13/12/2005

Brokeback Mountain galloping towards the Oscars

brokebackmountain

That Ang Lee knows how to please the critics. His 'gay cowboy' (a misnomer, by the way) Brokeback Mountain has been mopping up awards in America, first at the LA Film Critics Awards and today it received seven Golden Globe Nominations in New York. It's interesting to see why Lee's film is doing so well and will probably follow suit when it comes out in the UK in early January. It looks good, it's a repressed love story (the middle-classes love that) and it's got an overall 'classy' feel about it that includes the ever-so-fashionable references to Edward Hopper. But is it worth the hype? The full review is coming up soon.

Richard Pryor Remembered

It is somewhat depressing that only a short month after writing about the death of Moustapha Akkad, here I am again paying my respects to one of the world's greatest comedians.

It is impossible to do Pryor's wide and varied career the justice that it deserves in the small space here, or to really emphasise his influence on a whole new generation of comedians, which includes Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Will Smith - among so many others. However, as with most children of the eighties, I came to know Pryor's work through his time as an A-list actor - headlining such classic comedies as 1976's Silver Streak and, especially, 1980's Stir Crazy; both of which also featured Gene Wilder. In his autobiography entitled Pryor Convictions and Other Life Sentences Pryor sheds little light on this time of his life - prefering (perhaps understandably) to talk in detail about his amazing career as a stand up comedian - but he does at least reveal that, when doing Stir Crazy, he lived in low rent conditions in order to 'get into' the part of Harry Monroe, the wrongly convicted, working class drifter. Pryor would team again with Wilder for 1989's See No Evil, Hear No Evil - which he claims to have done solely for the pay cheque although the film is actually an enjoyable romp - and 1991's Another You, where his deteriorating health was all too obvious.

Pryor's other film highlights include writing the screenplay to Mel Brook's masterpiece Blazing Saddles (1974), his supporting roles in the cult hit Car Wash (1976) and the ambitious The Wiz (1978), as well as his promiment appearance in the otherwise bland sequel Superman 3 (I983).

If we're being brutally honest, the films that he choose as his starring projects were usually disappointing and certainly not suited to such a huge talent. Few laughs were to be had with failed comedies such as 1982's The Toy, 1985's thoroughly mediocre Brewster's Millions, 1987's Critical Condition and 1988's Moving. Furthermore, whilst his 1989 appearance opposite his heir apparent Eddie Murphy should have beena dream made in Hollywood, the end result was a disaster.

Even so, on the back Stir Crazy (one of the best films of the eighties. Period) and his lively, incredibly political and emotionally charged stand up appearances (the best of which is captured in his 1979 Richard Pryor, Live in Concert document) he will be forever remembered as an incredible comedy talent.

As with so many huge talents, Pryor also had his dark side - which included being raised in poverty (and a brothel) drug addiction, wife beating and his notorious attempt at suicide via lighting himself on fire. Such information makes his comical demeanour and - especially - his comparitively light hearted comedy film outings from the eighties all the harder to fully comprehend. For those who wish to attempt to do, then his aforementioned autobiography is as a good a place as anywhere to start.

In the meantime, RIP to a comic genius.


Calum Waddell

06/12/2005

Hidden triumphs at European Oscars

hidden-1
Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche in Hidden
Austrian director Michael Haneke'S acclaimed French language thriller Hidden (Caché), starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, garnered five awards at the European Film Awards in Berlin on Saturday (3 December). The awards for were:

Best European Film 2005 - Caché
Best European Director 2005 - Michael Haneke
Best European Actor 2005 - Daniel Auteuil
Best European Editor 2005 - Michael Hudecek and Nadine Muse

Members of the European Film Academy judged 47 films this year. The awards, voted by the academy's 1,600 members, have been handed out since 1988 and are considered Europe's equivalent of the Oscars.
Hidden is released in the UK on 27/1/2006

05/12/2005

Frederick Wiseman at the Tate Modern

Those of you who have never heard of Frederick Wiseman should take yourselves to the Tate Modern for the ongoing mini Wiseman festival that's taking place there in conjunction with the Jeff Wall show. Wiseman is often dubbed the greatest American documentarian and there seems to be truth in that. I saw his classic The Store (1982) yesterday and I was astounded by the intelligence that Wiseman displayed in the construction of this masterpiece. The Store is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the day-by-day at Neiman Marcus department store in Dallas. Shot on film stock, the camera is never acknowledged and never hand-held as it usually is these days, which creates the impression of this being a fiction film. Wiseman's smooth editing and visual puns manage to create a visual essay on consumerist society that is more beautiful and eerier than anything David Lynch ever made. Yes, life is stranger than fiction, especially in America. Wiseman will be present for a Q&A session on Sunday, 11/12.
More info

11/11/2005

Moustapha Akkad - RIP

Today the horror film lost one of its great producers in Moustapha Akkad, who passed away after being hit by a suicide bomber attack whilst staying in a hotel in Amman. His daughter also died in the blasts, alongside many other innocent people.

Early in his career - in 1976 to be precise - Akkad faced controversy when he produced a film entitled "The Message", dubbed "the story of Islam". The picture was targeted by Islamic extremists - who believed that showing the prophet Mohammed on screen was blasphemous. Obviously aware of the vast opportunity for filmmaking in the United States, Akkad setlled into Los Angeles and - alongside Irwin Yablans - he executive produced 1978's "Halloween" - which, at the time, became the highest grossing independent movie of all time. It made an overnight millionnaire of Akkad, Yablans and director John Carpenter (as well as his girlfriend, and producer, the late Debra Hill) and launched the career of its teen star Jamie Lee Curtis.

With "Halloween" comes Akkad's true legacy, as he continued to exploit his cash cow for decades to come. Although he also produced a handful of other films, including the largely unsuccessful war movie "A Lion in the Desert" (which featured Anthony Quinn, who also headlined "The Message"), Akkad's name became synoymous with the slasher series - whose sequels began in 1981 with "Halloween 2" - a decent, if less than worthy, follow up. Carpenter, Hill, Yablans and Oscar winning cinematographer Dean Cundy jumped ship after the failure of "Halloween 3", which oddly did not feature the iconic Michael Myers but remains one of the eighties spookiest and most underrated horror titles, but Akkad ploughed on and in 1988 the surprisingly enjoyable "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" hit the number one slot at the US box office. With 1989's disasterous "Halloween 5" setting the series back, Akkad took his time and finally geared up "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" for October 1995. Sadly, the film was a bomb and stands as the worst of the franchise - as well as marking the cinematic swansong for the late, great Donald Pleasance.

Nevertheless, Akkad was quick to capitalise in the interest from Jamie Lee Curtis in returning to the series (she was last seen in part 2) and in 1998 proved there was life in the beast yet with "Halloween H20", hands down the best of the sequels and directed by an old pro in Steve Miner. Curtis would return one last time for the botched "Halloween: Resurrection" in 2o01 - at which point Akkad's prized franchise ground to a commerical and artistic halt.

Rumours continue to pop up about a potential "Halloween 9", and it seems inevitable that Michael Myers will stalk again. With that, Akkad has left us with a legacy to be proud of. He took part in the fathering of one of the great films, horror or otherwise, of all time in the original "Halloween" and he helped to nurture one of modern cinema's great boogeymen.

I had the pleasure of meeting Akkad, and interviewing him, in 2003 in Pasadena, California. It is a memory that I will cherish - and the finished piece appeared in Britain's "Shivers" magazine (issue 110). During our conversation it became blatantly obvious that he was passionate about "Halloween" and grateful to the fans that have made the series such a success. For taking the time to speak to me, Mr Akkad will always have my sincerest thanks.

His legacy will not be forgotten.



Calum Waddell

20/10/2005

So bad it's good?

I lost two hours of my life last night. That is both a very bad pun and the literal truth, for I watched two episodes of Lost on television, back to back. As well as forcing me to question my lifestyle choices, it also raised a fair few issues relevant, I think, to modern cinema. Yes, yes, it’s a TV show, but it is certainly the bastard son of 1970s B Movies and 1990s mainstream action films.

My main problem while watching was that I was, and am, gripped by it. It is a bad show in many ways. Just how far can a TV show expect an audience to suspend their disbelief? How many modelling agencies crash on desert Islands? How many of them have a token representative of the country America are currently bombing – especially one played by an actor who clearly isn’t of that same ethnic origin? How does a fat guy not lose weight after three weeks eating fish and fruit? (For overseas users, I must explain that in the UK the show has just passed the halfway point, and I don’t know what happens. Please don’t tell me). And how stupid must the audience be to be happily fed constant clichéd melodrama in flashback form? But that’s me, I am part of that audience, and I don’t think I’m stupid. How can I enjoy this programme?!

I tried to placate myself with the ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ idea. J.J. Abrams, co-creator of Lost, also wrote the screenplay for Armageddon (1998), and that also falls into that category. But is it, fellow bloggers, a valid category? Or is it made up by cinematic snobs who need to hide behind a veil to obscure the fact they like something they’re not supposed to?

Here’s the thoughts of one user on IMDB “While some may say this is unrealistic and gimmicky, I maintain that this is a brave, bold choice for ABC and like other bold movies and shows, if given the chance it will change the art. I can't wait for next week.” I’d say the choice was the opposite of bold. It has, and must always have had, ‘big hit’ written all over it. And if it ‘changes the art’, then god help TV and cinema. I think my trouble with this style of filmmaking (I appreciate this is a 20-odd episodic TV show, but you only need to watch one episode to understand what it does and how it works) is that I don’t know if the filmmakers are assuming we are stupid, or are assuming that we are happy to suspend our disbelief to the extent of stupidity, in order to be entertained. And I was entertained. I just wasn’t proud of myself.

16/10/2005

Daniel Craig is new Bond... reaction

With all the rumours flying about in regards to everyone from Clive Owen to Dougray Scott being lined up as the next 007, it was something of a surprise when the far more low profile Daniel Craig was confirmed as the successor to Pierce Brosnan for next year's "Casino Royale". Hard to say what Craig will be like in the role - but Chester born actor is certainly the ideal age (late thirties) to carry the franchise to a new high should he win over audiences. If successful, methinks we can expect Craig in the role of 007 for another decade at least, if not more (Brosnan and Moore played 007 well into their fifties).

However, "Casino Royale" is supposidly a prequel/ "back to basics" Bond film... and this has always proven difficult for Eon to translate into big box office. Usually, the 007 owners like to do things by the tried and tested formula of hot women/ striking locations/ widescreen photography and ball busting stunts but whenever the series has gone for a more minimal, gritty action thriller approach the commercial reaction has been lukewarm to say the least. This was what toppled Dalton's interpretation of Bond (although 1987's "The Living Daylights" is a fine, if overlong, movie whilst 1989's "Licence to Kill" is a largely underseen gem), not to mention Lazenby (ironically "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" is still the best of the lot to date). Even when Moore was required to take on 007 with a grittier, nastier personality (in 1981's "For Your Eyes Only") it lasted for one film... and 1983's "Octopussy" quickly threw Moore back into the zany/ arched eyebrow spy-comedy that he obviously excels in. "For Your Eyes Only" remains one of Moore's less successful Bonds among the general public although - after "The Spy Who Loved Me" - it is surefire bet for his second best.

So what am I saying? Well, we should all be happy that the Bond franchise is making a comeback after the misstep of "Die Another Day", which is a fine fantasy romp but perhaps a bit too over the top for even 007. However, before we really begin to anticipate the dawning of a new era for the character let's not get too ahead of ourselves. Bond buffs, such as myself, are all too aware of the difficulty in bringing in changes to the character that we know and love.

If they are going with a "back to basics" Bond, here is hoping that the public embraces Craig with wider arms than they afforded to Lazenby and to Dalton.

Calum Waddell

29/09/2005

Ruggero Deodato the honoured guest at Horrorthon 2005

An update to my past below - I've now got the go ahead from festival organiser Ed King to mention that our special guest at Dublin's Horrorthon 2005 this year will be none other than Italian director Ruggero Deodato, the man responsible for "House on the Edge of the Park", "Cannibal Holocaust", "Dial Help", "Cut and Run" and many others. So if you ever wanted to question the controversial director, and indeed get his signature, now is the time. Deodato will be present from Sat the 29th October until Sunday the 30th October and will conduct a Q and A with the audience for the big screen showing of the notorious "Cannibal Holocaust".

Another nice touch is the showing of the fantastic documentary "Midnight Movies: From the Margins to the Mainstream", which yours truly caught at Cannes and was genuinely excited about bringing to a European genre fest. My report on the film can be seen at the Fangoria web site:

http://www.fangoria.com/fearful_feature.php?id=4476

And, once again, the Horrorthon web site is here:

www.horrorthon.com

If you do make it along, don't be shy and please say hello!

Calum Waddell

17/09/2005

Horrorthon 2005, Dublin, Ireland

Dublin's annual Horrorthon event is fast approaching, with this year's festival being held from the Friday 28th to Monday 31st October. I'm really pleased to be helping out organiser Ed King this year (producer of "Dead Meat" - the fantastic zombie flick that has been pleasing genre fans on DVD and in festivals over the past year) and the line up is shaping up very well indeed.

Brand new features being screened will include director Kim Ji-Woon's "Bittersweet Life", a worthy, well directed follow-up to his previous art house hit "A Tale of Two Sisters". Also showing will be Bernard Rose's "Snuff Movie", the latest flick from the director of "Candyman", Dario Argento's "Do You Like Hitchcock?", the awesome low budgeter "The Collingswood Story" (I'm biased, I know), the UK's hilarious slasher spoof "Freak Out", Germany's "Anti-Bodies", Jeff Lieberman's stunning "Satan's Little Helper" - which stars "Pulp Fiction's" Amanda Plummer - and Tim Sullivan's genius "2001 Maniacs" - the remake of the sixties cult hit. "2001 Maniacs" stars genre fave Robert Englund and "Playboy" model Christa Campbell, and is one of the most enjoyable horror movies of the year, a perfect blend of comedy and shocks.

Retrospective space will be given to the notorious "Cannibal Holocaust", the classic "Jaws", Sean Cunningham's franchise spinning "Friday the 13th" (but do you remember how just damn effective the original is?) and a late night screening of "I Drink Your Blood" - the cheesy, good natured 70s Drive-In mainstay.

More to be announced very soon - including guests. I'm tight lipped right now on who will be attending but, rest assured, it will be very special indeed.

Official website: www.horrorthon.com

Hope to see you there.

25/08/2005

It's only a movie

There's an interesting dialogue about a horror film posted by Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert on his Web site. He recently reviewed a low budget NC-17-rated horror film called Chaos (2005), a brutal murder/rape film in the vein of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (1972) that thrives on unapologetic nihilism and violence without moral context or other connecting tissue that would raise it above the level of bold, unadulterated exploitation. (The film's intentional link to Last House is clear; Chaos's working title, according to the IMDb, was The House in the Middle of Nowhere, and its poster recycles Last House's marketing tagline of "It's only a movie ... it's only a movie ...")

Ebert gave Chaos a rare zero-star review, calling it:
"... ugly, nihilistic, and cruel -- a film I regret having seen. I urge you to avoid it. Don't make the mistake of thinking it's 'only' a horror film, or a slasher film. It is an exercise in heartless cruelty and it ends with careless brutality. The movie denies not only the value of life, but the possibility of hope."
Chaos's producer and director responded to Ebert's review in a full page Sun-Times letter that reportedly cost $14,000 to place -- not an insignificant amount of cash for a film with such sparse distribution -- to pat themselves on the back for not sanitizing and moralizing the film's violence like the media and PG-13-rated horror films:
"Natalie Holloway. Kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq shown on the Internet. Wives blasting jail guards with shotguns to free their husbands. The confessions of the BTK killer. These are events of the last few months. How else should filmmakers address this 'ugly, nihilistic and cruel' reality -- other than with scenes that are 'ugly, nihilistic and cruel,' to use the words you used to describe Chaos."
Ebert published a full page response himself, which is duplicated on his Web site along with the original letter from the Chaos filmmakers. It's an interesting response that looks at his personal expectations for horror films and implies a certain (artistic?) responsibility for filmmakers to provide viewers with more context than strictly just an "evil reigns and will triumph" message. (Ebert notes that he gave Last House on the Left a four-star review because it was "a way of dealing with tragedy, human loss, and human nature.") Most interesting is Ebert's final paragraph:
"Animals do not know they are going to die, and require no way to deal with that implacable fact. Humans, who know we will die, have been given the consolations of art, myth, hope, science, religion, philosophy, and even denial, even movies, to help us reconcile with that final fact. What I object to most of all in Chaos is not the sadism, the brutality, the torture, the nihilism, but the absence of any alternative to them. If the world has indeed become as evil as you think, then we need the redemptive power of artists, poets, philosophers and theologians more than ever.

Your answer, that the world is evil and therefore it is your responsibility to reflect it, is no answer at all, but a surrender."
Those are heavy words, and heavy responsibilities, for filmmakers that I'm not sure I entirely agree with but find thought-provoking in that they make me consider my own relationship with, and love for, horror films. Yes, I love them and always have, but my relationship with them has definitely become more complicated over the years.

Whereas I rabidly soaked up every gory '80s slasher film I could as a teenager, I've grown to despise horror that's pure exploitation or an exercise in violence fetishism, a fine (and extremely subjective) line in many horror films. Unlike Roger Ebert, I hated Last House on the Left for its absurd extremism and exploitive violence. I also hated French filmmaker Gaspar Noé's Irréversible (2002), a cynical rape/revenge film that caustically (and falsely) comments on love and human nature while showcasing an exploitive real-time rape sequence that betrays its artistic pretext with a stylized camera zoom into the victim's face after the camera remained distant and mostly immobile for the entire sequence.

But I adore French filmmaker Claire Denis's Trouble Every Day (2001), a bloody, graphic film with unclear motives on the surface that personally resonated with me as an emotional representation of the pain of infidelity and loss. And the brutally violent and shockingly realistic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) is one of my all-time favorite films for its skilled implication of the viewer's bloodlust and a twisted moral universe that's righteously turned on its head by the end of the film.

By Ebert's logic, all four films should have at least a base level of redeeming value, but I reject two for similar reasons that he rejects Chaos. Which goes to show you that one man's Chaos is another man's Last House on the Left.

13/08/2005

Kenny Glanaan & other Brit directors

Totally agree with you there Tim - Yasmin is moving, powerful and impeccably made. Funnily enough I had the chance to meet up with Kenny Glanaan, the film's director, at last year's Cornwall Film Festival, where Yasmin was shown. He was a warm and tremendously engaging young director, full of passion for his medium and totally committed to experimenting with film. His way of working is very loose, unstructured and free-flowing - like many of Britain's best directors, he's entirely happy to go into rehearsals with only the barest bones of an idea and let the story take its course. Mike Leigh was one of the other keynote speakers at last year's Cornwall Film Fest - and to hear his stories of what it takes to get a film made is enough to make a grown man weep.

Apparently his ideal project would be to go into an inner-city housing estate and just shoot what happens...tough to get the funders excited on that one, maybe, but still tremendously refreshing to hear. There's an undercurrent of exciting directors and writers in Britain right now - but how is it they never seem to get the credit or the support they deserve? How can a filmmaker as brilliant as Shane Meadows still be struggling to get his stuff made? Why don't the British public go an see his films? They're funny, smart, moving, and brilliantly directed - Dead Man's Shoes has more ideas and a higher standard of performance than ANYTHING that came out of Hollywood in the last 12 months - and yet hardly anyone went out to see it. In France or Germany, he'd be hailed as a genius. In Britain, somehow, people are still saying "Shane who?"

12/08/2005

One of the simplest pleasures in life has to be, after a hard days work, collapsing into an armchair (or bean bag in my case) with a bottle of red wine and happening across a late night film on telly. More often than not these films appear on Channel 4, as was the case last night. I was actually hoping that the cricket highlights might be on, but instead there was an English film called Yasmin. And throughout the film I couldn’t help but be bemused that I hadn’t heard of it before, it wasn’t heralded as award-winning and, with the intensely relevant subject matter, it simply appeared somewhat modestly and covertly in the TV listings.

Focusing on a young Muslim woman in a small town in the north of England living in an arranged marriage, attempting to enjoy a westernised lifestyle with her workmates while keeping her disillusioned brother away from the reaches of extremists… it could well have been heavy-handed, preachy, overtly political, but it was refreshingly subtle. Not that it was without it’s problems. Her immediate alienation from her workmates after 9/11 (a central turning point in the film and, it’s fair to say, in the race relations of modern Britain) and overt bullying, didn’t quite ring true to me. I lived in Sheffield at the time in multi-cultural areas, and never felt or witnessed such overt changes. But what do I know.

It was moving and educational – perhaps all of the best films are – but a depressing watch. At turns I felt anger at the British police, government, tolerance of racism, and also at the Muslim community depicted. Blame isn’t really laid at anyone’s door, rather everyone’s and no ones. When her brother leaves to fight in Afghanistan, it made me feel intensely angry – not at him but at the situation that brought it about. His actions, as they were portrayed, were entirely understandable. The elderly father’s devastation at his son’s leaving, and his inability to understand the new world around him, brought me close to tears. But most of my wine had mysteriously gone at this point. And as the credits rolled a chirpy presenter came on and told me it was time for Big Brother. Oh boy, I thought, back to reality.

09/08/2005

Twentynine Palms

As Bruno Dumont's latest opened in London recently, I was just wondering what people reckon to it? I've had the French DVD for quite a while, and think it's a really worthwhile film. I can't say it's anyway near as good as either of Dumont's previous movies (L'humanité & La vie de Jesus), but it still kept me hooked for its duration. The last reel was pretty hard to take (even on the small screen), and this stretch (where, let us be honest, the only real action takes place) stayed with me for a long time after viewing.
Any other thoughts on this movie? It's a pity it has been given such a limited UK release (no doubt just a platform for the DVD), but it's worth seeing just to decide for yourself...

04/08/2005

YES

Sally Potter's new film, Yes, comes out this Friday (5 Aug.). Set in London, the film is about the romance between an American scientist (called 'she') and a Lebanese doctor working as a cook in London (called 'he') who after a while of afternoon casual sex, starts to resent the power relationship between She and He. I thought the film was a missed opportunity to discuss the contemporary rift between the West and the MiddleEast: it's all very cliched and superficial, if very nicely packaged. I was wondering if anyone had a different opinion on this one.... (Antonio)

01/08/2005

Summer Movies and Guilty Pleasures

Growing up in Holland in the Seventies, I kept hearing the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City, but now I'm fortunate enough to experience New York's humid asphalt first-hand.

Air conditioning helps, but I can also recommend this year's summer movies - some of which have infantile plotlines, but also slyly intelligent actors beefing up the films. I have thoroughly enjoyed Wedding Crashers, already out in the UK, and 40 Year-Old Virgin, which is released in the UK later this month.

It's a delight to see Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson riff off each other; apparently they rewrote the whole script together. They get the wedding crashing concept out of the way pretty quickly so they can get in really big trouble: real love. 40 Year-Old Virgin is also about older American guys trying to get laid, and like Wedding Crashers, the mission in question is a belly-laughing pleasure to watch. The film is funny and bubbly, thanks to the smart script and actors Paul Rudd and 'newcomer' Steve Carrell, (a deadringer for Owen's brother Luke).

In both cases, the theatres were completely full with people munching popcorn and laughing their heads off. In short they are the ideal summer movies, true mental palate cleansers. Oh yeah. Watch out for Deuce Bigalow, European Gigolo, . It'll be slightly more crass than the other ones, but any film shot in my native Amsterdam that has a midget flying out of a window into a canal has my vote.

Does anyone else have any guilty summer pleasures? Please comment below.

27/07/2005

Narnia Q & A

We've got an exciting opportunity this month for kamera readers to come up with their own set of questions for Andrew Adamson, director of the forthcoming film of Narnia (and also the man behind Shrek & Shrek 2). It's a rare opportunity to put your questions straight to a major Hollywood director, so if you've always had a burning desire to find out what goes on behind the scenes of a multi-million dollar film, now's your chance.

In partnership with our friends at BVI and Digital Outlook, kamera has been invited to join in a unique collaborative interview with Andrew. We're asking our readers to submit original and thought-provoking questions for the interview, and the top 20 will be forwarded to the director. The interview will be published on the site to coincide with the film's release on 8th December.

You can submit your questions to the editor at editor@kamera.co.uk.

20/07/2005

Literary adaptations

With Charlie & The Chocolate Factory about to hit our screens, and countless film adaptations of classic books everywhere you look (from Lord of the Rings to Sin City), how does everyone feel about the age-old problem of transferring a story from page to screen? What are the pitfalls and dangers? What works (and what doesn't)? Any thoughts about books that have been made better by cinematic translation?

For what it's worth, I'm not holding out much hope for Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It should be fabulous - Burton's visual flair married to Dahl's twisted imagination - but having seen snippets of Johnny Depp's bizarre Anne-Robinson/Peewee Herman characterisation, I have to say I think it's going to be disappointing. As so often with Burton recently, the idea is great, but the execution looks fundamentally flawed.

14/07/2005

3-Iron

Hi everyone, this is my first collaboration to the blog and I'll start with a recommendation. This Friday (15 July) sees one of the best releases in ages: 3-Iron. I have posted a full review on my own blog, The Filter. Made in Korea and directed by the upcoming director Kim Ki-duk's, this is a fabulously confected tale of love and magic with very few dialogues. A treat.

03/07/2005

Criterion DVDs

Would be interesting to hear some thoughts about the Criterion range of DVDs.

Many of kamera's favourite films are available in special Criterion editions, usually at a vastly inflated cost. The Criterion seal of quality is certainly a major draw for people buying them - superior transfers, exclusive interviews and commentaries, directorial seals of approval etc - but are the Criterion versions really that much better to justify their £30+ pricetag?

For context, I'm writing as a Criterion devotee - I've got lots on my shelves, so I certainly have something of a vested interest. But should kamera be recommedning the Criterion DVDs as the definitive editions?

Best Criterions on my shelves:
Rushmore & The Royal Tenenbaums
The Adventures of Antoine Doinel (5 DVD boxset)
Brazil (3 DVD boxset)
L'Avventura
Last Tempatation of Christ (with exclusive Scorsese commentary!)

Any nominations for the best Criterion DVD edition?

01/07/2005

10 Greatest sets in cinema

Just another opportunity for me to wax lyrical about the fantastically expressive qualities of cinema set design. I've actually just given a paper at a great conference about this, so it's pretty appropriate.

In no particular order -

10. Le Jour se leve (1939) - isolated apartment perfect metaphor for Jean Gabin's descent into to suicidal despair.

9. Batman Returns (1992) - Gothic meets kitsch meets camp

8. Top Hat (1935) - art deco glitziness becomes perfect arena for Fred n' Ginger's shuffling.

7. The Shining (1980) - THAT red men's room.

6. The Cabinet of Caligari (1920) - cinema's first realisation that skewed angles and dark shadows could be used to complement the narrative and frighten the bejesus out of us.

5. The Apartment (1960) - Jack Lemmon trapped in the office from hell.

4. Playtime (1967) - Jacques Tati's ascerbic swipe at the soulessness of modern architecture.

3. The Terminal (2004) - not the real JFK but a mythic JFK filtered through Spielberg's masterful feel for places and spaces not usually explored in the cinema.

2. Blade Runner (1982) - still THE defining image of what we expect out future cities to look like.

1. Rear Window (1954) - perhaps the greatest of them all? Voyeurism, comedy, tragedy and pervsersion played against the backdrop of Hitchcock's ode to cinema, city living and what happeds when we have too much time on our hands.

Any others to add?

30/06/2005

War of the lists

Five best Steven Spielberg films:
  1. Jaws (1975)
  2. Raiders of the Lost Ark ( 1981)
  3. Schindler's List (1993)
  4. Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
  5. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Five best Tom Cruise performances:
  1. Jerry Maguire (1996)
  2. Minority Report (2002)
  3. Magnolia (1999)
  4. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
  5. Risky Business (1983)
Five sexiest Tom Cruise girlfriends/wives:
  1. Nicole Kidman
  2. Penélope Cruz
  3. Mimi Rogers
  4. Katie Holmes
  5. Melissa Gilbert

28/06/2005

Molding Maggie

While reading the Guardian's recent interview with iconic actor Maggie Cheung, in which she describes her working relationships with directors Olivier Assayas (her ex-husband) and Wong Kar-wai, I'm reminded how much cinema can be little more than a conduit for male desire and obsession, even at its artiest level:
"These two men, how they like their women to be is so different," she says. "The way Wong sees beauty, or women related to beauty, it has to be that sensual, perfect thing, whereas Olivier is more interested in something more internal and modern. But I feel happy to be able to fit into their desires of what they want to see on the screen."
Idealized visions of sensually beautiful women are deliriously intoxicating, but there are moments when I feel a bit self-conscious that I'm such a willing and grateful participant in the cycle of voyeurism.

Perhaps the reigns of cinema should be forcibly yanked from obsessive men every once in a while and handed to artists with other points-of-view.

Welcome to the Kamera blog

Welcome to the brand new kamera blog everyone.

This is a brand new project for us, so we have no idea how it's going to work or be used yet - but hopefully it will become a popular and useful addition to the site. I see this as a kind of open film forum - a place to get some real discussion of the current cinema scene going, to exchange random thoughts, reviews and ideas, to swap film recommendations, and to publish work that we can't currently include on the site due to space and time restrictions.

It might also become a great place for our select band of kamera writers to get to know each other a little better.

Let me know what you think and how we can make this blog better - it's still very early days, and we'd be glad for your input.