Tag Archives: Christopher Nolan

Netflix & Nolan

During a recent interview with Indie Wire, champion of traditional cinema and auteur of our age Christopher Nolan attacked streaming giant Netflix and its approach towards the traditional theatrical distribution of films. Netflix is meeting opposition from the film establishment, shown by the negative reaction and booing that flagship film Okja received at Cannes.  Nolan’s words could be dismissed as part of this knee-jerk reaction from the cinematic old guard loathsome towards change.

In reality, Nolan is right to call Netflix’s strategy to disrupt traditional cinema absurd’. Nolan may not realise it in his interview, but he touches upon some deeper issues with both Netflix and the film industry today.

Fighting a content war

In Nolan’s own words, Netflix’s extensive investment in original content, along with liberal control afforded to writers and directors;’would be more admirable if it weren’t being used as some kind of bizarre leverage against shutting down theaters’. Netflix, successful in revolutionising television, perceives cinema as an extension of that industry, and the company says as much in its quarterly shareholder letter this July . Cinema and television are similar but distinct visual arts that need different approaches to conquer. Netflix won over television so quickly because an episode of an original series is far shorter than a feature length film. People are more willing to gamble twenty to fifty minutes on a show recommended by a friend than sit down and dedicate up to two hours to an unknown film which has few reviews from critics or approvals on Netflix.

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An early rise has become mandatory for my summer job. In the mornings before I tackle the commute I watch the business reports while sipping coffee and pretending to be a grownup. Last week CNBC Europe’s Squawk Box had a heated discussion about booming tech shares. One of the presenters quipped that both Amazon and Netflix are locked in a content bidding war. I nodded along with the other hosts in approval.

Threatened by Amazon, Netflix has turned to cinema to retain existing subscribers and grab new ones from abroad. It is not suprising that after expanding into South East Asia last year, Netflix heavily invested into Okja, a Korean- American film directed by Bong Joon- ho, a South Korean directot with a strong appeal in the West and in the South East.

Unlike Amazon, Netflix sees cinema as a territory to be conquered for spoils, rather than an ally. Cinema and Netflix could certainly prosper together. For far too long cinema has been constrained by the ball and chain of the blockbuster and its inevitable franchise, leading to a torrid cycle of hollow superhero sagas, action flicks and CGI puppet shows of monsters and robots. Netflix is an outsider to the film industry, its independence and cash could have freed up film from some of the commercial demands placed upon it. Amazon Studios, as Nolan points out in his interview has taken a more tactful course, debuting films in cinemas before releasing them to its Amazon Prime subscribers 90 days later. Through this, Amazon Studios loses nothing and gains everything, it keeps cinema and critics happy, while generating revenue from film viewers and subscribers.

Where is Buster’s Mal Heart?

Over the last year there have been more films that I have wanted to see than films I have seen, not due to bad luck or poor time management, but because many of the films I anticipated never appeared. From the Lost City of Z to Song to Song and Buster’s Mal Heart, there have been a slew of films which I have highly anticipated, only for them to have minimal runs at local cinemas or no screenings at all.

Cinema is art and art always needs to be championed. Making cinema or any other form of art more accessible or available does not equate to a larger audience for that art, after all people need to know about a museum before they will ever visit. Netflix has assumed that once it makes its original films available, subscribers will flock to them but the opposite reaction is more probable.  Okja was lavished with media attention and an advertising campaign, but so far I have found the smaller independent films created by Netflix to be far more enjoyable. Okja often felt like the director was trying to spend the leftovers of his enormous budget. Whole scenes in Okja were unnecessary and some of the major actors in the film, especially Giancarlo Esposito of Gustavo Fring fame, had minimal roles which would not have been missed. Opposite to Okja have been Win It All and Shimmer Lake, small independent films with a few substantial stars which shine with fantastic plots and performances. Both of these films have been starved of attention from critics and Netflix alike, but overshadow Okja with their ingenuity and realism.

The current situation with on-demand screening of films is exactly the same as how Nolan depicts the horror in the 1990’s of your film winding up with a direct to video release. Deprived of the fanfare of a theatrical release, a film would be at the mercy of luck to find an audience strong enough to champion that film until it became a success. Direct to video and on-demand release have the veneer of choice and accessibility, but viewers will not choose a film which they have heard nothing about, especially as a non theatrical release remains a sign of poor quality.

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The strongest example of on-demand screening’s shortfalls are independent films like Buster’s Mal Heart. Shining with originality and starring Raimi Malek, Buster’s Mal Heart seemed filled with the soul wrenching eeriness of a Cormac McCarthy novel. I had been anticipating the film for months until I recently checked for screenings and found none. Buster’s Mal Heart received a brief, flickering presence on U.K. cinema screens before disappearing onto the internet. I am hoping to watch the film through You Tube Movies this week and a review will be linked here. While the internet seems to provide salvation to the overlooked and underappreciated films out there, I am someone who loves cinema and will seek out films that interest me. I am an exception amid the general audience. Unless a film is placed on the big screen either at the local art house cinema or multiplex, most people will not look for them. Even my local art house cinema in Manchester has reduced the availability of independent films in favour of commercial blockbusters. Song to Song, a Terence Malick film, only received a week slot before being removed. I do not know why cinemas both big and small, seem to be showing fewer films for less time. Part of me believes its a rationalisation that if the audience misses one film, they can catch it online.

Art needs to be championed, it needs to be given attention and granted the venue where it can best appreciated. Cinemas are and will continue to be the exhibition halls of film. While online streaming  has a place in film, it would rob the art of its vibrancy if it supplanted cinemas outright.

By Saul Shimmin

 

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Dunkirk- Review

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Cast: Fion Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, & Cillian Murhpy

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: In May and June of 1941, the Nazis had surrounded the Allied forces and were pushing them into the sea near the French city of Dunkirk. The only escape for the Allied troops was for the British to shuttle them with a combination of Naval and civilian vessels across the English Channel. However, Nazi Stukas and Messerschmitts thwarted their escape, bombing and gunning down British and French soldiers on the beach and harrying the vessels ferrying them to safety. The movie follows three timelines: 1. The Mole, 2. The Sea, 3. The Air. The segments interweave throughout the movie and provide different perspectives on the Allied retreat. The Mole follows the British troops on the beaches of Dunkirk who are trying to survive the Nazi air attacks long enough to board a ship for home. The Sea tells the story of a father (Mark Rylance), his son, and his son’s friend who take their boat to help rescue the stranded soldiers. The Air runs faster than the previous two segments because its length is one hour, as opposed to 1 week for the Mole and 1 day for the Sea. The Air follows three Spitfire pilots, the main character being Farrier (Tom Hardy) whose mission it is is to protect the Allied troops from the Nazi air attacks.

While I must admit that Dunkirk failed to move me to the extreme it did Saul, I did enjoy Christopher Nolan’s tenth full-length film. With Dunkirk, Nolan, once again, impressively turned conventional storytelling on its head as he did with Memento and The Prestige. Instead of opting to show the film in a linear fashion, Nolan broke the movie into three segments that follow three different groups of characters that all span varying time lengths. One lasted a week, another one day, and, the final one, one hour. Most writers and directors would have dropped the ball trying to work such a convoluted plot into a meaningful and intense story. Yet Nolan does so seamlessly, tying all the groups together into several rewarding climaxes.

Nolan is undeniably an untouchable master of cinema, but I believe the real hero of Dunkirk to be Hans Zimmer. His score kept me on edge throughout the film, even while soldiers just waited for boats to ferry them across the English Channel. Through long pulls on stringed instruments, Zimmer constantly reminded the audience that death lurked just outside the frame, and that Time, constantly present with the ever-ticking clock sound in the background, was scarce as the enemy slowly but continuously tightened the noose around the Allied soldiers. I did not expect Dunkirk‘s score to be one of my favorite parts of the film, yet it was.

Another surprise was Harry Styles. The former One Direction singer played Alex, who despite limited screen time proved to be one of my favorite characters. This surprised me because he shared time with some of my favorite actors: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance and more than held his own. The scene that comes to mind is when a group of British soldiers are trapped in a beached fishing boat that the Nazis are using for target practice. As the tide starts to come in, the ship begins to take on water through the bullet holes in its hull. Believing that they needed to lose weight, Alex accuses the quiet solider, played by Damien Bonnard, of being a German spy. I thought this accusation to be true due to man’s failure to talk up to the point in the film.  Alex verbally attacks the man with the scary conviction of a cornered beast.

It was perilous moments like this, heightened by Zimmer’s score, where I thought the movie shone. Nolan made Dunkirk two things: a war film and a survival film. Its war aspect was what I came for (besides the fact that it is a Nolan film with excellent actors), but it was the survival element that made Dunkirk excellent. All the horrors that befell the Allied troops were believable as were their reactions to death and its ever-impending peril. Whether it was Alex threatening to throw the quiet solider overboard to the Nazis or Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked violent outburst at the prospect of returning to Dunkirk, these actors’ talent combined with Nolan’s camera work and Zimmer’s score made me share these characters’ fear.

Please go see this in IMAX. The sound quality alone is worth the extra five bucks. I felt that the Nazis were bombing my theater.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Dunkirk

Leaving the cinema after watching Dunkirk, I was compelled to write this piece; to write about the importance of what Christopher Nolan has created.

To know Europe, you must understand The Second World War. My parents grew up in the 1960’s playing in bombsites: open wounds across Liverpool even 20 years on. Joy Division and New Order took their names from Nazi projects. My father sometimes recalls neighbours who were veterans of the World Wars, men who left legs behind on a beach during D-Day and others whose minds cracked like china under the strain of trench warfare in France and Belgium. Travelling across Europe for the first time at 19, the Nazis haunted every nation I visited, from Anne Frank’s safe-house in Amsterdam to the crumbling ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. The First World War razed the old Europe, but the pain of the Second World War forged the new.

Since the Ancient Greeks first told myths, the past has been the anchor which moors identity in a sea of clashing collectives. Across Europe, our anchor is weakening as the Second World War ebbs away from living memory onto the shores of textbooks and academia. The train from Birmingham back home stops at a particular station.  Built into the station wall is a memorial to the men from the Railway line who fought and died in both World Wars. The names of the dead stack up to the ceiling, but no one stops to read them.

Dunkirk is a gift to the future, a grain of bottled time giving meaning back to the marble names that dwell in railway stations, parks, monuments, and statues across Europe. When watching Dunkirk we can live in that unfiltered speck of memory. We can experience a time of survival where there is no good or evil, only the enemy who is everywhere yet nowhere, toying with the British as they scrabble for their lives while bombs fall, snipers fire, and submarines sink hospital boats. When death comes, there is no quiet reflection or glory, it is quick and uncaring. Pilots simply disappear and soldiers, flung into the air by Stukha bombers, with their Jericho horns deafening all,  never return to ground. The characters utter little dialogue as few words are needed: the story speaks through Hans Zimmer’s score and Nolan’s vision.  The tale of Dunkirk told in words of sight and sound, is hope in the face of horror. It is the ringing notes of stoicism, the images of heroism, of ships silently sailing to shore and pilots sacrificing themselves which kindled hope for the men trapped ashore, caught between the ocean and the German tide. Hope saved our men, hope saved us.

When the civilian boats quietly prevail and reach Dunkirk’s shores, Zimmer’s rendition of Elgar blares as red sails flutter in the cold Atlantic wind. I was moved. I felt proud  of my country. In a present where Britain seems lost inside itself, we needed the pride Dunkirk brings to remind ourselves of a moment when we stood alone, and vowed to return to our European brothers once more.

Hopefully we will return to Europe again one day.

Hagood’s review of the Dunkirk is here.

By Saul Shimmin

 

 

Logan 

Movie Score: 5 out 5 (The only classic Marvel film so far)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Richard. E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, and introducing Dafne Keen.

Saul’s Review

Logan stands alone as a classic film from the superhero genre. Remove the abilities, and Logan is a gritty film contending with violence, desperation, hope, and family. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart return to roles that have defined their careers, delivering their best performances as The Wolverine and Professor X. Out of the two, Jackman truly shines,depicting Logan not as a hero in any sort, but as a man crushed by a hostile world, frayed by years of hiding and tainted by a long life of misery. Set in a dystopian premonition of Trump’s America, the superheroes in Logan are not invincible, but vulnerable, and it is their vulnerability which makes them so dangerous. This is the most human superhero film ever made. Nor does the film waiver, like so many blockbuster films, from its own serious tone. Logan unflinchingly shows the consequences and deaths which ensue The Wolverine’s actions.

A great final performance

In Logan, The Wolverine has shifted from being a man with nothing to lose as seen in earlier films, to a man who wants to die. It takes an actor with an understanding and an appreciation of a character, like Hugh Jackman, to successfully affect such a subtle shift. Down to his physicality, The Wolverine is a broken man, shuffling onto the opening scenes, dragging himself against the worries of the world. Although he is older and wearier of violence, The Wolverine’s anger is unbridled once provoked rendering him even deadlier than ever. Director James Mangold, who directed The Wolverine before Logan, understands the character, and is able to present a darker depiction of The Wolverine, injecting enough levity into the plot to stop Logan delving into melodrama.

Professor X is no longer the leader of the X-Men but an ailing and elderly man who has moments of lucidity. Patrick Stewart always fitted the role of Professor X, but in Logan we see two refreshing sides to the character. Professor X alternates between a caring grandfather figure towards the young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen), to a stern and mainly ungrateful father and mentor to The Wolverine. Both Stewart and Jackson had great chemistry together in earlier X-Men films, but Logan’s focus upon the pair adds to the close relationship these characters have, and how ultimately, they need each other.

Dafne Keen, without revealing too much about her character, is the mirror to The Wolverine. Her youth and rage matches The Wolverine’s weariness and age. While watching her character, she repeats many of the mannerisms, and flaws, of a younger Wolverine, and clearly needs his help to accept who she is.

Despite William Boyd, of Narcos fame, delivering a great turn as head villain Donald Pierce, lacing his role with humour and a clear admiration for mutants, it is Stephen Merchant who surprises as mutant Caliban. Merchant’s performance was refreshingly serious, with his comedic quips only adding to a character who I became quickly attached to. I hope Merchant receives more serious roles as a result of Logan, he definitely has the talent to succeed.

Weird West

Logan is a hybrid of dystopian and Western themes which draws from Rian Johnson’s Looper’s setting and themes of family, love and redemption. It is a credit to Mangold and screenwriter Scott Frank that Logan steps onto well used tropes, but remains unique. By straddling the America-Mexico border, the film subtly comments upon temporary America, juxtaposing the desolate but peaceful Mexico borderlands with the aggressive patriotism and debauchery of El Paso, Texas.

Broad landscape panoramas of Mexican plans cut against well scripted fight scenes that flit between steady cam and fixed camera shots. The car chases scenes take inspiration from Mad Max: Fury Road, delivering moments which appear like a choreographed dance. Pitting The Wolverine and Professor X against The Reavers, mechanically enhanced mercenaries, evens the odds. Every encounter with The Reavers is a hard-won fight, as opposed to earlier X-Men films where it was all too obvious which side would succeed.

Verdict

Not since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight has a superhero film felt as grounded in realism, where actions have a cost and the characters are not fantastical, but people trying to better the world, however bleak. If you have the time, go see Logan.

Recommended audience: Comic-book lovers, Marvel Fans and anyone who does not want to see a typical blockbuster film.

Hagood’s review:

I couldn’t think of a better send off for my favorite member of the X-Men. This “final” Wolverine film surpassed Superhero clichés in the best way: intense drama. Deadpool & Guardians of the Galaxy both circumvented such clichés, but did so by mocking or over-exaggerating them. After a string of decent Wolverine movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine & The Wolverine), Logan does more than deliver breathtaking action. It brings intense emotion fueled by complex characters.

The movie starts with a weakened and aged Logan dedicatedly nursing the sick Professor X south of the Mexican border. Neither he nor Professor X have a true purpose in life. Both struggle in their day-to-day lives, but then enters the young and tumultuous mutant, Laura (the debut role of the superb Dafne Keen), who is being hunted by mercenary Donald Pierce (played by rising star, Boyd Holbrook).

Suddenly, these two aging mutants have a purpose to live: Protect the last child of their race.

But the plot goes deeper than “racial” eugenics. It boils down to the fiercest bonds humans share: Family. This is where Logan bests its Marvel and DC brethren. Most gloss over such important bonding elements and instead focus on delivering a massive third-act battle royale, which can be fun, but quickly becomes boring. Logan does both: it packs in several concentrated and extreme battles, but it doesn’t withhold the quiet moments where characters connect.

My only gripe with Logan is that at 2 hours and 17 minutes, it is a bit long. Honestly, I cannot recommend a scene to shorten or cut, so maybe it doesn’t need a cut.

Please, go enjoy this pleasantly deep Marvel film.

Target audience: Teenage males (for the bloody action) and serious movie aficionados

For the trailer follow the link 

Dunkirk (2017) – Teaser

The next movie for one of the all-time-great writer-directors, Christopher Nolan, is Dunkirk. The movie is about a little-known battle that took place in the spring of 1940 in Dunkirk, France. The movie stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and the legend, Kenneth Branagh. The cinematographer attached to the film is Hoyte Van Hoytema, the man behind of the lens of Interstellar, so audiences are in for a visual treat, at the least.

Hagood’s thoughts:

Admittedly, I know little about this particular battle, but I’m seeing it. No questions asked. My favorite actor, Tom Hardy, is in it, and one of my favorite directors is helming it. I have no doubts that it will be amazing. I’m interested to see if Nolan inserts his signature plot-twist at the end of it since this is a major genre change for him. Even though one could argue Nolan doesn’t work in one genre with his diverse catalogue of movies: Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, The PrestigeInception, and the most recent Interstellar. I’ll be most disappointed in you if you don’t go see this film.

Saul’s thoughts:

Hagood’s description of Dunkirk as a ‘little-known battle’ reveals not only how narrative is shaped by so many layers, be it identity, culture or nationality, but the risk Warner Brothers has undertaken in committing to this film.

To me, a British person, Dunkirk did shape our world as the trailer declares in text between cuts of soldiers dying in cold water and scrambling for cover on the shore. By June 1940, Germany had overwhelmed France in a matter of weeks. In the British Army’s retreat, Nazi forces trapped them in Calais. The British troops fought in desperation against German encirclement so that they could escape through Dunkirk. Personally, Dunkirk was something close to Pearl Harbour, a defeat transformed into a victory which imbued the country with a resolve to fight on, becoming the island nation that defied the Nazis alone.

I think that sometimes, people outside of Europe forget how much the continent is shaped by World War Two. New Order and Joy Division take their name from Nazi phraseology, Liverpool still had bombsites from German attacks until the 1990’s. During my first time travelling through Europe, each country I visited bore scars from the war.

To keep this review brief, I think this film is going to be a masterpiece. The trailer alone is an intricate encapsulation of the story, conveying so much emotion through sound and vision. The audio beings with a faint of a Jericho trumpet, attached to German Stuka bombers to intimidate those below, which then builds with a stopwatch counting down until we see British soldiers being mowed down by planes above.

All the major World War Two films set in the Western Front have a morality to them. The Allies are on the side of good and the Germans are the incarnate of evil. Even Saving Private Ryan‘s trailer, a film that deals with the horrors of war, ripples with patriotism and good-will. The Nazis were evil and they needed to be stopped. Therefore it is refreshing to see a film that removes the binary trope of us-vs.-them where the soldiers are not heroes but men, who wanted to survive, and go home, just like Cillian Murphy’s character. In the end if you were on that beach, or any front, you probably were not thinking whether the side facing you were good or bad, but whether you would see tomorrow.