Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Great Scott!!

It won't have failed to escape even the most casual of film geeks, pop cultural observers and 80s nostalgia fans that today, Wednesday 21 October 2015, the world catches up with the future as predicted by the classic 1989 sci-fi sequel, Back to the Future Part 2.

Like many of my generation, I've held a deep-seated affection for the trilogy since childhood, when I announced to my babysitter at age 6 that Michael J Fox was the handsomest man I'd ever seen. The first film is my favourite (as well as one of my all-time favourites), and I celebrated my most recent birthday with a screening of it. To this day, just a few notes of Alvin Silvestri's joyous score give me a genuine thrill. And then there's the sheer 80s awesomeness of this:

I hardly need to out myself as a BTTF fan girl.

The second film, in which Marty & Doc travel forward to today, is slightly harder to love. In grand trilogy tradition, it's the darkest in the series, featuring domestic violence, dystopian visions & murder (while all the first film really has in that department is a fairly light-hearted take on incest, and the small matter of obliterating your own existence). Part 2 does very well however in cross-referencing the first film and juggling time lines. Characters are played quite successfully at different ages or from different generations (despite slightly shonky age makeup). 

On a recent rewatch, I was interested to see just how much of the future the film got "right" - and it's not as crazily wide-off the mark as you might think. In the first 20 minutes alone there are references to biofuels, facial rejuvenation, wearable tech, sketchy legal processes, excessive
film sequels, invasive advertising, 80s nostalgia, inflated prices and being surrounded by screens. Elsewhere, there are nods to emerging technology: payment by thumb, news drones and hover boards. That might be a pretty generous view - much of the above can be considered obvious targets and of course the film's not alone in it's hit-and-miss predictions. Most obviously, Doc's reassurance to Marty that "where we're going, we don't need roads" has proved wildly over-exhuberent even by his standards. The film also failed to predict the rise of the ebook - books have dust-repellant paper - and seemed to believe that Japan would be the world's dominant economic power, and perhaps even more egregiously, faxing would still be "a thing".

We're now as far from 1985 as that year was from 1955, and the best proof that the films have stood the test of time is the level of fandom and devotion they continue to attract - last year, Secret Cinema staged a BTTF immersion event in London, and this week, fans will converge in Los Angeles for the We're Going Back fan extravaganza, with tickets costing up to $880 (perhaps they're hoping you'll be smiling too much at the inside joke to wince too hard at the price). The event will also feature the premiere of the Back in Time documentary - a more achieveable treat once it gets a broader release.

However you choose to wallow in some classic 80s nostalgia, you can rest assured that, as long as Robert Zemeckis lives, we'll be spared any "reimagining". Bonus cause for celebration!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Victoria - believe the hype

There's a slight chill in the air, paths are strewn with conkers and, as if it couldn't be made any more official, Starbucks are hawking the "pumpkin spice" lattes. Ladies and gentlemen, summer has left the building. Welcome to autumn.

Which seems like as good a time as any to look back at what has undoubtedly been the film of the summer here in Berlin: Sebastian Schipper's rough diamond Victoria.

The film had its debut back in February at this year's Berlinale, and generated a healthy amount of buzz before its general release in June. Since then, it has dominated cinemas across the city and was a mainstay of the city's various open air screens, with showings with cast members and the director in particular selling out fast. At parties this summer Victoria was a reliable smalltalk fallback option - "habt ihr den schon gesehen?" proving a useful icebreaker on many occasions. (And if you haven't caught it yet, it's not too late; the film is still showing at multiple venues across the city).

As with so many great films, the less you know going in, the better. The elevator pitch could be summed up as: Spanish girl meets Berlin boys, adrenalin-fuelled hi-jinx ensue. The titular Victoria (Laia Costa) is a newcomer to the city from Madrid, and speaks no German. At the end of a night in an underground techno club (just in case you needed reminding what city you are in), she runs into a band of four "real Berliner" guys, led by Sonne (Frederick Lau), who has the gift of the gab and just enough bad boy charm. There's banter, some definite sparks, an invitation, but then an old debt resurfaces, a favour is asked, and the night takes what a sense of British understatement demands I call "a turn".

The one thing that is perhaps harder to have avoided beforehand is the talk of the film's USP: it was filmed in one long continuous take, a method that the filmmakers repeated three times before getting one they were happy with, and which picked them up the Silver Bear for cinematography at the Berlinale. A similar technique could be seen in this year's Oscar winner Birdman, but in Victoria, the effect is not at all stylised and much rawer. Just as the trailer promises, this is a film that grabs you and doesn't let you go. And yet there's more to it than that. Both the acting and writing lend the film an unexpected emotional heft, probably best demonstrated in a scene between the two leads in a cafe, which also provides a brief breather from the action. From there on out the film rarely lets up, and I spent the best part of one particularly fraught scene with my hand clamped over my mouth. 

The film also works well though as a statement on where the ever-changing, ever-growing city is currently at. 'New Berlin', in the form of Victoria, who like many has fled the economic crisis in her Southern European home to make a better life and a fresh start in Berlin, collides with 'Old Berlin': four guys born just after the fall of the wall, who came of age during the capital's "poor but sexy" phase. It's a film set in a a city that delivers on the hedonistic thrills it promises, but just as capable of slapping you in the face with reality, and despite criticism from some quarters of the implausibility of the plot, the film reflects this to some extent. 

After cleaning up at the German Film Awards earlier this year, where it won in six of the seven major categories it was nominated in, the film was recently shown at the Toronto International Film Festival to very favourable reviews. The UK premiere follows at the London Film Festival on October 16. Somewhat unfortunately, given the high mix of German and English dialogue, it is not eligible as Germany's entry for Best Foreign Film at next year's Oscar's, but safe to say, it's unlikely to be the last you hear of Victoria.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Post-Oscar recap

The highs:

  • The speeches: especially Graham Moore's for Best Adapted Screenplay, Patricia Arquette's (whatever was said in the press room later, her initial message on-stage was welcome) and Pawel Pawlikowski for just powering on through
  • Eddie Redmayne's reaction to his win - so damn endearing

  • Common and John Legend's performance of Glory - beautiful. And then, David Oyelowo having his tears dried by Oprah,
  • Lego Oscars! And The Lonely Island jumping about like loons.
  • Julie Andrews

The lows

  • Neil Patrick Harris: somehow, Not Particularly Hilarious (though I did think the Birdman underwear skit paid off)
  • The extended break in transmission in Germany which meant we missed JK Simmons' win
  • Birdman's Best Picture win - mainly because it cost me first place in the prediction sweepstakes
  • The interminable ad breaks
  • McConnaughey's beard

The cringe

  • The Pro7 red carpet
  • John Travolta

Oscar predictions

Overhyped, stale, out of step with cinemagoers, self-congratulatory and frequently ill-judged - but, truly, what celluloid junkie doesn't love themselves some  Oscars all the same?

This year, girl on film is leaving the glamour of her sofa and PJs behind for a viewing party at Berlin's Film Cafe with fellow Oscar nerds.

With just a couple of hours to go (and a couple more caffeine boosts to be imbibed) before the ceremony kicks off, here are my predictions for the big 6...

The supporting categories, along with Best Actress, are largely considered to be done deals. Honestly, it would be a pretty significant upset if any one other than Patricia Arquette, JK Simmons and Julianne Moore take home the gold, and they'd all be well deserved (side note: Still Alice is yet to be released here, but c'mon, it's Julianne Moore)

The other categories are potentially harder to call. Best Picture and Director looks like a two-horse race between Birdman and Boyhood, and they could well be split as was the case last year with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. However, given the amount of box office buzz American Sniper has been generating over the past couple of weeks in the States, it's not totally inconceivable that it could pull off the night's biggest upset/surprise. Ditto Bradley Cooper for Best Actor, although Michael Keaton and Eddie Redmayne remain favourites. It's the category I feel least confident predicting, though based on how much Oscar loves a personal struggle biopic, Redmayne has the edge.

For my money, Innarritu will take Best Director for Birdman - technically a very impressive film that somehow left me slightly cold. Boyhood to take Best Film - I enjoyed it a lot, though really, I'd prefer to see it go to either Grand Budapest Hotel, the most entertaining of the bunch for my money, or Selma, the most moving - and whose omission from the directing and acting categories really does baffle.

But that's just my two cents...

Popcorn at the ready!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar time!

Breezing past the ridiculously huge gap since the last post... it's Oscar time again!

This year girl on film is going to be experimenting with live blogging via twitter* during the ceremony - follow at for updates and bound-to-be-insightful 140 character bites of commentary.

In the meantime, our friends at have your last minute Oscar prep covered, with a sweepstakes prediction sheet, (German language) drinking game rules as well as the favourite (for my money) for Best Animated Short, the beautifully romantic Paperman. Below, here's another one of the nominees in that category: the quirky claymation Head over Heels.

See you on the sofa!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It had to be you – why When Harry met Sally is the greatest romantic comedy ever.

A tribute to Nora Ephron,  1941-2012
Sad news today that writer Nora Ephron has passed away at the age of 71. Despite being a highly regarded journalist and novelist in a career spanning decades, she remains probably best known for her work as a screenwriter, particularly of the romantic comedy persuasion. The films, as she herself admitted, were occasionally hit and miss, but she has the distinction of writing two of the definitive romcoms, not just of the late 80s/early 90s, but – without wishing to slip into hyperbole – arguably of all time. They are the Affair To Remember-referencing Sleepless inSeattle, and, of course, When Harry Met Sally.

The latter is one of my absolute favourites (I’m listening to Harry Connick Jr’s gorgeously smooth soundtrack as I write) and here’s why:

I have laughed out loud every single time I have watched it, since ‘discovering’ it on video in my early teens to watching it on a hen weekend a few weeks ago. The faked orgasm scene and it’s punchline (is there anyone left who doesn’t know that was a cameo by director Rob Reiner’s  mum?) are firmly embedded in film history and have made a film-tourist hotspot of Katz's Diner in NYC. There are so many quotable lines (“You made a woman miaow?”) – before we even get to Billy Crystal’s perfectly romantic speech at the end (I still really hope one day I get to hear a “Harry”). I don’t know if Crystal and Meg Ryan have ever been better, but they damn near get the show stolen from by Carrie Fisher and Bruno Kirby in the supporting best friend roles. It’s set in New York. It offers one of the more realistic portrayals of relationships in the genre. All in all, it nails the romcom formula - staying sweet without becoming sickly, and showcasing its smarts whilst never becoming smug or cynical. To my mind, few films have come close to successfully replicating this in the 23 years since.

Tributes to Ephron’s smart, funny writing with its warm yet sharp voice have poured in all day. All I want to say with this is: Thanks Nora. For Harry and Sally.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar Night - Showtime!

Ladies and Gentlemen, live from the Kodak Theater, it's the 84th Academy Awards!

Here's a little red carpet summary to kick things off:

The nominees have smiled politely/grimaced through some inane questions. ABC showed quite a sweet montage with some of the nominees' mums. Bless.

Dresswatch: liking Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer so far.

Adlerkuss fashion observation: Gwyneth Paltrow has come dressed as a superhero!

Most charming interviewees: Jean Dujardin, who I want to win even more now. He wants you to know he's not a puppet. I also enjoyed Jason Segel, being all endearing. In other news, Bradley Cooper is sporting a disturbing 'tache.

And now, on with the show!!

3:30 am - Time for the first update:

Billy Crystal opened with the traditional Oscar montage, in which he got a kiss off Clooney. He also appeared as a semi-CG’d Tintin, which was quite disturbing. He then launched into his opening number, which was mildly amusing, though Jonah Hill didn’t seem to dig the weight loss/cupcake joke. Crystal seems to be in safe, business-as-usual mode - possibly after last year’s Hathaway/Franco misfire. He’s also seemingly enjoying a running gag about the impact of Kodak’s bankruptcy on the name of the venue.

Missing from proceedings this year is John Williams’ orchestra – perhaps the music meister is still recovering from his 80th birthday bash the other week. In his place, Slumdog Millionaire's AR Rahmen.

The first awards were a double whammy for Hugo (cinematography and art direction), which could yet clean up in the tech categories. This was followed by an expected and deserved Best Costume win for The Artist, and then Make-Up for The Iron Lady.

Sandra Bullock got possibly the biggest laugh of the night so far for her “German-accented Chinese” joke when presenting Best Foreign Language Film. This went to the favourite, A Separation, from Iran. Director Asghar Farhadi also gave one of the best acceptance speeches so far, touching whilst still making a political statement without much soapboxing.

On to Best Supporting Actress – which saw Christian Bale’s famous wandering accent in cockney mode, and went to the bookie’s favourite Octavia Spencer. She also gave a nice speech, during which she cried AND got a standing ovation, which is “empty your drink” time as per adlerkuss’ rules…

4:10 am - Next update:

We’ve had a Wizard of Oz “focus group” skit, with comedy cameos from Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara – also to be filed under “mildly amusing”.

Film editing saw a surprise win and the first award of the night for Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Cue a genuinely shocked and sweetly awkward acceptance speech.

Sound editing went to Hugo, so that theory is bearing out.

Instead of more random montages, we then got a Cirque du Soleil homage to the Hitchcock, which was actually pretty cool.

Best Documentary (Undefeated – American football) was preceded by a fairly funny Gwyneth Paltrow/Robert Downey Jr skit.  This speech was noteworthy for featuring one F-bomb and getting played off (that’s another glass emptied then…)

Best Animation was presented by Chris Rock (always best in small doses) and went to Gore Verbinski’s Rango. 

Tonight’s surprising discovery: Emma Stone (<3!) appears to be considerably taller than Ben Stiller. They present Best Visual Effects, another tech win for Hugo. Meanwhile, adlerkuss has reminded me that EVERYONE looks taller than Ben Stiller.

Best Supporting Actor was another expected win for Christopher Plummer – oldest actor ever to win an Oscar, fact fans! And what a gent.

4:30 am:

Music award time! Much as I admire John Williams, I was happy to see Best Original Score go to Ludovic Bource for The Artist.

This was followed by my highlight of the evening so far: Bret Mackenzie, aka one half of Flight of the Conchords, wins Best Song for "Man or Muppet"!!!

Best Adapted Screenplay was a surprise win in my book for the Descendents – I was sure Tinker, Tailor had it in the bag.

The Award for Original Screenplay went to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris. Damn, I would’ve loved Bridesmaids to get it, but that was a long shot. Still, Woody didn’t even show up!

During another random montage Sacha Baron Cohen made an attempt to explain Borat, in one of my quotes of the evening: “ I just make stuff I would want to watch. And I happen to want to watch some pretty sick stuff”

5:00 am:

The Oscars for Best Shorts were presented by the cast of Bridesmaids, via the medium of knob jokes.
Live Action Short went to The Shore, from Northern Ireland. Documentary Short went to Saving Face, while the Animation award went to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore – a lovely little treat, up over on adlerkuss’ page waiting to be checked out.
I hereby resolve to watch more short films.

Best Director goes to… Micheal Hazanavicius for The Artist! Good speech, good accent, good glasses, good job!

There now follows a brief interlude for Meryl Streep to talk about the Governor's Awards, and then the "In Memorium" section. 

Things are drawing to a close and we’re building up to the Big Three. For what it’s worth, I think Billy Crystal has done a pretty good job. Nothing mind-blowing, but not too many cringey moments either.

Best Actor goes to Jean Dujardin, as expected, but it's still a very deserved win.

Best Actress goes to Meryl Streep, so no surprise there. While I’m sure it’s also a deserved win for her (despite having not seen The Iron Lady), I was slightly hoping for an upset in this category – maybe Michelle Williams or Rooney Mara. Incidentally, Meryl was obviously testing the “if you want to win an Oscar, dress as an Oscar” theory. And at least she acknowledged that she can’t get really get away with the “Ohmygod I’m so surprised” schtick anymore, and seemed genuinely emotional at the end.

And, again as expected, Best Picture goes to THE ARTIST!! I’ve already said I think this is an extremely deserving win. Expect plenty of “Silence is golden” headlines in today’s papers. 

And of course, Uggie the dog made the requisite appearance....

So, that's it. Not too many laughs, barely any surprises, but overall an enjoyable watch. Here are my fellow blogger Herr adlerkuss' highlights:

"Plummer, Dujardin, Spencer. GWTDT editing team. Best dressed: Gwyneth without cape und Penelope"
My own were FotC's Bret, Christopher Plummer, Ben Stiller and Emma Stone presenting and all The Artist awards. 

On that note, good morning, it's been fun, let's do this again!