Jaime Winstone

If you flick through the celebrity pages of most British newspapers — particularly the free sheets — you’ll likely recognise Jaime Winstone. As Ray Winstone‘s daughter she’s part of that select set of star children — think Peaches and Pixie, Lily and Alfie, Kelly and Jack — with whom the tabloid press seem to have a keen fascination; especially when it comes to photographing them on nights out at hip London clubs. At 23 years old, it’s no surprise Winstone enjoys having a good time of an evening, but it’s her daytime activities which are becoming increasingly more interesting.

As an actress, she made her debut only 5 years ago, alongside Ashley Walters in powerful Brit drama Bullet Boy, and she’s been quietly building a solid body of work ever since. She played as part of the ensemble cast of Noel Clarke‘s Kidulthood, tried her hand at horror with Donkey Punch and Dead Set, and shared the screen with David Suchet in Poirot.

Her five favourite films reveal her passions, her upbringing and the steps that brought her into the industry, and her latest project, Boogie Woogie, released later in the year, promises to continue her quest to be taken seriously as an actress, not just a celebrity. Co-starring Gillian Anderson, Heather Graham and Danny Huston, Winstone plays a manipulative young British artist, and recently attended the film’s premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, where RT sat down with her.


Jaime Winstone

La Haine

La Haine

“It’s definitely up there because of the cinematography, the cultural references, the graffiti, and the art. It’s that kind of high-standard indie film and the French make such beautiful films anyway. They seem to be in a league of their own. All the references to the riots and the times and what was going on, that’s particularly why I love that film.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

La Haine
La Haine

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Total Recall
Total Recall

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction


Jaime Winstone

The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges is amazing. The cast, the script; it’s written so well in terms of characters. It’s genius, it’s funny, and it’s wacky. It’s about a big stoner, man, and it’s just really great.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

La Haine
La Haine

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Total Recall
Total Recall

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction


Jaime Winstone

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

“It was one of the first films I ever watched when I was young. It really had impact. The music just carries you while you’re sitting there watching it. I remember watching it with my dad, actually sat on my dad’s belly, and saying to him how much I loved it!”

Click on a thumbnail below.

La Haine
La Haine

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Total Recall
Total Recall

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction


Jaime Winstone

Total Recall

Total Recall

“I’m a total sci-fi freak, particularly when it comes to Arnie and machine guns. It’s just brilliant — genius. ‘Give those people air,’ and all that. I just love it. I love the mutants too. It’s like an old comic book that’s been turned into a film.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

La Haine
La Haine

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Total Recall
Total Recall

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction


Jaime Winstone

Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction

“I’m thinking of a bunch of gangster films I’d like to include, like Bronx Tale is a particular favourite, but my final choice is Pulp Fiction. It’s a film I never get bored watching. It’s shocking, it’s stylised, it’s clever and the soundtrack is kickass.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

La Haine
La Haine

The Big Lebowski
The Big Lebowski

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Total Recall
Total Recall

Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction


Continue onto the next page for our exclusive interview with Jaime as she talks about spending time on sets with dad and how she got into acting.

Jaime Winstone


Bullet Boy

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Were these the films that got you interested in doing what you do? What made you want to become an actress?

Jaime Winstone: I don’t really know, to be honest. When I was younger I never said, “I want to be an actress.” I always wanted to be involved in the production side — putting on a play or getting involved with the clothes or whatever — but I could never really see myself acting. I’d do creative stuff, in drama class, but I’d never be the one to say, “Oh, can I be up front,” because that’d make me cringe. But Des Hamilton, the casting director, got me in for Bullet Boy, and it just went from there. The illusion of being an actress and being completely dramatic and loving the attention is not that true, you know, there are a lot of actors I know who are extremely shy. And I sometimes fit into that bracket, when it comes to acting I love it and I take it very seriously. I knew as soon as I was in front of the camera that it was right and I was in my right shoes.

I grew up heavily into horror films. When I was younger, that was basically all I watched. And Lawrence of Arabia! [laughs] I was really into my Freddy Kruegers and my zombie films and I was always fascinated with moving image and movies. With the escapism you get when you go to the cinema, when you sit in your darkened room and watch a film. It can take you out of your world for a little bit, and I think that’s the extended passion of why I do it, because I get to become someone else for however long. You can experiment in another world and find what you can draw from a particular character. I think we’re very lucky to be able to do that for a career. Some might take it for granted, but I love it.

Kidulthood

Winstone in Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood.

Did you spend much time on film sets with your dad growing up?

JW: Quite a bit, actually. When I was younger I remember spending a lot of time in theatres watching my dad, because he went through a bit of a theatre stage. I was completely on set throughout most of my dad’s career. I was heavily involved in Nil by Mouth and I was living with my dad and Gary Oldman while we were shooting that. It was a bit bizarre and weird and I didn’t really know what was going on!

I went to do a bit of work experience in Prague Film Festival and got a bit of a view on how the big machine turns and how films are actually made on set. How that runner rigs that certain light and how that light affects that certain area. I was educated when it comes to film. I think that’s why I’m so confident that this is what I want to do. I’ve been lucky enough to experience the full effect of filmmaking. Some people come out of drama school and think, “Right, I’m off to be a big star,” and hardly any of them have stepped foot in a studio before.

I guess I don’t really have that fear, you know. I did running on a Scorsese film, getting people teas and coffees. I spent time on the Indiana Jones set with my dad. You get a sense that on those giant films, the scale of it is so huge but it still ticks like any other films. It’s still a group of people getting together; it’s just that they have a lot more money, a lot more power and a lot more time, which a lot of films I’ve done haven’t. I’ve seen quick, short independent film sets with British money where the turnaround is very quick, and then watching a massive film with Spielberg planning two days for one scene.

I do feel I’ve had a lot of experience and influence that’s helped me, not necessarily get my foot in the door, but helped me understand what it is I want to do.

Continue as Winstone talks about her latest film, Boogie Woogie, and working with Hollywood’s finest.

Jaime Winstone


Kidulthood

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Has that sense of the industry helped you understand the offers and affected your choices since Bullet Boy?

JW: Definitely. You’ve got to work, at the end of the day, and this year’s been tough for the industry I think, but it’s still going. In terms of making choices, I’ve always had that support from my dad and my family and my agent to stick to what I want to do and not sell out and take the next big film that comes along. Don’t get me wrong, that can be great, to do a really big film, but at the moment I think it’s time that I carve out my career and the make the films people will remember. I hope I’ve got a good body of work already.

It’s quite an important stage for me. I’m 23 and I’m making that transition from a girl to a woman and I want to have some good stuff under my belt. It means holding your breath a little bit and being a bit patient — going a bit insane — but it’s worth it because when you get that good job, you feel it’s right.

Everything that’s happened in my career up until now has been very organic and it’s happened naturally through meeting someone and really hitting it off and then going off to do a film with them. I feel my conscience is quite clear with that and I’m confident about the work.

You have Boogie Woogie in the festival here in Edinburgh, can you walk us through the film a little?

JW: Boogie Woogie is about the art scene in London as a whole. It explores the lives of art dealers, art exhibitors, art buyers, art victims. It’s about the characters in that art world. I play a young artist, kind-of a Tracey Emin vibe. It’s a complete ensemble piece, so it goes through all these different people’s lives and the ups and downs of the fierce art world. It’s amazing how a piece of art is supposed to be moving and touching but when you get to the core of it it’s just fucking expensive.

I play a young video artist who self-documents her life and exposes everybody she comes across. She’s a fierce and completely sexual lesbian. She uses her sexual aura to draw people in and uses it as a weapon. Documents their feelings and her feelings and is looked upon as a dedicated artist. It’s quite clever and conniving of her. A lot of time art doesn’t have room for humanity, it just is. If it’s disgusting, that’s the art — it’s supposed to make you feel sick. Her pieces have a lot of those sorts of moments. She goes deep with it, exposes her girlfriend’s life, makes her look like a fool and sells it on and gets picked up by Vanity Fair. That’s the way it goes, usually. You know, the tough guys, the nasty guys in art tend to come out shining. It’s not like the real world.

Kidulthood

With co-stars Alan Cumming and Jack Huston at the Edinburgh photocall for Boogie Woogie.

You’ve got a great cast around you. When you’re working with actors like that, do you learn from them?

JW: Totally. To work with Danny [Huston] was pretty amazing. He’s got a great energy. He’s the main art dealer in town, Art Spindle. Amanda [Seyfried] is really sweet and very nice. I really got on with Heather [Graham], she’s a lovely, lovely girl and totally beautiful. Jack [Huston] was so funny and Gillian [Anderson] I just think is fantastic. She’s got such a great range. I was a huge fan of hers from The X-Files! To be on the same screen as Sir Christopher Lee and Joanna Lumley was just amazing. Alan Cumming and I are very close in the film, and we got on really well.

I’ve also just worked with David Suchet on Poirot, and yeah, when you’re working with people like that they draw you in and you draw from them. You’re in awe — they’ve been doing this for years and they still have the same passion. And they’re not, you know, thespians; they’re real actors. Just by watching the way they stand, they know what they’re doing, and it’s really inspirational. You have to up the standards, too. If you don’t know your lines and David Suchet’s standing there, you’re going to look like an absolute idiot! But, you know, I’m ready to meet that challenge now and I’m ready to up my game a little bit.

Boogie Woogie will be out later this year.


Ah, Edinburgh, a city known for contrast, vibrancy, comedy, castles and, for a couple of weeks in August, a little congestion. You see, the Edinburgh International Film Festival competes with the infamous Fringe comedy festival, as well as half a dozen other festivals, and no-doubt a couple of weddings and a stag do. Hotel rooms are as scarce as A-listers from the film and comedy world are abundant and restaurants are practicing their, “I’m sorry sir, you should have booked in February,” routine.

Edinburgh Castle

The festival has, in the past, played home to the world premiere of Serenity and the European first-show for Clerks II. Its programme is open to the public, and provides a wide variety of home-grown, European, American and international cinema. This festival sees two of the freshest movies of the year from the US play to UK audiences for the first time – Knocked Up and Ratatouille and they’re joined by the indie likes of Hallam Foe and French warbler Les Chansons d’Amour.

In short, there’s something for everyone of every age, gender and nationality, and it’s probably one of the most relaxed and, in turn, exciting festivals on the calendar. It’s also a good place to start or join in that ever-exciting early awards buzz, and with that in mind we thought it’d be a good idea to let you know what we and the critics think of the films on display so you can add them to your wish-list.

So without further ado we present, in no particular order, our fifteen favourites of the festival. We’ve gathered quotes from the Tomatometer and our critic friends too to spotlight the cream of the cinematic crop as chosen by our international pool of critics and ourselves respectively.

THE BEST OF BRITISH
Five films that represent the best the UK has to offer at the Edinburgh Film Festival – whether produced in the UK, directed by British talent or starring British actors.

Hallam Foe – dir. David Mackenzie

Hallam Foe

You may remember director David Mackenzie‘s previous films, Young Adam and Asylum, with respective Tomatometers favouring fresh and rotten. In the eyes of the critics we’ve spoken to, and this dashing RT-UK editor, Hallam Foe looks set to do away with any doubts and land firmly as one of the year’s freshest.

Being the tale of a rather strange teenager, the titular Hallam, who escapes a devilish stepmother for the lofty heights of Edinburgh and falls in love with a woman who’s the spitting image of his mother, the oedipal tale is at turns hilarious and heart-rending. As is Mackenzie’s wont, it’s about real people with unique lives and as a coming-of-age drama there is none finer. Its depiction of this festival’s host city, Edinburgh, isn’t troubled by big-screen sheen – this is the real Edinburgh, and it’s beautiful.

Bell and Myles are outstanding, and Claire Forlani reaches a level of wicked sadism that only Claire Forlani could accomplish and still have you falling madly in love with her. It’s quirky, but not so quirky that it becomes ridiculous, and it’s probably one of the finest films you’ll see this year.

“Affirms the raw talents of both David Mackenzie and Jamie Bell (who’s come a long way since Billy Elliot).”
Rich Cline, SHADOWS ON THE WALL

“An intriguing rites-of-passage story with a delirious, skewed perspective and an almost palpable sexual pulse.”
Damon Wise, EMPIRE MAGAZINE

Stardust – dir. Matthew Vaughn

Stardust

We first experienced a sprinkle of Stardust courtesy of director Matthew Vaughn‘s invitation to the edit suite and while we loved what we saw we were curious to see if the film could maintain the pitch of the footage for its entire runtime. Having taken two trips to see the unfinished version, we’d say we’re fairly enthusiastic about the results.

Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman (to settle the argument before it starts, it began life as an illustrated novel before being published without the illustrations), Stardust follows young Tristan Thorn (newcomer Charlie Cox) as he journeys across “the wall” into a magical land in quest of a falling star to retrieve for the beautiful Victoria (Sienna Miller) in exchange for her hand in marriage. When he discovers the star is actually a young woman (Claire Danes), they begin a quest back home and, along the way, are pursued by a handsome prince (Mark Strong), a wicked witch (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a devilish pirate (Robert De Niro), all of whom have their own designs on the star.

And if that cast list isn’t enough to woo you, pray silence as we barrage you with Peter O’Toole, Ian McKellen, Mark Williams, Ricky Gervais, David Walliams and Rupert Everett.

And we have a Princess Bride fan in the office who’s convinced he’s found a movie to rival his classic. You can start queuing now.

“With its heart worn proudly on its sleeve, it’s one of the best date movies of the year, a compatibility litmus test for starry-eyed romantics.”
Kevin Crust, LOS ANGELES TIMES

“The antic spirit of The Princess Bride looms large over Stardust, creatively adapted from Neil Gaiman’s much more sober 1998 graphic novel. That’s probably a good call.”
Joshua Rothkopf, TIME OUT NEW YORK

WAZ – dir. Tom Shankland

Waz

On paper WAZ (the A is actually a Delta symbol so it’s pronounced Was or W-Delta-Z depending on the mood you’re in) looks like every other torture porn movie cluttering cinemas at the moment. But to lump it in with Saw and Hostel would be to do it a disservice, because this debut feature from director Tom Shankland is much more inventive.

Detective Eddie Argo and his new partner, Helen Westcott, begin investigating a series of grisly murders with one thing in common; a mathematical equation has been carved into each of the victims. When they learn that the equation – the WAZ of the title is a part of it – is designed to test altruism, and that the victims are being offed in pairs, forced to kill each other to “save” themselves, the case turns even nastier, and as Westcott gets to know her new precinct she’s seeing things that don’t add up in the police department’s handling of previous cases.

Set in New York but filmed, predominantly, in Belfast, with a cast that includes a Swede, an Australian and a Brit, the accents are a touch on the unpredictable side, but stirring performances from Stellan Skarsgard, Melissa George, Ashley Walters and Selma Blair make you forget those troubles, and the film creates a visually arresting universe and ramping tension that keep you glued to the screen.

“Director Tom Shankland launches himself into the industry with a fierce sense of style and energy to spare.”
Rich Cline, SHADOWS ON THE WALL

WAZ distastefully delivers.”
Derek Elley, VARIETY

Sugarhouse – dir. Gary Love

Sugarhouse

Lest you think we have a thing for Ashley Walters, it’s worth pointing out that Sugarhouse and WAZ mark genuinely impressive turns by the young actor following his stunning breakthrough in Bullet Boy. We’d make some sort of So Solid Career pun but that’d be annoying.

Sugarhouse, another debut film this time from director Gary Love, is a smarter kind of Brit gangster flick. Walters is crackhead D who is looking to sell a gun to Steven Mackintosh’s city worker. D’s motives are money, his client’s are revenge. But there’s a third in the form of Andy Serkis as this year’s most terrifying baddie, Hoodwink. The gun’s his and he’s damn sure not going to let D sell it on.

Based on a play, Sugarhouse is decidedly intimate, most of the action collected around D’s crack den, and its sense of realism – lacking in the works of Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn – is refreshing. It’s not about effing and blinding, it’s about the seedier side of life.

“Despite thin caricatures and dodgy dialogue, this still stands out on the street.”
Kat Brown, EMPIRE MAGAZINE

“Andy Serkis delivers a performance that makes his turn as King Kong look like Johnny Vegas’s knitted monkey sidekick.”
Stella Papamichael, BBC

Control – dir. Anton Corbijn

Control

Starring Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, Craig Parkinson and Alexandra Maria Lara

Anton Corbijn‘s Control captivated audiences upon its Cannes debut earlier this year, and with good reason; the biopic of Joy Division’s late lead singer, Ian Curtis, delivers a somber but beautiful glimpse into the life of the tortured musician that should enrich fans of the Manchester band and move the uninitiated in comparable measure.

Shot in gorgeously stark black and white monochrome, Control follows Curtis (Sam Riley), a sensitive working-class daydreamer in 1970s England, as he falls into the role of lead singer for a local band. That band, of course, soon becomes post-punk legend Joy Division; the lads sign a record deal, go on tour, and get big. But life gets in the way of fame for Curtis, and the demands of his budding fame – a young wife (Samantha Morton) and child, and a new girlfriend (Alexandra Maria Lara) on the side – paired with recurring epileptic seizures that render him helpless sometimes mid-concert, become too much for him to juggle.

With its pulsating score (all songs performed, and well, by the actors themselves) and a transcendent central performance by Curtis doppelganger Riley, Control paints a sensitive portrait of a tragic artist whose legacy lived on for decades after his untimely death at the age of 23.

“Corbijn has done his research during 30 years as a photographer, striking a realistic balance between farce and tragedy.”
Stephen Dalton, THE TIMES

“Somber, sad and compelling.”
Russell Edwards, VARIETY

THE BEST OF THE US
We cross the Atlantic (figuratively) to take a look at the five top films playing in Edinburgh from the US of A.

In the Shadow of the Moon – dir. David Sington

In the Shadow of the Moon

Featuring Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Michael Collins and Jim Lovell

Theory: There’s nothing more exciting than listening to the former astronauts for the Apollo missions tell their tales of visiting the lunar surface. Except perhaps being one of them. Yes, David Sington‘s In the Shadow of the Moon is a little heavy on the America-the-Great, but it’s also one of the best documentaries of the year; a fascinating portrait of men so brave that most regular Joes couldn’t possible comprehend their journey.

And, to its credit, it allows them to get on with it – there’s no narrator – we’re just shown fascinating footage from the moon’s surface, from the launch pad, from the shuttle, and in between these men tell us their story.

For the real space-junkies, there’s doubtless little in here to learn, but for the rest of us the film is full of fascinating factoids and, like the best movies set in space – fictional or not – it’ll leave you feeling smaller than the smallest needle in the biggest haystack.

“The excitement, majesty and extraordinary human accomplishment of the American lunar program of the ’60s and early ’70s is rousingly captured in In the Shadow of the Moon.”
Todd McCarthy, VARIETY

“This exquisite documentary about the Apollo program takes the magic of moon flight and miraculously makes it downright down-to-Earth.”
Frank Lovece, FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL

Ratatouille – dir. Brad Bird

Ratatouille

Starring Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano and Peter O’Toole

Films about rats, it seems, don’t tend to go down well with the squeamish movie-going public. That’s just about the only way to explain the poorer-than-expected box office returns for the gem that is Ratatouille. Of course, we’re not talking bomb here – it’s currently sitting at around $300m so they won’t be remortgaging – but it’s a surprise considering it’s one of Pixar’s finest movies in a crop of fine movies.

The project, about a gastronomic rat named Remy who finds himself the sous-sous-chef at a posh restaurant, has a troubled history; original director Jan Pinkava was replaced by Brad Bird with barely a year of the seven-year development time left on the clock. Pinkava left Pixar and has “no comment” on the whole affair, but given last year’s troubled Cars the tabloid tales have knocked a little of the sheen from Pixar.

Fortunately the film – credit to Bird and Pinkava – is astonishing and more than settles any doubts about the affair affecting the movie. As is traditional with Pixar, the actors are chosen because they’re right for their characters and the film’s visuals shame every other CG movie released this year. Bring on Wall-E.

“Displaying the usual meticulousness associated with the Pixar brand, Ratatouille is a nearly flawless piece of popular art.”
A.O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES

“A film as rich as a sauce béarnaise, as refreshing as a raspberry sorbet, and a lot less predictable than the damn food metaphors and adjectives all us critics will churn out to describe it. OK, one more and then I’ll be done: it’s yummy.”
David Ansen, NEWSWEEK

Death Proof – dir. Quentin Tarantino

Death Proof

Caught up in this year’s Grindhouse scandal – Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made two back-to-back flicks to be put out as one and then no-one in America went to see them – Death Proof is the Weinstein Company’s first attempt at recouping some of the expense internationally. It’s Tarantino’s half, which means lots of talking, lots of references to classic pop-culture, and plenty of hot women with well-manicured feet.

The film follows Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) as he crosses country to do damage to a bevy of beauties in his “death proof” car – he can crash it at any speed and live to tell the tale. So we first meet Jungle Julia (Sydney Poitier) and her posse (Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd and, notsomuch, Rose McGowan) before the film shifts state and introduces us to stuntgirls Tracie Thoms and Zoe Bell (who was Uma’s stunt-double on Kill Bill and their friends Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosario Dawson.

But it’s not so much about the story or the characters as it is about the Tarantino dialogue, the homages to seventies B-movies and the fake film grain added to make it look like the print has been kicked around a bit. One segment is even in black-and-white suggesting it’s not even a complete print and the missing reel has been substituted with one from a black-and-white version of the film.

Death Proof, the standalone, replaces a title card pointing to a missing reel in the Grindhouse version with the full version, a seedy lap dance from Ferlito. And it’s steamy-hot but, of course, all the good frames have been ripped out – presumably stolen by projectionists as the print gathered dust. It’s all a very heart-warming reference to classic B cinema.

As a standalone, Death Proof is far more satisfying than it is as part of Grindhouse, though a scene with Michael Parks, while far too good to cut out, doesn’t working without the audience having seen Planet Terror. The irony is that, because Planet Terror builds to a crescendo ending and is followed by a film that takes a while to get going, Death Proof should have been the first part of Grindhouse and Planet Terror should have been the first to be released independently. Still, forgive the Weinstein mistakes and be sure you see Death Proof, even if you’re one of the lucky ones to have already seen Grindhouse.

“All the nutrition of a narcotic compound.”
James Rocchi, CINEMATICAL

“A beautiful piece of Americana. Stupid, and brilliant.”
– Alistair McKay, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY

Knocked Up – dir. Judd Apatow

Knocked Up

There’s a reason this comedy – usually a tough genre with the critics – is currently sitting in the nineties on the Tomatometer; it’s genuinely that good. From The 40-Year-Old Virgin helmer Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen stars as a man whose one-night-stand turns into a twenty-year commitment when his beau, Katherine Heigl, turns up pregnant. Oops.

Perhaps the buzziest film of the year – an R-rated trailer first circulated virally ages ago – it’s a laugh-a-minute romp through hysterically inappropriate gags with Rogen chewing the scenery at every opportunity, and fantastic supporting performances from Paul Rudd and Alan Tudyk.

Keep an eye out for Jonah Hill – you’re about to hear his name a lot when Superbad hits cinemas – and be sure to bring the girlfriend. Knocked Up‘s real success is that it appeals to every demographic, with just the right mix of cheap laughs and heartfelt drama that both sexes will fall in love with it, and it’s loveable “hero”.

“A refreshingly frank, funny odd-couple comedy with engaging leads and too many belly laughs to count.”
Tom Charity, CNN.COM

“Apatow’s gleefully raunchy movies are, in an odd and charming way, extremely family-friendly.”
Joe Leydon, VARIETY

Paranoid Park – dir. Gus van Sant

Paranoid Park

Starring Gabe Nevins, Taylor Momsen, Daniel Liu and Dillon Hines

Gus van Sant is fascinated with adolescence, and his fascination has thrown out some deeply meditative films in the last few years. From his Cannes triumph Elephant, through Last Days and now Paranoid Park, van Sant’s stoic trilogy is a labour of love that seems to shun convention at every turn.

While Last Days, ostensibly a biopic of the final hours of Kurt Cobain, and Elephant, about high-school serial killers, have courted controversy, Paranoid Park plays things decidedly safer, adapting Blake Nelson’s novel about a skater boy who accidentally kills a security guard while venturing out-of-bounds on Portland’s rail network.

And because it’s safer it’s also probably his most accessible of the three – Elephant and Last Days did little until their powerful endings while Paranoid Park first introduces us to Alex (played by newcomer Gave Nevins) before exploring how the accident affects his life.

The film looks beautiful and is rather unconventionally shot in the square 4:3 aspect ratio, while 8mm cutaways punctuate the film gracefully. It’s a testament to van Sant’s ability that he can say so much by doing so little; you could collect the film’s dialogue on a postage stamp.

“Van Sant has composed an emotional mosaic that brings you inside Alex.”
Kirk Honeycutt, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER

“Bears some similarities with Elephant. A similarly photogenic teen milieu is shot with fluid, graceful camerawork; a non-linear structure slots together like a puzzle to reveal the panicked mindset of a boy under agreat deal of stress.”
Wendy Ide, THE TIMES

THE BEST OF THE REST
Of course, Edinburgh is about more than British and American movies – here we take a look at some top titles from the rest of the world, as well as a few British and American flicks that we couldn’t quite squeeze into the first two categories.

Day Watch – dir. Timur Bekmambetov

Day Watch

Starring Konstantin Khabensky, Mariya Poroshina, Aleksei Chadov and Dima Martynov

Timur Bekmambetov‘s follow-up to his masterful Night Watch – a film which came out of left field from Russia and gave Hollywood a run for its money – is possibly even less accessible than its predecessor. Day Watch cuts straight into the universe, grabbing its audience by the lapels and forcing us to remind ourselves of the story so far.

It’s also decidedly more heartfelt than Night Watch; Khabensky’s Anton wrestling with a son who’s deserted him for the Day Watch and his responsibilities to his unit. The line Anton walks is blurrier than anything to come out of the big American studios, and it’s refreshing to see a little ambiguity.

Jeannette Catsoulis says it best in the New York Times. Day Watch “dazzles and confuses with equal determination.”

“Spectaculars don’t come much more bombastic than this goth-Russian supernatural epic.”
Colin Covert, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

“The filmmakers destroy Moscow with the same glee that Godzilla has in stomping Tokyo. Even though Day Watch is probably a good 20 minutes too long, it’s easy to forgive its excesses because Bekmambetov just seems to be having so much fun.”
Beth Accomando, KPBS.ORG

A Mighty Heart – dir. Michael Winterbottom

A Mighty Heart

When A Mighty Heart was first announced the reaction seemed to be shock – Angelina Jolie as a black woman? But it’s the story here that has the power, and her fine performance ensures nothing else matters.

Still, it’s an odd project to see Michael Winterbottom direct. Considering he’s recently crafted films as varied as Road to Guantanamo, A Cock and Bull Story and, erm, 9 Songs we should be long past the point of surprise when it comes to the projects he works on, and yet who could have foreseen him direct Angelina Jolie in a film produced by Brad Pitt?

Nevertheless, it wowed critics in Cannes and sent doubters – both from camps Jolie-isn’t-black and Winterbottom-doesn’t-do-Jolie – running. It’s a Winterbottom film through-and-through and the smart turns of the supporting cast – including Dan Futterman and Irfan Khan – make an impressive film even more impressive.

“The director’s rapid-fire and choppy editing gives you a genuine feel for the many different sides of Karachi, and the urgency of the investigation.”
James Christopher, THE TIMES

“What is best about A Mighty Heart is that it doesn’t reduce the Daniel Pearl story to a plot, but elevates it to a tragedy.”
Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Weirdsville – dir. Allan Moyle

Weirdsville

Allan Moyle‘s Weirdsville imagines a scenario that defines the term, “bad day.” When Royce and Dexter find the latter’s dead girlfriend following an overdose, it’s a simple trip to a seedy basement to bury the evidence. Only a group of satan-worshipping ne’er-do-wells happen to be doing their own ill deeds at the same time. And when the girlfriend can’t stay dead it seems like nothing is going to go their way.

What follows is nothing short of riotous as the pair of hapless losers beg, steal and borrow their way to morning. Moyle, whose last big hit was 1995’s Empire Records serves up a devilishly intriguing black comedy that keeps you on tenterhooks ’til the end. Weirdsville may well be another cult classic in the making.

Wes Bentley and Scott Speedman are brilliant as Royce and Dexter, while support from some cultists, a dead girlfriend, a bunch of drug dealers and a midget security guard keep them on their toes throughout.

“A cleverly constructed, capably crafted and often uproarious shaggy-dog black comedy.”
Joe Leydon, VARIETY

“So much gonzo enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to enjoy watching these crazed characters bounce off of each other.”
Rich Cline, SHADOWS ON THE WALL

Two Days in Paris – dir. Julie Delpy

Two Days in Paris

It’s rather fitting that actress Julie Delpy’s feature film debut would be Two Days in Paris. You can imagine the financiers meetings as she explained that it was about a couple, a French girl and an American boy, and their brief stay in the City of Love. The dollar signs in their eyes are as clear as day.

And it’s with a brilliantly witty sense of irony that we behold the end result. If Before Sunset is one of the most romantic movies ever set in the French capital, its female lead has gone on to deliver one of the most unromantic. The culture clash is the source of much comedy between Delpy and the brilliantly on-form Adam Goldberg, but if Sunset is about how communication can reignite a relationship, Days is about how misreading it can be disastrous.

It’s not very often a journalist will imply that watching a film is like witnessing a car crash powerless to do anything and mean that as a compliment, but in this case it’s definitely fitting. Two Days in Paris marks Delpy as a director to watch and its sharp wit will leave it resonating with anyone who’s ever found even the slightest fault in their partner.

“Julie Delpy’s and Adam Goldberg’s performances are so assured and spontaneous that they don’t even seem to be acting.”
Stephen Holden, NEW YORK TIMES

“[Delpy has] created two original, quirky characters so obsessed with their differences that Paris is almost a distraction. I don’t think I heard a single accordion in the whole film.”
Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

Rocket Science – dir. Jeffrey Blitz

Rocket Science

Jeffrey Blitz first examined kids under the stress of hormones and intellectual competition in documentary form with Spellbound. With Rocket Science he this time spins a fictional yarn, but it nevertheless still manages to capture the real emotional minefield that is adolescence.

Hal Heffner’s stutter is incurable by any therapist-recommended treatment, but when he meets Ginny Ryerson and she introduces him to the world of high school debating, he finds a project to immerse himself in; one that, he’s sure, will rid him of his impediment. But when Ginny starts playing truant from their meetings and the stress of his parents’ divorce begins to take its toll he wanders whether getting even is preferable to getting mad. Enlisting the help of former debating champion Ben Wekselbaum, he becomes determined to beat his former tutor at her own game.

Reece Thompson’s nuanced performance as Hal betrays a talent beyond his age and Anna Kendrick’s Ginny is as beguiling as she is infuriating. It’s these two key performances that cement the emotional core of a film that succeeds through subtlety without ever having to hold back from its comedy. It’s certainly not the first quirky American indie to release, and its quirk threatens to alienate audiences who believe they’re tired of that sort of thing. Rocket Science matches its quirk with real emotional truth and that’s enough to separate it from the herd.

“It may gross as little as Welcome to the Dollhouse or as much as Clueless, but whichever it does, it’s in the same league.”
Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

“A fiercely personal and yet engaging–and often outright hysterical–look into a young man on the brink of adulthood.”
Rich Cline, SHADOWS ON THE WALL

Check the website for more details about the festival and use the links below to find out more about the movies, directors and stars referenced within!

Movie City News shares with us a press release from the London Film Critics Group in which their various nominations are announced. Keep in mind that the Brit crits use their own release dates as criteria, so don’t be surprised to see a few 2004 releases in the mix.

The Attenborough Award for British Film of the Year

Pride and Prejudice
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Constant Gardener
The Descent
Mrs. Henderson Presents

Film of the Year

Crash
A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
King Kong
The Constant Gardener

Foreign Film

Downfall
Hidden
The Sea Inside
The Beat That My Heart Skipped
The Chorus

British Newcomer

Joe Wright (director, Pride and Prejudice)
Kelly Reilly (actress, Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Annie Griffin (writer-director, Festival)
Julian Fellowes (director, Separate Lies)
Matthew MacFadyen (Pride and Prejudice)

Screenwriter

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (Crash)
Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener)
Shane Black (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang)
Bernd Eichinger (Downfall)

British Producer

Peter Lord (Wallace & Gromit:The Curse of the Were-Rabbit)
Simon Channing-Williams (The Constant Gardener)
Andrew Eaton and Michael Winterbottom (A Cock and Bull Story)
Christian Colson (The Descent – Pathe and Separate Lies)
Mark Boothe and Ruth Caleb (Bullet Boy)

British Actress in Supporting Role

Thandie Newton (Crash)
Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda)
Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice)
Brenda Blethyn (Pride and Prejudice)

British Actor in Supporting Role

Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
James McAvoy (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
Paddy Considine (Cinderella Man)
Tom Hollander (Pride and Prejudice)
Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins)

British Actress

Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice)
Emily Watson (Separate Lies)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Keeping Mum)

British Actor

Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener)
Christian Bale (The Machinist)
Liam Neeson (Kinsey)
Chiwetl Ejiofor (Kinky Boots)
Tom Wilkinson (Separate Lies)

British Director of the Year

Joe Wright – (Pride and Prejudic)
Terry George – (Hotel Rwanda)
Neil Marshall – (The Descent)
Christopher Nolan – (Batman Begins)
Stephen Frears – (Mrs. Henderson Presents)

Actress of the Year

Juliette Binoche (Hidden)
Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace)
Laura Linney (Kinsey)
Maria Bello (A History of Violence)

Actor of the Year

Bruno Ganz (Downfall)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda; Crash)
Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence)
Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Director

Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Paul Haggis (Crash)
Peter Jackson (King Kong)
David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)

(Thanks to MCN for the info.)

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