Category Archives: Film

Outdoor Cinema in August in the UK – What Could Possibly go Wrong?

Sometimes what seems like a bad idea becomes inspired after the event and other times, well, let’s just say putting on an open air cinema in August in the UK is a brave thing to do.

Originally we had intended to visit the Cult Screens open air cinema in Reading last year, however, for various reasons this didn’t happen. When we saw that this year they were showing La La Land, a Thompson favourite, we decided to try again.

I’d been watching the weather all week and the forecast suggested that we might be lucky and avoid a soaking. On the day though the rain was heavy and I swear at one point there was snow coming down for one brief moment. Anyway, as the allotted hour approached the skies were dark but it was at least dry so we set off.

When you booked you had three seating options: bean bag, deckchair or bring your own (and consequently sit at the back). We elected for a bean bag which was more bag than bean but perfectly adequate.  Unsurprisingly these were allocated on a first come, first served basis but the view seemed pretty good no matter where you were.

A change from last year was that you are now able to bring in your own food which plenty had done and we too wished we had. This is what I had which was fine but I wished that there were a few more options.

Of course, the most important thing is the film. By eight thirty it was reasonably dark and the film started – no lengthy ads or previews of forthcoming features here. The screen itself was what appeared to be an inflatable with a white frontage – perfectly adequate given the surroundings and sound was pretty strong too.

On some balmy summers evening  I’m sure that this would have been a pleasant experience but there was a cold wind that was blowing from across the Thames. Lying down on the bean bag helped present a low profile to the wind but I was also grateful for the blanket we had plus a wooly hat… In August!

And if you don’t believe me here’s a picture taken on the night with me not looking at the camera for some reason.

We had a good evening but in future I think that we would make a late booking when we could be more certain about the weather and we’d also take along our own food but it was certainly a different experience to your usual trip to the Vue or Showcase.

Neil Thompson: Executive Producer

So it is funny how things turn out. Last week I was asking just what are producers good for? This week I find myself attending a film screening where I was an “Executive Producer” in the smallest and loosest possible sense.

Anomalisa was funded via the Kickstarter crowd funding platform and I liked the sound of it. The writer, Charlie Kaufman, had written a couple of other films that I had enjoyed (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich) and so I thought it was worth a punt but not much of one. I backed the project to the princely sum of $20 for which I would get in return a downloadable copy of the film. That was three and a half years ago. Why so long you ask? Because Anomalisa is a stop motion animation film where the animators are targeted to complete only two seconds of action a day. But this was no Wallace & Gromit.

So I thought no further of it until an email arrived this week telling me that there was to be a special screening of the film in London with a Q&A session with Kaufman and the other producers and as a Kickstarter backer I could go for free. So I did, taking with me my eldest son. I mention my son because there is little more awkward than watching a sex scene on a film with your children. No I lie. There is one thing and that is an intimate sex scene between two puppets and this was very intimate.

The film itself, we both agreed, was interesting and thought provoking but ended just as it was really getting started and left me feeling strangely unsatisfied looking for a proper explanation and an ending. I’m not going to say much more than that other than it is funny, beautifully done and if you like art house cinema it may be for you.

So I am an Executive Producer of Anomalisa – zero creative input and next to zero financial input! Fun through to know that I helped make it happen.

The Big Short

I don’t think that I have ever written about a film I have seen before but I am moved to do so by a trip to the cinema this week to see The Big Short. If I am honest the premise for the film – the 2008 financial crisis – wasn’t one that sounded like a great start for a nights entertainment but I was swayed by the great cast and positive reviews. 

For those that just want to know what I thought of the film and want to avoid the political diatribe (TL;DR as the youth say) I greatly enjoyed it and would rank it as one of the best films I have ever seen and I urge you to see it too.

The film follows a group of financial traders in the US that spotted trouble with the sub-prime mortgages that were being packaged up and sold on with a AAA rating when they were clearly crap. I over simplify and this is one of the issues the film had – how to make the complicated subject of the financial markets understandable for the average watcher. They managed this by occasionally taking a break from the “action” and have some “celebrity” explain in lay-mans terms. I say “celebrity” because they were people I had never heard of but it served its purpose.

The cast was great and Christian Bale was superb and he deserves the Oscar nomination he received for the part. However, I was really confused. Nobody seemed to be playing the part of Gordon Brown or any other member of the Labour government that was in power at the time. Where were they all?

I had been led to believe by the Tories and the UK’s right wing press that the collapse of the financial markets was the work of the Labour government and Gordon Brown, as architect of the downfall, was the villain of the piece. But all the cast had American accents (even Rafe Spall and almost Karen Gillan) not a Scottish lilt to be heard (well apart from Karen Gillan who had trouble disguising hers).

Of course all the words from the Tories and the press was just BS and it was incredibly well played helping the Tories get into power but the truth, as ever, is very different.

You should go and see The Big Short as it is an excellent movie but even more so if you have swallowed the BS from Conservative central office hook, line and sinker.