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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Selma

Selma film posterSynopsis

About Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and the civil rights struggles in 1965 in Selma Alabama.  King organizes a march for the right to vote.  About the persecution of black people by southern whites led by George Wallace (Tim Roth).  Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom wilkinson) tries to put off civil rights to a later date.  FBI chief Hoover (Dylan Baker) tries to slander King.  Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) is the scarier alternative to King’s non violence. Carmen Ejogo plays Coretta Scott King.

Review

Selma commendably avoids the sentimental trap of epiphanous moments on the self congratulatory road to liberal democratic heaven.  There is no ambushing of the film by a white film star (as there might have been until recently).  David Oyelowo avoids the sort of statuesque dignity which would turn King into a black Lincoln.  He has affairs and is humanly flawed yet is a powerful presence.  His funeral and political ovations are musical and stirring.  His decision to ‘retreat’ after the second march on the Edmond Pettus bridge is all the more impressive for its subtle selflessness.  The focal scene in Selma is the march on the bridge, its role as a symbol is obvious.  In numerous films bridges have been critical meeting points and the reality of that is bloodily illustrated in Selma.  Malcolm X is there to act as a reminder that radical opinion might view non violence as an Uncle Tom tactic, that martyrdom was a useless gesture in the face of white power, speaking of which, Lyndon Johnston does look as cynically self serving as any politician condescendingly acknowledging that civil rights is morally fine but not an immediate priority.  J Edgar Hoover looks like a well groomed rat and behaves like one.  Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King also avoids the stereotype of purse lipped dignity foisted on so many black actors in these sort of films.  The Kings have to deal with the simplified image of the good man of poetic rheetoric and the reality of a middle class couple caught up in the terrors of civil rights and the emotional torments of marital infidelity.  There is a memorable scene at the beginning of Selma in which Oprah Winfrey is asked to prove her eligibility in registering for the vote.  She’s undone by the simple malice of institutionalised injustice.  A triumphant film.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Still Alice

Still Alice film posterSynopsis

Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova starring Julianne Moore as Alice, a professor of linguistics who, after becoming forgetful of words and on one occasion of her whereabouts, is told she will suffer Alzheimer’s disease.  Still Alice follows the emotional impact on herself and her family.  Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin.  Her daughter Lydia (Kirsten Stewart) learns there is a likelihood of her being a future sufferer.  Alice becomes increasingly helpless as the disease takes hold.

Review

Back in the ’80s and ’90s there were films about social issues such as domestic violence and depression and these were dealt with in an often bland fashion.   Given our supposed advances since then in cultural sensitivity Still Alice manages to look like Hollywood looking after it’s own.  It’s fortunate that Alice is affluent and surrounded by caring academic liberals who are all smart, and of course, beautiful.  The prospects for those of lower status, or the poor, would be so much grimmer thus unfit for mainstream viewing.  Given these limitations, the film just about manages to convey the menace to domesticity in the way of thrillers.  You get the early scenes of domestic bliss (usually the family has just moved into a new home) and then the threat arises.  It’s a neat way of melodramatizing for a two hour production.  The cold panic in loss of memory and control are reasonably shown, and the film largely avoids the trap of facile sentimentality that you might get in a film about cancer, but only just.There is poetic acknowledgement of the role of memory in identity and of course the loss of this is the horror.  There is a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop in the speech Alice gives about possible responses to its onset.  Alice arranges for her suicide when the disease takes over.  Leaving the shower gel in the fridge is a startling sign of the disease.  Still Alice avoids the physical effects (except for incontinence because of not being able to find the bathroom), so is this an evasion of a responsibility to deal with reality?  Emotional coping is what the family has to offer but of course we can’t know the subjective reality of Alzheimer’s.  There is need to go further in this subject.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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It Follows

It Follows film posterSynopsis

The curse of being followed by demons is sexually transmitted.  After having sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) who is followed by demons, Joy (Maike Monroe) is in turn pursued.  She can only pass it on by having sex and she does.  This has tragic consequences, the demons brutally attack their victims.  If the latest carrier dies then the curse returns to the previous carrier.

Review

This comes across as a parable about sex, death, and moral consequences as if written by Jose Saramago.  There is no soft blue light at night time but there are other regular features of horror films: teens engaged in one- upmanship, the lonely nerd who tries to impress the girl, the curiously absent or useless parents, high school confrontations.  This has been touted as different from the pack of horror films but it’s a familiar mixture of horror films we know well.  It’s like Nightmare on Elm Street and any number of zombie and vampire movies.  Originality is stretched thinly around the bare framework of the story, all Kafka on amphetamines.  The demons are slow walking oddities and this makes them scarier, they are ill dressed but implacable in their pursuit of victims.  The sheer ineluctability of the chase is the hobgoblin here, you don’t wake up from the nightmare.  There is a confrontation with Joy’s demon in the swimming pool, the violence becomes desperate in the urge to make the unseen seen.  It Follows is like a throwback to David Lynch’s view of the sinister threat lurking under the Stepford anality of prissy surburbia.  There is a sinister focus on natural scenes that might suddenly erupt in a threat, feeding teen paranoia.  It shows a love of retro that does not refer to a specific era: there are corded telephones, awful black and white sci-fi on TV, a picture palace cinema.  It Follows moves in the right direction towards better horror, but there is still a long walk ahead.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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