Glasgow Film Festival 2013: Day 3

Wolf Children (Jpn) (wiki)

In the few short months since Leeds, I had forgotten just how good Wolf Children was. Beautifully drawn with a genuinely affecting story and accompanied by a warm and gently embracing soundtrack, I was glad I took the opportunity to see it once more, and this time with the lass, who was similarly enamoured.  Director Mamoru Hosoda, once seen merely as the Digimon director who walked out of the development of Howls Moving Castle, is fast replacing Makoto Shinkai in my mind as the 'new' Miyazaki. 8.5/10

From Up on Poppy Hill (Jpn) (wiki)
This was what we were here for. A new Ghibli film is not one to pass up, and this film in particular would be especially interesting. Father and son Hayao and Goro Miyazaki, who were not seeing eye to eye when Goro was chosen out of the blue to do Tales from Earthsea, worked together to script and direct a serialised manga of the same name.

Young Umi lives in a boarding house in 1960's Yokohama as she waits for her mother to return from abroad. She shoulders the duties of cooking and cleaning for her siblings and relatives, and the other residents of the house, so her life is pretty busy outside of school where she is a quiet student.

Inadvertently becoming part of a publicity stunt for the school clubhouse which is about to be demolished, Umi meets Shun, a sailors' son and passionate editor of the school newspaper, who, after an unpromising start begin to get closer and have feelings, but as Shun discovers more about her, an uncomfortable realisation leads him to keep his distance.

As you can see from the trailer, GKids, rather than Disney has picked up the rights (presumably for the same reasons Only Yesterday was dropped from the release list), and they seem to have made a faithful job of the translation and marketing, unlike the Americanified release of Arrietty (with that baffling and godawful cover) and it's unusual twin dubs - neither of which were especially flattering.

As well as the promising translation, it is a certainty that Poppy Hill goes some way to fix the problems that beset Earthsea, which felt unfocused and was telling of an immature director at the helm. The studio seems to be leaning away from fantasy for the moment as it did in the nineties, which I'm not going to complain about one bit - films like Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart count among their finest output in my opinion. You can clearly see the influences of both father and son coming together, and some scenes echo back to some of the earlier films. There's the bicycle scenes and the initially cold relationship warming up from Whisper, the twin time lines from Omohide and a smattering of other recognisable elements for those who know the catalogue well.

And that's where my criticism comes in. Though Poppy Hill is undoubtedly a lovely film with charm and wit and a storyline that is brave enough to tread into uncomfortable territory, it does feel like it borrows too heavily from the other films that the studio has released, and although that doesn't spoil the film significantly, it does cheapen it slightly. It feels almost like Goro-san is trying to address his earlier critics by following his fathers' style too closely instead of finding his own identity, and yes - on the day and viewing it straight after Wolf Children, I'm afraid that Hosoda's film was the better of the two. 8/10

And that was unfortunately it for Glasgow this year.  We had to get back to the normalities of work all too quickly, so with the sprinklings of snow in the air, we rattled down to the station with our bags and returned south in time for Monday morning.

Glasgow Film Festival 2013: Day 2

After a few hours milling about a soaking Glasgow, we decided to take in some short films.

International Competition 7: Hooray for Hollywood

Hollywood Movie (Ger) - A handful of films, old and new are cut up and mixed together so as to make new sentences, on the subject of 'you can make any Hollywood movie interesting, if...'.  A clever, visual version of cut up newspaper headlines, but the novelty wore off as the ten suggestions came and went with few smirks. 6/10

Jerry and Me (US) - A short-ish documentary narrated by Iranian born filmmaker  about her memories of growing up as westernised cinemas sprung up, and during the Islamic uprisings, were burned down just as quickly.  Throughout her childhood and as an adult, moving to London and eventually the US, her views on east-west relations were forever coloured by western films, and in particular, those of Jerry Lewis.  A fascinating but rather depressing view of the world.  8/10

The First Hope (USA) - Another Kickstarter film. A young child gets some inappropriate ideas about his older sister while watching an old video copy of Star Wars Episode 5.  The sepia-toned film made me feel nostalgic, but the poor boy's life looked hopeless until adulthood. 6.5/10

Warning Triangle (Austria) - In a similar vein to Hollywood Movie, Warning Triangle mashes together several old films with a similar theme of car chases, beautiful women, and the fedora-peaked men who sweep them off their feet.  Oh, and the scary car from Stephen King's Christine.  Together they make a mashed up narrative of sorts, but it's pretty chaotic, and then it ends in a mess without explaining anything much. 5/10

Burning Hearts (Jpn) - Washed up and heartbroken after discovering her best friend was sleeping with her beau, a young girl finds herself in the clutches of some small-time yakuza.  Fortunately, a nearby taxi driver has little left to live for.  A film of two distinct halves, you couldn't guess the second half from the first. 7/10

International Competition 4: Adrift

Echo (UK) - What begins as a tragic phone call for a young woman in the middle of a city, and the kindness of strangers she receives to get her to the hospital on time, takes a disturbing detour, as she finds it hard to let go of the moment.  7.5/10

The Globe Collector (Australia) - Every now and again, short documentary films come along about otherwise unknown people and their passions.  Andrew Pullen collects light bulbs.  The incandescent sort which are now out of fashion.  All shapes and sizes, and some needing a lot of kit just to switch on.  Andrew's got a case of the Aspergers, and though this makes employment difficult, it gives him an encyclopedic knowledge and infectious enthusiasm for the subject.  A warm, passionate documentary celebrating 'a different kind of person'. 8/10

Secrecy (Arg) - A house full of children means that the two women in charge can't give everyone all the attention they deserve.  So when the innocent questions of a girl go ignored and unanswered, she takes matters into her own hands to get the answers, with fatal results.  7.5/10

Vanishing Point (India) - An overly-long short film about two filmmakers scouring the Indian countryside for a particular bus stop for their work.  It drags, and it loses hold of it's threads as a strange wraith-like man hypnotizes one of the pair and derails the plans. 6/10

I Am Tom Moody (UK) - Shown last year at leeds, and well worth seeing again.  Tom Moody has a crisis of confidence with his younger self as he stands on stage. 8/10

Fat Kid Rules The World (US) (site)

Larger-than-average is pretty average in the US right now, but the films still portray it as something freakish.  Take Troy for example.  He's a big guy in a school full of slim, attractive teens.  Each day he waddles to and from school, and when he gets home he disappoints his soldier father by sitting playing online games and refusing to go out.  When it all gets too much, he realises his dreams of a splattery bus-related exit from the world.

Except, he doesn't as the strange and unwashed Marcus, a school dropout and guitar player with a reputation for going a bit crazy tackles him out of the way.  In return, he ropes Troy - unconfident, untalented and uninterested in anything outside his room - into being the drummer for his new band that has nothing to do with him being kicked out of his old one.

Varying the usual route of hopeless wannabe becomes hero with a distinctly dark and indie feel, there is more focus on the apparent hopelessness of someone trapped in a body they hate and fortunately not forgetting to include that - cheesy as it may be - you can still be a success at something.  It's enjoyable, with a few sentimental and cringy moments snuk in between the grunge and the rock, just enough to lift it above a thousand other teen flicks. 7.5/10

Glasgow Film Festival 2013: Day 1

New year, new clutch of films.

Ordinarily, the first festival which received any modicum of my attention would be Bradford, but one thing has changed that this year.

That thing was From up on Poppy Hill.

The new Studio Ghibli film, which I had an outside chance of catching midway though 2012 (but only if I snuk out of a works 'you are required to have fun' event and catch the train to London, which predictably didn't happen) was on at the Glasgow Film Festival, and I wasn't about to miss it a second time.

Fortunately, it was on on a weekend.  Just early enough on the Sunday to watch and then get back on the train to sunny Yorkshire.  We could get down and back without stepping on any work days.

So we quickly got ourselves a city centre hotel sorted out, a few cheap seat tickets on the most direct train, and on the Friday evening, hoofed the poor pup onto the parents for a few days, and set off.

Glasgow is large, and it is lumpy.  An American-style grid system of all the colours of the architectural rainbow sit atop a large and uncompromising hill - the roads approach a 1 in 3 climb in places, as we made our way up towards the Glasgow Film Theatre - the main Festival venue, and our place to stay.

The lumpiness extended to the interior of the hotel.  A sequence of interconnected Victorian houses with a hobbit-sized door knocked through for access.  Our room was functional and plain, and there was a reason the beds weren't on castors - they would have slowly rolled into the corner if they had.

It was just as well we weren't staying there for much of the day.  It was late on friday evening, and we'd just lugged our bags over hills of poorly-maintained roads.  But the festival catalogue gave us temptation, and we could not resist.

Ferris Buellers' Day Off (US) (wiki)

There wasn't much that would get us out that night, but an horrendously late night showing of the seminal 1986 comedy encouraged us to get out there.  I had only seen it as an innocent child, and remembered little about it other than the famously calamitous scene at the end. Certainly not the nightmarish day spent by the school dean (played to neurotic perfection by Jeffrey Jones) as he attempts to find proof that the endlessly charismatic student Bueller is not ill, but is in fact truanting his way around America with his friends.

I just hadn't appreciated back then just how good the film is, and this sparkling new reprint made it feel as fresh and new as a film containing a range of 80's synth hits could.  Director John Hughes, who would go on to do Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck makes a fresh and intelligent comedy with the audience brought along for the ride as the fourth wall is repeatedly broken by Matthew Broderick playing one of his first, and perhaps his best roles  Many nostalgic films of the period are watched because they are cheesy or naff in a so-bad-it's-good way, or just too dumb to hate but Ferris Bueller is genuinely good entertainment. 8/10