Hollywood Blacklist

No, not that one. This one- ‘Hollywood’s most liked unproduced screenplays published on the second Friday of December each year‘ Now apart from showing short synopses are not a fair way to judge a script (yet nevertheless, oh Jeebus no, corporate Hollywood why do you hate cinema so?) I noticed this one entry-

ALLIES WITH BENEFITS by Elizabeth Wright Shapiro
“The female President of The United States falls for her old college fling, the now Prime Minister of England.”
AGENT United Talent Agency – Blair Kohan, Tobin Babst, Jay Gassner MANAGER Industry Entertainment – Jess Rosenthal
Scott Free Productions producing.

Oh Lordy No! It’s like In The Loop never happened (but Love Actually did, hmmm). Anyways, it is unfair to judge based on this pitch (but um, ‘Prime Minister of England’ do they mean Britain? I might research that a tad before principal photography Liz, after all the Scott brothers are involved, you could ask them). In fact we might be able to look forward to a climatic scene where the PM in a crotchless poodle costume commits to nuking Iran to save Israel & the US the embarrassment as Lady President fucks him relentlessly with a strap on… but enough about my weekend.

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Cultrue For ‘Em: Film Recommendations- Blame It On Fidel & Machuca


I so enjoyed this film I have to pass on how good it is. An absolutely brilliant performance by Nina Kervel-Bey as Anna who is the centre of the story as we view through her 9-year-old eyes her parents becoming increasingly politically engaged and the confusion and obstinacy it inspires in her, until she too grows and becomes her own person. But hey don’t let that worthiness put you off, it really is entertaining, with some very funny moments and some touching ones, the mise-en-scène is virtually faultless from the non stereotype 70’s period detail (something British films usually fail at) to the understated yet strong lighting design. Hilariously right-wing critics misconstrue it is a critique of the left rather than a warm and human story of a little girls bewilderment at her parents awakened consciences and activism. It’s directed and co-written by Julie Gavras daughter of Costa Gavras

I kept the basis of the story, about a wealthy family with a conservative daughter. The father’s from Spain, his sister arrives, and the little girl’s life is shattered. Although I was more at home with Paris than Rome, what struck me was the way the writer talked about that period of the early ’70s from the perspective of a little girl. In the book, the father’s an engineer who becomes a union leader. I changed him into a pro-Allende activist, because my father made a film about Chile called ‘Missing’ , which was the first of his movies that I actually understood. For many French people, Allende represented the hope of a new political system, because he said he wanted to make a revolution within the bourgeois laws. It was something that caught the imagination of the French intelligentsia and a lot of French people went to Chile.

It’s also notable as a female empowered production-

Based on the novel by Domitilla Calamai and written by the film’s director Julie Gavras, it was produced by Sylvie Pialat (widow of Maurice Pialat), shot by Nathalie Durand, edited by Pauline Dairou, costume-designed by Annie Thiellement, cast by Coralie Amedeo, and acted by two splendid leads, Julie Depardieu (daughter of Gérard Depardieu) and first-time actor, little Nina Kervel.

It’s even more enjoyable when you have an awareness of the history as the interpretation through Anna’s experience and family circumstances give it a unique human colour and warmth. Perhaps a perfect accompaniment to this would be Machuca, two boys experiencing the bloody coup against Allende. It’s a while since I saw it but like Fidel it pays some attention to the comfortable middle class lifestyle and the very prosaic reasons why some people might support a fascist dictator just as long as they keep their lifestyle and they can live in denial of the atrocities committed by the government to keep them in fashionable clothes and servants. Machuca does this fairly directly by comparing the two boys, one from a poor slum the other from a bourgeois family who have their friendship tested as the coup unfolds. The Catholic school which brought them together again provides for an examination of the involvement of conservative religious intuitions in the coup and the individual efforts of some clergy to fight the criminal takeover. Unlike Fidel it is not at a remove in Paris so the experience is bleaker, so maybe Machuca first then Blame It On Fidel to leave you a better night’s sleep.


Machuca is also maybe culturally different in terms of national cinema, examining the Pinochet years in mainstream cinema is clearly a loaded issue (although a much earlier film Gonzalo Justiniano’s ‘Amnesia is excellent but almost impossible to see, my knackered VHS copy would be happy to hand over the task to a DVD but none is apparent, please let me know if you have a lead on that), Machuca perhaps uses the children’s story as a way to get to some truths that adults resist admitting. Whereas Fidel does not have that issue and the children’s story illuminates other aspects of resisting dominant paradigms, how doing the right things is not easy on you or those around you. For Anna is Paris it means a smaller apartment and being taken out of divinity class, both of which piss her off mightily which is made very funny through Nina Kervel-Bey’s performance. For Machuca simply his poverty and darker skin gets him in trouble while his richer friend escapes and his family enjoy the fruits of the repression, even the guilt middle class Gonzalo feels is a luxury not afforded to the repressed barrio dwellers.

What both films do is provide rewarding entertainment with real weight to it and …if you can get English speaking children to watch subtitled films they will also give a vitally different view of the world than the Hannah Montana movie, while giving them stories from children’s viewpoints which they can relate to. For adults, the deeper meditations on the costs and rewards of being concerned with social and political justice will gain nods of recognition.

Meanwhile if you fancy Norwegian comedy zombie movies with living dead Nazis erm, there is one- Dead Snow, not great but worth some popcorn, it’s like BNP on Ice!

Corporate Cinema

I am not making this up-

Universal has set July 1, 2011, for the release of “Battleship,” confirming Peter Berg as helmer of the live-action pic based on Hasbro’s naval combat board game. Deal is part of a two-picture pic pact Berg has made with U, where he’ll follow “Battleship” with an Afghan war drama “Lone Survivor.”

Universal’s date declaration positions “Battleship” to become the second film release from the studio’s multiyear deal with Hasbro to turn its classic games into features. The studio previously set an April 11, 2011, release date for “Stretch Armstrong,” with Steve Oedekerk about to deliver a script.

“Battleship” is the latest in Universal’s strong push toward branded entertainment films, and Hasbro has fast become an increasingly important cog in that campaign.

“This is a powerful brand, and in an era where brands have become the new stars, ‘Battleship’ is a big opportunity,” said U Pictures chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde.

Aside from “Battleship” and “Stretch Armstrong,” U is separately developing “Clue” with Gore Verbinski, “Monopoly” with Ridley Scott, “Candyland” with director Kevin Lima, and “Ouija” with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. As a board game, “Battleship” was launched by Milton Bradley in 1967 and has sold more than 100 million units.

Imagine that, one drama drawn from a real occupation, the death of Afghans as compelling as a board game as far as corporate cinema is concerned. And both will sell Empire.

Friday! North by Northwest

The splendid swirling, urgent opening theme (Bernard Herrmann on the choons, Saul Bass on the penz!) to the little seen documentary about the dangers of low flying crop dusters, possibly.

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Shock Doctrine, The Movie!

Whitecross, who traveled to South America with Klein to shoot some of the film, says that those who were part of the military dictatorships there agree wholeheartedly with its premise. “I spoke with one of Pinochet’s ex-ministers and he said everything in the book pertaining to Chile is true and it was good what we did because people need to be told what to do. He said people needed the free market and they weren’t ready for it.”

Winterbottom -“The first reaction to the financial crisis was that the banks were saying: OK we’ve been making huge profits, now here are several hundred billions of dollars of debts, and they’re yours, ” he says. “That is very typical of them trying to use the crisis for their own advantage.”

[more @ Spiegel Online]

Culture For ‘Em- Where It’s At

Not Wales.

A while back in 2004 there was great excitement as Demi Moore shot some of a film Half Light on the island. When I finally saw the film it was  somewhat of a surprise to see our locale was in fact represented as being Scotland. Fair enough they can look similar but actually there was no need in the film for it not be Wales, other than I think to a larger and particularly US audience Wales is some indecipherable place outside of London, they do at least get Scotland is sort of another country attached to England… er probably. It’s just a little demeaning to have your environment chosen for its physical qualities and cinematic possibilities then have it be used as a cheaper stand-in for somewhere else. Then I saw The Dark a film supposedly set in Wales and actually featuring some allusions to Welsh myth (although there is no sign there were aware of Arthur Machen’s work) and certainly its coastal setting could easily be shot in Wales, which is obviously why they shot it…on the Isle of Man. So ok I know, it’s like this- movies cost plenty moolah and cutting local deals on tax and allowances often means a location shoot happens in odd places simply because it made financial sense. But where the location is an important factor in the mis en scene, is even a character almost in the story this business motivated cynicism does preclude chances for some authentic representation of a place and its associations.

Both of these movies were horror/psychological supernatural thriller type things (and both pretty average) and place was a powerful part of the atmosphere and tin The Dark’s case they did specifically include Welsh aspects in the story. Yet both films managed in one way or another not to really have any authenticity. Or maybe I wouldn’t be bothered if they were good, after all I’m not about to be annoyed at Sergio Leone for using Spain and Italy for the US & Mexico, hmmm. There was also the Alien 3 thing, how there were tales of shooting taking place in Wales but until the assembly cut got released these scenes were missing from the original cinema botch job. I always thought I had somehow blanked out with disappointment at the film and in doing so missed the Welsh coast bit, reasoning maybe it was a fun scene where they all decide to be friends and have a beach party chucking a ball around while the Alien barbecued up some vegie burgers to some bangin’ techno. Which really would not in any way of made the film any worse than it was. The assembly cut makes it slightly better and the rainy Welsh bits are a welcome addition and at least in that case it was legitimate to be standing in for somewhere else, off world location shoots so far being limited to doco footage on the moon.

The moviemapnorthwales.co.uk does demonstrate the proud tradition of Wales standing in for other places, (Tibet, India, Scunthorpe) but it peeves me a bit that the genuine beauty and atmosphere remains largely absent from film and it keeps being a case of ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’. After all it’s always nice to see a place you know get well represented in cinema, Manchester has had a few and as well as the recent well known ones (usually music related) I’d like to mention the Stanley Baker ( a dedicated socialist & the Welsh Sean Connery? He turned down Bond) starring Hell is a City (1960) (Hey wait what are they saying about Manchester?, I mean London I could understand…). A nice black and white depiction of Manchester as a backdrop for a crime drama with the excellent and sometimes forgotten Baker doing a hard boiled cop meeting emerging social realism with great skill. More at this great site levyboy.com with tons of stills and pics of modern Manchester for comparison, excellent.

Now should you catch yourself wondering whether to watch these two films (The Dark, Half Light) I would mostly say don’t bother except the (limited) extras on The Dark DVD do include a brilliantly unintentionally hilarious interview with the director (actually the demon sheep are pretty funny too). It’s like a real life version of The Comic Strip’s The Strike, he recounts how the original script and writer were let go as it was an adaptation of a book and he wanted to do a horror/ supernatural thing and the book /script was not quite in that genre, so he and a new writer ‘re-conceptualised’ the film to suit his desires of a spooky horror job. Then they were shooting before the new script was finished. Which is something you can kinda pick up from the film shall we say. Maria Bello is good in it but perhaps it’s easiest to say Paul WS Anderson was involved, so y’know, you can enjoy it once you lower your expectations to the correct…erm level.

Ps. Weirdly the director of The Dark also directed Ginger Snaps which is pretty spiffy and Emily Perkins he who played the non werewolfy sister (also recently the abortion clinic receptionist in Juno) taught acting at  Aberystwyth, University of Wales between 2005-06. He should have got her on board to advise on location the big eejit. He did at one point in the hilarious interview recount- So Sean Bean’s character moves back to England and gets a house in Wales- clearly not quite up to speed on the Britain/England, Scotland, Wales thang.

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Adam Curtis- The Living Dead

Ta-da! The long sought after 1995 three parter has been notable by its absence from the web, but now thanks to what went on here (thank you JW) I am proud to present for your viewing pleasure-

Adam Curtis’ The Living Dead– Three Films About The Power Of The Past

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 1/3: On the Desperate Edge of Now

Wikipedia– This episode examined how the various national memories of the Second World War were effectively rewritten and manipulated in the Cold War period. For Germany, this began at the Nuremberg Trials, where attempts were made to prevent the Nazis in the dock—principally Hermann Göring—from offering any rational argument for what they had done. Subsequently, however, bringing lower-ranking Nazis to justice was effectively forgotten about in the interests of maintaining West Germany as an ally in the Cold War. For the Allied countries, faced with a new enemy in the Soviet Union, there was a need to portray WW2 as a crusade of pure good against pure evil, even if this meant denying the memories of the Allied soldiers who had actually done the fighting, and knew it to have been far more complex. A number of American veterans, told how years later they found themselves plagued with the previously-suppressed memories of the brutal things they had seen and done. The title comes from a veteran’s description of what the uncertainty of survival while combat is like.

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 2/3: You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough

Wikipedia– In this episode, the history of brainwashing and mind control was examined. The angle pursued by Curtis was the way in which psychiatry pursued tabula rasa theories of the mind, initially in order to set people free from traumatic memories and then later as a potential instrument of social control. The work of Ewen Cameron was surveyed, with particular reference to Cold War theories of communist brainwashing and the search for hypnoprogammed assassins. The programme’s thesis was that the search for control over the past via medical intervention had had to be abandoned and that in modern times control over the past is more effectively exercised by the manipulation of history. Some film from this episode, an interview with one of Cameron’s victims, was later re-used by Curtis in his The Century of the Self. The title of this episode comes from a paranoid schizophrenic seen in archive film in the programme, who believed her neighbours were using her as a source of amusement by denying her any privacy, like a pet goldfish.

Adam Curtis- The Living Dead 3/3: The Attic

Wikipedia– In this episode, the Imperial aspirations of Margaret Thatcher were examined. The way in which Mrs Thatcher used public relations in an attempt to emulate Winston Churchill in harking back to Britain’s “glorious past” to fulfil a political or national end. The title is a reference to the attic flat at the top of 10 Downing Street, which was created during Thatcher’s period refurbishment of the house, which did away with the Prime Minister’s previous living quarters on lower floors. Scenes from The Innocents (film) the adaptation of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James are intercut with Thatcher’s reign.

Enjoy, download, share, torrent before some killjoy comes along.

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