Tag Archives: Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh Film Fest Daily Roundup (part 7)

*Police, Adjective teaches me the finer points of the Romanian dictionary

*Putty Hill displays clunky melancholy

*Cigarette Girl has some issues

*Vindication finally arrives with some insider info on the production of Public Enemies

other news

The three films listed above were excruciating to watch out of the hardcore boredom factor.  It didn’t help that I watched them back-to-back.

My reviews may prove interesting for Police, Adjective‘s discussion of Romanian politics or Cigarette Girls issues of sex and violence, but they aren’t worth watching.

The unlucky selection of such bad films make me concerned for the rest of the festival.  As mentioned in the Police, Adjective review, there are films specifically known as “festival films.”  These are bad films with no distributor interest that get a few screenings as festival filler.

After the weekend, I’ve noticed fewer industry and press people around the festival, which increases my concern.  The strongest parts of the fest were definitely on display in the first five days, but this week includes a greater number of lesser known films.

reviews to come

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror (an audio film of his story), My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?

“Police, Adjective” lacks pulse

My current spate of reviews come from the Edinburgh International Film Festival, where I believe I just encountered my first dreaded “festival film” which  one writer described as:

“the submerged nine-tenths of the film production world that gets only one or two screenings in its lifetime, in a near-empty cinema in downtown Gdansk or wherever.”

I say this because watching Police, Adjective was more dull than spending three hours in hospital waiting room.*

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Public Enemies was plagued by cast and crew tensions, technical blunders

For those of us who tried to warn the public that they were being swindled into buying tickets to an unfinished product with last year’s much anticipated Public Enemies (weak sound design, amateur framing, visuals that “looked like a wedding video” as my friend put it), the following offers some (belated) vindication.

A source at the Edinburgh International Film Festival said that technical details plagued the production of Public Enemies, thanks to Michael Mann’s mistreatment of the crew and poor management skills.

Crew members were financially and personally poorly treated and simple technological protocols (correct cables, lenses) were flouted.  The results were disastrous: A production designer quit, Johnny Depp had Mann apologize to the crew for his behavior, and the studio spent “$20-30 million dollars” in post-production trying to save the film.  Depp “hated Mann” for the way he ran the production.

It seems the crew got the last laugh though: The same source said that “thousands of dollars in office supplies” from Public Enemies were stolen and put to use for a film currently at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  “You could say it’s a Michael Mann financed film.”

I’m a huge fan of Mann’s Heat and Collateral, but was dismayed by the poor production values of Public Enemies.  Though the film came out a year ago, I think it’s important to know the history surrounding a production so as to understand a film’s successes or failures.  There is the possibility that the person I spoke to could be some disgruntled crew member out to tarnish Mann’s image, but this person’s comments seem a reasonable explanation for the unusually bad quality of such a major Hollywood film.

EIFF Daily Roundup (part 6)

*I fall for Au Revoir Taipei

*Sir Patrick Stewart makes it so

other news

Au Revoir Taipei was a great break from multiple dramas in a row.  The Patrick Stewart interview was completely packed and it was cool to see him have such passion for his work (and the work of others) after so many years.  After the talk it made me want to start watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.  If DVDs and Netflix allow whole seasons of TV shows to be accessible, it would be interesting to go back and watch some older shows (especially Quantum Leap).

reviews to come

Police Adjective, Putty Hill, Cigarette Girl

EIFF Daily Roundup (part 5)

* I visited a hilarious HIGH School

* Winter’s Bone has a chilly, but warm sentiment

* Wasn’t Lucky enough to win the jackpot

other news

The director of Winter’s Bone spoke briefly about the film after the screening.  The lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, is a Kentucky native and it made shooting in the Ozarks an accessible transition from one mountainous region to another.  I’ll have video up in a few days.

reviews to come

Au Revoir Taipei, an evening with Sir Patrick Stewart

Sundance favorite”Winter’s Bone” Cuts Deep

There is an oft-lamented dearth of strong female characters in cinema.  Lt. Ripley and Sarah Connor are the characters that receive the most citation, but I’ll be damned if we can’t add Ree Dolly to the roster – this is not a girl to be trifled with. Continue reading

EIFF Roundup (pt 4)

*Puppet shenanigans bring hilarity in Jackboots on Whitehall

*Nuclear proliferation documentary Countdown to Zero irks and informs

*Monsters suddenly becomes a contender as one of my favorite films of all time (Fight Club and Children of Men, its challengers)

other news

Friday was a big deal given I got to see Monsters. If this doesn’t become one of the most talked about films this year, the world will gloss over an amazing piece of cinematic storytelling.

After the film, director Gareth Edwards and the lead actors, Skoot McNairy and Whitney Able, hung around the cinema’s bar to chat about the film.  I spent a fair bit of time sharing with Skoot how the film delivered to me.  When he was heading out with the rest of the staff from Vertigo Films (who produced Monsters) he invited me to tag along.  Suddenly I was glad I chose the button up shirt that morning.

We got to a club near Princes St. and planted ourselves in the VIP room with an open bar.  Considering the absence of food in my belly, I maintained a two drink maximum.  Now, I’m not really a bar guy.  I like to hang out talking one on one, or organize  an event with an activity at the center, keeping casual drinking on the periphery.  Considering all this, I didn’t know how long I would be staying.

But it couldn’t have been a better environment.  I got to meet people working in different areas at Vertigo (trailer creation, script development) and even though I was just a random guy invited along (I was frequently asked my place in the production), no one gave me the cold shoulder.  I actually had a good time.

Not to mention that despite the loud, festive atmosphere, I was able to talk with Skoot and Whitney about the film (among other things).  As a filmmaker and critic, there is a lot to praise in Monsters, most of it’s in subtle ways general audiences won’t recognize.  So as I was rolling out my thoughts to Skoot or Whitney, I’d feel like I was talking at them, but they’d quickly tell me how much the appreciate such specific feedback, not just “Oh, it was great.”

I know that when I screen a short film I’m itching for the same type of feedback: Did you notice this sound effect?  Did this twist hook you?  Specifically with films distributed at the international level, there is little room for interaction between actor and the audience receiving that performance.  So the lengthy ramblings of someone who knows the nuance and difficulty of filmmaking, but who has had no involvement with the production, counts for a lot.  I know I’d love it if someone wanted to point out all the things that I displayed well.

Plus, how often are we allotted the chance to explain how a work of art affected us to the artist her/himself?  It’s definitely a two-way street of appreciative barter: artist wants to communicate to the world and the audience wants to return the call.

Fear keeps us locked away from one another, blockading the beautiful connectedness between us all.  Thus, it was soothing to walk home toward the rising sun, away from the assorted conversations with Vertigo people, and especially with Whitney and Sckoot,  and only feel the buzzing aura of connected sincerity that make our lives worth living.

reviews to come

HIGH School, Winter’s Bone, Lucky

“Monsters” leaves audiences in shock and awe

When you start watching films for a living, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” becomes the haunting muzak filling the background of your consciousness.  Films quickly pile up in the mediocre category, with few hitting genius, or even atrocious levels.  When Monsters finished, however, I was covered with goose bumps and wanted nothing more than to sit quietly in the dark to mull it over. It is a film so powerful, fascinating and personal that it is a celluloid definition of why we go to the cinema.

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EIFF Daily Roundup (pt 3)

* Jean Reno gets angry when he’s shot with 22 Bullets

*Blank City teaches me that 1970′s New York was the shit

other news

Not much to report.  It was a beautiful day:

Salisbury Crags

I live right next to Holyrood Park, so my daily walks to the cinemas start with this pleasant welcome to the day’s work.

But it was a little hot, reaching the 70′s without much wind.  Most Americans are laughing right now, but considering Edinburgh’s yearly temperature is 40-50 degrees with regular wind and rain, temperatures in the 70s are noteworthy.  Most places also lack air conditioning (you might need it 7 days out of the year), so the grocery store freezers and fridges are wheezing like old timers with emphysema trying to fight the heat.

reviews to come

Monsters, Jackboots on Whitehall (described as the U.K.’s Team America), Countdown to Zero

Animated film The Illusionist is must see cinema

When Pixar’s Up! came out I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.  Both Up! and Wall-E strayed into dark, adult thematic areas, but had to hop over to the kid’s table to maintain commercial viability.  Thankfully, there are countries in the world where animation is held in equal regard to traditional filmmaking.  The Illusionist is filled with a romance and poignancy that hits you in the gut and lets you deal with it sans cute adventuring.  Thank God.

The year is 1959 and the world hasn’t become completely dominated by English as the “universal” language.  When a French magician sets out to the U.K. to find work, he finds himself at a small village in Scotland, entertaining Gaelic speaking revelers.  After his routine, one of the girls maintaining the inn becomes enchanted by his fancy handiwork.  Separated by their respective lingua francas, the pair interact via noble gestures and find themselves in Edinburgh, where he practices his magic, and she eyes shop displays…

Directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) and written by Jacques Tati, this tale of characters connected without language and destroyed by globalization, is a film for which the term “gut wrenching experience” was created and is made all the more fascinating by its audacious move to be silent.  I don’t mean pre-sound film recording silence, but that one full sentence is uttered in the entire film.  Chomet brilliantly uses this silence to convey humor and the undiluted sentiments of his characters.  Though this may sound daunting, we forget film is a visual medium after all, and Chomet knows how to milk it for all it’s worth (this is not a film for people who enjoy the exposition lane on the film freeway).

Chomet spent five years working on The Illusionist, even creating a production studio in Edinburgh to handle the work.  The visuals are beautiful,  accurately capturing the awe inspiring presence of the Scottish Highlands, but it’s also a love letter to Edinburgh, with its attention to detail and an array of famous locations on full display.*

Unfortunately, I must also add that there are some uncanny valley moments.  1) I could swear they used some motion capture to get some movements realistic, which could be unsettling when combined with an animated human. And 2) All moving objects look removed from their settings.  Sure, you watch old school Disney films and objects that move are brighter and the still background is darker–but my unease stemmed from something different.  Instead of both background and character being hand drawn, the involvement of computers elbows the animations into another area that doesn’t blend well.  These are some of the issues I picked up on, but it still didn’t completely undercut the stunningness of the world presented.

The film’s message, “We’re all waiting for our talents to be exploited by capitalism and our relationships replaced by consumer objects,” is the type of damning conclusion that settles in your belly with its veracity. Spending almost an hour and a half with these characters without words provides a unique window into their psyche, which is how The Illusionist pulls off its sucker punch coupe commentary in a  believable and  un-soap box manner.

The Illusionist‘s engrossing visuals and intelligent message trumps the $400 million dollar wizardry of Avatar, but is accessible to that same audience just as easily as the art house kids.  If you weren’t already in love with Chomet for  The Triplettes of Belleville, this should solidify your affections

*I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a full year and the film spoke of its romance in an honest way that had me realizing how much I’ve taken the city for granted (seagulls, wind, rain, but also the sunny green grass days with Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat dominating the skyline)