La La Land Review

“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.


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Review: Thursday Till Sunday


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.


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Review: Spring Breakers

*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.


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Films: Django Unchained


‘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.


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Christmas Cheers and Tears: Top 10 festive movie scenes


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)

(Fezziwig’s party)

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.


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Review: Grassroots

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.


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Tim Burton: A Return to Frankenweenie

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.


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Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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.


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Can you keep a Secret?




Morven Clements

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. (more…)

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Read more about the article Alasdair Roberts, an insight into music and music in film:
Alasdair Roberts: Image by Laurent Orseau

Alasdair Roberts, an insight into music and music in film:

Nina Schonberg

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.


Alasdair Roberts: Image by Laurent Orseau

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.


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