May 11 2009

EIFF June 17-28! SCREEN July 3-5!

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This site publishes reports and videos from Tennessee Consortium for International Studies student blogs produced while studying film and media at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Screen Studies Conference in Glasgow.

Each student reports via a personal blog and those feeds along with feeds from student videos on YouTube will be republished here for easy access and archiving.

Stay tuned . . . . .

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Apr 24 2009

Starting Today!

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This is the second trip of TnCIS students and faculty to the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Screen Studies Conference in Glasgow.

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Jul 16 2008

UK Shorts, 94 minutes

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 UK Shorts, 94 minutes.

 

This was a collection of live action short films, all from the United Kingdom. In order of appearance:

 

One In Four, directed by Matti Harju, was a film about a man who’s trying to come to grips with the suicide of someone else. He’s offered a leave of absence, to give him time to recover, and deal with what’s happened. I didn’t really like this film. You’re never told that a suicide has occurred, or how the main character was involved with it. It was filmed in black and white, and some of the shots were lovely. The story was just never explained.

One tree out of 5

 

Dead Dog, directed by Edward Jeffreys, was about a man who gets up one morning and his dog has gone missing. He calls his girlfriend to come help him find it, and they end up a neighbor’s house. This was an ok film. The countryside where this was shot was lovely, but the film itself was a bit too short. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, and the audience never sees the dog. 

One tree and a bush out of 5

 

K, directed by Piers Thompson, involved a teenaged girl named Kaylee. She lives in a trailer park with her Dad. During the course of the story, Kaylee meets a man who causes her to change the way she wants to live. I didn’t care too much for this one at all. The first scene of the movie, we’re introduced to Kaylee as she’s trying to leave her trailer. The front door is locked, and the only way she can exit is through the window in her father’s bedroom. Later, she sees her father and a woman having sex. Kaylee meets the stranger, in a house that has become ruins. Further into the film, the man begins to rape Kaylee, who in turn becomes accepting of this. Then, he disappears, and she leaves home for good.

One tree out of 5

 

Wish, directed by Matt Day, was the story of two teenage girls who’ve invited over a couple of guys to hang out for the evening. This was a contemporary story, with a bit of a twisted ending. The film is 7minutes 48seconds long, but that was all the time needed. The girls get all dressed up, and the boys are typical teenage boys. When the girls ask if they want to play a game, the story takes a turn. This film was based on actual events. I won’t say I enjoyed this film (due to the subject matter), but it was a pretty good one.

Three trees out of 5

 

Son, directed by Daniel Mulloy, told the story of a young boy involved in an underground theater group. As the evening progresses, the tone gets a tad more sinister. I didn’t care for this film as a whole, but elements of it appealed to me. The way a couple of scenes were shot, with the boy and his mother trying to stay in lit areas, made me feel frantic and confused (just like them). There was very good use of sound in this picture as well. 

Two trees and a bush out of 5

 

Slapper, directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor, was the most polished looking of this whole set. It’s the story of a boy who’s convinced his Dad is the new sensation of the fight matches he likes to watch. Told in both present tense, and flashback sequences, this is definitely about the boy. Two years prior to the current events, the boy’s father leaves him and his mother, because he wants a better life for them. We, as an audience, see the father get into a drunken fight. Back to present day and the boy is watching a fight match at a local pub, with all the other fans. The newcomer fighter removes his mask, and the bar erupts in cheers as the boy’s father’s face is shown. Then, the boy wakes up the next morning. Flashing back again, we see the father’s body, as the mother has to identify it for the police. I liked this one quite a bit, because the fights are not what you think they’re going to be, and the characters were well developed. 

Four trees out of 5

 

First, directed by Tinge Krishnan, was a tad confusing and hard to follow. It’s the story of a teenage girl named Sophie, and her friend Danko. In Sophie’s mind, she plays the piano like Mozart. In real life, she’s not that great of a pianist. Danko encourages her playing, even when they are escorted out of an audition for a prestigious music school. I believe that Sophie was slightly autistic, judging from the way she spoke and reacted to things. I didn’t really like this one.

One tree out of 5

 

Compared to the other short films I’ve seen in this festival, this set was not very good. In fact, I was highly disappointed throughout the viewing. I’m glad that we watched some other films after this to end my festival experience.

Authored by fry4pstcc. Hosted by Edublogs.

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Jul 16 2008

International Animation I, 72 minutes

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International Animation I, 72 minutes

 

A collection of shorts from countries around the world. In order of appearance:

 

Le Grand Content, directed by Clemens Kogler and Karo Szmit is from Austria. This film was a collection of graphs and charts explaining how things are tied together. Logical and nonsensical items are combined to show both the relevance and irrelevance to our daily lives. At four minutes in length, this was a cute little item. 

 Three trees out of 5

 

The Mousetrap (Gee-dut), directed by Woon Han is from South Korea. Not realizing that this was from South Korea, I thought it was from Japan. This was because the look of the animation reminded me of Vampire Hunter D. The opening shot is of a train yard, with lots of mousetraps. Then, the scene switches to a subway car. All the people are mice, going to work, or shopping, etc. A moth-like creature comes into the car, and the mice try to avoid it. As it gets close to a young boy’s cat, the cat leaps into the air to catch it, and collides with a mouse that’s sweating profusely. Upon collision, the mouse explodes (literally), and his ribcage wreaks havoc with the rest of the car. The look was really cool, but I didn’t particularly care for the film as a whole. 

Three trees out of 5

 

Bendito Machine, directed by Jossie Malis is from Spain. It’s the story about two primitive villages, and the religions they worship. One village is destroyed by the other, and a new system of religion comes into being. The new religion leads the village to become corrupt, and causes destruction from which no-one recovers. I didn’t like this one very much. 

One tree and a bush out of 5

 

Madame Tutli-Putli, directed by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski is from Canada. The story of a woman, who gets on a train, and during her voyage, suddenly finds herself completely alone. While the story left me a bit confused about the woman and what’s going on (there’s no dialogue), I enjoyed the look of this piece very much.  Towards the end of the movie, she’s running down the cars in the train, and the “camera” moves just like a live action film. You get her sense of panic and frustration, and that she’s very afraid. I liked this one. 

Four trees out of 5

 

Lullaby (Kolibelnaya), directed by Andrey Zolotukhin is from the Russian Federation. There was no dialogue in this piece either. The look was very cool, with moving images in the style of old film reels. It was grainy, and shot in black and white. I didn’t feel there was a linear storyline, and couldn’t quite understand the action. I didn’t like this very much. 

Two trees out of 5

 

The Cable Car (Die Seilbahn), directed by Claudius Gentinetta and Frank Braun was from Switzerland. The animation in this piece was awful. The only part of the background that moved was a waterfall, and it looked like a child’s drawing. The cable car itself appeared to be CGI. The man in the piece is riding the cable car somewhere in the mountains. After taking a pinch of snuff, he sneezes, and subsequently, every time he does, the cable car falls apart more and more. I wasn’t too impressed with this film. 

One tree out of 5

 

The Crumblegiant, directed by John McCloskey was from the UK. The description of this movie says, “An old woman remembers a childhood episode and joins this world of memory. Meanwhile the outside world goes on—oblivious” (The Edinburgh International Film Festival Catalogue). I didn’t get that out of what I saw at all. The animation was beautiful, with stark images of crows in trees, and fields of dandelions. But the story didn’t really make sense. A girl named Emily gets help fighting off crows with the help of the Crumblegiant (which is never seen). Then, one day, the Crumblegiant is no longer around. Emily eventually grows up, and then somehow doesn’t exist. I didn’t really enjoy this one. 

 Two trees out of 5

 

 

Wolfie the Pianist, directed by Toshiki Iwahori and Yasuyuki Shimuzu was from Japan. I was reminded of Japanimations I saw on TV growing up. Wolfie had big round eyes, and the sheep and squirrels had button eyes and the big round mouths that are typical of that style. If you’ve ever seen “Sailor Moon”, you know the style of which I speak. This wasn’t the best animation I’ve seen, but it was a good contribution to this category. 

Four trees out of 5

Authored by fry4pstcc. Hosted by Edublogs.

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Jul 02 2008

The Russians are coming! Bigga Than Ben: A Russians’ Guide to Ripping Off London, directed by S. A. Halewood, 85 minutes

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A UK production based on the journals of Pavel Teterskky and Sergie Sakin about two Russian “pieces of scum” that dodge the military draft by immigrating to London. They arrive with little money, which they soon spend, and then set out to rip off London and become rich. They meet a guy named Arkash (Ovidiu Matesan) who shows them how to rob supermarkets, and cook up heroin. Cobakka (the fictional representation of Pavel; Ben Barnes) chooses to live a somewhat more conventional existence (getting a legitimate job, staying clean from drugs, and paying bills).  Spiker (the other fictional representation; Andrei Chakov) attempts to work, and then becomes a junkie after finding out his girlfriend back in Russia is cheating on him.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. There were bits of animation throughout the movie, with a particularly funny piece showing items in a grocery store being put in a person’s pocket. Another one has a monopoly board displaying the different places in London to go to get different drugs.

                                                  

Barnes gives an excellent performance here. Having seen him in Stardust and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, it was nice to watch him in a modern role. Chakov (who is already well known in his native Russia) is an actor I’m not familiar with, but he gave a fine performance as well. The two friends struggle together and individually in their quest to get the money. Watching the one attempt to do “right” (while doing “bad”) was just as stirring as watching the one who falls apart.

 

At only 85 minutes in length, the film never drags. You don’t realize you’ve sat there that long at all. If Bigga Than Ben gets a wide theatrical release, it’s worth a look.

 

Four trees out of 5

 

Authored by fry4pstcc. Hosted by Edublogs.

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Jul 02 2008

Murder on the Transsiberian Express. Transsiberian, directed by Brad Anderson, 111 minutes

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A film about an American couple Roy and Jessie (Woody Harrrelson and Emily Mortimer) on their way back to the U.S. from China, via the Transsiberian railway. They meet a couple on the train who have been traveling all over. The girl, Abby (Kate Mara), is a young woman from America. Her boyfriend Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) is from Spain. During the course of the trip, Roy ends up missing and then returns, Jessie and Carlos take a side-trip with life altering consequences, and a run-in with the Russian police creates more problems.

 

I wasn’t a big fan of this movie. The scenery from the train was nice, with some spectacular aerials of the train moving through snow covered landscapes, but on a whole, I probably could’ve told you what would happen, and how the movie would end. This was a classic Hollywood narrative film, with a slight twist, but the predictable formulaic conclusion.

 

One tree and a bush out of 5

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Jul 02 2008

Let’s hear it for the Vikings!!! Faintheart, directed by Vitto Rocco, 90 minutes

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Richard (Eddie Marsan) is a sales assistant in his day job, but a Viking warrior on the weekends. Cath (Jessica Hynes) is Richard’s wife, and is fed up with him not taking responsibility in his career and being a grown up. After Cath kicks him out of the house, Richard and his buddies attempt to formulate a plan to get her back.

 

This movie rocked! It was put together through an initiative of MySpace, Vertigo Films and Film4 called MyMovieMashUp. MyMovieMashUp gave UK MySpace users the chance to be involved every step of the way in this production. Over 800 shorts were uploaded in the search for a director. Key scenes from the script were posted, and users were able to suggest ideas and contribute dialogue. Over 1400 MySpacers auditioned via web cab or video for eight lead and supporting roles, and each role had MySpace profiles where a scene from the script or instructions for an improvisation were available. The production notes that were handed out at the screening are full of more information.

 

There’s a scene in the movie very reminiscent of the car sing along of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Wayne’s World. The characters are all working class, and you can relate to them with ease. Richard’s struggles to win back his wife feel very real, and heartfelt. Their son Martin (Joseph Hamilton) struggles with bullies at school due to the reenactments, and tries to get out of them without hurting his dad’s feelings.

 

Richard stays with his best friend Julian (Trainspotting’s Ewan Bremner), a trekkie who works in a comic shop. Julian has his own woman problems; he doesn’t have one, and can’t seem to find one that knows enough about Star Trek for him to be interested. Julian happens to live at home with his mother. This makes for some funny conversations regarding women and relationships.

 

Fans of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz will like this film, because it has the same feel to it as those. Hopefully Faintheart will be shown in theaters in the States, because the audience is there. Go see this if you get the chance.

 

Five trees out of 5

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Jul 02 2008

Dullsville. Portrait of Jason, directed by Shirley Clarke, 105 minutes

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Part of a retrospective on Shirley Clarke, this is a documentary about an African-American gay male prostitute in the 1960s. Shot over twelve hours, and then whittled down to just under two hours, Jason talks about his sexual exploits, various jobs he’s had, and impersonations of Mae West and Barbara Streisand.

 

I did not enjoy this viewing experience. One, I was exhausted after such a long day. Two, it just wasn’t all that great. Jason was a ham for the first half of this film. He talked about some of the rich women for whom he’d been a house boy, and how he didn’t really know how to clean or keep house at all.

 

Jason spent some time in Riker’s Island, and he talked about how he (essentially) ripped some people off over money for a nightclub act that had never come to fruition. At the time of the interview, he was seeing a shrink or two, and intoxicated and lounging, told about some of the questions they asked him (i.e.-about his sex life, and his body). He’d been sent to Bellevue and slit his wrists while there.

 

Further on into the interview he spoke about his parents. His father was abusive, and his mother was good to him, but not very loving. Towards the end of the interview, after drinking quite a bit, and smoking both cigarettes and pot, Jason isn’t as lucid as he had been. In fact, Shirley Clarke and her collaborator Carl Lee began to berate him, and cut him down. This was the most real he was during the entire film. His emotions and reactions for the last half hour was the best part of the movie.

 

One tree out of 5

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Jul 02 2008

A look at Earth in the future? Wall.e, directed by Andrew Stanton, 90 minutes

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Wall.e is a robot assigned to clean up the trash on Earth. Having been alone for 700 years, he has a friend who’s a cockroach, and has made a nice little home for himself in his containment unit. He collects things he finds, and watches the movie version of Hello, Dolly for the human interaction. During one of his routine days, a ship drops down Eve, a sleek robot who blasts anything that she doesn’t recognize. Her directive is to find sustainable life on Earth. Upon doing this, Eve (and Wall.e) travel back to her ship to deliver the news.

 

This is such a cute film. I’ve been anticipating it for a while, and it is so worth the wait. Wall.e has developed a personality, and when Eve arrives, he attempts to show her what Earth is like. He wants a companion.

 

When Wall.e and Eve go back to the ship from which she left, we as an audience see humans for the first time. This is when we see how much into the future this film occurs. This is also when the dialogue of the movie begins. Wall.e and Eve do talk some, but it’s the electronic sounds that computers make. The sounds of the various robots in the film are created by Ben Burtt, who is known for ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, and R2D2 from the Star Wars trilogy.

 

The humans have all become complacent and lazy, with none of them having any knowledge of Earth. Everything is automated, even down to the delivery of the food that they eat. In one scene, a man falls out of his mobile transportation unit, and he can’t even get himself up.

 

I know that Wall.e is opening in the U.S. this week, but it doesn’t come out in the UK until next month. Pixar has created another hit. Go see this.

 

Five trees out of 5

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Jun 30 2008

Magician’s last stand. Death Defying Acts, directed by Gillian Armstrong, 97 minutes

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A biopic about famed magician Harry Houdini is set in 1920s Edinburgh. Houdini (Guy Pearce) comes to Edinburgh for two reasons. The first is for a performance, and the second is a $10,000 contest to find a genuine psychic. While in Scotland, he meets Benji (Saoirse Ronan), a “psychic’s sidekick”, and her mother Mary (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the psychic. Actually, Mary and Benji are con artists, in desperate need of the $10,000. The three characters form a bond, and the film follows them around Edinburgh, as Mary and Benji show Houdini what life is like outside the posh hotel he’s staying in.

 

This was a great film, and I’m looking forward to its theatrical release. Gillian Armstrong is a wonderful director with such credits as My Brilliant Career and Oscar and Lucinda. The casting was spot on, with Pearce giving such a strong performance as the famous American magician. Zeta-Jones is beautiful as always, and this role is a chance to show what a great actor she is. Ronan has a very promising career ahead of her.

 

The sets and costumes lend to the wonderful visuals of this movie. The cinematography is really good, too. I never got tired of looking at the screen. Zeta-Jones has some beautiful fabrics to wear throughout the whole picture. The hotel Houdini stays in has beautiful carpets and bedding, with huge, modern (for the times) bathrooms. A particularly striking scene occurs when Benji accidentally falls into Houdini’s stage water tank. She has a vision of a fiery haired angel. The white of the angel’s robes and wings is so bright, and the orange-red of his hair looks so brilliant. This was such a strong image.

 

I highly recommend this film, and I heard one of my instructors say it’s the best biopic of Houdini he’s ever seen. You should see it when it comes out.

 

Five trees out of 5

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