Themed Month: Films About Filmmaking


Films About FilmmakingNew Feature: Themed Month

Using all the skill I have with Microsoft Paint (i.e. almost none) I have thrown together a very basic little graphic for my upcoming month of occasional themed posts dealing with films that at some level are about filmmaking. Frankly, there’s enough of these that I could fill every day with a different review, and I could categorise at least a few from every past month I’ve been doing this blog under this rubric. However, I’ve seen a few films recently that sort of fall into this category, so I figured I’d make a month just about them.

Ever since the very earliest days of cinema, there have been plenty of directors and writers self-reflexively turning the camera on their own art. Such works have taken the route of mockery and satire about their own industry far more often than of awed self-importance (which is as it should be), but there are also plenty of documentaries which give an insight into the process. There are plenty, too, that don’t render very much insight at all, and nowadays every DVD and Blu-ray release seems to get packaged with a glut of such disposable extras. However, I want to highlight what’s good when filmmakers turn their attentions towards themselves and their practice, hence this upcoming month.

Maybe I’ll even end with a list of some of my favourite movies about moviemaking. So yes, stay tuned folks.

Thanks for reading Ewan at the Cinema.

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January 2014 Movie Preview

Sorry for the lateness, but I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)


Leo looking unfazed by his working environment in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Leo looking unfazed by his working environment in The Wolf of Wall Street.

I’m Excited About…

  • 12 Years a Slave (10 January). A lot of really positive things have been said about this film, which was at the London Film Festival and has been released elsewhere in the world. A lot of the talent, like the director and lead actor, are British, and it tells a story that should be fascinating — even if it smacks a bit of worthiness. Still, it seems like it avoids the obvious traps from what I’ve read.
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (17 January). A new film from Marty Scorsese and it looks like a romp. I am properly excited to see this.

I’m Not Sure About…

  • The Missing Picture (3 January). It’s a sort-of documentary about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, from someone who lived through it. Artfully done it seems, and sounds intriguing. A lot of good things were said about last year’s The Act of Killing, a film about which I feel ambivalent (though I recognise I should probably see it to be sure).
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (24 January). All the hipsters like a new Coen brothers film, and this has all the hallmarks of the kind of thing they do well (period setting, John Goodman, musical focus). Sometimes they do great stuff, sometimes they’re just a bit condescending, but I’m hopeful from what I’ve heard that this will be one of the good ones.
  • Grudge Match (24 January). A new Stallone drama, with De Niro, some kind of Raging Bull redux? I’ve no idea, but who knows, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (24 January). I’ve no particular love for the late Tom Clancy or his secret agent or his politics, but this says it’s directed by Ken Branagh, who did a good job with Thor, and, who knows, maybe it’ll be fun? I’m holding out for fun.
  • Out of the Furnace (29 January). Some kind of dark-hued serious drama with Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson, and again I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth seeing, but I’ve seen some good advance word.

I’m Not So Excited About…

  • Last Vegas (3 January). This really really does look weak. Bunch of grizzled old veteran actors get together for a bachelor party in Las Vegas and much humour is mined from them being old. So yeah.
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (3 January). It’s not that I think this will be bad, and I certainly do like Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, but I think it will be worthy. Worthy and rather dull.
  • The Delivery Man (10 January). There are a few actors whose presence in a film tends to indicate they’ll be well worth missing. Robert De Niro, sadly, is one these days and he’s in Last Vegas, Adam Sandler’s another, and here we have a vehicle for Vince Vaughn. I’m tending towards believing this won’t be the film that redeems him.
  • The Railway Man (10 January). Another film that just sounds like some kind of awards-baiting worthy slog, this time with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth and some kind of SE Asian post-WW2 setting.
  • August: Osage County (24 January). Wow, this really is the season for turgid well-meaning rubbish. Another production that comes pre-approved by success in other media (Pulitzer Prize-winning play, I believe) with an all-star cast (Meryl! Ewan! Julia! the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch), and it just looks dreadful from the trailer.

December 2013 Movie Preview

Sorry for the lateness, but I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)


"Louche" is the word that comes to mind looking at screenshots from the new David O. Russell flick.
“Louche” is the word that comes to mind looking at screenshots from the new David O. Russell flick.

I’m Excited About…

  • American Hustle (20 December). You should know how I feel about Jennifer Lawrence, because you should really feel the same way, but it’s a great ensemble cast with a dependable director, and though I thought Silver Linings Playbook was decent if not amazing, I continue to have high hopes of this film.

I’m Not Sure About…

  • Homefront (6 December). By all accounts, this isn’t all that good, but it’s a new Jason Statham flick, and I have a soft spot for Mr Statham. Plus, it pits him against James Franco, who continues to pick roles for the WTF factor.
  • Frozen (6 December). The new Disney animation, probably a whole lot sappy, but who cares? I’m interested in some feel-good non-controversial entertainment from time to time.
  • Nebraska (6 December). New Alexander Payne films don’t excite me like they do some people, but I still want to see it.
  • Kill Your Darlings (6 December). There have been a few films about the exploits of the Beat Generation recently, and these don’t tend to interest me because as a group these guys tended to be a bit tediously macho (particularly Kerouac). Still, this new film focuses on a weedy Daniel Radcliffe as poet Allen Ginsberg, and that gives me a bit of hope for it.
  • Fill the Void (13 December). I like films that show me experiences of life I don’t (and often cannot) share, and this film by an Orthodox Jew living in Israel about that society, could well be fascinating.
  • Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (18 December). This is the season’s big comedy release, and hey, I liked the first one, so I expect to like this one too. Doesn’t look too challenging really.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (26 December). I’ve seen Ben Stiller’s new movie already in advance previews, and my solid prediction is that I liked it probably more than most people will/do. But there you go, I found it likeable.
  • 47 Ronin (26 December). Big, silly martial arts nonsense with big, silly Keanu Reeves. I am tentatively hopeful, but don’t expect much.

I’m Not So Excited About…

  • Old Boy (6 December). The Korean original was a decent, effective thriller with some nasty kicks. I can’t really be bothered for this US remake, even if it’s by Spike Lee. Not sure why it exists, but maybe I’ll catch it on a plane someday, or on TV.
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December). Don’t even start me about this series, or The Lord of the Rings for that matter. I have no time; I do not like; I do not want. Those who do will seek it out, and all the best to them.

November 2013 Movie Preview

I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
The lovely Jennifer Lawrence thinks hard about where the franchise is going.

I’m Excited About…

  • Drinking Buddies (1 November). I like the stars (especially Anna Kendrick since she did Pitch Perfect) and I like that it’s set in a craft brewery. It’s the inheritor of ‘mumblecore’ which if it means a little character-focused story about actual people, then count me as being all aboard. So yes, I’m looking forward to it.
  • Gravity (8 November). Everywhere else in the world has already had this film come out and it’s been getting some great reviews. I like the director, and I imagine it will be a visually-strong work.
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (21 November). Shut up, the first one was great, I ♥ J-Law, so bring it on.
  • Computer Chess (22 November). More in the vein of ‘mumblecore’, this time from founding director Andrew Bujalski, one or two of whose films I’ve seen and really admired. I know nothing about the premise of this particular film, but a few people have told me they liked it, and I trust my friends’ opinions.

I’m Not Sure About…

  • Don Jon (15 November). Joseph Gordon-Levitt has made a relationship drama that features him, Scarlett Johansson and internet pr0n, so who knows how this will go. Should at least be well-acted.
  • Blue Is the Warmest Colour (22 November). A three-hour French relationship drama is my kind of thing, so I suspect I’ll like it, but who knows. Things always get a bit polarised around Palme d’Or winners.
  • Saving Mr. Banks (29 November). Sounds like it could be a bit saccharine, but I’m a fan of the easy charms of both Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks, and I like a bit of shmaltz from time to time.
  • All Is Lost (29 November UPDATE: release moved to 26 December). I’ve heard really positive things about this drama about one man (Robert Redford) lost in the vastness of the ocean.

I’m Not So Excited About…

  • Last Vegas (8 November). No thanks. It’s interesting the way that nowadays ‘stars Robert De Niro’ is pretty much a sure-fire sign that a movie can be safely avoided.
  • Seduced and Abandoned (8 November). A “meta-documentary” is something to inspire fear at the best of times. From what I’ve read about this one, I am really unsure. I don’t doubt director James Toback has made some interesting films in the past, but I think I can live without him and Alec Baldwin being sleazy on the Riviera.
  • Parkland (8 November). I am on-board the ‘Zac Efron is a great actor of his generation’ bus, but I fear I’m in a minority, and do we really need more films about JFK?
  • Carrie (29 November). In theory, should be good. Star Chloë Moretz and director Kimberley Peirce are well-placed to give this a female-positive spin, but I’m hardly a big horror fan, and I suspect this won’t be for me.

October 2013 Movie Preview

I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman pictured here looking out (I really hope) over a fine second instalment for this series.
Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman pictured here looking out (I really hope) over a fine second instalment for this series.

I’m Excited About…

  • The London Film Festival (9-20 October). I only have three days I can see films on, but I’ve already filled them up. I should probably do a separate post about this, but I’ve not had the time. There are plenty of premieres, but then most of the big galas are returning soon so I’ve put in for a bunch of more leftfield films. I’m super excited in any case.
  • Thor: The Dark World (30 October). Oh dear, why is it the stupid superhero movies I’m always most excited by? Maybe it’s the promise they could be great fun, even if they’re almost always a let-down. But yet the first one was plenty of fun, so I want this second instalment to be as well.

I’m Not Sure About…

  • Sunshine on Leith (4 October). Yes, it’s based on a stage jukebox musical, but this film is set in my hometown of Edinburgh and unashamedly celebrates the music of the Proclaimers, who are a very jolly pop band, so I suspect I’ll like this. But maybe I won’t. Signs are looking promising, though.
  • Filth (4 October). Another Scottish film, based on a novel by Irvine (Trainspotting) Welsh, and quite tonally different to the one above. It could be good, though it looks like it has a wee bit of magical realism in it, so who knows. Still, James McAvoy has been a solidly dependable screen presence this past year, so I’m hopeful.
  • The To Do List (4 October). It was released in the US earlier this year and got really mixed reviews, but it has Aubrey Plaza in it! I shall probably go. Whether it’s any good is another matter.
  • How I Live Now (4 October). The plot doesn’t sound promising (blah blah Word War III blah), but it has Saoirse Ronan in it, and I am convinced after seeing the so-so Byzantium that whatever the film around her is like, she’ll be great.
  • Nobody’s Daughter Hae-Won (11 October). The South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo has been making movies for years, and I’ve been to see a fair few of them at festivals. They’re usually quite small works, minutely observed, so it’ll be interesting to see one of his recent films on wider release.
  • Captain Phillips (18 October). It’s got all the pre-Oscar hype, but the trailer made it look a little bit like honourable white men vs the lawless black pirates (a bit unavoidable given the Somalian piracy setting), so I’m not sure how it’ll play out. Greengrass is a fantastic director though.
  • Enough Said (18 October). I’m going to see this at the London Film Festival, but it’s on release fairly shortly after, one of James Gandolfini’s last movies, from likeable NYC filmmaker Nicole Holofcener. I predict it will be nice.
  • Ender’s Game (25 October). Some kind of sci-fi nonsense with Harrison Ford. No idea, probably rubbish, but I’ll give it a go maybe.

I’m Not So Excited About…

  • Getaway (4 October). Ethan Hawke in anything but a Before film is a dicey proposition in the first place, and much though Selena Gomez is probably a very nice person, I’m not sold on her acting. This one looks rubbish.
  • The Fifth Estate (11 October). I’m not saying this won’t be good or worth interesting, and I may go along to see it, but I’m thoroughly bored of Mr Assange and hearing about him. Still, Benedict Cumberbatch is beloved by many, so I still need to brush up on what his particular appeal is.

Upcoming Posts (23-27 September)

Straining for the beautiful doomed lovers archetype is Ain't Them Bodies Saints.
Straining for the beautiful doomed lovers archetype is Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.

The Jean-Luc Godard month is looking increasingly like it’ll spill into October. I’ve got to post One Plus One (his film with the Rolling Stones) before I can get into the 70s with Tout va bien, then I’ve a few more 80s films to watch, and I still have his magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinéma to go…

Alongside that, I have some new release reviews for next week, including the pictured Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, all golden hued Malickian doomed love, as well as Rush and The Great Beauty, a very long and winding Italian film that has a certain charm to it.

If you know of anything exciting coming up, do let me know. In the meantime, hope to see you at Ewan at the Cinema next week.

Upcoming Posts (16-20 September)

A big star of the silent era (and beyond) sits.
A big star of the silent era (and beyond) sits.

I’m halfway through this month’s special Jean-Luc Godard ‘Director Focus’ feature, and we’re still in the 1960s. I have a review for Bande à part lined up and I’m hoping to round out the 60s with Week End and One Plus One before the 1970s and 1980s the following week.

Never did get to 2 Guns but I saw the enjoyable In a World… yesterday and will be seeing Rush later today. I also have some shorter reviews of older films, plus my first double-header, a two-part silent film programme from the Cinema Museum featuring a Rin Tin Tin caper and a William S. Hart western.

Finally, I bought my tickets to the London Film Festival. It’s running 9-20 October and people who aren’t BFI members can start buying their tickets on 20 September. Due to family commitments and the fact it’s my birthday on the 8th, there are only actually three days I can get along to see films. After some teething issues, the festival website finally allowed me to buy tickets so that’s pretty exciting. I should probably try and do a post with my recommendations.

Hope to see you at Ewan at the Cinema next week.

September 2013 Movie Preview

I’m again looking forward to the coming month of movie releases in the UK. Are there any films you’re excited about in the coming month where you live? By all means, let me know! What have I missed? (Maybe it’s not coming out this month in the UK, but I’d still be keen to know about it.)

Nice glowering lads. Hemsworth and Brühl go head to head in Rush (2013).
Nice glowering lads. Hemsworth and Brühl go head to head in Rush (2013).

I’m Excited About…

  • Rush (13 September). Nothing to do with the band, this is about motor racing. And sure, it’s Ron Howard so it’ll probably be drippy, or maybe it’ll be like Days of Thunder? In any case, it has Chris Hemsworth and lots of speed and looks like fun, so I am trying to be hopeful.

I’m Not Sure About…

  • About Time (4 September). You sort of know what you’re getting with a Richard Curtis romantic comedy, and if his other ones have been extremely indulgent middle-class nonsense, I’ve also personally found them quite likeable (well Love Actually more than I expected, and Notting Hill about as much as expected). So I’m willing to give it a go, despite the ridiculous time travel premise.
  • Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (6 September). Looks like Malick lite, but I’m a Malick fan, so I’ll probably go and see this.
  • Museum Hours (6 September). Jem Cohen does films about inertia and the colonised spaces of modernity, or er something like that. I’m sure it’ll be lugubrious, but it should be interesting at least.
  • Blue Jasmine (27 September). A new Woody Allen film. Dare I bother? I generally don’t like his films, so it’s borderline.
  • Girl Most Likely (27 September). This has had some poor reviews, but yet it has Kristen Wiig in it, so…

I’m Not So Excited About…

  • Riddick (4 September). I am really just in want of someone to convince me this will be good. I like Vin Diesel, and I enjoy the Fast and Furious movies, but I’m not familiar with this franchise, and it doesn’t look like my kind of thing.
  • White House Down (6 September). It was a big flop in the States, and I disliked the other White House-invasion movie this year, Olympus Has Fallen, so I probably won’t bother with this one. Also, Roland Emmerich has never yet made a good movie, to my mind.
  • Diana (20 September). How much do I want to see a film about Diana Princess of Wales? None at all. How about a film about her forbidden relationship (etc etc) with an Indian doctor? This is possibly getting towards the bottom of my list of films I want to go see in my life.
  • R.I.P.D. (20 September). I have a soft spot for Jeff Bridges, but not for Ryan Reynolds, and given the reviews and box office of this film in the States, I think it’s a safe miss.

Upcoming Posts (26-30 August)

Denzel and Wahlberg buddy up in 2 Guns.
Denzel and Wahlberg buddy up in 2 Guns.

I’m still working on next month’s Jean-Luc Godard ‘Director Focus’ feature, so I haven’t actually got any reviews lined up for next week yet. I’m going to an old Greta Gerwig film (I guess it will be in the so-called ‘mumblecore’ genre) today, so that’ll be something.

I may still try to get along to 2 Guns, and there’s every likelihood I will go and see the new Morgan Spurlock documentary — which is to say, yes, the one about One Direction. I’ve never seen any of his films, but I’m assuming it won’t be like Godard’s film on the Rolling Stones… One can live in hope.

Hope to see you at Ewan at the Cinema next week.

Upcoming Posts (19-23 August) and New Feature

Godard with a camera, sometime in those black-and-white days.
Godard with a camera, sometime in those black-and-white days.

New Feature: Director Focus

So I thought I needed to shake things up a little bit from just straight reviews and add a new feature. And although it will become evident that even this idea involves more reviews, it should be reviews with a bit of structure around them. You see, those nice chaps Chris at Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop and Mark at Three Rows Back are doing a ‘blogathon’ on the theme ‘Debuts’ and for some reason they’ve let me contribute, even though I haven’t so much as half an idea about what a ‘blogathon’ might be. As I’m unimaginative, I picked a debut they suggested in their post, so I’ll be covering Jean Luc-Godard’s A bout de souffle.

This got me thinking that, well, you can see from my site I’m a bit of an auteurist, so what with owning quite a few of Godard’s key works, it would make sense to string it out into a director focus that I hope will become a regular strand. And his place at the head of the French Nouvelle Vague makes him as good a director as any to start with. Other blogs do something similar, and who am I to mess with a fine idea? So there we go, I’ll do an introduction in September, with reviews of a few of Godard’s key works tracing his directorial development, which fingers-crossed will allow me to properly tackle his debut for Chris and Mark.

Upcoming Posts (19-23 August)

While we’re here, and looking more immediately forward to next week, I will have a new Movie Lottery series entry, on The Last of the Mohicans (1992), which I recently watched after drawing its title from a hat. Those of you who’ve read my Favourite Films page will have an inkling of the kind of review I’ll be giving it.

I’ll also have a review of Spielberg’s classic Jurassic Park (1993), and since I appear to be stuck in the 90s maybe I should watch some other films from that forgotten era.

I’m honestly not sure, however, how many of the new releases this week are likely to catch my attention. Maybe Kick-Ass 2 though I’m feeling lukewarm about going to see it, and probably 2 Guns. Perhaps there’ll be something at an arthouse cinema I can share, or a retrospective screening.

Hope to see you at Ewan at the Cinema next week.