undyingking: (Default)
At the pictures the other night, saw a trailer for new film Anonymous, in which the Earl of Oxford writes Shakespeare's plays.

The conspiracy theory that the plays were written by someone other than Shakespeare (who in this version was just an actor) is of very long standing. There are a number of other candidates suggested, but the overall gist is the same: 'the man from Stratford's' contribution to the oeuvre (sonnets and other verse as well as the plays) was nil or negligible.

It seems to me that this theory or set of theories, which I used to think of as being the realm of fringe loonery, has recently gained a bit of currency. What better way to find out than with an LJ poll?

[Poll #1787472]

Discussion )

(The post title is a call-back to this post of a while back.)
undyingking: (Default)
At the pictures the other night, saw a trailer for new film Anonymous, in which the Earl of Oxford writes Shakespeare's plays.

The conspiracy theory that the plays were written by someone other than Shakespeare (who in this version was just an actor) is of very long standing. There are a number of other candidates suggested, but the overall gist is the same: 'the man from Stratford's' contribution to the oeuvre (sonnets and other verse as well as the plays) was nil or negligible.

It seems to me that this theory or set of theories, which I used to think of as being the realm of fringe loonery, has recently gained a bit of currency. What better way to find out than with an LJ poll?

[Poll #1787472]

Discussion )

(The post title is a call-back to this post of a while back.)
undyingking: (Default)
Person is trying to make film about "the story of Radiohead, Ride, Supergrass, Foals, Swervedriver, Talulah Gosh and the tiny local music scene that spawned them". You can give him money to do so, in exchange for various enticements from a copy of the DVD upwards. Up to and including an Executive Producer credit – how nice! And who knows, you might even be in some of the archive footage, if you've lived in Oxford.
undyingking: (Default)
Person is trying to make film about "the story of Radiohead, Ride, Supergrass, Foals, Swervedriver, Talulah Gosh and the tiny local music scene that spawned them". You can give him money to do so, in exchange for various enticements from a copy of the DVD upwards. Up to and including an Executive Producer credit – how nice! And who knows, you might even be in some of the archive footage, if you've lived in Oxford.
undyingking: (Default)
We went to see Ponyo the other day, the new (to the UK) Miyazaki film. Headline summary: if you like Miyazaki, you will probably like this one too. It doesn't break new ground -- if anything, it's more similar in tone to oldies like Totoro and Kiki than his other recent films. On the other hand, if the whole Studio Ghibli thing is new to you, then this is not a bad place to start.

He has said that the film was inspired by The Little Mermaid (the Disney version rather than Andersen's not-so-fluffy story). There is also a neat reference to the Volsung Saga, as Ponyo's father calls her "Brunnhilde" -- the name of the valkyrie who disobeyed her father Wotan by falling in love with a human.

The sotry doesn't make much sense, but it has some lovely characters (Ponyo's father, the wizard Fujimoto, especially), and some beautiful animation -- the pre-credit sequence is terrific.
undyingking: (Default)
I had been vaguely aware that there was a new, animated film of Fantastic Mr Fox around, but it wasn't until just recently that I realized it was by Wes Anderson. So I went to see it, with T, last night.

I really enjoyed it -- in ways that have very, very little to do with the Roald Dahl book. Anderson has taken that as a loose jumping-off point, and gone off into several unusual dimensions. If you liked Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, you will like this film. Basically it's full of silly, hugely inventive, and slightly strange moments. And the animation is really nice too -- it's unusual these days to see stop-motion at the big cinema, apart from Aardman stuff.

Sample dialogue:
Mr. Fox: [sighs] Who am I, Kylie?
Kylie: Who how? What now?
Mr. Fox: Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I? And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?
Kylie: I don't know what you're talking about, but it sounds illegal.

[Poll #1481182]
undyingking: (Default)
We went to see Coraline yesterday -- this was my first encounter with this new-fangled extra dimension, or at least my first encounter with it that didn't involve red / green glasses.

I thought it was quite impressive actually, a heap better than the old methods of rendering 3D. No idea how it works, and I came out of the show with a very stiff neck, but that might not be its fault.

I'm not sure the film really gained much from the extra dimension -- there were plenty of nice 3D effects, but mostly just for decorative purposes. I don't think you would feel cheated if you just saw it in old-style planovision.

As for Coraline itself, I enjoyed it. Not the most wonderful film ever, and plenty of things to find fault with if so motivated, but generally a fun afternoon out. Although I'm glad I wasn't accompanying an 8-year-old, as the certificate suggested -- I suspect they would have woken up with screaming nightmares for several years after. Not because the film is especially gruesome or terrifying -- it isn't -- but because its imagery and forceful plot aspects are very well chosen to key into childhood fears. Nice work!


In less good news, we've just learnt that the BNP are for the first time running candidates in our local elections. With the general mood of disgust against all politicians, they might make some headway. (One of our councillors has written a stern letter to the PM complaining about MPs letting the party down.) The Tories have been trying to make these elections into a referendum on the government, to deflect attention form their woeful record on local issues -- they may find this strategy bites them on the bum, if the BNP end up taking a chunk of their vote. But if they get representation, we will all be the losers...


Back to fun 3D things again, friend Phillip just pointed me at Photosynth, a Microsoft site that assembles your photos into a 3D view which you can navigate around. It needs you to install Silverlight (MS's Flash competitor) if you don't have it already. But worth looking at, because it really is clever at joining the images together, and the navigation interface is neat and works well. Phillip's set is here.
undyingking: (Default)
Potentially excellent news this morning, via [livejournal.com profile] newsoftheweird -- a sequel to one of my favourite films.

(Warning: don't search IMDB for the name of the sequel just yet, unless you want to learn a great deal about the doings of German schoolgirls inthe early 70s.)

"You know the way everybody's into weirdness right now?"
undyingking: (Default)
For some reason one of my addresses gets a load of spam related to screenwriting. Normally it's just plugging courses etc, but I got this very specific one the other day:
SQuid Brothers, INC. is looking for a completed, feature length dark drama or gritty thriller scripts which involve a hardened male character (24-28 preferred but not required) who interacts with a young, “quirky but bright” 11-13 year old female character,

i.e. Something in the vein of “The Professional,” “Sling Blade,” “Taxi Driver,” or “City of Lost Children.” The male character in the story should have enough moral sense to not hurt the child, and should learn something from the kid as the story unfolds, perhaps even becoming a mentor to, and then later becoming mentored by the child character. We especially favor stories where the communication between the main characters takes place more through body language than dialogue, such that the acting is more in the eyes and less in the conversation. And we’re especially interested in a hard, gritty, dark role for the female character. Budget for this project will not exceed $1.5 million. WGA and non-WGA writers may submit.
Sounds good eh? Or... does it? Anyone got any good ideas?
undyingking: (Default)
  • Went the other night to see Burn after Reading, the new Coen brothers film. We thought it was pretty good fun: just a fairly shallow piece of fluff really, but there's nothing wrong with that. The galaxy of stars (Malkovich, Swinton, McDormand, Pitt, Clooney) all put in entertaining turns. It kind of cops out and runs out of steam at the end, but it wold be harsh to resent it for that.
  • The Plantbot moves autonomically around in search of light for its precious cargo. Excellent idea! I think ideally you'd want it to also rotate so the heaviest part of the plant was facing away form the light, so it grows evenly, but maybe its drunkard's walk will achieve evenness anyway. (Via [livejournal.com profile] curiosity_ips.)
  • Last night we were at a get-together of children's book illustrators organized as part of the National Year of Reading, with which T's involved. Michael Foreman, Anthony Browne and Nick Butterworth were the headline names, but plenty of lesser luminaries too, plus some publishers, writers, etc. They mostly talked about the industry, which was interesting for me but may have been deathly for the kids who were present. Also, a bit strange that the three main speakers were all middle-aged blokes, when there are plenty of young people and women in the field. They were all engaging enough guys, but there was definitely a tone of "these young art-school types today, never been taught to draw properly, we had to come up the hard way" etc.
    It was in Suffolk's Council Chamber, which is pretty new and had a rather snazzy mike system, like a sort of automated "speaking object" for those of you who were ever at OUSFG discussions or similar. If you want to speak, you press the button on your mike, but that doesn't interrupt the current speaker until they press their own button to signal they've finished: so only one mike is live at any given time. The good bit though is that there are three big projection screens on the walls of the room, fed by a handful of ceiling of cameras that are slaved to the mikes -- so as the "live mike" changes, the live camera switches to the one with the best view of that mike, which pans and zooms as required, and the projections all automatically go with that so as to display the current speaker most effectively. Maybe this arrangement is commonplace these days, but I hadn't seen it before and thought it was pretty neat.
  • I expect everyone's seen this reinterpretation of A-Ha's Take on Me video by now, but just in case you haven't -- you should, it's very very funny.
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Good... )

... and bad )
undyingking: (Default)
Went to see this film last night, and thought it was excellent! -- we might not have got out to the pictures much just lately, but it's been a pretty good hit rate.

Basically everything good you've heard about the film is true: Judi Dench is aboslutely terrific, Cate Blanchett also excellent, as are the support. The story is good and the screenplay shapes it well into film length, and cleverly handles the problem of the novel's unreliable narrator device. There are a couple of scenes where it goes slightly OTT and stagy, and the language slips from the naturalistic, but nothing that can't be forgiven.

Author Zoe Heller and scenarist Patrick Marber were both at Oxford around the same time as me. I was vaguely aware of Marber as part of the Armando Ianucci gang, but not Heller. Well, it's a big university: other people from then are now doing things like being cabinet ministers and leaders of the opposition. But it still feels kind of spooky for some reason.
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Went to the cinema for the first time in ages, to see Pan's Labyrinth with [livejournal.com profile] pmarrow  and T. If you haven't seen it yet, it certainly is an intriguing and remarkable film. I came away feeling very glad that I'd seen it, but also quite glad that I won't now have to see it again. I seem to be becoming more and more of a wimp when it comes to grimness and grue, both of which are present in generous quantities. But the whole thing is a work of such terrific skill, inspiration and resonance that you shouldn't let that put you off, even if (like me) you have to cover eyes and ears at a few places.

From the trailers and other pre-publicity I'd got the idea that it was mostly a fantastical thingy of young girl traipsing through surreal-tinged underworld. Actually though the real-world plot, in which she and her mother fall under the control of a captain in Franco-era Spain, has a lot more screen time. But I was hugely impressed by the way that the two strands of plot work together to reinforce and to counterpoint each other's development and the messages the viewer can take away. This really is the most amazingly skilful bit of plot construction -- I can't think of any other film that comes close to being as good at marrying together two such worlds. There have been interesting bits in several of del Toro's previous films, but nothing up till now to make me suspect him of genius.

Other things: the acting is understated but of the excellence required to sustain the story; the setting, lighitng, design etc are fantastic; the real-world torture, beatings, masacres etc are grim (it's shocking to think that these people were still running Spain when I was a kid, and Brits were happily going there on holiday); the fantasy-world images and effects are mostly powerful and effective; and the plot all basically makes sense and ties upnicely.

I'll have to start going to the pictures more often if they're all gong to be like this!
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From Language Log:

"There is a scene in which Queen Elizabeth drives her Land Rover solo across a ford on the Balmoral estate and breaks the drive shaft on a rock, stranding her vehicle in shallow water. As she gets out to check under the vehicle, suspecting the worst, she quietly mutters 'Bugger' to herself. For this, parents are strong cautioned to consider keeping their twelve-year-olds home... In Casino Royale a naked man is tied to a chair with the bottom ripped out of it and is tortured by having a knotted rope slammed into his testicles again and again until he howls in agony. The film gets the same rating as The Queen: PG-13."
[Both are 12A in the UK, so substitute "eleven-year-olds" above.]


The writer concludes: "Something is profoundly wrong with our beliefs about the evil powers of everyday language, and with the movie guidance that is being supplied to us."

Well, I suppose being a linguist he would say that. I was more struck by the alternative interpretation, ie. that something is profundly wrong with our beliefs about the harmlessness of gruesome violence. It may be sad that a stray "Bugger" is forcing people to accompany their eleven-year-olds to see The Queen (presumably so they can cover their ears at the crucial moment -- and how many eleven-year-olds are going to want to see it, anyway?), but the idea that children of any age can be taken to cheer on James Bond getting his bits bashed is quite an surprise, isn't it?

Poll! )
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We went last night to see The Da Vinci Code, for reasons which are too complicated to go into here. Much to my surprise it was actually not too bad. I mean, it was a load of cheesy old nonsense of course, but not bad in a "Must.. claw... out... eyes!" kind of way. I haven't read the book, but it seemed like the main thing that people complained about in that (the dreadful writing) had been pretty effectively filtered out, barring the odd stretch of clunky dialogue.

It was interesting to see the way that Brown had drawn on the source material. I'm pretty familiar with it, having done a fair chunk of UNEXPLAINED around the Priory of Sion etc, and it seemed to me that he had gone about cherry-picking his desired elements and constructing his plot in a very game-like manner. Puzzles and other thinky bits reveal the reasons to move between episodic encounters, key NPCs undergo the familiar arcs of trust / enmity, the characters' expectations are regularly overturned, and the encounters themselves are a classic mix of waffly exposition and combat relying on implausible odds to survive. Is Dan Brown a gamer? Inquiring minds demand to know.
undyingking: (Default)
(Or TTFN, as the UK equivalent would presumably be called.) Went to see this the other night -- it's the George Clooney-directed thing about US TV newsman Ed Murrow's campaign against Senator McCarthy. It makes the point that when there are two sides to a political issue, and one side is frankly evil and wrong, then broadcasters who try and present an appearance of balance between the two opionions are failing their duty.

Obviously it's a kind of preachy film, and preachy to the choir at that, and it involves negligible drama or excitement. But as a recreation of the time and the arguments, it's fairly compelling I think if you're interested in that kind of stuff. Clooney is brave enough not to make his heroes appear perfect, which helps make it watchable: Murrow fails to help a colleague targeted by the right who later commits suicide, CBS shows considerable hypocrisy in forcing to resign two staff who are secretly married to each other, and Murrow's programme is introduced by a spot from his cigarette sponsor explaining how because the Murrow audience is intelligent and discerning, they'll appreciate how his cigarettes are better than the competition. Cigarettes are conspicuous throughout -- Murrow and the rest puff them continuously. I wonder how many of them are still alive today?

The strength of the thing though is that it uses authentic words from the historical incidents, and arranges them in such a way as to make it clear that Clooney is deeply disappointed with today's poodle media. Which is all good stuff of course, but kind of like punching an empty plastic bag.
  • David Strathairn's performance as Murrow is thoroughly excellent and convincing;
  • Frank Langella is also excellent as the studio boss -- a long way from being Skeletor in the Master of the Universe film;
  • The colleague who dies is played by Ray Wise, who still after all these years gives me the severe creeps. The guy raped and killed his own daughter, people! OK, he was possessed by Evil Bob at the time, but still.

Towards the end the camera goes in on a TV speech by then President Eisenhower -- a Republican, note -- which is nothing to do with the plot, where he talks about how great it is that in America no-one need fear imprisonment without charge or trial. Wouldn't get very far with that sort of terrorist-appeasing talk these days!

What with this film, and Syriana, and a load of stuff he's talked about, Clooney is well on the way to being a leftie demon figure a la Sean Penn / Susan Sarandon. It seems clear though that he's not actually left-wing -- in historical US politics terms he's really pretty much in the centre. It just goes to show how skewed the debate has become.
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I went to see State and Main the other day (showing as part of the campaign to save the Ipswich Film Theatre) and was struck by something I hadn't really thought much about when I saw it when it came out in 2000.

Includes spoilers... and talk of s*x )
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Hope you're having a good one wherever you are old chum!

Cambridge )

Narnia )

TV comedy )

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