Sunday, October 04, 2009

London 3: Day 2... movies!

Before seeing movies I stopped in Starbucks to write and post the previous blog entries - and had a problem getting connected. Usually I post blog entries from the Easy Internet Café on Tottencourt Road, but after years of posting things there... they have vanished. Gone! Out of business! There was a cheap internet place on Charring Cross Road that I walked to... but it was also gone. As was the Café Nero where I often buy morning coffee while on my way to the festival. Leaving me standing in front of a Starbucks with a sign announcing 2 hours of free wifi, just like in the States. So, I was stuck drinking Starbucks coffee (though I’ve since been to another Nero and a Costa Coffee - I would rather drink coffee and a non-Starbucks place while in the UK).

But I had all kinds of connection problems with their provider - BT Online. Kept losing signal, and you would often get a splash screen without the Starbucks free wifi sign in. You go to the BT help section, and it has nothing that solves any of the problems - a whole bunch of help topics that seem designed for people who aren’t actually having any problems except they are too stupid to figure out how wifi works. After a frustrating time trying to get blog entries up, and said “screw it” and took the laptop back to the hotel and went to see movies.

Movie: BOMBER (written & directed by Paul Cotter) - great film, and I instantly wondered how this might get to America so that you might see it. Totally normal British guy Ross (Shane Taylor) is having marriage problems, his wife wants to have one of those talks where he knows he’ll just be listening, but he has already promised to see his parents off on this road trip to Germany that his father has been planning since 1972. The great thing about this story is that it is universal - his parents are my parents and probably your parents. His father (Benjamin Whitrow) keeps his emotions to himself and has no-end of cutting remarks about how Ross is a failure who has pissed away his life and so far has not provided him with grandkids. His mother (Eileen Nicholas) is sweet and supportive and naive and puts up with all of his father’s quirks. Moments after seeing off his parents, his father crashes the car *in the garage*, totaling it. Parents are fine, but they now need someone to drive them on their road trip across Europe... and guess who is elected?

With his father in the passenger seat of Ross’s van constantly bitching about the way he’s driving, his mother sitting on a lawnchair in the back reading a guide book and wanting them to stop at every single minor point of interest they pass, and his wife on the cell phone constantly calling to find out why it’s taking him so long to see his parents off; the film is filled with endless comedy conflict and milks it for all its worth. The story seems very real, very natural, but is so well written there are all kinds of comedy “call backs” set up early and paid off later - including a great big punchline at the end that you never knew was being set up the whole time. The concept of a child who rode in the backseat wondering if we can stop for a soda, becoming the “parent” driving his aging parents and having *them* be the ones asking “Are we there yet?” is a great comic premise for a small film... and the film is constantly amusing.

The movie *opens* with Dad giving this great speech about how he is getting older, closer to death, and has looked at his life so far and realized there are things he needs to do before he leaves this earth, serious things that must be taken care of before he will be at peace with himself... and just when you think this is going to be a very very serious drama, we get the reverse angle - a woman on the other side of a counter who asks, “So, are you canceling the newspaper subscription or not?”

Dad’s road map is from 1972, and isn’t entirely accurate... and the story keeps taking unexpected detours that are actually leading it right to the destination. When Ross’s wife calls to say she is leaving him, it sets him off the deep end... and he becomes the child again... but this event also leads his mother to question her marriage, and it looks as if his parents may break up! Now he must deal with his impending divorce while preventing his parents possible divorce and finding this small village in Germany and a specific location in that village that his father would like to visit... because in WW2 he bombed that location and wants to apologize. The film manages to be serious and universal and yet still find funny-yet-realistic situations along the way. I really enjoyed it, and think a movie like this could be a hit on the Hallmark channel - a funny story about a family that skews towards adults.

Afterwards the cast and crew and writer-director did Q&A... and this beautifully shot movie (European road trip with no shortage of sights to see - stunningly photographed) was made on a shoestring! Three actors (four when you include the wife) and the rest were real people cast (in advance) from the towns they went to. Crew of about 10 people, and everyone in a handful of cars and vans that actually did the road trip and shot it. What was amazing is the non-actors who played townspeople had great comic timing and were able to keep a straight face while amusing things are happening. (When Dad finds the location that he bombed, it is now a discount sofa store, so he gets on the store’s PA and makes a heartfelt apology to a bunch of shoppers... and all of these non-actors look at him as if he’s crazy. The director mentioned one particular non-actor who really stood out in the film, a cow farmer who they ask for directions at one point... and this guy was an actual cow farmer and the cows in the film were his cows and this guy just had a great personality that projected well onto the screen. The whole film was filled with naturals who looked like real people because they were. Even though the title BOMBER makes sense once you’ve seen the movie, if I saw it in the movie listings I might think it was a film about terrorists... and except for the parent’s constant bickering, there is no terrorism in this film. Would be great if Hallmark or someone would pick it up for the US so that you could have a laugh, too.

LOBBY: In the lobby Elliot introduced me to the filmmakers of REDLANDS which is playing later in the festival and I sat down and talked to them. They made their film in Northern California, and I mean *real* Northern California, near the Oregon border. Shot in 35mm, and the director made Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 To Watch list. Supposed to be amazing, so I’m going to have to *miss* seeing COLLIN, the $70 zombie movie, and see their film tomorrow night. Hope it lives up to the hype!

Movie: MODERN LOVE IS AUTOMATIC (written & directed by Zach Clark)- Um, I suspect this movie was made by someone “Artistic” - in the way my Aunt might use that word... as a code for flamboyantly Gay. This film was over-production designed. There’s a phone on the wall of the protag’s apartment that is different colors in different scenes - hot pink and electric blue and lime green and radioactive orange... but never the color a real person’s phone would ever be. Everything is strange and colorful and yet bland. It’s like something John Waters might have done in his early years - with all of the good and bad that implies.

Story has blank-stare unemotional big hair nurse Lorraine (a hot Melodie Sisk) coming home to find her boyfriend having sex with some other woman. She shows no emotion as both clear out. She advertizes for a roommate and ends up with impossibly perky Adrian (Maggie Ross) who has graduated from modeling school and despite being maybe 5 foot tall at most, thinks she can make it as a model in the big city. Lorraine finds a bondage magazine on the bus, becomes interested in the world of dominatrixes, and buys an outfit and puts an add in the paper. We follow both women - Adrian lands a job as a “model” in a mattress store where she tries out beds with horny old men and lets them fondle her, and Lorraine wears big dark glasses over her stoic face as she whips men into cleaning motel bathrooms. And that’s just about it - except Adrian’s boyfriend becomes obsessed with the emotionless Lorraine and begins stalking her, eventually discovering her secret life. And then he is removed from the story by an off screen plot device, and Adrain quits modeling and goes home and Lorraine hangs up her form fitting rubber suit and begins dating a doctor at work.

The film looks good and the wild production design probably works for the story, but it’s the story that is the problem. Lorraine is so completely unemotional when the film begins that she has nowhere at all to go. She is like a robot, and the film is dead and cold and unemotional throughout. A better choice would have been to have her begin as a normal emotional person, close off her emotions after she catches her boyfriend cheating, use the closed off emotions to her advantage as a dominatrix, then become more open emotionally as she begins dating the doctor. Instead of the one-note in the film, we would get an actual character. I really don’t understand films that remove emotions and become the story of people who walk like robots, talk like robots, act like robots, and feel nothing. Why are the film makers so afraid? Why so detached? This not only makes the film boring, it also prevents the film from exploring the characters or situations... it’s as if robots made the film!

And, um, what’s up with all of that production design? Is the director, um, “artistic”?

SCRIPT SECRETS: LONDON - October 10 & 11, 2009 - BIG IDEA class, using GHOST as our primary example and it includes the new Thematic element!

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Cut The Wandering and FARGO
Yesterday's Dinner: Packaged chicken sandwich from the store across from the cinema.

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