” – for the first time I felt embarrassment with regard to BAFTA. Actually the second time …but that’s another post. Today the Chief Executive of BAFTA was reported saying: “It would be inappropriate for me to say that we’ve done a better job than the Oscars. I admire their stance. They’ve said that they’re going to make changes. They know it isn’t good enough. I don’t want to gloat and say we’ve done better, because it could have gone the other way.” Memories can be short. Selma got 0 nominations at last year’s BAFTAs whilst it was a Best Motion Picture of the Year nominee at the Oscars a month later. The reason offered was: ““The film wasn’t delivered until the end of November and there were only three screenings before the voting started.” Well I remember not only going to one of the screenings but also getting a DVD Screener through the door in good time for Christmas, the intense viewing period for BAFTA voter members, and for the first round of voting.

I wrote about Selma here in Simple Pleasures a couple of weeks before the embarrassing nominations announcement.

Now, thanks to the complacency and inertia of the academies, we’re in the worst of all worlds – we don’t know whether sympathy votes are being cast or corrective behaviour taking place, so when, say, Idris Elba picked up the Best Actor award at last week’s Evening Standard Film Awards  or at the Screen Actors Guild awards the week before we have no idea what that means. Exaggerated by the fact that his nomination at both the BAFTAs and SAG were in the Supporting Actor category.

Moving on, in retrospect I’m glad I was also pretty swift off the mark this year with The Big Short. An absolute masterpiece of writing, acting, directing and editing. Head and shoulders the stand-out film of the season. I went to an awards screening at the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho which both actor Steve Carell and director Adam McKay attended.

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Steve Carell

In the Q&A that followed, I asked Adam McKay about the editing style and whether it had been envisioned from the off – it’s very striking and energising, as well as funny. I had a chat with Steve Carell in the bar after the event – a very warm and humble man. We talked a bit about the progression from The Wolf of Wall Street to The Big Short and about the source book for the movie. I also had a brief conversation with Adam McKay, likewise about the relationship to Scorsese’s terrific financial crash satire. Carell’s performance is outstanding – too subtle for the awards season but wonderful, with shades of Joe Pesci (Goodfellas).

This intimate gathering was a stark contrast to the BAFTA screening of The Force Awakens.

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Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, JJ Abrams

Not even the presence of a doddery Harrison Ford, fresh-faced Daisy Ridley, enthusiastic John Boyega and the wunderkind JJ Abrams could elevate Star Wars: The Force Awakens from being a just about entertaining enough 2 hours in the cinema to being much more than a pale shadow of its 1977 daddy (which I saw on release at the Dominion Tottenham Court Road and was as wowed by Dolby sound technology as anything else). The power of nostalgia is such that Pete Bradshaw (the other half of the Twitter convo above) gave it a 5* review in The Guardian! Daisy Ridley’s mum used to work at Channel 4 when my Other Half did and was shanghaied into one of the films I directed at the time. In the absence of Daisy with her C4 connections from any of the nominations lists, I really hope the film wins nothing other than technical prizes. Just to the right of JJ Abrams in the above photo – victims of the square format – is the British head of visual effects (whose name shamefully escapes me – another feather in the cap of the London Visual FX industry in the proud heritage of Framestore’s wonderful Gravity) and a hero of mine, Lawrence Kasdan, writer of the classic The Big Chill. This movie was not his finest hour.

But on a similar scale (the screening) and with another brilliant scriptwriter, a night at the Odeon Leicester Square watching The Hateful Eight in 70mm was a highlight of the season.

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Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell & Walton Goggins reduced to a digital mosaic by my dodgy phone

Quentin Tarantino, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell and Walton Goggins attended, QT his usual ebullient self, delighting in the 70mm projection in a premium auditorium, as well as the presence of Ennio Morricone in the audience. Him and the Maestro were sitting just along the row from me and shared a spectacular snowy screen experience, fabulously written, uniquely directed – wall to wall pleasure. With the added bonus of confronting race issues head on and including a decent complement of non-white faces!

Another visceral white (environment) big screen Experience with a capital E was the BAFTA screening of The Revenant. Now Birdman is high up my list of Most Hated Movies, right up there with Shirley Valentine – in this case for being cold (not in the sub-zero sense) and over-calculating.

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Leonardo DiCaprio & Tom Hardy reduced to a vague blur by that dodgy phone

 

It was evident from the Q&A that Tom Hardy also found Alejandro G. Iñárritu irritating. This over-hyped director seemed to have spent more time fussing over camera set-ups and cheating angles than worrying whether his actors had a balding notion what was actually going on in the scene, who they were talking to (since they were placed at unnatural angles) or what was in shot. Despite the logistical and physical triumph of shooting where it was shot, the ambitious movie in my eyes was let down by misjudgment of pace and story especially towards the end. Nonetheless it was a visceral cinematic experience and for that deserves recognition (of the non-awards type, apart from…) I hope it brings DiCaprio his elusive Oscar – though it’s not my favourite of his performances, it’s still as brilliant as ever.

My favourite Leonardo DiCaprio performances:

  1. Arnie – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993 – aged 19)
  2. Jordan – The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
  3. Romeo – Romeo & Juliet (1996)
  4. Candie – Django Unchained (2012)
  5. Toby – This Boy’s Life (1993)
  6. Jack – Titanic (1997)

Dontcha just love the movies…

Two

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Preserving this for posterity (snapshot from today) as it’s not something us Spurs supporters get to see too often.

Desert Island Discs Day

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I was at a meeting this afternoon chaired by Kirsty Young of Desert Island Discs which set me thinking about the various times I’ve had a stab at my 8 discs, as well as playing the game with the Enfants Terribles. It’s interesting to have musical yardsticks over time to see how consistent or otherwise you are.

Here’s the first one I can find online from October 2006 when Kirsty had just started on DID:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1 (Acknowledgement)
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (?)
4 Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up
5 The Clash – White Man in Hammersmith Palais
6 Bill Evans – Love theme from Spartacus
7 Bjork – Hyperballad
8 The Doors – The End
Book: Ulysses – James Joyce
Luxury: Mouth organ (with teach-yourself disc and book)

Here’s another go from later the same day, indicative of how impossible the challenge is for anyone who loves music:

1* Miles Davis – Flamenco Sketches
2 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme part 1
3 Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me
4 Eric Satie – Gymnopedie
5 Bruce Springsteen – Into the Fire
6 Siouxsie & the Banshees – Icon
7 Sinead O’Connor – On Raglan Road
8 Frank Sinatra – One for my Baby

I recently [17th Jan] redid my list (without reference to past efforts of course) on a trip to Berlin with Enfant Terrible No.1 (his choice is further below):
1 Curtis Mayfield – move on up
2 John Martyn – small hours [new entry]
3 Miles Davis – flamenco sketches
4 John Coltrane – a love supreme, part 1
5 Van – in the afternoon [new entry]
6 The Clash – white man
7 Marvin Gaye – what’s going on [change of track]
8 Frank Sinatra – one for my baby
Book: Ulysses – james joyce
Luxury: pencil & notebooks [change]

Given that’s a 9 year gap, remarkably consistent I’d say, with a healthy bit of change. The appearance of John Martyn reflects my gradual realisation (particularly in the wake of his elevation to The Great Gig in the Sky 7 years ago) that he is the best of the best of singers, a Big Soul. Van’s entry simply corrects a big oversight in the 2006 vintage. I probably haven’t nailed the right track yet. The change of Marvin song just indicates I can’t make up my mind which track from What’s Going On to pick out from a perfect LP which doesn’t really compute as individual tracks in isolation.

Tangentially, here’s another variation – Inheritance Tracks – from November of 2007, broadly aligned with my Desert Island choices:

  • Inherited Track: ‘Everything’s Alright’ from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ OR ‘Soolaimon’ by Neil Diamond
  • Bequest Track: Miles Davis’ ‘Flamenco Sketches’ from ‘Kind of Blue’

Moving on to the next generation, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 2’s first ever go, aged 6:

1 Madness – Embarrassment
2 Bruce Spingsteen – Atlantic City
3 The Cranberries – Ode to my Family
4 Cornershop – Brimful of asha
5 Max Romeo – I Chase the Devil
6 Trumpton – Windy Miller song
7 The Jam – Batman theme
8 AC/DC – It’s a long way to the top
Book: Claris Bean/My Uncle is a Hunkle
Luxury: My house

That’s some list for a 6 year old – clearly getting a proper musical education! I’ll quiz him in the next couple of days and see how radically his list has changed as a 16 year old. [I’ll insert his 2016 list here:]

To see the significant change of teenagehood, here’s Enfant Terrible No. 1’s first ever go from late 2006, aged 11. He wrote it out in long hand in a notebook, taking several months to pin his choice down (typical of him in its careful consideration):
1 U2 – Vertigo
2 Unite Tribe – Life and Death
3 Oxmo Puccino and the Jazzbastards – Perdre et Gagner
4 The Cure – Love Cats
5 * Michael Franti & Spearhead – Sometimes
6 MC Solaar – Solaar Pleure
7 The Raconteurs – Steady as she goes
8 Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I pushed him for a swifter, more spontaneous choice this time:
1 James Taylor – fire & rain
2 The Beatles – lucy in the sky with diamonds
3 Carol King – it’s too late
4 Curtis Mayfield – move on up [paternal influence at work]
5 Bob Dylan – hurricane
6 Nirvana – teen spirit
7 The Doors – riders on the storm
8 Led Zep – stairway to heaven
Book: the odyssey – homer
Luxury: my pillow

So only one track persists over the decade – Smells Like Teen Spirit. That’s the spirit of teen for you. BTW I could happily add Kurt singing Where Did You Sleep Last Night? to my grateful eight:

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