VENICE – The 75th International Venice Film Festival will open with a showing of Gollum, featuring Andy Serkis.

Venice Film Festival will open with a remastered version of the film Gollum, starring Andy Serkis. Based on the popular fantasy character from Lord of the Rings, Gollum will show at the Sala Darsena on the Lido as a special pre-opening event. Directed by Paul Wegener in 1920, the film is in black and white and is silent. Music will be provided by Admir Shkurtaj.

We caught up with Andy Serkis to ask him about the news. He had this to say:

I think you’re mistaken. They’re showing Golem. It’s a different film.

Are you happy to be there?

I would be, but I don’t think I’ve got an invite. You see it isn’t the same film. It has a different title. And spelling. And it was filmed in 1920.

When you were very young. Was this your first role?

I wasn’t even born.

Say ‘My precioussssss’.

No. NO, Goddamn it!

I’ll give you a fish. 

My precioussssss.

The Venice Film Festival starts on the 27th of August.


VENICE – The 74th Venice Film Festival is underway.

Day One of the Venice Film Festival and the sound of hammers striking wood and the smell of fresh paint is everywhere on the Lido. The place looks a lot better. The Lovecraftian hole that had been a feature of the festival for the last few years has been filled in. The toxic materials have been transported to Austria where even now Michael Haneke is transforming them into what he likes to call ‘comedy’.

The next ten days have a lot to recommend them but here are some highlights.

  • George Clooney will be directing a movie with Matt Damon called ‘It’s Not Monument Men’
  • Alexander Payne has a new film with Matt Damon called ‘It’s Not the Informant’
  • Darren Aronofsky has come out of retirement with a film that radically doesn’t star Matt Damon
  • There’ll be a film from Denmark that will be brilliant but no one will ever see outside of the festival and Denmark

For more on the Venice Film Festival, come right back here.



VENICE – Our intrepid Studio Exec has braved the screening rooms of the Darsena, the Sala Grande and even the dreaded plastic cavern that is the Palabiennale and now is here to give you his critical opinion.

The awards are out and the results are – as is traditional – baffling and underwhelming.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson should have won the Golden Lion, but instead got the runner up Grand Jury Prize for Anomalisa. It’s like an R-rated Wallace and Gromit film, but with Gromit dead and Wallace really unhappy and perhaps mentally ill. The best director prize went to El Clan which was the best Argentinian Martin Scorsese film of the last year. The winner was Venezuelan film From Afar, which is okay. But a quick glance at some past winners will show how often a fairly twee choice will trump better films. Does anyone remember Scra GRA? Somewhere? Did anyone see Faust? Or the Pigeon Sitting on a Branch Contemplating Existence, which won last year? The last two were actually good films, but Somewhere? How did that win? How did Quentin Tarantino’s ex-girlfriend Sofia Coppola’s rather drab film impress the head of the jury Quentin Tara… oh.

There is a chance that Venice were copying Cannes who awarded Dheepan the Palme d’Or despite the fact it was only a bit better then How to Train Your Dragon 2.

The Venice Film Festival is done. I hope you enjoyed our coverage which is all available here.


VENICE – Our intrepid Studio Exec has braved the screening rooms of the Darsena, the Sala Grande and even the dreaded plastic cavern that is the Palabiennale and now is here to give you his critical opinion.

I’ve realised I’ve not been the best correspondent, but Jesus Christ it is difficult when you have to balance drinking with work responsibilities like finding cocaine. I realise that I have left many of you bewildered by my lack of film reviews, so I’ve decided to round up the films I’ve seen so far and give you the lessons I have learned.

Here goes:

Everest: Donnie Darko and John Connor go up a mountain. They do not come down.

Neon Bull: if someone ask you to help them steal horse semen, say no. Brazilian.

Beasts of No Nation: children are horrible. Idris Elba is brilliant and horrible. Africa is beautiful and horrible. It would be nice if we could stop having films set ‘in a fictional African nation’. Smacks of racist laziness.

Looking for Grace: always look before you cross the road. Set in a fictional country in Australia.

The Endless River: has nothing to do with the Pink Floyd album, but is just as dull.

Francofonia: apparently there’s some art in the Louvre.

Black Mass: Johnny Depp’s spin off from Alice in Wonderland sees the Madhatter get into some serious shit. Boston is full of gangsters.

Spotlight: Birdman and the Hulk bring down pedophiles. Boston is full of rapist priests.

Equals: Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult live in a future uniquely suited to Kristen Stewart’s acting abilities. I wish I was in Boston.

Venice continues despite my best efforts.


VENICE – The 72nd Venice Film Festival is on the Lido in Italy and we’ve managed to infiltrate the Studio Exec onto the narrow island in order to bring you the biggest stories. So shut up, put that hot dog down and read.

In all my life as a studio exec I’ve met a whole series of assholes. And some of them weren’t relatives. But there is a type of asshole that has been getting my goat more than others recently. That’s the one who boos a film at a film festival. Don’t get me wrong I’ve often booed a film, or even better micturated in the direction of the screen – once at Cannes it was from the balcony (and I was in the Jury that year). But the time has come to stop.

You see I’m allowed to boo, because I get up in the morning and go and make films. I know what the hard work is like because I’ve done it myself, but these asshole critics haven’t. They have their reviews to write and they have their blogs to post, so they really don’t need to boo a screening with the director and the actors all sitting there in their Sunday best.

If I had my way booers would be taken to the Excelsior and ritually slapped with the scaliest fish in the kitchen. I’m betting it’ll be lobster.

What has raised my gall is the fact that the films booed this year have been among the best. The Childhood of a Leader and A Bigger Splash both got boos. Sometimes a lone voice will use the two second fade to black that often signals the end to shout out his (and it is always a he) abhorrence as if anyone could give a flying f*ck. I particularly hate that because it is a moment of sensitive reflection and some jumped up bozo of an arrogant shit for brains just stamped on it with his shit stained brain farts.

So behave. Learn some civility. Have some respect for the people who put in some hard words. And even if it is bad, remember the words of Billy Wilder, ‘Even if it’s a piece of shit, you still have to get up at some Goddamned awful hour in the morning to make it.’

Our Venice coverage continues.


HOLLYWOOD -The 72nd Venice Film Festival has begun and the Studio Exec is loose on the Lido. Check out what he saw and why.

Last night I attended the Variety party at the Danieli Hotel in Venice. It’s a dapper little place with a nice view of the Grand Canal which you can enjoy while sipping your prosecco and avoiding Alfonso Cuaron – I still owe him $500 from a little bet I made him about Sandra Bullock and success.The food was science fiction inspired and came in little plastic pods that were fired into your mouth by myopic chefs. Delicious. Outside they were serving water melon cocktails, blue blinis and normal drinks that human beings might want. The whole place was chock-a-block with journalists, film professionals and struggling young actors and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t punch anyone, though – in my defense – I was loud and obnoxious.

This morning was a rude awakening. Back on the Lido I stumbled into the screening of “Everest”. Many people have asked me in the past ‘Why don’t you climb Everest, Exec?’ But I’ve always assumed they were just being rude, or surreal. I didn’t realize but there are actually idiots who do this. Or at least try to. The film Everest is record of the latter kind. Lesson to take home: if you’re a postman, don’t try and climb Mount Everest. More generally, if you’re anyone, don’t try and climb Everest. Jason Clarke is a great actor and I’d like to see him in more stuff. This is IMAX and 3D and has a huge mountain in it (one of the biggest I’m informed) but it is Jason Clarke who really gives the movie heart and credibility.

I also went to see a Mexican film – “A Beast with a Thousand Heads” – by the same guy who did “La Zona” back in 2007. It’s a fair thriller. Restrained, intelligent and quite funny, but it’s spoiled by one glaring implausibility. I won’t tell you because it’d spoil it for you  and I know you already have your ticket.

Tonight I’m off to see Netflix’s new movie “Beasts of No Nation”, which ironically is what I used to be referred to after I got fired from Universal.

More Venice diaries to follow.


HOLLYWOOD – The Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival will be marrying and having children, it was learned today

Alberto Barbera unveiled the lineup to the 72nd Venice Film Festival this morning, and in doing so he also stated that the event will be getting together with its archrival the Toronto International Film Festival and marrying sometime in October:

We want to have beautiful babies and I believe the time has come to put our differences aside and get down and dirty and produce progeny that will shock the world.

The announcement has come as a shock as the two festivals have always competed for movies and often argue about the type of thing a festival should do. Toronto has played the field—a promiscuous beast gladly accepting streams of lovers into her arms without much care for quality. She has also been more than happy to take Venice’s leftovers, but in recent years she has grown jealous and wont to grab anything Venice has written an artful sonnet to.

Toronto chief Cameron Bailey confirmed the news via Skype:

We got together early in the summer to see if we could organize things so we wouldn’t overlap so much. We had some wine. Then some grappa, and one thing led to another. Why always be fighting and grappling? There’s room enough for both of us and we’re both so beautiful. Imagine the gorgeous offspring that will fill the world with cinematic love.

Venice has three adult children from a former marriage with Cannes. 


VENICE -Our man on the Lido has been roaming the 71st Venice Film festival which means that almost by accident he has seen some films. Here is that.

So here are my reviews from the Venice Film Festival so far.

The Look of Silence

Do not go on holiday to Indonesia until they fess up to the shit they been doing.

The Humbling

Al Pacino plays Philip Roth playing Al Pacino.

Far from Man

Aragorn is French and living in Algeria during the 1954 war of liberation. Very beautiful landscapes and a pretty good Western when it comes down to it.


Al Pacino plays Manglehorn, a lock smith who needs to find the key to his heart. Yep. Get through the style and quality acting and it is kind of that trite.

Fires on the Plain

Japanese retreat in the Philippines turns into madness and cannibalism. Brutal, bloody and brilliant.

Three Hearts


The Cut

Should have been.

99 Homes

Spider-man tries to make a bomb on the housing market.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Swedish remake of The Kentucky Fried Movie


VENICE – Our man on the Lido is risking life and limb to give you the goings on at the world’s oldest film festival. Be grateful dammit.

Jesus Christ, I’ve seen so many films. And they’re all without exception set in the theatre.

So first there was Birdman, washed up actor puts on a play while fighting his own delusional insanity. Then there was She’s Funny that Way which was exceptional in having Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson appear together for the first time in a comedy. And it was funny! And then there’ my old friend Barry Levinson’s The Humbling, a Philip Roth adaptation that sees Al Pacino as a a stage actor who’s going through what Birdman was going through but without the special effects.

Of course other countries make films as well, I’ve recently discovered, and they don’t give so much of a shit about the theatre. Thank God. Ulrich Seidl – Austria’s answer to Johnny Knoxville – was here with In The Basement which revealed what Austrians get up to in their basements, Joseph Fritzl aside. A number of grotesques are paraded before us for our amusement – neo-Nazis, sado-masochists and just saddos – and we get to see what the expression ‘blue balls’ really means. An Italian film Black Souls reminds us that in Italy you don’t only have the Comorra or the Mafia you also have the ‘Ndranghetta! But it’s an original take so if you get a chance and you don’t mind reading at the cinema knock yourself out.

There was also a film from somewhere called Croatia! You can’t make this up. Right Spritz is calling – it’s a soft drink much like ginger beer. Catch you later.


VENICE – The Venice Film Festival kicks off and here are five things you need to look out for or there is a distinct possibility you will die.

1. Birdman is the opening film of the festival and will be celebrated on the red carpet with the entire cast pretending to be birds. Michael Keaton will be a parrot, Emma Stone an emu and the ever dependable Edward Norton is expected to show up as a penguin.

2. Lars Von Trier will be showing his director’s cut of Nymphomaniac which is rumored to last three days and will feature Christian Slater’s penis. After the screening, Von Trier will be burned alive in a huge wicker phallus on the beach.

3. Al Pacino and Ethan Hawke are both appearing in two films and are expected to make much of this. Boasting about it and making silly asses of themselves as they try to impress girls. James Franco however is going to make three films while at the festival and therefore will beat everyone.

4. The jury is led by French composer Alexander Desplat who was named after a sound effect in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

5. Although the Golden Lion is not real gold, it is a real lion. Sofia Coppola was actually eaten by the lion when receiving the award for Somewhere. Unfortunately, she was regurgitated.

Studio Exec will be tweeting and blogging from the Lido from The Venice Film Festival from 27th August to 6th September, 2014. 


VENICE – Everyone knows the Venice Film Festival was initially inaugurated to celebrate pigeon cooking, but what other FACTS are there to be taken in on the Lido.

Let the Studio Exec FACT you up about all that goes on at the world’s oldest international film festival.

1. The Venice Film Festival was originally staged in Venice beach, Los Angeles but the venue had to be changed at the last minute because of rain. 

2. The festival was created by the Italian Fascist regime, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Mussolini loved films, especially a sub-genre of Italian comedy Pranzo di Ebrei in which Jews were eaten by accident.  

3. The most common sight at the festival is George Clooney. Even if he doesn’t have a film showing he turns up to help on the t-shirt stall. 

4. Past winners of the Golden Lion, the top festival prize, have all met terrible fates. Kim Ki-Duk, Darren Aronofsky and Sofia Coppola have all disappeared without trace since winning the coveted prize. 

5. Because the Venice Film Festival is the oldest running film festival in the world, film festivals like Toronto tend to come up to it and shout ‘Hey Granddad, Get out of the way!’ but Venice has decided to do a Stallone and just keep going.

Studio Exec will be tweeting and blogging from the Lido from The Venice Film Festival from 27th August to 7 September, 2013. 


Our resident cheese expert and Switzerland’s foremost film critic Xavier Poulis profiles an unsung come back.

GENEVA – The unprecedented creative revival of Steve McQueen has gone largely unnoticed in critical circles and it is time to set that right. Born in March 1930, Stephen McQueen had a troubled childhood, but found release in music and acting. He was to become the epitome of cool, jumping fences, driving fast cars and exuding a calmness that belied the personal demons and sometimes tormented emotional life of the human being. The Great Escape, Bullitt and Papillon proved him to be an actor of range as well as commercial pulling power.
Following his death in 1980 of cancer, the star of such films as The Blob and The Towering Inferno as well as the under-rated Tom Horn, withdrew somewhat from public life. Obviously considering his options and mulling over what many actors would have considered a terminal setback, it is now clear that McQueen was simply biding his time. Eschewing his former trade, McQueen came to realize he was more inclined to work behind the camera, as he thought his presence there would allow him to avoid the glare of the media which had so plagued him in life. 

His first film Hunger won a debut prize at the 2008 Cannes film festival. It starred Michael Fassbender and this would begin a fruitful collaboration. Upon winning the prize it became apparent that the appearance of the long dead McQueen would cause problems especially with the IRS, so in a bid to avoid this he applied for British citizenship, put on some weight and became black. Shame his second film proved just as critically popular as his first and yet very few connected these bold visions of cinema with the young man who had burned a hole in the screen on Wanted: Dead or Alive. His new film 12 Years a Slave will be the moment when the critical community – led by me – will finally reveal the astonishing breadth of what was and still is an astonishing career.