My Thoughts On…Judgment Night

As requested by @le_david_tinker. Yes I take requests. 

This was a film I loved back in ‘the day’. It was one of a slew of Urban Nightmare/Paranoia thrillers from the 90s that I couldn’t get enough of - see also Juice, New Jack City and Walter Hill’s Trespass (a film I confuse this with a lot for some reason).

It was fun to revisit and bathe in some nostalgia for a period in my life where I was forming my tastes and understanding of films through ravenous consumption, college and later university.

Judgement Night is a taut and decently plotted thriller that puts a group of privileged men through a night of hell at the hands of Denis Leary’s improvisational, sociopathic drug lord. The group of men strain to be sympathetic (save for Jeremy Piven who gives his usual disgustingly smarmy and obnoxious portrayal) but it’s hard when the script basically requires you to run. A lot. 

Cuba Gooding Jr acts mostly with his eyes and and high waisted trousers and gives a brilliant performance of walking through doors like the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz. Emilio Estevez is the epitome of beige, setting the bar for leading men of the modern era by being utterly benign. To think this man was Otto in Repo Man is astonishing upon viewing this film. 

Yet, it is still a fun watch, with a superb soundtrack of rock/rap collaborations and distinctly 90s lack of subtlety. The final fight in the glass department of department store is straight out of the files of Police Squad. A happy revisit.

.@bspofficial were amazing in #falifornia tonight

My Thoughts On…Computer Chess

What struck me most was a sadness. There seems to be a melancholy at the heart of this wonderfully strange, funny and visually inventive film that uses the past to try and pinpoint a sad moment in recent history.

That moment is the tipping point when we, in the west at least, shifted from being tactile, social beings to predominantly technologically driven beings and where social takes on a different meaning than ever before.

The film is set in a hotel and is full of people interacting but the focus is entirely on machine. The gulf between people’s ability to interact with the technology in front of them and the people in front of them makes for uncomfortable viewing because it resonates a truth. There’s humour and surreal swathes throughout and the fact that these (mostly male) characters are so fixated on technology we now consider primitive is all the more significant. 

It seems like real interaction is the domain of the smug, arrogant and ballsy as personified by the brilliant character of Michael Papageorge. But he is as lonely and scared and alienated as everyone else. We see his ridiculousness much quicker than the other characters do. 

If I’d seen it on release it would have slotted into my favourite films of last year. It’s a brilliantly nostalgic film - not only for archaic film and computing technology but an era of the personal and the tactile where ego clashes were played out in front of keyboards instead of behind them.

My Thoughts On…Fletch

When I was younger my pals loved this movie but I never saw the attraction. Looking for something light last night this popped up on my Netflix queue and I thought I’d give it another go.

The result?

Still don’t see the attraction. Beyond the jarring 1980s-isms (casual sexism, racism and general meanness) it’s just so smug. I realise now that this is the reason I’ve never really liked Chevy Chase and would struggle to name a film of his I love apart from the sublime Three Amigos National Lampoon’s Christmas and Caddyshack (which is definitely an ensemble film anyway). Oh wait, I like Spies Like Us too. And the other National Lampoon vacation films are fun.

Okay. It’s basically just Fletch I don’t like.

brightwalldarkroom:

Coming very, very soon:
A brand new issue, focusing entirely on the films of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson - get it the minute it’s available by subscribing to Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine now!
We’re putting the finishing touches on it as we speak, and can’t wait for you to see it. As our art director, Brianna Ashby, is possibly the biggest Wes Anderson fan on the planet (yes, she’s even had theme parties), you can just imagine how much fun she had doing the artwork for some of these. Consider this cover a taste of things come!

Loooooook at that cover!

brightwalldarkroom:

Coming very, very soon:

A brand new issue, focusing entirely on the films of Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson - get it the minute it’s available by subscribing to Bright Wall/Dark Room Magazine now!

We’re putting the finishing touches on it as we speak, and can’t wait for you to see it. As our art director, Brianna Ashby, is possibly the biggest Wes Anderson fan on the planet (yes, she’s even had theme parties), you can just imagine how much fun she had doing the artwork for some of these. Consider this cover a taste of things come!

Loooooook at that cover!

(via sometimesagreatnotion)

My Thoughts On…The Stuart Hall Project

A beautiful documentary. There’s not a lot else to say really. 

If you don’t know the work of Stuart Hall then you should. A cultural theorist of great intellect, reason and understanding whose life journey both echoes and stands apart from a culture and generation of people who came to Britain in the 1950s from the Caribbean. 

This film is light on his academic work and nuances of his biography but heavy on the emotional impact of his life and work on specific areas of post war British society. Beautifully constructed from his own voice and archive, alongside national archives both still and moving the film is a dialogue between Hall and himself at various stages of his life and understanding, between Hall and his Jamaican past and British present and the complexities of identity. The film works because it creates the space for dialogue by using Hall’s love of modern jazz, particularly an obsession with Miles Davis whose musical trajectory echoes the developments in Hall’s thinking in abstract, emotional and intriguing ways. There is a gap between the date of the image and the date of the audio at points that leaves a space, like the space between notes and movements, for the viewer to engage and hear the real melody, the real music. Underscored by Davis the film has musical and biographical suites.

It’s defiantly a love letter to Hall’s ideas and his place in intellectual Britain for those black artists and thinkers who have emerged in his wake. Lovingly constructed and almost romantic in its narrative it seems to focus on areas of common interest and hardship for the filmmakers and a wider Black British populace, as well as those who love knowledge and the constant challenge of trying to understand this strange Island and its relationship to the world in the scheme of things. 

My Thoughts On…Under The Skin

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The title is apt. The film gets. 

I watched it Thursday and it has stayed with me, lingering, returning in waves and flashes. Images, moments and sensations are recalled and relived. It is a truly remarkable piece of cinema and I am thrilled I saw it in that environment to really do the sound and vision (in the grandest sense of the word) justice. 

The touchstones are many - Kubrick clearly, but for me beyond the visual 2001 nods there was a darker, more subterranean feeling that conjured A Clockwork Orange’s dystopian disconnection. There was Nicolas Roeg and Chris Cunningham but I also thought it echoed Lynch and Jodorowsky, Von Trier and Bunuel to varying degrees. 

And yet. 

It was singular and completely within its own universe. It was for me, a film about the universe. The tale oft told of us ants with consciousness searching for meaning in a universe that is indifferent to our search and being hateful and wasteful with what we have as fact - the moment and each other. 

The film turns on a moment that highlights the beauty and curse of consciousness and conscience and it is earned by enduring a breathlessly uncomfortable encounter. The first half is a beguiling but utterly depressing portrayal of (sadly still contemporary) gender politics and a patriarchal sense of entitlement. The film uses its science fiction elements as a way of shining a mirror on a variety of haunting contemporary issues to great effect. The second half sees the film drift into Kubrick/Aldiss/AI tragedy space but the relentless exploitation of women and lack of empathy from the universe remains coruscating.

It should be seen. The plot such as it is and characters such as they are, merely gateways to ideas and feelings and questions and soul-searching. 

Johansson is amazing. Her physicality and ability to connect and convey so minimally is extraordinary.

The highly stylised conception of alien space is juxtaposed with the surveillance-esque footage perfectly. The idea of the alien species being at large in our world is handled in a moment of exquisite visual storytelling and the score by Mica Levi is astonishing.

Yes. I loved it. Yes it will likely be in my top films of the year. It may well be at the top. If I see a better film this year I’ll be amazed. Happy of course, but amazed.

Exquisite, visceral, vital cinema. 

In the second British volume of this delightful series I write about films set in and around Manchester. It’s available for pre-order now. If you like reading about films that is. And have spare cash of course. Which I know most people don’t. So that’s ok. Get it for your library though. Double whammy there - library open, you get to learn about some cool movies (if you don’t know about them already).

I’m a terrible salesman.

My Thoughts On…Wake In Fright

This film was on my must see list because a swathe of film writers whose work I like and opinion I respect have been hammering its virtues of late on twitter.

And they are all bang on.

This is an extraordinary, incendiary film that is lurid and sweltering, gets under the skin and leaves its mark.

It is a deeply unsettling and nerve-wracking journey into the middle of nowhere where polite, civilised (elitist?) western ideals meet rabid, ravaged, primal and animalistic human nature. 

Bored, frustrated and superior teacher John Grant is lulled (without too much persuasion it has to be said) into a dangerous game of chance and is left with nothing. Taken under the wings of the locals he so recently wished to escape he is dragged deeper and deeper into a terrifying melee of drink and violence.

The film balances the terror of the potential fates that await this outsider with a thrillingly savage critique of masculinity and civilisation by having Grant’s resistance to his turmoil fluctuate between participant and prisoner almost in the flicker of the same moment. It’s easy to see why Scorsese and Nick Cave are fans. Dark, nasty but brimming with contradictory commentaries that make for a riveting and visually invigorating if nerve shattering experience. A brilliant piece of cinema.