Tag Archives: Breakfast with Curtis

Failed Critics Podcast: Glasgow Film Festival Special

The ThievesHello Scotland! This week’s Failed Critics podcast sees James head north of the border to report back from Glasgow Film Festival. With the reluctant blessing of the rest of the critics, he is joined this week by two special guests; Dave McFarlane from our ‘sister podcast’ Born Offside, and Paul Fisher from our new upstart rivals on the Write Club podcast. They review South Korean heist movie The Thieves, as well as documentary Men at Lunch and the microbudget feature Breakfast with Curtis.

James is also joined by the excellent film writers Steven Neish and Amy Taylor at the first UK showing of Stoker, and they discuss that as well as their thoughts on Cloud Atlas, Citadel  and Songs for Amy, the new film starring Sean Maguire (ask your parents, or the weird old guy you make podcasts with).

Finally we have a Scottish-themed Triple Bill where James does his best not to upset his guests.

The pod is back to normal next week (thank God!), where the usual lot will be back with the films they’ve seen that week and their favourite movie car chases in Triple Bill.

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The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 22/02/13

gfflogoIt’s been a long, but brilliant week at the Glasgow Film Festival, and it was with great sadness that I embarked on my last day here. It started with the world première  of Staande! Debout!, a Belgian/Finish film about the after-effects of an autoworkers strike that paralysed Belgium in 1997. It’s a fictional account (but based on the very real experiences of the striking workers) of Felix, an old man who never got over the closure of the car plant where he worked. When his best friend dies, Felix decides to gather his surviving comrades to honour him. It’s an emotionally stark and desolate film, complimented by shots of a decaying industrial town in provincial Belgium. But also a powerful exploration of the human cost of capitalism, and a reminder that figures on a balance sheet are individual people, with their own hopes, fears, and varying levels of resilience.

The afternoon presented me with A Late Quartet, the fictional feature debut of Yaron Zilberman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, and Catherine Keener, it tells the story of a string quartet’s struggles to stay together in the face of Parkinson’s disease, infidelity, and competitiveness. Sadly, it’s a rather boring and navel-gazing glimpse into the world of ‘rich white people’s problems’. Eastenders for the upper-middle-classes. Imogen Poots impresses as the daughter of Robert and Julliet Gelbart (Hoffman and Keener), and Christopher Walken is surprisingly not playing Christopher Walken for once. Overall though, the pace is flat, the characters are self-obsessed and uninteresting, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Before I head home to work on a film of my own (and who knows, maybe I’ll be back here next year in a slightly different capacity), I’m going to sign off with a few awards. I’m thinking of calling them the Glasgees…

Best Performance

There have been a number of great performances this week; Imogen Poots in The Look of Love; Ann Dowd in the otherwise pretty nasty Compliance, Soren Malling in A Hijacking; and Jack Black’s career-best turn in Bernie. A special mention should go to the cast of Cloud Atlas, who do an incredible job charging through multiple eras, races, and even genders. For me though, I have to give the award to Theo Green in Breakfast with Curtis. A non-professional actor, who puts in the kind of performance you might see in a Ken Loach film, but a happy one.

Best Documentary

Although Indie Game: The Movie and The Day that Lasted 21 Years were both excellent films, The Final Member is the one documentary that really caught my imagination. A incredibly story, told by fantastic characters, with a wonderful soundtrack. This will be a firm festival favourite in the coming months.

Best Foreign-Language Film

The Thieves came mighty close to winning this, but it just felt a little too Hollywood. A Highjacking however, is the type of film Hollywood would never make, and that’s a real shame. It’s an incredibly tense film about the hijacking of a Danish freighter by Somali pirates, and the increasingly fraught negotiations between Peter (CEO of the shipping company) and the hijacker’s translater and negotiator. A battle of wills and wits commences, and caught in the middle is the ship’s cook Mikkel. Brilliant.

Best Film

It has to be Cloud Atlas, with its bold, brave, and breathtaking take on David Mitchell’s ‘unfilmable’ novel. You have to admire the film’s incredible ambition, and if you’re in the mood to forgive its sense of self-importance, and some ridiculous make-up jobs, you will be knocked over by a juggernaut of a movie. An absolute must-see.

And that’s it. I would like to thank everyone at Glasgow Film Festival (particularly Kirstin Innes, Laura Doherty, and Hannah Cosgrove), and of course our coverage sponsors Brewdog Glasgow. See you back here in 2014!

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The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival was sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars. Cheers for all the beer & burgers.

GFF13: Diary of a Failed Critic 18/02/13

Glasgow Subway System - open at normal times today, not that's you'd know
Glasgow Subway System – open at normal times today, not that’s you’d know

Today was the day I really felt I was covering a film festival. I had tickets for back-to-back showings, in the middle of the afternoon, on a Monday. There’s just something glorious about watching films when you’re ‘supposed’ to be at work.

I tweeted that I was prepared for an uncomfortable afternoon in Cineworld Screen 18, as I’d chosen to watch Compliance and The Paperboy in quick succession. What I wasn’t totally prepared for was how horribly my prediction would come true.

Compliance is inspired by true events [BEWARE – HERE BE SPOILERS], and is a study in authority and, as the title suggests, compliance. It is a technically well put together film, with a few excellent performances (particularly Ann Dowd as the restaurant manager, who essentially allows the events to happen). However, this was not an enjoyable film; watching it felt like a violation of my own body. If it actually had anything new or original to say on the subject of people unquestionably following orders from authority figures, then I might be able to admire the emotions it elicited. Instead, the story feels as if it is told purely to shock us, the cinematic  equivalent of the stand-up comedian who tells a rape joke. Yes, some humans are abominable shits, but all Compliance feels capable of doing is confirming this fact without further understanding of what drives people to such behaviour. As it is, all that’s left for this movie to be is a piece of entertainment and, like The Human Centipede or A Serbian Film, I genuinely worry about the mindset of anyone who enjoys a film like this. Compliance: sometimes the story is better off staying a Wikipedia article.

The Paperboy was a little less shocking, but equally sordid in its tone. Set in 1960s Florida, it tells the story of sibling reporters (Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron) investigating the conviction of a cop-killer played by John Cusack. Luckily this film just about holds it together, largely due to its impressive cast. McConaughey continues his recent career renaissance here, and Zac Efron proves to be more than a pretty face. Most entertaining though are Cusack (in a greasy, malevolent role that is his finest performance in years), and Nicole Kidman, whose turn as an Alamaba sexpot is the dark heart of the film. The film still contrives to be a bit boring at times, but the last 20 minutes are phenomenally tense and well executed.

Pick of the day for Tuesday 19th Feb – Breakfast with Curtis

If you fancy watching a film made by a unique writing/directing talent, filmed in the director’s house over a few weeks and starring their friends, well, you could try and blag a ticket to one of the sold-out screenings of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, or you could watch Laura Colella’s heart-warming Breakfast with Curtis.

Five years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at 7pm at the CCA Cinema.

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The Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.

GFF13: Breakfast with Curtis

Breakfast with Curtis tableI have a confession to make. When I read that Breakfast with Curtis was a micro-budget indie film about some quirky characters, and filmed in the writer/director’s house with her friends and neighbours playing the main roles; well, let’s just say I was apprehensive about spending ninety minutes in their company. I’ve turned off too many wilfully quirky films with larger budgets and recognisable actors over the years to have held out much hope of this film being any good.

And sometimes the most wonderful feeling in the world is being proven utterly wrong.

The film opens on the type of incident most children will have experienced, when 9-year-old Curtis (Jonah Parker) is verbally abused and threatened by his neighbour Syd (Theo Green) for throwing stones at his cat. It’s a situation that immediately tapped into one of my childhood fears; that of scary grown-up neighbours who seemed like an entirely different species. Every childhood friend of mine knew a garden where they dare not kick their ball, for fear of incurring the wrathful neighbour. As adults we’re conditioned to fear the wild and uncontrollable youth, but like a spider trapped in a bath, they are probably more afraid of you than you are of them.

Five years later, and with a neighbourly cold war with its roots in ‘the incident’ showing signs of thawing, Syd (the rather bohemian online bookseller who threatened to crush young Curtis’ skull) asks Curtis to help him film some video blogs for his business. Curtis is unsure, but his home-schooling mother persuades him to take on a project that will help build his self-confidence, as well as bridges between the two households.

Our interview with director Laura Colella gives a fascinating insight into how the film came about, and the process used to make it. Syd’s housemates are friends and neighbours in real life, and many of the film’s sweetest and most genuine moments are simply cinematic portrayals of these ‘real lives’. Right down to the video blogs that Curtis shoots and edits to Syd’s great pride and delight, which are genuine videos Jonah filmed with Theo. These connections provide the creative spark for the film, and help it to avoid layering characters with increasingly bizarre affectations and foibles purely to raise a laugh. The inhabitants of Colella’s world remain grounded in reality, and it is a rare film that is happy to simply invite us to share in the lives of some wonderful people.

Breakfast with Curtis will not appeal to everyone, even those without the prejudices that I admit to having about ‘this type of film’. Colella herself admits that “plot-driven and predictable work doesn’t interest me”, and viewers who want ‘something to happen’ may walk away disappointed. However, anyone who wants to see a heart-warming tale of a boy’s first seminal summer, and simply likes to spend time in the company of funny and interesting people, will love it.

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at Glasgow Film Festival on Saturday 16th February at 5.20pm, and Tuesday 19th February at 7pm. Tickets are available here

GFF13: Interview with Laura Colella (Breakfast with Curtis)

Saturday sees the UK Première of Breakfast with Curtis, the latest film from writer/director Laura Colella. It’s a wonderful micro-budget film made in Laura’s house, and starring her friends and neighbours.

Breakfast with Curtis tableFive years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

We spoke to Laura ahead of the festival.

Firstly, how did the idea for making Breakfast with Curtis come about?

Before making BREAKFAST WITH CURTIS, I had been struggling to get a larger-budgeted project off the ground. It was to be my third feature, and I thought it was normal to expect my films to keep growing in terms of the size of production. The trend in the industry was of course going in the opposite direction. After a few years, I was dying to just make a movie, and returned to my roots as a hands-on filmmaker who likes to write, direct, shoot, edit, etc. I looked around at the crazy characters and great locations in my immediate environment and decided to formulate a story based on them.

There are some very strong acting performances in this film, and I think viewers will be surprised to find that you cast your non-actor neighbours in leading roles. Did it work so well because the actors are playing versions of themselves or because of the writing/filming process you used? Or were you just very lucky to be living among some great undiscovered thespians?

I think all of those answers are true. I wrote for my actors, and we had shoots with tiny crews and minimal production that were relatively low-stress and comfortable for them. I did a lot of takes, and listened and worked for the performances that I knew were right and workable. A lot of the performances came together in the editing room, which I think is usually true with experienced actors as well. The reality is that many professional movie actors, at least in the United States, are not necessarily highly trained, so I don’t see a big division between actors and non-actors. Casting to type and innate qualities often brings invaluable richness if that person can be directed well.

One thing that struck me as I watched this film is that there isn’t a traditional antagonist, or even much conflict beyond the initial incident that leads to the rift between the neighbours. In fact, it’s one of the few films I’ve seen where I’d like to grab a drink with all of the characters. Is this something you consciously aimed for when writing the script?

Many people who’ve seen the film have said they’d like to come live with us or have a drink with us, and that feels great, because I was really trying to capture the spirit of fun around here. I do try to avoid formulaic conflict in my writing. Although we’re trained to expect it, I think more interesting and complex things happen when that expectation is not met. Purely plot-driven and predictable work doesn’t interest me. I think my stories are more theme-driven, and I like to incorporate humor and detail as much as possible.

There are a number of obvious restrictions with low-budget film-making. How do you turn those restrictions in opportunities? Is it simply a matter of taking advantage of serendipity? (such as being able to use Jonah’s real-life videos of Theo, or the wonderful blanket of snow that allows for some beautiful shots in the film)

Turning restrictions into opportunities is a great way to make micro-budget movies. We used a relatively inexpensive camera (a Canon 5D Mark II) that had certain limitations, for example, but you can make amazing images with it that look gorgeous even projected on a giant screen. Jonah and Theo’s videos were one of the initial inspirations for the project. There were so many examples of serendipitous good fortune throughout the making of it, ranging from the weather and the way things grew in the garden that year, to the generous participation of people who came on board to help us through post, such as my fantastic executive producer and post guru Mike Jackman.

What do you have planned for your next project? Would you like to work with your neighbours again at some point in the future?

I’d love to work with them again, and there have been a lot of jokes about sequels. I’m still hoping to get the larger-budgeted project I mentioned off the ground, and have another script I’m currently working on.

Finally, we’ll be recording a special edition of our podcast from the festival and celebrating Scottish films and film-making. We’re asking everyone we speak to for their three favourite films set in Scotland.

Wow, here’s the thing: I don’t watch a ton of movies, because I’m so busy with work, and mostly read when I have leisure time. But I’ll say TRAINSPOTTING, LOCAL HERO and GREGORY’S GIRL. I need to see more – please send recommendations!

Breakfast with Curtis is showing at Glasgow Film Festival on Saturday 16th February at 5.20pm, and Tuesday 19th February at 7pm. Tickets are available HERE, and our review is now online

Glasgow Film Festival preview

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This Thursday (14th February) sees the start of the ninth annual Glasgow Film Festival. Growing in size and stature every year, the 2013 festival is the biggest yet, with over 360 events, 57 UK premieres, and 6 world premieres.

The great thing about the GFF is that, as well as being able to watch highly anticipated films from the likes of Joss Whedon (with his lo-fi take on Shakespeare’s anti-rom-com Much Ado About Nothing), Michael Winterbottom (The Look of Love, starring Steve Coogan as porn baron Paul Raymond), and Chan-wook Park (with his first English-language film, Stoker), film fans can also watch cinematic classics in entirely different surroundings (including Jaws on a boat, and The Passion of Joan of Arc in Glasgow Cathedral with live accompaniment).

As well as film, the festival features live musical performances, Q&As with the stars and creators of TV shows like A Game of Thrones and Fresh Meat, and even a live review of the new Aliens: Colonial Marines video-game (followed by a 70mm screening of Aliens on the big screen.

While most films and events are priced at a very reasonable £8.50, there are also a number of free events including the opening of the latest BFI Mediatheque on Friday 22nd February at Bridgeton Library.

Failed Critics will be in Glasgow during the festival to report back on the films not to miss, as well as exploring the cinematic history of this wonderful city. We’ll also be recording a special edition of the Failed Critics Podcast, and maybe even getting a special guest or two on to talk to us*.

*By special, we mean Dave MacFarlane from Bornoffside.net and Paul Fisher from TheWriteClub.co.uk. They’re special, in a way.

For those of you lucky enough to be in Glasgow next week, here are our picks of the festival:

The Final Member
Destined to become one of the surprise hits of this, and many other film festivals; The Final Member is one of those documentaries where it seems all the film-makers need do is show up and point their camera at the subject. Siggy Hjartarson is the curator of the world’s only Penis Museum, in Iceland, and although he has thousands of mammalian specimens he is missing one vital object. A human penis. Believe it or not, the race is on between a 95-year-old Icelandic explorer/womaniser and an younger American who is prepared to go to great lengths (if you think that pun is bad, wait until our full review) to make his penis famous.

The Final Member is showing on Friday 15th February at 3pm, and on Saturday 16th February at 7pm.

Breakfast with Curtis
If you fancy watching a film made by a unique writing/directing talent, filmed in the director’s house over a few weeks and starring their friends, well, you could try and blag a ticket to one of the sold-out screenings of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, or you could watch Laura Colella’s heart-warming Breakfast with Curtis.

Five years after an incident that caused a seemingly irreparable rift with his neighbours, online bookseller and care-free bohemian Syd asks their 14-year-old son Curtis for help recording a video blog. What follows is a beautiful coming-of age film about one of those seminal summers where rifts are healed, old secrets emerge, and boys finally become men.

Breakfast with Curtis is showing on Saturday 16th February at 5.20pm, and Tuesday 19th February at 7pm.

Stoker
The first English-language film from Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) is the art-house equivalent of a new Star Wars film. One of the most unique directors working in film today presents a twisted midnight-black tale about young India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) infatuation with the creepy uncle (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay after the death of her father. Nicole Kidman continues her career renaissance (you can also see her in The Paperboy at Glasgow Film Festival) as India’s fragile mother.

This is one film where we have no idea what to expect, but except to be entertained.

Stoker is showing on Saturday 16th February at 8.30pm, and Sunday 17th February at 4.30pm.

GFF13 Surprise Film
The surprise film has become a staple of the festival circuit in recent years, and Glasgow Film Festival usually delivers in spades. Recent choices for this slot have included David Lynch’s Inland Empire, and last-year’s mumblecore delight Jeff, Who Lives At Home. We’ll be recording our GFF Podcast Special directly after this screening with our instant reactions.

The only disappointment will be from those who miss out on a ticket for a screening that will almost certainly sell out.

The GFF 13 Surprise Film is showing on Wednesday 20th February at 8.30pm.

A Hijacking
Scandinavian drama has never been held in higher esteem than it is right now, and The Hijacking is another example of the excellent film-making coming out of Denmark. This is a taut and ultra-realistic film about the hijacking of the Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates, and the ensuing stand-off and negotiations.

A Hijacking is showing on Wednesday 20th February at 8.45pm, and Thursday 21st February at 4pm.

A full list of films, including online booking facilities, is available on the Glasgow Film Festival website