Friday, 29 October 2010

[400] LFF 2010, and beyond.

So that was my first, fully-accredited London Film Festival.

I still have a handful of articles to write and post over at Den of Geek, but the screenings are over, at least. I caught 35 films in the end, which I feel is plenty. Here's my top 10:

Black Swan
Blue Valentine
The Kids Are All Right
Never Let Me Go
William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
Heartbeats / Les Amours Imaginaires
Robinson In Ruins
Living On Love Alone / D'amour et d'eau fraiche
The American

There are quite a few bubbling underneath that, but I'll keep it simple. I feel a little ashamed that almost all of my choices are mainstream English language films, but I guess I backed the wrong foreign/art-house/independent horses. Plus I didn't make too much of the award-winning doc The Arbor, although I did enjoy Archipelago, which received a 'special commendation' from the jury.

No time for rest, though, as today I'm off to the MCM Expo. It's a three-day event this time around, and I've managed to convince myself that my next MA essay (for 'Transnational Japanese Cinema') should be about UK anime fan-culture and cosplay. So there's a lot to look forward to. And another episode of WAW+P Radio. Gosh. See you on the other side.

[399] Magic and Masters: Children's Fantasy at the LFF

The London Film Festival isn’t generally known for its championing of genre films. In fact, the festival circuit in general has started to splinter off into niches and competencies, with whole programmes becoming dedicated not only to national cinemas, but areas of the film world such as animation and children’s movies. However, even though most critical attention is looking elsewhere, there are still examples of such fanciful entertainment at the LFF. Two films of this ilk jumped out of the line-up, both from Eastern Europe, and therefore damned from conception where English-speaking audiences are concerned. If the general populace can’t be bothered with subtitles, then what about their little sprogs?

The Book of Masters (Книга мастеров) is the first production by the Russian wing of Walt Disney Productions - an initiative that looks to give filmmakers of a distinctly different tradition the worthy budget to realise their ideas. Although, in this case, the extra money is more of a hindrance than a help. In concept, this is a cheeky send-up of various tales from Russian folklore, streamlined into a peppy caper that brings with it few surprises.

The daughter of Slavic mythological witch Baba Yaga is fated to become the fearsome Stone Countess, who raises an army of terrible inhuman golems to one day take over the world. However, she needs to harness the power of Alatyr, a special mineral that, when sculpted by a master stone carver, grants its bearer dominion over life and death.

Of course, there’s a young protagonist, in this case Ivan (Maxim Loktionov), a humble stone carver in a little village, who must learn from the Book of Masters, fulfill his destiny and win the heart of Katya (Mariya Andreeva), a beautiful, feisty princess kept captive by the Stone Countess.

The twist is that this is a slightly post-modern take, playing with tradition while remaining firmly within its conventional structure. Unfortunately, this mainly manifests in a series of contemporary pop-culture references, which are sometimes equally inventive and cheeky (a ball of twine, guiding our hero through the Endless Forest, has the voice and mentality of a Sat Nav unit), but become increasingly tired as the film progresses, mostly consisting of awkward sound effect gags - such as a sword being brandished to the fizz of a lightsaber, or a scene being punctuated by an appearance of the sad trombone melody.

But most perilous for this production are the opportunities afforded by its budget. Director-writer Vadim Sokolowsky seems to have been tempted to indulge every whim, over-stuffing the film with slow-motion sequences, crash-zooms and gratuitous CGI shots. These add up to a hollow mimicry of Hollywood blockbuster convention, and the production design apes Terry Gilliam at its colourful best, or, frustratingly, lifts locations and character concepts from Lord of The Rings at its worst. When the Stone Countess stands atop her craggy tower, surveying her land of scorched earth, lava and mist, you wonder if a small team of hackers had broken into the WETA Digital servers, and downloaded their Tolkien-specific asset library.

Lacking in the imagination and playfulness to craft something truly unique, The Book of Masters seems willing to simply mirror American style. A disappointing opening gambit for Disney’s investment in the region.

What a delightful treat The Magic Tree (Magiczne drzewo) is, in comparison. No doubt made for a fraction of the cost, it is full of wonder and has a number of bold ideas all of its own.

Initially developed as a Polish television series by creator-writer-director Andrzej Maleszka, The Magic Tree imagines that an enchanted, ancient oak is one day felled in a lightning storm. The resulting timber is used to create assorted knick-knacks, accessories and pieces of furniture, each exhibiting mysterious powers. In a cheeky opening titles sequence, a series of Youtube-style handheld videos reveal clogs that dance to their own rhythm, and wardrobes that lurch around the room.

But this film focuses on a little red chair, which grants wishes to anyone who sits on it. Bounding from its delivery van, and high-tailing it over inner-city traffic, the chair soon finds its way under the bums of officially The Cutest Family In All Of Poland. Seriously, mum and dad are classical musicians who sing their way through Mozart on car journeys, as their three cheeky kids beam from the backseat. Their first wish, when they find the chair squirrelled away at the back of a bustling urban festival, is for pizza, naturally. However, their ambitious businesswoman aunt soon sits on the chair, and wishes for the humble parents to take a lucrative job on a round the world cruise, landing the children - Tosia (Maja Tomawska), Filip (Filip Fabis) and Kuki (Adam Szczególa) - in her far-from-motherly care.

The rest of the film follows a simple plot: the children want to be reunited with their parents, and traverse the countryside in order to reach the next port on the cruise’s itinerary. Maleszka has a lot of fun with the concept, playing with the limits of the chair’s power, while shaping all plot developments and solutions in accordance to the imaginations of hyper-active children. For example, the aunt (who employs a deaf-mute maid, she says, so they can’t either make noise or eavesdrop) starts to give them trouble, so they turn her into a kid as well, and take her along for the adventure.

It’s remarkably twee, and infectiously fun. While not sporting the epic scope of The Book of Masters, this more modest effort is something quite special and distinctive. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing it at the multiplex any time soon - but let’s hope one day Maleszka finds a more international platform for his vision.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

[398] Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason Review

I mentioned this review on the radio show a couple of weeks ago - and it's finally up! I'm starting to really like Jason; hopefully I'll be able to track down more of his books in the future.

By now, I've read three comic books by Jason, the relatively mysterious, mononymous cartoonist, and I still find it hard to properly describe his style. He is playful in tone, delicate in themes, yet distinct in approach and design. Not to simplify his work, but he often takes high concept genre narratives - time travel (I Killed Adolf Hitler), wrong man thrillers (Why Are You Doing This?) - and buries them in very human, ho-hum contexts, gently undercutting convention with dry humour.

He is without immediate peer, and perhaps the closest I can get to him is Jim Jarmusch, the indie film director who, in a more overtly arty sense, takes American film genres like the western (Dead Man), prison (Down By Law), and gangster movie (Ghost Dog), and refracts them through his deadpan stoner wit.

Werewolves Of Montpellier is Jason's (a Norwegian, who now lives in France) latest work. It comes emblazoned with a back cover quote from filmmaker John Landis, excitedly proclaiming it to be "another werewolf story to warm the cockles of your heart!" This is, no doubt, delivered with cocked eyebrow, or tongue placed in cheek, or voluminous beard split by a great big Landis grin, because Werewolves of Montpellier is anything but ‘another' lycanthropic story.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

[397] Black Swan (2010) Review

Covering the London Film Festival is a bigger deal than I'd anticipated. I'm far behind on my write-ups, with 5 columns left to bash out, and there are still other films to see. Black Swan's a biggie, though. So here's a review of that. I also got the chance to interview Aronofsky himself - but you won't see that until the film's UK release in February, sadly.

More to come.

There's something a little bittersweet about watching Black Swan, one of the highlights of the London Film Festival's programme and, importantly, the latest film from director Darren Aronofsky. It now seems set in stone that he will finally graduate from his stellar line of small budget, against-the-grain outsider works, leaping into the comic book adaptation big league, reportedly taking the helm of the new Wolverine movie (although, while at the festival, the director himself seemed unwilling to confirm this development).

This news is particularly saddening, since Black Swan is one of his best works to date, the product of a confident, skilled artist who is in total control of his talents.

You probably already know the setup. This is a film about ballet, specifically, a production of Tchaikovsky's
Swan Lake, which is shot through with the emotional intensity of psychological horror. Like Aronofsky's previous film, the gritty character piece The Wrestler, Black Swan looks at the demanding behind-the-scenes aspects, physically and mentally, of its chosen artform.

Here, young dancer Nina (Natalie Portman), is cast in the production's lead role, and is tasked with performing as both the virginal White Swan, and the antagonistic, seductive Black Swan. Although, while she is perfectly capable of executing the poise and grace of the former character, she is lacking a certain something when it comes to the darker side of the performance, something beyond technique, which director Thomas (Vincent Cassel) pushes her to attain.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

[396] Love, Work and Youth at the London Film Festival

Blogging from a festival is a daunting task.The London Film Festival is a massive deal, at least from a raw numbers point of view. With the late additions to the bill, it comes to over 200 films, in just over 2 weeks of screenings.

Making sense of it all is made easier by spotting threads - be it thematic, national or topical - and these columns are spinning out of that thinking. I was surprised by how immediately the connections presented themselves - it’s silly really, as this is a pretty well-curated amalgam of cinema.

Within the first week of previews, I was blindsided by a selection of films that, you could say, strayed a little close to home. They featured young adults, that key demographic that sits in between maturity and middle age - the twentysomethings that are fending for themselves in a modern world that, thanks to economic recession, doesn’t look all that promising. In such a context, is it possible to retain a sense of idealism when it comes to love and work?

Take festival opener Never Let Me Go (****), Mark Romanek’s sumptuous adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel. In an alternate Britain, major diseases were rendered obsolete in the 1950s, thanks to revolutionary research into human cloning. This creates an underclass of ‘donors’, a population of children who attend special schools, like the film’s central location, a picturesque boarding school called Hailsham. When they mature, these young adults are taken through a rigorous programme of donation, where their vital organs are removed and given over to members of the general populace. The inevitable conclusion of these operations is for the donor in question to ‘complete’, or, in less euphemistic terms, die.

Ishiguro’s gentle science fiction concept is rendered with melancholy subtlety by Romanek, and despite Alex Garland’s sometimes too-literal screenplay, it retains a sense of mystery and profound ambiguity, channelling Orwell in its British sense of arch social structures in conflict with personal ideals. Its three protagonists, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield, all awards-worthy), live life in miniature, experiencing ageing in acceleration. They form a tender love triangle, which develops a mournful sense of regret as they move towards their inevitable fate. On one level, it is hard not to see this as a society eating its young, digesting their mortality while eroding their youthful innocence. Rumours abound, that they could dodge destiny by proving themselves through artistic or romantic expression. But even this is a distraction, and Romanek never dares give the audience false hope, consistently (and almost, in terms of mainstream enjoyment, to a fault) pursuing the droll march towards decay.

Such inevitability also permeates Blue Valentine (****), a powerful two-hander drama from Derek Cianfrance, centering on the disintegrating marriage of leads Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. The film hinges on two musical cues (‘You Always Hurt The One You Love’, performed by Gosling and Penny & The Quarters’ ‘You and Me’), and tonally feels like a glum working class ballad from Tom Waits, or Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen, with young love doomed almost from the start.

Cutting between present complications, where nurse Cindy (Williams) and interior decorator Dean (Gosling) are attempting to fix things, and the oh-so-simple past, of blossoming romance, Blue Valentine gently invites the viewer into their lives. The film meticulously builds the pair’s relationship, and lays the roots of the emotional trauma and incompatible values that will eventually overwhelm them. The hope of yesterday gives way to the broken dreams of today, as Dean’s care-free approach to life seems irresponsible when he’s a young father, and Cindy’s shift from bright-eyed student to a hard-working, exhausted woman brings little patience for his alcoholism and flippancy.

Both leads are outstanding, hopping the boundary between youth and jaded adulthood with ease, and neither cheapen their characters with overt melodrama. Cianfrance’s script manages to mould this elegy for romance while never languishing in cynicism, achieving a sincerity that chimes with the wistful soundtrack, provided by Brooklyn group Grizzly Bear. Blue Valentine’s flashbacks paint an endearing love that knows no bounds, and challenges the encroachment of tragedy, but it is fleeting - another victim to an American tradition.

Cross the border to French Canada, and love is no more permanent in Heartbeats (****), although the French title Les amours imaginaires more accurately describes this wry look at obsession and short-lived affairs. Two oddball hipsters, Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (writer and director Xavier Dolan), joined at the hip and united by an aloof sort of misanthropy, fall for the boyish Nicolas (Niels Schneider), and engage in passive-aggressive power games for his love.

Dolan mines much humour and high aesthetics from this ménage à trois, cheekily playing off the two friends against each other, with the gaze lingering on frustrated glances and aghast expressions of unfulfilled lust. He cuts between rather mundane, sometimes awkwardly comic scenes of the lovers together, and emphatically artistic sequences of gorgeously photographed slow-motion shots, often featuring one of the stunning members of the central cast, backed by high romantic music such as Italian singer Dalida’s melodramatic take on ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’, or excerpts from Bach’s stately-yet-passionate cello suites. Yet even these moments are undercut, knowingly distancing the audience from this use of music as a psychological device, as their interior daydreams are punctured at one point by the harsh hip-pop of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around’, blurting from a stereo at a house party.

They’re kooks, anachronistic outsiders: one a literature snob clothed in immaculate retro-chic dresses and pearls, the other a lusty chap given to James Dean haircuts and thick-rimmed glasses. Of course, Nicolas isn’t at all interested, and soon leaves them hanging. But that doesn’t matter, as while Dolan’s film posits that emotional anguish is endemic to romance (as a number of documentary-like interview sequences, with characters relating their traumatic relationship experiences, suggest), it also gives the viewer a powerful image of its central pair, twisted and hopelessly attached to each other, finishing the film ready to embark on another self-destructive, obsessive fling.

Similarly warped, but much more depraved, is Leap Year (Año bisiesto, **), the debut from Australian director Michael Rowe, which features a freelance journalist (Monica del Carmen), living in the big city alone. Initially about the monotony of working and living in the same space - with the camera barely leaving the dingy, cockroach-ridden flat - the film becomes more about the alienating effects of modern urban life. She sleeps, she types, she has sex with random men. She picks her nose and watches daytime television. It’s morbidly mundane, until the halfway point kicks in, and one sexual partner slaps her during the act. She doesn’t stop him. In fact, she moves his hand over her throat, and invites him to squeeze.

From there, Leap Year becomes something of an exercise, reveling in the squirmy nature of explicit sex and violence, attempting to capture the simultaneous anarchy and audience-baiting of Haneke’s Funny Games. It doesn’t reach such giddy heights, as the veil of naturalism remains, drawing dark, absurd humour out of straightforwardly grim situations, reaching a particular NSFW peak as the protagonist is forced to lie, face up, on the living room floor, masturbating, as her partner urinates on her face. Afterwards, she mops up as he catches up on his soaps.

Isabelle Czajka’s Living On Love Alone (D’amour et d’eau fraîche, ****), is less abrasive, and wholly more impressive. It is a romantic, cheeky sort of novella drama focusing on Natalie (Anaïs Demoustier), a young worker trying to make a go at employment in Paris. She starts the film attempting to cope with a high-stress job at a pretentious PR company, working for an ‘eclectic’ sort of genius, and fulfilling suitably diverse duties, including cabbing it across town for dozens of boxed lunches for a big meeting, and taking her boss’ children to Disneyland. She plugs the gaps with nights on the town, and sex with older, richer men, who seem to be overflowing with gratitude and financial handouts.

This isn’t the life she expected to lead; ‘all these efforts, for something I’m not interested in,’ she laments. Soon, she’s fired, and is left applying for a job as a door-to-door sales representative for a publisher. At the interview, she meets bearded fraudster Ben (Pio Marmaï), a charming gent who eventually offers her a way out of the city, to a cottage in the balmy south. There they live a spartan dream, away from the grime of the capital. And when Natalie finds a gun in the kitchen drawer, it’s no worry, as Ben lets her in on his plan to earn thousands of Euros for a morning’s work.

There’s an endearing conflict at the heart of Living On Love Alone, between heart-led idealism and brain-led pragmatism, and Czajka does not condemn the two leads for striving for the former, abandoning the responsibility and reality of adulthood for sunshine, sex and escapism. It revels in their relationship - inviting the viewer to fall in love with their beauty, vibrancy and jeunesse over a series of intimate close-ups. Both Demoustier and Marmaï are compelling, and help to nudge the film away from the complications of middle-class rebellion, and towards something subversively genuine. That it is straightforward, naturalistic, in its representation of this, is quite audacious - it’s really a downbeat, slightly poetic spin on the careening youth-gone-wild violence of True Romance, Natural Born Killers and Wild At Heart, or a hopeless homage to the new wave cool of À Bout de Souffle.

A final frame stand-off crystallises this underlying anger, as the battered, arrested protagonist stares straight into the camera as she answers the interrogation officer’s questions: ‘Julie Bataille, 23, unemployed.’ This stark conclusion fades out to the lust-bump blues of The Kills’ anthem ‘Fuck The People’, suggesting that, in the face of unlikely love, maturity, and a society that preaches conformity, there are some willing to fight.

Monday, 18 October 2010

[395] RED (2010) Review

I'm a modest Warren Ellis fan. While I'm happy to see him get his moment in the film-adaptation spotlight - and for him to get the cheque that comes along with it, the sentimental bastard - I'm a bit disappointed that he's been put through the Hollywood mincer. Let's hope this is just the beginning, and the promising opening of RED brings more attention to his work.

Friends, the time has come. Hollywood movie moguls have been fumbling around in the comic book intellectual property swag bag for some time, but it hasn't been until now that they have hit upon a thorny, nasty work from super-fungal mega-writer Warren Ellis. However, instead of adapting one his demented masterworks that perform anarchic castration on genre conventions, such as Transmetropolitan, The Authority or Planetary, the powers that be have smiled kindly on RED, his collaboration with Cully Hamner, which is an action caper with a twist.

The twist is probably what sold the producers (Mark Vahradian and Lorenzo di Bonaventura, two dudes behind
Transformers) on the idea. It's a pretty concise concept: RED stands for ‘Retired, Extremely Dangerous', and is a tag given to, as can be assumed, those that gather outside local post offices every Monday morning, clutching their pension book with the rest of them. Except these biddies and codgers are highly trained killing machines.

Read the full article here.

[394] The Social Network (2010) Review

Over the last week I wrote nearly 2500 words on The Social Network. I think that's my limit. I've got other things to write, anyway. Here is my review, which is more of an essay, as Ron Hogan had already written a straightforward review for Den of Geek, and I tried to make mine a little deeper.

Call it a symptom of our Internet existence. I've been sitting on this review of The Social Network for over two weeks, embargoed until days before its UK release. In the time between the screening and now, the film has been released Stateside, with the flurry of attention and discussion that is to be expected of such a development.

Our resident American-based reviewer, Ron Hogan, has had his say (he liked it). Friends have Twittered their reactions to advance, public screenings, unencumbered by embargo. It seems that every possible angle, every opinion, has been expressed.

That's life, today. Sentiments are disseminated along instantaneous, digital highways, becoming solidified about halfway between content management system and browser window. It has been a steady progression over the last two decades, gradually effecting our lives from dot com boom to bust and beyond, culminating in the rise of social media, bolstered by the likes of YouTube, MySpace and, of course, Facebook.

The Social Network is a film about Facebook, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher. That's the writer who created the big liberal bear hug,
The West Wing, collaborating with the most restrained director from Hollywood's pilfered roster of music video visionaries.

With the likes of
Zodiac (a sumptuous crime film with a long, mid-act ellipsis, and an inconclusive conclusion) and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (a flawed, inverted Forrest Gump substituting Baby Boomer nostalgia for textured Americana), Fincher has placed his full attentions on script, place and character, using his keen sense of production polish to lift his work out of its immediate cinematic context. He is one of the few directors working today who helms projects that gaze across broad horizons, from the classical past to the stylistic future. But The Social Network, while exhibiting the touch of a master filmmaker, is unmistakeably a film about the world we live in today.

Read the full article here.

Friday, 15 October 2010

[393] The Social Network (Score) - Trent Reznor + Atticus Ross

So my review of The Social Network for Den of Geek inevitably spun out of control, developing into more of an essayistic musing on the film’s subtextual content, especially as a film for ‘our times’, documenting ‘The Facebook Generation’, and the common adoption of digital lives. Maybe I’ve been losing my mind, but between that and the Let Me In piece (which is a long exploration of adaptation, style and genre), I’m earning my stripes as the oddball Geek reviewer.

In the process, I sacrificed most parts of the review. My notes ran for pages, and my rants at other people - generally inspired by the simple question ‘Was it any good?’ - often drifted into cosmic ravings. Shamanistic prattle. Exultation and pumped-up nonsense. I trimmed that stuff back, mostly, leaving some stuff unformed. I said nothing about the film’s score, for example.

Wow, the score. It’s by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, by the way. One guy you probably know - he’s the man who mashed up meticulous industrial metal production and Depeche Mode pop songwriting for the 90s alternative crowd. The other is his close collaborator, who formed a crucial studio-based cornerstone of the (currently) final phase of Nine Inch Nails’ now-dormant career, and has followed Reznor’s lead in his creative projects since.

Even though I’m a fan, I was surprised. Director David Fincher created the video for Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Only’ single back in 2005, but that was a streamlined bid for MTV airplay - featuring an insistent groove, a shout-along chorus, and clean CGI-aided Pin Art from Digital Domain. It didn’t hint at the textured explorations Reznor and co. would pursue as they drifted back into the musical periphery. Furthermore, it seemed odd.

This is a film about Facebook after all, a saga set in the recent past, and they were choosing to be relatively light on the radio hits and other tunes, and instead to rely heavily on what turns out to be a moving mixture of organic tones and electronic sounds. The links with the EP project Ghosts - which Reznor released back in 2008 in a highly profitable, and innovative, online distribution strategy - are immediately apparent. It is overcast ambience, tender at times, but brittle, brooding and mournful at others. Check out score opener ‘Hand Covers Bruise’.

It recalls Eno, in his dark ambient, On Land guise, and there’s a hint of Vangelis in there, as the score mirrors those composers’ ability to suggest emotional current within their cavernous productions - human blips within musical negative space. These sonic landscapes are punctured by harsh synths, drum machines and distorted noise, adding tension and twisted trauma. In a stroke of genius, the score actually gives the film a moody counterpoint to Sorkin’s zingy dialogue, providing a beat, yet highlighting the darkness to his character drama. Take the second cut, ‘In Motion’, which accompanies an early sequence where Zuckerberg, recently dumped by his girlfriend, swigs beer, bitches on his Livejournal, and hacks the assorted Harvard dorms' ‘facebook’ services, in order to create the Facemash site - where users rate mugshots of female students against each other.

The film cuts back and forth between Zuckerberg’s twisted, unwitting creativity (the popularity and compelling nature of the site both anticipates and spurs on the invention of Facebook), and a sleazy depiction of a drunken sex romp held in another fraternity. The track, a minimal subversion of four-on-the-floor club electronica, builds with swirling sequencers and abrasive dissonance - conjuring up technomages, cyberpunks and hyper-cool computer virtuosos. But instead, it’s just a wounded, pathetic young man, indulging in mild misogyny and dreaming of recognition. As Reznor and Ross lay down this bed of unsettling underscore, it allows Sorkin’s writing to really fly, with Fincher’s sumptuous, nuanced, but relatively neutral direction to bridge the two. It gives the film a superb breadth of tone and feeling.

But when Fincher let’s go, so do the composers. In one stand-out sequence - which, for all narrative-thematic intents and purposes, is effectively digressive - the tilt-shift photographed gaze swoops down over a miniature reproduction of rolling English landscape, depicting the Henley Royal Regatta. Zuckerberg’s twin nemeses, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, future Olympian rowers, are both participating. What ensues is a breathless, pacy sequence that captures the strength required and tension inspired by the sport. It’s a beautiful scene. And the score? Oh, just a little rearrangement of Edvard Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, recorded in the style of Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach album. It is, quite frankly, brilliant: regal, operatic, and powerful - yet utterly playful, and over before you know it.

It’s an astounding work, overall. I’m glad to see Reznor achieve a potential he’s exhibited since he recorded ‘Something I Can Never Have’ back in 1989 (which itself was reappropriated on the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers, which he supervised). While he has always been pigeon-holed (not entirely incorrectly) as a raging angst-monger, it is in his intricately textured production that his more impressive talents lie. Across all his albums, there have been the down moments, the instrumental passages that hinted at compositional ambitions outside of leftfield pop. And after his provisional score for Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo was rejected (and eventually recorded in part on the Still live album), you could have been led to worry that he’d only ever craft such pieces for his own daydreams and concept albums. Thankfully, he’s been given a shot here, and the result is a work of sublime richness.

You can download a 5 track sampler of the Social Network score for free, and purchase the full album in a variety of formats, over at

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

[392] WAW+P Radio #4: Twee Dancing With Tom Humberstone

One week later than expected, but here's the latest episode of We Are Words + Pictures Radio, hosted by London Fields Radio, and recorded in Wilton's Way Cafe - which was drenched in Sunday afternoon warmth as I chatted with Solipsistic Pop editor Tom Humberstone. This was also my first time manning the decks. However, against all odds, we averted sunstroke and crammed in plenty of comics discussion and moody music.

Check out the show at London Fields Radio here. Or download it at this link.

Again, I feel like the show is developing and progressing with each episode. The last one, with Philippa Rice, was punchy and fun. This one is a little more discussion-based, and is a bit longer and beard-strokingly thought-provoking. In my write-up over at the WAW+P blog I put the following:

Keywords for this show, as scrawled into an A5 writing pad, include: Animation, America, TCAF, David Mamet, Three Act Structure, The Narrative of Sports Fandom, Ellipsis, Wong Kar-Wai, Mogwai, Post-Rock’s Similarities To Comics.

We cover a lot. We even talk about James Sturm's Market Day and Jason's Werewolves of Montpellier. And Tom chose a nice selection of tunes. So much that I had to cut back on my own, which I'm fully prepared to do if the guest just has to throw in a 6 minute Arab Strap song.

Here's the playlist:

1. James Murphy – Dear You
2. Arab Strap – Hey! Fever
3. Sufjan Stevens – The 50 States Song
4. Allo Darlin’ – Silver Dollars
5. Jeffrey Lewis – Anxiety Attack
6. Mogwai – Friend Of The Night
7. Those Dancing Days – Spaceherosuites
8. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London

As always, any feedback would be appreciated. And, if you like it, tell your friends!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

[391] 25 films to see at the London Film Festival

I have been quiet recently. Why? Well, mainly because the London Film Festival press previews have started, and this year I'm fully accredited. Exciting, yes, but every day for the last week and a half has been spent in the BFI Southbank, catching up on various movies. Some are brilliant, and I'll be writing about them a bit further down the line, once the festival starts.

In the meantime, I wrote up this big preview for Den of Geek, highlighting 25 films from the programme that are worth checking out. Since writing this, a handful of new and impressive films have been added to the bill, including Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, and the new Michael Winterbottom feature The Trip. Consider those as late additions.

For film buffs residing in or around the UK's capital, the back end of October means one thing: the London Film Festival. As always, this year boasts a supreme selection of big films from the world over, even if 2010's line-up is a bit lacking in international premieres.

Anyway, chances are you haven't had a recent holiday to Toronto or the French Riviera, so we've combed through the consistently astounding programme to bring up 25 films that, if you can get your hands on tickets (no mean feat), you should check out.

Read the full article here.