The Day Of The Doctor (2013)

The Day Of The DoctorAirlifted by UNIT to the National Gallery in London, the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and current companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) are shown a number of 3D paintings from which various occupants appear to have escaped. These are Zygons, shape-shifting aliens which first arrived on Earth during the Elizabethan age, back when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) was courting the queen. Both Doctors find themselves working together to stop the invasion, only to be then joined by another, forgotten incarnation. This War Doctor (John Hurt), moments away from destroying Galifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, is being shown his own future by the weapon he hopes to use on his own people.

It’s a synopsis that could run on for paragraphs, as the story draws on threads that have run throughout the show’s history. Few concessions are made for newcomers, and anyone unfamiliar with the phraseology, or terms like “Time Lord”, “companion” and “Galifrey” are likely to be lost long before the plot even begins. But don’t feel disheartened or left out, for once it does begin the fans are likely to be just as confused as you are.

I know what you’re thinking: The Day Of The Doctor isn’t a movie, why am I reviewing it here? You’d have a point, of course, but Doctor Who‘s 50th anniversary special — an almost feature length outing for the character — was broadcast in cinemas, around the world, and was seen by more people than many movies with a comparable budget. It also starred John Hurt and was screened in 3D. For argument’s sake, let’s just say it qualifies.

The first thing to note is how attractive it all looks. The story starts with Clara Oswald — previously The Impossible Girl — being summoned by the Doctor while at work. She drops everything, jumps on her motorcycle and drives straight into the TARDIS, skidding to a halt in its larger-on-the-inside interior. It’s a small moment, but an effective one, and director Stephen Moffat has many more such moments up his sleeve. The episode also has its share of money shots too, not least the Time War itself, which for the first time in years features Daleks actually worth hiding from.

The Day Of The Doctor is also reasonably well acted, and not just for an episode of Doctor Who. Hurt is a welcome addition to the mythology, and his world-weary stare and suffering self-worth contrast nicely with Matt Smith’s perky enthusiasm. To have three Doctors onscreen at any one time is always a treat, and these scenes enjoy a sense of occasion reminiscent of the first assembly of The Avengers, while Moffat cultivates a nostalgia comparable to last year’s Skyfall. Smith’s Eleventh Doctor has always been one of the better incarnations, and he is on top form here, not just opposite Hurt, but Tennant and Coleman too.

Beyond the surface detail, however, there is little that truly works. Outside of the set-pieces and central foursome the novelty quickly wears off, as audiences are once again left confused by a plot that makes no sense, either on its own or it the wider context of Doctor Who. Arriving at UNIT in London, the Doctor abandons the TARDIS without so much as closing the door. It is the first of many annoyances, in an episode that rarely pauses to consider its own ramifications. Doctors jump through time vortexes, get married and rewrite history with such inconsequence that, despite the money on the screen, it all starts to feel a little cheap.

Just take the villainous Zygons: big, purple, tentacled aliens who can for some reason shapeshift into anything that they wish to. They invade Elizabethan England, copy the queen, hide in special paintings and then wait until present day before attempting to invade the world. So much time and energy is expended setting up the subplot, only for it to be dropped twenty minutes before the end — the world still technically imperiled — so the Doctors can wrap up other threads with similar, half-hearted abandon. By the time it reaches its climactic twist, one that will revise at least eight years of lore, you care about as much as the show-runners seem to.

If this was reviewed as a movie, with its nonsensical plot, silly villains and preposterous twist, The Day Of The Doctor would be pretty hard to defend. As it happens, however, this is Doctor Who, and such things are basically staples of the brand. For fans the 50th anniversary special has just about everything you could possibly want (bar Alex Kingston and the late Elizabeth Sladen); for everyone else it has everything you could ever possibly expect.



EVENTS: It’s Just About Movies At Tullibole Castle

RSCN1874This weekend saw the unveiling of JAM (Just About Movies) film festival at Tullibole Castle, near Kinross, a prototype event that the organisers hoped to test on one hundred volunteers sourced via their official Facebook page.

Split over two screens (one of which was situated in the nearby woods), the festival screened eight movies over Saturday night and Sunday morning — a line-up which included films as diverse as The Cabin In The Woods, The Breakfast Club and Good Vibrations, the latter of which was presented by Glasgow Film Festival. The surprise movie, meanwhile, was revealed by critic Paul Greenwood to be 1992 Academy Award-winner My Cousin Vinny.
With camping encouraged, the organisers — Joe Bailey, Mo Bailey and Jo Hood — also laid on food and drinks, a small band to play between screenings and a film quiz in the largest screen. Furthermore, Tullibole residents the Moncreiff family also encouraged guests to explore the castle grounds, which also house a moat, a witches’ maze and the remains of a 9th Century medieval church.
A huge success which drew incredibly positive feedback, plans are now afoot to extend the festival over three days for its official launch next year, complete with more films, larger screens and a considerable increase in capacity. The aim is to create a music festival for film lovers, in a region which already hosts large-scale events such as T In The Park.
You can read about my own personal experience of the festival (and my night in the apparently haunted Tullibole Castle) here.

FILM NEWS: Killer Joe To Open The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival

Under new management and with its red carpets and awards back in place after a year away, the 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival looks already to be a return to form after 2011’s lacklustre affair.

With Pixar’s Brave locked in for the Closing Gala and twice as many première’s expected compared to the year before, artistic director Chris Fujiwara has now announced the film that has been chosen to open the festival.

William Friedkin thriller Killer Joe will have that particular honour when it débuts at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on Wednesday, June 20th, with Friedkin and his star-studded cast in attendance.

According to Fujiwara, “We’re delighted to be opening this year’s Festival with Killer Joe. For my first year as Artistic Director, I intend to deliver a diverse programme that will spotlight filmmaking of real artistic distinction. William Friedkin’s exhilarating, intense, and brilliantly crafted film is absolutely in keeping with this ambition”.

The film follows Emile Hirsch’s Chris Smith, a 22-year old drug dealer who hires the titular killer (Matthew McConaughey) in order to murder his own mother in order to access her $50,000 life insurance policy. With his younger sister (Juno Temple) invested as sexual collateral, Smith’s situation soon becomes desperate as things don’t quite go to plan.

The 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival will run from June 20th to July 1st, and you can find my full coverage over on HeyUGuys once proceedings are underway.

FILM EVENT: Scotland’s International Film Festival for Children and Young People

While the London Film Festival ploughs on, and dear old Best for Film continues to cover as many films as Tash and John’s cramping buttocks will allow, film fever has spread north for Scotland’s International Film Festival for Children and Young People. Young at heart – and face, according to barmen and lottery salespeople alike – I have taken it upon myself to explain why children deserve more than a strict diet of Happy Madison productions and Disney concert movies.

Although Dundee might not be the first place to jump to mind when thinking of cinema – if it jumps to mind at all – it has nevertheless reinvented itself as a supporter of film and the arts, no small thanks to the imminent arrival of the V&A museum. At the centre of this recent shift in focus towards inspiring young talent is Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), a world-class exhibit for arts and contemporary culture, incorporating a cinema, a gallery and a bustling bar area. In partnership with the local council, university and Creative Scotland, the site has been hosting this annual celebration of cinema for nigh on eight years.

In this respect the festival is as young as many of its patrons, though it more than makes up for its relative youth with a palpable passion that is as refreshing as it is infectious. This year’s festivities opened with a Saturday screening of  Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol’s delightful A Cat In Paris, followed by an audience Q&A with the latter, who both scripted and co-directed the feature. Unlike most film festivals, however, the gala did not end there: flanked by workshops, the film was accompanied by a number of related events, including ‘From Tweets To Blogs: Online Film Writing‘, a well-received and informative discussion of the pros and cons of film journalism.

As one such tweeter, blogger and obsessive-compulsive popcorn addict, I can’t help but lament the lack of such creative support during my own formative years. Having only discovered the delights of foreign, fringe and even Bollywood cinema relatively recently, I now see the importance of facilitating the broadening horizons irrespective of age. With one elderly woman berating the director – THE DIRECTOR – over the apparent nuisance of subtitles, it is clear that there is work ahead if we are to look forward to a cinematic array as (if not more) diverse as that which we enjoy today.

With two weeks of the Discovery Film Festival remaining, and with films including Twigson (Knerton – Norway hasn’t let me down yet), You’ve Been Trumped and Light of the River (not to mention a screening of The Adventures of Tintin introduced by lecturer Chris Murray, and tied into the city’s own comic past – Dundee is home to the Beano and the Dandy dontchaknow), this is the perfect opportunity to introduce the next generation of moviegoers to quality world cinema, and to maybe even learn a thing or two yourself.

FILM NEWS: Talisker®’s Sail-In Cinema Event a Resounding Success.

This weekend marked the world’s first sail-in cinema screening, an event hosted by Talisker Whisky to celebrate the end of the Isle of Wight’s famous Cowes Week regatta.

With hundreds of boats dropping anchor to watch Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – the Russell Crowe vehicle picked by Talisker’s pollers over the similarly oceanic likes of Jaws and The Perfect Storm – the whisky’s own Juliet McInnes echoed the company’s original mission statement in light of the resounding success.

 ‘We were really excited about bringing this unique experience to the world’s most famous sailing event.’

Displayed on a 41ft x 21ft screen, the film drew in everything from luxury yachts to small inflatable rafts. Following the end of the movie, spectators were then treated to an impressive, and slightly more traditional, fireworks display.

It really is great to see Talisker celebrating cinema in such a novel and unique way. Taking movies out of their native cinema screens – in a similar vein to what Volkswagen have been trying to do with their See Film Differently initiative – makes for a far more immersive and memorable experience than is achievable from behind a pair of 3D glasses.

Here’s hoping it’s not too long before a sophomore event takes place in a harbour near you.

Talisker® Invite You To First Ever Sail-In Cinema

On August 12, 2011, Talisker Whisky will host the first ever sail-in cinema, in which they will screen a copy of 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World to audiences off the Cowes Esplanade on the Isle of Wight.

According to the press release:

For one night only on August 12th, sailors at Cowes Week can enjoy a unique open air screening of Master and Commander from the comfort of their own boat. So come down and raise a dram of Talisker with us, and toast to the silver screen.

Distilled off the coast of Scotland since 1830, Talisker Whiskey has since been the recipient to a number of awards including Gold at both the 2010 International Wine and Spirits competition and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for 2010. The only distillery to be based on the Isle of Sky, Talisker is a full bodied and smoky single malt scotch whisky with a warm and intense after taste.

Due to start at 7pm this Friday, Master and Commander will be followed by the annual fireworks display to mark what is likely to be an incredible week of sailing.

So if you’re free (of course you’re free, Doctor Who doesn’t start back until the 27th) and in the area (come on, how big is Britain really?), then why not make your way down to Cowes Esplanade for some première whisky, a spectacular firework display, a world first and a thoroughly immersive cinema experience. Just don’t forget your boat.

Details here:

EIFF 2011 – Films of the Fest

The 65th Annual Edinburgh Film Festival has had its critics. Dropping the awards aspect and suffering an unceremonious temporal relocation – just two manifestations of the well publicized budget cuts – this year’s festivities have been lambasted for their organizers lack of ambition. Fearing they might never be able to compete with Cannes or Sundance, Edinburgh appear to resigned themselves to an unfair fate which – combined with the technical difficulties which plagued the opening ceremony – appear to have lined the way for Glasgow to take over as the premier Scottish film festival.

Such negativity, however, is completely unfounded. Sure, the films this year could have been better, sourced from a greater number of national film councils, but bemoaning with hindsight when the festival is only today finishing is to do many of this year’s films a disservice. Israel. Norway. Japan. Spain. Each of these countries produced some outstanding film’s, while Britain didn’t do so bad itself. Ignoring, then, the Fast Romances, the Weekenders and the Stormhouses of the world, here are my top five film’s of the 65th EIFF.

1. Rabies (Kalevet)

Opening with a scene indicative of your average torture-porn – a bloodied woman trapped and later drugged by a deranged cat-person – the rug is quickly pulled from beneath your feet as the filmmakers take an inspired wrong turn into largely unexplored territory. We meet the usual hapless teens, the obligatory bumbling police officers and a forest ranger husband and wife, yet not once do your undoubtedly informed predictions come to pass.  To say any more would be to do the innovative and whimsical script a gross disservice, needless to say Yaron Motola’s “killer” may be the most incompetent yet.

Like an earnest Scream, a softly-spoken The Cottage or a ruthlessly efficient Severence, Rabies is less a horror than a gore-soaked comedy. If this particular tonal balance is one of the hardest in cinema to achieve – Black Sheep anyone? – you wouldn’t know it thanks to the assuredly effortless direction and enthused performances that make Rabies what it is: a darkly comic joy. At times hilarious, at times uncomfortable, but always relentlessly engaging, the movie is such a constellation of memorable characters, moments and dialogue that you can’t help believe it to be the result of some serendipitous planetary alignment.

2. The Troll Hunter

Charting the attempts of a trio of students to document the work of supposed bear poacher, Hans (Otto Jespersen), it is soon revealed that the budding filmmakers have bitten off far more than they can chew. Tracking Hans down to a stretch of woodland, they are finally introduced to their subject as he flees from the trees screaming “Troll”. Believing him deluded, the group – consisting of Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck) and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) – join the titular “troll hunter” on his mission to track down escapees from a selection of designated territories around Norway, uncovering an inept government conspiracy along they way.

The Troll Hunter’s crowning achievement, above its expert handling of tension and polished sheen, is the jaw-dropping creativity evident in the troll designs. Split between two types – mountain and woodland – and distinguishable by their choice of self-destruction, there is a truly incredible amount of variety and imagination on display. Each variation proving more ridiculous than the next, and yet steadily more horrific at the same time, the otherwordliness of the setting somehow allows these behemoths to merge seemlessly with their stark surroundings. Undercut by some note-perfect Nordic humour, and with a winning irreverence to its own stupidity, The Troll Hunter amounts to an unmitigated success.

3. The Bang Bang Club

Initially working freelance, Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe) soon finds himself under the tutelage of Kevin “forget the long lens, bro” Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach) and Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld), having won their respect with a series of provocative pictures taken inside one of the warring townships. Working for photo-editor Robin Comley (Malin Åkerman), the quartet are eventually dubbed “The Bang Bang Club” as they put their lives on the line to capture the brutality and desperation of a country nearing the end of Apartheid.

Perhaps fittingly for a film about award-winning photographers, The Bang Bang Club is itself beautifully shot. Not only does cinematographer Miroslaw Baszak rise to the logistical challenge of recreating a number of the photojournalists’ most famous shots, but also in bringing a sense of reality and authenticity to the film. The scale of The Bang Bang Club is truly breath-taking, with many of the battle scenes requiring innumerable extras. What could easily have just felt like four guys taking pictures for 106 minutes is instead a delightfully dynamic, relentlessly engaging and hugely watchable piece of filmmaking.

3. The Borrower Arrietty

The latest offering from Studio Ghibli, Arrietty follows the misadventures of its titular “borrower” as she learns to take just enough from her human neighbours so that her family might survive. When discovered by a young boy with a heart condition, the curious Sho, Arrietty Clock cautiously begins a friendship with the boy to her parents’ disquiet. The last of their kind in that particular house, it’s not long before news gets around to the meddling maid that the “little people” are back.

Like all Studio Ghibli films, Arrietty is sumptuously animated. Innocent, engaging and utterly enchanting, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi makes an accomplished debut with what amounts to one of the year’ most breathtaking animations. Ladened with the studio’s trademark wit and whimsy, the film realy is more than just a visual treat.

5. A Better Life

Set in eastern Los Angeles, the film charts one man’s pursuit of a better life for himself and his teenage son. A humble gardener, Carlos Galindo (Demián Bichir) has done his best to make a life for his family in America, struggling through his wife’s betrayal and the gang culture threatening to engulf his son, Luis (Jose Julian). When his boss informs Carlos of his plans to leave the business, Carlos turns to his wealthier sister (Delores Heredia) for the means of buying the company vehicle for himself. However, when Carlos’ trusting nature is betrayed by a new employee, Carlos and Luis must set aside their differences in order to track down their ill-fated truck all the while remaining vigilent to the threat posed by the country’s deportation office.

Weitz brings his honed Hollywood sheen to a side of the City of Angels rarely glimpsed in multiplexes, working with cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe to create a studied portrayal of life in east L.A. Having spent months researching the the city’s immigration culture and even going as far as to cast ex-gang members in relevant roles, Weitz’s paints a picture of resilience and integrity in the face of deprivation and isolation that is often incredibly moving.

You can find my full coverage over at HeyUGuys.

Cannes you believe it? An outsider’s view.

If you’ve (perfectly reasonably – this is a film blog after all) come expecting tales of red carpet exclusivity and festival shenanigans, I am sorry to say you’ve come to the wrong place. With the sole exception of Midnight in Paris (which I paid, like, money to see), I didn’t see any of the films in competition at the 64th Annual Cannes Film Festival. I didn’t even see a single famous person. Nevertheless, I experienced enough of a buzz from the neighbouring beach to count my trip a relative success and chalk it all down to experience.

Leaving the windswept wind of Edinburgh for the 10:30am flight to Nice, I donned sunglasses and the most tragic wicker hat I could find and set wing for the south of France. With a day to kill before I was scheduled to pick up my press pass, I sampled the local cuisine and made myself at home in the local ice cream parlour(s). You see, the Riviera doesn’t believe in vanilla. Like a nation with bona fide taste buds, France boasts a borderline obsessive collection of ice cream flavours; if the Scottish will deep fry it, chances are the French will cream it.

Anyway, Cannes. I arrived on Friday, May 13, having navigated the local train service BY MYSELF, and with enough Euros to buy myself a whole toothbrush, I set about texting my contacts to arrange a swap: my carbon dioxide for their press pass. Assured that I was on their press list, this somehow didn’t necessitate that I was on the official press list. Told by the accreditation office that my name was nowhere on file, I decided to tour the local cinemas to see if I could catch any of the moves as a member of the puny public. Not. Even.

What a total, complete bummer. Then again, as I threw my strop and exercised my bottom lip in an infantile attempt to earn a sympathy pass (this never worked in “Toys ‘R’ Us” so Aslan only knows how I was executing it to work elsewhere) it suddenly dawned on me that I was disappointed that I couldn’t spend my holiday – the first I had taken in over four years – sitting in a dark cinema instead of enjoying one of the coast beautiful stretches of coast in the world. Massively conscious of the fact that everyone who was not me sported a shiny lanyard around their not mine necks, I opted to take my sun burn back to Nice where I could enjoy my vacation shrouded in denial.

Pecan, Pistachio, Pina-Colada, Chewing Gum, Strawberry, Coffee, Yoghurt, Coca-Cola, Peanut M&M, Ferrero Rocher and Nutella flavoured ice cream later, I contented myself with delicious food, great weather and an opportunity to rediscover the joys of roller blading on a surface other than cobbled Aberdonian streets.

It wasn’t all uncinematic either, the non U.K. locale afforded me the opportunity to watch Midnight in Paris, a film currently without British distribution. It was a great film, packing a great twist that I genuinely didn’t see coming, and finally justifying the existence of Owen Wilson. While not the movie marathon I had planned on, it, combined with the foreign poster-fest and enthusiastic throng of Cannes (I had only been in the city minutes when I passed a group of suited men discussing a “fantastic” script they had just read), proved a creative boost in a year overcrowded with piracy checks and nacho cheese; once again I was out from behind the counter and loving it.

So while I may not have had the chance to see Melancholia, The Tree of Life or We Need To Talk About Kevin – and although the experienced only served to emphasise how much further I have to go in order to count myself a real-life journalist – it showed me exactly how not to go about it next year. And I even have a tan.

The 83rd Academy Awards

Last night saw the annual 83rd Academy Awards crash into a room-full of endangered animals and explode all over a visiting class of schoolchildren. As James Franco and Anne Hathaway took to the stage to punish humanity for Eve’s taste in fruit, the scene was set for a slew of nonsense awards that made the Razzies look hugely original. Thankfully, however, not all of my predictions came true: while Toy Story 3 won best animation, Christian Bale scooped Best Supporting Actor and How To Train Your Dragon was unforgivably overlooked, the Best Director and Best Film awards went to a film that actually deserved them. Here, then, lies a full list of the nominees and respective winnners – or at least as full a list as I could manage at 5 o’clock in the morning. Yes sir, I am a mental person.

Best Picture

The Social Network – Winter’s Bone – The King’s Speech – Black Swan – True Grit – The Fighter – The Kids Are All Right – Toy Story 3 – Inception – 127 Hours

The Oscar which last year went to The Hurt Locker (blah!), this year was awarded to The King’s Speech, an unassuming but deeply incredible movie about overcoming obstacles in the face of one’s duties. While I would have happily seen Black Swan or 127 Hours take home this award – to Nina Sayer’s mirror world or Aron Ralston’s hole respectively – I, unlike most people, can live with The King’s Speech. At least, for example, it didn’t go to The Fighter, True Grit or Inception, becoming in the process a celebration of utter averageness.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky – Tom Hooper – David Fincher – Joel & Ethan Coen – David O. Russell

Rather than breaking another taboo, and – say – being awarded to a hermaphrodite (equal opportunities!), this years Best Director once again went hand in hand with Best Film. Tom Hooper may have directed a TV movie, but it was the best, most engaging and outstandingly cinematic TV movie of the year.

Best Actor

James Franco – Colin Firth – Jesse Eisenberg – Javier Bardem – Jeff Bridges

Yes, James Franco can look dehydrated; sure, Jesse Eisenberg can invoke the God of awkwardness; and sure Jeff Bridges can move his chin but only Colin Firth gave a performance worth walking onstage about. Conveying a believable stutter, both technically and emotionally, and following up A Single Man with arguably his most inspiring performance yet, Firth had this one coming. In case you needed more proof, however, he is also the only actor to have not starred in Cursed, Tron: Legacy or Eat Pray Love.

Best Actress

Natalie Portman – Annette Benning – Jennifer Lawrence – Michelle Williams – Nicole Kidman

Natalie Portman trained for almost a year to ensure she convinced as ballet protégée Nina Sayers in Black Swan. She also made V for Vendette which, in my book, means has been a dead cert for years. Sure, each of the other actresses gave mightily depressing performances in their respective vehicles, but Portman was the only one who managed psychotic, turning into a black swan in front of our very eyes. With Julianne Moore sadly snubbed, there was no other choice.

Best Supporting Actor

John Hawkes – Christian Bale – Mark Ruffalo – Geoffrey Rush – Jeremy Renner

Oh Jeeze, with the big four firmly out of the way, it really is all down hill from here. Earned entirely by Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actor was sadly mis-awarded to Batman’s teeth. Thanking everyone he had ever met with the worst in mockney accents, Bale appears to have won for mimicking the mannerisms of another human being – some parrots can do that – while giving one of the least likeable performances of the year.

Best Supporting Actress

Hailee Steinfeld – Melissa Leo – Jacki Weaver – Amy Adams – Helena Bonham Carter

Grabbing two out of five nominations, The Fighter was unfortunately a shoe in for Best Supporting Actress. Going to the entirely convincing mega-bitch Melissa Leo, Helena Bonham Carter was robbed of recognition for what might have been her first sane performance in years. It is telling that Leo’s accomplishment is already outshone by one ill-advised Bible-belt-baiting F-bomb.

Best Original Screenplay

AnotherYear – The Kids Are Alright – The King’s Speech – Inception – The Fighter

Thi is, perhaps, the first ever time I have begrudged The King’s Speech one of its awards. Best Original Screenplay? A film which Tom Hooper, in his acceptance speech for Best Director, attributes to his mother’s attendance of a play and which is based on historical fact? Much more deserving was the beautifully devastating  Another Year or the light, yet utterly compelling The Kids Are Alright.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Social Network – 127 Hours – Toy Story 3 – True Grit – Winter’s Bone

The Social Network was good in an alright kind of way. Yes the opening scene stung with its razor-sharp dialogue, but after that it was all a bit ass-numbing really. 127 Hours, however, took a challenging and confined story and edited the shit out of it until it shone of greatness. Danny Boyle is a genius.

Best Animated Film

The Illusionist – How to Train Your Dragon – Toy Story 3

DreamWorks did some sterling work last year, rejuvenating their flagging Shrek franchise, outshining the much-hyped Despicable Me with the far superior Magamind and blowing every other pixel out of the water with How to Train Your Dragon. Their efforts, as predicted, went unrewarded at this year’s Academy Awards, however, as Pixar’s third Toy Story movie stumbled into the limelight for an award that should have gone to one of its far superior predecessors many moons ago. This was the year of the Dragon!

Best Art Direction

Inception – Alice in Wonderland – The King’s Speech – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – True Grit

You know what, say what you like about Alice in Wonderland but it was a wonder to behold. While The King’s Speech may have been all period, True Grit may have had a decent costume or two and Inception had a few beats Escher would have been proud of, Alice in Wonderland boasted example after example of glorious design. While I would have liked Harry Potter to win something, you could have done a lot worse than the splendour of Wonderland.

Best Cinematography

Black Swan – The Social Network – Inception – True Grit – The King’s Speech

Inception? Really? While it may be the best pick of this sorry bunch, this year’s best cinematography – in my opinion – was showcased in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Gorgeously shot, and breathing life into endless hillside, old tenements and Daniel Radcliffe’s face, Deathly Hallows: Part I was absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Best Visual Effects

Hereafter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – Iron Man 2 – Alice in Wonderland – Inception

I’ll give Inception this one, that scene in which the city folds in half is still absolutely breath-taking. Had it fully utilised its dream setting, however, its deservedness would have been far more striking. Iron Man 2 might have been pretty meh, but the opening tsunami in Hereafter, the opening escape from Privet Drive and Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole were all similarly awe-inspiring. For stand out moment, however, I’d have to give it to Black Swan for that transformation!

Best Original Score

How to Train Your Dragon – Inception – The King’s Speech – 127 Hours – The Social Network

The Social Network? Really? How the Hell did it go? At least Inception‘s bombastic foghorn made it all the way to Top Gear, cropping up in just about every movie trailer since. The real winner, however, was undoubtedly John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon score, a beautifully elegant, eloquent and uplifting piece of music which fits the action entirely. A mainstay on my playlist ever since, “Forgotten Friendship”, in particularly, is one of the all encompassing, heartfelt and utterly moving scores you will hear all year. Robbed I say!

Best Makeup

The Wolfman – Barney’s Version – The Way Back

While I can just about forgive Alice in Wonderland: Oscar winner, there is no way I can accept a now acclaimed The Wolfman, possibly the year’s worst feature film (Airbender was not that bad!). Barney’s Version and The Way Back may not have featured an entirely unconvincing wereworlf, but at least they weren’t completely irredeemable.

So, there you have it: the Academy was wrong…again! Not worth the sleep hangover, there was at least brief evidence of talent onscreen. For a fleeting moment, Billy Crystal took to the stage with personality and the evening’s first and only trio of jokes. May I take this opportunity to congratulate The King’s Speech, and voice my wish that Spielberg next year wins Best Director for Tintin. Tune in next year, and watch as I am wrong again.

See Film Differently: Trainspotting

On February 2nd, 2011 my brother and I attended Volkswagen’s latest See Film Differently event in Edinburgh. The third in a series of across country screenings, which had so far included American Werewolf in London at London Zoo and Get Carter in Newcastle, this latest event celebrated the 15th anniversary of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting.

Opening with the screening itself, competition winners and press were provided with complimentary popcorn, haggis and a drink, and shown into the Royal Scottish Academy’s resident theatre. Introduced by the head of the Edinburgh film festival, the editor of Little White Lies magazine and a to-camera piece by Boyle himself, Trainspotting was twice the film I remembered it being. Beautifully shot and wittily written, Trainspotting is every bit the cinematic milestone as later blockbusters Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours.

Leaving the screening room an absolute mess (let’s see how they like cleaning up wet popcorn), the audience was escorted along Princes St. to the Ingleby Gallery for another drink and a browse of vintage screenshots and promotional material from the movie. Seizing the opportunity to talk to PR guru Will Francis and LWLs’ Matt Bochenski, it was absolutely fantastic to feel a part of the British film culture. Like being in London again only with my own bed to return to, it was a treat to be able to rediscover an under-appreciated classic, talk film with those in the know and experience Trainspotting in its natural habitat. The guest list is where I belong!

Yes that’s me at the end, kissing car company butt. The one with the worst voice in the world.