New Review: Keeping Rosy

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The debut feature from director Steve Reeves, is a film that’s hard to classify. Keeping Rosy is a sort of genre-hybrid, part thriller, part drama, part who actually knows?
Charlotte works in the city, and has just learnt that her less-qualified male colleague has been promoted above her. Less than happy, she takes redundancy and wonders how she’s going to fill the rest of her life. Childless, she’s devoted her whole life to her career, lives in a modern, characterless flat and is very alone. But what follows is far from a churned-out tale of the modern women, forced to choose between a family and her job, struggling against the vein of patriarchy that is still so apparent in modern society. It certainly challenges these issues, albeit in an almost surreal way.
The film works well as a study of the internal conflict within human beings, our ability to transform and adapt, to give in to our desires, to be deceitful, to conform and to completely and utterly lose control. Reeves makes a good attempt at exploring this idea, but unfortunately doesn’t quite pull it off.
The biggest problem with the film, and one that really lets it down, is that tonally, the film doesn’t really know what it’s trying to be. It begins in the style of a TV drama with very little cinematic quality, but as Charlotte’s life begins to unravel, it shifts to what looks to be a promising, dark allegory, revealing the dark depths of the female psyche and the pressures of women to fit in to a particular role within society. However it quickly loses it’s way, and morphs into a bizarre, low-budget-style thriller.
There are scenes of graphic violence on a couple of occasions, and it’s hard as viewer to understand exactly how we’re meant to respond; it’s incredibly uncomfortable. When watching a thriller, there’s a general understanding that, rightly or wrongly, the violence is meant to generate excitement, but when the tone is so patchy and the viewer initially understands that the violence is meant to be taken seriously, when everything changes and starts to follow the conventions of a thriller, it doesn’t quite work, and totally devalues what was actually the strongest part of the entire piece.
The cast, however, are absolutely outstanding. The ever-faultless Maxine Peake shines as Charlotte. Her rigid, cold exterior makes her hard to figure out initially, lulling the audience in to a false sense of security until she switches, flitting between deranged psychopath and back to stony-faced ice-queen. The film is worth watching just for Peake alone. Blake Harrison is also terrific, although the less said about his character at this stage the better. Christine Bottomley also makes an appearance as Charlotte’s trusting, wide-eyed sister, and is the perfect antidote to Peake’s harsh coldness.
It’s a real shame that the film doesn’t quite deliver on what is a solid, interesting idea that sadly just loses it’s way too early on. It’s certainly does enough to make it worth watching, and it’ll be interesting to see what Reeves does next.

Reviewed for Hey U Guys

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Common People – Documenting the Fans in British Cinema

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“This band are the reason that I’ve never worn a tie.” This quote is one of the many superb fan quotes from Shane Meadows’ excellent documentary Made of Stone. Released last year, the film followed the comeback of legendary band The Stone Roses. The documentary was outstanding, but what made it exceptional were the scenes that explored the reaction of the band’s fans, many of whom had never expected to ever see a reunion. Ranging from unashamed joy to downright hysteria (even Meadows himself could barely keep it together when hearing the news), each of the fans discussed what exactly the band and their music had meant to them. Through listening to the fans, Meadows gains a true understanding of the way in which music can form the identity of the common man, and how music can allow a person to break out of the comfort of their everyday lives and experience something on an almost spiritual level. This makes for an incredibly exciting and powerful documentary, but Meadows was not the first to explore this.
In recent years, the idea of fandom has been explored often in British documentary. In 2011, Jeanie Finlay’s exceptional documentary Sound It Out observed the lives of the owners and customers of the only remaining vinyl shop in Teeside. As well as capturing the obsessive nature of the vinyl purists, Finlay’s subjects talk about their favourite bands with such adoration, that it’s impossible not to watch the film without grinning inanely and vowing to only ever buy vinyl. One such subject is Shane, a particularly passionate Status Quo fan. To him, Status Quo are more than a band, they’re almost his life. And Sound it Out in particular really taps in to the way that music can provide solace for people who perhaps struggle to form relationships in the real world.
Many of the fans that Finlay speaks to use music as a source of comfort, to make them feel less alone. Even in Made of Stone, one fan remarks that when he heard a particular track in the band’s gig at Parr Hall, it made him reflect on a bad period in his life, and he suddenly realised that everything had ‘come good’ again- that song legitimately meant something in his life.
This week sees the release of Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets. Again, the film is far more focussed on the fans, but it actually extends further; it’s about Sheffield. Pulp are Sheffield legends, and director Florian Habicht interviews the ordinary people of Sheffield, asking them about their relationship with Pulp. Of course, everyone claims to have some sort of tenuous link to Pulp, particularly frontman Jarvis Cocker. The desire to have this relationship with music, with your favourite band, is universal. Pulp of course sang about ‘Common People,’ and the film can be viewed almost as an extension of that song, of the link between the kings and their subjects.
Daisy Asquith also took on the exploration of fandom last year with her documentary ‘Crazy About 1D’. Asquith interviewed fans of boy band One Direction, and tapped in to the shrieking, hormonal madness of teenage and pre-teen girls, who in some cases obsessively stalked the boys in a desperate attempt to meet them, touch them, and be noticed by them. Interestingly, Asquith, who had shown a well-balanced, well-researched documentary faced criticism from some of the public, who felt that the fans were not being shown in the most flattering light, but actually, what Asquith was documenting was behaviour that was no different to what would have been displayed by fans of Elvis or The Beatles. So actually what Asquith did with the film is unearth an interesting truth; our relationship with music has changed very little over the years. The reason that watching these documentaries is such an enjoyable experience is that is allows the audience, made up of ordinary people, to identify with others, like Shane the Status Quo fan, and join in the worshipping of our heroes.
It brings about a unity that we can enjoy, often from the comfort of our sofas at home, or at work, whether we choose to wear a tie or not. It makes us feel less alone.

Article originally for Hey U Guys

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Jimmy’s Hall Interview- Ken Loach and Paul Laverty

It’s not often that people are fortunate enough to have the best moment of there life captured on video (well, except weddings.) I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the exceptional Paul Laverty and my hero Ken Loach for Hey U Guys. Best day ever.

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Jimmy’s Hall Interview: Simone Kirby and Barry Ward

I was lucky enough to interview Simone Kirby and Barry Ward, stars of Ken Loach’s latest (and apparently last) feature, Jimmy’s Hall, for Hey U Guys.

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Top Dog Interview- Director Martin Kemp and actor Leo Gregory

I interviewed director of Top Dog Martin Kemp and lead actor Leo Gregory for Hey U Guys.

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New Review: Top Dog

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Crime dramas, crime thrillers, gangster films. They often get a bad rap – and it’s not hard to see why when there’s a constant stream of poorly made, low budget films being spurned out with the same boring plot where someone shoots someone because he ‘mugged off’ wotshisname / stole the drugs / snitched on so-and-so. So it’s something of a relief when something comes along that’s been made with a little more effort, which is where Martin Kemp’s Top Dog comes into play.
Top Dog was brought to life by Green Street writer Dougie Brimson and lead actor Leo Gregory, who plays bad-boy-turned-good Billy Evans. Evans makes the fatal faux pas of trying to protect his family from a local gang who are charging them protection money – so far, so ordinary. But director Kemp is evidently keen on attempting to present something a little different. There is a clear relationship between Green Street and Top Dog, although the latter is far subtler. Kemp recognises that the football hooliganism that is so glorified in Green Street is more of an echo now then it was at the time of the former being made. Everyone has moved on now, although that’s not to say that there isn’t still room for trouble.
Kemp makes a real attempt to steer clear of the bog-standard story of football and fighting, and to an extent it pays off. The focus is far more on the negative impact of the sort of lifestyle that Billy has previous enjoyed, and is trying desperately to escape. Gregory is highly entertaining as Evans, with all the swagger that we’ve come to expect, but there’s also a quieter side; Evans is a man trying to think before he acts, trying to be a good husband and a good parent.
A notable strength of the film is the more prominent use of the female cast. Billy’s wife Sam, played by Dannielle Brent, and the excellent Lorraine Stanley, playing the wife of right-hand man Graham, both give great performances, and are woven in to the story, rather than being vacuous stereotypes that are so often churned out in films of the same genre. The film focuses on the interaction between them as friends, and as partners of two men that they never fully trust. Their friendship is as much a part of the film as the rest of the narrative, and it’s a pleasure to see the women in the piece being presented as more than trophies for the men to use (although there is, of course, plenty of that too.)
Sadly the film doesn’t totally manage to steer clear of the usual archetypal characters that are so overdone, and if you’re not a fan of the genre, with its geezers and birds and brutal violence, then Top Dog isn’t going to do too much to change your mind, but it’s got to be commended for its deliberate effort to step away from it all, and to present a film with some substance as well as style.

Article written for Hey U Guys

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A Story of Children and Film: Interview with Director Mark Cousins

mark-cousinsMark Cousins is a man who knows his cinema. His impressive encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema makes his films a must see for any cinephile. I spoke to spoke to Mark for HeyUGuys ahead of the release of A Story of Children and Film, a study of the relationship between children and cinema.

A Story of Children and Film is very similar to The Story of Film in style. What made you decide to choose children as a subject matter?

Well I didn’t intend to choose children to be honest, I was determined not to make another film about cinema, because A Story of Film had taken 6 years and I was tired. But even to relax, I have a little camera and I shoot stuff, and I was shooting stuff with my niece and nephew in my flat, and you know sometimes when you switch off, that’s when you’re brain starts to go, and saw the footage and I thought ‘uh-oh, I can feel a film coming on!’ I found a lot of charm in their silly play. It was very believable, their lacking in self-consciousness, and I think because I was determined not to be making a film, I was very un self-conscious as well, and out of that came something a bit fresh and a bit fun. The thought train started to tremble and I started to ask myself questions like ‘What is the relationship between children and movies?’ Have movies been good to childhood over the years?’ I answered ‘yes’ and then I asked myself ‘How good?’ and I then realised- very ,very good, in fact better than most art forms. It’s the pleasure of thinking and making visual connections which drove this picture.

So obviously a lot of research goes in to something like this, where do you even start?

Well to be honest, I don’t do loads of research! I never have, I’ve always had a head full of movies and I’ve got a very good visual memory, so even when I was writing The Story of Film (the book on which the movie was based), in terms of actual research, there wasn’t all that much, so for A Story of Children and Film, I’d seen most of those films already. So the challenge wasn’t that I had to go out in to the forest and find loads of trees and bring the wood, it was more like ‘what kind of house to I want to build? I did ask around a bit, I had a great friend in Sweden and one in the Czech Republic and a very good friend here in the UK, and I did ask ‘What am I missing here, is there anything really special?’ and they came up with some good suggestions too . So the big thing for me wasn’t an information gathering, it’s more the universal question, how to avoid banality and how to actually find poetics in the material, how to find the spark, the connective tissue between things, so they were the challenges.

Your films tend to be sort of film essays, so is educating people about cinema always your main goal?

No, not at all. I started as a filmmaker in the late ‘80’s and my films were about neo-Nazism, the Golf War etc. so a lot of my work is not about cinema. I’ve completed a film just recently about D.H Lawrence, and I’ve just co-directed a film with Mania Akbari, the great Iranian director. So some of my work is about cinema, and it’s the stuff that I’m best known for certainly. To be honest, hopefully people will learn something about cinema, but at the same time, I feel more like a drug pusher, trying to get people hooked. It’s feels more about intoxication, or passion, rather than education. Education sounds more factual. In the Story of Children and Film, I quite often don’t even mention the name of the director which is usually a big no-no for movie buffs, so it’s not about facts or information, it’s more intense than that. It’s more like ‘Look, I’m a freak in that I love cinema, I come from this planet called cinema, it’s a great planet, come and join me there, come and join the aliens!’

The voice over and commentary in your films are often very literal and accessible to people, as if you want people to understand your point of view, rather than you just giving your opinion.

Yes, if you notice, especially in my films about cinema, I speak in the present tense. It’s always, ‘Look,’ or ‘the character does’, rather than ‘did.’ It’s more complicit in that way, I always feel that I’m sitting in the cinema with you, and we’re looking up at the big screen together, and it’s mutual and I guess what I’m trying to do it move your eye around the screen and notice things that you probably would’ve noticed on your own, but if you haven’t then I help you there. Hopefully, whilst it’s got element of a lecture, it’s slightly more visual and more enchanting than that. I come from a background where nobody went to university, and I don’t want to exclude people in what I do, hopefully my work has a degree of welcome, a degree of embrace. It’s sort of saying ‘this is for you’. Particularly with cinema, you can’t afford to be elitist or snobby, that doesn’t work for cinema. I don’t like when you come across critical writing where you feel as though they may as well put a barbed wire fence saying ‘stay out.’ We need to be more inclusive than that.

Your film takes a moment from ordinary everyday life and treats it almost as it was something that is cinematic in a way. Is that how you generally view the world?

Very much so, that’s exactly what I’m aiming for. I’m extremely influenced by those Iranian directors. I think it was Abbas Kiarostami who said that Iranian cinema is poor on the outside but rich on the inside, and I think that’s what life’s like. Like right now, I’m looking out my window and it’s pissing with rain, and the bus is just going by, and in many ways it’s a miserable day, and yet, there’s magic in that day, and a kind of life force, all sorts of things are happening. I think I sort of believe that every day moments are sort of a miracle. I’m not religious at all but, the great scientist Einstein said that ‘either nothing is a miracle or nearly everything is. So when you point your camera at some ordinary street scene, you see a richness, if you look closely and I thought about that when I filmed my niece and nephew and I think that’s one thing that cinema does very well, it notices that richness, it notices the ordinary miracles of the everyday.

With regard to your films about film, particularly A Story of Film, there are some references to Hollywood. Do you think that Hollywood can teach us things even now?

Absolutely. Story of Film as you know was a history of cinema and it’s been about a quarter of the story, which is why it’s about a quarter of the story in the film, whereas A Story of Children and Film is as much about childhood, and so I felt more free to focus on the more unusual films about childhood so I didn’t focus on any particular part of the world. In terms of Hollywood’s ability to teach us things, there are a number of things. There’s a kind of optimism in American culture in general and you get that in Hollywood, which is very unfashionable, but you get a kind of joy and fun which it’s good to be reminded of over time. It’s like the new Lego movie, it’s just got this absolute wallop of joy in it, and we can learn that from Hollywood. And more specifically, we can learn that Hollywood will back a film like Gravity. It will put a film with big stars with a lot of money, even though it was made in the UK. With Gravity, a lot of people were a bit down on it, but I just thought it was this splendid grief movie, I thought it was a grief movie in the way that Three Colours Blue is a grief movie; a woman spinning in space, the ultimate emptiness and weightless, but it was also technically dazzling and a lot of fun. There’s an extravagance to the Hollywood imagination at its very best and an optimism that is very precious. It’s a kind of tent pole for other movies and it’s the reason a lot of us got in to the movies in the first place. I’d never be snooty about Hollywood, I’m snooty about individual Hollywood films because there’s so much shit, but the idea there is still very valuable in our popular culture.

So of the working directors now, who are the ones that you would say have influenced your passion the most?

I can tell you that I think the best directors in the world are Apichatpong in Thailand, I think Jonathan Glazer in the UK, I’ve just seen Under The Skin for the third time. Roy Andersson in Sweden Kira Muratova in the Ukraine, Alexander Sokurov in Russia and David Lynch. There are so many great directors working today. The ones that I feel closest to in terms of my modest filmmaking are Kirostami in Iran, Roy Andersson in Sweden. Again I’ve just made a film with Mania Akbari who inspired me before I started working with her . I think Mohsen Makhmalbaf inspired me a lot. So it’s filmmakers who are working on smaller budgets who are trying to be innovative, particularly those who blur the lines between fiction and documentary.

So, what is the best film of all time?
[Laughs] The best film of all time is Insect Woman made by Shohei Imamura in Japan in 1963. I love his films any way, he famously said that he wanted him films to be about the lower part of the social structure and the lower part of the human body- class and sex. So he made this film about this really gutsy, determined woman who really has a lot of things thrown at her, and yet she survives and keeps going. As well as stunning to look at, it is about something that is so brilliant which is human fortitude. We are so determined, and I just love it for that reason.

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For Those in Peril: Interview with director Paul Wright and actor George MacKay

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To mark the DVD release of For Those in Peril, I interviewed director Paul Wright and actor George Mackay for Hey U Guys.

For Those in Peril is the debut feature from Scottish filmmaker Paul Wright. The critically celebrated film won a slew of awards, and was nominated for a BAFTA this year (Wright won his first back in 2010 with short film Until the River Runs Red). Also nominated this year for a rising star BAFTA was George Mackay, who delivers an exceptional performance as tragic Aaron, whose life is catapulted in to despair when a disastrous fishing trip makes him a hate figure of his local community. We caught up with the director and star to talk about one of the best British films to come out of 2013.

So, you were both up for BAFTA’s at this year’s awards which is pretty exciting?

Paul Wright: Yeah I think it’s great in that it gets the word of the film out there. It premiered in Cannes and then played in Edinburgh so it’s had a good festival run. You know, a film like this, hopefully always going to be about the people that did get to see it having a connection with it, something like a BAFTA nomination helps.

So Paul, where did you get your inspiration from? Your short film Believe (2009) seems to have quite a similar themes running through it.

PW: Well I grew up in a very similar village to the village in the films so, living right by the sea there was a certainly a lot that I could relate to, and in terms of the themes of the films, with death and grief especially. When I was younger, about 14 or 15 I lost my Dad, and I guess it’s that age where obviously I knew what was happening, but I couldn’t totally get my head around it, but I guess that probably doesn’t change no matter what the age is. The film obviously isn’t autobiographical but there’s certainly things there, and I think that’s been quite interesting with audiences. I don’t know, I think there’s something with grief, it’s quite an extreme thing, and life and death become a lot more vivid and in this film and maybe in some of my short films as well, I’ve been interested in exploring that.

One of the interesting things about the film is that whilst there is obviously the element of the ‘gritty British Cinema’ that people are familiar with, but then you also have element of fantasy, which is very unique.

PW: Well I know my favourite films, rather than having the bit at the end where somebody wakes up or there’s ‘…and the moral of the story is…’ or whatever, it’s nice to allow a bit of space for the audience. With the character in this film and the journey he goes on, I think it’s more true to life almost. You know, you can remember one thing whilst you’re doing something else, or you suddenly have a moment where you’re fearful of something in the future, rather than waking up and ‘oh, it was all a dream.’ So it was about exploring that, and also, I think that there’s something interesting about grounding a film in reality and playing around with it in that way. And it isn’t even like it is fantasy, or has dream scenes or anything like that, which hopefully is more powerful than if there were to be dragons flying about or whatever!

In the film, George MacKay’s Aaron is in this awful situation where he loses his brother in a fishing accident, and then he has to come back to a situation where people think it’s his fault. Did you find that this sort of attitude still exists? It’s quite hard to believe.

PW: Well it’s not based on any experiences that I’ve had, but certainly whilst researching for the film, there were certainly people saying things like ‘they’d rather go down with the boat,’ or whatever, but what kind of made sense to me is this feeling that, in your darkest moment, if you’d lost a love one, maybe you would feel have that slight feeling of ‘why couldn’t you have saved them? ’The idea of the film was to push that to the extreme by having Aaron going in the opposite direction to the rest of the village, it brings out these feeling that he has, which may have remained subdued. But anyone who comes from a small village will know, once you go in a different direction to everybody else, it becomes sort of amplified.

So George, how did you come to be involved with For Those in Peril?

George MacKay: Well I was working away at the time, and I’d sent a tape off, then there was a chance to meet Paul and do a reading. So I met with him and Polly Stokes and Mary (Burke, Warp Films producer), and I’d been given scenes to prepare, but when I got there, they were sort of used as a framework. It was a really cool audition actually in the sense that there was a lot of improvisation; Paul said quite quickly that I only has to use them as a guide which was cool. It was great fun, I’ve not really had many other auditions that have felt quite so free. He still gave me a really strong idea of what I had to do.

How do you prepare for a role like that? Obviously it’s an extremely harrowing film, and the emotions that you’re having to bring to the surface are quite strong.

GM: I felt like a lot of the work was done for me in the sense that the character that Paul creates. Again, we talked quite a bit about Aaron and came up with a broad framework of his journey, and what he’s feeling at particular stages, and within that, we plotted quite specifically what Paul wanted to achieve from each scene, and then all of the sadness comes out of that process. I think the sadness comes from the fact that he’s the only person who thinks that the decisions that he makes are the right ones. It’s interesting because if you’re looking at the character that you’re meant to be sympathising with, and they’re feeling sorry for themselves then it’s a bit like ‘Oh, well.’ But if the character is absolutely sure that they should be punished for what they’ve done, then it’s more upsetting.

The film is devastating, it makes you feel real grief, which is hard to do….

PW: Well I think it’s quite important to just go for it not be shy about what we were trying to do, and that’s what film is, is about trying to create an emotional response.

So George, you’ve managed to build up quite an impressive body of work, are there any plans to go to Hollywood?

GM: I don’t really think about a strategy really, it’s good to be able to think about what you would want to do, but I’m not trying to get carried away yet! For me, it’s about the script and the people you work with and wanting to be part of that, and if that’s further afield than grand, but that’s not really what I’m thinking about.

You’ve just finished filming Pride about the Thatcher era, can you tell us a bit about it?
GM: Yeah, well its set in 1984 and is telling the true story about these gay rights activists who started a support group called ’Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ and started fundraising for the miners on strike in Wales. It’s all about the bond created when you find a common goal, and transcend surface level boundaries.

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Oscar Race: Why 12 Years A Slave Should Win Best Picture

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Awards season has begun. A time of year to celebrate the very best that those in cinema have achieved over the past year. The Oscars are perhaps the most highly sought after award that a member of the film industry can receive. Every year, people place bets on the winners, gasp at the injustice of thoroughly overlooked masterpieces and pretend that they really don’t care who wins, only to be outraged when their favourite misses out. And the most esteemed of these awards every year is always Best Picture. A Best Picture nomination is acknowledgement that at the very core of any picture, there is a team.
So, who are the Oscars really for? Are they for the cinephiles and critics who approach a film with an expert eye? Or are they for the ordinary folk, who spend their hard earned money in the cinema, looking for a thrilling story and visual stimulation? Well arguably, they should be somewhere in between. The ceremony itself is as much about the who’s wearing who as it is about the films, and of course, it’s the ceremony that draws in the general public, without whom the whole thing would be rendered pointless (even if they’re not the ones scrambling for an online link to view the show live at 5am). So those who buy in to the glitz and glamour need to be rewarded with films that they’ve heard of. And similarly, those who do have a deeper dedication to the beautiful art naturally want to see something with a bit of substance as well as technical brilliance. So really, a film that will satisfy everybody has to win, and that film, this year, is 12 Years a Slave.
12 Years a Slave is a film that truly displays the full potential of cinema when all of the elements are perfectly married together. From the very first scene, an extreme close up of two people, searching for intimacy in a place where everything around them is totally devoid of love; that scene is a perfect example of cinema at its most spectacular. It’s gut-wrenchingly tragic, it’s absurdly beautiful and the pain etched on their faces cuts through to the soul. It’s what cinema is all about. Great acting, beautiful shots, tense moments. And of course, that’s just the first scene in what turns out to be an epic tale of injustice, pain, grief and love. It has absolutely everything. It’s a film which can switch from a torturously long scene of a man hanging from tree, clinging on to life, a scene that would not be out of place in an ‘art house’ film, to an exciting, tense, adrenalin fuelled scene where our prisoner is trying to escape his captors. Of course the film is about slavery, and yet manages to be sincere without being manipulative or judgemental to the audience, and at the same time exciting, without being offensive or dumbing down the seriousness of the subject. It’s art and it’s commercially viable.
It would be fairly insulting to try and suggest that the film has in any way made an impact in terms of larger discussions around slavery in the real world, and that certainly isn’t what McQueen is trying to do, but it’s impossible to discuss the film without at least raising the political context. It is important that a true story about slavery is being told and that this is recognised. McQueen isn’t saying ‘feel guilty, stand up and listen, address America’s chequered past.’ He is saying ‘Here is a film about something that actually happened to a real person and it’s terrible.’ And so McQueen strikes a balance, and sets out exactly what he is trying to achieve.
So as well as being a technically brilliant film, 12 Years A Slave should win the Oscar, because it represents a flawless collaboration of art and commercial viability, and appeals to both the film lover and the casual film viewer.
Ultimately, in order for a film to win a ‘Best Picture’ for anything, every single element of the film has to be the best, because the award is recognising a team effort. There cannot be any average qualities. Gravity is an astonishing visual treat, but is the writing alone worthy of an Oscar? No. Wolf of Wall Street is well written, with impeccable performances from the lead cast, but was the cinematography exceptional? Not at all. 12 Years does not have a single imperfect element. Steve McQueen, one of the finest directors of his generation, presents a film without a single flaw. The performances given by lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o are breath-taking. And then there’s ever-faultless McQueen regular Michael Fassbender giving a brutal, unrelenting performance. There is no single element that could be classed as anything other than utter perfection, and only a film that is outstanding in every single way, deserves the Best Picture Oscar.

Article originally written for Hey U Guys

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Free Cinema: Part Two

Every Day Except Christmas

Every Day Except Christmas

The second part of the Free Cinema Series will confusingly be exploring the third film programme that was part of the series.

As well as showing more experimental British films, the Free Cinema movement also explored the work of international filmmakers, including Truffaut and Polanksi.

The third programme was the second selection of the British shorts shown as part of the movement. These four films however, didn’t seem to quite fit in with the initial remit. From showing experimental films with no restrictions, the third programme seemed to show films that were far more conventional in their style- which was not really the point in the first place. With restrictions placed on Anderson by the commissioners of his two films that were part of this programme, it’s hard to understand why they were included- they are not totally ‘free’ after all.

Despite this, the films are essential viewing. They all display characters from marginalised areas of society, and are in keeping with what the movement was trying to achieve.

Programme 3: Free Cinema 3

The Wakefield Express- The second of Lindsay Anderson’s film to appear as part of the Free Cinema programme, it differs quite obviously from the other work in the movement. Anderson was commissioned by the Wakefield Express newspaper to make the film to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the newspaper going to print, and so naturally, he would’ve been far more restricted in terms of the type of film he could deliver. The film is very similar in style to a lot of the earlier documentaries that the movement itself professed to reject, and it is hard to understand why it was actually part of the movement at all. Anderson, whose other work is usually critical of the traditions and nostalgic portraits of British life in cinema, explores the stories of the people of Wakefield with a fondness and romantic glow. It also has the informative nature of many of the early Grierson documentaries and public information films. It’s certainly an enjoyable watch, but perhaps an odd choice for the programme.

Nice Time- Directors Alain Tanner and Claude Goretta was almost certainly influenced by Anderson. His film O’ Dreamland that was part of the first Free Cinema programme cast a critical eye on the postcard imagery of the British seaside, and Nice Time follows suit, but has moved to the Capital, more specifically, Piccadilly Circus. In keeping with Free Cinema tradition, has no dialogue or linear narrative, but simply observes groups of people on a night out on the town. As with O’ Dreamland, there is a sinister undertone to the frivolity and laughter that is presented on the scene. Flashes of nude images of women on billboards, coupled with a soundtrack that mixes club music with dialogue from some of the films showing at Leicester Square is at times overwhelming. London is at once exciting and terrifying.

The Singing Street-The Singing Street is the most amateur of the films in all of the Free Cinema programmes. Shot in and around Edinburgh, the film was directed and shot by a group of school teachers, who simply wanted to document the songs sang and the games played by school children. Historically, the film was shot at a time before television took over in the UK, and the filmmakers were eager to capture the carefree attitude of the young children, who could still run around in the streets. The film is one of the more positive of the programme, and is a celebration of childhood and community.

Every Day Except Christmas- Another film from Anderson, this time with Karel Reisz as the producer, the film was the first of the ‘Look at Britain’ series commissioned by Ford Motors. The film starts at midnight, and follows the delivery drivers who bring produce to the market. As the day dawns, the market is bustling with people and Anderson observes the various characters who mingle around, looking for a bargain. Anderson’s focus seems to be on the ordinary, working class people who go about their daily business, and it’s similar to Wakefield Express in its style.

Stay tuned for the final instalment.

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