Posts Tagged ‘This Is England’

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.

Just a quick reminder that This Is England ’86 starts tonight on C4 at Ten PM GMT.

Isn't this the legendary neighbour from Somers Town?.

It’s  queued up on my mum’s Sky+ and I shall be posting on the first installment soon.  Judging by the massive jump in hits, I’m not the only one disappointed not to see Jack O’Connell in this series. No word as to why that might be the case, but his filming schedule didn’t look so packed that they couldn’t have worked something out.

I’m keen to hear what you all think.

In other news- a medium storm is gathering around Natalie Portman’s best shot at being a grown up actress since, well Leon really. Black Swan, written and directed by everyone’s favourite indie-ish auteur Darren Aronofsky. If it weren’t for the fact that he has taken Rachel Weisz off the market the guy might be a little bit of a cinematic hero.Clearly flawed and fallible, as the best heroes are, but with unswerving clarity of directorial vision. After the acclaim and popularity of The Wrestler, he has big money behind him and it looks like he’s taking full advatage of the financiers and distributors’ newly assured faith. I’ll be  rounding up responses soon, but universal word  on the street is that Portman turns out  a career best and delves new depths of acting craft yaddah yaddah.

As can be expected, a deal of the more prurient attention is focused on the interface between Portman and co-star Mila Kunis’s, erm, face. Like so:Portman/Kunis facial interface

Whether that is relevant and necessary or merely hype-baiting showboating remains to be seen. Black Swan is touring festivals now and should start seeing limited releases from December.

Also on my radar: Somewhere, the latest offering from Copolla junior, is making the rounds.  The Illusionist looks fucking awesome and is garnering semi-culture (mid-way between pop and high) kudos. Written but never made by tragic clown Jacques Tati and now illustrated and animated by Belleville Rendez-Vous animateur  Sylvain Chomet. I’m gutted I haven’t been able to see it yet- it was the star feature at my former local ‘indie’ [well Picturehouse] The Duke of York’s and even made a popular encore. The Runaways has arrived. I’ll betray my ignorance and confess I had heard neither of them, nor Joan Jett, till this film entered production, as notable for Dakota Fanning being nearly grown up (eek) and Kristen Stewart purportedly doing acting (improbable), as for the biographical subject matter.

Also keep your peepers peeled for Skeletons which recently won the Michael Powell award at the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival.

What’s new in your world?

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…)