Here’s a fascinating extract from the new PBS documentary about Woody Allen’s life and work. It’s the perfect introduction to January’s season of his comedies at the BFI.
I’ve always loved The Muppets. They were the highlight of my childhood weekends (along with Doctor Who of course) and a new Muppet movie was always an event. Now they’re coming back to the big screen for the first time in over a decade, and we’re opening the London Comedy Film Festival with a special preview of the film. Here’s how producers Jason Segel and Kermit persuaded Amy Adams to join the movie:
On Tuesday evening we announced the programme for the first London Comedy Film Festival, which will be lightening up London from 26-29 January 2012. You can read the full programme here.
The Festival is a partnership between LoCo and the BFI, and we’re thrilled to be based at BFI Southbank, formerly the National Film Theatre. It’s where I first saw many of my favourite films, as well as dozens of inspiring interviews and masterclasses from some of today’s best writers and directors. And it has a similar place in the heart of many British film-makers; at the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy premiere Gary Oldman spoke very touchingly about his teenage years at the BFI, and last night a British film director told me that NFT1 was his favourite cinema in London. It’s one of the few British screens where you can guarantee that the sound and projection will be perfect, and having now met many of the team there I couldn’t feel in better hands for our very first Festival. See you there …
Thank you to everyone at 18 Feet and Rising for our new Festival identity.
The magic of YouTube has brought us a whole new generation of film mash-ups. Here is Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, intercut with Inglourious Basterds:
And here’s my all-time favourite, a genuinely nightmarish blend of Requiem for a Dream and Toy Story 2.
The title sequence for Spielberg’s film is terrific, with a witty score by John Williams score and some very lovely animation. But do also check out this alternative version by slimjimstudios, using Ray Parker’s little-known but wonderfully evocative Tintin theme.
I’d never seen the 2004 comedy Eurotrip (a favourite of Charlie Lyne among others) until yesterday, but I laughed pretty much throughout. And if I’d been in any doubt about the kind of movie I’d be watching, the title sequence pretty much sets the scene. It’s not only a lovely use of animated graphics — before it became a cliche — it does exactly what a title sequence should: it sets up the tone and promise of the movie. Nice work, Prologue.
One of my favourite holiday novels this year was Adam Haslett’s Union Atlantic, the story of Doug Fanning, a rapacious investment banker who has just built his own McMansion, and his feud with Charlotte Graves, the ageing history teacher who owns the crumbling house next door. It’s a clash not just of generations but of values, and one of the best attempts in fiction to analyse the current crisis. In a book full of gorgeous writing, one paragraph in particular struck a chord. Towards the end of the novel Charlotte decides to take action. And this is what occurs to her:
As she stepped down the ramp onto the floor of the barn, she began to feel as she’d imagined she would, reading those stories in the papers over the years of the environmentalists and the anti-free traders who broke the law in the name of some greater justice, the anticipation of the act clarifying experience, rescuing it from the prison of language, the inward purpose blessing the otherwise desultory of meaning. And yet, for that very reason, she’d always considered such extremism adolescent. Too simple. Willful in its ignorance of the world’s complexity. And so deadly earnest. And yet how judgmental she’d been. What, after all, was wrong with earnestness? Weren’t Fanning and his kind earnest? Weren’t all the polluters earnest, the physical and the cultural? And did anyone ever impugn or mock them for it? No one ever thought to. Avarice was never shackled by a concern for authenticity. It didn’t care about image or interpretation.
People who care strongly about the environment or human rights or working conditions are so often apologetic or self-deprecating about their strength of feeling. People who care strongly about money never have to be. It’s time to be proud to be earnest. Let’s never be ashamed to care.
We believe an arts degree is NOT a luxury and the decision to study for any degree should be based on talent and passion rather than a financial trade-off between debt and future earnings.
Here’s a piece that I wrote for them (and potential arts graduates) as part of an ongoing relationship between AES and LoCo, which runs the London Comedy Film Festival:
Arts are a luxury. They’re a luxury like beauty. Or democracy. Or justice. Like laughter. Or empathy. Or peace. We don’t need writing, or painting, or acting. And we don’t need composers, comedians, cartoonists, conductors, choreographers or clowns. And you don’t need to be any of those things. After all, there are plenty of other careers. Sensible, practical, profitable careers. But I suspect, like me, you have a yearning. A yearning to do something different, that feels natural, that you love. Something, in all likelihood, that will inform, inspire or entertain other people too.
I studied English at university because I wanted to write. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I was the kid who made his cousins act out stories on the stairs. The boy who refused to write postcards, and sent people poems instead. At my university I discovered other people who saw the world in the same way. We liked the people who made pipelines, but we loved the people who made plays. We shared skills. We shared resources. We shared biscuits. We were interested in more things than we had time for. And some of us, secretly, cried at the news.
Did this mean we didn’t make things happen? Did it mean we couldn’t face “the real world”? No. Because this is the lie we have to fight here, the lie we’re always being told: that arts and humanities people need to grow up, get real, do something practical. That being entrepreneurial means being boring too.
Because we do need to be entrepreneurial. That’s just reality. Funding is tight. Degrees are expensive. But there’s no recession in painting, no deficit of jokes. So I won’t be told to “get real” by a world several trillion in debt. And hard times mean hungry audiences. Last year, despite the recession, film ticket sales went up, not down. It was the most successful year ever for London theatres. And more people visited museums, galleries and archives than they ever have before.
So how can we seize this opportunity? We don’t have to be business to learn from business. We need to be fast and focused and alert to opportunities. We need to know our audiences better, and make them a clear promise of what we’re here to do. We need timelines and deadlines and efficient ways of working, not to limit creativity, but to make the most of what we have.
The real value of an arts degree is not the nine thousand pounds a year. It’s the nine thousand hours a year. That’s the reality: you will be paying one pound for every hour of each university year. So make the most of them. Social media makes it easier than ever to find your kindred spirits. Recession has, ironically, created new spaces for new work. Use every one of those hours to connect with new people, to challenge old ideas and to create a bedrock of work that will kickstart your career.
Arts and humanities graduates do live in the real world. We see its beauty and its strangeness, its cruelty and pain. We see its injustice, its indecency, its incandescence. And we have always found a way to show this, however hard the times. We are starters and doers and makers and activists: people who make something new every day. What we do is a luxury that makes every life worth living. And nothing’s more worth fighting for than that.
I love The Muppets. I loved them on TV as a child, and I loved the movies that they made. And when I was a student journalist I blagged a visit to Jim Henson’s Creature Shop in London and was swept away all over again.
And now they’re back, in their first feature film in a decade. Here’s the trailer:
And here’s a wonderful short film of Jim Henson himself, showing you how to be a puppeteer — and how it’s not about technology but observation, humour and heart.
DreamWorks has just released the first trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Tintin, which arrives in cinemas this Christmas. It looks rather more like an animation test reel than a trailer at this point, but it’s certainly enough to whet the appetite:
It’s also stuffed with great British talent, both on-screen (or at least motion-captured) with Jamie Bell, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, and in its screenplay, which was written by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffat with Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish.
Here’s Herge himself showing you how to draw the plucky reporter:
And here’s a South Bank Show film by the late Harry Thompson, featuring a rare interview with Herge:
Fox have just launched this trailer for their big new show, Alcatraz, from Lost, M:I3 and Star Trek mastermind JJ Abrams:
It’s a terrific premise, and a good reason to take another look at Abrams’ TED talk, The Mystery Box, in which he outlines his approach to narrative: