“you’re gunna need a bigger boat”

I’ve always been afraid of the ocean. My sister and I used to have blue carpet in our shared bedroom. I remember the fear of hanging my feet over the edge of my bottom bunk, thinking it was the ocean, my childish imagination running wild, images of ferocious teeth sinking into my lean calf, dragging me under.

I remember the first time I watched Jaws. Perhaps I should use the term ‘watched’ lightly… I buried myself in my childhood sofa, only emerging at the silent moments, still uneducated as to what the calm before the storm meant. But what I recall from behind the soft cotton cushions is an intense primal fear.

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I watched it when I became a little older and felt pleasantly surprised when that old feeling of fear came back, seeing as I knew who died and who survived. Is that the definition of a classic? Having those same, original feelings stir up inside of you with a second run through? I’m not sure I can answer what makes a classic, but I speculate that that is a reliable perception.

Something else I noticed but didn’t realise until today was a very basic observation. What gender is that shark?

I’ll divulge on how I came about this possible conundrum.

I read an interesting piece in preparation for my studies. Firstly it talked about the usual concept of a monster movie and what defines the monster. Easy – something that threatens tradition ideological perceptions. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, Frankenstein… Each ‘monster’ is seen as something that goes against preconceived social constraints. 1) Zombies are meant to be dead but “They’re coming to get your Barbara!”. They threaten the sociological structure of humanity. 2) Werewolves, half man, half wolf. Hybrid? What on earth is that? No, that doesn’t fit into our species categorisation. Must be a monster. 3) Vampires, a lot like zombies, they’re undead and they want to suck virgin blood, they threaten masculinity, therefore, they are stamped as a monster.

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Of course, this is a very brief overview of the definitions of ‘monster’ and to go back to my childhood and read of witches in candy cottages and crippled old men with ridiculous names, I can show there are many more definitions of monster.

Now, the shark is an interesting monster. In the first part of my reading, it seemed that the shark was simply an exaggerated fear of the threat to the patriarchal figure (Sheriff Brody) being unable to fulfil his masculine role and the threat to the nuclear family being torn apart by a tragic incident. I agreed, I do agree. This shark does threaten the ideological discourse of the quaint Amityville. But the other half of my reading suggested that not only does it threaten the town and its values, but it is also a representation of the fear of feminine sexuality.

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This is where I became confused and talked myself through the film with this theory in mind.

The first victim of this shark is a young woman. Why her? In the first iconic scene of the film the young woman runs towards the water, stripping off her clothes. Behind her is an adolescent male obviously seduced by her, trying to keep up with her sexually liberated ways, stumbling while he tries to pull off his own clothes delaying him in entering the water which evidently saves his life. What follows is a violent struggle between the shark and the woman, of which my reading likened with a rape scene.

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Coincidence that the sharks first victim is this sexually motivated woman? Or is this a subconscious warning to women practicing sexual liberation? Also note that twice Brodys wife attempts to seduce him which correlates with the death and possible death of a child.

When I first read this symbolic theory my first thought was, “but I thought the shark was a male?”.

Even as a child I associated the shark as a male figure. Strong, aggressive, solitary. Things society would normally associate with masculinity. (Obviously, this is the 21st century and gender is fluid, so I’d like to point out I’m using knowledge from when this was made in the 70’s).

Could this shark be a subconscious representation of societies fear of feminine sexuality? Is this what Steven Spielberg subconsciously thought? Should we now be worried of how the inner thoughts of a Hollywood director can directly influence our perceptions of women, LGBTQs and race? Or is this just simply a monster movie designed to keep you on the edge of your seat wanting more gore?

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“from one prison to another”

That resonating dream – the one where you are lost, screaming out for someone and silence screams back at you. When you wake up, your pillow damp with tears, and feel your overwhelming relief that it was all a dream.

I remember when I got lost as a child, like we all do. I had gotten in front of my parents and turned the wrong corner. All of a sudden I felt very much alone, very small. Of course my parents were only thirty seconds before appearing at the street corner, calling my name. But for thirty seconds, as a child, I felt the emptiness of the side street and the cold sweat, heart lurching, split-second apprehension of a child lost.

I relived that apprehensive feeling on an ordinary Friday afternoon. I felt the cold sweat on my already clammy hands, the longing to sob out. I was completely absorbed in Room.

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Like a spiders web, one simple act of evil sends vibrations into the strands of this film. For seven years, a brave young woman endures torment, rape and isolation. Two years into this, she gives birth to a baby boy, she names him Jack. And from there is her life, her routine. Sleep, eat, scream, repeat.

That’s until they escape.

But how can you really escape from the scars of seven years imprisonment?

From one prison to another, Joy (Brie Larson) becomes trapped in her own mental instability. Having to come to terms with, ‘why me?’, sends her mind to the edge. But what’s really heart wrenching is the audience are never presented this through her own eyes, we see it through the eyes of her five year old boy. But to counteract this insufferable tragedy, he teaches us about our world again. We realise how big the world is, and how small it could be.

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And sometimes our minds can be Room. A claustrophobic, cluttered place. We can be held hostage by our own thoughts and like trying to find our way through fog, we get lost along the way. But to gain clarity, sometimes it’s important to revisit that place, without closing the door.

 

 

“Does every film need a meaning?”

Like a familiar memory I settled into the squashed seats of the Prince Charles cinema off of Leister Square. The lights dimmed, the curtains opened, and, similar to the beginning of a theatre show, the audience were thrown into an immersive experience, a rare experience.

This experience transcends throughout time. Being confined into those dark red four walls traps you into a timeless transport of which it doesn’t matter if you’re 10, 20, 30 or 40, you are living the experience of all those before you since 1968.

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The amateur critics snorted at the idea that 2001: A Space Odyssey could ever be a masterpiece. Nearly 40 years on and those same people are now standing outside in the cold with me, lining up patiently for their event ticket. Much like Blue Velvet, Taxi Driver or Blade Runner (with its controversial ending) – it’s precedent 2001 has surprised audiences with its long-lasting mark. Perhaps it’s safe to say that this truly demonstrated the limitless power of Kubrick.

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I believe a lot of people tend to stay away from trying to deconstruct the plot and metaphors of 2001. I commend that. The thing that drives 2001 is the pure spectacle. Sometimes a film just needs to be a film and to pick away at its layers is to ruin the perfect varnished finish.

That being said, as we exited the cinema, my friend turned to me and the first thing he asked was, “what do you think the black box is?”.

You can’t help but speculate with friends.

 

“stolen glances and brave faces”

Fa yeung nin wa (In the Mood for Love), dir. Wong Kar Wai, 2000, via Mubi. 

Such a wonderful film. Captivating throughout.

It’s heart-breaking really.

This isn’t your typical Hollywood “follow your heart” scenario. It’s a film about duty, sacrifice and selflessness, even if that means hurting the one you truly love.

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Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung, perhaps the most graceful woman I have ever seen cross my cinematic pathway. Her features embodied a china doll, one slip and she’d fragment into a million pieces. But her interior, her strength and will-power, her wit and conscience – those are the traits that shine through the fragile covering. She’s a warrior woman, trapped in, what she may not realise yet, a loveless marriage. Does it make her weak not to confront her adulterous husband? Or does that make her a woman above quarrels? She doesn’t sink to her husbands level, nor does she take some moral high ground, she simply sways atop the fence, keeping herself balanced in times of gust. 

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Tony Chiu Wai Leung, you absolute gem. So vulnerable and emotional. So hard-faced and yearning. Each shot he starred out of the window, taking a long drag of his cigarette, made me want to pluck him from the screen and keep him for my own. 

I’ve never watched someone silently fall innocently in love. Until now.

His kind eyes, looking over her, welcoming her warm aura. 90 minutes of just his stare would have been one of the best love films made.

You feel his frustration too. He brings you along on his journey. You see his heart break, his heart mend, and his heart break all over again. I feel like his mother, looking away when someone pulls the rug from beneath him. He knows his duty, he knows he shouldn’t pursue her, yet he’s been cheated, why should he not? Duty and honour. They “won’t be like them”.

Instead they’ll put themselves through worse. Quietly fall in love, making the meaning of their companionship.

I don’t know what would be worse in that situation. To cheat on your cheat and cheat for the hell of it, or to fall in love all over again.

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Stylistically I felt satisfied. The sound motifs, the slow motion, the slow frame rates, it all felt right. It felt needed. Because that is what great love is. It’s slow moving, never wanting to manifest, wanting to absorb the moment. The stolen glances, the hidden smile, the micro-expressions of complete romantic lust. You would need to move at a snails pace to fully appreciate them.

One of my favourites. Truly wonderful to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon with thoughts of slow motion love running through your head.

“even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day”

I can only understand the desperation to flee – to find fresh air among the ghastly smug, placidity in the insanity.

My mum used to say we create our own misery and there is no better place to see self-pity and patheticness than in Withnail and I, a story about two failing actors.

Less-than-functioning alcoholic, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and his paranoid sidekick, Marwood (Paul McGann) decide to take time away from their hectic existence and borrow a cottage from Withnail’s overbearing homosexual Uncle Montague (Richard Griffiths).

WITHNAIL & I, poster art, 1987, ©Cineplex-Odeon Films
WITHNAIL & I, poster art, 1987, ©Cineplex-Odeon Films

Every moment of this film is carefully placed. The dialouge, the mise-en-scene, the actors bodies. Each calculated movement from shot to shot tells the story of two very burdened people.

Though I’ve rambled on about the downs of the two main characters, there’s something very light about this film.

It’s unashamed, it’s unlecturable, it’s a perfect segment of how quickly life can jump. It doesn’t mean to inspire us to pick ourselves off the ground, it merely educates us and gives us a preview into the frantic lives of two men who deserve each other.

It’s funny that traits of each main character of the film are relateable.

Withnail – the constantly angry and hateful man who believes the whole world has been against them. A man who is determained to prove himself, but no matter how he tries he is continuously consumed by his addiction to alcohol and pathological lying.

& I… – a paranoid sidekick who is punished and overshadowed by the disastrous decisions of his friend.

Uncle Monty – a man who believes he will never find true happiness, will never be himself and will forever be in limbo with the world.

You can decide what parts are relateable.

“it’s about who you go with”

Being a film student I’ve grown fascinated by audiences. Not just for movies, but all aspects of media — from TOWIE to Louis Theroux. How is it we all join together in one area and tolerate each others tastes?

I had the most fantastic experience the other night that has led me to countless thoughts on audience participation. The pros and cons of interactive cinema.

For my module Theorizing Spectatorship we had a screening of 2003’s The Room. For this screening however, we were offered the chance to head into London for a ‘quote along’ at the Prince Charles cinema.

WHAT A SHOW.

Spoons everywhere – EVERYWHERE. People heckling the screen. Lighters up in the air during every sex scene… and there were a lot of sex scenes. It was crazy! And amazing, completely amazing.

People had created this whole different way of viewing this film. Which was a shit film. It was poorly made, totally unrealistic and felt a little like a 90’s porno. BUT, the audience gave it new life. They made it hilarious, they added their own spark and now I actually feel like I enjoyed the worst movie of 2003.

Isn’t that just amazing? How influenced you can be by who you watch a movie with. If I’d seen The Room on my own, in my living room, I would have turned it off within the first five minutes – round about the time Johnny starts thrusting. But now I’m having ongoing status banter with my classmates. Posting memes and making jokes.

Audiences are awesome.

“careful who you let in”

Who would have thought it. Our little boy is all grown up. Of course, I’m talking about Dan Stevens in his latest Hollywood endeavour “The Guest”.

From this.
From this.
TO THIS.
TO THIS.

As an educated film student I was not distracted (or drooling) over his unbelievable abs. Much. What impressed me most was his intense performance as the recently discharged solider David.

After losing their son to the war, the Peterson family are slowly moving on. That is until the unexpected guest David arrives with a message from beyond the grave. “He loved you very much”.

He seems perfect with his pearly whites, charming allure and soothing American accent (one would hardly believe it’s our English chap Stevens). He becomes everyones best friend. He teaches the young brother, Luke (Brendan Meyer) how to stand up and defend himself from the school bullies. He smokes pot with their daughter, Anna (Mika Monroe). He listens to the father, Spencer (Leland Orser) about work and his asshole boss and well, he’s the surrogate son for the grieving mother, Laura (Sheila Kelley).

But come on, this is from director Adam Wingard (You’re Next). Nothing is as it seems and Anna seems to be the only one to notice.

With so many stylistic features, especially in the ending scenes, this film resonates Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 “Drive” starring Ryan Gosling. In fact, Steven’s character David closely resembles “The Drivers” intense and mysterious persona. Which is a good thing. A very good thing.

Not only was it exciting and suspenseful, it also struck me as funny. There were a few jokes worked in, which really added an extra layer to the film.

I like that. I like that a lot.

Looks a lot like Drive's.
Looks a lot like Drive’s.

“living on Borrowed Time”

Kevin (Theo Barklem-Biggs) is a former drug addict and teenage delinquent. After pawning a family heirloom he is sent packing by his sister. Desperate for cash and to make amends, he falls back into the wrong circle. When he thought his luck couldn’t get worse, he is double-crossed by a mysterious man with a thick Jamaican accent. Now missing money, Kevin’s new boss “Ninja Nigel” (Warren Brown) is not at all happy and sits in wait for him, sword in hand – yes, an actual sword. Kevin is living on Borrowed Time.

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Desperate for cash, yet again, Kevin’s former friends convince him to rob the house of a moody OAP. Thinking it’ll be an easy job, he agrees. Unfortunately for Kevin, he picked possibly the worst house to steal from and ends up with the barrel of a gun pointed at his head.

It seems all doom and gloom, but the two strike up an unlikely friendship. Suspicious, yet intrigued, OAP Phillip (Phillip Davies) decides to overlook the break in. However, true friendship is never serene and screw up Kevin pushes theirs to its limits.

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Writer and director Jules Bishop brings us an enjoyable and comedic urban film. Set in East London, it’s actually more realistic and relatable than anyone would care to believe. There are a million kids just like Kevin. They aren’t bad guys; they’re just ill-advised and lost. Though, it’s unlikely there is a ninja drug dealer in your neighborhood, but there had to be some sort of narrative to keep the film fresh and funny.

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The relationship established between Kevin and Phillip is humbling. It’s a rare story that is told and the acting is so well done that it’s such a natural experience onscreen. Davies is spectacular, as per usual. He embraces the character, even tweaking certain speech characteristics to fully sell this man as a real life person. Even listening and watching him in the following Q&A session was a delight. His professionalism and natural charm is why Daniel Day-Lewis claimed him to be one of his key inspirations.

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Made through Film London and BBC Films Microwave Scheme, the movie was created on a tight £120,000 budget – though it shows no cheapness in the finished product whatsoever. Being able to produce something of this stature on such a low-budget is rare, but unfortunately it isn’t the biggest challenge independent films must deal with.

The challenges that UK filmmakers face nowadays are increasing year after year. Competition from the US, the shrinking funding, pirating and illegal downloads are a few to say the least. And when they produce a film like Borrowed Time, it reaffirms that action must be taken to help promote the breakthrough of these independent movies.

Borrowed Time is set to be in cinemas 16th August.

#siclit #bloghop

It was dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I could only hear my mother’s faints sobs beside me.

“Hush,” I said, as I threw my hand out in an attempt to comfort her.

CRASH. Another bomb went off. My mother let out a small cry.

“Hush,” I said again, throwing out my hand.

My little brother, Fredrick sat beside my feet, I could feel him playing with my laces, seeking comfort in the connection between us – even if it were a piece of string.

The Blitz continued on. We sat in the air raid shelter for what felt like a lifetime. I feel like I shouldn’t complain. When the war started we were so poor we hopped from one street corner to another, ending up in a small squatters area. It was squalid. We’re lucky mother married a commanding officer so quickly.

CRASH. Another bomb. Sometimes it got so loud you could feel the explosions in your chest.

Each time one goes off I wonder whom it hit – if anyone. When the sirens go off I wonder who forgot to shut their curtains for the blackout. I wonder who is unlucky enough to get spotted and targeted.

“Let’s sing a song shall we Fredrick?” I said.

“No. Be quiet Anna. Just sit and keep your mouth closed” my mother urged.

“Well that’s no fun is it Freddy?” I said sarcastically, “I think mother would like to hear a nice upbeat song. Perhaps it’ll cheer her up!”

Fredrick started to laugh.

“Yes! Mummy would like that, wouldn’t you mummy?” he chanted.

“Children, please. Be quiet.” She ushered.

I began to sing. Not just for myself, but for my brother, for my mother, for all my fallen friends. I sang until tears came from my eyes. I sang until I could no longer hear the bombs going off. I sang until there were no more songs to sing.

When we emerged from the shelter, we saw the remnants of our house. I cried, I cried as much as I had sung. This pointless war, I thought.

“the smell of a fresh book”

New house, new surrounding, new habits. I’m looking to expand my vocab, so after seeing a screening of “Kill Your Darlings” (starring Daniel Radcliffe as poet Allen Ginsberg) I decided to start reading Ginsberg’s poems, so I bought one of his books. Some are dirty, some are songs, some are sad. Here’s my two favourites so far.

A Western Ballad

When I died, love, when I died
my heart was broken in your care;
I never suffered love so fair
as now I suffer and abide
when I died, love, when I died.

When I died, love, when I died
I wearied in an endless maze
that men have walked for centuries,
as endless as the gate was wide
when I died, love, when I died.

When I died, love, when I died
there was a war in the upper air:
all that happens, happens there;
there was an angel by my side
when I died, love, when I died.

Allen Ginsberg – Paterson, August 1948

Song

The weight of the world
is love.
Under the burden
of solitude,
under the burden
of dissatisfaction

the weight,
the weight we carry
is love.

Who can deny?
In dreams
it touches
the body,
in thought
constructs
a miracle,
in imagination
anguishes
till born
in human–
looks out of the heart
burning with purity–
for the burden of life
is love,

but we carry the weight
wearily,
and so must rest
in the arms of love
at last,
must rest in the arms
of love.

No rest
without love,
no sleep
without dreams
of love–
be mad or chill
obsessed with angels
or machines,
the final wish
is love
–cannot be bitter,
cannot deny,
cannot withhold
if denied:

the weight is too heavy

–must give
for no return
as thought
is given
in solitude
in all the excellence
of its excess.

The warm bodies
shine together
in the darkness,
the hand moves
to the center
of the flesh,
the skin trembles
in happiness
and the soul comes
joyful to the eye–

yes, yes,
that’s what
I wanted,
I always wanted,
I always wanted,
to return
to the body
where I was born.

Allen Ginsberg – San Jose, 1954.

“the ladies storm in and take the lead”

We’ve had and loved our Bad Boys (1 & 2!), our Lethal Weapon and our 21 Jump Street. But now we have the ladies storming in to take the lead in this year’s crime/action/comedy hybrid – The Heat, written by Katie Dippold.

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Foul-mouthed Boston cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) protects the streets of her neighborhood unconventionally, but still as passionately as any other officer. Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is an uptight, Spanx wearing, book biding FBI agent whose first encounter with Mullins goes anything but nice. However, the two have a common interest – ruthless drug lord ‘Larkin’.

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There’s a lot of swearing. And when we say a lot, we mean A LOT. But the hilarity of the film isn’t overshadowed by it. In fact, swearing becomes a device used to show Ashburn’s change in character. That said – if you are fastidious over bad language, you might find yourself enjoying the film less and less.

McCarthy and Bullock both give brilliant performances, but McCarthy steals the limelight as funny girl. Her characters extreme attitude and blasé approach to rules and regulations causes intensely funny moments, which are sold purely on McCarthy’s energy as Mullins. It’s a role she suits and delivers fantastically.

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Of course the film is predictable. We’ve seen enough of these good cop/bad cop franchises to last us a lifetime. It’s not the plot we go for any more – it’s the relationship and the comedic value. We go because we know that McCarthy and Bullock have made us laugh before and everyone loves a bit of gunfire coupled with explosions.

If you don’t go for those reasons, go for the brilliant scene involving the pair getting drunk in a shady bar. The whole act is reminiscent of Bridesmaids, which was also directed by Paul Feig. Simple, funny and memorable. You couldn’t ask for anything else out of an intoxicated scene.

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The Heat is in cinemas 31st of July.

“getting the claws out”

Getting the claws out better than a middle-aged woman who’s had a few too many, Hugh Jackman stars in the newest addition to the superhero film-family, The Wolverine.

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Directed by James Mangold, The Wolverine puts to rest any discrepancies the hardcore fans may have. The film stays true to the comics and though I’m not an avid reader myself, I could appreciate the emotional connection between the audience and the doomed romance of Wolverine and Mariko Yashida. Chris Claremont and Frank Miller first concocted this fan-favourite relationship on paper back in 1982 and thirty years later it is brought to life in 3D. How times have changed.

Beginning, as it always does, with a sense of unknowing – the film revels yet another mystery time in the Wolverines long, long existence. Centuries later, he awakens; haunted by his memories. After a brawl in the local Wolverine is whisked away by pixie-like Yukio to Japan where he is reunited with a very old friend.

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This film sets itself apart from the others. Instead of “bang, bang, boom, boom” we strike a more emotional chord, exploring the hardship of Wolverine being haunted in dreams and waking hours by former flame Jean Grey. Her appearance in the film creates a nostalgic connection between the two franchises.

Jackman, as usual, gives an outstanding performance. It’s clear that he will always be our Wolverine. After playing the character for thirteen years, who else could live up to it?

The Wolverine

Mangold uses 3D well during the film. Most notably is epic (and cliché) fight scene on top of a train. Though the train is the famous bullet train in Japan travelling at about 300mph. A fact that makes it a unique scene and will please many of the speed junkies in the cinema seats.

What I liked about the film is the fact you don’t need to have watched every X-Men/Wolverine film religiously to understand the plot. It stands on it’s own two feet. Though if you haven’t read a spoiler about Wolverine and Jean’s complicated relationship, it could be the one aspect that you won’t fully understand. But that sideline narrative tool was added to please the X-Men fans.

All in all it was a great film. Entertaining with humor that didn’t overshadow the important emotional parts of the movie.