Culture in Conflict – The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Yesterday marked the first night of the Culture in Conflict film season. This season is designed to exhibit films that would provoke a discussion on cultural conflict. The first film shown was The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a story telling the tale of a Pakistani man, Changez, going through the cultural change that took place in America after the events of 9/11.

After the screening, the audience engaged in discussion with one of the film’s distributor Sanam Hasan, from Mara Pictures, about the events of the film and how it depicts the cultural change we face today.

It was a very successful evening put together by Jim Hornsby from Runaway Media with the discussion being recorded by Luton Sixth Form College and myself.

It was a very thought provoking evening and am looking forward to next week’s screening of Hunger.

image

image

Looking at: Board to Death (Short)

My first short film review, exciting times. Board to Death is a short film created by the Luton based production company Broken Lens Productions which consists of young and ambitious film makers. The story is a very simple one as a man goes to hunt down those who cheated with his wife where the names are revealed through a board game.

The film excels technically. The story is told through a sin-cityesque style, shot in black & white with an array of shots and a voice over. The performances are very good and the film is really nice to look at. The editing does feel a bit slow sometimes, there is a lot of stuff here that does harm the pacing a bit. Overall, technically, it’s a very well made film, you can tell the team behind it knows what they’re doing. When it comes to the story, it’s a very basic story told many times before only this time there’s the addition of a board game. It’s a nice touch, but nothing really special as such. The script is what I didn’t really like much. I felt in parts it really does drag on, especially with the expository voice over, show not tell as the phrase goes. However with some of the dialogue, it does have a sense of poetry to it, so it has nice segments, just not joined together well. With regards to the pacing again, there are some red herrings which are there for a shock factor but are just not that surprising and again really hurts the pacing of the film, it makes the film seem longer than it is, and that’s a real shame.

Overall, it’s a very well made film and you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the production and it does pay off, just bits of the script was lacking. However, something to check out once it’s released, gives a real insight to the talent there is in Luton.

http://www.boardtodeathofficial.com

Bill’s 2015 BAFTAs

Right with the awards night just a week away, time to pick my winners. This is in order as they appear on the website. Am sticking with the big categories which is the same I’ll do with the Oscars.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl

This was a no brainier in my opinion. Not only did she write the best selling novel it was based on but also created the fantastic screenplay.

Best Leading Actress:

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Great performance, Pike wonderfully captured the calculating nature of Amy.

Best Animated Film:

The Lego Movie

Everything’s awesome, need I say more?

Best Original Music:

Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s been a pretty dry year in terms of music but I’m gonna give it to Alexandre Desplat as it takes you back to the slapstick comedy days.

Best Original Screenplay:

Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler

This was a tough one, a lot of great screenplays in this category but I have to give it to the very clever and unnerving Nightcrawler.

Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman

This was also a no brainier. Creating the illusion that the whole film was done in one take could only be achieved by clever editing and camera work.

Outstanding British Film:

Pride

A very strong category but Pride takes it with it’s warm and triumphant nature.

Best Director:

Richard Linklater

This was the hardest. All great films and wonderful talent at the helm but I have to give it to Richard Linklater for heading up one of the biggest cinematic achievements of recent history.

Best Editing:

Tom Cross – Whiplash

Before I gone on to the winner, why The Imitation Game is in the category is beyond me. The editing was very much average at best, nothing like the intensity of Whiplash.

Best Film:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The big one. Going by enjoyment factor alone…The Grand Budapest Hotel. Very fun and interesting film. It definitely stood out this year.

Best Supporting Actor:

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

No one else comes close to this. Just watch this and you’ll see.

Best Support Actress:

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Her last scene in the film, which completely wraps up the feeling of the whole film, was enough to surpass everyone else in this category.

Best Leading Actor:

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Calling it now, this is Jake’s year. Such a strong performance and captures the very unnerving nature of the character who is hell bent to getting what he wants.

Hope you enjoyed that guys.

Looking at: The Theory of Everything

Finally got around to seeing this. The Theory of Everything tells the personal story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane Wild and the difficulties involved with Stephen’s ever deteriorating health.

First of all, for those of you who think otherwise, there is very little in here about Hawking’s work. There are small scenes where they go over certain theories but nothing too deep. This is all about his relationship with Jane. The film starts with their initial meeting and date and very quickly, after his diagnosis, they are married. This is all within the first twenty minutes (roughly). Then quickly goes to the first child, career milestone, second child, next milestone, introduction of Johnathan (more on him later), third child, loss of voice, Elaine and divorce. The space in between these sections are quickly covered and we are focused on the intimate scenes between Stephen and Jane, how his disease affects the relationship.

The performances are fantastic, especially from Eddie Redmayne, worthy of the oscar nomination. But the story is just…flabby. There’s a lot there that can be removed or sped up. The initial build up of the relationship was so fast that we didn’t have time to get to know the characters and the chemistry is very forced. The chemistry between Jane and Johnathan (who Jane later marries) was much more believable than with Hawking. The film crawls on afterwards, feeling as if it will never end, then we reach the third act, marked with Hawking’s loss of voice and the introduction of Elaine, a carer. This is where the drama intensifies. A well put together final sequence where you really feel for all the characters.

Great performances, flabby story but fantastic ending.

Looking at: Ex Machina

Time to kick of the year with a fresh sci-fi thriller. The story of Ex Machina is about a young coder (Caleb) who wins a trip to the residence of Nathan, the CEO of Blue Books, the company that Caleb works for. What he finds there is that Nathan has created an AI (Ava) and Caleb is to be the human component to the turing test. For those of you who don’t know the turing test is a test that involves a human and a machine. The human would ask a series of questions to the machine and will determine whether or not it has consciousness. If it does it passes the test.

Decades ago the idea of a fully function AI was just science fiction, today, it is something that could become a reality tomorrow. Ex Machina explores our fears and desires for this advancement. It is told within the confines of a very stylish set and a very technical yet fluid script. The film is wonderfully performed and proves to be very thought-provoking.

There’s been a number of films in the past that looks at conscious AIs but Ex Machina explores this through sexuality. Through the course of the film, Caleb and Ava starts to develop a connection, a sense of mutual attraction. However whether or not this is genuine isn’t obvious. The three characters all have their own motives, Nathan to have his big discovery, Caleb to play the hero and Ava to seek freedom and to be one with society. In the trailer there is line asking if Ava was programmed to flirt with Caleb which poses the question were Ava’s feelings genuine or a means of escape? Which goes on to ask, does this still pass the turing test. In short, either way does. On one side she has genuine feelings towards someone which is a human response, on the other end it shows creative thinking to seeking ones goal, something a machine wouldn’t be capable of doing. Thus the whole scenario being the turing test, not just Caleb’s questions. I won’t go into spoilers but this is just scratching the surface of how deep this film goes.

It is a very clever and exciting film which starts the year off with a bang.

Looking at: Whiplash

Undeniably the most intense film of the year. Of the decade. I have been looking forward to this film ever since I saw the trailer back in November and it did not disappoint.

Whiplash is about Andrew Neiman, a wannabe-jazz drummer who wants to be the greatest. He gets picked up by Terence Fletcher, the drill sergeant like jazz instructor, to join his band where the best of the best play. However we soon find out it’s not all fun and games at the top. Fletcher’s philosophy on pushing someone beyond what’s expected of them to become the best blurs the lines between pushing and bullying. He frequently humiliates those who fail to meet his standards and go off on a tirade on those who miss out by a hair. Only perfection exists in his band and nothing less and Neiman wants to be that perfect at any cost. The two are the perfect match for each other. They will challenge each other to be the best at any cost.

The story of this is very basic which goes to show you can a great film out of anything. The performance is what really makes this film, especially from JK Simmons, playing the force of nature that is Fletcher. He perfectly encapsulates the tortured nature of a cruel and bullying tutor. Perfection at any cost. At the basis of it, the search for perfection makes both characters quite unlikeable on their own. Neiman have other people in his lives, his father and a girl he dates briefly, but omits them very easily in his pursuit for greatness.

The fast paced nature of the music marriages well with the film’s pace. It hits the ground running from the very beginning and the editing very much so displays this perfectly. With cuts matching the fast drum beats and perfectly framed intense shots of instruments and close ups of the characters.

This is the most intense and well acted films from this year’s awards season. A must watch.