Category: Editorials

Read the latest editorials and opinion pieces from Big Picture Film Club.


Dear Straight Actors Who Want to ‘Play Gay’: Don’t.

November 17, 2019

There is a utopia on the horizon, distant and hazy like tarmac in the heat. It’s one where people sit around in dark rooms watching films and say, without any level of irony or ignorance, that ‘acting is acting’. Where LGBTQ+ actors are playing straight and the straights are playing gay, trans folk are playing cis-roles and everyone is blissfully equal in what they’re offered. But looking around at the dingy and grim corners of modern cinema anyone can see that we’re not there yet. We’re only squinting at blurry figures just about coming into view. 

Earlier this month the author of Call Me By Your Name, noted straight man and self-confessed paedophile, André Aciman called those that question straight actors playing gay roles ‘small-minded‘ while promoting his second book to profit off LGBTQ+ experience. In the past, Cate Blanchett said she would “fight to the death” to play gay roles, while Rachel Weisz and Matt Smith compared playing gay to playing alcoholics and heroin addicts, respectively. Alternatively, Darren Criss recently announced that his role in American Crime Story would be the last gay role he would play. “I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role,” he said in an interview with Bustle. Similarly, Armistead Maupin, the gay author of Tales of the City, told the BBC he thought “a gay actor can bring something special to the role from their own experience” and that an LGBTQ+ actor would likely stay closeted to avoid getting typecast or overlooked.

Darren Criss is The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story / Credit: FX

As 2020 draws closer, the spectre of Jungle Cruise and Supernova are beginning to materialise. The former featuring Jack Whitehall’s controversial ‘openly gay’ character for Disney (who is conspicuously quiet in the films recently released trailer) and the latter, a recently wrapped dementia based film starring straight men Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as partners directed by up-and-coming straight director Harry McQueen. The announcement of both projects, once again, sparked debate. ‘IT’S CALLED ACTING,’ people cry on Twitter or in Facebook comments and yes, in that utopia, it is.  But maybe I should say it again, one more time, for the people in the back: We are not there yet. 

Earlier this year Ryan Gilbey wrote “Would there be enough out LGBT actors – brilliant, out LGBT actors, that is – to fill all these vacant parts?” in an article for The Guardian that failed to understand the crux of the issue; opportunity. LGBTQ+ actors are not often considered for straight roles under the guise that audiences won’t ‘believe them’. Out actors have routinely faced difficulty in finding work post-coming out, which has ultimately damaged their career while others are out but try to avoid the moniker of ‘gay’ altogether while straight actors don’t see gay roles in the same light. They are told that ‘playing gay’ will increase their range and potentially bring acclaim (and awards). Why? Rami Malek, Olivia Coleman, Hilary Swank, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cate Blanchett, Timothée Chalamet, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Jared Leto, Tom Hanks, and countless other straight (or assumed straight) actors to be have been nominated (or, in some cases won) a slew of awards for playing LGBTQ+ roles.  

Rami Malek / Credit: ABC Studios

The continued trend of straight folk being awarded for LGBTQ+ roles is a clear indicator of why they don’t want to give them up and what we are facing. For these actors, it is an experience akin to playing an addict and they don’t care that these comparisons trivialise sexuality and frame it as an experience, a passable affliction instead of something intrinsic to someone’s identity. They frame it as a phrase, something that can be thrust upon us and then overcome with a stay in rehab or the kindness of a stranger. And, simply put, it shows that they just don’t understand. 

What do we do then? Do we stop paying to see mainstream films that censor gay sex and reduce all queer intimacy down to quick pecks? The films that are made mostly to appeal to a straight audience and feature so little LGBTQ+ content that it can be edited out entirely and only lose three minutes of its two hours and thirteen-minute runtime. The short answer is: Yes.

L to R: Félix Maritaud, Adéle Haenel, Tracy Lysette, and Tessa Thompson

Maybe it’s time to say enough is enough? To put our money and effort into the rising European stars of Félix Maritaud and Adéle Haenel, who are proof that LGBTQ+ actors can create a name for themselves in queer cinema. Or into actors like Tracy Lysette, who had a role written specifically for her in the critical and box office hit Hustlers, or Tessa Thompson who came out as bisexual in an interview with Net-A-Porter. After all, the French author Édouard Louis suggests that LGBTQ+ people could be the best actors we have to offer as they spend their lives performing to ‘to protect [themselves] from homophobia and masculine violence.’

The aforementioned utopia only shimmers into existence if we are the ones to manifest it. We can explain over and over again to straight cisgender actors that taking the only roles Hollywood will consider queer people for is a problem or we can stop paying to see these movies. We can make movie stars of LGBTQ+ actors, ask LGBTQ+ directors to hire LGBTQ+ actors, shout from the rooftops about the films that get the experience right, and chastise those that get it wrong (or those that try and water it down). We can build that utopia, brick by queer brick. 

Note: The term ‘actor’ has been used throughout this article as a gender-neutral term (as opposed to the gendered ‘actress’) and as such its use is not intended to misgender but rather to level the playing field and avoid unnecessary gender divisions. 

Also Read: Sorry We Missed You: Film & The North

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A Game of Fan Films

November 13, 2019
A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

There’s no denying that despite its flaws Game of Thrones captured the zeitgeist in a way that few shows have. It sparked the imagination of everyone who saw it. And many used their imaginations to create something creator George R. R. Martin wouldn’t approve of, fan films.

So while we wait to see what’s next for the Song of Ice and Fire, here are five GoT fan films that deserve some recognition.

The Wild Wolf

Set before the events of the series, this short centres on Eddard Stark’s brother Brandon and his duel with Peytr Baelish for Catelyn Tully’s affections.

The Wild Wolf is undoubtedly impressive. The costumes and presentation look almost exactly like the show and the central duel has stellar choreography. But the film’s greatest strength is its main characters, Brandon (Shane Gibson) and Peytr (Curtis Worrell).

Unlike Eddard, Brandon is cocky and self-assured, but his reluctance to jump straight to violence and Gibson’s charm makes him likable and believable as a Stark. And despite knowing Peytr will eventually become a power-hungry schemer, Worrell makes him relatable as an idealist fighting for his true love. His dreams just vastly outweigh his capabilities, remaining true to one of Martin’s primary themes. Most people aren’t wholly good or evil, but somewhere in between.

The Wild Wolf (Short Film)

A Northern Story Episode 3: Blood and Milk

Wendrik Cassel is journeying home to Wolf Hall after the infamous red wedding. When he stops at a tavern and sees Bolton men taking a barmaid hostage, Wendrik must ask if he’s willing to forget what’s left of his honour for a quiet life?

Despite awkward fight choreography and a cheesy ending, Blood and Milk redeems itself by building a tense atmosphere through dialogue and the actor’s performances. The character of Wendrik Cassel is incredibly engaging as one of Westeros’ last good men, and the dialogue oozes with tension and wit.

A Northern Story (Short Film)

Game of Hyrule

The sole parody on the list, Game of Hyrule uses the conceit of a “previously on” segment to recap iconic moments from the Legend of Zelda games. But with a Game of Thrones-esque makeover. Meaning Hyrule has more sex, scheming, backstabbing and murder than ever before.

The hilarity of taking the iconography from the mostly child-friendly Legend of Zelda series and making it over to look like Game of Thrones is pure comedic genius. And it’s all done with loving attention to detail. Any gaming fan will definitely get a laugh from this one.

Game of Hyrule (Short Fim)

The Red Letter

Taking place before the red wedding, Dawn (A Frey servant) attempts to ferry an important letter to Leland (a Tully soldier). However, Walda Frey and her soldiers aren’t about to let that happen.

One thing absent from many GoT fan films is the show’s trademark unpredictability. But The Red Letter captures that perfectly. From the start, we’re thrown into a dire situation as Leland is ambushed by Frey soldiers and an unarmed Dawn tries to escape Walda Frey. Instantly we’re hooked and we’re never sure what the outcome will be. The fight choreography is incredible (despite some wobbly props). And there’s a great amount of personality injected in the limited dialogue. A thrilling watch that packs a punch.

The Red Letter (Short Film)

A Tale of Benjen Stark

Did you ever wonder what happened to Benjen Stark, during his journey beyond the wall? This short answers that question.

While returning from ranging Benjen discovers two survivors from a bloody attack on a wildling camp. As he tries to discover what happened the dead start to rise, attacking him and the survivors.

A Tale of Benjen Stark is a great amalgamation of the previous entries’ best elements. Combining The Red Letter’s great writing and fight choreography, Blood and Milk’s tense atmosphere, the Wild Wolf’s incredible acting, casting, and production design, Game of Hyrule’s attention to detail and each films affection for the source material with inventive camerawork, great music, and effective special effects. Creating a tale which for me deserves to be considered canon to the show.

A Tale of Benjen Stark (Short Film)

So for everyone still craving more Game of Thrones give these films a watch and make sure to mention any great GoT fan films we missed. For the night is dark and full of fan films.

Also Read: Batman Fan Films

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Was It Really That Bad? Alexander

November 12, 2019

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who liked Alexander – this being Oliver Stone’s 2004 film about the life of Alexander the Great. But it is a film I like. At the start, I should say I am obsessed with history and – as with zombie films – I will overlook a lot of problems in a historical epic.

Conquer your fear, and I promise you, you will conquer death

Alexander (irishcentral.com)

Alexander had a big cast featuring Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie but the titular character was played by Colin Farrell. Farrell is often a divisive figure and even my own opinion on him is divided – he is undeniably brilliant in In Bruges but he doesn’t always hit those heights. What follows is a combination plot synopsis and sort-of history lesson. Alexander was the son of King Philip of Macedonia and inherits the large kingdom upon his father’s death, eager for revenge and glory Alexander invades the huge Persian empire. Seemingly unstoppable, Alexander marches across the known world, going all the way to India. As well as his military glory he also has childhood companion and lover Hephaiston who accompanied Alexander on his conquests until his own death. Alexander dies young, only thirty-three, and seemingly within hours of his death, his great empire is already breaking apart.

No man or woman can be too powerful or too beautiful without disaster befalling.

Alexander (collider.com)

Alexander was not a successful film. IMDb rates it at a lowly 5.6, Rotten Tomatoes has a truly damning critic rating of 16% and a slightly better audience rating of 35%. For a director of the stature like Oliver Stone that must hurt. Stone subsequently released two different cuts, perhaps trying to rescue a work he believed in but with little impact with the public. The bad reviews are something to behold – “Stone has made an excruciating disaster for the ages” The AV Club, “emotionally and intellectually incoherent” Newsweek and “Puerile writing, confused plotting and shockingly off-note performances make Oliver Stone’s epic film a disappointment.” The New York Times. The criticisms fall into three main categories:

  1. It’s boring.
  2. There isn’t much of a story
  3. Colin Farrell’s performance

While I don’t find the film boring it’s such a common complaint that it’s hard to argue with, and truly it is a staggering achievement to take the life of one of the most famous people in all of history who lead an amazingly interesting life and bore people.

As for the story…well obviously this stuff really happened so you are sort of stuck with the facts to some degree. Perhaps it’s because Alexander the Great was so successful it’s hard to make an interesting narrative, there are no real setbacks, no defeats. There is no Robert the Bruce watching the spider in the cave moment where he overcomes adversity, just endless success.

Finally Colin Farrell; as I said I have a bit of a soft spot for Farrell but this is not a great performance by any stretch of the imagination. We obviously don’t know what the Macedonian accent was like over 2000 years ago but I doubt it’s the one Farrell and his friends have. It does seem like they realised Farrell was going to struggle with doing an accent and simply told the rest of the cast to mimic him. Perhaps, as some critics suggest, most actors would struggle to capture the gigantic presence and personality Alexander must have had.

“My poor child. You’re like Achilles; cursed by your greatness.”

Alexander (bestmoviereviews.co.uk)

Okay, so what is good about Alexander? The biggest plus are the battles which look amazing. Tens of thousands of soldiers or at least what looks like tens of thousands, battling it out. The Macedonians fight in a phalanx with their huge spears as cavalry rage back and forth, hundreds of arrows fill the sky, the battles are genuinely epic.

I would agree that Farrell isn’t quite up to playing Alexander the Great but I did enjoy the love story between Alexander and Hephaiston (played by Jared Leto). While Alexander did marry the film portrays his real love as Hephaiston and this was not a secret. The other Greek epic film that came out around the same Troy got some criticism as it removed the Achilles-Patroclus relationship entirely and the only reason that could be, or at least that I can think of, is that they didn’t want to portray a gay relationship.

There are a two enjoyable and slightly over-the-top performances of Alexander’s parents. Philip is played by Val Kilmer and Olympias by Angelina Jolie. Jolie especially seems to have a lot of fun chewing the scenario and plotting against just about everyone else in the film.

My final reason for enjoying Alexander is that I love history and these days you rarely see films like this. It’s lots of fun seeing scenes I’ve read about in history books recreated on a massive scale. Admittedly, if you’re not a history nerd this film may less to offer you.

Was It Really That Bad? No……but it’s not far off.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? The Mummy (2017)

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7 Reasons Characters Die in Horror Films

November 5, 2019
There are rules for surviving a horror movie

Horror films thrive on spooking their audience in a variety of ways. For example, the recent tech horror Countdown tapped into our anxiety about our mortality with an app that predicts the time you’ll die, down to the second. The central conceit being, how do you avoid death?

Well, today we’re counting down seven reasons characters die in horror films. Avoid these things to ensure your safety.

1. Taking drugs/having sex

Let’s get the obvious reason out first. Now many tend to overstate the significance of not taking drugs and having sex in horror movies. There are many iconic horror movie survivors who didn’t die after taking drugs (Laurie smokes marijuana and survived Halloween (1978)) and having sex (Ginny in Friday the 13 part 2, Sidney in Scream and Jay in It Follows).

But generally, it’s best to play it safe. For every iconic horror survivor who disproves this claim, there are slews of iconic horror victims that prove it. Just see Tina in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) who had sex moments before her tortuous slicing by Freddy Krueger.

Tina’s death is definitely an endorsement for abstinence in A Nightmare on Elm Street [Source: Youtube]

And Palmer in The Thing (1982) definitely shouldn’t have gotten high with a shapeshifting alien creature running around.

Palmer the resident pothead morphs into a killing machine upon being discovered as the thing [Source: Youtube]

2. Mocking conventions

Something less widely recognised is the fact that knowing genre clichés can also be a death sentence. How many times in horror movies have you heard someone mock their compatriots, by saying, “haven’t you seen a scary movie before?” only for them to die soon after. Unless you’re part of the Scream series self-aware characters rarely live to the end credits.

If you don't want to die in horror movies, don't talk about genres tropes.
Lizbeth demonstrating self-awareness in Friday the 13th Part 6 [Source: Tumblr]

For a great example of how self-awareness kills, look at the character of Lizbeth from Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.

Lizbeth proves that self-awareness can’t stop Jason [Source: Youtube]

3. Heading into the unknown

A word of advice, if you’re heading somewhere and find that it’s abandoned, rundown, has measures in place to keep people out, contains weird items or you don’t know much about it, just leave. You don’t know what may be lurking around.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) typifies this. Two of our leads wander onto a property with a drained swimming pool, blacked-out windows, and teeth are found on the porch. When they don’t leave there are very unfortunate consequences.

Kirk enters into the disturbing Sawyer house in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Youtube]

4. Going anywhere alone

Following on from the last entry, while it’s a bad idea heading into the unknown it’s even worse to go anywhere without bringing someone with you. It’s a good rule of thumb, when you go off alone you’re easier to stalk, terrorize and kill because no one’s there to keep you grounded and out of harm’s way.

No series exemplifies this trope better than the Friday the 13th series. The first movie, in particular, features several effective reasons for why you should never go anywhere alone.

Marcie shouldn’t have gone out on her own in the storm, Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Youtube]

5. Being generally unpleasant

As in life, don’t be unpleasant to people. Don’t insult, belittle, harm or be rude, it just makes everyone hate you. And when everyone hates you in a horror film you can rest assured that you are going to die.

Look no further than this scene from Silent Night for proof of that.

Santa brings death to Christmas in Silent Night [Source: Youtube]

6. Ignoring warnings & premonitions

I get that sometimes it’s hard to accept warnings from strangers, close friends, relatives or even your subconscious (in the case of dreams). It may feel patronising or like you aren’t personally in control. But these warnings are for your safety. It’s so baffling that horror film characters continually ignore them, as it usually leads to someone biting the big one.

Again Friday the 13th shows that warnings should be heeded. If the kids listened to Crazy Ralph, they’d still be alive.

Always listen to doomsayers in Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Giphy]

7. Cheating death

The final irony of horror movies is that you’re seldom truly safe. There was a time when good people survived and lead happy lives after the credits rolled. But besides the odd exception, that’s not the case nowadays.

If you’re in a self-contained movie maybe, one or two survivors will live to tell the tale. But if you’re a returning character from another film (and you aren’t Sidney Prescott, Ash Williams, Tommy Jarvis or Alice Johnson), you’ll more than likely die. So, if you survive, avoid sequels.

The master of dying in sequels is Laurie Strode. Originally dying in an off-screen car crash between Halloween 2 and 4, she was brought back in H20 (which continued from Halloween 2), only to die again in Halloween: Resurrection. She also died in the director’s cut of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (the second film in the reboot timeline) before being brought back in Halloween (2018). It seems the universe has a fascination with reviving and killing Laurie.

Laurie Strode’s 2nd death in the Halloween Series (Halloween: Resurrection) [Source: Youtube]

So there’s our list of seven reasons why characters die in horror movies. Just avoid doing these things and you’re sure to live to see another day.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films and The Real Events Behind Them

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Was It Really That Bad? Jennifer’s Body

November 1, 2019
Jennifer's Body

I know that the theme of this series is to look at films that maybe aren’t quite as bad as people think but I have to say – I love this film. It’s not “so bad it’s good” it’s not a “guilty pleasure” and there is no “ironic appreciation” going on here. This was the film Diablo Cody wrote after Juno and was directed by Karyn Kusama who went on to direct The Invitation and Destroyer, so there was a talented team behind the film so why does it have such a bad reputation?

“No, I mean she’s actually evil, not high school evil.”

Jennifer’s Body starred Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox, the latter playing the eponymous Jennifer. This is the plot – an unsuccessful indie band decide to sacrifice a virgin to get in with the Devil and therefore help their career. Unfortunately, their sacrifice, Jennifer, isn’t a virgin, meaning that she doesn’t die but becomes a demon. Using her position as the pretty and popular girl in school she lures other high school students to their death, where she eats them. Jennifer’s best friend, Needy (Amanda Seyfried), works this out and confronts her best friend.

“Hell is a teenage girl”

The demonic Jennifer ( source: vice.com)

Jennifer’s Body IMDb score is a lowly 5.2, Rotten Tomatoes critic score 44% and the audience score 34%. The audience score is particularly damning as sometimes films which critics hate are redeemed by an audience who “gets” it, but seemingly very few got it. This IMDb rating is worse than the Jennifer Aniston vehicle Bounty Hunter, arcade-mashup catastrophe Pixels and the Vin Diesel bodyguard/babysitting film The Pacifier all scoring 5.6. Reviews were mixed at best, with comments like “Jennifer’s Body comes across as a tame, derivative vehicle for the girl from the Transformers franchise” and “is never scary and it’s only sporadically amusing” . Many of the reviews compare it unfavourably to Juno, which while frustrating, is not unusual for a follow-up to such a hit.

But despite the critical mauling and audience rejection I love this film and recognise it as the true overlooked cult classic it is. First of all, the script is largely great, I love Diablo Cody’s dialogue in everything of hers I’ve seen and it is endlessly quotable. Next, the horror, I think this film has genuine moments of horror, from recently turned Jennifer arriving at Needy’s house and throwing up the most disgusting stuff imaginable to Jennifer pooling the blood of her victim’s in her hands so it is easier to drink. Most importantly of all is the relationship between Jennifer and Needy – it is incredibly relatable. If you’ve never had a friend in school who didn’t always treat you well but you remained friend’s with because you’ve always been friends with them — this film is for you. Jennifer consistently tries to put Needy in her place and even in moments of full-on horror and danger the problems in their relationship are laid bare. As well as the horror of demons there is the very real horror of being a teenager and it is this collision of worlds of horror and high school film that is the best thing about it.

“God, do you have to undermine everything I do? You are such a player hater.”

Every high school film needs a prom (source: IMDb.com)

One reason I give for the poor reviews is the presence of Megan Fox and the connotations she brought with her. This was absolutely unfair as every film, and every actor’s performance should be judged individually and critics who thought that because Fox was going to be in this film it was going to bed bad, should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. That said, I was such a person and it was only later after having heard people discuss the film in detail that I decided to watch it.

“I am still socially relevant.”

Was Jennifer’s Body really that bad? No. I think it’s a great film and hopefully will become a cult classic.

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? The Mummy (2017)

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Sorry We Missed You: Film and the North

October 31, 2019

Sorry We Missed You, the latest endeavour from Ken Loach (KesI, Daniel Blake), is a harrowing addition to Loach’s specific brand of socialist realist cinema. Featuring performances from a group of largely undiscovered actors, the film is a damning condemnation of zero-hour contracts and the current ‘gig’ culture that idealizes the entrepreneur, one who grafts alone to achieve and draws us, as a country, further away from empathy and collectivism. Set in Newcastle, Ricky (Kris Hitchen) takes up work as a delivery driver for the fictional courier service PDF. In a role in which he is considered ‘self-employed’ and finically responsible for the parcels he carries, he doesn’t ‘work for’ the company he works ‘with them’. He isn’t hired but rather asked to ‘come on board’, a manipulative twist on language to appeal to those in need. Sorry We Missed You captures working life in the North and the current state of the working-class in Britain with laser-like precision. The setting and subject also lead to a revaluation of the question: What is the relationship between film and the North? 

The North of England is largely misunderstood by those that don’t live here. The thrill of hearing a Northern accent on a night out, the obsession with gravy, and the ‘correct’ word for your evening meal are all points of fascination and humour to those who didn’t grow up above Birmingham. Over in Hollywood, that misunderstanding is even worse. There’s the age-old adage that when asked by an American where you are from in England they are surprised or confused if you don’t say London yet, films from the North have often proved to be complex and intricate, writhing with history and division, with sex and sexuality.

God’s Own Country (Credit: ORION PICTURES)

Last month, I wrote about British Romantic Comedies and how they are, to their detriment, apolitical. They ignore the issues of class, sex, race, and many others that face our country today. Cinema from the North is the exact opposite: Mike Leigh’s Peterloo told a socialist story and portrayed a massacre that most had forgotten, Clio Barnard’s The Arbor is an experimental genre-blend that explored race and gender inequality on a Bradford Estate through the experience of Andrea Dunbar, Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country is a rich, political, and delightfully queer story set in the Yorkshire countryside, and William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth is an electric story of deception and desire filled with sexuality and power.

It seems cinema and the North are perfect bedfellows yet to some if you want to experience ‘the arts’ you have to perform the pilgrimage down to London and sell your soul for a Pret A Manger wrap… but creators and artists have had enough. There is a fight to create more opportunities and indeed more stories from the North with the recent move of Channel 4’s HQ to Leeds and the current construction of a film studio in Liverpool to rival Pinewood proving a good start. If the industry in place then hopefully vital voices will come through.

A Taste of Honey (Credit: BRITISH LION PICTURES.)

When Shelagh Delaney wrote A Taste of Honey (one of the most performed plays in British history and adapted into an acclaimed film in 1961) she did so after a boy trying to impress her took her to the Manchester Opera House to see a play. She wrote in a letter to theatre producer Joan Littlewood, ‘I had discovered something that means more to me than myself.’ As such, she created work that found drama and gravity in the world she came from. She found a voice and something to say and dared to push forward into a world she knew wasn’t built for her. 

Like Delaney, the North is a place talent can, if given the opportunity, thrive. It has produced writers from the working-class comedy stylings of Willy Russell to the intrigue and betrayal of Jed Mercurio. It has formed directors like Terence Davies, whose Liverpudlian self-portraits are stunning and musical. Acting-wise, it has offered some of the strongest and most memorable performances in cinematic history. This writer has issues every day knowing we live in a world in which Julie Walters did not win an Oscar for her role as the chain-smoking, brash, ballet teacher living in Thatcher’s Britain in Billy Elliot. Nor will he be able to sleep well at night ever again knowing Jane Horrocks wasn’t even nominated for her dazzling and wild performance as a shy woman with a talent for impersonating musical icons in Little Voice. He will also forever be frustrated that Maxine Peake’s talent continues to go underappreciated and that routinely that affluent actors from the South continue to gain the most acclaim

That relationship then? One in which talent has to stand out and fight for a seat at the table, to work to prove that the North is a place of art and culture, and to tackle politics and class head-on. It will strive to eviscerate British cinema’s idea of classlessness and fight to render the idea of a single ‘British accent’ entirely moot. It will not rest until the North is seen as it really is: diverse, visceral, and truly alive. 

Sorry We Missed You is released nationwide on November 1st.

Sorry We Missed You (Official Trailer)

Also Read: “Sorry We Missed You” UK Premiere Highlights & Interviews

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Return of the Screams: Celluloid Screams 2019

October 30, 2019
Celluloid Screams 2019 Poster

This past weekend to celebrate Halloween I decided to return to the Celluloid Screams horror festival for the second time. And, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you guys know what I thought of the festival this year.

As ever Celluloid Screams was a fantastic experience for genre fans. The staff, organizers and fellow festival-goers were all incredibly friendly and helped contribute to the best festival atmosphere I have been to yet. Everyone was willing to engage in conversation about films, help out with any problems and were incredibly well behaved when it came to watching the films, as well as enforcing good cinema-going etiquette. Something that is always appreciated by me.

Though we didn’t have any director Q&A’s like last year it was more than made up for by the extras we got. Firstly, we had stalls from the likes of Fab Press and Arrow Video. As well as exclusive previews for the second season of Wellington Paranormal and a local production called Seepers: A Love Story coming next year from Gory Hole Films. Both bode well for the upcoming projects. And the festival also did their bit to contribute to a good cause by encouraging people to sign up and give blood with the NHS.

An introduction to the Seepers trailer at Celluloid Screams [Source: Joshua Greally]

Lastly, of course, I got to see loads of films. Unlike last year, I saw all 17 feature films shown at this years festival. But like last year I thought I would give you guys my short takes on the movies I saw. All kept under 50 words, ranked from worst to best:

Corporate Animals: A movie that thinks merely referencing popular culture in a snippy, self-aware fashion (including the Weinstein case) is the same thing as humor. None of the jokes have any sense of timing or build-up. They’re just thrown out by a cast clearly killing time until their paycheques clear. 0.5 out of 5 stars (0.5 / 5)

Outback: Some beautiful cinematography and decently tense moments in the third act don’t make up for the unbearably whiny characters, cringy dialogue and one of the most obnoxious soundtracks I’ve heard all year. 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Outback at Celluloid Screams
An intro to Outback [Source: Joshua Greally]

Tone-deaf: Despite a standout performance from the ever-great Robert Patrick and a good round of ironic laughs to be had, the films unsubtle nature in regards to delivering jokes, postmodern sub-Scream dialogue and thin characterization make the movie hard to really engage with as anything aside from a funny diversion. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Making Monsters: Using a YouTube prank show as the story basis is quite cringe-inducing. And for the first half only serves as an elaborate crutch to hold up the story. However, once the reasoning behind its use is revealed Making Monsters becomes very entertaining. Even if certain things still don’t make sense. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

After Midnight: A movie that suffers from an identity issue. Part formulaic romance part unengaging monster movie, After Midnight’s first 2 thirds will leave many viewers cold. The finale however, while not entirely justifying the first portion, will leave viewers satisfied. In addition, it features the best jump scare of the festival. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Colour Out Of Space: Nic Cage does cosmic horror. The second Nicolas Cage neon-soaked horror film in as many years (the first being Mandy), does have a lot of dodgy CGI, very wonky performances and an uneven tone. But it more than makes up for it with its sheer entertainment value. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Girl On The Third Floor: While the film would’ve benefited from a different lead actor than CM Punk and it does feel like a first feature, if you want an enjoyable horror movie that focuses on tension over jump scares and thoughtfully addresses issues of sexism present throughout many genre movies then check this out. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss: A mixture of Climax and The Addiction, Bliss is a visually stunning foray into psychedelic horror with a glorious 70s grindhouse aesthetic, some great performances and an infectious soundtrack. Hampered by a severely unlikeable main character, obnoxious dialogue and a very repetitive structure. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss at Celluloid Screams
The last film on the 3rd day, the absolutely bonkers Bliss [Source: Joshua Greally]

Daniel Isn’t Real: Adam Egypt Mortimer’s second feature is a powerful watch. With a strong dower tone, visuals and mostly great performances from its cast. However, it crumbles under its own weight in the third act. Trading in subtlety in favour of overexaggerating everything to the point of unintentional parody. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The Golden Glove: Chillingly straightforward in its execution of an incredibly bleak story. Featuring an incredibly slimy turn from Jonas Dassler and haunting use of licensed music. The Golden Glove is not a movie you watch to enjoy. But as a well-made true-crime horror movie, you definitely won’t forget it. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Little Monsters: A charming cute zombie romp, that is formulaic, often cheesy and relies a little too much on man-child angst in the beginning. But through Lupita Nyong’o’s heartfelt central performance the film soon finds its footing as a funny love letter to teachers and childhood optimism. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Come to daddy: This black horror-comedy starring Elijah Wood about family reconnection isn’t for everyone. It’s slow, deliberately uncomfortable pace means you never know whether you’re supposed to be laughing or not. Though not all the jokes land and some threads feel like padding, it’s worth seeing purely for its odd presentation. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Why Don’t You Just Die!: No country does social metaphor pictures like Russia. Set mostly in an apartment and taking aim at many aspects of Russian society the film goes in so many different directions and juggles so many different tones so well that you won’t want it to end. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Synchronic: My introduction to Benson and Moorhead (The Endless) couldn’t have made a better first impression. With an incredible premise, fantastic acting (I’d love to see Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan together in another movie), beautiful visuals and a lean pace, this is something any cosmic horror fan needs to see. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum: If you get the chance to see this movie in the cinema, do it. Because so much of this movie’s effectiveness comes from seeing it with a crowd. A brilliant example of transmedia storytelling, thick with atmosphere and imagination. A must watch for fans of 70’s euro cult horror. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum at Celluloid Screams
A legal notice put outside the screening of Antrum [Source: Joshua Greally]

Extra Ordinary: The film that won the hearts of everyone at the festival, winning first place in the audience vote. A charming homegrown comedy filled with personality, pitch-perfect timing, quirky and engaging characters and the best editing gag I’ve seen this year. All horror-comedy lovers need to see this. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Nightingale: My favourite film of the festival. Jennifer Kent’s sophomore feature focuses on the horrors of colonialism and oppression with awe-inspiring results. The pacing is a little slow, but everything really comes together to create one of the most hauntingly beautiful, brutal and nuanced films to discuss oppression in years. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

An introduction to my favourite film of the festival [Source: Joshua Greally]

So ends my second experience at Celluloid Screams 2019. It was yet again a fantastic experience that makes me proud to be a horror fan. I hope you all found this little retrospective informative and that I’ve encouraged you to check out some of these movies or perhaps even attend the festival in the future. I know I will definitely be trying to return next year. Either way, happy viewing and Happy Halloween.

Also Read: 5 Classic British Horror Films

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Was It Really That Bad? Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

October 25, 2019
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars, the franchise that conquered the world. The troubles making the first film are now legendary. But George Lucas and his team created something truly special with Star Wars and its direct sequels Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Popularly considered three of the greatest sci-fi films ever.

After Return of the Jedi satisfyingly closed the trilogy in 1983, the franchise lay dormant, until 1999 when Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released. This was the first part of the prequel trilogy which told the story about the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the empire from the original trilogy (retroactively renamed episodes 4, 5 and 6). But it wasn’t the glorious homecoming fans hoped for.

Episode 1 currently sits at a 6.5 on IMDb and a 53% on rotten tomatoes. Quite a dip in quality compared to the first three movies (Star Wars- 8.6 IMDb, 93% RT, Empire Strikes Back- 8.7 IMDb, 95% RT and Return of the Jedi- 8.3 IMDb, 81% RT). But 20 years later, is the Phantom Menace really that bad?

The most hated character in the whole Star Wars Saga, Jar Jar Binks (Source: Mickeyblog.com)

“Be gone with him”

After years of anticipation, initial reviews for The Phantom Menace were resoundingly negative.

Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much.”

-The Guardian

Everything about the movie has been criticized over the years. Whether it’s uninteresting characters, flat performances, the dialogue, the boring story, a lack of understanding of is audience or the use of CG effects. Everyone has a bone to pick with the Phantom Menace.

So, I find myself in a difficult position when I say, Phantom Menace doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.

The looks you get when trying to defend the Phantom Menace (Source: Den of Geek)

“I have a bad feeling about this”

That’s not to say Phantom Menace isn’t flawed. The film suffers from a lack of compelling characterisation. Many characters are mythic archetypes who aren’t relatable on a human level. Though they are still entertaining.

The script is full of ham-fisted dialogue that explains things rather than adding personality to the universe. Some of the performances are lacklustre (Jake Lloyd’s Anakin) or grating (Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar Binks).

And the film has a very confused tone, mixing adult political drama with kid friendly wish fulfilment and blazing action. Which just don’t gel together.

“Weren’t you supposed to be defending Phantom Menace?” (Source: Geektyrant)

“Defiance I sense in you”

But personally, I appreciate Phantom Menace trying to grow with its audience. After 16 years the kids who grew up on Star Wars were becoming adults, so Lucas tried to take an adult look at how the problems of the original trilogy came about.

Granted it wasn’t successful, and it needed the guiding hands of others to help iron things out, rather than George doing everything himself, seemingly unchallenged. But I will always take something different but flawed over safe and boring.

“Agree with you the council does”

And there are many positives to appreciate about Phantom Menace. There are some fine performances from Ewan McGregor as the charming, younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liam Neeson as calm, rebellious Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and Ian McDiarmid is endearing and menacing as both sides of Chancellor Palpatine.

While the film drags in some parts, there are plenty of incredibly enjoyable action beats to make up for that. Like the Naboo escape scene, the pod race on Tatooine and even the overstuffed but enjoyable four-pronged finale.

The movie also has a great design and look. It’s colourful, inventive with a large variety of creature designs, sets, and costumes and it mixes early CG and practical effects in great ways to make its worlds feel bigger than the original trilogy.

And this film features some of composer John Williams’ best work. Will anyone argue that Duel of the fates isn’t one of the best songs of the entire saga?

The best part of the Phantom Menace, underscored by some of the best music of John Williams’ career (Source: Moddb.com)

Was It Really That Bad? …. No

The Phantom Menace is flawed, certainly. It would’ve benefited from having others around to iron out Lucas’ vision rather than giving him complete control.

But at its worst Episode 1 is an entertaining popcorn sci-fi film. Packed with a lot of creative ideas and it features some genuinely good work behind and in front of the camera that deserves appreciation rather than simple hate. Because as Yoda said, “hate leads to suffering.”

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? Robin Hood (2018)

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Batman & Joker: The Future of the DCEU

October 22, 2019
Batman Vs Joker

Joker has been a big success commercially and for the most part critically, but what does this Joker mean for the DCEU?

Warning – major spoilers for Joker below

Not A Superhero Film

Joker is many things. In my opinion, it is a great film, an intense film, a controversial film but it’s hardly a superhero film at all. There is very little of the comic book about it – no superpowers, no gadgets and absolutely no heroes. Joker has far more in common with Taxi Driver than The Dark Knight and that film is evoked often. The titular character is Arthur Fleck, a man who is struggling to survive in Gotham City. He lives with his mother who is in poor health, he works a poorly-paid job where his colleagues laugh at him when he rarely tries to reach out to anyone it does not go well. Arthur also has very serious mental health problems for which he sees a court-appointed therapist as well as taking lots of medication. At the beginning of the film, Arthur seems to be trying to stay on a positive path but that is proving increasingly difficult.

Joker without his makeup (source: indiewire.com)

The “origins” of Joker are the grim, horrible circumstances of what such a person, in reality, might have. While still cinematic Gotham is a seedy, dirty, city, a million miles from the Gotham of the Bale or Affleck films. If we were still in the Affleck-Batman world there could be no way of integrating these two characters or these two universes (the same would be true of the Nolan films). Not a successful way of doing it anyway, but they may well have tried. And while the Robert Pattison Batman is an unknown quality it would be hard to imagine a Batman that would work with this Joker. The instant the batmobile made an appearance would cause some terrible schism of the comic book universe where such a vehicle could happen and the brutal and dirty universe where such a thing is plainly ridiculous and impossible.

Jared Leto as the Joker (source: reddit.com)

Too Many Jokers

But some of you might say well we have a perfectly good Joker right here…well, a Joker anyway, in the shape of Jared Leto from Suicide Squad. I was quite forgiving of this incarnation of the Joker, yes, it was bad, but trying to follow the iconic performances of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger was going to be damn-near impossible. Leto’s IMDb page still has an Untitled Joker film in the works but such was the rancour directed at his portrayal I doubt we’ll see him reprise the role. I have heard some people suggest that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is not the Joker but rather perhaps an inspiration for him, with that being said could both Leto and Phoenix’s Joker appear in the same film? I can’t see how this would work, already comparisons between the two different portrayals have not been kind to Leto and putting him in scenes with Phoenix would only make it worse.

A Billionaire Playboy

An interesting facet of Joker that I had not at all anticipated was the anti-wealth aspect. When Fleck kills three stockbrokers many of the citizens of Gotham see someone striking back against the greedy upper class. Thomas Wayne is shown as an unsympathetic character, harbouring his own prejudices against the poor and his murder was motivated less for material gain than as a political killing. What type of figure would Bruce Wayne be in this world? There has been a meme going around for years that said if Bruce Wayne really wanted to help Gotham he would use his vast wealth in more orthodox ways. Would we get a Batman who delighted in attacking the less fortunate who had resorted to crime because of their circumstances rather than criminal insanity? Those denied essential services, with no opportunities to improve their lot, that would hardly seem heroic.

The glamorous Gotham of Christopher Nolan (source: polygon.com)

I still think of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy as the pinnacle of superhero films, a genius director, a fantastic cast and the money to make it happen. For me, and many people, Batman Vs Superman was an outright disaster and I was so disillusioned I didn’t even bother with Justice League, but undeniably it has a different feel to Nolan’s films. So coming up with a whole new distinct world might be difficult, especially so as I hope Joker is quarantined and kept safe from any other DC films. Joker is a brilliant film and should be allowed to be that and not just the first part of another story.

The Next Villain

As we now know Robert Pattison is taking over the role of Batman and very recent news seems to suggest the villain will be The Riddler (played by Paul Dano) so it may be that the DCEU lets the character of the Joker rest a little while. However, I’m sure they will return to the character, after all, he is best-known and most iconic Batman villain.

Also Read: Joke’s On You: The History of Batman’s Arch-Nemesis

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Was It Really That Bad? Robin Hood (2018)

October 20, 2019
Robin Hood

Robin Hood has had an interesting history when it comes to cinematic adaptations. As a character in the public domain, there are no rights or licenses required, meaning anyone can make a “Robin Hood” film. The latest attempt, was 2018’s Robin Hood, starring Taron Egerton (Kingsman, Rocketman) in the title role.

Upon its release, it was not well received by critics and failed to make much of an impression with audiences. Sitting at a measly 15% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.3/10 on IMDb, this version quickly came and went through cinemas almost as quick as one of his arrows. With it landing on Netflix recently, now seems like a good opportunity to revisit the film. So pull up your hood, draw your bow, take aim, and ask whether Robin Hood was really that bad.

“We’re Men, we’re men in tights!”

If Batman were around in the late 1100’s he’d probably look something like this (Lionsgate, 2018)

The big trends in Hollywood for the last few years have been superheroes and shared universes. Robin Hood tries to be both of these things and not in a subtle way. This is an origin story for Robin (Taron Egerton), his usual green hood and tights, replaced with a more practical hood and scarf. He takes several cues from Batman (or Green Arrow), rubbing shoulders with the rich by day and robbing and fighting crime by night. Complete with brooding over Marion in his manor.

It has all the beats of a superhero film, complete with a training montage and big reveal of our hero in costume for the first time, as well as maintaining a double life between his public persona and “The Hood”. However it doesn’t quite lean into this angle enough, with the action not being anything spectacular, and a disappointing lack of archery prowess.

“This won’t be like any war you’re used to”

Ben Mendelsohn liked his costume from “Rogue One” so much, he wore it for this too (Lionsgate, 2018)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film and one it should have leaned into more are its modern-day influences. The film stops short of being set in the present, but the inspiration is clearly there. Especially in the scenes set during Robin’s time-fighting in the crusades, which look like scenes from “Black Hawk Down” or “The Hurt Locker” rather than a Robin Hood film.

This extends to the costumes too, with are a perfect blend of past and present, with Robin now sporting a leather jacket, but still looking like he belongs. This applies to all the characters, particularly the Sherrif and Marion. It’s an odd style choice but works. It’s a shame the film wasn’t just set in modern-day. The way arrows fly past and damage walls, as well as the small, handheld crossbows, are clearly meant to be in place of guns.

“I reckon he’s just getting started”

Robin (Taron Egerton) trains Marion (Eve Hewson) to use a bow for the sequel (Lionsgate, 2018)

Many reviewers were not kind to the film. citing it as boring. Several compared it to Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” which took a similar “dark and gritty” approach to the character, with poor results. Another common criticism was the borrowing of elements from better films, such as “The Dark Knight”, without doing anything new of its own. As well as being pre-occupied with setting up a sequel.

However not every review was negative, and even the negative ones praise the actors. Taron Egerton and Ben Mendelsohn receive plenty of recognition, as well as the unique costume designs. The action scenes were mixed, with them being enjoyable but the later ones harder to follow

Was It Really That Bad? …. No

It’s not perfect by any means, and would probably be more interesting if it fully embraced it’s modern influences and changed the setting, but Egerton is likeable as ever, and Mendelsohn could play the Sherrif in his sleep. We’ll probably never see the sequel it desperately tries to set up but there are worse ways to spend two hours.

Robin Hood (Trailer)

Also Read: Your Favourite Movies Deepfaked?

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5 Classic British Horror Films

October 17, 2019
British Horror

The British are famed for their stiff upper lips, kitchen sink dramas, and movies that flaunt our Shakespearian heritage. But we’re also no strangers to scaring the world silly with horror films. 

So, today we’re celebrating our roots by recommending 5 classic British horror movies you should watch this October.

Anthology – Dead of Night (1945)

An Architect (Mervyn Johns) is heading to an old country house looking for work. But once he gets there, he has the uncomfortable feeling that he has been there before, in his dreams. He recognizes all the houseguests and fears his dream will come true if he stays. His talk of powers at work beyond his control causes the guests to begin recounting their own tales of experiences that are hard to explain logically.

Ealing Studios’ only horror film, Dead of Night is a fantastic showcase for the power of atmosphere. Each of the short stories and the wrap-around segments are fantastic at building an atmosphere in different ways. The use or lack of music, the set design, the bizarre lighting, the camerawork, and the acting all create a feeling that something is not quite right in the idyllic settings they present. Though some of the tales are more comedic than others the movie remains gripping all the way to the end.

Michael Redgrave as the disturbing ventriloquist in Dead of Night (Source: Deadentertainment)

Ghost Stories – The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents tells the story of a governess (Deborah Kerr) who moves into a country estate to look after 2 orphaned children. However, she soon begins to discover dark secrets about the seemingly angelic children and former employees of the estate. She also starts seeing apparitions wandering around the grounds and begins to believe that the children are possessed. But is this real or just in her head?

The Innocents is the classic British gothic chiller. Every element of the film is perfectly constructed to make you feel uneasy. From the use of haunting atmospheric sound to the pitch-perfect performances that make it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy. Then there’s the soundtrack that uses creepy instrumentals and singing children to create a very uncanny atmosphere. Lastly, there’s the cinematography, whose beautifully haunting images will remain with you for a long time, and the direction, that delivers effective scares that will leave your hair standing on end, without needing cheap music stings. Without a doubt, one of the finest ghost stories the UK has ever produced.

Peter Wyngarde “haunting” Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (Source: RedShark News)

Slasher – Peeping Tom (1961)

Peeping Tom concerns Mark (Carl Boehm), a shy, introverted man, obsessed with the power of films and fear. When his neighbour (Anna Massey) takes an interest in him, Mark must try to hide the darkest part of his obsession: his collection of films, recording people’s reactions to their own deaths.

A film that sparked much controversy upon release, effectively ending director Michael Powell’s career, Peeping Tom is now regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.

There are many reasons why Peeping Tom is so effective. Firstly, there’s the writing which constructs an interesting tale about the nature of voyeurism and the disturbing implications of the cinematic art form. Then there’s the inventive camerawork that’s used to implicate us in Mark’s crimes. And there are the fine performances from Anna Massey and Carl Boehm. Boehm is exceptional for turning what could have been a simple psychopathic villain, into a compelling tragic figure. Massey also brings a great tenderness to her performance that makes her instantly likeable, and their chemistry is so awkwardly charming that you route for the pair to overcome everything, despite the horrible things that happen.

Carl Boehm, alone, apart from his camera in Peeping Tom (Source: Mubi)

Hoodie Horror – Eden Lake (2008)

In the 2000s a bizarre British horror sub-genre emerged, hoodie horror. A genre that took the nation’s paranoia around teenage gang culture and turned their worst fears up to 11. Undoubtedly the best of these films was Eden Lake.

Middle-class couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are heading to Eden Lake for a romantic weekend. Once there they run afoul of a teenage gang who proceed to torment the couple. When Steve goes a little too far, the kids begin a deadly game of cat and mouse as they hunt the couple through the woods.

Eden Lake isn’t exactly subtle regarding eliciting shocks, but it works because of its stripped-down rawness. Its ties to real-world subjects and the natural performances of the cast make everything feel authentic. The violence is especially hard to watch because it’s played seriously and doesn’t shy away from its grim effects on the characters. When Eden Lake’s credits roll you will feel shaken and its ending will stick with you long after you’ve turned off the TV.

Kelly Reilly hiding from monstrous teens in Eden Lake (Source: Motion Picture Blog)

Nuclear Horror – Threads (1984)

This 1984 BBC TV movie focuses on a young couple living in Sheffield at the height of Cold War tensions. Initially, the threat is just another news story, drowned out by the couple’s domestic issues. But things slowly escalate until all-out nuclear war is declared. And once the missiles stop, the survivors must continue on in a world devastated by radiation. 

Being raised near Sheffield I grew up on tales of my parents seeing Threads for the first time and how it left them terrified. It isn’t hard to see why.

Threads’ horror comes from the characters being normal people. They aren’t special, just regular, flawed humans you could meet anywhere. So, you easily sympathize and relate to the characters’ situation. And when the missiles start flying, we’re treated to some of the most harrowing sequences ever broadcast on British television. But the worst part is how matter of fact Threads is. While horrible things are happening, plain white text and narration informs us coldly about the consequences of nuclear war and the damages that will be wrought upon not just the survivors but those who come after. If that isn’t true horror, what is?

The army try to keep order in a world without it. Threads (Source: BBC)

So there are 5 great British horror films to watch this October. Of course, this article has barely scratched the surface of what British horror has to offer. So please share any of your recommendations in the comment section.

Also Read: Horrors On Horror Sets

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#Cancelled: Being Offended and Offensive in the 21st Century

October 9, 2019
Jojo Rabit

Monty Python’s Life of Brian, The Human Centipede, Borat, Cannibal Holocaust and South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut – all films considered extremely offensive. At least by some people. There’s everything from mocking religion, gory death and songs chock full of swearwords in that list and a wide spectrum of quality and artistic merit. Indeed, one of my all-time favourite films is on that list (to be clear, it’s Life of Brian). In these polarised times it can seem that everything has some scandal attached to it, but is this true?

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – at the time considered by some to be extremely offensive (source: sabotagetimes.com)

There is an attitude that people are more easily offended these days than in the past, that once upon a time people believed in freedom of speech, a time before PC culture ruined everyone’s fun. I don’t really believe such a time ever existed, when Life of Brian was released there were protests up and down the country and The Exorcist saw queuing audiences splashed with holy water. I think nowadays people would be quite surprised that these films caused such an uproar.

There are too many issues of what is offensive to deal with them all in just one article, but an issue that has been in the news recently is “whitewashing” in which roles which either from real-life inspiration or original source material were people of colour but for the film release either played by white people pretending to be that race or had the race changed to suit the actor. The titanic cultural institution of The Simpsons was caught up in this; the character Apu is an immigrant from India but is played by the white actor, Hank Azaria. Apu, especially at the beginning of The Simpsons, is very much a stereotype of an Indian person. To make matters worse, Azaria has said part of the inspiration for Apu’s way of speaking came from an Indian character in the film The Party, who was played by Peter Sellers, a white person. The comedian Hari Kondabolu made the film The Problem Of Apu about this issue, Kondabolu an American whose parent emigrated from India to America and despite his great love of The Simpsons, he remembers many childhood insults based around the character of Apu. Another complication is that The Simpsons’ longevity means that when the show started very few people saw this as an issue.

The Problem With Apu (source: pbs.org)

Something very much caught up with this is social media. When people were offended by something in the past they had few options, a letter to the creators was usually the best they could do. In modern times it is relatively easy to mobilise literally millions of people with social media. While this can allow disparate individuals to help unite for a cause social media has never been a medium for careful and considered reflection and sometimes well-meaning groups have unleashed unpleasant forces. Jon Ronson’s brilliant book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed goes into various Twitter-fuelled examples of this.

The 2016 Ghostbusters ( source: movieweb.com)

There is a perception that the people being so easily offended are all on the left, politically speaking. They are offended by sexism and racism, issues of representation and more but there are millions of people who while might not describe themselves “offended” their behaviour suggests that they are. Whether it’s the audacity to remake Ghostbusters with female stars, or the fact Damien Chazelle didn’t specifically show Neil Armstrong planting the flag in First Man, they are terribly upset with a lot of films. The remade Ghostbusters is perhaps the best example of this as the cry that the remake was “destroying my childhood” was everywhere. It does seem that all people, not just those of one particular political leaning, are very quick to get upset.

It does seem that right now these issues are particularly strong and that is linked to wider trends in society and politics. To go back to the recent Ghostbusters remake – stating whether or not you liked the film seemed to be making a larger statement about your views on a whole host of issues. Many people who didn’t like it stressed that was because of the failings of the film rather than issues around sexism.

An argument often made is that a culture of people being offended will stifle freedom of expression and any art form will be worse off because of that, however in recent years we’ve seen films like the thoroughly disgusting Brothers Grimsby and Nymphomaniac Vol I and II, which I’m sure needs no further explanation as to what it’s about, and Taika Waititi’s upcoming Jojo Rabbit where Waititi plays Hitler – well, a boy’s imaginary friend version of Hitler – so I don’t think creativity has been stifled.

Jojo Rabbit (source: vice.com)

Despite being the politically left-leaning liberal that I am I don’t think filmmakers should let the idea of other people being offended by their work stop them from making it – filmmakers need to think carefully about their work, its impact on people and potential interpretations but ultimately it’s their decision. However, free speech doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with the consequences of what you make, that freedom equally applies to criticism.

Unfortunately, there are no simple rules on what is offensive or is so offensive the filmmaker shouldn’t have made the film – the difficult answer is to judge every piece of work and artistic decision individually and in context and then decide for yourself.

Also Read: The Human Centipede: A Love / Hate Story

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