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IT’s Mourning in America: Modern Cinema’s End of the Eighties…

IT and Atomic Blonde touch on an intriguing (and renewed) interest in the end of the eighties.

There are a number of other examples scattered across contemporary pop culture. Halt and Catch Fire recently jumped several years in the gap between its penultimate and final seasons, straddling the end of the eighties and exploring the existential chaos of the early nineties. Mindhorn finds its central character unable to escape the shadow of a beloved cult television show that was retired in 1989, his fame ending with that decade. Although the true story that inspired it unfolded in the mid-nineties, Gold is set in the late eighties.

Part of this undoubtedly simple nostalgia. After all, the current generation of cinema audiences most likely came of age in the late eighties and grew in the nineties. This explains the wave of eighties and nineties nostalgia sweeping through popular culture, from the relaunches of shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files to belated sequels like Independence Day: Resurgence and Jurassic World. People tend to be nostalgic towards their own childhoods, and this explains the pull of pop art like Stranger Things to modern audiences.

At the same time, it is interesting to wonder whether there is something deeper at work in all of this, if this very focused fascination with the end of the eighties is in some way intended as a commentary or reflection on the contemporary world, whether these films are trying to make sense of the modern climate through the framework of the transition from the late eighties into the nineties.

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Non-Review Review: Red Riding – The Year of Our Lord 1974

This is the North. We do what we want.

– Craven explains how things work to Eddie

Red Riding is certainly an ambitious effort. David Peace wrote four books exploring violence and corruption in Yorkshire, centring around the morbid history of brutality in the North. Occupying a strange ethereal realm between fact and fiction, sometimes those crimes are fictionalised, but sometimes real murders and murderers intersect. The child murders of this first instalment, Red Riding: 1974, evoke the infamous Moors murders in Manchester during the sixties, while the arrest of an innocent party calls to mind the case of Stefan Kiszko. Adapting the series of four books into a trilogy of films, Red Ridingmakes for a fascinating – if gloomy – exploration of the darker pages in the region’s cultural history.

He’s gone far (Gar)field…

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Playhouse Presents: Nixon’s The One (Review)

I can’t help but feel just a little bit disappointed by Nixon’s the One. Sky Arts have been producing a series of television plays as part of Playhouse Presents bringing together a wealth of talent including Emma Thompson, Richard E. Grant, Tom Jones, David Tennant, John Hurt, Stellan Skarsgård, Stephen Fry and Olivia Williams among others. Nixon’s the One, the third in the series of ten plays, caught my eye because it was a re-enactment of various exerts from Nixon’s infamous White House tapes, brought to life by a talented cast. While the approach is fascinating and Harry Shearer makes a convincing Nixon beneath far too much make-up, the play is simply too short to capture any real portrait of America’s most controversial President. It drops some interesting insights, but doesn’t have enough room to expand or develop them beyond what we already knew of Nixon.

Just dossier-ing around…

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For Freedom! The Politics of Transformers 3…

This is part of the “Morality Bites” blogathon being hosted by the always awesome Ronan over at filmplicity and Julian at dirtywithclass. It is, as ever, a joy to be asked to take part.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to tackle politics (or any thorny issue) in cinema. Documentaries are the obvious exception, but very few people go into a major motion picture (or even an indie one) expecting a personal diatribe of the creator’s controversial political opinions construed as absolute fact. It’s often more interesting to hear a rant in spoken form rather than structured into three acts at well over an hour with awkward plotting and characterisation designed to outline a particular world view. Don’t get me wrong, many great film makers have used their films as clever points of interest on a particular topic, but those that succeed often do so through clever construction, honest analyse and a decent amount of subtlety. However, such an approach is far too rare in Hollywood, as I thought to myself emerging from Michael Bay’s Transformers 3. I’d made my piece with the fact I was attending a two-and-a-half hour toy commercial, but I didn’t expect it to be a two-and-a-half-hour toy commercial delivered as a declaration on American foreign policy.

Transformers: Politics in Disguise...

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