Monday, 3 March 2014

The Oscars

So it's that time of the year and the Oscars have been and gone. It usually throws up a few conflicting emotions. Unlike The Golden Globes, which I've always felt are an excuse for journalists to be starf***ers and schmooze with 'in vogue' celebrities, the Oscars are voted by the contemporaries of the nominees, in the form of the The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a result, you'd think that the nominations would reflect an informed opinion but more often than not it recycles the same tired opinions expressed in The Golden Globes. This year, however, was refreshingly different. That may in part be due to some genuinely great movies having been released this year but for the first time in a while, if you look at the winners of each award, they are all deserving. 

The winner of the best film category was '12 Years A Slave', a thought provoking biopic based on the memoir of Solomon Northup. This the kind of movie not considered as Oscar fodder due to its subject matter but this a movie that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and makes you sit up and take notice. For once The Academy took the wake up call, sat up and took notice. This is consolidated through the movie also picking up awards for Best Adapted Screenplay (John Ridley) and Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong'o). 

The movie to win the most awards was Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity', with 7 awards, earning the enigmatic Mexican nod for Best Director as well as awards for Best Original Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Film Editing and Visual Effects. A story encapsulating loneliness that Mark Kermode referred to as one of the only movies you HAVE to see in 3D and a movie that encapsulates the isolation of space giving new meaning to the tag line from Ridley Scott's 'Alien' 'in space no-one can hear you scream'. 

Also being represented well was 'Dallas Buyers Club' which earned awards for Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively. In addition the movie collected the award for Best Make-Up and Hairstyling beating out stuff competition from Jackass' 'Bad Grandpa' and 'The Lone Ranger'. 

I have to say, I am pleased that this years' Oscars have not necessarily gone for crowd pleasers such as American Hustle but have dared to be different and that can be only be commended. My only hope is that this represents a landmark for The Academy and it  doesn't slip back into the same bad habits and a repeat of 1990s debacle which saw 'Goodfellas' loss to 'Dances With Wolves' and Crash pick up the award in 2005. 

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Objectification or Art?

Two woman in their undies! What does that evoke to you? Classic over edited model bodies that are air brushed to look  complete perfect? Sexual objectification? Porn? Attention seekers? As a society we are so over sexualised that the minute we  see the naked or nearly naked human form we just naturally objectify the model. Whether that's the intention of the image or not. Now I'm just like the rest of us, there are ten thousand things that I hate about my body. Like most of us weight is something I consider constantly. I eat healthily and I exercise. Not so much because its fun but because it's a necessity. It took A LOT of persuading for me do this shot. It's a still taken from a music video we are making for the musician Noir. The shots serve the narrative, and as actress being scantily clad is something you have to get use too. However thinking about it I realised what I wanted to publish this image out of the context of the video. Clearly Noir (the other model in the photo) is a slim girl, and at first I didn't want to stand next to her as I thought she would make me look bigger?! How silly is that?! I'm proud that I'm stood here looking strong and confident because we are all so conditioned all the time to think our bodies are not good enough. And I may not be a twig but my body is strong and healthy and it lets me experience life. So you're telling me that I should feel bad about myself because I'm not a size eight, big breasted perfection of female form? Bullshit! We should all be proud of our bodies whatever size or shape we are, because as long as they're functioning well, we are all bloody lucky. Plus aren't they nice to look at?! 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Batman, Wolverine and Robocop, or why Darren Aronofsky should make a blockbuster

 As you are probably aware, Jose Padhila's Robocop reboot of Robocop opens in the UK on Friday, and I for one can barely contain my apathy. It's important to point out that I haven't seen the film yet, and early reviews have been surprisingly positive, so perhaps I'm being overly harsh.

The point is, though, that there was a time that I was genuinely excited about this movie - about four years ago when it was first in pre-production. The reason I lost my excitement had little to do with the Batman-wearing-a-cycle-helmet redesign, and more to do with the change of director. Robocop 2014 was originally going to be shot by Darren Aronofsky, the visionary film maker behind Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream.

Aronofsky seemed the perfect choice. Ever since his debut, Pi, his films have had an unsettling element of body horror (think of the pounding migraines of Pi's lead character, or the close ups of the protagonists abused and twisted bodies in The Wrestler or Black Swan). The thought of what Aronofsky could do with a half-man, half machine (all cop) protagonist was trouser-tentingly exciting. Clearly, however, Aronofsky's ideas were too terrifying (and presumably too R-rated) for Hollywood executives, who passed on his vision in favour of a relative unknown.

This isn't the first time Aronofsky has developed a tentpole movie, only to fail to see it through to the end. A couple of years ago he was involved in development on The Wolverine. Hugh Jackman reported they wanted to do a stand alone, R-rated Wolverine movie set in Vietnam in the '70s. Once again, the idea of what Aronofsky could do with an immortal character in an R-rated film is impossibly tempting. Fast forward to 2013 and The Wolverine is a fairly generic 12A superhero movie set in modern day Japan.

Finally, the best known unmade Aronofsky movie must be Batman: Year One – the film which eventually became Batman Begins. Although the original comic book doesn't exactly lend itself to body horror there are plenty of Batman villains I would love to see Aronofsky take a crack at (Two Face, Killer Croc, and Bane to name just three).

Perhaps Aronofsky's true place is at the fringes of the mainstream. As a director he arguably has the best and most exciting oeuvre of the twentieth century, and if he had been distracted by these blockbuster movies we might never have had classics like Black Swan and The Wrestler. It's also entirely possible that, had he stuck at them, his versions of Batman, Wolverine and Robocop would have been turgid, generic, compromised mush, ruined by studio meddling and bereft of any of the style and intelligence that he has brought to the films that he has made. 

By God, though, I would like to have seen what he could have done with these iconic characters. Please, someone, give this man a blockbuster.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

What happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen.

Oh the joys of shared living?! I mean when you live in a shambolic excuse for a house ( the fact that I'm calling it a house is miss selling it, it's more of a squat I pay rent for) Anyway i share with six other people meaning there have got to be some random conversations and happenings that occur while just eating dinner alone. Casually eating my falafels and salad the other evening.... " no we threw away those syringes" yum. (I think she wanted them for some photography based project) I endured a debate about beat poetry, another concerning are nerves pushed or pulled? And finally a impromptu performance of my housemates latest play in which he is talking to his hand. Surprisingly good. Anyway this got me thinking about the luxury of our own home and the acts that we indulge in when we know the general public can't sneak a peak. Whether that's me eating my dinner accompanied by a disgusting amount of grated cheese, my housemate drinking so much that he gave us a gorgeous fifteen minute rendition of Meatloaf's A Bat Out Of Hell, or just wearing a unicorn onsie with a considerable amount of coffee split down the front. These are not activities that would be allowed outsides the safety of those four shabby walls. However I wouldn't change it, people are much more interesting when they think no one is watching. 

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

New Hollywood, Old Directors

As you are no doubt aware, Martin Scorsese's latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street, opened in the UK on Friday. Reviews have been largely positive. Empire magazine even stated it “is the first Martin Scorsese film in some time that feels as though, in a few years, it will join Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas in the canon.”

At the end of the last century the crown kings of American film were the directors of the “New Hollywood”. This was the term given to the gang of young directors who rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 70s. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, William Friedkin et al. Martin Scorsese was still back then referred to as “America's greatest living film maker”. It's a label that is less used these days, partly because there are new pretenders to the crown (for example David Fincher and PT Anderson), but also because nothing Scorsese has done since 1990 has reached the dizzy heights of his early masterpieces.

Many of his contemporaries have fared much worse. The same issue of Empire quoted above also features Francis Ford Coppola's latest movie Twixt – which has gone straight to DVD in the UK after two years in limbo. It's a rarity these days for a film by Brian De Palma to not go straight to DVD. William Friedkin spent nearly 20 years languishing in the world of TV. Spielberg's obviously doing well for himself, but most of his recent work is still a long way from the glory days of Jaws and ET.

This is not a phenomenon exclusive to film. How many musicians, writers and artists blaze a trail in their early careers before sliding slowly into mediocrity?

I believe that most human beings really only have a few profound observations they can make about life and the world. Once they've made those initial statements, where do they go? They can either repeat those same few statements over and over, with inevitably diminishing returns, they can quit and do something else, or they can work for hire, which might make you money but is unlikely to lead to too many awards ceremonies.

There is, however, an exception to the rule that artists usually do their best work early in their careers. The great American directors of the 70s are now in their 70s. They are in the final phase of their working lives, which gives them a new perspective, and perhaps a new artistic impetus. As stated above, The Wolf of Wall Street has been getting strong reviews. William Friedkin's Killer Joe was warmly received in 2011. Terence Malick has made more films in the past four years then he made in the previous forty. Spielberg's Lincoln is widely regarded as his best film since at least Schindler's List.

I think we're beginning to see a resurgence of some of the greatest film makers who have ever lived. And I can't wait to see what they do next.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

There is nothing worse than cold tea.

Seriously, there IS nothing worse than cold tea, and with the perpetual cold it is inevitable. Sorry it's January, the month of no money, crap weather and a serious lack of inspiration as everyone's cogs start to slowly whir back round into action just in time for spring. So this makes me think, what do I want from this year? Vague plans are always helpful, when I say vague plans I mean wondering mindlessly around desperately clutching a diary full of lists, plus a ton of incoherent thoughts scribbled on my hands, which of course make no sense the instant the pen separates itself from my skin. 

So I have decided to draw some ideas from places I wouldn't normally look. And push myself to try out some creative mediums that I would not touch, for fear of them being stupid insulting attempts at other peoples precious art forms! I'm talking drawing, manual photography, using new software. Don't worry no human eyes will ever be able to scan this work, it's far to naive to unleash on the world! 

However these new mediums has made me look for excitement and inspiration in different places and I've got back into magazine culture once more. For years I have been disillusioned with the vile mass produced mags, which cover nothing of interest if you have more than two brain cells however here are my three latest favourites...

- Boon magazine, a Brighton local, covers local culture without being wanky, the coolest article being one on The Brighton Photocopy club, a fanzine society. 

- Oh Comely, a über cute if a little whimsical. A magazine whose latest edition is themed around space! 

- Frankie Magazine has the coolest photography, latest edition had mega sweet illustrations there for your colouring  in pleasure. 

You know I'm not even going to put their web addresses here, because nothing beats the smell and the feel of a magazine in your hands. 

So there we are, grasping at inspirational straws. Roll on February. Must be bad if we long for February. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Why does it have to be New Year to make a resolution?

So as I sit and type this off my phone, my laptop has decided to have a funny turn, annoying as i have been saying for ages that I will get it fixed. I was thinking that New Years is always used as a excuse to do the things you have been meaning to do your entire life, lose weight, go after your dream job, start a new hobby. So I sit here in my damp smelling floral sweatshirt and I think to myself, I make new resolutions on a nearly daily basis. The wonderful friends that I spent New Years with all stated that they were not going to make any resoloutions when I asked them. Like it was a crime against coolness to want to improve yourself and your life. But what they meant was why bother on this particular evening? Come January the 1st half the population were swearing off booze and eating salad. You can do that any time. Like fabulous mothers and grandmas always say. There is no time like the present. So whether you made any New Year's plans this year or not, you do not need a excuse. Whatever you want to do, go do it. I'm off to fix my laptop, I think I will always smell of damp though, I like old houses too much.