Before he fought in the galactic battles of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Adam Driver was a United States Marine with 1/1 Weapons Company. He tells the story of how and why he became a Marine, the complex transition from soldier to civilian — and Arts in the Armed Forces, his nonprofit that brings theater to the military. Because, as he says: “Self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder.” (synopsis via TED Talks)
When we see actors up on the big screen or on the television, we don’t necessarily ask ourselves how they came to be in that line of work.
And gossip mags tend to spend their time on prurient, often made-up aspects of actors’ lives, which in the end give us little to no insight on why that particular person does what they do.
But in this funny, illuminating TED Talk by Adam Driver who quickly rose from Girls to a major Hollywood movie career, we gain valuable insights into his life, including why it is he eventually felt the gravitational pull of acting, and how that even with that epiphany, it took him some time to turn his dreams into reality.
Throughout this talk Driver comes across as warm, down to earth and self-deprecating, someone who very much appreciates what they do but who wants to keep it all in perspective and give back to the people who got him to this place.
So rather than watch the plethora of TV-based and online entertainment shows and be subject to meaningless drivel that adds nothing to your appreciation of a particular actor, watch this TED Talk and understand in ways both funny and poignant what it meant for one actor to find his dream and live it.
You’ve seen Rollin’ Safari – and if you have not, why not, here’s the link, remedy this immediately if not sooner – and now the people who brought this imaginative and damn funny animated conjecturing on what a world of round animals would look like, Kyra Buschor and Constantin Päplow from Rollin’ Wild, are back with Rollin’ France.
Like it’s hilarious predecessors, it relies on a healthy heapin’ dose of slapstick, some deliciously on-point observational humour and a willingness to affectionately parody the sort of nature documentaries that made Sir David Attenborough so well-loved and respected.
It’s genius, blissfully, wonderfully drawn and possessed of a singular willingness to be brilliantly, cleverly silly.
Now get off with you – I think I see your dog bouncing by …
The film stars Franco as a servant in the Middle Ages who flees the clutches of his oppressive master (Nick Offerman), ultimately taking up residence with a convent of wild nuns (Plaza, Shannon, Brie, Micucci) in the campy interpretation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s 14th-century work The Decameron (synopsis via Entertainment Weekly)
“What for American satirist Jeff Baena (Life After Beth, Joshy) must have felt like a radically innovative idea — take a medieval piece of literature, such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, and recreate it with an irreverent modern sensibility — is in fact a strategy that Euro auteurs have been doing for decades. Not that a somewhat overinflated sense of novelty makes Baena’s twisted nuns-gone-wild comedy The Little Hours any less entertaining …
“The Little Hours is, then, a medieval convent comedy for the megaplex crowd, one that dispenses with the notion of nuns as prim-and-proper old maids who spend their days praying, and instead treats them as rude-and-repressed young women with raging hormones and a curiosity about all things forbidden.”
“Relieved of the burden of creating a fully convincing Middle Ages, the pic can focus on laughs. Franco makes a sympathetically bewildered sex object here, eagerly accepting some of the unexpected action coming his way while panicking at other, weirder advances. (Some of these nuns dabble in love drugs and witchcraft; one is even secretly — gasp — a Jew.) A comedy in both the current and the original senses of the word, Little Hours earns its laughs before ensuring a happy end. Sure, the increasingly agitated plot eventually exposes all sins and gets nearly everyone condemned by a visiting bishop (Fred Armisen). But a bit of cloister-inspired ingenuity fixes that, leading to an end in which all but the vengeful and the judgmental find happiness, or at least a new shot at it.”
Yes it may be irreverent and more than a little silly but that’s not such a bad thing and can be a powerful antidote to take ourselves way too seriously.
Unlike most 51 year olds, my texts, tweets and Facebook posts are littered with a profusion of the very cute pictograms, and frankly, if I could have them pop up around me while I walked and talked, I would.
So it makes sense that Disney’s Told by Emojis series has become one of my favourite things ever, a thoroughly delightful, gorgeously brief retelling of many of the Mouse House’s biggest and best tales with only emojis to guide the way.
It works beautifully, and I am beyond smitten, with the latest film to get the treatment the original Pirates of the Caribbean which was brash, silly, hilarious fun and a swashbuckling hoot to boot.
Told by Emojis simply adds to the giddy goofiness of it all, and you’ll want to watch it, and I daresay the movie, all over again.
Much like the cats who form its physical and emotional centrepiece, it is all too easy to underestimate the power of Kedi, a film which provides us with an unexpectedly moving account of the stray cats of Istanbul and the many people who interact with them on a daily basis.
Walking into the film, you assume you will be getting some light, fun profiles of cats both feisty and cuddly, a jaunty, amusing detailing of the many creative ways that Felis Catus has insinuated itself into the lifeblood of the city and the many, varied people who call it home.
That is there, of course, and provides many of the outright laughs and gentle chuckles that punctuate audience reaction to this whimsically engaging film by Ceyda Torun who has captured not just the independent bravura and chutzpah of Sari, Duman, Bengü, Aslan Parçasi, Gamsiz, Psikopat, and Deniz, but the deep, strong connections they make to the people around them, many of them show great kindness to these homeless felines.
In fact, time after time you are struck with great forcefulness by how potent, meaningful and in many ways necessary these connections are.
There is one man who goes from neighbourhood to neighbourhood every day feeding cats, at his own expense, an errand that many of his friends affectionately regard as eccentric – they reason God will provide for the cats; their feeder sees himself instead as God’s arm to make this happen – but which he sees as vital to his ongoing emotional and mental health.
Suffering a nervous breakdown in 2002, he argues with quiet passion and unwavering belief that it was the cats that brought him back from the precipice, who gave him a reason for staying alive, even restoring his willingness to speak and interact with others.
Far from just feeding the cats, many of whom sit waiting for him as he enters abandoned buildings and the docks of commercial premises, this is a holy calling of sorts, and the main motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
Similarly one lady speaks expansively, and with self-aware humour of the fact that dispensing 10 kg of chicken to the scattered felines of her neighbourhood is therapy for her, something she been doing for years, leading her to muse whether she will ever fully be healed. She doesn’t seem to care, happy to be doing her part to give her life meaning, the cats food, and the city a little more colour and personality.
It’s noted at the start of the film that the multitudinous, eclectic bands of cats, representing a motley number of breeds, many of whom arrived via ship over the many centuries that Istanbul, straddling the vital transport hub of the Bosporus, provide culture, chaos and life to Istanbul, which would lose much of its character if the cats were to suddenly disappear.
As you meet the seven cats at the centre of Kedi‘s narrative, and glimpse many others in passing, all masterfully captured in their natural surrounds by cinematographers Alp Korfali and Charlie Wuppermann, you begin to realise how powerfully important these diminutive but personality-rich creatures are to the people of Istanbul.
But as Kedi goes on, you come to realise that far from their presence being assured in perpetuity, that it risks being swept away by the remorseless march of modern Turkey through many of the delightfully ramshackle neighbourhoods of Istanbul.
So at risk are they a high-rise residential towers and freeways cut through old markets and homes, that one woman wonders how much longer they’ll hang on, fearful their disappearance will diminish many aspects of peoples’ lives. The connections between the cats and their self-appointed protectors is so deeply-ingrained and so emotionally important for everyone from the deli owners who feed one cat who has adopted them (not the other way around) to the people close to the “neighbourhood psychopath” cat who bosses her husband, fellow cats and even the humans in close proximity, that one woman notes with some amusement that even with their old neighbourhood under threat from redevelopment that she fears more for the cat’s welfare than her own.
And that is, in essence, the real power of Kedi.
It reaffirms the deep, abiding power of real connection and that all of us need it in some form or another or we risk losing a part of ourselves. The people who routinely look after the cats, such as the fisherman who feeds a litter of kitten, long abandoned by their mother, every day and who is touchingly grateful for the companionship of the adult cats who accompany him on his fishing expeditions, mention this over and over again, touching on the power of community that is great in large and small rich ways by the opinionated, lovable cats.
Kedi also shows off how a city as sprawling and potentially impersonal as Istanbul becomes a series of tight, interwoven communities thanks to the presence of the cats on every stoop, wharf, seat and balcony on offer (and even those that aren’t).
Ultimately what Kedi brings us is a loving portrayal of a city that owes as much to its cats as to its people.
Through a subtle, nuanced narrative that is never gathers up any more speed than it needs to as it takes us on a soul-restorative tour through the lives of Istanbul’s cats and its people, we are treated to a vivid reaffimation of the power of connecting with others, even if they are sometimes irascible cats who may or may let you hang around (spoiler alert: bring them food and they often will, along with a great deal of affection).
As someone who experienced an inordinate amount of bullying right through school, and who experienced profound solace through the companionship of a series of cats who loved even when my peers didn’t, I can attest to both the power and the necessity of these connections. Kedi works because it not only links the cats and people together in meaningful fashion, but because, without fanfare or any kind of twee emotional manipulation, demonstrates how vital they are.
Yes, the cats are the stars of the show but the people aren’t far behind, and you are left with an enduring sense, after the magnetically-beautiful soundtrack has played its last, that Felis Catus and Homo Sapiens are forever intertwined, and eternally all the richer for it.
In 1995, a teenager living with her sister and parents in Manhattan discovers that her father is having an affair. (synopsis via IMDb)
Wouldn’t it be lovely if life worked out exactly as we imagined it would?
Well the good bits anyway …
In Landline, Jenny Slate’s character Dana admits to her father, who’s left-turn life decision has left his two daughters reeling, that “I’m just trying to figure out if the life that I’ve picked for myself is even the one that I want.”
Aren’t we all sister, aren’t we all?
As Varietynotes in their review, the themes in the film are pretty universal ones, despite the New York setting:
“Landline is a dramatic comedy about a family full of secrets, and what’s mature — and, in its way, reassuring — about the film is that it views this state of affairs as an all-too-natural one.”
So there are some pretty big but relatable questions canvased in what looks promisingly like a genuinely touching, warm and funny indie film about family, life, and way it can be messy and glorious all at once as we try to figure what the hell is going on.
And yeah, let’s be honest maybe we never will and that’s OK too.
Landline opens 21 July in USA after premiering at Sundance last January.
No matter how you slice it, James Corden is a joy.
An actor, singer and host of The Late Late Show With James Corden, he is an imaginatively talented man who is responsible for the viral-happy Carpool Karaoke, very funny skits and interviews, and the subject of this post, Crosswalk Musicals, where he and a very nimble cast perform songs from much-loved musicals during the pedestrian walk intervals at intersections.
It’s an inspired idea, brilliantly executed, with some serious talent, gorgeous costuming and yes, split-second timing, essential if you’re to avoid being run over by impatient city motorists, some of whom don’t see the entertaining side of Corden’s time-sensitive artistic endeavours.
His latest effort, which involves just a little, or a lot, parodying of theatre life, is Mary Poppins, staged live in London to a mostly appreciative audience, save for the white van drivers and one impatient pedestrian who walks across the screen mid-performance.
It’s bright, fun and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ly fabulous!
RAKKA is the story of broken humanity following the invasion of a technologically superior alien species. Bleak harrowing and unrelenting, the humans we meet must find enough courage to go on fighting. (official synopsis via Laughing Squid)
There is something deeply, viscerally confronting about Rakka (Japanese 落下 meaning “fall”), the first short film released by Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios.
The first short film release by the master sci-fi storyteller, who masterfully injects social commentary into his taut, artfully-constructed films, is not some sunny, blockbuster-y take on alien invasion such as Independence Day or War of the Worlds – for all their grimness, there was an overall cartoonishness to the action – but one suffused with bleak, dark despair.
It feels like the aftermath of an alien invasion would feel, ecological and societal devastation rampant, torture, oppression and genocide on the march, instigated by an invasive race that sees humanity as a resource, things on which to experiment and nothing more.
But as people have demonstrated down through the ages, even in the face of the most apocalyptic of scenarios, the will to live, to survive is incredibly strong and so it remains even with an enemy as unceasing, cold and cruel as this one.
With Blomkamp so vividly painting what can only be described as humanity’s darkest day with such fierceness and nightmarish horror, the spirited, desperate fight back looks like the real deal, a genuine titanic David vs Goliath fight against the odds that very few invasion films manage to adequately convey.
It helps that the rebel leader is played by Sigourney Weaver who brings her take-no-prisoners attitude that won her plaudits in the Alien films to Rakka, her every word – the film is relatively dialogue-sparse which only adds to the atmosphere of ruination and dread – making it abundantly clear that if humanity is going down, it won’t be without one hell of a fight.
It is a dramatic, deeply immersive, unnerving, compelling film, the first part of the Oats Studios’ strategy which comes with the aim, notes Collider, “of not only [gauging] interest in these short film stories, but to also serve as a sort of proof-of-concept for feature film ideas that may or may not secure funding and distribution.”
You can currently stream Rakka Volume 1 free on Steam, YouTube and the Oats Studios website … or here!
“Goodbye Christopher Robin” gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will TIlston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie the Pooh. Along with his mother Daphne (Margot Robbie), and his nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald), Christopher Robin and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War. But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family? (synopsis via Coming Soon)
Like many people, my love for the magical world of Winnie the Pooh runs long and deep.
Starting in early childhood when I devoured the books of A. A. Milne, who created the delightful bear and his friends including Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger based on the toys of his adored son Christopher Robin, and moving on through the movies and cartoons, I have loved everything about the merry, thoughtful inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood.
I even marked my 50th birthday by buying a series of Jim Shore artworks depicting Winnie the Pooh and friends; so it’s fair to say that the release of Goodbye Christopher Robin, a biopic of sorts of A. A. Milne is going to be very high on my viewing agenda for the latter part of the year.
The fact that it releases in Australia two days ahead of my birthday is an even bigger bonus, and if the trailer is anything to go by, which casts a warm but knowing humanity on the author and his family, this film should be a worthy companion to the tales of his own creations, a reminder that the creator and the created are never ever really very far apart.
Goodbye Christopher Robin releases in UK 29 September, USA on 13 October and Australia on 23 November.
Sinister secrets await as Mary helps her girlfriend Marsha escape from her parent’s gothic mansion one dark and eldritch night in a film which features a blend of hand-drawn art and 3D assets and takes us on a Lovecraftian escapade through the Manor of Madness. (synopsis via Vimeo)
We are reminded a lot these days, and thank goodness for that given the bigoted evil that still sadly exists in our world, that love is love is love.
It may sound trite to some ears, but it is as far from a saccharine Hallmark sentiment as you could ask for, possessed a muscular truth that love is strong, powerful and authentically real, no matter your race, creed or sexuality.
Kris and Kurtis Theorin bring this essential truth to gorgeously animated life in their delightful short film, Mary & Marsha in the Manor of Madness, which uses a pleasingly surreal style to underscore how real and powerful love can be, and how despite the opposition you might encounter, that it can your salvation and your life.
“Our goal with this film was to combine the creeping horror of H.P. Lovecraft with the wacky action of classic Saturday morning cartoons. This bizarre juxtaposition of styles helps emphasize both the weirdness of the horror and the silliness of the humor. Also the idea of ‘Scooby-Doo chases in H.P. Lovecraft’ is just inherently funny, to us at least.”
It’s a gleeful delight but also wrestles magnificently and with great success with deep, substantial truth, a winning combination that makes viewing it one of the best things you’ll do this week (or year).