Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Crack of Doom

There is a crack in my bedroom ceiling.

It's quite long, thankfully not too wide, and if you look at it from the right angle (lying on the floor) it looks a bit like the top line of the bat-signal. It also looks quite similar to the crack in Amy Ponds room in Doctor Who, although so far the only thing that has come through has been water and no dangerous aliens... that I know of.

My bedroom is directly below the bathroom, and when I returned from my shower this morning it had started dripping right on to the bag with all my library books in. Thankfully, that bag is nicely waterproof, otherwise I'd have some explaining to do to the lovely people of Ealing Central Library.

I grabbed the nearest thing to hand to catch the water, which happened to be a random safety helmet I found recently and made my own, then my Dad came along with a much more useful bucket, especially as there were now four drips and the helmet really wasn't up to the job.

Eventually the water dried up, the plumber came and we've been told that we can't have any more showers until they've fixed the horrible, mouldy bits of wood that have been barely holding the tiles and fittings on to the wall for some time now. I don't mind taking baths, but I find it hard not to luxuriate in the tub once I'm in it, which is not very practical when you're in a rush in the morning.

So, for now I am stuck with a fairly ominous crack in my ceiling and a feeling that maybe our house knows that it's going to be demolished in just over a year as part of the regeneration of the estate. Let's just hope it stays standing until we move out.

Friday, 24 October 2014

The Shape of Things to Come

The London Film Festival may well be over, but the BFI still have me in their grip with their new season of science fiction, Days of Fear and Wonder. There are various screenings of film and television shows as well as a few talks, so many of which look really interesting I could easily have bankrupted myself paying for all the things I wanted to see. That seemed like a bad idea, so I've been a bit more selective.

Last night I went to see Things to Come.

 Made in 1936 the script was adapted by HG Wells from his own book, The Shape of Things to Come (although at one point the film was going to be called Whither Man? which would have been amazing!). It condenses the book and cuts out much of the anti-capitalist message from it. It follows the fortunes of the citizens of Everytown, from a terrible war in 1940 (with a worryingly prescient aerial bombardment scene), through plague, to a utopian future based on principles of science, progress and equality.

I love Wells' novels, but it's clear from this that the man was not a gifted screen-writer. The dialogue is very clunky and, at times, more amusing than I think it was meant to be ("However did they cope with walking up all those stairs!"). However, Ned Mann's special effects are amazing, especially when you consider quite how old this film is. They make the war scenes at the beginning really quite distressing.

Things to Come also boasts two pretty impressive firsts. It was the first feature length science-fiction movie with sound and the first film to have an accompanying sound-track album. The music, specially composed for the film by Arthur Bliss, is wonderful, often better than the script at conveying atmosphere and tone.

I was slightly worried as the film began that it was going to be a bit slow, and more concerned about getting across a worthy message than entertaining the crowd. However, it was really fun. The end is so over-the-top and deranged that I couldn't help but love it, especially the final speech delivered by a wide-eyed Raymond Massey wearing a truly ridiculous costume. If that's really fashionable in 2036, we're all in trouble.

If you like classic sci-fi and an old-fashioned spectacle, you really need to check this film out.

Monday, 20 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part Three

If I could sum up the films I have been to see at the London Film Festival in a catchy phrase or saying, it would be "Variety is the spice of life". This certainly holds true for the last two films.

First Cub, my first ever Flemish horror movie. In the Q&A the director, Jonas Govaerts said that he had been inspired by the video nasties, banned in Britain in the 1980's, but he wanted to make the kind of terrifying visual experience he had expected rather than the over-hyped tosh they so often turned out to be. Cub is the story of a Scout troop who find themselves camping in the wrong part of the forest. There's humour, gore, and some surprisingly moving moments. It's a well-crafted tale and I bloody loved it. It also had the best poster of the festival.

I rounded off my LFF experience by seeing a collection of experimental short films gathered together under the title of Pareidolia: Following the Leads. This was, in fact, the very last viewing in the festival, and having had a tiring few days, I wasn't necessarily in the mood for the kind of high-art-weirdness you often get from this kind of film. Thankfully, they were all really good. Mutatis Mutandis, by Kathryn Elkin, was a brilliant combination of story telling, sound and image. How to Make Money Religiously, by Laure Provost, was an excellent play on internet scams and cult religious movements. Rib Gets in the Way (Final Thoughts Series Three), by Steve Reinke, included a whole section of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, adapted as a children's cartoon. They all had the right blend of humour and insight and definitely provoked conversation on the way home as well as keeping me awake in the cinema, which was no mean feat. 

Oh, and I only just looked it up, but "pareidolia" refers to a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant, which totally makes sense if you've seen the films.

Overall, a really enjoyable festival. I'll try and get to even more films next year.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part 2

Variety is the spice of life, and that statement certainly proves true for the second group of films I've seen at the London Film Festival.

First,A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, the first ever Iranian vampire movie. It was beautiful and hypnotic with a brilliant performance from Sheila Vand as "The Girl". Set in Bad City, the kind of place where nobody comments on the ditch full of dead bodies on the edge of town, it's dark, mysterious, creepy and often funny, making you question ideas of good and evil and the kind of film that will have you talking for hours after. Want two  more things that make this movie a must-see? It contains the best performance by a cat in the history of cinema, and a very different role for Marshall Manesh, aka Ranjit from How I Met Your Mother. As if all that wasn't enough, the director, Ana Lily Amirpour was brilliant at  the Q&A and is producing a graphic novel to accompany the film which is bound to be amazing.

Later that same day I went to a talk celebrating the twentieth birthday of Dreamworks, including interviews with producer Bonnie Arnold (Last of the Mohicans, Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon) and a very excited Cressida Cowell (author of How to Train Your Dragon).  It was really interesting to hear a bit about the process of turning a book into an animated film, and even more exciting to be part of the first audience in the world to see the first twenty minutes of Penguins of Madagascar, which was hilarious and I'll definitely attempt to find a late-night, child-free viewing when it comes out in December.

Finally, for this installment at least, I got old-school with Only Angels Have Wings, the greatest screen adventure of 1939, according to the poster. I've seen it before, most probably on a rainy afternoon when I should have been at school. It's so much fun. The romance between Cary Grant and Jean Arthur bubbles up beautifully in the background to a genuinely exciting story about pilots flying crazily dangerous missions just to keep their business alive (sometimes at the cost of themselves). If you've not seen it, give it a go. It was brilliant to watch on a big screen, even if it did give you an alarmingly clear view of Grant's distressingly short trousers.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

London Film Festival: Part One

Well, with first two of the (I think) seven films we're seeing at this years London Film Festival, it's been a mixed bag.

The first film was a Russian, science fiction epic called Hard to be a God. Before going in I knew it was three hours long, and I knew that it was in black and white. I also knew that it was in the Dare section of this years festival, for films that are challenging both in style and content. None of this scared me, hard-core cinema goer that I am!

However, I think this was a case of expectations not being met. The story is about a scientist who has gone to a planet just like Earth, but stuck in the Middle Ages having re-acted to the start of the Renaissance by killing all the scholars. I thought this was going to be a philosophical spin on the invasion story, looking at the challenges from the point of view of the superior alien. What actually happened was a really claustrophobic film full of stupid people shitting, sneezing, and generally being pustular and gross, with nothing to really balance it out. At the beginning the directors wife said that the film was like Marmite in the way it divided audiences. I love Marmite, I didn't love this. It did make me want to read the book, though, in case that has more of the story I was hoping to be told.

Later that same day we went to see Charlie's Country. Showing in the Journey section of the festival, it tells the story of Charlie (David Gulpilil) who becomes disenchanted with the way the Australian government are treating his community and decides to go back to living in the old ways. It's so brilliantly acted, and so well made that I became totally absorbed and sort of forgot that this was a fictional film and not a fly on the wall documentary. It really was amazing. After the film finished, the director, Rolf de Heer, came out for a Q&A and told us the story behind the making of the film, which made the whole thing even more astonishing and have even more resonance. The film came about after he visited David Gulpilil in prison, where he had ended up in the middle of what appeared to be a serious attempt to drink himself to death. They collaborated together to make this beautiful and touching film. Please, please, please go and see it.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Robot Army!

Today I move one step closer to creating my robot army with which I will conquer the Earth!

Okay, so they're a little on the small side, flat and made of foam, but it's a start.

Big thanks to the people at Yellow Moon for providing me with  lots of things to make and do. Flicking through their catalogue is one of the most entertaining things to do over breakfast.