Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It


One week has already passed since I saw the new movie-version of Stephen King’s horror novel ”It”. I should have written this review days ago, but I haven’t been able to, as I don’t know what to write! It’s not that this Andy Muschietti directed version of “It” is a bad movie. It isn’t. But if you have seen the 1990 “It” miniseries, it’s not a good movie, either.

Why, you ask? Compared to the 1990 miniseries, the movie is clearly superior when it comes to special effects and in my opinion the young cast is better too, especially Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, and Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, not to forget Finn Wolfhard, who is brilliant as Richie Tozier. Together with Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough they make up the Losers’ Club that sets out to investigate what happened to Bill’s younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) who has disappeared after meeting the dancing clown Pennywise in their hometown of Derry, Maine.

And now we’re at the core of the problem, because the problem is It. It’s Pennywise. When Pennywise is introduced, fans of the miniseries agree: although Bill Skarsgård isn’t bad as the clown, he’s just not as good as Tim Curry was in the series. I expect nobody could be as Curry is a tough act to follow especially in this, one of his best roles.

Besides, the new Pennywise doesn’t make sense. He looks too scary for a little kid like Georgie to ever talk to him and too ridiculous for an adult movie audience to take him seriously. Where Tim Curry’s Pennywise looked like a modern-day clown, his humour, sarcasm, and amazing voice were dangerous and deadly, whereas Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise reminds me of the white rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” – but with very few lines and a bad temper!

Because Pennywise himself isn’t scary, the movie relies heavily on cheap tricks like jump scares and loud noises to frighten its audience. Some of them are quite efficient, others are not. In any case, you shouldn’t see “It” if you need a good scare. It’s not scary, but a rather funny and touching coming-of-age movie, a bit like Rob Reiners movie-version of Stephen King’s “Stand by Me” added a young version of John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club”. The movie-makers are aware of this, for sure, as Beverly is compared to Breakfast Club’s Molly Ringwald.

The scenes in the movie differs quite a lot from both the scenes in the miniseries and in the book, but the plot as such is the same. Changing the time from the original 1957-1958 in the book and the miniseries to 1984-1985 in the movie, is not a good idea, though. Sure, the movie makes use of a lot of funny 1980s references, but only a mature audience (like me, he-he) is likely to get them. Among people my age in the audience, they got the loudest laughs along with Finn Wolfhard’s Richard Tozier jokes.

No, the problem is, that although the story now takes place in the 1980s, the entire town of Derry still seems to be stuck in the 1950 when it comes to Afro-American characters like Mike and female characters like Beverly. 1980s-Mike has been robbed of all his 1950-intellect and is now just an orphan farm boy, who is treated as if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 never happened. In the same way, the women in the movie are all pre-feminism characters, even Beverly, who is a strong, independent character in the 1950s version, but in the 1980s she ends up as a damsel in distress, who has to be rescued by boys. Tut-tut! Luckily, the infamous sex orgy scene between Beverly and the six boys from the book has been omitted in the movie like it was in the miniseries.

Still, what ruins the movie the most is the new Pennywise as we have all come to love (and fear!) Tim Curry’s portrayal of the clown so much that he can’t be replaced. Even Pennywise’s most iconic line has absolutely no impact when it comes from Bill Skarsgård. What a shame. Let’s see if Pennywise improves in the sequel as this 2017 “It” is only the first of two movies. Until then: “Beep, beep, Richie!”

Three out of five stars: ***

P.S.: SPOILER ALERT!! How can Pennywise be next to Georgie in the flooded basement, when Pennywise is Georgie? He’s a shape-shifter, damn it! It doesn’t make sense!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

OFF17 – Odense International Film Festival

For the 42nd time Odense International Film Festival took place here in Odense, Denmark. This year from August 28th to September 3rd.
The International Film Festival (called OFF17 this year) consisted of 104 short films, animations and documentaries placed within three competitions: the main competition, the Danish competition, and the animation competition. There used to be a documentary competition as well, but not anymore, so now the documentaries are placed within the other competitions.
Up to seven films were shown at each screening, the screenings taking place in different theatres within the Brandts Cultural Centre complex in Odense City. The screenings were free of charge, but you had to book tickets in advance to be sure to get a seat and you had to do it fast. I booked tickets one day PRIOR to the release of the final programme, but even then, all tickets to the screenings of Danish short films were gone, so I only saw the Danish films that were also included in the main competition and/or the animation competition.
Very many school classes take advantage of the booking system, and of course it is great that the kids and youngsters are able to see modern short films and animations, but especially the teenagers are usually sooo noisy, disturbing the rest of the audience with their mobile phones, talking and throwing objects in the theatre, that there ought to be special school screenings, in my opinion!
Anyway, the festival also includes what is called “OFF Focus” events, which this year was everything from free of charge screenings of films by up and coming film directors, animated music videos and short films for young children over open-air screenings of top notch feature films, David Lynch short films and electronic goth concerts to film quiz nights, talks with film directors and expensive film music concerts by Odense Symphony Orchestra.
Last year in my review of OFF16 I complained that although there were no really bad films, there were no extraordinarily good films either. This tendency had increased this year, as there were no good films at all amongst the ones that I watched, but several really bad.
Don’t get me wrong. Technically, most of the films were of a very high standard, but the contents sucked. Most of the time, there was no REASON for making the films. They didn’t tell a story, they didn’t illustrate a feeling or mood, they didn’t do sh*t except displaying the craft, the technical ability that went into the production and to me that is not quite enough.
The jury of the main competition wasn’t particularly international this year as it consisted of the Danish film producer Stine Meldgaard, the Danish actor Christian Tafdrup and the Danish actress Marijana Jankovic. They chose the following winners:
Winners of the main competition: The HCA Award (the International Grand Prix): “Written/unwritten” by Adrian Silisteanu, Rumania, about a Roma family.
The OFF Storyteller Award: “Domesticated Wolf” by Elad J. Primo, Israel, about a father trying to protect his daughter from growing up.
The OFF Artist Award for the film with the strongest artistic expression: “Red Apples” by George Sikharulidze, Armenia, about having to be a virgin when marrying.
The jury of the Danish competition was a bit more international as it consisted of the American Vimeo senior curator Jeffrey Bowers, the Danish film director Peter Harton and the Danish artist Gudrun Hasle. Their picks were:
Winners of the Danish competition: Best Danish Short Film: “Übermensch” by Jesper Dalgaard about childhood demons.
The FilmFyn Talent Award: ”In a Month” by Jonas Kjærup Hjort about a group of factory workers’ journey into meaninglessness.
The jury of the animation competition consisted of the Danish film director Claudia Bille Straede, the Danish directorTobias Gundorff Boesen and the French animation filmmaker and visual artist Juliette Viger. They chose these:
Winners of the animation competition: The Borge Ring Award for the best animated film: “Nothing Happens” by Michelle and Uri Kranot, Denmark, about being seen.
The Animation Talent Award (Danish filmmakers only): “Related” by Ida Andreasen about living with anger.
Other winners: The Audience Award as well as The OFF Youth Award, where the jury was an 8th grade school class, went to “Abu Adnan” by Sylvia Le Fanu, Denmark, and was about Syrian emigrants.
As you can see, the winners this year were at least as political correct as the winners last year, whereas the artistic and imaginative short films had very little impact on the juries. Had I been the jury, I would have selected quiet different films, as I would have picked winners based on their artistic and cinematic merits and nothing else.
As winner of the main competition, the International Grand Prix, I would have picked “Home Swim Home” by Valérie Préel-Cléach, France, a funny and endearing story about a swimming champion without a pool.
The OFF Storyteller Award I would have awarded to “Before The End” by Chenghua Yang, France/China. It didn’t have a chance in the real competition, because at first glance you just think, “What the heck just happened?” If you look a little deeper, though, it is actually a great story about self-fulfilling prophecies. Still, I guess “Home Swim Home” would have had a better chance to win this category as well or maybe “Fry Day” by Laura Moss, USA, about the night of mass murderer Ted Bundy’s execution.
The OFF Artist Award for the film with the strongest artistic expression I think belonged to “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen, Denmark, but as it would be my winner in other categories as well, I think I would pick either “The Absence of Eddy Table” by Rune Spaans, Norway, or “Lilac” by Carlin Diaz, France to win the OFF Artist Award. The first one is based on cartoonist Dave Cooper’s work, the second is a music video made for the Norwegian band Kakkmaddafakka.
 As winners of the Danish competition, I would have picked “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen as Best Danish Short Film, as it was a both technical and narrative highlight about filmmaking, storytelling, and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”.
The FilmFyn Talent Award I would have awarded “Night Witches” by Julie Herdichek Baltzer, Denmark, which mixed real film and animation in telling the story about a Russian all-female night bombing squad during WWII. A special mention should have gone to “Cream” by Lena Ólafsdóttir, Denmark – real WTF?? animation!
As winners of the animation competition I would have picked “The Burden” by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden for The Borge Ring Award for the best animated film. It’s an animated musical with apocalyptic undertones consisting of five scenes. Admittedly, it was a bit long, but had it omitted the three middle scenes, leaving only the first and the last, it would have been just PERFECT!
The Animation Talent Award I would have awarded to “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen, Denmark, because of the aforementioned reasons.
Listening to the audience reactions, I thought that the Audience Award would have gone to the subdued family drama “Merry Christmas” by Héctor Rull Bel, Spain, or to the poetic childhood drama “The Dress On Her” by Chih Yi Wen, Taiwan.
The OFF Youth Award I thought would have gone to the dystopian short film “Anime” by Arnaud Brisebois, Canada, but the youth jury couldn’t even vote for as it wasn’t included in the youth screenings!
Had there been a documentary category, I would have awarded “After Life” by Prisca Bouchet and Nick Mayow, New Zealand, the best documentary award, as it was a both uplifting and pragmatic insight into the daily routines in a funeral home.
Like last year, I was only able to attend one “OFF Focus” events due to my bad health and I had a hard time choosing just one among the many interesting event. I ended up choosing “The classic featurette” where OFF’s grand old man, film expert Ulrich Breuning, presented six featurettes from 2003 to 2011, which had competed in OFF in previous years. I had seen most of them before, so I came mainly to hear Mr. Breuning, but to see these films again, reminded me of how imaginative and great the films of previous festivals had been compared to the ones this year. Is there any hope for a return to former glory? We’ll see next year at OFF18.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

H. C. Andersen Festivals 2017





This year’s H. C. Andersen Festivals, which took place on August 20th to 27th, were the fifth since 2013 here in Odense, Denmark – hometown of world famous fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen (and me). Private businesses fund the biggest part of the festivals, so although the idea of a Hans Christian Andersen festival is good, the festival itself tends to be a bit commercial.

This year the programme boasted 500+ events, but if you took a closer look, less than 150 were different events, which were then repeated again and again. Some of the events were for children only, other for adults only and about ¼ was not free of charge, so you had to buy ticket to prices as steep as £80. As usual, I decided stick with the events that were free of charge, but unfortunately that excluded the most interesting of the concerts, theatre plays and other performances.

Due to my health (disabling spine disease and 3 x knee surgery that hasn’t worked) I use elbow sticks/crutches and sometimes a rollator to get around, so I was only able to attend certain handicap friendly events anyway. Tuesday, I therefore started out in Brandt’s Cultural Centre where in the Passage, you could see Thumbelina’s “little big world”. There were a few giant flowers and insects, but it wasn’t especially impressive.
Two out of five stars: **

I then went to the Art Street, which is a recurring feature in the H. C. Andersen Festivals. This year the amazing tree-carpet that used to cover the street had been replaced by plastic grass, which I personally found disappointing. There were a few deck chairs and a sand box in the street and then a food truck and some art dealers. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any of the advertised music, theatre performances or opera, only the usual exhibition of art works by Narcis Gironell in Gallerie Rasmus.
Two out of five stars: **

My next stop was the art building “Filosoffen” that houses an annual juried art exhibition during the Hans Christian Andersen Festivals. To me it seemed that there were less exhibited art works than usual and only a few works by Lis Engel, Per Jensen, and Tom Petersen caught my eye. The rest was mostly very gloomy and not imaginative or “Andersenian” at all.
Two out of five stars: **

Finally, I went to the nearby art gallery “Kunstgalleriet”, which was exhibiting “Art with humour”. However, it turned out that this was just their usual exhibition of mostly naïve art that you can see all year round. Furthermore, it had very little to do with a Hans Christian Andersen festival.
Two out of five stars: **
After such a two star day, I went to the street Norregade Wednesday in the hopes of finding something better. According to the programme a lot of different things were happening in this street, but I mainly came to see the living HCA character sculptures that were supposed to be placed in the street. Unfortunately, there was none.
Zero out of five stars:



Then I went to see the sculptor Pernille Forsberg Bøjsen’s open workshop where she models dolls in cernit clay. I found the workshop, but it wasn’t open, so I had to take a few pictures through the window only.
One out of five stars: *

Finally, I went to see concrete sculptures being made by the land art artist Uffe Balslev, but when I got there, he was on a break and three women were working on a sculpture instead. I was the only spectator, by the way.
One out of five stars: *


To tell you the truth, I was getting pretty p*ssed by now. I knew that a lot of great stuff was happening during the festivals, but I was just not able to attend. The magic happened at the expensive events. It happened in the evening and after dark where it is as good as impossible to get to and especially from the town centre with public transportation. And it happened spontaneously throughout the day with events like the emperor’s new carnival, the horse woman and different bands that performed in the streets of Odense with no fixed venue so you had to be lucky to catch them. Which I wasn’t.

I couldn’t do anything about my back luck or my financial situation, but Thursday I managed to talk my daughter into going with me to town in the evening and help me get around the city centre without public transportation. We started out in the street Norregade where there was supposed to be a video installation, but there wasn’t.
Zero out of five stars:

Then we went on to the nearby street, Vintapperstraede, to see the world of Ole Luk-Oie (Mr. Sandman). It turned out to be just the white umbrellas hanging over the street, which were there for the flower festival the week before too. It wasn’t particularly magic, not like last year where the umbrellas were accompanied by a beautiful video installation and besides, they had lit up in the twilight back then. They didn’t quite do that this year as half of the umbrellas didn’t have any lights and of the other half many of the lights didn’t work.
One out of five stars: *

Our next stop was Thumbelina’s little big world at Brandt’s Cultural Centre and Passage. In the dark, it looked much better than in daylight. It was truly magic and we both liked it.
Three out of five stars: ***

On amfiscenen (the amphitheatre), the Danish musician Kristian Leth was performing with his band. His music isn’t particularly my cup of tea, but in the warm summer night surrounded by the beautiful Thumbelina lights and tree, the atmosphere was amazing and we both enjoyed the concert.
Three out of five stars: ***

Unfortunately, we had to leave to catch the bus home at 10.30 p.m., so we missed the event “Svalesang” (“Swallow song”), a tour through Thumbelina’s world, which took place in my childhood backyard, which is now a fancy cultural venue called “Farvergården” (“Colouration Yard”). We also missed out on the high-tech drone and dance performance “Sunshine, freedom and a little flower” on the town hall square as it started when the bus departed. At least this last event we could hear every night from our balcony, as the music was very loud and the fireworks even louder, making all our windows rattle twice each night. Oh, well…

Friday was my last day at the festival, and here I went to see the last performance of the H. C. Andersen Parade at the Fairy Tale Castle in Lotze’s Garden next to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. This parade consists of mainly children aged eight to eighteen, all dressed like characters from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. In a twenty-four minutes long musical they perform highlights from Andersen’s famous stories with Andersen “himself” as the narrator. It was good as usual, but also a bit sad. The parade has performed for seventeen years in Lotze’s Garden, but now the garden is to be part of the alterations of the museum, so there will be no room for the parade, which is to relocate to the park the Fairy Tale Garden behind Odense Cathedral.
Three out of five stars: ***

Finally, I went to see “Gothic Andersen”, a concert by Ras Bolding, Odense’s answer to Klaus Nomi. The forty-something goth composer, musician and singer went on stage with two young female musicians called Mie Moegunge (Brat) and Laerke Loemmel (Lout) or Miss White and Miss Black.
The three of them took us through the dark side of Andersen’s universe with the four fairy tales “The Snow Queen”, “The Shadow”, “The Story of a Mother” and “The Little Mermaid”. The girls played synthesizers and electric guitar and bass whereas Bolding himself after brief, but entertaining introductions to each fairy tale, sang, acted, and performed the stories while playing synthesizers and an old commodore 64. 
 The concert lasted a few minutes short of an hour, but I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a lot longer. Each of the compositions consisted of interconnected movements with changing metres, recurring themes and hints of pop, waltz and industrial music, folk music, Middle Eastern music and more. Influenced by Wagner, Beethoven, Bach and Kate Bush, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, Jean-Michel Jarre and perhaps the aforementioned Klaus Nomi (?), Bolding’s music reminded me a lot of what was popular in my youth and I think that I and the other “middle-aged” people in the audience understood it a lot better than the high school students who were there with their teacher and who took up 90% of the seats in the beautiful Memorial Hall in the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.
Seeing Bolding & Co. perform, they were as “un-Danish” as I am said to write and they would have fitted in with the New York club scene in the early 1980s a lot better. Although the show as such was a bit of an anachronism, the entertaining professionalism with which the music and the entire performance were composed and executed was delightful and to me, “Gothic Andersen” was the highlight of this year’s H. C. Andersen Festivals.
Five out of five stars: *****

Despite the slow start, my festival ironically had a happy ending with Ras Bolding’s goth concert. Still, it was not quite enough to make it a good festival, and personally I missed the three events that I look forward to each year. One was the local Pink People street theatre, the other the Italian death-defying acrobatic brothers Evènti Verticali, and last but not least the spectacular 4D light show by “We Create Magic” on the façade of Odense town hall. I have no idea why these three events weren’t included in the festival this year, especially the 4D light show as it has always been the heart and soul of the festival. I surely hope that the soul and the true magic will be back next year!

It

One week has already passed since I saw the new movie-version of Stephen King’s horror novel ”It”. I should have written this re...