5 Films To Watch When Everything Goes To Shit

Because sometimes people do something unbelievably stupid and you need to do something to not go insane.

1. Airplane

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Really any of the 80’s/early 90’s parody films: Airplane, Hot Shots, Naked Gun etc. The trouble with a lot of comedy lately is it’s too serious. Everything needs to make people think, to have a higher purpose, it’s almost as though comedy is a swear word. I saw someone on Twitter complain about the length of a lot of comedy films by saying “Airplane is 87 minutes long and fits in loads of jokes, your film doesn’t need to be longer”. For better or for worse this film is also responsible for the okay Scary Movie, and the just plain awful Epic Movie. This film is also responsible for changing Leslie Nielsens career. Before this he was actually a serious actor. After this he became a comedy legend. Before this: Poseidon Adventure, Forbidden Planet. After this: Naked Gun, Spy Hard. And let’s face it, the world is all the better for having him discover comedy, as I discuss here.

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2. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

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The sequel too. Yes, the sequel was mainly just an excuse for a lot of food puns, but I’m a fan of food and puns so I was perfectly okay with that.

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And this is adorable

But like most films, the original was the best. This film does have a stupid title, and I’d like to say the film itself is more mature, but it’s not; it’s just as silly, gloriously so. But it also teaches you important lessons: be yourself, being smart is awesome, and don’t get in an ice cream fight with a monkey,

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3. Buried

Because it’s hard to feel worried about your own life when you’re watching something that kills your soul and any hope you ever had. This is a fantastic achievement in film-writing, the entire film is set within the confines of a coffin. When I first heard about it i thought that that couldn’t possibly work. Surely they have flashback scenes? Or he gets out about half hour into the film and suddenly it turns into an action film? But no, it’s just one guy, in a box for the entire film. And it is a remarkably effective piece of filmmaking. The singular location means the audience feels just as trapped and claustrophobic as the character. If the film had any cutaway scenes it would only serve to break up the tension. I recommend that everybody see this film at least once.

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But only once

4. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol

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There are two types of people in this world, those who like this film, and those who beat their partners. I am on the former. To me this is one of the best Christmas films around, and is also my favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol, probably one of the most faithful too, it has quotes directly from the novel, and yet it never seems out of place. This is one of the most effective displays of adaptation you will ever see. Michael Caine gives a fantastic performance, the songs are catchy, plus, it’s the f*cking muppets.

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This is still terrifying though

5. 50/50

Because sometimes the best way to deal with stressful situations is just to have a good cry, and believe me, this film will reduce you to a quivering wreck of tears and sadness. This will kill you emotionally, and yet it’s also ridiculously funny. Now the first thing people will ask when you tell them you’re going to see a film is “what’s it about?”. In this case your answer will be “it’s a comedy about someone with cancer”. “Comedy” and “cancer” are two concepts which usually go together as well as cheese and cardboard (although if anybody has any cardboard recipes they’d recommend then send them to the usual address). However in this case it goes together as well as cheese and marmite.  If you’re looking for a standard feel good film then don’t see this one; it will depress the living hell out of you at some points (although it’s a film about cancer so that’s to be expected), although it will also make you laugh so hard you choke a little bit. It’s actually ended up being probably the best film I’ve seen at the cinema all year . It’s smart, funny, and ridiculously heartfelt with some fantastic performances all round. Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have an on-screen chemistry that makes it seem like they’ve known each other for years; and that really helps the film. Also it is great to see Anjelica “morticia adams” Huston back being awesome (and looking surprisingly like one of my primary school teachers)

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So that’s it for today. What kind of stuff do you watch when you need emotional assistance? Because one thing’s for sure, we’re all going to need it.

5 Best Films Dealing With Dark Subjects (A.K.A: How Films Help Us Cope)

Starting this Sunday I’ll be launching a new blog over here. Having two separate blogs dealing with similar content matter has meant I’ve been somewhat neglecting that one. As such I’ve decided to keep them completely different, all my reviews and end of year lists etc will be placed here, which begs the question, what do I do with the other one? The answer is simple: news. Every Sunday I’ll be posting a round up of the last weeks news. I picked probably the worst week to start with; Brock Turner, Orlando, and now Jo Cox, all news that broke this week, the same week I decide to start the news blog, now I’m not saying I’m to blame for all of it. So when the world seems to be turning to shit, who you’re going to call?

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No, not them. Never them.

On an individual level people turn towards music, most people have that one album they turn to in times of need (for me it’s I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning) but on a wide scale it’s films. It’s films that give us hope, that force us to stare into the abyss and envelop us. Films can effect us in a way other media can, music you can take in bitesized chunks whereas films you usually take it all at once. And unlike books everybody experiences it at the same pace, everyone is going through the same journey at the same time. So which films are the best at dealing with these kind of subjects? Well, these.

1. The Middle East – Persepolis

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Yeah, I know I mention this a lot. But it is very good. A bleak, yet still hilarious account of growing up in Iran during the most turbulent time in their recent history, made all the more depressing when you realize it’s all true. It’s one of those films that really makes you realize how awful it is over there, you realize exactly why hordes of people are attempting to escape, and how it was all kickstarted by British and US governments attempting to install a puppet dictator during the Second World War. That’s the great thing about being British, you look over the world, at Israel/Palestine, at Iran, at Ireland, and you can just sit their thinking “See that chaos? We did that”.

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Just one moment of many which is made better when you realize it happened.

2. The Holocaust – Life Is Beautiful

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I was torn between this and Schindler’s List. What won this one over is the fact that it doesn’t start awful, the holocaust elements don’t happen until about half way through the film. Before that it’s a somewhat silly Italian romcom, and I think that is kind of essential. The characters characterization is as a jokester, a clownish figure surrounded by horrific things. That’s what drives his character, it influences his relationship with his son, with the other inmates, and (spoilers) even his death. That’s why the first part is needed, we need to see the character in his natural environment, we need to establish his character. As such this film is, without a doubt, the best holocaust-based comedy of all time. Although the only competition is apparently awful and hasn’t been released.

3. World War 2 – Grave Of The Fireflies

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There are two types of people in this world, those who cry at this film, and those without a soul. Animated, and done by a company generally known for doing the kind of heartwarming fantasy tales that used to be the forte of Disney, only with more violence and raccoon testicles. The typical US attitude to nuclear power is it causes superpowers, Japan see’s it as either unleashing monsters or causing horrific events, it’s almost as though they have completely different views on nuclear warfare for some reason.

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Can’t imagine why.

This, alongside Barefoot Gen create a horrific narrative. One which focuses on the impact that war has on people. How much someone’s life can change and be impacted by somebody with no idea of what he’s done, somebody who never has to look into the eyes of the people he’s killed. This films is generally seen as an anti-war film in the US. Which is a bit weird, all this is doing is showing the effects, this is not anti-war, it’s just honest about what it entails. It could just as easily be seen as pro-war, you could argue that “we need this war to stop things like this happening”.

4. Heart Transplants – Bogowie

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Or, as it’s often called by me: “Fucking Bogowie! Holy shit!” Without a doubt the best film ever made about a ragtag group of misfit heart surgeons in 1980’s Russian-occupied Poland. This film is not just about surgery, it’s also about just living in that area at the time, how you could not get anything done without some form of bribery. You can really feel the frustration going through everyone involved. I knew this was based on a true story, but I didn’t realize how big the story was until the final moments, where it showed a picture from the aftermath.

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The above image (taken by photographer James Stanfield) was chosen as one of the best 100 photos ever published by National Geographic. The picture shocked the world, a doctor, carefully watching out for the patient, whilst another doctor sleeps in the corner. The patient, laying there, his life in the hands of equipment which is (let’s be honest) not fit for purpose. People were wondering if the patient will survive the week, yet he’s still alive today (sadly, unlike the doctor, the cigarette smoking former Minister Of Health Zbigniew Religa, who passed away from lung cancer in 2007). Look again at that picture, see the exhaustion on the doctors face, that’s there for good reason; the surgery itself took 23 hours, the doctor in the corner isn’t being lazy, he couldn’t physically stand anymore. It was physically and mentally demanding, as can be seen in this video (it’s in Polish, but worth watching purely for the footage of the surgery). Today, heart transplants save lives all over the world, and it’s thanks to doctors like Religa that that happened, but importantly, it’s also down to photographers like James Stanfield that we can truly get a glimpse at their dedication.

5. Terrorism – Four Lions

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A somewhat different one from all the others. This is the only one on the list which isn’t based on a true event, but it’s still important and relevant. This a film that managed to annoy everybody, the tabloids were annoyed because “it’s mocking dead terrorist victims” whereas terrorists were offended because they were made to look like idiots. The thing is, when you watch it, it’s actually not that offensive. The subject matter itself is the only offensive thing about it, there’s nothing in the film really that makes you thin “ok they’ve gone too far now”.  Basically, he made an inoffensive film about the most offensive subject matter, for some reason I really connect with that. This film does have one thing in common with the rest of these films though: they’re all films which I would consider to be among the best I’ve ever seen. This is one of only two films I’ve seen applauded mid-film (the other was the sublime In The Loop)

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So that’s our favourites. I think the lesson from this is this; it’s okay to talk about dark themes. You need something to shine a pinprick of light into the darkness. So bring on the darkness! Let me dive headfirst into oblivion so that I can burst out the other side with a new viewpoint on the world, so I can be permanently scarred and changed by what I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong, being needlessly shocking or offensive is just lazy (seriously, fuck A Serbian Film, a film I’m lucky enough to have never seen) and pointless. But films that will shock you, and keep you entertained? That’s just the perfect mix. So I’ll end it there, if anybody needs me I’ll be swimming in a pool of nothingness.

The 5 Best Football Stories (With No Major Films About Them)

So, Euro 2016 kicks off today, and what better way to take advantage of celebrate than by an in-depth look at every team in the tournament? Yeah, we’re not doing that. I was going to do a blog looking at the movies from each country and try to work out which one would win if football tournaments were decided based on which country made the best movies (like they should be), but then realised that would require watching Russian cinema, and I already spent far too long with a knife to my wrists so watching “Life Is Awful And You’re Going To Get Killed By A Bear Whilst Drinking Vodka, Unless You’re Gay Then You’ll Just Be Killed By Police 2: The Sequel” won’t help. So I decided to showcase the hidden side of sport, the side I find fascinating, the stories told within. People love a good sports movie (maybe not as much as they did in the 90’s but still), even more so if they’re based on a true story. So here’s my favourite football stories which are yet to be (major) films.

1. Leicester 2016

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Let’s start with the obvious. Hands up everybody who saw this coming. Liars! Sit down. Leicester barely escaped relegation last year so the odds of them not being relegated, let alone winning were astronomical. This isn’t hyperbole, the odds of it happening were 5000-1. With a squad which cost less to put together than some teams spent on one player, those odds were well placed. To put those odds in perspective: it was more likely that Q-Unit herself, Queen Elizabeth II would not only release a song, but also get to Christmas Number 1, five times more likely in fact. And it was over two times more likely that Kim Kardashian would be president.

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Still better than Trump.

So what else is 5000-1? William Hill have Nick Grimshaw winning olympic gold at Rio this year at the same odds. Think how preposterous that idea is, that someone with no sports training at all would win gold, THAT’S the level of surprise we’re dealing with.

2) Football War.

“Football” and “war” are two words which are normally only associated together in the following circumstances:

  1. When the English national team plays Germany.
  2. When the English national team plays Argentina.
  3. When the English national team plays France.
  4. When the English national team plays Scotland.
  5. When the English national team plays anybody we’ve invaded (which is all but 22 countries)

But there was once a Football War, it was a conflict between El Salvador and Honduras that lasted for four days in 1969. Although it is called the Football War the reasons for it go far deeper, mainly about land reform and immigration (thank god those things are no longer problems). Honduras enforced a law which meant taking and from Salvadoran immigrants (no matter what their legal status is) to give to Hondurans (something which UKIP would probably do too, because they never learn from mistakes). This caused tensions between the two countries, tensions which came to a head when the two teams played each other on 8 June in the Honduran capital, which was marred by violence from both sets of supporters. Violence was repeated in the return fixture 7 days later. Then after another game later on in the month took place in Mexico City, with again more violence (it’s almost as if getting two countries who are on the brink of war to play three high pressure games against each other in the space of one month is a bad idea). The violence at this final game was so bad that the Salvadoran government severed all diplomatic ties with Honduras. The Salvadoran government responded by attaching explosives to the sides of passenger planes and using them to bomb Honduras, which of course led to the inevitable:

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Oh, wait. No, not group hug. The other thing. War, that’s the thing. I’m always getting those two mixed up. Luckily the war ended shortly after, yet an official peace treaty wasn’t signed until 1980, and the effects of the war resonated through El Salvador which was plunged into civil war in 1979. All in all, perfect for a story starring Zac Efron, or whichever young person hollywood loves right now.

3. Hillsborough. 

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In case the last one wasn’t depressing enough. The Hillsborough disaster was a defining moment in English football, a tale which is still unfolding almost 30 years later. For those unaware: On 15th April 1989 Liverpool and Nottingham Forest met in the FA Cup Semi Final, an inexperienced police superintendent who had no idea how to handle an occasion like this was put in charge of police presence there. Inept handling by the police (including directing fans into an already overcrowded pen instead of empty side pens) led to overcrowding, which led to the deaths of many fans through compressive asphyxia. 96 people died due to the sheer stupidity of David Duckenfield who was in charge of the event. But if that was all that happened it would be sad, no doubt about it, but it wouldn’t be as notable as it is today. What gave this event the notoriety was the reaction. Margaret Thatcher’s press secretary Bernard Ingham, blamed “tanked up mob of Liverpool supporters” and this viewpoint continued, with rumours that everybody involved was drunk, even the children, the dead, innocent children. The Sun handled it with the sensitivity they’re known for, publishing false allegations on the front page of their 19th April edition, claiming Liverpool fans urinated and beat up the police as they were trying to help the victims. This was, like most accusations levelled at the fans, complete bullshit. The response to this from Liverpool is still felt today, with a lot of newsagents still refusing to stock the paper. It got the point where when Alexei Sayle did a documentary about Liverpool, he couldn’t even give it away. People in the area just wouldn’t accept it, he had to put them in a pile and burn them. In 2016 the truth emerged, it was a mixture of bad luck and inept organising, finally the fans were found innocent. It’s this which makes it a good story for me. It’s about a group of people taking on a national newspaper, taking on government officials and the police force, and winning. It’s the ultimate underdog story, albeit one I hope we never have to see again.

4. Mobutu-Zaire.

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Mobutu Sese Seko was the “president” of what is now Democratic Republic Of Congo, and was, to put it politely, a bit of a dick. Renaming the country Zaire in 1971 he ruled the land with an iron fist, and guns, mostly guns. Zaire qualified for the 1974 World Cup in some style, with many tipping them to be the surprise package of the tournament. As such, Mobutu decided to use this to showcase his country and how great it was, the team were referred to as his lions, but this didn’t keep them from danger. Defender Boba Lobilo’s brother was a highly regarded newsreader (on a news show which started with an image of Mobutu descending through the clouds, because dickholes don’t do subtlety) when he was arrested. What crime did he commit? He said the name of former finance minister Emmanuel Bamba. That arrest may have been a slight overreaction, but was par for the course for Mobutu, who also threatened to arrest two players for daring to not change their names from Christian ones to more Africanised ones. Of course, in typical dictator fashion he had a lavish palace whilst his people starved. He promised the team riches beyond their wildest dreams if they played well at the world cup. They didn’t, losing their first game to Scotland, and being absolutely humiliated in their second game, losing 9-0 to Yugoslavia. Mobutu sent his people to have a “meeting” with the team. A meeting which consisted of Mobutu’s people telling the team:

“You have all brought shame on to the country of Zaire. You are scum, and sons of whores. The great leader says that if you concede more than three goals against Brazil, you will never see Zaire or your families again”

With 11 minutes of the game left, Brazil were 3-0 up and had a free kick in a good position. As the Zaire wall lined up, defender Mwepu Ilunga rushed out and kicked the ball away before Brazil could take the kick. The commentators used it as an example of African football’s naivety and indiscipline, but in reality he just panicked in the heat of the moment. Brazil retook the kick, and it came to nothing. The final result was 3-0 and the players were sent home, disgraced but still alive and allowed back. Once they got back home the players had their club contracts cut and found it very hard to get work again. A heartbreaking story for the players involved, made worse by fact that Mobutu seemed to escape any form of karmic justice, staying in power until 1997, the first African leader invited to the White House by George H W Bush, and got his country to host Ali/Foreman, to the cost $10million dollars which his country could have used.

5. Christmas Truce

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.

Probably the most well known story in this list. Christmas Day 1914 saw a series of unofficial ceasefires along the Western front, some taking part in football matches. This is simply beautiful, soldiers putting their differences aside to fraternise, seeing each other as equals, not caricatured enemies. This film wouldn’t even need dialogue, the entire thing could just be shown with music, the frantic firing in November, the slowing down in December, the first person going over the trench, the game itself, then the slow realisation that this will never happen again and some of these people will end up dead, killed by the people they played with, then an old man, reliving the war, visiting the grave of an enemy soldier, carefully placing a football down on the grave.