LFF The Red Turtle Review

the-red-turtleA man awakens adrift in the middle of the ocean. He is able to swim to a nearby remote island which is only inhabited by crabs, birds and a mysterious red turtle. This is the premise to the Michaël Dudok de Wit’s first feature length film, a collaboration between French production studio The Wild Bunch and Japanese animation powerhouse Studio Ghibli. The result of this collaboration is a visually stunning and emotionally complex film.

De Wit explained after the screening that he loved the desert island stories he heard as a child but wanted to tell a different story than Robinson Crusoe. He was less interested in the mechanics of how a man can live on (or escape from) a desert island and more interested in how that man would feel. The practicalities of how the man would survive on this island are dealt with early on and in little detail. The island has fruit bearing trees and a pool of drinkable water at its centre. A very tense sequence early in the film sees the man fall into a crevice and swim the length of a claustrophobic underwater tunnel to escape. These sequences of peril are few. The majority of the film concerns the real interest of the director; what would keep a man on his island? What would he need to be happy there?

De Wit explained his process as being very natural. He arrived at the premise and then wrote the story without a plan. He wanted something to keep the man on the island, something natural. He then settled on a giant turtle saying it just felt right. Not too cute, nor too animalistic. The effect of this writing style is that the film has a very dream like quality.

The animation is stunning. The island is rendered in lush colours. The realistic approach to character movements and environments makes the fantastical elements all the more spellbinding.

red-turtle-waterThe director also mentioned symbolism in his discussion, hoping that it was clear. I must admit that if the film is a direct allegory then it’s a little elusive. Perhaps it’s a story about surrendering the instinct to escape one’s circumstances and learning to embrace them. Or perhaps it’s about not yearning to return to home but to make one for oneself. The man initially dreams of bridges leaving the island and string quartets appearing on the beach. As the man explores the wonders of the island he stops dreaming, discovering that the island has its own fantasies to offer. The deceptively simple story demands some thought but more significantly insists on being felt.

Other interesting details from the discussion with the director included the sudden contact from Studio Ghibli. Someone from the studio contacted him having seen some of his animated shorts. He was offered the chance to make whatever film he wanted. This, surely, is the impossible dream of all animators. He described the experience of working with the animation giant as incredibly rewarding, with their input and guidance allowing him to make a better film.

It is interesting to see the Ghibli elements within the film. Most noticeably, I think, the studio has influenced the wildlife seen on screen. Aside from the eponymous reptile, the man is joined on his island by a group of crabs. These crabs are drawn realistically but act anthropomorphically, functioning as comic relief. It’s difficult not to recall the Soot Sprites from Spirited Away. However despite the whimsy of these crabs, they are still depicted as part of nature. They drag live fish away to be consumed and are themselves eaten by birds. The juxtaposition of the charms of nature with its horrors recalls the woodland scenes from The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

This is a very unique film. It has far less in common with stories like Castaway than its premise may suggest. Instead this is a fantastical exploration of what makes a person content with their surroundings. Fans of Michaël Dudok de Wit will appreciate the flawless transition he has made to feature film and fans of Studio Ghibli will find plenty of the magic and wonder they may have been missing since When Marnie Was There.

red-turtle-island

 

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Product Placement vs. A Moment In Time

Here’s something I’m ready and happy to admit: I can’t take a good photo. Just like someone who doesn’t waste away hours of the little free time they have blogging and reading may cobble together a sentence that takes your breath away, I have occasionally accidently captured a moment in time that makes for an aesthetically pleasing photograph but as a professional, I would suck. Various friends and housemates of mine work in the film, design and photography business; I can’t count the amount of conversations I’ve had surrounding the question: what makes a good photograph?

Commercial photos of products do nothing for me. Not only do I not take any joy in observing the photograph but also I can’t think of a time that a photograph of a product alone willed me to buy. Taking, as an example, a photo taken by friend and professional photographer David Wilman.

So, I can see why the products are laid out thus. The shapes of the bottles compliment each other, the product names are visible and the background creates a sense of calm that allows the consumer to feel a sense pleasantry while viewing the products. I couldn’t take a photo like this, I couldn’t even begin to think about how and it’s just all too much for me. The bottles are too perfectly placed. The colours are too complimentary. It’s clear why the photographer set up the scene this way, to please the client, to tick the boxes. Alas, it doesn’t paint 1,000 words but just three: consume, consume, consume.

Reversing all this; I would now like to share with you a photo, also by David Wilman that made me say ‘Stop! Go back! I like that.’

A perfect example of a moment in time: candid, improvised, real life. The differences are obvious. Firstly the contrast between the content: people not product. Outdoors not set in a studio. It takes still, a keen eye, a quick shot to capture a scene that’s on the move; after all, time waits for no man (or camera.) I figure the real test of heart behind a photograph is if it could tell an infinite number of stories. The Little Red Joggers are child convicts, they’re on their sports day or they’re living in a dystopian future in which they’re training to become level one a citizen.

Distinguishing between different types of photography is something that the general public, photographers, clients, artists all do on a regular basis without even really realising it. In the same way that a talented writer might knock out descriptions for estate agents websites, photographers must also pay the rent.

Draw the distinction, keep the art form alive: capture the stories.

– K for Kandid

For other photography by David Wilman click Here

Top Ten Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic Novels

Dystopian fiction is no doubt my favourite literary genre. It is the beauty and difficulty that makes it so wonderfully gripping. Simply, Dystopia refers to a nightmare world, an alternative future to the one we expect to arise from this present. As a general rule there is often a catalyst that makes this present shift into the Dystopia of the novel, be it nuclear war, religion, a change in ideas, technology, medicine. The thing that really sets a great Dystopian novel apart is how and when to reveal what happened in the present to create this nightmare, the reader is left piecing together the facts and bit by bit.

The way a dystopian novel will touch you is so much more acute than any other genre will. The pain, sadness, longing and terrible beauty of a nightmare future make the reader feel so disconnected from the world they currently live in, and sometimes, that’s just what’s needed, to really see reality.

WARNING: though we shall try and not include spoilers, the very nature of the dystopian novel doesn’t allow much room for description without spoiling at least the premise. I cannot speak for P but I apologise…a bit. P EDIT: I NEVER APOLOGISE!

 10. We – Yevgeny Zamyatin

How does one work out mathematical happiness? Zamyatin’s 1920’s novel was banned in Russia, perhaps because of the accuracy of his depiction of state oppression, or perhaps because he hit too close to home. Our protagonist, D-503 lives in One State; in One State everything is calculated mathematically to make everyone happy. A certain amount of x will make person y happy and that x will also make z happy, and thus this time can be spent together. D-503 is fascinated by the idea that people used to use their ‘free’ time to do seemingly meaningless things, like walk the streets at night. D-503 meets a woman, also given a number instead of a name and, not unlike 1984; the woman reveals her involvement with a revolutionary group. One State are however determined, to rid people of freedom, of choice and most importantly, of imagination.

Many see ‘We’ as the original dystopian novel, touching ground that hadn’t been trodden before; attempting to show the readers how life would be if WE don’t hold onto our freedom, individuality and simply, comply.

9. Brave New World  – Aldous Huxley

In World State people are happy. The population is limited and thus recourses are plentiful. People are promiscuous. New life is now battery farmed and the people are encouraged to have…fun. Sounds great right? People are divided into 5 groups: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon; each group has a different part to play in the running of World State, for example Alpha children will grow up to be leaders, and Delta consumers. Sex is a large part of Huxley’s novel; Bernard, an Alpha-Male who doesn’t quite fit in due to his small stature, has different views on sex, culture and many other things not considered by most citizens. The population are brainwashed, according to their group, and thus the state runs perfectly, in harmony, until eventually something terrible happens and the protagonists, John and Bernard, start to feel real emotions, and worse, start to show them.

Brave New World is no doubt an uncomfortable novel, with the amounts of sex and references to, it doesn’t make for a ‘holiday’ or ‘bed time’ read, but it does explore the connotations of taking away the capacity for humans to be whoever they want, which is something the population as a whole, take for granted.

8. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

As the only “Children’s” book on this list, The Hunger Games must be pretty special to make the cut. And it is. I read quite a lot of teen fiction, but I haven’t read anything that even touches the Hunger Games. (NB: Being able to claim that reading Children’s books is beneficial to my job is amazing.)

Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12, the mining district in the 12 that comprise her world. When Katniss’ younger sister gets chosen to participate in the ‘Hunger Games’ Katniss volunteers to take her place. In order to win the Hunger Games Katniss must kill the other 23 participants, including the boy from her district, Peter. Then the rules change.

The beauty of The Hunger Games is that they introduce teens into the world of Dystopian literature without explicitly stating the genre. Not overly different to the concept of Battle Royale, The Hunger Games has a brilliant balance of gore, romance and suspense. Unfortunately, the second two aren’t as good as the original, the concept is slightly dragged out, but are needed to complete the idea of revolution. The one thing that The Hunger Games does do, in comparison to other Dystopian novels, is address the idea of a revolution, it being possible, as opposed to impossible, as it is in many other dystopian worlds.

7. The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndam

Bill wakes up to find he is no longer blind, but everyone else is. After his brush with a ‘Triffid’ at work, Bill, having already had an incident with a Triffid as a child, had been unable to unwrap bandages that covered his eyes during an unexplained, yet beautiful, lights display. This coincidence saved his eyesight and throughout the novel he meets various people with similar stories, having slept through or missed the mysterious lights that turned everyone else blind.

A Trffid is simply a plant. A plant that can walk, but with humans controlling them and restricting their movement, tying them down and such, even their deadly poison is useless. Make all men and women blind, and shit hits the fan.

Much unlike other dystopian novels, Day of the Triffids spans over many years, extending beyond the initial almost-end-of-the-world. Wydam is a sci-fi master, describing the weirdest of circumstances in the most matter-of-fact way.

6. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Humans have developed a cure for all kinds of diseases; Cancer, MND, anything that can be cured by replacing a certain organ, blood, tissue.

The two issues that run throughout Ishiguro’s novel are morality, and love. About a third of the novel is set at Hailsham School, where the children are educated in a way that preserves their health to the fullest extent. The children of Hailsham hall are different. Though their boarding school life may seem idyllic, they are told never to leave, must check in regularly at certain checkpoints and their lives are rigidly surveyed and controlled. The terrible secret behind Hailsham hall, and it’s relations to a futuristic world, free of disease and illness, drives this moving story of love, destiny and mortality.

Mainly following the lives of Kathy and her friends Ruth and Tommy, the novel moves from school into their young adult lives where Kathy becomes and carer and thus sees the lives of other humans end.

Compliance is a cruel mistress.

NB: As most of the novels on this list Never Let Me Go was made into a movie, but actually a great one.

5. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange is a difficult read. Perhaps the unusual language, integrating Russian slang into English colloquialisms, will prove inaccessible. Perhaps the extreme violence and cruelty exhibited by our lead antihero will prove intolerable. Perhaps the grim vision of a future dominated by gangs and criminals and the only reaction to this recklessness is total authoritarianism and mind control will prove unthinkable. If not, then you may just battle on and find something special in this book.

Following the life of gang member, Alex Delarge, Burgess exposes a bleak future in which society is sick and the cure is worse than the disease. He tackles the problems that can arise when we try to fight immorality with immorality and thoroughly explores the criminal mind set against a dystopian future in which the hostile prison and sterile hospital is the only escape from the cold, vicious streets.

The book has something of a mixed reputation. Burgess himself disowned the novel as something he threw together in three weeks for money and declared that its message has been corrupted beyond repair by Kubrick (let’s not argue with that here). However the message is one open to criticism, namely that mankind has the right to be brutal and cruel and unkind if it wants to be and that trying to force it to be otherwise is to betray some fundamental human element….obviously there is room for argument there. But it cannot be argued that this is a powerful book, and accomplishes what all good dystopian novels set out to do. Warn us about the future.

4. A Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Attwood

The central issue in Margaret Attwood’s novel is the key feminist issue underlining so many female writers’ work.

Offred is a Handmaid, her job is to breed. Due to various nuclear and environmental issues, only a small number of women can conceive and bare children, these women become Handmaids and live in a household, trying relentlessly to conceive a child. The other issue here is religion; the strident followers of the state believe that it is a woman’s job to bare children, and a man’s to multiply- not necessarily with his wife, if she is past ‘it.’

A beautiful element of The Handmaid’s Tale is the ‘flashback’ element; it is difficult to balance the nightmare present with the normality of the past, especially when being described in first person, however Attwood manages it beautifully, weaving the story from our ‘normal’ past to the nightmare future she lives in.

3. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The road is one of the crowning accomplishments of the incredible novelist Cormac McCarthy. Having worked for forty years around the subjects of human depravity, the godlessness of the world and desperate poverty and loneliness, it was the experience of fatherhood that inspired his most devastatingly human work. The story concerns a father and his son wandering the wasted world after some terrible apocalyptic event. The landscape is barren and cold, gangs of cannibals roam the land and death surrounds our two starving heroes. Their only protection is a revolver loaded with two shots, and it is implied throughout that these shots are intended for the son and his father. Yet at its heart this is a novel against the notion of suicide and the glimmer of absurd optimism is unique to most dystopian novels

The novel is dystopian in that there is no hope left. From the very start there is no chance of a happily ever after because the earth has simply stopped providing for us. Mankind has very few generations left before all the cans are eaten and we all starve to death, or eat each other to extinction. Tragically this is merely an exaggerated version of how the world really is. Yet our heroes do not give in, like the boy’s mother did, they keep walking south and then keep walking after that, and through tragedy and loss, they just keep walking and “carrying the fire” down the road. All good dystopian novels contain warnings about possible futures, and this novels message of maintaining our humanity in the face of overwhelming emptiness is extremely relevant.

2. On the Beach – Neville Shute

Shute’s dystopian novel about a post-nuclear war world is so beautifuly terrifying because it is so realisticly possible. The novel is set in Australia where the main characters are coming to terms with their impending death, by carrying on with life. Set partly on land and partly on a submarine Shute documents life as we know it ending, due to a nuclear war in the Northern hemisphere. Shute opens the novel with a quote that I’ve been in love with since I first heard it many years ago ‘This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a wimper.’ Taken from T S Eliot’s Hollow Men this quote perfectly describes a number of the books on this list; the dysoptian novel always has an air of slow and mellow decline and Shute does this wonderfully.

The real, stabingly tragic part of the whole story is that the characters and you, the reader, know they are going to die. There is no ‘if’ or ‘but’ or ‘maybe.’ From the beginning you know they will die, within the space of the book. Only a small number of books have made me feel loss like this one has, you grow so attached to the characters that a part of you wills something to happen, for the world to change. But alas, that isn’t how it works in Dystopia.

1. 1984 – George Orwell

Arguably the most famous, most popular and most groundbreaking of all dystopian novels, 1984 hits you like a fat kid running to the cake shop, and not stopping to apologise. ‘What the hell was that? I feel like something abusive just happened but I just can’t be angry at it!’

Winston exists in a world where everyone, and everything, every movement and every breath is watched. However, he finds a small space in his small flat where the tele-screen, that watches his every move, cannot see him, and begins to write about his life. Winston works for the Ministy of Truth, where the workers tailor the news and literature to reflect who is currently at war with whom, what is true and what is not.

Then he meets Julia. He knows he wants her, he knows she is like him, a doubter of the state. As their illegal relationship develops, as they engage in normal things like sex and conversation, as they get deeper into the world of the anti-state Orwell’s novel gets darker and faster.

Although it is undoubtedly cliché to place 1984 in the Prime position to put anything above it would seem wrong. No words can describe the feeling of finishing 1984, but without reading it that feeling cannot be conveyed.

Be warned. Big Brother is watching you.

Top Ten Films of the Year 2011

2011 was a year in which we had no Nolan. We had no Cohen’s. We almost had no Fincher. To make matters worse we did have Bay, which we’ll get to on another list altogether. For now we have to maintain the happy thoughts and despite those omissions we have had some great films this year! Political thriller the Ides of March demonstrated Americans can be left wing sometimes. Spielberg reminded us of how he could thrill us like when we were kids in the light hearted adventure Tin Tin. David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo faithfully (for the most part) adapted a Swedish Crime Story whilst Swedish Director Thomas Alfredson did the same to British spy novel, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, both with terrific results. Breath-taking real stunts and action came from Brad Bird’s live action debut Mission Impossible 4, whilst Sherlock Holmes 2 demonstrated an intellectual hint to the genre. Terence Malik’s Tree of Life led the way with breath-taking visuals and My Week with Marilyn offered further chances for great actors to shine. Throughout all of this Jessica Chastain was lovely on several occasions. But of all the great moments of the year, which ten stood out for these particular bored nerds? Well let’s find out!

10. X-Men First Class

If this film has a problem it is that it has so much to do. It has to establish two very strong characters, then have them meet, develop the villains, have the heroes put the first class together, train them, develop a dynamic between them, demonstrate the rift between the two main characters, have them resolve the villain problem and then come apart from each other. It’s enough material for several films, including a Magneto the Nazi Hunter film, a section that clearly stands out as a highlight. But we do get the best of every section. We get the best of a the revenge plot, the best of the training underdogs, the best of the cold war espionage with mutants (the mission in Russia was pretty fun!) and the best of a character study, examining two men with different opinions on the same problem. The acting is excellent as James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are excellent in their parts and it doesn’t take much to establish a good chemistry between them. The period detail and tone of the film is perfect and consistent. The only fault is that it would have been nice to see some of these plot points spread over a few films. For now, let’s just hope they don’t fuck up wolverine again next year.

9. The Guard

In premise the film resembles Hot Fuzz and yet the style is entirely unique as it plays the material considerably darker, with a deadpan tone highlighting the quirky comedy. The story concerns a drug dealer played by Mark Strong, being hunted by FBI agent Don Cheadle who is forced to join forces with the local Irish police force “the guards” and specifically his new partner gloriously portrayed by Brandon Gleason. Gleason’s character indulges in every vice available and yet maintains an attitude of quaint country calm. The contrast of a rural Irish community cop starting the movie by taking an Ecstasy tablet found in a car crash and announcing that it’s “a fuckin’ beautiful day” is amongst the funniest things put to film this year. The movie keeps interest well through the staples of the buddy cop movie, including the big shoot out at the end. It also manages to include a great deal of emotional interest, as with Gleason’s sick mother. Really the highlight of the film is Brandon Gleason, who is effortlessly charming despite exhibiting every vice you wouldn’t want your local policeman to have, let alone one investigating a major drug deal. The film is part of a tradition of comedy drama films featuring predominantly Irish talent (usually with an English villain) including In Bruges and Perrier’s bounty and easily matches them.   

8. Tyrannosaur

It’s tough to maintain such a menacing atmosphere when you’re sharing a cinema with someone who laughs during the big rape scene. But it did! Paddy Constantine’s directorial debut is amazingly accomplished, though it may make us very concerned about Constantine’s private life. The film features Peter Mullun living in a village somewhere in the North of England who cannot help encountering violence wherever he goes, like a psychopathic Victor Meldrew. One day he encounters the sweet natured charity shop worker, played by Olivia Coleman, who is being abused by her deranged husband Eddie Marson. Coleman, who comes from a comedy background, is astonishing as the weary housewife driven closer to the violent stranger by her cold, malicious husband. All roles are played edgy and are complimented by the moody direction of the fledgling director. Hopefully this won’t be a one off like Gary Oldman’s Nil by mouth and we’ll be treated to further grim treats from Constantine. But for now we can appreciate this dark and disturbing view of life in the north (the only view one can possibly take of life up there in the mountains, with the trolls and dragons I believe they have there).

7. Hugo

Scorsese turns his hand to yet another film genre and once again is able to demonstrate a unique perspective. The film is a family movie and unlike most family movies of the year (The Smurfs, Alvin and the fucking Chipmunks (full title)) it is actually intended to entertain the entire family. It must be stressed first that we saw the 2D version, as we hate 3D. 3D killed my father. He thought the truck was much closer than it was and fell into a lawn mower. So we don’t see things in 3D and will be unable to affirm or rebuke the claim that this movie represents the future of cinema by using a tired old gimmick from the sixties. What we can confirm is that unlike Ronnie Corbett this movie is very extremely strong without the stupid glasses. The acting is great all round (except for Ray Winston who seems to be failing to impersonate himself), with particular skill from our two young leads. Chloe Grace Moretz works well with the accent and manages to be very interesting and sweet. The direction is fantastic as Scorsese once again demonstrates his flair for the visual bringing a French railway station of the 1910s to life with impressive sets and camerawork. What makes the film special though is the purpose it sets out to fulfil. The film is a love letter to cinema and the film making process in the film is portrayed as the idealised creative process, invoking feelings of joy, wonder and accomplishment. Hopefully this will become a classic as the years pass and thought of just as fondly as Cinema Paradiso.

6. Super 8

Speaking of homages to older films (though not quite as old here); super 8 recalls the early Spielberg films of the seventies and eighties and manages to be every bit as entertaining as the early summer blockbusters. The film follows a group of young friends as they attempt to make a low budget B-movie, only for their town to become involved in some sort of government conspiracy involving an implausible train crash, an insanely intense Biology teacher and a mischievous alien. The feel of the movie is very appropriate for the period of its setting with minute details placed to provoke the strongest nostalgia possible, even in people who weren’t alive in the seventies. The young actors are very genuine in their performances and successfully create the atmosphere of youthful curiosity these films thrive on. The scenes that need to be endearing are endearing, the scenes that need to be tense, are very tense! The film succeeds in reminding us of what it feels like to see young characters we care about put into considerable peril.

5. Drive

It seems that this year we had a lot of films looking backwards. Hugo took influence (and delight) from the early silent films, My Week with Marilyn revelled in its 50s setting and the next entry after this one found its stylistic and spiritual influence in the past too. Drive demonstrates a slightly sleazier flavour to nostalgia as it revisits the sleek, sexy veneer of the nineteen eighties. As bright, neon stained visuals are complimented by a pounding techno soundtrack, the atmosphere of neon noir hangs heavily over a story of crime, revenge and love! Carey Mulligan provides a great deal of heart in her performance as the love interest, just as she did in last year’s Never Let Me Go and as she’ll probably do in this year’s Shame (not to typecast). Ryan Gosling succeeded in being likeable and menacing as needed, but the real achievement is Albert Brooks as the terrifying villain. Having busty redhead Christina Hendricks on board didn’t hurt either. The action is great and often quite understated whilst lovingly prepared with physical effects. The resulting moments of extreme violence are effective at shocking the audience, paying off the masterfully built tension. If film makers can continue to find the best of the past and bring up to date with this kind of quality then we have many good years ahead.

4. The Artist

Speaking of being referential to yesteryear, the Artist is a modern silent, black and white film which takes rewarding risks with its presentation. The style works beautifully as the setting for this story of an artist finding himself at odds with the times. The film plays with its unique style making humorous or emotional references to its own limitations and strengths. It offers rare opportunities to see old fashioned slapstick comedy, dance numbers and genuine talent, uninterrupted by the overly technological habits of today. By removing dialogue we are forced to focus on the tiny details being offered by the direction and the superb actors who fill the picture, from Malcolm MacDowell to John Goodman. The leading man and lady are infinitely charming, immediately arresting the audience so that we are totally gripped by their struggles with an evolving Hollywood. With the tiniest expressions they can entirely change the mood of the piece. The main message of the film is that the past still has a lot to offer, even as times change and the film doesn’t just advocate the notion but champions it.

3. 50/50

This is often a surprising choice to anyone who hasn’t actually seen the film. The comedy elements may lead many to assume this is a very light movie with little to say beyond a few crude gags. What is being overlooked there is the amazing amount of heart this movie has. Apparently based on the true story of the films writer coming to terms with cancer with the help of his friend, Seth Rogan (who recreates this period of his life in the film) the story concerns Joseph Gordon Levitt being diagnosed with spinal cancer. We then see the impact this has on his life, often with humour but just as often with a crushing realism that made this quite a hard watch. How many comedies can actually generate a tear in its finale? This succeeds, and in no small part because of the great chemistry between Levitt (giving his best performance so far here) and his co-stars, particularly Seth Rogan who takes the concept of Bromance to a truly wonderful place. The film is ultimately about how important other people can be in our lives and how good fellowship can help us overcome huge amounts of adversity and suffering.

2. Take Shelter

Take Shelter was perhaps a little personal for me, but even out of context I really think this is one of the most emotional films released all year. Rising star Michael Shannon is the lead who increasingly believes a terrible storm is coming which he and his loved ones must prepare for. As he builds the shelter in his home a terrible strain is put on his home life and work, and as he begins to lose all the things he hoped to protect he is forced to ask some very difficult questions about his mental health. The film is about what happens when the head of a family is compromised. It demonstrates the impact this has on his loving wife, Jessica Chastain, and deaf daughter who desperately needs the money he is spending on his shelter for an ear operation that could save her hearing. A lot is at stake in this movie and if I have one complaint it is the ending which I feel goes against the moral of the story as an exercise in recognising our own weakness and trusting the ones we love. However the penultimate scene in which the family finally enter the shelter is one of the tensest and most upsetting that I have seen all year. The performances alone make this film one of the best. The atmospheric direction merely provides space for Chastain and Shannon to shine, as they will both hopefully continue to do in years to come.

1. Melancholia

One day a full length article about this film will go up on this site, probably comparing it to Tree of Life and explaining why this movie is on the list whilst Tree of Life isn’t. I am a huge fan of Lars Von Trier and consider Antichrist to be one of the most misunderstood movies of recent years. This film is a lot clearer on its message and it’s one that anyone who has spent some time thinking seriously about death will be all too familiar with. After an epically beautiful introduction showcasing the keen eye for striking shots Von Trier and his team have, the story is split into two parts. The first is a family drama in the same tradition as Festen. There is a wedding taking place but things are far from perfect as tensions between guests and hosts are played out and the veneer of control that Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg try to exert over proceedings is slipping. Meanwhile the bride, Kirstin Dunst, who initially takes a great deal of joy from the problems they have getting to the venue, becomes increasingly depressed and disillusioned with the forced ritual of the wedding and soon seeks to disrupt and spoil it in any way she can. This segment is dramatic and often amusing; sporting its ensemble cast which includes such greats as John Hurt and Udo Kier. In the second half of the movie the plot concerns a travelling planet called Melancholia (due to its deep blue colour) passing close to the Earth, only to start concerning people that it will actually collide. This worldwide panic is portrayed only through the four characters inhabiting the manor house, and the contrasting attitudes to the potential disaster range from denial to acceptance. The symbolism is worn on the films sleeve as the film is an excuse to examine attitudes towards death and ultimately the prevailing view is quite pessimistic. Our hero is totally unwilling to buy into the traditions and rituals put in place to make us more comfortable with our own mortality and instead accepts the inevitability of death with a cold sense of calm which can be very unsettling to watch. The film is a beautiful and well executed study of a very important issue and I feel is Von Triers best work and the best film of the year.

That’s our list of the best films of the year! Soon will be the considerable harder list, the worst films of the year, in which we take an opportunity to vent a year’s worth of bile and anger. Look out for it!

P for probably not going to be revised in two months…

Revelations in a Cinema and a Poorly Positioned Sofa (Part One)

Reading through the recent Mark Kermode biopic I encounter his description of his first viewing of the exorcist, his favourite film. He describes a transcendent religious experience in which the primal fear and atmosphere of the film elevated his consciousness from chump sitting in chair to a formless being concerned only with its own enlightenment! …yeah, I didn’t get that first time round. In fact once I began to truly reflect on this passage I came to wonder if I had ever experienced that about any film I’ve seen at a cinema. Is my cinema broken? Are the North London theatres that Mr Kermode used to frequent, slipping acid into the popcorn?

The circumstances of my viewing of the exorcist could not have been worse. The only aspect I got right was the hype. Kermode describes the hysteria surrounding the film in the early seventies. The BBC documentaries, the fainting in the aisles, the court cases, the questions in parliament, the protests, the minimalist trailer which portrayed almost nothing of the film, perhaps because the audience just couldn’t handle any of it, and I actually had all of that in the far more intimidating form of my Mother. My parents were always quite liberal when it came to what I watched. My father would occasionally express disapproval and my mother would often avoid my room for fear of what might be on-screen, but very little was denied of me. I think my upbringing can best be described by the following conversation:

“When can I watch The Evil Dead?”

“When you’re eighteen”

“But that’s ten years away!”

“…oh all right”

This was the attitude. The understanding was that if I was old enough to ask for it, I’d probably be alright dealing with. But not the exorcist! The exorcist was the one film I was never allowed to see! This would naturally build up an unhealthy amount of hype in my adolescent mind as it can be clearly proven that denying anyone any kind of experience only builds their insatiable lust for it. Case and point:

“Mum, can I watch Poltergeist?”

“Yeah.”

“Really?!”

“Yeah, why not?”

“Well isn’t it the one you don’t want me to watch?”

“I’ve never heard of it, Paul”

“Oh”

“Are you thinking of the exorcist?”

“Oh yeah.”

“IT’S NOT THE EXORCIST, IS IT?”

“No, it’s poltergeist.”

“Ok. You can watch that.”

“…what else is on?”

Several years later I discovered that poltergeist was an extremely effective haunted house movie, the influence of which can still be felt to this day. But there was no drive, no passion bringing me to see this film. I wanted to see the exorcist. I wanted to see the scariest movie ever made! And I did. I forget my age. It was before Channel 4s top 100 scariest moments in 2003 which we’ll come to later, so I was at least younger than fifteen. It was during the day, I watched it in three different rooms as it progressed (back then the one VCR would play out on channel six in every room of the house and I was often in control of it, so daytime programming would be “Blue Peter, the news, CITV, Countdown, Neighbours, Friday the 13th part V) and I don’t think I was paying much attention. I started in the back room, which is a dining room with uncomfortable seats, poorly placed to watch the old TV in the corner. Here I watched the slow building atmospheric opening scenes which succeeded only in boring me. Around the time Reagan is being examined with state of the art seventies psychological technology which measured sanity by piercing a throbbing jugular, I had moved to the front room which featured the most severe glare from the midday sun you could imagine. Finally the scene with Reagan masturbating with the crucifix and using the smoke-stained voice of Mercedes McCambridge for the first time had me flee to my parents’ bedroom where I watched the rest on their tiny ten inch television. I recall only being unimpressed with the rest of the movie.

This feeling of disappointment and frustration stayed with me for quite some time and when Channel 4’s aforementioned list of scariest moments ever came around I begged for the exorcist not to win. The idea of this movie I was unable to understand wining over my all-time favourites was just too much to bear. Fortunately for me, the shining won, but unfortunately for me, it’s clear I was missing something. It was many years before I discovered the exorcist to be the horror masterpiece it was. It was sometime around 2007, because it was then that I thought enough of it to loan it to an eight year old friend who came to me seeking the best horror I had to offer. Thinking about it I never saw the DVD nor indeed the eight year old friend again….then I bought the special edition, so it didn’t matter so much. Somewhere around this time I must have realised how much was going on in this film; the relentless atmosphere, the chilling quiet and startling noise, the sinister implications of the premise, the overtly horrific destruction of this young girl. So it has to be asked, why did I look at this wonderful piece of horror cinema as an impressionable adolescent and see nothing to like about it? Why did I wait until the DVD was reduced to clear to get a copy of it, when I already had VHS copies of every Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street and even Sleep Away Camp years earlier! Was I just a gore fiend? If so, why wasn’t I wowed by the impressively gory and impressively executed effects in The Exorcist?

So what the hell was moving me at this age? Well here lies the problem. I have no memory of any experience in a cinema like Kermode’s. The first horror film I went to see was Jan De Bont’s severely flawed remake of “the haunting” and I spent most of the film extremely tense about my family’s reaction to the noisy Brummie teenagers sat nearby. The second was 28 weeks later, (that’s right “weeks”, I missed out on the classic) which was marred by worrying about my then girlfriend’s reaction to the stupid screaming teenage girls behind us. Of course I subsequently learned that she hated horror movies and only ever saw them to humour me, so I’m sure the teenagers where the least of her problems. Is this the key? Was I too affected by the disruptive tendencies of my fellow audience members to ever actually enjoy any of these films?

The first film I ever saw at the cinema was Aladdin, of which the only enduring memory is the scene where Aladdin is in the desert with a huge tower rolling towards him, and he cunningly positions himself in just the right position for the window of the tower to roll over him. This was of course originally a Buster Keaton routine, so at least I had some taste in my infancy. Did it change my life and affect my adult self? I hope not because thinking about it, the tower was probably CG. My childhood was largely filled with popcorn action flicks like batman forever and Godzilla, and overly sentimental Disney movies like the Lion King and Toy Story. So where’s my big emotional breakthrough? The film that got me hooked and made me a cinema lover forever?

Well at the tender age of twelve we went to go see A.I, the Kubrick intended, Spielberg re-imagining of Pinocchio. This is the earliest example I can think of where I cried at a movie. Or at least forced back tears so that my sister wouldn’t see. But ultimately, this was Spielberg, and Spielberg was the master of forcing tears out of the audience with some highly clichéd plot tactics that tend to invoke strong initial reactions without really changing lives. The mother dies, the father goes away…to space, the best friend moves away… to space and all the little CG dinosaurs got eaten by the big puppet dinosaur. Boo hoo! None of this represents the real emotional sucker punch that Kermode endured in the Exorcist. Perhaps Robopocalypse will for future generations, who knows. The absolute earliest that I remember being completely floored in the cinema, was The Return of the King. I was adolescent, I broke into tears at just about all fifteen of the movie’s endings, and it made the grievous injury my grandmother had suffered to her hip in my absence a lot harder to concentrate on when I got home. So it ticks all the right boxes.

So it’s Return of the King that will have to occupy this special place in my heart. Only it doesn’t. It doesn’t because it had already happened to me before, several months earlier and in a much more discernible way. But it didn’t happen in a cinema…

P for part 2 soon!

Return of the Nerds

It may have escaped your notice (hypothetical reader) that we haven’t posted in this site for eleven months. The lives of P and K have been somewhat chaotic in this time. K has decided not to be a fireman and is on her way to entering London’s Seedy underworld of book retail. Meanwhile P became lost in an enchanted labyrinth and was forced to survive of growing moss from nearby rocks and finally escaped by outsmarting my evil jailer (K Edit: he couldn’t be arsed to leave his room, he survived off chocolate and crisps and finally escaped when he couldn’t afford anymore chocolate and crisps). But we have both agreed to make more time for the site. So prepare for more lists, rants and an essay or two.
 
Much has happened in the last year-.1. The Oscars came and went, without anything from us going up. Suffice to say Hans Zimmer and Hailee Stienfeld should have won stuff, pretty happy about everything else. We had the summer blockbusters and passed to the other side and now feel the cool breeze of the winter and the fresh arty releases ahead, leading into awards season again. Expect at least two lists about all that. And of course our Search engine optimisation has failed so entirely we are now on the third page of results from Google. Getting back to page one shouldn’t be difficult but surpassing the inconsiderate bastards who named an electronic store “nerds get bored” will be trickier. Consequently you may notice frequent mention of electrical goods in our cultural essays, or you may notice a large fire in an electronics store, whichever’s easier.
 
Anyway, there’ll be a top ten list up soon, followed by a new category for nerds get bored entitled Crash Courses, which will recommend ten movies in any given genre to help introduce newcomers and hopefully convert some unbelievers. We’re starting with Romcoms and westerns later this week.
 
Meanwhile, welcome back and don’t shop with Nerds Get Bored electronics. =)
 
K and P.

The X Factor Vs The General Election

I read somewhere a while ago that more people voted in the last X factor final, than in the general election.

Why is that?

This year has seen the most contraversial of both. People are currently talking about: Gamu gate, Wagner, Katie Waissel/Katie Vogel (whoever she really is), Cher turning into Cheryl, the list goes on…and on…and on….

During the election people were talking about: oh who remembers!

THIS is why. No one remembers the election! It’s all boring reporters in front of un-convincing backdroups of London and digital excel graphs. (NB: I personally LOVE the graphics during the election, but i’m guessing most people don’t.) MY suggestion is, the candidates should have to SING, with backing dancers, being berated by Simon Cowell before the election. THEN people would vote.

What’s that Cameron? Forgot about Korea? Too busy running out to by the X-Factor magazine? Who can blame you? Which would you rather worry about? Nuclear war or wether or not Matt Cardle is dating Grace Woodwood?

Personally, I’ve never voted in the X factor, i’m not gonna lie, I HAVE voted in reality television, but I think that’s ok, cause since turning 18 I’ve voted in every possible election, so it balances out. There’s another idea, if you vote in the election you get a FREE vote on the next X Factor final, then maybe we’d top it.

In 2 weeks it’s this year’s finale, I can’t wait to see if the votes top the election or not. Come on Blighty, please don’t let us down.