21st Sep2014

20,000 Days on Earth – Film

by timbaros

thJust last month Rolling Stone magazine named their 40 greatest rock documentaries of all time. Don’t Look Back – a documentary about Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour – was their number one. However, a new documentary about Nick Cave, called 20,000 Days on Earth, is now out at the cinemas, and will surely be amongst the top ten the next time Rolling Stone magazine compiles their list.

20,000 Days on Earth is the number of days that Nick Cave has been alive (at the time of filming) – 54 years old. He is now nearing 56 but looks and acting nothing like it in this new documentary, which is a thrilling ride, both visually and musically, of this Australian-born musician who sings all sorts of songs, including rock, punk, alternative, gothic and experimental. Known mostly to the general public as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, they have recorded 15 albums over the last 30 years, and Cave, separately, has composed the score to several films, including 2012’s Lawless and 2009’s The Road. And while they are not known for producing commercially successful music, they have been consistent in record sales throughout their career and their popularity amongst their fans has never waned.

20,000 Days on Earth is a unique vision of a staged day in the life of the iconic Cave – a fictitious 24 hours in the life of. In one scene, he gives an interview to a psychoanalyst, talking about his life, including the death of his father when he was 19. We see Cave driving through the streets of Brighton, his adopted home, and a city he loves so much. In the film he tells us he eats, sleeps, shits, plays music, watches television – ah, the life of a musician. We get to see him in his studio, creating music with his band, which includes his longtime collaborator Warren Ellis, who is prominently featured in the film (including a scene shot at his home which overlooks the white cliffs of Dover). Cave also extolls the love that he has for his wife Susie. He says that when he first saw her she was a vision, and he just knew then (1997) that they were meant to be together. While she does not appear in the film, Cave’s extreme love for her is present throughout. Roy Winstone appears in the film, discussing with Cave, while he drives, the merits of being rich and famous. We also get to see Cave drive around Kylie Minogue, as she sits in the back seat of his car they reminisce about their 1996 hit song “Where the Wild Roses Grow.” It’s a special moment in the film as they reminisce about their past like it was just yesterday, when Minogue was dating the late Michael Hutchence

The film blends storytelling with performance and visualization which makes it neither a music documentary nor a concert film – it’s more than that. We see songs that get begin as an idea and then get hatched onstage; we join him on a journey through his personal archive; and we see him with his two young boys on their sofa watching Scarface and eating pizza – it’s a moment near the end of the film that brings Cave back to Earth.

The debut feature film by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, 20,000 Days on Earth is a fictional narrative on Nick’s 20,000th day. Using his notebooks and having complete accessibility to Cave, they are able to construct a film that is unique in every way, and a film which shows a side of Cave that not many people have been privy to. And we get treated to, at the end, a performance by Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Sydney Opera House. Seeing him perform makes the hair on the back of your neck stick up, and this film will do the same. 20,000 Days on Earth will stand as one of the best rock n roll documentaries ever.

21st Sep2014

Magic in the Moonlight – Film

by timbaros

images-244Woody Allen makes about one film every year. When his films are good, they are very good, and when they are mediocre, they are disappointing. His new film – Magic in the Moonlight – falls into the later category.

Allen has been on a roll the last ten years. His output has included Blue Jasmine, for which Cate Blanchett won a 2014 Best Actress Oscar for her role as a socialite who’se life changes for the worse; Vicky Cristina Barcelona, winning Penelope Cruz a 2008 Best Supporting Actress Oscar; To Rome with Love; Midnight in Paris; Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point. The 79 year-old writer, director and actor has had a career that has spanned over 50 years, and there seems to be no slowing down for him. He’s already at work on his next project – called ‘Untitled Woody Allen Project” now that Magic in the Moonlight is in cinemas. It won’t be winning any awards like some of his previous films. It’s a cute film, that’s it, there’s no other way to describe it.

Similar in plot to Allen’s 2010 film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, where divorcee Gemma Jones sees a fortune teller for spiritual advice, in Magic in the Moonlight we get a main character who is psychic medium using seances to speak to the dead, and a magician who believes the psychic is a fake.

Set in 1920 south of France, Colin Firth plays Chinese magician Wei Ling Soo, who is actually Englishman Stanley Crawford, a well-known magician, world famous yet anonymous, whose neatest trick is to disappear and reappear in a different spot in the same room. He’s also cynical, grouchy, and not very pleasant to be around when he’s off stage. He hears about a woman who has amazing psychic abilities, so he goes on a mission, along with his life-long friend Howard (Simon McBurney) to see what this psychic is all about and to try to debunk her. The psychic turns out to be lovely Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), an American from Tennessee. Sophie and her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) are in the South of France staying at an opulent house at the invitation of the very wealthy Catledge family, including the matriarch Grace (a Jacki Weaver – having the same facial expressions she has in all of her other films, though this time with more makeup), and her son Brice (Hamish Linklater) – who holds a candle to and romances Sophie to the point of singing songs to her on his tiny ukelele. They are convinced that Sophie can help Grace contact Grace’s late husband.

Crawford shows up at the Catledge mansion pretending to be a businessman named Stanley Taplinger. Immediately he dismisses her as a fake, though she seems to tell him events in his life that she couldn’t possibly know about. But during one seance where Sophie allegedly contacts Graces husband, there are knocks on a door and a candle floats in the air, Crawford (Taplinger) begins to think that Sophie’s talents are for real. He even confesses to his aunt who lives nearby (Eileen Atkins) that he believes her powers could actually be real. What follows next is a bit predictable. Crawford slowly starts falling for Sophie, especially after one day when they visit Crawford’s aunt and their car breaks down in heavy rain, they spend time with each other in a planetarium, drying off and learning about each other. By this time Sophie knows that Taplinger is actually Crawford who is actually Soo, and that he has a fiancée back home in London.

So Crawford slowly starts falling in love with Sophie, even though Brice is still very much in the picture. Crawford even confesses this to his aunt who tells him to go for it, coaxing out of him his true feelings for Sophie. The rest plays out like you would expect it, with a very predictable ending that is not very original.

Magic in the Moonlight has the same sort of romanticism these as Allen’s Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love. In these three films, love is in the air and there’s a question but yet always a certainty if the two leads will wind up with each other or not. But Magic in the Moonlight is missing some of the Woody Allen formula. Sure, Firth is excellent as the doubting magician, and Stone is glowing everytime she is on screen, and the rest of cast (bar Weaver) are all just fine. But this is Allen’s show, and we can’t help but realize that there is not much magic in Magic in the Moonlight.