Another Trip to Twin Peaks

twin_peaks

 

Charlene Lydon explains why we shouldn’t be afraid to get excited about new Twin Peaks.

 

 

My gut reaction to the news that Twin Peaks is coming back to our screens was painfully panicked. I was, at first, excited, then terrified, then, for a horrible moment, thought they were talking about re-runs, then went back to panicking again.

 

I always get a blast of this when I hear of a remake or a sequel or a reboot of something I love. It’s the fear that the thing I love will be somehow corrupted by a poor imitation of its former iteration. It’s a valid fear. But I’m also an optimist so I choose to believe that new Twin Peaks will be great, perhaps even just as great.

 

There’s a well-earned trust in David Lynch’s catalogue of past treasures (filmography feels too slight a term). He is truly a great auteur and one with a distinct, singular vision in which audiences put their trust. So what if it doesn’t make sense? It isn’t supposed to! Lynch’s films wash over you in the most wonderful way. They fill you with dread and energy and delirium with every frame. The only pieces of work that incur any sort of critical wrath are Dune and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But in this fangirl’s opinion, these films are both full of the aesthetic and psychological pleasures that Lynch always provides. In fact, since we’re on the topic of Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me, it managed to touch on the tragedy and horror of the incest storyline in a way that the television show never got to do. It was full of rage and sadness and the full horror of Laura Palmers sad life is really, truly confronted. Replacement Donna aside, I think it’s an excellent prequel to a wonderful series.

 

The worry with reboots is that the cast and crew are doing it for the money. I call it Fierce Creatures syndrome, and I happily believe that there’s a genuine affection within the show’s stars (many of them at least) for the show. All of them regularly entertain interviews about the show and attend fan conventions and so many of them contributed to the recent Blu-ray release, And truly, how could anyone who was part of that world not want to go back there? At the end of the day, Twin Peaks is such a fully realised world that without the ghost of Laura Palmer looming there’s still a wealth of wonderful stories in there and old friends (and enemies) to catch up with.

 

So what will the series be about? I hate to even think about it but when we last left Twin Peaks we were left with the utterly shattering image of our hero Dale Cooper inhabited by the spirit of Bob, an incarnation of all evil that lurks beneath the surface. An unpopular ending in certain circles, I always thought it was simply the most horrific conclusion imaginable for the show. Coop, the innocent, the ultimate force for good, corrupted. And with the “dot dot dot” conclusion, Coop is now frozen in time, forever corrupted with no chance of being saved. Until now.

 

I have no doubt that David Lynch would not have returned to the northeast passage did he not have a story to tell. Twin Peaks was always about America, its secrets, its lies, its rotten core. One must wonder if this will be the central thesis of the new Twin Peaks or if there will be a different direction. Who will be back? Who won’t be back?

 

The fact that the how was picked up by Showtime, one of the more liberal networks, means there will be fewer restraints regarding sex and violence. There will probably be little by way of network pressure for Lynch and Frost to conform to. But how will they react to the quarter-century that has passed and can Twin Peaks remain unique after so many excellent shows have borrowed from it? From The X Files to The Killing and Desperate Housewives and everything in between, the legacy of Twin Peaks looms large all over this so called golden-era of television. Can Twin Peaks maintain its unique quality?

 

I believe it can. I believe in David Lynch and Mark Frost and the world they created. So let’s be hopeful.

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Cinema Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

DIR: Sam Raimi  WRI: Mitchell Kapner, David Lindsay-Abair  PRO: Joe Roth  ED: Bob Murawski  DOP: Peter Deming  DES: Robert Stromberg  CAST: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weiz, Michelle Williams

I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the merry ol’ land of Oz, so off I went in my sparkly red shoes (egg on my face though, cos there wan’t a ruby slipper to be seen in Raimi’s version) to a Sunday morning family screening of Oz The Great and Powerful.

Raimi’s film is essentially the origin story for the wonderful wizard. Oz (Franco) is a selfish circus con-man whose tendency towards smoke and mirrors has left him devoid of any real sense of self. Like Dorothy, he is swept away in a cyclone and transported to a strange and magical world where he is soon recognised as the man who is destined to rule all of Oz. In order to gain the throne and a room full of gold, he must convince them, and himself, that he’s the man they need him to be

Knowing Sam Raimi and his tendency towards playfulness I was unsurprised but no less delighted to see him open his film with 4:3 monochrome, where it stayed until we enter Oz, where he then revealed in all its 3D glory, all the beauty and spectacle we would hope to see in Oz.

The plot sees  three witches struggling for power over Oz (the place AND the man), one is beautiful, naïve Theodora (Kunis) who falls in love with Oz as she leads him to meet her sister Evanora so they can plot to kill the wicked witch who has been banished to the woods but they suspect to be planning an uprising. But things get complicated when he finds the “wicked witch” and she turns out to be the beautiful, wise and good Glinda The Good.

The production design, CGI effects and cinematography are absolutely beautiful throughout the film, which instantly removed the slight alarm bell of cynicism that might have existed in me around this project. But it’s clear from the outset that love and passion went into the aesthetic of this film. Special mention must go to Gary Jones for the unbelievably beautiful costume design. All the actors seem to be having a blast camping it up in their roles (does Franco ever really do anything else?) and it’s especially nice to see Michelle Williams in a happy film for once.

At almost two and a half hours, I couldn’t help but feel that the thin plot didn’t really warrant the lengthy running time, but having said that I absolutely adored so many aspects of the film that I never really wanted it to end. Raimi’s stamp is all over the film in the most wonderful ways! His flying cameras, his sharp visual wit and not to mention his horrifying witch and flying baboons, there’s plenty on display here to keep his fans happy. But what about the most important audience of all? The children. What’s in it for them? Magic, a cute monkey, a lovely little china doll, action, scary villains and most of all a wonderful sense of what epic 3D cinema should be. Big! From where I was sitting (which was surrounded by hundreds of children) they seemed very, very pleased with themselves. One thing it is missing though – singin’ and dancin’;  but I guess I can’t have it all.

 

Charlene Lydon

PG (see IFCO website for details)

130mins
Oz The Great and Powerful is released on 8th March 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful – Official Website

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Bloody Countdown to Halloween: Salem’s Lot

As the spooky season raises its sharpened axe to soon fall upon us, the ghouls and goblins of Film Ireland wallow in the terror of the films that embrace the nutty freaks, bloody psychos and raging spoonatics with our ‘Bloody Countdown to Halloween’ – cue Vincent Price laugh…

 

Salem’s Lot

(Tobe Hooper, 1979)
 

Charlene Lydon


It may seem rather an odd addition to this list of such great horror films, a three-hour-long TV adaptation of a Stephen King story, but this is definitely a film that deserves a second look. I read King’s novel when I was way too young to be exposed to such horror and it started a lifelong love affair between me and King’s books. I first saw the movie as a child, rented by my older sister from the video shop and I remember it being the scariest thing I had seen in my life, up until that point. I revisited the film recently and despite the fact that it has aged terribly in parts, including the odd freeze-frame here and there and the dodgy floating demon children, the film still terrified me and the other members of the audience. Because it was originally a TV movie, there is surprisingly little blood in the film. This is something I realised after the fact and had trouble believing how little onscreen violence there actually was, especially considering Tobe Hooper was at the helm.

Salem’s Lot is a story about a journalist, Ben (David Soul) who returns to his home town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine to write about the Marsten House, a place that had frightened him as a child and has haunted him since. He has arrived at the same time as the mysterious antiques dealer Mr. Straker (James Mason) and his as yet unseen partner Mr. Barlow, who have rented the Marsten House.

The film is part haunted house horror, part vampire thriller, part indictment of the passive masses. King has been known for his tendency to favour small-town Americana. Perhaps this is because his good-evil dichotomy has always had an observer; the passive townsfolk who get picked off one by one. Salem’s Lot is a fine example of this.

‘You’ll catch your death out there…’

The standout aspect of Salem’s Lot is the fact that it features a truly terrifying vampire, a rarity in cinema these days. Mr. Barlow is not sexy, he is not a tortured soul and he is not tragic…he’s evil, he’s ugly and he’s scary! I can’t remember the last time I saw a depiction of a vampire that was truly a bloodsucking demon and nothing more. The introduction of Barlow after almost two hours of anticipation is brilliant, one of the greatest scares in all of horror cinema.

The very long running time of the film may seem excessive but the character exposition and the slow burning tension ensures that it rarely drags. Some of the characters’ stories may seem superfluous but it all acts as a gateway into the lives of the town’s inhabitants and how far they all are from the world of vampires and demons.

Salem’s Lot is a genuinely tense and scary film; a good, old-fashioned horror film and a fine example of what can be done without overuse of blood and gore. Flawed and at times a little cheesy, this is still a truly terrifying film which has been unfairly overlooked for a long time. Maybe it’s time to give ol’ Mr. Barlow another look. You might just find it’s the perfect film for a dark, spooky, Halloween night.

Charlene Lydon

 

Check out our blood-soaked countdown of Halloween Horror here.

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We Love… 2011 – The Skin I Live In

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

We laughed, we cried, we sneaked in our own popcorn. 2011 brought with it some memorable trips to the cinema to revel in the joy of film. And so the Film Ireland collection of filmbots look back in love and recall their favourite films of the last year in the latest installment of…

We Love… 2011

The Skin I Live

( Pedro Almodóvar)

‘… maybe my favourite Almodovar film of all time …’

Charlene Lydon

As a longtime fan of Pedro Almodóvar’s films my expectations are always high when he releases a new film. The Skin I Live In gave us a trailer that teased a lot but answered nothing and so I had little expectation of what I was in for when the movie started, but I was definitely intrigued!

What can I say about the film without spoiling it? How can I possibly convey the sheer beauty and masterful storytelling on display here without giving away major plot points? Ideally, I want audiences to go in to this film knowing as little as I did and getting wrapped up in the world Almodóvar creates without trying to guess the plot twists and to delight in the developing story without second guessing the logic. It’s science fiction, but a most elegant example of the genre.

Antonio Banderas plays a rather unhinged scientist who is keeping a beautiful young woman prisoner in his home while using her as a human guinea pig for a new type of synthetic human skin. That’s about as much information as you need. As the story unfolds, petal by petal in that flower-like way we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Almodovar, each scene adds wonder and flavour to an already robust set-up. Moving at a break-neck pace, not a frame is without beauty and not a second is wasted without pushing the story along. This screenplay is extremely polished and beautifully nuanced.

Swapping his usual primary colour palette for a more subdued steely grey tone fused with fleshy beiges achieves an uncharacteristic, almost Cronenbergian feel to the cinematography. Despite toning down the colours, Jose Luis Alcaine delivers wonderfully vibrant visuals and makes the best of the limited locations that are used.

In a film that relies on ambiguity in so many ways the cast here must be commended. Delicate balances are achieved by all concerned and it’s wonderful to see Antonio Banderas settling into the rather unsettling role of Dr. Robert Ledgard. He exudes the same charisma and sexual bravura that made him famous but without the least whiff of sex symbol status coming through in the performance. He is creepy, strangely alluring and underplays the ‘mad scientist’ bit admirably. Elena Anayas also impresses in a very challenging performance both physically and emotionally, both of which are perfectly effective as her story unfolds. A brilliant character who may not have been so impressive in the hands of a less capable actress. The camera intimately caresses her face and body throughout and she steadfastly rises to the challenge of being as beautiful a muse as a director could ask for.

2011 was a year that didn’t deliver a tremendous amount of great cinema but the great cinema was really incredible and I think 2011 gave us some future classics, not least of which is The Skin I Live In, maybe my favourite Almodóvar film of all time…and that’s saying a lot.

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We Love… Summer: 'Weekend at Bernie's'

We Love... Summer

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

 

Blisters on your shoulders, sand in your underwear, coughing up seawater and being packed into a caravan with the entire extended family – the sweet, sweet memories of summer’s past. Thank God we have film to look back on with pleasure. And so the Film Ireland sun lovers lay down their towels, unwrap a Cornetto and recall their favourite summer films in the latest installment of We Love… Summer. Charlene Lydon spends the Weekend at Bernie’s.

We’ll be adding to the list throughout July – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now lash on the sunblock…

 

Weekend at Bernie’s

(1989)

 

Charlene Lydon

The beauty of summer movies is that they don’t have to be classy, they don’t have to be clever, they just need to be fun! For me at least, Weekend at Bernie’s has a lot to offer those in need of some summer madness. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, here’s the plot in a nutshell. Larry and Richard, two down on their luck office workers uncover an anomaly which suggests someone is ripping off the insurance corporation they work for. Their shady boss Bernie, the real culprit, invites them to his place in The Hamptons during a massive New York heatwave where he plans to have them ‘silenced’. The plot thickens when the dodgy characters Bernie is involved with decide to ‘silence’ him instead, killing him and leaving him propped up at his desk with sunglasses on. When Larry and Richard arrive for their well-deserved weekend of fun, they realise what has happened but fate (and the prospect of ‘getting laid’) intervenes to ensure that they can’t quite find the time to phone the cops.

In the true spirit of ’80s comedy, a lot of over-the-top nonsense ensues whereby Larry and Richard must pretend to everyone, from party to party that Bernie is alive, just kind of ‘wasted’. This is easier than you imagine when everyone’s an airhead, a floozy or just completely hammered for the whole weekend. This is 1980’s New York we’re talking about here, hedonism is rampant for the well-heeled. Weekend at Bernie’s feels like Some Like it Hot crossed with a Bret Easton Ellis novel, completely ridiculous, over the top and slyly commenting on the hollow lifestyles of the rich and famous. Is that a stretch? Maybe it is.

At the heart of Weekend at Bernie’s is the desperate hunger to get out of the heat of Manhattan. The director does a good job of painting a picture of the unpleasantness of New York City in the sticky heatwave. It looks like the last place you’d ever want to be and therefore somewhat believably gives the guys an incentive to want to stay in The Hamptons at all cost. Disbelief must be suspended tremendously if you are to have any fun watching this film, but if you can just roll with it, it’s very funny and has an unjustly ignored fantastic central performance from Terry Kiser as Bernie. For two thirds of the film, he is dead. He has no lines. But the physicality of his performance is more than admirable, it’s downright brilliant!

With a premise like this, you’ll either love the film or hate the film, but it’s difficult not to crack a guilty smile here and there at the sheer absurdity and hideous lack of morality displayed by pretty much everyone in the film. Necrophilia, grave-robbing, desecration of a corpse via staple-gun, if it weren’t so damn sunny and nonchalant this would be a dark, dark piece of cinema. We’d all be shifting uncomfortably in our seats, unable to stay on board with these horribly selfish characters. But if you can allow yourself the indulgence Weekend at Bernies will evoke that feeling of desperately trying to enjoy the perfect summer weekend when you know it’s fleeting, even if you have to cart a corpse around with you to do it.

Sun, sand, women in bikinis, speedboats, creepy kids armed with a bucket and spade and of course a dead guy with his shoelaces tied to your shoelaces as you cruise the beach… that’s the recipe for a great summer movie!

 

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Insidious Q&A with Leigh Whannell and James Wan

insidious

Charlene Lydon risks disembowelment as she goes after the brains behind ‘Insidious’ – out in cinemas on Friday, 29th April.

After a terrifying ninety minutes sitting through Insidious I wondered, as I always do, why is it that I can’t reason myself out of being scared in the cinema. As a seasoned cinemagoer and horror-lover I still find myself being extremely uncool in the cinema when it comes to scary films. Not all scary films, mind you. Just the ones where you sense from the first minute that the director knows horror films and intends to use and/or subvert every trick in the book to scare you. From that moment on I trust nothing. Every camera move is a potential lurking creature. If I spot a little too much space in the frame I worry that it is to allow space for the monster/killer/evil puppet to jump out.

From what I know of James Wan as a director, he is a huge fan of the genre and knows all the tricks and isn’t afraid to exploit them to scare the pants off an audience. Having said that, Insidious is a relatively slow-moving haunted-house thriller with admirable restraint and for all my hiding behind my fingers, staring at the floor and taking off my glasses so the screen would be blurry, the actual scares were spread out nicely.

When we first met Leigh and James they gave a brief introduction to the film and complain that the audiences they have seen the film with in the UK during this tour have not responded like the Americans do, with screaming and yelling. They ask us to be sure to let loose with the reactions (which we Irish are not capable of doing in the cinema). To egg us on Leigh stays behind for the opening credits to shout ‘Boo!’ at us a few times. I think to myself that this sums up what these guys are about. They are filmmaking tricksters who scare people out of mischief and delight in their reactions.

The post-screening Q&A with the writer/director team behind the movie and also such films as Saw and Dead Silence was illuminating and confirmed my suspicion that these guys were intent on proving themselves capable of making something truly frightening, not dependent on blood and gore.

Leigh and James explain that when they first met at university, RMIT in Melbourne, they were outcasts, ‘everyone was into Wim Wenders and whatever film Yoko Ono had made and we were into Sam Raimi and Dario Argento.’ They began working together in college and after they graduated they found themselves and going from job to job and writing together on the side. When asked why Saw was so successful Leigh admits, ‘we were surprised at how it connected with the public zeitgeist. It played at Sundance and in Toronto and was released at Halloween 2004 up against The Grudge, which was huge, but it connected with audiences and it turned out to be a great word of mouth movie.’

When it was pointed out that there really isn’t much violence in the first Saw movie, especially in comparison to its sequels, Leigh is in complete agreement. ‘There’s not much at all because the first movie was completely focussed on the main plot, the two guys trapped in the room, not the jigsaw traps. We loved the story and we loved the ending.’ But how has the success of Saw and in particular its six (yes, SIX) sequels affected their careers? Is it difficult to avoid being typecast. James passionately exclaims that ‘I’m branded with a label I don’t really care for’, perhaps he is referring to the label of originator of the torture porn sub-genre and not just typecast as a horror director. Saw is often cited as the first film to popularise the torture porn film, which would become worryingly popular in the mid-late noughties. ‘I’m really proud of Saw but I’m not into gore, I just love scary films. With Insidious, as a director, I just wanted to prove to people that I can make an atmospheric film with no blood and guts.’

The discussion moved on to the process of making a scary film and how you make a film scary. Leigh insists that it is ‘instinctual’ and goes on to explain that there are three phases of filmmaking and each one gives an opportunity to refine the scares. ‘There’s writing, shooting and editing. With each phase comes changes and new scares are added.’ They tried to capture what they themselves found scary and much of the film comes from stories they heard growing up. The first idea was astral projection and then they worked from there.

When asked about the film’s obvious allusions to Poltergeist they denied there was any sort of homage happening. ‘We don’t approach films as homages. We were excited when we had an idea that nobody has seen before (astral projection) but we housed the film within a “haunted house” and that’s why it’s like Poltergeist. It’s a staple. Certain staples you need to do if you’re working within a genre. If you make a western you need a man with a gun. Otherwise it’s just a film about farmers.’

Insidious proudly avoids using special effects as much as possible. The film is all about atmosphere and lurking shadows and scary -looking people. They were asked if horror films get less scary as special effects get more advanced. The early Saw films were more simple but later it became about the traps. Leigh points out that ‘me and James believe that special effects are the antithesis of good horror.’

One thing that is essential in a haunted house story is a creepy kid. Insidious has no shortage of those. But is working with children a horror film unto itself? James explains, ‘I have worked with kids a lot in my movies but I have never them through this much. Ty (Simpkins, who plays the comatose son of Renais and Josh) was a lovely kid but he had a tough time doing scenes with the demon. He would cry, real tears, and I’d feel so sorry for him! He was eight years old and terrified of the dark. He just couldn’t get past the fact that it wasn’t real. We would bring him to the makeup trailer to see the actor who played the demon getting his makeup done. Over time he started to relax a little.’

Despite the Saw franchise being such a huge success, Leigh and James wanted to keep the budget for Insidious small in order to obtain complete creative control, a point that the guys agree is essential in order to make a good horror film. As a result of the restrictive budget, the shoot was a mere 22 days and it was shot entirely on the Red digital camera. James co-edited the film himself which he felt was a great help in shooting so quickly, ‘It was certainly challenging but I knew what I wanted and knew how I would edit as I went along. It was the first time I’d used the digital format and in post I could do a lot more.’ The change in technology was symbolic of the style he was going for. ‘I was making an old-fashioned horror film but with a contemporary edge.’

Throughout the film, there’s an extremely frightening tune ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ by Tiny Tim. It is highly effective and undoubtedly would give anyone a case of the willies even were it not in any way connected to a scary film. A member of the audience was curious where the song had come from. It turns out it was as simple as James calling Leigh during the writing of the script and asking him if there’s any way we can fit this creepy song into the script. They laugh that this has happened a number of times and Leigh tells the stories of Saw’s infamous jaw-trap. ‘James calls me up, explains the idea of the jaw, trap and how the victim has to find a key or this thing is gonna rip her head apart but they key is in this guy’s stomach. I said’ “Great!” and he said “If you put a creepy doll in it this will be brilliant!” I asked “How are we gonna get a creepy doll in there?” and James said “He’ll just ride in on a bike”’ and that’s exactly how the story ended up going. It seems James is to be held responsible for the creepy puppet imagery in their films (his Twitter handle is actually creepypuppet).

As the Q&A is drawing to a close they are asking the obligatory ‘what are you doing next’ question. Leigh explains that he is writing a sci-fi with James in mind to direct. They want to get away from the horror genre. Leigh is also working on an animated film, an Australian drama and a comedy. When asked if it is hard to sell other genres, James makes the fair point that it’s easier for Leigh as a writer because if he writes something they can physically see it and if they like it they’ll go with it but it’s harder for someone to take a chance on a director.

A final question asked how long the film took to edit. James explained that when he edits he eats, sleeps and edits. He had a rough cut finished in three weeks. It was important to him to edit the film and he insisted to the producers who were apparently pleased to hear that they wouldn’t have to use their limited funds to hire and editor.

Charlene Lydon

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We Love… April Fools: Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber

WE LOVE… APRIL FOOLS

Illustration: Adeline Pericart

It was Clubber Lang who first uttered the immortal words ‘I pity the fool’ when asked if he hated Rocky Balboa by an intrepid journalist seeking to hype up thier impending meeting in the ring. In honour of April we here at Film Ireland challenge Clubber Lang and propose to ‘praise the fool’.

We’ll be adding to the list throughout April – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now bring on the jesters…


Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne in Dumb and Dumber

Charlene Lydon

I couldn’t ask for better fools to write about. First of all, there are two of them, so double the fun! And second of all, there are few more likeable fools in all of cinema than Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne!

This is a stupid film. It is low-brow, it is crass, it is formulaic and it is completely juvenile. From the opening credits use of Boom Shakalaka over misspelled credits, we know we’re in for a silly, irreverent and unapologetic caper. So what is it about the Farrelly Brothers’ debut that made it an instant classic that is still one of the only films to make a giggling mess of me on every single viewing (and there have been many viewings)?

The plot is simple. Lloyd, a limo driver falls in love with Mary when he drives her to the airport. When she leaves her briefcase behind her, Lloyd and his best friend Harry decide to drive all the way across the country to return it to her. What they don’t know is that they’ve just foiled a ransom drop and the kidnappers will stop at nothing to get their briefcase back. It’s as classic a set-up as there is, no complicated plot to detract from the rapid-fire attack of insanely funny jokes.

One of the main reasons the film works so well is the fact that the world Harry and Lloyd inhabit is both depressingly gritty and strangely realistic. Perhaps it is because the Farrelly brothers filmed it around their locality of Providence, Rhode Island using local actors and non-actors in the minor roles. Lloyd and Harry’s existence when we first meet them is unpleasant but it feels real. They are surrounded by no-nonsense, blue-collar people, living a normal life. Drop these two over-the-top comic characters into that world and there is an instant sense of the surreal that adds humour to every incident.

They live in a run down part of town and seemingly own nothing except a worm farm and a ragged poster of Bo Derek. Lloyd earns some extra cash for their trip by selling Harry’s dead, headless budgie to a blind kid. ‘But Lloyd, Petie didn’t have a head’ Lloyd looks indignant and replies ‘Harry! I took care of it.’ Cut to: Blind kid fawning over bird with head attached with a mound of sellotape. Later, when the boys have completed their journey and befriended Mary, we see her watching a feature on TV about evil men who sold a dead bird to a blind kid. ‘Who are these sick people?’ she asks aloud. They’re not sick, they’re just in the same moral league as mischievous children.

So, who is dumb and who is dumber? Debate as you will, there is no easy answer. The other reason this film works so well is that you don’t just have two simple idiots to deal with. Lloyd sees himself as the ‘ideas man’, the one who can handle himself in a crisis and speaks with authority when necessary, but by golly, is he hare-brained! Despite doing countless stupid things throughout the movie, Lloyd is arrogant enough to believe he is the brains of the operation. On the other hand, crazy-haired Harry is certainly the more outwardly goofy of the two with his manic appearance and childish, hearty laugh but he is, at times, the more sensible and sensitive of the two.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRE7gINaS5o[/youtube]

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We Love… St Valentine: ‘Gone With the Wind’

st-valentin9

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

Get a bottle of Blue Nun, splash yourself with them cheap Christmas smellies your Auntie got you for Christmas, slip on your Penny’s underwear and turn up the stereo with the sweet, sweet sound of Barry White. And hey, if you have a partner that’s an added bonus. Yes, it’s that time of year, when St. Valentine comes to town. So in his honour the film lovers here at Film Ireland present their favourite lurve-themed films.

We’ll be adding to the list in the run-up to the 14th – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

Now let’s get it on…

Gone With the Wind

Charlene Lydon

Gone With the Wind is a film that divides people of our generation. In some ways its enduring fame has worked to its detriment. It is emblematic of the Golden Age of Hollywood and stands up as one of the most successful blockbusters of all time (apparently if inflation is taken into account its still the highest grossing film of all time). However, because it is so widely known and much-parodied everybody feels like they have seen it. But how many people under 30 really have? Or, should I ask, how many people have given it the attention it deserves? We’re all guilty of claiming to have seen a film when in reality it played in the background on the telly while we were engaged in conversation, or doing a bit of cleaning. I think that Gone With the Wind is a film that has suffered a lot from this. Nobody forgets its feisty heroine, its lush visuals or its beautiful score but maybe people are forgetting what a truly beautiful romance is at the heart of it. With its daunting running time and the fact that you probably feel like you’ve already seen it, why give over nearly four hours of your life to this antique? Well, this Valentine’s Day perhaps you should make it your business to spend your afternoon in the company of the fieriest, most frustrating, most engaging cinematic couple of all time.

What is it about Rhett Butler? Gone With the Wind has been around for seventy years and still the very utterance of his name stands for what masculinity should truly be. The enduring popularity of this character says a lot about what women want in a man. Someone who will love them unconditionally but isn’t afraid to call them out when they’re acting like a child; someone who will fawn over their offspring; someone who is outrageously handsome and it helps that he has a stubborn integrity that will not be wavered. Here is a man who stands up for what he believes in, despite ruffling feathers to do so. Rhett Butler, if Carlsberg made romantic heroes…

It is difficult to summarise Gone With the Wind, and in summary it lacks much of the punch that the story holds in actuality. The sense of frustration audiences feel at this couple who obviously love each other but cannot be happy together still resonates today, despite the films ripe old age. There has been a recent resurgence in “doomed couples” films like 500 Days of Summer, Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine. The appeal of films such as these is the grand tragedy of the fact that these couples just couldn’t make it work, despite loving each other deeply and genuinely. There are few tragedies more simple and relatable than that. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship was a prime example of this dynamic. They love each other; it’s complicated in many ways but simple at its core. These are two people who understand each other and respect each others’ inherent flaws but whose sense of pride and individuality, not to mention stubbornness leads to their demise.

The breakdown of a marriage is a messy business and here it is displayed in beautiful Technicolour and explored in quite a profound way, disguised by a lush veneer of glamour and artifice. Give it a chance, you might just find yourself feeling profoundly moved.

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We Love… 2010: 'The Town'.

We Love... 2010

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

We start 2010 by looking back at a few of our favourite films of 2010. Throughout January we’ll be adding to the list. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact steven@filmbase.ie

The Town

Charlene Lydon

Ben Affleck’s second film as a director The Town allayed the doubts of any sceptics. Gone Baby Gone (2007) was an ambitious, impressive debut which pulled some brilliant performances from its cast and told a complex story deftly. This time Affleck upped the ante by not only directing The Town but also starring in the film. The Town is a pleasant surprise as it is not only a perfect showcase for Affleck’s powerful filmmaking skills but the role proves he is much more than chiselled features and a cheeky grin. Due to some poor choices in the past, Ben Affleck is rarely given much credit for his acting skills but here he provides a mix of likeability and classic Hollywood charisma. He has proven withThe Town that he is certainly next in line to Eastwood’s throne as the King of the Actor/Directors, not that Eastwood shows any signs of hanging up his crown just yet.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, The Town is a classic heist setup. Doug (Affleck) is a nice guy born on the wrong side of the tracks into an area of Boston where bank robbers seem to be bred from generation to generation. He is convinced to do one last job but things get complicated when they take Claire, a smart, sexy bank manager (Rebecca Hall) as a hostage. Doug is sent to seduce her in the hope that he might find out what she is telling the FBI but he soon becomes enamoured of her, jeopardising the relationships between the gang.

This is a pretty generic story but what makes this film special is that it does not revel in the lifestyle of these people. The world that is built in the film is not the cocaine-fuelled high-life of gangsters á la Goodfellas;these are blue collar, working-class men who were raised in this lifestyle and rob banks like expert scamps, giddy on the adrenaline and unaffected by the presence of the law. ‘The Law’ in this case is represented by FBI agents Frawley (Jon Hamm), a prejudiced and jaded bureaucrat and Ciampa (Titus Welliver), a former resident of Charlestown, now sympathetic turncoat. The complex dynamic of cop and robber is brilliantly evolved due to the delicate balance of where our sympathies lie.

As the story progresses and the relationship between Doug and Claire deepens the tension mounts as Doug becomes more and more tangled in the web of family and neighbourhood ties he is stuck in.

There are three major action sequences in the films, the first being Claire’s bank which is thrilling, and frightening in its brutality (undoubtedly influenced by Nolan’s opening scene in The Dark Knight). The second action sequence is a post-robbery car chase through Boston’s winding, hilly, North End. I’m not usual one for car chases but I cherished this one as a one-of-a-kind action sequence that got every element perfect for cinematic thrills. The blue-collar nature of The Town ensures a creeping sense that life is cheap and happy endings are not guaranteed, giving this film an added layer of turmoil.

The final action set piece is a brazen robbery of Fenway Park. A brilliant sequence, the story of this one robbery in all its intricacy is like a film all to itself. It also leads to the film’s final showdown and thrilling climax which is so packed with energy and cinematic tension that it became clear that this is the year’s best thriller by a mile (take that, Lisabeth Salander!).

In a film that plays with notions of heroes and villains, kudos must go to the recently deceased Pete Postlethwaite for his slimy portrayal of the only clear evil bastard of the film, Fergie the florist; a wonderfully memorable monster whose villainous ways are delightfully menacing and gut-wrenchingly hateful. Never has rose-stem snipping been more terrifying. A fitting end to a great career!

I’ve never found myself a lover of gangster films or heist films. In fact, I usually find it difficult to connect with them at all. The Town is, for some reason or another, a welcome exception. Perhaps it was the fact that I could buy into the lifestyle as a bread-and-butter means to an end rather than a hedonistic pursuit of money and cocaine or perhaps it’s the community of characters that is so deftly woven together or maybe it’s just the sum of all its parts; acting, writing, directing, pacing adding up to a superior cinematic experience. In a year full of extremes of good and bad films, The Town proudly stands with the best of them as an example of how classy a genre film can be with the right talent involved.

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Movie Moments

moviemoments

Movie Moments: Films That Changed the World of Cinema

Author: James Clarke

Reviewer: Charlene Lydon

James Clarke’s Movie Moments is part of the Kamera book series, which are helpful guides to random cinema-related phenomena, from Blaxploitation to Samurai films to individuals such as David Lynch, this series offers a simple, basic outline of the main element of note in the chosen topic. Movie Moments explores some of the important moments that have shaped film history. The book explores different movements from Soviet Montage to Surrealism and beyond. With an intelligent but very readable writing style, this is a quick, pleasurable read and not only explains the concepts very well but also points to plenty of good cinematic examples to encourage the reader to seek out for a more rounded understanding.

The book is divided into chapters (not necessarily chronological), each dealing with a particular filmmaking movement. The book keeps it simple but explains the roots of the movement, the people involved and the films that defined them, not only explaining the movement but giving historical context and social background. The chapters dealing with smaller movements such as Neo-realism or Surrealism are definitely more aptly covered than the bigger movements, such as Documentary which really is far too big a subject to be covered in one tiny chapter. However, the information contained is still valid and it gives a decent, if extremely broad, overview of the genre.

Towards the end of the book, each chapter is dedicated to a national cinema. Again it could be said that an entire national cinema cannot be categorised in such a way that you could give such a broad overview. Cleverly, the book chooses only a key moment from each country’s rich cinematic history and highlighting the films that provoked the movement.

The book takes a film (or more than one) in each chapter and goes through each one in terms of its concept, its success/failure at the time of release and why it was important at the time it was made. Clarke doesn’t always go for the most obvious choice, which is a good thing because it is more likely that the reader will make some new and interesting discoveries in the book. However it does list the most notable films in the movement and encourages reader to view them.

This is a good coffee table book for any film buff and particularly for film students. If you are looking to enhance your understanding of film history then it is basic enough to get you going. If you are a seasoned film scholar, it is intelligent enough to be a handy reference book for your shelf. You’re probably not going to read this cover to cover, but it is a good one to flick through every now and then.


release date: 18 January 2011
price: £12.99
ISBN13: 9781842433058
binding: paperback
format: 194 x 135mm with flaps
extent: 160
images: 8pp Colour
rights: world
BIC code: APF

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We Love… Christmas: ‘Elf’

Illustration by Adeline Pericart

 

Throughout December we’ll be adding more Christmas films we love – so keep an eye on the website and feel free to add any of your own…

 

Elf

Charlene Lydon

Before taking on the might of Marvel with his Iron Man films, Jon Favreau created another type of super hero: a Christmas hero, Buddy the elf. Christmas movies are like coffee shops, there are millions of them but only a very select few good ones! Elf was released in 2003 and became an instant classic. Now only seven years later it is a mainstay on the shelf of every Christmas enthusiast.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, Buddy (Will Ferrell) is one of Santa’s elves, but he’s twice as tall as his colleagues, he’s not as swift and doesn’t have the same toy-making instincts that they do. That is because he is not an elf at all he is a human who sneaked into Santa’s sack as a baby and was raised by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) as his own. Buddy soon finds out the truth and is horrified to find that his real father is (Shock! Horror!) on the Naughty List. Determined to change his father’s ways, Buddy sets off for New York. Of course, his curmudgeonly father Walter (James Caan) is less than pleased to see him and sends him on his way but soon learns that Buddy is his responsibility and allows him to stay with his kind, but neglected family. Buddy secures a job as a department store elf, what else, and even falls in love with fellow charlatan elf, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel).

Through the eyes of the naïve and big-hearted Buddy, the audience is allowed to revel in the delights of Christmas time. We can tolerate the tacky decorations, the gaudy lights, the overbearing chirpiness and enjoy it for what it is: an excuse to have a lovely time for a few days of the year. Buddy’s unflappable good spirit is contagious and it infects not only the characters in the film, but also the audience. Will Ferrell’s Buddy is a wonderful creation indeed! He is lovably annoying and a delightful representation of how to be uncynical about Christmas, something people find more and more difficult these days. Will Ferrell has never been funnier or more likeable than in Elf. He plays to his strengths and pulls off a role that could very easily be kind of creepy.

The wonderful thing about Elf is its sheer unabashed cheerfulness and romanticism. It’s also hilariously funny, family friendly and just naughty enough to wink at the grown-ups at times. A classic!

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Issue 133 – Get into film

Get into Film

So you’ve decided your future lies in film. But where to begin? Film Ireland’s Charlene Lydon talks to some up-and-coming Irish talent about where they went to college and what they learned there…

There are many schools of thought on the pros and cons of studying film. Some of the greatest filmmakers of our time, such as David Fincher, Peter Jackson and Steven Soderbergh never went to film school. Many are of the opinion that you can’t teach art – you either have it or you don’t. Modern technology has become so compact and so cheap that the ‘learn by doing’ philosophy is more feasible than ever before. Anybody can pick up a camera and shoot some footage, anyone can use a simple editing programme on their laptop and anybody can upload a video to YouTube.

In the past, many people went to film school simply because there was no other way to access equipment. With that no longer being the case, what are the benefits of going to film school? If nothing else, an education in film will help you decide where your strengths lie. Without actually trying it, it can be hard to know if you’re actually suited to directing. Or what about producing? Or screenwriting? You get to try out a variety of roles, gaining insight into how a crew fits together, the importance of each crew member’s role and, most importantly, the job that best suits your skills.

And apart from finding out which way you incline, if you’re interested in certain filmmaking skills like editing or cinematography you can absolutely reap benefits from formal training. You might be full of interesting ideas but without the knowledge of your tools, there are no guarantees you’ll ever reach your full potential. Training in a college gives you the chance to get familiar with the industry’s rapidly changing technologies.

And now, the other benefit of studying film in a structured way. One of the secrets to succeeding in film is getting to know people. Word of mouth is an essential part of getting jobs in film and building a reputation is hugely important. Film courses are a great place to meet the future filmmakers of Ireland and start a New Wave together. Students often find themselves forming production companies together after college or working on each other’s films. It’s always good to have a pool of talented, dependable crewmembers for future projects and college is a very, very handy way to do this.

So read on to hear what successful Irish filmmakers have to say about the place they learned their trade and, you never know, you might learn a thing or two…

How to Choose the Right Course for You

There is a vast array of courses on offer in Ireland, both technical and academic. Technical courses are best suited to those interested in working as crew or in directing their own films. The focus is on practical work and while there will usually be some written work, a large part of your mark will be for project work. The academic study of film will suit you if you’re interested in becoming a film lecturer, a cinema programmer or a film critic. These courses focus on the history and theory of cinema. If you enjoy watching and discussing films, but are not so keen on making them, then this is the direction you should take.

Some courses contain elements of both technical and academic studies. These combination courses are quite broad and will allow you find the areas that suit you. If you know you love film but you’re not sure what you want to focus on then this is the option for you.

Filmbase is one place to find this kind of film training. The film and video training courses are for new and emerging filmmakers as well as practising film professionals. Course lengths vary from one-day to five-day, weekend courses and evening courses ranging from 6 to 10 weeks. This means they’re open to those in full-time work who want to explore a particular area or to film professionals who want to update their qualifications without having to take too much time off. It’s also an opportunity to find out where your strengths lie before you commit to a degree or a diploma or before embarking on a career in filmmaking. Filmbase is an Apple Authorized Training Centre, and all tutors who teach Filmbase courses are film professionals themselves, which brings an authenticity and practicality to the courses. For a full list of the training available at Filmbase, visit www.filmbase.ie/training.

If you want to try film but are afraid of taking the plunge with college fees, why not check with your local vec. They offer a range of lower cost certificate and diploma courses around the country that can lead to further education and will, at the very least, provide you with a substantial portfolio of work.

So, whether you on the post-Leaving Cert precipice, you feel like a career change, or you just fancy a new hobby, there is something there for you.

Ballyfermot College Of Further Education
Nicky Phelan – director, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (short animation, 2008).

What was the most important thing you learned during your time studying film?
I studied animation in Ballyfermot, where we did a lot of life-drawing and sketching out on location. It taught me the importance of observation – seeing what gives an expression or gesture its meaning, what elements of someone’s physicality tell you about their personality in terms of movement and presentation. All the details that go into making a set feel real and relevant to the world you are trying to create – observation and attention to detail, I suppose, two important lessons.

What was your first project and how did it go?
The first film as such I made in college was a group project, made on paper with pastel illustrations. We were happy with how it turned out, but I haven’t seen it in a long time!

What have you learned that college couldn’t teach you?
Lots of things. Experience is the best place to learn. I think something that comes with time is realising that to make something feel really emotional, it helps to bring your own personal experience to it. It’s sort of intuitive anyway, but it is an important question to ask yourself in terms of relating to your characters and world. You have to look at your story, characters and the world you are creating, and bring your own memories or experiences to them in some way. It all translates to an audience. I also did an amazing course through Screen Training Ireland with Bruce Block on visual storytelling, which was incredibly helpful and is something that I still refer to.

If you could tell students one thing, what would it be?
That while it’s a tough industry to get into, if it’s what you want to do, keep at it. Make films on your computer at home, do whatever, and keep at it. The more you put into the work, the more you’ll get out of it. If it starts to feel too much like hard work, you should probably do something else.

What would you change about film education in Ireland?
It might have changed by now, but in Ballyfermot I think we could have benefitted from a mentoring system – some way in which those working in the industry mentor students. I think having access to people with the technical know-how and experience would help the students improve production values and increase their chances of reaching wider audiences.

Do you think academic film study can inform technical ability?
Yes, to a certain degree, but there’s nothing like experience to inform technical ability.

The full article is printed in Film Ireland 133

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Interview with writer/director Neasa Hardiman

neasa_hardimanIn this ‘Film Ireland’ podcast Charlene Lydon talks to writer/director Neasa Hardiman about her work on ‘The Tracey Beaker’ series, her recent project ‘This is going to take more than one night’ and her experiences of working across film, TV and theatre.

This is an audio podcast of approximately 20 minutes duration.

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