“Maybe I’m not good enough.” It’s this constantly underlying anxiety that gnaws at Mia and Sebastian (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling) as they chase their respective aspirations in acting and jazz music, compelled by the allure of Hollywood’s star-spangled promises of success and validation. It is not, however, a fear that director Damien Chazelle need pay any attention to, considering La La Land’s dazzlingly impressive, record-tying achievement of 14 Oscar nominations including Best Director – making him, at only 32 years-old, the youngest nominee to date. This kind of recognition (totally deserved, I might add) is something our protagonists may only dream of, and dream they most certainly do.
Two years ago, I landed in a lovely sisterhood of a flat where we would sit round the kitchen table and quiz each other via the ‘The Dating Persona’ Okcupid test. It promised to analyze sex drive, predictability, intelligence and inherent goodness. It was an absurd hangover breakfast diversion, but I enjoyed the zany matches to other types and dead-eyed pastel illustrations.
I happened to be single that summer, and watching How To Be Single this week impressed uncanny similarities between my old self and the lead lady Alice. The most obvious aspect I saw of myself was that I had to go the long haul to realize I wasn’t doing things on my own: to enjoy my own company. I would cycle the extra mile for a baked good cause I deserved to be in love with myself. I would text many guys because I was lonely – but I thought I was owning it – and was probably quite shitty to my friends in figuring all this out. Also, the phrase ‘getting caught in dick sand’ sounds like something me and my friends would actually say.
How To Be Single was by no means a perfect film – the plot lost the way a little in the middle – but it was endlessly refreshing as it showed a more realistic attitude to young women today. It surfs the polar standards set by Hollywood of people that are either happily in love or desolate and single. The film presents a grey area, a middle slog that sometimes takes months, perhaps years to traverse. This is the tumultuous ocean of self-love. Also, it was great to have Rebel Wilson provide some comic effect. Likewise, the men in the film were not all after the poon. Mr. Bartender was weird, but I think him ending the film alone with his dis-serviced mini fridge proved a point. Mr. Professional Building-Developer was shitty to Alice, but then apologized and vacated the screen focusing on the core relationship in his life; that with his daughter. ‘Hey there’s that adorable man who warmed the butter in his hands from Obvious Child!’ at first hand seemed too eagerly pursuing his chosen gal, but it was revealed he just wanted a nice family all along and dressed-up as a stay at home dad at an 8th grade costume party. Basically, a male with his eyes set on the prize – all day watching Chef’s Table re-runs on Netflix and making pureed carrot. He was a… LATTE PAPA. It is fantastic that movies finally recognize this breed of human.
When films give two minutes to consider equal cinematic representation of the sexes, it’s like watching a toddler still stumbling towards their first steps, as you get to see it grow and reflect on the triumphs and near misses. Superhero film Deadpool was like an overly performative ten-year-old throwing shit into your eyes. Watching Deadpool, I was reminded instantly of one of the darker questions of the Okcupid quiz: ‘Suppose your boyfriend/girlfriend is horribly burned in a car accident that was totally your fault. They are badly mutilated and *pissed off*. Is it time to say goodbye?’. We were all horrified at this question and, not being a sociopath, answered no. Ryan Reynold’s character simply says: ‘Are you deformed from trying to access an up-and-coming cancer treatment? Gross. Never even walk on the same street as your partner again, as they will not accept you’. He also draws the line at having cancer period. Just walk right out on your fiancée in the middle of the night, cause it’s time to say goodbye.
Another thing Deadpool does is pay for a sex-worker to go on a date with him, in some sort of hostage situation, where he withholds sex until the clock is running (cause he sweetly wanted to take her to an arcade first). But when the magic does happen, she is utterly eroticized by his peen and, unclearly, she is now his girlfriend.
Their whole relationship is a montage of different ways they’ve had sex. This might have been refreshing in another film, but since her character was a sex-worker two minutes ago earlier, they should have clarified if she was still on a contract with him.
After twenty-four hours, I can now laugh at it, but in all honestly Deadpool made the world feel a bit smaller with its smack-down of sexism. A female character, who exhibited to a traditional lad-mentality audience an unapproachable appearance (piercings, shaved hair and comfortable clothing) was met with the aside ‘Good luck to the guy who tries to force her into after prom sex’. Ah Deadpool, how wink wink nudge nudge you slipped a rape joke in! I honestly was sick in my mouth multiple times during this film. I also got a neck injury from peeking over at the majority male audience in Dbox seats – cause real men sit in the hardcore area – to see how they were receiving it. They found the whole thing utterly hilarious of course.
So one film made the world a little bigger with its exploration of newer shades of movie character, the other made me afraid to strike up a conversation with any man that isn’t my boyfriend. In case you’re wondering, one film received 83% and the other 49%. I’ll let you puzzle that one out for yourself. However, as both films present themselves as cinematic junk food I was pleasantly surprised to get a little more from How to Be Single.
By Heather O’Donnell
Justin Kurzel’s ‘Macbeth’ is ferocious. The film has a lot to say and it says it with such insight and ferociousness that Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ – a work so famous its mere nickname has a dedicated Wikipedia page – is once again made unpredictable and raw.
The film is faithful to the Scottish Play from first to last, but this is no straightforward adaptation. The movie is beautifully interpretative and nuanced, not bending the original narrative, but rather taking the uncertainties and hints already present in the play and weaving them together into a compelling and persuasive modern take on a much-told story.
Macbeth, an 11th century nobleman, meets three witches who prophesize that he will become king of Scotland. Spurred on by his wife, Macbeth assassinates the current monarch, then crumbles under the psychological cost of murder.
But Shakespeare’s tragedy itself is full of ambiguity and open questions, not the least of which is the murder itself. The witches have proved themselves to be reliable, so it is certain that one day Macbeth will rule. Then why does he have a feeling of urgency to kill the king and ‘catch the nearest way’?
The film succeeds due to the visceral, emotionally stirring explanations that it offers. A brief line in the play alludes to Lady Macbeth having once had a child, and boldly, the movie begins with the funeral of the infant in question. Fassbender and Cotillard proceed to give powerful performances as a couple who still love one another, but are struggling to fill the emptiness that has arisen between them. There is a newfound poignancy in Lady Macbeth’s assertion that she feels ‘now the future in the instant’. These are more than ruthless villains driven by ambition – they are people who can see no other future, and who are fighting for meaning in a life ‘signifying nothing’.
And then there is war, ravaging Scotland, and Macbeth the soldier, forced to kill. There are echoes of ‘Apocalypse Now’ in the film’s treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the way humans respond to violence. ‘I wept,’ says Colonel Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’. ‘I wanted to tear my teeth out… and then I realized… my God… the genius of it!’ A similar idea is palpable in the way Fassbender’s Macbeth is simultaneously wounded and enraptured by his own acts of brutality.
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, like one of its most famous lines, is full of ‘sound and fury’. To this verbal and thematic intensity Kurzel adds striking cinematography and gorgeous visuals, noteworthy in and of themselves. This is, however, both a strong point and a problem. The movie overwhelms. The images complement the dialogue for the most part, but there are times when script and visuals distract from one another – and before one has time to consider either, the movie has moved on. The pacing is relentless, and there are no pauses either in the action, or in the tone. The drunken porter of the original play, telling jokes on stage to provide the audience with a welcome break, has been cut out completely.
Had the film let its images linger on screen for a little longer, been a little slower, it might have been less intellectually and emotionally exhausting. As it stands, it does not allow enough time for one to consider the ideas it puts forward, which is a shame, precisely because the insights it delivers are so worthy of consideration. Ultimately though, ‘Macbeth’ is a brutal, beautiful movie with a persuasive point of view, and two exceptionally good lead actors. Its atmosphere lingers, long after the final credits stop rolling.
By Lisa Feklistova
In today’s lively LGBTQ+ community it can be easy to think that youth culture is primary representative of the movements’ ideals. However, Open Windows, screened by The Scottish Queer International Film Festival, challenges that assumption. This documentary, about four lesbian women in their seventies, challenges stereotypes and offers increased visibility to the older generation’s past and present experience. Although the film highlights a bygone era where terms like “lesbian” weren’t common, the message of the film is progressive. Overall, it is a call for the present LGBTQ+ movement to recognize the strides lesbians made in the past and to acknowledge those strides both in policymaking and in the community.
Preceding Open Windows, the short film Are We Being Served? was screened with LGBT Health and Wellbeing’s group, LGBT Age. This short film works very well as a way of culturally linking Scotland’s individual experience to the generational LGBTQ+ issues explored in the main feature.
Open Windows begins by following the narratives of Boti, Empar, Micheline and Jocelyne from their initial realizations of being different, to the trials of finding love as a lesbian, to the battle of feeling old versus looking old. Micheline and Jocelyne portray a dual experience of uncovering their own sexualities together. They fall in love at the ripe age of 69, an experience they insist is the cure for old age. Boti and Empar, on the other hand, approach the issue of aging by addressing the mental process of paying attention to one’s sexual desires and acknowledging them regardless of age. However, the film ultimately turns towards the women’s defining experiences with activism to emphasize the need for lesbian visibility.
As part of a generation that defined the LGBTQ+ movement, the four women in Open Windows represent voices that cannot be ignored. The film gives a final message that not only do personal narratives increase understanding of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, but that communication between the old and young members of this group is absolutely vital.
Reviewed by Gina Pieracci
Directed by Christopher Nolan, interstellar was this Autumn’s blockbuster. Involving intersecting themes of the importance of family ties, the struggle between nature and human control and love defying time, the film is ambitious in its content and form and won’t leave you indifferent.
Interstellar is set in a pre-apocalyptic era on earth where food is scarce and extreme changes in climate jeopardize humanity’s survival. Protagonist Cooper: loving father, and former space pilot, is enrolled to go on an interstellar adventure, having to leave his children behind, in search of a planet that can sustain life.
The film by Christopher Nolan was undoubtedly going to be discussed and controversial – Why? – Well, this is a Christopher Nolan film, and used to be Spielberg’s project before passing it on to Nolan. Just like any of his films, Nolan likes to deliver a definitive work of art, to play with the viewers’ mind and feelings, and to titillate the most skeptical of us – any memory of Inception’s final scene?
Interstellar created a real fuss in the distributors’ area with the option of viewing in six different formats: Digital, 4K Digital, IMAX, 35mm film, 70mm film, IMAX 70mm film (ordered by ascending quality). You, dear audience, will have the dilemma to choose which format to watch. Just like Gravity, Interstellar will suffer from a later screening in DVD or Blu Ray, so, try and see it on the big screen as it was intended to be!
I found the film brilliant, but not flawless. The opening statement is original: Earth is not hospitable. It is implied that mankind is the reason for this ecological disaster, but the real threat here is Earth itself.
‘Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here’, states Cooper. ‘We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt’.
If one of the subthemes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was to wonder about ‘how far should man go’, Interstellar wonders about ‘how far could man go’. The implied statement here being that man is a pioneer, and explorer, and that there are no boundaries to the knowledge humans can acquire. Yet, the comparison with 2001 stops there. Kubrick’s film was more of a quiet book of images demanding high involvement to notice the connotations, while Interstellar is a popular entertainment aiming to inspire people with off-the-cart visual imagery and wordy monologues. The vastness of space has always been a vector of introspection. By being such a grandiose show, Interstellar could lack some individuality. Where movies such as Solaris (2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh) depend completely on its characters, Interstellar does not fully reconcile intimacy and greatness. It is interesting to notice that both films are cradled by Dylan Thomas’ poems. Coincidence? No, thank you, sir.
This slight lack of focus on the characters gives the impression of an unfinished performance by Matthew McConaughey. While a couple of scenes (no spoilers) truly take your breath away and make you want to cry out loud, McConaughey does not reach the grandiose he had in Dallas Buyers Club and Mud. McConaughey is a tremendous actor, his performance in Interstellar is solid and relevant, just not as fascinating as it could have been.
Some may argue that Nolan skims over some aspects of the script, especially in the last act of the film (which is unusual for a film that lasts 2 hours and 49 minutes). Fulfilling, tiresome, mind-blowing, non-credible, you name it. But do make your own opinion of it. We will still be talking about it months from now. In a film messing with our mind by talking about quantum mechanics, time-relativity and the fifth dimension, there was one simple message: love is the one thing that transcends time and space.
ART SCREEN – Celebrating Arts Documentaries
The BBC is proud to announce the details for a brand new arts documentary festival – Art Screen. Taking place as part of the Glasgow International Festival, Art Screen will showcase some of the world’s best arts documentary films and include highlights from the BBC archive.
Accessibility for students is a central to the aims of the festival, and full-time students will be able to access substantial discounts on ticket prices, as well as several free events.
The diverse four-day festival will take place in two of Glasgow’s renowned art spaces, the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts from the 10th-13th April 2014. The programme will include screenings of documentaries on visual arts, architecture, music and photography alongside accompanying events and discussions featuring major international artists, filmmakers, and critics. Kirsty Wark and Tim Marlow will chair interviews and participate in panel discussions offering conversational sessions across the festival.
Art Screen will also include Arts in the Archive, a strand dedicated to the many hours of extraordinary arts footage in the BBC’s own archive. Arts in the Archive, screening at the CCA, will provide access to many hours of rarely seen footage, from throughout the BBC’s history.
Highlights of the festival include two world premieres which will be screening in the GFT; Our Glasgow and Facing up to Mackintosh.
More details about the festival, including the programme, can be found on Art Screen’s website
This is the first in a series of reviews of classic films by Mina Kirkova
Centred on the life and family of Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp), this is a film about the important things in life and how people tackle the difficulties that life presents them with. A film about travelling a long distance, without actually going anywhere, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape shows multiple ways of living and all the ways in which not living life to the fullest will get you nowhere. The character of Gilbert Grape starts and ends the film with a framing voiceover in which he talks about his life. Simple words and simple sentences, this voiceover almost has you believe that Gilbert’s life is actually a pretty straightforward and easy one. This is, of course, not the case, and soon enough the viewer is presented in a subtle and patient way with “what’s eating Gilbert Grape”. He introduces the small town of Endora and states that there’s nothing much that could ever happen in a town like this. The film goes on to show us that the little things are actually the big things, and that a small town can carry lots of stories in its heart. Endora is a place where most people know each other and the opening of a fast food chain restaurant seems to be a big event. Surrounded by people he loves and cares about, Gilbert Grape is part of this small town holiday, whilst at the same time he isn’t.
Playing Arnie, the autistic brother of the protagonist, Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting is marvellous; he got his first (widely discussed) Oscar nomination for this particular film. Gilbert takes care of Arnie on behalf of his overweight mother, who suffers from severe depression, having been previously abandoned by her husband. Arnie’s disability combined with kindness are beautifully expressed through his constant desire to climb the town’s water tower until he goes as high as he can possibly get. Arnie’s character is the deep breath of honesty in the Grape family and he is everybody’s weakness. Gilbert, his sisters, and their mother all go to their limits when it comes to Arnie and he loves them sincerely for everything they do for him. The film slowly builds up to Arnie’s eighteenth birthday – a more than happy day for his friends and family, as he was not expected to live to more than ten years old. This day of celebration holds many emotions and implications for the Grape family, but it seems to end on a note of acceptance and understanding. Its exploration of the difficult issues surrounding taking care of a child with a disability, and having to grow up without a father figure for guidance, is one of the most captivating facets of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. This is a film that doesn’t quite have a catch, but it has something bigger, something that is definitely not going to let you go until the end of the film – the portrayal of the warmth of human relationships.
Although most of the time consumed by his love and dedication to his family, Gilbert is touched by romantic love when he least expects it. As important emotions in relationships go, love is probably number one on the list, and it is given the attention it needs in this story too. Gilbert’s odd, but instant connection with travelling girl Becky confuses him and makes him question the things that he has valued most in life until he met her. The extent to which his intuition makes him act in the interest of love give a delightful outline to his love for Becky. Gilbert seems to get from Becky what he can’t get anywhere else, and happiness naturally comes hand in hand with the revelation that she is willing to be kind and understanding with the family that he more or less takes care of.
Going through so much, Johnny Depp’s Gilbert comes to terms with what life has to offer, along with the fact that these things are not often served on a silver platter. Gilbert Grape has to accept the people he loves through family ties for who they are, and to understand why is it that he loves them, so that he can be happy with the person that he chooses to love. He makes a journey in this film and it’s as beautiful and sad as it is through and through fulfilling – for Gilbert and for Hallstrom’s audience.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is a classics of recent film history, simple, but thought-provoking, exemplifying how small things make a world of a difference to everyone. It is one of those films that do not have complicated, twisting plot, but in it there’s something pleasing for all of the senses. It leaves the spectator smiling. The film was instantly accepted by critics for the simple pleasures it gives to the viewer. Such a movie is always as topical as it was when it first came out. It does not go out of date and changing perspectives do not alter the emotional response it inevitably provokes. You should give Gilbert Grape another watch.
Unfortunately this review is going up rather late, as we had a few problems with the site over Christmas. I hope some of you still manage to catch Utopia:
Review: John Pilger’s Utopia
The late Nelson Mandela may have outlived apartheid in South Africa but his entire life coincided with another apartheid, one still very much alive. Incidentally, in his July article for the New Statesman, John Pilger illuminates a not so broadcast legacy of Mandela. There was no irony when the ANC’s politics were boasted of as Thatcherite by one of Mandela’s ministers, or when Mandela himself simply stated that “privatisation is the fundamental policy” for South Africa.
Just as Mandela’s endorsement of neo-liberalism may disappoint many, and stand in contrast to the popular conception that emerged of the man, in his latest documentary, Utopia, Pilger portrays an Australia alien to the collective imagination’s idea of down under. The country’s grand medical advancements, some incredibly sensible laws (fireworks are considered explosives, for instance), their impeccable emergency services and immense wealth, kept apartheid far from my mind as I sat in the Glasgow Film Theatre foyer, waiting for the only screening of Utopia to commence. After the disappointing announcement that Pilger would not make his planned introduction and Q and A via web-link, the curtains parted and within a minute or two the numbing of the audience became palpable as the preliminary scenes were projected. Images of a young black man, who committed no crime, being violently swung into a wall by police officers and then dragged to a cell where he would later die, occupied our attention. The blood which dripped from the young man’s mouth after his head was carelessly smashed against the police station wall was cleaned by the pair of offending officers, who footed around some cleaning paper as one remarked how unglamorous the job is. No officers were held accountable for the young man’s negligence and avoidable death. The screen cuts to black and Utopia titles over a harrowing climbing noise, similar to that which opens There Will Be Blood, and blood there was.
John Pilger appears soon after, and takes us to Utopia, an Aboriginal homeland in the Northern Territory, which ranks as the poorest and most deprived region in Australia. This is the first of many bitter ironies the film exhibits. With no gas, no electricity and no water, a typical Utopia resident half jokes that his wealthier white neighbour could have given him one of his eleven air conditioners. Like many of the Aborigine interviewed, easily treatable glaucoma stains the eyes of this resident, who cooks his meals over an open fire outside his derelict home. Glaucoma is just one of many extremely treatable diseases the Aborigine population suffer. Medical professionals expect to treat the most medieval of illnesses when they visit the likes of Utopia, and, hauntingly, nearly one third of all aborigine die before the age of 45. This fact is all one needs to appreciate the simple truth of the native population’s maltreatment.
Interviewing the government minister responsible for indigenous health standards since Pilger’s reporting of the Aborigine’s treatment in the 80’s, the shameless lack of satisfactory answers and denial of the grave injustice inflicted upon the native population is evident. Before any questions, the minister is already seen to be breathing heavily, testament to Pilger’s still formidable presence and also a reflection of the Australian government’s indefensible inaction in refusing to fund the most basic of health treatment to the poorest in its otherwise wealthy nation.
Indeed, inaction is putting it lightly. The persistent racist policies and actions of the Australian government are astounding. Myths of paedophilic circles entrenched in Aborigine tribes are concocted in order to launch organised military evictions of entire communities, not, as the government suggests, to solve the supposed problem of immoral Aborigine genetics, rather to harvest the rich minerals resting under their impoverished homes. An old story perhaps, but one ever horrifying. The national media’s dedication in pedalling mass propaganda concerning the rights of Aborigines, promoting their subordination and their lack of land rights and self-determination, is again exposed in a society which fundamentally refuses to recognise its own history.
Pilger portrays an Australia where the struggle of the Aborigine appears similar to the struggles of Mandela’s South Africa. The persistent oppression and exploitation of the oldest human presence on Earth is truly appalling, and one Pilger has relentlessly documented since his 1981 book on the subject, A Secret Country. Australia will have to wait until January to see this film, the UK on the other hand is its first eyes, it screens on Thursday the 19th on ITV. It is a crucial, solidly argued film that demands to be seen. One that got laughs in the audience I was a part of – there are ironies that can only produce laughter, a dark nervous laughter of despair and paralysis but I, and I suspect the rest of the audience, left Utopia with hot blood.
After viewing Utopia, Harold Pinter’s assessment of Pilger as a man who “unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth” still rings entirely true.
Utopia was broadcast on Thursday the 19th of December on ITV
For all articles by John Pilger visit his website johnpilger.com
Words by Liam Doherty
It’s everybody’s favorite time of the year; Halloween, the season where everyone’s entitled to one good scare. Below is a list of some of the most essential celluloid scare-flicks that cinema has to offer. Beware though, this is not a list of the greatest horror films ever made but rather a guide to get you in the mood for Halloween. I picked the lucky number 13 and chose the films that I feel best invoke the true spirit of All Hallows Eve so sit back, cuddle up, get some popcorn (and a few beers) and enjoy these nightly terrors. Oh, and have a happy Halloween!
13. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983, Dir: Jack Clayton).
OK, so this is a children’s film from Disney but hear me out… This twisted little tale is adapted from the Ray Bradbury classic of the same name and tells the story of two little boys who are confronted with evil itself in the form of a strange and dark travelling carnival. Set in October, Something Wicked is full of gorgeous autumn imagery and feels so right for Halloween viewing. Although this on is suitable for kids, it has some truly chilling moments – watch out for the room-full-of-tarantulas scene!
12. The Amityville Horror (1979, Dir: Stuart Rosenberg).
“For God’s Sake Get Out!” exclaims the poster for this classic 70’s scare machine. James Brolin (father of Josh Brolin), Margot Kidder (Black Christmas) and Rod Steiger star in this creepy chiller about a family who move into a house with an extremely violent past and that appears to “have memories.” If you think you know the trends of the haunted house movie it’s because Amityville got there first. Be prepared for some of the best jump-scares in horror history! Amityville is set in the autumn too so although it has nothing to do with Halloween, it will certainly get you in the mood.
11. Silver Bullet (1985, Dir: Daniel Attias).
An adaptation from the Stephen King cannon, Silver Bullet is about a boy who is determined to prove that a werewolf is causing the grisly murders in his hometown and armed with a high-speed motor wheelchair he sets out to do battle with the howling fiend. This one is great fun and stars The Lost Boys’ Corey Haim and Twin Peaks’ Everett McGill.
10. May (2002, Dir: Lucky McKee).
This is a much underrated little independent gem and concerns a girl called May who is trying to piece together her life after a traumatizing childhood. Poor May just wants to interact and connect with those around her but her method of making friends soon becomes deadly and violent. This is as emotional as it is horrific and with noticeable nods to directors such as Dario Argento, it really packs a punch in the final 10 minutes. There is a great climax on Halloween night too! If you like this then check out McKee’s other films The Woods and The Woman, highly recommended!
9. The Blair Witch Project (1999, Dir: Daniel Myrik and Eduardo Sanchez).
This film needs no introduction – the film that defined (but didn’t start) the found footage sub-genre revolves around 3 student filmmakers who venture into the woods to shoot a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. With each night something sinister tampers with their gear, makes strange noises in the woods around them and leaves piles of rocks outside their tents. Is it a person warding them off? Is it a rabid animal? Or is it the Blair Witch herself? You’ll just have to watch it to find out but be prepared for a white knuckle ride all the way to the nerve-shattering finale. This one is genuinely creepy, I strongly advise you watch this in the dark.
8. Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981, Dir: Frank De Felitta).
An angry mob hunt down a mentally challenged man named Bubba – a man suspected of killing a little girl – and exact justice in the most unforgiving and harrowing way. Years later the members of the mob are hacked off one by one by what appears to be a walking scarecrow. This was a TV movie so is low on gore but heavy on atmosphere and inventive kills and jump-scares. The lovely rural location lends this film to be a treat for the eyes, especially around this time of year.
7. Night of the Demons (1988, Dir: Kevin Tenny).
OK, if you like your Halloween flicks trashy but fun this is the one for you. The set-up is thus; a group of annoying teens go to an old (supposedly haunted) abandoned funeral parlor to celebrate Halloween, they have a séance, awaken a vengeful demon, they die in a variety of different ways and come back as demons. Be prepared for some cheesy lines, gratuitous nudity and sex, gore and DEMONS! This one is perfect for a late Friday-nighter accompanied with plenty of friends, beer and pizza… enjoy. P.S. This one has spawned a few sequels which are just as fun and a really decent remake in 2009.
6. Satan’s Little Helper (2004, Dir: Jeff Lieberman).
Jeff Lieberman directed a number of underrated horror classics in the 70’s/80’s such as Squirm, Blue Sunshine and Just Before Dawn. Staying under the radar for a number of years he made this little low budget horror/black comedy which is about a boy who befriends a man dressed up for Hallowen as Satan, the main character in the boy’s favourite video game. Unbeknownst to the boy, Satan is actually a serial killer who is out slaughtering people under the guise of a Halloween costume. This is a strange little film but ultimately enjoyable and darkly comedic. If you can get over some clunky acting, this is a great celebration of all things Halloween. I strongly urge you to check out Lieberman’s horror oeuvre.
5. The American Scream (2012, Dir: Michael Stephenson).
Michael Stephenson isn’t just “the child actor from Troll 2,” he’s also an astounding filmmaker. The only documentary in this list, The American Scream follows the trials and tribulations of 3 families in Massachusetts who spend 365 days a year (and all their
money) preparing their houses for Halloween. More commonly known as “House Haunters,” these families dedicate their lives to making one night memorable for their local community. An extremely fun (and at times emotional) look into the spookiest night of the year and the people who love it.
4. Trick ‘r Treat (2007, Dir: Michael Dougherty).
From the team that brought you X-Men and Superman Returns comes a modern take on the anthology or portmanteau format and a celebration of all things Halloween. Set on one Halloween night we see 4 interwoven stories; a serial killer story, a Red Riding Hood tale, a creepy prank gone wrong and an old man’s confrontation with a serious trick or treater. This film is a lot of fun and is guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.
3. Halloween (1978, John Carpenter).
Another film that needs no introduction, the original stalk-and-slash fright Flick starring Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis. Halloween was an independent, low budget labor of love that kick started the screen careers of legendary genre director John Carpenter and screenwriter/producer Debra Hill. Although not the first ever slasher film (this is arguably Psycho, Peeping Tom or Black Christmas) it is the most imitated and is a staple of the modern horror movie. Halloween is simple but effective; a group of young babysitters are stalked and slashed one Halloween night by an escaped psychotic murderer called Michael Myres (credited as The Shape). This is a classic horror flick that remains as scary and suspenseful as it ever did.
2. Ghostwatch (1992, Dir: Lesley Manning).
After watching this you will forever shudder at the mention of Mr Pipes… Ghostwatch was originally broadcast by the BBC as a TV drama Halloween special but was subsequently banned due to too many complaints and causing widespread panic across many homes in the UK. Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Craig Charles all star themselves, presenting a real-time paranormal investigation. With Sarah Greene reporting live from the home of a family tormented by the aforementioned spectre Mr Pipes, Parkinson leading debates and interviews with paranormal researchers and skeptics, Mike Smith manning the phone lines with calls from the public retelling their own spooky experiences and Craig Charles out on the street, tensions rise as the people you know and trust find themselves in some truly nerve wracking situations you will not forget! Ghostwatch really was a one of a kind phenomenon and should be watched every year in true tradition of Halloween.
1. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982, Dir: Tommy Lee Wallace).
Yes this is the 3rd installment in the Halloween franchise but no it doesn’t feature Michael Myres, but let’s forget that for a second. Season of the Witch is a stand alone movie that was meant to mark the beginning of the franchise broadening out but the idea didn’t catch on. What we are left with is a true piece of terror cinema that captures a dark side to Halloween. Starring Tom Atkins (aka the nicest man in horror), Season of the Witch tells the tale of a Halloween mask making company called Silver Shamrock who mass produce masks that turn children into TV addicts, ultimately making their heads dissolve into a squirming mass of insects and reptiles. This is a great shocker that almost doubles up as a sci-fi horror too and is so Halloween-y it’ll make your head dissolves! I feel this film never gets the praise it deserves but it has recently had a cult following. It also has a song that will stick in your head forever, I guarantee it.
– Sam Massey
Sam runs the Cult and Horror film discussion group Glasgore. The group meets on the first Wednesday of every month in the Glasgow GFT at 6.30pm.
Before I saw “Filth” I made both a great and terrible mistake. I read the reviews. “Outrageous!” they called it, “Shocking!” And as a result left the film feeling vaguely underwhelmed. I was promised a film that was be so shocking, I’d be tempted to leave the cinema. In reality, I sat through the entirety of the film with perfect ease. In fact, I can’t remember the last film I enjoyed this much.
I mean sure, your elderly and conservative aunt Betty would be scandalised. “Filth” is, after all, the opposite of what you might call good old clean fun. It is certainly dirty, and it is certainly bold. If a person were to judge it solely on a controversial checklist, it might appear downright revolting.
Does it feature drug abuse? Check.
Sexual content? Check.
… involving minors?! Check.
However that is precisely what the film’s shock factor relies on – a checklist of taboo subjects. And, make no mistake, from coercion to erotic asphyxiation, “Filth” has it all. The trouble is that John S. Baird’s latest film doesn’t really have anything original to say about these subjects. Dysfunctional sexual relationships are ultimately unfulfilling. Drugs are bad for you. Other films have said it before and would go so far as to say that many have said it better.
It is this inability to make a real point, or perhaps, to convey the point of the book that it’s based on that makes “Filth” so thoroughly aggravating. For this well-written, deliciously dark tragicomedy is positively overflowing with the potential to be a truly great film, a potential that it nearly, but never quite manages to realize.
Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name, “Filth” follows the misadventures of Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy), who could best be described as a walking, talking, scheming mentalist on the verge of breakdown, who spends his days abusing his power, snorting cocaine, fucking (figuratively) with his co-workers and (literally) with their respective wives.
Bruce, in a nutshell, is a manipulative and self-absorbed, racist, sexist, homophobic. Not only does he behave like a thoroughly reprehensible human being, he acts in ways so outlandish you’d think it would be hard to accept him as a believable character. And yet, Robertson doesn’t merely come across as real, but as sympathetic. This isn’t because viewers know of his pain (after all, how many anti-heroes haven’t had traumatised childhoods and/or lost their one true love?) but because you see it. There is raw, real, relatable human suffering in Bruce’s every gesture, every intonation – so explicit you simultaneously want to stare and look away. “Filth” is McAvoy’s film through and through, and thankfully the director knows it. Everything, from the art-direction to the Mise-en-Scene is designed not to overshadow, but to complement his virtuoso performance. The film has a marvelous grasp of comedy, however seems less sure-footed when it comes to tragedy. A few sequences, unhelpfully underlined by a simpering soundtrack, come dangerously close to shmaltz. The reason they never do is because McAvoy manages to take the sappiest lamentations (‘I used to be good at this job… I used to be a good person’) and make them genuine enough to rescue Baird from sliding into melodrama.
Bruce’s sanity unravels further and further as the film progresses. His egotism, it emerges, is
coupled with intense self-loathing. At his most vicious, he stands felled by crippling guilt. Like the film itself, the protagonist is depraved only outwardly, but not at heart. Both salvation and self-destruction lie decidedly within his reach. Which one he finally chooses is determined, to great effect, in the very last second of the film.
“Filth” is a thoroughly enjoyable, bright, witty and well-written film. But not even McAvoy can save it from its only fatal flaw; for a film that doesn’t have anything new to say, it markets itself as far more brazen than it really is. Sure, it is highly explicit, yet thematically there isn’t really anything unnerving about it, nothing remotely groundbreaking. Bold it may be, but it should have been audacious. Dirty, yes. But it isn’t quite dirty enough to be filthy.
The narrative is stripped back to the geological essentials, the film is as contained within the confines of the family car, the occasional leg-stretches through deserts and streams, but also rooted within the little tin space. There is little dialogue, and the dialogue that is present has the same sparsity as the Chilean landscape, it is barren and without the safety of a resolution, we as the audience are left to interpret the real reasons behind the holiday, and like the curious scrutiny of Lucia, we grab at the scraps of information as they are sporadically offered. Perhaps this lack of communication, this kind of withholding by the film, is reflective of the problems in the parent’s marriage. They communicate primarily with looks, shrugs, snubs, but very rarely words. Certainly, the very journey itself feels like it’s filmed with a chronological minuteness, with the mantra of naturalism strictly observed and the muted confinement in the car creating a vacuum of suspended activity. This is flared up ever further through the denial of a soundtrack, no big emotional plot arcs, and the final refusal to completely explain the divergent roads Ana and Fernando are taking.
It is completely unsurprising, and a testament to Sotomayor, that the children, Lucia and Manuel, were not given scripts, but rather were reacting to the situations the adult actors were creating. It is this raw energy, the irrepressibly uncertainty, of Lucia that really haunts the film; she is silently crying out for her parents to facilitate the safety of the next line, of the future. It is the uncertainty of the family dynamic changing during a divorce that often causes the most pain, the fear that happiness and security is now a thing that has driven past and can only be seen in the distance, obscured by a cloud of dust. Indeed, as viewers we are thrust into Lucia’s perspective of anxious uncertainty, seeing the narrative slowly evolving, the little snatches of comprehension and truth we can discern feeling like semi-precious stones glinting through the dusty silence of the Chilean landscape. The camerawork too reflects this stasis, with long, static shots in which the action almost seems incidental, the camera being so reactionless (or perhaps contemplative). We become so accustomed to this steady gaze that we really feel the movement the few times it does become handheld and uprooted.
*Warning- Spoiler Alert*
‘Springbreakers’ follows four college girls who long to escape the confines of their painting-by-numbers life and journey to the Mecca of hedonism that is Spring Break in Florida. They fund their trip by robbing a local diner and quickly realize that crime can make all their dreams come true. Once they get to Miami, all of their depraved fantasies come to life; pool parties, copious amounts of alcohol and drugs and glorious, sun drenched beaches. The film takes a dark turn when they meet an up and coming crime lord/rapper called Alien (James Franco) who leads them further down the slippery slope of crime.
‘Springbreakers’ shirks conventional storytelling to revel in the neon fantasy world created by Harmony Korine, and the viewer is treated to an explosion of colour and noise like a waterfall of skittles. Korine continues his focus on nihilistic communities that have been central to all his films, but takes an aesthetic left turn by replacing VHS home video visuals for glamorous HD slow motion photography. The result is stupefying. The overwhelming visuals follow the most basic of formulas: TITS,ASS, GUN, BLUNT, BLUNT, GUN. At first, the audience is completely titillated by the slow motion footage of parties but as these images continue and persist, they eventually erode the surface of the sun kissed, party utopia to reveal a vapid world of senseless violence.
‘Django Unchained’ will be released in British cinemas on Friday the 18th of January but it has already stirred up a lot of controversy in America. The film follows recently freed slave, Django (Jamie Foxx) team up with the eloquent dentist cum bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) as they track down and free Django’s wife. Waltz turns in another dazzling performance, audience and director alike are wooed by his eccentric sense of humour which slightly overshadows Foxx, who, for the most part goes for more of a laconic tough guy caricature. The balance works well and helps Tarantino deal with the issue of slavery in smart ways as Schultz teaches Django how to read and shoot to further his emancipation. However it is DiCaprio who steals the show as the southern debonair, Monsieur Candie, who couples charming wit with sadomasochistic racism in a captivating performance. DiCaprio has been stifled in recent years as he constantly returned to psychologically disturbed roles in an attempt to pick up an Oscar that to this day eludes him, but he seems rejuvenated playing out of type as the Southern gothic villain with high energy and a dandy flair.
Quentin Tarantino has made a name for himself by taking forgotten, worn out relics and breathing new life into them. He salvaged the careers of John Travolta, Pam Grier, Robert Forster, David Caradine and put them back in front of the camera with a renewed hunger to lay down the performance of their careers (in the case of Travolta, he came up against fierce opposition with the Weinstein Company, almost jeopardizing the completion of Pulp Fiction). He took expired genres like the 70s Hong Kong revenge film, grind house and the ‘dirty dozen’ and charged them with his witty dialogue and vivid violence. The only misstep in ‘Django’ is the fact that the western genre has already been updated for modern audiences and once again exhausted by shows such as Deadwood, games like Red Dead Redemption, and films like Cowboys vs Aliens. So the awkward scrolling inter titles and long shoot-outs are a part of a ready-made style as opposed to one unique to Tarantino.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Ah to be this excited about Christmas once again. Snow. Trees. Lights. Santa. This is the joy of the Christmas season personified, in all it’s abundance, saturation, and sensory assaulting-ness.
2. Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
This film is major Hollywood mush, however that’s not necessarily a bad thing during the holidays. Following the Smith family, fronted by Judy Garland as lead sister Esther, through the seasons in turn-of-the-century St Louis, the Christmas portion of this Technicolor cheese-fest ranges from fully-fledged gaiety at the dance (Sub Club it ain’t) to the melancholic lullaby in this clip. Fueled by the fantasy of a nostalgic utopic society before the evils of the 20th century really got going, when put into context, this film can be seen as a conservative encouragement to Americans during WW2. Looking at it now, it’s undeniable that the overt naivety never really existed in an honest way, its manufactured nature is irrepressible. But when we watch it with this knowledge, it’s far easier to enjoy as a piece of familial and social fantasy, rather than something actually aiming to reflect reality.
3. A Christmas Carol (2009)
A story that has been idiomized into our consciousness through the countless re-imaginings of it, the 2009 motion-capture version of A Christmas Carol certainly has its flaws. However, it is unmatched in it’s opening panorama through the streets of Victorian London, presenting in the most Dickensian way all the socio-economic variation of society, from the Christmas Card stuffed windows of the middle classes, to the urchins and beggars, to a banquet brimming with seasonal excess. Although this scene is rooted in the tint of rose-washed Christmas pleasantries, it succeeds in its juxtaposition of poverty and decadence, illustrating the political consciousness that Dickens’ work is founded upon.
4. The Lion in Winter (1968)
Katharine Hepburn in this movie deserves nothing less than the word; wow. Henry II (Peter O’Toole) has allowed his imprisoned with Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn) out to visit for Christmas and by gum is she going to do everything to attempt to overthrow him. Yes, it’s medieval times but the basic familial dysfunction is just as relevant today as it was back then. Ok, so maybe, you’re not all physically trying to stab your brothers, plotting to have your dad dethroned, or pitting your children against each other, but the politics of this film is basically a fancy allegory for saying that Christmas can be a tumultuous time for one and all. Just don’t cut each other please.
Stephen Gyllenhaal’s new political comedy, Grassroots, hits cinemas at the perfect time. Based on ‘Zioncheck for President’, the memoirs of lead character Phil Campbell, it charts the progress of his friend Grant Cogswell; a young and inexperienced idealist with one ambition. He wants to bring social equality to Seattle by developing the city’s elegant monorail, with the help of some fervent students and a polar bear suit.
When Cogswell, an unemployed music critic, decides to run for a seat on the local council he encounters a range of problems. He is a single policy candidate with no political prowess, no funds, and only Campbell as his equally inexperienced campaign manager. GUM had the chance to speak to director Stephen Gyllenhaal, who reflected on his motivation in making the film. “I loved the idea of two white slacker dudes who had no business going into politics, and not only doing it, but trying to unseat the only African-American council member in Seattle. Everything about it seemed wrong”. Certainly, the fact that Cogswell specifically targets African American Richard McIver does not go unnoticed. While Joel David Moore’s Cogswell is sometimes too idealistic and too one-dimensional, Jason Biggs’ portrayal of Campbell shows the great emotional journey of a character who only agrees to help his friend because he was recently fired and is struggling to get off the sofa.
On the 10th of October GUM were asked to fly down to the heart of London to see the film that would kick off the acclaimed London Film Festival, the 56th year the British Film Institute have thrown the city into movie-mania.
That film was Tim Burtons new 3D stop-motion masterpiece Frankenweenie, a story about a boy and his dog taken to macabre heights by the ex- Disney animators’ notoriously bizarre mind. Heavily based, as the title might suggest, on Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel Frankenstein, it’s modern animated counterpart is a surprising return to the early days of Burton and his 1984 short of the same title. It is interesting to see how the world has changed that Disney are now wholeheartedly endorsing the flick after sacking Burton for the same unconventional animations over twenty years ago.
For those of us who grew up on a staple of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and more recently the likes of Corpse Bride, will not be strangers to the wonders of stop motion animation- but to see it in 3D and in black and white was a new experience altogether. The films plot rotates around Victor, a young, gaunt boy in typical tortured Burton fashion, and his dog Sparky who gets hit by a car and then resurrected by his stricken owner. With the film being cited as a ‘labour of love” with the director working closely with people of his past, such as Winona Ryder and Caherine O’Hara, as well as long-time musical partner Danny Elfman, the film hits a personal chord any Burton aficionado would be proud of.
With a “traveling road show” of actual sets from the film and an Animators Masterclass after the Press Conference (Burton is just how you’d expect him, wild haired and full of impersonations with madly gesticulating hands) the highlight of the film was indeed expounded to be the talent of the animators.
With the months and months of hype surrounding this film, it arguably removes the need for reviewers to harp on about how ‘you MUST go see it, now!’, but for what it’s worth, you must go see it…. Now.
If, like me, the book passed you by and you thought you’d wait until someone jumped in and digitised it (an English version anyway) to see what all the fuss was about, then I can assure you that, after watching this, you’ll get it. I also learned while eavesdropping on a gentleman conferring with his lady friend during the sticky floor shuffle we all partake it when exiting the theatre, that this so called ‘Hollywood’ version is surprisingly accurate to the novel. As mentioned previously, I haven’t read said novel so I can’t really comment, however I can assume that the overall premise is the same – adding to her own personal and financial problems, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a troubled and antisocial young computer hacker is called upon to assist recently smeared journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), in his search for the truth behind the disappearance of Harriet Vanger who went missing 40 years ago and is presumed dead. Their inquiries lead them further and further down the rabbit hole of the Vanger’s sinister and shrouded past, until they find themselves so far in that they aren’t permitted to turn back.
The latest milestone in Glasgow’s underground scene circa 2011 is brought to you by Secret Cinema Club. Inspired by the glamour of vintage cinema but dirtied with Martinis and Disco. This red carpet event kicks off at 8.00pm on Friday 8th of April with complementary Daiquiris and Mojitos, brought to you by Bacardi themselves; followed by the showing of a cult classic or unseen film. SSC can confirm the serious dance floor hedonism of Thunder Disco Club, that will be indulging the after-show party.
Glasgow University’s own Cut Filmmaking Network arranged one of their weekly activities on Tuesday (22/02/2011) in the Boyd Orr building. The network hosts workshops and projects’ nights every week, varying from prosthetics to camerawork.
This week, the network had invited Alasdair Roberts as their guest, a folk musician (based in Glasgow since 1995), to talk about his career, which has also included working on soundtracks for various short films. In the filmmaking scene, he is probably most well known for his work on the David Mackenzie film Young Adam (starring Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton) from 2003, for which he played guitar.
He told us that his focus turned to music when he was a teenager, around 15 years old and since then he has been involved in music in various ways, though his focus mainly being guitar and vocals. Folklore and traditional Gaelic melodies are something he is fascinated in and this is reflected directly in his music. He has never been taught in music but rather he learned by ear, which is how he still approaches music today. He listens to a lot of music to gain inspiration and always thinks about how he could incorporate fresh aspects into his own music and through this also develop himself as a musician. He has a distinctive style in his work but he still says there are no definite sources of inspiration for him rather that they change through time.
Usually, more choice is better, but then even more of it leaves without a clue what to do and whether to do anything at all. It’s very likely to happen with GFF and its 250 movies, so to prevent choice fatigue GUM flags up those that shine through plenty.
Drew Bianchi on scarily-real computer animation, and the very humble alternative.