Saturday, 31 July 2010

Sticky & Sweet Tour

Sticky & Sweet Tour
Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour has been released on blu-ray and in a dual-format edition (DVD and CD). Recorded in Argentina in 2008, the video version includes the full Sticky And Sweet concert while the album features selected highlights. The concert was previously broadcast by Sky1, on 4th July last year, in a censored version.

The CD track-list is: Candy Shop, Beat Goes On, Human Nature, Vogue, She's Not Me, Music, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Spanish Lesson, La Isla Bonita, You Must Love Me, Get Stupid, Like A Prayer, and Give It 2 Me.

The DVD and blu-ray track-list is: The Sweet Machine, Candy Shop, Beat Goes On, Human Nature, Vogue, Die Another Day, Into The Groove, Heartbeat, Borderline, She's Not Me, Music, Rain, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Spanish Lesson, Miles Away, La Isla Bonita, You Must Love Me, Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Get Stupid, 4 Minutes, Like A Prayer, Ray Of Light, Hung Up, and Give It 2 Me.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2010

VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2010
The fourteenth edition (2010) of VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, edited by Jim Craddock and published last year, contains over 30,000 capsule film reviews, making it the most comprehensive annual film guide currently available. VideoHound's main rival, Halliwell's Film Guide, has now sadly ceased publication, following its awful The Movies That Matter edition.

VideoHound's 2,000 pages are divided into two broadly equal sections: 1,000 pages of reviews, and 1,000 pages of listings and indexes. The indexes, which include thematic lists and esoteric categories, were pioneered and later dropped by the Time Out Film Guide.

VideoHound includes only those films released on domestic video formats, thus there are thousands of direct-to-video titles reviewed here that are not covered by other guides. However, guides such as Time Out review experimental and arthouse films that have never been released on video, and these are excluded from VideoHound.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Indy Spirit Project

Indy Spirit Project
This evening, indie director Apichatpong Weerasethakul introduced a selection of his short films at MBK's SF Cinema City, Bangkok, for an event titled Indy Spirit Project. Six films were screened:

Luminous People
(previously shown at Traces Of Siamese Smile)

My Mother's Garden
(animated line-drawings of plants and animals, and close-up images of exotic jewellery)

Windows
(sunlight streaming through a window, producing an abstract strobing effect)

Ghost Of Asia
(previously shown at Apichatpong On Video Works)

Morakot
(previously shown at Tomyam Pladib)

Vampire
(previously shown at Bangkok Bananas)

Several of the films were screened at various events in 2008. Luminous People and Morakot were both shown at the National Film Archive's Save The Film, and Ghost Of Asia and Morakot were both screened at The Jim Thompson Art Center.

Apichatpong explained the inspirations behind each film, and there was a brief Q&A session. As in Syndromes & A Century and Uncle Boonmee, two of this evening's films included tributes to the director's parents: drawings of plants in My Mother's Garden, and a recreation of the scattering of his father's ashes in Luminous People.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Sawasdee Bangkok

Sawasdee Bangkok
Sawasdee Bangkok, an anthology of nine short films inspired by Paris, Je T'Aime, will be broadcast on TPBS television over the next month. The film's premiere at the 2009 Bangkok International Film Festival was an invitation-only event, so the TPBS broadcasts mark Sawasdee Bangkok's first public presentation. Each segment presents a different view of the city, from nine different Thai directors:

มาหานคร
(a travelogue in which two villagers visit the capital to photograph the sights of the city; directed by Bandit Rittakol, broadcast on 19th July)

ทัศนา
(a man describes Bangkok as a mythical paradise, to console a blind woman; directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, broadcast on 20th July)

หลงแต่ไม่ลืม
(an old man sees a young guitarist and remembers his time as a rock singer; directed by Ruethaiwan Wongsirasawasdi, broadcast on 26th July)

Silence
(an obnoxious young woman's car breaks down after she drives home from a nightclub, featuring Nopachai Jayanama from Nymph; directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, broadcast on 27th July)

Bangkok Blues
(a man argues with his ex-girlfriend, and his friend records the ambient sounds of a deserted playground; directed by Aditya Assarat, broadcast on 2nd August)

เสนห์บางกอก
(an ironic guide to the trivialities and daily rituals of life in the city; directed by Prachya Pinkaew, broadcast on 3rd August)

พี่น้อง
(a romantic drama set in a high school, like the same director's Love Of Siam; directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul, broadcast on 9th August)

กรุงเทพที่รัก
(interviews with colourful and diverse economic migrants, like the same director's documentary Crying Tigers; directed by Santi Taepanich, broadcast on 10th August)

ผีมะขาม
(a prostitute's disturbing past is revealed, while her client becomes emotionally attached; directed by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, broadcast on 16th August)

The poster image comes from Wisit's film, in which Bangkok is briefly depicted as a fantastical landscape complete with flying kinnarees. The films are subject to the usual Thai TV restrictions ('offensive' language is muted, and 'objectionable' images are pixelated), which is ironic as Prachya's documentary criticises media censorship.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Barton Fink

Barton Fink
Barton Fink, directed by Joel Coen in collaboration with his brother Ethan, is set in 1940s Hollywood. The title character (played by John Turturro, with a haircut like Eraserhead's Jack Nance) arrives at a dilapidated and seemingly deserted hotel, where he will attempt to write a B-movie script. Steve Buscemi has a cameo as the hotel porter, Chet. Fink is interrupted by his neighbour, Charlie Meadows (played by John Goodman), who gives him a mysterious box; like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, its contents are never revealed, though presumably the ending of Seven would be an apt comparison.

The Coens have cited Roman Polanski's The Tenant and Repulsion as influences, and those films both feature delusional, isolated characters. Kubrick's The Shining was surely also influential, both narratively (writer's block) and stylistically (tracking shots in hotel corridors). Barton Fink's Hotel Earle, which could be interpreted as a symbolic hell, may indeed be as malicious as The Shining's Overlook Hotel. Barton Fink seems loaded with symbolism; as with Shutter Island and Inception, numerous theories and explanations have been expounded, and arguably some of the more melodramatic events exist only in the central character's paranoid imagination.

The film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1991. Several of its leaders actors have also appeared in other Coen brothers films: Turturro and Buscemi in Miller's Crossing; Turturro and Goodman in O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Turturro, Goodman, and Buscemi in The Big Lebowski; Goodman in Raising Arizona; and Buscemi in The Hudsucker Proxy, Paris, Je T'Aime, and the Coens' greatest film, Fargo.

Inception

Inception
Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a character who is haunted by his own dreams while extracting and implanting information within the dreams of others. Coincidentally, as in Shutter Island, DiCaprio's character is tormented by visions of his dead wife. The film is, like eXistenZ, a 'Chinese box' with multiple layers of reality, as the dreamscape becomes deeper.

The narrative is even more sophisticated than Nolan's Memento and The Prestige, and more cerebral than his blockbuster The Dark Knight. The special effects, including zero-gravity fight sequences, were largely performed in-camera, and the film combines complex exposition with intense action scenes. (An IMAX DMR version has also been released.)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Uncle Boonmee
Who Can Recall His Past Lives

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and filmed in 16mm, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. It is currently being screened at SFX Emporium in Bangkok. The film is part of Apichatpong's Primitive installation, which also includes the short films Phantoms Of Nabua and A Letter To Uncle Boonmee.

The central character, Boonmee, is dying of kidney failure, which Apichatpong's father also suffered from: like Syndromes & A Century, the film is partly autobiographical. Boonmee is cared for by his sister (Jen) and his young cousin (Tong), though one evening the ghost of his dead wife materialises at the dining table. A few minutes later, Boonmee's long-lost son returns in the form of an ape-spirit with glowing red eyes.

Boonmee reflects on his life as a former soldier who killed Communist rebels in the 1970s (making it difficult to sympathise with the character), and we are shown some of his previous incarnations: a buffalo which escapes from its owner, and a princess who seduces one of her servants and makes love with a talking catfish. Each of the film's six reels was filmed in a different cinematic style (though all include Apichatpong's characteristic long takes), as a tribute to analogue cinema at a time when digital cameras and projectors are replacing celluloid.

After Boonmee's funeral, Tong becomes a monk, though he misses the comforts of home and comes to Jen's hotel room for a shower. (Tong is played by Sakda Kaewbuadee, who also appeared as a monk in Syndromes & A Century, which was effectively banned in Thailand and finally released only in a censored version.) Finally, Tong and Jen visit a karaoke restaurant, either as an out-of-body experience or in a parallel universe.

As in Tropical Malady, the forest is a dwelling for animistic characters, though in Uncle Boonmee the supernatural elements are more explicit and tangible. They are later contrasted with snapshots of Thai soldiers, illustrating a dream-narration and adding a political dimension to this spiritual, magical-realist film.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Icons Of French Design

Icons Of French Design
Citroen DS1
Juicy Salif
Icons Of French Design is an exhibition of thirty iconic examples of French industrial design. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a stunning yellow Citroen DS1. Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif citrus juicer is also included, though it was commissioned and manufactured by Alessi in Italy.

There is some overlap with TCDC's permanent collection: their original What Is Design? exhibition included a Juicy Salif, and What Is Design? now features a cream DS1. Icons Of French Design opened at BACC on 10th July, and will close on 22nd August.

Toy Story II (3D)

Toy Story II
Toy Story II is generally regarded as one of the few sequels to improve upon the original, and its montage sequence, in which Jessie sings When She Loved Me, is especially popular. Personally, I prefer the groundbreaking first Toy Story film, and I thought Jessie's montage was cloyingly sentimental, but I loved the parody of The Empire Strikes Back with Zurg as Darth Vader.

The film was co-directed by John Lasseter (who directed the original Toy Story), Ash Brannon, and Lee Unkrich (who later directed Toy Story III). It has been rereleased in retrofitted 3D, alongside Toy Story. If you simply want to enjoy the film at the cinema again, the 3D is subtle and unobtrusive; however, there is something exploitative about charging higher ticket prices for negligible 3D.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Toy Story (3D)

Toy Story
Toy Story, Pixar's first feature-length animated film and the world's first computer-generated feature-film, has been rereleased with its sequel, Toy Story II. Both films have been converted into 3D in anticipation of the forthcoming Toy Story III.

As in many of the retrofitted 3D films (such as Alice In Wonderland and Clash Of The Titans), the minimal 3D barely justifies the inflated ticket price. For a fully immersive stereoscopic experience, the film needs to be made with 3D cameras (like Avatar). The bright CGI animation in Toy Story certainly looks great in 3D, but of course it also looks great in 2D (as does Avatar).

The first 3D cycle came in the 1950s, with science-fiction films such as Creature From The Black Lagoon, and even Alfred Hitchcock was cajoled into adopting the format (for Dial M For Murder). However, the gimmick lasted for only a few years, and the current 3D craze, despite heavy promotion from the major studios, could also be merely another fad.

Toy Story in 3D is still a funny, thrilling, and touching film. Children can enjoy the action scenes and toy characters, while their parents can appreciate the movie references: Sid quotes Darth Vader from Star Wars ("Where is the rebel base?"), Sid's carpet is the same as the Overlook Hotel carpet in The Shining, the rolling globe resembles the boulder from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and Woody's head turns a complete circle like Regan's in The Exorcist. My only gripe is that the human characters are animated so unrealistically compared to the toys and backgrounds. John Lasseter, who directed Toy Story, also made Cars and co-directed Toy Story II, and is now an executive at Disney.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

เราเป็นคนไทย

เราเป็นคนไทย
เราเป็นคนไทย is a new song by Petch Osthanagrah, one of several anthems calling (in vain?) for national unity after the recent unrest in Bangkok. The song's video was directed by Wisit Sasanatieng, director of Tears Of The Black Tiger, Citizen Dog, and The Unseeable. The video has none of Wisit's trademark over-saturated colours, seen most recently in his short film Norasinghavatar, though it does feature a panoply of Thai celebrities (including director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, amongst many others).

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Ghost Writer

The Ghost Writer
In Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, Ewan McGregor plays an author hired to ghost-write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang. The ex-PM, played by Pierce Brosnan, is directly inspired by Tony Blair (whose own memoirs will be published this year, under the awful title A Journey). In a parallel with Polanski (who is currently under house-arrest in Switzerland, following his 1977 sexual assault conviction), Lang's travel is restricted to avoid extradition and criminal charges.

The previous ghost-writer died in suspicious circumstances, and McGregor's character investigates a potential conspiracy; it's implied that his paranoia is justified, though there is no explicit corroboration. McGregor's character - selected as a pawn by a femme fatale, in an investigation he cannot control - is superficially similar to another Polanski protagonist, JJ Gites in Chinatown. In The Ghost Writer, however, Chinatown's bleached sunshine is replaced by a less cinematic, permanently overcast atmosphere.

Polanski's greatest films (such as Chinatown, Death & The Maiden, Repulsion, and Rosemary's Baby) are morally ambiguous and psychologically shocking, whereas The Ghost Writer is simply an extremely effective thriller. Like the equally entertaining Shutter Island, and Polanski's The Ninth Gate (and the cliche-ridden Angels & Demons), it's a code-cracking suspense film with a twist ending.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

NETPAC Asian Film Festival

Nang Nak
Nonzee Nimibutr will introduce a screening of his film Nang Nak at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand on 26th August, as the closing event of the NETPAC Asian Film Festival in Bangkok. The Festival opened on 22nd April; the Nang Nak screening was originally scheduled for 24th June, but was postponed due to the unrest in Bangkok earlier this year.

100 Greatest Movies

100 Greatest Movies
Total Film has compiled an alphabetical list of 100 classic films, selected from the 160 films and DVDs which have received a five-star rating. The magazine also compiled top-100 lists in 2005 and 2006, and a list of sixty-seven influential films last year. Total Film's 100 Greatest Movies are as follows:
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Alien
  • All About Eve
  • Amadeus
  • Amelie
  • American Graffiti
  • Annie Hall
  • The Apartment
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Avatar
  • Back To The Future
  • Badlands
  • Bambi
  • The Battle Of Algiers
  • Belle De Jour
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Black Narcissus
  • Blade Runner
  • Blue Velvet
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • Boogie Nights
  • Brazil
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Casablanca
  • Chinatown
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • Citizen Kane
  • City Of God
  • The Conversation
  • The Dark Knight
  • Das Boot
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Die Hard
  • Dirty Harry
  • Donnie Darko
  • Don't Look Now
  • Double Indemnity
  • Dr Strangelove
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • The Exorcist
  • Fargo
  • Fight Club
  • Finding Nemo
  • Gladiator
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • The Godfather
  • Goldfinger
  • Gone With The Wind
  • GoodFellas
  • Half Nelson
  • Halloween
  • Heat
  • His Girl Friday
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Jaws
  • King Kong
  • LA Confidential
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • The Lord Of The Rings I-III
  • M
  • Manhattan
  • Metropolis
  • Miller's Crossing
  • Monty Python's Life Of Brian
  • Nashville
  • Network
  • Night Of The Living Dead
  • No Country For Old Men
  • North By Northwest
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
  • Persona
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Psycho
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Raging Bull
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Rear Window
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Sideways
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Sweet Smell Of Success
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Third Man
  • This Is England
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Tokyo Story
  • Touch Of Evil
  • The Truman Show
  • Vertigo
  • West Side Story
  • When We Were Kings
  • Withnail & I
  • The Wrestler
There are actually 102 films on the list, with The Lord Of The Rings I-III counted as a single entry. Note that Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.