Thursday, February 28, 2013

Film Review: Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow) 2012

Zero Dark Thirty

A film that manages to piss of both Democrats and Republicans using the same scenes but for different reasons is bound to be interesting.  The relationship between Hollywood and Washington has a long history of symbiosis, and the Oscars can sometimes be a legitimation or criticism of direct parties or policies (see: winners speeches of Fahrenheit 9/11, The Hurt Locker, Milk…).  The irony is that whilst most people believe that Hollywood is ‘liberal’, the films that it churns out as blockbusters (to fund the industry) are mostly highly conventional and conservative – full of family values, patriarchy, heteronormativity and gung-ho American-exceptionalism.  What more could right-wingers want?!

Film Review: Life of Pi (Ang Lee) 2012

Life of Pi

When I was at university I noticed that a friend of mine was reading Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi and that she had nearly finished.  I told her that I had read it too but only as we talked did I realise that I had never finished it.  Remembering that this was not the book’s fault but my own, I went home to finish it and we spent the night texting each other as we both neared the books incredible conclusion.  Neither of us are religious or spiritual but we were both amazed at the warmth and the tenderness granted to the big ideas of faith and mortality and met up after an all nighter to discuss the book over the sunrise (happy memories)...

The plot of the novel follows Piscine “pi” Patel  through an extraordinary journey with a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.  He grows up on his family’s zoo in Pondicherry, India, and begins to follow a number of different religions to find out which works best for him.  After a dispute about land, the zoo is sold to the local government and the family decides to transport the animals via boat to Canada.  During this voyage the boat sinks and Pi (Suraj Sharma) is left alone on a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan.  The boy and the animals must then form a basic alliance in order to survive.  The story was always considered unfilmable due to its reliance on inner monologue and magic-realist anthropomorphic animals (yet here it is with multiple Oscars)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Film Review: Les Misérables (Tom Hooper) 2012

Les Misérables

Sometimes it is better to know something about the context about a film before watching.  Sometimes it is really exciting to have been caught up in the buzz surrounding a new release and sometimes it can be decades of enjoyment and interaction with a story before finally watching it in a new blockbuster format.  And sometimes it is better to know nothing at all.

My primary knowledge about Les Mis was from caricatures of ‘80s London city life where yuppie bankers would take clients to the theatre in order to secure multi-million pound contracts on corporate benders.  It was apparently the musical of choice for the Square Mile city boys who knew nothing of high culture but needed to spend money fast.  For me then, Les Mis was a signifier for gratuitous excess shrouded in an already vastly ironic postmodern political drama.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Film Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin) 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild

For anyone who obsessed about the George W. Bush administration as much as I did, Beasts of the Southern Wild, was always going to be a film of interesting politics.  Hurricane Katrina almost immediately became synonymous with governmental incompetence and media misrepresentation and has become a stain on Bush’s (already ridiculously tarnished) legacy.  Amazingly, there is an infamous comment in his autobiography where he claimed that the lowest moment in his presidency was when Kanye West proclaimed that he ‘didn't care about black people’ after the hurricane.  This is a film that tells the story of some of those people.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Film Review: Amour (Michael Haneke) 2012


“Imagine if we were lying in bed and someone was to break in.  I’d die of fright,” says an elderly Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) to George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) one night as they return home from a piano recital to find their front door tampered with.  This moment of vulnerability is made all the more tragic as we have only just seen a number of firemen break open a door to find Anne’s body lying dead on her bed surrounded by petals; these are the opening moments of Michael Haneke’s heartbreaking new film Amour.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


This blog is a direct reaction to the Oscar nominated films of 2013. It has been a great year for movies and is an exciting time for film criticism. Our mission statement for this blog is simple and succinct:

  •  Apply a theoretical analysis to popular films
  •  Pay our respect to the medium of cinema
  •  Place current films in a contextual framework 
  •  Inspire conversation 
  •  Not be too wanky 

We will be writing reviews of all of the big Academy Award contenders and posting them one at at time  after the ceremony. We hope that this will be as engaging as popular criticism, yet with a historical film studies umbrella...