Christmas is almost upon us, and I nearly forgot to mention this year’s Child’s Play drive. For those unfamiliar, it is the gamers’ charity, started by Penny Arcade, which you can support by purchasing toys and videogames requested by participating children’s hospitals. Sadly the remaining items on the list for the UK’s Alder Hey Hospital are now unavailable, but might I suggest New Orleans as an alternative target for your generosity? Contributions so far have demolished the $1 million target, but that’s no reason to slow down.
You will by now have heard that Rage Against The Machine successfully won the close-fought chart battle to take the Christmas #1 spot. While it’s festive nature may be questionable, I must admit the news has left me feeling significantly more Christmassy than the alternative regurgitated ballad that I fear risks inducing narcolepsy and suicidal tendencies in equal measures (note: this is not an attack on Joe, who seems like a perfectly good singer and took defeat rather graciously in the end; it’s just an attack on the insipid song forced upon him). The real victory behind this is that it exposed many consumers to the wealth of legal music download services available beyond iTunes. Particularly since price comparisons were shown, it will have given many their first exposure to the great 7digital amongst others. Hopefully this will not only push people towards these services in general, but also make them savvy to shopping around rather than just lazily buying through iTunes.
And finally a few links gathering dust over the past couple of weeks:
And, of course, have a Merry Christmas. I’ll be working up until Christmas Eve so the holiday will likely take me by surprise. Hopefully not so much of a surprise that the snow prevents me from getting back to Croydon though.
Awards season has snuck up on me this year, so I suddenly find myself adrift with a deluge of big film releases. This post is really a map through the next two months for myself, but since it’ll probably be of use to others, I figured I’d share. The release dates are all for UK general releases, so expect to see some earlier preview screenings and for them generally to arrive sooner in the USA.
Avatar – 17 December 2009
James Cameron’s return after a decade is a massively hyped sci-fi spectacle that promises a journey to another world. As a result I intentionally quashed my expectations but rave reviews suggest this is easily the event movie of the year, not least for its groundbreaking 3D visual effects. Whether it will have a lasting impact only time will tell, but for this year it’s certainly marked its territory.
Nine – 18 December 2009
I’m not exactly known as a musical lover, but Nine will be the first to draw me in for a while. Though I tend to dislike the approach of a plot that merely aims to tie loosely together a series of musical numbers, the strength of the cast alone — with Daniel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard at its core — has won me over (though some fantastic burlesque choreography may have helped).
Sherlock Holmes – 26 December 2009
While not gunning for Oscar glory like the others here, Guy Ritchie’s brawling take on the world’s greatest detective, starring a strangely cast Robert Downey, Jr., finally started to make sense once the trailers emerged. A fun romp through Victorian Britain, and hopefully a return to form for Ritchie (I know some some fans have enjoyed his work in the interim) it is also perhaps more faithful than some realise.
The Road – 4 January 2010
A harrowing post-apocalyptic tale that portrays a broken civilisation in which humanity is left fractured and without morality. Against this backdrop a father travels with his son and tries to instill the strength of self-preservation and the value of humanity in him.
Up In The Air – 15 January 2010
Based upon their follow-up offerings, it seems director Jason Reitman was the more talented one behind Juno as his latest with George Clooney has caused a fair stir, not least for its timely story of a constantly travelling corporate downsizer. Meanwhile writer Diablo Cody penned the universally panned Jennifer’s Body, which failed abysmally despite having Megan Fox’s body in the titular role.
Brothers – 22 January 2010
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire may not sound like obvious names for this emotionally raw story of a soldier’s return and inability to reconnect with his family, but the performances look incredibly powerful with Natalie Portman rounding out the cast. With her husband presumed dead, she turns to his brother for help.
The Lovely Bones – 29 January 2010
Peter Jackson’s latest film will seem more familiar to those who knew him before The Lord of the Rings. The film is based on the novel about a teenage girl who was brutally murdered and now watches her family cope in the aftermath, while also coming to terms with her own death.
Precious – 29 January 2010
This is an unrelentingly bleak tale of an obese, illiterate and abused teenage black girl in 1980’s Harlem. It is the only film in this list I am not certain I will attempt to see, depending on my mood at the time, since this is clearly not entertaining viewing. Mo’Nique’s highly praised performance certainly has my interest. It’s based on the novel Push, the name allegedly being changed due to concerns over confusion with the action-thriller of the same name last year (which now seems a non-issue since no one remembers it anyway).
Edge of Darkness – 29 January 2010
For those not yet entirely alienated by Mel Gibson’s public behaviour, he plays a homicide detective seeking answers and revenge after the death of his activist daughter. More importantly, it’s directed by Martin Campbell, the best Bond director of recent years who helmed both Casino Royale and GoldenEye.
Crazy Heart – 19 February 2010
Those that have seen The Wrestler will feel a certain sense of déjà vu in watching the trailer for this film, which follows a similar story of a washed up professional, in this case a country singer instead of a wrestler, and with Jeff Bridges in the lead instead of Mickey Rourke. Once again, a powerhouse character study from the lead is what carries and dominates the film.
When I first came across the facebook group trying to subvert the pre-determined X Factor Christmas #1, I will openly admit I thought they had no chance of even making a dent, let alone headlines. It turns out that I was wrong. Their push for Rage Against the Machine’s Killing In The Name hit BBC News after pulling ahead of this Joe chap from the show in digital downloads. I still suspect their efforts may be in vain as the physical version of Joe’s single is only released today and will undoubtedly cause a spike in sales.
Simon Cowell’s (unsurprisingly) massively egotistical response labelled it “cynical” and “stupid” and he then proceeded to explain it was all about him. Sorry Simon, it’s not. It’s a retaliation against the whole commercialised package that uses an entire TV show as a glorified advertising campaign to buy/”fix” the Christmas #1 in much the same way as these chaps are attempting. Whatever Simon may argue, both are equally “cynical” and “stupid” if it’s supposed to be about music. People are welcome to buy the X Factor single and if another bunch wish to express their views with their wallets in an alternative direction, surely that’s exactly the sort of audience participation Simon usually endorses…
The great irony is, of course, that Sony BMG wins doubly out of any competition since both songs are released under their label. The strongest argument against the campaign is that they’ve rallied around an old song (albeit one I rather like) rather than something new which they feel isn’t being given a fair chance against the X Factor machine. But what better than Rage in an attempt to take on the system? It’s no wonder Tom Morello approves. All I can say is I certainly know which song I’d prefer you buy. Call it my Christmas present. It would certainly be a moment to be remembered in music chart history.
The site has been somewhat neglected in the last couple of months largely because work has been rather hectic in the buzzing litigation dispute resolution department. It’s been fun, but exhausting enough that I’ve been doing little else of particular note (and confidentiality means I can’t write about the work here either). I did recently end up taking a last minute day’s holiday for sanity maintenance, after realising I hadn’t had a day off since June. Hopefully now, with an additional trainee back from secondment, things will settle down slightly going into the new year.
Did you know that BAFTA has its own private cinema hidden away in the heart of Piccadilly? It lies behind a relatively inconspicuous door with BAFTA written above. The inside is decorated with giant sculptures of the organisation’s distinctive gold face, and features a bar and restaurant as well as the excellent cinema which is a good size and has one of the nicest screens I’ve seen in London.
Sarah and I found ourselves there last night at a preview screening of Where The Wild Things Are, courtesy of LOVEFILM. Spike Jonze has achieved something remarkable in his pitch perfect recreation of the tone of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book. The book itself is something of an enigma, in this country at least, being either adored or entirely unknown depending on to whom you speak.
The Wild Things are a perfect way to explore different parts of Max’s psyche and the loving attention to detail is evident from their furry costuming to their humanised expressions. Casting voice talent must have been a strange process, but they all blend in well. Being a Sopranos fan I did find James Gandolfini’s distinctive voice as Carol slightly distracting, though he was great choice for the role. The mood is greatly enhanced by the low key but subtly infectious score by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, which I heard several people humming or whistling as we left. The film necessarily expands significantly upon the book but in returning to a childhood classic it’s the tone and the sense of wonder that really count, and Jonze nails both. I previously Jonze’s mentioned his documentary on the author, and I’m now even more curious to see it.
It’s particularly nice to have a children’s film designed simply to allow them to explore psychological ideas rather than feeling the need to signpost and spell out every message explicitly. Also, child actor Max Records has one of the coolest names ever.