Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

What ever happened to The Breakfast Club?

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Emilio Estevez / Andrew Clark

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Then

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Now – he looks like his dad (Martin Sheen)

He followed up with the Brat Pack vehicle St Elmo’s Fire. Then some Hollywood fodder like Young Guns and Stake-out in the late 80s. And fades. Two momentary re-emergences: in 2006 when he wrote and directed the RFK movie Bobby and then again when he directed his dad in the low key The Way in 2010. The Breakfast Club was his finest moment. In latter years he hooked up with Macedonian model Sonja Magdevski and they grew pinot noir grapes together in their very own Malibu vineyard.

Anthony Michael Hall / Brian Johnson

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Then

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Now

Follows up with another (inferior) John Hughes – Weird Science. Then it’s death by TV, with just occasional small movie re-appearances such as The Dark Knight and Foxcatcher. He never married.

Judd Nelson / John Bender

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Then

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Now – Where the fuck have the dreams gone?

The same Brat Pack move – St Elmo’s Fire. Transformers in 1986. Then a descent into TV movie hell and Stuff You’ve Never Heard Of. It was his finest moment too, untranscendable.

Molly Ringwald / Claire Standish

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Then

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Now

A worthy John Hughes follow-up in Pretty in Pink. Then mostly TV mush. In 2013 she published a young-adult novel, When It Happens to You, and released a jazz record, Except Sometimes, on which the final track is a cover of Don’t You (Forget About Me), the Simple Minds’ theme tune for TBC. She’s had 3 children.

Ally Sheedy / Allison Reynolds

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Then

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Now

Ditto regarding St Elmo’s Fire. Then John Badham’s Short Circuit. Then movies you’ve never heard of and some telly. High Art in 1998 was by all accounts a notable exception. In the 1990s she was treated for sleeping pill addiction. She moved home to New York and teaches high school kids acting stuff.

It was all their finest moment and the stuff of our hopes and dreams.

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“My issue isn’t about physical aging; my issue is about wanting to remain vigorous and youthful in my spirit.” Rob Lowe (who played Billy Hicks in the ubiquitous ‘St Elmo’s Fire’)

 

 

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

 

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

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…

The Simple Pleasures Best Film of the Year 2015-2009

2015

The Big Short

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2014

20,000 Days on Earth

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2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

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2012

Silver Linings Playbook

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2011

Midnight in Paris

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2010

Inception

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2009

Inglourious Basterds

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Compared to the Best Picture Oscar:

2014 Birdman – one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, hated it

2013 12 Years a Slave – a worthy winner from Film4

2012 Argo – well done with a great turn from Alan Arkin

2011 The Artist – gimmicky but fun

2010 The King’s Speech – solid

2009 The Hurt Locker – admirably visceral

Compared to the Best Film BAFTA:

2014 Boyhood – a worthy winner for its innovation

2013 12 Years a Slave – proud that Brits & Film4 told this story to America

2012 Argo – with hindsight, Zero Dark Thirty may be the more enduring nominee

2011 The Artist – at least an imaginative choice for winner

2010 The King’s Speech – solid in a very British way

2009 The Hurt Locker – just not my cup of entertainment tea

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

 

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…?

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

4 reasons to go see Grandma

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Paul Weitz & Lily Tomlin at BAFTA screening of Grandma in Soho, London 29 Nov 2015

Spent this moist, sunless afternoon watching the brilliant ‘Grandma’, the best awards season movie I have seen to date, a welcome blast of old school American indie cinema. After the screening I had a quick chat with both the lead actress Lily Tomlin (Nashville, All of Me, Short Cuts) and the director/writer Paul Weitz (About a Boy, Antz, American Pie). During the Q&A I asked Paul about the source of the story – was it the issue (abortion)? the characters? or other? He said it started from the notion of a young woman without enough money to pay for the abortion she feels she urgently needs. Its treatment of the theme of abortion is refreshingly less conservative than the likes of the too mannered ‘Juno’.

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Elle (with Sage)

1. Lily Tomlin – who gives a feisty performance as Elle, a lesbian grandma who is there when her grand-daughter really needs her. Tomlin (76) has been in a relationship with her female partner, Jane, for over 40 years. Elle’s relationship and grieving for her recently deceased partner, Violet, is a deeply moving absence at the heart of the movie. Tomlin’s face is compelling to watch, unique and very particular.

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Sage

2. Julia Garner – plays Sage, the grand-daughter. She is absolutely captivating on screen, with something of the 40s/50s Hollywood studio star about her (a bit of Marilyn Monroe, perhaps a touch of Veronica Lake, that kind of vibe). She is known for The Perks of Being a Wallflower (a favourite of my young nephew Jake who has impeccable film taste) and Martha Marcy May Marlene. The chemistry between her and  Tomlin couldn’t be more perfect.

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Paul Weitz – scriptwriter (and director)

3. Paul Weitz – who wrote the excellent screenplay, really nuanced and fresh. ‘Grandma’ makes an interesting contrast to ‘Carol’ – another ‘lesbian movie’ currently doing the rounds – where, despite exemplary acting, the story is unsurprising and strangely linear.

4. The Indie Spirit – Weitz made this outstanding movie for $600,000 and shot it in 19 days. As a result he was under little pressure and the movie has a real lightness of touch and creative economy. He got the cash from a Greek benefactor and then Sony Classics picked up the finished film in the wake of Sundance.

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4 things I talked to Lily Tomlin about

  1. The joy of being a grand-parent, what a lovely relationship the grand-parent/grand-child one is, how much I’m looking forward to being one (PG, as my grandma would have said)
  2. Her grumpy grandpa and inspiring grandma in Kentucky
  3. Being born in Detroit, the city-country mix; Detroit: Requiem for a City (which she hasn’t seen yet), Julien Temple, The Sex Pistols
  4. That my grandpa, Ian Harris, would have been 100 last week; how special a man he was.
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‘Moment by Moment’ (1978)

4 things I talked to Paul Weitz about

  1. American indie films
  2. Me & Earl & the Dying Girl
  3. The abortion clinic shooting this week in the USA, how safe he is talking about Grandma in America, particularly the South
  4. Treadmill desks (as featured in the film), the office he shares with his brother, Chris (screenwriter & producer: The Golden Compass, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, American Pie), Chris’s treadmill desk.

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Hooray for Hollywood

1 TV shoot, 1 legendary hotel, 2 friends, 3 studios, 4 happy campers – all in 2 days.

The day before yesterday began with an excursion to West Hollywood. We repaired to my office in Mel’s Diner on Sunset. After lunch I strolled over to Book Soup, a great old-school bookstore on the Strip, and picked up a book about music-making in Laurel Canyon in the 60s and 70s, the shop being in spitting distance of Whisky-a-go-go, the Rainbow Room and all the other music landmarks as well as being within a few miles of the Canyon itself.

From Sunset we headed out to Burbank to do the tour of Warner Bros. studio. I was a bit dubious about this excursion but it turned out to be fun, lead by a slightly chubby twentysomething who couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about TV and movies and couldn’t have fitted more words into the space of two hours. She buggied us around the lot from the only jungle set in Hollywood (most recently used in Jurassic Park – correctly guessed by Enfant Terrible No. 1 which was impressive) under the famous Warner Bros. water tower (there’s no longer enough water in California to fill such things) to the Typical American Town set which was used in the original Ocean’s Eleven (with Frank Sinatra) among others. We got to peruse lots of Batman stuff from Health Ledger’s nurse’s uniform from Dark Knight to the BatBike (which Christopher Nolan insisted on being a working vehicle, same as his Batmobile which he wanted to be designed as a mixture of a Lambo and a tank). Along the way we got to see the original pitching image from Scooby Doo and beautiful animation cells from The Jetsons and Bugs Bunny. I once met Chuck Jones and asked him about Bugs’s penchant for dressing as a female.

Chateau Marmont hotel sunset boulevard strip

Once that was all, folks, we headed back to Sunset and the Chateau Marmont, haunted by the shades of John Belushi and Helmut Newton. There our white Patriot Jeep was parked up by the valet (we’re enjoying that most American of things, the white Patriot, as a worthy follow-up to the ‘Red Tomay-to’ of our last family visit to California in 2005), we walked up and through the luxuriously chilled-out lounge out to the discreet sunlit courtyard, the white art deco buildings catching the last rays of the summer sun. After a while my old school friend showed up, I hadn’t seen him for a good while, he moved to LA when we were in our early 20s, and we enjoyed a beautiful reunion. He got on great with the Enfants Terribles, regaling them with delightful stories of Scarlett Johansson giving a well-known Latino star a post-Oscars blow-job in the Marmont’s lift and the like. It was an all-round happy evening with great chat, decent booze and classy food. My friend, who makes indy movies, now lives in Laurel Canyon, bringing the day to a neat circular conclusion.

Yesterday we kicked off with another studio tour, this time of the most beautiful studios with the greatest track-record, namely Paramount. One of my best friends is married to a senior lawyer there who kindly arranged for us to have a tour of the backlot followed by lunch in the commissary. Highlights included the New York street set which they were setting up, moving trees around on fork-lifts and other semi-surreal activities; the Chicago street corner where Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard robbed a pair of masks in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the sound stages where The Godfather and The Godfather: Part 2 were shot, plus the ones used for Citizen Kane and the original King Kong; the massive pool (used as a blue-floored car park despite the sloping sides) with its huge sky-wall background which is a unique Paramount facility (last filled and used for Benjamin Button); and the familiar original gate of the studio, the Bronson Gate, from which Charles got his name. All of this bathed in the glow of Rockridge (now a car park) and Blazing Saddles which busts out of its studio confines through the gate we first entered to enjoy some more deluxe valet parking.

Two days of  Hollywood immersion climaxed in a visit to Quixote Studios in Glendale/Griffith Park where another old friend was starring in a detective series, Criminal Minds, he’s been doing for eleven seasons for US network television on CBS and syndicated to the international market (on Sky and Netflix in the UK). He plays one of the main FBI agents in an elite team of criminal profilers (think Cracker but good-looking and with a private jet), alongside fellow agent Joe Mantegna. After visiting the Godfather sound stages earlier in the afternoon my Golden Age of 70s Movies day was made complete with a conversation with Joe aka Joey Zasa of The Godfather: Part 3. I was in New York the day the movie opened  and lined up on that Christmas Day to see it.

Joey_Zasa_and_henchmen Godfather 3

We ate with the cast and crew before attending a read-through of the next episode, to be directed by Joe. A very entertaining 42 minutes it sounded, the Americans are so good at writing compelling formats which you have to have ‘just one more episode’ of before bedtime. The writers were present as well as the casting team. Before starting there was a round-table of everyone introducing themselves which extended to the Enfants Terribles who were slightly sheepish having no role or job-title.

Following the read-through we went into the studio to watch the current episode being shot. On the way we stopped off in the Lear jet set. It’s a fanciful addition to the Criminal Minds world as FBI agents barely get an economy airfare these days, let alone their own wings. The audience love it though, just as they love the literary quotes which are dropped in every episode, come rain or shine, at the beginning and end. We got to chat with various members of the cast between takes and the director, all super-friendly and welcoming.

Besides being really struck this time by how attractive LA is in its low-rise laid-back expanse, I have also really enjoyed how friendly and polite the Americans have been. Walking back to our Venice apartment this afternoon I was thrown a compliment by a passer-by for the third time this trip about my T-shirt (that’s three different T-shirts now). Hooray for Hollywood, the City of Angels and the good ol’ US of A.

CRIMINAL MINDS -

Criminal Minds

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