BFI LFF WTF: The 54th BFI London Film Festival

by Joanna Orland

Another year has come and gone for the London Film Festival. As usual, Leicester Square, the BFI on the Southbank (formerly NFT) and a few other sparse cinemas around London town were taken over by red carpets, celebrity appearances, film fans and eager journalists.

On the surface, I have to say I didn’t find this year as exciting as previous years. There were a few famous faces, and a few hyped movies, but a bit lacklustre compared to previous years. I think a big reason for this is the way the premieres are now run. The London Film Festival used to be on an even smaller scale, holding all red carpet events and major screenings at the Odeon in Leicester Square, which is home to only two screens. Now they’ve moved up in the world to the Vue in Leicester Square, which is home to many more screens. Great for screenings, but really felt a bit lifeless for premieres and red carpet galas. And also, with more people traffic and film screenings to deal with, the festival really needed to up its game in the organizational factor. For the most part I didn’t experience many pedestrian problems until the last day where there was complete chaos with people missing their screenings due to the poor organizational skills of BFI and the Vue cinema. Communication people!!

Anyway, in spite of a few flaws and organizational issues, overall it was an enjoyable festival again this year. The majorly hyped movies which I unfortunately missed out on included Lisa Cholodenko’s THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (Oscar buzz for Annette Bening), THE KING’S SPEECH (Oscar buzz for everyone in that one) and Baron Darren Karen Aronofsky’s BLACK SWAN which I refuse to watch because of THE FOUNTAIN. Serioulsy people… WTF WAS UP WITH THE FOUNTAIN?

Of the films I did see, here is our top 10 from this year’s festival… in order of Fave to least Fave (I like to end on a sarcastically foul note).

1. Biutiful
Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
Act. Javier Bardem

Javier Bardem:

Alejandro González Iñárritu:

Iñárritu is responsible for one of my favourite films – Amores Perros. I had high expecations for this film of his as it was in his native tongue of Spanish, much like Amores Perros. And also like Amores Perros, it has quite the humanistic morbid story. When I asked Iñárritu on the red carpet if he dealt with these dark yet humanistic themes of his differently between his Spanish language and English language films, I got quite the surprise answer. Iñárritu think his films are positive life stories! Well… Let me tell you… After watching this film, I had to update my Facebook status to “Joanna kinda feels suicidally bleak after watching Biutiful! Iñárritu keeps having this affect on me! And he personally told me his films were positive stories about life!!?? Liar!”I ended up watching the full credits in silence, shaking, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

It was Amores Perros all over again for me. Although, Amores Perros is a better film over all as I enjoyed it all the way through, while still very depressed by it. Biutiful wasn’t as digestible for various reasons. Javier Bardem as lead character Uxbel was excellent however, and made a character you would normally consider villainous, to be quite the protagonist that you feel empathy for. Definite Best Actor Oscar Buzz on the cards.

Besides all the bleakness and hopelessness of this film (aka positive life story), the one thing I did not really get about it was the supernatural element. Really? Totally unnecessary. But anyway, I was most affected by this film out of anything I’ve seen since Amores Perros… so you know what? That makes a good film! Still thinking about it… whilst coming up with new and exciting ways to off myself.

2. The American
Dir. Anton Corbijn
Act. George Clooney

There is no reason why I should have liked this film, but it was one of my favourites of the festival.

a) I strongly dislike George Clooney. He looks like a monkey wearing dentures and has an arrogance about him that makes me cringe. But in this film, I forgot I was watching the Cloonster. ACTING!!!! Also, he didn’t smile much so no denture views. It was quite the silent film with little dialogue. Lastly… and this one is tough for me to admit… he had a bit of Sean Connery to him in this one. I can’t explain it, but well done Cloonster!

b) Anton Corbijn doesn’t thrill me. Control was an ok film, but not memorable. Didn’t even think he’d make a second film worth noting. I was wrong.

c) There was very little happening. Very little plot, very little dialogue and a very slow moving film. This is everything I detest (I’m a child of the 80’s people!!). I was engrossed.

Overall, a beautiful, strong and silent film. (not literally silent, but rather quiet…)

3. Infiltration
Dir. Dover Kosashvili
Act. Lots of Israeli soldier-looking types. Phwoar.

This film is best described as an Israeli Full Metal Jacket. Fantastic character development and great acting by an ensemble cast. Each character unique and fascinating in his own right. And hot Israeli soldiers to gawk at if the story ever slows. Score!

To give you a taster of some of the characters and intertwining plotlines, lemme share with you my faves.

ALON! A tragic character who you know is a bit special needs, but totally in denial of it. He also reminds me of a beefed up version of my friend Henrik, which is odd for many reasons… mostly because I didn’t know there were any blonde/blue-eyed jews. Din Hora! Anyway, this guy rocked as one of the main protagonists!

Avner: The resident ladies man. Hilariously tragic. Seriously, do love hounds really exist? Dude needs to get a life!

Miller!! Hottie mcHottie. Shame about the epilepsy. Seriously… he was hot.

Ben Hanno: Resident camp gay guy. He was hilarious and tragic. A loveable dude.

Hipster Commander: I can’t remember his character name, but would you put this hipster in charge of a troupe full of needy Israeli soldiers? Probably not. But perhaps in charge of an indie band!

I tried looking for his real photo, but this was the only worthwhile image that came up when I googled “jewish hipster”.  Merry Chrismukkah to all!

4. Submarine
Dir. Richard Ayoade
Act. Noah Taylor, Craig Roberts…

An excellent directorial debut from Moss from The IT Crowd. Who knew there was such talent behind the awkwardness? If you like Wes Anderson and British things, you will like this film as it is TOTALLY a British version of Rushmore.

Main character Oliver Tate would definitely be played by Jason Schwartzman if this were made in America ten years ago… and perhaps by Michael Cera if it were made in America for modern times… Is THAT why Michael Cera was thanked in the credits? Is he the father of all awkward teen films?

Anyway, great vintage retro visuals and fantasy sequences. Fab awkard characters and story. Loved it!! Sadly, Richard Ayoade cancelled his Afternoon Tea with us, so I will pretend that we interviewed him and shall assume what his answers would have been:

Loose Lips: Hi Richard Ayoade. We’re big fans of yours. We just have a few questions from the fans if you will….

RICHARD AYOADE: Sure, I love giving interviews. I would never think to cancel one. Not ever. That would just be plain rude.

Loose Lips: Yeah, totally Richard Ayoade. Anyway, here are some questions from your fans…

Adrienne: Where is the last place anyone would think to look for you if you had been kidnapped?

RICHARD AYOADE: Hmm… tough one. Probably at a press junket.

Rich: Do you ever yodel your surname?

RICHARD AYOADE: Is there any other way to say it!?

Duncan: Do you know if Garth Marenghi will be sculpting our nightmares again any time soon?

RICHARD AYOADE: Garth Marwhatti?

Ella: Have you ever thought of turning your surname into a proper noun, for those tough scrabble times when you have nothing but vowels?

RICHARD AYOADETM: Um… no. Moving on…

Loose Lips: Thanks Richard Ayoade. Thanks for nuthin.

5. Let Me In
Dir. Matt “Cloverfield” Reeves
Act. Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz

I have not seen the original Swedish version of this film (Let The Right One In) so I cannot be biased about how this American remake stands in comparison. All I know is that it was directed by the guy who did Cloverfield (excellent film), starred Hit Girl and the boy from The Road… and the music was composed by my favourite composer Michael Giacchino (he did LOST).

It was great having the director and two young stars at hand for a Q&A after the film. Always makes the film festival experience all the more special. The director apparently watched the Swedish one a lot when deciding if he wanted to do the project or not, but then once he was decided, he stopped watching and tried to focus on making the story rather than a remake of the film. I now need to watch the Swedish one to see how they compare.

Overall, I liked the film. It was bleak, dark and quite eerie. The young stars were excellent. The film was, however, far from perfect. Oddly enough, the one thing that detracted from the authenticity of this film was the Sound and Music. When the credits rolled at the end and Michael Giacchino’s name came up, I think I actually GASPED!

The sound effects were way over the top and really snapped the viewers out of the moment. A lot of horror films use hyper real sound effects to exaggerate threat and create tension, but this should have been treated as real and gritty. It just did not work. And the music? It was constant. It was just slapped on everywhere…. this weepy sappy score. OMG Michael Giacchino – is this what has become of you now that Lost is off the air? Back to the island with you!

Anyway, worth a watch, just ignore the ridiculousness and you’ll be fine, cuz it’s actually quite good… especially the kids’ performances!

6. It’s Kind Of A Funny Story
Dir. Ryan Fleck
Act. Zach Galifianakis, Keir Gilchrist

Best Q&A of the film fest was with director Ryan Fleck. What an easy going guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously! Obviously a fan of the Breakfast Club and also has good taste in music as he got Broken Social Scene (Toronto MASSIVE!!!) to score his film.

The film is about a teenager going through a crisis, feeling suicidal and checking himself into a mental ward (where he meets Zach Galifianakis’ character). Fleck felt this film is a positive reinforcement for suffering teens everywhere and should teach people that life is tough, but we make the most of it. There was a 13 year old boy in the audience who asked Fleck who his intended audience was. “It’s for you buddy.” has to be one of the best responses to that question EVER! Lots of love in the room!

The film itself is quite enjoyable with Zach Galifianakis as charmingly funny and odd as ever. The lead actor Keir Gilchrist was also quite strong and captivating, especially considering he’s a relative newbie and a teenager. Anyway, recommend the film for a rainy day when you’re feeling blue! You shall be cheered right up in a non-condescending sort of way!

7. A Somewhat Gentle Man
Dir. Hans Petter Moland
Act. Stellan Skarsgård

I’ll admit it… the only reason I was curious to see this film was because its star Stellan Skarsgård is the father of TRUE BLOOD hottie vampire Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) and I wanted to know where the hotness came from. Well, it’s not through paternal bloodlines, I’ll tell you that.

A Somewhat Gentle Man is a Norwegian film, by a Danish writer, Norwegian director, and Swedish star. It was oddly humourous, especially the disgusting landlady character. Kind of funny, a bit bleak, somewhat of a positive ending, but not the best film of all time.

8. Conviction
Dir. Tony Goldwyn
Act. Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver

The performances in this film were outstandingly better than the film itself. So, instead of being all negative, I shall review the actors rather than the film.

Hilary Swank – doing her usual underdog heroine thing. Great as always. Fab Massachusetts accent and style. Great hair. Great heart.

Minnie Driver – while in a supporting role, Minnie stole the show. Even better Massachusetts accent than Hilary. Comic relief. Great screen presence. I think this film would have been more enjoyable if it was about Minnie’s character.

Sam Rockwell – I love Sam Rockwell. I have never kept this information a secret. I learned something about Sam Rockwell while watching this film. Sam Rockwell is not an actor… he is just Sam Rockwell. But that is ok. Because I love Sam Rockwell.

9. Howl
Dir. Robert Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Act. James “Super Mario” Franco, Jon “Don Draper” Hamm

Ok… now this film just confused the crap out of me. I suppose it would have been ever so slightly more enjoyable if I was an Alan Ginsberg fan… but not much more enjoyable. The good news is, I watched it immediately after watching the depressing Biutiful, so it momentarily distracted me from thoughts of killing myself.

James Franco was great as the poet Alan. He’s a great impersonator! The whole film was a bit too abstract jazzy snazzy artsy fartsy abstract weird for me. Not my thing. Love watching Don Draper… er.. I mean Jon Hamm in action though.

The reason this weird hybrid mocumentary – abstract jazzy poety film came about was, according to the directors who were on hand for an extended introduction to the film, Alan Ginserg’s secretary (or someone to that effect) rang the guys up and asked them to do a film of the poem HOWL to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The story of Ginsberg himself starring James Franco and the trial of Howl and Freedom Of Speech were actually quite interesting and should have been the main focus of this film, rather than the hippy dippy poem recitation and crazy visuals. FAIL!

10. Revolución
Dir. Various Mexican Directors, including Diego Luna + Gael Garcia Bernal
Act. Various

This film was a compilation of ten short films by Mexican directors, and inspired by the 100th anniversary of the revolution. The directors were told they had three rules:

1) The film theme is Revolution
2) Up to 10 minutes per film
3) Has to be set in present day

Now… GO!

Some of the short films were SO excellent that I wanted to see full films made from them. Two in particular stood out…. 1) The daughter who was burying her recently deceased father in Mexico. 2) The grocery store lady with the teeth (you’ll know what I mean if you see it for yourself). Sadly, there were a few highly unbearable ones that ruined the film overall. Most were somewhere in the middle… including Gael’s and Diego’s. Diego’s was a lot better than Gael’s though. Less condescending and more interesting over all.

The Kids Are Alright
Red Carpet
Dir. Lisa Cholodenko
Act. Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo

Well, that’s it for films that we watched. Two more additions to our LFF coverage though so keep reading…

Whilst missing the chance to see hyped film The Kids Are Alright, we still got a chance to hang out on the red carpet to get audio snippets and pics from its stars Julianne Moore, and Mark Ruffalo, as well as its acclaimed director Lisa Cholodenko:

Lisa Cholodenko:

Mark Ruffalo:

Funny story of this night was my awesome panic moment (there’s always one embarrassing Loose Lips moment every day year). Julianne wasn’t going to have time to come over to speak directly to the print media (me). The lovely PR lady kindly offered to take my audio recorder over to where Julianne was and get some quotes for me! So kind. But in typical fashion, as soon the recorder was out of my sight, Mark Ruffalo came up for a chat. Instead of acting normal, I panicked. My arms flailed trying to get my recorder back in time to record some clips with Mark… but rather than keeping my dignity intact, I nearly knocked the poor man out with my flailing limbs. FAIL!

127 Hours
Press Conference
Dir. Danny Boyle
Act. James Franco

And lastly, the closing night gala’s film 127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle and starring legendary video game character Super Mario James Franco. James was on hilarious form, speaking admittedly slowly, wearing my grandfather’s cardigan and sporting Magnum PI’s tache. He’s also very facially expressive. So in honour of James Franco’s amazing awesomeness, Loose Lips presents…

The Many Faces of James Franco:

Pensive James

Perplexed James

Praying James

Proud-of-Moustache James

Sad James

Stroppy James

Decisive James

Super Mario James

Flirty James

Reflective James

Confused James

At Peace James

Cheeky James

Just James


Also, for those who have seen the film, don’t worry, James kept reassuring the press that he didn’t really cut his arm off, but was merely pretending.

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