Give a big welcome to Chris Inman, our brand new writer on the site. Better known to many as Spanky Patterson, Chris is a long-time listener of the podcast and has now moved on to become the first writer (outside of Sam) to join the site.
As a way of introduction, to allow you all to get to know him a little bit, here’s his five favourite movies of 2009, in ascending order, with his favourites of the decade to come in the next few days.
So, in the wake of Transformers revenging the fallen all over our minds, we were in need of cooling down from the sheer anger and exhaustion felt in the studio. Though Sunshine Cleaning should have been a great example of an indie to bring us back onto home turf, it ended up an underwhelming experience. The eminently crushworthy pairing of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, along with the solid Alan Arkin and roles for Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr, just couldn’t quite drive us into anything beyond a tepid lack of satisfaction. Ideas involved were strong, but the execution was half-hearted, even if all of the above tried really hard to elevate the material. Continue reading →
There’s a great blog post on The Guardian from Phelim O’Neill extolling the virtues of the “old-fashioned, miniature model work’ done for Moon. As anyone who listens to our podcast will know, Tom and I are luddite-esque on our anti-CGI attitudes, something pushed to a mass-extreme over the summer from Wolverine, through Terminator: Salvation and Transformers 2 and ending with GI Joe.
We are not wholly luddites in our view on using CGI. The belief here is that CGI should be used very sparingly, only ever to allow filmmakers to achieve visual aesthetics and objects which simply cannot be done any other way. The problem with many films now is that CGI becomes the dominant technology on screen, overtaking even using actual landscapes which could so easily be found and would be so much more tangible on screen. CGI can never, ever, replace actual, physical objects and beings. Beings most notably. I Am Legend has become our go to for films with terrible CGI which completely ruins the experience. Those ‘vampires’ in the film are useless, there is just nothing interesting or frightening about these things because they are not there, they are not standing next to Will Smith.
Moon is a wonderful example of how to use CGI. The effects are used only to prevent the miniature work from looking too much like Button Moon, to further the overall aims of the filmmaker rather than substitute any sense of imagination or ingenuity in the process. O’Neill notes that CGI has killed such a significant amount of problem-solving amongst filmmakers. They can rely so much on computers to create what they want that they simply give up on trying to create worlds with any sense of reality. The expectation is that, taking GI Joe as example, a massive underwater base with obese shark-like fish swimming around it will be awe-inspiring. It isn’t because, although you certainly would struggle to build something like that, it looks so wildly unreal that the only visceral reaction to that reveal is one of laughter at the utter ridiculousness of the creation.
We have questioned whether studios may start to cut budgets for filmmakers amid the recession, something which does not appear to have happened at all. If this happened, I would argue this would produce a rise in filmmakers trying to solve problems through a little lateral thinking, or pairing back on overblown CGI creations to create tangible worlds and beings. A man in a suit will always be better than a prancing sprite.
***Spoiler warnings! This review discusses some of the finer points of Moon which do contain a few spoilers, read at your own risk!***
I love science fiction, a fact that has been established on our show a number of times. It’s fair to say that Primer changed the way I look at the genre in regards to films, I now have this ridiculously high standard when it comes to narrative but also low standard when it comes to effects or other aspects of the film. It’s a strange way to watch a film genre being equally hyper-critical and lovingly forgiving. In Primer for example some of the sound mixing is very poor but you can forgive it easily considering the film’s painfully restrictive budget and how well it achieves its main goal of portraying a convincing depiction of time travel and the breakdown of a once close friendship. It’s hard to describe but this is the kind of mentality that I took into the cinema when I saw Moon recently.
Moon has often been compared to such stalwarts of the sci fi genre such as 2001 and Silent Running, it’s easy to see why. The film wears its influences on its sleeve with a heartfelt sincerity that’s instantly endearing. From the grainy and dirty look of the station exteriors to the pseudo-1970s design of the interiors, this film is already steeped in science fiction history from the very start. Everything in this film is a treat to fans of the genre. The premise, the design, the characters, everything.
The crux of the narrative reads like a thousand early Philip K Dick short stories. A lone worker on a Moon base carrying out the kind of maintenance that robots can’t perform wakes up in the base infirmary after suffering an accident outside on the surface. When he goes back out to investigate the crash he discovers his own body in the wreckage. What a hook! This kind of high concept science fiction is exactly what I look for in a film and Moon delivers on every level.
Considering Sam Rockwell is essentially the only visible cast member bar the ones we see fleetingly on video screens, he does a remarkable job of pulling the audience through the film. You’re with him every step and he carries the right amount of emotional weight during the heavier scenes while expertly judging the shifts in tone to more lighter comedic moments. It’s an incredibly detailed and rich performance, a performance that this film really needs its lead actor to command otherwise it’d be a crushingly dull flick.
Moon is played out with a conviction and reverence to science fiction sensibilities that’s sometimes overwhelming. Just like Primer, I couldn’t quite believe how perfect the film is in its purity as a good slice of sci fi. For all its little faults Moon is a spectacularly entertaining story near-flawlessly told.
The line-up for the Edinburgh International Film Festival has been announced with a few reasonably big hitters to join in the fun, including Steven Soderbergh and the world premiere of Shane Meadows’ new film, Le Donk.
The latter, which stars Paddy Considine, with whom Meadows worked on Dead Man’s Shoes, is being heavily anticipated given the reuniting of the two and the brilliance of Meadows’ last two films, This is England and Somers Town.
Mendes’ film comes from a script by Dave Eggers and The Believer-founder Vendela Vida and follows the travails of newly-pregnant couple John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph.
The festival is to be closed by Adam, a romantic drama from Max Meyer following the burgeoning relationship between a man with asberger’s syndrome and a young lady, the latter played by Damages’ Rose Byrne.
The announcements also notes some interesting in-depth interviews to take place, including ones with Darren Aronofsky, Joe Dante and Local Hero-director Bill Forsyth.
Duncan Jones has given an interview to Popular Mechanics (found thanks to First Showing) during which he discusses, at length, his upcoming Moon. The trailer for the film, which stars Sam Rockwell in essentially a one-man show, is outstanding, looking very much like all of the scenes from 2001 when they are on the space station will HAL put into a single movie. It has that same feel of creepy calmness and strange happenings without explanation.
Asked about where the idea for the film came from, Jones said he had read a book called Entering Space by Robert Zubrin, specially being attracted to a chapter on the colonisation of the moon and the use of helium-3 as a source for fusion power. He goes on:
“It did seem to be a very logical argument about why you would have a reason to set up a moon base. I think one of the things that is limiting about NASA leading the space race is that everything they do is researched, but it doesn’t have any direct relevance to how it affects our lives. But with helium-3, there is a very direct link to how we could use that as a resource here on Earth and why it would be profitable.”
Jones himself appears to either have done a massive amount of research or is just a major space-head himself. He goes on to discuss screening the film for NASA, the mining techniques used during the film and GERTY, the robot being Rockwell is stuck on the station with.
The interview is quite heavy on the tech details but it’s a fascinating read, enough to get me very excited indeed about his upcoming sci-fi work and his future projects. He says at the conclusion of the interview that he plans to make something akin to Blade Runner.
The trailer for Mike Judge’s Extract, starring an ensemble headed by the likes of Jason Bateman and Mila Kunis, has been posted on Cinematical. It looks mighty amusing, with a return to his Office Space sensibilities following the dumb genius of Idiocracy, surely one of the most underrated movies of the past few years. You can check that out here.
Also out is the trailer for Moon, the Duncan Jones-directed, Sam Rockwell-starring spiritual successor to Silent Running. The film looks about what you might expect, but the key issue will be how you fell about Sam Rockwell and spending a whole movie in his company. See it below and let us know what you think.
We’ve also got another look at Michael Mann’s John Dillinger movie, Public Enemies, which still looks really interesting, even if some of the early buzz has been somewhat negative.