After all, it's just a ride….

Current Affairs

White Sands, New Mexico, 5:29am (MWT)

repoOrdinary fucking people, indeed. So, it’s been a strange year for the Menagerie. I oddly lost my intent and inspiration for crafting material during a period when ironically I had more time on my hands to devote to writing nonsense, as the day job possibilities took a major hit due to two outside influences. Firstly, the frustrating IR35 regulations wrecked havoc across the public sector, but I won’t bore you with such tedious opinions on that HMRC clusterfuck other than to say that if you think this country is going to deliver on the infrastructure and housing expertise that it needs to even remotely build enough stock and develop sustainable communities then think again – all the grizzled experts are retiring, and the intelligence loss is massive. Hmmph. Then things started to pick up my in industry just before the Grenfell tragedy which understandably  and appropriately froze much of the regeneration activities across London, in favour of massive swathes of audits and assessments – at Islington during my last contract I’ve seen first hand just how the technical and financial culture has changed. But, as Tyrell said to a mournful Roy Batty (next year, heh) all of this is academic, and we have other matters to consider, such as the shuttering of this blog. Here’s some Malick to set the scene;

If there is a theme for this final post then it’s transformation, this blogging activity has exhausted its purpose, and while I’d have liked to have covered all of Kubrick and all of Lynch (to name just two) I just can’t muster the mojo any longer. Heck, I was deep into reviews of Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and a couple of other Marty’s from the January BFI season (and also a BFI screened 70mm print of Once Upon A Time In The West which is now for me the greatest Western ever made, full fucking stop) but gentle reader the spirit is extinguished, so they must remain incomplete and immaterial. I think part of it is just getting a little older and jaded with the web and its alleged force for good, recent political events are just so infuriating and deeply depressing, on both sides of the pond. Therefore I’m trying to extricate myself from so much artificial interaction, concentrating on other activities is simply essential, especially with the day job developments and the potential for the media to track down potentially damaging phrasing and inappropriate gags I’m sure I’ve made here over the past decade. I don’t wish to sound so self important (I’m really, really not) but on my last contract FOI’s have been issued, and that is bound to be repeated for 2018 given my new activities. Still, I got to go to TiFF and cover the LFF over many years, plus being invited to Cannes a few times was an ego boost and independently sanctioned my credibility. This blog has also influenced the day job, long story short but I had an intense (to say the least) three hour job interview with New Scotland Yard earlier this year, for various reasons that didn’t work out but some of the interview panel positively remarked on my independent writing background which made me grin. Closer to home I also got to meet Bowman and Poole so that fulfils some immortal bucket list from my teenage years. Also seeing one of the worldwide premieres of Gravity and the movie below are experiences I will always treasure;

Yeah, I’ll never forgot seeing that for the first time, I knew immediately that we were in good hands, cinematically speaking. Right, so, The Last Jedi, Star Wars n’ stuff. I suppose that requires some consideration. Seen it twice (technical appraisal), didn’t particularly care for it as a film either time, slightly enjoyed it more as a self contained cultural unit once I’d decompressed the franchise 21st century mandated experience, but have come to admire it more as a passing of the torch and the franchise’s natural evolution. The entire Ren / Kylo / Luke stuff was interesting – that’s Star Wars – the rest was dreadful. It’s just not that an important thing for me anymore, if you’d told me when I was 12 that there would be stand alone Han Solo and Boba Fett movies I’d be hyperventilating like a Sarlacc during its millennial mating period, now I just don’t care. Still interested in IX of course, but for me when it comes to screen SF there is only one mission;

Maybe at this point you are detecting some of my cinematic fetishes as I close this blog out  – all time favourite sequence of any film ever? See above. That’s what cinema can be all about, for me that is the moment when all this nonsense started, the experience of a 2D representation of ideas and imagination punctured everything, and all celebration continues. Is TV is approaching such marvels? (see below, which should be seen on a IMAX screen for full mind-bending reprogramming) Maybe. Before we finish yeah, OK, I know some of you were asking for Blade Runner 2049 views but no, alas, I’m not going to be providing that. I liked it on the first viewing (sans a terrible headcold), a fantastic experience with some reservations. Second time around (the technical appraisal) most of those reservations were dispelled, particularly around the emotional arc of the picture and the (must we do SPOILERS at this point?) introduction of siblings and Hollywood’s current fetish for CGI reconstruction, for mere reconstructions sake. At this point the movie is a rare beast that manages to appropriately continue a story in a world so beloved without fucking with some of the intrinsic elements, and I think Villeneuve etc. managed to take the concepts and environment culturally forward from 1982 to 2017. I also watched Arrival again a couple of days ago and that film gets better with every re-watch. Well played, I hope he gets that Dune adaption of the ground. Here’s something of a Menagerie attuned montage;

So, finally, enough is enough, the light fades and the interest dwindles. As I close this out and embark on a new phase of, well, something, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride and that my mediocre efforts have turned you on to some movies, as that’s what this was always about, really. I think my friends would agree that I’m an opinionated jerk, but that such opinions come from a genuine love and enthusiasm for great and interesting movies and my enthusiasm for sharing them with like minded souls. If I’ve got you to watch one film you’ve never heard of or wouldn’t have seen then that is mission accomplished. In that vein I’ll just leave this sequence for absorbtion. It’s a tough one, and having seen it four times now within the context of the overall arc of the show it continues to yield mysteries and treasures, as it indicates the horrors of the past are still pregnant – Happy New Year;


Hibernation Mode Terminated…..

grizzWell fuck me it’s darn weird being back here again, after many, many months of neglect. I could barely remember my password let alone the functions of writing a blog post, so please bear with me as I reconnect with an old but terminal exercise. The good news (I guess) is that I’m going to commit to a few year closedown posts of timid length and analysis, the bad news (if anyone really cares) is that this will lead to a final execution of this ten year project once and for all as the day job has officially overtaken this now redundant blog. What have I been doing? Phase 2 of this. What am I involved in from January 2018? This. As such I need to be spectacularly careful of my digital footprint, wary of the press for reasons myriad and numerous, especially since I’m more than positive that some of the comments and jokes I have made on here could easily be located and exploited out of context with horrific consequences. Anyway, back to the matter at hand,  here is the usual December montage which isn’t particularly transcendent, and as such representative of a rather average year;

I have been relatively active over the axial orbit movie going wise, but due to project pressures I completely missed the LFF this year (didn’t see a single screening or event) as my schedule simply didn’t gel with other priorities. Ironically I am on target for seeing over 500 films this year on various eyeball assaulting formats, and have managed to cram in some mini seasons on Eric Rohmer, all of Soderbergh’s 21st century material, a revisit of Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy, all of the Jarmusch films on Amazon Prime, Ōkami’s Lone Wolf & Cub series and even a revisit of a John Cassavettes box-set. I still don’t chime with the love for him, as much as I can appreciate his ground-breaking achievements in championing independent American filmmaking before Sundance was a faltering glint in Robert Redford’s azure eyes. More montage mischievousness here;

So in order to temper expectations here are my films of the year thus far, presented without commentary or debate and in no particular order – make of this what you will ; Wind River, Personal Shopper, Get Out, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Moonlight, mother!, Lady Macbeth, The Death Of Stalin, Logan  and maybe Malick’s Song To Song and the eerily prescient Nocturama.  Alas I didn’t see The Florida Project, You Were Never Really HereBrawl In Cell Block 99, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Good Time, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer nor The Shape Of Water, some of which I’m sure could have arisen to the 2017 Menagerie pantheon if I’d seen them at the LFF. As it stands the ultimate event of 2017 was of course David Lynch’s spectacular bookend to his incredible career, maybe there more there will be more on that……later;


George A. Romero RIP

Where it all began, almost fifty years ago, nothing more to say. Rest In Peace, unlike your ravenous creations;


Valerian & The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017) Final Trailer

Bonjour Luc Besson. I grew up enjoying and deeply admiring the likes of Subway, The Last Battle and Nikita, but once he got into his American financed groove my interest waned. I dislike the Taken and Transporter films as evidently I’m a snob, but held out some interest in Lucy which were dashed on the rocks of stupidity. Now he’s back once more but the real interesting facet of this project is not the text itself, but something else…;

What has got the industry fascinated is the business model that underpins it, and how this may finally be mounting a full assault on the Hollywood behemoth through a canny mosaic of international pre-sales, an emphasis on foreign markets (particularly China of course) and the retention of artistic control which you have to admire. I think I’ll give this a chance as the eye candy looks pleasing if nothing else, and this reminds me to watch The Fifth Element again, as a SF nerd I never liked that film, so now is the perfect time for a reapprisal…


Roger Moore RIP

More sad news givn yesterdays terrible events in Manchester – Roger Moore has retired his licence to kill. He isn’t the first Bond to leave us, there was David Niven of course and Kubrickophiles will be aware that Barry Nelson, the General Manager of the Overlook Hotel is technically credited as the first actor to have played Ian Fleming’s misogynist psychopath. I’m not a fan of Bond movies in particular and I think we can agree that some of the later Moore’s were pretty poor cash-grabs, but be brought a twinkle in his eye to the role, and as a young kid I had soft spots for both Live & Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun;


Mulholland Drive (2001) Reprise & Twin Peaks (2017)

mullTo say that the Menagerie was excited for the return of Twin Peaks, or rather more specifically the return of David Lynch after a decade hiatus is a spectacular understatement. It is a wider cultural event, with an arch-auteur who has struggled in bringing stories to any screen adding his swansong chorus to the so called third ‘golden’ age of TV broadcasting, by returning to one core text which set the foundations of the modern media landscape of long-form, small screen entertainment. More importantly for me is the simple prospect of another 18 hours of Lynch’s mind – and what a strange, ethereal and occasionally petrifying mind that is – given that he is directing every episode and writing again with his original partner Mark Frost, the stabilising force whom arguably kept Lynch in check to enable some mainstream penetration back in the midst’s of 1990. Given the import of this phenomenon I embarked on a herculean effort of preparation, going to see Mulholland Drive at the cinema which itself was the result of a cancelled TV series, I revisited the criminally unappreciated Fire Walk With Me, squeezed in a screening of Inland Empire and tore through my third re-watch of the original two seasons, all 30 episodes, in a binge watching bloat of three days. To say I am severely Lynched out is another understatement, further compounded by a lovely Sight & Sound reappraisal in this months issue which makes some illuminating observations – given the undercurrent of psychological dread and abuse it references the series Freudian oral fixations (Coffee, Cherry Pie etc.), it situates the series as an early sprouting of contemporary media ‘Hyperdiegesis‘ around narrative properties citing ‘the creation of a vast and detailed narrative space, only a fraction of which is every directly seen or encountered within the text’ and from a cinema history perspective summarises Twin Peaks contours as a molestation of Norman Rockwell Americana by European surrealism, primarily the vein championed by Bunuel and Cocteau – Yeah, I think we may have detected where that serrated Black Lodge zig-zag production design element may have originated…..

mullsSo let’s start with some fleeting observations on Lynch’s genuine masterpiece, now widely regarded as one of the greatest films of this teenage century, 2001’s Mulholland Drive which has been blessed with a 4K restoration as part of the surrounding hysteria. I’ve already reviewed the film so this will be more of a collection of further reflections and detections that this screening yielded. Firstly the transfer is exquisite, it heightens the tones and stark symbolism of Peter Deming’s cinematography (a long time Lynch collaborator he’s also back on board for the Twin Peaks revival), which reminded me of David Thompson’s lovely phrase that the opening vistas of LA by night reminded him of ‘a scattering of precious diamonds over a black velvet drape’. For all the deconstructions and analysis of the film that has occurred no piece has ever done the film full justice in my mind, in this hopeless pursuit of connecting the narrative and excavating all the mysteries. Great art should always leave some space for the viewer to bring their experiences to the table, and whilst much of the DNA of the film has been codified I prefer for some elements to remain ambivalent and uncertain, as that makes every viewing a deeply satisfying and diverse experience. Case in point – I’ve seen the film a couple of  dozen times over the years, and have never noticed that the man who partially comperes the club sequence is the same man as Justin Theroux’s landlord in the sleazy part of town, another doppelgänger in a film infested with mirrors and obfuscations. I’m sure I’ve digested this elsewhere but the fact that we do indeed see the Cowboy (a Hollywood genre stalwart)after his original appearance another two times signals something,  Betty/Diane/Rita’s costume when they discover their a corpse is clearly modelled on Madeleine/Carlotta/Juila’s attire in Vertigo, (oh, also found this which is good), I’d forgotten how funny the film is (the botched assassination, the audition scene, Billy Ray Cyrus) and for me the entire Silencio sequence still remains one of the most eerily magical orchestrations ever committed to celluloid;

After this screening and that hearty binge watch I was suitably buzzed for the 2am UK transmission, after a patient wait of 27 years to return to this bizarre architecture of cryptic giants, menacing dwarves, and crimson draped para-dimensions. I was adrift in expectations after digesting the revelation that the first and last shots of the entire original series, after the title sequences that is,  are both scenes refracted in mirrors – and of course similar elements play heavily in Season 3. Welcome to the labyrinth, perverting genre concepts of the soap and procedural mystery show and driving them into more different and dark terrain, as when all is said and done Twin Peaks gravitates around a disturbing orbit of incestual sexual abuse and murder, revealing a web of moral degradation that lurks within an entire locality. I’m a thick skinned viewer but the killing of Maddy, and the ultimate reveal in episode S2E14 is distressing, even in comparison to today’s thresholds I can’t believe the former got through Standards and Practices a quarter  century ago.

anneAs an article upstream notes ‘Lynch convinced a major entertainment conglomerate to pay for 18 hours of new material by David Lynch, at the budget he needed, and with complete creative control. He hasn’t had this kind of financial support since he made Dune in 1984.’ That achievement alone is staggering, no? I loved staying up for this, a shared event around the world with like minded maniacs, and boy did if fucking deliver – as others predicted this is pure, uncut, undiluted Lynch, and I’m still processing much of the first four episodes which are positively infested with his earlier work, including long abstract stretches which are pure Eraserhead. So some scattered thoughts with MINOR SPOILERS – The title sequence elicited a Proustian rush, I was shocked at how much of this was set within the Black Lodge, and it was quite touching to see Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer back on screen, reprising an earlier incident way back in the European pilot. The appearance of Lynch alumni from other material – Brent Briscoe, Naomi Watts, Patrick Fischler & Robert Forster  – sets the mind spinning on a shared universe which I’m sure other cerebellum of the internet are already formulating. I thought the Michael Cera scene was fucking hilarious, and that encounter early on, well, I’m genuinely apprehensive at giving it another watch. Especially at night. I am sure it has baffled and agitated some of the audience, even the die-hard fans given where a certain character is taken, but I for one am fully on board as the pieces started to make sense around episode 4, although we still await a revisit to some core characters. Make sure you revisit this series this at night with the lights turned off and the audio on high, as the sound mix alone is staggering. Welcome back, old friend;


RIP Powers Boothe

I’m a little late to the wake on this one, but felt I had to pay my respects. What a fantastic name and presence this dude had with a long running collaboration with the similarly robust Walter Hill, and he was also terrific in such cult favourites as Red Dawn, Deadwood and Sin City. I have a soft spot for Vietnam allegory Southern Comfort however, a important and frequently rewatched movie n my youth;


Jonathan Demme RIP

Goddamn it, another one gone. I saw him at the BFI a decade or so ago, introducing his Jimmy Carter documentary, and he came across as a thoroughly committed and down to earth chap. Naturally all the memorials are leading with Silence Of The Lambs which is a terrific movie, and of course he directed what is arguably the best concert movie of all time, but I have a soft spot for the Hitchockian The Last Embrace which is an overlooked 1970’s paranoia picture;


EDIT – Ah, now this is more fitting, this is how you direct and cut an iconic scene ladies and gentlemen;


Ghost In The Shell (2017)

ghost1Finally we algorithmically alight on one of my most anticipated movies of 2017. Well, when I say ‘anticipated’ that was my initial reaction to the first trailer drop last Autumn, since then subsequent glimpses of this live-action remake of the acclaimed 1995 anime my enthusiasm has eroded somewhat, as further images have started to take the feel of a 1990’s direct to DVD B-Movie with slightly more production luxury and some impressive metropolospaces which will always tickle my cyberpunk creased cerebellum. I grew up with a deep appreciation of the then refreshing cyberpunk literature of Gibson and Sterling et. al, thus I’ve obviously seen the anime, but remember little about it other than the rather arresting image of the invisibility cloaked fembot plunging into technologically augmented action. I also like ScarJo when she’s in movie-star action mode and she’s been solid in some kinetic cued movies, but there are also the blemishes of Lucy and The Island in her filmography.  Still, like any obedient genre SF soldier I downloaded* this on opening day, and have to concur with the overall assessment that this is a production which has its chimeral charms, but is far from the modern classic that some of us wanted it to be.

ghost2A century or so hence and the human race lives clustered in massive urban conurbations, while technological advancements have made physical bio-enhancements, hallucinatory street advertising  and robotic automatons as ubiquitous  in the environment as a new model iPhone or Galaxy in our contemporary phase of the 21st century. A paradigm promising and seemingly Chris Cunningham influenced technofetishistic opening introduces us to the Major (Johansson), the displaced consciousness of a terrorist attack survivor transplanted into a state-of-the-art next generation android at the behest of the shadowy Hanaka corporation, the spearhead weapon of a government sponsored anti-terrorism strike team known only as Section 9. When the bodies start stacking up from a plague of assassinations the only linkage meme is the victims work on the clandestine Project 257, leading the Major and her comrades on a mission which will slowly unveil her mysterious past and a wider cybernetic conspiracy….

ghost3What we have on our titanium tensed, carbonpolyetherine coated hands is a movie that processes its plot in binary fluctuation – neither as good as it should have been, nor as bad as it could have been. To begin with the positives if like me the imagery of a godsview camera swooping through a neon drenched, holograph haunted future cityspace teeming with futuristic tech makes you retire to your fainting couch like some 19th century influenza afflicted debutante then this is a movie for you. The world building is spectacular, and demands a Blu-Ray acquisition alone to sequentially frame examine the urban helliosphere which is teeming with background characters and production detail, while wisely avoiding the visual pollution miasma that George Lucas inflicted upon us with the prequel trilogy. Clint Mansell’s low-key but effective seething synth score coolly augments the impressive craftwork, as overall this is a scintillating simulacra of a future world that other genre fans will find beautiful to behold. Kitano Takeshi in a rare Western sourced role as the leader of Section 9 adds to the films oriental authenticity (and wins the films sole great dialogue exchange which we can consider ‘vintage’ Takeshi) as does Juliet Binoche as the Major’s Dr. Frankenstien surrogate, leading the medical project to bring our heroine back to artificial life while harbouring some unpleasant secrets of her own.

ghost4Moving from the ones to the zeros the film fails in tracing any sort of intellectual curiosity. After narratively erecting these questions around the implications of a replicated and decanted consciousness, or state intervention in our increasingly digitised and surveillance state sanctioned lives (all the more ironic that the film was released the same week that this passed into law after this was enforced in my country a few months ago) Ghost In The Shell singularly fails to adequately investigate these crucial arenas, preferring to follow the path of your standardised blockbuster workflow and formalised function. Flat dialogical idioms abound, such as cramming dialogue into characters mouths like ‘we cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us’ hang listlessly on the screen, as when you unpack statements of that ilk you realise that it doesn’t actually mean or signal anything of merit whatsoever. ScarJo is merely adequate as the main character, she never invests her performance with any of the otherworldly eeriness of the quality of Under The Skin, neither through her figure movement nor wider physical presence – this strikes me as a serious oversight and wasted opportunity to truly capture the notion of a disembodied entity locked into an alien and unfamiliar hardware. Director Rupert Sanders proved he could handle impressive SFX in his previous film Snow White & The Huntsman and he graces much of the action sequences with an adequate understanding of choreography and physical space, although the final show-down closes the structure with a incorporeal whimper more than a blockbuster bang. Still, the film does have an overall sense of some physicality, some aura of density, mostly avoiding the uncanny valley trap where it is evident that the entire movie was lensed against a studio mandated green screen – there is evident location work and seething set design which also demands a repeat viewing.

ghost5For all that criticism Ghost In The Shell does have its moments. There is the impressive opening after which it flatlines for the next hour or so from a plot and pacing perspective, but it does start to pick up some momentum and genuine interest after the Major starts to penetrate the identity of her nemesis and his links to her fabricated past. Naturally, all this manga mandated machinery clanks and smoulders in the shadow of the imminent Blade Runner sequel of which footage has been seen at this months CinemaCon and apparently is stunning, I just hope this physical wreck can continue toward its post retirement date of October 2017 and bask in the return of such a crucial cinema text which still throws its shadow over these SF pretenders to the cybernetic throne. So, overall this film is a strange beast, a movie with the aura of a 1990’s cyberpunk pretender lacquered with a 2017 state of the art CGI carapace,  with very few queries coiling under its alabaster shell. If you want to truly fire up the synapses and contemplate our slow march to increased fourth wave industrialisation or the A.I. apocalypse then I’d suggest a revisit to the likes of Ex Machina, or HBO’s impressive Westworld reboot, but visually at least this is the closest we’ve got to the majesty of the seminal Neuromancer yet, so if you recalibrate your sensorial input nodes then Ghost in The Shell is a programme just about worth pursuing;


* Well, when I say ‘downloaded’ I’m just speaking metaphorically, I did go and see this at the cinema and didn’t resort to clandestine activities so don’t set the Paramount lawyers on me, OK?


Get Out (2017)

get1When I first heard of the fevered instruction Get Out in the context of a horror film my mind listlessly wanders to this sequence from suburban squirm fest The Amityville Horror, a yuppie nightmare of home ownership, economic stress and familial strife lurking behind those white picket fences. A submerged evil uncoiling in suburbia continues in this culturally incendiary movie, the debut effort of comedian Jordan Peele of Comedy Central Emmy Award winning smash Key & Peele fame.  Riding the crest of a spectacular word of mouth wave with screenings literally bringing the house down – even us jaded critics are citing it as the best fun they’ve had as an audience inclusive experience in years – the movie is a 2017 cluster of cultural gelignite, an explosive comment on modern race relations, liberal guilt and an increasingly diverse and fractured first world society. Naturally, as a die-hard horror fanatic I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about and with a few minor reservations this is a terrific little picture,  combining an iconoclastic brew of The Stepford Wives with Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, garnished with a deadly dose of The Wicker Man  for good, gruesome measure.

get4Budding student photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, probably best known as  Emily Blunt’s partner in Sicario) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (probably best known as one of the quartet of leads in Girls that isn’t Lena Dunham) prepare for a weekend trip to meet her wealthy yet staunchly liberal parents, Dean and Missy, portrayed by a perfectly cast Catherine Keener and Bradford Whitford. Chris is understandably nervous at meeting his partners folks, always a potentially stressful experience in the first phases of a serious relationship, an anxiety which is enhanced by his being a person of colour and her pure WASP pedigree. Rose placates his nerves by assuring him that her parents are so liberal that they are sure to impress him with their support of the then sitting president, and her prediction that they would explain to him that they have voted for Obama again if he could have stood for a third term soon comes to pass. Initially all seems quaint in the impressive Connecticut suburbs, but small details of unease start to coalesce – the house groundskeeper and domestic assistant (both of African-American ethnicity) affect a glassy-eyed, robotic subservience which no-one else seems to notice, and certain phrases and behaviours of the Armitage’s extended family and friends seem slightly off-kilter and…strange. I’ll say no more as it is crucial that you into this experience as ignorant as an Alabama knitting circle, as a horrific plot slowly materialises out of the midnight mists….

get3It is difficult to dance around this one and retain spoiler integrity so I’ll just say that the praise the film has attracted is definitively  deserved, in yet another storming debut to the horror movie Hecate. Although it follows the contours of a horror film, especially the concept of a naive, increasingly suspicious innocent being inculcated in a deadly conspiracy the social and political themes are smoothed under numerous narrative and allegorical levels, so that a second viewing will be essential to judge who finely Peele’s excellent script was engineered. The jump scares are kept to an intensified minimum, the film preferring to build an increasing sense of mysterious dread through which the thumbscrews are tightened, before all hell breaks loose in a final and expectation flouting finale. All the leads are solid and treat the material with the respect it deserves, it plays more serious than other horror-comedy hybrids like The Evil Dead or An American Werewolf In London for example, struck more from the mould of The Cabin In The Woods with a deft understanding of genre conventions.

get2TSA agent and Chris’s best friend Rod Williams (LaKeith Lee Stanfield) is the comic relief, the surrogate for the audience whom plays a sassy, exuberant sort and gets most of the films belly laugh lines, even if at times it feels he’s wondered in from a Wayan brothers picture. The good news is that Peele has revealed he has scribed four other horror scripts before he got this one off the ground, and given its $5 million budget to its stratospheric $150 million (and counting) return  I’m positive we’ll be seeing more from him soon. Just to be slightly contrarian as a genre nerd I’d have preferred it if it had spent just a little more time moving through the central film’s plot premise, I think some of those narrative nuances got a little lost in the mix, but to be fair the more I’ve thought about it the satire  is revealed to be more deeply layered and constructed that a first impression suggests, with visual metaphors and plot devices building a deft oratory on the diseased state of the American body politic. This is simply essential viewing, a vibrant new addition to the pantheon of pandemonium that squirms in the recent slipstream of The Witch, It Follows and The Babadook, so Get Out and see it immediately. A-hem. Sorry;


The State Of The Title…

Looks like its time again for the annual glut of gloomfest thinkpieces of the state of the industry, yet somehow cinema still marches on, as it has, for almost 130 years. It’s been quite a journey;


The Other Side Of The Wind (1977) Trailer?

Well. wow. Reverberations are thundering around the cinephile world with this extraordinary news, especially given the connections between old and new media and all that such umbilical links could signal for the future. Here is some exhaustive context, and here is a glimpse of what’s in store;


Malick Muses…..

Apologies for the quality but I think you fellow cinephiles will understand, that we are definitely in the midst of an end times scerario. I expect to see Pynchon on Fox news next week;


Five Came Back (2017) Trailer

Beyond happy that they have produced a documentary of this fantastic book which I read a couple of years ago. It’s an apt reminder of what cinema can do in difficult times, and the influence the experience had upon the five when they returned to the industry is fascinating as a historical and artistic document – their work and the world they operated in was never the same;


RIP Bill Paxton (1955 – 2017)

Well, I think I can speak for us all by stating this is a bit of a shock – he was on WTF only a week ago and came across a thoroughly down to earth, cool guy, particularly when joking about this. A terrific, reliable character actor, immortalised in Aliens, and the only dude to have been slain by a Predator, a Terminator and an Alien. There are too many great appearances to list here, but I will cite the brilliant Raimi A Simple Plan and this Menagerie favourite;


The Language of Propaganda

Given the coverage a certain speech is getting today, this seems like an apt moment to post this;


Boogie Nights (1997) Commentary

OK you fucking mooks, OK, I feel bad about this, I’m feeling especially guilty and useless at not posting anything concerning my Scorsese blitzkrieg over the past few weeks. Truth be told I have six or seven full reviews in the pipeline, but wider considerations have fumbled my intent, and it has proved difficult to find the effort or inspiration to continue this increasingly monumental effort – real life can sometime intrude. Nevertheless I’ve only got one more full movie to see in the season which on a whole has been a revelatory season, there is just one more of the classics to finally see on the big screen, so I keep telling myself to wait until that is absorbed until I get chained to the keyboard. Until then here is some more adjunct material which is fascinating, one of the core figures in recent Amercian cinema whom would not exist, as we known it, without Marty;


John Hurt RIP (1940 – 2017)

I think this says it all;


Academy Award Nominations 2017

oscar2017Yes, it’s that time of the year again. I must admit to finding it difficult to muster any genuine enthusiasm for this years announcements, I have made a concerted effort in seeing some of the inevitable nominees this month, with Jackie still to see when it opens toward the end of the week, and Moonlight soon after which I’m really looking forward to given the exemplary feedback. For my sins I’ve been toying with going to see Hacksaw Ridge despite the rather eyeball rolling trailers, I’m also not sure I wish to contribute to the coffers of Mel Gibson even with the rudimentary pennies that would be allocated through my Cineworld Card, but I’ve heard that the action sequences are equivalent in power and brutality to Saving Private Ryan, so being a weird sort of cruelty junkie that has piqued my interest. As it stands I’ve never, in now a venerable ten years of conducting this ridiculous and infinitely pointless exercise (in public) managed more than a 60% or 65% accuracy rate with my predictions, but we live in hope and its just a piece of pointless frivolity to while away the endless days until we all die. So as always the rules are to bold the films I’ve seen, italic the films I think should win, and underline those I think will win, with the everlasting caveat that I haven’t seen everything, so am having to make some choices based on compromised information.

osc201Amusingly, as I write this I am catching up on a few of last years blockbusters, namely In dependence Day 2 and X-Men Apocalypse, both of which, as expected, are total gash. this industry really needs to start rethinking itself along these high exposure, high visibility lines, as some of the rumours I’ve heard coming out of the disgruntled technicians and junior players are growing increasingly depressed with their products, as the studio executives and senior producers simply not caring about plot inconsistencies, illogical scripts – they are literally telling them not to worry as the audience don’t care, and the spectacle and energy of the films are enough to play in China and other developing international markets – depressing. More positively the ceremony has already caused history, as La La Land enters the exalted trio of films with the most nominations in history – 14 – joining All About Eve and Titanic, even Gone With The End only managed a paltry 13 nods. Looking through the nominees I note that we now have to go and see Lion  which didn’t exactly grab my attention from the trailer but I’m willing to be surprised, but I draw the line at Fantastic Beasts in the SFX category which I have absolute zero interest in. It’s good to see Arrival warping into so many nominations, but  lets face it La La Land is going to obliterate this years ceremony – completely. We are in dire need of some simple, unadulterated colourful escapism right now, not to mention the slightly more worrying prospect of a temperature in the culture of yearning for an allegedly simpler, more prosperous earlier time, no matter how warped and unglued from reality that nostalgia may be.  It’s not a criticism per se of the movie, but for a Los Angeles set film it is spectacularly Caucasian, innocent and defiantly individualistic, where even human relationships and warmth are sacrificed on the altar of unimpeded commercial success and wealth;

Best Picture

la3

Only nine nominees eh? Strange number, but here we are. Not having seen Moonlight this is a difficult one to judge, I think we can assume that Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion and Hidden Figures are the outliers. La La Land will take it down to Chinatown, however….

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

Best Director

hack

No Kelly Reichardt for Certain Women? What a travesty, but it looks like the rehabilitation of Mel is complete, right? Well, out of those I’ve seen both Lonergan and Villeneuve conduct exemplary work at either end of the scale – one a tiny, modest, performance scoped drama, the other a major technical blockbuster with empathic and narrative fracturing elements. Jenkins for Moonlight is a long shot but you never know, but I still think Chazelle is gonna win…….

Arrival – Denis Villeneuve
Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins

Best Actor

casey

Not wishing to prejudice my full Manchester By The Sea review this might be one of the upsets for La La Land – Gosling was fine in that but not exactly best actor nominee levels of achievement and richly deserved it is to as Affleck is astounding, although some of those allegations surrounding his conduct may prove difficult. Garfield is having a fairly spectacular career post Spiderman isn’t he? I’ve got Captain Fantastic on my priority Lovefilm list so should catch that over the next week or so, but this and perhaps screenplay will be Manchester’s only achievements…..

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actress

jackie

No Amy Adams for Arrival? Damn, well, it wouldn’t be the Oscars if Meryl didn’t get nominated for something, right? I wonder if she would get a nod even if she took a year off, just..because? I’ve got nothing against her you understand, I was in appreciative awe of her putting her head about the parapet during her Golden Globes speech, but c’mon. I’ve just seen Jackie and as I’d heard Pablo Larraín has coaxed out a very different sort of performance from Portman, a punt which actually takes some time to acclimatise to during the course of the film, so I think she’ll take it as a somewhat less controversial choice than the other front runner Elle.

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Supporting Actor

nocturnal

Fantastic to see Lucas Hedges here which is probably the biggest surprise, he holds his own against far more experienced colleagues so it’s good to see him nominated. Bridges is great but maybe a little too obvious, Patel is the best I’ve seen him in Lion, and I can’t comment on Moonlight – yet. So let’s go with Shannon, because, well, he’s Michael fucking Shannon…..

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges –  Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Best Supporting Actress

fences

“Seven of the 20 nominees in acting categories for 2017 Academy Awards are non-white” notes the Daily Mail, in accurate reporting accident’ tweeted Sight & Sound editor Nick James after the announcement, which made me chuckle. As much as I love Michelle Williams to be perfectly blunt she is barely in her film, sure she has one pivotal scene but apart from that little more than a few transitional moments, so I can’t in good conscience elect her as a favourite. So for now, until I see more of the nominees, I’ll go with Viola Davis as she’s always great;

Viola Davis – Fences
Naomi Harris – Moonlight
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Adapted Screenplay

lion2

A roll of the dice, until I see Moonlight. Arrival was quite revolutionary but again the Academy is resistant to awarding SF out of the technical categories, which leaves us with the entire arc of Hidden Fences which can be detected from the trailer – it looks worthy but not following the usual ‘triumph over adversity’ path. In a similar way so does Lion but seems to evade any clichés, so for now I’ll go with that;

Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

Best Original Screenplay

manch

No Nocturnal Animals nod? Well, that is odd given the previous form, but I can’t say I disagree. I did see the film last year but couldn’t find the appetite to craft a review, the framing structure of a film within in film is curious and could have been utilised to great effect, but the rest of the film was cluttered and quite unsure of itself. So, back to the actual nominees and I’m going to have to go with Manchester By The Sea as one of those almost consolation prizes, unless La La Land begins to look like a clean sweep on the night….

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

Best Animated Feature Film

moana

Not exactly my specialised area, and I’ve heard great things about all of these but lets go with Moana as a Disneyfied guess.

Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
Zootopia
The Red Turtle

Best Cinematography

silence

As always a strong field, again until I see Moonlight which I’ve heard has some ravishing moments this is difficult to call. Silence was a beautiful film if an ideologically troubling one, but I think the La La Land juggernaut will continue, especially that magic hour & crayola colour schema.

Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

Best Documentary Feature

oj

This is a slam-dunk, having powered through the five and a half hour O.J. Simpson epic over Xmas I can vouch for its brilliance, drawing in issues and observations far in orbit of that horrendous event.

Fire at Sea
I am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J. Made in America
13th Hour

Best Documentary Short Subject

Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe’s Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

Best Original Score

lala.png

Should they even bother opening the envelope? Strange to see Passengers on here, there is a beautiful piano leitmotif in Lion which is worthy of an award, and it’s a shame that Arrival missed out here;

Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

Best Original Song

la-la-5

As above;

“Audition” – La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
“City of Stars” – La La Land
“The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

Best Foreign Language Film

edrmann

Goddamn it. It’s always the same, isn’t it? I arrogantly assume I have kept my finger on the pulse of international cinema, following the antics of the major film festivals, and while I may not have seen everything due to distribution patterns I’m at least aware of the general population of International Cinema. Apparently not as not only have I not seen four of the five nominees, I’ve never even heard of them. Completely oblivious. Not a peep about these pictures, not through my Sight & Sound subscription, not through the scattering of film websites I visit almost daily, not through the two dozen or so weekly podcasts I am subscribed to. Just who is sending the Academy these films to see and getting them nominated? Well, of course the exception is Toni Erdmann which has been justifiably cresting the wave of breakthrough popularity and audience affection, which surely has to take this one back to Berlin.

Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

Best Animated Short Film

Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider & Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Best Live Action Short Film

Ennemis Interieurs
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

Best Costume Design

jacks

I think Jackie might offer an upset and it certainly looked amazing to me, but my sartorial skills are questionable;

Allied
Fantastic Beasts
Jackie
La La Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

suic

Well, that’s a surprise, with Suicide Squad, one of the most maligned films of last year, getting a nomination. I’ve never heard of A Man Called Ove so let’s guess with Star Trek;

A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

Best Sound Editing

human

I’m going out on a limb with Arrival as a final offering of support;

Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

Best Sound Mixing

hack

Action and combat films usually do well in this category, so lets go with the Ridge;

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
14 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Best Film Editing

arrival

Crikey these all seem proficient to say the least, but again Arrival had that fractured timeline to master. Nevertheless La La will prevail;

Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Moonlight
La La Land

Best Production Design

hail

Whilst I think Arrival should take the top set SF never wins production design awards, which closes down the odds somewhat. Normally I’d go with Hail Caesar for the old-school Hollywood vibe, but I think this might be a case of the vote for everything for the same picture syndrome for those Academy members who haven’t seen all the films…

Arrival
Fantastic Beasts
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

Best Visual Effects

deep1

Having seen The Jungle Book recently I must admit I was very impressed, it was the best rendering of anthropomorphic animals I’ve seen on screen, and whilst it didn’t always convince the blending and rendering was exquisite. Still, I’m going for Dr. Strange as those folding hexagonal headspace scrambling was almost unique on screen, as opposed to the text book designs and execution of Rogue One.

Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Get Out (2017) Trailer

Yes, I know, more trailer filler, but this has just been revealed at a midnight Sundance screening and it got punters very excited, managing that almost impossible mix of deft comedy and disturbing horror which is exceptionally rare outside of An American Werewolf In London and the Evil Dead franchise;


The Purge – Inauguration (2017)

friday‘Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning. Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.’ Well, ‘deserve’ being the operative word in that synopsis of the last few decades, which alongside the utter incompetence of my countries political ‘leaders’ has brought us to the events of today and the final triumph of the neoliberal ideology, one of the saddest days of my life. No, I’m not American but the inauguration of this….thing, this corrupt, sexual assault boasting, racist, disabled mocking, draft dodging, veteran insulting, tax-dodging, treasonous, lying, incompetent – remember he couldn’t even make a fucking casino, the most lucrative mechanism in human history profitable – selfish psychopaths is still beyond comprehension. It still feels like we have slipped into some alternate reality where great swathes of fellow humans have been revealed as the venal, ignorant hate bloated leeches that wouldn’t be alien to some 1980’s B movie, and thats increasingly arising in Europe as much as North America. Now, this is a film blog of course but I had to put a marker down for this day in some appropriately mediocre fashion, lots of people have been going with Chaplin, others with Ahnoldt, especially given the 2017 setting and notion of a dystopian future where a reality TV star manipulates the psyche of the masses. It’s a dark, dark day with worse to come, but you have to laugh when the real slogan of this goose-stepping, ascendant movement completely unironically utilises the same slogan as this prophetic series;

You have to laugh when entertaining but undeniable B movie schlock turns out to be the most accurate barometer of political and social developments, don’t ya? One of those high-pitched, gibbering laughing fits which gets more shrill and higher pitched before degenerating into screams……Now you may have seen the the incandescent fury generated by the alt-right – sorry, that the fucking fascists – appropriating Carpenters 1988 now prescient masterpiece for their own pathetic propaganda, for which Carpenter immediately bitch-slapped them down. Their intellectual idiocy and rhetoric is just beyond parody, but at least they seem to be falling into civil war among themselves which is a small mercy…….

Naturally, in order to embellish this grim marker of this dark day I have to go with the Kubrick in order to accompany the parade of incompetent, spectacularly unqualified and raging sycophants already toadying to the throne, if the president elect wasn’t bad enough the individuals this regime has surrounded itself with is just, simply…it just…..well, words fail me as usual. In this period of unequivocal proven man made climate change, well, if in some political movie script you appointed the CEO of fucking Exxon as the Secretary Of State you’d be laughed out of every pitch meeting in California, yet here we are, as the world slowly burns. So finally here’s a little prophetic clip of the US President calling his boss friend in the Kremlin, as we also see the resurgence of a destabilising, fiscally annihilating global nuclear arms race – so cheer up, if the climate doesn’t get us, or rather your children and grandchildren, then the lunatics will;


Miguel Ferrer RIP (1955 – 2017)

Well, as if this week wasn’t already looking grim, my favourite character in Twin Peaks just passed away. Fortunately he is in the new series so he will get some sort of tribute, but this sucks. He was also great in the rarely discussed Tony Scott picture Revenge which is also a fond, historical, under appreciated favourite of mine;


Zashchitniki (2017) Trailer

Well, in true cowardly fashion I for one welcome our new Soviet cinematic overlords;

Given all the disruption in the wider world concerning anglo- Soviet relations this is almost satiric, right? Like a comedy sketch of a Russian film adopting the Hollywood blockbuster aesthetics? Welcome to 2017 comrades…..


BFI Scorsese Season – Prologue

newyorkThis year’s ambitious season started for me with a screening of Silence today which will take a few sleeps to digest, so I thought I’d kick things off with a lovely little montage. Plus, if I’m honest, I also wanted an excuse to post this astonishing list of all the films which are coming throughout 2017/18 which doesn’t uniquely dwell on Hollywood product, so we can all get jolly well excited for new material from Haneke, Armando Iannucci, Martel, two projects from Claire Denis, Kitano, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (I haven’t seen the last two yet!) and Mikke, Bigelow, Lanthimos, Del Toro, Aronofsky, Alfredson, Craig Bone Tomahawk Zahler,  Malick, Lynne Ramsay, Alexander Payne (always wondered where he had got to), Audiard, Wenders, Soderbergh (wait a second, Soderbergh?), Korine, Alex Garland, Joachim Trier (although his recent English language film didn’t quite work), Duncan Jones Blade Runner inspired Mute, Martin McDonagh, Bong Joon-Hoo and maybe, just maybe, Carruth’s The Modern Ocean – and these are just the ones I’m specifically interested in as there is much. much more coming through. Those rumours of cinema’s imminent demise are a little premature if you ask me, and I think Marty would be proud;

Scorsese’s New York from House of Nod on Vimeo.

There are also rumours floating around today of a Twin Peaks preview at Sundance at the end of the month. Anyway, back to the subject at hand, as it somehow seems apt to begin our story in New York, where Scorsese was born in 1942. What’s that? Oh go on then, let’s take a little more of an academic look at a specific scene in the canon, which should help set the context for whom we are dealing with over the next couple of months;

MARTIN SCORSESE Shot By Shot from Antonios Papantoniou on Vimeo.