Archive for February, 2009

Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ as cult film – an essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by helenparker1212

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moment will be lost, in time. Like tears, in the rain…Time to die.” (Roy Battey, Blade Runner)

“like science fiction pornography – all sensation and no heart.” (Pat Berman State and Columbia Record, Columbia, South Carolina, July 2, 1982)

roy

In this essay I have chosen to discuss Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner as a primary example of a ‘cult’ film. I will begin by exploring the various definitions and debates surrounding the term ‘cult cinema’, and the different categories of cult film, with particular focus on the debate over the relevance of the ‘midnight movie’ phenomena in the age of the internet, TV, and video/DVD rental. I will then analyse Ridley Scott’s 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner as an example of the cult category ‘the resurrected financial/critical flop’. I will then explore the reasons why this film attained cult status, looking at its appeal to niche audiences, and also its appeal to those attempting to unravel the mysteries and mistakes surrounding its production history. I will explore the relevance of generic hybridity in a film’s progression from cult to mainstream success, and ask whether or not a cult film can still retain its cult badge of honour once it has achieved this success.

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White British Cultural Identity in Film – an Essay

Posted in Essays, Film Tirades with tags , , , , on February 20, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The English are great lovers of themselves and of everything belonging to them. They think there are no other men like themselves and no other world but England and whenever they see a handsome foreigner, they say he looks like an Englishman and it is a great pity he should not be an Englishman…”

The Venetian Ambassador of 1497, quoted in ‘English Traits’ In Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays 1856 London: Read Books (2006 edition p.85-6)

“They’re rubbish the French. They’ve never forgiven us for the Armada.”

Irate English holidaymaker, interviewed by the BBC during the 1995 French seamen’s blockade of English ferries.

The film I have chosen to analyse as a representation of my personal cultural identity is Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men (2006). My identity, at its broadest level, is ‘white English’. However, the white identity is one in crisis, and has been since the mass immigrations of the 1960s and 1970s, which saw a totally unprepared Britain become a multi-racial society in the space of one generation. I personally find the racial definition ‘white English’ entirely unhelpful when considering contemporary cultural identity.

childrenofmen4

Today, with the added threat of global Islamic terrorism, and the converse emphasis of Islamic rights and culture, a dangerous breed of white English anti-immigrant sentiment, the like of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s and 70s, is threatening to rear its ugly head once again.

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NATO’s Intervention in Kosovo as “Illegal but legitimate” – an Essay

Posted in Politics Tirades with tags , , , on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“This is a just war, based not on any territorial ambitions but on values…We have learned twice before in this century that appeasement does not work. If we let an evil dictator range unchallenged, we will have to spill infinitely more blood and treasure to stop him later. But people want to know not only that we are right to take this action but also that we have clear objectives and that we are going to succeed.”

(Tony Blair, Chicago Speech, April 22nd 1999)

The case of the Kosovo intervention as been held up as an example, possibly the only one, of the international community getting it right over humanitarian intervention. However, it is problematic to say the least. In this essay I will discuss the main legitimating argument for the Kosovo intervention, the Just War legitimation, assessing first the jus ad bellum – the motives for intervening, and then the jus in bello – the means used in the intervention.

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I will then discuss the argument of illegality regarding the UN and the failure of NATO to achieve a resolution authorising force, addressing finally the fundamental hypocrisy of the UN system in its prioritisation of great power relations over human rights at all costs.

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Does Avant-Garde Film Constitute a Coherent Body of work? – an Essay

Posted in Essays with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“The idea of an avant-garde cannot, by its nature, be static or agreed. It is perhaps best understood as, in the philosophers’ term, an essentially contested concept, always open to dispute or redefinition.”

(Christie, 1998:453)

It has always been something of a trend in film academia to either make blasé definitions of ‘avant-garde’ film, or to blandly refute the possibility of doing so, as can be seen from the above statements. It is a ‘contested concept’, to say the least, and certainly ‘maddeningly obscure’, but that does not mean there are not definitive attributes that the ‘avant-garde’ school possesses, which other schools of film lack. The question of this essay is about coherence. But I posit that it is impossible to have coherence in experimentation, the two together are oxymoronic. What is possible though, are shared themes, shared tools, and shared ambiguities.

In this essay I will first attempt to rectify the common confusion in the academia between the Modernist movement and the Avant-Garde movement. I will explore the notions of Modernism and the Avant-garde, also known as High Modernism. I will then examine the division of the Avant-garde into to two different schools, the Narrative avant-garde; where I will look at Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1919); and the Non-Narrative Artistic avant-garde, where I will look at Dziga Vertovs’ Man With a Movie Camera (1929). I will then explore the claims of the importance of ‘auteur theory’ and modes of production in avant-garde filmmaking; for this I will be using David Lynchs’ Eraserhead (1977).

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Battlestar Galactica – where did it all go wrong?

Posted in TV Tirades with tags on February 19, 2009 by helenparker1212

“One more jump and I’m gonna lose my way altogether.”

Indeed, Kara Thrace, one more episode of season four and I think I’ll be lost beyond assistance too. It’s a truly heartbreaking thing to see, when a tv series with such promise, such emotional depth and philosophical scope, goes completely down the pan in the space of a couple of episodes. Admittedly, the writer’s strike must have played havoc with the focus and rhythm of the writing and production team, leaving scripts unfinished and plotlines uncoordinated, but this really isn’t a valid excuse for the poor quality of the end work.

This kind of dramatic change in writing quality can only come when a writer either dies or is fired – or even if a new writer is hired, because what was once an elegantly tangled web of storylines and character relationships has become a mere spewing-out of ill-defined motives and superfluous information, which only a writer seriously off their game can truly take the blame for. Unfortunately, studios have never appreciated the fundamental importance of writers to their productions. Essentially, if the writing team is producing solid gold, don’t fuck about with them.

battlestargalactica

It was the ‘dvd movie’ Razor which set the warning bells ringing in my ears – and, sadly, the very first episode of season four proved all my fears right. The elegant web was sliced apart with so little subtlety or care it was like watching a brain surgeon operating with a machete. And believe me when I say I gave the series a fair chance to get on its feet and into gear – as all series require at some point during their runs – but the more I watched, the more I wanted to change the channel.

From what I have suffered through so far it seems clear to me that something cataclysmic has occurred in the writing department, and unless something equally seismic occurs before the season is completed, I fear the series is on a collision course with cancellation, audience wrath and an ultimate infamy it really doesn’t deserve, considering the overall high quality of its first three seasons.

Review of Jaume Collet-Serra’s film ‘House of Wax’

Posted in Film Tirades with tags , on February 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

See Paris Die!

The main tagline for director Collet-Serra’s first feature film (and I have to admit what drew me in) is unfortunately a deceptively shallow condensation of what is actually an intelligent, well crafted and generically celebratory horror film, which deserves a lot more praise than it has received.

The premise of the film is wonderfully traditional – hot teens get slashed up by hicks – and yet artistically imaginative and refreshing. In addition to your bog-standard slashing, they also get covered in wax and put on display in an American hicksville version of Madam Tussaude’s. Nice.

housewax

One of the many unimaginatively derogatory criticisms of contemporary horror films (as in, anything made past 1990) is that they are “all the same”. What these unversed critics fail to recognise – due to their lack of education in film theory – is that horror films, more than any other genre, display a true loyalty to and celebration of their generic predecessors, that their audiences recognise and engage with positively. The sight of an excerpt from ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane’ in House of Wax is a perfect example of this. People who are generally dismissive of horror films and their theoretical ancestry are woefully handicapped when it comes to appreciating them. So they really ought to shut the fuck up.

House of Wax is an excellently written, well paced, thoroughly entertaining, witty and also pretty brutal and sad horror flick at its generic best. And although it has that annoying bint from 24 in it, it also stars an infinitely watchable Jared Padalecki, which more than compensates – though his demise in the film is particularly vicious and unusually tragic for a slasher.

I’m not going to bore anyone with an in-depth theoretical analysis of horror films – we go to university for that. But it has to be said there is so much more to horror than meets the untrained eye. So if you’re unwilling to see it, don’t watch them. And don’t attempt to review them, or you’ll end up sounding like a douchebag.

A review of Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges’

Posted in Film Tirades with tags on February 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

Cocaine-induced racist tirades from thespian midgets, murderous skinhead bum-boys, a medieval setting and a performance from Ralph Fiennes that knocks Ben Kingsley’s performance in ‘Sexy Beast’ out of the water. Just a few of the nuggets of genius to be found in this masterpiece of absurdity from new directorslashplaywright McDonagh.

“What did I do to deserve this?” the film’s young protagonist Ray (played by a sterling Colin Farrell) asks his world-weary cohort Ken as the two find themselves stuck in the medieval landscape of Bruges, awaiting instructions from big boss Harry (played by Fiennes with terrifying finesse). What have they done? is indeed the question we are asked to ponder as we follow the personal journeys the pair undergo whilst being stuck in Bruges. Cue some of the darkest, wittiest humour seen on the big screen in years.

inbruges

Farrell gives possibly the finest performance of his career so far as the guilt ridden Ray, a character trying desperately hard to ignore the moral consequences of a terrible mistake. Trying to help him come to terms with what he has done is his partner Ken (played with gravitas by Brendan Gleeson), who is struggling to find a path between his loyalty to Harry and his desire for Ray’s redemption. Harry, however, has other plans. And if Ken won’t fulfil his responsibilities, then Harry will have to do it for him.

So begins a cat and mouse game to rival a Marx Brothers film, through ancient churches, bell towers, canals and, of course, pubs. The dialogue is razor sharp and the director’s theatrical origins shine through in the detail of the character’s psychologies and in their interactions with each other. The relationship between the tormented Ray and his mentor Ken is nothing less than heartbreaking, and Harry’s ferocity is nail-biting. Action builds steadily and slowly, giving the audience time to enjoy the characters and the scenery, before the impending denouement which we know is coming, but resist acknowledging in the same way the central characters do.

We, like Ray, would much rather have a gay beer with a beautiful girl (played by Clemence Poesy of Harry Potter fame) than think about his impending day of judgement. This is a wonderful film, equal parts tender, comic and bloody tragic. So I’ll have a gay beer please, and if the racist midget doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what will.