This year rather than list the films I am looking forward to, I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the films that I have already seen this year (at Berlin, Cannes and TIFF) and can therefore personally vouch for. Of course not everyone has the same tastes as me and some of these choices are included for the simple fact that they are doing something different or interesting, rather than for entertainment reasons alone (“The Tribe” I am looking at you particularly). Below are 30 films, both big and small whittled down from the 60+ films from this years programme that I have already seen.
It’s worth remembering that many of these films will have extra tickets released on the day of the screening or via the rush line 20 minutes before the film starts. The BFI have also created a single page that lists what films still have availability and which previously sold out films have extra tickets been released for.
The film that in my mind should have won this years Palme D’Or. I’ve seen it twice now and the second viewing only reinforced how good it is. Just don’t plan on having an drink-a-long contest while watching it.
German über director Christian Petzold returns with his regular muse Nina Hoss in this brilliant tale of a concentration camp survivor rebuilding her life in post war Germany. Touches of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Franju’s Eyes without a Face. The amazing final closing shot is not one you should miss.
An extremely dark and acerbic comedy from the director of cult indie film The Colour Wheel. This time with a substantially larger budget and the acting talents of Jason Schwartzman (playing something of a grown up Max Fisher) and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men’s Peggy Olson). Possibly an acquired taste, but I loved it.
A dark and funny (not to mention slightly kinky) look at the mundane domesicity of a lesbian S&M relationship in Peter Strickland’s latest, a pitch-perfect homage to the 1970’s euro-sleeze films of Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk.
A brilliantly heartfelt and uplifting update on Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (itself the inspiration for Ozu’s Tokyo Story). If your LFF schedule is looking a little too packed out with dour and downbeat 2hr+ neo-realist films then this is the perfect antidote.
Ozon’s latest feel like something that Almodovar might once have made. Funny, smart and very enjoyable with some of the best twists that your likely to see this year (aside from one other film on this list).
I’m still on the fence about this one since seeing it in Toronto. I had exceedingly high hopes based on Hansen-Love’s previous films, but left the screening feeling dissapointed. But I’m adding it to this list as I think there’s enough in there to recommend it, particularly in the second half and it might be a film that on a second viewing I grow to appreciate more. In short the story of two friends “who might/could have been Daft Punk (if only things and panned out differently)” [that is a pretty big stretch…but]. It’s also a story of growing old and giving up on your youthful pasttimes, of relationships and responsibility. There’s certainly enough individual scenes/episodes in this (possibly over-long) film to make it a worthwhile watch, I’m just not sure that as a whole it reached the exceedingly high level I was hoping for.
LFF are showing the “Them” version that was show in En Certain Regard at Cannes back in May. I still want to see it presented as two separate films (“Him” and “Her”) as it was during TIFF 2013. I think it would make for a more interesting viewing. That said it’s a very accomplished (anti)love story. For fans of films like Blue Valentine this should be right up your street.
Big at Sundance, big in Cannes and big at TIFF. This is 2014’s indie crowd pleaser. I wasn’t as fully bowled over as many by this. But it would be unfair to deny it’s appeal. At it’s heart a two-hander between a young drum student (Miles Teller) being push to his limits by his pitiless music teacher (J K Simmons).
A series of extremely dark and funny shorts from Director Damián Szifrón and producer Pedro Almodóvar. This was amongst many peoples very favourite films at Cannes hit year. Personally it wasn’t at very the top of my list, but I still think it’s worth a watch.
A fascinating look at obsession and creativity. In the early 1990s, in a forest near the Catalan village of Agrelaguer a middle-aged man known as Garrell built a vast complex of mazes and towering, inhabitable structures with wood from the surrounding trees. This documentary tracks his multiple attempts to build and re-build his jungle hideout.
A smart and clever tale of a young Seoul police chief, who after an initially unmentioned incident is relocated to a job in the rural countryside. Things are fine until she meets a young girl, which in turn leads her to a momentary lack of judgement that puts everything at risk.
An excellent first feature from music video director Daniel Wolfe (and his brother Mathew) with superb cinematography by Robbie Ryan. It plays out like a modern British retelling of John Ford’s The Searchers.It also features the most esquisitly filmed dance sequence your likely to see in a film this year.
A subtle but beguiling story of a young girl who’s family has decided to live off-grid by running a bee-keeping farm in rural Italy. All is fine until the daughter decides to enter the family into a reality TV show. Once of the more overlooked titles from this years Cannes Competition lineup, but well worth a watch.
Two sisters and their maid are left to protect their home in the final days of the civil war.Beautifully filmed, with a great performance from Brit Marling. This is certainly worth a watch for fans of slow burn cinema.
One of the big creeper hits at this years Toronto film festival. A young autistic maths prodigy leave his safe rural home in England and travels to Taipei for the Maths Olympiad. Heartbreaking and life affirming, with superb performances all round.
A fun look at producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who’s shlock production house Canon films, churned out low budget film after low budget film (along with a few greats like Cassavetes’ Love Streams) in the 1970’s.
While at times an extremely hard watch (there is an extended scene that made me think twice about leaving), there is no denying the originality and execution in this Ukrainian drama, acted entirely using sign language. Definitely one for those who like to discuss and think about their films on leaving the cinema.
The one clue Clare Stewart has given is that the film is “Awesome” which might give some clues (or might not).
I’d personally love to see Birdman (but given that TIFF didn’t get to screen it post Venice, probably unlikely) or Inherent Vice (very very unlikely, it just isn’t going to happen).
So here’s my guesses (and opinion on them) from what I have seen.
Nightcrawler (the Jake Gyllenhaal movie) which I really enjoyed at TIFF would be my odds-on favourite. It could fairly easily be placed under the banner of “Awesome”.
The Theory of Everything (the Stephen Hawking movie) seems like a huge omission from the LFF programme, although it does seem a bit too big of a film to show up in VUE5 and 7? I would have imagined they would have moved it to the OWE if they were going to unveil it in the surprise film slot. It’s also a little bit of a downer for the surprise film. Certianly not what I’d class as “Awesome”. Still I still think there’s a good chance that could be the Surprise Film, purely on the basis that it seems such an omission. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but not sure I’d want to see it again. It’s certainly better than the other bio-pic of an OxBridge genius contesting for an Oscar this year (yes, I’m wasn’t a huge fan of the Imitation Game).
I’d love to see Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young again, it was one of my favorite films at TIFF but something tells me that’s not likely. Likewise St. Vincent (the Bill Murray film) would be a crowd pleasing fit, it’s fun if not particularly special, but given the limited screenings of it at TIFF I’m not sure it’s going to be turning up as a surprise film. But who knows….
In terms of smaller crowd pleasers, I reckon Big Game featuring Samuel L Jackson or Kevin Smith’s Tusk could be possibilities, there both big, silly, fun films. Both could most certainly be classed as “Awesome” in the wider sense.
I’m also wondering why Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure (one of my favourite unexpected gems at Cannes) isn’t in this years programme given it’s been a big buzz title at every festival since it bowed at Cannes. Although programming a subtitled Swedish film probably isn’t in the spirit of the Surprise film. So I think we can just put that one down to a scheduling conflict (or Clare Stewart hating it).
I really like MUBI a moving 30 day window of hand curated films for the price of a coffee, or as they like to describe themselves ‘an online cinema’.
But despite being a member for some time now and reguarly checking the iPad app for new films. I found myself rarely streaming the films direct from MUBI’s site, as my main film watching platform is a dedicated HTPC running XBMC permanatly rigged up to a projector and despite the ability to relay films from an iPad or a laptop to XBMC via Airplay it always felt cumbersome as the XBMC remote had no control over the film (pause/play/rewind). Another (slightly geeky, but actually rather useful) reason I wanted native playback was that the lighting in my house is connected up to dim when a movie starts/stops which doesn’t happen unless the movie is playing directly in XBMC.
Someone had previously written a very nice and feature rich MUBI plugin for XBMC. However it was now i) broken and no longer being maintained and ii) was built against an older version of the site, prior to the introduction of a 30 day selection window and the phasing out of the old pay-per-film model, so much of it’s funtionality was no longer relevant and/or broken.
But that gave me the incentive to look at using a mix of Beautiful Soup (to handle the scraping, MUBI doesn’t have a public API I assume due to rights issues) and XBMCSwift2 (to make the addon code slightly cleaner and easier to test from the command line).
Anyway, after a couple of false starts, a bit of request/response interrogation using Charles and some trial and error, I managed to get everything working. Although this is my first XBMC plugin, first time using BeautifulSoup or XMBCSwift2 and the second thing I have written in Python of any consequence, so it’s undoubtable a little rough round the edges.
I haven’t pushed this out as an official XBMC plugin, nor do I have any plans to. But if anyone wants to download my code/plugin then feel free to do so. Just don’t ask me (or MUBI) for any support on it, although feel free to add feedback or let me know if it’s broken for you (just don’t expect an immediate fix!). It’s highly likely to break again next time MUBI change their site and I certianly don’t want to get into a cat/mouse situation trying to keep it up to date, especially if they are unhappy with the idea of a 3rd party XBMC plugin accessing their service.
You will need a MUBI account to use the plugin, you can sign up for a 30 day trial here.
Thanks to jbaiter for his original plugin which gave me a starting off point for this version. There’s also a couple of lines/patterns that I took verbatim from his original plugin due to their elegance/simplicity.
All in all a slightly disappointing year it has to be said, especially in terms of the main competition. Whilst Berlin is never going to have the same pulling power and choice of films as Cannes, there were very few standouts films competing for the Golden Bear and of those that did shine, the best Linklater’s Boyhood had already been screened at Sundance.
That’s not to say it was a wasted trip, the Pannorama and Forum section seemed to be where the better films were hiding out, although once again many of these titles were European rather than World premieres.
The standout in the Competition for me was Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (A) which I absolutely adored and cannot wait to see again. It follows Mason, played by actor Ellar Coltrane growing up in Texas from age six to his eighteenth birthday, filmed over the space of 12 years while the actor himself was growing up. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, his co-stars, similarly age in real time over the course of the film. Go, if not run, to see it at the first opportunity you get.
Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Yann Demange’s 71 (B-) I think was best viewed as a kind of John Carpenter’esk ‘Escape from Belfast’. In that capacity it kept me on the edge of my seat, as for it’s social commentary I’m not sure it added anything we didn’t already know.
Even if it was at times like watching someone shooting fish in a barrel in terms of it’s lampooning of religious fundamentalism, I loved the dark humour in Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) (B-). Although later in the week someone suggested to me that it wasn’t meant to be humorous. If that was the case, I’m not sure what that says about either me or the film.
Grand Budapest Hotel (B-) was Wes Anderson, better than Moonrise Kingdom and once again amazing to look at, but for me very hard to love. I found myself simply watching a very pretty surface throughout, admittedly it was a very fine and pretty surface I was watching (with a fun caper plot beneath). But I want more than that from a film, even a Wes Anderson one. Then again maybe I have just worn thin to the charms of Wes Anderson.
I really enjoyed Nymphomaniac Vol. I (long version) (B) [update: unfortunately I didn’t get to see Volume 2 till I was back in London, which quickly brought my enthusiasm for the film as a whole crashing back down to earth].
The rest of the competition line up seemed to be comprised of at best, the sort of average to mediocre festival fare that is admired but soon forgotten, only to turn up on a tiny VOD release a year or two down the line or at worst films that made you question how they’d even been programmed into such a prestigious slot in the first place.
Standouts in the Panorama section for me were the excelent Norwegian drama Blind (B+) which I instantly wanted to rewatch and the Sundance hit Love is Strange (B+) about two elderly gay men who have to move out of their New York Apartment, in turn splitting them apart , which I can see going on to popular widespread appeal (with parallels begin drawn to Leo McCarey’s 1937 film Make Way for Tomorrow).
Blind, Eskil Vogt
Also worthy of attention I thought were Things People Do (C+) from Terence Mallick’s former editor Saul Klien and Guard director John Michael McDonagh’s follow up Calvary (ungraded) staring Brendan Gleeson (I must confess I was extremely tired during this screening and may not have given it the attention it was due, I need to rewatch to grade it properly).
In the Forum section I finally got to watch Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (B), still no date for a UK theatrical release, but an announcement from Harvey Weinstein that it will now be released unedited.
A couple of great, but not maybe not terrific documentaries, Finding Vivian Maier (B-) about a nanny posthumously discovered as a street photography and spoken of slightly over enthusiastically by some in the film as a peer to the likes of Cartier Bresson or Diane Arbus and The Dog (C+) about John Wojtowicz, the inspiration for Al Pachino’s character in Dog Day Afternoon.
Finding Viviane Maier, John Maloof / Charlie Siskel
Less successful for me, but still interesting was Josephine Decker’s arty indie drama Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (C-). Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Estonian film Free Range (E) which left me extremely disappointed.
European Film Market / Sundance at EFM
The EFM continued with thier Sundance at EFM programme, showcasing key Sundance titles fresh from their premieres at Park City. From that section I caught films as diverse as such as indie drama Obvious Child (B) which I really enjoyed (and no, thankfully it’s not Juno 2), the extreemly uneven Gods Pocket (C-) featuring the late Phillip Seamoure Hoffman (given his recent death, the screening has rather odd feel to it it has to be said), Lenny Abraham’s Frank Sidebottom inspired Frank (C) staring Michael Fassbender, the Mark Ruffalo lead Infinitely Polar Bear (C+) about a bi-polar man trying to win back custody of his childen, Lynn Sheltions’s less successful Laggies (D) staring Kiera Knightly and a fascinating documentary The Green Prince (C+) about the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas who becomes an Israeli spy.
Obvious Child, Gillian Robespierre
And anyway, even if the main lineup was a little lacking this year, at least the weather made up for it. Far from the usual trudging from cinema to cinema in snow and ice, fighting off Eastern European winds, this year the sun was out and shining.
Films by grade
Nymphomaniac Part I (Long version) (B)
Grand Budapest Hotel (B-)
Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) (B-)
No Man’s Land (D+)
In Order of Disappearance (D+)
Inbetween worlds (D+)
Two Men in Town (D+)
Praia do Futuro (D+)
Black Coal, Thin Ice (D)
History of fear (E)
Love is strange (B+)
Things people do (C+)
20,000 Days on Earth (C)
Finding Vivian Maier (B-)
The Dog (C+)
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (C-)
Free Range (E)
Out of competition:
Two Faces of January (B)
NYRoB Untitled Martin Scorsese Documentary (uncompleted)
Infinitely Polar Bear (C+)
The Green Prince (C+)
Fishing Without Nets (C+)
Gods pocket (C-)
Electric Slide (not yet publicly screened)
It’s around that time of year when the nights start closing in, the clocks go back and the London Film Festival rolls in town. As usual I’ve compiled a list of films that I’m most looking forward to seeing along with a few others that that I’d love to see if time and schedule conflicts allow. They’ll almost certainly be some others that will arrive from nowhere as ‘must sees’ so have tried to leave some room in my schedule for these as well.
I’ve already watched several of the titles at this years Festival earlier in the year at Cannes. These include the Coen Brothers’ brilliant Inside Llewyn Davis (highly recomended – in fact so good I went to a second screening of it), Robert Redford in JC Chandor’s near silent ‘lost at sea’ film All is Lost (recommended), Asgahar Farhadi’s follow up to A Separation The Past / Le Passé (recommended), Ozon’s Jeune et Jolie (worth a watch, although there’s no denying it’s slightly questionable subject matter will anger some), James Franco’s experimental split-screen adaptation of Fawlkner’s As I Lay Dying(approach with caution, choose the Thursday 10 October NFT1 screening with subtitles as most of the dialog is mumbled and unintelligible and brush up on the plot prior to watching), A Touch of Sin Jia Zhangke’s Cannes screenplay prizewinner (which some critics loved, I was less bowled over by it) and the dark Danish home invasion dry-humored Borgman (worth a watch if dark dry-humored slightly surreal, in a Buñuel way, Danish home invasion flicks are your bag).
Having already seen Inside Llewyn Davis which otherwise would have been very high on my list, these are the other Gala’s I’m most looking forward to.
What so far seems like 2013’s critics’ favorite post it’s screenings at Telluride and TIFF, picking up the audience award at the latter. Steve McQueens latest is probably this years hottest ticket at LFF.
While Robert Redford is lost at sea in JC Chandor’s All is Lost(hidden much lower down the lineup, but still very much worth a watch) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are lost in space in Alfonso Cuaron’s latest. Great reviews from TIFF make this another highly anticipated screening.
Having watched every one of Kelly Reichardt’s films at the LFF since Old Joy back in 2006, it’s fantastic to see her having now progressed to a main Gala slot with her new film (a namesake to one my favourite 1970’s neo-noirs). By all accounts well received at both at TIFF and Venice.
Always one one of the festival hottest tickets and unfortunately it comes with no guarantee of quality (Brighton Rock I’m looking at you). But there’s also nothing worse for the avid cinephile than finding out via the powers of Twitter that the hotly anticipated ommission from the programme was hiding under the banner of the Surprise film all along (No Country for Old Men, The Wrestler) and you didn’t get a ticket. My early guess would be a TIFF crowd pleaser like Spike Jonze’s Herscreening at the NYFF a week or so before LFF could also fit the bill.
I will almost certianly try and catch the Tom Hanks festival opener Captain Phillips about Somali pirates at the press screening (one of my favourite smaller picks from last years festival was the Danish Somali pirate movie A Hijacking so would be interesting to compare the two). I also would also like to see Alexandra Pane’s Nebraska in order to make up my own mind on it having read lots of mixed reviews and I’d be interested to see if Lukas Moodysson has returned to form with We Are the Best the story of three girls forming a punk band in 1980’s Sweeden.
Clio Barnard’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s children’s story has had glowing reviews since it screened back in May as part of Directors Fortnight. Looks to be following the footsteps of Ken Loach’s Kes or Andrea Arnold’s Ratcatcher.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest is a black and white ‘exploration of faith and history’ according to the LFF synopsis. Which could mean the driest (I am sure there is a pun there involving a certain Danish director but I’ll refrain) 80mins spent in a cinema during October or something poetic and beautiful. I’m obviously hoping for the latter.
Also kind of fascinated to see Isabelle Huppert in Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness. Several people recommended Like Father, Like Son to me back in Cannes, so tempted to give it a try as well.
I’ve grouped together the following selection of films listed in the catalogue under ‘theme’ headings, as my small selection is fairly navigable without them, although I have broken out the documentaries and genre films. To be fair to the LFF it always seemed a bit odd to have a dedicated French section, but not one for say Asia or Latin America in the catalogue, so not sure any classification system is ever perfect and something will always end up being the odd shaped case on the DVD shelf.
I’ve already seen J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost which otherwise would be high on this list along with Asgahar Farhadi’s follow up to A Separation The Past.
Been looking forward to this for a long time. Mumblecore’s Andrew Bujalski’s (Funny Ha Ha) pseudo-documentary on a 1970’s computer chess tournament. Filmed in grainy black and white on an vintage Sony AVC 3260 tube camera.
“The romantic (mis)adventures of glamorous, disco-loving fiftysomething Gloria provide the narrative energy of Sebastián Lelio’s award-winning comedy” sounds like it went down well with both critics and audiences in Berlin earlier this year where the lead actress Paulina Garcia won the Silver Bear for Best Actress.
Tom Hardy, as structural engineer Ivan Locke, driving in a car from Wales to London sounds more like a radio play than a movie. But equally it sounds pretty fascinating and one of those film that is probably better watched on a big screen at a festival as opposed to a DVD or via VoD at home, where the temptation to get up and make a cup of tea half way though is probably too great.
A “film about the attempt by the Iranian authorities to cover-up a past state crime” from dissident Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof sounds both fascinating and risky (for the director not the audience).
Also on the long list is Nicole Holofcener’s mid-life romcom Enough Said staring James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener as middle aged divorcees. Joe Swanberg’s latest comedy Drinking Buddies staring Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. Grand Central a romance between two French nuclear workers staring Tahar Rahim and Vic + Flo Saw a Bear which David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter describes as “Wes Anderson and Eric Rohmer”.
Not screening at Midnight, but ‘Cult’ which is which is the heading under which the LFF filed most of these seems like an premature tag to label a film with before it has acquired that status and to simply label them ‘Genre’ seemed a bit too trade/industry jargon. Whatever they are the LFF have done a great job programming a selection of films that wouldn’t be out of place at Fantastic Fest or Sitges.
“Ti West brings his inimitable brand of smart, slow-burn terror to this story of two journalists visiting a mysterious religious commune.”. Guy Lodge in Variety writes “Ti West’s largely terrific sixth feature investigates unseemly goings-on at a rural Christian commune.” while the Hollywood Reporter warn “Not quite a horror movie, which might disappoint the purists, but nonetheless a bone-chilling genre piece about religious fanaticism taken to deadly extremes.”
Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, who directed Amer back in 2009, have a new film The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears at this years fest that looks like another giallo-inspired exercise in style over substance. Reviews are mixed on this and I expect it largely depends on how much you want some plot in your movie. The Hollywood Reporter describe it as “A film as stylish as it is narratively labyrinthine” while Variety warn “This blood-spattered pseudo-Freudian nonsense is suitable only for the most avid giallo groupies”. Mmmm…haven’t made my mind up on this, sounds like it might be more at home in the ‘Experimenta’ strand of the festival, but if your gonna watch it, I expect the big screen is the the way to go. Also in the ‘Cult’ section is Why Don’t You Play in Hell? which looks like it could be a lot of fun for fans of all things genre. Screen called it “a classic cult title that will keep midnight movie fans entertained and amused” while Justin Chang in Variety is less impressed “Sion Sono trawls sub-Tarantino B-movie-pastiche territory with this tedious, over-the-top gorefest”.
Other docs that look interesting include Cutie and the Boxer which shines a spotlight on the 40 year marriage of two New York artists. Manhunt about the real CIA operatives who tracked Osama Bin Laden; not sure how many times this story can be retold, it seems to have been done to death in both in fiction and documentary format, but this new documentary looks to be getting some good reviews. Matt Wolf’s “prehistory of the Teenager” Teenage looks like it could also be worth a watch (I really enjoyed his previous doc Wild Combination on the life and legacy of musician Arthur Russell). Finally, Roman Polanski’s 1971 documentary on his friend and Formula One champion Jackie Stewart ‘Weekend of a Champion‘ is one of two F1 themed documentries in the programme, the other being the concisely titled 1.
Listed below are the films I watched at this years LFF or films from the LFF programme that I watched prior to the festival (at SXSW, Cannes or Berlin) in some semblance of an order.
The greats (A)
Amour [Michael Haneke] (Cannes) IMDB
No [Pablo Larraín] (Cannes) IMDB
A Hijacking / Kapringen [Tobias Lindholm] IMDB
West of Memphis [Amy Berg] IMDB
The Hunt / Jagten [Thomas Vinterberg] (Cannes) IMDB
The very good (A-)
Argo [Ben Affleck] IMDB
Central Park Five [Ken Burnes] IMDB
Beasts of the Southern Wild [Benh Zeitlin] (Cannes) IMDB
Room 237 [Rodney Ascher] (Cannes) IMDB
End of Watch [David Ayer] IMDB
The good (B+)
Rust and Bones [Jacques Audiard] (Cannes) IMDB
In the House / Dans la maison [François Ozon] IMDB
Sightseers [Ben Wheatley] (Cannes) IMDB
Our Children / À perdre la raison [Joachim Lafosse] IMDB
The Sessions / The Surrogate [Ben Lewin] IMDB
The impressive (B)
Sister / L’enfant d’en haut [Ursula Meier] IMDB
After Lucia / Después de Lucía [Michel Franco] (Cannes) IMDB
Fill the Void / Lemale et ha’halal [Rama Burshtein] IMDB
Lore [Cate Shortland] IMDB
The We and I [Micheal Gondry] (Cannes) IMDB
The worthy of a watch (B-)
Silver Linings Playbook [David O’Russell] IMDB
Perverts Guide to Ideology [Sophie Fiennes / Slavoj Zizek] IMDB
Seven Psychopaths [Martin McDonagh] IMDB
Compliance (SXSW) [Craig Zobel] IMDB
Easy Money / Snabba Cash [Daniel Espinosa] IMDB
The worth a rental (C+)
Robot and Frank [Jake Schreier] IMDB
Shell [Scott Graham] IMDB
Celeste and Jesse forever [Lee Toland Krieger] IMDB
Beware of Mr Baker [Jay Bulger] IMDB
Frankenweenine [Tim Burton] IMDB
The OK (C)
Beyond the Hills [Cristian Mungiu] (Cannes) IMDB
Paradise: Love [Ulrich Seidl] (Cannes) IMDB
Reality [Matteo Garrone] (Cannes) IMDB
Lawrence Anyways [Xavier Dolan] (Cannes) IMDB
Hyde Park on Hudson [Roger Michell] IMDB
Approach with caution (C-)
Everyone has a plan / Todos tenemos un plan [Ana Piterbarg] IMDB
Love Marilyn [Liz Garbus] IMDB
Post Tenebras Lux [Carlos Reygadas] (Cannes) IMDB
My Brother the Devil [Sally El Hosaini] IMDB
Quartet [Dustin Hoffman] IMDB
Need to try try harder (D)
Le Grand Soir (Cannes) [Gustave de Kervern / Benoît Delépine] IMDB
AntiViral (Cannes) [Brandon Croneburg] IMDB
Ginger and Rosa [Sally Potter] IMDB
Girls against Boys [Austin Chick] (SXSW) IMDB
Spike Island [Mat Whitecross] IMDB
Finally, the ones ones I missed (but that I’d like to have caught)
Neighbouring Sounds / O som ao redor [Kleber Mendonça Filho] IMDB
What Richard did [Lenny Abrahamson] IMDB
In the Fog / V tumane [Sergei Loznitsa] IMDB
God’s Horses / Les chevaux de Dieu [Nabil Ayouch] IMDB
My German Friend / El amigo alemán [Jeanine Meerapfel] IMDB
The Iron Lady (UK release, 6th Jan 2012) would seem to be an obvious choice for the Surprise film but may not be ready in time. So the safe, even money favourite this year is probably Moneyball (25th Nov) staring Brad Pitt and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, although it’s baseball theme might not be the obvious choice for a London festival it otherwise ticks all the other boxes. Also high in the running I expect is The Rum Diary (4th Nov) staring Johnny Depp (both the Rum Diary and Moneyball already have a BBFC cert unlike most of the other films on this shortlist, although as far as I am aware a cert isn’t a requirement for any film showing at the festival). Given it’s numerous British connections My Week with Marilyn probably can’t be ruled out, although given the damp squids of the last two years (Michael Moore’s capitalism and Rowan Joffe’s Brighton Rock) you would all but hope that Sandron Hebron’s is going to pull something special out of the bag for her final year at the festival…
One of the big hits from both Sundance and Cannes this year. An “atmospheric story of a young woman recently escaped from a cult-like commune” as the programme blurb describes it. Been looking forward to this since missing it in Cannes, despite everyone telling me to go see it, I will listen next time.
This years Animal Kingdom? By all accounts an excellent, yet very dark and hard to watch dramatisation of Australia’s ‘Bodies in the Barrels‘ murders (it may be best not to read the Wikipedia page first).
“A young woman clinging on to her dream to become a beauty contest queen in a Mexico dominated by organized crime”. Miss Bala has been widely regarded as one of the highlights of this years Un Certain Regard.
There is only one screening of this at LFF. Which clashes with my already booked ticket for Snowtown. So will have to catch the press screening of it instead. The latest film from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, which charts the investigation of murder over 24hrs. Although like Ceylan’s previous films this isn’t going to be your standard detective on a murder case movie.
From Variety: “Set in 1982 Czechoslovakia, Radim Spacek’s “Walking Too Fast” is a slow-burn political thriller about a secret police lieutenant bucking the system. Comparisons to “The Lives of Others” are apt, although “Walking’s” thoroughly unsympathetic protagonist makes the film more admirable than likable.”
From the LFF programme “Philippe Torreton gives a superb performance in Vincent Garenq’s no-holds-barred docu-drama about a man unjustly accused in a notorious paedophilia trial.”. With Variety describing it as “Devastating drama about the greatest French judicial scandal in recent history.”
From Variety “Camera-scoured Manhattan wouldn’t seem to have many secrets left, but the extraordinarily beautiful “Restless City” achieves revelation on two tiers — in the kinetic landscape of the city itself and in the world of Senegalese immigrants, whose struggle evolves just beneath the sightlines of the average New Yorker.”. Hollywoood reporter calls ‘Restless City’ a Stunning Look at New York’s West African Immigrant Community.
Fernando Meirelles’ multi stranded festival opener, has been panned by The Guardian and received less than enthusiastic reviews elsewhere. Still I quite enjoyed Babel by fellow Mexican, Alejandro González Iñárritu, which has a similar theme and was dismissed by critics, so hoping for an enjoyable if not particular deep start to this years festival with this one. Update: The commenters describing 360 as “Love Actually without the jokes” aren’t far off, a pretty poor opening night film.
The winner of best European film in the Cannes Directors Fortnight sidebar. The directorial debut of Austrian actor Karl Markovics, Breathing is described in the LFF programe an ‘assured, intelligent work’. The film follows Roman, an institutionalised young offender in Vienna, serving time for a violent crime with a surly, uncommunicative attitude, blankly accepting of the solitary conditions.
From the LFF blurb “Andrei Zvyagintsev’s award-winning account of a struggle over inheritance is accompanied by an effective score by Philip Glass.”. Screen comment’s “A late addition to Un Certain Regard, for which it is the closing night film, one can only wonder, why is this extraordinary film not in the main competition?“
Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s (who is awaiting a six-year jail sentence and a 20-year ban on making or directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media as well as leaving the country) new film which according to the Guardian “was smuggled into the country on a USB stick buried inside a cake posted from Iran to Paris”.
From the LFF synopsis “Jean-Pierre Darroussin plays a banking executive driven off the rails in Jean-Marc Moutout’s incisive and angry indictment of the financial world.”. The main still instantly reminded me of Laurent Cantet’s Time Out whether that was an intentional decision I’m not sure but it’s certainly piqued my interest.
From the programme synopsis “A rookie journalist in 1969 falls under the spell of a charismatic student radical (Kenichi Matsuyama), only to realise that he’s capable of murder. Nobuhiro Yamashita and his cast recreate the political turmoil of the period with awesome credibility.”
It’s that’s time of year again and this is the list of screenings I have tickets for next month. A few, including Never Let me Go (excellent, but opening the week after the festival anyway) and Carlos I have already seen and so probably won’t be re-watching.
Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller starring Natalie Portman.
(update: obviously not Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere as it’s just been added to the main lineup). So maybe the more homegrown Brighton Rock (odds: even money) which screened at TIFF but which was missing the LFF programme, the excellent Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom (odds:6/1) although I hope not, given that I have already seen it, or if we’re really lucky the Coens with True Grit (odds:50/1) but given that it’s not been screened publicly yet it’s a bit of a long shot. Another outside contender, if it’s ready in time, is the Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp film The Tourist (odds:20/1) from Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Probable could / should have waited for the general release on this one in November, otherwise what will I have left to watch come Christmas. But couldn’t wait..interested to see what Anton Corbijn has come up with given a bigger budget.
Vincent Gallo on the run, in Jerzy Skolimowski’s (Deep End, The Shout and w/ Polanski, Knife in the Water) new film. Mixed reviews from Venice, with some praising it and others hating it. (update: now rather annoyingly clashing on the schedule with Somewhere and Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip).
When I looked at the press stills I thought Secret in Their Eyes, Nine Queens, maybe that’s lumping all Argentine thrillers together. But hey they were both good and this is from the director of Lions Den so guessed it was worth a shot.
This is the ever growing list of films which I haven’t booked for yet but may take another look at closer to the festival, time allowing. My LFF accreditation has also just been confirmed, which means I might be able to catch a few of these at their press screenings over the coming fortnight (update: 29th September, have just watched Tom Hall’s Irish enjoyable and well acted wry comedy Sensation at a LFF press screening, short review coming soon).
Not only do we get a new Errol Morris doc, we get a new Fredrick Wiseman doc, sometimes have mixed feelings about Wisemans observational docs, if it’s not a subject your particularly interested in (although to be fair interesting people are innately interesting) they can seem to run a bit long. That said I’m not an huge boxing fan, but this doc set in an Austin, TX gym looks like it might be well worth a watch
Documentary tracing the causes of the 2008 financial meltdown. The problem with these kind of docs is often in their attempt to oversimplify the causes, with lots of talking heads giving their personal opinions but with no real depth. On the other hand I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sit though an economics lecture for an hour an a half. Reviews seem good though ,so may well be worth a look.
“Mum are you here? Because if you are you totally shouldn’t be watching Serbian movie” Tim Leauge of the Alamo / Fantastic Fest introduces the midnight screening of Serbian film at SXSW with a round of extreme tequila shots. First snort a line of salt, down a shot of Tequila “left behind by the Jack Ass boys” and finally squeeze a wedge of lime into your eye.
I met one of the participants at another screening later in the week, his comment on Serbian Film “Compared to watching that movie, squeezing a lime into my eye was painless”. I couldn’t have agreed more, although thankfully I didn’t squeeze a lime into my eye, then again maybe I should have, it might have made the movie more palatable.
Here is my LFF round-up in (a vaguely) descending order.
Un Prophète (imdb) ***** (seen prior to LFF)
The White Ribbon (imdb) **** (seen prior to LFF)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (imdb) ****
A Serious Man (imdb) ****
A Single Man (imdb) ****
Lebanon (imdb) ****
Precious (imdb) *** (seen prior to LFF)
Ajami (imdb) ***
Life During Wartime (imdb) ***
Father of My Children (imdb) ***
The Road (imdb) ***
Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (imdb) ***
Tales from the Golden Age (imdb) *** (seen prior to LFF)
Polytechnique (imdb) *** (seen prior to LFF)
Double Hour (imdb) ** [need to revisit]
Micmacs à tire-larigot (imdb) **
Bunny and the Bull (imdb) ** (seen prior to LFF)
Disapearance of Alice Creed (imdb) **
Applause (imdb) **
Despite a few two stars I don’t think I saw a truly bad film this year. Listing them like this it’s obvious how useless a star rating system is. I really liked aspects of Applause, The Double Hour, Bunny and the Bull, Micmacs and Alice Creed but because as a whole, for me, they fell below say The Road or Ajami they got relegated to two stars each, but that’s not to say they we’re bad films, in fact they could probably all easily be moved up to three stars. A star rating will also never explain why Bad Lieutenant ended up where it did on the above list (in many ways it’s a two star film at best) and obviously it’s fairly broad stroke to group Haneke’s latest with Mr. Fox based on something as simplistic as a 1 to 5 rating system.
Sent off my booking form for this years LFF tickets at the weekend, so far have only booked tickets for films that are likely to sell out early, will leave the smaller films to later to see how my schedule is nearer to the dates. (update: got everything I wanted with the exception of the Up in the Air and Surprise film, probably pay back for me trying to guess it. Will try again when the next tranche of tickets is released)
So what am I going to see next month..
A Serious Man
New Coen brothers, great reviews from TIFF. I’m excited. Trailer here.
Grab your lucky crack pipe, the LFF have just (23rd Sept) added Werner Herzog’s re-imaging of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film to the programme. This also puts pay to my initial second guess at the Surprise film.
My guess is Where the Wild Things Are, but that is based purely on guesswork, no inside knowledge or anything, failing that my moneys on Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant. (update: 25 Sept – Bad Lieutenant just added to main programme, wondering if was the backup film and has now been shifted to the main program with the confirmation of LFF’s first choice of film).
The films on the ‘book nearer to the date’ list, mainly compiled from films I want to watch but need to see how my schedule goes and a couple of complete unknowns that sound interesting for one reason or another.
Will also try and collate some existing reviews for these films in the run up to LFF mainly so I can quickly see what on this list really worth catching and which just have a good sounding synopsis and can probably be given a miss. Although based on previous years this list could equally grow as it could shrink. (update 23rd Sept – I gave in and booked half of them)
The Disappearance of Alice Creed(booked)
Twisty debut from British director J Blakeson. A three hander staring Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston. Been hearing good things about this movie and want to see if it lives up the the hype.
Harmony Korine latest project looks totally out there crazy, kind of John Walters’ Pink Flamingos meets Lars von Trier’s The Idiots. It’s actually getting some positive reviews. The trailers 80’s analogue VHS video effects are great and the squealing laughter is just so wrong.
Another documentary, this time a Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, which focuses on the (little known to me anyway) story of internet pioneer John Harris and his turn of the millennium ‘art experiment’ which involved cramming hundreds of artists into a New York bunker, and filming the results.
Given how much I though I was going to love this film. I did end up having slight issues with it in terms of the ‘middle class teacher attempts to get girl out of the gutter’ central story, the dream sequences that just seemed to sit at odd with the rest of the film and at times it felt like the director just didn’t know when to hold back on ramping up the drama to a such point that any realism the film had constructed was instantly lost. All that said it’s extremely well acted and certainly worth a watch.
Wondering why Corneliu Porumboiu’s, highly praised at both Cannes and TIFF, Police, Adjective didn’t make it into the London Film Festival?
Vue and splitting screenings over two screens
I was going to save my full rant about Gala and Film on the Square screenings being split over two separate 400 seat multiplex screens till another post (but it slipped out here). I know the LFF is hard pressed for cash (although as my credit card statement for tickets to this years festival shows I am doing my bit to help). I know the Vue deal was signed before they knew the OWE was still going to be around and I know the LFF team are a bunch of cinema lovers who must have tried hard to avoid this situation. So my criticism is less directed at the LFF/BFI rather than the wider powers that be in this country for letting this happen. It may sound cliché to say but “Can you imagine this happening in France or Italy?” the truth is I couldn’t; of course the French already have a nice architectural eyesore meets concrete bunker to hold theirs in.
But really if your going to split a screening over two mid sized screens at a multiplex can you still call it a Gala screening? Could not all the Gala’s have be held at the Odeon Leicester Square? Realise that’s not LFF decision and that the Odeon is a commercial organisation with shareholders, but given the profits the Odeon chain make from cinema in the UK per year it wouldn’t have seemed too much to ask that they offer up their flagship screen for more than the opening, closing night and two other additional nights. It just seems embarrassing that the flagship film festival in the UK is reduced to using a couple of multiplex screens for it’s Gala screenings. Not that I was holding my breath that Boris was going to step in to help the situation, although I’m sure he’ll turn up at the start of Bright Star and ramble on about how fantastic it is to be standing here (in a 400 seat multiplex cinema) and how he wants to support the festival and help UK filmmakers by introducing some token scheme. I hope I’m proved wrong and he actually turns up to announce that his awarding the BFI funds to build their long awaited new home on the Southbank. (Update: I eat my words BFI National Film Centre gets the green light : Congratulations to the BFI)
In terms of the Q&A’s at the Films on the Square and Special screenings, let face it, for all the talk about attempting to have multiple Q&A, it’s going to end up with a quick introduction before the film in both screens and a bit of pot luck as to which screen gets a proper Q&A or are we just going to end up with a couple of questions per screen. I know at many festivals you don’t get a Q&A at all but LFF always did so well here and it just seems such a shame to reduce them to simple introductions. The festival is a month away so I may be proved wrong, lets wait and see. On the plus side at least Vue has decent sight lines of the screen.
Sorry that was meant to be a brief footnote, you can tell I’m already peeved.