Andy’s Look Back At 2021

Our newest committee member, Andy Smith, takes a look back at another unusual year in cinema.

Before we get to the nitty-gritty let me put some context around where my film preferences lie: Here are some of my favourite films, by which I mean films that I would happily watch over and over again, but not on a loop! (in no particular order): Casablanca (1942), Ex Machina (2014), Leon (1994), Dirty Harry (1971), Farmegeddon (2019), Wall-E (2008). I don’t mind a suspense film but I am not a fan of horror or ‘action’ movies. Although Tenet (2020) was simply brilliant… My wife and I always mark a film out of 10 as we leave the cinema – it has to be our instant impression, given without conferring which we then average and record. More that 8 is very good, less than 2 means we probably walked out if we could without disturbing people. 10s are like hen’s teeth.

The first half of 2021 was spent watching films on-line via a 12 inch laptop or DVDs via a projector on to the sitting room wall trying to replicate “The Experience” of the big screen – we even got ice creams in. It was a poor substitute.

From May we were back in cinemas and managed to rack up 20 films between then and the end of the year. Most of them were excellent – only one was poor. So a good strike rate.

The first film was Nomadland – pretty much a 10/10. What an interesting ‘storyline’ fantastic direction (Chloe Zhao), great characters (Frances McDormand, David Strathairn and members of the nomad community), cinematography (Joshua James Reynolds) and social comment.

Frances Mcdormand in Nomadland

Looking down my list the other high scorers are:

  • Sound of Metal – Riz Ahmed was outstanding as a person coming to terms with his enforced change of life.
  • Respect – the biopic of Aretha Franklin
  • The Harder They Fall
  • West Side Story

One film that I was surprised I hadn’t given higher marks was Judas and the Black Messiah – it really was a good film and one which I would happily see again.

I also managed to catch the first half of the digitally remastered Metropolis (1927) complete with string quartet accompaniment at the Harrogate Odeon. What an epic film with so many iconic images. Sadly I wasn’t able to stay for the second half as I had to be up in the small hours of the next morning to go to work.

Several films made me realise how much society had moved on from the 1960s but then I’d read the news and realise that in so many ways we had really not come very far at all. Social divisions, institutional prejudices, corruption and abuse of power are still very much part of our time. Bizarrely, the last film I saw in 2021 was Don’t Look Up which shines a satirical light on the last three of those. It had some laugh out loud moments but might not have been the cheeriest film to end the year on…

 In addition to the films mentioned above here are a few other favourites (and one that didn’t work for me):

  • Most emotional film: Supernova
  • Special mentions:
    • The French Dispatch
    • The Power of the Dog
    • Passing
  • Biggest disappointment: His Name is Greenflake – this was a really interesting story but for some reason just failed to gel with me.

I’m looking forward to 2022 especially the second half of the year when we should be back at the Picture House


Andy Smith

Review: The Man Who Invented Christmas

Tara (Charles Dickens’ servant, played by Anna Murphy): Is Tiny Tim dead?
Scrooge: Well, of course he is, imbecile.
Charles Dickens: He was very ill.
Scrooge: You can’t save every child in London.
Charles Dickens: And the family has no money for a doctor.
Tara: Then Scrooge must save him!
Scrooge: ME?
Charles Dickens: He wouldn’t…
Tara: WHY?
Charles Dickens: Well, he’s too selfish.
Tara: He can change, there’s good in him, somewhere. I know it.
Scrooge: People don’t change.
Charles Dickens: He’s been this way, for a long time. I’m not sure he can change.
Tara: Of course he can, he’s not a monster.
Scrooge: I thought this was a ghost story, not a fairy tale.

Forty people joined us for the Friends’ screening of the 2017 film The Man Who Invented Christmas. It tells the story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) wrote and published “A Christmas Carol” during a frantic six weeks in the run up to Christmas 1843. Many thanks to Wendy the Picture House manager and her team for making the arrangements.

It is easy to underestimate the challenge of writing and publishing a book (or making a film for that matter) to a very tight deadline with a very limited budget. Dickens had written Oliver Twist in 1838 but that had been followed by three unsuccessful books. He often had writer’s block, was heavily in debt, and had a large family to support. He could easily have ended up in a debtors’ prison as his father did. Despite this A Christmas Carol became one of the best selling books of all time and went on to influence the way Christmas is celebrated across the world.

This film is not a documentary but does draw upon Dickens’ life experiences, including the ridicule he faced as a child while forced to work in a blacking (metal polish) factory. It’s worth watching for the locations, costumes and the photography, and especially for its portrayal of Dickens’ interactions with the characters which highlights the creative struggle at the moral core of the book, And I enjoyed spotting Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Miriam Margolyes, Miles Jupp and Simon Callow among the cast.

However. the film treats lightly the deep flaws in Dickens’ personality, including his recklessness and instability and his ill treatment of his wife. In my view the film is a very interesting “one-watch” but too sentimental to become a regular feature of Christmas screenings,

Agree/disagree? We welcome your comments or reviews below.


Bill Walton

Bill’s Festival Highlights

Another good year! Special thanks to the Leeds International Film Festival 2021 team for screening an impressive selection of films despite Covid and the non availability of the Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall this year.

I watched a total of 8 films

Dear Future Children (2021). Very powerful interviews with young women activists facing huge personal risks in Hong Kong, Santiago and an Ugandan village, plus Q&A with the director.

The Ants and the Grasshopper (2021) following two Malawian women who share experiences of climate change with people from a wide variety of backgrounds in the USA. Great to have this screened while the COP26 Climate Conference was being held in Glasgow. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (2021), with interviews with some key American women and men artists. The documentary shows how they adapted from underground comics in the late 60s, to supporting people through the AIDS epidemic, leading on to graphic novels and a Broadway show. (Available on LeedsFilmPlayer until Thursday)

Seven Samurai (1954). Great to see on the big screen. Actors were really tough in those days!

Paris, 13th District (2021). Some interesting insights into life in the eight tower blocks of Les Olympiades.

Medusa (2021). A Brazilian feminist horror film. Despite an interesting soundtrack and colour design I struggled to follow the plot in this one.

Compartment No. 6 (2021). A great film showing the common humanity shared between a female Finnish archaeology student and a male Russian mineworker on a long train journey to Murmansk.

The Hand of God (2021). The first half is the hugely entertaining story of a gathering of an extended Italian family, followed by the story of how this and other life experiences have influenced the director’s (Paolo Sorrentino’s) work.

This is but a small taste of the huge range of films on offer. Once again it shows the importance of International Film Festivals in building the  global understanding that we so urgently need.


Bill Walton

Leeds International Film Festival 2021

It’s that time of year again and #LIFF2021 is heading back into venues and also making lots of films available to watch online. Earlier this week committee members Bill Walton and Andy Smith attended the launch of the festival and share their first impressions.

For me one of the delights of the Leeds International Film Festival has been settling into the comfy seats of the Hyde Park Picture House, and watching several films in a row. A pleasure deferred until November next year…

This year we had the usual LIFF launch, with a breathless back to back screening of many short trailers for 55 minutes. This approach does give an impression of the variety of films on offer but is not ideal for decision-making. However I came away with a few clues:

But this is just scratching the surface. I haven’t had time yet to delve into the printed programme yet, so these impressions are very much subject to change. I suggest that you have a look for yourself!

Bill Walton

I always look forward to the LIFF preview so after missing last year it was with a sense of anticipation that I went along to the Vue on Wednesday especially as the venue was bragging about their new seats….I could have happily watched more trailers [and you now can – see below] but was glad that the screening was only 55 minutes as I could not have slouched in those seats for any longer despite having fiddled with the adjustment throughout, there was not a comfortable setting for a back now in its 7th decade….

It was a whirlwind of trailers….

I picked out the same ones as Bill plus:

Our task is now to go through the brochure and working out which films and venues align with work and other commitments with the backstop of the Leeds Film Player [the clashfinder can help with this]

Andy Smith


The festival guides are available from Vue Leeds in The Light, Leeds Town Hall now and more sites around Leeds and Yorkshire soon. For a guide in the post, email your details to leeds.film@leeds.gov.uk.

A PDF version is available online and tickets and passes are on sale now.

A number of festival fans have also put together some things that may help you plan your festival.

  • Clashfinder – see what films are on at the same time, highlight your choices, export to your calendars
  • The Films of #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd list of most of the films showing at the festival
  • Online films at #LIFF2021 – a Letterboxd lists of most of the films available on the Leeds Film Player during the festival
  • LIFF2021 Trailers – a YouTube playlist of 80+ trailers for films at the festival

Review: Censor (2021)

 Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo credit: Maria Lax. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Censor is Prano Bailey-Bond’s spine chilling debut feature. Set in the mid 80s against the backdrop of social unrest, Thatcherism and the rise of the video nasties. We follow Enid Baines (Niamh Algar) who is a film censor. She lives a nocturnal existence watching a plethora of gore and sin in the films she is charged with watching. One day she views a film that reminds her of a tragedy from her childhood. Triggered by this, she sets out on a journey in which her fiction and reality gets blurred.

The dark and depressive world that Bailey-Bond creates is heightened by Cinematographer Annika Summerson whose hellish visuals adds an expressionistic touch. It is notable that she uses 35mm which echoes the ambience of this bygone era.

The script which Bailey-Bond co-wrote with Anthony Fletcher, is razor sharp, with one scene in particular of suitably over the top gore mirroring the video nasties themselves. However amongst the blood shed there’s occasional moments of truly dark humour. The acting is chilling with Michael Smiley delivering a cool and calculated performance as sleazy film producer Doug Smart. However, the stand out is Niamh Algar who is magnetic on screen. Enid’s character’s arch is one of the film’s takeaways and Niamh plays her unravelling superbly.

The main criticism I have of the film is it’s running time. Although admittedly most horror films tend to be under two hours, you can’t help but feel a little cheated with a running time of one hour and twenty four minutes. You are left with a sense of events being rushed over and plot points not fully explained to get to the deliciously cynical Lynchian style ending.

Sam Judd

Censor is available as a premium rental (£10) from most online platforms including BFIPlayer and Curzon Home Cinema

Thank you to Ian Sanderson

With regret the Committee has accepted the resignation of Ian Sanderson, first as Secretary and then as a Committee Member and Trustee. Ian has had health problems and a long programme of treatment. This seems to be coming to a conclusion and we hope Ian will continue healthy and we shall see him at Picture House events and at the Picture House itself when it reopens.

Since the sad death of Peter Chandley Ian has been the longest serving member of the Committee of the Friends. He joined in 1996 when the Friends was relaunched with a Constitution and an elected Committee. Ian was soon elected Chairman and he continued in that post until 2008 when Peter became Chairman and Ian became Secretary.

1996 was the year when the Friends were campaigning for the support of the Council for the Picture House to be extended; a campaign that led to the incorporation of the Picture House in the Grand Theatre & Opera House Trust, [now Leeds Theatres Heritage Trust]. It is that support that has been crucial in the continuing survival of the Picture House up until the current development programme.

Ian was one of the active Committee members in the 1990s when the Friends had a regular Film Club at the Picture House. And he also chaired or supervised meetings and events organised by the Friends: for a time Committee Meetings were held in the basement of the Picture House: a setting suitable for a noir drama. The Annual General Meetings in the mid-1990s were held at the nearby Cardigan Centre. And there were social activities at local public houses; such as The Cardigan Arms. There was also the regular ‘Hyde & Seek’; the then version of a newsletter for the members of the Friends. In a late issue 1997 Ian was writing to Friends, then 200 members.


“Firstly, many thanks to all of you who took the time and trouble to return your completed questionnaires which have been read by the Friends and the cinema management.”

There were comments on the Newsletter; the Picture House programming: and technical issues. This was the point at which the Picture House was able to install Dolby Stereo sound system and [happily] just about all the screenings were in 35mm.

Since the turn of the century Annual General Meetings have been held at the Picture House. And Ian, first as Chairperson then as Secretary, had an important role in these. Along with the Committee Members and the Cinema Manager he organised the three annual Friends’ screening events at the Picture House. And, among other responsibilities, he had to maintain the relations with the Charity Commission.

So Ian has made an important and long-time commitment to the Friends and to the Hyde Park Picture House. The Committee wishes to record on behalf of the membership our appreciation of all his work.

The Father

Showing daily at City Varieties from Friday 18th June

UK poster for The Father featuring Olivia Coleman and Anthony Hopkins

Film has power, film can put you in the shoes of someone else and will make you see the world through their eyes. Florian Zeller’s The Father is an excellent example of this. The film centres on Anthony, played by Anthony Hopkins, who is dealing with his ever deteriorating mind and his descent into dementia. We see the strain it puts on his relationships, particularly the relationship with his daughter Anne, played by Olivia Colman.

Florian Zeller who adapted it from his own play Le Père, beautifully walks the line between both the tragedy and heartbreak that comes with dementia, and the rare comedy that also can be found in those sad situations. If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can?

The story is told almost entirely from Anthony’s perspective, meaning that the audience is confused nearly as much as him for the majority of the film. Although it is intentional and gives a glimpse into his world, at points the non-linear approach can feel overly abstract and detracts from the overall message.

The acting is superb with Anthony Hopkins deservingly walking away with the Oscar, making him the oldest winner for best leading actor. However, it is worth mentioning Olivia Colman who delivers a measured and understated performance as the loyal and grief-stricken Anne who we see trying to balance her own needs and her father’s. The supporting cast members such as Mark Gatiss, Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell also give equally rich performances.

The artificial style does betray its conception in the theatre which sometimes makes it feel quite unapproachable, and unreal. However, it does at other points add an operatic nature and poignancy which you won’t necessarily get if it was more true to life.

Quite rarely do you see a film that deals with subject matter such as this, that takes such an experimental approach. However, what’s noteworthy is the incredible insight into what dementia patients must be going through. It is something quite unique and will make you think twice.

Sam Judd

Films at Heart

Bill Walton has been checking out some of the films at the Headingley Enterprise and Arts centre.

During Lockdown I’ve watched a lot of films on the small screen (though I draw the line at watching on a phone!), mostly on DVD or streamed from MUBI. But recently I’ve ventured out to events screened at the Heart centre in Headingley … a big screen, indoors, socially distanced, friendly, with flexible seating, refreshments and a friendly welcome.

First was Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950). This was a tasty Food and Film evening. I hadn’t seen Rashomon before but it lived up to its reputation. The term “Rashomon Effect” has become a byword for situations which demonstrate relative truth and subjectivity of memory. In the film we have conflicting accounts by a woodcutter, a thief, a woman and the spirit of her husband about a violent incident in the forest. Flashbacks highlight the disagreements. What particularly surprised me was the vitality of the cast. Definitely worth more than one watch.

My second visit to Heart was to see Purple Rain (1984) which was arranged by a Prince enthusiast. The soundtrack produced 4 top 40 hits. The rock musical drama draws to some extent on Prince’s early difficult childhood and backstage life at the legendary First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis. Certainly a charismatic performance.

I’ve already booked for the next Heart Food and Film event on June 18th: a celebration of Mexico with fabulous food and Ariel Award winning film – THE GOLDEN DREAM.

Heart Food & Film Present: Mexican Food and Language Film - The Golden Dream 18 June 2021

Three teenagers, Juan, Sara and Samuel from the slums of Guatemala, travelling together on freight trains and walking railroad tracks through Mexico, meet Chauk from Chiapas who doesn’t speak Spanish. Together they face a journey that will change their lives forever.

For more information and tickets visit the HEART website

The Picture House’s own family friendly Hyde & Seek screenings will be starting again at Heart later this month. These screenings are ‘Pay What You Can’, which means you’re free to pay as much or as little as you can afford but must be booked in advanced via the Picture House website.

The first film is the Disney animated Robin Hood (1973) on Saturday 26th June at 10:30am.

You know, there’s been a heap of legends and tall tales about Robin Hood. All different too. Well, we folks of the animal kingdom have our own version. It’s the story of what really happened in Sherwood Forest

Alan-A-Dale


Bring your family along on the 26th to find out for yourselves.

Movie Nights At City Varieties

“Please watch our movie on the largest screen possible and one day very, very soon, take everyone you know into a theater, shoulder to shoulder in that dark space and watch every film that’s represented here tonight.

Frances McDormand accepting the Best Picture Academy Award for Nomadland

With cinemas reopening the On The Road screenings are starting again with Movie Nights At City Varieties Music Hall. This week it’s Nomadland and Ammonite with Sound Of Metal, Minari and Wolfwalkers all coming up. These are all films that will really benefit from seeing (and hearing) on a big screen.

On Wednesday 19th there is also a “one night only” chance to see Pedro Almodóvar’s new 30 minute film The Human Voice starring Tilda Swinton and made last year under lockdown conditions. The screening will be followed by a recorded Q&A with Mark Kermode talking to Almodóvar and Swinton.

For ticket and safety information please see the Hyde Park Picture House website

The Future Of The Friends – Open Meeting Monday 29th March

On Monday 29th March at 7pm we will be holding an open meeting online to explore and take forward ideas and proposals for developing the work of the Friends. This meeting is open to current members, past members and others in any way connected
to, or interested in, the Cinema and its contribution to community life.

There will be a brief introduction on progress so far including the main areas of work that we have identified: Social Activities, Online Activities, Outreach, Heritage and Study Groups.

There will be opportunity to discuss these areas and any other ideas that come up. We’ll also be inviting people to get more involved if they think they can help in a particular area.

For more details please see our Open Meetings page. If you are interested in attending please complete the RSVP form so we can send you the Zoom meeting details.