Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The film that changed my life / Hunger by Steve McQueen (2008)

The film that

changed my life


by Steve McQueen (2008)

Lynn Shelton
Interview by Amardeep Sohi
Sunday 4 April 2010

About six months ago, a friend sat me down in his living room and said: "You have to see this film, you'll be forever grateful." I felt it was the most truthful film I'd seen in a long time. It's so under-written and it's not literary or theatrical, just purely cinematic: it reminded me of the full potential of cinema.
It influenced me as an artist in that it made me feel that I can trust my instincts and that in fact I must and I should.

McQueen had such a unique, singular vision for the film, which he followed through. I felt like he didn't lapse into more conventional ideas of how to tell a story.
The scene that really made an impression on me was the one where we see the prison guard washing the blood off his hands. It's so powerful, simple and understated. You realise what his day is filled with and why he has that look on his face. You understand so much from that one simple scene. It was absolutely brilliant film-making.

McQueen has an innate trust in the audience, in his own vision and in cinema itself. Sometimes, when you're trying to formulate or develop a film, there's a fear that you're going to lose the audience or that they're not going to stick with you, that you can't sit in a scene for the amount of time that the moment of humanity or interaction deserves. He also demonstrates that you can understate and that under-writing is possible - as opposed to overexplaining and overshowing things. The film reminded me of a book that I read a couple of decades ago called Sculpting in Time by the great Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky. In the book, he talks about how sad he is that when cinema was born it adopted the model of theatre for its form. He thought that cinema had more kinship with poetry and called it the most truthful of art forms.

In the last year, I experienced a really monumental shift in my life, specifically in my life as a director. All of a sudden, there were more external influences bombarding me, people telling me I should make my film (Humpday) more commercial, should cast these people and so on, all of which I have never had to deal with before. So I saw Hunger at a point that I needed to see it – I needed to be reminded that I am an artist and that ultimately I do have to stand firm in my own vision.
Lynn Shelton is an American director

The film that changed my life / The Gold Rush by Charlie Chaplin (1925)

The film that

changed my life

The Gold Rush 

by Charlie Chaplin (1925)

Nick Broomfield
Sun 7 Mar 2010 

My mother was a communist/socialist from eastern Europe. As a treat when I was a kid, prior to television, we'd get out an old sheet and project Charlie Chaplin films. I particularly remember The Gold Rush, in which Chaplin eats a guy's boot. Hysterical but also social – this little guy against an awful system, the guy with the heart against the greedy capitalists. Very, very funny. Sometimes I thought I was going to have a heart seizure because I couldn't stop laughing. I used to love that film more than anything. It taught me to love slapstick.
I think if you can get slapstick into stuff, that's the ultimate achievement. I always used to inject myself into my documentaries as the comedic idiot, as the Chaplin or the Peter Sellers. It's easy to play the idiot yourself, and half knock yourself out, or half fall over, or ask gormless questions. And when I first started doing it, the commissioning editors would be begging my crew to keep me behind the camera. "Get him out of the fucking film!" Then, as time went on, they really wanted me in front of the camera, and it became less interesting to do. I had amused myself for some time and then I couldn't stand it any more. I was heartily sick of myself.
I didn't realise it when I was seven, but Chaplin's genius, in a sense, was that he got you in with the humour and then the rest sort of came with it. I did a string of early films that were social but also comedies in this spirit, from Driving Me Crazy through Tracking Down Maggie and Kurt & Courtney to His Big White Self. The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife was about the rightwing Nazi party in South Africa, made before Mandela came to power – and I called it a black comedy about the white right. People love to laugh, and they'll accept opinions they might not necessarily agree with if you make them laugh (which is why comedians can get away with murder). Dr Strangelove, Chaplin's The Great Dictator – all of those films work, even while making statements that are a bit on the nose, because they're making you laugh, and it's wonderful to laugh.
As I'm saying this, I'm thinking mournfully about some of the later films I've done which haven't been so funny. My more recent films, Ghosts and Battle for Haditha, are definitely not comedies. Humour is the thing that enables us to survive the most stringent and difficult of circumstances. I probably need to evolve into something more humorous for the next film.
Nick Broomfield is a Bafta award-winning documentary film-maker

The film that changed my life / The Piano by Jane Campion (1993)

The film that

changed my life

The Piano

by Jane Campion


Sussana White
Sunday 21 March 2010

If I hadn't seen The Piano when I did, I may never have made a feature film. I've been making little films since I was eight – I begged my father to buy me a Super 8 camera after he took me to see Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison – but for a long while I thought I wanted to make documentaries. I found cinema incredibly inspiring, but I wasn't hearing any voices that felt like my voice in that world. It was a bit like being a singer and hearing wonderful music, but feeling there was nothing in your range. When I first saw The Piano I suddenly felt, my goodness, this is something I could do. It was almost a lack of confidence, before. But seeing the film, the power of its imagery and the delicacy of the way that emotion was handled in it, it felt in tune with who I was as a person and who I was as a filmmaker. It made me see film as a possibility for myself.

I first saw it in a cinema on the King's Road with the man who was to be my husband. We'd only recently met. At that point I knew I very much wanted to have children, and here was a film exploring the relationship between a mother and a daughter. I was excited, but my boyfriend didn't really get it at all. He found it slow and uninspiring. Still, I remember in that moment feeling an incredible connection with the film.

It's really influenced me in a lot of specific ways, beyond giving me the feeling I could go out and do this. It has sunk in at a very deep level. There were shots in Bleak House that were directly inspired by The Piano. The way the humvees move across the desert in Generation Kill, these very still, tranquil shots – they're very like the shots of the piano on the beach. Even more recently, in Nanny McPhee, there are silhouette shots that are very like those of Holly Hunter being carried in across the waves. Anna Paquin who played the little girl is now in True Blood with Alex Skarsgård, who I cast in Generation Kill. She's so, so brilliant in the film and is now working with Alex. I love that.

It's been really interesting to me revisiting the film now that I've had children. It plays very differently, I've found other layers in it, about that closeness and the language between a mother and a daughter. They're a bit young now, but I look forward to the day when I can sit down and watch it with my daughters. I think they'd get a huge amount from it.

Bernardo Bertolucci / La Règle du jeu by Jean Renoir (1939)
Daryl Hannah / The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming (1939)
Daniel Auteuil / We All Loved Each Other So Much by Ettore Scola (1974)
Lone Scherfig / East of Eden by Elia Kazan (1955)
Sussana White / The Piano by Jane Campion (1993)
Nick Broomfield / The Gold Rush by Charles Chaplin (1935)

Game of Thrones / How it dominated the decade / Then lost its way

Game of Thrones: how it dominated the decade – then lost its way

It was the fantasy juggernaut that everyone from Obama to Snoop Dogg loved. So why did it fall from grace so swiftly?

Sarah Hughes
Monday 30 December 2019

In the 2010s, there were TV shows and then there was Game of Thrones. HBO’s adaptation of George RR Martin’s epic fantasy series dominated the entire television landscape. Endlessly dissected online and beloved by everyone from former president Barack Obama to Snoop Dogg, it became the subject of countless fan videos and closed out the decade as the most popular show on earth, averaging more than 25 million viewers per episode (an official figure that didn’t even take into account the illegal downloads, which also saw it win the dubious accolade of the globe’s most pirated TV show).
It was also the last piece of true event television in an age where our viewing is increasingly splintered by the rise of streaming. While other shows exist to be binged in one greedy gulp, Game of Thrones had to be watched weekly – a fact that only boosted its appeal, making it the show on everyone’s lips every Monday.

 For so long it was the only show on everyone’s lips ... Jaime and Cersei in Game of Thrones. Photograph: Helen Sloan/HBO

Most of all, though, it changed the way the world thought about fantasy on the small screen. Prior to Game of Thrones, accepted wisdom said it was impossible to turn fantasy into a TV hit. Post-Game of Thrones, TV executives seem unable to stop commissioning variations on the theme.
Westeros DNA can be spied in everything from straightforward historical epics such as The Last Kingdom to the weird, wild world of Sky Atlantic’s Britannia. Netflix’s The Witcher is the latest show to conform to the fantasy juggernaut’s template of gruesome violence and largely gratuitous nudity.

It wasn’t always this way. When Game of Thrones began in 2011, the focus was as much on the sharp one-liners and the cunning political machinations as it was on the big twists and even bigger spectacle. But as the show progressed – and crucially, as creators David Benioff and DB Weiss were forced away from Martin’s books due to lack of new material – the show became less character driven and ever more bombastic.
Never was this clearer and more devastating than in the season six finale, The Winds of Winter. At the time of airing, the episode – in which Cersei Lannister wiped out Baelor’s Sept and with it much of the cast – was hailed as a triumph, a sure sign that Benioff and Weiss had a thrilling endgame in mind. In reality, it was the moment that fatally weakened the foundations on which the series was built – and provided proof that, when in doubt, the writers would always blow things up first and ask questions later.

 Blow things up, ask questions later ... was The Winds of Winter the show’s death knell? Photograph: HBO

Having established Cersei as a master villain, Benioff and Weiss appeared to have no idea what to do with her, largely deserting the intrigue in King’s Landing to concentrate on the epic fights. That was understandable given the importance of a final showdown between the Night King’s undead army and the rest of humanity, but the gaping hole where politics used to be ensured that the last two seasons prized showy did-you-see-that? moments – the sudden death of Littlefinger, Daenerys’s fiery destruction of King’s Landing – over carefully nurtured plots and character development.
This obsession with style over substance also had a knock-on effect on the shows that came after. Many of those big-budget projects such as Troy, The Bastard Executioner and American Gods were flops, made in the most shallow image of Game of Thrones and ignoring the fact that what originally made the show a hit were its quieter moments.

Conversely, the series that have worked – Outlander, Penny Dreadful, the BBC’s recent adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – did so because, like Game of Thrones, they put the story they were telling above flashy special effects. Each also exuded the feeling that this was fantasy adapted by people who adored the source material, not just executives scrabbling around for a hit.
Not that the high-profile failures have stopped the commissions coming. Huge adaptations of Lord of the Rings, Robert Jordan’s classic fantasy The Wheel of Time and Patrick Rothfuss’s cult series The Kingkiller Chronicle are in the works.

Some may prove to be worth the wait, although it’s hard not to wonder if TV will already have moved on by the time they arrive because perhaps the most interesting thing about Game of Thrones is the way that – despite all its noise and thunder – it faded so swiftly from the collective memory, slipping down the best-of-the-decade lists and increasingly attacked for being not so much the story of Shakespearian grandeur it promised to be but instead, in Macbeth’s words, a tale “full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.
At its best, though, Game of Thrones was addictive and unmissable TV, filled with great lines and genuinely surprising and well-earned moments. But history can be cruel to shows once lauded as the best of their era.

 Its limitations were built in ... Game of Thrones. Photograph: HBO

It is also true that its limitations were built in. Race was badly handled from the beginning, with the Dothraki presented as violent savages and Daenerys’s storyline constantly flirting with white saviour tropes. It also consistently courted controversy over its handling of sex, from the decision to shoot Sansa’s brutal wedding to Ramsay entirely through Theon’s gaze to the mishandling of a scene between incestuous siblings Jaime and Cersei that turned it from reunion to rape.
Such issues – coupled with the sense that this was ultimately a show comprised more of bombast than brilliance – means that Game of Thrones’ greatest legacy may turn out not to be the myriad copycat shows it spawned but rather the silly sums of money the makers of those shows willingly spent. Game of Thrones is dead; long live Game of Thrones.

Sharon Stone blocked from Bumble dating app

Sharon Stone: “Bumble, don’t shut me out of the hive.” 
Photograph: Clemens Bilan

Sharon Stone blocked from Bumble dating app

Actor says she was blocked from the app after users reported her account profile was a fake

Ben Beaumont-Thomas
Monday 30 December 2019

She may be known as one of the sexiest women in the world, but even Sharon Stone can’t catch a break with online dating.
Writing on Twitter, the actor complained to the dating app Bumble that she had been blocked from the service after her account was deemed to be fake. “I went on the @bumble dating sight [sic] and they closed my account. Some users reported that it couldn’t possibly be me! Hey @bumble, is being me exclusionary? Don’t shut me out of the hive.”

She included a screenshot of her account after it was closed, where a statement had been posted: “Your account has been blocked because we’ve received several reports about your profile being fake.” Bumble’s editorial director Clare O’Connor replied to Stone, unblocking her account and apologising for the error.
A Bumble representative told the Guardian the company was honoured Stone had become a member, and added: “Our apologies for the confusion … Being the icon that she is, we can understand how so many of our users felt it was too good to be true.”
Stone, 61, became a global sex symbol after the release of 1992 erotic thriller Basic Instinct, and had further film hits with Total Recall, Casino and The Quick and the Dead.
She has been married and divorced twice, and also called off another engagement. She is now single, and has three sons with whom she lives in Los Angeles. In 2018, she dated Italian real estate agent Angelo Boffa, but the pair separated, with Stone saying later that year: “I think somewhere in the back of your mind you think maybe one day you won’t be a single parent, then, eventually you realise: I think it’s better. I’m no longer hoping for someone.”
After posting her tweet to Bumble, she was inundated with replies offering dates. One post read: “If you’re ever in Buffalo and kinda dig fat guys with mustaches my DMs are open. Also own a car so willing to drive (up to 25 miles) even if ya just close by.”