Monday, 20 December 2010

The Golden Sprockets 2010

Welcome to the first ever "Golden Sprockets" award ceremony.

Below, I will be announcing the winners of the coveted "Sprockies", a celebration of all the cinematic things that passed my eyes in the last twelve months or so.

Bear in mind I haven't seen all the year's films, so this will be purely subjective and largely unfounded. And may (will) contain swearing and crude wordings.

Without further ado:

The "most near-the-knuckle, potentially offensive but ultimately fucking hilarious and surprisingly powerful comedy" award goes to:

Four Lions

The "labyrinthine but ultimately predictable plot strangely doesn't detract from visually, sonically and actor-ily brilliant film" award goes to:

Shutter Island

The "looked like a shitty kid-flick but was actually a rousing and engaging adventure for all the family (I said 'a rousing', not 'arousing')" award goes to:

How to Train Your Dragon

The "pure, visceral cinematic joy in spite of slightly contradictory message and tonal discrepancy with source material" award goes to:


The "predictably awesome" award goes to:

Toy Story 3

The "see? blockbuster thrillers don't have to be brainless" award goes to:


The "nerd-gasmic sugar-rush" award goes to:

Scott Pilgrim vs the world

The obligatory, yet deserved award for "probably the best film of the year" goes to:

The Social Network

The "better actress than most twice her age" award goes to:

Chloe Moretz.

The Sprocket for "Best Crazy Acting-Face Man" goes to:

Frowny Leo DiCaprio

The "nerd fantasy" award is shared between:

Scarlett Johansson

Olivia Wilde

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

The "uncomfortable man-crush" award is shared by:

Robert Downey Jr.

Joseph Gordon Levitt

The "waste of screen-space" award is shared by:

Sam Worthington and Gemma Arterton

The "most hilariously clunky exposition" award goes to the bit in the tent in:

Prince of Persia.

The "worst film I actually sat through" award goes to:

Street Dance 3D

The "film I quite liked, but everyone else thought was bum-chunder" award goes to:


These awards were voted for by members of the exclusive Intermittent Sprocket Academy of Motion Picture Arse. If you disagree, get your own movie blog, you fairy!


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Fragments Viewed through a Porthole

There have been a number of films released recently which I haven't been able to sit and watch, so I have only seen random fragments of them through the portholes (that's the observation window-things by the projectors that look out into the auditoria. I'm not on a pirate ship or owt). This is how projectionists see most films, should they not have a chance to run a print-check or staff show. Here are my observations on these movies as they occurred to me, based on the minimal information at my disposal:


Tron: Legacy

First impressions:

Some of the scenes are in 2D? Is it gonna be like "The Wizard of Oz", but the real world is 2D and the "fantasy" is 3D?

Fucking hell, the Digital Dude is terrifying. He's supposed to be giving a loving, fatherly smile to his little son, but it looks like he's a fucking robo-zombie who wants to crack the kid's head open and sup his brain-blood!

Why's the kid got posters and memorabilia from the first film all over his room?

The 3D's not up to much.

Olivia Wilde is as pretty as a picture. Of Olivia Wilde.

Oh, this is the bit where he tries to describe the sun.

Garrett Hedlund reminds me of a cross between Christian Slater and the Honey Monster.

His description of the sun as "warm, radiant, beautiful" puts me in mind of Baldrick describing the sea as a "big, blue wobbly thing" in "Blackadder".

Looks like:

a $200 million fan-wank.

Animals United

First Impressions:

Is this "Madagascar 3"? Actually looks more like that other one that flopped. "The Wild" I believe it was.

Is that kangaroo drinking a can of beer?

I don't know what that's supposed to be, but it looks a potential lawsuit lot like the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Tunes.

Now he's drinking beer too.

The CGI is fucking rubbish. It's like watching "Reboot".

The animals seem to be talking about wiping out mankind before we kill them. Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick, that seems a bit dark for a talkie-animal kid-flick.

Nope, they've done it. There's an army of animals marching triumphantly through a deserted Manhattan. Looks a bit "12 Monkeys" to me. Roll credits.

Looks like:

should be called "Animal Uprising" or "Animal Apocalypse" or summat.


First Impressions:

Christina's chebs are hanging out of her dress. I think this is a clever ruse to draw the eye away from the subtly witch-like qualities of her facial features. It's mostly working.

Christina and that dude from "Twilight" are drunk and giggling. Are they gonna get it on? Wait, what certificate is this? Am I gonna see some action?

The "Twilight" geezer's nekkid. I'm sure there was wang on display.

Christina's getting that dress off now!

Oh, no. They're just sharing a chaste kiss and we're fading to something else. Never mind.

I think it's a 12A, and mostly aimed at females, so the core audience is satisfied with "Twilight" bloke's man-chebs. I imagine Christina spends the film in various stages of undress, but frankly, I haven't the time to stand here leering through the porthole all day.

Maybe just a minute or two longer.

There's Cher's alabaster mug. That's put me right off.

Back to work.

Looks like:

I'm perving on Christina Aguilera. I'm not. I'm checking out the focus, rack and volume of the movie. Definitely not checking her out, or focusing on her voluminous rack IN the movie. At all.

Fred: The Movie

First impressions:

This is that thing about some goober from YouTube, innit? Yeah, there he is.

Oh, he's pitch-shifted his voice so that it's all squeaky. And he's gurning and shrieking directly to camera.

God, I bet this gets annoying over an hour and a half.

I'll give it another minute or two.

Twenty-eight seconds later:


Looks like:

"Freddy Got Fingered" for tweens.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Tourist: Lost in Venice

I've got an idea for a film. It's about a fella who gets picked up by a hot chick on a train. She is being followed by international police types and is trying to make them believe that this ordinary chap is a master criminal she used to go out with who has had facial reconstructive surgery to disguise himself.

What's that? Sounds like utter toss? Well, what if Angelina Jolie is the woman and Johnny Depp is the bloke? Now you're interested! Now the scene is set for an incandescent screen-pairing of such incomparable beauty and naked sexual charisma that the very screen the film is projected on threatens to burst into flame! Right?

"The Tourist" is, unfortunately, a disappointment on all counts. It's an unfunny comedy, a plodding thriller, a romance with no spark, and a leaden farce.

Directed by Florien Heinckel von Sink the Bismarck or whatever his name is (you know, he did "The Lives of Others") with all the zest of a holiday video about an attractive but slightly dull couple, the whole thing feels like an excuse for the cast and crew to hang around in Venice for a few weeks.

Depp is unusually soulless and flat in what could've been a capering charmer of a role, and Jolie delivers a fine English accent, but little else. They are not helped by the fact that their characters are never allowed to develop beyond ciphers, simply place-holders for upcoming plot twists to be wrapped around. More on that later.

Paul Bettany pops up in a role that mainly requires him to talk on phones and hang around in offices, Steven Berkoff does a pseudo-sinister turn as a gangster who comes across more like a slightly predatory old showbiz-queen, Man-God Timothy Dalton does a two-scener, and Rufus Sewell is in it a little bit too.

The tone of the film is continually unbalanced: a scene where Depp flees some baddies over the rooftops of Venice in his pajamas comes off like a "Bourne" spoof minus any wit or panache, while the soundtrack - all punchy electro-percussion and stabbing strings - is trying to tell us we are witnessing something genuinely thrilling. The scene ends up being a turgid lope, also featuring some terrible CG matte-work, rather than a sprightly romp, reflecting the effect of the film as a whole.

So it trundles along without anything of much interest occurring, and then they start busting out the twists. When a character you thought you knew reveals a new and hitherto unseen dimension, it can be a thrilling and shocking moment. When a character who is basically a stranger to the audience does it, expect a resounding chorus of "Huh? Oh. So what?" And, without giving too much away, you can see the ridiculous final twist coming all the way from the trailer.

But we can still console ourselves with the pretty images on screen, right? Well, Venice looks pleasant enough, but Depp does an alarmingly good job of looking like a middle-aged sadsack and Jolie is so skinny that her angular head seems too big for her body and her exaggerated features appear even more cartoonish than usual. So not really much in it for the superficial crowd either.

All in all, not even as good as "Knight and Day".

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

When Projectionists Get Bored...

Projection is a job which involves a certain amount of "downtime". There is a skill to finding ways to keep oneself occupied and stave off the onset of cabin fever. Some projectionists like to carry out general maintenance or catch up on paperwork. Personally I prefer to deface the posters that adorn the walls of the booth.

Click to supersize them.

I won't take credit for this one:

Friday, 3 December 2010

How to Become a Projectionist: Episode II

I am on time for my second interview.

I am also sober.

If they liked me when I was pissed, wait'll they get a load of me with a straight head.

But what if they only liked me because I was pissed?

The interview is in a pub next to the site where the cinema will be. I wonder if this will afford me the opportunity to get drunk during the interview, but I doubt it.

The cinema itself is currently little more than a concrete shell, built and then discarded by the company responsible due to its undesirable location. They wanted to build another site out of town, where people could actually park their cars instead of having to trudge through the city centre. Council said no.

I am directed upstairs to where the interview will take place. There are tables dotted around, and a few of my fellow interviewees are already seated. They all seem to be young, attractive, student-type girls, and are deep in conversation. Presumably about hip new music and sweatbands and hair-straighteners or summat.

I sit at a table on my own.

Eventually, the cinema people come and take us to individual tables for some one-on-one hot interview action.

The little dark-haired woman from my first interview talks to me. Usual interview stuff, developing on things mentioned in part one. The only question I remember is "where do you see yourself in five years time?". I talk about wanting to make films and write and all that aspirational bollocks but, knowing that they are unlikely to employ someone who is going to just float away to dreamland like a balloon full of buoyant hope-gas, I dismiss those ambitions as hobbies and tell her I really want to be a projectionist.

She seems interested.

She tells me that they are looking for an extra hand in projection. I worry that, having two, I may be over-qualified.

She says she will mention my interest to the prospective cinema manager. I like the sound of that.

The interview goes pretty well and I eventually trundle off about my business.

I get the call. I get the job. There is some popcorn-jockeying scheduled in my immediate future. We have a couple of days induction at the hotel where the first interview took place, then I think a couple of weeks experience at another site and then we're off and running.

At the induction, I have to raise my game. I have to shift gear into Sociable-Performance Mode and act like I'm not a misanthropic junior Victor Meldrew for a while.

We are all seated around a big table (or some small tables pushed together, like a furniture megazord) and we have to do the typical, inane, getting to know you exercises, like asking some prepared questions of the person to your right and then announcing their personal information to the rest of the group in as entertaining a manner as possible.

The person to my right is a young gentleman who tells me its his birthday today. I think he's eighteen. Naturally, I therefore lead a room of strangers in a chorus of Happy Birthday. I think he wants to kill me. It gets worse when, later in the day, one of the managers who arrived late has the same idea and unknowingly humiliates him for the second time.

We are united in our fumbling attempts to familiarise ourselves with each other, forgetting names, cracking obvious jokes just to remove the tension, pretending to be interested in people's opinions. We sow the seeds of relationships yet-to-come in these induction days, relationships that, though often short-lived, would impact on us all in some way.

Future lovers meet, crushes develop, friendships are forged and prospective enemies size each other up; all of us wondering how we are going to get along, day in, day out, with this disparate band of people.

I think it's during the second day when the manager asks me to step out of the room for a moment. I have memories of being asked to leave the classroom at school, and start to wonder if some off-colour joke I made went too far. Am I to be fired before I even start the job?

Turns out he just wants to check if I'm still interested in being a projectionist. I say I am.


We are scheduled for a popcorn training day the following morning. I am to go along and learn what I can, and then the next day I am to join the two-man projection team at another site and see how I get on.

I'm pretty sure the idea is to train me in both disciplines, alternating projection and popcorn days, just in case they can't find another experienced projectionist in time for the opening of the cinema. I will take that and run with it.

We set off in a mini-bus the next morning, heading for a cinema a few towns away and feeling like kids on a school trip. I spend the day cleaning screens, sweeping popcorn up, pouring half-finished drinks into a bucket and listening to the end credits songs of "Cars" and "Nacho Libre" over and over again.

Putting some rubbish in the massive bins out the back of the building, one of the girls I'm working with tells me that her and her boyfriend were transferred from the cinema in Sheffield to work at the new cinema. Her man is the projection manager. I am to meet him the next morning.

Over four years later, the cinema we are training at will be the site of the meetings which sound the death knell on projectionism as I will come to know it.

I would never work another day as a "Guest Assistant". My career as a popcorn-jockey would last for that one single shift, but my career as a projectionist was about to begin...