In a spectacular combination of all that is British and bumbling, Colin Firth will soon be voicing the computer-generated Paddington Bear. The movie, based on the children's book, will be directed by Paul King, known primarily for The Mighty Boosh, and produced by David Heyman, known for producing that mightiest of children's stories that is Harry Potter.
For those unfamiliar with the kids' stories, they are an adorably illustrated series written by Michael Bond about a Peruvian bear who gets adopted by a British family ("I will speak his lines with, I suspect, a slight Peruvian flavour," Firth told The Daily Mail.) The bear keeps emergency marmalade sandwiches under his floppy yellow hat and is very proper and British. He will also be the only animated character (and let's hope that he doesn't turn out creepy); so far Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, and Hugh Bonneville have signed on for live-action rolls. Firth and Kidman recently worked together on the World War II retribution flick The Railway Man, but we get the feeling that this is going to have a different vibe. It will be released sometime in 2014, so be prepared to overdose on adorable.
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Richard Ayoade perches quietly in an ornately-crafted chair at the Crosby Hotel in New York. Dressed to the nines in an outfit I can only refer to as the epitome of nerd chic, his hands rest resolutely on his lap and he awaits a barrage of reporters’ questions. The man behind this summer’s Submarine (June 3) doesn’t exactly embody the sort of director we’ve come to know in Hollywoodland. Generally, we find men and women who are just itching to speak and be spoken to. They could allow their own soliloquies to run endlessly; their excitement and passion almost overflows from every response. Ayoade is no such director, but it’s certainly not for a lack of passion or love of the craft. He respectfully listens to every query, carefully crafting a meticulous and worldly response for each inquisitor. While atypical of many successful folks in this profession, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to those who know his work.
The London native made a name for himself as one of the stars of cult-hit and British sitcom, The IT Crowd, where he plays a socially awkward but ultimately brilliant IT expert and of late, his feature film debut is a meticulously-crafted, inherently intelligent, and genuinely hilarious piece of work. It would almost be disappointing if the man himself turned out to be a loud, outspoken individual.
But it’s not just his introverted manner that’s remarkable; Ayoade is almost alarmingly humble. He’s quick to thank those around him before giving his efforts any credit. He jumps at the chance to give the author of the novel Submarine, Joe Dunthorne, thanks as his “co-writer” on the film. It’s a bit funny, considering the adaptation is wholly Ayoade’s interpretation of Dunthorne’s original work and differs in more than a few ways from its source material. “You have a big source that you’re looking at and Joe was always available to talk – he was writing his next book which was just finished – but he always made himself available to answer questions,” was his only comment on his adaptation process.
When I asked about how he handled a complicated, precocious character like Submarine’s protagonist, he also dealt the bulk of the credit to his young actor. “I think a lot of it’s down to Craig’s [Roberts] performance, and he’s just very real and he doesn’t send things up and he’s not mugging and trying to be funny in that kind of a way,” Ayoade said. Of course this is all true of Roberts’ turn in the film – he’s almost like a miniature adult trapped in the tribulations of adolescence – but Ayoade gives almost no credit to his own adaptation or to the guiding hand of his direction. While it makes for a much more difficult interview, it’s almost refreshing to find someone so talented who’s simultaneously so unnervingly humble.
Of course, if you delve into Ayoade’s past work, you’ll find if anything, that he’s got little reason to be so humble. He’s had his hands in so many areas of film and television that it’s alarming more people don’t know his name – granted, in England, he enjoys a bit more fame than he’s experienced in the States. Besides starring as Moss on The IT Crowd, Ayoade played the comedic better half to comedian Matthew Holness in their creation of a spoof horror series called Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace as well as in a few other tangential projects. The writer/director/comedian was also part of Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding’s comedy series The Mighty Boosh up until it switched from radio to television and he directed a handful of music videos, which is how he became friends with The Artic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, who scored Submarine.
Fans of U.S. sitcom Community may be surprised to know that after forging a friendship with the show’s lead actor, Joel McHale, thanks to their scrapped U.S. version of The IT Crowd, McHale lobbied for Ayoade to direct one of the most talked-about episodes this last season. “Critical Film Studies,” also known as the Pulp Fiction episode that didn’t deliver the Pulp Fiction tribute everyone was expecting, was more of a tribute to the ‘70s film My Dinner With Andre. For a film-nerd like Ayoade, this was a perfect fit. The show often comes under fire for its sometimes overwhelming pop culture references, but Ayoade doesn’t see that as an issue.
“I think Community [makes itself accessible] very cleverly in that references are never for their own sake, they’re motivated by character and they’re very careful at doing that and picking storylines that have bases in reality instead of just [being] parodic,” he said.
We could say the same thing of Submarine, which Ayoade admits pulls inspiration from such disparate areas as French New Wave cinema, Taxi Driver, The Graduate and Love in The Afternoon. “There’s no sense that you’d want it to be a collection of references or if you don’t know you’d feel alienated, they’re just characters who are aware of films, I guess, and that informs who they are,” Ayoade said of the referential practice.
As for the future, the director has a few things on his plate. In addition to The IT Crowd’s next season, Ayoade says he’s working on another adaptation, only this time it’s a bit more ambitious as he aims to tackle one of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s works, The Double. Of course being the comedian he is, aims to find the humor in the tortured work, but if anyone can do it, it’s him. If Submarine is any indication, Ayoade will soon be shaking the “super geeky one from The IT Crowd” moniker and joining the ranks of the other well-known hilarious Brits.
Writer and director Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd The Mighty Boosh) claims copious influences for his feature debut and the film can’t help but remind us of other indie-flavored coming-of-age flicks like Rushmore and Harold and Maude but Submarine is a decidedly and endearingly unique film. In a season where most of the films we flock to see merit descriptors like “super ” “action-packed” and various forms of the word “huge ” Ayoade’s little dark comedy creeps along below the water line ready to pop up and deliver a delightful surprise for summer movie goers.
Adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne Submarine tells the story of Oliver (Craig Roberts) a rather strange highly-intelligent 15 year-old boy who’s determined to lose his virginity by his next birthday rescue his parents’ ailing marriage and to see it all retold in an epic New Wave-y cinematic tribute. This idea that his life will be retold on film flows throughout the film contrasting Oliver’s grandiose retelling of his life against its stark realities. Ayoade allows us to see how unreliably Oliver tells his own story but as the plot thickens we tend to get almost as lost in Oliver’s fantasies as he is.
Oliver’s virginity-ending quest leads him to his girlfriend an eczema-riddled pyromaniac named Joanna (Yasmin Paige). He’s picked her out as being most likely to acquiesce to his proposal thanks to various calculated social factors and thus their adolescent romance begins. While Oliver is exploring his relationship with Joanna – greatly consisting of her burning the hair off his legs with matches while he reimagines their romance as captured idyllically on super 8 film – Mr. and Mrs. Tate’s (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) relationship is slowly crumbling. Jill Tate’s old flame Graham a new age life coach with a useless theory about colors (Paddy Considine) moves in across the way sending Jill into a bout of reminiscence and a longing for her youth that stands to threaten her marriage. Oliver being the precocious young man he is is determined to barrel in headfirst to fix his parents’ ailing marriage which he’s been monitoring for months using the dimmer switch setting in their bedroom. (And it’s been on the sex-less setting for quite a while.)
Of course the most obvious reason this film works is Ayoade’s tight script and meticulous direction but the lynchpin is certainly the fantastic cast. Roberts and Paige though both very young fill the screen like two adults trapped in adolescent bodies. Tayor is fantastic as always but Hawkins ably treads the wafer-thin line between goofy hilarity and the complete and total sincerity of a housewife in crisis. Considine’s Graham gets a little cartoonish at times but those moments are reigned in with a little help from Hawkins.
Ayoade lends a sort of film-brat aesthetic to Submarine playing with French New Wave elements and giving nods to films like Love in the Afternoon. Of course the fact that Oliver is so inclined to remember his life in film scenes helps to unleash the techniques in Ayoade’s repertoire. In other settings this combination may have felt a little jumbled but the story almost begs for it here. Bolstering Ayoade’s plethora of techniques is the style he chose for the film. It’s a bit retro but not overly so. Ayoade situates Oliver’s gloomy seaside town in a timeless space that feels simultaneously old fashioned and completely fresh.
Finally tying all the elements together with a big bow is the soundtrack comprised of original songs by Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys. While he had some of the tunes composed before Ayoade brought him in to work on the film the tracks perfectly complement Submarine’s style providing the cinematic drama that Oliver would approve of without undermining the understated reality that he’s so determined not to see.
It certainly doesn’t feel like Submarine is Ayoade’s debut. He’s done his fair share of writing and directing getting behind the scenes on a few British television shows and directing music videos for The Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs but this film feels like it comes from someone who’s been in the feature film business for years. It’s seemingly without glaring rookie mistakes or hiccups. And while the retro indie dark comedy vein often lends itself to overdrawn quirk Submarine doesn’t.
Film-brat elements aside at its heart Submarine is a fiercely genuine slightly complicated and completely lovable film.
Things are funnier in twos. Two farts in a row is a blessing and then oh yeah, there's the winning combination of two boobs. My point = proven. So by my esteemed logic, if you take a British person (themselves purveyors of the highest quality of witty repartee) and give them another Brit, the combination will be magical. Take, for example, the amazing Paul, which comes out in theaters this week. It was written by two very funny Brits, as you shall learn soon enough, and they're not the only funny duos that tiny little island has produced (sure we could tell you who we are talking about but then you wouldn't have to read the next part, you lazy ass). Here are five examples that prove I'm right. I love being right.
Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg/Nick Frost Wait, how can three people be on a list about duos? Shut up, it's my list. Anyway, only two of them collaborate at once most of the time so it works out if you just bend the rules this one tiny bit. Oh, why am I even justifying myself to you anyway? It works, deal with it. So Wright and Pegg teamed up and wrote Spaced (and Jessica Stevenson helped, but cut me some slack), then they did the two amazing films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Frost starred in those as well, but he then stepped in and wrote Paul with Pegg when Wright couldn’t direct the flick. Ok, so you see how they work: pop culture gags with a sharp eye towards homages and parodies that borders on obsessive. They’re pretty much a duo with three members. Besides, they’re funny enough that we’ll count them anyway.
A Bit of Fry and Laurie What? Dr. House is British? And funny? And he worked with that strange man? You'd better believe it. Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry were pretty fucking funny when their show, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, was on the air from 1989 to 1995 and they incorporated word play, music, and innuendos into their sketches. It's such a shame two terribly gifted comedic actors haven’t worked together since, not that it's their fault. They just got incredibly busy being more famous. After all, Laurie is busy doing House and all that. While House is pretty damn funny at times, like when he's poppin' pills and pretending to be Julius, it doesn’t beat the Hippy Protest song.
Laurel and Hardy Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they were primarily an American act but Stan Laurel was born in Britain and that’s good enough for me (Oliver Hardy was a good ole American). Besides, it shows how much British humor was influencing American comedy right from the beginning. Laurel and Hardy were staples of the silent film era that managed to make the difficult transition to the talkies. But when most of your material is slapstick, the transition isn’t too difficult.
The Mighty Boosh It's like Tim and Eric meets Flight of the Concords. It’s always a shame how the most creative people seem to be the most insane, but the humor of the Boosh (Neil Fielding and Julian Barrett) is fairly acceptable considering how surreal the visuals are. Maybe the good music helps. Seriously, these guys know how to rock out. Like most things British, it definitely helps to be under the influence when watching it, but that’s not necessary. Just sit back, relax, and if you don’t understand that’s fine; just enjoy the music and pretty pictures and laugh. After all, it's pretty much a grown-up's Saturday morning cartoon.
Amateur Transplants These egghead Brits are what you would get if Bo Burnham went to medical school. And there were two of him. Also, throw in a few Weird Al parodies in for good measure. Mix it all up and you get some pent-up nerd rage created with a musician's ear. The duo consists of two practicing doctors: Adam Kay and Suman Biswas. They do more to prove that a higher education does not automatically make you mature than a fart machine set to the tune of Mozart’s 5th. While they burst onto the scene with their anti-London Underground song "London Underground" that will have any victim of public transportation nodding in approval and then belting right along with them, my personal favorite has to be the simple tune, "Nothing At All" (featured above). Absolutely delightful.
Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite, (500) Days of Summer - while Sundance shepherds many traditional dramas and comedies, the festival has also become a breeding ground for the alternative. Fusing clever writing with stylistic techniques, these off-beat films walk a fine line between traditional narrative and experimental filmmaking. They've also been huge hits.
In the wake of success, everyone and their mother wants to whip up the next "quirky" hit. They're producing them in such mass quantities, filmmakers have it down to a science: start with a coming-of-age drama, throw in a lead character with several ridiculous occupations/hobbies, add in a fun-loving romantic interest and spice it up with a variety of camera angles and tricks.
But obsession with visual flair and unconventional characters can overlook another important part of crafting a film: heart. This year's Homework is the perfect example: looked good, had a few laughs, but at its core was cold and empty. The IT Crowd and Mighty Boosh actor Richard Ayoade's first film Submarine is the polar opposite. The film reminds us what we loved about "quirky" movies before the word became a stigma on independent film.
Submarine stars newcomer Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, a high school control freak who sees his surroundings a chaotic biopic of his life (whose budget is too small for sweeping crane shots, settling for zoom outs). Oliver, a cultural scholar, has his hands in everything, attempting to salvage his parents marriage and his own budding relationship at the same time.
What separates Submarine from every teen romance of the last five years is its commitment to weaving its colorful methods into its story and comedy. It makes sense why Oliver would narrate Submarine like a film noir detective or imagine the funeral procession for his own death. Like the fabricated worlds of Fight Club or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the weird world complements the character.
Festival-goers are quick to compare Submarine to the aforementioned films and the eye-popping work of Wes Anderson, the king of quirk. But unlike Anderson's films, Ayoade has crafted something both slick and emotional. Think of Submarine as the BBC original to the American remake - they may both deliver laughs, but only one has the cojones to dig deeper.
The Mighty Boosh star and another man were stopped by police in Camden, north London earlier this week (begs12Apr10).
Fielding was taken to a local police station where he was given a body search to check for illegal substances, but was released when no drugs were found.
A 20-year-old man, believed to be the suspect seen talking to Fielding, fled the scene, but was later arrested on suspicion of possessing cocaine, according to Britain's The Sun.