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Words From The WiseVenice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World

Posted on Thursday August 29, 2013, 14:08 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World

Tradition is a big part of the Venice Film Festival. It’s tradition that nothing ever works or is open when you get here, to probably the most expensive of the calendar’s main film events. This year there was a new twist, in that anything that previously worked was changed or dispensed with altogether, but what one can usually rely on is the quality of the films. This year, even that has taken a battering, with many of the autumn’s heavy hitters – notably Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave – going straight to Toronto, which begins next week. But there is one more tradition that may yet be the saving grace of this year’s edition.
Because the main tradition here in Venice is a long-standing love affair with George Clooney, the silver-fox mayor of Hollywood, who has been coming here for ritual humiliation by press conference for some years now. He has been handcuffed and ‘married’ (Intolerable Cruelty), chased by a woman in r...

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Words From The WiseKarlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: XL and 11.6

Posted on Monday July 8, 2013, 16:49 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: XL and 11.6

The competition at KV can be quite erratic, a problem prevalent at most festivals that need to keep their high-end status by delivering a main strand of world premieres. In a busy calendar year, there simply aren't enough good movies to go round, but this year's line-up was perhaps the best in quite some time. I missed the winning film Honeymoon and wasn't around when Ben Wheatley's divisive A Field In England screened – but I did catch two interesting competition films, one from Iceland the other from France.

Marteinn Thorsson's XL was the former, a seriously dark black comedy that starts with an alcoholic politician, Leifur (Olafur Darri Olafsson), being confronted by his irate prime minister. Leifur is being sent to rehab, and what ensues is a bizarre fever dream that combines the events leading up to his committal and a wild party he arranges as one last fling. The resulting timeline is most disorientating – as is a subplot involving the girl he had with his ex-wife...

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Words From The WiseKarlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: Mood Indigo

Posted on Monday July 8, 2013, 13:36 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2013: Mood Indigo

That the 48th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival began with the international premiere of Michel Gondry's surreal Mood Indigo and ended with a Jury Prize for Ben Wheatley's psychedelic A Field In England should give you an idea of how this year's event turned out. Though it didn't want for Hollywood names – Oliver Stone and John Travolta flew in to accept the annual Crystal Globe For Outstanding Contribution To World Cinema – KV proved once again to be a festival of discovery and a good place to root out international movies that can no longer find a berth at Cannes.

Mood Indigo was widely believed to be headed to the Riviera this year, until it was announced that it would be premiering in France almost a month before the festival started. The film was not a great success there, and it's not hard to see why its producers chose to keep it away from the Croisette – although it is frequently quite jaw-droppingly brilliant, Gondry's lat...

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Words From The WiseCannes 2013: Some thoughts on the Competition and awards

Posted on Sunday June 2, 2013, 14:45 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Cannes 2013: Some thoughts on the Competition and awards

Last weekend, there was a lot of talk about sex in Cannes, especially the explicit lesbian variety on display in Abdellatif Kechiche's La Vie D'Adèle (pictured), also known as Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Its formal excellence and artistic daring made it an obvious choice for such jurors as Lynne Ramsay, Christoph Waltz and Cristian Mungiu, not to mention Ang Lee, whose own Lust, Caution caused similar controversy for its erotic scenes. But what about jury president Steven Spielberg? Would he steer it towards a less provocative contender, like Asghar Fahadi's The Past or Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son? Or would he bite the bullet and face the wrath of the moral majority back home, where the issue of same-sex marriage makes the news on a seemingly weekly basis?

In r...

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Words From The WiseCannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup

Posted on Saturday April 20, 2013, 14:38 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Cannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup

Although the internet very nearly ruined any surprises this year, the Cannes Film Festival remains a somewhat bespoke event that makes it almost literally impossible to predict, even though the guessing game starts earlier every year. As ever, the initial reactions pointed out what's NOT there, something which also started earlier this year when new films by regulars Pedro Almodóvar, Woody Allen and Lars Von Trier were all nixed by the rumour mill in the run-up to Thursday's announcement. Having said that, most of the anticipated titles seem to be in the mix, the only notable no-shows – mostly because they simply won't be ready – appear to be Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave, Spike Jonze's Her, Terry Gilliam's Zero Theorem and Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin. Personally, I was relieved that Lee Daniels' The Butler ...

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Words From The WiseArgo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

Posted on Sunday March 3, 2013, 13:49 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Argo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman

The "round table interview", a mini-press conference of sorts, is the bane of every professional journalist's life, made worse when the powers that be decide to "pair up the talent", usually putting the tacturn superstar with the garrulous little-known director – a tactic that inevitably works to nobody's advantage. When I heard that the promotional duties for Argo at last year's Toronto International Film Festival would involve a group interview with the film's supporting cast of John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston – who are never all on screen together, as I recall – my heart sank. What on earth would we do with it? As it turned out, the half-hour spent in their company was pretty entertaining. So, to coincide with the film's (UK) release on DVD, I thought I'd share it…

*Warning! Contains minor spoilers…*

Argo round table with John Goodman, Alan Arkin ...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5

Posted on Wednesday January 30, 2013, 10:37 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5

First things first; the nature of Sundance buzz meant that I missed three of this year's most talked-about narrative titles – Fruitvale, The Spectacular Now and Ain't Them Bodies Saints – while I also failed desperately to catch up with This Is Martin Bonner, The Moo Man and quite a lot of the midnight movies. However, I did manage to see the hot sale of Sundance 2013, and what a letdown that turned out to be. Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way, Way Back couldn't be more of an obvious Sundance pitch if it was called Little Miss Bunshine. It reunites Steve Carell and Toni Collette in a coming-of-age story, this time involving a teenage boy, Duncan (Liam James), who's on holiday with his mother (Collette) and her dreadful new boyfriend (Carell) at the latter's beach house. Finding himself excluded from the local social scene, Duncan encounters a shabby but ch...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 4

Posted on Monday January 28, 2013, 18:18 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 4

Documentaries continue to thrive at Sundance, and music docs are usually well served there, having hosted the world premieres of DiG!, Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man And Patti Smith: Dream Of Life in recent years. This year saw the debut of Brett Morgan's film about The Eagles, but instead I opted for Greg Camalier's Muscle Shoals, about an area of smalltown Alabama that in long stretches of the 60s and 70s changed the sound of modern music forever. At nearly two hours it may be too much for the uninitiated, but for fans of the Muscle Shoals sound – borrowed by artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones and Lynard Skynard – it may not be enough.

Taking a steady, organic approach to the medium, Camalier's film makes a nice change from the usual TV-ready docs that use rapid-fire talking-head soundbites to push the story forward. Instead, the musicians are given time to tell their stories, and though all are engross...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 3

Posted on Wednesday January 23, 2013, 20:45 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 3

The female-directed comedies at this year's Sundance have been a marked improvement on previous years, and I will skate over the unendurable Ass Backwards – another spin on the Romy & Michelle formula, this time with two dim-witted best friends revisiting the beauty-pageant world of their childhood – to get to the really rather wonderful In A World.... Written by and starring Lake Bell, this small but very charming comedy takes place in the competitive world of Hollywood vocal talents, and begins with a tribute to the king of voiceover artists Don LaFontaine, who died in 2008. From here, we meet Carol (Bell), daughter of Sam (Fred Melamed), who is widely regarded to be the fruity-toned successor to LaFontaine's mantle. Carol has been struggling as a part-time voice coach in her father's shadow, but when the trailer for an new tween-lit quadrilogy is mooted, Carol decides to put in her bid to narrate it, going up against hot newc...

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Words From The WiseSundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two

Posted on Wednesday January 23, 2013, 10:34 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two

Two years ago I fell in love with Drake Doremus's Like Crazy, the small and intimate but very beautiful story of a British girl who falls for a classmate while studying in the US and begins a transatlantic relationship with him. The follow-up, Breathe In, reuniting Doremus with the fantastic Felicity Jones, is an equally low-key but much more adult affair, this time telling a similar story from the perspective of a much older man. Guy Pearce stars as a married music teacher whose family welcome a teenage girl - Jones, again playing a foreign-exchange student - whose precocious talents as a pianist, and jaded adult outlook, stir something in him and reawaken his youthful dreams. That it doesn't end well goes without saying, but though it does deal with the aftermath, Breathe In is more a superbly crafted character story, with a soulful central performance by Pearce.

Michael Winterbottom's The Look Of Love also rests on one man's sh...

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