Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Welcome Back

It seems there is a post-Edinburgh bug going about - I'm one of at least four people who have come down with some kind of lurgi since getting home. Mine is taking the form of sinusitis with a touch of tonsilitis, so I feel as if my head is full of cotton wool. My particularly welcoming pile of post contained a rejection letter (from Mills and Boon - yeah yeah, desperate times = desperate measures) which said "we feel your story and characters would not be suitable for publication in any of our publishing programmes" - wow, they really didn't like me, did they? Mind you, having forced myself to read a few M&B books, I suspect they mean my stuff isn't suitable because the characters have more than two dimensions and there is actually a plot in there somewhere.

Also, a letter from Cambridge City Council saying they are, after all, going to charge me £30 for 5 minutes' parking. There's my car, sitting outside a B&B, with a visitor's parking permit in the windscreen but at 8:35am, the permit doesn't have Saturday's date written on it yet. You're a traffic warden; do you think (a) ah, a visitor, must be having their breakfast, they've got a permit but just need to fill in today's date so I'll give them a couple of minutes, or (b) yay, a visitor, they've got a permit but they're five minutes late writing the correct date in it so I can fine them, hoorah! It's no wonder traffic wardens are amongst the most hated of public officials. What with the drunken louts at night, the derelicts on the street during the day, the slack approach to customer service in the shops (Saturday morning, queues to the doors, one person on the tills, in each shop) and the over-priced restaurants, never mind the inflexible and mean-spirited traffic extortion department, I shan't be rushing back to increase the tourist burden on Cambridge.

I'm curious to know who's arriving here via Google - as well as searches for most of the acts and films we saw last week, someone arrived here via "gym knickers" and someone else via "Shane Danielsen girlfriend". Wonder if it was the same person? Watch out, Shane! I don't even remember gym knickers featuring in any of my underwear-related discussions, in fact I'd prefer to forget their horrible existence altogether.

OK, rapid change of subject before I have some kind of memory recovery-induced trauma.

We are proceeding full steam ahead with "Echoes"; we now have a cast of three, and a crew (minus a sound person, but I'm assured that will be fixed by Saturday); phone call on Friday will hopefully result in us being able to collect all the gear we need ready to begin shooting on Monday, assuming one of the insurance companies I've contacted gets back to me so that I can insure everyone and everything. I've spent the day getting all the paperwork together - release forms, contracts and so on - and trying to track down the last few props we need. Anyone have a 1940s style calendar they would lend us, or know someone who will drive a big truck down a road so we can film it? My head is spinning not only from the cotton-wool effect but also the ever-increasing list of things to remember, and the increasingly intricate timetable of when everything has to be done/collected/signed/paid for. What I need is an Angel to give me a few hundred quid, then I'd be more relaxed. Unfortunately many of the companies who have done corporate sponsorship and support of community arts in the past are in difficult circumstances themselves and are no longer in a position to do that kind of thing.

Ten mini-angels giving me £50 each would be fine too!

And this is a short - what's it like producing a feature? I'll give the verdict on whether I want that particular adventure at the end of next week, assuming I've survived this experience.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Final round-up

We're now back home, surrounded by dead plants, unopened post, and luggage yet to be unpacked. Ah well, reality can wait for a while, and I shall postpone its arrival by doing the final batch of reviews. At some point (i.e. when I've had a really good sleep) I intend going back over the earlier posts and putting all the proper credits in, now that I can actually sit down with the full catalogue (which is well worth a read) beside me for reference.

We had a slow start on Thursday - went for a swim in the morning, lunch at the Filmhouse (very good food, especially the nachos, and the filo parcels and salad), then a fringe show in the afternoon, "Love's Labour Won", which was a reimagining of a number of Shakespeare's plots, written in Shakepearean style, but with the aim of a happy ending. It was clever in a rather knowing way, but very well performed, if a little long. Almost everyone seemed to get their own soliloquy, which dragged a little, and the Chorus (who also happened to be director, writer, and producer) popped up in the middle with an anti-war rant in verse which seemed entirely stuck on and inappropriate. It was good, but if it had been edited a little more sharply it would have been better.

Then back out to Cineworld for "The Oh in Ohio", a film about a couple who split up due to sexual difficulties. Watching a film about orgasms with your 17yo sitting next to you is really quite a surreal experience, one that is undoubtedly improved by what has to be the best onscreen public orgasm since Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" - a top class performance by Parker Posey. A splendid cast (Paul Rudd, Danny DeVito, Heather Graham, Mischa Barton, Liza Minelli) and a very funny but touching story (written by Adam Wierzbianski) made this one of our favourites. The director, Billy Kent, did a Q+A afterwards and talked about getting the cast together (they had no-one for the Heather Graham role, 2 days before filming, then Parker Posey said "shall I give Heather a call?" and she came on board), and also commented on the difficulties a film about sex might have in the more conservative parts of the USA - as he said, its fine to watch people having their heads blown off, but talking about physical pleasure is seen as unacceptable. What a bizarre world we inhabit.

Next, Dan Clark at The Pleasance, in a show called "The Day I Lost My iPod". The show is slightly surreal story-telling style comedy, with a song or two; he's very good at the observational type stuff, picking out everyday events and spinning a tale. He's also really good at dealing with odd people in the audience - when we saw him last year there was a bunch of blokes making random comments, and he seems to attract them because there was another totally nutty group in on Thursday, but he's really very good at building the oddball comments into his act. He's an excellent comedian - go and see him if you get the chance.

Then, a late night show - Mark Watson, who did one of the slots at the show I saw with Viv, Lizz, and VCB on Sunday. Again, observational comedy, starting off with him getting mugged and spinning this out into a really funny discourse on sin. This was an added slot, as his shows have been selling out, and he was clearly thrilled to be doing an extra show in a much bigger room than usual, and his excitement just made him even more endearing. We were laughing so much we were making our bench shake - again, if you get the chance, go and see him because he's an excellent stand-up comedian.

Friday, and our energy levels were flagging somewhat. A went for a browse along Princes Street while I met my life-coach mate Lyn at the TV festival. Viv was right when she said there were lots of fit men in Edinburgh, but if you want to see the highest concentration of fit blokes in suits, get thee to the TV festival. The film festival is good if you go for the slightly scruffy look (that's me in the corner, holding up my hand); the book festival is the place if you want the somewhat plump, well fed, middle aged and greying look (and definitely the place to be if you want men in sandals), but if you want smart, then the TV festival is where it's at. And their freebies are better than the film festival goodie bag - we got a pen, a balloon and a DVD of short films, they got a small bottle of wine, 2 DVDs, a double CD, iPod speakers, and an insulated mug (although thanks to a little sleight of hand, I came away with everything but the mug - all I need now is the iPod to go with the speakers - added to the 10 sample packs of coffee from the Lavazza stand by the Sheraton, and the "A Scanner Darkly" T shirt from the lovely blond barman at the Cameo, the freebie-gathering in Edinburgh has yielded some good results).

So, after all that, our final fringe show, Skinner and Bell at the Underbelly in "The Man Who Killed Death". It was OK, but no more than that - a total rip-off of The Mighty Boosh, one or two funny moments let down by the supposedly naturalistic dialogue being delivered in a far too obvious way. This was followed by our final film, "Driving Lessons", written and directed by Jeremy Brock, a semi-autobiographical tale starring Rupert Grint and Julie Walters. It's a sentimental coming of age story about the immature son of a vicar who goes to work for a boozy old actress; possibly one of the more multiplex-friendly films I've seen this week, yet no less enjoyable for all that. We both liked it - a nice film to end with.

The film festival awards have been announced today - "Clerks II" got the audience award (so I was right after all), and "Brothers of the Head" got the Michael Powell award for the best new British feature. Congratulations to all concerned.

And that's the end of Edinburgh 2006. Can I go to bed now?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Catching up

At last, I am online at the flat - or at least, in the one room in the block that has internet access. But it's better than internet cafes, even if they do give you your money back when you kick off about how uselesss their system is.

It's a gorgeous sunny morning, the diggers are busy doing their thing, and I'm going to try to catch up with the last few days because we have more shows and films to see today. Yesterday was the first day in ten that I didn't see a film - I'm getting withdrawal symptoms!

A arrived on Monday, and we had a fairly quiet day poking about in all the vintage clothes shops around Grassmarket - and at last, thanks to Armstrong's (an amazing emporium) I have a pair of jeans that fit, for only a tenner- hoorah! We went out to Cineworld for "Colour Me Kubrick" that night, a film about a conman called Alan Conway who impersonated Stanley Kubrick for several years, despite looking nothing like Kubrick or even liking his films. John Malkovich was excellent as the rather repellent Conway, and it's a good film in many ways. I would have been interested to know more about why Conway did what he did, and the film doesn't really explain that at all, but perhaps no-one really knows. There was a Q+A afterwards with the director and writer, who had both worked with Kubrick (a point they made many, many times), but the more surprising attendee was Jim Davidson, who played a very camp singer in the film. I never thought I would voluntarily spend time in the same room as Jim Davidson - it won't happen again. What was interesting was that he admitted to haveing been taken in by the real Conway posing as Kubrick, and he made some very interesting remarks about the celebrity egos, and how desperate some people are to get close to fame and celebrity, which is one of the reasons Conway managed to do what he did.

On Tuesday we went to the Book Festival; I saw Ian Wilmut, of Dolly the sheep fame, give a talk on cloning and the ethics of science which was fascinating - now I have to read his book. Later in the afternoon we went to the session on songwriting by Alex Kapranos and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand. They talked about how they worked together, and gave demonstrations on piano and guitar of how they built a song. The audience was mostly teenagers, and I imagine any aspiring songwriters amongst them would have emerged inspired to go out and write down "the extraordinary in the every day" in the notebooks Alex said they should always carry (so perhaps all forms of writing have something in common, from songs to novels). To round off the session they did an acoustic version of "Fallen", and left to rapturous applause.

Then to the Cameo, a lovely old-fashioned cinema, to see a British film, "Someone Else", written and directed by Col Spector, his first feature. I hesitate to call it romantic comedy, because although it's romantic and funny, it's not in the typical Britflick style of "floppy haired hero bumbles about pretty London and gets the girl" - it's more interesting than that, and definitely bitter sweet, while having some sharp points to make about the difficult decisions made in relationships. Stephen Mangan and Susan Lynch are very good as the two leads; well worth seeing. And then a documentary/road movie, "Loud QUIET Loud", about the band The Pixies getting back together - a great mix of concert footage and interviews, the sort of film about music where the live tracks are so good you want to get up and cheer when the crowd does.

Wednesday was an early start, for "Shakespeare for Breakfast", a long running Edinburgh Fringe show where you get coffee and a croissant as part of the entry price. Part of the fun of going is watching to see who doesn't realise until the end that there was a croissant on their seat, but no-one yesterday stood up with one stuck to their bum, sadly (yes I know my sense of humour is infantile at times, but croissants stuck to bums is funny at 10am). This year's show is "Taming of the Shrew: The Panto" - it was funny, and the shows are always very clever in the way they play around with Shakespeare, but it wasn't quite up to the standard of previous years. Still well worth getting up for though.

Then we saw "Luke Wright: Poet Laureate", a very funny performance poet doing a show about why he should be poet Laureate (apparently Andrew Motion's daughter was in the audience the other day, which must have been interesting). Then back down to the Book Festival to see Simon Armitage (shock horror, two poets in one day, that's more poetry than I usually can cope with in a year). He read some poems from his new collection, and a segment from his new piece on the Odyssey (is that how it's spelled?), and talked about his work, and being inspired as a teenager by Ted Hughes. My favourite audience question yet came in this session - "The only poem of yours I've read is the Millenium one - why didn't you read it tonight?" Answer - "I didn't know you were coming"! Nice one, Simon.

I stayed at the Book Festival to listen to Jenny Colgan and Pauline McGlynn talk about their new books (both very funny speakers, the show was recorded for Radio Scotland and will be broadcast in the autumn so if I remember I'll put in a link when it goes online) while A went out to Cineworld to see a German film, "Three Degrees Colder", which she said was good.

Phew, up to date on reviews. I'm feeling guilty because while I'm here doing all this stuff, Darren's back home working his socks off to get "Echoes" up and running. I spoke to our DoP, Joe, and our lead actress, Dania - it's getting pretty exciting and very real now. I've been doing the "please give me money/please help us" thing up here, with minimal success. At an industry networking breakfast for short film-makers the other day, I was told "get UK Film Council support, your film will go further" - but the regional screen agencies and the UK Film Council have pretty much tied up all the funding so there is only one point of access, via the regional agency, so if you're rejected by them, you don't have UKFC support - so if you're lucky enough to get financial support, you'll then get lots more help; if you struggle on, raising private finance and doing it yourselves (as we are), then no-one seems to be interested in giving you a little bit of a hand. The agency people are all terribly nice and friendly, as are the Industry Office people here, but I'm sure there must be better ways of giving more people a bit of help to get started.

Must be breakfast time by now - I think the time has gone wrong on my posts again. And all my photos are rubbish, so I won't be posting them. But I'll try to fix the clock.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


I just spent half an hour in an internet cafe typing up a review of the last three days. Then they rebooted the computer without giving me time to save, so I lost it all. Here's hoping I can remember in 15 minutes what it took me 30 to compose. If not, this may be a partial review, and the rest will have to follow.

OK, back to Sunday, and Cineworld. The last film of the course was "Summer 04", a German film about a family on holiday who are disrupted by the young girlfriend of the son, and the arrival of a new neighbour. It's beautifully filmed, but oddly has no soundtrack at all - the only time you hear music is when the neighbour plays it in his car, which is a little disconcerting. The ending felt wrong too - a sudden jump forwards in time, with no real sense of why that had happened. It was very much a European arthouse film, nice enough but not really my thing. There was a Q+A afterwards (which apparently didn't shed much light on anything) but I didn't stay because I had a ticket for "Little Miss Sunshine" which is my film of the festival (and last I saw was leading the Audience Award poll, so my prediction was wrong, but I don't mind - much as I loved "Clerks II", I think "Little Miss Sunshine" is the better film). It's a lovely film, "comedy with a heart" as Shane Danielsen described it - so although you're laughing a lot, the characters are warmly drawn. It's the story of a mad family driving from Arizona to California so their daughter Olive can enter a beauty pageant; Alan Arkin was great as the Grandpa who was kicked out of his nursing home for reading porn, and the little girl who played Olive was fabulous, pitch perfect.

Then I met up with V Cute Bloke from the course to have a drink and a chat, then we went to meet Viv and Lizz to see the late night comedy. We were looking for them at Underbelly on Cowgate; unfortunately they were at Udderbelly in Bristo Square. Cue mad dash and randomly parked car - however we got there on time, and it wouldn't be the Fringe if you didn't arrive breathless and sweaty for a show at the last minute at least once. So, we settled down for "Moovers and Shakers", a selection box of comedy, some stand-up, some musical routines; Mark Watson was very good, as was Justin Edwards as "Jeremy Lion: Children's Entertainer". Some of the musical sketches were bit hit and miss, but it was a good show to end the week on.

And now VCB has headed home to Rome, Viv and Lizz have headed south to return to normal life, and A arrived at Waverly on Monday for part II of Edinburgh 2006.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Star in my Eye line

Well, not a major superstar, but one of those "ooh that bloke's on telly!" moments yesterday, so at last I can say I have seen someone famous here - the bloke who plays the sidekick in Taggart! Robbie Reid? Ricky Reid? Can't remember. But anyway, he was in the bar of The Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge. The hotel is well worth visiting to sit at the bar and have a drink while watching the barmen prepare cocktails - they are virtuoso performers with a bottle of vodka. The smoked salmon is pretty good too.

OK, where did we get to? Oh yes, back to Friday, and the highspot of the week so far, "Clerks II". Huge queue, made up mainly of men who appeared to model themselves on Kevin Smith - Vivien and I were very definitely in the minority, both gender wise and in the lack of little beards and long overcoats. Shane Danielsen introduced the film by asking people to complete the voting form for the film which is competing for the audience award - you tear of the corner corresponding to your view - four categories ranging from "unmissable" to "not for me" - and said "but perhaps we should add a category 'f*cking awesome' ... and if you're offended by the use of the word f*ck in all its possible permutations, leave now and ask for a refund because you probably won't like the film." I can't really believe that anyone could stumble accidentally into a 10:30pm sold out showing of a Kevin Smith film not knowing exactly what they were letting themselves in for, and I'll predict now that "Clerks II" wins the audience award, partly because of the type of partisan audience it attracts, and partly because it is, if not f*cking awesome, very bloody good indeed. Then Kevin Smith himself was introduced, to a huge round of applause, made a small speech which was more about his dream of being Superman than the film, and then finally at about 11pm, the film. It is very funny, very rude, with some hilarious dodgy jokes about sex, but its also really quite touching in some ways. Dante and Randall are back, along with Jay and Silent Bob, and I felt the coarse humour was underscored by a sweet humanity about how difficult it is to grow up sometimes.

Then Shane Danielsen and Kevin Smith came back for a Q+A which was hysterical. KS is the sort of man who can take a question that could be answered by one word, and turn it into a riff on anything from religion to comic books via Lord of the Rings. "Would you make a comic book movie?" "No .... " followed by him acting out on stage how a comic book movie would look if it was done in Jay and Silent Bob style; "Would you make Dogma II?" "No..." followed by a very funny explanation of why not to make religious movies right now, and what was wrong with Mel Gibson's "Passion" and why Jesus should've been rescued by Ninjas - the only time I think I've seen Shane Danielsen lost for words. A brilliantly funny night.

Saturday began with a talk by Eddie Cockrell of Variety magazine on American cinema of the 1970s - at least that was supposed to be the topic, but he's one of those speakers who is both well informed and passionate about his subject, which resulted in an excellent and wide-ranging session.

In the afternoon, I got to a Fringe show, "WASP" by Steve Martin, performed by a student group - it wasn't bad, although the acting was a little over eager; the set was interesting and Viv is kicking herself that she doesn't have time to go because one of the cast is the image of a young Joe Fiennes - v cute!

Yesterday's film was "Jindabyne", an Australian film I wanted to see in Cannes but missed; directed by Ray Lawrence who did "Lantana", based on a Raymond Carver story, it was introduced by the star, Gabriel Byrne. It's beautifully shot, a hymn to the Australian landscape, and a really interesting exploration of the consequences of a bad decision, and the impact this has on the life of a small community. I don't think its as good as "Lantana", but that is one of my favourite films, so its a high hurdle to jump. But I liked it, and think "Jindabyne" is well worth seeing.

Then we went to a "Reel Life" session with Stephen Soderburgh, who had flown in from Los Angeles less than an hour beforehand, taking a break from "Ocean's 13" just to do the talk. What a man. He was interesting and very self-effacing, discussing his career, his involvement with George Clooney and Section 8 (which ceases to exist next March), talking about the films he's made and the business of Hollywood and modern film-making. Another excellent talk. I wish I'd been able to get to the sessions by Sigourney Weaver and Charlize Theron earlier in the week because they were apparently really good too. But I've heard some great people this week.

A slow start today - just seen a couple of Fringe shows, "Seven Points for Love", funny and clever play about Scrabble and the difficulties of proposing to your girlfriend. Well acted by a very sharp cast of three who had excellent comic timing, which is often the make or break point with these plays. Followed by "A Servant to Two Masters", another student production which was entertaining, if a little mixed in the acting department. A couple of the cast needed better direction, and definitely needed better wigs, but the actor who played Truffaldino was in a different league - good with words and with the physical comedy, and again, had the timing right.

And now I've got to try and track down someone who might be helping us with "Echoes", who is somewhere in Edinburgh, apparently - I have a first name and a phone number. And I've got a couple of films to see, and Viv just texted to say did I want to meet up with her and Lizz to see a comedian Lizz likes, at 11:30. Yeah, why not? I can sleep when I get home.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Rain, rain, go away

The weather has decided to dispense with sunshine altogether today, and instead it's just pissing down with rain, with a side order of dense fog. Two years ago in Edinburgh I set a world speed record for losing an umbrella (40 minutes from purchase to loss), this year I feel the need to own one for a little longer.

But, at last, a film last night where at the end you can turn to your companion and say "that was fantastic!" - "Sherrybaby", (written and directed by Laurie Collyer) featuring a tour de force performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as an ex-addict released from prison and desperately trying to make a go of life on the outside, while establishing a relationship with her small daughter. It was pitch perfect in terms of atmosphere, and really captured the heart-rending situation of Sherry, Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, who was endearing and exasperating in equal measure. She's a character who despite her flaws, you end up rooting for totally, or at least I did. This film is great, easily the best I've seen this week. I absolutely loved it.

That's it for today - very quick update because there's a queue here, and I'm going to a networking thingy run by the Script Factory in a minute, with the rather cute bloke from the course. Two films to see tonight - better report tomorrow, hopefully.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Edinburgh day 4

Wish the weather would make up its mind - dull and cool this morning, followed by dense drizzle, followed by sun - so now the humidity is high and everyone is damp and sweaty. Mmmmm lovely! Apparently one of the reasons cinema attendance didn't fall as badly as expected during the recent very hot spell was because people were going to see a film just so they could sit in an air conditioned room. Don't blame them - I've done it myself.

Just been to my first Fringe show of this year - a student comedy sketch/revue show by Mount Rushmore's Babes, four girls from Loughborough University doing their first fringe. They were good, if a little patchy - plenty of talent and imagination, they just need to tighten some of the sketches up a little as one or two of them fizzle out. The songs were good, but my favourite sketch was the audition for the drummer in an air band - "too heavy rock, we have more of a jazz sensibility" - v funny. And I've got a bundle of tickets for the next few days, including Shakespeare for Breakfast, and Dan Clark (hoorah/phew in equal measure).

Why are some film people a bit gittish? Bloke at a computer in the delegate centre, where there's a queue for computers, doesn't use his once while he conducts a very loud conversation on his mobile along the lines of "Eric Fellner blah blah blah, well, I said blah, Working Title, blah blah". Why not just wear a T shirt saying "I'm really really important so shut up while I bellow"? One of last night's films had a very funny scene at the beginning poking fun at blokes just like that, and you could guess where in the room the film-makers were sitting by where the loudest laughs came from. "Art School Confidential" poked fun very pointedly at the art world in general, but in a way that made the pretentiousness very funny. John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi in particular were very good as the disapointed artist turned lecturer, and the self-important gallery/cafe owner. Well worth seeing - my favourite so far.

Then I saw "In Between Days" - can't tell you what happened in the end, because shortly before I died from boredom I managed to make my escape froom the cinema. Not only was it a boring film but it was filmed in a really irritating way - tight close-ups almost all the time on the faces of the two lead characters. I'm beginning to think there's a limit to the amount of cutting edge new wave stuff I can take. Give me a story! Please!

Viv and Lizz saw Alan Rickman yesterday, but in keeping with my fine tradition, I haven't seen anyone famous ambling around. I think I have star-repellant, as well as man-repellant. Ah well. Will have to rest on last year's laurels of possibly seeing Elijah Wood - or not.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You'll believe a Scotsman can fly

Greetings from lovely sunny Edinburgh, 2nd full day here, and day 3 of the festival. Very quick post to get up to date, pictures to follow once I get online at the flat.

First night - went to the opening gala film, which was "The Flying Scotsman", the story of cyclist Graeme Obree, world champion on a bike he designed himself and built partly out of washing machine parts. It was a nice, enjoyable film, first feature for director Douglas MacKinnon, very much in the "plucky underdog takes on world and wins" mold. Jonny Lee Miller was good as the obsessed Obree (who was actually there that night - must be odd seeing your life on screen). Billy Boyd played his mate and manager, and seems to be carving out a nice line in "faithful sidekick to plucky underdog" roles, because it's essentially the part he played in last year's "On A Clear Day". Laura Fraser and Brian Cox also were in the film, well played but somewhat underdeveloped roles.

Then to the party - free beer and a burger, not bad, did a bit of mingling and then home to the flat, which is very lovely but in the middle of a building site. When they said "some apartments may overlook building work" what they actually meant was "you will be woken at 7 each morning when the heavy machinery gets going."

Now I must run to another film - will be back later to review last night's films, and report on my first ever blog- meet! (Hello Tim!)

And it's later so I'm back - missed a discussion I was supposed to be at, as part of the Film Studies Summer School I'm doing at Edinburgh University this week - I had a quick meeting with someone in the Industry Office to talk about Echoes, was late for the discussion group and by the time I got to the Uni, the group had gone to the park to work - wandered round the park, they're nowhere in sight. So I'm back in the delegate centre.

Guess I'll never know what they thought of "Voices of Bam", last night's film. I thought it was one of the dullest films I've ever sat through in my life. An essentially fascinating idea, about how people in the Iranian city of Bam are recovering from the devastating earthquake which killed 30,000 people out of a population of 100,000, for me was completely squashed lifeless by the sluggish, boring style of filming, and by an episodic approach which showed bits of people's lives but with no explanations or context. Other people seemed to like it, telling the director, Aliona van der Horst, at the Q+A afterwards how "brilliant" it was, but I didn't see that brilliance. I felt it was a massive missed opportunity.

Then I saw "Apart From That", an American film (written and directed by Jennifer Shainin and Randy Walker) very much in the same category as "You and Me and Everyone We know", in fact in some ways having very similar ideas to Miranda July's film. The film made it appear that suburban America is populated by deeply strange people who are living disconnected lives of quiet desperation, in its look at a disparate group of individuals living in a small town (not sure where). I liked the style of filming, but found myself longing for a story - I'm afraid this anti-narrative approach doesn't do much for me. But if you liked "You and Me ..." you'll like this.

This morning, went to a talk by Shane Danielsen, director of the Festival, about the Mitchell Leisen retrospective which he's curated. Fascinating talk, by someone obviously passionate about his subject. Really really enjoyable morning. Then saw "Hands Across the Table", a Leisen film with Carole Lombard and Fred McMurray, which was one of those classic screwball 1930s romantic comedies that just don't get made any more. Good fun, beautifully done.

Two more films tonight.

And now I'm going for a beer.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Don't ask

It's the night before a big trip - off to Edinburgh tomorrow, hopefully leaving around 9am - so today I have been printing off maps, doing laundry, ironing, painting A's bedroom because she got 1/4 way through decorating it and decided decorating is a bit boring, shopping, cooking, and being a taxi service. So the first person to say "have you started packing yet?" gets a slap. Besides, I don't leave til 9am, why would I need to start packing yet? I won't sleep - I never do, the night before I travel. Don't ask me why because I don't know - I'm not scared of flying, ferries, trains, or driving; I don't get travel sick; I actually like travelling for the most part. But still, tonight I might be asleep by 1a.m. if I'm lucky but I'll be awake at 2, 3, 3:30, 4, and probably give up and get up around 5:30 on the basis that if I'm awake I may as well be up.

I have a ticket for the opening night film and party, but am a little disappointed that the dress code is "casual or kilt". I know Edinburgh is much more laid back than Cannes, so wasn't expecting to get the red carpet evening glamour gear out, but still, I have so few excuses to dress up that I was hoping for a chance to wear some mid-range glad rags, at least. Besides, having invested in the full range of underwear from structural to fancy, I need to put my investments to work.

I'm hoping that the flat I've rented has internet access, in which case I might be able not only to read but also answer emails; whatever the situation, I'll try to blog as many reviews as I can over the next 12 days.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Bits 'n' pieces

After a couple of weeks of nothing much happening, it looks as if we might be able to get "Echoes" up and running soon. We have enough in the pot to both feed and insure everyone involved, and Darren and I went up to the location yesterday to check it out as he hadn't been before. He loves it, and the people there were incredibly helpful and will pretty much let us shoot where and when we want, which is excellent. We have gear and we have a crew, more or less - now all we need is a cast.

Writing wise, nothing is happening. I think having finished a draft of the sci-fi script, and redrafted the play and sent it off, all in the space of a few weeks, has drained any feelings of creativity I might have. I can't seem to get a grip on any ideas for long enough to really want to work on them. Perhaps I should just declare that I'm taking a break and not even try to write - but then, that doesn't feel right. What do other people do? Do you ever feel like this? Not blocked exactly, more unsettled. All hints and tips gratefully received.

I know that part of this feeling stems from the unemployment situation; if I felt that there was any prospect of making a decent living any time soon, I might be a bit happier. Still, it has its moments - I went in to sign on this morning, and my adviser said "we have this for you" and passed me a sheet of paper outlining a job that had come up under "Research and Development". It was for a concrete tester. So, had he looked at my CV, full of qualitative research with medical patients, and gone "yeah, she can probably work in an engineering lab testing concrete"? What does a concrete tester do, anyway? Hit it with a hammer and if it shouts "ouch", ask it to recite its two times table?

Meanwhile I have become hooked on blogpatrol. I love those little flags that show where readers come from (UK, USA, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, France, Finland, Japan, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Austria, Ireland, and Australia so far) - say hello as you pass through, please! And I like the google searches that led people here - Daniel Bruhl, Rufus Sewell, Chez Freddie's, Red Road, Science of Sleep and Starter for Ten, plus "is my astilbe dead?" I'm sorry that particular searcher didn't get an answer but merely a rant about slugs. (And in fact the hot dry spell seems to have seriously impacted upon the slug population, as the hostas are doing better this year than ever before, and the sad astilbe has produced a flourish of lovely fresh green leaves - although it also means there was a very poorly looking hedgehog wandering around in daylight a couple of weeks ago, so I gave it a dish of water and some food, and it drank for ages).

A has gone out to a party at the house of the lead guitarist in her band, so I'll hear her later and see her tomorrow no doubt. And now I'm going to crash on the sofa to watch my copy of "Proof", which arrived this morning after I won it in a competition. Am I entering another winning spell? I hope so.

Friday, August 04, 2006

How to lose hours, effortlessly

Thanks to Optimistic Reader, I've found a fabulous new way of procrastinating, and here are the results:

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few.
But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, Showgirls, The Big Lebowski

I quite like the idea of being a cult classic, but not the freaky fans bit. And I'm not sure I'm terribly campy, even though someone I worked with recently thought I should do her research interviews with the local LGB group because "obviously" I have empathy. 'Scuse me?

Your Seduction Style: The Charmer

You're a master at intimate conversation and verbal enticement.

You seduce with words, by getting people to open up to you.

By establishing this deep connection quickly, people feel under your power.

And then you've got them exactly where you want them!

Goodness. I must take a closer look at myself in the mirror.

Your Superhero Profile

Your Superhero Name is The Manga Ranger
Your Superpower is Cybernetics
Your Weakness is Handshakes
Your Weapon is Your Grenade Club
Your Mode of Transportation is Moped

How can I be a superhero if my method of transport is a moped? Whoever heard of superheros riding a moped? Can't I at least have a Norton Commando? Or a British Racing Green MG Midget (original design, not modern design)? At least I'm not a mangy ranger.

But if anyone would like to be seduced with classicly camp words by a manga on a moped, drop me a line, and i'll see what I can do.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yo ho ho

and a bottle of rum for my new friend:

Since the possibility of a real man in my life seems remote, then I shall make do with a fantasy one, even if he's 3" tall and lacking in conversation. I have my very own Captain Jack; all I need to make my life complete is my own personal Neo.

Play was rejected today - I have talent for dialogue, apparently, but obviously not quite enough.

Went to London yesterday - had a meeting with an agent(good) and saw a play (fabulous). The play was "Rock and Roll" by Tom Stoppard, and I loved it. Clever, witty, intellectually dense and thought provoking, and very funny. Rufus Sewell (swoon) was excellent as Jan, the man around whom things happen despite his insistence that he isn't a key figure; Brian Cox and Sinead Cusack were also fabulous. I saw Sinead Cusack a couple of years ago at the Almeida in Neil LaBute's "The Mercy Seat" (alongside John Hannah) and thought she was wonderful - she's one of those actors who can do with a movement of an eyebrow what it takes another actor a page of dialogue to get across. And in RnR she was ace. I'd never seen Brian Cox on stage before and as of now this is a huge regret - he is amazing, a total powerhouse; the couple of times I've met him I thought he was a really lovely bloke, I just wish I'd seen him on stage sooner.