Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Scene 12: The Pirates! in an Adventure with Film

I've just been to see the new Aardman film Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists (or Pirates! Band of Misfits if you're in America), and without giving anything way, I have to say it was really good. 

I really like stop-animation films, there is something about stop-animation, the way the characters move, their facial expressions that's so just charming. 

This film in particular was very sweet. It had the traditional underdog betrays friends over fame plot, but it was done well. It also had an amazing voice cast from Hugh Grant, David Tennant and Martin Freeman with appearances from Lenny Henry and by the looks of the end credits, a cameo from  Mr Peter Lord of Aardman himself! 

The film isn't as laugh out loud funny as I expected, and plot is a familiar one, though that ironically enough, is to be expected - after all you can't have a miserable ending in a feel good film can you? 

However, that doesn't really matter because the message is still just as important and  because the film is still a fun ride, with a cast of characters I enjoyed watching. 

The film also, in my opinion, has a warmth and sweetness to  it - the crew are sort of genuine and  slightly innocence characters, especially in the case of the Albino Pirate, and have an unfailing loyalty to the Captain. The scene where they sit waiting for the Pirate Captain on Ham Night reminded me of a family waiting for a missing member before they could eat - and in many ways the ship's crew is one big supportive family, and that really endured them to me. 

Meanwhile, animation itself is incredible, the sets are vast and atmospheric, and full of detail. The CGI sea doesn't take away from the animation either, but blends in naturally, and I think, looks better than perhaps stop-motion water would have done. As usual there are lots of little quirks in the animation to look out for, and I'll probably have to see it again to appreciate and spot them all!

In short, if you want something full of fun and warmth that will cheer you up, or you just want to see a panoramic, beautiful piece of stop-motion animation, this is the film!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Scene 11: The Music Lover, Ken Russell

Yesterday I was writing a post on my other blog A Lady of Literature, about the famous night when Byron challenged his guests to write a ghost story, when I was reminded that several films had been done about the event - including Gothic (1986), by the late director and writer Ken Russell. 

[Warning some trailers may include scenes of nudity and in the case of Gothic, above, fantasy horror.]

I surprisingly know quite a bit about Ken Russell, despite having only seen one of his films, the beautifully shot, The Rainbow (1989). 

I learnt alot about him from a cinematographer friend of mine, and then later through watching a BBC documentary, Ken Russell: A Bit of a Devil

Ken Russell began his film career  the culture programme Monitor at the BBC back in the early sixties, shooting short documentary films about musicans and poets, where he broke new ground and achieved recognition with his film on musican Edward Elgar. 

Russell was a great lover of music, particularly classical, and music plays a big part in many of his films, much as Mahler (1974), Lisztomania (1975) and Tommy (1975).

However he was also controversial for his nudity, sexual references. In particular his film The Devils (1971) was given an X-rating in Britain, and has only recently that film has been released on DVD by the BFI.  

Russell's most well-known film though is the Oscar-nominated Women in Love (1969), based on the DH Lawrence novel, with the famous scene of Oliver Reed and Alan Bates fighting nude infront of a fire-place. 

He also directed a tribute to the 1920's and musicals called The Boyfriend (1971) starring the model Twiggy, and a music video for Elton John. 

Sadly Ken Russell died last November, just when he had started pre-production on a new musical version of Alice in Wonderland. 

Obviously Ken Russell will not be for everyone, but nonetheless he has made a lasting impact on British film and I look forward to watching more of his movies.

For more on Ken Russell check out the BBC documentary or a rather excellent  short introduction to his films called On Ken Russell.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Scene 10: The Man with a Cigar

So, a new film about Alfred Hitchcock has started filming. It's going to be about the production of Psycho and is starring Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. There is a photo of him in make-up, juxtaposed against one of the real Hitchcock in a Yahoo! Movies article:

I have seen two  Hitchcock films - Spellbound (1945) with Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck  and Rebecca (1940) with Laurence Olivier. 

But it is only until recently that I have learnt about how Hitchcock used his own obsessions in his films. Two that often appeared  were the inclusion of cold blonde women who are end up being treated badly and guilt in some form. 

Certainly Spellbound has these characteristics. Ingrid Bergman is an excellent psychiatrist who believes that love is merely biology, and therefore cold. She is hassled at the beginning of the film by her colleague about her lack of emotion and want of love. He says things that nowadays would be considered inappropriate and even kisses her, though is obviously not interested in him. This in my eyes is her 'bad treatment' - this teasing by her colleagues undermines the fact she is a good psychiatrist, because she is shown as cold, serious and  unloving; that she is somehow missing something - the feminists would surely have a field day! 

Meanwhile guilt not only appears in Spellbound, but is a major part of the story. The whole film revolves around the idea of guilt complexes.

It was a good film, but I do wish the character of Dr Petersen had been treated more seriously and given a bit more respect. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Scene 8: Shot on the Canon Ligria HF R206

Today I've been playing with my new camera, a Canon Ligria HF R206. It was bought for me so I could shoot a commericial DVD for a family member - as I hadn't got round to finding a camera myself - and I've decided  to buy it from my family and do other projects with it after I've finished the DVD, as it seems to be an excellent camcorder. 

So far I've just done a test run in AUTO mode, but the camera also has a flexible recording mode where you can use white balance, manual focus and tele-macro, among other options. All options I wanted, as I have used semi-pro before and want to learn how to control the image more manually. It also has an LCD touchscreen and comes with a stylus, which is handy as I'm not used to touchscreens - I find scrolling particularly tricky. It takes HD footage, of course, and I am very happy with the quailty of the footage I've shot so far. 

I've managed to upload some footage I took this morning. So far I've found that because I have a MacBook the only way I can get my files onto the computer is through importing them through iMovie. 

Now personally, I prefer Final Cut Pro (FCP) to iMovie, or rather I prefer Final Cut Express (FCE) as that is what I have on my MacBook, so I have found a way of exporting the footage I took this morning and put into FCE so I can use it in there.

I was going to upload a short reel of the footage but I am having problems uploading it to my blog. Once I've figured out how to fix that I shall put it up.