Tim’s Vermeer

Tim Jenison is a talented architect, an accomplished musician, a pioneer in computer effects industry and something of a prolific inventor. This documentary follows Jenison’s goal to recreate The Music Lesson by legendary Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer. The only problem is that Tim is not a painter.

Tim’s Vermeer is directed by Teller, one half of the famous double-act, Penn & Teller, the duo also serves as writers, with Penn producing and providing narration. Tim Jenison is an old acquaintance of the magicians and they have both been in awe of Jenison’s unique ability to marvel at any skill he lays his hands on. Though technology is at his heart, Tim has long been fascinated by the works of Vermeer, he is fascinated by the “filmic quality” of Vermeer’s paintings, this unique quality distances Vermeer from others Renaissance artists. The great works of Vermeer have an uncanny glow to them, akin to a photograph rather than a painting, the colours too realistic and the attention-to-detail at a near-impossible level. Jenison believes that Vermeer was aided by optic tools in order to achieve such perfection in his paintings and so his investigation begins.


Tims Vermeer Review

Screenshot from ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

After doing some initial research about optic tools of the era, Tim begins to paint aided with a curved mirror. He uses a photograph of his father as an early template and successfully replicates the photograph. After working out the correct colours, he only has to follow what he sees in front of him, not quite tracing the image but rather filling in the spaces. The finished painting looks flawless, looking like an exact reproduction.

Feeling happy with his results, Tim decides to pay a flying visit to legendary English artist David Hockney. Hockney himself had previously published a book that argued Renaissance-era painters were aided by optical aids and other technology. Both Hockney and Jenison marvel at Vermeer’s technical skill as well as his tremendous artistic ability, they agree that science and art don’t have to be mutually exclusive, they can work together to produce something extraordinary. Tim’s Vermeer does not set out to destroy the romanticised portrait of the master painters, if anything it applauds the Renaissance painters as pioneers ahead of their time.

Now reassured in his actions, Tim begins work on his very own copy of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson. As an absolute perfectionist, Tim wants to paint exactly as Vermeer would have done and every detail from The Music Lesson is slowly replicated in his warehouse studio. We are treated to a fantastic montage that shows Tim’s exhaustive efforts in sourcing every object from the picture, the montage is truly incredible, reminiscent of something straight out of a Hollywood film. Tim’s extraordinary, almost super-human efforts are proof that this is no vanity project, Tim has had a love affair with Vermeer for most of his life and wishes to honour the great master as best as he possibly can.

Arguably the best part of Tim’ Vermeer is seeing Tim becoming more and more attached to his painting, behind the tears and the frustration is someone who understands the importance of art, how it can improve our life and of the unexplainable way it makes us feel. For me, Tim’s emotional journey was as important as the progress of the painting.

Though I believe Tim’s Vermeer is an excellent documentary for both art connoisseurs and everyday cinemagoers, I do feel that the film has a certain agenda behind it, mostly due to the inclusion of Penn & Teller. It’s a commonly known fact that Penn & Teller are sceptics: the pair have spoken out against a variety of subjects such as pseudo-science, faith-healers, psychics, Feng Shui, capital punishment and several other controversial subjects. At times Tim’s Vermeer feels like an attack on the concept of artistic genius. A few scenes are dedicated to debunking that Vermeer was not an artistic savant and they make it clear that the great artist had no profound physical abilities, a noble conclusion but it feels like the filmmakers are trying to take the “magic” out of his paintings. Tim’s finished painting is presented more as a finished experiment than a brilliant painting. It’s true that Tim did not paint unaided but the brushstrokes and focus didn’t come out of nowhere.


Tim’s Vermeer is a wonderful film but it has drawn some inevitable backlash from members of the art community for understandable reasons, but in my opinion, the film should be seen as a form of entertainment rather than a serious document. The claim that anyone can paint like Vermeer aided with tools may be a bit much for some, but you can still take some joy from watching a near-impossible project that took years to finish unfold before your very eyes. If you take the film at face value then you won’t regret it, Tim’s Vermeer is packed full of heart, warmth and humour, it can be moving at times and perhaps it may even teach you a thing or two. It may not be the most cinematic documentary ever but it’s an honest film and has its heart in the right place. Whatever you think of the finished product, the journey getting there was the best part.


All about Wes…

To many cinemaphiles, Wes Anderson is a director like no other. In a world full of sterile blockbusters, unnecessary sequels and unwanted remakes, the films of Wes Anderson offer a safe haven of brilliant weirdness, vivid imagery and original storytelling. Anderson has a filmography to rival the likes of greats such as Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog or the Coen brothers, with stellar titles such as the Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) delighting both audiences and critics worldwide, and just like Tarantino and the Coens, Anderson has an ever-growing and loyal fanbase who hang on his every word.


Wes Anderson


Wes Anderson has long been seen as the one of great titans of the indie cinema circuit, a true auteur who really understands the power of cinema, a Kubrick-esque figure who makes every single frame count. The director rose to fame and reached international recognition shortly after the release of his debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996), which also helped launch the careers of both Luke and Owen Wilson (with Owen being credited as co-writer). Early hits such asthe phenomenal Rushmore and the groundbreaking The Royal Tenenbaums cemented Anderson’s status as a talented director who blended comedy and drama with the absurd and esoteric. As he became a more recognisable figure, his films became noticeably grander. Recent projects such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and particularly, his newest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) showcase Anderson’s brilliant eye for the big screen.

There are several visuals motifs, techniques and traits that Anderson employs in his films in order to bring his creative vision to life and many keen cinemagoers have been amazed by Anderson’s clever and subtle use of colour palettes. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson utilises colours that are closely associated with autumn (yellows, oranges and browns) reflecting the earthy and organic bearings of the film. Similarly, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) the colours feel much more vibrant and eclectic (think of Team Zissou’s red caps!), in touch with the tone and feel of the movie.


Wes Anderson


Perhaps the most brilliant part of any Wes Anderson movie is the focus on practical effects and tricks of the camera over CGI. In the most memorable scene of The Life Aquatic, the infamous Jaguar Shark is revealed to us, second by second it’s beautiful luminescent pattern is shown, then finally, we get to see the beautiful creature in all of its majestic glory. In reality, the shark was a stop-motion puppet courtesy of animation genius, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), but during the movie, the shark seemed to have a life of its own, obviously it looked fake, but I believed it was alive in Wes Anderson’s cartoon-like world.

In one memorable moment, Zissou faces the shark that killed his dear friend and utters the line “I wonder if it remembers me?” to the melancholic sound of “Starálfur” by Sigur Rós. This particular moment of the film caused many cinemagoers to tear up and that’s the power of a great Wes Anderson film. You invest in the lives of characters that you will only know for a few hours, but you believe in their problems and adjust to their crazy world. Anderson manages to make the fantastic seem normal but never quite takes the magic away.

It’s no secret that the director has a fondness for nostalgia. If The Life Aquatic was a very personal love letter to the work of the underwater filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, and Moonrise Kingdom was a bittersweet youthful love story set amongst an antiquated Eagle Scout 60’s backdrop. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most bold and welcome attempt at bringing a lost period in time back to the big screen. He has a strange love for life’s peculiarities and the self-imposed rules we live by.

Wes Anderson

Anderson appreciates film as an art form, something that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He has a unique way of bringing his kinetic passion for the moving image to the screen. The Grand Budapest Hotel, offers a different aspect ratio (1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1) for each timeline in the film.

We are very lucky to have a director like Wes Anderson in our lifetime. Anderson’s films fight against the popular image of modern cinema as a greedy, cynical and self-fulfilling creature. He treats his wide-eyed audience with respect that they deserve and he knows exactly how to play them. Anderson somehow manages to blend a childlike sense of wonder with offbeat comedy and just a tad of weirdness, whilst throwing in the serious issues that plague our everyday lives, from the fears of infidelity, to parenthood and even the death of a loved one. After watching one of Anderson’s films, I come away feeling heartbroken but underneath there is a feeling of hope, an uplifting sense of wonder, for all of his credit, Wes Anderson is an original.

Cutie and the Boxer

Documentary films have the rare power to capture life like no other medium. Great documentaries like the phenomenal Act of Killing and Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine offer us a very unique and personal exercise in the human condition. Cutie and the Boxer is something of an enigma; for one thing, it defies tradition with its abstract picture of a self-proclaimed “boxing artist”, Ushio Shinohara and his assistant, Noriko, who also happens to be his loving wife.

The documentary chronicles the inner workings of a highly creative couple, husband Ushio is highly regarded by the underground art scene for his surreal alternative works and wishes to be recognised by a larger audience through a dedicated exhibition. Ushio is famed for his unique style of painting; dipping a pair of boxing gloves in colourful inks and paints and then striking the canvas, creating brilliant patterns, bursting full of energy. Ushio’s wife, Noriko, wishes to break free from her husband’s shadow and wishes to be seen as a credible artist on her own merit.

Cutie and The Boxer

Cutie and the Boxer explores the dynamic, and sometimes strained, relationship between two very creative people, who both have very different attitudes and motives behind their art. Noriko’s art is very self-reflective and autobiographic whereas Ushio is based on impulse and raw energy. Though they are very different people in their own right, there is no denying the underlying affection they have for each other, it is refreshing to see such an honest and truthful relationship on screen.

This is very much a film that is open to interpretation; I don’t believe that there is any profound message behind the film and I don’t think there was meant to be one. Cutie and the Boxer is for lovers of art and those who are interested in real human drama. I felt attached to both Ushio and Noriko to a certain extent; I warmed to them both as people and as artists. Though I can’t say that I have fallen in love with Ushio or Noriko’s art, I can see the thought, direction and hard work behind each piece. Ushio was part of Japan’s rebellious avant-garde scene in the 1960’s, and at the age of 81, you can still see what drives him to paint, sculpt and draw. For Noriko, her art is far more melancholic and emotional. As a young woman she lived for art but after so many years caring for her family she simply lost the energy for it and now as an older woman, her art tells the story of her life. She may have lost her way in the past but her burning artistic vision never truly died.

Cutie & The Boxer

There’s no doubt that Cutie and the Boxer celebrates art and artists but the film led me to believe that the whole art scene was a very cynical and shallow system. I found myself feeling very bitter towards the art dealers who were praising Ushio with such a nauseating atmosphere of elitism and pretention. For what it’s worth, I truly felt like I was experiencing the day in the life of an artist, from the highs of selling a piece to the excruciating lows of rejection and self-loathing.

My only real criticism of the film is its blatant objectivity in certain places. I wanted someone to address Ushio for his actions or learn more of Noriko’s past. This is what great documentaries do, they invest us in the lives of others. After the film had finished, I was still thinking about the couple and I wondered what future they may have together, whether Ushio will thank Noriko for everything she has done for him, for standing by him for so many decades.

I really enjoyed watching Cutie and the Boxer, I definitely feel that I have take something away from the film. I feel that I can appreciate the work of artists more. This is an excellent documentary for those interested in the arts or just people just looking for a real-life love story.

Is it still worth going to the cinema?

No-one can deny the power of cinema, most of us agree that film has a unique power to move and inspire us, but in this tough economic climate, is it still worth going to the cinema? We are deterred by hiking prices of admission, peak time charges, extortionate costs of snacks and beverages, 2D and 3D screenings and online booking mishaps. On the other hand, can you put a price on seeing a film like Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave for the first time or spending your first date with your future love at the pictures? The debate has become even more relevant in the age of online streaming and Video-on-Demand.

Let’s face the facts, the cinema is the best possible place to watch films. Nothing can compete with a massive screen and a state of the art sound system. Watching a movie on the big screen is very different from watching it on a laptop or mobile device. Movies look far more cinematic and mesmerising on the big screen, especially when screened in the correct aspect ratio, whether it is 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Though cinemas offer a bigger and louder movie-watching experience, you tend to get a certain unsettling feeling that cinemas have turned into quite soulless and sterile entities. Nowadays most chain cinemas use digital projection systems to show films, meaning that the film is being played off a hard drive from a computer. A far cry from the loving portrait of the movie theatre as depicted in films such as Cinema Paradiso, Hugo and Ed Wood.

Cinemas just aren’t as glamorous as they once were and I for one still love going to the movies but often my experience is not as enjoyable as it could be. After paying over £10 to watch a film, all I ask for is for the film to be projected correctly in a quiet darkened room. I am usually treated to an unbearable barrage of annoying adverts that I have seen on television countless times, then followed by an eclectic mix of trailers and then finally finished off with a rage-inducing advertisement for an app that requires you to turn on your mobile phone to answer questions that a caveman, who has no idea of the concept of cinema, could probably get.

I appreciate the fact that cinemas have to earn their revenue back but these constant adverts are a real hindrance to the cinema experience. I can tolerate the adverts and everything else to a certain extent, but I don’t appreciate a film being advertised at 8pm only to start almost half an hour later. In fact, in recent weeks, I have often left the house at the exact time the screening is meant to start and after a 15 minute walk, I take my seat before the trailers have started. To many, the behaviour of the cinemagoers is often the most crucial point in my experience and most audiences are well behaved. The only time I have had a problem with my fellow cinemagoers, was in a screening of the remake of Carrie, where two teenagers were texting all the way through. Luckily the film was so bad that the eternal distracting glow of the phone screens made little difference to my enjoyment of the film.

Where I live, there is a chain multiplex cinema and a local independent. The chain multiplex offers the same sort of experience not too dissimilar to the one described above. The independent cinema offers a completely different experience, both with good and bad qualities. The independent offers a more personal and human experience with the walls adorned by movie posters and lobby cards of films long forgotten. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the venue is as grand as you can imagine, having being built in the 1930’s in the style of a vaudeville movie palace. The screen is not as great as one you would expect to see from a massive chain but you get the feeling that the cinema is based around treasured memories and emotion rather than action-packed spectacle. Their packed programme schedule is nothing short of a showcase of lesser-known titles, foreign releases and screenings of classics. We are treated to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur and a screening of the American classic, 12 Angry Men.

Perhaps, the greatest asset to the cinema is its sense of community. They are very willing to promote cinema in all its forms, showcasing student projects, local films and participating in film festivals, which you wouldn’t get the sprit anywhere in the brand. I feel that the service is worth the price of admission but they cannot accommodate to the blockbuster crowd.

I am aware that not everyone is able to go to the cinema whether its due to the cost, the hours that they work,  or where they live, Cinemas try to fulfil everyone’s needs but often its is not enough. Some people wish to the hustle and bustle gamble of going to the cinema and prefer to wait until the film is released on the home market, where they can enjoy watching it in the privacy of their own homes whenever and wherever they want. A lot of journalists and writers, especially Mark Kermode, who wrote a book about the various problems of modern cinema, have written about the death of cinema, suggesting that the film industry has become something of a cynical and desperate business. The great auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino compared watching a digitally projected film to watching “television in public” and if that is the state of modern cinema, then that is what it is. Some of us will stick to our independent sanctuaries but the age of the blockbuster is far from dead. It looks like the digital projection and sterile mega-chains will continue to rule the industry for decades to come, forever battling the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market.

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

We live in a society where we have unlimited access to pretty much every movie that has ever been released. From physical media such as Blu-ray and DVD to streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Flixster, we have been given the opportunity to watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want. However, in this age of digital media, do we take full advantage of what is offered to us? Are we living in a society that over-indulges and obsesses over media in any form? Whatever the case, the way in which we watch and understand movies has changed vastly from what it once was.
George Kingsley

A decade ago, we could only watch a film at the cinema or have to wait for months later until it was released on DVD. The concept of watching a film over the internet was still considered to be something of a novelty, a wasted effort for those devoted individuals who were willing to put up with dropping bandwith and sub-standard video quality. Now, back to present day, services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offers HD streaming of thousands of titles available to watch on Computer’s, TV’s, Tablets, Kindles and even mobile phones. The online streaming of movies and television has become the norm in contemporary society and a Netflix subscription is as common as a Sky + box. In fact, by August 2013, the video streaming site Netflix had almost 1.5 million subscribers in the UK alone, a figure, which has been attributed to, the growing popularity of critically acclaimed hit American shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. The idea of “binge-watching” came directly from these shows; compulsive viewers would marathon countless episodes or entire seasons of shows like Breaking Bad in the comfort of their own homes, often on a weekend or days off, perhaps replacing the event of “Saturday night at the movies”.

Netflix and Amazon Instant Video don’t just offer popular television shows and hit blockbusters; they allow for contributions from world cinema and independent documentaries, films like the controversial Blackfish have found a new level of popularity and acclaim that would never have been achieved by a theatrical or DVD release. Art house cinema, in particular has found a second home on these streaming sites. Viewers at home are able to watch Joss Whedon’s award-winning adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon Instant Video or Woody Allen’s seminal Annie Hall on Netflix, without having to track down an obscure Region 1 DVD release or find a independent cinema hundreds of miles away from where they live.

One of the most interesting elements of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video is the access to the various sub-genres. Both services have a growing library of titles in the Gay/Lesbian subgenre, which in my eyes, is a great thing. These online movie-streaming services have increased the diversity in the way that we watch movies in the 21st century.


Online streaming sites often suggest linking social media with the service, allowing us to share, recommend and rate the films and television that we watch. To give an example of the impact of social media on Netflix, I was recommended the documentary Catfish by a friend on Facebook. After I watched the documentary, I went onto rate and recommend the film to several friends on my Facebook page, hoping they would enjoy it as much as I did. This may seem like an everyday occurrence, but when you break it down, Netflix has changed the ways in which we watch movies as a collective. Watching a movie has become a social experience and Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have integrated this process and made it much easier to circulate movies within our social circles making it a more cine-literate modern world.

In the age of streaming sites, many have come to believe that physical media is dead, but as a worldwide audience, we are still impatient and demanding. For example, Disney’s Frozen managed to sell 3.2 million units in the first day of its home media release, whilst it was still playing in cinemas all around the world. As a cine-literate society, we want to watch new films not only as fast as possible but also in the best quality, we buy Blu-ray for the best possible audio and visual quality, meaning that most modern film audiences will use a mixture of physical media and streaming services to fully quench their movie thirst.

The internet has played a key role in the rise of cine-literacy and one of the most important online movie resources is the Internet Movie Database (abbreviated as IMDB). Since 1990, IMDB has become one of the most important and integral tools for moviegoers, both for professional and recreational users alike, the website provides full and concise information for almost 3 million movies: detailing the cast, crew, locations, soundtracks and even complex technical information. Anyone with access to IMDB will have the knowledge of an expert film buff at their fingertips: they will be able to wield the power to end the countless “Is that the guy from?” and “What’s that film called?” conversations that plague our everyday lives. IMDB can even be accessed on mobile phones and tablets, allowing for instant access to a whole encyclopaedia of film, and with over 52 million users, IMDB is evidence of a more cine-literate knowledge-hungry generation of film enthusiasts.

The idea of a cine-literate society is a society that is familiar with cinema, one that is obsessed by moving images and their meaning. Online streaming sites and reference tools let us indulge in the world of cinema whenever we please, we want to know everything about cinema and we want the world to know it. We have become an impatient audience who wants to watch everything that we possibly can, at a location or medium of our choice, whether it’d be a packed Cineplex on a Friday night or in the comfort of our beds on a tablet.

Whether the idea of a cine-literate society is a good or bad thing is another argument for another time, but we cannot deny that as an audience, we have changed so rapidly that the entertainment industry has to alter to our own growing demanding needs.