Film Festivals and Events

Was 2008 really such a bad year for genre cinema?

The 35th Saturn Awards have been announced and the big news is that The Dark Knight leads the board with 11 nominations. What really struck me, however, is that the nominations this year are such a weak bunch.

In the Science Fiction category, for example, we have The Day the Earth Stood Still. This is not the greatest film ever made but it is a piece of science fiction, unlike Eagle Eye which also has a nomination. Also in the running is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, a film to which the overwhelming reaction was one of disappointment. We also have two superhero films and Jumper.

The fantasy category is not much better. The inclusion of Twilight is no surprise and perfectly reasonable, but then you look at what its up against. Prince Caspian, Benjamin Button, another superhero film and a computer game adaptation. Was The Spiderwick Chronicles really the only other half-way decent fantasy film released in 2008?

And then we get to the horror category where we have the sequel to a superhero film, yet another entry in The Mummy franchise, a remake and The Happening. The only award that The Happening deserves is a Razzie.

So was 2008 really such a bad year, or has the Saturn Awards nomination committee been dazzled by big-budget shininess? And if they are going to do nothing more than celebrate the summer marketing juggernauts, is there any point to the Saturn Awards any more?

Script Frenzy: Can you write 100 pages in 30 days?

The latest episode of the I Should be Writing podcast briefly mentioned the Script Frenzy writing event and, my interest being piqued, I took a look at their site. Its an international event in which participants are challenged to write 100 pages of scripted material in the month of April - thats three to four pages every day for a month.

Any type of script is eligible, including but not limited to screenplays, stage plays, and comic or graphic novel scripts.

I have tried my hand at scriptwriting in the past, unsuccessfully. These attempts have been abandoned due to a combination of poor time management and the scripts themselves not being very good, to understate things slightly. But I find myself looking at Script Frenzy and thinking that three pages a day isnt an unreasonable target. Also, given that the emphasis is very strongly on banging out a first draft, the fact that whatever I am left with by the end of the month will probably be unreadably awful is less important than the learning experience of having actually reached the end of a first draft.

I find that I tend to be a lot more focussed when I have a deadline to hit, so this year I will be taking up the challenge to see if I can bash out something based on one of the many ideas that has occurred to me over the years.

If anyone else out there is also thinking of taking up the challenge, let me know and lets see if we can get a bit of morale boosting going on.

Schrödinger’s Girl in Warwick

Following on from yesterdays post about Schrödinger’s Girl, Ive heard from Huw Bowen that there will be a cast and crew screening on Sunday 18 January at the Warwick Arts Centre. Its not a formal premiere but they do have some extra tickets available.

If you are in the area and would like an early look at the film, email huw and tell him that Paul from Pulpmovies sent you. The email address is: huw DOT bowen AT gmail DOT com.

Two weeks to Towel Day

Towel Day happens every year on May 25th to celebrate the humour and insight that Douglas Adams brought to all our lives.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you cant see it, it cant see you - daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have lost. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Its a tough universe out there. Make sure you know where your towel is.

Slow Food on Film

I really wish I was in Bologna right now

Slow Food on Film is an international festival of Cinema and Food promoted by the Slow Food movement and Cineteca di Bologna.

Slow Food on Film aims at promoting a new critical awareness of food culture through the screening of films, short films, documentaries and TV series that focus on food-related issues (drives, perversions, identity and emotional implications) in an original way, as well as on the agricultural and food industrys repercussion on society and the environment, and on gastronomic memory as a common heritage to be safeguarded.

May 10th is Pangea Day

In 2006, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim won the TED Prize, an annual award granted at the TED Conference. She was granted $100,000, and more important, a wish to change the world. Her wish was to create a day in which the world came together through film. The result is Pangea Day.

Starting at 18:00 GMT on May 10, 2008, locations in Cairo, Kigali, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro will be linked for a live program of powerful films, live music, and visionary speakers. The entire program will be broadcast – in seven languages – to millions of people worldwide through the internet, television, and mobile phones.

The 24 short films to be featured have been selected from an international competition that generated more than 2,500 submissions from over one hundred countries. The films were chosen based on their ability to inspire, transform, and allow us see the world through another persons eyes. Details on the Pangea Day films can be viewed here.

The program will also include a number of exceptional speakers and musical performers. Queen Noor of Jordan, CNNs Christiane Amanpour, musician/activist Bob Geldof, and Iranian rock phenom Hypernova are among those taking part.

Films cant change the world, but images can be powerful. And the people who see these images can be moved to make a difference. Check out the videos, bookmark the site and mark the date in your diary.

Wanna be a record breaker?

If youre under 19 and happen to be in Leeds tomorrow, head over to Millennium Square in the City Centre at 1:00pm where the Leeds Young Peoples Film Festival is attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the largest ever Zombie Gathering.

If youre over 19 and in the area, go along anyway and show the kids how its done.

Saturn Awards 2008

The nominations for the 2008 Saturn awards have been announced (via). The complete list of nominations can be found at the official site so, rather than reproduce it here, Im going to have a stab at predicting the eventual winners.

Best Science Fiction Film: Cloverfield
Best Fantasy Film: Enchanted
Best Horror Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Action / Adventure / Thriller Film: No Country for Old Men
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (here Will Be Blood)
Best Actress: Carice van Houten (Black Book)
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Best Supporting Actress: Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Dakota Blue Richards (The Golden Compass)
Best Direction: Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Best Writing: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Best International Film: Eastern Promises
Best Animated Film: Ratatouille

This is not a complete list, by any stretch of the imagination and I have completely ignored the TV and DVD nominations. But you will be able to see how good I am at this guessing lark on on June 24th.

Asian film goodness

The latest issue of Midnight Eye is out and chock full of goodness, the highlight of which is an interview with Koji Wakamatsu, whose 1966 classic The Embryo Hunts in Secret has been banned in France. The films distributor is organising a petition which I would urge you to go and sign.

Back in the UK, the British Film Institute has put together a new 16-film retrospective of director Tomu Uchida which will be showing throughout December. The retrospective was compiled by Alex Jacoby and Jasper Sharp, both of whom will be on hand to introduce a number of the films.

Its times like this that I almost wish I was in London.

A good year for science fiction

The 2007 Hugo Award The 2007 Hugo Awards were announced yesterday, with Pans Labyrinth winning the gong for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. But what really struck me was that all five of the nominated films were excellent in their own right.

  • Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro. Directed by Guillermo del Toro [Picturehouse]
  • Children of Men (2006) Screenplay by Alfonso Cuaron Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus Hawk Ostby. Based on the Novel by P.D. James. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. [Universal Pictures]
  • The Prestige (2006) Screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Based on the Novel by Christopher Priest. Directed by Christopher Nolan [Touchstone Pictures]
  • V for Vendetta (2006) Screenplay by The Wachowski Brothers. Based on the Graphic Novel illustrated by David Lloyd. Directed by James McTeigue [Warner Bros.]
  • A Scanner Darkly (2006) Screenplay by Richard Linklater. Based on the Novel by Philip K. Dick. Directed by Richard Linklater. [Warner Independent Pictures]

See what I mean? And, if my memory serves me correctly, its been a very long time since we had this many seriously good mainstream science fiction films in a single year - certainly 2007 hasnt managed to meet the same standard. So, was 2006 a high point for SF on the big screen?