Spotlight On – Felicity Jones, An Update

We return to a less than active feature to revisit the actress that we created it for in the first place. That actress is Felicity Jones, who is about to become everyone’s new favourite person and we got here first. Back off!

Right now Jones is looking at two releases in the next few months, the moderately well received The Tempest and the “good for what it is” comedy Chalet Girl. With lukewarm reviews for both films you’d expect her career to be far from flying high but that all changed at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (more on that later).

At the festival Jones starred in Like Crazy, a raw and romantic dramedy about the struggle to keep a relationship alive across the Atlantic. Not only did the film win the special jury prize, so did Felicity Jones herself, finally marking her out as “the one to watch” or “this year’s Carey Mulligan”. Fingers crossed she doesn’t go cutting off all her hair. With this award under her belt you can expect to see a lot more of Miss Jones over the next the next few years and we can’t wait.

Upcoming projects include Hysteria, a film about the inventor of the vibrator, Page 8, a BBC thriller, This Beautiful Fantastic, a modern fairytale and Trap For Cinderella, a bleak looking drama.

There’s no explaining why we find Felicity Jones so intriguing an actress but it looks like we’re not the only ones any more.

Below is a clip from Like Crazy, it’s not the last you’ll hear of it.

Spotlight On – Catherine Keener

Catherine Keener is not exactly someone you would describe as “up and coming” as she has been appearing in films for over twenty years and was nominated for Oscars for her roles in Being John Malcovich and Capote. Despite her long career and award recognition I still feel Keener deserves a bit more praise.

What has brought her to my attention were her roles in last year’s Synecdoche, New York and the brilliant but difficult to watch An American Crime which I saw just a few weeks ago. In An American Crime Keener plays a seriously disturbed mother who ultimately commits some pretty foul acts against a pre-Juno Ellen Page. Despite playing such a despicable character Keener brought humanity to a role than otherwise would have been impossible to relate to.

Catherine Keener doesn’t limit herself to just roles in difficult films, Synecdoche being brilliant but lots of hard work, as she has recently been in lighter fare such as The 40 Year Old Virgin and Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief. For years Keener has been for me one of many actresses who seems to be in every film yet whose name I can’t remember, but no more.

Catherine Keener is simply a great actress who hopefully one day will be talked of in the same way as Meryl Streep is now. Ignoring the horror of Julie &  Julia that is.

Spotlight On – Clark Duke

Clark Duke fits the profile of a lot of my favourite underrated actors in that he has a pretty terrible filmography up to this point.

Prior to this year Duke’s silver screen appearances consisted of a small role in Superbad and a larger role in the simply pathetic Sex Drive. Neither films inspire great confidence in those involved. He has had the obligatory handful of guest roles in TV shows and is currently the best thing in US TV series Greek which follows the trivial lives of students at an American college. Duke also wrote and directed the web series Clark and Michael featuring fictional versions of Duke and his friend Micheal Cera.

This year Duke appears in Kick Ass and Hot Tub Time Machine, two comedy heavyweights that could launch Duke’s career. In Kick Ass he plays one of the leads friends with a comedic subtlety I really enjoyed and with Hot Tub we may well have a comedy masterpiece or a horrible mess; I am really confused about that at the moment.

Clark Duke hasn’t really had a chance to shine yet, and if he does he may fall flat, but I think he has good comedy skills so keep an eye out.

Spotlight On – Six Degrees of Separation

Today I am shining the spotlight on an old film and the recent revival of the play it was based on, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and Kevin Bacon isn’t going to be mentioned once. It is about to get cultured up in here.

Both play and film are about an upper class couple in New York whose evening is interrupted by a young man claiming to be Sidney Poitier’s son. The arrival of this character disrupts their lives and the lives of those they know, the script exploring the idea of family and of how people are connected.

The film does not differ greatly from the play but for moving scenes to various locations and the removal of some dialogue. The biggest different I could identify was the pace, the film coming in a full twenty minutes longer with very little additional material. While the play charges forward at a pace that forces you to pay attention, and try to keep up with the wonderful rhythm of the dialogue, the film lingers a little longer allowing you to more easily take in what is being said.

I preferred the way the play just kept moving and, as can happen when a play is transferred directly to film, found some of the dialogue sounded odd when spoken on film which is less forgiving of the hyper-reality allowed onstage. There is no denying this is a play first and foremost and so more suited to that format. That said the acting in both was brilliant and I’m sure I’ve never seen Will Smith turn in such an impressive performance, but then I’ve never seen Ali. Smith is however put to shame by the relative newcomer Obi Abili who has made the role his own.

The script has barely aged a day in the twenty years since being written and this year’s revival, while at just ninety minutes is a succinct and enjoyable trip to theatre. Obviously not everyone can go and see the play but the film is brilliant in it’s own way; Stockard Channing, Ian McKellen and Donald Sutherland can’t be wrong.

Six Degrees of Separation is on at The Old Vic until 3rd April 2010 and the film is available from amazon.co.uk on DVD.

And now a bit where I ramble:

The title of the play comes from the well known theory that everyone is separated by only six degrees of separation, a theory that comes into play when you look at the cast of the film and play. The female lead in the film Stockard Channing starred in the 2007 film Sparkle with both Lesley Manville and Anthony Head who play the female lead and her husband in the play. Also Donald Sutherland both play the same character and have both taken on the role of watcher in different incarnations of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Ian McKellan and Ian Redford also play the same character and both have had extended stints on Coronation Street. If we’re going to get really tedious then J. J. Abrams went on from his small role in the film to produce the short lived TV series Six Degrees based on this very theory.

Spotlight On – Scott Pilgrim

It’s about time Mild Concern added to the near infinite love for the upcoming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley.

The comics tell the story of Scott Pilgrim, a twenty-something unemployed band member with a teenage girlfriend, whose life is changed upon falling for Ramona Flowers. If he wants to continue to dating Ramona he must defeat her seven evil exes in a story that mixes romance, humour, music and computer games. Scott Pilgrim is set in a world much like our own only with gaming twists such as characters levelling up or leaving behind coins when they are defeated. The books are an engrossing read and the only question is whether Edgar Wright, writer and director, can successfully bring them to the big screen especially as he has recently explained how the script diverts from the series of six books after the third installment.

Audience response from two preview screenings has been mostly incredibly positive with comments such as, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is soooo fun! That movie was soooo good! Can’t wait for it to come out! So silly!”, “Shit is like Nick and Norahs Infinite Playlist and Street Fighter in one lmao”, and “Scott Pilgrim was the nerdiest movie I’ve ever seen and it was awesome. Edgar Wright did an amazing job. What a fun film.”

It’s not just the general public who has gone gaga for Scott Pilgrim as Jason Reitman reported, “It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than I’ve seen in recent cinema. I’m in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a Matrix for love and how willing we are to fight for it. If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it. Hats off my friend. Can’t get it out of my head.” The famously frank Kevin Smith said, among other things, “Its spellbinding and nobody is going to understand what the fuck just hit them.”

The film stars an all action version of Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and a supporting cast including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Mae Whitman, Brie Larson and Aubrey Plaza. I could only be more excited if Zooey Deschanel were to ask me to go and see it with her.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is released on 6th August 2010.

Spotlight On – hitRECord

Since the dawn of YouTube anyone and everyone has had the chance to become an internet star or moviemaker. Amongst the noise some work of quality has risen to the surface and brought success for their creators; Felicia Day’s The Guild web series is a prime example. A more collaborative effort was born three years ago from actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s blog at hitrecord.org and recently developed into a production company complete with a Sundance screening. The best thing about it? You can join in.

hitRECord works on the principle of its collaborators sharing and remixing each others “records”, a record being an image, some audio, a video or text. The idea being that one record can be remixed and added to by any number of other users until a finished product is produced. You may write a poem, someone could edit that poem, another could record a reading of that poem and others could make a video set to that reading; over time a cohesive video is born. Users from all over the globe can work together in this way, pooling their individual talents to produce something greater than a single person could produce. A recent record from Gordon-Levitt himself details the work ethos of the site.

This collaborative nature bucks the current trends of the media industry, both as an industry that seems near impossible to gain entry to and as an area where people fiercely guard their creations and issue copyright lawsuits at the drop of a trademarked hat. At hitRECord all content is given over to the community pool, no one person can claim ownership to the finished product as it is a true team effort.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival hitRECord set up a REC room for people to come and collaborate, with users still collaborating over the internet. This event culminated in two screenings as part of Sundance that showcased the achievements of hitRECord. Two pieces that stand out for me is Nebulullaby and Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date With Destiny, which is embedded below. Nebulullaby moved from a song recorded by Sean Lennon at Sundance into an impressive music video with a global production team. Another record details how Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date With Destiny came to be, starting as a simple suggestion and over time snowballing into a short film so good that Gordon-Levitt (or RegularJOE) wrote, “I’m as proud of Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date with Destiny as I am of any work I’ve ever done.” Sundance was a big success that brought profit for hitRECord, half of which went back into the business and half was split among contributors whose work was show at Sundance.

hitRECord is a great opportunity for anyone with an idea or creative spirit. If you have a photo, video, audio recording or piece of writing why not upload it and see if it sparks the next big thing? Or have a browse and see if another record grabs your attention, download it and add to it. Go on, hit record.

Morgan M. Morgansen’s Date with Destiny:

http://www.viddler.com/player/c15ad510/

Spotlight On – Felicity Jones

Every now and then I want to draw your attention to an up and coming actor so that if they ever get successful I can claim to have known all along. Today I bring you Birmingham’s own Felicity Jones who, after 14 years of working steadily onscreen, may well have her big break coming in 2010.

Jones’ first big TV role was as school bully Ethel Hallow in the children’s series The Worst Witch, followed a few years later by a co-starring role in BBC series Servants. After studying a degree in English at Oxford she went on to take the lead role in ITV’s Northanger Abbey and the short lived series Cape Wrath. Moving into the movie arena Jones took on small roles in Flashbacks of a Fool, Brideshead Revisited and Cheri, while continuing to appear on the small screen in The Diary of Anne Frank and Doctor Who. None of these films were very successful in the box office or critically well received so Felicity Jones remained mostly unheard of.

Alongside her work onscreen Jones was appearing onstage and since 1999 has played the role of Emma Grundy, now Emma Carter, in radio series The Archers so her lack of fame is not down to an absence of hard work. I really enjoy Felicity Jones, as you may have guessed by now, and she is often the only good aspect to a few otherwise horrible films. The reason I think 2010 is her year is Cemetery Junction, the new comedy drama, heavy on the drama, from Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant where she plays the female lead. The trailer was recently released and coming from this duo is likely to be a success; hopefully also a launch pad for the young stars within. The recent adaptation of The Tempest starring Helen Mirren, and Felicity Jones as Miranda, would have also been a good breakthrough film but for the fact that it was produced by the recently deceased Miramax, so its future remains in the balance.

I believe that Jones is an engaging, and not unattractive, young actor with a hopefully successful career to come. Look out for Felicity Jones in the future as she may well be the next big thing, and if she is, don’t forget I told you so.