Five films that Donald Trump should watch

by Andrew Dix Added 08.08.2016
Strange to say, but Donald Trump might have been a filmmaker rather than real estate magnate. As he informs us in The Art of the Deal, his book of autobiographical recollection and business advice, he “flirted briefly with the idea of attending film school at the University of Southern California”. Hotels, apartment blocks and casinos, rather than movie lots, ultimately became the favoured spaces for demonstration of Trumpian creativity. But...

When life imitates art, and believable fiction inspires national politics

by Simon Willmetts Added 12.07.2016
A curious detail to emerge from the Chilcot Inquiry was the revelation that the film The Rock may have been the inspiration for some of the dubious intelligence provided to MI6 detailing Iraq’s chemical weapons capabilities. It detailed how a source suggested that chemical agents could have been carried in glass containers – not normal practice, but exactly as portrayed in the 1996 film. If this seems surprising, in fact it’s by no means the...

Versailles, a new ten-part drama serial about Louis XIV by Canal Plus on the BBC

by Guy Rowlands Added 01.06.2016
Versailles, the new ten-part drama serial about Louis XIV of France, is to begin showing on UK television on BBC Two on June 1. Made by French group Canal Plus to mark the tercentenary of the legendary Sun King’s death in 1715, it tells the story of his life and the great palace with which he is associated. Canal Plus spent vast amounts of money on the production, but more noteworthy has been the fact that Versailles is in English. The aim...

SPOTLIGHT illuminates the unique power of journalism to uncover societal scandals

by David Pilgrim Added 04.02.2016
Like All The President’s Men before it, Spotlight, which was released recently to critical acclaim, reassures its audience that the American mass media is not all soundbites and superficiality at the behest of owners. Both films are stories of speaking truth to power. Both remind us that those in power anywhere in society will, as and when required, ignore, cajole, bully and bribe anyone who seeks to expose injustice and corruption linked to...

The Danish Girl: all skirt and no substance

by Clare Tebbutt Added 02.01.2016
It was with some trepidation that I went to watch The Danish Girl. Prior to its release the film had already attracted accusations of transphobia for director Tom Hooper’s decision to cast the cisgender actor Eddie Redmayne in the title role of Lili Elbe, a trans woman. Lili Elbe was one of a good number of people in interwar Europe who felt the sex they had been assigned at birth was incorrect. How, I wondered, would a film that had...

Spectre review: James Bond makes his mark in an age of cybersecurity

by Joseph Oldham Added 30.10.2015
Daniel Craig’s entry into the Bond world was more than a change of face: he also brought in an abrupt about turn in style, from the fantastical to the gritty. The fourth Craig Bond, Spectre, takes us further down this road: unambiguously into a world that we all recognise. The film’s focus on cybersecurity, and more specifically the potential for the abuse of state surveillance technology, is a timely theme: Spectre has even been described...

Life, James Dean and the limits of nostalgia

by J E Smyth Added 29.09.2015
Life offers a brief “outtake” from one of the most famous lives to be profiled in the magazine of the same name’s history. James Dean starred in only three major Hollywood films before his death in a car crash on September 30 1955. The film’s opening is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the actor’s death. Anton Corbijn’s biopic covers the brief period in 1955 when Dean (Dane Dehaan) was between pictures (East of Eden was about...

Rough sex gives way to romance in the latest Lady Chatterley

by Andrew Harrison Added 19.09.2015
The latest adaptation of D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover has predictably prompted significant media interest. Strong and contradictory reactions appeared in the newspapers weeks before it aired (on September 6). The Sun called the BBC film “so steamy it borders on porn”, while the Telegraph noted that the sex scenes are “soft-focus” and expressed surprise at the omission of the novel’s infamous four-letter words. Its writer and...

Dear White People ponders post-racism – but we need to talk about that

by Victoria Anderson Added 26.06.2015
Is there such a thing as post-racism? That’s what Justin Simien’s film Dear White People asks us to consider. And it’s just about to hit the UK. Dear White People is a subtle and good-natured satire on the issues of race in the Obama age. It was written, according to Simien, “in the age when many were under the delusion of ‘post-racism’”. But racism is precisely the cloud that has preshadowed its UK release. Despite widespread acclaim in the...

Girlhood is remarkable – a film brimming with messages of empowerment

by William Brown Added 07.05.2015
Girlhood, Céline Sciamma’s new film, opens with one of the most remarkable sequences that I have ever seen in a cinema. Figures play a game of American touch football under the glare of floodlights set to Dark Allies by New York-based retro electro duo Light Asylum. “We’re all alone in this world,” it begins. Helmets rut and bodies clash in slow-mo as Shannon Funchess sings: Nail me to the cross in the darkest alley I said, the Prince of...

Celebrity twat or man of the people? Russell Brand is both in The Emperor's New Clothes

by William Brown Added 29.04.2015
A few moments from the end of The Emperor’s New Clothes, the new documentary made by the prolific Michael Winterbottom in collaboration with Russell Brand, the celebrity anarchist pretends to receive a phone call as he puts forward a proposal that the top 1% of the UK’s population should be more greatly taxed. Yes, the top 1% would include him, Brand says, as if repeating the words of some invisible agent at the other end of the line. He...

Films like Still Alice are crucial to keeping debate about dementia alive

by Catherine Bailey Added 12.03.2015
In the week following the release of Still Alice, the Oscar-winning film about early onset Alzheimer’s, the disease has again made headlines with the story of Chris Graham, a former soldier who has the disease and is already showing symptoms age 39. He is planning a year long 16,000 mile cycle ride to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. June Andrews recently argued in The Conversation that the film is far from a good thing for raising...

Still Alice is far from a good thing for dementia awareness

by June Andrews Added 10.03.2015
Still Alice tells the story of a university professor who is diagnosed with an aggressive early-onset dementia. Her intellectual and physical capacity declines cruelly, and it’s certain that she has passed the genetic mutation she inherited on to at least one of her children. Such things happen. I recently met a lawyer like this. All her siblings were affected. Her own children, who were born before anyone knew about the family problem, also...

Surviving street prostitution: two new films on harrowing realities for women in America

by Karen Boyle Added 04.03.2015
Fresh from its success at Sundance, where the British filmmaker Kim Longinotto picked up the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award, Dreamcatcher has had its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival. A devastating but ultimately hopeful film, Dreamcatcher has the extraordinary Brenda Myers-Powell at its heart. Myers-Powell runs the Dreamcatcher Foundation, working with prostituted women and at-risk girls in Chicago. She offers them...

Fifty Shades of Grey is just an old-fashioned romance – that's the problem

by Karen Boyle Added 11.02.2015
Fifty Shades of Grey film opens this Valentine’s weekend to much fanfare but, perhaps tellingly, with few press previews in the UK. With one UK cinema chain reporting advance ticket sales worth £1.3m, it’s pretty clear the adaptation of E L James’s best-selling book is going to be critic-proof. It is difficult to write about Fifty Shades without being caught up in excess: translated into 51 languages, more than 100m copies sold, 50m-plus...

The Theory of Everything is inspiring, despite a hackneyed treatment of Hawking's work

by Becky Douglas Added 28.12.2014
The Theory of Everything is a film about two people who meet at university and fall in love. But what makes it remarkable is that one of them is Professor Stephen Hawking and that when he and Jane Wilde get married, they do so in the knowledge that Hawking is suffering from a terrible and debilitating disease and is unlikely to live for much more than two years. Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Hawking is perfect – we could almost be watching...

Why Kim Jong-Un was Really afraid of “The Interview:” A Humiliation Romp, not an Assassination Flick

by Juan Cole Added 25.12.2014
N.B.: Contains spoilers; if interested in the film, go see or stream it first and then read. There has been a lot of blaming the victim in the commentary on Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg’s controversial film, “The Interview” (2014). The premise, of an assassination plot against the North Korean dictator, has been called unseemly and it has been hinted around that trouble about it was foreseeable. In fact, despite an unflattering depiction of...

Unbroken [directed by Angelina Jolie] tries but fails to reassure during difficult times

by Guy Westwell Added 25.12.2014
Recently, Angelina Jolie announced her retirement from the acting profession so that she could take up writing and directing full time. Which is an error, if her latest directing endeavour Unbroken is any indication. Unbroken is based on a best-selling nonfiction book by Laura Hillenbrand. It tells the story of the experience of second-generation Italian-American Luis Zamperini who was imprisoned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during...

Crowdfunding can drive new documentary filmmaking and build grass-root audiences

by Christopher Hird Added 20.12.2014
The taxi driver was mystified by the long queue waiting to go into Leeds Picturehouse cinema on a recent Sunday afternoon. He was clearly surprised when I explained that what turned out to be a capacity audience was there to see a documentary about the 1984-5 miners’ strike. There have been similar scenes at independent cinemas across the country as the film, Still the Enemy Within – of which I am one of the executive producers – climbs up...

"A Touch of Sin" and "Leviathan"

by Ian Buruma Added 11.11.2014
NEW YORK – The times we live in are often most clearly reflected in the mirror of art. Much has been written about post-communism in Russia and China. But two recent films, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, made in China in 2013, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, made in Russia in 2014, reveal the social and political landscapes of these countries more precisely than anything I have seen in print. Jia’s movie is episodic; four loosely linked...
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