Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Radio Times Guide To Films 2015

Radio Times Guide To Films 2015
The Radio Times Guide To Films 2015, edited by Sue Robinson, will soon become the last remaining comprehensive annual film guide. Printed reference books such as this are an endangered species, as publishers react to the migration of information online. (Several dictionary and encyclopedia publishers have already announced that they will no longer be releasing printed versions of their flagship titles.)

Halliwell's Film Guide, for many years the standard UK film guide, died an undignified death with its The Movies That Matter edition in 2008. Its rivals, including the Virgin Film Guide (which featured longer reviews) and Elliot's Guide To Films On Video, were much more short-lived. The Time Out Film Guide (more opinionated and less mainstream) was cancelled in 2012. In America, Leonard Maltin's annual guide was split into separate Classic and Modern editions, and will no longer be printed at all after this year. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever is still published annually, though it cuts more entries each year and is limited to films released on video.

Radio Times film reviews are all available online for free (as are Time Out's), so it's surprising that their annual Film Guide remains a viable proposition. The cover illustration - the poster for Jaws - perhaps indicates (like the Fistful Of Dollars cover from last year) that the book is aimed at an older demographic which has not yet switched over to online sources such as the IMDb.

There are precisely 23,099 entries in the new edition, including 547 new films; last year's edition contained 23,068 entries, thus there have been almost as many deletions as additions. In a spurious attempt to appear as up-to-date as possible, the Film Guide includes previews of forthcoming films, which are then rewritten as reviews in the following year's edition. This year, there are eighty-seven previews, which presumably will be converted into reviews for the 2016 edition.

The new reviews this year include Noah ("an impressive spectacle"), The Hobbit II ("dramatic tension comes in fits and starts"), and The Wind Rises ("older viewers and fans will be enchanted by this modest entry in Miyazaki's canon"). Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street receives a five-star review ("an exhilarating story of decadence and debauchery", as does Gravity ("breathtaking").

The Radio Times Film Guide had a little-known predecessor: the Radio Times Film & Video Guide, written by Derek Winnert and published in 1993 and 1994. It was pulped, and Winnert was dismissed as Radio Times film editor, after a plagiarism lawsuit from the publishers of Halliwell's.

Friday, 26 September 2014

12th World Film Festival of Bangkok

12th World Film Festival of Bangkok
Metropolis
Metropolis
Pierrot Le Fou
The 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok opens next month. One of this year's highlights will be Fritz Lang's masterpiece Metropolis, restored with almost thirty minutes of additional footage from a 16mm Brazilian print, screening on 23rd and 25th October. (Metropolis was previously shown at the inaugural World Film Festival in 2003.) This year's Festival also includes Pierrot Le Fou, one of Jean-Luc Godard's early French New Wave films, showing on 21st and 26th October (previously screened as part of The Godard Week in 2010).

The Festival begins on 17th October, and runs until 26th October. Like the 11th Festival, it will be held at the SF World cinema, CentralWorld. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th Festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.) The Festival is organised by Kriengsak Silakong, who I interviewed for Encounter Thailand.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Turning Point 1997-2008

Turning Point 1997-2008
Hayao Miyazaki's autobiographical Turning Point 1997-2008 is a collection of articles and interviews related to his films Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo. It's a translation of the Japanese 折り返し点 1997-2008, and a sequel to Miyazaki's first anthology, Starting Point 1979-1996. Miyazaki himself was surprisingly reluctant to publish it: "A book that has collected the likes of talks I have given here and there, or what I was obliged to say, or what I wrote because I was asked to write something seems to me to reveal evidence of my shame. So, frankly, I'm not too happy about it."

The book provides useful access to material previously available only in Japan. Fortunately, the chapters on Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki's first international success) and Spirited Away (his masterpiece) are the most extensive, with in-depth interviews and production notes. The Howl's Moving Castle chapter, however, has only a tangential connection to the film, and the final chapter includes only two short articles on Ponyo. It's odd that Turning Point was published some six years after the Japanese edition, and that it contains no new material on Ponyo or Miyazaki's final film, The Wind Rises. (One of the book's translators, Frederik L Schodt, wrote Manga! Manga!: The World Of Japanese Comics.)

Friday, 12 September 2014

Basic Mathematics

Basic Mathematics
Member 247
A textbook has been withdrawn from colleges in Thailand after a student pointed out that one of its photographs was taken from a Japanese porn website. The book, Basic Mathematics, features a cover photo of Mana Aoki posing as a teacher. The image was taken from a publicity still for the 'adult' film Costume Play Working Girl, available on the Member 247 website.

The photo was edited for the textbook cover: the Japanese text on Aoki's binder was replaced with the word "Mathematics", and the original classroom background was replaced with mathematical charts. The Vocational Education Commission, which distributed 3,000 copies of the book, admitted that the cover illustrations were randomly chosen from an internet image search, with an apparent disregard for copyright and suitability.

There have been previous textbook controversies in other countries, related to religious imagery rather than porn stars. A French textbook was censored in 2009, as it included a medieval illustration of Mohammed. There were protests in India in 2011, after a cartoon featuring Mohammed was included in a school textbook.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Making Of Gone With The Wind

The Making Of Gone With The Wind
Gone With The Wind, "the quintessential film of Hollywood's Golden Age", had three directors (Victor Fleming, George Cukor, and Sam Wood, with only Fleming receiving credit), though producer David O Selznick was the film's main auteur. The Making Of Gone With The Wind, by Steve Wilson, contains more than 600 items from the Selznick archive at the Harry Ransom Center in Texas, to accompany an exhibition which opened yesterday at the University of Texas.

The book includes correspondence from Selznick (with transcriptions of each document in a fifty-page appendix), concept artwork (including stunning drawings by production designer William Cameron Menzies), and on-set photographs. The material is presented chronologically, and the large (often full-page) photos are reproduced with surprising clarity considering they're seventy-five years old.

Selznick sought to adapt novels as faithfully as possible, a process he called 'pictorialization'; this literary approach, and his endless memos, led to creative tensions with his directors. (Thomas Schatz's book The Genius Of The System and the documentary Hitchcock, Selznick, & The End Of Hollywood discuss this further.) Alfred Hitchcock made Rebecca, Spellbound, The Paradine Case, and Notorious while under contract to Selznick; the villain of Rear Window resembles Selznick, and in North By Northwest, Roger O Thornhill's middle initial stands for "Nothing" in a reference to Selznick's similar affectation.

David Thomson (author of Moments That Made The Movies, The Big Screen, Have You Seen...?, The Moment Of Psycho, and A Biographical Dictionary Of Film) wrote the TV documentary Gone With The Wind: The Making Of A Legend, which was broadcast on the launch night of TNT, 3rd October 1988. The 70th and 75th anniversary Gone With The Wind DVD/blu-ray releases include a slim book featuring Selznick archive material, and reproductions of Selznick's memos.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Photography Will Be

これからの写真
おれと
おれと
An exhibition at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art has been censored by police in Japan. Photography Will Be includes photographs by Ryudai Takano depicting himself and various male models posing nude. The photos were initially exhibited uncensored, despite Japanese obscenity laws prohibiting frontal nudity, though some visitors complained to the police.

On 13th August, instead of removing the twelve photographs (from a series titled おれと), the Museum draped translucent white sheets over them to partially obscure the nudity. Of course, this has also drawn attention to the censorship. The exhibition opened on 1st August, and runs until 28th September.