Happy New Year, Filmspotters!

…yes, sorry it’s been a long time coming, but the Filmspot team has been busy getting various projects together for this year. 2012 promises to be our busiest year yet!

First off, I must thank all of you who came along to our Christmas events in Eastbourne and helped to make them very special. We were really pleased to see everybody enjoying themselves, the films, and getting into the Christmas spirit. We’d like to give our special thanks to our Father Christmas (David Girt), and Abi, Aruna and Ellie – our lovely usherettes.

Usherettes at Filmspot screenings in Eastbourne

Abi and Aruna, two of our lovely usherettes

It’s difficult to say who enjoyed ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ the most – the children in attendance or their parents! There was a special appearance from Kermit and two muppet-like friends.

Watching a B-Movie before 'The Muppet Christmas Carol'

Father Christmas and guests enjoying the B-Movie before 'A Muppet Christmas Carol'

‘White Christmas’ went down a storm, including our wonderful ‘in cinema’ choir – everybody enjoyed singing along with ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night’, even if it was perhaps more hilarious than musical!

Filmspot projections on Eastbourne International Lawn Tennis Centre

Projections on the front of Eastbourne International Lawn Tennis Centre

'White Christmas' at the International Lawn Tennis Centre

The audience enjoying 'White Christmas' at the Eastbourne International Lawn Tennis Centre

We have some excellent screenings planned for 2012, and information will follow very soon (we’re just ironing out the fine details!), but we are very pleased to say that we shall definitely be coming back to Newhaven Fort for two big family events this year, and we will be working with the CMPCA Festival for the third year. We are also in conversation with a couple of new venues, so keep your eyes peeled for film screenings in your area.

We thought we’d kick off the 2012 blog with just a few of our recommended films from 2011…

Attack the Block (Dir: Joe Cornish)
Joe Cornish, well known here in the UK for being the Joe in the Adam and Joe Show, strutted his directorial stuff in this very British twist on the sci-fi genre. As regular readers will be aware, the Filmspot team are very much of a geekish outlook (I think it comes with the territory), so it was inevitable this one would make our list! I know many have seen the aliens as being somewhat of a ‘cop out’, but I thought that they were very effective, and the young non-actors gave the film a refreshing lift.

The Adventures of Tintin (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

Spielberg had to tread very carefully indeed to pull off a big screen adaptation of Tintin, and surprisingly he did pull it off, with gusto. Precious Tintin-nerds aside, the film really nailed the sense of fun from Herge’s original Bande Dessinees. The motion captured CGI worked well – and knowing of Herge’s reputation of perfectionism, I’m sure he would have approved of the realistic movements and textures of the visuals.

Super 8 (Dir: J J Abrams) 

Said by many to be Steven Spielberg’s protege, J.J.Abrams’s summer blockbuster took us back to the blockbusters of our childhoods, which I suppose tells you something about the age of the Filmspot team. Abrams clearly enjoyed putting across a flavour of the late 70s, and yes, it does have its explosions and CGI aliens, but the film also has a STORY – something sadly lacking in an awful lot of recent popcorn-fodder.

Pina (Dir: Wim Wenders)

We’re not always convinced by 3D films (although two make it onto our list here!), but Pina saw an interesting use of the medium. This is Wim Wenders’s tribute to the great choreographer Pina Bausch. Although much of the film is (very interesting and enjoyable) archive footage and interviews, certainly the stand-out sections are the performances of dances, taken off the soundstage and out into outdoor settings.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Dir: Tomas Alfredson)

Swedish director Tomas Alfredson brings Le Carré’s spy thriller  to the big screen, and gives it a very Scandinavian flavour. Slow-moving and filled with paranoia and intrigue, the film paints a vivid picture of the cold war era. The cinematography and editing give a very meditative, still feel – especially when seen in the context of the zippy editing and bright colours of many of the more ‘blockbuster’ popcorn titles from last year.

…of course, there are plenty of films from 2011 that we are looking forward to seeing, including Johnny Depp’s second turn as Hunter S. Thompson in Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diaries, Terence Malik’s highly regarded The Tree of Life, Studio Ghibli’s offering of Arrietty and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights. 

As well giving us a chance to reflect on 2011, the New Year is also full of promise with some wonderful films due for release over the next twelve months, and we’ll be posting some of our most anticipated titles in our next blog post!

Puppetry in the cinema

We’ve been thinking about puppets recently. As you know, we’ve got a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol coming up on 17th December at the International Lawn Tennis Centre in Eastbourne (full details in our previous blog post, and booking details below), and 2011 would have been the 75th birthday of the puppet pioneer, and one of Filmspot‘s cinema heros, Jim Henson. So, we thought we’d present some of our favourite cinema puppetry!

We’ve has to impose a few rules on ourselves here, though – the world of puppetry is so vast, we’re talking live action puppetry this time (we’ll save stop motion for another day!)

5. Gremlins 

Here’s a particularly rousing clip from Gremlins 2

Gremlins used a range of puppetry to bring the innocent little mogwai, Gizmo, and it’s sinister offspring to life, including animatronics and marionettes. Directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins was the first and best of a batch of comedy-horror films about nasty little beasties that surfaced in the 80s. Dishonourable mentions include Critters, Ghoulies, Hobgoblins and Munchies.

4. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s rendering of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ breathed life into Maurice Sendak‘s beautiful book illustrations through the very effective combination of animatronic, costumes and CGI.

3 . Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Although only in the film for short clips, the grotesque animatronic puppet version of Gainsbourg is what sets this wonderful biopic apart from most. Wonderfully acted and stylishly shot, the puppetry element represents Gainsbourg’s personal demons – yes, it’s an obvious trick, but it does add a great dose of quirkiness into something that could otherwise be fairly straight forward. After all, I think Gainsbourg’s philandering and rock and roll life style has been fairly well documented before!

2. Kooky (Kuky se vrací)

This is a recent discovery, about a teddy bear who ends out in landfill when his asthmatic owner is forced to throw him away. Directed by the award-winning Jan Svěrák, this film certain takes much inspiration from the marionette puppetry of the Czech Republic, where it was made. The film features a cast of beautifully detailed characters, designed by games designer Jakub Dvorský, including the antagonist Nightshade, who looks slightly reminiscent of Little Otik, the titlular ‘character’ tree stump baby from the film by Jan Švankmajer…

1. Of course, the anything that the Henson Company goes near

Yes, well – we could have made a list of ‘the best Henson related films’, but there are too many to list. Here’s a clip from Labyrinth, featuring a very helpful worm…

Jim Henson, and his creature workshop, have had a profound influence on film over the past few decades, by making the impossibly feel tangible and bringing fantastic and fun characters to life. Not only did Henson bring us The Muppets, but also fantasy films such as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth – and they worked on creatures and effects for countless others including the Dennis Potter version of Alice in Wonderland, called Dreamchild.

You can, of course, see Kermit, Jim Henson’s most famous creation, strutting his stuff in our next Filmspot event on 17 December, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’. Doors will be at 2pm, for a 2.30pm start.

Tickets
Tickets for The Muppet Christmas Carol (or White Christmas, which we are also presenting on 17 December at 7pm) cost £6.50 (£5 concessions and children) each
Please contact the Events Office at Eastbourne Borough Council
tel 01323 415442 or purchase on line at <http://www.visiteastbourne.com/eshop/default.aspx?dms=71&shop=11&sct=323

Here’s Kermit, duetting with Tiny Tim, just to get you all in the mood!