Blinded By The Light (2019)

This is a great film about Bruce Springsteen. I mean, he’s not in it (with the exception of a photo of him in the end credits) but it is very much him. Like, essence of Springsteen (worst fragrence name ever). It’s a film about the power of words and music. About how music can help you make sense of a shitty world. About how it can transcend geographical and genre boundaries, and really make you FEEL something. That’s the films biggest strength; the way it affects you on a pure emotional level.

This film has issues, not really big enough to count as flaws, more slight annoyances. There are times where Viveik Kalra’s performance isn’t QUITE what it needs to be and feels a little flat. There are other times where he completely nails the emotion, so it’s obviously not beyond him, but there are times where his performance doesn’t really work (particularly in the first half). There are some moments which aren’t needed. The opening scene, in particular, serves no purpose. It’s just a “here’s the main characters when they were children”. It kind of showcases the relationships between certain characters, but that could have been done more naturally. The music, whilst it’s good, it is a bit repetitive. There are some songs which are repeated multiple times. As such it doesn’t really compel you to go out and listen to Springsteen in the same way as Yesterday made you want to listen to the Beatles. The story is one you’ve seen before (would it be rude to call a true story “a bit cliche in parts”?). Some of the characters’ motivations aren’t clearly defined in terms of the film’s narrative, you’re not really sure what the end goal, what is the main character reaching for and aiming to achieve etc. It also has moments where entire groups of people burst into song in a way that breaks reality. We can hear the music being playing, but except for the main character nobody else can, they’re just hearing him singing, so how are they dancing to the beat of the music if they can’t actually hear it? I know that’s a really weird thing to pick out, but I’m not the biggest fan of “main characters break into song” at the best of times (which is weird as my favourite television show of the last few years is a musical) and I feel it has to be done well (and for a good reason) for it to be effective (for example, it worked PERFECTLY in Rocketman). It could be argued that it’s alluding to Bollywood tradition, merging Bollywood tropes with western music, but it doesn’t have the right atmosphere and speed for it to truly work. There are other moments with music which work a lot better. When the lyrics come up on the screen at important parts it works wonderfully and it allows you to see how the character is thinking, you can feel him connecting to those parts of the music.

It may not seem like it but I did enjoy this movie. Was incredibly heartwarming, and a lot of the supporting performances were great (Nell Williams in particular). It reminds me of a slightly below-par Nick Hornby at his best. Considering how much I love some of Nick Hornby’s stuff (High Fidelity is still one of my favourite books) that indicates how highly I rate this movie. So yeah I’d go see it. It might not be your favourite movie, but I highly doubt you’ll regret it.

Why We Love…Fever Pitch

I first got into Nick Hornby the same way I imagine a lot of people did; through his films. I watched High Fidelity and loved it so I read the book, and then read more of his books. Whilst it’s not hard to argue that he has somewhat lost his way in his later books (he can not write a book with a teenage main character; it always seems like an old person writing as a young person; which it is) there’s no denying that his early books are in a class of their own. He perfectly captures the insecurities and intricacies of the masculine psyche. It attacks masculine frailties with such finesse and skill that you feel like it’s about you personally. It’s like a really good song in that way, despite the fact it was written by someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to, in a town you couldn’t recognise on a map, when you hear it you feel like the lyrics are torn out of your own brain and put to a melody, it feels personal. It’s also incredibly funny, the humour very British (for obvious reasons).

Now a lot of people will be turned off by this book because they have no interest in football. My suggestion is this; even if you don’t like football it would be a good idea to read this book. You don’t need an expansive knowledge of football to understand and enjoy this book, it pretty much explains the important things for you. This book isn’t even really about football at all; it’s a tale of obsession and life, it’s almost like a philosophy book, albeit an introductory one, disguised as a biography. He discusses his life in relation to important football events, and vice versa, which is natural. When we discuss huge events of historical importance, it always feels more real if we discuss ourselves within the context. It’s why people always talk about where they were when things happened, how they found out, how they reacted etc. They personalise the impersonal to make sense and form an emotional connection. Your viewpoint on an event will be different depending on how you first heard about it and who you were at that point in your life; if you were a young child your view will be different than if you were an adult. My viewpoint on the death of Diana, for example, is probably shaped by who I was when it happened. I had just turned 11 years old and was starting to pay a lot more attention to the outside world, as well as starting to become the cynical asshole that I am today. As such when I think of that event I just feel the reaction to it was all a bit silly, a bit over the top. 9/11 happened when I was 15 whilst I was at school, so my main memory of that is fear. Whereas by the time 7/7 happened I had started to become more interested in statistical analysis and the application of probability, so despite the fact it happened a lot closer (and I was actually supposed to go to London that day as well), I wasn’t fearful. As such my mind views the event itself differently.

It works the other way round too. I distinctly remember the year my nan died Liverpool were set to win the Premier League. She was a Liverpool fan all her life so when it looked like they were going to win it felt good, it was like they were doing it in tribute to her. As such when they slipped up and lost it, it felt like a personal attack, like they had let her down somewhat. I was actually annoyed at them for doing that. I know logically I had no reason to, her death and their football were never linked in reality, but in terms of emotion and my life, they will be forever intertwined. And that’s the beauty of life.

So in summary; a fantastic book, and the film is one of the greatest sports films I’ve ever seen (Not quite as good as The Damned United though, but few films are). A story about how invested people can get in something they have no control over, just simply wonderful. But you still need to read High Fidelity as well.

Films Worth Seeing from 2015: The Serious ones

Dramas(ish)

Inside Out

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Yeah I’m putting this in the drama section; go fuck yourselves if you disagree. For every laugh out loud moment, which there are a few; Pixar’s latest masterpiece is littered with heartfelt and moving moments that will warm the cockles of your aging bitter heart and will make you cry. The idea behind it is amazing and while the plot it follows isn’t anything new, it’s execution is near flawless. I knew from the opening melody of the main theme Bundle of Joy (my pick for best original score of the year), that this film was going to be exactly what everyone wanted from a Pixar film, and it was.

Steve Jobs

steve-jobs-posterProbably the most intense and thrilling film of the year, and not one shot is fired and not one car is chased, it never goes beyond people just talking (and screaming). Set in three real-time acts spread across the 1970s-1990s, this film gets to the heart of Steve Jobs the man/the character (he was quite a dick it turns out), and the heart of what it means to be innovative and push the boundary of what technology can be for people. Thrilling, heartstopping, emotional, and surprisingly beautiful to look at, Steve Jobs is a breath of fresh airconditioned air for the Biopic genre…and the fact it made less that jObs is just depressing.

 

Youth

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Another funny but heartfelt film that is a meditation on fame, but even more so is about aging, love, and parenting. Directed by Italian autor Paolo Sorrentino, it’s led by a best in decades Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, as two friends at a Swiss retreat in the Alps trying to keep their lives going. Now this is a bit of a tricky film to talk about, as its light on plot and heavy on strange things happening and characters reacting to them. So just trust me that Youth is a beautiful film and the kind of bold artistic statement that makes you glad that the studio process still lets creatives work their magic on us.

Spotlight

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An in-depth investigative drama that follows the journalist team who uncovered the Child abuse coverups by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s; and it will piss you off for all the right reasons. I’m a sucker for a good investigation film, like Zodiac or All The Presidents Men, and this was no different. Though I don’t think it’s up there with Zodiac, this is still a very well written and compelling drama/thriller that step by step will take you through the disturbing looking glass. Led by a stellar cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and more, this film is a masterclass of restrained filmmaking and acting. With a topic as hot as this, Spotlight could have easily become an over-dramatic spotlight-S_070416_rgblifetime mess, but director Tom McCarthy made the wise choice of keeping everything restrained, realistic, and beautifully drab (never has a cast of A-listers looked so normal), all so the facts can speak for themselves, and they scream.

 

The End of the tour

film-sundance-end-of-the-tour-first-look-2b1b02c3b573cbe3Already talked about this in our 2015 Film Awards, where it was one of the films awarded with best picture, but I’ll talk briefly about it here. It’s a funny and heartfelt road movie that meditates on fame, creativity, and loneliness, through the indepth and witty conversations of its protagonists. Whether you know David Foster Wallace’s work or not, this is an accessible and great film.

Wild

WILD_movie_posterFollow a mesmerizing Reese Witherspoon on a thousand mile hike as she flashes back to the different traumatizing points in her life that led her to the hike. It’s a compelling character film of the purist nature, and with a combination of a great soundtrack, editing, and sound-editing, is the best film I have ever seen capture the feeling of fleeting thought.
But this is a bit of a divisive film it appears, depending completely on whether you like the main character, as she is not really a good person; and not in the love to hate them way, but in a realistic way. I did like her, or at least I was engaged by her, while my fellow Troubled Production’s producer did not, leading to me putting this as one of the best films of 2015, while he put it as one of his worst. (See his personal blog here).

99 Homes

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Michael Shannon is on terrifying form as a realtor looking to make money during the housing crises of 2010, and Andrew Garfield finally acts his age to heart-breaking effect, as a single father kicked-out of his home by Shannon, and taken under the corrupt realtor’s wing. Another film that finds it’s intensity in its emotions; this film grabs you by the throat and keeps you electrified as you watch a normal man grapple for his morality and his fall to ‘the darkside’ as it’s the only way to provide for his family.

 

 

Brooklyn

file_610952_brooklyn-poster-640x951The second Nick Hornby script on this list (the first was Wild), and it just shows you the versatility of his writing. In 1950’s an Irish immigrant moves to Brooklyn (go figure) where she finds love, life, and a future, but then finds herself torn between the life she wants in America and the life everyone else wants for her back in Ireland. Much more a classic Hollywood romance (in all the right ways) and less the love triangle bollocks the trailers made it look to be, this is really a beautiful film about striving to achieve your own happiness, and who you’re willing to hurt to keep it.