Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Film Journalism Icebreaker

My Film Journalism course started officially yesterday and the first task, called Icebreaker, was to post something about ourselves and something about our reactions to film reviews of films recently seen. I looked at some already posted and was not surprised to find they were mainly from people about half my age. This is what I wrote to introduce myself in terms of my film interests:

Hi everyone!

I live in southeast London, but was born in the north in the pre-TV era . My parents took me to the cinema twice a week in the 50s. My favourite films are Woody Allen’s ‘Play it Again, Sam’, and the Cohen Brothers’ ‘Fargo’, but I love foreign language films

I did an English degree and PGCE at Goldsmiths (1969-73). I used film in my teaching, thanks to the ILEA film library, which sent the reels in a van. I took a course in how to use a 16mm projector then a three-year part-time BFI Film Certificate. In the 80s the government decided media should be part of the school curriculum so I went to more classes. In the 90s I taught three years in Singapore where they are film-mad, and decided to learn Chinese. I bought a video camera and home equipment and filmed my student drama group for parents’ evening.

In 1997 I started writing. I was doing a part-time Media Studies MA and had put together a course on Chinese film, which I taught at evening classes. I saw a notice in the BFI library asking for directors’ profiles. A newly-formed media book company- they had a mattress and an Applemac in Camden - asked me to write an introductory book on Chinese film. I went on to write more articles on censorship and Chinese film.

In 2003 I stopped teaching and worked as subeditor in China for ten months. I’ve been writing a book about it since, as well as film reviews for the BBC Collective website - I won a Kano and a Babyshambles CD. Since September I’ve been attending a Saturday course in Journalism at Goldsmiths and I belong to Writewords, an online writers’ group.

I read Sight &Sound, especially the synopses because I like to know film plots in advance, also Time Out, especially the ‘Top 10 critics choices’ to help me decide what to see. I still go twice a week. I love to read Derek Elley in Variety and like Cosmo Landesman in the Sunday Times, also audience reviews on websites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes

Two films I saw recently both had a revenge theme – ‘Munich’ and ‘Lady Vengeance’ The first, tipped for festival awards, I found poorly acted, overlong and blatantly misogynist. I liked the suspense of the lead-in to explosions but found the meal-time chats tedious It also looked cheap, which is unforgivable, given Spielberg’s resources. I agreed with TO’s Mike Hodges that to represent London, by a few shots of mail boxes and double-decker buses under a deluge was silly. ‘Lady Vengeance’, also praised by critics, was beautifully designed and directed and kept the audience engaged right to the end. The way the strands of the story unfolded to show, not just to tell, how the revenge and the form it took was justified, was worth so much more than all the blether in ‘Munich’.

I’m thrilled to be on this course and look forward to discussions, on-line and at the seminar.

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