The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival

by Joanna Orland
with contributions from Marko Domazet

The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival just wrapped up another successful year. This year’s Festival hosted 193 feature films and 113 short films from 46 countries including 15 world premieres. That’s a lot to pack into 16 days. Highlights included Wes Anderson and his all star cast for The Fantastic Mr. Fox, George Clooney in general as he had 3 films screening here, Bill Murray was live in the flesh, CLIVE OWEN & Julianne Moore (double phwoar) and loads more. Here are our personal highlights (in alphabetical order… no favouritism allowed). Good times…

44 Inch Chest

Gratuitous foul-mouthed film about… redemption perhaps? Didn’t really see the point in this film outside of getting a handful of top notch British actors together on screen and having them say “Facking Cunt” repeatedly for 2 hours. A film only an English person could (claim to) love.

Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, and written by the writer of Sexy Beast. You’d think this was all it would need to be successful, no? Well, it wasn’t. The wonderful Tom Wilkinson was well underused, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane played the same characters they play in everything, and the language was gratuitous and sadly felt like the main plot hook.

The actual supposed plot was that Ray’s wife played by Joanne Whalley had left him for another man, so he beat the crap out of her and his cronies convinced Ray to kidnap her lover and eventually kill him. The entire film is basically these cronies in a room with the mute kidnap victim swearing their Facking Cunts off while Ray decides if he should do the deed or not.

Not a terrible film, but a completely pointless film. I gained nothing from watching this, outside of a few more colourful words to add to my vocabulary, as well as a mockney accent.

If you’re English you’ll probably like it just because it has Ray Winstone and Lovejoy. If you’re a fan of the British use of the words Facking and Cunt, you might like it too. If you are of more discerning taste, you might find it vaguely enjoyable, but will realize after the fact that that is time and money you will never get back.

The Boys Are Back

I can nee be arsed to write no more. I’ve saved this for last in spite of it appearing second in our new alphabetical order scheme. Below you can enjoy pretty photos of Clive from the press conference. Clive gets a phwoar for charm, wit and just plain old good looks.

Bunny & the Bull

On the red carpet yet again- this time it’s less Hollywood and more homegrown British. A breath of fresh air.

This latest feature Bunny and the Bull is brought to you buy England’s leading comedy clan. With Paul King, director of The Mighty Boosh, at the helm, the film casts unknown Edward Hogg in the lead as Stephen Turnbull, and Simon Farnaby as Bunny. But don’t fret Boosh fans…. Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt and the IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade (swoon) all make very impactful cameo appearances.

We got to speak to Edward,

Simon, Julian

and Noel.

As Noel was answering my neighbour’s question, he accidentally flung his arm straight into my microphone. Anyone who knows me knows that that’s a big NO NO. I am an audio geek and I like my equipment intact thank you very much. He apologized, but I was clearly a bit concerned for its well being and warned him to be careful as it’s fragile and expensive equipment. ( In retrospect, it’s not that expensive, but at the time I was really caught up in an emotional moment) To make it better, Noel then kissed my microphone (no euphemism intended) and made it all better. He then said, “It’s really expensive? The kiss won’t hurt it!”. I thanked him and told him I would then be selling it on Ebay. Ka-Ching!

The PR lady attempted to drag him away before I could get my big question in. Now… before I go on to reveal this question, a bit of background is needed. Google “Noel Fielding Coldplay Cold Sores”, then you will understand. So as he was about to leave, I got in there and asked him…. “Placebo, or Placenta?”. And he responded, “Placebo obviously, I like Placebo, they’re great. Yeah, I like Brian. Not Plac… no….I don’t really like… well.….What’s to like about Placenta, unless you’re Sting?”

Julian and Simon were next for a chat and were overly excited that I was only recording audio and not for TV so they could “cut loose”. Simon says on the dynamic between Paul and the Boosh gang on what makes their collaborations work so well, “Alcohol… we’re Scrabble partners…really really just being really really close really close friends.” Julian adds, ”We all get together and do almost a therapy session once a month.” They sounded a bit tipsy or just plain giddy listening back.

Julian on his cult success in America says, “ Try and do stuff over here and then take it over there. I don’t know about.. Maybe we’ll do something over there but not yet. Try and do it here…”

Simon chimes in, “You’ll have to do it with American accents”.

Back to Julian, “Yeah yeah we’re going to get an American cast. And you know..”

Cue Simon, “You can get Will Ferrell to play you.”

Julian, “Yeah really short chiselled sort of people who can’t do comedy.”.

Anyway, I didn’t get to see Bunny & the Bull but it looks hilare. According to Noel, they’re also starting to write a Mighty Boosh Film… but they apparently only just started the other day, so don’t hold your breath fans!

And for you Richard Ayoade fans out there (don’t deny your love for MOSS), he was there, but not doing interviews…. BOO. Here’s a pic of the back of his head instead.


Three words:


A film about a chase, a music track that’s on auto repeat and a main character by the name of Castro that everyone seems to be obsessed with. Personally, I don’t understand why because the man sleeps in a closet, refuses to get a job and seems generally lethargic.

Add to this a dialogue that’s very gaga in places (you say abstract, I say gaga) and you’ve got yourself the Argentinean take on Benny Hill.

Definitely for the sophisticated viewer.


There was a buzz about Chloe. People who had seen it were mumbling about liking it, but not liking the last 20 minutes or the twist that was involved. I have to say to these people – What twist??? You know where this film is going from the minute lead characters Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) and Catherine (Julianne Moore) meet on screen! Somehow I enjoyed this film more for having it meet all my expectations. But I still won’t ruin it for you naïve folks.

The story goes, Catherine and David (Liam Neeson) are married with an ingrate of a teenage son. Less than happy, Catherine suspects David of being unfaithful. So she meets prostitute Chloe and wants her help in finding out the truth about her husband. Catherine and Chloe become intimate in one of the hottest sex scenes ever performed on camera. Julianne Moore is 48 years old???? Well then why the hell is she hotter than anyone even half her age? Hot DAMN you hot ginge!!!

What else did I like about this film? Well, the music was ace. Beautiful, melodic and haunting. I was also quite fond of the location of where the film was set – TDOT!!!! Yes, my hometown of Toronto. I was knew every location where the characters were all chillin’. My fave locale was The Rivoli. OMG Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried were chillin’ in the Rivoli!!! My old band once played a gig there. So awesome. Oooh.. and the Windsor Arms hotel – well, that’s right near my folks’ place. SWEET! Even had the Royal Conservatory of Music as an authentic setting for Michael’s recital! GO LOCATION RECORDING!!!!

Anyway, even people not from Toronto should go see this film. Enthralling and memorable with stunning performances from the leading ladies in particular. Julianne and Amanda get a double PHWOAR from Loose Lips!

We also had to good fortune of seeing Julianne, Amanda, director Atom Egoyan and producer Ivan Reitman (LEGEND) at the Chloe press junket. So what insight did we learn about the making of this film you ask?

Well, it all started when Julianne flagged down Atom at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and said she’d hoped they could work together one day. This film Chloe is a remake of French film Nathalie, produced by Ivan and when Atom saw the script, he was compelled to do the “reinvention”. Julianne says about the film, ” it’s about a woman’s confidence eroding in a long term relationship.”.

And yes you Ghostbusting nerds… Busting makes me feel good too and the question was put to Ivan about Ghostbusters 3. They’re trying to find a script that would honour, particularly the first movie. The game that came out last year reminded them that people really still like this story, and they’re doing their best to make it happen!

Communist Fantastic Mr. Fox

Sure, it’s fantastic. It’s also cussing BRILLIANT! I love love love this film! This classic children’s story based on the Roald Dahl book can be acclaimed on so many levels. Let’s make a list, shall we?

1) Top notch talent: George Clooney who has a very charismatic voice even though there’s not much going on in the looks department (ok, I might be the only one with this opinion, but let’s go with it for now), Meryl Streep on excellent form as usual, a stunning performance by Jason Schwartzman as the youngen fox, Jarvis Cocker and his sing-song, Michael Gambon as the English baddie farmer, and not to mention BILL MURRAY! But why cast American actors in a British story? And why did they keep the farmers as English? “Because they’re the bad guys”, jokes Bill Murray!

2) A great story: Roald Dahl did no wrong, except for marrying his widow Liccy, according to the ever vocal Bill Muray (see our press conference audio coverage… don’t worry he was joking!). But the story had to be built upon in order to make it into a full length film. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbuch did an excellent job here.

3) Visually stunning: The stop motion animation technique was beautiful. The visuals were the best I’ve seen in years. Forget CGI, old school techniques have a lot to say for themselves… Wes is giving Pixar a run for their money here!!! Wes always liked the idea of making a stop motion film with animals as the stars as he loves the way the fur looks in stop motion.

4) Wes Anderson: Even though this is a Roald Dahl story, this film is fully flavoured with Wes Anderson goodness! No mistaking this for any other director’s work. Wes uses his dry sense of humour, quirky moments and usual pool of talent to make this story his own. Roald who?

Wes took a different approach to making this animated film than more traditional directors. He had the actors out on a farm, rolling around in the dirt and re-enacting the scenes as animals… making their own sound effects and everything.

Wes first approached Liccy Dahl about turning The Fantastic Mr. Fox into a film 10 years ago when he wrote to her expressing his desire. He was first drawn to this story as it was the first book he ever owned and it introduced him to Roald Dahl’s work in general.

But is this The Fantastic Mr. Fox or The Communist Mr. Fox? According to Wes, “… the movie’s a bit of a Robin Hood story, so it’s a bit communist I think”. “Or English!”, Bill Murray pipes in.

Women will love it cuz OH MY GOD GEORGE CLOONEY. People with a good sense of humour will love it because it’s Hilarious! The kids will love it for the cute little animals (even though I personally would have been balling my eyes out as a child due to the really dark overtones). Don’t worry- all potential use of foul language has been replaced with various forms of the word “cuss” so no child will learn something inappropriate in the viewing of this film. So no excuse – just go and cussing see this film or cuss off!

The Informant!

Steven Soderbergh returns to LFF after last year’s epic two-parter Che. This year he brings us a comedy. A whistleblower comedy! He brings us The Informant!, starring a rather chubby and quirky Matt Damon, and the AMAZING and loveable Scott Bakula.

First of all, kudos to Sodaburger for casting Bakula. This actor is underused in modern cinema. He is an all time favourite. Anyway… the film was ok. Kind of funny. Well shot. Interesting n’ stuff. The real genius behind it lies in the story itself… and what a story it is.

Marc Whitacre turned FBI informant back in the mid-90’s in Illinois. It was his idea!!! He approached the FBI about his co-worker’s price-fixing! He was also secretly embezzling quite a few million dollars! And was incapable of telling the truth! And incapable of shutting up! And in the end, incapable of keeping himself out of prison for 9 years!

Matt Damon gained 30 pounds, a fake moustache and some retro glasses for this role. He’s funny, likeable and the inner monologue thing he’s got goin’ on MAKES this film!

The thing I really didn’t get about this film was the look and sound. It’s supposed to be the mid-90’s, right? So why go for a 70’s look and feel? Soderbergh himself who stayed for the post-film Q&A admitted to taking inspiration from Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl from the year 1977! The music was composed by the same guy who did Woody Allen’s Bananas from 1971. His music writing abilities have not evolved since.

Anyway, good call for Soderbergh to turn this true story into a comedy as he admits himself, no one could take this ridiculous story seriously. Steven says, “I guess it seemed like… the only way to do it at the time, you know. I mean I’d made… a whistle blower movie before myself and had taken a dramatic approach, but I guess I felt in this case since it was really about greed and nobody’s life was at stake, it wasn’t about people dying, that we had a little bit of wiggle room, you know in how we were gonna portray it. And I just thought it would be more memorable actually if it was a comedy”.

I’m glad to have been introduced to the bizarro mind of Marc Whitacre. Amazing that he had the genius to embezzle the millions in the first place.

Life During Wartime

Director Todd Solondz is back. Ten years after his film Happiness disturbed audiences everywhere, he returns to the land of the pervy, depressing and odd with his latest flick Life During Wartime, a sequel of sorts to Happiness.

The film’s first scene is gripping. A close up of this weird looking woman’s teary eyed face, as she’s on a romantic dinner date with her husband to celebrate their anniversary. Things aren’t what they seem of course. Their marriage is in turmoil due to his unchanging criminal ways. Joy, played by Shirley Henderson of Moaning Myrtle fame, is the main heroine to start with, but, as with Happiness, the story spins off to follow a few other characters, who we find out are all related in the form of a nice Jewish family.

Joy is one of three sisters. Joy’s main sister is played by Alison Janney, who is looking for a new husband for herself and as a role model for her kids. Her ex-husband, it turns out, was a paedophile and was just released from prison. We follow his story too. He’s not a man of words, but what a gurn!

There were two surprising cameos in the film… which will probably ruin it for you if you keep reading. So stop now if you really give a damn.

1) Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens as the ghost of Joy’s dead boyfriend Andy. WEIRD!!!!!

2) Ally Sheedy playing typical Ally Sheedy.

Even though the film was a bit odd, contrived and dark at times, it still had some of the funniest lines in a film. No direct quotes, sorry, but my personal fave was when Joy kept alluding to the fact that Ally Sheedy’s character was doin the nasty with Keanu Reeves. Simple, but fun.

Anyway, it’s a good film but not a very good film. Lovefilm it, don’t waste your money in the cinema.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

“Yesterday I was a fox, and now I’m working with goats.”, says George Clooney.

I didn’t see the film or talk to the cast personally, so enjoy our audio clips from the press conference.


Is a zebra black with white stripes or white with black stripes? How many steps does it take before a stone step is worn out? Is it better to have a bullet lodged in your brain even if it means you could die any second, or have it taken out even if it you spend the rest of your life in a vegetable-like state?

MICMACS, the latest offering from Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the man who gave us Amelie and Delicatessen, asks a number of philosophical questions whilst telling the story of a man’s attempt to destroy a weapons manufacturer with a little support from his friends. The plot in itself is pretty much it, but what makes this film stand out as an imaginative and quirky comedy, is the way the story is told, the interesting supporting characters (we’re talking contortionists and human cannon balls here people!) and the great use of vintage Max Steiner scores.

The philosophical aspect of it (i.e. major brain-wacking questions) remain unanswered and serve more as a filler, but I wouldn’t consider that a major flaw. I say if it looks good, sounds good and makes you feel good, then go see it and enjoy!

Paper Heart

This movie blurs the line between fiction and reality more than a Michael Moore film (sorry Michael, but people in Toronto DO lock their doors!!!). I got the impression that the bulk of the audience believed this was a documentary. When Charlyne Yi said in the Q&A that Michael Cera was ACTING in the film and that he wasn’t his real self, there was a collective “Awwwww” of disappointment that fell among the crowd. To this day, even after having seen the film and interviewing both Charlyne and director Nick Jasenovec, I’m still slightly confused about what was real and what was fiction. This was seamlessly done… Not an easy thing to do to have the audience suspend their belief this much in a film that they legitimately believed it was majority documentary, not the 50/50 documentary and narrative that was the actual reality.

Confused yet? Me too. Reading up on the film before seeing it, as I had to prepare for my interview with writer/star/possible object of Michael Cera’s affection, Charlyne Yi and director, the REAL Nick Jasenovec, I got seriously lost in the plot. My first port of call was to watch a bunch of YouTube clips of the film to see if I could grasp it. I did so. It seemed straightforward enough. Then I read that the Nick Jasenovec in the film was not the real director Nick Jasenovec, but actor Jake Johnson who was hired to play director Nick in the film. Nick (Jake) was so believable as the film’s director that it was really easy to miss this one. He was so integrated into the plot of making the film of the film that this could simply go unnoticed.

Another example of this seamless integration of reality and fiction were the shots of Nick (Jake) and a cameraman which were typical cutaway shots you’d get in a narrative film, only this was being done in a “documentary” where you shouldn’t see the director or camera at certain points, yet nobody in the crowd seemed to break away from the story to realize that this was staged! Genius!
The very posh English wanker sitting behind me in the cinema kindly pointed out to his girlfriend upon completion of viewing this moving picture that it was “post modern”. Whatevs, this was just clever film-making, a good story, likeable characters, good actors, cute tunes, funny stuff and of course, MICHAEL CERA.

Cera seems to have quite the following. The audience was filled with young male Michael Cera wannabes with their hoodies, awkward conversations and puppy dog eyes. A true role model for the 21st century emo lad.

Anyway, enough about Michael… Charlyne is ace! She’s got a very funny way about her and kept us all interested in the film and her journey from not believing in love to finding out what other people’s experiences with love were, to her own real or not romance with Cera. Nick (Jake) Jasenovec was the perfect counterpart to Yi’s in-your-face character and the dynamic duo really put on a great show.

The Q&A with Charlyne Yi and Nick (the real one) Jasenovec was stellar as their real life charm emitted from them radiantly. They’ve got great chemistry. And I thought so in the interview I did with them earlier in the day, which you can read about in our interviews section.

Anyway, what an incoherent rant. Bottom line is Paper Heart is Awesome. Go see it!

Precious (based on the film Push by Sapphire)
Otherwise known as: Oprah has the Midas Touch

This was the heaviest, darkest film I have seen in a long time. Precious is the story of Clareece Precious Jones, an obese girl who is sexually, physically and verbally abused by her parents, has given birth to two children fathered by her father, she gets kicked out of school AND is illiterate. It actually gets worse than this if possible, and the graphic content of this film isn’t for the faint of heart.

The portrayal of this tragic tale is done tastefully, directly, openly and remarkably. The use of humour and fantasy make this subject matter more than bearable to watch. The performances will be all the buzz come Oscar time, that’s for sure. Even turns by Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey were gritty and excellent. With the big ‘O’ (Oprah) at the producer’s helm, I expect nothing less than world domination from this film. It almost had me in tears for eff’s sake… and I’m not a crier!!!

Lead actress Gabourey Sidibe was even on hand to say hello before the film’s start… And when I saw her backstage afterward, I just ached to give her a hug!!! This moved me beyond words.

A Single Man

Good intentions, yes. Good aspects, yes. Good execution? Not so much.
Shall we get the negative out of the way so we can end on a positive? Sure.. I’m feeling generous….

Why the hell is a fashion designer directing a film??? Tom Ford sure knows his aesthetics which comes across well in the film, but the piecing together of this tragic and moving story was just a bit too pretentiously wanky to really get my full attention.

THE main number one flaw of this film was the long drawn out artistically abstract flashbacks put to the tune of this really grating strings piece that made me want to walk out of the film every time one of them happened – which was FAR too often to count. ARGH! This pisses me off so much. There was so much potential here, but he transparently was trying to be artistic rather than just going with the flow of the story and visuals. It reeked of desperation and will ultimately be the downfall of this film.

Ok. That’s out of the way. The good stuff now. I know, it might not sound like there’s anything redeeming after that little rant, but there is so brace yourselves.

The acting and casting of the characters was Superb! Colin Firth was at his finest, Nicolas Hoult was jail-baitingly divine, Matthew Goode was a GQ model with acting chops, whoever that Spanish James Dean dude was-he was Smokin’, and the beautiful Julianne Moore with the best line of the film (won’t spoil it for you, but it’s Raunchy!).

The cinematography and visuals were stunning, although it felt a bit like watching a Calvin Klein commercial for the most part. Still, aesthetically pleasing nonetheless… especially that Spanish James Dean dude… seriously… Who IS he???

The story based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood was excellent and gripping. Tom Ford even did a good job adapting the dialogue. I found myself completely 100% involved in the scenes that didn’t involve string music. Sadly, they were few and far between.

So Tom…Get a new composer and get me that Spanish guy’s number, will you? Thanks love.

Taking Woodstock

It’s true that Greeks and Jews share a prominent facial feature.. Demetri Martin stars as the young Jewish Elliot (after my brief research, I’ve discovered that he’s Greek, not Jewish… in spite of the nose!!! btw, I’m not racist… I too am big-nosed and ethnic)

So Elliot Tiber is Jewish, a closeted gay artist, has given up his ambitions in the city and has moved back home to help his old-world Jewish parents run their Catskills motel. The film is based on the book written by the real Tiber himself.

So the film isn’t “directly” about Woodstock, according to Ang Lee who showed up before the film’s screening for an introduction, alongside star Imelda Staunton (fierce), Henry Goodman and screenwriter James Schamus. Ang said that the real Elliot Tiber, approached him and immediately pitched and sold him the idea of turning his book into this film.

Ang Lee has done 6 tragedies in a row… he felt it was time to lighten things up a bit and make a more coming of age tale about Elliot who has a strained relationship with his parents and a behind the scenes look at how Woodstock happened. Seriously though? He should stick to tragedies.

The characters and actors playing them were captivating on screen, but I felt there was no point to this film. I left feeling like I gained nothing. Mildly entertaining feel good film, yes. But from Ang Lee? I expect profound enlightenment.

Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman were great as the old Jewish parents, especially Imelda as the Meiser of a Jewish bubby. Demetri Martin did steal the show though. He was excellent. And the random casting of Live Schrieber as Velma the transsexual – too awesome for words. But really, this film was too long and too tiresome. It felt like a Cameron Crowe film, not an Ang Lee one. A really good Cameron Crowe film, but still not of Ang Lee calibre.

Disappointment from the director, but I can see how after 6 tragedies he needed a break. Great casting, visuals and soundtrack. I couldn’t care less if Demetri moved to San Francisco or stayed with his whingey parents for the rest of his life. But I still enjoyed his commanding screen presence! Going to have a dig in the Daily Show archives and find some footage of his past career as Jon Stewart’s Senior Youth Correspondent!


Smooth-talking (male) lead? Check.
Entertaining whilst dealing with uncomfortable subject matter? Check.
Makes you happy you don’t live in America? Check.

Yes, Jason Reitman has returned to the silver screen and yet again, he offers an entertaining stab at corporate America and those who think they are smart enough to benefit from the system. In this case, the story focuses on Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a slippery consultant whose speciality is firing people for companies that are downsizing.

Bingham elegantly sashays his way through airports, car rental offices and hotel bars, enjoying the isolation of the world he’s built for himself. When a newcomer (a very dry and funny Anna Kendrick) joins the company and introduces a way of firing people by using webcams, Bingham realises he has one last trip to persuade his bosses not to change. In addition to this, a love interest stirs things up further when Bingham meets Alex and life-changing questions are planted into his mind.

Up in the Air, has some great moments and is a story worth seeing. The direction is very good and although this is a Clooney vehicle from start to finish, the well-developed female characters bring elements of warmth that were severely lacking in Reitman’s previous films. Well worth a trip to the cinema even if it’s just to close your eyes and listen to the lovely dulcet tones of Clooney.


One Response to “The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival”

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