The Last Action HEroes Box OffIce Poison
Screenwriting Tina Gharavi Anime
Contents January Features Page 4: Last Action Heroes
Reviews Section Page 22: The Sessions
Page 7: Black Listed!
Page 23: The Man With The Iron Fists
Page 11: Castle In The Sky
Page 25: Good Vibrations
Page 16: Tina Gharavi
Page 24: Robot And Frank Page 26: Antiviral Page 27: Caesar Must Die Page 28: V/H/S
Page 29: Everyday
Page 3: Editorâ€™s Note and Contributors
Page 31: Gangster Squad
Page 33 Things To See
Page 30: Vinyl Page 32: Les Miserables
Contributors Editor’s Note Editors
Joshua Hammond: Editor-in-Chief firstname.lastname@example.org
Dale Pearson: Editor
Welcome Back to PictureShow Magazine! Welcome to the new year and a fantastic new issue of Pictureshow featuring some of the best articles we have ever published.
Cal Hudson’s article on the history of anime is a must for anyone interested in animation, it’s a vast article, perfect for a relaxed Sunday read. Dale Pearson’s look at getting into screenwriting is as illuminating as it is fun to read and Chris Binding’s interview with BAFTA nominated director Tina Gharavi is incredible and gets to the root of her feature I Am Nasrine.
We are continuing to publish fantastic advance reviews, with Antiviral, Robot & Frank, The Sessions, Everyday, V/H/S, Good Vibrations and Vinyl all out before general release.
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Pictureshow will continue its tradition of great film journalism into 2013 and hopefully get better along the way.
Joshua Hammond Chris Binding Cal Hudson Dale Pearson Alice Sutherland-Hawes Josh Sutherland Owen Seth
Find us at pictureshow-magazine.com
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Joshua Hammond Editor-in-Chief
The Last Action Heroes
Are Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis the last of dying breed?
ver the coming months, we will see the feature length returns of some of the greatest action movie actors ever to grace our screen. Sylvester Stallone will pop up in the wonderfully titled Bullet To The Head (cheer when you hear it in the dialogue), Bruce Willis will reprise the ageing war horse that is John McClane and Arnold Schwarzenegger will strap on his six shooter and go to war with a cartel in The Last Stand. Collectively, they represent a bygone era, where guns never ran out of bullets, your best weapon was often a cocksure insult and men with muscles and very little acting credibility could launch multi-million dollar franchises. But the action hero has given way to the superheroes and the wizards, the vampires and the aliens. Are these three battle scarred Hulks our last action heroes? Ignoring The Expendables’ franchise (because we all want to really) and the occasional cameo elsewhere, Arnold Schwarzenegger hasn’t fronted a feature length movie since Terminator 3. Prepare to feel very old, Termanator 3 was released ten years ago! And The Last Action Hero, celebrates it’s 20 year anniversary this Summer. In January, British audiences will be graced with the appearance of The Last Stand, an action thriller about an ageing Sheriff who has to stop a criminal gang getting across the border. Don’t question how an Austrian managed to become Sheriff in the deep south of America, this is an action movie, logic doesn’t make sense here.
Valentine’s Day sees the release of A Good Day To Die Hard, providing UK distributors don’t change it to some awful title like Die Hard 5.7 (because Bruce is 57 now). Looking at Willis, his greatest successes either came before he was the beefed up meathead we currently see before us or when his physical prominance had little bearing on the story. Few could argue that Bruce’s greatest roles have been James Cole in Twelve Monkeys, Butch in Pulp Fiction and John McClane in Die Hard . Even in the more recent releases, such as Looper and Moonrise Kingdom, Willis’ successes have come when he’s done less physically, it allows for more of the great dialogue and intonation we saw in Moonlighting. While all of those characters have an element of physicality to them, Butch is a boxer after all, they’re nothing in comparison to his increasingly crazed and violent movies of late. In Die Hard, John McClane spends the majority of his time hiding and thinking about what to do, something rarely seen in a Willis action role since. After what was effectively eight years outside cinemas, Sylvester Stallone restarted his career while Schwarzenegger and Willis tried different things. Through the majority of the 2000s Stallone did nothing more than just “be Sylvester Stallone” in a variety of different movies and television shows (Did anyone watch The Contender?). Prior to 2006, Stallone’s box office appeal was practically gone and what remained was waning fast, his releases Avenging Angelo and D-Tox were categoric failures. Only since his reincarnation of both his biggest successes, Rambo and Rocky has he put himself firmly back on the map.
Bullet To The Head is released in between Schwarzenegger’s and Willis’ films and has a suitably bonkers plot to match them both. In the next two months we have major releases from three ageing stars, all of whom have gone back to what they perceive the audience wants to see them do. All three appeared in The Expendables and The Expendables 2, which were relative successes, but the triumph of The Expendables franchise is largely down to the size and breadth of the ensemble cast. Even with an cast of action stars that would make Michael Bay weep, the two films’ combined box office total comes to less than $600million. There are at least 11 releases that made that and more in 2012 alone. The money side of the business would say we have seen the end of the action hero. Superheroes are now in vogue, The Avengers and The Dark Knight made the most money in 2012. While those on screen may generally be built like barn doors, Superheroes are a different type of hero, they are closer to Greek gods, duelling it out over us mortals’ heads. The closest we had to a real action movie success in 2012 was Skyfall, which is the 22nd release from the ever reliable James Bond franchise. However, there are still countless action movies being released, at least half of which star Nicolas Cage (may not be true). In 2012 the number of
action movies (not including aliens, special powers or robots) was still pretty high. With at least two being released every month and often recouping their money. Newer names are distinguishing themselves from the pack, Liam Neeson’s one-two punch of The Grey and Taken 2 had people flocking to the cinema, remember Neeson wasn’t always an action star. Jason Statham, who has been trying to take Stallone’s crown for almost a decade now, is still pulling in audiences especially with international audiences. Marky Mark Wahlberg is straddling the line of being a relatively well respected actor and as an action star. 2013 sees him in Pain And Gain, a 1980’s action movie set in the world of body building. Possibly the most surprising action hero box office draw, is Dwayne Johnson, who has at least 5 movies coming out in the next year, two of which are sequels in extremely successful franchises. Johnson already has 4 movies set up for a 2014 release as well, but one of those is being directed by Brett Ratner so we might take some action points off him for that. In all fairness, The Rock has been toiling away at his film career for over ten years now and it looks as though he is finally in real demand. Could The Rock really become the box office draw that Arnold Schwarzenegger once was? Is an ex pro-wrestler becoming a mega star any more ridiculous than an Austrian ex Mr Universe becoming Governor of California?
Black Listed! DALE JUDE PEARSON
n the wilderness known as profession£ al writing, screenwriters are regarded as a funny bunch. They are not even writers really. They are more like mechanics. If you pen a script, your name will not appear on the poster nor will anyone remember your name. If you are not pleasing the director then there is a good chance you will be replaced. Hampton Fancher was made to re£ write his Bladerunner screenplay ten times before Ridley Scott eventually decided he was not working fast enough and had him replaced by David Peoples. As a screenwrit£ er you are expected to provide and main£ tain a solid engine for the film, but as far as Hollywood hierarchy goes, you are at the bottom of the food chain. So why do so many people opt for such a career? Well, the age of the £100,000 book deal is dead, the going rate for a nationally produced play is about £4,000, and as far as can be made out, poets are largely still paid in sherry. Meanwhile, in 2005, Terry Rossio and Bill Marsilii received a $5,000,000 cheque for the script, ‘Deja Vu’. Maybe it has something to do with that?
The problem is, getting your screenplay made can be tough. In order for your script to get anywhere near the filmmakers it will have to be solicited by an agent, who are normally only accessible through mutual acquaintances, and will, themself suitably scrutinise your script. Providing that you do acquire an agent, who will pass on the script to studios etc, it will then have to be given the thumbs up by a reader, a story editor, a development executive, and production executive or producer. Providing that none of those people reject your work, the script can be said to be in development. Once in development the production team will need to attract the interest of one or more bankable stars in order to get the film made. A bankable star is a director or actor who will assure the investors that the film has potential to make money. After all this, there is a chance your screenplay might get made. Writing the screenplay is the easy bit, selling it like navigating a battery farm. So, for any budding screen£ writers out there, PictureShow has compiled a handy guide to reach the top.
Screenwriters! Your route to the movies Route 1 BE Joss Whedon
Route 2 Be a playwright
It must be stated that even though this may be the easiest way of getting work as a writer in Hollywood, it’s probably not for the multitude. The plan should be to wait by your phone. Eventually, one of the The Big Six film studios will contact you and say, for example, ‘we have this idea that an Avengers film would make a fortune for us this year. Up for it?’ And then you write them a screenplay for an inordinate fee. At best, this is only a reality for established writers with links to studios’ upper harems. But with studios increasingly opting for nonoriginal titles (see branding articles) more and more films are being conceived like this, where the studios take the initiative, decide upon the comic book hero/ remake/comic book hero and then hire the writer themselves.
From stage to screen, but who makes the cut? Many people make the mistake of thinking that stage and screen are similar in form - after all, they both have characters, dialogue and actors who deliver those two things. But for countless reasons, the two are different entirely different in nature and this is shown by the lack of cross over in personnel between the two industries. Occasionally, it does happen. Martin McDonagh and Aaron Sorkin both started as playwrights who made the jump. The difference in form can, perhaps even be seen in their film work, which ultimately relies less on image and more on cutting dialogue. “You’re an inanimate fucking object!” (...sorry, it couldn’t be helped)
Star Wars Episode VII The Amazing Spider-Man Avengers Assemble Pros: It’s really easy and you’ll be rolling in it. Cons: It’s not going to happen...Ever.
In Bruges - Martin McDonagh A Few Good Men - Aaron Sorkin The King’s Speech - David Seidler Shakespeare in Love - Tom Stoppard Pros: You don’t quite have to go to Hollywood yet. Cons: Being a successful playwright is also really, really hard.
Route 3 Send your script in, see what happens. Studios do occasionally finance great screenplays from unknown writers. But there are rules… An unknown script will have to be okayed by a lot of people - readers, agents, execs. And only the scripts with good structure (read: formulaic) will be able to navigate this labyrinth. If your incidents, midpoints and act turns do not happen on the ‘correct’ pages then you will not even get past the agent stage. But once generic structure and general quality is covered, the way most first scripts see light is by use of a good hook. ‘There is a bomb on a bus, if the bus goes below 50mph, the bomb explodes.’ ‘There’s this chauvinistic advertising agent, and he’s given the ability to read women’s thoughts’ It grabs your attention, it’s simple, it’s self-contained and it sells the idea that this could be a hit movie.
What Women Want Speed Liar Liar Pros: Unknown writers (though often with some industry experience) do get opportunities. Cons: The ‘safe’ nature of your screenplay means that you may not be revered as the godlike genius your mum says you are.
Route 4 Be mates with Joss ...or Tom Hanks, or Robert Zemeckis, or Ryan Gosling or...well...any bankable star in Hollywood really. A bankable star is someone who a financier rates as being able to return an investment at the box office. And having the backing of a bankable stars is always likely to be a sure fire way of getting a script made. Have you ever noticed how Andy Serkis’ cockney gangster cameo in Wild Bill is just a really bizarre (yet awesome) casting decision? Well without that cameo it is likely that that film would never have been made. By Dexter Fletcher’s own admission, the director/writer only got funding for his screenplay by calling in 20-years of industry favours from bankable stars (such as Serkis) to attach their name to the movie. Similarly Reservoir Dogs is largely indebted to Harvey Keitel for giving the film his backing.
Wild Bill Reservoir Dogs The Decoy Bride (sponsored by David Tennant) Pros: A friend in need is a friend indeed...or something... Cons: Danny Boyle’s PA will eventually ask you to stop harassing him. And do you really want to get into the business.
Route 5 Be British If there is one way Britain has penetrated the American model, it is with our penchant for good comedy. What’s more, the best part about this route is that writers are not anonymous beavers working away in the corner of the set. There is a chance you might say ‘I’m watching that new Armando Ianucci film’, or ‘that Ricky Gervais film or ‘that Pegg/ Wright film’. (Nicholas Pileggi....? Yeah. He wrote Goodfellas. How is the writer of Goodfellas not a household name?) We have and always have had a thriving comedy scene in Britain, and it is good to know that those at the top of their game do get to make the Hollywood big bucks occasionally.
In the Loop - Armando Ianucci Four Weddings and Funeral - Richard Curtis Sean of the Dead - Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright The Invention of Lying - Ricky Gervais Pros: When it all comes good, your name might even appear on the poster. Cons: Comedy, like being a playwright, is also really really hard.
Route 6 Be a novelist
This is essentially the same route as being a playwright but we’re not even going to cover it because something much better came up... ...Route 6.5 - Be a novel thief! We don’t mean plagiarise a successful story. We literally mean steal a novel. Or at least buy the film rights for a price that verges on stealing. Mick Jagger bought the movie rights to Clockwork Orange from Anthony Burgess for an alleged $500 because the writer needed fast cash? Jagger wanted to star in the film himself with the Stones playing the other droogs. Why nobody funded this is a mystery, and the rights were then sold on. Hungry writers just giving away their film rights? As always, Jagger may have been onto something. Pros: Even if you don’t know how to adapt the novel yourself, you’ll probably just be able to sell it on for a much higher price. Cons: None. We can think of no cons to this method of screenwriting.
Route 7 Be a FIlmmaker Up until now, this may have been a depressing article for hopeful screenwriters, but there is hope... Screenwriting is like anything else. Nobody is going to pick you up off the street and make you a star. You have to prove your talent, and a screenplay is no way to show talent; by nature, it’s an unfinished piece of work. Screenwriters shouldn’t be like novelists, they shouldn’t be in it for the writing, they should be in it for the great film at the end of it all. And perhaps this is why the most legitimate route into screenwriting for the industry outsider is to actually go and make the thing yourself. Affordable equipment and editing software is more advanced than ever before and since the 60s at least, screen history is littered with DIY film success stories. Harvey Keitel would not even have received the script to Reservoir Dogs if Tarintino hadn’t first made ‘My Best friend’s Birthday’ with fellow film students on a budget of $5,000. Martin Scorsese would never have gotten to make ‘Mean Streets’ if he hadn’t first done all those 6-minute shorts about a man shaving. The fundamental problem with the screenwriter who asks ‘why is nobody making my scripts?’ is that they believe that writing the script is enough. And it never is.
Reservoir Dogs Mean Streets Memento The Blair Witch project. Pros: You will be constricted by budget but if the film is good then you will not need a famous friend, a big name, or even 3 act structure. You will have a finished product you can show off with pride and the quality will speak for itself. Cons: ...Why are you still reading this? Go! Go make your film
Castle in the Sky CAL HUDSON
For many of us, the 2001 Academy Award winning Spirited Away brought Japanese anime down from the clouds and into the mainstream; but has the West ever really embraced anime, and will it ever rank as an equal with ‘traditional’ animation?
the arts- was one based on mysticism and romance, tainted with supernatural, alluring smoke of Spiritualism, Geishas and opium. This To understand how anime permeated the barcan be attributed to the exoticism associated rier between East and West, it is important to with the self-imposed seclusion and exile of the understand the history of the two; or rather, the Japanese government (treat ‘em mean...) history of the East’s perspective of the West, and vice versa. The two cultures, whilst being wildly different, shared a similar viewpoint regarding the ‘OthPre-Twentieth Century Japan was an extremely er’, although the Western people were stricken inward looking place, focused on the culture with a seeming curiosity when it came to the Far and advancement of itself. Contact with WestEast. It is possible that this curiosity left Europe ern elements was very rare, and based on a and the United States ideally receptive to culbelief that the world outside of Japan was an tural exports from these territories (a particular alien wasteland, filled with barbaric inhabitaffliction of the arch-Westerner Mr. W. Disney, ants. This was the state of affairs throughout as we shall see). Japanese history right up until the Meiji Restoration of the late Nineteenth Century, when Japan finally ended its policy of seclusion and opened its eyes to the rest of the world. The difference is in point of view is nicely sumThis is not to say that the Japanese people marised when considering the word anime. emerged into the new century with a fresh at- This is a term which, to the majority of the titude of kind regards towards the West. Al- Western world, refers to Japanese cartoons; though attitudes have softened considerably but is actually (as the astute amongst you may since the early 1900s, much work is still being have guessed) just a contraction of the word done by the Japanese government to promote animation. Although most of the Western authe interaction of Japanese people with the rest dience use the moniker anime to refer specifiof the world, in an attempt to strengthen rela- cally to animation created from or in the style of tionships and break the archaic boundaries Japanese manga, the original native usage is which have proved so recalcitrant in the post- an umbrella term for all animation in general, war era. regardless of origin or style.
The Western attitude however, follows a subtly different path. Similarly grounded in the belief of proud superiority to their otherworldly counterparts, there was strong fascination grounded in the views of Orientalism. This particular depiction of the East- promoted mainly through
The Japanese themselves have a strong history of storytelling through both the written word and visual means, which blended with popular culture and advancements in technology to become what we would be familiar with today as manga.
Manga in its early current form became extremely popular and a strong cultural identifier, and when the early Japanese animators started to experiment with animation techniques being pioneered throughout Europe and the United States, it was almost inevitable that the unique style inherent in manga would come to the fore in anime. So along comes the first half of the Twentieth Century: and whilst they had the medium and the message, Japan were still short of money and a messiah. This all changed in the interwar period, particularly the 1930s. The Japanese government had seen the potential for the propagation of propaganda contained within anime: it was after all cheap to make, more exciting than the written word, and much more versatile than live action films. Suddenly there was an influx of funding for animators in Japan, which neatly coincided with the release of Disney’s groundbreaking feature length animation Snow White in 1937. The game-changing technique introduced in the Disney masterpiece had an immense effect on current animators working in Japan, and led to a much increased interest in the medium as a whole throughout the country, and displayed the far-reaching pull which the Disney studios continued to exert as it released more excellently worked animated pieces. This swell of interest came to a head in 1945 with the release of Japan’s own (government funded) first feature length anime Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors.
The Japanese Walt Disney So what about the messiah? Japan had to wait for another twenty years after the release of Momotaro until the ‘Walt Disney of Japan’ Osamu Tezuka began creating and releasing anime for television and the cinema. Tezuka’s rise to prominence heralded a huge rush in popularity of manga (both drawn and animated), and he brought many motifs and elements inherent in manga which are almost regarded as almost canon today. Such developments include the simplistic style (from a desire to mimic Disney films with unqualified staff and a fraction of the budget), the dynamism (from his experience drawing manga) and perhaps most interestingly: the large feminine eyes- which came about as a result of the influx of American television shows, most likely Betty Boop, into the Japanese mainstream culture. As you can see, Japanese anime at this time was already heavily influenced by Western animation- and especially Disney productions. However, this dynamic of influence began to shift with Tezuka’s effervescent accession. Western audiences will most likely already be familiar with the 1994 Disney film, The Lion King, and the story of Simba. What they tend to be less aware of, however, is Tezuka’s seminal anime series, The Jungle Emperor,
featuring Kimba the White Lion, released over thirty years earlier. Controversy still surrounds the similarities between the two works, from the homophonic names to the famous image of Mufasa proudly surveying his territory from atop Pride Rock. Disney have since stated that all similarities are completely coincidental, citing the fact that the plot itself is based on Hamlet, and the supposed Swahili origin of Simba’s name (it means lion, in case you were wondering). These concerns are of very little importance, but they do mask something particularly interesting: namely the surprisingly close relationship based on mutual respect between Disney and Tezuka. The pair discussed potential collaborations and met several times, Disney an apparent fan of the Astro Boy series which had brought Tezuka much acclaim in the ‘60s.
in the past and ‘crossed the divide’. Katsuhiro Otomo managed to completely bypass this divide in 1988, when he directed and released a film based on his own manga epic Akira. Akira is still to this day considered a landmark anime feature, and a cult classic in many countries around the world in a very short space of time(it was Roger Ebert’s ‘Video of the Week’ in 1989). Using slick visuals and strong, fantastical themes against a cyberpunk dystopian backdrop, Akira became a worldwide phenomenon in its own right, and brought anime out of the shade (at least for a short while) and into the sunlight.
The unpredictable and unprecedented worldwide popularity of Pokemon brought anime hurtling into the Western psyche. Already popular in Japan, the television series had children everywhere were hooked and ready to beg This increased fraternisation between the pair, their parents to invest in the vast increasing arand the increase in Disney’s interest in the for- ray of related media and paraphernalia which mat Tezuka was pioneering mirrors the ani- littered the markets. mated relationship between East and West, or more accurately the increasing assimilation of Since his adorable debut in the mid-ninties, anime into the entertainment culture of Europe Pikachu has been on Australian aeroplanes, a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Paand the United States. rade in New York, and has appeared in countless other pop culture incarnations, rendering him (as a metaphor for Pokemon itself) as a worldwide icon. The overwhelming effects of Tezuka had done much to put Japanese ani- this branding and marketing success would be mation on the map, and is rightly remembered remembered and copied by many other anime as the Godfather of anime in his home coun- franchises, most notably by Studio Ghibli. try: but he never achieved the contemporary international acclaim afforded to his American Despite the growing popularity of the above friend and counterpart Walt Disney. His works works and anime in general, anime was still acted as envoys, spreading Japanese anima- regarded as either a niche interest or a child’s tion (it was about this time that the now rarely plaything in the eyes of the Western media, used term ‘Japanimation’ came to the fore) and- more importantly- the general public. across the Western Hemisphere. Anime had Then came 2003... and suddenly everything done what so little Japanese culture had done changed.
Enter the Dragon
such representative at the Oscars post-Spirited Away (much to the dismay of anime fans everywhere), it may seem as though Studio Ghibli On 23rd of March, Hollywood’s (in)famous and Japanese anime as a whole have been Kodak Theatre played host to the 75th Acaderiding a fading crest. So what of animated life my Awards presentation. Among the nominees after 2003? was Spirited Away, which went on to become the only Japanese anime feature ever to have won an Oscar. This marked a huge turning point for anime in the West. With the award winning Studio Ghibli, a studio which had steadily been producing excellent features and building its reputation since 1986’s Castle in the Sky, Western marketing departments suddenly had a brand they could sell. Their very own Eastern Disney. Sales skyrocketed, with the gross profit for Spirited Away estimated at over five times the gross profit for Princess Mononoke, which had been Studio Ghibli’s last commercial success. Thanks to Spirited Away anime had finally moved into the mainstream, looking set for a long stay. And who did the director commission to dub the English version? None other than Walt Disney Studios. Said director was Hayao Miyazaki- for me Osamu Tezuka’s only clear successor to date. Who was (and still is) part of the driving force behind the inception and continued success of Studio Ghibli, which he co-founded after the release of his extremely influential 1984 release Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Miyazaki is also credited with the honours of being the only anime director ever to have won, or even be nominated (twice, again in 2006 for Howl’s Moving Castle) for an Academy Award. With this second nomination being the only
The Phoenix and the Superflat
The extrapolation of Japanese- and indeed all ‘Eastern’ culture- can be now be seen in much more than just animation, although I would argue that anime has done some serious work in wearing down the cultural divide between East and West. New age pioneers such as Takashi Murakami are spreading more of Japanese culture outside of cartoons and animation, with the widespread popularity of his Superflat movement with its roots in Japanese history, society and fine art. The East and the West are now in collaboration in many films and television series, examples being the heavily manga influenced Avatar: The Last Airbender (for which the phrase ‘Amerime’ was even coined) and the heavily Western tinged anime Cowboy Bebop. Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata are directing Studio Ghibli’s latest films, The Wind is Rising and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, both scheduled for joint release this year, and both tipped for worldwide success. Whilst some may say that Japanese animation has burnt out and is fading from the Western mind, it seems to me that after decades of trying to break through the barriers to the West, and after Ghibli’s fiery ascent, anime is now a prevalent part of Western popular culture.
I Am Tina
Chris Binding talks to BAFTA nominated director, Tina Gharavi about politics, filmmaking and her feature, I Am Nasrine.
ince leaving Iran at the age of six filmmaker Tina Gharavi has made her mark upon the world with her unique brand of story – telling. From studying as an academic in France and America, screening at Sundance and showcasing Channel 4 commissioned documentaries, her films appealing coverage of postcolonial themes with a personal yet universal flair, have rendered her a strong political voice in multi – cultural Britain. Based in Newcastle for over a decade with production Company Bridge and Tunnel and a lecturing post at Newcastle University, Gharavi’s recent feature I am Nasrine has had a huge impact since its Newcastle premiere in October 2011. As a story of an Iranian refugee and her brother settling in the North East after persecution in their home country, the film tackles issues of political oppression, sexuality and cultural displacement, emerging as a powerful drama matched by its strong performances and ‘cinema verite’ documentary realism. From several sell – out performances at Tyneside Cinema to screenings in The Houses of Parliament, the films journey of over a year of international self – distribution came full circle this month with a BAFTA nomination for Tina Gharavi in the category ‘Outstanding Debut by a British director’. With the news fresh in everyone’s ears, including Tinas, I caught up with the ‘story teller, academic and insurgent’ at her offices to chat about the journey of I Am Nasrine, Hollywood mis – representation and the recent BAFTA nomination.
After almost a year since its premiere in Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, how did it feel to have ‘I am Nasrine’ nominated for a BAFTA? It was a very long slog. It has been very hard getting the film out. I think all low budget independent films have a huge mountain to go up in terms of festivals and distribution. Although the film played well and had great audience responses, great numbers and two producer rep trying to sell the film for us, the distributors didn’t make the film and can therefore be very candid with. They said we love the film but can’t see how we can market it. It was frustrating. The last two days since we have found out we have had Harvey Weinstein’s company and Fox Searchlight calling and agents trying to get me on their books, it’s been crazy. I haven’t done anything different from two days ago, I’m still the same person and the film is the same, the Bafta thing has a enormous impact. Are you trying to make sure you make the right decisions when there is a lot of interest? We are being really nice to everyone and not playing any games. There aren’t decisions to make there are just decisions to make the film available to people who ask for it. Somebody called me today from BAFTA said your film wasn’t on the screening list. It’s a Jury prize it’s not the members who vote which it is for a lot of the other categories.
How would you define I Am Nasrine to the readers of Pictureshow? And do you believe its meaning has changed over its years of touring from its local screenings to the Houses of Parliament etc?
What were the challenges in self distributing the film and getting it wider audiences without the aid of a larger distribution deal?
Looking back at your first feature, what were the main challenges you faced and lessons you took away as a filmmaker?
You are up against the Muppets in your BAFTA category. Do you think they are still relevant today? Would you welcome their return to television?
The Facebook page has been really successful helpThe film has a lot of different audiences and publics ing us connect with audiences, we are going to reit can play to. It played well in Sudan in Novem- lease the DVD and do online streaming soon. A lot ber in a country under a repressive Islamic regime. of people don’t know what is going on with digital You don’t realise it has resonance, very strangely distribution at the minute. We are at this interesting one particular line in the film was picked up in four conjuncture. Before it was the model of distributors different Q and A which no –one had picked out – you sell the rights and they do it all and split the in any other screening. It was the penultimate line profits – now that is not happening anymore and which is ‘Life is like getting to the top of a moun- filmmakers are going to audiences themselves. It’s tain and then you realise now you know where you less in my hands at the minute so I can focus on need to go’. The idea was about the journey of the my next film although you can’t avoid distribution character and the road ahead of her. problems.
I learnt a lot about why people have stars in films now. It’s really important in terms of the marketing to have the package that distributors and sales agents want in being able to distribute the films. Although at times I thought why did I make such a niche, personal, unobvious film. However I’m really glad I made a film that I believe in because I think ultimately that is why it got nominated for a BAFTA. It’s about the debate between having stars and telling stories you really want to tell. Although sometimes it can become too much of a business.
Yes. I loved them so dearly as a child but now I’m going to have to pummel them to death. They make me laugh so much. They have found the essence of human existence of and boiled it down into these characters in such an effective way. There are postcolonial themes in your previous films and I am Nasrine. Do you think your films provide a political discourse about cultural displacement?
I see myself as a political fighter. I had a conversation with the main actor before about why i made it and I responded I just want to change the world. Things are really imbalanced and wrong in the world and the only tool and power I have is making films and I hope those things exact change otherwise I can’t see any other reason to do it. Making films is not glamorous, it’s not fun there’s nothing good about it and it’s a pain in the ass. It takes up your time and you don’t really get money from it. That’s why I think a lot of people don’t last long in it as they are taught that making films are about something else. I am driven by the fact that you can show a film to a person and you can change their viewpoint. At Berwick festival I had 60 year old white guys coming up to me and telling me they cried and that to me is amazing knowing you made something so strong that it affected someone physically. That’s the way that art and film can change the world.
or that I don’t go through. I’m making a gangster film because I met gangsters on I am Nasrine. It has to come out of things that you see, other people have much more wild imaginations, i just don’t. I write films about thing I know and see. Has it been rewarding doing community work? It has, I miss it because we’re not doing as much as the moment as we were. I’m a natural teacher, I like teaching and like being able to give someone that power to be able to tell a story. I had people tell me that being able to learn filmmaking has saved their life. Can you imagine that? That’s the reward of making that community work happen.
You took risks filming in Iran during the ‘Green Revolution’ and risked getting arrested. Do you believe you will ever get to screen the film in Iran and do you think Bridge and Tunnel take part in a lot of in of the landscape of artistic censorship? a lot of community projects. Do you believe filmmakers and audiences should I don’t think the film will ever show legally there, it actively engage with their local commu- may get pirated and spread that way which is fine nities and does this aid your role as a but the hope that Iran will ever change is sadly very documentarian? difficult to imagine at the moment. The government got more repressive since making this film not less. I don’t think everyone has to do it but for me i am There’s a lot more cases of bloggers being killed in engaged in biography. Biography is also the en- prison, more overt oppression of people than there vironment in which you’re based in, rooted to the was before. They want to punish and make an exthings that are in your life. I can’t make films about ample out of filmmakers. things I know nothing about, that I can’t connect to
With the recent release of Argo do you think Iranians are represented fairly in Hollywood and do you believe the stereotypes surrounding Iranians and Arab countries has gotten worse? I think it has gotten as bad as it was before. There is very little telling the other side of the story. From what i have read it sounds like Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty is problematic. There has got to be a story told from the other side but I don’t think there is anything I have seen that comes close to giving a balance of power. It would be interesting to see a film portraying the U.S as the bad – guys. As for Argo , i didn’t think there was subtlety and shades of the historical complexity , there was definitely fundamentalists and crazy people but that was set against the backdrop that Affleck doesn’t even acknowledge. There is nothing sympathetic for Iran at all and the film is not self-critical of America at all apart from an acknowledgement of the toppling of the democratically elected leader and replacing it with the shah. Do you have any other projects you are working on at the moment? The other two films I am working on is a thriller set in Kurdistan called The Women Who Found Saddam
which is re-imagining the capture of Saddam by Kurdish women which is kind of a revenge story. I am also making a bigger budget gangster film set in Paris, Britain and Iran. With the BAFTA nomination I think we now have a good reason to get funding Are there any filmmakers, actors or producers you would like to work with in future? I would love to work with Sean Penn on the Kurdish thriller as we need American soldier cameos and we would love to make them more star-orientated. He would be ideal as he also looks to the alternatives to stories. If you won the BAFTA do you think it would change your methods or future projects? I’m not very good at being insincere. My producer says sometimes why don’t you do more commercial stuff but I don’t think I can pull them off. I just want to keep making projects that i do believe in and hopefully the BAFTA thing will make it easier to do those things and convince people you have some ability as a film maker.
you smile. When Mark is describing Helen Hunt’s character, because he tends to speak in poetry, it’s a lovely moment. There’s also the times when he reads some of his poetry that provides relief from the sad comedy of the film; I definitely noticed a few tears being wiped away.
The Sessions The first thing you’ll probably notice about The Sessions is William H Macy’s hair, which is of epic proportions. The second is most likely the bandana scene. No, not really. The first thing you’ll definitely notice is how brilliant the performances are. John Hawkes plays Mark, a man whose narration is generally in poetry form and who, due to having polio, relies on an iron lung. He’s 38 and nearing his “sell by date”, but before he goes he wants to experience sex, something which he hasn’t managed largely due to his condition. With the help of a priest, played by William H Macy and his hair, and Helen Hunt’s sex therapist, Mark embarks on a spiritual and physical journey he hopes will change his life. The tone is set pretty quickly, and whilst some may find it hard to settle into given the subject matter, it works as a comedy drama. Mark is a wonderfully cynical man who believes in a god so he has someone to blame for his situation. His outlook never changes and all his challenges are dealt in the same wry way. Even in the face of death he just sighs and says, “So this is how it ends”. Father Brendan bounces off Mark as the priest who seems a little weary and has his beliefs tested when he inherits Mark from the previous priest. Their conversations are moving, often amusing and make up some of the best moments of the film. Having a man discuss the intimate details of his sex life with someone praying metres away is always going to be funny. But then there are the parts that just make
Really, this film is about someone looking for love, whilst believing he doesn’t deserve it and won’t find it because of his polio. He wants to change his life before he goes and believes love is the only way, or the only way he wants. You find yourself rooting for him, but the two attempts you see aren’t successful and it’s desperately sad. My only niggle with The Sessions is Helen Hunt, but that’s just a personal dislike of her as an actress. She’s actually very good as the sex therapist, or surrogate, despite denying being a prostitute with her make up done as if she is one. There’s also her feelings towards Mark which felt a bit Hollywood but since this is all based on fact, there’s no argument. Hunt has her moments and is largely pretty good, but she gets overshadowed by Macy and Hawkes. They manage to carry a film with a difficult subject that should be painfully sad, but with a comedy only actors as accomplished as them could pull off. Sadly, the Academy has overlooked both Hawkes and Macy, with a nomination appearing only for Helen Hunt. Overall it’s a lovely film that manages to balance drama, tragedy and comedy perfectly. ASH
The Man With The Iron Fists Few martial arts movies are released with the credibility of RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists, a cast of fantastic players including Gordon Liu and Russel Crowe and a script by the lyrical wordsmith himself, RZA. RZA’s affinity with Taoism and Buddhism looked set to compliment the martial arts epic. As such it’s a real surprise when the resulting film is as leaden, clunky and po-faced as The Man With The Iron Fists. Everything suggested that the film would be a charming, excitable romp through 19th Century China, but The Man With The Iron Fists is an unlovable piece of dirge. The initial problem lies with the performances, while it’s kind of fun to see Russell Crowe having the time of his life just mucking around for a giggle, the entire film rests on the performance of RZA as the Blacksmith, or the man with the iron fists. And frankly, RZA is no actor. While he may have appeared in a few supporting roles, he’s nowhere near equipped to shoulder an entire film. Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu appear to be enjoying themselves, but their role and performances are of little consequence.
lah. Without any of the dialogue getting in the way, the soundtrack is a great listen, in equal parts cinematic and understated.
All in all, The Man With The Iron Fists, while a good concept, misses its mark by a country mile and doesn’t have the thrills, the kills or the laughs to back up it’s fantastic tag line “They put the F.U. in Kung Fu”. There is no doubt that RZA is a gifted The pacing and editing of the film are also a prob- individual, but music seems to be his enduring tallem, the title and set up of the film promise a deliri- ent. No matter how much affection you have for ous fightfest, but in reality there’s too much sighing, the Martial Arts genre, it doesn’t mean to you can prolonged staring and daft voiceovers to give the write, direct and star in a Martial Arts movie. Mayfilm an easy feel. The title of the film also proposes be just take it one step at a time for now. JH a problem, when you a buy a ticket to see a man with iron fists, you expect to see a man with iron fists. Well over half the movie has gone by the time you get to see RZA don his gauntlets of badassery, the film’s practically over. The script also needs a great deal of work. Eli Roth and RZA worked on the screenplay together, but the film suffers due to terrible lines of dialogue and the aforementioned voice over. As a brief example, Russell Crowe does refer to his penis as “the baby’s arm”. Who thought that would work on screen? There is a redeeming factor to this catastrophic attempt, the soundtrack. It’s no surprise that the man behind The Wu Tang Clan has crafted one hell of a music backdrop for his film, and given RZA’s unforgettable addition to the Kill Bill soundtrack, “Ode to O-ren Ishii” it was expected that this soundtrack would be something to listen out for. But this soundtrack is on a different plane. Featuring artists such as The Black Keys, Kanye West and Ghostface Kil-
Director Jake Schreier uses his minimal budget to great effect, ensuring that the central relationship is the star attraction. Though the film is set in the future, the setting avoids cities and major towns and as such ensures that no very innovative technology needs to be shown, no hover bikes or teleporters. The technology that is shown, voice activated video phones, huge flat tv screens etc are all palpable and available today. Schreier simply evolves the technology we have today, even Robot looks as though he was modelled on Honda’s Asimo model. Themes of aging and technology are as prominent as you would expect them to be, a sub plot about the closure of a Library makes for some of Frank’s best one liners. Though his voice over was recorded well after the film was finished, Peter Sarsgaard’s voice for the robot is fantastic. With shades of Kevin Spacey’s Gertie in Moon, his intonation and Robot And Frank unflinching optimism make the robot a wonderful Though the title may suggest otherwise, Robot And source for comedy. Frank is no science fiction movie. Though the action does take place in the future and robots ARE in- Robot And Frank is an affecting and charming dravolved, this is in effect a buddy caper movie where ma with a great central performance from Frank our straight man is a robot. Frank Langella is in Langella, the starrier additions to the cast are simfine form as the titular Frank, an older man with ply window dressing for the friendship that forms a colourful past, estranged from his family and between one man and his bot. All in all, Robot And friends who is given a robot to help him with his Frank is engaging viewing with a graceful undertone of politics looking at how we respect our eldaily chores. ders. JH Though the cast does boast appearances from Liv Tyler, James Marsden and Susan Sarandon, the central role of Frank is the key draw, even the robot (equal parts CGI and short person in a suit) which takes precedence in the title isn’t the focus of the feature. Langella’s performance as an aging cat burglar struggling with his failing memory is magnetic. Though many actors of Langella’s age and calibre have moved into roles involving the portrayal of Alzheimers or memory loss, Langella brings a warmth and humour to the role and its requirements. The motif of one last con for an ex-con is common in cinema but Robot And Frank adds an extra dimension to the age old story. The performances of the supporting cast all seem somewhat phoned in, the majority of their conversation stake place over video phone and you can imagine Liv Tyler just deciding to put up a green sheet in her garage and playing the role from there. They don’t really add anything to the film and its effect.
Good Vibrations The story of Terri Hooley is one of Punk Legend, a man who sacrificed it all to try and bring great music to a land divided by a multitude of political problems. However, as Belfast tore itself to pieces, Terri and his host of young new bands began tearing into the musical landscape and brought punk to the masses. Though this is basically a tale of one man triumphing over adversity, it’s also the story of a community of misfits and eccentrics trying to do their best with what they’ve got. Directors Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa have a great deal of British and Irish talent at their disposal and utilise it to great effect. Relatively big names such as Liam Cunningham and Dylan Moran use their limited screen time for maximum effect. At the centre of the action is Richard Dormer and Jodie Whittaker as Terri and his wife Ruth. Their on screen relationship is quietly affecting and the evident strain put on the marriage is played beautifully.
and the records it put out is wonderful and while the perennially optimistic nature may be too much for fans of more brutal and aggressive punk it still has merit. For the uninitiated Good Vibrations is a fantastic little insight into the creation and growth of a new art form. While it may not be innovative or In a tale of punk rebellion and the dawn of a new outrageous anymore the punk scene still has a lot music genre it isn’t surprising that the soundtrack of fans. Good Vibrations embodies elements of the for Good Vibrations is absolutely blistering. Any Punk Spirit, it may not be a masterpiece, it’s rough fan of early punk music will find lots to admire in around the edges and very far from polished but the soundtrack alone, nevermind that the story that it’s good enough and it makes it’s point. JH has been largely unreported in favour of emphasising the roles of the punk scenes in London and New York. Seeing the influence, determination and power at work in the scene is something of revelation. Good Vibrations is as much a tale of ambition as it is a story of rebellion, Hooley’s ambition and optimism are palpable in There are a few flaws in Good Vibrations, the portrayal of the troubles in Belfast are represented in terms that are far too simplistic. While the conflict is a prominent part of the story it is laid on in big overwrought events. Instead of creating the atmosphere of fear and anger that existed simultaneously at the time, Good Vibrations crams in scenes with little consequence to try and reinforce the time periods at work. As such the characters, both primary and secondary are incredibly one dimensional, almost at odds with the tone and message of the film. That people are more than their religion or political leaning. Good Vibrations is a fantastic dramatisation of a largely untold story. The story of Good Vibrations
ing screens and TMZ style news reports making her presence and role feel considerably larger than it really is. Cronenberg’s direction is certainly stylish, the colour palette at work in the cinematography is bold, using just red, black and white to create the very stylish images. Jones’ incredible red hair is wonderfully offset against white walls or black clothing. It may be a colour scheme popularised by The White Stripes, but it’s powerful enough and prominent enough to create a very striking image. Cronenberg also manipulates popular images to create little visual jokes. In this universe, it’s rare to find someone smoking, but people often have a white stick thermometer hanging from their lips.
Antiviral The Cronenberg name certainly isn’t a brand...yet. However if Brandon Cronenberg keeps producing work in the same vein as his father it may soon be, Antiviral is Cronenberg Jr’s first foray into the world of directing and is an impressive piece of work. While the Cronenbergs are some way away from being a Hollywood dynasty like the Douglas’s or the Barrymore’s, there is a quality and care to their work that is impressive to say the least. While David Cronenberg’s work has veered into the more literary and thematic style of filmmaking, Brandon’s work is definitely in the mode of David’s early body horror spectacular. The plot revolves around Syd Marsh (Caleb Landry Jones), a salesman who deals in viruses bottled from celebrities. The obsessed public is manically trying to get closer to celebrities through any means possible, by stealing a lock of hair or a virus that once coarsed through their veins. Selling illnesses in the same way people are sold plastic surgery just to get ‘closer’ to celebrities. The central performance from Caleb Landry Jones is elusive, his role shifts from being terrifyingly buttoned down and collected to the monstrous. His appearance seems to physically change as the role changes. His demeanour and stance is compelling, his entire performance is like watching a car crash, brutal, emotional and strangely hypnotic. Sarah Gadon’s role as Hannah Geist is actually incredibly small, but her face is constantly on giant advertis-
Antiviral is a very competent thriller and body horror. From the gruesome imagery to the cat and mouse plot, Cronenberg has locked down every element of his film and carried it off successfully. Antiviral works as a futuristic satire AND as a thriller. The performances from Jones, Gadon and McDowell are compelling and add a note of believability to the whole affair. While this is only Cronenberg’s debut feature it is certainly an assured and confident one. JH
Caesar Must Die The Taviani Brothers’ production of Julius Caesar is one of the most daring and interesting adaptations of a Shakespeare play since 2011’s Coriolanus. Utilising the skills of incarcerated criminals, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani create a striking tableau using black and white photography and draw incredibly compelling and emotional performances from men considered dangerous to society. Though Caesar Must Die does open with a final costumed performance of Julius Caesar the majority of the film isn’t of a polished production. The Brothers follow the inmates’ rehearsals from within the prison and its various settings. Internal drama between the players creates tension in an unexpected fashion, those familiar with the play will find tension rising at times. While the choice to use prisoners may seem unusual, it is quickly apparent that this is in fact a masterstroke, these are dangerous men playing very dangerous men capable of terrible things. Instead of having actors try and convey the emotions that surround the taking of a life, the Taviani Brothers ensure that those that have experienced taking a life demonstrate it on screen. The black and white photography creates a striking effect, while Caesar Must Die is not constantly monochromatic the cinematography is certainly beautiful. Though the prisoners may not be dressed in black and white stripes like cartoon villains, the colour scheme asserts and serves to remind you that these men are in prison and most likely still in prison when you get to see the film. The minimal sets and costuming add to the feel of the production. The men involved are simply acting on a cardboard box and it’s more compelling than the majority of performances committed to celluloid. The minimal use of music emphasises the performances and the theatricality of the piece. Filming performances designed for the stage can be a risky strategy. Theatre performances can often appear hammy or overacted on the screen, but this stripped down and minimalist performance is perfectly suited to cinema audiences. There is a great deal about Caesar Must Die that is surprising, but these nuanced and subtle performances rank as the most revelatory of them. A great deal of the atmosphere and sound comes from the regular sounds of a prison. The rattling of keys and the jeering of prisoners all add to the piece.
Caesar Must Die is a muscular piece of filmmaking, working within the narrative and framework of Julius Caesar to convey a different story. A story that is still marred by violence, but is one of trapped artistry. While there is little doubt that the actors in Caesar Must Die are hardened criminals, it is a revelation to see these murders and drug dealers create something of real beauty and worth. JH
tive, the film is a technically proficient showcase from each of the different directors, some using their budget for gore and crazy prosthetics, others for more traditional scares, the ghosts in the closet method. The acting is occasionally lousy but that can be seen as an issue with the form rather than with the acting, it is particularly hard to settle into a role if you know you’ll only be on screen for 5 minutes to let the rest of the cast have a go.
V/H/S V/H/S is the latest in a long line of found footage horror movies. Since 1999’s The Blair Witch Project a movie with an artificial air of ‘reality’ has been released once a year. The difference with V/H/S comes from the structure of the film, which is simply a series of shorts stitched together using an over arching narrative. While some instalments of the film are weaker than others, it certainly means that the scares are often unexpected, you never know what kind of genre the next instalment will move into. The main issue with V/H/S is the framing device, the plot revolves around a group of vagabonds who are sent to break into a house and find a specific videotape, only being told that they’ll “Know it when they see it”. The resulting five shorts are touted to be five videotapes they discover in the house. Ranging from demonic gore filled spectacular to a seething holiday gone awry, the five shorts nicely bring in the found footage angle using differing techniques and they ensure that nothing is as expected. None of the shorts are revolutionary or can change your opinion on a form of horror, but they are effective and you can never be sure what kind of film they will eventually morph into. Seasoned horror fans, know that it is more fun when you can’t see where the scares are coming from and beginning a fresh chapter every 10-15 minutes is an effective way to do so. Aside from the issues with the surrounding narra-
The pick of the bunch is Ti West’s submission – Second Honeymoon, the story of Sam and Stephanie who are on a road trip to celebrate their marriage. As they pull into a seedy motel, there’s appears something strange about the locals. While none of the shorts have the time to do anything truly revolutionary, though Glenn McQuaid’s “Tuesday The 17th” segment utilises a character known as “The Glitch” who doesn’t show up on screen unless clouded by terrifying and distorted feedback. The collective Radio Silence also submit the most visually arresting piece, that makes great use of mirrors and other Horror clichés to maximise its effect. All in all, V/H/S is an interesting piece of cinema, utilising an anthology concept that has rarely been used effectively in modern cinema. The concept was much more widespread around the middle of the twentieth century with releases such as Dead Of Night and Flesh And Fantasy. But with its warped aesthetic and use of a now outmoded form of documentation the film certainly holds its own. JH
Everyday Everyday should be a moving portrayal of a family separated by a convict father spending five years in jail. It should also be incredibly real as Michael Winterbottom shot it over five years, a few weeks at a time. However, the presence of the bloody awful score leaves it feeling empty, despite the excellent performances from John Simm, Shirley Henderson and their four children. Having sat through so many films without a score, it would have been nice to have something with a really lovely one. It just didn’t deliver, and not only that, it ruined what would have been a brilliant film otherwise. John Simm and Shirley Henderson do a wonderful job as the couple separated due to Simm being in jail. The times they’re allowed to see each other are very sweet and it’s quickly established that this is a happy, if strained by circumstance, marriage. Simm is in a jail near London, making it quite an effort for his family to come and see him as they live just outside Norwich. With four children initially under ten, the impact of the visits takes its toll as it’s implied that there’s a limit on how many visitors are allowed at first. The children are excellent as well, partly due to their growing up with the film. Having the project for five years must have helped as they all blend together to make a convincing family. The transitions in time work extremely well and are done subtly but clearly. There’s a break from dialogue and character focus for a shot of the road the family walk on with some music. From there the story picks itself back up and you start to see differences in the children as they begin to grow throughout the film. Less obvious are the changes in the adults, but some facial hair on Simm and a weary looking Henderson sort that out. It’s the score that lets the film down, and in a major way. Because the family are so lovely, you find yourself rooting for them. It’s such a real situation and a well created film, and yet the score is so awfully earnest and patronising it takes away from the characters and their story. Time is shown passing by these small musical interludes played over shots of the surrounding countryside. Whilst the pictures are lovely, the music doesn’t fit the tone of the film and actually wouldn’t work as a cinematic score elsewhere anyway. The musical direction is so far off it’s worth asking if there was any discussion between Winterbottom and Nyman about it.
If you can get past the score and how random it is, this is a wonderful film. It’s a very well observed drama that benefits from the five year filming time. With excellent performances from all involved and some lovely cinematography, it’s well worth your time. The children are the stand outs, mainly because despite their ages, they give very convincing performances. It’s worth going just for the four of them alone. ASH
laxed and naturalistic tone that Shane Meadows has helped popularise, most of the scenes sadly fall flat on their face with a stodgy and stilted whimper. The most apt example of this is shown by Shane Meadows’ go-to character actor Perry Benson. In Vinyl, Benson is made to look like arguably the weakest actor on show. His naturalistic deadpan acting style that worked so wonderfully in This Is England and Somers Town just doesn’t work with a script this hollow and direction this aimless. The scenes go nowhere and have seemingly only been created to repeatedly re-emphasise the two dimensional characteristics of each of the carelessly written characters. The potential of the story and the decent British cast deserves a much better screenplay and director. All things considered, Phil Daniels, Keith Allen and the young Jamie Blackley provide solid performances. Allen’s portrayal of Minto in particular raises the Vinyl tone of every scene he is in. His understated porSara Sugarman’s Vinyl is inspired by the true story trayal of the cynic of the scheme deserves mention, of Mike Peters, the aging musician who famous- and with a more adequate script one might have ly garnered interest in a song he wrote in 2004 been able to describe his performance as acceptby employing young teenagers to pretend to be able. We cannot possibly engage with the charhis band. The song entered the charts and Peters acters when the dialogue the actors are given to and his band thus duped the music industry into work with is so cumbersome and clichéd, but Allen showing interest in their music. Phil Daniels plays comes closest in evoking some sort of connection. Johnny Jones, the ex-frontman of the 1980s rock There are only so many tired rock music montages band ‘Weapons Of Happiness’ down on his luck that even the most forgiving audience can take. and Keith Allen plays Minto, his cynical ex-band mate. Whilst the real life events that Vinyl is based If Sugarman’s aim was to critique the superficiality on could have provided inspiration for an interest- of the modern day music industry, Vinyl succeeds ing dissection of the vacuous side of the music in- only in the sense that Annie Hall is successful in bedustry, it is sadly let down by a vapid screenplay ing a film that has a character called Annie Hall in and tired and formulaic direction that lacks any of it. If her aim was to make a fun, feel-good British the vigour, imagination or sense of urgency that the rock-comedy, you can’t help but wonder just what went wrong in the writer’s room. JS subject matter cries out for. It isn’t as if the film aims to be anything much more than a fun old-school, low budget Brit-flick. This style of film would have been more than adequate. But Vinyl’s constant misfiring makes the disappointing low budget ‘Brit rock flick’ Killing Bono look like Withnail and I crossed with This Is Spinal Tap. The screenplay is sadly one of the most humourless, cliché-ridden and predictable in recent memory. It is the kind of script that evokes sympathy for every actor, cameraman and work experience kid who has the misfortune of having this film as a great hulking black spot forever haunting their CV. Whilst Sara Sugarman attempts to recreate the re-
Gangster Squad ‘Let her rip!’ screams Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen as a man is torn not so cleanly in half by two cars, thirty seconds into the film. This immediate scene sets the pace as Gangster Squad takes off like a V2 rocket and doesn’t stop until the end credits; director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) has created a truly beautiful movie in Gangster Squad. Gangster Squad picks up in 1949 and centres on Mickey Cohen’s criminal empire in the City of Angels. As Cohen gains more momentum through extortion, bribery and murder the Police Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) assembles a squad of battle-hardened cops to take down the uber-violent mob boss, off the books of course. The man chosen to lead the Gangster Squad is Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin), a World War II veteran and one of the toughest on-screen characters since Paul Kersey. Under the leadership of O’Mara this band of hard-arsed (and awesomely clichéd) misfits goes to town on Cohen’s empire, mercilessly and anonymously picking apart his operations. The love triangle between Cohen (Penn) Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) and Grace Farraday (Emma Stone) provides a few shocks and near misses but ultimately the plot is basic and full of clichés, deserved of the genre; that is what makes it so enjoyable. The acting is just what any audience would want it to be. Josh Brolin is his usual stone-faced self, brooding with defiant attitude while Ryan Gosling shows exactly why he is one of the most sought after actors with a flawless performance. Gosling’s chemistry with Emma Stone is once again undeniable and the pair make for believable on-screen paramours. The supporting cast yields a great deal of talent also with the likes of Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte, Robert Patrick and Anthony Mackie but the real show-stealing role goes to Sean Penn. His rendition of a homicidal, ego-maniacal mobster is rivetingly realistic; any audience has come to expect nothing less from the 2003 Oscar winner. Gangster Squad is very violent and rightly so. Audiences of the past have been force fed romanticised, film-noire depictions of old school gangsters and molls. But that wasn’t how it was at all. The world of the gangsters and the cops who hunted them was brutal and bloody and Ruben Fleischer is not afraid to show it.
Equal to the violence is the classiness of the entire project. The costumes and the set designs are impeccably realistic and should evoke a sense of nostalgic envy to fans of the genre. These factors are superbly supported by cinematography that manages to shift from realism to film-noire and back again in an effortless fashion. However, the slowmotion, Max Payne-esque, bullet time sequence in one of the many shoot out scenes serves only to ruin what should have been a near perfect example of modern day cinematography. Gangster Squad is an extremely strong start to what promises to be an interesting year in the motion picture business. It is one of those guilty pleasures, a film replete with gangsters (obviously), guns and spectacular one-liners that should leave any true fan of the genre positively rhapsodic as they leave the cinema…BA-BAM! OS
such a huge song and anticipated performance, it’s very anti-climatic.
Les Miserables Les Miserables, the film based on the musical based on Victor Hugo’s book, is a feat of filmmaking. With ninety percent of the singing recorded live, some hugely surprising performances and scenes including hundreds of extras, Tom Hooper has created an epic film on par with the stage musical and book. Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who spent nineteen years as a slave, takes a chance to start afresh by dropping his name. Years later he is the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer but finds himself trying to evade the clutches of Javert (Russell Crowe), who knows Valjean broke his parole. As he is discovered, Valjean makes a promise to Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to look after her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried), a decision which changes both their lives. The obvious thing to discuss is Anne Hathaway and her performance. It was perhaps the most anticipated performance of last year and certainly one of the most talked about, and it’s easy to see why. Despite being in the film for all of twenty five minutes, at the most, she does a pretty good job of stealing it. Her performance of the iconic song I Dreamed A Dream is one of the most emotional few minutes committed to film. Shot in one take, and recorded live, she goes from vulnerable to angry to heartbroken over the course of the three minutes she sings. The only problem with it is her whole story seems very rushed. She turns up, is thrown into the streets, starts selling her hair and teeth and all of a sudden she’s singing I Dreamed, and then it’s over. For
Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman are the biggest surprises of the film. Despite being given a bit of stick for his singing, Crowe is actually pretty good. He’s better than Eddy Redmayne whose voice sounds awfully forced and indulges in a lot of chin-wobbling vibrato. Both Crowe and Jackman hit some notes you wouldn’t expect, and with quite some skill. Crowe is given two massive songs and his final one should shut his critics up. His voice is much more appealing than Redmayne’s, who sounds and looks like he’s trying far too hard. At least both Crowe and Jackman manage their parts whilst looking natural. The other surprise is Amanda Seyfried, who in Mamma Mia! was one of the most irritating characters ever witnessed. Her voice was fairly dire too but now she has a sweet sound that suits her character down to the ground. Tom Hooper has done a fine job and whilst it has divided opinion, it should sit well amongst the hundreds of other musical films as one of the better ones. The length shouldn’t put anyone off as it’s barely felt such is the level of atmosphere and emotion. It really sweeps itself into a frenzy, but an above average sound system will help the experience of course. This is a film that takes the meaning of ‘emotional roller coaster’ and amplifies it tenfold. Don’t leave it until the DVD release; it needs to be experienced in a cinema. ASH
Things to see in January
Now that Christmas is over and Glasgow Glasgow Film Theatre you’ve watched everything fluffy Showgirls and claymated that has been 14 January shown on TV for the last month, it’s Despised on initial release, Showgirls has been renow time to get back into those red claimed by a small group of fans and is now seen as a real camp classic. The majority of film fans are velvet seats at your local cinema. aware of Showgirls’ reputation but give the film a There’s a wealth of great screen- second viewing. you might be surprised. ings this month and it should all Wales be experienced in a real cinema screen. So have a look through Aberystwyth Arts Centre these listings or just try and find Aberystwyth L’Atalante an independent cinema near you 23 January and give them your support This 1934 french classic is a wonderful early examScotland Dundee
DCA Death in Venice 27 January
ple of the French New Wave that became increasingly popular in the 20th Century. It tells the story of a young married couple who travel to Paris after their wedding.
Chapter Marnie 21 January
Based on the novel of the same name, this adaptation is a wonderful piece of cinema featuring a One of Hitchcock’s later masterpieces, Marnie follegendary performance from Dirk Bogarde. lows the titular character and her web of deceit and life of crime. While Tippi Hedren’s role isn’t Edinburgh as iconic as her role in The Birds, it’s still a very Filmhouse impressive performance from the still burgeoning Pulp Fiction actress. 29 January Just two weeks after the release of Django Unchained, you can revel in what is undoubtedly Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. The beginning of his fantastic relationship with Samuel L Jackson, Pulp Fiction features QT’s best writing, direction and musical choices.
North West Beetham
The Heron The Grapes Of Wrath 25 January This John Ford classic has one of the greatest tag lines in cinema history - “The thousands who have read the book will know why WE WILL NOT SELL ANY CHILDREN TICKETS to see this picture!” Are you booking your tickets now? We are! Kendal Brewery Arts Centre Duel 22 January The first film that really put Steven Spielberg on the map. The current two time Best Director winner and 2013 nominee, cut his teeth on this slow burning tense thriller. Spielberg’s first monster movie, two decades before Jurassic Park sees a driver chased through the desert by a truck. Lancaster Dukes The Third Man 18 January
Aside from Citizen Kane, there is one role that defines Orson Welles as an actor, and that’s Harry Lime. Protagonist in The Third Man and current holder for greatest entrance by a male in cinema history. (I may have made that up, but he just oozes cool!) Liverpool Fact Frankenstein (1931) 23 January The Boris Karloff incarnation of Frankenstein is certainly the most iconic and memorable. While his may have simply ambled and trudged across sets, the range of emotion in Karloff’s heavily prosthetically enhanced face is incredible. Manchester Cornerhouse Stand By Me 20 January While Wil Wheaton, the young protagonist in Stand By Me, is now better known for his appearances on The Big Bang Theory, Stand By Me was one of his first forays into acting. The film is a wonderful tale of childhood and the onset of teenage life and burgeoning adulthood. Four friends go in search of a dead child’s body in order to make the evening news.
Stockport Plaza An American In Paris (1951) 19 January This 1951 musical classic has a wonderful cast that even Tom Hooper might be a little jealous of. Gene Kelly and Oscar Levant play friends who fall in love with the same woman played by Leslie Caron. Leeds Hyde Park Picture House Robocop & Total Recall (Double Bill) 25 January While Total Recall has just undergone the Hollywood remake treatment and a Robocop reboot is currently in production, it’s worth seeing the original films. Sheffield Showroom The Damned 20 January Birmingham mac Annie Hall 1 February
Possibly the only Woody Allen film that everyone has seen. Annie Hall explores the relationship between Allen’s Alvy Singer and Diane Keaton’s Hall. The film is a little gem and is hard to forget, but only for the obscure rambles and plots that roll off to strange tangents. Derby QUAD Lawrence Of Arabia 20 January One of the greatest films ever committed to celluloid, the Lawrence Of Arabia restoration doing the rounds is a wonderful print. David Lean’s greatest ever film, a hard title to take, and Peter O’Toole’s defining performance ensure that this has to be seen on a big screen. Plus with a 4 hour run time it’s a bargain! Leicester Phoenix Square This Is Spinal Tap 25 January Undoubtedly one of the greatest films about the music industry ever made. This faux documentary follows a band from the height of their fame to their lowest lows. Though not about a genuine band, This Is Spinal Tap is as engaging and enlightening as any doc or biopic.
Milton Keynes MK Gallery Short Cuts 25 January
London The Phoenix East Finchley The Son 17 January
Robert Altman’s 1993 classic, is approaching it’s 20 year anniversary. Featuring an incredible cast of Up ‘n’ comers and established stars at the time the film just follows the day to day lives of LA residents. The film is based on the writings of Raymond Carver, a prolific short story writer.
This Dardenne Brothers mystery involves a joiner at a rehab facility who becomes obsessed with a young man at the facility who he refuses to take as an apprentice. Nominated for the Palme D’Or and taking the best actor award at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, this is a rare opportunity to see this arthouse classic.
Oxford Ultimate Picture Palace Saturday Night Fever 18 January It may have been spoofed to within an inch of its life and recently even the spoofs have been spoofed, but Saturday Night Fever remains a seminal film of the disco era. With an incredible soundtrack and one of John Travolta’s definitive roles, where can you go wrong? Reading Reading Film Theatre Becket 23 January Featuring Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton as King Henry II and Thomas Becket concerns the relationship between the king and his confidant.
Ipswich Ipswich Film Theatre Kiss Me Deadly 1 February This wonderful Film noir, based on a novel by Mickey Spillane, follows Private Eye Mike Hammer after he picks up hitch hiker Christina and becomes embroiled in a story of death and deceit. Bristol Watershed Dancer In The Dark 27 January Lars Von Trier’s film may be more well known for featuring Bjork. But on release over a decade ago, it split critics down the middle. Have a look and see where you stand.
PictureShow Magazine will return in February 2013