Don’t Cry For Me, I’m Already Dead: On the Negligible Impact of The Simpsons Movie

The_Simpsons_Movie_107

This piece was originally published on the 15th of August 2014 by The 405. The version I’m publishing here has been brushed up slightly, particularly the messy first paragraph. Honestly, though, given the chance (and the money – ha!), I’d probably rewrite the whole thing. It’s not that I don’t stand by the crux of my argument, because I broadly do (albeit with some caveats), it’s just that the writing is a bit naff. I mentioned this in a previous annotation, but when I  wrote this piece I was of the opinion that Film Crit Hulk was just about the best writer around, and his style informed my writing in all the wrong ways. It’s flowery and overly earnest when it shouldn’t be, broad and superfluous when it needed to be incisive, and structurally unsound (I mean, that ending, fucking hell – at least I got a Simpsons reference out of my inability to finish a piece properly). In my defence, though, I was an impressionable idiot nineteen year-old at the time. Because of this pervasive naffness, I was considering not republishing this piece (as I have with a few other pieces). But I’m probably being a wee bit hard on myself, as there’s still some good stuff buried in there, somewhere. And, if anything it serves as an example of how my writing has changed over the years.

Once in a great while, we are privileged to experience a movie event so extraordinary that it becomes a part of our shared heritage. The Simpsons Movie was supposed to be one of them. Though it can sometimes seem as if the film exists only as a dumb pig joke these days, its release in July 2007 felt like cultural supernova to a certain generation (some ghastly amalgam of Gen X and Millennials), engulfing the world in an incomparable fervour. It was our Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie: not just an event, but the event, the defining moment of a generation, like the moon landing or something. It was, well, it was everything I suppose.

Continue reading “Don’t Cry For Me, I’m Already Dead: On the Negligible Impact of The Simpsons Movie”

Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 3)

D13

This piece was originally published on the 6th of May 2014 by The 405. Again, a few errors have been cleared up here and there, but this was just about the most polished of the three reports I wrote during Sundance. My memory is hazy, but I may have had more time to write it (otherwise I can’t account for why this was published almost a week after the previous day’s piece, unless the editor fucked up). It also helped that I wrote about two films, rather than all four films that screened that day. I was covering the festival with my friend Jay, who also wrote about the second day of press screenings and conducted interviews with some filmmakers, and we decided to divide the final day’s slate between us. I covered the two documentaries, he covered the two fictional narrative films (Obvious Child and Blue Ruin). He got the more interesting films, I got the easier job. Fair trade-off.

I feel like a piece of shit, to be honest. Two documentaries played on Friday, the final day of press screenings and the first day of the festival proper: The Case Against 8 and Dinosaur 13. The former won the ‘Directing Award: U.S. Documentary’ at Sundance 2014 and details the recent five-year legal battle in California to overrule Proposition 8, which repealed the right for same-sex couples to marry. The latter charts the complex custody battle which began in the 1990s following the discovery of the most complete T-Rex fossil ever. Now, guess which one nearly made me cry and ended up being one more impressive films I saw at the festival? Yeah, the one about the fucking dinosaur. Not the one about the unwavering battle for equality, the tragic denial of constitutional rights, and the dehumanisation of a minority group; no, the one about a dead T-Rex called Sue. Good job, brain!

Continue reading “Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 3)”

Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 2)

Kumiko-the-Treasure-Hunter-1

This piece was originally published the 30th of April 2014 by The 405. I’ve made a few edits here and there to correct some errors and smooth out a few of the kinks. As with the first part, I had to write the majority of this in a few hours and didn’t have the opportunity to redraft any of it, so what was published was very raw. (The editor uploaded what was given to him as-is). That being said, however, I was actually (and somewhat unusually) quite proud of what I managed to write within those time constraints. Today it reads a bit ‘first-year film studies’, but I was in my first year of my film studies degree when I wrote it, so I suppose that’s not too bad. Also, the Zellner brothers retweeted and complimented this piece, which was the first time something like that happened to me, and that was pretty neat. I haven’t revisited Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter since Sundance London, but I probably should to see if it holds up.  

Muddied by VHS static, David and Nathan Zellner’s (Kid-Thing, Goliath) Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter opens with the same epigram as the Coen Brothers’ Fargo (1997): “THIS IS A TRUE STORY.” Of course, in the same spirit as Fargo, this declaration is clearly facetious. Kumiko isn’t based on events that actually happened, but very loosely derived from the urban legend of Takako Konishi, a Japanese woman believed to have died in the North Dakota snow while searching for the suitcase buried by Steve Buscemi’s character in Fargo. (In reality, Konishi committed suicide; a short documentary about her story, called This is a True Story [2003], was made for Channel 4 called). However, also in the spirit of Fargo, Kumiko really is a true story, just not in the conventional sense.

Continue reading “Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 2)”

Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 1)

TCT

This piece was originally published on the 24th of April 2014 by The 405. I’ve made a few alterations to the version I’m uploading here because the original was frankly all over the fucking place. If I remember correctly, I had a night to write the majority of this piece, and that really shone through when reading it back today. This was also my first experience with any kind of press event, so I was pretty overwhelmed by commuting to London, watching five films in a row, going back home, having a few hours to write about those films to a kind-of professional standard, and then going back to London the next day for more (all for no form of remuneration, I might add). And, on a more fundamental level, I was nineteen and a worse writer back then (very much in a ‘Gee, isn’t Film Crit Hulk the greatest!’ phase). I could also shit on the editor, but I won’t. Just know that I could. So, yeah, think of  this piece as it is presented here as a graphical remaster of a mediocre video game: I’ve made it look a bit prettier and smoother, but the controls are still kind of janky and the level design is uninspired. That is to say, this is basically the Futurama: The Video Game HD of film festival reports. Click the link if you want to read the original, but you’ve been warned.

You don’t need to have attended the Sundance Film Festival to be aware of its enormity. It began somewhat modestly in 1985, when Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute assumed control of the U.S. Film Festival, which had been held in Park City, Utah for a few years until that point. Eighty-six films screened that year across two screens. It has since mutated into the vanguard of American independent cinema, boasting an exorbitant programme of films that roughly averages around the two-hundred mark. Nearly fifty-thousand people now descend upon Park City for two weeks each January to experience not only the familiar faces on the festival circuit hawking their new wares, but the newest, most exciting voices voices in American and world cinema. Indeed, Sundance is one of the most prestigious outlets for emerging filmmakers, and, as such, is up there with the best festivals as a platform for discovering new talent. In short, Sundance is fucking huge in every sense of the word.

That’s all important to keep in mind because Sundance London, the offshoot festival now in its third year, is minuscule. Really, it’s tiny. For one, where Sundance takes up an entire city for a fortnight, Sundance London occupies the Cineworld in Greenwich’s 02 Arena for a weekend. Moreover, this year’s programme comprises a mere twenty features (including three ‘From the Collection’: Reservoir Dogs [1992], Memento [2000] and Winter’s Bone [2010]), seventeen shorts divided into two separate programmes, and the world premiere of Archive’s short film Axiom. So, when compared to Sundance proper, Sundance London sets up an interesting dichotomy. Owing to its vastness, it’s likely that one’s experience of Sundance USA will mostly consist of wading through mediocre films, but that only exacerbates the unbridled joy of discovering a great film. Sundance London inverts this: most of the fat has been trimmed off,  supposedly offering a selection of the best bits of Sundance USA, but this comes at the expense of that sense of discovery. To be sure, ever feature film showing at Sundance London this year also played Sundance 2014 (with the exception of Fruitvale Station, which played the 2013 festival), meaning that if you’re interested enough in cinema to attend Sundance London, there’s a good chance that you’ve at least heard about some of, if not all, the films on show.

Continue reading “Sundance London 2014 Report (Part 1)”

The Essential Playlist: The Flaming Lips

flam
Photo by Lindsay Corry

This piece was originally published on the 4th of April 2014 by The 405. I’ve changed a couple of words here and there and corrected some errors so it reads better. I largely stand by what I wrote here, even if some of the writing definitely comes across as overly gushy when I read it now. I was nineteen, though, so whatever. If you’d like to see the playlist that accompanied this piece, you can check it out on Spotify.

As fun as list-making can be, reducing your favourite band to twenty songs and a few hundred words is fucking agonising. Perhaps more so when the band in question has been going for thirty-odd years and has a amassed a mostly excellent discography consisting of: fifteen albums, eighteen EPs, and countless other one-off songs and dumb experiments. God help whoever writes one these things about The Fall. Still, this large body of work itself represents a fundamental part of why I, and countless others, adore The Flaming Lips: they’re not afraid to experiment, to fuck up, to make themselves look daft. Because they are daft, they’re goofy and sweet and utterly sincere, and I cherish that so much. There’s no semblance of artifice with The Flaming Lips, no indication that their work is contrived or cynical or anything but 100% genuine. This candour makes the band easy to latch on to, it shudders through any wall of defence and speaks directly to the soul. It makes the highs in their music so euphoric, the lows so devastating, the emotions so resonant, and the joy so fucking ecstatic. The heart is the greatest amplifier, after all.

Continue reading “The Essential Playlist: The Flaming Lips”