Tag Archives: cinema

“Should I see The Revenant?” Might as well ask, “Do I enjoy cinema?”

14 Jan
The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio spent the last year Rocky Mountains way. Couldn’t get much higher

The Revenant is a film of few words, and so will be my recommendation of it: Go See. This is not merely a movie. This is Cinema.

The opening battle scene is as visceral as anything since Private Ryan (and as for that bear scene….!). The landscapes, filmed in the wild Canadian Rockies, show both the exquisite beauty and the cold brutality of nature – just as the ugliness of man, in this film, is interleaved with transcendent moments of tenderness and honour.

The score, by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto, definitely deserves an Oscar, Golden Globes result notwithstanding. As to the cinematography, it would feel like the most shocking upset in Oscar history if regular Terrence Malick cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki didn’t land his third in a row (after Gravity and Birdman). Leonardo DiCaprio is almost certain finally to take home his little gold man for the gruelling central role, rarely off screen though saying very little.

But forget the Oscars. This is just hauntingly lovely film-making, a work of unique vision and, indeed, obsession – not since Herzog hauled a steamship up a mountain, or Friedkin slapped his actors and stuck them in a freezer, has a director (Birdman‘s Iñárritu) gone to such lengths to get what he needed.

At first it grates that Tom Hardy mumbles into his beard nearly as incomprehensibly as when playing Bane. But then you relax into that, and remind yourself that the words don’t really matter, and it becomes almost a plus. The haunting images are all the story you need.

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Opposites attract: a spoiler-free comment on Avengers: Age of Ultron

24 Apr

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“Just one ticket?” I could hear the surprise in her voice. Seeing that I had heard it, she looked embarrassed. But I got that the ticket girl wasn’t saying “you sad man, seeing a film on your own” – if Ritzy staff can’t understand the joys of solo film appreciation, who can? – but rather, “you don’t have a child in tow? I mean, you do know this is a superhero movie?”

Lady, I was inhaling this superhero shit before yo’ mamma was born.

I’m sure I was more excited than the kids in the row behind me. At least, I didn’t see them bouncing in their seat the moment the Marvel logo came up on the big screen.

So does Avengers: Age of Ultron live up to expectations? Yeah. Not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Avengers Assemble, a little less cohesive in terms of plot, a little too CGI-tastic, but still huge fun and an incredible feat in juggling ten lead characters and giving them all a distinct voice. Joss Whedon won me over right from the outset: there’s this big chase and battle scene, and it’s all motorbikes and tanks and guns and flying shields and mystic hammers, and I’m like woah, too fast, too jerky, I can’t see, and Whedon knew we’d be thinking that, because that’s the moment he slo-moed everything way down, practically freeze-frame, for this beautifully choreographed comic-panel shot of the whole Avengers team flying or leaping through the air in their own individual styles.

I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot. Why spoil the anticipation? But I will say, in terms of script-writing lessons, look for how Whedon uses opposites to powerful effect. Stark vs his metal twin; peace-loving Banner vs ragenik Hulk; sentimental Natasha vs assassin Romanoff; peace vs war; saving life vs extinguishing it; even, at the climax, going up vs coming down. It’s an effective technique, and elaborated on brilliantly by BBC script guru John Yorke in his recent Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why we Tell Them. (Writers: buy it.)

If this is how the blockbuster summer begins, I’m all for it. Now roll on Mad Max.

Brixton Ritzy strike latest: Curzon announces London Living Wage for staff

29 Oct
Brixton Ritzy staff strike for London Living Wage

Brixton Ritzy staff strike for London Living Wage

The Brixton Ritzy strike is playing out like a movie. How long before it joins the miners’ strike film Pride, ironically still playing at the Ritzy, on the big screen?

We have the hero’s quest – the staff’s year-long struggle to be paid the London Living Wage. We’ve had the false dawn, where a few weeks ago they seemed to have achieved their goal. Two days ago we had the sudden reversal and the “all is lost” moment, where Picturehouse announced that, to pay for the wage increase, they would be sacking nearly a quarter of the staff. And now we have the intervention of the wise old mentor that gives new hope to take our protagonists into the third act.

The wise old mentor comes in the shape of Will Self in the Standard, Owen Jones in the Guardian, and, um, me in my blog two days ago, which has been Shared on Facebook more than any other I’ve written, proving to me the strength of feeling on the matter.

But much more than that, it comes now in an amazing twist from Curzon Cinemas.

Today, Curzon announced that it is introducing the London Living Wage for all its staff. Said Chief Executive Philip Knatchbull: “This could not have occurred without the support of our shareholders who will subsidise the cost of doing this in the short term until the cost is self-financing through the better quality of work we think paying people properly will engender.”

He was too polite also to say, “Yah boo sucks, Picturehouse, thanks for sleepwalking into a PR shitstorm and giving us all your disaffected boycotting customers.”

The third act of this drama is still unwritten. This isn’t Hollywood, so it may still not have a happy ending. But since entreaties to fair play are useless to a corporation that has a duty to its shareholders, I like the way Knatchbull has phrased it. Curzon is paying its staff because it believes that will pay off financially in the long run. What is true for Curzon is surely also true for Picturehouse.

Companies spend years and millions on building a brand. Picturehouse, under the relatively new management of Cineworld, is flushing all that hard work, money and good will down the toilet for the sake of a couple of quid an hour. It’s just bad business.

So come on, Picturehouse. If you won’t do right by your staff out of a sense of fairness and civic duty, do it because, in the end, it makes financial sense; because that’s what your customers want.

Give us our happy third-act ending.

LATEST NEWS: Protest works!! bit.ly/1wgUsC4

From hot tubs to the British Museum: outdoor and out-there screenings in London

29 Aug
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Immerse yourself in movies: Hot Tub Cinema in Shoreditch

Growing up in Canada, I loved the drive-in. That’s where, at a tender age, I was shocked to the core when little Bonnie broke her neck in Gone With The Wind. That’s where I watched Laurence of Arabia hold his hand in the flame: “The ‘trick’, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” The giant screens made these scenes even more indelible. Later, I realised what a mythology there was around the drive-in itself, how it inspired movie scenes such as Grease, or American Graffiti.

How sad that there are none in London.

But wait – there kind of are. They are just drive-ins without the car. Outdoor screenings have really taken off this summer, and in some of the most unusual places. And though the Bank Holiday Weekend has come and gone, the movie summer lasts until late September.

Nomad Cinema is one of the most interesting. They have just today announced a series of monthly boutique screenings at the Hox hotel, with 50 plush seats and a free cocktail and popcorn for your tenner. The first one, the brilliant Brit crime thriller Sexy Beast, is in a month’s time, September 29; at time of writing there were still tickets available, but they won’t be for long.

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Edward Scissorhands at Brompton Cemetery, in the Nomad Cinema season

But that’s indoors: Nomad’s signature is outdoor screenings – the drive-in without the drive – and their programming is superb. Fulham Palace hosts Woody Allen’s greatest film, Annie Hall, tonight (tickets still available), with When Harry Met Sally following next Thursday Sep 5. Ghostbusters plays at Roundwood Park on Fri Sep 6; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at Queen’s Park on Sat Sep 7; Edward Scissorhands in the suitably Gothic surrounds of Brompton Cemetery on Wed Sep 11 (Donnie Darko the previous evening is sold out); and at Hyde Park Lido, Wong Kar-Wai’s spellbinding In The Mood For Love on Fri Sep 20, and Godard’s game-changing masterpiece Breathless on Sun Sep 22.  

There’s way more! It gets wet ‘n’ wild at the Hot Tub Cinema on the roof of Rockwell House in Shoreditch, after a few too many cocktails. The programmers go for cheesy fun hits: September is mostly sold out, but there are still tickets for Team America (Sep 10), Top Gun (Sep 13), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sep 15) – expect everyone in their tubs to be acting out the sexy “Don’t dream it, be it” pool scene at the end.

The Rooftop Film Club have too many films to mention, programmed throughout September at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch; the Bussey Building in Peckham; Springbridge Car Park in Ealing Broadway and the Kensington Roof Gardens.

Pop Up Screens does what it says on the tin. Of the September films that haven’t yet sold out, V for Vendetta at Coram Fields (Aug 30) and Fight Club at Ravenscourt Park Hammersmith (Sep 13) are maybe too serious for the outdoor treatment. I’d go for The Blues Brothers (Sep 14) or The Wizard of Oz (Sep 15), both at Ravenscourt Park. Sing along.

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Luna Cinema at Brockwell Lido

Luna Cinema has some amazing venues. Leeds Castle shows Blues Brothers and Casablanca (Sep 6 and 7); Dulwich Park shows Django Unchained (Sep 5), Argo (Sep 8) and This Is Spinal Tap (Sep 19); Kew Gardens hosts Cinema Paradiso, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dirty Dancing and Ghostbusters (Sep 12-15); and I rather fancy The Breakfast Club at my local Brockwell Lido in Brixton (Sep 18).

Future Cinema, which is by the same team as Secret Cinema but just not so secret, presents Dirty Dancing in its usual lavish style this weekend, when Hackney Downs will be transformed into Kellerman’s Vacation Resort. Friday and Saturday are sold out, even at £35 a ticket, but you can still have the time of your lives on Sunday Sep 1.

The Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival is Sep 5-15, and includes a bike-powered Edward Scissorhands on Peckham Rye (Sep 7), Skyfall at the Employment Academy (Sep 8, free but bring a food donation for Southwark Foodbank), and the terrific music doc Searching for Sugar Man (Sep 10) outside Rye Books, with free wine and popcorn.

There’s also a more sedate rival, the More London Free Film Festival (Sep 11-27), held at the Scoop amphitheatre by City Hall with Tower Bridge looming to one side. The line-up is impressive, starting with Skyfall and ending with Grease, The Sound of Music or Rocky Horror – voted on by the public and announced on Sep 2.

Not outdoors, but still unusual and spectacular: this coming weekend the BFI programmes three vintage horror classics in the vast forecourt of the British Museum. Monster Weekend features Night of the Demon (sold out), Dracula and The Mummy (Aug 29-Sep 1).

Phew, that enough for you? 🙂 God, I love London. Now get booking!