Friday, February 28, 2014

Film Review: Fire In The Blood (2013)

I often feel that the best political documentaries are the ones that make you want to throw your laptop against the wall in disgust (if that is your chosen method of viewing).  The ones that you bore all of your friends as you talk about it for weeks, recollecting the injustices acutely as your heartbeat rises dangerously… these are the films that given enough attention have the potential to change the world for the better.

The latest example of this is Dylan Mohan Grey’s Fire In The Blood, a perfect companion piece with David France’s How To Survive A Plague.  France’s film was a narrative made of archive footage filmed from the early AIDS activists in New York as they tried to change the law surrounding AZT, the controversial toxic medicine for the virus.  After 15 years of campaigning, with many deaths and horrors, a cocktail of anti-retro virals were made available at an enormous price that managed to suppress some of the symptoms of the disease.

Grey’s film picks up the story after the medicine is widely available at a price in the Western world, and looks at how the drugs were suppressed in Africa and the poorer Eastern world.  The very same people who were protesting for the drugs in America were lobbying to prevent Africans from taking the same drugs incase they ‘misused’ them, leading to a mutated virus re-infecting the healthier Western AIDS victims. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Film Review: Katiyabaaz [Powerless] (2013)


Kanpur is an industrial centre in the north of India that used to be known as the Manchester of the East, due to its being filled with hundreds of textile factories of various sizes.  The problem with the city however is that of a standoff between the electricity company KESCO and the rest of the population.  The city has vast shortage/outage problems that have led to people stealing power by connecting extra cables called Katiyas from transformers into people’s homes.  These people are known as Katiyabaaz and are seen as electricity Robin Hoods, redirecting power from the energy giants to the small businesses and poor folk.

The main characters in the documentary of the same name (Katiyabaaz) are the new managing director of KESCO, Rita Maheshwari; the lone vigilante, Loha Singh; and later on, the politician claiming to be on the side of the people, Irfan Solanki.  All of them are trying to harness and/or share the electricity within the city, which acts as the perfect metaphor for state/citizen power.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Interview with Penny Lane and Brian Frye (Our Nixon)

As most commentators agree, the political discourse in America has risen to levels of paranoid partisan disdain not seen in a many a generation.  The level of anti-Obama rhetoric coming out of the Republican party is pretty worrying (if not hilarious in it’s inarticulate nature) and the Democrats are being pretty timid in trying to combat it – relying mostly on talk show hosts and comedians to highlight the cracks in right-wing talking points.  It is interesting then to see a film released that looks back at an earlier time of political anger, perhaps indeed the moment when politics became indelibly ugly…
A new film from the filmmakers Penny Lane (Director) and Brian Frye (Producer) has used unseen footage filmed by Nixon’s political advisors to create a fascinating insight into the people that were at the heart of the Nixon white house.  The very people that obsessively recorded themselves and their surroundings on 8mm film were the very same people that were drawn into a historic global scandal based on recorded material – the infamous Watergate recording scandal.
Penny and Brian were kind to answer a few of my pretentious questions – (I think Brian specifically had had a long day of questions…)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Film Review: All Is Lost (2013)

All Is Lost

“I'm sorry. I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried. I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right, but I wasn't.  All is Lost.”

This is the extent of the dialogue spoken by Robert Redford in J.C Chandor’s nautical nightmare – and it is all uttered as a voice-over monologue before we even see the protagonist’s face.  The rest of the film is virtually silent except for the sound of the sea (which has never sounded so threatening onscreen) and the beautiful score by Alexander Ebert.

All Is Lost is a feature-length meditation on one man’s ability to overcome the relentless onslaught of his environment.  A nameless man (Redford) awakens on his yacht in the middle of the Indian Ocean to find that it has crashed into a stray shipping container.  Although mild frustration washes over his face, he is well prepared for any eventuality so diligently begins to repair the damage and bail out the water.  Yet this small damage is enough of a hindrance to distract him from the large storm that is heading his way.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Raindance Film Festival launches an Indie VOD player

The Raindance Film Festival has announced today the launch of its new Video On Demand service, Raindance Releasing.

Now in its 22nd year, the Raindance Film Festival is the UKs most celebrated indie film festival.  Since 1993 Raindance Film Festival has premiered amazing cult classics such as Pulp Fiction, Memento, the Blair Witch Project, Ghost World and Love Exposure.

The founder of the festival as well as the British Independent Film Awards, Elliot Grove says "Raindance was the first film festival to launch online festival screenings way back in 2006 so it's always been our ambition to bring our movies online to audiences year round.” 

The site aims to release 2-3 new films every month.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oscar predictions...

I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring with some Oscar predictions… The RED is for what I think will probably win and the star (*) is for the film that I want to win...

Production and Direction

12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
Captain Phillips
American Hustle
Dallas Buyers Club *

Steve McQueen — 12 Years a Slave *
David O. Russell — American Hustle
Alfonso Cuaron — Gravity
Alexander Payne — Nebraska
Martin Scorsese — The Wolf of Wall Street 

Monday, February 17, 2014

BAFTA pictures from the red carpet

I was very grateful to be invited to the BAFTAs this year and managed to get some pretty good snaps of the red carpet.  I want to thank the guys at ROOBLA for the chance to go, and I'll post a gonzo report of what went on a little later.  In the mean time, here are some pics:

Dermot O'Leary was the 'cheeky chap on the carpet' for E! He was in his element as always...

Mark Kermode came to talk to the bloggers and give us his thoughts before it all kicked off.  Thoroughly top bloke as always.

Fearne Cotton was on the other end of the carpet for E! and managed to hook in most passing A-Listers.  Here is Christoph Waltz...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Academy Awards: A Haiku for each Best Picture

I woke up early so decided to compose a haiku for each of the Best Picture nominees...


Bad clothes and bad wigs,
Look out for the FBI…
They can’t take a joke.


All alone at sea,
Terrorists have feelings too.
Here comes the Navy.


Then immune deficiency,
With a change of heart

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Film Review: Her (2014)

The new film from hipster genius Spike Jonze is a dark meditation on the relationship that we are all developing with our ‘smart’ technology.  Like all the best sci-fi, it is set in a vague not-too-distant future, whilst firmly satirising the present world of 2014.

Theodore (Joaquim Phoenix) is a lonely divorcee who lives in a slightly futuristic Los Angeles and works for a company that specialises in writing bespoke love-letters for paying customers.  He lives alone in a beautiful skyscraper apartment with a habit of playing immersive video games that are projected onto his wall in glorious proper 3-Dimension.

After learning of a new adaptive and artificially intelligent operating system that becomes available to organise people’s lives, he purchases and installs it into his computer.  After turning it on for the first time, he quickly learns that it wants to be called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).  Samantha quickly develops a personality and they slowly become friends, as Theodore uses an earpiece to speak to her with wherever he is in the city.  As Theodore becomes more and more comfortable around Samantha, they begin to teach each other things they didn’t know were possible and end up in a full-on relationship…

Friday, February 7, 2014

Film Review: Dallas Buyers Club (2014)

Dallas Buyers Club

Working as an unofficial companion piece to David France’s brilliant documentary, How To Survive A Plague, the new film from Jean-Marc Vallée tells the real-life story of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic and prejudiced electrician and rodeo cowboy who develops AIDS in 1980s conservative Texas. 

When Ron (Matthew McConaughey) is accidentally electrocuted at work he wakes up in hospital to the news that his life of reckless drug use and unprotected sex has led to him contracting HIV, which has led to AIDS.  He is initially told that he has 30 days to live, which leads him to a frenzy of drunken denial.  When he finally accepts his fate he meets Rayon (Jared Leto), a transsexual in the hospital bed next to him that is undertaking an AZT trial under the guidance of Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garderner).

When denied access to the trial, Ron begins to bribe people to get him the drug, before finally learning that it is widely available in other countries.  After spending some time in Mexico with a disgraced US doctor, he has a plan to open up a ‘buyers club’ where people pay a $400 membership and get free access to drugs and vitamins that help AIDS complications.  He then dedicates the rest of his life to fighting the FDA and their ‘approved’ drug list; the pharmaceutical companies that are making huge profits from selling AZT, a toxic drug; and the doctors that are making money from the drugs companies. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Netflix Review - Documentaries about Filmmaking

Top Five Netflix Documentaries about Filmmaking

Netflix has become an amazing place to learn about filmmaking, as well as consuming hours of films for a couple of quid a month.  Next time you spend hours browsing through the catalogue trying to find something to watch, why not try one of these documentaries about the film industry – instead of watching another b-movie horror that will inevitably disappoint… 

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film

Free Radicals

An 88 minute lo-fi documentary from Pip Chodorov, an experimental filmmaker who has grown up with 8mm due to his family being in the industry.  It features insightful interviews with pioneers of the American experimental scene as well as screening full-length experimental shorts within the narrative:  A beautiful celebration of film techniques and breaking boundaries.


Clean Flix

An award-winning documentary from Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi about a company that edits Hollywood films for Mormon audiences, removing all of the ‘bad’ language and nudity.  The film follows the company through lawsuits from Hollywood and ends with such an insane climax that it is a wonder the story hasn’t been made into a Hollywood feature.  Amazing.