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February 2011 (JDIFF and For the Love of Film Noir) In Review…

Hey, I’ve been shortlisted for two Irish Blog Awards, Best Pop Culture Blog and Best Arts and Culture Blog. I’m honoured and delighted to make the shortlist which is, as ever, populated with some of the best Irish talent around. Anyway, February was a busy month, what with the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and the For The Love of Film Noir Blogathon going on. And I had my 1,000th post.

This was my first year to properly “do” the Festival, what with the Season Pass and all that. I juggled attending screening with my real job and writing the blog, so it was tiring – but it was also great fun. Hopefully, by the time next year rolls around, I’ll have worked up my stamina again.

Anyway, while it was a fun experience, I’ve jotted down some quick notes about the highs and lows of running around Dublin trying to make that next-to-impossible next screening you really want to see. I’d like to thank the team at JDIFF for organising a rather wonderful festival and – while I doubt I’d get a Season Pass next year – they’ll probably see me at JDIFF 2012.

So, the stuff that I liked about my first major movie festival experience:

  • The Audiences

There’s nothing like seeing a film with an audience of other hardcore film fans. There’s just a genuine sense that everybody in the cinema is there because they really (to the very core of their being) love film, rather than – for example – killing time or just looking for something to do. This isn’t to knock anyone who goes to the cinema just “because” – the wonderful thing about cinema is how accessible it is – but it’s nice to see a film with an audience of hardcore film nerds. In much the same way as going to a screening during the IFI horrorthon is an amazing experience.

  • The Films You Expect Nothing Of

This counts for big films like The Adjustment Bureau as much as it does for the smaller foreign films. Seeing films at a festival general means that they aren’t necessarily “on the radar” so to speak or haven’t been discussed and dissected to death, and many of the screenings I enjoyed the most were ones I just randomly wandered into like Preludio or A Somewhat Gentle Man. That’s the beauty of a Season Pass, even if it’s a bit expensive – you don’t have to think about seeing anything, you just sorta wander into it.

  • The Atmosphere

You know what, I know I’m a nerd, but I like the idea of spending over eight hours a day staring at a big screen in multiple venues across the city. I wouldn’t do it every day, but I can certainly do it for two weekends a year. It’s fun to wander across town with backpackers who came in from Skerries raving about The White Ribbon, and it’s a little bit exciting to race across town. Will you make the screening that starts half an hour after the scheduled end of the one you’re sitting? Let’s race and find out!

  • The Service

I have absolutely no complaints to make about the staff and service at the festival. The bulk of people I found myself dealing with on the ground were volunteers, and they were always polite, courteous and just as interested and engaged with film as I was. The administration was always effective too. As I noted last week, when Liam Neeson cancelled an appearance at the Unknown screening at the last minute, the staff couldn’t have been more helpful – efficiently offering refunds to those who wanted them. Hell, even just talking to the people on the doors was a lovely experience – if even the staff love what they’re doing, you know you’re on to a good thing.

  • The Big Films

I know this makes me a charlatan, but screw it. I like me some big films mixed in with my smaller films. The events are great – Savoy 1 is a big screen, and it’s great to see it full. As much as it’s great to recognise smaller films, it’s also nice to have all the scale and celebrity of major releases as well.

I disliked

  • The Line-Up at the Lighthouse

Oh, how I love the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield. Let me count the ways. However, the line-up was more than a little disappointing this year. I found myself bouncing around the Screen, the Savoy and Cineworld, but I had to go out of my way to find a reason to visit the Lighthouse. Given it’s one of the coolest cinemas in the city, it’s a shame that it didn’t get to host more high-profile events.

  • The Four-Point Marking Scale

The audience award asks you to mark a film from one-to-four. This a bit nuts. If you assume that 1 (the lowest) is abysmal and 4 (the highest) is perfection, where do average middle-of the road films go? If you give them a 2, they are just above awful – but if you give them a 3, they are one step away from perfection. You could argue that critics like Ebert use a four-point system, but they don’t – even ignoring half-stars, they can opt to give a movie a ranking of no stars, whereas an audience member at the festival can’t. I typically rounded up, so there are a lot films of differing quality at “3.”

  • The Weekend Scheduling

This is one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations, and probably particular to just me. I wonder how many festival goers follow my approach – I work Monday through Friday, so can only see movies at evenings and weekends. While I had choice of the weeknights of what to see (choosing between Unknown and The Tingler on Wednesday and The Adjustment Bureau and Julia’s Eyes on Friday), I found myself stumbling through the weekend almost blind. I didn’t feel like I had anything resembling the amount of choice that faced me in the evenings, often making my way to whatever happened to be on nearest. It would have been great if some of those evening showings could have been moved to the weekend to give a bit more choice. But, then again, I concede this is probably just me – after all, I’m sure there were dozens of people torn between Anton Checkov’s The Duel and A Somewhat Gentle Man.

  • A Season Pass Which Isn’t a Season Pass

I’m sorry, but a Season Pass is expensive. In order to make the most of it, a holder would have to see at least seventeen red-carpet screenings (the most expensive screenings), and more than twenty regular screenings. However, the principle of a Season Pass is that it should get you into everything. I have no problem, for example, with tickets being allocated by lottery to The Usual Suspects. However, I do have a problem with the pass not getting the holder into the Saturday night gala screening of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which was branded with the JDIFF logo. A season pass should be a pass to all the events of the season, just in principle. If the festival can’t afford that, then raise the price of it next year.

Anyway, here’s a list of the films I saw. Since I ranked them using the 4-point JDIFF scale, it seems an appropriate way to order them. You’ll note that there are only two films at the extremes of the scale, and that there’s a rather large amount on “3”. This is because I allowed 3, rather than 2, to cover “average.” Anyway, they are arranged in rough order of fondness – and I concede that, had I seen all the films up front and were grading on a curve, I’d probably tinker with a few of them. Anyway, as fun as it is for me to give a ranking (since I don’t normally do that), don’t take it too seriously.

Note, at time of publication, I hadn’t published all these reviews, so check back over the next few days for updated links.

4/4 Films (the best of the best)

3/4 Films (“very, very good” to “sorta okay”)

2/4 Films (“meh, it was passable” to “it was downright disappointing”)


1/4 Films (“where the hell did those hours go to?”)


So, you know, that was fun. As if that wasn’t enough for a busy month of February, I also helped raise $5,000 to preserve classic cinema by taking part in the For The Love of Film Noir blogathon. Covering neo-noir, I managed fifteen posts over seven days to help raise money to restore the Lloyd Bridges film The Sound of Fury.

Monday, 14th February:

Tuesday, 15th February: Nineties Noir

Wednesday, 16th February: Alterna-noir

Thursday, 17th February: Cyber-noir

Friday, 18th February: A Brighter Shade of Noir

Saturday, 19th February: Comic Book Noir

Sunday, 20th February: Foreign Noir

Otherwise it was a great month. I participated in the Metro newspaper’s Oscar panel thanks to the Rosses, and also got to have some fun looking at the pains of a predictable race (which, evidently bore itself out, as I fluked and won Never Mind Popular Film‘s Oscar pool). I also wondered about why (in this day and age) we still have a Best Actress category.

It’s been a good month. Here’s hoping for more in the future.

2 Responses

  1. Ruddy marvellous month mate. See you in the final! 😉

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