Archive for October, 2013


Whilst in previous weeks we have seen Jesse Eisenberg and Owen Wilson take on the typical Woody Allen role; this weeks film seems the same of Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Boris (Larry David); a divorced, pessimistic and hypochondriatic genius, discovers his life to be more fulfilled when he meets a young country girl (Evan Rachel Wood).

THE GOOD

This film is one of the strange ones where it should be good… it just isn’t. The script is well written and witty with several twists that on paper seem hilarious; however something (see ‘The Bad’ section) just doesn’t work.

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The film is very odd and a little experimental; for example the opening scene breaks the fourth wall oddly with all of the characters discussing the audience which is in itself entertaining albeit feeling a little dated.

THE BAD

My main problem with the film is the lead performance. Woody Allen films never have fantastic special effects or camerawork; they are constantly performance driven pieces of cinema and Larry David really lacks the personality to pull of the lead role. Now don’t get me wrong I am a huge David fan and love Curb/Seinfeld and think he is amazingly funny; however Curb is generally filmed in an ad-lib style so the performance is very improvised. This is contrasted by the fact he has obviously been given a script and been asked to play a character which is beyond his capabilities; as the film plays out it seems as if David is reading lines and the entire effect is that of a rehearsed performance. This makes the film go slowly as some of the dialogue heavy scenes play on for what seems like an eternity.

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ALLEN SCALE

This film scores highly in most the categories on the Allen scale and it is worth noting it is the first film to be set in New York.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Whatever Works is a thoroughly disappointing film which is let down by an uninspired lead performance.

1 Woody… giving a total of 5 when the Allen Scale is included.

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This weeks films portrays Allen’s interpretation of London life as well as British people, in the case study of a family from the city.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Played by an all star cast this film follows several stories within the same family which are entwined. These include Anthony Hopkins marrying a prostitute and Naomi Watts being tempted to an affair with Antonio Banderas whilst her ‘husband’ Josh Brolin is similarly tempted by Frieda Pinto.

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THE GOOD

The film is interesting in that unlike Allen’s other city based films the location does not come across as important. In most Allen films the setting is often referenced and glorified; yet in this film the London based setting is barely mentioned meaning the audience is able to focus on the characters.

The cast all perform magnificently and bring to life a far from brilliant script meaning that whilst the films lacks in wit the characters are beautifully crafted. Some of the stories are also rather interesting especially Josh Brolin’s which contains a rather dark twist towards the end of the film.

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THE BAD

The film suffers from many problems; namely that the balance between the difference stories is off. Each separate story is completely different (which is fine and can be successful as in To Rome With Love), yet because they are all inter-connected by the family ties appear forced and confusing. The different story lines appear as if they where bolted together at the last moment, especially that of Anthony Hopkins who shares perhaps three scenes with other characters.

The film is also annoying in that there is absolutely no closure; at the end of the film I found myself feeling very disappointed in that absolutely everything is left open ended. It felt as if I’d wasted an hour and a half on my life in this brief study of a dysfunctional family and I longed to see the characters succeed and in some cases receive their comeuppance.

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THE ALLEN SCALE:

The film contains many features typical of Woody Allen film with its most obvious being the stammering of characters and the sexual references. The film contains a few nostalgic references (but is rather toned down on this front) and only really includes the use of music during the credit sequences (although a scene in which Anthony Hopkins visits a nightclub contains a more recent beat). It therefore receives a score of 6/10.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is a very average film which if made by any other director would not have attracted the cast that make it passable. Therefore I award it 2 Woody’s to be added to the 3 from the Allen Scale. Giving the film a total of 5 Woody’s.

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If I’m honest I have to say this weeks film was one of my favourite Woody Allen films prior to starting the challenge and has remained so. It is one of the strange magical Allen films which occur periodically. 

WHAT HAPPENED?

Gil (Owen Wilson) is a writer obsessed with 1920’s Paris. On a trip to the city of his dreams he inexplicably finds himself transported back in time by night and hangs out with famous figures from the past including Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

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THE GOOD

This film is good in every department; the script is well balanced, witty and consists of characters whom the audience really cares for. All of the historical figures are written perfectly and match up well to the personas which the history books have given them; they are performed by an all-star cast with a fresh cameo always just around the corner.

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Watching the film I loved the magicalness of the entire thing; the fact that ‘why’ the protagonist is able to time travel is not really explained is fantastic as the details of it are unimportant to the story. Allen is one a few filmmakers brave enough to trust in the audience to understand what’s happening without adhering to the rules as most time-travel films do. Sure the time-space continuum is probably screwed over in this film and the butterfly effect probably changed the entire future, but do we care? No.

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THE BAD

There is very little wrong with this film; it is as I said well rounded in all areas. In fact, I’m struggling to come up with a criticism that is worth writing so I’m just going to not give any.

ALLEN SCALE

The film contains many trademarks of Allen. In the film Owen Wilson plays the Woody Allen character; stammering his way through the past and obviously due to the story it is packed full of jazz music and nostalgic references. Once surprising thing is that New York is not referenced in this film. Most Allen films iff not set in New York generally have a character who originates from or has lived there. In this film every character comes from Hollywood which was a bit of shock.


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FINAL THOUGHTS

I think its pretty obvious from this review that I am going to give the film 5 Woody’s, this coupled with a score of 3.25 form the Allen scale gives it a score of 8 Woody’s.

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This weekend was an extremely busy one, as we entered the Colchester Film Festivals 48 Hour Film Challenge. The challenge was simple enough; on Saturday lunchtime we received an email which contained details that needed to be included in the film. These where a title, a line of dialogue and an action. We then had forty-eight hours to complete the film.

Before the challenge, I personally was given very little warning of its existence; we had applied months before to take part; yet it was not until Friday morning that we remembered. This left us at a disadvantage in terms of pre-production; we had no time to secure locations, extra equipment or source suitable actors.

So at midday (technically shortly after) we received our details. The given title of our film was ‘Popcorn Artist’, it had to include the line “I’m not evil, just misunderstood”, and the action of a character looking in a mirror, turning away and then looking back into the mirror.

Seeing this information led to a state of panic; the action was much more specific than we’d been expecting and the title left us very little to go on. Two hours later we had a vague idea; had managed to get a friend to act and had purchased numerous bags of popcorn from a local supermarket. We subsequently filmed into the evening; improvising almost completely and hoping the results would give us further ideas.

This technique proved to work for us; after a couple of hours editing the pieces we had filmed together a narrative soon became obvious to us. A script was written during the night and the Sunday shoot was planned. The story had become that of a man who has super-powers (involving popcorn) that hinder his day-to-day life and make society shun him.

So on Sunday, filming went much smoother due to us having a plan. We got all the shots done fairly quickly with the local Odeon cinema even being nice enough to let us film a sequence in their foyer (and provide us with free popcorn!).

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So yesterday afternoon was spent in a haze of editing and sound recording. Due to the microphones available to us being far from brilliant at gathering location sound; we had decided early on to use a voiceover; which needed to be written and recorded. The edit of the film came together reasonably fast; many of our sequences where shot in order meaning it was simply taking the best takes and putting them together.

A little colour grading was completed to give the film a de-saturated look and the flashback sequences were put in black & white before being raised in contrast to give them a ‘Memento’ style feel. The ending of the film was changed rather drastically from our plans as the ending we came too seemed to be fitting.

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Not being that proficient as a sound person, I cannot go into too much detail as to exactly what was done; other than I left my friend, Ashley alone with a silent film for two hours. When I returned the sound was almost completed and had (as sound always does) improved the film drastically.

After a couple of touch up the film was ready submit and so it was at 2am last night (10 hours early). The final film can be seen at www.vimeo.com/purplecamera/popcornartist and if it is shortlisted will be screened at the festival.

Lessons learnt from the competition would be the involvement of more pre-production prior to the event beginning. The entire process would have been much smoother if we had had several ideas that could have been adjusted to the given details and also if we had been able to confirm actors in advance; meaning we could have actually had more than a single character. However the approach we did take did wield results and I am fairly happy with the film created.

 

 

 

 

Week 2 of the reverse-order challenge is Woody’s second film set in the lovely city of Rome.

WHAT HAPPENED?

To Rome With Love has a star-studded cast (including Roberto Benigni, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz and Allen himself) playing a variety of characters in four separate comedy stories. Each storyline is unique and completed unconnected – apart from being set in Rome – and to give you a summary of each would not only be tedious to write but would also ruin the films enjoyment as the unpredictably is part of the films charm.

THE GOOD

The film is an out and out comedy and generally achieves its aim at making an audience laugh. In the well-written screenplay there are moments to please any comic taste with it switching from slapstick satire to darkly humouress nostalgia and back.

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Each of the stories something unique however for me it is the story of two newly-wed lovers which I found most enjoyable. As both members of the couple fall into the path of adulterous temptation; scenes from this storyline begin to play out like something from a Noel Coward play. This had hilarious results that are truly fantastic.

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The performances of all the cast members (both the stars and the relative unknowns) however it has to be Allen’s own performance which stands out; as he does the usual of playing himself. His part is small and hilarious and as his character prattles on about his fear of retirement and death; it is hard not to feel as if these are Allen’s thoughts on his real-life career rather than the one of his character.

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The storylines intertwine well and are tied together by a bouncy musical score which sums up the tone of the film entirely; and also the tone of life in Rome itself.

THE BAD

For all its enjoyability and funniness this film is lacking in any sort of depth. There are so many characters that they do not quite have enough screentime to become developed and are consequently more caricatures than anything. This helps with the comedy however also makes them forgettable.

The storylines are also disparate at times that the pacing of the film suffers; as the style switches from one genre to another. This makes the film a little bit of mess (as can be expected from this sort of film).

ALLEN SCALE

The film does relatively well on the Allen score. I elected to only give a quarter point for acting as Allen only appears in one of the four storylines.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

To Rome With Love is a good bit of fluffy cinema; a comedy that you could watch easily and enjoy. However the entire film does feel utterly forgettable and come the end of this challenge I doubt it will be one of the first films that springs to my mind. I therefore award the film 3 out 5 which when added to the score from the Allen scale gives this film an overall of 6 Woody’s.

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Group 2

A couple of weekends ago Purple Camera Media was recruited to record a live performance show of a Take That tribute band named ‘misTAKE That’; this much like the previous weeks BEX Live, proved to be invaluable experience as the company begins to grasp exactly what is needed from live event filming and was a strong lesson in the importance of lighting!

We arrived early in order to figure out camera set-ups and met the band who are lovely group. We watched them perform their technical rehearsal and soon realised that their wacky dance routines would be a major aspect of the performance, which we needed to capture. We also discussed with the band over exactly what was needed filming and it was decided mutually that rather than record the entire 1½ hour set, we would record around 10 songs. This had many advantages for us as a crew because it meant we did not have to worry about battery life or the amount of footage we shot (and even if that battery had died we would have had time between songs for a quick charge) and also meant that we could concentrate more fully on each song.

So the concert began later than scheduled (my limited experience has led me to believe that live events never run on time) and we filmed the first four songs. We had two camera set-ups meaning that one camera (operated by team member Ashley) remained static throughout, getting coverage of the whole band and occasionally focusing on the singer in a key part. Whilst I being the more experienced cameraman was given the task of roaming in front of the band and capturing close-ups.

And so everything was going fine; the lighting on the stage was not perfect – the overhead white lights were not working meaning that coloured disco lights were constantly moving across the band; over-exposing their faces at points. This did not look terrible and we felt that it would give the videos a more artistic feel in post-production. The band performed their dance routines perfectly and during our first break I felt extremely happy with the way the footage was coming out.

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It was during the next song we recorded that problems occurred; the band moved off the stage and began to roam around in the crowd (where there was next to no lighting). This proved extremely successful with the audience at the event as they soon found themselves able to sing and dance next to ‘Gary Barlow’. Unfortunately the movement from stage to crowd did not translate well onto the camera; being unprepared for such and with very little lighting our only option was to bump up the ISO, improvise shots and hope for the best.

Ashley made the decision to remain in the same position and go for a wider angles’ covering as many of the roaming band members as possible. This meant that he was behind the band for some parts but captured the essence of their performance fairly well.

Considering that I had been tasked with capturing close-ups I continued to do this; dropping the height of my monopod and using it as a make-shift ‘Steadicam’ (I knew this would work fairly decently having written about and tested low-budget alternatives to a ‘steadicam’ for my University dissertation). I then roamed around trying to capture as much as possible. I knew at the time and was proven correct in the early stages of editing that this would make for as much unusable footage as the useable stuff; however I was impressed to see afterwards that several moments looked incredibly professional.

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Fortunately after two songs the band returned to the stage and we where able to complete the rest of their set with very few problems; the gig did however over-run by half an hour – meaning we missed our last train home and had to get a taxi.

So over the next week I began an edit (which I am still undergoing) and was fairly impressed by our footage; another problem did occur in that the sound recorded by our sound recorder (which was plugged into the sound desk) was clipped and generally unusable – we did not factor in that the mix would be turned up for the performance, following the tech demo. But luck was with us with Ashley’s on-board microphone recorded audio which although not perfect picked up the bands performance in fairly decent quality and enough ambience to give a sense that the event was live without taking away from the performance; below is a before vs after screenshot making the difference obvious.

Comparison

So the songs which were performed on stage where consequently edited together and looked fantastic; the footage captured on my camera although it did look good had ten-fifteen seconds gaps that where unusable due to me moving to a new camera set-up – next time I film an event I will make sure to stay in one position per song and move the camera from there, reducing the times of unusable footage. I have also edited together one of the songs in which the band entered the crowd and the final product came out much better than expected; bumping up the brightness and turning the contrast down allowed the images to become visible (albeit it looks foggy) and the shots cut together surprisingly nicely.

To conclude I believe we did a fairly decent job with the filming of a live-event improvising well to produce good results. The videos should be live on the misTAKE That website (www.mistakethat.com) at some point in the near future and I will post a link when they are. If you do have an opportunity to see misTAKE That live I would highly recommend them as they are as close to seeing the real Take That at an affordable price as you can get.

 


So after a brief hiatus following my David Lynch challenge I’ve begun my next challenge, which is to watch ever Woody Allen film in reverse order (just for a change). As Woody does not always act, write and direct his films I’ve decided to go for films in which he is credited in two of three roles to give me a wider range of films to watch whilst making sure that each film is a Woody Allen picture. The first week’s film was the recently released Blue Jasmine.

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WHAT HAPPENED?

Blue Jasmine follows Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) a lady who married rich and enjoyed a life of money and no work. When she loses everything she begins to suffer from depression and mental illness and is forced to move in with her adoptive sister (Sally Hawkins) on the poor side of San Francisco; something which both girls struggle to adapt to.

THE GOOD

The film is a delight to watch as it portrays the story in a unique and interesting way. It is cleverly written in that very little back story is explained yet it is instantly obvious what has happened. It is a strange balance of being completely unpredictable yet also predictable at the same time; which is something rare in a modern film.

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The actors in the film are all cast perfectly and portray their characters exactly as you can imagine them being written; the stand out being Cate Blanchetts descent into craziness and Alec Baldwin (essentially playing an exaggerated persona of himself).

There are many comic moments in the film that balance out the drama and it is amazing how in one scene Allen can shift the perception of a character in one scene; turning a nice character into an evil one and back within just a few minutes of screen times.

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THE BAD

Watching the film and thinking of it now, I honestly struggle to name an aspect which I didn’t enjoy… it was well paced, scripted and performed with the only negative point I could come up with being that at times it was unclear whether certain scenes where dark comedy or pure drama.

Watching the film in a cinema there where several scenes that got members of the audience (myself included) laughing; whilst other people (the friend I was with) acted much more seriously. Discussion after the film led me to believe that it was written purposefully in each way and cannot be defined as a bad point.

ALLEN SCALE

As a new feature I’ve decided to create a little scale to register the quality of the film based on Allen trademarks. The table below shows 10 characteristics typically seen in one of his films and a score is made for each. This total will be halved and added to my personal score to give each film a score out of 10.


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FINAL THOUGHTS

Many people dub this film Woody Allen’s best in years and whilst I do not fully agree (being a huge fan of Midnight in Paris); it is an astounding piece of cinema which must be given five Woodys. Which when added to the Allen score of 2.25 (rounded down to 2) gives the film a score of 7 Woody’s.

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