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Under The RadarTIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

Posted on Thursday September 13, 2012, 15:39 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

Excuse the delay, TIFF is an incredibly overwhelming film festival, where so much clashes, it's much harder than it is at the big European festivals to create any kind of meaningful schedule. This means that I saw Silver Linings Playbook at a private screening before most of the US critics, who immediately cleared a space for it on the 2012 awards table. I have to say, it mystified me, and I have no idea what the film's chances are in the UK, since the title is a riff on a very well-known American football term (I kept waiting for an explanation but none came). It's also, like many of the indies on offer here, somewhat rooted in the American culture of self-medication, with characters that owe more to Benny and Joon – not to mention Romy and Michelle – than Harry and Sally.

Bradley Cooper stars as Pat Solitano, a former teacher who is released from a mental institute, into the care of his parents, after spending eight months there for the savage beating o...

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Under The RadarTIFF 2012: Jason Reitman's Live Reading Of American Beauty

Posted on Monday September 10, 2012, 16:07 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
TIFF 2012: Jason Reitman's Live Reading Of American Beauty

Owen Nicholls reports...

After the triumph of Looper and Argo, the first day of the Toronto International Film Festival 2012 finished with a film launched by the Canadian fest nearly a decade and a half ago; American Beauty. Rather than a 3D Conversion in which the plastic bag looks real enough to touch, or another example of a “too soon” Hollywood reboot, this evening's entertainment was the latest “Live Reading” arranged by Jason Reitman. No rehearsals, no cameras, music only used as a header and footer, the night is about the actors, Alan Ball's words and how one of the first steps in the artistic operation works.

Once it was announced that American Beauty would be the chosen, film speculation immediately began as to who would play the lead. The first to jump to my mind was Steve Buscemi, simultaneously capable of playing put upon and being different enough from Spacey to not feel like a carbon copy, which is never the ...

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Under The RadarTIFF 2012: Argo, Seven Psychopaths

Posted on Saturday September 8, 2012, 19:22 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
TIFF 2012: Argo, Seven Psychopaths

Ben Affleck makes it three for three with Argo, an extraordinary true story, set in the late 70s, about a plan by the American government to free six diplomatic workers hiding out in Iran after armed, revenge-seeking, Ayatollah-sanctioned revolutionaries stormed the embassy there. Taking another giant stride after The Town, it is a broad but still intimate story that captures an extraordinary time with a lot of credibility; the 70s fashions are unavoidably distracting, but Affleck nevertheless creates an authentic world that always feels fresh and never retro. Once again, he is the lead, this time playing CIA man Tony Mendez, who is brought in after such brilliant ideas as sending in spies with bicycles have been floated and found wanting. Mendez has an even more impractical brainstorm, but this is the best bad idea in a very, very, very bad bunch.

Mendez's plan is to arrive in Tehran with a punch of fake passports, pick up the six – who are hiding out at the C...

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Under The RadarTIFF 2012: Looper

Posted on Friday September 7, 2012, 17:17 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
TIFF 2012: Looper

My TIFF 2012 experience began with a chance encounter at Toronto Pearson airport, when I happened on Emily Blunt, who was waiting for her bags like a real, normal person (which is what she is, coming from the Barnes area, I think). Ms Blunt has two films here, one being Arthur Newman with Colin Firth, which I should be seeing Monday, the other being, of course, the mighty Looper, which I saw in London a few weeks ago. She was especially hyped about the Looper premiere, since it was then being trailed on TV screens by the carousels, and if she had any doubts, I should think they were wiped out by what I'm hearing was a fantastic reception last night.

For me, Looper is the sci-fi of the summer, which, accounting for climate change, is a good thing right about now. After the disappointingly wishy-washy Prometheus, which raised more questions about its questions than it ever had answers for, and the Swiss cheese of plotholes that was The Dark Knight Rises, Looper comes a...

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Under The RadarVenice 2012: To The Wonder

Posted on Monday September 3, 2012, 13:54 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Venice 2012: To The Wonder

Terrence Malick's To The Wonder was, after The Master, perhaps the hottest ticket on the Lido this year, but the scenes outside the cinema at yesterday morning's press screening were nothing like the carnage that occurred before the equivalent screening of Tree Of Life last year in Cannes. Perhaps it's because attendances are down this year, maybe it's because Ben Affleck is no Brad Pitt, or it could just be that Tree Of Life was so long in the making that it became almost mythical. Any which way, it just didn't seem that there was the same level of interest in Malick's relatively rapid follow-up.

Which was perhaps just as well, since To The Wonder is a very disappointing film that borders on self-parody with its tics and flourishes. I wasn't wild about Tree Of Life, but I did feel that – outside of the dreadful Sean Penn scenes – it had a visual lyricism and a strong narrative angle,...

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Under The RadarVenice 2012: The Master

Posted on Saturday September 1, 2012, 12:02 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Venice 2012: The Master

The Master is one of those films that takes on a life before anyone has seen it, fuelled by rumour and information of the dis- and mis- kind. Before going any further, I feel duty-bound to say that this film is not in any way “about” Scientology or a takedown of L Ron Hubbard and his pseudo-scientific “religion”. If anything, it is a very old-fashioned love story, forged in the style of Nicholas Ray or, at a push, Douglas Sirk, and should perhaps be regarded as a man's picture of the kind lately being made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Biutiful) or Jacques Audiard (Rust And Bone).

Where to start? After There Will Be Blood, this is another outstanding technical achievement from Paul Thomas Anderson, and, visually, the film is near faultless. Some felt it a little long, and it does wobble slightly in the second half, but this felt more controlled than its predecessor, at least to me. If TWBB was about the founding of contemporary America in a ...

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Under The RadarVenice 2012: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Iceman and Bait

Posted on Thursday August 30, 2012, 14:21 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Venice 2012: The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Iceman and Bait

After Black Swan and The Ides Of March, Mira Nair's The Reluctant Fundamentalist seemed like an odd choice to start the 69th Venice Film Festival. There's still some Hollywood star wattage there, with supporting turns from Liev Schreiber, Kate Hudson and Keifer Sutherland, but here they are pressed into the service of a provocative political drama that questions the validity of the American dream to outsiders. In short, it is a pro-America film that dares voice un-American thoughts, and though it is perhaps overlong and certainly uneven at times, there's a lot to think about here.

For this we can thank Riz Ahmed, who is fast becoming one of the best leading men of his generation. If it wasn't for him, this film simply world not work, since it asks us to identify with him as Changez Khan, a smart and sensitive Pakistani man who appears to drift from privilege and social conformism to radical terrorism (which isn't unprecedente...

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Under The RadarKarlovy Vary Film Festival 2012: The Almost Man, In The Fog and two from Jean-Pierre Melville

Posted on Monday July 9, 2012, 00:29 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2012: The Almost Man, In The Fog and two from Jean-Pierre Melville

The 47th Karlovy Film festival came to an end on Saturday after the jury presented Norway's Martin Lund with the Grand Prix – and $25,000 – for his film The Almost Man. I have to say, though, that for this to be the case there couldn't have been much strong competition. Although it has some very funny moments, and an engagingly offbeat leading man in the Chris O'Dowd-like Henrik Rafaelson (who also won Best Actor), this might have been better titled The Almost Film. Inevitably for a Scandinavian film, it raises the spectre of Denmark's Dogme movement, not so much for its jittery, handheld style but for the simplicity of the story, its realism and its darkness.

Rafaelson plays Henrik (itself a Dogme-esque flourish), a 30-something husband whose work life is going nowhere. Henrik is bored at the office and unwilling to commit fully to starting a family with his wife at home, and so he lives in a childlike, childless limbo, unwilling to jettison t...

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Under The RadarKarlovy Vary Film Festival 2012: Kenneth Lonergan interview

Posted on Friday July 6, 2012, 17:32 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2012: Kenneth Lonergan interview

Kenneth Lonergan's extraordinary film Margaret premiered in London on December 2 last year in a single screen at arguably one of London's most unremarkable cinemas. This was three months after it bowed in the US, where it fared little better. But, miraculously, there was a lot of goodwill surrounding the second film from the director of 2000's Oscar-nominated Sundance hit You Can Count On Me. Telling the story of Margaret (Anna Paquin), a somewhat dramatic, privileged New York teenager whose life is changed when she accidentally causes the death of a pedestrian by distracting a bus driver, the film was a long 11 years in gestation and nearly three hours in running time when it reached screens here and in the US.

I caught up with Lonergan this week in the Czech Republic at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where the release cut of the film was playing to packed houses. Because of a potentially ruinous lawsuit, which could, say sources, ba...

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Under The RadarKarlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: Good Vibrations

Posted on Sunday July 1, 2012, 09:27 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: Good Vibrations

What is a film about a man who once ran a record shop in Northern Ireland doing opening a film festival in Eastern Europe? That was the question that was bothering me on my way to the 47th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Are they such fans here of arcane punk trivia that a film dramatising the signing of The Undertones would be seen as positively mainstream? But when I finally saw it, I realised that this film by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa is actually a pretty good fit for a country that has had to navigate an exit from communism while resisting co-option by the west. Though it appears to be a biopic, Good Vibrations is actually a very buoyant and really quite infectious film about the power of hope as a force for change. It is also – quite crucially at a time when the coalition government is sidelining the young in far worse ways than Margaret Thatcher ever did – a very t...

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Earlier Posts Later Posts


Empire States (444)

Under The Radar (335)

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Words From The Wise (36)

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Off The Wire (24)

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Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


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