Archive for the ‘Self-Indulgent Musings’ Category

I’m not a fan of online lists. I have tried to provide considered content on this blog and not lazy journalistic filler, but I have made a pledge to be less precious and post more often, so there will be a higher incidence of fluff betwixt the articles henceforth. In typically contrary fashion though, I have waited till list season has drawn to a close before casting my pearls of wisdom.
As best I can, I have tried to recall all the films I saw for the first time in 2011. This is a valuable exercise, at times surprising. I am always chiding myself for not keeping any kind of log of the films I watch or the books I read, or the gigs and shows I attend. I know it would serve me well when I am seeking new reads, or as a source of reference when compiling lists etc, but it just isn’t my style- I am not a meticulous keeper of records, I just like to absorb my culture (pop or otherwise) and move on. The drawback of course being a few months/weeks/days later I have no idea what I have consumed.

So: I can remember all four films I saw at the cinema I believe and LoveFilm helpfully lets me know what they’ve sent me. Anything from Blockbuster or on Television I’ve had to scrounge up from memory and I know there are significant omissions. I will cast an eye over my in-house collection and try to recall which are new additions. Still, there are about eighty odd on my list already, which isn’t bad considering I thought I’d hardly seen any films this year. I can’t even imagine the number I must have seen in the last five years.
That’s clearly far too many to summarise in one blog post so, in honour of the Year of the Apocalypse, I shall select twenty and review each in only one sentence- from these I shall nominate twelve  to receive a more considered appraisal over the next twelve days. Hope you enjoy.

Miyazaki's Ponyo

1. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, UK/Fr, 2010)
Beautiful, elegiac paean to a bygone era and the inexorable loss that is fatherhood.

2. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, US/NL, 2004)
Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

3. Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, UK/US, 1982)
Unexpectedly risqué and open about gay lifestyles in the Seventies VV makes subversive use of Andrews’ impeccable voice. [Apparently it was made in the Eighties. Comment stands]
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, US/UK/Ca, 2010)
Just perfectly put together: the look, the dialogue, the casting- someone finally perfected the formula.
5. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, US, 2010)
There is nothing right about this film and no excuses either.

Mysterious Skin

(more…)

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*****Full Spoilers******

The Girl In The Park (Auburn, 2007. US)

This is a recurring phenomena and a recent viewing of The Girl In The Park set me trying to define it. I’ll outline my understanding of the characters and their relationship, to try and replicate the effect the dénouement had for me.

From the moment Louise (Kate Bosworth) breezes into Julia’s (Sigourney Weaver) life, we know Julia is being set up for a fall. The ambiguity over whether Louise really could be the long lost Maggie doesn’t make us hopeful, it just means the cataclysm, when it comes, could just be even more painful. To lose the same daughter twice would be more than Julia could withstand.

A sense of foreboding shoots through the scenes of domestic harmony, not from the moment Julia takes Louise in, nor when Julia casually deposits a key and leaves her home and possessions to the disposal of a self-confessed conwoman. No, these events are ostentatiously disquieting, it is the joyful equilibrium that is riddled with jangling apprehension. We wait with baited breath for it all to come crashing down, for a great confrontation; perhaps most anxiously for poor, stoic, Chris’s reaction. Of course at the family wedding, this is the classic setting for simmering familial tension to come to a head. An uninvited guest, estranged parents, alcohol, a stranger apparently more privy to a mother’s affections than her own son: all the strings are taut on Chris’s bow and as Julia stands to make her speech there is an almost audible clanging of The Bell of Doom. Then she says some heartfelt things and sits back down. For a couple of seconds we reel with the sense of narrowly averted catastrophe the, without warning or preamble, the other shoe drops.

The final scene, after familial reconciliation, after Chris finally says the dreadful words that Julia had perhaps never heard aloud, Maggie/Louise reappears begging sanctuary and offering (again), finally the truth and what does Julia say? ‘I don’t care.’ Such a loaded statement. Louise hears it as rejection, until she sees the open door [*ahem* METAPHOR] and suddenly they become words that surely we all want to hear. To offer up our past sins and failings, to be told ‘no matter, I accept you as you are, without judgement, censure or condition.’

Before, in the park, Julia had stared at Louise’s bare legs, then forced herself to look away before she could see whether the feted birthmark was there or not. She didn’t want to know, she wanted to leave herself with hope. Hope is an infinitely better feeling than Certainty. If this truly was her Maggie then that would create as much pain as it cured. Her next attempt at verifying her speculation ends in both women fully subscribing to the fantasy, each using the other to fill a void in her own life.

At the last though, when she and we both know for certain that this is not, and could never really have been, her Maggie, that revelation isn’t crushing. Julia realises that the relationship she has forged with this lost young woman is mutually beneficial and that she leads to let little Maggie go, to let her rest. In an instant, she makes her peace and the two sit down to dinner, entirely at ease. The end. There is reconciliation with Chris and Celeste, joy at the new baby, the prospect of a loving and uncomplicated relationship with boss man. No great cataclysm, but no great resolution either. It almost doesn’t matter that the core question- what happened to Maggie?- was never answered. It was almost a MacGuffin to get us to this point. I was surprised that the whole precarious zephyr didn’t go down in a ball of flames, but glad that Julia found some peace, even that lonely, amoral Louise found some rest. Not what I was anticipating, but this fragile equilibrium is as much as we could ask for.

So this set me to thinking about other acceptably ambiguous endings, with no great or final resolution. Thus far my list comprises:

My Summer of Love (Pawlikowski, 2004. UK)

Plenty of people were frustrated by this ending, but I think I get it. Dissenting voices said ‘why didn’t Mona just kill Tamsin?’ But 16/17 year olds fall in and out of love all the time, teenagers betray each other and get their hearts broken and, crucially, get over it. Your average adolescent girl does not commit murder with her bare hands every time she gets dumped.

The thing is, it was all a game for Tamsin; she’s spoilt, lonely and deprived of emotionally valid relationships, especially with people her own age. Plus, potentially she is actually gay, which could well be worse in a boarding school than it is at a normal school I suspect. All of this compounds into an irrepressible desire to fabricate a world to inhabit and a lack of social and emotional empathy. She’s not evil.

Mona, however, is a practical girl. She was seduced by Tamsin, her self-assurance, her knowledge and exoticism; so different from the salty, working class Yorkshire villagers she’s used to, but she has her head on her shoulders really. She’s hurt, more deeply than she could have imagined, by the betrayals of first her brother, then her manipulative lover, but she will roll up her sleeves and carry on. This is a girl who bought a moped with no engine because it was going cheap. ‘Drowning’ Tamsin was the end of the game, the line underneath their sundrenched fantasy. It couldn’t really end any other way, there was no happy ever after that could be attained here, and murder-suicide-tabloid frenzy? Too Hollywood, too dramatic. Here things just fizzle out, that fire and drive of youth just fades away and we settle into nothing. So I didn’t mind this ending.

I think most people’s displeasure at this conclusion, or absence thereof, stems from the lack of catharsis, the dearth of dramatic resolution. Much like unsatisfactory old life- it just keeps on, with nothing much of anything to draw a line under each phase as it passes.

Julia (Erick Zonca, 2008. UK)

Well this film just kept surprising me. For the first hour I just hated this character, I could not abide her; even the way she breathed grated on me. Then, as the situation escalated way beyond her control, I inexorably found myself rooting for her to succeed. I kept hoping each double blind and bluff would pay off, whilst constantly bracing myself for a bloody, tragic dénouement or ignominious capture. The little boy was bestowed with so little character that I didn’t really care whether he ended up with his authoritarian grandfather or loco addict mother, as long as he didn’t die at the hands of Mexican gangsters.

As each machination unfolded I found myself thinking ‘do it, do it!’ So when Julia ends up with no money, no car, escalating debts, wanted by the FBI, stood on the central reservation of a foreign motorway clutching another woman’s child and sobbing with relief, it wasn’t what I thought was going to happen, and it isn’t really the outcome I’d hoped for, but it was okay. She had, in some oblique way, found redemption. The boy was safe (as safe as he could be in the circumstances) and no one had, at that moment, been shot or arrested. Apart from people earlier in the film. An uneasy equilibrium is reached and it’s alright. The palpable relief as the child is released, the genuine human emotion that oases between the two at their reunion, despite the circumstances of their acquaintance, those are valuable emotions; this is a stirring moment, though we may be left unsure what it means.

There should be a word for this type of ending. Is there? Tell me. Feel free to pitch in with other films that end in an unexpected but ultimately acceptable, if not entirely satisfactory fashion.

It’s Remembrance Sunday and I want to pay my respects. Processing, as I do, by means of popculture, I see a themed viewing as an apt means of tribute. So this is my recommended viewing for after the service. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious- there are no de facto (world) war films in the list- but I thought about National Identity, Pride and Heroism, Freedom and Liberation. They are a loose frame around a day of reflection. In no particular order:

1. This Is England (Meadows, 2007, UK)

Against the backdrop of the Falklands, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, a flawed but brilliant flick about identity and the freedoms soldiers died protecting being undermined by our own people, on our own soil. Thatcher hadn’t fucked us right up yet, but she was getting there, nationalism had an ugly grip on national pride and we had to reassert our place on the world stage. Without invading anyone for a change.

2. Small Island (BBC, 2009, UK)

A two-part BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s immense novel. The oft-untold story of West Indian volunteers who gave up life in paradise to come to Europe and fight for British liberty. They were granted citizenship, but that didn’t afford them equality when they got here. A stain on our upstanding record, but it reveals an important chapter in how we came to be the diverse Britain we are today, and why black people here are British and not ‘African-English’ or something. Because although race isn’t a big part of my personal identity construction, British racial unity is very important to me and my sense of nation. Young Ashley Walters is a fine actor and a living example of redemption and rehabilitation for disadvantaged inner city men. The tiny personal victories and losses of the characters in Small Island every bit as important as the almost incomprehensible scale of the military campaigns.

3. Four Lions (Morris, 2010, UK)

Maybe a controversial choice, surely an irreverent one, but it is a true testament to the British spirit that we are ready to satirise our biggest threat (beyond climate change.) We are free to depict the enemy within, to identify, vilify and mollify their actions and our fears. That is what living in a free and fair society means in 2011- we may not always be able to protect our streets, but we’ve always got spirit. In the blitz sense, not in the cheerleading way. There’s nothing more British than laughing at that which may well be our undoing, over a cup of tea and a digestive, or a pint and a kebab, on the Tube breathing in other people’s breath or on the beach breathing in brine and sewage. You’ve got to laugh.

4. Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006, UK/USA)

This is a dark film, but beautifully shot. A dystopian near future where more people are displaced by war than have a nation it seems. This is, above all, a picture about the heroism of the British Everyman. Despite his apathy, his dejection and the starkness of the odds, Clive Owen’s Theo goes to great lengths to fight for someone else’s freedom. In a Britain torn apart by nationalist infighting and homegrown terrorism he still recognises the rights of the individual and the need for the greater good and he acts on it. Like every Brit should and I hope I would. This is the flick that made me think- ‘we’re in a state right here, but maybe what our grandfathers fought for wasn’t all for nothing.’

5. When The Wind Blows (Murakami, 1986, UK)

The saddest animation ever made? This sucker punch of a film, in Raymond Briggs’ gentle watercolour, is a Cold War horror story in picture book’s clothing but also a sweet tale of love and innocence from the generation who withstood the Nazi onslaught and still raised our parents to mind their Ps and Qs. Only one couple appear in the whole film, but the unspoken desolation, the implied genocide, chills you more than any slasher flick or CGI spectacular. It is, after all, a day of reflection. Let us also be thankful that during those fraught days the war machine for once did not grind into action. CND- I salute you too.

6. My Neighbour Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988, JP)

The only non-British film on the list (not deliberately, I must be feeling patriotic.) This is one of my three go to films when I just need to feel glad. [Bande A Part and Enchanted if you’re wondering- Sx] It is sweet and unsullied by worldliness and as the adorable hand drawn credits roll, I just smile. It’s a rare thing for me and in general. For something to be pleasant with no agenda, for children to start off innocent… and remain so, is like an orchid in December. This film reminds me of when I thought the world was essentially good and that fairness was a reality, rather than a nice idea; on a day when we think of the lives we could have had, if not for the bravery and sacrifice of people who would never know us, I think it’s important to appreciate simple pleasures too, otherwise what was the point of our deliverance?

13.11.11 Remembrance Sunday 2011.

More of a telly post than a filmy one- again, but it is all long form, screen-based popculture and I’m trying to differentiate The Noctuary from SL. More on Downton Abbey soon to come over there.

My AS Film Studies tutor always tried to impress upon us that each film is a ‘CULTURAL ARTEFACT’, every celluloid submission reflects and represents the society and era in which it is made- even if the content is ostensibly concerned with a near or distant past, future or part of the world. This is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the evidence suggested that there was more than a grain of applicable theory in it. To use an inept metaphor. His favourite example was how Hitchcock’s adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps spoke of pre-war anxieties about fascist Europe.

I mention this because, subsequent to having this idea ingrained in my critical mind, I have been pondering the significance of the rash of backwards-looking British dramas of late. With the new series of ITV’s cracking rendering of early-century manners and mores upon us, now in the midst of the Great War, what are we trying to say to ourselves?Cast of ITV's Downton Abbey

With The Hour [which I entirely failed to watch, despite downloading all the episodes from iPlayer], the Beeb’s misfired 60s kitsch-and-conspiracy series, opening up dramatic lines of enquiry into our increasingly activist Cold War media, (to poor viewing figures and decidedly ambivalent critical response), it seems that period of our past isn’t salient to the collective conscious at present. America’s continual nostalgic love affair with the 50s and early 60, so well served by the much-vaunted Mad Men, continues apace though; The Playboy Club amongst others garnering a high profile, with its promise of more glossy, stylish misogyny and unfettered Capitalism.

Colin Forth in The King's SpeechThe nation capturing if uninspired The King’s Speech and Auntie’s attempted revival of Upstairs Downstairs [To continue without the venerable Eileen Atkins, alas] dealt with the ailing Upper Class’ internal malaise and uncomfortable proximity to fascism and even Nazism. The Hour’s Romola Garai (no stranger to period projects) also starred a couple of years ago in appeasement thriller Glorious 39 with strangely beautiful Eddie Redmayne [Andrew Garfield-alike and shrewd chooser of roles. I’d love to see those two play brothers with Harry Treadaway.] SpThe Night Watch BBCeaking of Treadaway, he gave a lovely turn in the woefully insubstantial The Night Watch last month. With such sound and complex source material and a reliable history of success for Sarah Waters adaptations, The Beeb really could have thrown some cash at this- or at least afforded a more appropriate runtime. The format of the novel very clearly lends itself to three hour long episodes. As it was, we were simply left with a nuance-free précis, albeit an impeccably cast one. With the exception, that is, of leading lady Anna Maxwell-Martin, entirely misplaced as Kay.

Wartime tales of ordinary Brits are so commonplace as to be virtually irrelevant to a discussion about fictional reflections of current concerns [I mean never, ever forget, but it is really time we got over it], but recent offerings The Night Watch and 2009’s (also exquisitely cast but narratively insufficient adaptation) Small Island have at least proffered a perspective from typically under-represented subcultures beguiled and let down by the promise of social progression that wove itself through the war effort.

The  Night Watch- Duncan and Fraser

With austerity, rioting, a callous and oblivious Tory government, endemic social stratification and a demonised and disenfranchised youth in mass unemployment, a slew of films and programmes full of 60s activism, 70s social seesawing and general strikes and 80s boom and crippling bust seem inevitable; those times are far back enough now to be scrutinised, rather than skimmed for mere nostalgia- and there are clearly lessons we’ve failed to learn.

Back to the Abbey (never seen monk mind you- don’t think wet cousin Matthew counts) and it seems women really ran the households in those days and Society, for the most part. With our emancipation has come a loss of gumption, an inability to guide the affairs of man; what with them now being our affairs I suppose. There has been an alarming backslide amongst women of my generation, afraid of being labelled ‘Feminists’, wanting our modern men to be macho and commanding, asking our fathers for our hands in marriage, before said fathers ‘give’ aforementioned daughters ‘away’ at the altar. I can’t even begin to express my despair and disgust at educated, socially advantaged young women in a progressive First World country, demanding to be made chattels and passed from the possession of whatever man happened to impregnate her mother into the ownership of anyone else who happens to own a penis. Never mind what’s in it for you ladies.

Harking back to my opening comments on cultural artefacts, I couldn’t say whether the series seeks to chastise modern women for wasting their emancipation or celebrate the fact that we no longer need to subvert established power structures. This is clearly a time for introspection, I feel. The tenth anniversary of the 11th September and all that ensued is inevitably instigating that, but more recent events should be a more potent catalyst to take a long hard look at our national character and the values we uphold. On the heels of Boardwalk Empire making its way across the Atlantic, followed by Mildred Pierce, perhaps this isn’t a strictly British (or rather, English) phase of reflection, though self-analysis isn’t really the US way. I don’t really know what we’re trying to say to ourselves yet, only time will tell.

I have laptop, I have weeks and weeks of handwritten blog notes, I have a lack of gainful employment. Normal service will resume shortly. I have also enlisted reluctant but talented guest bloggers. It has been cloudy, loyal readers, but soon, once again, ye shall seek the Silver Lining and it shall be found!

The best films I have seen in my absence were as follows:

                • Victor/Victoria (Aaall about the B#)
                • Standing Still (my justification)
                • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
                • I’ve Loved You So Long
                • Mysterious Skin (second saddest film I’ve ever seen)
                • Unstoppable (no,really- it’s well made!)
                • Brothers (The American remake)

The worst was probably Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Beautiful Girls. Tawdry, self-indulgent cack. But the former makes very poor use of rich source material.

Sx

It’s my Birthday!

Posted: 10/01/2011 in A List!, Announcements

Silver Lining is a year old and WordPress have helpfully furnished me with a baffling graphic in shades of green. I have my laptop back, but the internet is broken, so it will be a while yet before a return to regular blogging- but I have been formulating some meaty articles for you  to get your teeth into for the new year! A very happy 2011 to readers old and new, Sx

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 49 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 5mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was September 7th with 104 views. The most popular post that day was Misdirection.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were hushnowblog.wordpress.com, WordPress Dashboard, obama-scandal-exposed.co.cc, imobilereview.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for this is england 86, jack o’connell this is england 86, meggy this is england, this is england 86 cast, and this is england ’86.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Misdirection June 2010
1 comment and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

THIS is mid-recession, post-Tory unelection England and its semi-devolved neighbouring union nations 2010 August 2010
1 comment

3

Jurassic Park: Unabashed Propaganda January 2010
2 comments

4

LOVE IN THOUGHTS: A Universal Parable of Love Lost March 2010

5

Immersive film with Sam and Clara… April 2010

A brief post, because you don’t get much time on public computers and the library is about to close. The shameful lapse in blogging is a combination of those fuckwits at PC World keeping my laptop in enforced limbo for the last month. It’s coming back next week (“Possibly Tuesday, but don’t take my word.”) actually more broken than when I sent it off. Brilliant! I’ve been using my limited access to launch this baby too.

Never fear though- I am working on some exciting and insightful posts for you. They’ve been thrashed out longhand and will be arriving in your inbox/iPhone/headspace in the near future.

In the meantime however- to keep you scintillated and attentive, I will hash out some random thoughts with little structure or purpose :j

The festive season, [alas] is upon us already, the Coca Cola ad was on Sky on Thursday, which means it’ll be on real telly soon enough and then the headlong dash begins. So, I would like to make tribute to the greatest seasonal films in my personal collection. ‘Of all time’ seemed greater scope than I can muster in present circumstances.

1. Christmas: Bad Santa  (Terry Zwigoff) Billy Bob Thornton as an alcoholic, shagging, swearing department store Father Christmas. What’s not to love really? They play on consumerism and the Capitalist assimilation of a Christian assimilation of the pagan winter festival of light, there’s digs at political correctness and America’s obsession with its Coke-funded folklore. Then there’s redemption, unconditional (and utterly irrational) love and the True Meaning of Christmas. But it’s true, not all saccharine and Hollywoody. One of the few Christmas flicks not to give me tooth and/or stomach ache, this is a modern classic.Billy Bob Thornton and Mrs. Santa

I’ll give honourable mention to Burton and Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is a feat of animation, visually impeccable, Jack Skellington and cocompellingly charcterised, with a tearing plot and one of Elfman’s best ever efforts. I really do love it. Some of our cousins over the pond might argue that it’s a Halloween film, but as far as I’m concerned All Saint’s Eve isn’t a festive occasion. It is also probably the most merchandised film in cinematic history. Bad Santa wins for its subversion and begrudging heart.

2. Easter: The Wicker Man? My selection transpires to be somewhat limited. I rewatched The Hole recently (tenuous I know, but it was set over Easter weekend) and it’s actually pretty darn good. I thought it was great at the time, then it didn’t really stand up to repeat viewing. A few years’ distance though and it has aged well I’d say. Plus, teenage Keira Knightley shows all that promise of the actress she could have been.

3. Summer: My Summer of Love Yes, it’s deeply flawed in many ways, but the performances are solid, good British talent at play. It’s a coming-of-age and psychological thriller that really captures the internal turmoil of being that age, when adults turn out to be no use after all. An early big screen outing for Emily Blunt and Natalie Press (Song of Songs, Wasp) by renowned director Pawel Pawlikowski, based on a novel by Helen Cross, it was so full of promise.Mona and Tamsin look serious on the moped

Joint winner in this category is legendary Spike Lee joint Do The Right Thing, a little overlong, but this perfect cross section of eighties racial tensions in Bed-Stuy on the hottest day of the year is single-vision filmmaking as good as it gets. Powerful, educational and morally ambiguous.

Mookie and the Boombox fella exchange words

Fight the Power

That’s all I’ve got time for. Let me know your favourites. Feel free to throw in more seasons too! Sx

Well I’ve been a long time away, but I saw something last night that spurred me to get back on the blogging wagon. It was this here. This Is England ’86. How very exciting for us all. (For UK readers only I suspect- sorry international blogees.) This Is England 86 promo still

It is a four part co-production from C4 and FilmFour which will be airing on our tellyboxes this Autumn. Starring the original cinematic cast, co-written (with Jack Thorne of Skins fame) and co-directed by the man Meadows himself, scored by my favourite contemporary composer Ludovico Einaudi and purportedly bearing “many resonances to now[:] recession, lack of jobs, sense of the world at a turning point.” This has win written all over it. Sadly original cast member and Skins alumni Jack O’Connell does not appear to be reprising his role of Pukey Nicholls. Alas

This announcement set me on concurrent trains of thought. The first is how I’ve only recently realised that ‘miniseries’ is just a ‘mini’ series, not, as I have always mistakenly believed, a discrete term (pronounced minniz-areez) which relates to a two, three or four part adaptation,  usually of a literary work of some standing. As, with the Beeb especially, this is generally the case with regards their miniseries, I hope I may be forgiven the belated etymological comprehension.

Second, and far more pertinent, was a speculation that in the wake of the gutting announcement that our shambles of a Con-Dem coalition have axed our vital and prosperous national Film Council, with £4bn of our GDP and 35,000 jobs going with it, not to mention tourism revenues, perhaps our homegrown heavyweight talents may start turning more towards the small screen, as is the vogue Stateside. Of course Hollywood has always been a dual medium industry, but the big screen big hitters have had no need for serial work in the past. However, with the likes of Glenn Close, Kyra Sedgwick, Mary-Louise Parker, Anna Paquin, Alec Baldwin et al clocking up their network hours (or is it cable? I don’t really care) the stigma of trading down is dissipating.

The only incidence I could think of where a major big screen director, from the indier side of the tracks, took up a directing gig for more than a guest episode on an established series was David Lynch’s seminal Twin Peaks and high hopes as I may be allowing myself to have, I suspect TIE 86 won’t quite be a Brit equivalent of that unparalleled powerhouse. There was Hitchcock’s programme, but that isn’t really applicable here.

So my point is, although all this was commissioned betwixt recession and the cultural effluent of the unelected affluent hitting our collective public fan of entertainment, mayhap the bloody Tories are unwittingly heralding in a new age of highly produced made for TV drama, which alongside the nouvelle sim-com, is a budget-efficient way of cranking out cracking telly on a low-risk scale. If our silver screen heroes have no publicly-funded outlet, will this be where they turn? Better that than they all fuck off across the pond anyway. Especially for the blondes. That isn’t bigotry on my part- it’s worldliness. Time and again Hollywood have shown they do not like their young Brit women blonde. Bad luck Lisa Faulkner, Lucy Davis et al.  Ashley Jensen seems to be the only one to buck the trend, but only by sticking to telly and churning out the kooky 30-something best friend schtick. A fair haired Briton will never a leading lady make. Unless she’s Helen Mirren, who few of us may hope to emulate. Whatever happened to Lisa Faulkner? I just hope Laura Aikman hasn’t gone the same way. Stay here Laura! My tellybox needs you in it!

Remain vigilant for forthcoming assessment of TIE 86 as and when it appears, and probably analysis of the criticism and response too. Apologies for the shameful lapse in posts. I promise I’ll make it up to you! As well as the shiny posts and page promised below, I have a new column planned for you (that’s a regular feature post in amongst self-indulgent musings etc).

I love you bloggees [One ‘g’? Two? I’m undecided. Answers on a postcard], in my apathetic, disaffected youth-of-today kind of way. Just to prove it- here’s a kitten. I fucking love kittens.

Solo x

Misdirection:

Shane Meadows falls into the breaking-out-of-your-auteurist-cycle trap


I have chosen Meadows as the subject for my first overview of a body of work, because he’s essentially the only real contemporary British director, and recently he did something out of character. I mean yeah, there’s Loach and Leigh, but they’re old school and still doing the same old schtick. There is immediacy and relevance in, say, Sweet Sixteen, but I’d say Meadows is the only one with a canon of currently applicable work.

His two genuine forays into genre filmmaking- Thriller and Mockumentary- still have his distinctive thumbprints all over them, with the added distinction of starring my favourite actor, the estimable Paddy Considine, but the bulk of Meadows’ output is of the ilk that transcends genre labelling. The Midlands Man’s last effort Somers Town, however, as I have commented, was a rather unprecedented about face in many respects and it could be argued that he let his fans down.

Over the course of many dozens of feet of celluloid consistency Meadows has made a promise to his audience, garnered expectations and although he hinted at more gentle preferences with Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, the genre conventions liberated from his more obvious signature details and idiosyncratic set-pieces. Furthermore, Considine’s self-styled Donk is a Morrell-lite character- a tightly wound manchild with a short fuse and a fearsome lack of self-awareness. (more…)

An Economy of Violence: Thoughts on the prevalence of violence in British Cinema

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In the process of starting this blog and planning what to write about, I have been making lists of relevant films, thinking about what they have to say and what they have in common and I started to notice a surprising trend. As I wrote synopses to see what there was to say the same word kept recurring: violence. Always couched and confounded with other phrases, but brutality is almost omnipresent in the Brit Flicks.

If you’ve studied film censorship at all you’ll know that America’s MPAA is far more tolerant of violence than Britain’s BBFC (with the Brits more permissive of sex, especially between same-sex couples). For exemplification, check out Andy Dick’s cracking documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. I’ve never much questioned this received wisdom, but a simple collation of keywords demonstrates that it may not be quite so clear cut.

Once I had made this observation it became increasingly obvious how integral violence in fact is to our national cinema, to our view of ourselves. When I say this I am mostly referring to Insider Cinema, by and for Brits and people who can get inside British culture. Not so much your made-for-export Tourist London, but what we think of as (to any extent that cinema can be) the real us. Representation with the dirt left on if you will.

The films I was calling to mind- Pure, Scum, Stella Does Tricks, Dirty Pretty Things, Guy Ritchie’s back catalogue, The Hole, Trainspotting, Kidulthood, Donkey Punch, Land of the Blind, Everything by Shane Meadows, The Warzone, Straightheads, Sweet Sixteen, Hallam Foe even, anything featuring Big Daddy Winstone or that twat Danny Dyer, the list goes on. Obviously not all of these films are supposed to be real or even realist; there are a genre considerations, a horror or gangster flick will necessarily have bloodshed and butchery, but that does not account for the prevalence of aggression in the films above. (more…)