Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

39 films for Jake

The Big Chill
  1. The Big Chill
  2. Diner
  3. Apocalypse Now
  4. The Unbelievable Truth
  5. La Haine
  6. In the Name of the Father
  7. Platoon
  8. The Conversation
  9. I know where I’m going
  10. MASH
  11. A bout de souffle
  12. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
  13. The Third Man
  14. Bulworth
  15. Running on Empty
  16. Chinatown
  17. Chaplin
  18. Vertigo
  19. Harold & Maude
  20. City Lights
  21. Enemy of the State
  22. Cinema Paradiso 
  23. Casablanca
  24. Dr Zhivago
  25. Mississippi Burning
  26. Blow Up
  27. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
  28. Bonnie and Clyde
  29. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
  30. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 
  31. The Great Gatsby (1974)
  32. The Parallax View
  33. Baby it’s you
  34. The Searchers
  35. Easy Rider
  36. Flirting
  37. Smoke
  38. The Hairdresser’s Husband
  39. La Lune Dans Le Caniveau (Moon in the Gutter)

    Bubbling under: Marnie, A Month in the Country, The General, Lethal Weapon, The Maltese Falcon, Betty Blue, The Accountant, 20,000 days on Earth, 2001: A Space Odyssey, All the President’s Men, Romeo & Juliet (1996), The Sting, Johnny English, The Bounty, 24 Hour Party People, The Remains of the Day, Cold War, My Life as a Dog, The Commitments, The Bourne Supremacy, Rolling Thunder Review, Modern Times, The Wild Bunch

 

La Lune Dans Le Caniveau (Moon in the Gutter)

My nephew Jake turned 16 this weekend – he has remarkably good and sophisticated taste in films, so as a bonus birthday gift I put together this list of films I love which I reckon he’ll enjoy too. His favourite film is Inside Llewyn Davis. That one has fond memories for me as I met & chatted with  Oscar Isaac and T Bone Burnett at the screening I attended, the latter being particularly charming, interesting and generous with his time. T Bone’s first experience on the road is captured in last year’s spectacularly brilliant Rolling Thunder Review.

Inside Llewyn Davis

Hitchcock’s Leytonstone

On my East London wanderings today I ended up in Leytonstone where I’d been meaning to go on a Sunday morning Hitchcock guided walk for months but never made it and then Corona kicked in. As I was driving into the High Street where Hitch was born (at No. 517) I spotted a mural of him on a side street and that prompted a small Hitchcock pilgrimage.

I got my very first job in the industry by attending a talk about Hitchcock’s The Birds at uni given by playwright David Rudkin – I met his friend, producer Stephen Mellor, after the talk and managed to get a runner job out of him at his company AKA in Farringdon. Director Alastair Reid was also at the talk – he’d recently completed the debut episode of a new series called Inspector Morse.

The first place I found was the site of the police station where Hitchcock was locked in a cell for a few hours at the behest of his father, William. Here’s how Hitch told the story of this formative event to François Truffaut:

“I must have been about four or five years old when my father sent me to the Police Station with a note. The Chief of Police read it and locked me in a cell for five or ten minutes, saying, ‘This is what we do to naughty boys.’ … I haven’t the faintest idea why I was punished. As a matter of fact, my father used to call me his ‘little lamb without a spot,’ so I truly cannot imagine what I did …” 

The lifelong impact of the trauma was an unwavering suspicion and fear of the police and judicial authorities reflected in his movies.

site of the Harrow Road police station (616-618 High Road)

Here’s a model of what the cop shop looked like when Hitch was a lad, made by illustrator and model-maker Sebastian Harding

Next I went in search of Hitchcock’s birthplace above his father’s greengrocery and poultry shop W. Hitchcock at 517 High Street. In 1899 when Alfred was born it looked something like this

one of the Alfred Hitchcock mosaics at Leytonstone Station

It was demolished in the 60s and the site is now occupied by a petrol station. Let’s just call it short-sighted.

The plaque is on the wall just to the left of the skip
Presumably he hasn’t got an English Heritage Blue Plaque here because the twats knocked down the actual building

While he has no national plaque here one was put up in in 1999 on the centenary of his birth by English Heritage at 153 Cromwell Road, South Kensington, London, SW5 0TQ in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea near his adult home. (I suspect he would have preferred Leytonstone).

In the vicinity of his birthplace there were various nods to Leytonstone’s finest son. 

Birds embedded in the pavement (though they don’t look much like gulls – the 3rd one up looks like one of the notorious London parakeets)
More un-gull-like birds in a mural beside his birthplace
complete with ‘lead pipe’ fit for murder in the billiard room
pub on the High Street

When I got home from the outing I stumbled across Vertigo on Netflix and hit play. It brought back memories of my last Hitchcock pilgrimage which was in San Francisco in August 2015.

Where Madelaine (Kim Novak) jumps into San Francisco Bay in Vertigo
Vertigo: Madeleine jumps
Coit Tower – how Madeleine finds her way back to Scottie’s apartment
Paramount Studios in Hollywood – from the same 2015 Highway 1 revisited road trip

Vertigo trivia: The opening Paramount logo is in black and white while the rest of the film, including the closing Paramount logo, is in Technicolor.

The original press book (or “showmanship manual”) for the film
A long way from the greengrocery in Leytonstone
.
Hitch’s cameo in Vertigo

(Apparently this is my 1000th post on Simple Pleasures part 4 – in August 2012 Vertigo was named the best film of all time in the BFI’s once-a-decade The 100 Greatest Films of All Time poll making it more than worthy to be the subject of this 1000th post)

Alan Parker and the curse count

the commitments alan parker movie film

The Commitments (1991)

I met London-born director Alan Parker once – it was at the Dorchester hotel in Park Lane at some film-related event, around 2004. As we were walking out I took the opportunity to tell him a story about my younger son and The Commitments

Like many parents I tended to show my children movies too young, forgetting the detail of the content. One afternoon I was sitting watching The Commitments with the pair of them, connecting them to the Irish half of their identity. Enfant Terrible No. 2 disappeared off mid-movie for a few minutes to run upstairs and get the stopwatch his Auntie Bernadette had recently bought him. He then reinstalled himself on the sofa and carried on watching, shiny new present in hand. After a while he turned to me (he’s about five at the time) and said: “Dad, do you realise it’s 3 minutes, 48 seconds since the last ‘Fuck’?” like that was some kind of record in linguistic restraint.

I find The Commitments a pretty flawless film, the music performed with brilliant energy, the casting of Andrew Strong as Deco key to the success of the movie.

birdy movie alan parker 1984

Birdy (1984) – Nicolas Cage & Matthew Modine

Whilst I got as excited as the next kid about Bugsy Malone and the splurge guns, it was Birdy, which came out as I started uni, which made a real mark on my growing up. Matthew Modine’s performance is very moving, perfectly supported by a young Nicholas Cage.

Mississippi Burning movie film alan parker 1988

Mississippi Burning (1988) Willem Dafoe & Gene Hackman

Mississippi Burning remains one of my favourite Alan Parker movies. Although it’s probably looked down on these days for having largely white saviours, it’s as cinematic and compelling as you could wish. It would make a great double bill with Ava DuVernay’s  Selma. I’ll be watching it as a single bill this evening in memory and celebration of Alan Parker who went to the Big Studio in the sky yesterday. For me what he stood for was the ability to make entertaining and emotionally satisfying films which were accessible/mainstream and yet imaginative and substantial.

 

The Casting Game No. 402 – Six Nations Special

liam-williams-wales_rugby

Liam Williams

AS

spud ewen bremner actor trainspotting

Spud in ‘Trainspotting’

(I worked with Ewen Bremner in one of his very first roles at Melrose Film Productions around 1989)

liam williams_Wales-v-Fiji-Rugby-World-Cup

Ewen-Bremner-in-Trainspotting spud actor

High Definition: what’s the point of Cinema?

One of the best definitions of Cinema:

A machine that generates Empathy

Roger Ebert, film critic

dziga Vertov man with a movie camera

Machine with great significance (Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera)

Woody guthrie this machine kills fascists guitar

Machine with great power (Woody Guthrie)

Here’s the full context of the quote: “We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great movie, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us. And that, to me, is the most noble thing that good movies can do and it’s a reason to encourage them and to support them and to go to them.”

Coincidence No.s 309 & 310 – Bernstein

No. 309 Electric Chair

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography (founder of the Granada cinema chain and Manchester-based Granada TV) by Caroline Moorehead. It mentions a trip he took to the USA in the 30s during which he visited an Alabama prison where the governor proudly showed off his electric chair – which, Bernstein noted, was yellow.

The same day I am watching the movie Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan as part of my BAFTA awards viewing (it’s released on 17th January in the UK – well worth seeing). In one of the scenes we see the electric chair in the Jamie Foxx character’s Alabama jail – (half a century on) it is bright yellow.

just mercy poster jamie foxx michael b jordan film movie

The poster is also yellow

 

No. 310 Duff Cooper

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography by Caroline Moorehead. It talks about his efforts to join the Ministry of Information once WW2 was declared. He finally got into the organisation through Duff Cooper, Minister of Information from May 1940 under Churchill.

With the Bernstein biog on the go, I also started reading today Paris After the Liberation: 1944 – 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper. Duff Cooper it turns out was Artemis’s grandfather. She is married to Beevor. The intro mentions that some of Duff Cooper’s personal papers are used as sources for the book.

Paris After the Liberation: 1944 - 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper

 

4 reasons to go see Joker

(No spoilers)

Joaquin Phoenix Todd Phillips London screening Joker 25 September 2019 Leicester Square

This is my first BAFTA viewing of the 2019-20 season and frankly it’s likely to be all downhill from here. This is a flawless performance in a pretty much flawless film (in contrast to Dark Knight which is a flawless performance in a slightly flawed, overlong film). It’s got an unusual pacing as it is, as the director Todd Phillips said in his intro at an Imax screen on Leicester Square, a “slow-burn”. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a slow-burn that doesn’t really work (much though I enjoyed the movie) – but this one you just have to go with and it winds itself out to a more than satisfying last third where the pace takes off. It’s a detailed character study in how Arthur Fleck became Joker. Once he fully transitions to the warped clown nemesis of Batman it’s a fabulous run for home. I can’t wait to go back and watch it again. I’m not too keen on comic book movies (much though I love the comics themselves) but this is, perhaps the first, maybe second, true classic in that genre.

dc-movies-joker-joaquin-phoenix stairs dance

A stairs scene to rival Battleship Potemkin and Rocky

1. A trip back to Hollywood’s golden age in the 70s

The movie has its roots and inspiration in 70s classics, movies I truly love. There’s Taxi Driver here, and King of Comedy, the anger and madness of Network and the crazy of Cuckoo’s Nest. And making the link is a superb performance from Robert DeNiro as a TV show host.

2. The Stairs scene

I just loved the scene on the stairs above – the music, the movement, the costumes. Joker is a character with music and elegance deep in him. But he has been beat to fuck by society and his horrendous background, crippled.

3. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance

Joaquin Phoenix Todd Phillips London screening Joker 25 September 2019 Leicester Square

Joaquin Phoenix & Todd Phillips at London screening 25th September 2019

He’s in pretty much every scene. He’s somehow simultaneously hideous and handsome. Todd Phillips referred to him as the actor of his generation which is certainly arguable. Once he’s donned his red suit, yellow waistcoat and green hair-matching shirt he is frankly irresistible.

4. The music and soundtrack

At the beginning of the stairs sequence we hear Rock and Roll Part 2 by Gary Glitter. A pretty controversial choice for sure – but appropriate to the context. And for all the shame of Paul Gadd/Gary Glitter it’s a helluva song. A bit later we get White Room by the great Cream. Another spot-on, dark choice.

I’ll wait in this place where the sun never shines
Wait in this place where the shadows run from themselves

The newly composed soundtrack by Hildur Gudnadottir (Sicario, The Revenant, Chernobyl), a classically trained cellist from Iceland, is highly original and effective/affective. She composed to the script rather than the cut film so some of the key scenes were shot performed to her music rather than the (usual) other way round.

joker joaquin phoenix actor movie

The cat that got Cream (why so serious?)

The Casting Game: Reservoir Dogs

To celebrate the arrival of Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood (which has grown on me since watching it last week) I’ve recast where it all began for Quentin, Reservoir Dogs

jonah hill actor wolf of wall street

Jonah Hill

as

chris penn reservoir dogs actor

Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn)

Arjen_Rudd_joss ackland actor lethal weapon

Joss Ackland

as

Lawrence_Tierney_joe cabot actor reservoir dogs

Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney)

dominic west actor

Dominic West

as

kirk-baltz-marvin reservoir dogs police officer

Marvin (Kirk Baltz)

chris isaak singer

Chris Isaak

as

Michael-Madsen-Reservoir-Dogs actor

Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen)

malcolm allison manager football soccer

Malcolm Allison

as

mr white harvey keitel actor reservoir dogs

Mr White (Harvey Keitel)

paul weller singer the jam

Paul Weller

as

tim roth actor reservoir dogs

Mr Orange (Tim Roth)

The Casting Game No. 101

Dean Martin

dean martin rio bravo cowboy movie

Dean Martin in Rio Bravo (1959)

as

Victor Mature

victor mature my darling clementine movie cowboy

Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine (1946)

understudied by Sylvester Stallone

Rambo-5-Last-Blood-Sylvester-Stallone movie

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo V: Last Blood (2019)

 

Let people talk about what they want (Michael Apted)

Michael_Apted young director

Michael Apted back in the day

Yesterday evening I went to see documentary & movie/drama director Michael Apted speaking at MIA (Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo) in Rome – where I have been speaking on short-form video. He was in conversation on stage with an Italian journalist, Marco Spagnoli. A big focus of the interview was the Up series, the longitudinal documentary series from Granada which started with 7 Up in 1964 and gets to 63 Up in May next year on ITV. He has been filming with the same cohort (and largely the same crew) for 54 years – shooting with them once every 7 years. It is unique in the history of documentary film, enabled by starting in the right place (Granada in the era of World In Action) at the right time (a golden age for British factual TV). It couldn’t happen now. It was actually a World In Action colleague who had the idea to revisit what was originally a single doc 7 years later and then the snowball got rolling…

michael apted up series documentary 7 up

The Up series

Michael Apted director

Michael Apted now

The most important thing he has learned over the years is to go into the interviews, not with a list of questions, but ready to talk about what the contributors want to talk about. He does jot down his key questions but he leaves them back at home and just as a rough mental checklist against the free-flowing conversations.

Stardust 1974 Still david essex

Stardust (1974)

I asked a question about Stardust, as I remember it making a big impact on me as a teenager, a really freaky strange world (and I always liked David Essex as both an actor and singer).

And after the session I got to have a chat with him. He had talked about how he once, as a young director, saw Pasolini in a hotel lobby in Rome and froze, didn’t exchange a word. So I wasn’t going to do a Pasolini – we spoke a little about Charles Furneaux who was a 7-year-old contributor in 7 Up and a fellow Commissioning Editor with me at Channel 4 when I started (he must have been 46 at the time). He talked about his generation at Cambridge, which included Stephen Frears and the Pythons, and how motivating it was to feel part of that movement.

thunderheart movie 1992

Thunderheart (1992)

Whether he’ll make it to shoot 70 Up is probably a bit touch & go but for all his extensive filmography from Bond to Thunderheart (which was shot by my ex-boss Roger Deakins) without a shadow of a doubt his legacy will be Up. In 2005 the Up series topped the list of the 50 Greatest Documentaries in a Channel 4 programme.

I walked to the Apted session along the Via Veneto from the Villa Borghese gardens. I was sitting on a marble bench there dealing on the phone with a casting problem on a documentary I am currently working on on prejudice against facial and neck tattoos. It is a follow-up to In Your Face which did very well on Real Stories channel earlier this year (over 50 Million views). While I was on the call, which was addressing the fact that one of our contributors had gone AWOL, a heavily tattooed couple sat down beside me. I took a surreptitious picture of them and sent it to the producer on the other end of the line saying as a joke “Shall I book these two?”

Jessica Rebell tattooist Melbourne

Jessica Rebell of Melbourne

After the call, as the couple got up to go, I decided not to do a Pasolini and asked the woman if she got any gip over her neck tattoo, a high collar of leaves. She said in Rome yes, noticeably, whereas it was all par for the course in Melbourne where she lives. Rudeness, aggression and dismissiveness have all been visited on her in the Eternal City. London and Paris nothing worse than a bit of staring. Both Jess and Stephane are tattoo artists working at the same Melbourne tattoo. We had a long chat during which I flagged up a few of my 50+ tattoo docs for their viewing pleasure.

It was one of those chance encounters which makes la vita dolce.

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960)

Via Veneto in La Dolce Vita (1960) – Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee (Dir: Federico Fellini) [Photo courtesy of The Kobal Collection]

 

***

Some of my tattoo films/series (over 40 films just here):

 

%d bloggers like this: