Sunday, 6 November 2011

Previews for Yorkshire based film festivals

It has been a hell of a long time since I've posted in here. As I said in a previous post, I am writing in so many different places at the minute, there's little point me posting here. But I will link to some of the other work I've been doing.

Let's start with previews of the many film fetivals Yorkshire folk are being treated to in November

Leeds International Film Festival - For Film&Festivals

Aesthetica Short Film Festival (York) - For The Culturevulture

Bradford Animation Festival - For The Culturevulture

There's plenty more around and coming, plus check out what I've been up to over at Minicine

Monday, 10 October 2011

Sound it Out - read the below and help this film get to its audience


The following is an extract from my Film & Festivals Magazine coverage of the British Federation of Film Societies' annual conference for community cinemas. You can read the whole coverage when it is published on their website or in the next issue, but I thought it important to get down what I have to say about this sublime film whilst its admirable IndieGoGo campaign is still live.

Sound it Out was the first film of the weekend I managed to see. What an appropriate film it is for a weekend dedicated to independent enterprise; to doing something that you are really passionate about, for that very sake, making it financially viable and then infecting others with your passion.

Written and directed by Jeanie Finlay, the documentary traces the daily life of an independent record store in Stockton called Sound it Out Records; the last record store on Teesside. As well as seeing life within the store from the perspective of the proprietors Tom and David, Finlay’s camera also enters the households and record collections of numerous faithful patrons of the shop. From the Mákina (sort of happy hardcore sounding) DJ and MC, to the metal loving duo sporting their war jackets full of badges (nice to hear the reggae-metal act Skindred get a mention and a bit of air time). The most interesting and likeable character in the film is Shane, who has a surely unrivalled love for Status Quo and wishes to be buried with his vinyl – literally to have his vinyl melted down and turned into a coffin. Amongst these were various other characters, all of whom were genuine people, perfectly contented in their enduring and infectious passion for both music and collecting.

It would have been all too simple to play the moral-but-doomed crusade card, easily instilling the viewer with an emptiness, as they feel the inevitability of this shop's demise. Yet although this obvious subject is broached, the film far from does this. In a much more admirable move, it successfully conveys the strength of independent retail. For instance, David had previously worked at Zavvi, which was ruthlessly abandoned by neoliberal conglomerate capitalism, whereas Sound it Out Records is clearly still standing, and is thus a perfect example of how social capitalism (free market principles, minus the unnecessary greed) can work. This seemed an apt comparison to the passion in community cinema, and the likelihood that these hubs of dedication will survive much longer than the current soullessness of the multiplex.

The film’s production in the first place is a success story for independence, having raised the majority of its budget via crowd sourcing specialists IndieGoGo. The next step is to continue this process by raising money for the distribution side. If you’ve liked what you have read here, and want to ensure it plays near you, then click here to go and donate to their campaign

Also, don't forget to check it out when it plays at Leeds International Film Festival next month.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Been busy elsewhere

This will go up as the header text, but thought it worth posting as well.

The initial aims of this blog have been pushed aside over the last few months. Between being given the platform at Hopelies.com to write in-depth analytical articles, contributing to Film&Festivals Magazine, running Minicine and starting my MA, this space (and its 9 followers) has been neglected. It will now mainly be used as a hub, to link to other places.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Donnie Yen vehicle Flash Point (Wilson Yip, 2007)


MINI REVIEW

Hong Kong action film. There's a cop, he has a partner undercover in a Vietnamses gang. He gets rumbled and there's a bit of fighting to be had about it.

There are few fight sequences as good as the whole final scene. But leading up to that it could have done with having a little more going on (car chase and on foot chase a little underwhelming). Wasn't particularly sophisticated, but at least it brought up many issues: corrupt police, immigration/diaspora communities and over-zealous, violence-consumed police officers, but made no sincere effort to try and deal with any of them. Short film, good fun.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo (Written and directed by Jessica Oreck 2009)


MINI REVIEW

A documentary on the Japanese people's fascination with insects.

It was quite experimental and poetic in bits, which gave it a wonderfully spellbinding feel. It is fascinating how ingrained and mainstream the activity of collecting bugs is in Japanese life. The film shows many demographics in awe of the many kinds of creepies and crawlies. From professors that have devoted their life to collecting, to children playing bug-catcher PS2 games or beetle-battle arcade games where the player loads his own personalised beetle into the battle.

The film was really getting at the way the insect's proximity to nature makes an increasingly industrialised Japan find them so therapeutic, functioning as a link to the past.

This was particularly aided by the poetic voiceover, giving examples and telling stories from history and myth.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Double bill – Congolese gangsters and the back end of New Hollywood

Been dead busy sorting out all the Minicine stuff recently, which you'll hear all about pretty soon. Just thought I'd post this little nugget of a double bill though that I saw at the Media Museum last month.

Viva Riva (Djo Munga, 2010)



A Congolese gangster film following the character of Riva (Patasha Bay), who has returned to his home of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He’s there to make some quick money having stolen a truck full of fuel. He gets in all kinds of trouble as the Angolans from whom he stole the fuel come after him at the same time as he becomes infatuated with Nora (Manie Malone), who just happens to be Kinshasa’s top-dog gangster’s missus.

It features really two dimensional characters in a very simple heist/caper plot. In particular, the attempt at building a romantic relationship is pretty strained. The clichéd nature of these characters aren’t necessarily to the films detriment; they embody the sort of bluntness that genre cinema usually harbours. Along with this genre focus comes an enjoyably exploitative element, with an air of spectacle around the violence to varying degrees of success and around the sex to high degrees of success. Another welcome element of the genre heavy characters were the Angolan gangsters, led by Cesar (Hoji Fortua), who even seemed to have their own theme music cues. In this respect, they were very reminiscent of Bollywood-bad-guys.

The main strength of the film then comes off the back of this genre platform providing a simple canvass on which the film paints a picture of Kinshasa and the DRC. The background setting and the Congo's exterior locations, landscape and cultural references were well utilised in order for it to say something very true and honest about the country. Add to this the way that the Angolan characters are constantly remarking how much of a dump the Congo is. Further, Nora’s whole purpose is to show the corrupting influence the place has had on her and that the only way to be safe or have a future is to get out of there. The fact that the whole caper element surrounds the natural resource of fuel and its limited supply is telling of a country bereft with deprivation, bringing a power battle to control essential resources. An aspirational obsession with Western culture also shows a sort of confused cultural identity, i.e. They largely trade in US dollar bills as opposed to the Congolese Franc.

It would be interesting to see this alongside the Congo in Four Acts, a film I saw at this year’s Bradford International Film Festival.

A link to an interview with the director

Cutter's Way (Ivan Passer, 1981)



Rich Bone (Jeff Bridges) witnesses a mysterious figure dumping something in a bin. That something turns out to be a dead girl. Although he is determined to turn a blind eye and leave it be, Rich’s friend Alex Cutter (John Heard) along with the dead girl’s sister persuade Rich to persue their prime (though unconfirmed) suspect, the town mayor (or some such figure).

Although this is a very late New Hollywood film, I felt it had a mid seventies feel. It seems to be an extension of the rift seen in a film like Easy Rider between the two central characters and hence between two similar (still within the counter culture) yet removed notions of America and American identity throughout that period. A major difference here though is the physical and psychological scars left from Alex’s time in Vietnam, presumably - judging by his speech about hating the USA (see below)- against his will or better intentions.

Alex: “I watched the war on TV like everybody else. Thought the same damn things. You know what you thought when you saw a picture of a young woman with a baby lying face down in a dictch, two gooks. You had three reactions, Rich, same as everybody else. The first one was real easy: 'I hate the United States of America'. Yeah. You see the same damn thing the next day and you move up a notch. 'There is no God'. But you know what you finally say, what everybody finally says, no matter what? 'I'm hungry.’”

Alex is angry at the establishment, so determined to fuck it up somehow; he really didn’t care how he did it, who the target was or even whether or not they were guilty. This is significant; that despite it seeming clear and that Alex is in the right, there is no complete evidence or justification for anything. In this respect, all characters’ motives are quite ambiguous. The man that Alex focuses all his hate and accusations onto is the pinnacle of what he considered wrong with America. It almost didn’t even matter whether he's done what he's being accused of, it is simply the fact that he is this establishment figure that Alex needs to bring him down.

Bone's constant efforts to explain away Alex’s assertion is what angers Alex further and led to him incessantly referring to Bone as a coward, which seemes as though it's coming from Alex the 'Vietnam vet' to Bone who avoided going to war. More importnatly though it is much more about Alex as a militant member of the counter culture and Bone, who shares values but isn't willing to cross certain boundaries. Bone - in Alex’s eyes - is far too willing to settle down, join the establishment and make excuses for them, so they can continue with their action, in this case to carry on raping and murdering.

Oh and it needs to be stressed that John Heard's performace in this film is phenomenal!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My Week Destroying Apathy: media diary 4th - 10th July

WYIFN
This week I finally got round to making the trip over to Leeds for the monthly WYIFN meet-up. WYIFN used to stand for West Yorkshire Independent Film Network, but the whole thing picked up at such a pace and began drawing filmmakers from further afield so they made the strategic choice to change their name to We’re Your Independent Film Network. This month’s meet-up included a host of short films, all made under film competition circumstances. There was also a Skype video Q&A session with Monsters director Gareth Edwards. I am writing up this evening for Hopelies.com so stay tuned over there for some fantastic insight from the guerrilla filmmaker.



Double bill - Akira (Katsuhiro Ohtomo) and Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
This was the first time I’ve seen Akira since I was about fourteen; the first time I’ve seen it subtitled rather than dubbed (although there’s nothing wrong with the dubbed version) and the first time I have seen it on the big screen. What I found particularly striking about the cinema viewing - even more than seeing these phenomenal visuals - was the music and the sound. People often remark on how important it is to ‘see’ certain films on the big screen, but not often enough do you hear people bang on about ‘hearing’ a film in the cinema. It’s one of the things that struck me most about seeing films at home, especially after my son had been born and we felt obliged to keep the volume at a certain level. In the cinema you hear it as it should be, and so long as the cinema has rigged up the system right (Hyde Park Picturehouse takes its cinema seriously and therefore sounds perfect) then the surround is there, the volume is right and you experience everything that the filmmaker intended. What a film to make the most of this on. From the thumping drums, to the ear piercingly high pitched hums, to the masterful utilisation of silence. This was far superior to watching it on VHS at home on a tiny box when I was about fourteen.
The post World War III depiction of the world is still as breathtaking as when it was first released and that one scene in the bedroom, with the bunny, the teddy and the car was more terrifying than I had remembered it to be. As my tastes have changed over the years, I probably noticed its lack of subtlety a little more (a consequence of adaptation from the Manga no doubt); the very defined notions of soldier, scientist, revolutionary, biker, corrupt politician, etc, but working with very defined characters makes it easier for any high concept, spectacle laden film to get across its message, or its parable if you will. Having these easily defined characters allows the film to make a vivid statement on humanity and society; maintaining these recognisable pillars of society in order to throw the ambiguity out to the situation in general. The film doesn’t have a strong bearing on what is right and wrong in this whole situation; all angles have their failings but have elements where the viewer can be sympathetic toward their ideals (except the politicians) or make their own mind up whether or not it would be a good thing if a power much mightier than the immensely flawed humanity just wiped everything out in order to start again. A notion reminiscent of Travis Bickle’s remark in taxi Driver: ‘Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets”. Actually, Scorcese’s New York isn't far removed, aesthetically, from Ohtomo’s depiction of Neo-Tokyo. Akira has recently been released on Blu-Ray and it really is a must own, which is a big comment coming from a tight-ass like me, as I very rarely buy any form of home video.



Hmmm, what to say about Tree of Life. To sum up my experience, I’d say that I wish I had loved it as much, and been moved as much as plenty of other people. I have pasted below, the comment I left on the Hopelies.com review. Don’t read if you don’t want it spoiling.

Great review, but I seem to disagree with you and most other commenters. Despite not disliking the film, I felt the complete opposite of joy, or the wonder of how things are connected.
It made me feel the opposite: cold, disconnected; like all these characters were always on a different plane of existence to each other. There was very little room for happiness between either soul numbing passivity in the mother, or the self-destructive resentment towards the world displayed by the father. This was set up early on when the mother explained that there was a choice in life between ‘grace’ and ‘nature’. Her description of nature sounded akin to some kind of Lacanian lack, or that hole in the human heart that cannot be filled. Her opposite to this, ‘grace’ sounded to me like being completely passive and emotionless, letting things pass you by. A point Jack pulled her up on later: “you let him walk all over you”. The film leaves no other options apart from these. No option to love, just ignore things or destroy yourself.
For poor little Jack, This situation, plus the death of a brother he seemed to always have to struggle to love (through the same natural impulse toward resentment his father had imbued within him) left him with no possibility of fulfilment and therefore had drifted his way through life, trying to gain the approval of his father (hence, him being some kind of big shot money making man in a massive skyscraper). Something he ultimately fails at as we can tell from his brief phone conversation with his father. Add to this the feeling of complete individual insignificance induced by the creation of the universe scene and I was left feeling cold and numb inside.
As I said above, I don’t think this by any means makes this a bad film. If anything, I think it is more than successful at creating an empty numbness felt after the loss of a loved one, therefore the film has achieved something quite powerful.
I just can’t consider it joyful in any way.

Dexter Season 4
Most evenings have been filled with a combination of DIY/decorating and watching Dexter with the wife. We’ve just clocked season 4, where Dexter’s parental duties caused more distraction from his ‘dark passenger’ than ever before. The programme as a whole gets better and better at illustrating the domestic tensions of having your own space, but also appreciating those close to you. How apt then that what I like most about watching it is that it’s something my wife and I both enjoy together.



Powell and Pressburger sibling meet-up
My sister (Twitter @xkellytotsx) has finally caught up with me on the films from the Powell and Pressburger box set, so we have begun our periodic P&P evenings. After both separately watching A Matter of Life and Death, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, A Canterbury Tale, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes it’s safe to say we had ticked off all the major titles, so we had no real system when going into this selection, but realised that I Know Where I’m Going stars Roger Livesy who is phenomenal in both AMOLAD and TLADOCB.
The film was just as interesting as you would expect from these wizards of cinema, with the ever-present themes of exile, the crossing of boundaries and the nature of national identity firmly in place as the English Joan (Wendy Hiller) is due to enter into a convenient though not necessarily passionate marriage with the rich Robert Bellinger. That is until she runs into the much more enigmatic, down to earth Torquil MacNeil, (Livesy) who is both familiar, yet exotic with his knowledge of, and a real history with these Scottish isles.
Through this P&P evening I got to better know another great twitter-type, as it turns out @momsfilms is as big a fan of The Archers as I am (P&P’s production company, not the BBC Radio 4 drama).

Phone hacking scandal
Wow, how instantly gratifying it is that those jokes-of-newspapers that we call tabloids are getting some bashing. I will have read further into the matter by next week so will sum up what I reckon then. However, my gut reaction is to be grateful for actual, in-depth and dedicated investigative journalism. I hate to feel like a cliché jumping to pat The Guardian on the back, but they have been the driving force in getting this whole thing uncovered, with the rest of the mainstream press completely ignoring it at best and actively fighting against it at worst. Like I said, I will be a little more informed by next week, and more will have been uncovered so I will leave it till then. I wouldn’t like to get too naive at the minute, but if this is a beginning to the decline of the apathy inducing, brain cell killing, smoke and mirrors hate machines known as the red tops then I will be celebrating hard!



Bjork: the wonders of a hyper-connected information system
Seeing Bjork in Manchester as part of her Biophillia residency at the Manchester International Festival was a wonderful testament to both the immediacy of the networked world and the spontaneity of life. It was just any old Wednesday, sat at work doing some mundane activity, when I saw on twitter that @_TomVincent, who I know had seen her the previous week and to whom I had expressed my jealousy mentioned me in a tweet saying that there were some tickets on sale for that evening’s show. After logging into the website, trying to buy tickets and being timed out three times in a row, then being told that the event had sold out I was a little deflated. It was a good job that my sister (who sits opposite me at work) had also began logging in to buy some. While she was signing up I informed her that they’d sold out so if she had some tickets reserved they were the last ones. I watched almost breathless as she clicked through to confirm on the screen that had three times timed me out. “Your booking has been successful” popped up and just like that we were going to see Bjork that night. For those of you that don’t have a young family probably think that this type of spontaneity is normal, well for me it isn’t so it was pretty exciting.
If I started writing up the actual show, I would be at this all night, so all I will say is that the new album sounds extraordinary, with Crystaline and Hollow really standing out as some of the best music she’s created (which is saying something). I knew she wasn’t going to get through half of her back catalogue of near perfect tracks, but I really was desperate for a certain one. One that I consider to be one of the greatest songs of all time, and one she left until the very last of the night. When she said it would be her last, my anticipation peaked, then when the bass line kicked in, I could have exploded. I have linked here to the performance of this song from Tonight with Jooles Holland.

Declare Independence

Having also seen Pulp earlier that week, I was having a pretty strong nineties heavy week of live music.

Monday, 11 July 2011

My Week Destroying Apathy: Week Commencing 26th June 2011

Time for a change
I'm changing things up as I’ve had two main problems with the blog so far.
1) I just don’t have the time to write up everything as detailed as I want to
2) that I was only really writing about film, whereas there are so many more things out there that warrant scrutiny.

Therefore in an effort to combat both, I’ve decided to run this weekly feature. It sounds pretty dramatic, but it basically entails a pretty brief media diary and hopefully plenty’a links to things that have inspired or infuriated me (or both in equal measure).



Sex and Violence in the Films of Stanley Kubrick
Thanks to a helpful tweet put out there by the Leeds International Film Festival team, I was signposted to a day course put on by the Centre for Life Long Learning at Leeds University entitled Sex and Violence in the Films of Stanley Kubrick. What apt timing after the Kubrick-fever induced in me by the Kubrick Project over at Hopelies at 24 Frames Per Second. Well the short notice of the event made me do some last minute cramming, as I watched Doctor Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut in the space of a few evenings. Doctor Strangelove was one of the films I was most inspired to go read up on after reading Timothy Matthews' contribution to the above mentioned Kubrick Project. I had pretty high hopes and wasn’t let down in the least. It is crammed with interesting, funny characters, has a pitch perfect tone of political satire and must have had infinitely more weight when viewed at the time. A time when complete nuclear annihilation felt like it was much more likely than it feels now (not that it isn’t there; I highly anticipate seeing Lucy Walker's Countdown to Zero, about the reality of the current nuclear landscape). Eyes Wide Shut I went into with much lower expectations, partly due to getting the vibe that it isn’t as highly regarded as some of Kubrick’s other films (Kubrick’s film number 12.5 as it has been referred to). Add to this the fact that you have to look at Tom Cruise’s face throughout and I certainly had my hesitations. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and think the film has been either overlooked, or unfairly condemned. It is so precise at dealing with temptation, the draw of the forbidden, the fulfilment of the Lacanian lack and so forth that although it runs for two and a half hours, I was glued to it. Admittedly the first half sorta plods through, as it meticulously sets the scene and lays a solid foundation, but as soon as he reaches the mansion, it becomes a truly eerie masterpiece. Every encounter and re-encounter with the various temptations is structured perfectly and leaves the possibility for many readings of what is going in the mind of the protagonist. This will definitely be one of the films I revisit when I prepare myself to brave the minefield of Lacanian psychoanalysis – something I have been meaning to better get to grips with for a long time.

The day event was really insightful. There were a tremendous mix of people in attendance,all of which expressed an interest in Minicine and provided me with their contact details to keep them posted on developments there. Patrick Webster, who took the course is the author of the recently released Love and Death in Kubrick: A Critical Study of the Films from 'Lolita' Through 'Eyes Wide Shut'. He had his own firm views on all of Kubrick’s films, but was able to draw out the opinions and readings from the others in attendance. I learnt a few things and met some great people, so all in all had a great day out.



The Messenger with the Seniors.
As you may know, on approximately a bi-weekly basis, I facilitate a post film discussion following the Senior Citizen Screening at the National Media Museum. This week’s film was The Messenger, which I was due to see closing the Bradford International Film Festival, but thanks to a less than inspiring trailer and the fact that I’d fallen asleep that Sunday afternoon and woke up about 10mins before the screening, I decided to just crack on with writing up the rest of the festival. The film was nothing like the sentimental bullshit that the trailer led me to believe. It follows the daily job of informing the Next of Kin that their loved ones have died at war. The predictable relationship with a bereaved soldier’s widow is vastly overblown in the trailer and only surfaces as a minor detail in this complex life of a fully fleshed out character undertaking a job neither he, nor most people would consider an easy pass-time. In stark contrast to the film seeming superficially sentimental, I’d say it attacked my emotions more vigorously than any film recently and even made me shed more tears than when watching Toy Story 3. I put this film alongside some of the other outstanding American indie films I have seen this year (Black Swan, Blue Valentine, LiTTLEROCK and Meek’s Cutoff). It was probably the most universally liked film I’ve discussed with the seniors thus far, followed closely by Attack the Block.

Other films
One of the only other films I saw this week was the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, which I unfortunately didn’t really take to. Not a bad film by any means, but a film that didn’t really capture my imagination. It seemed to me, neither funny enough to be really entertaining, nor psychologically sincere enough for me to become invested in the character. Because of the high esteem I hold for the Coen’s films, anything other than excellent seems a little disappointing.

Meltdown of global economics and food production
This week’s LoveFilm title (other than my catchup with Kubrick discs) was the first of a curatorial partnership between me and LoveFilm. I have set to high priority a number of the biggest documentaries from the last few years. The first one to arrive was Food Inc, which succeeded in making me incapable of buying fresh meat from the supermarket and made a more concerted effort to get down to a real butchers. I must admit though, we rarely buy supermarket meat anyway, on accounts of being economically sensible (really tight) and therefore don’t eat a great deal of meat. The meat we do buy, we usually buy from the market in Bradford centre or the Halal butchers on the end of the road. The food production may not be too dissimilar to the soul destroying situation laid out in Food Inc, but at least the people I give my money to are actually getting it, unlike when I pay the cashier at Morrissons.

One striking quality of the film’s structure and the way it attacked the systemic problems within the food industry is that it draws almost exact parallels with the systemic problems in global capitalism, as seen in Inside Job, or the book I’ve been stuck into this week, Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed. Newsnight’s economic correspondent Paul Mason tracks the buildup to, and fallout from this present collapse of capitalism in the form we have seen it over the last two decades. The same problems seen in Food Inc are highlighted: Those creating the legislation benefit from the companies they legislate making more money. Also, there is little or no regard for long term stability and short term shareholder wealth maximisation is blindly accepted as the guiding light. This not only creates massive wealth in equality, but props up an unsustainable bubble. Further still, in both global economics and global food production, all of these problems stem from the massive deregulation by the neocons and continued by the succeeding so-called Left wing opposition of New Labour and the Clinton administration.

Dexter series 4
I find it difficult to talk about TV series’ in the same way as I do films, being fully aware that people reading may be at different points throughout any of the series’, but what I would say is that I have been thoroughly enjoying this 4th series - as I have every other. Things move so fast. Story arcs or threads of narrative, that in other TV shows you would expect to be spanned out for whole ten episode chunks are brought up, then resolved within a couple of episodes - if not the same episode. This helps it keep an enjoyably frenetic pace.
The other thing I’d like to say about watching Dexter is that it’s one of the shows my wife and I enjoy in equal measure, so it’s always nice to sit down together with a few drinks and enjoy the story unfolding. Afterwards, I can go back to some European art film and Tasha can watch her One Tree Hill - everybody's happy.

Transformers debate: People ca use their brain and be entertained
This was a particular highlight of the week. To get to what I thought was significant about this whole debate I’d just have to take the Transformers film completely out of the equation. It appeared that some people like the idea of Transformers (or liked the previous titles) and therefore reacted negatively to the reviewer, whereas some people dislike the idea of Transformers (or liked the previous titles) so reacted positively to the reviewer. I would just like to point out that on the initial round of comments nobody commenting had actually seen it, which created a strange situation of people picking a side and vehemently sticking to it. What interested me though, was the whole debate around “this is JUST entertainment”. I don’t think it will surprise you in the least that I think this is not only a ridiculous heap of bullshit, but it is in fact the main source of apathy’s powers and one of the worst things in society, harbouring perfect circumstances for ideological manipulation (brainwashing) and the ability to completely defer responsibility, which happens to be a passionate pass time in contemporary western society. I must stress that by saying this I don’t mean that things cannot be enjoyed as entertainment, but as you will see from my comments, I don’t see why entertainmet and using your brain have to be mutually exclusicve.
Rather than go on about it here, I would recommend checking out the article and more importantly the comments feed here. I do think that this arena for debate is really important and this particular debate has so many various opinions and voices, from the intentionally funny, to the moronically and unintentionally funny (which are also a little depressing regarding some people’s stupidity). Even on the side of the debat that I disagree with, amongst some inarticulate and ill thought out rambles, there are some compelling arguments.

Joe Strummer podcasts
I was informed by a friend and former work colleague (on twitter as @Olivercocker) that some archive recordings of Joe Strummer’s radio show London Calling had been released as podcasts and were available on iTunes. They really are a phenomenal collection of world music, from Cuban samba to the Wu-Tang Clan. I never quite knew how much of a fluent radio personality the Clash frontman would be, but his passion for music beams through the shows and his radio dj-isms are simultaneously full of cliché, but completely Earnest and sincere.

Hopelies' Superheroes intro
This week brought the intro to my bi-weekly investigation of the onscreen representation of the superhero. It will be going up on Hopelies.com and gives me a great opportunity to go over some work from my final year of my undergrad degree and bring it back up to date ready for my MA.

Films watched and ranked

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Food Inc (Robert Kenner, 2008)
A Serious Man (Coen Brothers. 2009)

Monday, 4 July 2011

48 Films in three months and no time to write up my full impressions.

This three month period happens to feature a disproportionate amount of excellent films or near masterpieces, which has made it more difficult than ever to get full write-ups, as they all deserve so much more time and thought than I can afford them. This disproportionate quality comes for a number of reasons. Pretty much the whole of April was taken up with watching Film4’s Films for Life series where I caught up with some phenomenal, highly regarded features that have in the past eluded me. This inevitably brings a few let downs, but on the whole, I have had a fantastic time taking in these many cinematic gems. Add to this, the Kubrick Project at Hopelies.com, which consists of some great contributions, urging me to catch up on some missed Kubrick masterpieces. Further still, my A Clockwork Orange contribution not only meant that I watched this important piece of cinema history, but I had to dig pretty deep and got to put myself back somewhere near academic mode, ready for beginning my MA in September.

Rather than simply straight up listing all the films in order of preference, I have split them up into a few different categories. Mainly because I often have films that haven’t lived up to high hopes, sitting alongside films that are just plain bad; this doesn’t quite seem right. The categories should be pretty clear below. Within each category they are ordered in preference and the ones in bold are new releases I saw in the cinema.

I have written notes on all films, but the reason none of the posts have gone up previously is because I just don’t have time to make the notes more readable, as opposed to a typed equivalent of verbal diarrhoea that I blurt from my head into iPhone’s notes function as the credits are rolling, or when I go to bed that night. It was a case of all or nothing; and seeing as all was never going to happen, nothing it was.



Masterpiece
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
La Règle du Jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)



Excellent
The Messenger (Oren Moverman, 2009)
My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)
Late Spring (Yasujirô Ozu, 1949)
Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi, 2011)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Fitzcarraldo (Werner Herzog, 1982)
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)
My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
Mammuth (Gustave de Kervern, Benoît Delépine, 2010)
Volver (Pedro Almodóvar, 2006)
Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973)
Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
The Loved Ones (Sean Byrne, 2009)
Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011)
The Stuff (Larry Cohen, 1985)
Sabrina (Billy Wilder, 1954)
Samson and Delilah (Warwick Thornton, 2009)



Pretty good
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006)
Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)
The square (Nash Edgerton, 2008)
Planet of the apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-sec (Luc Besson, 2010) Tooth Fairy (Michael Lembeck, 2010)
Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005)
X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughan, 2011)
Get Him to the Greek (Nicholas Stoller, 2010)
Piña 3D (Wim Wenders, 2011)
Insidious (James Wan, 2010)

By no means terrible, but certainly underwhelmed somewhat
Blood Simple (The Coen Brothers - Joel to be precise, 1984)
A Serious Man (The Coen Brothers, 2009)
Woyzcech (Werner Herzog, 1979)
Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
24: Redemption (Jon cassar, 2008)


Just plain bad
Vicky christena Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)
Rio (Carlos Saldanha, 2011)
Kiss the girls (Gary Fleder, 1997)
Hop (Tim Hill, 2011)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

What I've been up to away from this blog.

OK so it looks like I haven’t done anything in a while, what with my most recent post being a list of films I saw in MARCH. I have seen plenty, but haven’t had the time to write them up. Further still, I’m probably not going to get to write them up due to all the other exciting things I have been up to.



First and foremost I have successfully transitioned into Uni mode. With my MA due to start in September and having received a provisional timetable and everything I've wated to get back in the swing of in depth academic aalysis. Not only did this get my head into some books, it injected some life into my contribution to the Kubrick Project over at Hopelies at 24 Frames Per Second. Guy Debord and the whole situationst movement was high on my hit-list of ‘stuff to read up on’, in a similar way to A Clockwork Orange being on my ‘films I’ve never seen but really should have’ list. So how delighted could I have been to watch A Clockwork Orange and already, with my limited concept of what Debord was all about, see some room for application of situationist ideals. After some preliminary Wikipedia action I got down to’ Bradford Library and booked out Debord’s seminal text/manifesto Society of the Spectacle. The result - 'Hegemonic Readjustment of Prefernce and desire - A Clockwork Orange'

More casual library browsing in the sociology section brought me to Raboy and Deganeis' edited book Media, Crisis and Democracy: Mass Communication and the Disruption of Social Order . Currently only read through the intro, Media and the Politics of Crisis, and Douglas Kellner’s chapter Television, the Crisis of Democracy and the Persian Gulf War (I can’t get away from the man, which you’ll notice if you read the A Clockwork Orange link). The book doesn’t say anything I didn’t know (eighties neo-liberalism ruined any sort of sensible, unbiased and trustworthy North American media landscape), but it says it in an interesting way and with thoroughly illustrated examples rather than a Sunday newspaper opinion-rant (which is also fine sometimes). What is probably most interesting is reading about the first Gulf war, written prior to knowing what was to come; how it would all repeat itself (with respect to the media’s image of the Arab and the region in general). Although in contrast to the similarities that we have seen in the mainstream media it is really interesting to read about this prior to the current possibility of new media disrupting the dominance of mainstream media, being a key factor in last year’s Arab Spring.



I also had the opportunity to use an interview conducted at the Leeds International Film Festival, that I never had the opportunity to print anywhere at the time. This was due to The Dead playing at Bradford’s Fantastic Films Weekend. You can find my review of The Dead, along with an interview with the writer/director/producer brothers here.

Finally, I have been making some progress on the most interesting development. Something due to kick-off in August, that I will write more about when I have sorted out some more details.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

March Films

This is the third month of writing up every film I see. After constantly promising myself that I will write less so that I actually have time to keep up, I have realised that it isn't possible. The way I've been doing this has taught me a lot, particularly testing my ability to constantly write, but it wasn't feeling right. I was neither being brief enough to give myself the time to get through everything, nor was I managing to be as in depth as I wanted to be.

Add to this the ever increasingly imminent commencement of my MA, so I feel the need to get into heavier works. I have a post on A ClockWork Orange going up on Hopelies' Kubrick Project in the next coupla Weeks. I'm really happy with how that has turned out and don't really want to go back to skimming over all films too quickly to get in depth.

What I am thinking of, is having a similar ranking system, but do it weekly and only write-up the film of that week. this might work, but as always i'll be looking for that perfect way to balance this writing, writing for other sources (some that even pay), working my two jobs, preparing material for the senior citizen screening's film discussions, doing fun family things, decorating the front room and other such domestic activities.

What I have been doing a great deal more of and this is certainly going to be reflected on here, is reading some fantastic comics. From the adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass, to Charles Burns' wonderfully surreal teen-narrative Black Hole. Both should get a write-up on here, or go up as a general 'excellent comics' section.

As you will see from the list below, I saw many many films in March. The ones I saw at BIFF I have simply linked to their corresponding space in the festival coverage.

Once again films are ranked in order of preference and you can click on the link to get the full write-up. This month's was a really tough one between Aguirre and LiTTLEROCK, but that film wa so refreshing it just pipped Herzog's masterpiece.



LiTTLEROCK

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Traces of a Diary

How I Ended This Summer

Dance to the Spirits

Grizzly Man

Curling

Animal Kingdom

Deforce

Hobo With a Shotgun

Nosferatu the Vampre

Two in The Wave

13 Assassins

Harold’s Going Stiff
Coming in next issue of Film&Festivals

Disfarmer: A Portrait of America

Congo in Four Acts

Rango

Submarine

The Last Report on Anna

Drive Angry

Route Irish

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Stake Land

Innocent Crimes
Coming in next issue of Film&Festivals

Greeenwashers

Sailor

An American Journey

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Monday, 16 May 2011

Route Irish (2010)

Viewing Context:
Seen as part of a British cinema double bill with Submarine at the Media Museum

Creators:
Directed by Ken Loach. It was written by Paul Laverty who has worked with Loach on a number of films, including Looking for Eric and The Wind that Shakes the Barley


What happened:
Fergus (Mark Womack) and Frankie (John Bishop) are mercenaries working for a private company based in Iraq. The film opens with Frankie's funeral. His company says he died in action; Fergus is having none of it. As he digs under the surface he comes closer to the truth, but is his own narrative of what he wanted to have happened having too strong an influence on the construction of this 'truth'.

What I liked:
Real footage: An Iraqi refugee, helping Fergus decipher a found mobile phone, makes the point again and again, that this happens, it keeps happening and will keep on happening. Yet, rather than just telling the viewer, real news footage is constantly interjected. This is one of the things that elevate it from being exploitative pulp genre, into being intelligent and subversive genre.
Not a true story: Despite the film grounding these types of actions as being a reality, it never condescendingly pertains to be a true story, which is refreshing.

Themes:
Just keeps happening: The injustices carried out by these companies continue to go on and continue to be swept under the rug. So it doesn't matter about the characters involved in this case, whether they are to blame or not; the problem is systemic.

Masculinity/bonding/failure to assimilate: The masculine bonds forged in warfare are almost irrevocable and therefore people become stuck, unable to re-assimilate into society. I have heard this myth rebuked before now though; with the claim that the arts make much more of this than is actually statistically true. A sort of guilt that they aren’t contributing, so the author made out. I didn’t dig into it so haven’t made up my mind on who is more full of bullshit, but thought it worth mentioning.
Dual/fractured Identity: There is one shot that shows Fergus doubly conveyed in front of some mirrors whilst on a treadmill; a symbolic way of putting this theme to the fore. Add to this, the constant restating that these marines are different people ‘out there’ and ‘back home’. This is illustrated in Fergus’s dual reaction to the atrocious video footage of the marines uncovered on the Phone. Fergus is instinctively dead against what happened when he first sees it, but he can still slip into a complete other character as he justifies, to Frankie’s widow Rachel, how and why the events would have unfolded. The fact that in the region, you need to react immediately. The film illustrates how the opposite to this lack of hesitation leads to their friend who's blind, or others with lost limbs, or even others still that are dead. Then finally on this theme, there is the sameness and the duality if Frankie and Fergus; especially in Rachel's eyes.
Truth, an elusive concept: To pack in even more sophistication, there’s some commentary on the concept of truth; how it is constructed and attained.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Submarine (2010) Wonderfully sweet and enjoyable, yet despite its sea based title, lacks depth


Viewing context:

Saw as part of a double bill. Well actually a triple bill, but I am discounting Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger on accounts of it being shite. I was down at the Media Museum Bradford for my bi-weekly senior citizen screening film discussion, which unfortunately was the dross mentioned above. I saw that in the afternoon I could clear the lifeless Woody Allen taste out of my mouth with a British cinema double bill of this and Route Irish.

Creators:
Directed by Richard Ayoade, who also wrote the screenplay adaptation of Joe Dunthorne's novel of the same name. Ayoade is best recognised for his work in British TV (most notably the IT Crowd), but has also made a number of music videos with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

What happened:
Told from a teenage Welsh boy's perspective as he traverses those formative years of adolescence. During which he must confront the usual obstacles such as the opposite sex and the realisation of one's parents' fallibility.

What I liked:
Interesting characters: The film is fun and the characters that populate the narrative are all interesting, without ever being superficially injected, solely for entertainment purposes.
Captures adolescence: That confused and troublesome period is vividly illustrated; specifically the voice over. I have recently come to the realisation that despite me being adamant that I don't like voice overs, there are two very different voice overs. There are omnipresent, pointless voice overs that are lazy, telling you what the film could just as easily show you (I'm looking at you Woody Allen). Then there are voice overs from characters within the narrative, that aren't telling you what could be shown, but telling you what they think is happening. The penny finally dropped for me when this difference was succinctly brought to my attention by Simon Kinnear (@kinnemaniac on Twitter) during a few beers at BIFF.

What I didn't like:
Ending: Without giving anything away, I’d just say that I wasn’t overly blown away by how the end of the film played out/fell together.
No depth (Submarine... depth... get it? I'm funny me): It doesn't really mean a great deal. This isn't a massive concern and it is easily charming and sweet enough to make up for this. But in my mind it will never be 'great', because it doesn't elevate above being what it is on the surface (another idiotic pun; aren't I doing good here).



Themes:
Relationships, and life by extension, is a bit messy: As I said above, I didn't take a great deal from the film apart from the truth that adolescence is all over the place and people are unique individuals. But it all works out in its own disjointed way.
Everyone is their own person, they don't have to be more like other people in order to have a connection - i.e. the way he tries to push his books on the girl, as if they have to like the same things. Or the fact that his parents couldn't be much different. People just have to be themselves, and he doesn't have to be what he keeps referring to as 'the world's greatest boyfriend'