China Diary

Day 212: Communication Breakdown


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This. This shit. It drives me nuts.

Working from China to Europe is the most frustrating part of this business, period. Since the Great China Firewall is blocking most of the regular communication methods like Whatsapp and Google services, you are relying entirely on the random functions of a VPN service. I use ExpressVPN, which used to be a really good one but has begun to drop connection these days very regularly. I asked on Twitter around for better options but got mostly ravings about services nobody had actually tested in China. There is, I understand, a really hardcore VPN service which you can use, but it needs deeper computer knowledge, and thus, way out of my league.

The solution could be WeChat, but the truth is, WeChat sucks big time. It’s a terrible way to communicate and especially since nobody really has that in Europe, it’s always hard to start asking people using some shady service just to have a call. Phonecalls are obviously ridiculously expensive so you have to find better solutions, especially this day and age, making a phone call to Europe from China is just unnecessary and ridiculous.

Funny enough, the time difference is not that big of a problem. Morning in Europe is late lunchtime in Europe, so if there WAS a meaningful way to communicate with Europe, lunch would be the best to take care of that side of the world. But since VPN usually works the best only during nighttime, you have to stay awake until midnight to get a steady connection, and then it’s already past office hours in Europe…

Truly, there’s no way to win this battle, and it’s getting worse and worse all the time. Running a big project like ours, which requires constant communication between these two worlds is already hard on its’ own, and with this constant communication breakdown, it’s just terrible trying to make something out of all this.

Another thing is the big files. Of course, every conceivable service for sending files you can’t fit into an email is blocked, no surprises there, but the issue is that for some reason, China doesn’t have any decent alternatives available, at least not in the English language. There is Baidu’s service, but it’s truly impossible to operate since everything is in Mandarin and there is no “change language to English” -button anywhere.

So the only way to send huge files to Europe, or to receive them – and trust me, in the film business that’s one thing you need constantly – is to do it via VPN and using DropBox or WeTransfer, but when the connection drops, that’s the end of that transfer. Praying it would actually continue – which these services sort of should understand to provide – is a high hope. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing you can do to get a 100mb file across. It’s easier to send a hard drive via airmail if you really need something.

And of course, adding to it all the general bad WiFi situation here. The office I work at has a terribly slow WiFi even without VPN, the hotel’s Internet is choppy as hell and our VFX company’s WiFi is also quite a disaster.

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Truly, in order to really connect the west and the east, this is where it all should begin: communications should be made easier. China can keep its’ Firewall, and Google and Facebook can keep their encryptions, but please punch a hole in both ends so we can do some legitimate Internet calls and send the crucial files. I don’t give two shits about Instagram of Facebook or Snapchat or Twitter or what have you not working here, my life is better with any of them constantly pinging around, but PLEASE let me use Gmail, Skype or Whatsapp and Dropbox or Wetransfer. Or at least, Google, Facebook and whoever-is-running-Dropbox – please make a China-friendly versions available of your most crucial services.

This situation as it stands now is not good for anyone.

 

China Diary

Day 211: The Most Chinese Thing


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Yesterday walking down the road here in CBD district in Beijing, on our way to yet another amazing hot pot dinner down the road I saw what I believe encompasses modern China in one image.

A guy was selling a handful of turnips and potatoes on the street corner. He had this weather-worn, brown-tanned working Chinese man’s wrinkled face and skinny countryside body. He had a cart, which was probably a hundred years old, made before there was a telephone anywhere near where the cart was built. On it, were two to three baskets with a bunch of potatoes and turnips on them – not a lot, some 40-50 each. This was just like a scene from a classic Chinese movie, nothing peculiar there.

But then, a business guy walks up to him and buys a handful of stuff, but instead of paying with a crumpled bills or greasy coins, he pulls out his top-notch latest-in-line high-tech Huawei Samsung iPhone 5000 phone, and just at the same instant the potato seller flips out his just-as-brand-new phone, and in 2 seconds they WeChat the money over and transaction is done.

That’s China for you. The modern world clashing with the rural truth with such ease. And that’s I believe why China is moving so swiftly, people are able to bring these two elements together, meaning if another fails, there’s always a fallback.

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Evening at the CBD district

But the engineers here, that’s another story. The hotel I am at, which is, by the way, not New Otani anymore, has some really strange logic with elements like lights for example. There’s a good set of switches that control the lights in the living room, and in the bedroom, and in the toilets, foyers, and whatnot. But it’s like reading Estonian, it kinda makes sense, but everything means an exactly different thing. So trying to get your bed lamp to work means you need to turn on three times foyer light, once the master switch, then push master from another set of switches and then suddenly only toilet lamp and the bed lamp. Now that I’ve managed to turn it on, I don’t dare to turn it off. The only problem is, when it’s on, the sockets don’t work…

Anyway, as you can deduct, I’m back in Beijing again, after running around Europe releasing The Coming Race in several territories. We’re going to be working on post production for the next 20 days.

dav
Back in Hot Pot Heaven
China Diary

Day 206: Rolling The Sleeves


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So, as we are getting ready to do the pickup shootings, I checked out the latest cut of the movie and started rolling sleeves to get ready for filming. There’s quite a lot to prepare and also quite a lot to understand, as there are some quite big changes in the cut, and most of that is covered with a black screen with some Chinese writing on it, and there’s nobody around to translate it. But I get the gist of it and should be able to wing the pickup shoots. I hope.

VHQ has been working on a bunch of new concepts, some of which are quite damn gorgeous, so it’s also refreshing to see new stuff coming alive. We discussed through the elements with Chris and the concept team and headed for some Hong Kong hot pot for the evening with a small group. Hong Kong hot pot is amazing because it’s made into a tom yam soup, where you dip delicious seafood and meat and stuff your face with it, rolling out of the place like the happy little pig you are.

It’s nice to be in Beijing because it’s warmer than in the North, without being too hot, but the pollution does taste and smell around nasty. After having spent such a long time in Finland, where the air is relatively fresh, you can really feel the air in your lungs here. They say that that’s when you should wear the mask, but if I do, I can’t see anything since with every puff, my glasses go smoggy and with every inhale clear again. It’s helpless.

bsh

China Diary

Day 205: Clocking in some China Time


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Dear diary,

I’m back in Beijing.. alone.. again. Like Zak McKraken in his bed.

zak

Now that’s an odd reference for all of you retro gamers to catch up on. But outside of that, much has happened. We’ve released Iron Sky The Coming Race in multiple European markets and are prepping for our UK and Japan and US releases that are to follow later this year, among some other territories.

I flew back to China to work a bit more on the cut and especially to shoot a bunch of pickups we need to finish the film. Producer Max has been working lately on the edit quite a lot and I’m expecting to see his take on it tomorrow, so I’m excited and nervous at the same time.

For the pickups we built a bunch of small set pieces in a “studio” – more like a warehouse – some 2 hour drive away from Beijing, to a suburb I have no way to remember by name, but it’s quite a harrowing area: polluted, forlorn and poor, compared to Beijing, a megalopolis booming close by. Even the people look different: Beijingese have a certain metropolitan look to them – smooth skins, nice clothes, and cool rides; the people in this area are sun-crumpled, drive these weird mopeds and almost like self-made tractors around in an area that feels like it’s stuck in the 60’s – only thing different being the fact that everyone has the latest smartphone in their hands.

This time around, I’ll be here for about 10 days, after which I’ll fly to Brussels for our Belgium premiere.

 

Oscars

Oscars are coming – here are my predictions!


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Political! Diverse! Hostless! Femaleless! This year’s Oscar awards gala is nearing and with all the gimmicks of today’s media frenzy, they’ve managed to create quite a buzz for the ceremony. Whether it’s been about cutting and then not cutting out some awards from the live broadcast, to Queen not performing but then performing with Adam Lambert, to host dropping out to Whoopi Goldberg secretly hosting the show, not to mention the debate about diversity, the political agendas of both the academy and the filmmakers, it’s been a big media circus like only the Americans know how to set up. They sure need it, as Oscar ratings have been going down steadily for the last 20 years or so, and this year it appears to be even harder to get people to switch to the three-hour-plus show from whatever else is going on in everyone’s vast media landscape.

And who can blame them? The people don’t care about Oscars anymore. What does it actually add to the ever-quicker-disappearing film landscape of today, as all the films that might get awarded are already out of the theatres and forgotten by the big public, as they are neck deep in YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, getting ready for the next big Marvel blockbusters?

Personally, I’ve been excited about Oscars since I can remember and have watched nearly every film every year for the last ohh I don’t know 10 years. I don’t really care who wins, but I do enjoy the Academy handing me a list of films to track down and watch, in one concentrated effort, instead of having to wander through the year worth of Hollywood shite, trying to decipher if this drama is worth it, or that, or this…

But it does bring a bit of cynicism to the game as well. I find myself thinking the “award season” timings when choosing the films. Don’t bother watching anything that’s coming out just after the Oscars. Summer you’ll see a handful of big blockbusters which usually suck anyway, and the only time to actually start returning back to the theatres begins in October-November, when the big Oscar-baits are coming. Rest of the films through the year are mostly specialties or just too bland. Cynical, I admit, but one has to find tools to balance between the media consumption of the year, nevertheless.

I’ve been busy with the trials and tribulations of my own film, getting the monster out of the hat so to speak, through most of last year, so I was surprised when the actual nominations were announced that I had somehow already seen quite a good handful of the chosen movies. Nevertheless, I did devote most of my January and February catching up the ones I could find one way or another, and this here is my list of nominations and my predictions for 2019 Oscars, for those who care about my opinion. I’ll be updating the list until Sunday night, so changes are possible.

Although today, on Thursday morning, I already have, I think, quite a good hunch of how most of the categories are going to go down.

My guessing score was by the way 10 correct guesses.

Best picture

Roma_Screenshot_001

Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star is Born
Vice

Why? Politics! Roma is a perfect movie for this year’s political and diversity-driven atmosphere, with a strong Mexican female-led story that’s also well written, superbly directed and strikes the absolute right chords for Academy who’s longing for those long-since-forgotten black-and-white masterpieces. It certainly is one, and if it wins, it’s a well-deserved win.

Personally I did enjoy Roma, but Vice managed to slap me around the face harder and more soberingly.

Best director

Roma_Screenshot_004

Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) 
Adam McKay (Vice)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Why? Well, enough is said already, but Cuaron, the first Hispanic to win an Oscar for best directing is no stranger to the Academy, and definitely one of the great minds of our current generation of directors. His work on Roma is brave and strong and honest, and that definitely deserves the notion.

Personally I probably would also go for Cuaron, and while I think other directors in this category are great, his voice was strongest this year.

Best actor

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Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Christian Bale (Vice)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)

Why? Rami Malek’s winning streak has been commendable, and he did an amazing job bringing Mercury back from the grave for BoRap, but I’m inclined to think that the Academy is slightly more conservative, and given some harsh criticism also given to Malek, Bale is a safer bet for this one. He truly transformed into another person, and not for one second did I feel I was watching Christian Bale, but actually Dick Cheney, whereas with Malek, I was constantly in awe of how well Malek managed to move and communicate as Freddie Mercury – but he was an actor doing a role all the time.

Personally I probably would love to see Willem Dafoe getting the award since his role as Vincent van Gogh was something you could feel was really coming from very deep in his heart and soul, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s realistic to assume nearly half of the Oscar board even watched At Eternity’s Gate, or at least zoned out halfway through Julian Schnabel’s weird video art.

Best actress

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Glenn Close (The Wife)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)

Why? Again, I think politics will play a big part in this year’s Oscars. Everyone wants to throw Trump’s ridiculous wall against his face, and what better way to do that than to give an Oscar to a person who can’t even get into the country because of the new immigration and border control laws. It’s obviously not only that, Yalitza did a momentous job in Roma and deserves every inch of appreciation, but just as well the Oscar could have gone to Glenn Close or Olivia Colman.

Personally I would’ve awarded Olivia Colman, for her role was one that really gripped my innards in an uncomfortable but purely honest way. And hey, Melissa McCarthy, too. Split the dude half and give ’em each a slice.

Best supporting actor

greenbook-true-story-lede

Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Why? I think Mahershala’s second Oscar is the safest bet in these Oscars. Not only was he truly remarkable in the role, but they’ve also played it safe and chose to compete in the Best Supporting Actor -category, as they knew he would’ve never stood a chance against Bale or Malek in Best Actor -category. And in this category, nobody else is even close to challenging him.

Personally I agree. Mahershala deserves the Oscar.

Best supporting actress

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Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Amy Adams (Vice)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Marina De Tavira (Roma)

Why? Emma Stone was wicked in The Favourite and played the highly complex role with great tenderness and care. She could’ve gone overboard many times but kept it together and the role completely believable through the whole film. While The Favourite can’t stand a chance in many main categories, this one is quite a clear one.

Personally Emma Stone gets my vote as well.

Best adapted screenplay

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If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott) 
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)

Why?  I don’t think Buster Scruggs has any chance since while it was brilliant sometimes, some stories didn’t really work that well. A Star Is Born is a story as old as time and been done so many times it’d be weird if this iteration would gain the credit. If Beale Street was tiresome and way self-indulgent in writing, so it would come down to Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Blackkklansman – and I believe the latter was the freshest of these two.

Personally I would also go with Blackkklansman, and not only because I’d loved to see this Jasper Pääkkönen -movie get some Oscars love as well.

Best original screenplay

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Green Book (Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga)
The Favourite (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara)
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón) 
Vice (Adam McKay)
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

Why? I believe Roma is going to go for the big win this year, so it’s natural that the script gets the Oscar. And it’s a good one, deep and thoughtful, and while driving over the dogshits in the yard seems a bit too metaphorical for my personal taste, I’m sure the Academy just loves this kind of stuff.

Personally I would’ve given the best original screenplay to Vice. It’s hard-hitting and thought-provoking and politically enjoyable, and manages to entertain through its’ seemingly rather dull subject matter.

Best animated feature

Incredibles 2
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Isle of Dogs
Mirai

Why: I’ve seen only two out of five of the contenders, and mainly, not the predicted winner – which usually seems to be the Spider-Man – but I’m throwing in the curveball here and predicting Isle of Dogs as a winner. No othe reason but the fact that it’s the best of the two I’ve seen.

Personally same reasoning and same film. Mainly, I liked Isle of Dogs better than Ralph Breaks The Internet. Rest I just haven’t seen.

Best documentary

Free Solo
Minding the Gap
RBG
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Of Fathers and Sons

Why: Another category where I’ve only seen two out of five contenders. I’m saying Free Solo will win the Best Doc – it is breathtaking and spectacular documentary in every aspect.

Personally I go with the same, too.

Best foreign language film

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Roma (Mexico)
Cold War (Poland)
Shoplifters (Japan)
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Never Look Away (Germany)

Why? It’s clear, Roma will win everything, and if it’s going to be the best picture this year, it’s natural it’s also the best foreign language film.

Personally I would’ve given the award to Shoplifters. Rarely have I been so deep in the characters of a movie and enjoyed the nearly-poetic pacing, with a story that left me thinking for quite a while indeed.

Best cinematography

roma

Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
Cold War (Lukasz Zal)
Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel)
The Favourite (Robbie Ryan)
A Star Is Born (Matty Libatique)

Why? Cuaron’s camera is beautiful in Roma. It leaves huge events in the background and travels seamlessly through the huge, vast shots but keeps the main character always in focus, very close to the story.

Personally I wouldn’t challenge Roma here either. I enjoyed Cold War’s look and feel, but there was nothing spectacularly new there, and The Favourite was lush and all over the place in a beautiful way, but still, pretty conventional if you really look at it.

Best costume design

THE FAVOURITE

Black Panther (Ruth E Carter)
The Favourite (Sandy Powell)
Mary Poppins Returns (Sandy Powell)
Mary Queen of Scots (Alexandra Byrne)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Mary Zophres)

Why? It’s something new and fresh what they did with Black Panther, and the film deserves an Oscar for not sucking unlike most of its’ comrade movies have for so many years now, but is it the best? Not necessarily. And the general rule of thumb here is: the costume drama always wins this category. No exceptions.

Personally the lush, over-done but still perfectly in line with the film’s general style, The Favourite earns my love, too.

Best film editing

Dick_Cheney_Vice

Bohemian Rhapsody (John Ottman)
Vice (Hank Corwin)
BlacKkKlansman (Barry Alexander Brown)
The Favourite (Yorgos Mavropsaridis)
Green Book (Patrick J Don Vito)

Why? This year’s big thing is the unconventional, fuck-you style of editing which Vice and The Favourite specialized in. The Favourite went a bit too far with it, but Hank Corwin managed to keep Vice both entertaining and also face-slapping at all times, and I believe the academy agrees with this observation. Of course it might be they feel it’s too much, and in that case Green Book or BoRap are in for it, but I think it’s Vice.

Personally I liked Vice a lot, and editing was one of the big things about it.

Best makeup and hairstyling

MV5BYjU3NjQ0MTQtYTYzOC00OWViLThjOTktMzk0M2Y0ODJjNzMyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1_

Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

Why? Yeah, Christian Bale did blow himself up like a balloon for the role, but it wasn’t just that. His makeup is quite infallible through the whole picture, so I believe it will be noted.

Personally I would hope Border – which I haven’t even seen – would get the award, since, well, another Finnish connection there with Eero Milonoff playing the troll (I guess it’s a troll?)

Best original score

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If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)
Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat)
BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard)
Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson)

Why? Black Panther’s score was fresh, well, at least in the beginning, and I think it’s what the Academy will appreciate. In the end the originality of the film and the score did blend into typical Marvel big orchestra score without too much of character.

Personally I think Beale Street’s music was really exciting. I didn’t care too much of the film, but the score was very inventive and surprising at times.

Best original song

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Shallow (A Star Is Born)
All the Stars (Black Panther)
I’ll Fight (RBG)
The Place Where Lost Things Go (Mary Poppins Returns)
When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)

Why? Another sure pick, and it’s a great song, I must admit that. Still…

Personally I loved When A Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings much more. What a delight!

Best production design

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The Favourite (Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton)
First Man (Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas)
Roma (Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez)
Mary Poppins Returns (John Myhre and Gordon Sim)
Black Panther (Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart)

Why? The whole Wakanda world was really something out of ordinary, and truly painted a great overall look and feel for the movie, which truly served the story. It’s what production design is supposed to do, and does it well.

Personally still I found First Man’s production design being so accurate and so grounded, it just caressed my love for old-school space travel look and feel. The NASA grime was just lovely!

Best sound editing

a-screenshot-from-the-first-man-trailer-shows-the-end-result-but-the-movie-looks-to-focus-on-the

First Man
A Quiet Place
Bohemian Rhapsody
Black Panther
Roma

Why? When the little tin bucket is rapidly crashing towards the Moon, I wasn’t in the film theatre watching it with my son, I was right there with Ryan Gosling, experiencing the 60’s tech failing around me. Wonderful use of surround sounds as well. The other films do a great job in sounds, but First Man’s sound editing was one-of-a-kind.

Personally I prefer First Man as well. Low key, high impact.

Best sound mixing

MCDBORH FE001

Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
Black Panther

Why? The seamless nature of blending original Queen material, the outtakes and the live stuff and make it all feel a complete picture is indeed a great feat, and the heart and soul of the film indeed. And rarely, do you get to mix such great singer’s work to the whole world full of sounds and music, and Academy will definitely give a nod for that, too.

Personally I’m slightly torn. I think A Star Is Born’s sound mixing presented well the loudness of the crowds in contrast to the hearing loss of the main character, and First Man’s rattles, clankings and creakings of the little tin can headed for Moon were not only heard but felt… But since I liked First Man more, and I think it’s, unfortunately, a slightly forgotten film, I’d give it to it.

Best visual effects

First-Man-Daniel-McFadden-Universal-Pictures

First Man
Avengers: Infinity War
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Ready Player One
Christopher Robin

Why? What counts is if you forget it’s visual effects, or not. Elimination here works best (and I’m skipping Christopher Robin, which I didn’t see): Avengers was Marvel. It’s OK, but never tremendous. Solo is just a shadow of what visual effects used to be back when the original Star Wars were made, and felt like absolutely nothing. Ready Player One was mostly an animated movie, and while spectacular to watch, still, too much. First Man did it right: it didn’t go overboard anywhere, and that really brought the film down to Earth.

Personally I agree with what I believe to be the Academy’s decision as well.

Best animated short

Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

Best documentary short

Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

Best live action short

Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

Opinions, Top Films

Best Films Of 2018


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The year has skipped past faster than I could even register. Wasn’t it just January, when I flew back from China and prepped to finish the shoot of The Ark in Finland? And then February, which I spent in Berlin and China, followed by March which I spent in the courthouse in Finland defending my life’s work for a malicious asshole who tried to claim it his own? And now it’s already May, I’m in LA shooting additional footage for Iron Sky The Coming Race… Oh, I mean August, and I’m back in China doing post production for The Ark… September, October finishing The Coming Race, which is going to get released in just few weeks.

Where did the year go, indeed?

But amidst all the chaos, I did have a chance to enjoy a bunch of films. I started patching my IMDB Top-250 list, watching loads of Indian movies, Korean movies and oldies goldies. At hotel rooms, on planes and airports, and some at home. But film theatres, I didn’t get to go as much as I would have wanted to.

I simply didn’t have time to sit in movie theatres, to see the brand new ones – but I did catch a set of great films –  so, without further ado, here’s my list of the top 10 films released in 2018!

bestfilms

MV5BMjMxNjY2MDU1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY1MTUwNTM@._V1_.jpg1. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR 

Alright, I admit it – Avengers gets the first place half because I’m so absolutely stunned a Marvel film even made my list, and half because it’s just a brilliant film. I’ve not been into superheroes after Raimi’s first Spider-Man, but Avengers manages to mend the damage done by the billion other films I never cared too much about – be it Hulk or Thor or whatever-Man, by rationing all of these characters precisely the amount I can stand them in a movie, and putting it together in a way that just plain works for me.

MV5BNTJmNzExOGItZTQyMi00YzBlLTk0ZTQtNzAxYmUwZDQwZjU4XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODE1MjMyNzI@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_.jpg2. COLD WAR

Ahh, what’s better than a black-and-white Polish drama set in the late 40’s through mid-60’s? Well, thanks to director Pawel Pawilowski, pretty much nothing, not this year at least. Like watching a 40’s beautiful black and white photo coming alive, the film tells a tragic, tragic jazz and lust filled story that takes us through the years of Communist oppression, as seen by the most cinematic couple played by Joanna Kulik and Tomasz Kot. Close to a masterpiece, this one!

 

 

MV5BMjUyOTE1NjI0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM4ODQ5NTM@._V1_.jpg3. BLACKKKLANSMAN 

A Spike Lee joint is always a bit of a guessing game – sometimes, they hit hard and exactly the right way, sometimes they go way off. Well, at least that’s what I’ve heard, but truth be told, I’ve only seen good Spike Lee films, and Blackkklansman is definitely one of them. It’s not as game-changing as Clockers or Do The Right Thing, but it tells a great story with some stellar performances – Jasperi Pääkkönen’s as the one we Finns love, and with a good reason.

 

MV5BOTU5MDg3OGItZWQ1Ny00ZGVmLTg2YTUtMzBkYzQ1YWIwZjlhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAzMTY4MDA@._V1_.jpg4. HEREDITARY

I don’t watch horror movies as much as I should, since I usually like the genre if it’s well made – like Hereditary is – and has some truly creepy shit – as Hereditary does have. Being truly scared shitless from time to time is a novel experience and thanks to our jaded we’ve-seen-it-all entertainment industry harder and harder to come by, but unlike many think, one doesn’t need no crazy bells and whistles to get there, but a good story, slow, creeping cameras and scary-face little kid and voilá, I’m jumping in the ceiling.

MV5BNjRlZmM0ODktY2RjNS00ZDdjLWJhZGYtNDljNWZkMGM5MTg0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjAwMjI5MDk@._V1_5. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT

Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible seem to be an infallible combo, and Fallout really drives the point to home. My hands were sweating the whole time I was crushing the edges of the seat at the theatre, and while the plot is really nonsensical and thoroughly confusing if you try to understand it even the least bit, as an action film it’s a great friggin’ thrill ride!

 

 

borap6. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

As a life-long Queen aficionado, I came in for the music, and didn’t leave disappointed. That said, the film might have been a bit clumsy, and definitely not the Oscar-hoarding megabiopic everyone was hoping it to be, but although looking like an unholy mix of a Deep One and Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek does a terrific job. The grand finale at Live Aid – a concert I’ve watched at least a thousand times as a kid – is impeccably staged and played, and brings home what might have been slightly jarring softball of a biopic in the second act.

MV5BMDBhOTMxN2UtYjllYS00NWNiLWE1MzAtZjg3NmExODliMDQ0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjMxOTE0ODA@._V1_7. FIRST MAN

Subject matter matters, and it’s more true with First Man and me than any other film this year, save maybe BoRap. It’s interesting, the poster promises kind of Apollo-13 -kind of a thriller with cool CGI and explosions and whatnot – but instead, the film delivers a slow, ponderous and muted-colour period piece – and that’s just fine! It’s like a very detailed history lesson which makes us to appreciate the effort and dangers humans had to endure to get us on the Moon, in rickety tin cans. When descending on the Moon, lights blinking and the whole film theatre rattling around us, the viewer really feels like he’s in there with the guys, barely letting us breathe. Ryan Gosling is playing stronger than I’ve seen him play in a while, with an ocean roaring inside, and nothing showing outside. Not sure how accurate his performance of Neil Armstrong is, or maybe he’s just playing himself, but he does it very well nevertheless.

26340328. ROMA

Another black-and-whiter, Roma stuns you with the amount of people in every scene, the extras are abundant and all feel really, really well placed and their actions feel really well designer. This wouldn’t normally be a topic, but with Roma it is an instrumental element to completely sink you into the story – you don’t feel alone, but smothered by people everywhere, and the main actor Yalitza Aparicio’s terrific performance amidst it all is unforgettable.

 

uxzzxijgPIY7slzFvMotPv8wjKA.jpg9. BLACK PANTHER

Shit, another Marvel pic in my Best Of -list. Last year I would’ve never guessed this, I tell you… But Black Panther is good. It’s really pulling you in to the story – the production design, the accents, the costumes, the music, the main cast acting, it all feels very fresh and enjoyable popcorn entertainment. The CGI is sometimes a bit lackluster, but in the big picture it all goes down really well.

 

Tyhjio_108010. TYHJIÖ

This year, the only Finnish film I went to see and loved so much it made my top-10 -list was Aleksi Salmenperä’s tragic yet damn funny and close-to-home -hitting black comedy Tyhjiö (“The Vacuum”), which tells a story of an artist couple struggling with their lives and art. Poignant and snappy with its’ humour, and the third black-and-whiter (mostly) on my list this year, the film was bound to leave the small but devoted audience laughing and talking about the film for quite a long time after.

 

 

1fcadbb8433bcf5d0dc834cd99719ca2RUNNER-UP: A STAR IS BORN 

Argh, I wanted to love this film but I couldn’t get past the fact that it becomes quite a molasses-laden Hollywood-by-the-book -pic of the old days by the third act. It’s really great to see the cast doing wonderful job, and music being so beautiful, I just wish it had been … Ahh, who cares. I enjoyed it. It felt good. I just needed a very salty snack afterwards.

 

 

PS. This list consists of films that were released in 2018 and which I saw. I saw quite a load of other films that were either released in Finland in 2018 which I loved (Death Of Stalin, A Prayer Before Dawn, Lucky to name a few) but they are out of the scope of this list.

China Diary, Opinions

Day 204: Five Stages Of Screenings


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On Wednesday, we sat down together with editor’s assistant and finished the latest cut of the movie, and then went out to screen our film with Max.

There are five stages of screening a work print that I’ve observed through all the films I’ve worked on:

  • Assembly cut: The first screening. Usually, the film is too long, gets jarring and boring and is full of mistakes, plus all the VFX is missing so it’s also very confusing – but you get a great feeling of the characters and the story, if they work overall, or not.
  • Director’s cut: Now, you’ve had a chance to work on the film with an editor, and this version is something you are happy with – given the early stage VFX and sounds you have at use. Usually, this film will work for you the director very well, since you reference it to the assembly cut, but the producers are usually a bit more suspicious at that stage. A good producer can smell at this point whether or not the director has lost his or her’s mind, and either allow him/her to proceed – or find another editor to help.
  • The Uncanny cut: This is the cut which you’ve worked hard with every department. You have 70% finished VFX, preliminary sound work, early stage music and more advanced edit. Now this here is the hardest cut to watch, since usually for an outsider, it looks just terrible cheap TV. The reason is because, well, nothing is ready, but they appear to an unexperienced eye like they could almost be finished, but just don’t do anything to you emotionally. Also, during this time you also realize that you indeed need one more round of heavy editing. The film is 70% done, but the last 30% is what really counts!
  • The Locked cut: At one point, you will have to lock the cut and then nothing can be done to it anymore. After that, you just have to wish you’ll be able to guide the film towards a favorable outcome, but it’s tricky, since what you see as the locked cut will probably be still very heavily in the uncanny valley, and getting it right might feel like an almost impossible task. But as things progress – you get the dialogue premix, you get more advanced VFX, the actual music starts to find its’ tone and place – the film just turns better and better.
  • Final film: At this point, you have no more any idea whether or not your film is worth anything, or just a confusing mess. You’ve stared at the cut, the sound edit, the music edit and the thousands of changes to VFX for so long, it’s really hard to see the big picture anymore. All you can do is focus on getting the details right, and hope the big picture works. If you’ve paid enough attention to the four previous steps, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about – but if you’ve skipped one of the steps above, you might even end up jumping back to uncanny valley and re-opening the cut again.

I feel that with The Ark, we are now stepping from Uncanny Valley towards the Locked Cut. There are still few things I’d like to tweak, and Max has also few things he wants to try out for the beginning of the movie, but I had a great feeling after our Wednesday screening, and I’m hopeful we are pretty well in the way of making the film rock solid.

After the screening, VHQ had arranged a party for the clients, and while I was hopelessly late from there, there was still good vibe going on with loads of people hanging around, having drinks and talking shop and non-shop. I sat down with Chris over a bunch of drinks and chat, but headed back home around midnight (after a quick McD night snack) because the next morning would be an early one for me, as I would be heading back to Finland.

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The China Diary continues when I go back next time, so until then, thanks for reading! And don’t forget, Iron Sky The Coming Race is starting its’ theatrical run in our world fan premiere on 16.1. – stay tuned!

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China Diary

Day 203: About done


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We decided that on Wednesday we’ll screen the film to Max, so Tuesday was our last practical working day. Knowing the time is tight, we started to slam through the cut, make fast cuts and slices through the film until it was already 6 pm, and we were both feeling fluffy and headache-ish. Mrs. Fang didn’t feel too good in the end of the day, and we were still not done, so we decided to call it a day. Actually, for mrs. Fang, it was the wrap – she would start another movie the day after and this was her last day at work for us. It’s hard to let good people go, but that’s the nature of the business. I thanked her thoroughly and we agreed to do the last adjustments the next day with our assistant editor.

Mr. Zhu, our line producer, invited me and Tanya and one other person for some great hot pot a short walk away. We donned up in our winter clothes, since Beijing is really cold these days, and walked in the brisk evening air a bit, finding ourselves in a nice, new hot pot place. I’m still contemplating that if I had money, I’d set up a hot pot restaurant chain in Finland, it’s just such a great way to enjoy your dinner. I let go of my vegetarianism for the evening and enjoyed huge slices of fresh, red meat dipped in boiling, spicy water and sesame sauce. It’s heaven, I tell you.

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We finished the dinner and I was still aching for a quick night cap, so I drifted to the good, old trustworthy Moli, which was empty as usual. I sat by the bar, had a bourbon and chatted with some people back in Finland, then headed back home.

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China Diary

Day 202: Balancing


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Clip clip clippety clip, snip snip snippety snip; take that scene out, put that scene back in; remove that character, add that character… It’s really all about only one thing, and that thing is “balance”. Easy mistakes to make when making a film is you overcharge it with information in the front, and then make it all about action in the end. It’s also easy to write too many characters in, characters you later realize you don’t need, but find hard time getting rid of.

But the golden rule of editing still applies: you can basically do anything you want in the edit. Only thing you can’t do is change the essence of the story you have. What you shoot is what you have on the screen, and that can’t be altered or tweaked too much, or you end up with a bucket full of plastic.

We started our Monday in the afternoon, as I returned with some videos I had edited for temp use during the night, and inserted them into the cut. Then, we went through the film in great detail, adjusting scenes, until at 6 pm we called it a night. As my knee was truly killing me, I didn’t feel like heading out too far for dinner, so I wobbled back to this big restaurant close by, one where nobody speaks any English, and enjoyed some sizzling egg plant.

That place has one annoying feature: a huge fish tank which’s heating or water filter engine or whatever seems to be slightly broken, so there’s this headache-like high pitched whine constantly in the background that’s slowly creeping into your backbone and resonating through your skull, making your ears bleed internally. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough…

Again, sorry, no picture. I just don’t live a very pictoresque life on this trip I can see…

China Diary

Day 201: Another long night


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The jetlag isn’t going anywhere this time.

I woke up at 4 am, after few hours of sleep, as my knee started to hurt. Then, of course I couldn’t sleep anymore, so I was shuffling through the Internet and proof-reading our upcoming book about the production of Iron Sky The Coming Race. These nights, they just stretch on. No matter how much I try, I just can’t sleep. It’s making me insane.

And when I finally get some sleep, I already have to be downstairs, editing the movie, clear-headed and ready to take down the world. Which I’m not. So, it’s just quite frustrating in the end…

The day itself wasn’t much to write home about. I woke up somehow, dragged myself downstairs, we worked on the edit (I think it’s coming together nicely!) and at 6pm called it a day. I limped upstairs, changed my shoes (with a lot of discomfort and loud yelling – bending the knee is like pushing a knife through it) and dragged my soon-to-get-amputated piece of shit leg to the restaurant nearby, and ordered some egg plant and rice.

Then, back home and back to bed (to work), editing The Coming Race book and working on the cut for The Ark.

So, not an exciting day. Doesn’t deserve a picture. Not that I had taken any, either…