Maybe we’re just the regular people

WIWH2When I was 23, Garden State was my life.  I watched the films so many times, and knew that this was exactly the type of thing I wanted to write.  Zach Braff was a hero of mine.  Over the last ten years, my tastes have moved on a little, and I perhaps don’t hold the film in quite the same regard anymore (the recent Jezebel rewatch made me cringe) so this was partly why I was dreading our special UK backers screening of Wish I Was Here on Friday at the Cineworld in The O2.

For one thing, it started at 6pm which meant I had to call in some favours to leave work at 3.  I didn’t relish the idea of trekking up to North Greenwich for 6 (actually, it wasn’t bad at all) and as Husband, Rach, and I got to the cinema lobby, we were greeted by a huge queue.  It was shaping up to be a disaster of an evening.  Emails sent from the Wish I Was Here team earlier in the week had started to make us a little anxious as they asked people to switch to the last minute addition of a 9pm screening – I was convinced we’d get to the front of the queue and told they were out of seats.

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I hadn’t realised this snaked a few times…

The organisation was a bit lacklustre but we eventually exchanged our Eventbrite tickets for numbered seats (why we couldn’t have had numbered tickets in the first place, I don’t know).  There were three people handing out tickets, and as Rach had gone to a different person, she was five rows back from us.  We were in row A.  Row A in the Sky Superscreen.  ROW A.  We quickly realised that we would be in quite some significant pain during this film – don’t get me wrong, the seats were mega comfortable, but we had to scooch down and lean back in them in order to see any part of the film.  Truthfully, we only saw the middle third of the film.  I hope nothing major happened in the other two-thirds.  Mandy Patinkin’s beard was pretty much the size of my car.

The film needed this screen however, and was ram packed with 700 of the backers – I think 1000 turned up in the end for the two screenings.  I was sneakily eyeing up some seats further back but they all got filled.

But the third of the film that we saw was better than expectation.  Aiden is a struggling actor whose children are in an orthodox Jewish school – a detail I found fascinating and wanted to see more of.  His father, expertly played by Mandy Patinkin, has stopped paying the school bills which is how the film starts.  It’s clear from Mandy’s first scene that there are some father-son tensions at play, but this melts away as it’s revealed he is dying of cancer.  The film quickly changes from a self-centered “woe is me” piece to a look at how a family deals with death, and it’s sometimes hard to watch.

There are some sub-plots that were completely unnecessary, like the chubby sweaty nerd suddenly getting the hottest girl at Comic Con because he has a great costume (please), and a weird half-assed sexual harassment thing which just serves to make Aiden take control of his masculinity. Come on now, we don’t need this silly nonsense.  I didn’t like how Aiden’s wife Sarah, understatedly played by Kate Hudson, had her “dream job”, which actually turned out to be entering data into a spreadsheet.  Who does that in this day and age, really.  Even her name badge just had the word “Worker” on it.  Oh, how terrible it is to work in an office.

There were also quite a few contrived moments and it felt as though he had these great iconic shots planned that he had to somehow get the script to move towards.  A shot from above of Mandy Patinkin lying on a hospital bed wearing welding goggles whilst the pink-haired Manic Pixie Dream Daughter hugs him.  A shot of the MPD Daughter leaping into a pool overlooking LA.  A shot of the family driving along the PCH in an Aston Martin.  The film quickly became very crowded with these moments and I longed for a bit more story.

That said, I enjoyed the story.  Kate Hudson was very good, and one scene between her and Mandy was beautifully written.  It was incredibly heartfelt and real and tugged really hard on my heartstrings.  The film didn’t drag, didn’t feel like it was too long, and even the superfluous scenes didn’t bother me too much.  One thing I loved but Husband hated were the super hero scenes with the little CGI robot.  I loved that Aiden wanted so badly to be this super hero, for his children, for his wife, for his father, but everyday life was holding him back.  At the end of the film, he accepts that he isn’t and that he’s just a regular person – I wanted more of this analogy and it was very poignant for me.

Zach Braff has definitely been unfairly lambasted over the making of the film, and it does not deserve the critical response it’s received.  It was clear in the Q&A afterwards that the whole process has exhausted the poor man and it was telling that when someone asked him if he’d Kickstart again, he replied with a loud and resolute NO.

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Terrible lighting in the cinema 😦

We had about 40 minutes afterwards for the Q&A, where Zach bounded around in front of us answering a good number of questions.  Terrible seats for watching the film, great seats for the Q&A.  At times, it felt like he was talking directly to us which was so weird and surreal – Zach Braff was stood so close to me that I could smell his aftershave (sorry, weird thing to say).  He gave us a background to the soundtrack, to his favourite films of the year, to the making of the film including the fact that he only had Mandy for four days which is astonishing.

What started out as a potentially worrying evening actually turned out really well, and I’m glad I made the effort to get to the screening.  And super glad that we stopped at the Byron Burger afterwards.

 

You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet

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Last night, I attended a screening of Beyond Clueless at the BFI, a Kickstarted film made by the blogger Ultra Culture, also known as Charlie Lyne.  It’s a “a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 modern coming-of-age classics.”  A bit of a no brainer – I was, am, and probably always will be obsessed with teen cinema to the point that I’ve attended most of the Prince Charles Cinema’s teen film PJ parties over the past couple of years.  A documentary, claiming to be “the first major study”, of a genre I love – yes please.

However, I didn’t see much of a study.  There was certainly a heck of a lot of clips, and kudos to Charlie for his research as it definitely was thorough.  His montages of high school settings, swimming pool splashy splashy, and sexual awakenings contained a phenomenal amount of source material and there were a huge number of films I didn’t recognise – the citation list in the credits was intimidating.  The editing was also to a very high standard which was something I really enjoyed.

But no one gets awards simply for watching a lot of films (I should know; I did two film degrees back in the day).  You have to make a point, you have to find meaning or a something linking the films together.  You can’t just show endless shots of teens ‘being destructive’ and not tell the viewer what you think this means.  The narration by Fairuza Balk was at times completely superfluous as it wasn’t adding anything to the visuals.

Every so often, Charlie would start towards some kind of critical analysis, and I’d silently beg for him to go further but it didn’t seem to happen.  One of the films he focused on was 13 Going on 30, a film which I shamefully love.  A reading of the film that I had never considered was that Mark Ruffalo’s Matty is only interested in the teenaged Jennifer Garner’s Jenna, and that Jenna decides to give up her successful career in order to be with Matty.  Holy crap!  I have been watching this film so blindly, my feminist self hadn’t really acknowledged this.  Charlie noted it, but then didn’t take it any further – why is a grown man only attracted to a teenage persona?  Why does she have to give up everything?  Are there any parallels to Never Been Kissed?

He also focused on the weirdest films – how someone can skip over Donnie Darko or Romeo + Juliet, choosing instead to examine Slap Her, She’s French or The Girl Next Door is utterly baffling.  I understand that these are probably the films that he knows, that he’s comfortable with, but that is not what one should expect from a documentary film maker.  He really needed to push himself further, otherwise the only thing this documentary becomes is “A list of Charlie Lyne’s favourite films”.  90% of the films he featured told the stories of heteronormative white boys – no mention in the narration of how gender, race, or sexuality can affect or influence a storyline.  Only a sideways dig about the fear of being gay by a couple of straight boys in Eurotrip (ugh) and Jeepers Creepers.

If I had brought the narration to my dissertation supervisor 10 years ago (sidenote – 10 years ago?  Really?), she would have congratulated me on my research, and then gone through paragraph by paragraph saying “and what does this mean?”.  Handed in, it might have scraped a lower second class degree.  The film was a visual representation of IMDB with a couple of user comments from the forums thrown in as an aside.

The soundtrack was brilliant however, and we watched the film with Summer Camp playing live.  I bought a CD after the show and told Jeremy Warmsley how much I enjoyed the set.  I’ll definitely be downloading the soundtrack – it was perfect.

I don’t want to be so critical, or take away from the astonishing achievement that Charlie has made here – this is yet another good example of what Kickstarter should be used for.  This man started out as a blogger, moved on to writing for the Guardian and now has made a film that’s shown at SXSW and the BFI.  That is amazing, and let’s be honest, something that the films I’ve written will likely never achieve (sadface).

But one quote struck me from the narration, and seemed to sum up the whole doc for me – Charlie is “searching for answers to a question he doesn’t understand”.  Which is a shame when so much could be said about this much maligned genre.

Mayhaps you desire to… SQUIRREL

IMG_1625I think we can all agree that some Kickstarter projects have gone too far.  I got caught up in the excitement of it all after funding the Veronica Mars Movie and the American Psycho musical – at one stage, I was trawling through all the projects daily finding something else to fund.  Art, music, books, tech – I was desperate to throw money at something.  But my interest started to wane a little when Melissa Joan Hart decided to make a terrible public mistake, and now people have moved on to potato salad?  Let’s all calm down shall we.

However, there are still the odd gems to be found.  I keep coming across things that have closed already, but Husband seems to have a good eye.  One of the things he helped fund was a beautiful book by British artist, JM Cooper, featuring illustrations that document her month spent in Manhattan.  The book is really great – go buy it now on her website!  Such gorgeous and unusual drawings

You might be asking why I have chosen to blog about this by using a picture of our friendly local squirrel, Tufty – pictured here having a drink in our garden.  As far as I know, he hasn’t been to Manhattan or funded a Kickstarter project.  He mainly just harasses us into giving him nuts.

Well, in addition to getting his name in the Thank You section of the book, Husband pledged enough to get an illustrated commission of anything he wanted.  We talked about it for hours – we could get a a lovely picture of ourselves, a favourite landmark, something from a holiday.  The choice was just too great.  And don’t ask how, but we eventually decided on this:

DSC_1743A squirrel in a top hat.  Look at him, in all his dapper glory!  Husband was a little worried that Jessica might have thought he was a crazy person for requesting it, but she replied that she would like nothing more than to draw a squirrel in a top hat, and she did an amazing job.

DSC_1750Look at his little whiskers!  And the acorn!  Too freaking adorable.

The picture is eventually going to have pride of place in the living room because it’s just too good not to look at every day.

So providing you can get passed the dregs, there are still some really great projects on Kickstarter.  I might just go and have another look now.

Most likely to blog

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The final piece of my Veronica Mars Kickstarter puzzle arrived today.

HELL YEAH!

VM Kristin

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Good job they signed next to their photos!

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I’m sad Chris Lowell and Tina Majorino didn’t sign, but they only said they hoped to get everyone.  I got KBell’s though – that’s important!

Now, where the hell am I going to put it?

A teenage Private Eye – trust me, I know how dumb that sounds

Empire cinema

Exactly a year ago, I was pledging a good proportion of overdue back pay into the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter.  I had expected to get my poster, t-shirt – all the goodies I was promised – but I could only hope to get a good film.  I had lowered my expectations – TV shows rarely make good films which is perfectly acceptable as they’re very different mediums.

I had Kickstarted enough to get me a digital download, and the temptation to download it Friday morning to watch on my Nexus 7 was overwhelming.  I was in Manchester this week for a work conference and the film would have been perfect to make my long train journey home go faster.  But I held out and made my way over to the Empire Leicester Square to the SMALLEST SCREEN possible to see it as Rob Thomas intended.

I’ve actually been sat here struggling to put my thoughts into words.  I’ve said before that I’m not good at reviewing films beyond “it made me cry therefore it was good” and for Veronica Mars, I may have started tearing up pretty much the second the film started, so… therefore it was good.  It was really good.  I jumped and gasped on many occasions which I’m led to believe is good for a film noir.  The script felt very close to the original brilliance of the TV series, which I suppose might come across a bit weird, because who would sound like a teenager when they’re almost 30.  But to me, that just says more about the extraordinary writing of the series.  My emotions were all over the place and after leaving the cinema, I immediately wanted to go back in to the next screening.

Which I couldn’t do as there were only four screenings on Friday and I’m pretty sure they were all sold out which is great, but also a really shitty way to promote a film.  There are 10 cinemas screening the film in the UK and Ireland, and I don’t have one near me (London is an hour or so away on the train).  How can the film ever be expected to succeed when they don’t actually SHOW IT ANYWHERE.  And it was shown at Empire and Showcase cinemas – I didn’t even know there were still Showcase cinemas.  It’s such a shame it wasn’t on at a Vue or Odeon.  The full extent of the Empire Leicester Squares promotion is in my photo above – Veronica didn’t even get a big 27″x40″ poster.  Of course it’s going to ‘fail’.

I’ve also read some pretty ridiculous reviews from writers who clearly just want to kick Veronica Mars – for what reason, I’m not sure, but some of the criticisms I’ve read have been that the film was too visually dark, that it was impossible to follow, that it was just like The OC (um, what?).  One of the reviews I read this morning featured photos from season 3 and nothing about the plot, just that the fans wasted their  $5.7 million and that the film was childish.  They’re not interested in being unbiased.

It clear that all this will ensure that only fans will see this film in the UK, and maybe that’s ok.  We paid for it, so it’s fitting that it was made for us.  I do think you haven’t seen Veronica Mars, you’re insane and you need to rectify this immediately, but I don’t really care if no one else sees it because I have had my fix.  Unfortunately, this does mean I’m going to need another fix pretty soon, so please can I have some more.  Pretty please?

My love for Veronica’s world is epic.  Spanning years and continents. Lives ruined, bloodshed.

Epic.

Private Eye is watching you

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A now, a quick break in our scheduled programming to bring you this update.

YAY!  My Veronica Mars Kickstarter T-shirt has arrived!  I have been giddy about this project since it was announced, and especially since starting and finishing my re-watch of the show.  The teaser trailers they’ve been releasing have almost sent me into a euphoric fit and I.  CANNOT.  WAIT.

I wasn’t as involved with the Veronica Mars fandom as some others (don’t ask) but I did start watching when season 1 was airing so being a part of it from the start is a good feeling.  I’m just hoping that we get a fair share of the cinema release in the UK so I can go see it twenty times.

We’re still waiting for Husband’s t-shirt (which is really my second shirt), and my signed poster which should arrive at some point closer to the release (if I remember correctly).

The Veronica Mars season one marathon at the Prince Charles Cinema is looking a little bit tempting in my manic fangirl state…

Veronica Mars is smarter than you

Finally, the day I’ve been waiting for for almost two weeks has arrived – the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project has opened to UK donors.

And I’m so excited!  The only negative in this is that Michael Muhney won’t get to be in the film.  Mainly because his character, Sheriff Lamb, did not survive season 3 which was a TRAGEDY!  Michael was an absolute doll when I met him a few years back (I was starstruck into muteness in front of him) and it feels wrong to have an addition to the Veronica Mars canon without him.  I demand flashbacks!

Admittedly, I should really be spending my money on a new oven, seeing as the old one is probably dripping melted metal on to my food.  Who needs food when you have the promise of a t-shirt and signed poster!