Category Archives: Film

Quartet – A Wonderful Experience

Going to the cinema is something I have always just done, the idea of it being an experience in the same way that going to the theatre is something that belonged to a bygone age. It is somewhat fitting then that Quartet, the film I went to see yesterday is about older people.

The first indication this was going to be a different trip to the cinema came when we walked in. We knew it was going to be quite busy being a bank holiday and the films first day of general release and so got there a good five minutes or so before the trailers were due to start. We were somewhat taken aback by the scene that greeted us, the middle section of the upper, sloped tier was completely full except for two single seats which were miles apart and the only seats available at the sides were a few right at the side. The audience was almost entirely made up of people my fathers age dressed in middle class smart casual clothing. This was a theatre audience, rather than the mix you usually encounter within a cineplex.

The film itself was wonderful. The story is simple but captivating and very funny in that very English way which is gentle but cheeky and also intelligent whilst simple.

Quartet is set in a home for retired musicians and so music is an important aspect to the film. It has a soundtrack which is varied but beautiful. There is a really interesting bit within it when a group of school children come to the home and the similarities and differences between opera and rap are discussed.

The central characters, the Quartet ,are played by Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins and there are a host of other familiar faces within the film which was directed by Dustin Hoffman. The professionalism and depth of experience of these actors shows but so does something deeper, friendship and respect between many of the cast. Whilst there is clearly high quality acting going on there is some aspect to it which seems to go beyond the putting on of a mask or getting into a character, it’s almost like the play is enabling a sharing of deeper wisdom which is coming from somewhere deeper within on occasion. The writing from Ronald Harwood is exquisite and the humour is great.

For me two actresses stood out in their performances and they were Pauline Collins and Sheridan Smith. Pauline Collins had perhaps the most complex character to perform; Cissy the woman she played was in the early stages of a degenerative disease (not clear if dementia or Alzheimer’s). Sheridan Smith played the doctor who ran the home, a mature and sensitive woman. This contrasted so heavily with alot of the tv comedy I have seen Smith in and it was her ability to play a more serious role that impressed me. This is a talented individual who has clearly grown up and is now a brilliant character actress.

As you can tell I absolutely loved this film and so, it seemed, did the rest of the audience. There was a ripple of a round of applause as the film finished. We then all filed out after watching up to a certain point in the credits. This again defied modern convention, to some extent, rather than having that rush for the door people did wander out in the same way as within a theatre and for the first time I was able to catch the architecture of the screen and how it is designed as a theatre with its lighting and colours. It really was more like going to a matinee performance at the theatre than going to see a film. I loved this experience, it added to the magic of the film.

Oh and for anybody wondering why a gentle English comedy is a 12A it contains a couple, and only a couple of incidences of the F word which are wonderfully delivered by Maggie Smith and fully in keeping with the film.

Counting Down – Shorts

Towards the end of this year I have discovered short films (or in truth probably rediscovered them). The adventure began when I went to the ICMK event at the MK Gallery which is a space I’ve also grown to love over the last few months.

I’ve posted the links to a few on here previously, amongst them Suzanna Raymond’s work Shadows. Suzanna is a fine art student whose films give a different way of looking at the city. Within her films she invites you to engage with the local environment in a way which gives goes beyond a simple visual representation and on this basis I would argue what she is doing certainly intersects with psychogeography even if that term does not fully describe what she is doing. For an interesting take on psychogeography I invite you to listen to John Davies’ 2008 Greenbelt talk Walking with the Psychogeographers.

She Said Lenny which was directed by Jim Donovan and Who the Hell is Alice from the Penkat Studio are two interesting and funny shorts about dating which are both worth a look.

The most recent bunch of shorts I’ve discovered have been related to The Nativity Factor which it appears is a competition designed to get people to present the nativity in the most imaginative way possible. Within the adult section two entries compliment each other really well. They both give contemporary interpretations of Jesus’ parents discovering about the pregnancy. The Applecart entry Gabriel’s Visit looks at the event from Mary’s point of view whilst No Pressurefrom 4six3 looks at it from Joseph’s  perspective.

If you like any of the above you might also be interested in a new Advent exhibition which is travelling around MK this week with a different work each day. Whilst having looked at the site I don’t think it will be containing any shorts the website for the exhibition contains an animated one about Christmas from Dan Stevers. The exhibition is called following.the.star.

Random Sharing

So it’s one of those points when this blog becomes a bit like a community notice board as I share some random and unconnected things I’ve come across recently.

She Said Lenny is a short film which I discovered on the OML FB site this morning. I am sharing the link because it is a beautiful short film and I’m a sucker for a good old fashioned love story. I’m getting quite into this idea of shorts where you can watch a movie over a cup of tea.

Nominations are currently being taken for the Brook and FPA Sexual Health Awards 2013 which seek to recognise outstanding projects and professionals. We, especially as Christians, are often very quick to bring attention to bad practice in this area, so what about recognising the good practice where you know it’s occurring?

Folk East, the Suffolk folk festival which unfortunately happens over the same weekend as Greenbelt, is moving to a new site. Their new home is Glemham Hall and the first act announced to be playing are Spiers and Boden which are a spin off of Bellowhead, according to this BBC Suffolk article.

TEDx Milton Keynes Women has a TEDx event on Sunday with a range of speakers locally and some being beamed in from a US TED event.

Music, Skating, Laughter and Art

Been a bit of an arty weekend. On Friday we discovered Independent Cinema MK and the Milton Keynes Film Network and on Saturday I discovered a new bit of the Tate Modern. There were some crossovers between the two adventures which were quite exciting and related to thinking about the relationship between environment, architecture and art/culture.

The Shorts Event at MK Gallery was aimed at film makers primarily, although also open to everybody. It started with a short talk by director and producer Rosemary Hill who was giving top tips for documentary film makers. The talk gave some helpful information and advise about the essential ingredients some of which were also useful to think about when blogging.

The first and, in my view, most significant film was “I Love MK: A film about streets sports issues in MK”. It had originally been made in 2005 but was reedited in 2012 and focused on the skater street culture in the town. The film outlined the reasons why MK had become a world renown centre for street sports enthusiasts and some of the problems which this had caused for businesses and the council. It explained how a creative approach had been taken by a range of stakeholders including skateboarders and the council and showed the results which had come out of the whole process – the Buszy.

This theme of looking at location and culture and their interplay has also been something going on at the Tate Modern this month. In the expanded educational and community area downstairs, on the same level as the Turbine Hall, there was an exhibition by the South London Black Music Archive. This is an ongoing project by Barby Asante working with Leaders of Tomorrow to bring together memorabilia and stories related to black music in South London. There were no exclusions put in and so they were looking at all types of black music, as the contributors defined it. This meant the stories printed on receipts, which had been texted in, ranged from people talking about going to see The Fugees to a 95 year old choir master whose favourite hymn was “master speak they servant heareth”.

Both the MK street sports film and this exhibition were excellent examples of how art and culture capture social history and levels the gap between the academics and the people whose culture and history it actually is. Presented in this form knowledge from the street is valued and available to all to analyse and discuss. Whilst it has gone through the gatekeeper of the curator or producer this does not sanitise it in the same way as when it is represented through the academic who claims to have a privileged knowledge and understanding.

Another Tate exhibit which was giving voice to older woman was  The Whisper Minnesota Project from Suzanne Lacy. This was located in the Tate Tanks, a new area in the ground area of the former power station. In one room you had a quilt and in an adjoining tank you sat and listened to the recording. It was enlightening and I found it a real privilege to listen to for some time.

The way level 0 at the Tate Modern has been expanded is wonderful. It gives a new feel of rawness and grassroots engagement which is detached from the more sanitised parts of the building whilst still very much being part of the overall gallery. Not sure that fully articulates the feeling that the lower part of the building, (beyond the Turbine Hall), gives but then as with many other spiritual places there is much to do with the Tate Modern which can’t be put into words.

The other films we saw on Friday tended to focus on comedy, apart from Suzanna Raymond’s Shadows, Little changes by James Static and Eternal in Turn which was produced by Independent Cinema MK to accompany the visit of the Boat Project to the International Festival which I posted about in July. My favourite of the comedy films was In Rehearsal produced by Susan Lee which had a slight Calendar Girls feel to it, although Who the Hell Is Alice directed by Penny Bamborough had a brilliant moment within it when somebody who had been taken for a weekend away with a new date discovered she was on a CU retreat style thing….was a genius moment.

As you can tell I’ve enjoyed engaging with the arts and as usual engaging with them on a shoestring. Entrance charge to get in to the evening of shorts was cheaper than a trip to normal cinema and the bits I saw at the Tate Modern (which also included Otobong Nkanga’s Contained Measures of Shifting States installation) were free. That’s one thing I love about art and the way we have it in this country – doesn’t matter how skint you are you can enjoy it. I think that’s something important and whilst I think some changes will inevitably happen as a result of the recession I hope this affordability doesn’t disappear, although stories such as this Journal article explaining how Newcastle Council are proposing 100% cut in arts funding show how uncertain this is.

Made in Dagenham – Exploding the Myth

TOH and I went to see Made in Dagenham over the weekend and I don’t think I am exaggerating if I say it had a huge effect upon us which we weren’t expecting. We both ended up sobbing in the cinema because we were so moved.

It tells the story of a group of working class women who worked as machinists at the Ford Motors factory in Dagenham in 1968 and went on strike when their jobs were reclassified as unskilled. As this Sunday Times piece explains, this strike was in many ways the starting point of the road which led to the equal pay act, and a debate which still persists.

The film is important because it explodes an awful lot of myths which the writers of history would have us believe. It also highlights to the generations who were born after all this they owe to those women who were their mothers and grandmothers….a debt not often spoken of. On a personal level I think it helped me understand my mother a little more; catching a glimpse of the world of her youth. A world which I cannot really get my head around, being one of the beneficiaries of the changes in education and working practices which emerged as a result of these and similar actions.

The scene which hit us both most was the middle class woman at the working class strikers door. She was saying how she had a first from Cambridge but that actually meant little in the male dominated world. She was telling the leader of the strikers why it was so important they carry on and win.

Now I teach Feminist theory, I teach radical and liberal Feminism and Womanism (black feminism). Womanism largely seeks to disassociate itself from the “middle class” Feminist theory that the “second wave” of feminism gave us and I now totally understand why. People such have myself have been teaching one, rather distorted view of the truth which has been handed down to us in lectures and text books. This film explodes the lie we have been perpetuating in our lectures!!!!

The truth is that whilst the Women’s Lib movement and the middle class intellectuals may have had a role in the changes which occurred in the 60’s and 70’s and equally so did middle class commentators and politicians of a less radical persuasion the biggest moves forward came about as a result of “ordinary working women” seeking to get what was fair for themselves. These women were the ones really putting themselves on the line through actions which in the short term atleast caused real hardship to themselves and their families.

My mum was in no “intellectual” sense of the world a feminist, infact she would have balked at the suggestion, but I now see the spirit of fairness she had was exactly what the real changes which have occurred were based upon. The text books are written by and support the view of those who wish to take credit and play politics….real change occurred because of the women who just got off their arses and refused to play the game by the rules the men had written. They learnt the men’s rule books and then worked out how to stamp all over them, using the very systems the men (and patriarchal unions) had set up.

Another myth the film explodes is the idea that those who effected change were particularly liberated by “the sexual revolution”. Many of these women were ordinary, decent women seeking to keep homes and families going as they also earnt money and fought the battles that needed fighting.

Finally, another myth that the film explodes is that the women were having to seperate from men and were not encouraged by them. The film shows the gender issues that did arise, but also how it was extremely encouraging men who got the women to take up their own leadership and make change happen.

This filmfor the first time tells many of us, too young to know anything other than the “official history” of second wave feminism given in text books and BBC 4 documentaries, the truth. We owe our  greatest debt not to the intellectuals who were making placards and grand statements about sexism generally but to the ordinary women up and down the country -many working class – who actually  stood up against the injustices they were facing through things like the deskilling of their labour.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BULFc72z1dU[/youtube]

Da Da Da, Da Da, Da

“I love it when a plan comes together” and “I’m not getting in a plane with the madman” these were the sort of cheesy but classic lines I enjoyed last night when as part of the  effort to try and keep Third Party off the ceiling thing in the run up to Tuesday we went to see the A Team. The A Team film comes into the category of mindless fun….well worth seeing if you just want to switch off for a couple of hours. Oh and in case you’re worried it’s near enough the tv series to work but different enough not to be a problem.

The trailor gives a flavour:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CgWWYyayiU[/youtube]

Sex in the City Two

This is better than the first one. Totally predictable and packed with more cliches and stereotypes than your average tabloid but some interesting social comment mixed in too. Look out for the exploration of motherhood and how discussion of the realities of it are supressed, but need to come out aswell as the discussions around “the veil”. Interesting film from a moral angle and from a feminist angle. Raises as many questions as it deals with. Would say more……but I guess you’ll just have to go and see it for yourselves to see, well worth it if you want a cheesy night out.

The Infidel

The Infidel is one of those suprise must see, low budget, wonderfully funny films that Britain produces every so often. It is the brainchild of David Baddiel and tells the story of a guy who has been bought up as a Muslim, but then finds out he was adopted at two weeks old and his parents were actually Jewish.

The main character is not a stereotype extremist rather a nominal Muslim on many levels. The fundamentalist does turn up but is shown for what he is. It is a brilliant film because it takes something completely unbelieveable but makes it into something realistic.

Watching this film and the friendship between the Jew and Muslim in it took me back to memories of a class I once taught. There was a Jewish and a Muslim guy in the group and they were really good friends who would sit there and take the mick out of the Christian kids in the Sociology of Religion unit because whilst they both knew about their own religions and so in turn a bit about other religions the English “Christian” kids knew nothing. They would occassionally mock each other in a way which was good natured and intelligent. It was a great friendship to watch in action, as is the one which develops in this film.

As it is a low budget British film it isn’t on in as many cinemas as the big budget block busters. However, it is showing how consumer power can make something a hit. When I spoke to The Tyneside cinema last week to see whether it would just be on for one week they said probably, it would depend how it did over the first weekend. Well, now it’s on next week aswell.

Oh and for info the Tyneside Cinema is a wonderful little movie theatre. Hadn’t been there before, but it is really lovely. Artsy without being poncey.

Best of British

St. Trinian’s 2…….best film I’ve seen this year. Won’t spoil the plot but beside being v, v. funny in a Carry On type style at times it’s also an amazing bit of social observation. There are also some excellent cultural observations.

The sub-cultures have been updated from the first movie to reflect contemporary culture and cultural changes in the last couple of years. Chavs have been replaced by Rude Girls and the eco’s have been introduced.

Interesting look at the patriarchal attitudes which see men maintaining key positions in society and the writing of history, although I believe that a key historical character really was a bloke. There is a secret society involved whose meetings involved alot imagery associated with religion…incense being swung amid chanting, a chalice of wine being passed around and alot of candels with hooded vestments.

All in all an excellent film. Couldn’t resist thinking that I’d liked to have sat down and watched it with Bishop Michael Ali-Nazir. Was reading an article by him, in ANVIL’s 25th anniversary journal, entitled “Britain Today: How We Came to Be Here and What We Can Do About It” recently. The article included the type of accusations one would normally expect by a conspiracy theorist regarding the downfall of Britain and the traditional nuclear family. Within the article Nazir takes a swipe at Sociology, without directly mentioning the discipline, somehow lumping Anthony Giddens in with Gramsci and Marcuse when saying there has been a direct attack on the family. He criticised the move away from patriarchal, heterosexual norms which this movie was questioning. No doubt this movie is just another part of the cultural conspiracy to stop Christianity becoming dominant again.

Going back to the article, from a serious perspective, it sourced and backed up the New Right ideas put forward by Civitas. The data that comes from this source is grounded in what at first sight becomes “common sense” approach. However, a critical analysis of the data raises a series of questions about the underlying assumptions and interpretations. I won’t go into a critique of the view here, but there are holes within the position being put forward.

Further on in the article he goes on to to criticise pluralism and argues that Islamism is the replacement to Marxism in terms of ideologies to be battled. Again whilst there are some sensible points within this he fails to be convincing.

The article then goes on to criticise Dawkins and intellectual reductionism before going on to look at the relationship between history, philosophy and religion. He calls for an engagement in the public square to remind people of the Christian values which underpin our legal and democratic system. Yet, Nazir-Ali is careful to make clear he thinks there should be some gap between religion and the legal system. Thus he carefully seeks to reinforce Christianity whilst leaving no room for the incorporation of Islamic law into the English legal system.

He then calls for a growth in the coverage of Christian worship in the media.

All in all it is an interesting article, but one which reveals the link between the New Right and some elements of the religious establishment within this country.

I am not looking to crititicise the key points Nazir-Ali makes regarding the importance of family and traditional forms of family. I am, however, questioning the position he takes through much of the article. The society we are living in and the development of that society is much more complex than he is saying. I certainly don’t think that there was a conspiracy theory which bridged the pre-war Neo-Marxists and Third Way, late twenty-first century theorists. Just as Nazir-Ali accused Dawkins of intellectual reductionism this is what I think he was doing in his reductionist approach to Radical Orthodoxy, which again he did not mention directly although he crudely borrowed from it.

I don’t think that St. Trinian’s 2 is a bad film, rather I think it is one which has more positive to say than negative amid the anarchic, very British humour.

Noughties Teens – Holding Out for a Hero

So I am the mother of a child of the noughties. A child who, according to the Times, is likely to find herself facing the following issues due, in part, to the death of feminism. The article says, “The Noughties has left a generation of girls feeling puzzled and scared. They don’t know whether to be fat or thin, drunk or sober, clever or stupid. Why work hard to be a doctor or a lawyer when you can marry a banker or a footballer? A recent study, published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, covering the period 1987-2006, revealed that 15-year-old girls were suffering increased psychological stress. The pressures of getting to a top university and at the same time looking like Kate Moss have led to anorexia and binge-drinking. In this weird age of bleary celebrity, positive role models are few and far between.

That role model, of course, used to be feminism. Where, in this open dishwasher of female emotion, has feminism gone? Well, feminism just… went away. Feminism was last seen in the Celebrity Big Brother household: an old, grumpy Germaine Greer swaddled up like a boiler. For this generation, feminism had become little more than hairy patches and a weird preoccupation with one’s vagina. The closest anyone comes to saying anything these days is: “I’m not a feminist, but…” “

I smile but wince at the same time. I know that to a certain extent this is true. Third Wave feminism as espoused by Naomi Woolf has passed these girls by, whilst at the same time contributing to the contradictions.

Yet throughout the decade there has been one source of advice and comfort for these girls. Teaching them how to juggle the expectations and become slightly better human beings. Whilst their primary carers may have been pre-occupied with their own depression, messy relationships and career building they have had the teen movie. During the noughties there was the full development of teenage chick flicks, which kind of took the Brat Pack movie and domesticated it for a younger audience. Having a daughter of a certain age that I would regularly watch movies with, as a way of connecting, I have seen most of these films. Here are my pick of the decade. In no particular order apart from the top two which v. much do rate as the best and second best of the decade in my view.

1) Juno (2007) – This story of a teenager who gets pregnant before they are ready is definately one of the films of the decade for any age, even though it is intended as a teenage chick flick. In many ways it is up there with Breakfast Club.

2) Legally Blonde (2001)- The story of the bimbo who blags her way into uni and then uses her knowledge of both the beauty industry and the law is in its own way the film that sums up the decade and how to handle it for young women. It also, though, sums up soooo much why they have the study hard, look good problems the article was referring to.

The other key ones in no particular order

3) Twilight and New Moon (2008) and (2009) – Amongst other things they have an interesting take on celibacy, depression and difference.

4) St. Trinians (2007) – It returned and gave a facinating insight into the range of sub-cultures to which teenage girls belonged in the noughties.

5) Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008) – This one is fun and has a good soundtrack. Also shows facinating picture of the relationship between the teenage binge drinker and her best friend who ends up looking after her.

6) Mean Girls (2004) – Another morality play based around sub-cultures.

7) House Bunny (2008) – Difficult one morally as it promotes Playboy and Hugh Heffener but it also has a “be yourself” type storyline going on. Difficult to actually dislike, even if you find the promotion of Playboy and porn appalling.

8) Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008) – It was the British version of the teenage chickflick. Unsettling viewing for a parent; just so much nearer the truth than the US films.

9) Princess Diaries (2001) and Princess Diaries 2 (2004) – Worth seeing it for the oh so worthy side-kick character and for Julie Andrews returning to top form.

10) Wildchild (2008) – Had the mix of English realism with US fantasy in a morality tale about a girl who turns it around at boarding school. Worth seeing it just for the English kids trying to get served in the off licence and then blowing it when they ask for a Creme Egg.