Arrietty, review

Be quiet and loving and fearless.
– Buddha

Both bravery and cowardice need fear to exist. When you are fearless you are somewhere outside of this concept, like a five month old baby about to roll off the bed without understanding that there is any danger. You don’t have to overcome fear – bravery – and you don’t give in to it – cowardice. You just do what comes naturally.

In this spirit of fearlessness, 14 year old and 10cm tall, Arrietty ventures outside of her safe house to collect flowers and follows her father into the enormous and unknown world of the human house. Her parents live a grey and conservative life but the flame haired little girl with her red dress just cannot hide.

New visitor to the house, Sho, spots Arrietty and this is the beginning of an adventure that will cause much upheaval to those who want to play it safe.

Arrietty is a beautifully crafted production by Studio Ghibli who have adapted Mary Norton’s classic book The Borrowers. Their previous showing at the Watershed in Bristol was Ponyo with its tale of love among difficulties.

Arrietty is an invitation to see the world from the fearless eyes of little people. It is such a beautiful sight.

Note: matinee shows are dubbed and evening shows are subtitled

Showing at the Watershed in Bristol

The Tree of Life, reflections

I saw the Tree of Life at a baby friendly cinema session and I watched it while either holding, feeding or walking my daughter up and down the aisle. Also while crying because the movie made me weep. But then it’s easy to pull the heart strings of someone who has just had a baby.

There is a 20 minute sequence which depicts the creation of the universe and there appears to be some intent to portray the miracle of life with reference to beauty in art and music and nature.

Intellectually, I understand this. Emotionally, I was only touched by the acting of Pitt and the eldest son, played by Hunter Mcracken.

The mother’s role was mostly silent. Maybe she was portraying the feminine aspect of the world. Passive, embracing, emotional. Silent disapproval rather than active aggression.

I spent a lot of time pondering on the symbolism of the film. I’m not sure if it’s rather blatantly obvious or just misguidedly over the top.

I barely realised that the movie had a plot. IMDB says it was about the following:

The impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

I definitely didn’t get that. I did wonder which son Sean Penn was meant to be and was convinced he was the middle one, the eldest being the subject of the phone call at the start of the movie.

The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki was beautiful but clinically so. Framing the shot while showing it made me think of the person behind the camera rather than the scenery.

It felt like a movie about the miracle of raising a child by someone who had never changed a nappy or been splattered by porridge.

I felt the miracle of life a lot more while feeding my daughter in the middle of an allotment last week than I did while watching Malick’s rendition of the beginning of time while listening to Lacrimosa from Requiem for My Friend by Zbigniew Preisner (source).

The Tree of Life is showing at the Watershed in Bristol until August 4.

Watershed chief backs away from film ban fight

The British Board of Film Classification has been in the news these past few daysafter banning the film Human Centipede II. Apparently no amount of footage could be cut to make the film suitable for any classification so it can not be seen or distributed in the UK legally.

The original movie is about a surgeon who creates the first human centipede by surgically connecting three tourists via their gastric systems. The sequel, which was already planned with the release of the first movie, is meant to be even worse and was described as ”sexually violent and potentially obscene”.

Bristol24-7 asked Mark Cosgrove, head of programming at the independent cinema The Watershed which showed Human Centipede in 2010, what he thought of the BBFC’s ruling and their censorship.

For the rest of the article please visit


Honeymooner, a reflection

For a movie that begins with the line ‘no one should be alone on their wedding day’, Honeymooner is spectacularly uplifting and fun. Filmed on a £45,000 budget it takes director, Col Spector’s, script, some brilliant acting and intersperses it all around the pubs and pretty locations in Camden Town.

The giggles start early when Fran (Gerard Kearns, Shameless) is woken up on his wedding day by his best friend who calls to invite him out for yoga and to help with some advice from Deepak Chopra. With the prospect of spending, what would have been, his honeymoon alone, he is led along on what is meant to be a recovery adventure. His two best friends take him to pubs and bars, trying to cheer him up while at the same time trying to get through their own issues.

His friends, however, seem to have more problems than him and their love lives are dealt with in a way that would sound more familiar spoken by women. Ben (Chris Coghill) and Jon (Al Weaver) make behaviour like bringing flowers and asking for cuddles seem a perfectly normal way for guys to behave. Along with flirting with every woman who crosses their path that is.

This Watershed screening of Honeymooner was part of the programme of New British Cinema Quarterly sessions which present original films from British filmmakers. A new film from is selected from the UK’s major film festivals, and is screened each quarter and accompanied by a Question and Answer session from the filmmakers involved.

Col Spector joined us after the film to engage cheerfully with the audience and tell us about his adventures in making the movie. The production was inexpensive and relied on deferred payments and bank loans for a lot of things including the use of Nick Drake’s Pink Moon.

What would have been a cliché movie had it involved women in the lead roles turns into a light, refreshing and almost spiritual foray into getting over an ill-fated romance. This could very well be the British man’s answer to Eat, Pray, Love although luckily it takes itself a lot less seriously.

Blue Valentine, Already Broken

A Thai Zen master is asked about his cup, perched precariously on the edge of a shelf, and why he doesn’t keep it safer. He replies that the cup is already broken. He drinks from it and enjoys it but when the wind knocks it over he says ‘of course’, he had already let it go.

How do you apply that principle to a heart, however, when you first meet someone and the world finally makes sense and everything is right. Those feelings of happiness, excitement, motivation, energy and more than anything, the sense of possibility that anything can happen.

Director Derek Cianfrance did it by taking 13 years to show, not tell, where the love went. He split the movie in two, one part showing the young couple who have just met and the other showing the same couple five years later in a disintegrating marriage. The first part of Dean and Cindy’s story was shot documentary style with no second takes. There is a spontaneity to Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling that is happily demonstrated with a tap dance to a ukulele in a shop doorway and it’s easy to spot the love in the air.

The second part of the movie was filmed after the actors lived together in a house as a family with their movie daughter and with a completely different style to the first. The scenes were made up of close ups of Michelle Williams’ face, the weariness arising from actual shots being filmed over and over again and only the later ones being used. Tiredness and claustrophobia are created until they are an actual part of the story.

The film was brilliantly done and the director was flawless in his planning but it was the story that was the most touching. The juxtaposition of the old with the new was a great example of the disappointment we carry around with us when things don’t live up to their potential. Being a nurse is admirable but not if you wanted to be a doctor. There is no letting go of the past for either of them and we watch it happen and nod in recognition. Accepting that the cup is already broken is a lot harder when someone keeps reminding you of what it was like when it was whole.

Blue Valentine is showing at the Watershed until 27 January, Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol.

Pete Postlethwaite, Remembered In Bristol

Pete Postlethwaite, 64, died in hospital in Shropshire yesterday and the first thing that came to mind was the Watershed, Bristol’s independent cinema. The actor, famous for movies such as the Usual Suspects, Brassed Off and In the Name Of The Father, had his name dedicated on one of the chairs there.

I knew all this but I hadn’t realised how much of a connection he had with Bristol. See Bristol Culture for a lovely and surprising goodbye

The King’s Speech, how Australia saved the day

The King’s Speech was originally written as a two-man play and as such would probably still be brilliant. The two men are Colin Firth as Bertie, the future King George VI, and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the Australian speech therapist with unusual methods.

The characters are well written with insightful and witty dialogue that fleshes out their background and emotional constraints. It’s a great writer that can bring together such a small event as a stammer and David Seidler explores the psychology of how it grows from a personal trauma to a need to overcome it in order to support a whole nation, at wartime nonetheless. The personal becomes horrendously public and Iain Canning one of the producers even quoted Seinfeld’s observation about the fear of public speaking being so great, that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. The quotation rang true, the storyline worked brilliantly and the humour was well done. Very clever.

Unfortunately, the producers took this well written script and embellished the production with such an overloaded cast of characters that some of the lustre was scraped away from its focus. Helena Bonham Carter was the Queen, Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter was Churchil, Derek Jakobi the Archbishop, Princess Margaret was the little girl from Outnumbered, Guy Pearce the two dimensional King who only had Wallace Simpson on his mind, and Jennifer Ehle, the award winning actress, who once played Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, was the Australian wife of Lionel. An inside joke, smiled one of the producers.

The production cost US $15 millions and most of the money was spent on the cast. Talk about gilding the lily. The supporting characters were not written to bear well under the spotlight of such fame. The shallow characterisation of the Australian wife was horribly fawning over the royals and simplistic in its execution. Why they needed a well known actress to play a role with fewer than 20 lines and mostly keep a placid and blank expression on her face, I’ll never know. Each well known supporting actor drew away some of the limelight which would have been better focused on the two men who led the performance.

While I enjoyed the sight of an Australian being King, and rejecting it all wholeheartedly, I just don’t think it justified the casting choices. Admittedly, it will probably be the over-casting that will give it the publicity to succeed at the award ceremonies rather than see it relegated to BBC4 as a high quality drama.

The movie is released in January 2011 in the UK.

NaNoWriMo, The Bristol Story

NaNo is short for National November Writing Month and once a year, for thirty days, a gang, a group, a motley crew if you will, of Bristolian and Bath writers gather and chat, both physically and virtually, about writing,. This year we have two Municipal Liaisons who take responsibility for organising our meetings and writing to everyone.

There was a NaNo kick-off party today where we sat around and took up a lot of space in the Watershed. Anyone is welcome to come and join us at one of the write-ins, of which there are three a week:

Tuesday: The Griffin Inn, Bath, 6pm onwards
Thursday: The Watershed, Bristol, 6pm onwards
Sunday: The Watershed, Bristol, 2pm onwards

Few of us know each other and there is no need for formalities such as remembering names. If you are in Bristol or Bath, all information about events for our region can be found on the website by clicking the Europe :: England :: Bristol & Bath link on your profile page.

There are 687 people signed up to the Bristol and Bath region although the event takes place worldwide and not only with physical gatherings. In 2009 there were 167,150 participants and 32,178 winners. I have participated since 2005 and have only won once, last year. There is no pressure to win, to show up, or to even write if you don’t want to. However if you do want to try your hand at writing 50,000 words, this is as good an opportunity as any.

NaNo in a Nutshell

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month’s time.

Who: You! We can’t do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era’s most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by the NaNo web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.

Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter—anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing!

NaNo write-up at the Watershed in 2008

Sign up at

Watershed: Wildscreen Festival

The Watershed will be host to the Wildscreen Festival from Saturday 09 to  Sunday 17 October. While others are sitting in the same room as Simon Pegg, Derren Brown, Guillermo del Toro and Michael Caine in Cheltenham, you could be admiring little creatures and environmental delights in central Bristol.

The festival provides the chance to see a selection of award-winning films from around the globe. Screenings are free and tickets are available from the Box Office on the day.

Note that due to Wildscreen’s huge popularity Watershed’s first floor (including the Café/Bar) will be a delegates only area from Monday 11 – Thursday 14 Oct until 17:00hrs each day.

Wildscreen 2010: Monkey Thieves: Searching for Sanctuary Sat 09 Oct
Even Jaipur’s temple monkeys are affected by the global credit crunch. Monkey Thieves follows their lives as troops are forced to divide, friendships are challenged and hard times come to all. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves Sat 09 Oct
Size and power square off against speed and teamwork, as mighty grizzly bears contend with powerful packs of wolves for control of the food supply in Yellowstone National Park. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean Sat 09 Oct
Imagine if we could drain the water from the ocean. Using the latest scientific data and state-of-the-art graphics, Drain the Ocean reveals the strange and bizarre landscapes that lie beneath the waves. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa Sat 09 Oct
Presenter Steve Backshall and his team are on a fun-filled, adrenalin-fuelled journey to find the 60 deadliest creatures on the planet – creatures most people spend their lifetime avoiding. Further Information

Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX, +44 (0)117 927 5100,,

Bad Lieutenant, a reflection

New Orleans, Louisiana: post-Katrina.

Lieutenant Terence McDonagh, played by Nicholas Cage, walks in to a house already occupied by policemen and sheet covered bodies on the ground. He passes his colleague, Stevie Pruit, played by Val Kilmer, who updates him on the situation. Five murders, execution style. Pruit says don’t look. Terence lifts up the sheet to glance at the bodies and so do we.

But wait right there. Don’t look?

Dead bodies can’t be much of a surprise for these hardened police officers anymore. The bodies didn’t even look that shocking. How bad would a body need to look to affect someone like Lieutenant McDonagh. Whatever the shocking scene was meant to look like didn’t work. He seemed unphased and so were we, the audience, who consume mutilated bodies as our daily news consumption. A dead body was on the front page of the Guardian last Friday and that was real life.

The moment when Val Kilmer said “don’t look” is the moment I stopped worrying about the story and sat back and enjoyed the performance.

I’m talking about Nicholas Cage of course who took over every inch of interest I had available. He swayed, he swaggered, he mostly limped and carried his tall lanky frame, in its cheap police officer suit, across the screen in order to take more drugs.

I read an interview of his, in the Guardian last week, which mentioned how he learnt about suitable reactions to different drugs. The slower lethargic heroin induced motions as compared to the frenetic actions that accompany the paranoid illusions of the crack cocaine and other amphetamine consumption. I am happy to accept that his version was about right.

The movie was pleasant and the laughter in the cinema indicated that others also found it quite fun. There was a brilliant scene where a dead alligator in the middle of the road waves goodbye to her offspring as he/she sheds a tear and walks away.

Peter Zeitlinger, nominated for Best Cinematography at the Independent Spirit Awards, was head of photography and did pretty well in making us feel that we were the woozy ones. There were a couple of off-moments when the scene would slowly elevate until we were watching the goings on underneath us. The contrast may have been a bit too sharp as the next moment we are Nicholas Cage again and everything is a little too close up and overcrowded. Maybe that’s why the best Cinematographer prize was won by Roger Deakins for A Serious Man.

The film looked good though and I don’t mean nice. There are scenes of New Orleans that look incredibly grim, but are translated to impressive, under Zeitlinger’s touch. The Nicholas Cage show took over however and it wouldn’t have been the same without his touch of surrealism. Were we meant to be the iguanas that only Cage could see? The green, still reptiles, with the glint of a rainbow sparkling off their eyes. His casual glances down towards them, towards us, as he and fellow police officers staked out the house opposite. It still makes me smile.

The movie was pleasant. It left me with a happy feeling of having been to see something quite nice but I would be amazed if that’s what Werner Herzog intended. Werner, who was shot by an insignificant bullet during an interview with Mark Kermode and who was happy to keep going, could not have meant to make a pleasant movie.

If I was so tempted, and I’m not because I think the storyline was weak, I could give better examples of how it all fits together. The balance of good for bad. The life sacrificed today accompanies the one which gets saved tomorrow. The solitary red-finned fish swimming in a glass of water is our remnant of the massacre of the family of five. The balance is found later on but Nicholas Cage is still struggling to get through it all. I’m not sure what it’s all about. It might be about maintaining that thin blue line which is a little more jagged in some places. At times it was a little too Hollywood to feel real but it was still pretty good and had a great soundtrack.

Bad Lieutenant is showing at the Watershed in Bristol until 03 June.

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