02 Jan

Film and Lit 2010

Films (at the cinema, in seen order):

  1. Daybreakers
  2. The Road
  3. A Single Man
  4. The Wolfman
  5. The Crazies
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Ponyo
  8. Shutter Island
  9. Perrier’s Bounty
  10. Kick Ass
  11. Psycho
  12. I Am Love
  13. Double Take
  14. Dogtooth
  15. Four Lions
  16. The White Ribbon
  17. The Bad Lieutenant
  18. Rec 2
  19. Inception
  20. Splice
  21. Down Terrace
  22. The Illustionist
  23. Mother
  24. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
  25. The Maid
  26. Certified Copy
  27. Cyrus
  28. Winter’s Bone
  29. Made in Dagenham
  30. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
  31. Let Me In
  32. The Light Thief
  33. Black Swan
  34. Womb
  35. Octubre
  36. Monsters
  37. We Are What We Are
  38. Tron: Legacy
  39. The Town
  40. Love and Other Drugs
  41. The Way Back

Again, they’re OO5ed

Best

Again, super lucky to get to put some sci-fi in the top of my list. The Road is captivating, if in an entirely bleak, looking at your pets and wondering if you’d eat them in a crisis, kind of way. My favourite was Monsters. It felt like an antidote to all those silly explosion, chase driven, gun-ho monster movies. It’s delicate and subtle, and looks frankly amazing and ultra-detailed, and it doesn’t treat the viewer like a complete idiot. It’s just lovely. I guess Inception is the big one for everyone else – I liked it a lot, but I’ve kind of forgotten it already.

I had anticipated Splice as being a winner this year, but it totally missed the mark – Womb turned out to be the much more interesting, in depth, film about cloning and genetics (and it’s got Matt Smith in it – what’s not to go crazy for?). Tron should have been a massive disappointment, but I managed to keep expectations deliriously low and came out entertained. The film I failed to not get excited about before I saw it was Scott Pilgrim, given the sentimental place that I hold the graphic novels in, and fortunately it is really excellent fun.

I also loved The Illusionist and Ponyo. The former is beautiful, and although it’s French it doesn’t matter – they hardly utter a word, and when they do it sounds like a Sim – it’s totally carried by the perfect animation style. And Ponyo is just adorable (sing the Ponyo song!).

The big marmite film for 2011 is definitely going to be Black Swan. It’s a ballet drama? Really? Yeah. It is entirely a must-see film. It’s an intensely paced psychological thriller and the ballet bit really shouldn’t put anyone off. It’s probably one of the best crafted films I’ve seen this year, if not for a few years.

Also loved lots of others, particularly Down Terrace, Dogtooth and Winter’s Bone – all share the commonality of being a bit bleak (or, actually, totally screwed up – don’t watch Dogtooth with your family, okay?).

Worst

It’s only when compiling this list that I’m reminded of all the complete movie mishaps I’ve suffered this year. Not least, Alice in Wonderland. I’m a massive fan of the story, as many people know, and I was a fool to even think that a new film would capture everything I love about it. Oh, so disappointed. I rated it more highly at the time than I feel about it now. Damn you, Burton.

Other let downs include a whole slew of films that have brilliant concepts, but they were just half-heartedly or plainly executed – The Crazies springs to mind, as does Four Lions (controversial, I know, but it’s a bit meh, to be honest – Chris Morris has a long way to go before he’s back in “paedophile dressed as a school” territory), We Are What We Are and Daybreakers.

Mostly this year, there has been some severely pretentious nonsense. I Am Love, Certified Copy, The Light Thief, Double Take and A Single Man – all fairly decent concepts, but unfortunately completely boring. I struggled to stay awake in a couple of those. Mostly designed as fodder for film reviewers to fawn over, but actually, totally ridiculous and unwatchable.

Books

I’ve given up any semblance of attempting to record what I read. I did, however, buy a 3rd edition Kindle 3G, which I love. Surprisingly. Digital books completely lack everything I love about a beaten-up old paperback, particularly the digging through a dusty bookshop and finding random left-overs of previous owner’ lives (ticket stubs, receipts… postcards are my particular favourite), but the convenience and the form factor of this thing is amazing. It’s also caused me to re-read or find a bunch of classics, for free from manybooks (released through Project Gutenberg), that I would otherwise never have given the time to. I’ve read the complete Sherlock Holmes adventures, almost all of Robert Louis Stevenson, a bunch of H.G.Wells, and all sorts of other odds and ends. Metamorphosis struck me as an instant favourite of the classic selection.

Of non-ebooks, I read Philip Pullman’s newest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, early in the year. Thoroughly disappointing. More hype than substance, in my mind, and felt a little like a cash-in on his controversial position (I enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy). I also read my usual fill of science fiction and re-read some favourites. I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road after seeing it at the start of the year – which is unusual, since I’ll generally rush to read a book before I see the film – but it’s pretty much identical. Definitely recommend it if you’re lacking that stark, miserable, hopeless feeling at the beginning of your new year. :)

18 Feb

The Christmas Bunny book prop & illustration work

One of the things I enjoy doing that isn’t web related is illustration, and last week I was asked to create a set of illustrations and a book prop for Patrick‘s short-film, The Christmas Bunny. The film was shot this weekend past, and is in the editing stages, but I thought I’d share some photos of the prop and illustrations.

Tooth Fairy book illustration

Children sleeping book illustration

See the rest of the shots on flickr.

Making the book

For those interested, the illustrations were drawn on white bristol board and inked with fast-dry black pigment liner, and then scanned and printed on to light-weight (80gsm) cream paper and cut to size with a craft knife. I then had some trouble figuring out the best way to attach the pages to the ancient book we found on ebay, without permanently damaging it.

I ended up bracing the illustration and text pages with extra blank sheets on either side, binding the edge with masking tape. Then I used some partially dried glue stick (pritt-like) which I could pinch pieces off and roll into sausage shapes and press into the masking-tape spine, to create a malleable, but strong, join for the pages to move on. No super-glues I had seemed to work as well as this rather Blue Peter-esque technique. The best thing about the glue-stick solution is that it rubs off the paper anywhere that it shows, so the join is seamless.

It was a nice little project and I’m really glad to have been able to contribute to the film in some way. The first two illustrations and title are used as the introduction to the film, with a narrative voice-over and music, and the final illustration is used as the outro. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more illustration work in the future.

02 Jan

Film and Lit 2009

As with last year, I kept a list of cinema visits for the year.

Films (at the cinema, in seen order):

  1. The Spirit
  2. New Shorts: Funny Shit
  3. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
  4. Slumdog Millionaire
  5. Frost/Nixon
  6. Better Things
  7. Revolutionary Road
  8. Hansel and Gretel
  9. Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes)
  10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  11. Üç Maymun (Three Monkeys)
  12. Role Models
  13. Tokyo Sonata
  14. Gran Torino
  15. Surveillance
  16. Franklyn
  17. Flame & Citron
  18. Watchmen
  19. The International
  20. Bronson
  21. In The City of Sylvia
  22. The Boat That Rocked
  23. Two Lovers
  24. Cherry Blossoms
  25. Martyrs
  26. Let The Right One In
  27. Monsters Vs Aliens
  28. Knowing
  29. In The Loop
  30. Star Trek
  31. The Grocer’s Son
  32. London Sci-Fi Film festival Blink of An Eye Shorts Programme 1
  33. Kurôn wa kokyô wo mezasu
  34. Eyeborgs
  35. The City of Lost Children (with Marc Caro)
  36. London Sci-Fi Film festival Blink of An Eye Long Shorts/Short Longs
  37. London Sci-Fi Film festival Blink of An Eye Shorts Programme 2
  38. Synecdoche, New York
  39. Coraline
  40. Observe and Report
  41. Drag Me To Hell
  42. Terminator Salvation
  43. Brüno
  44. Public Enemies
  45. Sunshine Cleaning
  46. Moon
  47. Inglorious Basterds
  48. The Hurt Locker
  49. Jetsam
  50. District 9
  51. Away We Go
  52. Antichrist
  53. Surrogates
  54. Up
  55. Adventureland
  56. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  57. Fantastic Mr Fox
  58. 9
  59. An Education
  60. The Men Who Stare At Goats
  61. Cold Souls
  62. Coco Avant Chanel
  63. A Serious Man
  64. Paranormal Activity
  65. Where The Wild Things Are
  66. Avatar
  67. Sherlock Holmes
  68. Thirst
  69. Fish Tank
  70. Unmade Beds

Bonus

Frances in her Sonic Tonic t-shirt on flickrKnowing about films can win you prizes! At least, it did for me. The Sonic Tonic had a halloween special podcast, which included snippets from horror flicks in between tracks. Whoever could identify the most won a t-shirt. I got all of them but one. Go me! As promised to the ST guys, here‘s my best myspace-esque photo of my winnings. Props to Paul Cripps for the tip-off and to my mum for always letting me stay up past my bedtime to watch scary films.

This year, I also recorded all the films I saw via oo5, which is Mike Stenhouse’s twitter app for ratings stuff, so all of the films above have a score out of 5.

Best

The start of the year had some really amazing films such as Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire and Gran Torino. Let The Right One In, which I was hugely anticipating and felt rewarded for doing so, was brilliant, and Away We Go, A Serious Man and happily quite few others kept the year going with some real treats. However, my two favourites this year were sci-fis. The first is an obvious instant classic; Moon. It’s 70’s-esque styling and Sam Rockwell’s staggering performance put it up there with 2001, in my mind.

My other favourite, that I rated fairly averagely initially, is Timecrimes. It’s a Spanish language film about time-travel, but it’s not your usual showy film about changing the past and getting into a mess by accidentally shooting your aunt or butterfly or something, but a more subtle, accidental story that still has all the clever complexities you’d expect for the genre. I don’t want to ruin it, but it’s just such a neat film made on a tiny budget. It’s shot beautifully and the surprises last right up until the end. I really can’t recommend it enough.

Worst

Well, there were quite a few. Some failed because I’d built them up and expected a lot more, such as Hansel and Gretel, Franklyn and Martyrs. Others were just plain stinkers, such as Surrogates, Unmade Beds, Knowing and The Boat That Rocked (the last much more astutely criticised by Patrick over on Talking Animal).

Paranormal Activity took the biscuit for me, though. I’d fallen into the hype trap and seen the trailers and the chatter about it (on twitter, of all places to take seriously) and actually thought that it could be the new Blair Witch. How stupid of me. I’m astounded that anyone thinks that film is good. It’s 81 minutes of a hell-of-a-lot of nothing – mostly a couple of pretty terrible actors whimpering and arguing with each other and unconvincingly never leaving their house to, you know, go to school or have jobs, but film every dull moment of their lives up until the final 5 minutes where there’s a bit of genuine, well almost, thrill. As with the massively underwhelming Google Wave, it’s the hype-machine success of the year that leaves you muttering “…is that it?”.

Books

I somewhat failed at reading this year. I’m blaming my commute going from around 40 minutes spent on a tube to get to work to about 10 minutes. It’s barely enough time to read your email and scowl at a few commuters, let alone open a book and really get into it. I did read The Outsider, The Road to Serfdom, the new Scott Pilgrim (which I rather nerdily now keep in it’s plastic wrapper due to having a limited edition signed inlay plate), Let The Right One In and a couple more K. Dicks. I didn’t really think to record what I read, so there is probably others. Must try harder this year.

01 Jan

Film and Lit 2008

For no other reason than to have something to blog at the end of the year, I kept a list of films I’ve seen and books I’ve read from Jan 1st 2008 until the end of the year.

Films (at the cinema, in seen order)

  1. I Am Legend
  2. Sie, Jie (Lust, Caution)
  3. No Country for Old Men
  4. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
  5. Sweeney Todd
  6. Cloverfield
  7. The Savages
  8. Juno
  9. There Will Be Blood
  10. Be Kind Rewind
  11. My Blueberry Nights
  12. 10,000 BC
  13. El Orfanato
  14. Funny Games U.S.
  15. [Rec]
  16. In Bruges
  17. Deception
  18. Iron Man
  19. Smart People
  20. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
  21. Gone Baby Gone
  22. The Incredible Hulk
  23. Kung Fu Panda
  24. WALL-E
  25. The Dark Knight
  26. Elegy
  27. Persepolis
  28. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  29. The Strangers
  30. Pineapple Express
  31. Taken
  32. How To Lose Friends and Alienate People
  33. Burn After Reading
  34. Easy Virtue
  35. Choke
  36. What Just Happened?
  37. The Fall
  38. The Day The Earth Stood Still
  39. The Reader
  40. Blindness

Favourites:

Fortunately, there were many I really enjoyed. Juno, Wall-E, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Funny Games U.S (or the original – it really is an identical shot for shot remake), El Orfanato, In Bruges, Easy Virtue and The Reader (on general release in 2009) are all ones I’d especially recommend, though.

Least favourites (or just plain terrible films):

10,000 BC (just awful on every level), The Day The Earth Stood Still, Be Kind Rewind (good concept, bad screenplay), Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (incredibly boring).

The Day The Earth Stood Still deserves special mention. I was willing to give this film a chance if it stood up as a film in it’s own right, rather than as a remake, since they couldn’t really make an accurate one set in today’s world. Such an utter disappointment.

This film is remarkably not ruined by Keanu Reeves. He actually suits his role. The film is ruined by an incredibly bad screenplay that makes half-hearted references to the amazing original, includes terrible dialog and unbelievable situations which lead all the main characters to constantly and whimsically change their allegiances so as to suit the ridiculous “human beings are wonderful” love-fest and unnecessary patriotism. Oh, and the CGI sucks too.

Books (fiction and non, plus some graphic novels – in finished order):

  1. The Unteleported Man / The Mind Monsters – Philip K. Dick / Howard L. Cory
  2. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4 – Bryan O’Mally
  3. The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
  4. Star Maker – Olaf Stapledon
  5. The Penultimate Truth – Philip K Dick
  6. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
  7. A Handful of Darkness – Philip K Dick*
  8. Dr Bloodmoney – Philip K Dick
  9. Love and Limerence – Dorothy Tennov
  10. Ubik – Philip K Dick*
  11. Dark Stars – ed. Robert Silverberg
  12. Bonjour Tristesse – Francoise Sagan**
  13. Lost at Sea – Bryan O’Mally
  14. Through a Glass, Clearly – Isaac Asimov*
  15. The Gryb (and other stories) – E. A. van Vogt
  16. Fear and Trembling – Søren Kierkegaard
  17. The Game Players of Titan – Philip K Dick**
  18. On The Genealogy of Morals – Friedrich Nietzsche
  19. Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons***
  20. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck****

Gracious book lends: *Michael, **Dave, ***Patrick and ****Steve

I’ve certainly been on a short-stories kick this year, having read 5 collections. I really like the medium, actually, and it’s a shame that the form seems to be dying. I only tend to come across good short stories, especially of the sci-fi variety, in now out-of-print editions in musty second-hand bookshops. The Blackwells and Foyles seem to push and stock mostly the latest full-length pop novels and not a whole lot else. Shame.

The other clear trend is my continuing appreciation for Philip K Dick. The man was prolific, but I find almost all of his books interesting to read. I really do recommend him if you’re interested in concepts of alternative realities, trust and philosophy of the mind.

I wanted to read as much as I saw, but, as pointed out to me, a film is just a couple hours out of the day, but a book is a lot more. Maybe next year I’ll do better (or watch less).

Happy 2009!