Archive for Pontypool

Nuts and Pumpkins

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2015 by dcairns

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Two new films from old favourites at Edinburgh.

Bruce MacDonald’s PONTYPOOL is still one of my favourite genre films from the past decade or so, so I was expecting good things from his new one, HELLIONS. Sadly, I found it really thin — monofilament thin, basically an extended dream sequence in which none of the horror — pregnant teen tormented by supernatural trick-or-treaters — registers because none of it feels real. Nor does it feel like a real dream or a real psychotic break. The film spends about ten minutes in reality setting up its characters, and the rest goes to show that good actors are helpless without strong writing to give them material to work with. Nice to see Robert Patrick, though, amusingly still dressed as a cop.

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Peter Bogdanovich’s SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY references his previous movies WHAT’S UP DOC, NOISES OFF, and THEY ALL LAUGHED, or at least reminds me of them, and it features actors from throughout his long career, including Cybill Shepherd and Tatum O’Neal and Colleen Camp. More substantial roles are taken by Austin Pendleton and George Morfogen, who both appeared in WHAT’S UP DOC? The leads are Imogen Poots and Owen Wilson. But a hot newcomer named Jennifer Anniston walks off with the picture.

Developed under the title SQUIRRELS TO THE NUTS, the film centres on theatre director Wilson’s habit of quoting Charles Boyer’s “nuts to the squirrels/squirrels to the nuts” speech from Lubitsch’s CLUNY BROWN. Wilson quotes this speech to the escort girls whose services he employs, before gifting them with large sums to help them turn their lives around. So here’s a character who relies on escort girls for company (though he’s married) but likes to retire them so they can earn a living some better way. Odd, when you think about it.

My worry going in was that this was going to be autobiographical — Bogdanovich co-wrote it with his partner Louise Stratten. There are lines early on about printing the legend and rewriting history to make it more glamorous. So the fear was, is this going to be an attempt to rewrite the tragic fate of Dorothy Stratten? Is the world ready for STAR 80, the romcom?

(Playmate-turned actress Dorothy Stratten was romanced by Bogdanovich, starred in one of his movies, and was horribly murdered by her ex-husband. Bogdanovich then began a longterm relationship with her sister, Louise. The press accused him of having plastic surgery performed on Louise to make her more closely resemble the late Dorothy. A juicy VERTIGO tale of necrophilia — the truth appears to be that Louise needed dental work and Bogdanovich paid for it. Not actually that sinister.)

The urge to recreate a story with an intolerable ending and make it sweet is an understandable one, so the only question would be whether the film succeeds or if the result is just creepy. In fact, due to the charm of Poots and Wilson and the rest (Bogdanovich’s skill with actors remains truly impressive), the movie is sweet and likable and fun. The farce writing isn’t as tight, as logical or as surprising as it could be, and there are a few missteps — you can’t get a laugh by having a young lead punch spry but septuagenarian Pendleton — that wouldn’t even have been funny in 1972 — but there’s also a lot or warmth and joy. But the person who actually makes it funny is Anniston, playing the world’s worst shrink.

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Filling in for her respected mom (Joanna Lumley, whose only onscreen appearance is during her credit in the end titles), Anniston’s character is constitutionally unsuited to her job: foul-tempered, intolerant, judgemental and compulsively indiscreet, she blunders hilariously through her every scene. The stuff with her boyfriend isn’t so great — we’ve seen Madeline Kahn do the nagging shrew bit, and MK can never be surpassed, but the shrink schtick is persistently a scream. Keep an eye on this Anniston person, she’ll go far.

Defiantly old-fashioned, the movie looks back warmly at Hollywood history, of which Bogdanovich’s earlier films are now part. I don’t know if it can possibly be a success in the modern marketplace. But that isn’t my concern. I liked it. I like Bogdanovich for making it.

 

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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…