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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #9!

The new Scannain podcast covers a sad week for Irish film, one marked by the sudden (and largely unexpected) closure of Filmbase and Film Ireland on Wednesday.

That takes up the bulk of the discussion, along with the usual conversations about the top ten at Irish cinemas and the new releases coming out this bank holiday weekend. Thrilled to join Niall Murphy, Jason Coyle, Ronan Doyle and Grace Duffy to discuss all things film related.

Check it out here, or give it a listen below.



Form a Square For That Purpose: Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” and the Illusion of Civility

In some respects, Barry Lyndon is seen as an outlier in Stanley Kubrick’s filmography.

The film is a lush and extended period drama, adapted from a nineteenth century novel set in the eighteenth century. It arrives in the middle of an acclaimed run of films from director Stanley Kubrick: Doctor Strangelove; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. By all appearances, Barry Lyndon stands apart from these films. “Period piece” is obviously a film genre unto itself, but it is not as heightened as the bigger and bolder films around it.

Arresting imagery.

Barry Lyndon is arguably Kubrick’s only “period film” outside of Spartacus, which the director famously disowned and is arguably seen as a film more overtly influenced by its leading man than its director. Of course, some of Kubrick’s films move backwards and forwards in time; Full Metal Jacket takes place in the late sixties, while the prologue to 2001: A Space Odyssey is set at “the dawn of man.” Nevertheless, for many casual film fans approaching Barry Lyndon, the film’s period trapping stands out from the surrounding films, which are largely set near the present and into the future.

Indeed, it could be argued that this difficulty that casual observers have in positioning Barry Lyndon within the Kubrickian canon accounts for some of the controversy around the film’s place in the director’s larger filmography. Upon release, the film was largely met with confusion and disinterest, critics often struggling with what to make of the finished product. For his part, Kubrick dismissed the idea of critics forming a consensus on a film like Barry Lyndon after just one viewing.

Initial audiences weren’t enamored with the film.

Of course, this is arguably par for the course with Kubrick films, particularly those towards the end of his career. Many Kubrick films opened to a divided critical opinion before slowly solidifying their popular reputations over time; 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining. However, Barry Lyndon seems to be a special case. Debate was still raging over the critical merits of the film after Kubrick’s death, even in letter columns of newspapers like The New York Times. Even the release of remastered editions forty years later find proponents arguing the film is undervalued or underrated.

However, watching Barry Lyndon, the film never really feels like an outlier in terms of Kubrick’s filmography. Indeed, in some respects, it feels like a culmination of many of the director’s recurring themes and fascination. Barry Lyndon is perhaps the clearest articulation of some of the key themes within Stanley Kubrick’s larger body of work, in particular through its engagement with the Enlightenment as a window through which he might explore the human concept of “civilisation.”

Drawing to a close.

Repeatedly over the course of his filmography, Kubrick engages with the idea of civilisation and order, the structures that mankind imposes upon the world in order to provide a sense of reason or logic to a chaotic universe. Repeatedly in his movies, Kubrick suggests that “civilisation” is really just a veneer that masks the reality of the human condition, providing a framework for acts of violence and self-destruction that seem hardwired into the human brain. Kubrick suggests that “civilisation” is a fragile construct, and one that occasionally seems hostile to the nature of those who inhabit it.

Unfolding against the rigid social mores of the eighteenth century, Barry Lyndon allows Kubrick to construct the starkest and most literal example of that theme.

Soldiering on.

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Non-Review Review: Damo & Ivor – The Movie

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

In the spirit of The Hardy Bucks Movie before it, Damo & Ivor: The Movie takes a popular Irish television series and weds it to the formula of the road movie to provide a theatrical adaptation.

This is not a bad approach in principle. The road movie is a versatile template, and one that provides a solid template for bringing television characters to the big screen; it provides a clear plot, an opportunity for new viewers to get to know the characters, and the chance to show off a greatly expanded budget. It is no coincidence that even larger American television-to-cinema adaptations have followed this approach, most notably The Muppet Movie.

Indeed, The Hardy Bucks Movie took advantage of the opportunities afforded by this template to take its characters beyond Ireland, allowing them to visit the continent. This was something that would have been impossible on the budget of an Irish television show, and demonstrated an ambition in taking a broad and popular television comedy to the multiplex. In contrast, Damo & Ivor is decidedly more tempered in its ambitions. It is a road movie, but one the confines itself to Ireland. There is little here that could not have been accomplished in a television special.

This much sets the tone for Damo & Ivor: The Movie, which very much aspires to a “good enough” aesthetic in its production. Damo & Ivor is not a film that is enticed to take chances on jumping to the multiplex, instead relaxing casually into formula. Damo & Ivor doesn’t exactly fail, but only because it never really tries.

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Non-Review Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider is an excavation of a video game classic.

Tomb Raider gets a lot right in terms of pitching itself as an action-driven blockbuster, certainly enough to elevate it above recent computer-screen-to-cinema-screen efforts like Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft. Tomb Raider has a solid action director in Roar Uthaug and a charismatic lead in Alicia Vikander, while understanding that the premise of the movie rests within its title. Tomb Raider is a movie about raiding tombs, and even the somewhat strained opening act is very striving towards that objective.

“Okay, where’s this tomb I need to raid?”

At the same time, Tomb Raider suffers from the problem that haunts so many video game adaptations, which is a complete misunderstanding of the mechanics and appeal of the medium. The appeal of video games is one of immersion. It is one of actually doing something (almost) firsthand; solving puzzles, making decisions, timing your reflexes just right. These are aspects of gaming that are very difficult to emulate on the big screen, but it seems like the best video game movies understand that the possible appeal of video games is in watching that doing.

Instead, like Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft before it, Tomb Raider makes the mistake of assuming that the audience’s investment in video game world-building extends beyond their direct engagement with it. Tomb Raider too often feels like a video game movie that believes the appeal of playing video games is to watch the in-game cut scenes.

“No, but seriously… tomb?”

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Non-Review Review: Kissing Candice

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Kissing Candice is a vivid and confident theatrical debut. If only that confidence were in any way earned.

Kissing Candice is clumsy, indulgent, over-signified and convinced of its own profundity.

Talk about your red lights.

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Non-Review Review: A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is messy and unfocused, but also beautiful and wonderful.

It is wonderful in a very literal sense. A Wrinkle in Time is best enjoyed with a sense of childlike wonder, allowing the succession of beautiful and striking images wash over the audience. Director Ava DuVernay strives for a childlike sense of wonder, adopting a very heightened and exaggerated aesthetic. A Wrinkle in Time is filled with impossible and uncanny images that seem to have sprung from a rich and vivid imagination. This sense sense of wonder often has little to do with momentum, DuVernay finding a way to make actors standing in field of wheat seem enchanting.

Here comes the science.

However, A Wrinkle in Time suffers a little bit when it tries to force these images to cohere into a singular linear narrative. The plot of A Wrinkle in Time is an archetypal children’s adventure story, about a group of children crossing impossible distances and facing impossible odds in order to reunite a broken family. However, A Wrinkle in Time follows the familiar beats and rhythms without ever suggesting a central thesis or point. The issue is not that A Wrinkle in Time is a family film without ideas. It often feels like A Wrinkle in Time has too many ideas.

A Wrinkle in Time works better from moment to moment than it does as a single story. At is best, A Wrinkle in Time feels like an album of striking and evocative images paired with clever and provocative themes. However, these elements never quite line up as smoothly as they should.

It all balances out.

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69. Hotel Rwanda (#190)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda.

Paul Rusesabagina is a manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, who finds himself in the midst of the Rwandan Genocide of April 1994. With no outside aid, and with no other option, Paul sets about trying to protect the Tutsi refugees who have found shelter in the hotel from the Hutu militia amassed outside.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 190th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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