Archive for November 2010

Ed Vaizey's Speech


After yesterday's announcement which I summarised here, it's interesting to read through Culture Minister's Ed Vaizey's statement. One of the strangest elements of the statement was this section:

I want to continue to encourage other parts of the private sector to support British film as much as they can. I am therefore delighted that Odeon is announcing today a series of proposals to support the industry. They will reward Odeon Premiere Card holders with additional points every time they go to see a British Film; use their website to promote British films; and become a regular source of online information for British Film fans, including ODEON’s recommended “British Film Of The Month”. They will also consider giving guaranteed on-screen support to a British Film Of The Month, with a view to showing a wider choice of British films as a result.

Vaizey chose to highlight this quite paltry offer from Odeon as some kind of proof of the role that private business plays in our 'Big Society'. That this scheme will make no difference at all to the success of British film doesn't matter.

The minister on probably the most important topic of all for the industry:

In converting to digital technology, the cinema sector is experiencing its most significant change in perhaps 80 years. While this offers huge opportunities, we know it also represents a significant financial challenge to a large number of small independently-run cinemas across the country. That is why I am delighted that - with the support of the major cinema operators and studios – the industry is seeking its own solution through the UK Digital Funding Partnership. Recognising the social, cultural and economic value that many of these sites provide for their local communities, the Government very much supports the work of the Partnership in seeking to ensure that no cinema is left behind during this momentous change.

Unfortunately, a very vague statement that makes no commitments and offers no support beyond lip service. Leaving it only to the industry will guarantee that hundreds of cinemas will not be able to afford the equipment and risk closing down.

And finally, the most telling of all his statements:

Some people think there are two film industries in this country – the US film industry, and the UK film industry - and that somehow one side’s success is dependent on the other side’s failure. I do not share that view. I believe that the two industries are two sides of the same coin. We benefit massively from Hollywood’s investment in this country.

So no hope there for a homegrown, healthy, commercially robust UK film industry unless it's completely reliant on the studios. No chance of building a French-style business model that can enhance the British film profile at home and internationally unless it has a Warners logo on it.

If we have the properties (Potter, Bond, Narnia, etc), the actors, the writers, the directors, the studios, the locations, the tax credits - why aren't the projects originating here, with profits staying here beyond contractual work? Simply because the capital is missing. Maybe that's what a government strategy should persue: bringing the capital into the the equation.

David Thomson Vs Orson Welles









In this month’s issue of Sight and Sound, David Thomson makes his case for why he thinks Citizen Kane shouldn't win best film of all time once again in S&S’s 10 year all time critics poll in 2012.

For those not familiar with this particular poll, it’s a far cry from your normal film magazine’s 100 best films of all time, which are written by three people in an magazine office. This is a comprehensive poll of the world’s leading film critics (and in 2002, the world’s leading filmmakers) on their choice of the top 10 films of all time. It’s only conducted once a decade, and Citizen Kane has been named Best in every poll since 1962.

David Thomson belongs to a group of people (which includes the actor and writer Simon Callow, the late critic Pauline Kael and others) dedicated to promote the idea that Orson Welles was a ‘flash in the pan’ director that peaked with Kane and then mostly created unfinished mediocre work that was a product of his ‘troubled’ personality.

On the other hand, there is a group of people (which includes director Peter Bogdanovich, critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Joseph McBride, and of course, myself) that find Welles’ work fascinating in all its forms and decades, from his radio and theatre work in the 1930s to his ground-breaking cinematic work from Kane to F for Fake.

David Thomson, in his piece, offers no other evidence for ‘toppling’ Citizen Kane other than he thinks it’s been at the top for too long. In Thomson-esque fashion he writes a lot without saying much. What is evident from his article is that his vendetta against Orson Welles (even more perverse because it’s disguised as admiration) has not stopped, and will not stop until Kane is stripped of its title as the best film of all time.

Whatever your opinion of Orson Welles and Citizen Kane is, the poll is there as a serious, authoritative survey of critical opinion on what we call the canon. David Thomson can vote like everyone else in 2012. Why try and persuade voters to pursue a strategic vote policy? If we can’t vote with our hearts for things like films, what’s left? And what interest does Thomson have in knocking Citizen Kane?

Today is the Day!



"Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain."
-- The Wizard of Oz, 1939

I am proud to announce that my book debuts today! Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (!t Books/Harper Collins, 2010) covers the evolving story of art direction from the silents to present day. Hundreds of images and renderings of every film style and genre -- many seen here for the first time -- are featured along with dozens of interviews with some of the cinema's top production designers, art directors and set decorators and written with the cooperation of the venerable Art Directors Guild.

My personal favorite sections are the behind the scenes stories along with Manhattan on Film, Italy on Film and the films from the forties and sixties. And of course Gone With the Wind, period sagas, fantasy films and the Big White Sets of the thirties. And the films of Nancy Meyers, my favorite designing director. It's all here from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times and Ben Hur to Sunset Boulevard, North By Northwest and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House to Citizen Kane, The Graduate, Chinatown and  The Age of Innocence to Titanic, Pride and Prejudice, Somethings Gotta Give and Avatar. You get the picture.

You can see more of the book at my website or get a sneak peak at the Art Directors Guild site. The book is available at a bookstore near you (if there are still standing!), Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc. or if you would like to personalize a copy, you can email and purchase directly through me.

It's been a long and winding journey down the yellow brick road and I hope you enjoy it!



Photo Credits: Gosford Park/USA Films, MGM/Photofest/!t Books/Harper Collins

Irving Kershner and The Luck of Ginger Coffey

It must have been around thirty years ago that I first saw The Luck of Ginger Coffey. At the time, so early on in my experience with the world of cinema, I thought it was an extraordinary film. As I saw more movies, I thought, perhaps, it was not perfect as I imagined but it never fell from my top ten of the best working class dramas of the sixties. It is an excellent film with a commanding performance by Robert Shaw at its center. But its look, its feel, its pacing and its just right touch of pathos and humor can be credited to one man who time and time again exhibited the kind of skill and talent that made several more popular movies work but for which he rarely got noticed. That man, director Irvin Kershner, died on November 27, 2010 and the world of cinema may not quite realize just how great a director it lost.



Kershner wasn't working on any current films so the loss isn't one of immediate impact. There won't be any unfinished work that can't go on without him. The loss is that there is now no time left to honor a director that the world of cinema should have honored a long time ago. Of course, his films will continue to honor him but I would have liked to have seen the man himself share in that honor that seemed to constantly elude him.

On the obituaries you see all over the internet right now, from the major media outlets, three movies are listed front and center by which to remember Kershner: The Empire Strikes Back, Robocop 2 and Never Say Never Again. And I understand, too. Popular titles dealing with franchises such as Star Wars, Robocop and James Bond should not be ignored and if that gets people to notice him, more power to them. Certainly his turn with the Star Wars Saga was the best of the series and took an already excellent screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, and through his expert choices in framing and editing, added layers of depth unknown to any other movie in the Star Wars Universe.

But he did more, so much more, and the pinnacle of his other achievements was The Luck of Ginger Coffey and the impact it had on me cannot be overestimated. When I first saw it, on TBS back in the very early eighties, I was in the opening stages of advanced cinephilia. I had checked out all the classics, from Rules of the Game to Citizen Kane to 8 1/2 to Chinatown, and was steadily taking in more every week. When Ginger Coffey popped up on the schedule I had never heard of it. None of my many "History of the Movies" books had so much as mentioned the title. Kershner wasn't mentioned either, anywhere. So, I watched it with little expectations of anything more than a run-of-the-mill drama, directed by, as it turns out, that guy who did the last Star Wars movie.

Then I saw it, and everything changed. I was floored by how good it was and amazed it wasn't mentioned anywhere. And then, at that moment, I learned my first life lesson of cinephilia: Movie books, critics and historians lean heavily on a select few works, what might be called "the canon", and rarely venture outside of that safety zone. If you want to be a cinephile, you've got to stop relying on the movie books to guide you and make your own way.

It's a lesson movie blogs have really driven home with me, as in the last nearly four years of blogging I have discovered so many great films, films that I would easily rank alongside the canonical ones, that I hadn't even heard of until some adventurous blogger sought it out and wrote it up. It doesn't mean those films in the canon aren't worthy, they are. It simply means there is so much more that's been ignored or overlooked that deserves our attention. The Luck of Ginger Coffey is one of those films for me. In fact, it was one of the first reviews I did on Cinema Styles, something I didn't do often then and still don't but something I wanted to do to call attention to such a good film. It's a review I don't think too much of now, heavily relying on plot description more than anything else, but there it is anyway, one of only four reviews listed on IMDB's "external reviews" for the film, a sad testament to how undervalued it is.

Irvin Kershner died on Saturday and took with him a talent and skill for character in drama that made films like The Empire Strikes Back stand out from the rest of the series and made dramas like Ginger Coffey that much more resonant. He will be missed.

Happy-Go-Lucky


Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky is built around a peculiar and extraordinary character, the 30-year-old school teacher Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a woman who is forcefully, unbelievably enthused about life and, seemingly, everything in it. In the opening minutes of the film, she encounters a reticent book store clerk who responds to her peppy greetings with glowering silence and confusion, as though he doesn't understand why this woman is wandering through his store, asking him questions and smiling and laughing for no apparent reason. But this is just how Poppy lives her life, with an attitude of openness and cheerfulness that can seem, to the people she encounters and at times to the film's audience, like absurd naiveté or even lunacy. Poppy is a person of boundless optimism and good will, and her final question to the store clerk provides a subtle glimpse of her worldview. She asks the man if he's having a bad day, and this finally shakes him out of his stony silence, at least long enough to answer with a simple "no." The unspoken question, then, is why he seemed so rude, so closed off, so unwilling to interact. When Poppy encounters this kind of attitude, she assumes that something must be wrong, because she doesn't realize that for a lot of people — even most people — the default setting for getting through the day is not boundless cheer but resignation or, at best, neutrality. Most people are not like Poppy, greeting every day with laughter no matter what happens. When she leaves the store, she realizes that her bike has been stolen, and even that she responds to with bemused laughter rather than anger; she's a little sad only that she didn't have a chance to say goodbye.

As a character, Poppy perhaps strains credibility — and in certain scenes shatters it altogether — but that's part of the point. She's almost artificially, supernaturally happy, very unlike the poor, downtrodden, miserable characters who often populate Leigh's films about the British working class. Poppy presents an alternative to that misery, an alternative to the attitude of constant complaining, an alternative to the attitude that the world is out to get us and that the best thing to do is snarl back. When Poppy encounters the small adversities of everyday life, she muddles through as best she can and tries to make it as enjoyable as she can. At one point, she injures her back while trampolining, and winces her way to the chiropractor, although she also exclaims that her back pains make her laugh — which is not surprising, since everything makes her laugh. While she sees the doctor, her friend Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) waits outside, trying to chat up another back pain sufferer, and Leigh not too subtly points out how outrageous Poppy's attitude is. While the man in the waiting room cringes and glowers at everyone around him, and Zoe points out that back pain affects everything, including one's attitude, Poppy is giggling and smiling through her pain, joking with the doctor. Back pain doesn't alter her attitude, and neither does almost anything else. Leigh stages the scene in a strikingly intimate, even sensual way, with Poppy stretched out on the examining table in a pink bra and bright orange panties beneath black net stockings. As the big hands of the doctor probe her body, Leigh almost makes the examination seem sexual, flirtatious, but really Poppy is just doing what she always does, which is to remain open to other people and to her own pleasure even when things aren't going so great.

This attitude encounters its greatest challenge in the form of Scott (Eddie Marsan), Poppy's driving instructor. Scott is an obvious bundle of (barely) repressed rage and disdain for other people. He is a Christian of a particular type — he says that Satanists and the Pope amount to the same thing — and also a conspiracy theorist and a racist. The openness of Poppy and Zoe to the black chiropractor — who they find attractive and kind — is contrasted against Scott's instinctual reaction to lock the car doors when two young black men go innocently riding by on bicycles. Scott is nasty and perpetually angry, always complaining about his driving students, about the inconsideration of other drivers, and especially about Poppy's cheerful attitude. Leigh relies a lot on closeups throughout this film, probing closeups that establish an at times uncomfortable intimacy with his characters' exaggerated emotions and the way those emotions are scrawled across their faces. There could not be more distance between the ready smile and bright eyes of Poppy and the constricted, taut face of Scott, who's always snarling and spitting from between clenched teeth, his face threatening to turn red with anger, his eyes scrunched up into angry slits. The two actors are each exaggerating, each projecting their feelings in the broadest possible ways, and Leigh purposefully sets these two caricatures against one another, letting the sparks fly simply by placing them in the same car together.


Of course, it's wildly entertaining and exciting, but the surprising thing is that it winds up being more than that, more than just an over-the-top acting exercise in which two broad types clash. Because even though Poppy and Scott are each extreme incarnations of opposite personality types, there's something poignant about this meeting of the avatar of good cheer and the personification of Christian repression and rage. The tension between the two explodes during the final act, when Scott unleashes, in a torrent of startling hostility, exactly how he feels about Poppy and exactly how he sees her. It's a vision of Poppy strikingly different both from how Poppy sees herself and how the audience has likely seen her up until that point. And Poppy looks at him with a dawning sadness on her face, an expression of true despair as she realizes how badly he has misunderstood her and her intentions, how different his whole way of looking at the world is from hers. It's such a bracing moment because it gets to the heart of the film's study of Poppy, who remains so outwardly happy through everything that one is forced to wonder if it's an act, if she's really happy or if she's nursing a deeper loneliness or depression beneath the surface.

That would be the conventional understanding of such boundless cheerfulness. The usual idea is that anyone who responds to everything with a laugh or a joke is adopting a defensive posture against the world, but that refreshingly doesn't seem to be the case with Poppy. She is thirty years old and has no boyfriend for most of the film, and several times her friends delicately probe how she feels about this situation, asking if she's lonely or if she wants a baby or if she's unhappy with her life, but Poppy shrugs off such concerns. She's OK with her life, with her friends, with her job, and she doesn't feel the need to dwell on the things she doesn't have. People keep telling her to be a grown-up, but Poppy certainly has a more mature attitude than Scott, who tells her to grow up but is implicitly compared by Leigh to a schoolyard bully in Poppy's class, a troubled boy taking out his anger on his classmates. And just as Poppy tries to draw out that boy, to get to the root of his troubles, she tries to do the same thing with Scott, though his grievances have had longer to fester, his angry worldview has had time to solidify, and his troubled childhood has lasted well into his outward adulthood.

What's interesting about Happy-Go-Lucky is that, although Leigh obviously admires his heroine's pluck and joy, there are certainly times where Poppy must become aggravating even to a sympathetic audience. Her openness to everything leads her, at one point, to wander into an abandoned construction site late one night, following the crazed ranting of a bum. This is surely the scene where Leigh goes too far in portraying Poppy as a kind of holy fool, as she interacts with this obviously mentally damaged man with the same innocence and good cheer she displays with everyone else. The scene has a sense of danger running throughout it, an uncertainty about whether this man is dangerous, whether he's going to assault Poppy. Poppy isn't oblivious to the danger — she's not that stupid — but she traipses on anyway, trying to do... well, what? She offers the man some change, which he refuses, and she asks if he's cold, though she wouldn't have any obvious remedy for that if he had said yes, but mostly she just seems to be trying to connect, to talk to him, to see what he wants or needs.

At moments like this, though, Poppy seems less cheery and optimistic than suicidal, or at least willfully blithe with risk, naivé about the dangers of the world. The scene seem like a fantasy diversion from reality. In other scenes, one even sympathizes with Scott as Poppy, unable to keep a straight face for more than a minute, makes light of the dangers of driving and turns her lessons into jokes. It's hard not to agree with the otherwise unsympathetic Scott that driving is a responsibility to be taken seriously or else people will get hurt. Leigh intends for us to just keep laughing along with Poppy, to see her perpetual teasing of Scott and her casualness with driving as a joke, but in some ways he sets this up so that he can pull the rug out from under us with Scott's final enraged speech to Poppy. Because although Scott ultimately reveals himself as even more pathetic and distasteful than he'd first appeared, Leigh doesn't flinch away from the fact that Poppy's carefree, always-happy attitude led her to this place. And Poppy, of course, has reason to be happy: she has good friends, a job she loves, in the end she even finds a boyfriend. The worst thing that happens to her in the film is Scott telling her off. One wonders if her attitude could survive a change of context, or how she would cope with real tragedy, if she could cope at all. The film's final image of Poppy and Zoe rowing together on a lake — Poppy and Zoe go boating? — is a peaceful and cheerful one, but lingering questions remain, like whether Zoe hides a twinge of resentment now that her friend has a man and she doesn't, and whether Poppy would even realize such things. She's happy, but is she aware? And does it matter?

UK Box Office 26 -28 Nov

In an ironic counterpoint to the confusion and mess that the publicly funded UK film industry finds itself in, Harry Potter, that very British franchise, takes its second week at the top of the box office with a gargantuan £8 million. A glut of new releases were unleashed in the wake of Potter, but none of them really broke out. Momentum's THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST failed to ignite the box office the way the previous two episodes of the trilogy did, a sign perhaps that the franchise has run its course.

1- HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (£8,195,294)(2 WEEKS, TOTAL £33,084,467)
2- UNSTOPPABLE (NEW) (£1,269,356)
3- DUE DATE (£895,078) (4 WEEKS, TOTAL £9,169,166)
4- LONDON BOULEVARD (£555,087)(NEW)
5- THE AMERICAN (£437,781)(NEW)
6- DESPICABLE ME (£241,465) (TOTAL £19,394,155)
7- THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST (£198,568)(NEW)
8- JACKASS 3D (£119,217) (TOTAL 5,437,504)
9- SKYLINE (£92,930) (TOTAL £2,645,266)
10-MACHETE (£90,144)(NEW)

UPDATED - The UKFC Outcome

This morning Ed Vaizey announced what would happen with the Lottery funds that the UK Film Council (UKFC) used to administrate. Ever since the UKFC got the boot in the summer, everyone has been speculating about where the cash would go. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has come under heavy criticism for abolishing the body without a plan for what to do next, which threw a lot of uncertainty and instability into an already fragile industry.

So today's announcement was heavily anticipated. Many already had predicted the main responsibilities would go to the British Film Institute (BFI), and they weren't wrong.
The main points are:

- The BFI gets £43 million for investment in film, an increase in the total Lottery sum.
- Regional screen agencies are gone, replaced by something called Creative England. (They take over responsibility for video games, too.) There will be three regional hubs as opposed to eight offices.
- Film London stays and gets the responsibility for inward investment in the UK.
- The Certification Unit (which decides how much money foreign film investors get) goes to the BFI.
- The tax credit that keeps American productions in the UK continues.

What does it mean? Well, the BFI are going to have to hire a bunch of people for starters. They are not really set up for distributing funds, so they'll need the right people and probably some bigger offices. What shape exactly Creative England will take is unsure, and of course, for the poor boy in the corner, exhibition, no news. Most likely the few funds that were available will disappear in the handover.

Another missing piece is a coherent digital strategy - what about new technologies for distribution/exhibition? The digital transition? The Digital Screen Network? Watch this space for some answers in the coming days.

Update coming soon!!

We've got in lots of good stuff lately, and soon this space will tell you more about 'em. Sorry for the delinquency. Can I blame the snow? Thanks.

Shelf Life: The Season's Top Design Tomes





Many thanks to editor Wendy Goodman of New York Magazine for naming Designs on Film as one of the seasons "Top Design Tomes." I am proud to be in such wonderful company and you can read more about this and her selections here.

She cites the designs of Cleopatra (1963) as one of her favorites. I agree as these sets were some of the richest and most opulent in film history.

Elizabeth Taylor as the pampered Queen of the Nile

The film was one of the most expensive films ever made at that time

Filming was shot in England to look like Alexandria, Egypt and then moved to Italy, hence the inflated budget

I am a big fan of Wendy's work and be sure to catch her new book The World of Gloria Vanderbilt (Abrams, 2010) which debuted earlier in the month. The images and insider's view of the history of this renaissance woman are as stunning as the cover.




Photo Credits: Twentieth Century Fox, Abrams Books

Jean-Claude Risset/Lillian Schwartz

Mutations (1969)




French composer Jean-Claude Risset helped to pioneer computer music at Bell Labs in the early 1960s. Made in collaboration with computer pioneer Lillian Schwartz, this film sets animations by Ken Knowlton and others to Risset's titular composition for solo tape, which features a seemingly infinite glissando among its effects. Click here for part 1 of a 1976 documentary on Schwartz's work with computers.



The Conversations #22 (part 1): Darren Aronofsky


My latest conversation with Jason Bellamy has now been posted at the House Next Door. With the release of director Darren Aronofsky's fifth feature, Black Swan, due in early December, we have taken the opportunity to discuss Aronofsky's first four films: his debut feature Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and The Wrestler. We talk about the direction Aronofsky's career has gone, what unifies his oeuvre and what distinguishes his in some ways very different films from one another. It's a lengthy conversation that tries to get to the center of Aronofsky as a filmmaker while also considering the aesthetics and themes of the individual films.

This is, as the title suggests, the first part of a two-part consideration of Aronofsky. Once Black Swan comes out, Jason and I will be returning with a second piece about that film, tentatively scheduled to be posted at the House around December 13. In the meantime, please check out part I and comment to join the conversation.

Continue reading at The House Next Door

Ingrid Pitt, 1937 - 2010


Ingrid Pitt, Hammer Films star and featured player in classics such as Where Eagles Dare and The Wicker Man has died at 73. I watched The Vampire Lovers again in October but never wrote it up, though now I wish I had. She'll be missed. Rest in peace, Ingrid.

For the Love of Film (Noir)

Last February, Marilyn Ferdinand of Ferdy of Films and Farran Smith Nehme of The Self-Styled Siren, held a blogathon to raise money for film preservation. The money raised, some $30,000, was used to restore two silent film shorts, The Better Man (1912) and The Sergeant (1910), discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive in 2009. This time around, things will done a little differently. I'll let Marilyn explain it from her post currently up at Ferdy on Films:

Last year, we didn’t know what films we would be helping to restore, but this year, we do! In 1950, United Artists released a searing drama called The Sound of Fury, aka Try and Get Me. The film recounts the same story Fritz Lang told in Fury (1936) and was directed by Cy Endfield, who would run afoul of the Hollywood blacklist. Its star, Lloyd Bridges, never had a better role, and Eddie told me that when Jeff and Beau Bridges finally saw the film, they were blown away by his performance. A nitrate print of the film will be restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, using a reference print from Martin Scorsese’s personal collection to guide them and fill in any blanks. Paramount Pictures, which now owns the film, has agreed to help fund the restoration, but FNF is going to have to come up with significant funds to get the job done. That’s where we come in.

I know everyone loves noir, and that noir crosses all borders of time and place. That gives everyone a lot of choice of topics, and we hope everyone will join in what is bound to be a gigantic party. Once again, we’ll be offering helpful advice and taking suggestions from the film community on the For the Love of Film Facebook fan page, which we’ll be adding to regularly. Become a fan, and take a look around in the coming weeks for suggestions of topics, discussions about the blogathon, information about film preservation, and a lot more. And go to the For the Love of Film blog, where Cinema Styles’ Greg Ferrara has posted banners you can use on your own blog and Facebook page to promote participation and awareness.


The banners Marilyn mentions come in large and small sizes for use either within a post or on a sidebar. One of them, with Joan Bennett leaning against a street lamp, comes from Scarlet Street, Fritz Lang's 1945 masterpiece that my wife and I recently took in on the big screen at the AFI. I plan on writing that one up, as well as proselytizing, as usual, for seeing as many classic films on the big screen as possible because, once again, a movie I liked became a movie I loved once seen as originally intended. I also plan on giving to the cause, as I did last year, and hope you can too.

Here at the National Archives, my place of employment, I got to take in Upstream, a 1927 John Ford backstage comedy that was a part of the 2009 New Zealand treasure trove and, though we didn't specifically fund that one, felt proud to have been a part of a greater whole, one that works towards the goal of restoring works of art and pieces of history that might otherwise be lost forever.

So put up the banners, watch plenty of film noir and come ready to write, read, discuss and make a difference. I'll see you there.

UK Box Office 19-21 Nov

Harry Potter kicked off with its biggest opening anywhere, with over £18 million in the UK, $330 million globally, and $125 million in the US. Imagine what the gross would have been in 3D? The average in the UK was a staggering £31,000 per screen. Ouch. It doesn't hurt that, for example, our local Odeon is playing it 26 times a day in seven of their eight screens. Warners was even pressuring cinemas to drop their own release DUE DATE to make way for Potter. Shock and awe.

1- HARRY POTTER & THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (£18,216,658) (NEW) (Charles Gant will tell us tomorrow if this is the biggest opening ever in the UK)
2- DUE DATE (£1,215,337)(3 weeks, total £8,020,713)
3- DESPICABLE ME (£645,611)(6 weeks, total £19,063,963)
4- SYLINE (£512,510)(2 weeks, total £2,331,091)
5- JACKASS 3D (£348,172) (3 weeks, total £5,067,365)
6- RED (£218,208) (5 weeks, total £6,817,108)
7- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£192,352)(5 weeks, total £2,872,642)
8- GUZAARISH (£171,017) (New)
9- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£169,608)(6 weeks, total £10,158,437)
10-ANOTHER YEAR (£161,958)(3 weeks, total £1,246,578)

Officially Replaces "The Wash" As Worst "Movie" In History...


I don't even know where to start. "N-Secure" is so awful that you find yourself getting angry with everybody and everything that had anything to do with this "hot, period-panty mess" (c. nOvaslim). Have you ever felt yourself getting pissed off that the film you're watching was ever made in the first place? I know I haven't before this; the closest I've gotten was all of those Roc/Damon Dash movies starring Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek that I can't even remember the names of now. N-Secure makes those films look like Steven Soderbergh flicks, straight up.

I can't even give this "movie" a review, cause there is no real plot or point. I implore you never to come near this one...kinda look upon it like venturing near Dracula's coffin at sunset. But if you don't heed my very sage advice, know that I am about to give away some "spoilers" (though I really don't think it will make a bit of difference in your experience watching it). Here is my impression of the "movie" in bullet-points, cause this sh*t left me too spent to write full-on thoughtful paragraphs:

* First of all, how do you cast someone in the lead that looks exactly like Professor Oglevee from "The Parkers"? He even had his same...ummm...."zest" ifyaknowwhatimean. That distracted me for most of the "movie". Why not get the real thing? I'm sure he would have worked for the same salary as dude whose name I do not know and have no desire to look up.

* This "movie" is about a man who is so obsessed in his love relationships that he will practically beat down a woman if she is 4 minutes late (yes, literally), uses a CSI type blacklight to check for any stains on the sheets, put a GPS tracking system on his girl's car, goes ballistic over a curling iron burn cause he thinks it's a hickey, and makes his woman sign a contract that she will not have any girlfriends and return his calls within 1 minute. Yet no woman wants to leave him because of his high life in material things. WTF is this "movie" trying to say?

* I don't really know anything about "Nephew Tommy", but I do know he's in the running to be this century's Mantan Moreland. Can we have one more cue for bugged-out eye reaction, pretty please?

* Can somebody please explain to me why Thelma from "Good Times" has a three minute throwaway cameo in this "movie"? Is she related to one of the volunteer P.A.'s or something?

* Imma need Essence Atkins to show us that she has more range beyond what she has shown us on "Half And Half". I love her, but dang!

* I believe that this is the first time since "The Cosby Show" that I've seen Tempestt Bledsoe's hair looking decent, though 90% isn't really hers ifyaknaowwhatimean. Sadly, her acting hasn't improved even a microdot.

* Ditto for Elise Neal.

* Where the heck did they get the music from in this "movie"? It makes a Lifetime movie soundtrack sound like high-concept art. I mean strictly "As The World Turns" circa 1968.

* Why is Lamann Rucker (the only male eye-candy) given top billing, only to be bumped off in the first 15 minutes?

To sum up everything, this "movie" is about an unreasonable man who goes through extraordinary and quite unrealistic lengths to keep a leash on his woman. That's it. No reason is ever given for this, except that he had a controlling father...I would like to think it takes a little more than that to turn someone into a psychopath, but who am I to know? Obviously the writers of this "movie" know more than we do. A lot more, apparently, as nothing in this script or anything else makes any sense...including why this "movie" was made in the first place and why anybody even bothered to show the f*ck up.

Invisible Cinema rating: Z-


The rise of the film festival


The Festival circuit has grown incredibly over the last ten years. Britfilms.com lists over 250 Festivals in the UK, and the list is probably not up to date. This explosion has a two-fold root cause: cinemas seeking to programme films they can't schedule under a normal commercial programme, and the public funding available for Festivals that has become available.

Festivals, not only in the UK, but across the world, serve as a form of distribution for films that don't have a chance in the brutally competitive commercial marketplace. Some features never make it beyond that circuit, and while some may consider these failures, the growth in festivals means that they can now reach very wide audiences without ever playing in your local multiplex.

The CINECITY Film Festival allows Brightonians to explore cinema otherwise overlooked, and helps distributors promote upcoming films (for example, last night's preview of Momentum's THE KING'S SPEECH). Nicaraguan flick LA YUMA, for example, would be hard pressed to find a screening in Brighton without CINECITY. It also creates a sense of ocassion and excitement about cinema that you can't get in a normal week.

I've been lucky enough in recent years to be able to visit a wide variety of festivals, from Venice to Valdivia, and I have now understood their role and place in the film world. So while some may bemoan the explosion, I welcome this growth as it fulfills what any festival's core mission should be: bringing more films to more audiences.

All Things Royal



Word came across the pond this week of the engagement of Prince William and Kate (and was anyone really surprised?) and I have to wonder if this will be as celebrated, covered and commented on as the wedding of  Princess Diana and Charles. My guess is in this 24/7, celeb crazy news cycle we live in, the answer is yes. It will be the ultimate wedding reality show.

And speaking of the royals, word also came out recently that Keira Knightly will play the role of the ill-fated Princess and Helen Mirren as her mother, Frances Shand Kidd. Both Knightly and Mirren are no strangers to playing royals as The Dutchess and The Queen respectively were incredible performances.
The film is scheduled to debut around the time of what would have been Diana's 50th birthday. Lets hope the powers that be at Buckingham Palace keep that in mind when they set the upcoming wedding date.

Keira Knightly



One of the later shots of Diana



Shand-Kidd and Mirren


And for those of you who can't wait for the real thing, might I suggest renting the MGM musical Royal Wedding (1951). Fred Astaire and Jane Powell play a brother and sister dance team who find romance when they tour to London for the wedding of Elizabeth II. The film is noted for the complicated dance scene ("You're All the World To Me") where Astaire hoofs with a clothes tree and on the walls and ceiling of his hotel room while Powell is romanced by Lord John Brindale (played by Peter Lawford). The story is loosely based on Astaire and his real-life sister Adele. 

Astaire and Powell


Astaire and the "wallwalk" 


Powell with Peter Lawford and with great curtains as a backdrop




Photo Credits: Turner Classic Movies/MGM


Les destinées


Olivier Assayas is a director with a real sense for how the massed forces — social, religious, political, economic — surrounding an individual can direct and shape that person's life. It's thus not surprising that Les destinées, a period piece that spans several decades from the early 1900s to the years between the World Wars, traces the impact of worldwide seismic shifts in culture and economics in the context of a single family and a single romance. This three-hour historical epic is thus both a departure for Assayas, who is otherwise a thoroughly modern filmmaker and thinker, and a natural fit for his detail-oriented sensibility. The film concerns the wealthy Barnery family, industrialists who run a prosperous porcelain factory that caters to wealthy tastes with extravagant, handcrafted, exquisitely designed china. This factory serves as a barometer for transformations in the world, tracing the progress towards a global economy where specialists like the Barnerys are eclipsed by more modern factories churning out mass-produced products. In the factory, tensions develop between the workers, living in poverty, and their wealthy bosses, who live lives of luxury and ease, totally isolated from the filthy conditions and meager earnings of the working class, whose troubles barely touch the Barnerys and thus barely touch the film. Assayas carefully recreates this world of luxury, allowing hints of outside struggle and outside misery to touch upon these upper-class lives in only the most incidental ways. These people are aware of poverty and aware of real suffering, but they speak of it only very rarely, and it almost never enters the film directly, only by word of mouth, as an abstract concept.

What's interesting about the film, though, is that Assayas does not demonize these prosperous industrialists. Assayas is an assiduously fair filmmaker, and he recognizes that context and culture dictate the choices available to an individual, that all of us are limited in how far we can see outside of our own circumstances. This is the case for the minister Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), who is unhappily married to the severe, intractable Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), whose idea of marital fidelity and devotion makes marriage into a miserable bond of responsibility and obligation, with little room for love or joy. Barnery responds in kind with jealousy and moralistic preaching, until his growing affection for the young Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart), the niece of his friend Pommerel (Olivier Perrier) precipitates a decision. He divorces Nathalie, resigns from the clergy, and eventually retreats into exile in Switzerland to marry Pauline. This too is an opportunity for Assayas to probe the changing world of the turn of the century, as the stoic, religious traditionalism of the past begins to crack apart in the face of modern values and modern ideas. Late in the film, several representatives of the old school lament Jean's indecisiveness in life, his failure to maintain the façade of respectability and devotion that had been expected of him. A woman says, and her husband sagely agrees, that marriage is meant to be difficult, perhaps even unhappy, and that dissatisfaction is no reason for a divorce. What Jean and Pauline represent, in their youthful love, is the rejection of the old morality, embracing the idea that happiness and pleasure are more important than appearances or tradition.

If Jean sometimes feels twinges of guilt at his choices, Pauline, a thoroughly modern woman of the kind Assayas so obviously admires, is not so encumbered. She is blithely un-religious, unconcerned with what people think of her. She follows her emotions and her ideals, doing what she wants. She enters the film as a mystery, and at her first onscreen encounters with Jean, she seems already to have a rich history with him: the film wisely never clarifies if this is the case, or if their immediate familiarity with one another is simply a result of natural chemistry and attraction. Assayas loves this mystery, and loves actresses who can convey it: Béart, like Maggie Cheung in Irma Vep, is an enigma, a woman with rich depths of feeling behind her sweetly shy smile and big, vulnerable eyes. Assayas, one senses, never quite figures her out, and if the film has a fault it's that Pauline's enduring love for Jean, through everything, is mysterious in less satisfying ways as well. The film is weakest, in general, when it's ruminating on platitudes about love, which is spoken of in abstract terms by the overly analytical Jean and the romantic Pauline alike.

Their love for one another — and the film's broader points about finding pleasure in the muddle of life — is communicated more powerfully in Assayas' sensual, lush imagery. The couple's idyll in the Swiss mountains is captured in a lovely collage of brief scenes and sensual moments: swimming in the lake, walking through the forests, running and playing in the nude like children, enjoying the splendor of nature and the pleasure of one another's company. Another moment, later in the film and later in the characters' lives, is even more mysterious in its sensual beauty, suggesting that the moments that mean the most to us, the moments that linger in the memory in the midst of a cluttered and busy life, are sometimes the ones that seem the most prosaic and simple. It's a day when Jean, who has become embroiled in his family porcelain business and consumed by work, unexpectedly comes home from work early and sits in the garden, reading a novel and watching his wife as she picks cherries from a nearby tree. Assayas films Pauline through a screen of out-of-focus branches, as she turns her head and smiles with surprise at seeing her husband home. It's such a simple scene, but Assayas treats it poetically, respecting its emotional impact on the two aging lovers. Still later, Jean remembers this day nostalgically, remembers the voyeuristic pleasure of watching his wife without her knowing, similar to the way that she had once watched him through windows at a ball at the very beginning of the film.


Although the love story between Jean and Pauline — sometimes joyous, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes quietly bittersweet as the couple ages — remains at the center of the film for the bulk of its length, Assayas touches on many other characters and stories along the way, in the process suggesting the sweep of the grand transformations that shook the early 20th Century. The Barnery family's struggles with its constantly striking workers reflect the battles between workers and bosses that began to tear apart the old ways of doing business around this time. Socialist idealism suggests that the Barnerys, catering only to the richest of the upper classes, are obsolete, but ironically so does the advance of global capitalism. The globalizing world, with the competition for massive foreign markets and speedy ways of mass-producing tremendous amounts of foreign goods, ushers in the collapse of the elitist business model of the Barnerys, built on old ideas about privilege and status as inalienable and unchanging constants. As Pauline tells Jean at one point, after his divorce, he may have lost his fortune, but he is still rich, because he still has his family name and the social status that goes with it. Indeed, he is able to continue living as though he was rich: even with no money, his world is still completely separate from the extreme poverty of his family's factory employees.

Modernity doesn't eliminate this condition, but it does shake things up. Aline, Jean's daughter with Nathalie, grows up under Nathalie's depressive, self-centered oversight, and when she appears as a young woman (played by Mia Hansen-Løve) she's wild and unfettered. She goes out to clubs to drink and be with men, not because it's fun but because it's something to do, some freedom from the oppressive home of her mother. Assayas touches on Aline's story only briefly, but it's poignant nonetheless. She meets and, in a scene that pays visual homage to Ingmar Bergman's Persona, seemingly falls in love with another young woman who's had a hard life, her old school friend Dominique (Sophie Aubry). Assays picks up Aline's story again years later, after more tragedy and more rebirth. The way the minor characters skip in and out of the film, eliding long periods that seem rich with incident and change, reflects the way life itself seems to skip by in cycles of despair and joy, incident and stasis, mistakes and recoveries. The film attempts to capture the pace and the breadth of life, the way years seem to fly by, dramas playing out before the status quo resumes, and all the love, joy, sadness, loss, nostalgia, work, war, and change that fills a life.

In this respect, Bergman seems like a reference point for the opening act of the film as well, particularly the raucous family drama of Fanny and Alexander. Like that film, Assayas' epic early on concerns itself with a bright, vibrant society party. Assayas' lively camera twirls around waltzing dancers, capturing the spinning motion, like human tops, and the shushing rustle of long dresses as they sweep across the dance floor. The partygoers all join hands and form a chain running through the house and around the grounds, just as the family had done in Bergman's film, and just as in Bergman's film, strict religious morality and asceticism serves as a contrast to all this joie de vivre. In this case, though, it's the minister who winds up fleeing the Protestant inflexibility of his moralistic wife, choosing a life in which pleasure and joy, however fleeting they wind up being, matter more than empty principles and joyless responsibility. If Jean, in the end, winds up chained instead to a very different form of responsibility — the capitalist's slavery to profits over morality — he stills lives a full and varied life. Ultimately, he wonders how, in spite of everything, there still seems to be some hope at the core of life; this line, with its implication that happiness lies in a searching, open-minded sensibility, seems like a key to Assayas' rich, ambitious and complex social drama.

Coming at ya!

Enough of this no posting shit! Cinema Styles is back... with a vengeance!





What does it mean, "back with a vengeance?" I don't know. I mean, I don't harbor any ill will towards any of you and certainly don't feel the need to right some ancient wrong through violent means. All I know is that the off-site work that was stressing me out and driving me nuts is over and now, thanks to extra hours put in, I get to comp myself a couple of days at home this week. So, Cinema Styles is back. Whether vengeance is involved will be decided at a later date.
_____________

Earn 25 Cinema Styles Dollars* by naming the movie pictured in this post.

*Cinema Styles Dollars are a non-existent promotional item that contain no value, either real or imaginary. Cinema Styles Dollars cannot be used for any transaction, either real or imagined, and are for entertainment purposes only, said entertainment being "entertainment" in the nominal sense only by which, henceforth, shall be considered to be neither real nor imagined. Cinema Styles reserves the right to revoke Cinema Styles Dollars at any time and for any reason, most likely because Cinema Styles believes you do not deserve to bask in the glory that is Cinema Styles Dollars. Cinema Styles also reserves the right to pursue legal action on any individual seeking any means of compensation from Cinema Styles Dollars, up to and including a $50,000 settlement and/or 25 years exile on the island of Cinema Styles' choosing. Cinema Styles also reserves the right to wrest control of your home, finances and familial benefits should you attempt, in any way, to use Cinema Styles Dollars. Thank you for using Cinema Styles Dollars.

UK Box Office 12-14 Nov

This week releases were thin on the ground - one week ahead of the HARRY POTTER release. Picturehouses (my employer) took their first venture into distribution, with French film MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE. It took a decent £1400 per site, which given that most of the sites showing the film were also showing the Met Opera, is not bad at all. It should hold and build as people try to escape the POTTER-mania...

1- DUE DATE (£3,854,554) (2 weeks, total £5,740,152)
2- SKYLINE (£1,206,207) (New)
3- DESPICABLE ME (£1,089,300) (5 weeks, total £18,171,991)
4- JACKASS 3D (£1,059,713)(2 weeks, total £4,001,399)
5- SAW 3D (£537,911) (total £7,571,924)
6- RED (£506,113)(4 weeks, total £6,344,974)
7- THE SOCIAL NETWORK (£422,845) (5 weeks, total £9,762,369)
8- PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (£392,008)(4 weeks, total £10,606,731)
9- ALPHA AND OMEGA (£297,718)(4 weeks, total £2,633,612)
10- ANOTHER YEAR (£292,987)(2 weeks £885,834)

The Conversations #21: An Autumn Afternoon


Jason Bellamy and I have a busy month lined up for our Conversations series, and following quickly on the heels of our concert film discussion, we've posted our second piece this month, a consideration of Yasujiro Ozu's final film, An Autumn Afternoon. We talk about this film from many different angles — aesthetics, acting, themes, humor — and relate it to Ozu's career as a whole. As usual, our conversation also touches on meta topics, like the very big question of the possible gap between what a shot is intended to represent and what could be read into it. It's a lively discussion with a lot of back-and-forth debate. As usual, we invite our readers to join the conversation in the comments, so follow the link below to the House Next Door and check it out.

Also, keep an eye out later this month for our discussion of the films of Darren Aronofsky, a career overview that will be followed by a piece about his new film Black Swan.

Continue reading at The House Next Door

The Way We Were Revisited



It's been thirty seven years since Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand made movie magic in the love story The Way We Were (1973) and this Tuesday, Oprah scores a coup with a reunion show.

For those of you who are a) straight and male and/or hate love stories, b) too young and never got around to seeing, or c) living in a cave, The Way We Were is the story of star crossed lovers who meet in college and fall in love years later and their differences drive them apart. Redford plays Hubbell Gardner, a Waspy jock and Streisand as Katie Morosky, a Jewish political activist and the couple eventually prove that love can't conquer all. New York, Hollywood and Malibu in the forties never looked better and that goes for Streisand and her ironed hair as well (perhaps her most glamorous role to date).



Sydney Pollack directed the film (he later teamed with Redford on Out of Africa) and rumor has it, the golden one had to be literally coaxed into doing the role (Warren Beatty and Ryan O'Neal were also considered). The film is based on Arthur Laurent's book which I highly recommend as well. 

On location in Central Park...


...and in Malibu


Pollack with Streisand and Redford

A on-again-off-again sequel was in the works for decades but Redford could never come to terms with the story or script. Apparently "The Way We Were II" would pick up in the sixties, and the pair would come back together to deal with their radical daughter who protests the Vietnam War. Some things are best left alone and what are the chances magic can happen twice?


The film has become a camp classic and you would be hard pressed to find fans who cannot come up with at least a line or two of the dialogue or a favorite scene. (And since you didn't ask mine would be Redford and Bradford Dillman sailing - "Best Saturday Afternoon").  Sex and the City even paid homage when Carrie told Mr. Big goodbye at the Plaza Hotel. And if you've seen the film you know what I am talking about.

"Your girl is lovely Hubbell"

The Way We Were garnered six Academy Award nominations (Best Actress, Costume, Art Direction and Cinematography) and won two for Best Song and Original Score. Rent the movie, download the score and set your Tivo.




Photo Credits: Columbia Pictures

Nine Film Sets of the 20th Century




Fox News Magazine just posted a slideshow of the top film sets of the 20th Century as seen in my upcoming book Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (Harper Collins). I am happy to report the publication date has been moved up to November 30th -- just in time for the holidays! (The title image for you non-film buffs is Gene Kelly in the classic An American in Paris (1951).

With over 400 images to choose from, we selected films that were representative of each decade from the Art Deco sets of the twenties to contemporary interiors of modern films today. You can see the slideshow here and the book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Jean Harlow in MGM's  Dinner at Eight (1933) was one of the many Big White Sets of the period

Production designer Doug Kraner's contemporary interiors for the Julia Roberts
beach house in Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)


Photo Credits: MGM/Photfest, 20th Century Fox/Courtesy of Doug Kraner

Thursday's Track: David Sylvian "Small Metal Gods"


In this new semi-regular series, I write about tracks that particularly move and impress me. Take a listen and join the conversation!

On his 2003 album Blemish, one-time Japan vocalist David Sylvian collaborated with experimental musicians Derek Bailey and Christian Fennesz to create a stark, low-key accompaniment to his warm, florid vocals. His subsequent album, Manafon, released just last year, takes this approach even further, collaborating with a whole host of avant-garde musicians and improvisers to create a stripped-down, nearly bare sonic setting for Sylvian's voice. The lead-off track, "Small Metal Gods," opens with the spinning clatter of Otomo Yoshihide's record-less turntable and the hissing static of Toshimaru Nakamura's no-input mixing board, "empty" instruments that spit out abstract sheets of noise. These hesitant introductory scratches are soon joined by the spacious, reverberating notes of Burkhard Stangl's acoustic guitar and the quiet scrape of Michael Moser's cello, and then Sylvian's voice, over-ripe and thick with emotion as ever, pours into this unsettled, sizzling atmosphere. Sylvian's vocals — "it's the farthest place I've ever been/ it's a new frontier for me" are his first lines, suggesting his embrace of innovation here — are always front and center, with his collaborators filling in the niches and hollow spaces between his words. Their spare, minimalist accompaniment creates a powerful tension between foreground and background, as whenever Sylvian's voice drops out, it creates a sensation of profound absence, of negative space in which the music's scrape-and-sizzle minimalism only pricks lightly against the silence. This is music with a real sense of drama, even melodrama, akin to Scott Walker's art songs but without the bombast; Sylvian's music is resolutely dark and introspective.

To Like Or Not To Like? That Is The Question....

OK. So saw Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls" over the week-end. I purposely didn't read any reviews before seeing it (though I really wanted to) as I wanted to view it from my own perspective. I thought about writing this review the same day as seeing it, but I was unsure how I felt about it.

The fact is, I'm still pretty unsure. I know for a fact that it is the only Tyler Perry movie that I have ever even remotely liked, but I'm not sure how much. I saw the play when I was a little girl with my parents. It was long ago, but I do remember certain things about it. I remember thinking while watching the film "I don't remember any men being in that play". Sure there was talk about them, but I didn't remember seeing any.

The other thing, which I think may be my biggest problem with the film (besides the bad wigs and make-up) was that I didn't remember it being such a joyless experience to watch. At the play I remember feeling uplifted, with a great deal of admiration for the women involved. I remember that being colored and a girl seemed like a very great thing to be.



It is obvious Perry did try very hard to rise above his limitations, but we eventually get back to the branded theme of "bad Black men are the root of all Black women's ills." I'm ready to admit that bad relationships are afflicting our community in a huge and negative way, but that, monolithically, is certainly not the root of a great many of our problems. I would place racism high amongst that list (which I don't remember being talked about on any level in the film), as well as poverty, fifth rate education in public schools, lack of concern for nutrition, no genuine leadership in the community, and a host of other reasons as things we are to examine to make ourselves whole in the world.

Another limitation that has kept me from really getting into Perry's films is a complete lack of subtlety. I remember that the play was beautiful, and though not all beautiful things are subtle (certainly not), that was the beauty of this particular play. It made you think, to solve the riddles of Ntozake Shange's verse and prose. In the film, the transitions from regular speaking to the lines in the play were jarring, and mostly clumsily handled. A couple of times I found myself thinking "what the f*ck is she talking about?" only to realize a few moments later that a character was speaking lines from the play.

I did not think it lessened the experiences that were to be learned by adding men into the mix. And of course, the prose had to be expanded upon to make the film less "play-like", because as a lot of my readers have let me know, they are not huge fans of straight-on plays on film...I didn't think that detracted from the original messages of Shange. It was beautifully shot, and the set design seemed to be thoughtful. Everyone gave close to amazing performances, with special kudos to Whoopi Goldberg (surprising), Phylicia Rashad, Thandie Newton (underrated), and Macy Gray (whom I always love as an actress).


But I could not escape the feeling of claustrophobia that set in for me midway into the film. The close, tight face shots; the small, cramped apartments--began to close in on me. In the beginning of the film it was expansive and full of possibilities; as the film progressed and the plotlines and characters started to begin to be involved with one another, I felt myself shrinking. As everything became smaller and more universal, instead of feeling identity in the close relationships and growth of these women, I felt suffocated, and thoughts of wanting to escape the film began to arise.

"How long is this movie?" "Why is it so relentless in it's sadness and anger and hopelessness?" "Why doesn't anyone move from this horrible apartment building?" "Why does Janet Jackson's face look like a Kabuki mask?" And so on. Rape, abuse, mental illness, murder, undercover homosexuality....why did I not remember all of that from the play?

When the film ended, I was relieved. I don't think I've ever felt that way before about a movie. But I have to say I was relieved to see the misery about the pain men cause be over, to not have to look at the dreary apartments anymore, and to not see Lorretta Devine's craptastic wig any longer.

And that is DEFINITELY not what I should have been left with. The meaning of "Colored Girls" is to give hope and good cheer, to let Black women know that everything we need in this life, and any other life, is already inside of us. To let us know that as long as we support one another is sisterhood, in creativity, in our awesome womaness, it doesn't matter what a man does, or a whole race, or the whole world. We have to, and can, support and hold each other up.

That was the feeling I was left with in the play. The film seems to be a lot less emphatic about those things. And those messages--in and of themselves, are what kept this from being a great film, and instead simply a great try.