The Movies @ The Invisible Dot

The Movies - The Invisible Dot

The Invisible Dot came onto my comedy radar earlier this year with their series of comedy nights at the Union Chapel in North London. I spent two Saturday nights laughing until it hurt in a church as I watched my favourite comedic Adams (Riches and Buxton obviously) and discovered new comedy gems like The Pyjama Men. It was then with great excitement that I accepted an invite from The Invisible Dot to attend their new “film-based cabaret” night The Movies last week.

I knew nothing of what to expect beyond “a mixture of short film, TV off-cuts, amateur footage, live performances, and head/beard-scratching discussion.” I had no idea what a treat lay in store for me.

The night was hosted by Will Andrews (a familiar face to fans of Anna & Katy or The Gates) who introduced out-takes and a scene from his unreleased film (formerly) known as Caravan along with sketches made for a show the BBC paid for but never wanted to screen. We were also treated to a short film made in a day (the day in question being the day they screened it for us) which featured a highly competitive egg and spoon race held at Kings Cross and Mild Concern favourites Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley even turned up to talk about their debut film Black Pond.

The evening was rounded off with two short films; the BAFTA winning The Voorman Problem starring Martin Freeman as a psychiatrist called to a prison to deal with an inmate who is convinced that he is God (Rev‘s Tom Hollander), and Tub which really has to be seen to be believed.

The headline act came in the middle of the evening but I have tried to rectify this by recalling the evening in a fashion that can only be called confused and far from chronological. Sitting at the back of the audience with a camera on his face and another on the table in from of him Simon Munnery presented a portion of his acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show Fylm-Makker. This was a first for me as it was stand-up with the comic sitting down and only seen by the audience via a screen onstage. With the help of cardboard cutouts and the table in front of him Munnery presented a unique and hilarious mixture of stand-up and sketch comedy that had the whole room, housing an intimate crowd of little more than 100, laughing in that embarrassing way only the best comedians can bring out of you.

The whole night was a strange journey that filled me with the kind of joy that can never be expressed in words properly. Suffice it to say that the next time Will Andrews and The Invisible Dot host another evening in this strand I will be booking my tickets (a mere £8) as soon as they announce the date. It was a night that any fan of film and comedy can’t help but enjoy. In the meantime be a dear and peruse their site for other events you might like to attend.

To finish I submit for your consideration the short film Tub, though please be warned it involves scenes of a man inadvertently impregnating a bath…

Film Club #1 – Black Pond

Black Pond

If Mark Kermode can have a film club then so can we!

The idea is that at sporadic intervals we will suggest a film for everyone to watch, our loyal readers will then watch the film (within the next day/week/month), and then people can share their thoughts in the comment section below.

“Do you have enough readers for this to even remotely work?” I hear you ask. I’m not sure but let’s give it a try.

The first film is my pick and I have chosen the 2011 British comedy Black Pond. The film’s plot is hard to describe but loosely put it involves a dysfunctional family gathering for dinner which is attended by a stranger who promptly dies.

The film has a strange dry humour that hits my comedy sweet spot. It was nominated for the BAFTA award for Outstanding Debut and the writer/directors won the Evening Standard British Film Award for Most Promising Newcomer. It also features the film debut of Simon Amstell and the return to acting of a post-scandal Chris Langham.

Enjoy some fresh British film-making talent and let us know what you think in the comments.

Black Pond – trailer from Black Pond film on Vimeo.

Buy the DVD. Watch the Film. Share your thoughts.

Black Pond – Review

Just over a week ago I was marvelling at the BAFTA nominations for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and it slightly pained me that I hadn’t even heard of one of the five nominees. All I knew about Black Pond was the brief summary I wrote up when it had a small release back in February. What kind of film blogger am I?! Filled with existential crisis I was pleased to discover that my local independent cinema, The Tricycle, was having a screening of Black Pond with a Q&A afterwards, a screening which I dutifully attended…

Black Pond is the story of a dysfunctional family; one which is accused of murder after a man comes round for dinner and dies at their table. The film’s conclusion, the death of the man who came to dinner, is made clear at the start and the remainder of the film is split into three separate threads. One thread deals with the events that lead up to his death, a second consists of interviews with the family years later and the third is made up of therapy sessions between another guest at that dinner, Tim Tanaka (as played by co-writer/director Will Sharpe), and psychotherapist Dr Eric Sacks (Simon Amstell in his film debut). The three threads tie together well, each offering a different perspective on the story and each with their only particular style.

By letting the audience in on what could have been a shock ending, writer/director duo Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley have taken the emphasis away from the surreal plot, and shifted it towards the bizarre collection of characters. This is a situation I always prefer, but one which makes discussing the film a little trickier. Each member of the family, and their guests, come across as wonderfully flawed individuals. There are no weak links in the cast and this is a true ensemble piece. If anyone were to steal the limelight is would be the father Tom (Chris Langham making a long-awaited return to acting), a man who seems to be wading through life; trying to stop his wife eating bananas too late in the day, singing to himself while on the toilet and happy to bring back men from the park for a cup of tea, which is how the whole business got started.

Shot for a mere £25,000*, Black Pond is a testament to independent filmmaking and simply getting your film made whether you have the support of a funding body or not, sorry BFI. While other low-budget films may struggle to hide the tell-tale signs in their aesthetic, Black Pond looks as good as a production with significantly more money behind it. It was not a case of simply getting the film shot, care had clearly been taken in its composition as the stills above will testify.

Enough rambling about character and direction, what really matters is if the film was enjoyable and made some kind of emotion happen deep within me. Thankfully Black Pond more than fulfilled these needs. Throughout the film I was laughing loudly and, unlike during some comedies, it felt like the entire audience was joining in. The source of humour ranged from the surreal nature of what was happening on-screen to the mundane conversations between family members. The jokes were for the most part quite subtle, Amstell’s psychotherapist providing the broader humour, but were always effective whether they were an expression on Langham’s face or Amstell hitting his glass with a pen.

All things considered Black Pond is an impressive feature debut and a great film in its own right. Equally moving, funny, and deeply surreal, Black Pond is almost poetic without ever alienating its audience. I haven’t laughed so much in the cinema for a long time and once again I find myself excited about the future of British cinema. In honour of Black Pond‘s spirit and achievement I am finally introducing a star rating to Mild Concern, and giving this fantastic debut our top honour. 5 Stars = Absolute Amazement.

Black Pond is currently touring the UK with Chris Langham in tow and is worth the effort if it passes near you (tour dates can be found here). If you miss there will hopefully be a DVD release soon which we will bore you about nearer the time. For now enjoy the trailer:

*Avatar cost 9480 times as much to make and is a terrible film. Go figure.

BAFTA Nominations and the Great British Debuts

The BAFTA nominations were announced yesterday and showed plenty of love for The Artist, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and, in a pleasant surprise, Drive. With all nominations limited to the technical categories, Harry Potter best give up its hopes of finally getting any major awards. Less frivolous than the Golden Globes and a major stop on the way to the Oscars, the BAFTA nominations are exciting if pretty unsurprising.

Amongst this huge list what I want to focus on are the nominations for the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. In a time when we are looking towards the future of independent British cinema this is an uplifting category to see, especially after the devastation of Felicity Jones not making the shortlist for the Rising Star Award. I still love you Felicity, don’t worry.

Of the five nominees for Outstanding Debut, Attack the Block, Black Pond, Coriolanus, Submarine and Tyrannosaur, I have seen four and three of those made it into my carefully constructed Top 20 Films of 2011. Having five confident debuts from British talent is proof that the UK film industry has a future and that the various funding schemes are working. Looking back at yesterday’s talk of funding for production it’s interesting to see that Film4 helped fund Attack the Block, Submarine and Tyrannosaur, lottery funds went into both Attack the Block and Tyrannosaur, and Black Pond was made for just £25,000.

In my various reviews I’ve described these first-time features as intense, confident, fun, effortless, powerful, brutal and honest. What am I trying to say? Just that I’m incredibly proud of British cinema and continue to be relieved that yesterday’s report didn’t try to mess with a winning formula.

And now for the full list of nominees without comment: Continue reading

Out Now – 11th November 2011

Arthur Christmas
Worth watching if only because somehow the IMDb page for this film has been decorated with Christmas colours. This has completely charmed me. I’m now going to simply list some of the cast and hopefully you’ll agree that the plot doesn’t matter and this is an instant must see: Imelda Staunton, James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Kevin Eldon, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy and Outnumbered‘s Ramona Marquez.

Immortals
Want to see a lot of burly men try to imitate the success of 300? You sicken me.

The Rum Diary
Johnny Depp stars in an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel as written and directed by Withnail & I‘s Bruce Robinson. Despite the pedigree involved critics are split right down the middle so approach with caution.

The Awakening
Wartime ghost story starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West. Imelda Staunton is in this film too, should you be looking for a double bill this weekend.

Wuthering Heights
Genuinely gutted to have missed this raw and unique take on a classic tale during the London Film Festival. The focus is less on frocks and bonnets and more on emotions, violence and swearing so don’t expect this to be a cosy ITV1 drama.

Trespass
How Nicolas Cage has the time to make so many bad films I’ll never know. In his latest instance of cinematic mediocrity he and Nicole Kidman play a couple held to ransom as lies are uncovered and plots twisted.

Les Enfants du Paradis (limited release)
Re-release of the 1945 French film about the tragic romance between a mime and an actress. WARNING: May contain scenes of extreme mime and mime-related dialogue.

Tabloid (limited release)
“A documentary on a former Miss Wyoming who is charged with abducting and imprisoning a young Mormon Missionary.” Can’t wait for this to come on More4.

The British Guide to Showing Off (limited release)
A look at the 40 year history of an outrageous costume pageant, the Alternative Miss World Show.

Black Pond (limited release)
“An ordinary British family and their Japanese friend are accused of murder when a stranger dies at their dinner table.” UK comedy drama shot for a tiny amount and starring Simon Amstell as he continues his foray into acting. Also starring Yuki and Polly from Casualty which is very exciting for a small number of people.