Happiness is A State of Mind: #JFTFP20

No, that poster image isn't nightmare fuel in the *slightest*, is it?A Tale Of The Before Times (#4 of 5)

It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past. Obviously, I've no longer got access to the free screener discs I was sent when I was previewing the programme for MostlyFilm, and I can accept that: but the tickets for the public ICA screenings have been getting more and more expensive, and this year they weren't even doing the four-for-the-price-of-three deal they've had in previous years.

So this is why you're only going to be reading seven reviews from a programme containing twenty films. As for why you're reading them about three months after the tour finished, well, try looking out of the window.

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British Animation Awards 2020

You know that rumour doing the rounds recently about how there's a version of the Cats movie where the cats' bumholes *haven't* been digitally airbrushed out? I sometimes wonder if something similar exists for the BAA logo.A Tale Of The Before Times (#3 of 5)

The British Animation Awards started in 1996. Every two years since then, there's been a ceremony dishing out gongs to the finest animated films, short and long, that have been produced in this country. For me, the most interesting part of the awards is the Public Choice. A set of three programmes of animated shorts is sent around the cinemas of this nation, audiences vote on them, and the ones with the most votes take away prizes. As huge-budget commercials rub shoulders with zero-budget student films, the Public Choice is a great way for casual punters like myself to get a crash course in the current state of the art.

My first Public Choice was back in 2006, where the perfect storm of a period of unemployment and the installation of home broadband made it a good time to rekindle my interest in animated shorts. I provided a full-page report about it here, and did the same in 2008 and 2010, by which time the ubiquity of YouTube made it much easier to provide links to all the films. The decadent years of my BAA reporting were 2012 (three pages) and 2014 (also three), after which an awkward thing happened: the London screenings dropped from two at BFI Southbank to one at the Regent Street Cinema. Basically, if you couldn't make the specific date for a programme, you missed it. As a result, I only saw one of the Public Choice programmes in 2016, and none whatsoever in 2018.

But now it's 2020, and we're back, baby! Don't worry, the decadent years are over, and I'm going back to the review format I've described in a previous bi-year as 'insultingly brief'. It's the only way to go when you've got 58 short films to write about, which you originally saw back in February, and have left it so late to expand your notes that the awards have already been decided and handed out. (Not to mention how all the cinemas have since been closed down.) It's easiest to organise this by focussing on each of the three Public Choice programmes in turn, so let's do that. As it's taken most of the last four months to look up all the film and animator links, maybe you should click on some of those while you're here.

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Easter Parade 2: In Situ Boogaloo

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns. It seems like a risky economic strategy in the current climate, but there you go.Covid-19 has no respect for tradition, as we've learned. Since 2012, The Belated Birthday Girl and I have made an annual pilgrimage to Aberdeen for the BrewDog AGM, with its fifty minutes of business presentation in the middle of ten hours of drinking. We were all booked in for the 2020 AGM on Saturday April 11th, i.e. yesterday. You won't be surprised to hear that it didn't happen. (Watch this space, though.)

Other traditions, however, have turned out to be more resilient. Since 2002, with a couple of minor exceptions, The BBG and I have tried to ensure that wherever we find ourselves on Easter Sunday, we'll watch a film that was shot in that area of the world. 2020 would have been the first year that Easter Sunday coincided with our annual Aberdeen visit: we'd got as far as having a candidate film ready, in which ABZ doubled for Somalia (insert your own punchline here, Ricky) in a jolly little tale of the oil industry. In the gap between the cancellation of the AGM and the cancellation of our flights, we even had a sneaky backup plan which involved an Easter Sunday day trip out to BrewDog St Andrews.

All that fell through, of course, and now we're spending Easter Sunday 2020 in London. Which London film should we watch this year? Well, the last time I did a year-by-year roundup of our Easter films was in 2011, so let's build up to the answer slowly by seeing what we've watched since then.

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Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019

They are the unquiet, apparentlyHere's how good Sheffield's documentary film festival is - that picture there is of a film we saw by accident. Taking a break in between screenings to indulge in our two favourite food groups at self-explanatory restaurant Craft & Dough, at one point I look out of the window we're sat next to and realise that Paradise Square is full of people. It takes a few seconds longer to realise that they're watching a short film that was shot in that very location. Chloe Brown's A Soft Rebellion In Paradise has got a nice idea at its core, but a) taking a poetic feminist call to arms, b) filming several hundred women yelling it in a public square and c) playing that film back in the same public square doesn't do much for your audio quality: ironic for a film about letting women's voices be heard.

In a way, it's rather terrific that Doc/Fest takes over the city so much, with its branded tote bags visible on every other shoulder, and films showing everywhere you look. However, the majority of their events are held in normal venues with roofs and soundproofing. Here are seven of them.

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People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 2 of 2)

I find these days that the anime Salaryman Kintaro really *speaks* to me.At some point, we'll need seriously to address something that regular readers will have noticed by now. Back in 2006, I had a major personal overhaul in two departments: I changed my job to one that was more part-time in nature, and I changed this site to a blog format that allowed for more frequent posting. It never really occurred to me how closely the two were interrelated, or how much work I was doing on the site in the downtime between assignments - until late 2018 when I moved back into full-time employment, and suddenly discovered that I didn't have the free time to write four or so posts a month any more.

In the old days, I'd have seen as many Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme movies as possible during their London run in the first full week of February, and within a couple of days I'd have reviews up on the site, so that people in non-London cities would be able to read them as the programme toured the country. As it stands, I've just managed to write them up by the end of February, which counts as a bit late in my book. Apologies if you've been waiting for them.

Anyway, enough of my work-life balance issues (which, to be honest, are just me learning to cope again with the amount of work that most regular people do for a living). I've already covered half a dozen of the seventeen films in the 2019 Japan Foundation programme, People Still Call It Love, in Part One: here come another half dozen in Part Two. You'll have to fend for yourselves with the rest, I'm afraid.

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People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 1 of 2)

This year's JFTFP poster image amuses me, for reasons I'm not going to explain here.The Japan Foundation has been taking its Touring Film Programme of newish and classic Japanese cinema around the UK since 2004 - and I've been writing about it every year since 2008 (apart from 2009, for some reason), either in these pages or over on MostlyFilm. Back in 2008, it was a six film programme, and now it's grown to seventeen plus a bonus ball. I'll tell you upfront that I won't be reviewing all of them this year. Partly it's down to pressure of work: partly it's down to not getting all the freebie preview discs that I used to back in the MostlyFilm days. But it has to be said that quite a bit of it's down to the ICA, still the home of this tour in London. In the past year, they've dropped most of the discounts you used to get for being a basic level member, and made it even harder to book multiple tickets than usual thanks to their shittily redesigned website.

Still, none of that is the Japan Foundation's fault, so let's not take it out on them. But this is why, out of the seventeen films in what they've chosen to call People Still Call It Love: Passion, Affection and Destruction in Japanese Cinema (or #JFTFP19 for short), we only got to see a mere twelve of them during their now-finished London run. Six on one weekend, then six the next. Here's what the first weekend looked like.

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Monoglot Movie Club: Gogol. Bored? Hello!

Just try looking at that statue without making a loud 'whoosh' noise with your mouth. I dare you.Now, you see, at the start of this year it didn't seem like such a big deal. "Fancy working for a week in Moscow?" they asked me in January. "It won't be for a couple of months yet, we'll need to sort out visas and everything." It'd be my first time visiting Russia, so how could I possibly turn down that opportunity?

It took nearly three months to complete all the paperwork, by which time we'd had that whole awkward business where the Russians allegedly tried to whack a couple of their own people in the Salisbury branch of Zizzi. Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia were at a post-Cold War low. Arsenal had just beaten CSKA Moscow 4-1 in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final. And I was going to be in Moscow the same week that the city was hosting the second leg.

Spoiler alert: I got out alive. Arsenal, meanwhile, won 6-3 on aggregate, only to bottle it in the semis.

So, while we're on the subject of football... If any of you are going to be in Russia for the World Cup over the next month - hey, look, an actual excuse for publishing this two months after the fact - here are some travel tips for you, along with two of my inevitable reviews of unsubtitled local films I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding.

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Monoglot Movie Club: I Was Misinformed

You can't see it here, but just off the right edge of the photo is a woman staring at the guy with a look of disgust. And she's carrying a placard reading 'TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC ATTITUDES TO PROMISCUITY'.Renault: And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Renault: The waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

There's a certain inevitability to this. Last month, you'll remember, I editorially steered the good ship MostlyFilm into its final port of call. As part of its climactic week-and-a-bit of wonders, I contributed the last episode in the long-running feature Monoglot Movie Club, while suggesting that it could possibly return in some form or other on this site.

In the six weeks that followed the publication of that article, I would end up visiting seven different countries (okay, one of them was Scotland, but still). Three of them would be countries I'd never been to before, and I would see a film at the cinema in all three. So, yeah, Monoglot Movie Club is definitely returning here, to the extent that it's now got its own category in the right-hand sidebar. (The category includes earlier travel posts that contain movie reviews, as well as the Red Button Bonus Material pieces for the MostlyFilm series.)

First stop on this mini-world tour: as they used to say, We're Off On The Road To Morocco.

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MOSTLYFILM: Shortly Oscars 2018

*screams in frustration as deadline approaches*Still hammering though the final days of MostlyFilm - we've published four more pieces since the one I was plugging two days ago - and this one, it has to be said, was the most stressful to get though the editorial process.

It shouldn't have been, really. We always knew that the big climax of the week was going to be the Oscars. Just before the weekend of the award ceremony - that is, today, Friday March 2nd - I wanted Indy Datta and myself to do what we've done in previous years, and publish reviews of the nominees for Best Live Action Short and Best Animated Short. Luckily, as in previous years, Shorts HD were releasing them as downloadable videos across all the major digital platforms - iTunes, Amazon and Google to name the main ones in the UK. "The films will be available on February 27th," it said on the Shorts HD site, which gave us three days to watch them and write the reviews. On February 27th, that was changed to "The films are coming soon." Apparently, co-ordinating the release of the shorts packages across all platforms had proved more troublesome than they thought. That wasn't good.

The site still says 'coming soon' at the time of writing, but in fact the shorts crawled out without fanfare on Thursday morning, two days late. Lucky for them: at one point, when it looked like we wouldn't be able to see them in time, I was planning for us to watch all their trailers on YouTube, and make snap judgments on the films based on those. You may think it's massively unfair on the filmmakers: we thought it was exactly the sort of professional discourtesy that a movie review site should try to pull off in the final week of its existence. What were they going to do, throw us out of future advance screenings? Exactly.

But we didn't need to do that, so you can read proper informed reviews now on Shortly Oscars 2018. And if you fancy seeing those trailers for yourself, they're right here.

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MOSTLYFILM: Epitaph 2

Shouting Larga Larga Larga LargaWell, that's that. As MostlyFilm continues to ride slowly into the sunset, we've just published what will be my final solo contribution to the site (though I'll pop up in two more collaborative pieces before the week's out). Monoglot Movie Club: Epitaph 1, contrary to what you may have read at the start of my Polish Netflix article, is a real finale to seven years of the feature. It's my one and only chance to run with an idea that I've been toying with since 2013 or thereabouts: take a few films that I've reviewed without subtitles for MMC, watch them again with subtitles, and see if it changes my opinion of them. I've picked seven films from more or less the entire run of the feature - for four of them I've been able to draw on second reviews written for these pages, while the other three have been rewatched specially for this piece. You'll have to read Epitaph 1 to see how all that turned out.

The final episode of MMC is, as ever, accompanied by Red Button Bonus Material on this site. I've always enjoyed the challenge of coming up with some sort of cross-promotional piece that'll back up the main article, whether it's just a simple collection of video trailers or a more detailed bit of text background. This one, however, is a little out of the ordinary.

At the top of the MostlyFilm piece is a map showing the 28 cities where I watched films for the series. What if I told you that really, it should have been 29 cities? And that there was a lost MMC film review that never made it to publication? And that you're going to get to see that previously unpublished review right now? Would that impress you? Would it?

Oh. Well, here it is anyway.

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