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By midlandsmovies, Nov 16 2019 09:38AM



Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019) Dir. Midge Costin


Making Waves opens with Apocalypse Now sound designer Walter Murch explaining how deep sound is to humans - from the womb to the almost unnoticed and emotional effect it has on us in cinema.


And so begins new documentary Making Waves. And Murch is just one of an amazing array of interviews in this new exploration and within the first minute we have comments from legendary Star Wars sound guru Ben Burtt, directors Chris Nolan, Ryan Coogler, David Lynch, George Lucas and Ang Lee and musician Barbara Streisand. Wow. A list doesn’t get much more impressive than that!


Rightly so, the film’s focus is on the importance of sound in our enjoyment of cinema. The film covers the importance of the “Circle of Talent” to create the modern team-orientated experience audiences expect today. With so many people in the mix, the experts in their field enable impressive sequences like the D-Day landings of Saving Private Ryan to be created.


From the intimacy of an emotional score to studio mixing, the film covers the technical background to music-making – which is conveyed in an easy digestible way for the viewer. It also covers the history of sound when early films were projected with a live orchestra (or even live sound effects) as well dialogue from people behind a screen.


The documentary is fascinating and informative especially to someone with a music background like myself. But it also explains the journey of cinematic sound bringing general audiences along the way too. However, its biggest flaw is the familiar ground covered in another recent documentary Score: A Film Music Documentary from 2016 (our full review here).


Both have comparable talking heads, technical info and the history of sound (slightly more specific on musical score in the 2016 film) but they are VERY similar. And therefore this isn’t a unique illumination on the subject, more of a confirmation of some of the information seen from a different viewpoint. But the explanations are great if you don't know your foley from your sound effects and we also see how the variety of these important aspects are put together in the final mixing stage.


Score and sound design are definitely two different disciplines though - one being part of the other. So if you prefer one area then choose the documentary for you. However, both films together are a fascinating insight into the often overlooked (and hugely important) world of the magic of music and sound in movies.


★★★½


Michael Sales


Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound is out on DVD on Monday 25th November 2019

By midlandsmovies, May 21 2017 09:05AM



Derby Film Festival 2017


By Guy Russell


A little under two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the 4th annual Derby Film Festival. Hosted by QUAD the festival kicked off on the 28th April followed by ten days’ worth of screenings, talks, short films and competitions.


Each year the festival has a different theme and the films listed in the programme reflect that theme in some way. Last year’s festival had the theme of “Journey”, this year’s however was “Habitat” and as the festival organisers describe it, “the environment that films take place in can vary hugely and create a massive impact on the narrative and the characters”.





Mindhorn (2017)

On the opening night of the festival the audience was treated to a preview of the upcoming comedy Mindhorn starring Julian Barratt of The Mighty Boosh fame. Directed by Sean Foley and written by Barratt and Boosh collaborator Simon Farnaby this plays a lot differently than what we’re used to seeing Barratt do.


Instead of eccentric and odd humour however we’re treated to the sad, self-deprecating comedy which Will Ferrell and Steve Coogan have excelled at for years. Barratt plays it just as brilliantly as Richard Thorncroft, a former 80s television detective who longs for a comeback on the screen but instead finds himself being asked to assist the police in apprehending a real life murderer.


Mindhorn will draw obvious comparisons to Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa that was released in 2013 as Partridge found himself thrust into real action as a hostage negotiator. Coogan actually stars in Mindhorn also as Thorncroft’s former co-star Pete Eastman who is now a star in his own right. Accomplished actors Kenneth Branagh and Andrea Riseborough also feature.


It was a pleasure to know the film was shot on location in the Isle of Man, the sleepy location played a part in the film and looked glorious on the screen. I really enjoyed Mindhorn and I am fairly confident the rest of the audience did too as the screening was filled with laughter. This British comedy delivers plenty of laughs wgich is sadly something that isn’t too common in British cinemas right now. It was also refreshing that the film is completely original and not only commissioned because of its ties to an already established television show (Alan Partridge, The Inbetweeners). I hope to see more Mindhorn films from Barratt in the future.


You can still catch Mindhorn showing at the QUAD in May.



David Lynch: The Art Life (2017)

This documentary about David Lynch’s life and work as a filmmaker was an advance preview as part of the Fantastiq element of the festival.


Directed by Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes this intimate look inside Lynch’s youth, his persona and his “art life” couldn’t come at a more relevant time. Twin Peaks, arguably Lynch’s most recognisable title in his resume is weeks away from being revived, so an expose into the mind of one of the most enigmatic directors around today is satisfying to watch. Narrated by Lynch through a vintage microphone speaker he guides the audience through his awkward life affirming adolescence right through into his adulthood giving the viewer an idea about how his mind works and why he is such a vivid and eccentric director.


Last year’s Derby Film Festival screened Wild at Heart (1990) and whilst I wasn’t the biggest fan of the film I understood why Lynch has a massive legion of fans. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this documentary as much as I did but with a sleek running time of only 90 minutes I found myself wanting to hear Lynch talk more about any subject! Nguyen and Barnes do a great job in keeping the films pace light and swift, never letting the film sag or outstay its welcome.


Whilst I’m a firm believer of “less is more” when it comes to knowing a film or filmmakers secrets I am guilty of seeing filmmakers quizzed on their films or their career, making sense of the subtleties they have placed in their films. This documentary is a must see for any David Lynch fan or film fan.


Whilst this was an advance preview as part of the Derby Film Festival, viewers can catch this documentary when it hits cinemas in July 2017.



Ace in the Hole (1951)

Directed by legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder, this long unappreciated noir film was a new watch for me and was screened during the festival and fitting perfectly with the theme of habitat.


Ace in the Hole stars Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum, a cynical, libellous, cruel adulterer who has been caught on previous occasions creating fake news to further his career as a reporter. We find out early on that Tatum has been fired from every newspaper from New York to Chicago and has now found his way in Albuquerque, New Mexico offering his services to small town paper The Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin.


Tatum is a classic noir protagonist, a flawed, greedy individual who only looks out for himself, a familiar trait in a lot of people in the modern world today. Frustrated at the lack of “big news” in his small town, Tatum is sent to a nearby rattlesnake hunt to report on when he stumbles upon local man Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) who has been tragically caved in whilst scavenging in an old Indian cave. Tatum virtually rubs his hands as he sees the tragedy as a way to write “big news” again, instead of getting Minosa out as quickly as possible Tatum slyly delays the rescue effort so his story can grow.


What follows is a massive media circus surrounding the cave, tourists from different states camp out, hot dog vendors at every turn, carnival rides and even a band performing and selling a song they have written for Leo. Tatum, along with Leo’s estranged wife make a huge windfall whilst Minosa is trapped.


Wilder through the characters and brilliant cinematography by Charles Lang, scathingly attacks the American people’s obsession over tragedy, no surprise then when Ace in the Hole flopped at the box office only finding its appreciation in the last two decades. Wilder famously spoke of the poor box office performance saying “Americans expected a cocktail and felt I was giving them a shot of vinegar instead”.


Ace in the Hole fits ideally within the theme of habitat as the location creates a massive impact on its central characters. Without the Indian cave trapping Leo there would be no circus, no story. As I mentioned earlier this was a first watch for myself, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, I can see this becoming a favourite on my shelf for years to come.


To find that it didn’t find an audience when first released is disappointing, the film was definitely before its time and I would gladly recommend this film to anyone!



The Truman Show (1998)

Moving on from Ace in the Holes attack of the public’s desire for tragedy is The Truman Show, a film attacking the publics obsession for drama. Directed by Peter Weir, The Truman Show stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank who since birth has been the subject of a reality television show about his life. Adopted by Christof (Ed Harris) who serves as the show’s creator and executive producer Truman is unaware that his whole life has been scripted, materialized just for ratings.


Unlike Ace in the Hole, The Truman Show was a huge commercial and critical success even though both films criticise human natures worst aspects. Originally The Truman Show was written as a thriller set in New York City however when Weir approached the project the film was developed as a comedy, attaching the world’s biggest comedy star Jim Carrey as the lead. I believe this is one the reasons the audience accepted a filmmaker’s critique of them as Weir masks his attack with comedy.


Truman’s entire life has taken place inside a giant production dome in Hollywood, designed to create the image of the beautiful, fictional Seahaven Island. When films stay in our mind long after the film has finished sometimes it’s not the plot or the characters that makes our minds revisit the movie but because visually we can’t get the films “look” out of our head.


The matching cottages, porches and white picket fences seem too perfect to be real, some of the shots by cinematographer Peter Biziou almost resemble some fantasy films like Brazil (1985). Similar to Mindhorn, The Truman Show was shot on location in the aptly named Seaside, Florida, a fact not many people can believe, many believing the look was achieved on a soundstage in Hollywood.


I’m sure most people had already seen The Truman Show when it was screened on the penultimate day of the festival, however like myself I’m sure they enjoyed seeing it on the big screen with an audience laughing with them. If you’ve not already seen Truman, then I would highly recommend this film!


Guy Russell


A big thank you to Kathy Frain at Derby QUAD

By midlandsmovies, Mar 31 2017 03:39PM



Jam-packed: Ten things to do at Flatpack Film Festival


With this year’s Flatpack Film Festival leaving us spoilt for choice yet again, it’s not a question of if you’re going, it’s more a question of how you’re going to fit it all in. If only someone could write a handy guide of the Top Ten events to help you get ‘packing…


Ordinary Heroes. The Victoria, Saturday 8th April

A selection of real life stories with a feelgood factor. Featuring Fish Story, which reeled in the audience at the Flatmates Taster. Centred on an old Gran’s tale, Charlie Lyne’s story investigates the opening of an Anglesea marina where there’s something fishy about all the guests.


Off the Beaten Track, The Electric, Friday 7th April

An animated series of surreal shorts where there are no rules. Highlights include the brilliantly bizarre Bloop’s Birthday from Julian Glander and the amusing yet bitter-sweet Victor and Isolina, where Director William Caballero juxtaposes his grandparent’s account of their break up with clay-mation renditions of their antics.


Hyperconnected. The Electric, Sunday 9th April

Shining the lens on our digital selves and our infatuation with friends, followers and filters. In particular, Peter Huang’s 5 Films about technology aims satirical silliness at our obsession with gadgets and devices and flips the camera’s gaze onto our own behaviour.


Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape. BMI, John Lee, Friday 7th April

Director Zach Taylor’s look at the emergence and the resurgence of the humble C90. With talking head interviews from Henry Rollins and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore as well as inventor Lou Ottens, this is a must for anyone who remembers (or wants to know) why the cassette and the pencil are inextricably linked.


Aural Aesthetics. BMI, John Lee, Sunday 9th April

This assortment of sonic shorts features a packed playlist, including a mesmeric promo for Bonobo’s No Reason and a Bowie homage in the form of a reworked The Man Who Fell to Earth from Finnish visual artist Mika Taanila. If you feel that the music video is a lost art, then this could be the screening to restore your faith.


The Art Life. The Electric, Sunday 9th April

Over 90 minutes, Lynch recounts pivotal moments from his childhood and his highly influential career whilst also indulging in his pursuit of painting. Sure to be of interest to both the obsessed and the uninitiated, this documentary helps to uncover the mystery behind the man.


Eraserhead. BMI Lyttleton, Saturday 8th April

The Lynchian weirdness continues with the iconic Eraserhead. Forty years after its initial release, Lynch’s debut feature can be seen and heard like never before. A live reworking of the score by French synth duo Cercuil promises an alternative aural perspective for those familiar with the original.


Eyes without a face, The Old Rep, Saturday 8th April

Highly influential even today, this is the 1960 story of a scientist whose mission to restore his daughter’s beauty forces him to take extreme measures. Surgically removing the faces of other beautiful women, French director Georges Franju’s Eyes without a Face brings shock and gore to the festival.


Happy Together. Patrick Centre, Saturday 8th April

This family-friendly collection of shorts is perfect for the miniature film fan. Suitable for those 4 and above, this series focuses on friendship and colourful characters. Quack Fat, in particular offers something retro for the parents too, featuring a complement of come-alive cassettes, a Walkman and VHS tapes moving to the music.


Bunch of Kunst + Q&A. The Electric, Thursday 6th April

Christine Franz's debut feature follows Nottingham Punk Hop duo Sleaford Mods on the road as they garner mainstream attention and are catapulted from playing the pubs of Notts to the John Peel Stage of Glastonbury. For Franz, this is a homecoming screening and the former Birmingham student will hold a Q&A session after the film.


If you make it to any of the above, be sure to let us know what you think. Flatpack Film Festival runs from the 4th till the 9th of April and full details are available at http://flatpackfestival.org.uk/festival/programme/


Robb Sheppard



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