Archive for Bruce MacDonald

Evil Xs

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2010 by dcairns

Not much to add to the gleeful hubbub surrounding Edgar Wright’s adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. A rare film which takes faithfulness to its source as a call to have fun rather than stifle invention, it’s also one of the few movies that really works for me in terms of juggling sort-of-real characters with personalities and issues, and awesome fight scenes where people get exploded. There’s no sense of a mismatch at all, you don’t worry about the death side of things, you just accept that the mild mayhem is some kind of metaphor, and nobody really gets hurt within the world of this film.

Taking his cue from the graphic novel/s, Wright plays games, literally, with cinema, cheerfully eating up anime and comic book and video game techniques. It makes me curious to see what he’d do with 3D, since his showcasing of technique for the sheer hell of it makes self-consciousness a virtue. Also, it’s very funny.

Wright has always had a lovely sense of comic timing, and his hyperkinetic style actually works hand-in-hand with that. The sharp cut following Michael Cera’s reaction to the line “Bread makes you fat,” — a single, horrified, “What?” — is made retroactively funnier by the abruption of the edit following fast on the heels of the line. In a split second, your brain is reprogrammed to upgrade the line from amusing to hilarious.

Cera is of course delightful, but so is everyone. My new conversational opener for after a film viewing with a friend is “Who was your favourite?” and it works very well with this movie [Maybe wouldn't be so helpful with something like SECRET HONOR] I asked Fiona, “Who was your favourite?” “What?” “Who was your favourite?” “Oh. Girl drummer.” An instinctive reaction to a good bob. And then, “And gay guy.” My favourite is Ellen Wong as Knives Chao, because everything she does is cute and funny. But it’s a tough call, because there’s a whole trench-full of cute funniness in the flick.

As one who’s gone on the record with a deep, almost sexual admiration for Cera, I felt uncertain about his darker hair coloring here, and Wright does a lot of profile and three-quarter views of his star, which makes him less beautiful, less a Starman and more a 21st Century Sterling Holloway. But that ain’t bad.

Is Scott sitting on a swing in the snow a reference to Kurosawa’s IKIRU? It seems like it might be. Or it might be a reference to Bruce MacDonald’s THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS, which likewise has teenage issues, split screen and Canada as sub-topics. Two references that seem fairly certain are the use of the hypnosis sting from Mike Hodges’ FLASH GORDON, and the appearance by the Monster from the Id from FORBIDDEN PLANET. What’s he been doing with himself in the last fifty years, anyhow?

He’s certainly kept in trim.

Festival Fizzle

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2009 by dcairns

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Edinburgh. Photo by Chris B.

Essentially a limp rag, I contemplate the end of this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival largely from outside. I head that Johanna Waegner, a student from my film department at Edinburgh College of Art, has won the Scottish Short Documentary Award supported by Baillie Gifford, for her film PETER IN RADIOLAND, which is excellent news. The last day of the event is also The Best of the Fest, which translates into “what prints do we still have knocking about that we can show again?” But sometimes these films really ARE among the best, so don’t think I’m knocking any.

I’m feeling a bit silly because I slagged off the science in MOON, and it turns out there really IS something called Helium3 which you use for fusion power, and it’s to be found on the moon in great abundance. We could potentially power civilisation for thousands of years, cleanly, if we could harness it. I do slightly blame the filmmakers for inspiring my disbelief with the line “the energy of the sun, harvested from the dark side of the moon,” which does seem rather counter-intuitive. Helium3 is created by the impact of the sun’s rays on the lunar surface, so the dark side isn’t where I’d go look for it. I suspect that the director, who is the artist formerly known as Zowie Bowie, just wanted to have the phrase “dark side of the moon” in his film.

Weather was outstanding, in a weird way, throughout the fest. Intermittent showers were nuked by brilliant sunshine that had me slapping the old factor 30 0nto my pallid Scottish skin. The heat became so intense even festival director Hannah McGill bared her legs, as beautifully slender and white as noodles. Then a fog descended with a thump, making the city look like a glass that had been breathed on.

Shadowplayer and filmmaker Paul Duane passed through town, very briefly, and we touched base over chili at the Filmhouse. Paul told me an excellent ALIEN story which I must remember to pass on to you.

5106_562076749371_284001094_3678668_6856870_nThe back of my neck gets to meet Roger Corman, who signs my copy of How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, one of the finest movie-making books ever committed to paper. Unfortunately, in an understandable hurry (he’s 83) he signs it “Pen Emm”. Still, it was extremely gracious of him to do that much, and I’ll now treasure my first edition even more.

Corman’s tribute ended with a screening of the explosive BLOODY MAMA. It had been rumoured that the festival heads hadn’t realised Corman had been here before, with the same film, in 1970, but on this occasion a brochure from the 1970 show was produced, along with two tickets, and presented to the Great Man.

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Interviewed Joe Dante the same day, which was an utter pleasure, and will be editing our conversation down this week to produce a consumable literary good out of it. Shadowplayer Chris B was houseguest for the week, and he snapped me and Joe together, smiling blurredly.

Attendance was UP this year.

Went back and saw PONTYPOOL a second time, enjoying Bruce MacDonald’s Q&A, the audience’s extremely vocal enthusiasm, and Fiona’s pleasure at the film, which I’d avoided telling her anything about (except, “It’s not Welsh. It’s Canadian.)

After that, we grabbed a cab with filmmakers Jamie and Talli and Johanna and managed to gain access to the closing party, held in a huge abandoned church. Had time for one drink and some quality mingling before being ushered out onto the street, where a man kept falling over. I’m no expert, but drink may have been involved. It’s generally best if I don’t stay long at these kind of things, since the concept of free drink appeals to two aspects of my Scots makeup, the thrift and the alcoholism. I remember one party in Portobello Funfair which degenerated into a FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS trip-out sequence, ending in myself being adopted by a tribe of fire eaters. At one point I found myself arm-wrestling a man covered in gold paint. It’s quite an experience to arm wrestle someone without actually touching them (we were at opposite ends of a five-foot table), but it made for a vivid memory.

Today the only films really calling to me are CRYING WITH LAUGHTER because I know and like the people involved, and GIALLO, because Argento is Argento, even if he’s not really anymore. But I have quite a bit of life to catch up on so I don’t know if I’ll make it. By the time I post this, today will be yesterday anyway…

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