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Spank's LFF Diary: The Wrap Party 2016

To begin this much-delayed roundup of London Film Festival 2016, here are some time-stamped thoughts on a trailer I had to watch thirty or so times in the space of a fortnight.

0:10 - I don't know how many films are showcased in this trailer - and to be honest, the formula in recent years has been to highlight the big gala presentations, which I largely ignore. Nevertheless, as far as I can make out, there are only two shots in this trailer that come from films I saw at the LFF this year. This is the first one.

0:13 - Dammit, Dev Patel turned into Naveen Andrews so gradually we didn't even notice it happening.

0:27 - I didn't see Arrival at the LFF, but I've subsequently caught up with it on general release, and it's rather great.

0:29 - No. Not 14 cinemas. I can't quite see how you can count the venues used by this year's festival and make it 14, unless you say BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX are the same thing or somesuch. Anyway, it's probably better that it's an underestimate rather than the other way.

0:46 - And this is the other one. (No, you work it out.)

0:53 - Why is Willem Dafoe in the online version of this trailer but not the one they showed in cinemas?

0:54 - That moment right there? The 'it is time' one? I think that's the best work that the LFF's publicity department has done in the last five years. They should be proud of the way they repurposed that shot to jolt you into a state of readiness for whatever film was about to follow it. (Meanwhile, the best work that the BFI's publicity department has done over the last five years is almost certainly the Black Star trailer that frequently followed this one, which you can watch thirty-odd times in a row and still be thrilled by it. Shame that the only version available online is this baggy two-minute thing, rather than the snappy one-minute edit we got at LFF screenings.)

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MOSTLYFILM: Not Catching Your Drift

Here's an indication of how commonplace travelling to Dubai has become for me this year: on this particular visit, the most interesting photo I took was of some roadworks near my hotel.It's been nearly two months since I went on the Dubai trip that I've documented in my latest Monoglot Movie Club piece for MostlyFilm. You know, the one that finished with an overnight flight back to London where I got very little sleep and eight hours later had to go to my first film at the London Film Festival and DAMMIT, I still haven't done the Wrap Party roundup for that, it'll be coming soon, promise. Anyway, that one.

The piece in question is called Not Catching Your Drift, which is a moderately amusing reference to one of the films I saw there, the street-racing drama Hajwala. But it could have been quite different. Shortly after seeing the second movie, Bilal, I discovered that it was based on the early life of a real person: Bilal ibn Rabah, best known as one of the most loyal companions of the prophet Mohammed. Count yourselves lucky that I didn't go with my original title of The Fatwa And The Furious.

Providing Red Button Bonus Content for this post is going to be a little tricky: after all, it's the third visit I've made to Dubai this year, and I've more or less drained the well dry when it comes to travel tips and mall reviews. (In the case of the latter, the only new thing worth reporting on from this trip is the discovery of casual eaterie Common Grounds, close to the cinema inside the Mall of the Emirates.) So, below you'll just find a few trailers relating to the movies I saw.

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BrewDogging #41: Norwich

"You! Hops or death?"  "Uh, death, please. No, hops! HOPS! Hops, sorry. Sorry..."[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Chancery Lane, Stirling]

It's been about three months since I last did one of these, and I need to go through a couple of updates regarding the bar list above before we can move onto the new addition below.

Firstly, some good news regarding bar #39, the BottleDog shop near King's Cross. As I mentioned at the time, it was recently transformed into an odd hybrid, a ground floor off-licence with a small basement bar attached. Well, the decision's been taken to flip it - it's now a basement bar with an off-licence upstairs. And as they've become irritated by all the people who kept insisting it wasn't near King's Cross at all, it's now been rebranded as BrewDog Chancery Lane. So that's nice for it.

Less nice is the continuing saga of Dog Eat Dog near Angel, reviewed here as bar #24. As mentioned in the comments on the page, it ran as a hot dog joint for four months or so and then closed down with a worrying lack of notice. And then on August 26th, it re-opened as Punk Kitchen, with an ambitious plan to have a different street food vendor providing the menu every four weeks. London Laksa did a decent job in the first slot, as did Billy Smokes in the second: but they still couldn't get the punters in. By late October, it had been closed down again with another worrying lack of notice. I didn't even have time to temporarily take off the † against the venue name on my bar list - it opened and closed again in the gap between BrewDogging #40 and BrewDogging #41. The site's now up for sale, so I guess that's the end of that.

With that housekeeping out of the way, let's move onto BrewDogging #41. And now! From Norwich! It's the bar of the week!

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MOSTLYFILM: London Korean Film Festival 2016

WE COULD DISABLE HER BY AIMING AT HER KNEESWe do enjoy a good film festival round these parts, as you may have noticed. London, obviously: the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme kind of counts as one too: and then there are the festivals that burned themselves out, like Terracotta and Edinburgh. It might be considered surprising that the London Korean Film Festival has been running in the city where I live for a decade now, and I've never seen a single film from it. In my defence, it's always come a little too hard on the heels of the LFF for my liking: I'm still recovering from the thirty-odd films I saw in October, and you want me to watch more?

Still, when the MostlyFilm editor asked me one week before the start of the LKFF if I fancied writing a preview for it, and sent me the links to 31 online screeners, it struck me that maybe a few more films wouldn't hurt.

In the end, I watched nine all the way through, and gave up on a tenth part way once I realised it was a three-hour long director's cut and I wouldn't have time to finish it that day. The result went up on MostlyFilm yesterday under the title London Korean Film Festival 2016, to coincide with the opening gala screening. You've missed that by now, obviously, but there are still another fourteen days of Korean movies to be seen in London, plus a ten-day touring programme visiting Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham, Glasgow and Belfast. Visit here for full details of all the films showing, but not until you've had a quick look at the trailer reel I've provided below as the Red Button Bonus Content for the MostlyFilm review.

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Simian Substitute Site Of The Month November 2016: Monkeys With Fire


Comics: October's always a bit of a bugger when it comes to these Month End posts. Most of what I've been doing during the month has already been written about in the London Film Festival reports - Wrap Party coming soon, promise - or will be covered in future posts relating to MostlyFilm, BrewDogging or that Alan Moore novel I mentioned last time. It's probably why this month, any spare time I've had has been spent revisiting things I've written about before. For example, the comic Preacher - or more specifically, its artist and co-creator Steve Dillon, who died recently at the tragically early age of 54. When people rave about comics artists, they usually talk about how they cope with huge visual challenges set by writers, like drawing futuristic cityscapes and so on. Writers like Garth Ennis, on the other hand, would set challenges like this: 'what would a polar bear look like immediately after being punched in the face by the Punisher?' Dillon nailed it, as he always did. Read any article about Dillon's style and the word 'acting' always comes up: the characters he drew were giving a performance, and he wanted that performance to be as true to life as he could make it. This sequence from Preacher is a great example of his approach - it's just three people in a truck talking and listening to music, but look at the sheer amount we learn about the characters from their facial expressions. Dillon was a world-class visual storyteller, and the world of comics is a lot poorer for his loss.

Radio: Back in January 1999, I wrote a piece about Chris Morris' late-night radio comedy Blue Jam, picking out some highlights from series 1 and 2 in anticipation of the just-starting series 3. Nearly 18 years later, series 3 of Blue Jam is finally getting its first repeat run, at 11pm on Friday nights on Radio 4 Extra. It'll also be sitting around on the iPlayer for four weeks after transmission, of course. In the years since it was first broadcast, a compilation CD of the best sketches has been released, and we've also had the TV remake Jam. But the radio version features Morris' concept in its most satisfying form - a dense mix of ambient music and bleak comedy, where it's easy to miss where one ends and the other begins. It'll be interesting to see how Blue Jam's rampant darkness comes across these days: it takes a little while to tune back in to the show's unique frequency, and episode 1's opening sketch involving a man who's been "gangraped in the bottom by a gang of street puffs" certainly pulls you up short. Maybe Adam and Joe were right all along.

Telly: This one requires a little less effort to remember when I last wrote about it: four months ago, in fact. As I've said before, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an intense drama series about depression and obsession, so carefully disguised as a musical romantic comedy that people seem to keep mistaking it for one. I've finally managed to catch up with the rest of the first season, watching most of it on another long-haul Emirates flight (where they almost wrecked an entire subplot with one ridiculously prudish bit of editing), and mopping up the last couple of episodes on Netflix. As season finales go, this one's pretty great, in that it manages to resolve all the major plotlines from the previous weeks and then - in a single short tag scene - opens up a whole new direction for season 2. Which makes it all the more delightful to discover that Netflix have picked up the just-started season 2 for the UK, and are releasing the latest episodes a mere two days after their US transmission. From the first one, it looks like season 2's going to be a rather different beast from season 1, from the opening title song and downwards. But all the key components we know and love about the show are still there, with the Beyonce pastiche of Love Kernels a specific highlight of the premiere. At least I'll be able to watch this season without pesky airlines cutting out the good bits, and that's got to be an improvement.

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