Archive for Edgar Wright

The Sunday Intertitle: Busywork

Posted in Comics, FILM, Television, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2013 by dcairns


Start as you mean to go on, Zasu!

But the purpose of this post isn’t to discuss Marshall Neilan’s 1917 film of A LITTLE PRINCESS. It’s a scattershot round-up of a few recent doings that don’t quite suit a post of their own.


I don’t engage in modern culture that much — I watch one TV show (Breaking Bad) and read one comic (Batman Inc, which has just finished its run under Grant Morrison) and follow one stand-up comedian, Stewart Lee. And at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival I was too tardy even to get a ticket for him. But there were still tickets for Baconface, a Canadian cult comic who performs in a wrestling mask adorned with strips of glistening bacon. This is ironic, since (a) the tickets for Baconface are cheaper than the tickets for Stewart Lee and (2) Bacon Face IS Stewart Lee. So we have now usefully established that Stewart Lee with bacon on his face is worth less than Stewart Lee without bacon on his face.

Lee’s first appearance with a new character (which might either clear up or further confuse the problem of distinguishing Lee the man from the character he portrays in his stand-up, an exaggerated version of himself) was an unexpected revelation. Much of the material was stuff Lee could have done as himself, but much of it was demented backwoodsman parody, and the rest was a parody of that parody, vanishing down a plughole of deconstruction. And there was a movie reference, which allows me to tie it in to the function of this blog: Bacon Face was probably the only artiste at the Fringe to mention Volker Schloendorff’s film of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, part of an extended routine about dragging up as Margaret Atwood for Canada Day.



THE WORLD’S END is the least impressive film of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s informal “Cornetto Trilogy” but it’s still very enjoyable. I have only three criticisms are (1) It feels a bit like a first draft — I would have liked to see little clues to the alien invasion dropped in during the first half hour, a la Philip Kaufman’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS or THE BIRDS — instead, the movie attempts an abrupt genre switch like FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, OK in principle but leaving the first act to get by purely as situation comedy, with a rather irksome lead character (deliberately so, but an escape valve of sci-fi suspense would have helped) (2) Wright overuses the device of having a foreground object wipe frame and invisible lead into the next shot. Shame to hide a good cut, I say, and if you play this card too often it comes to look like you’re short of ideas, which we know is not the case with Wright, having seen the dazzling kinetics of SCOTT PILGRIM (3) the ending is really terrible, protracted and unfunny and inexplicable in character terms. That’s a real shame, but the middle is incredibly enjoyable. Not that new, after SHAWN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, but hysterical entertainment all the same.


MONDO TEENO or TEENAGE REBELLION is a 1967 mondo shock doc — as dreadful as you’d expect, but with interesting credits, as the IMDb and Wikipedia list Eriprando Visconti (Luchino Visconti) and Richard Lester as co-directors. Lester is uncredited on the film, and it seemed unlikely he’d get involved in something like this, especially at the height of his career.

There IS some London street footage which looks a bit like the hidden-camera stuff in THE KNACK, so that might be how the rumour started.

I asked him about it and he said “As to Teenage Rebellion, this has been attributed to me before, usually on Wikipedia.  I don’t have the skills required to remove it, perhaps you can do it.” So I am saying this here so I can cite the director himself when I try to edit Wikipedia. Sort of like Woody Allen pulling Marshall McLuhan in to win his argument for him in ANNIE HALL.

Listing slightly

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2012 by dcairns

“Oh no… can you imagine how sarcastic that coroner’s going to be THIS time?”

I try to avoid writing lists, mainly. I used to make to-do lists, but it seemed to be a way of putting off doing things. And I used to make lists of favourite films, which is perhaps an OK way to start thinking about films, but runs out of value pretty quickly.

But for some reason I bought Sight & Sound specially for the Critics’ and directors’ poll this month. Actually, more the directors’. A good list there works as a sort of map of the filmmakers’ head. Just agreeing or disagreeing with the choices isn’t enough, I want to learn something about the person. That’s why my favourite last time was Bryan Forbes, because he included his own movie, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND. Tells you a lot about him.

Forbes wasn’t asked back, but my favourite lists were those Guillermo Del Toro (FRANKENSTEIN, FREAKS, LA BELLE ET LA BETE), Mike Hodges (all thrillers, all on the verge of noir but not quite typical), Richard Lester (visual comedies and period movies), Edgar Wright (from DUCK SOUP to THE WILD BUNCH) and especially Terence Davies (lots of cineastes listed SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, and one doesn’t doubt their sincerity, but with him it really means something). Also Bong Joon-Ho (CURE and TOUCH OF EVIL and ZODIAC) and Abel Ferrara (A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, THE DEVILS).

I also like the mysteries: Charles Burnett is the only filmmaker to list Henrik Galeen’s THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE and doesn’t amplify; does Rolf de Heer really like FEARLESS that much or did he feel the need to list a film from an Australian (the film is good, but is it that good?); Andrew Dominik’s list is all-English language and all post-1950 — his choices are all great, but doesn’t he feel any embarrassment?

Atom Egoyan claims to have listed ten films that have had “the most dramatic impact on the artform,” as if his personal feelings didn’t come into it.

I find myself in favour of goofy lists. I don’t want the overall top ten to change that much, but it gets boring to see the same names again and again. In the critics’ poll, Ian Christie lists RW Paul’s THE “?” MOTORIST, Geoff Dyer has WHERE EAGLES DARE, and they’re obviously quite sincere, and the Ferroni Brigade has PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES (“We don’t believe these are the ten best films of all time, but we are convinced it would be better if they were,” begging the question, WHAT would be better?). One of Alexander Horvath’s choices, NOISES (anon, 1929) cannot be located using Google or the IMDb (“While it should be pretty obvious that these are the ten greatest films of all time, I still wonder if anyone will agree”). On the other hand, Slavoj Zizek, as always, tries a bit too hard to be interesting.

Creating an alternate list to the top ten ought to be fairly easy — just sub in an alternative choice from the same director or era or country or movement or genre. But in fact, the list is pleasingly stuffed with sui generis oddities — no other Dreyer film really compares to JOAN OF ARC (some may be better, but none are like it), CITIZEN KANE stands unique in Welles’ oeuvre even if one prefers CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, VERTIGO is a uniquely strange Hitchcock, LA REGLE DU JEU a uniquely strange Renoir, and Vertov offers only one obvious candidate. Ozu, Ford and Fellini made enough masterpieces for credible substitutions, though 8 1/2 still seems summative.

I know my favourite film: HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (ten years ago, Mark Cousins listed this: now, I don’t think anyone has). And then PLAYTIME and 2001 are the most amazing films I know. Beyond that, I’d surely have to have Powell, Welles, Sturges, Kurosawa, Keaton, Hitchcock, Russell, Lang, Fellini… oops, that’s eleven already. This is a silly game, I’m not playing.

Mayhem and Probs

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , on May 21, 2011 by dcairns

I enjoyed Joe Cornish’s ATTACK THE BLOCK. which I saw with friends Marvelous Mary, David and Ali, and young Louis. I don’t have a lot to add to the general impression of approval emanating from the print media — it’s great to see a film which takes representation of British experience seriously while still delivering an entertainment. I remember Mike Leigh expressing satisfaction that ALL OR NOTHING was getting a wider distribution than usual so that his film about life in sink estates could be seen by people IN sink estates, and thinking, “Yeah, but be honest, why would they go see it? They know what it’s like.” Cornish has actually given the real-life equivalents of the heroes of his film something to enjoy, something that they can’t get at home: alien invasion.

It’s the alien invasion I want to dwell on, because that’s in some ways the film’s weakest part. Although the movie has a few scattered pop-culture allusions (the setting is Wyndham Tower, a nod to the author of numerous British sci-fi classics, and repeated mentions of Ballard Street tip the hat in the direction of another master of apocalypse, but where is the H.G. Wells tribute?), it doesn’t seem to have bothered much with imaging a coherent alien race. An eleventh-hour plot twist involving pheremones is the only real idea offered, and otherwise we’re asked to believe in a race of interstellar travelers too dumb to figure out how to open a wheelie bin. One bit of narrative development is surely not enough — ALIEN gave us the egg, the face-hugger, the chest-burster and the full-grown man-sized Geiger biker dude, after all. If it’s not going to be transformations in size and appearance, it should be a transformation in our understanding of the creatures’ purpose and behaviour, which is only grudgingly offered here, and doesn’t ultimately make much sense (if this is a mating ritual, why are the pheremone-doused humans KILLED?). A promising idea, that the film’s nominal hero, Moses, may be responsible for all the carnage due to his thoughtless, vicious killing of the first visitor, is largely abandoned — Cornish’s strength as writer, his affection for his flawed characters, may also be his weakness, as he’s too easy on them.

In terms of the aliens’ design, there are issues… Cornish has decried the over-detailed look of most modern CGI monsters, and he’s right (how ironic that he’s involved ins cripting Spielberg’s forthcoming TINTIN, which looks from previews like a reckless plunge into the Uncanny Valley of hideously-over-textured motion capture ugliness…) and so the idea of “monsters you could actually draw” sounds refreshing. Blacker-than-black outline beasts with glow-in-the-dark fangs sounds fine, but I wish the beasties’ ability to blend with the shadows had been exploited more. And the thick, matted fur may be making things too easy for the prospective fan-artist: even I could draw these things, since the jagged-edge outline robs them of even a clear silhouette. Basically they’re a bit like the star of ROBOT MONSTER but with a dog’s head. In fact, basically they’re exactly like the dog Gnasher in Britain’s Dennis the Menace cartoon strip.

A fuzzy outline filled with menace — that encapsulates why the scifi side of the film, both visually and conceptually, feels underdeveloped compared to the compelling and compassionate view of life in Britain today, which is more switched-on than most of the supposed social-realism of the last several decades. Still, I’m quibbling — this movie is a hell of a lot of fun, confident without being brash, exciting, funny and likable. Since Cornish comes from a similar background to Chris Morris (FOUR LIONS) and Richard Ayoade (SUBMARINE) , we may be seeing something almost unprecedented in British cinema: a reinvigoration of commercial movie-making by TV comedy talent, spearheaded by ATTACK THE BLOCK exec Edgar Wright. There have been some notable failures too (MAGICIANS, BUNNY AND THE BULL), but nobody since Monty Python seems to have managed that transition, so it’s worthy of note.


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