Groundhog Day (USA 1993)

Saturday 2nd February 10:30pm

Phil Connors (Bill Murray): Excuse me, where is everybody going?
Fan on Street: To Gobbler’s Knob. It’s Groundhog Day!

Groundhog Day is a popular annual tradition celebrated in Punxsutawney, western Pennsylvania. Groundhogs hibernate each winter. The superstition is that if the groundhog (Punxsutawney Phil) emerges from his burrow on February 2nd and sees a shadow due to clear weather, he will retreat into his den and winter will persist for six more weeks; and if he does not see his shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

TV weather presenter Phil Connors, news producer Rita Hanson (Andie MacDowell) and camera operator Larry (Chris Elliott) have the task of covering the festivities for a Pittsburgh TV station. In Punxsutawney the Pennsylvania Polka is playing. The weather is extremely cold. And clearly a day in the little town of Punxsutawney is not Phil Connors’ idea of fun.

Phil: This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather.

The film Groundhog Day is a popular romantic comedy set in a an attractive small town that is a character in itself (actual location Woodstock, Illinois).

But there’s a lot more to Director Harold Ramis’s film than that.

I expect you know already, so I’ll risk a spoiler. After all the film is largely responsible for popularising the phrase ‘Groundhog Day’ in the UK.

I expect you know already, so I’ll risk a spoiler: Some events in the film “are or appear to be continually repeated”, trapping Phil in a time loop that no one else is aware of.

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph (Rick Overton): That about sums it up for me.

Some viewers interpret the film according to their own philosophies, creeds and religions, with enthusiasts ranging from Buddhists, fundamentalist Christians, and Nietzschean nihilists, to transcendental yogis and Hasidic Jews. The film is called “Black Hole of Love’ In South Korea. Whether you’re looking for purgatory, reincarnation, mitzvahs, or karma, you will probably find what you seek.

Other fans may see echoes of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief and loss as Phil Connors struggles to come to terms with his situation.

And some of us will simply sit back with our popcorn to enjoy an excellent cast, a snowy festival, and a little food for thought. After all, if you could live forever, if your actions seemed to have no consequences, how would you change yourself over time? Would you live your life well? Could you find anything to make this seemingly never-ending daily routine stop?

Phil: Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again…

This year Groundhog Day will repeat itself at the Hyde Park Picture House on Saturday February 2nd at 10.30pm.


Bill Walton

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Spain 1988

New Year’s Eve Double-Bill
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown & 9 to 5

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

QUESTION:Take an intense world of machismo, voiceovers, red gazpacho,  answering machines, love triangles, Arab terrorists, and a mambo taxi driver who puts Uber to shame. To this vivid background add a vibrant cast of women crazed with love, along with a nosey secretary, a Jehovah’s Witness, two policemen and the telephone repair guy. What do you get?

ANSWER: Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s smart, funny and touching international breakthrough film. A feast of style, colour, and music. ‘Nervous breakdown’ may not be quite the right translation for the Spanish ‘Ataques de nervios’; but look out for dramatic outpourings of negative emotions, bodily gestures occasional falling to the ground, and fainting, often in response to receiving disturbing news or witnessing or participating in an upsetting event. (Thanks, Wikipedia, for the clarification.)

Ana (Ana Leza) : I’m fed up. I’m gonna get myself some quick cash, buy
myself his bike and split. With a bike, who needs a man?
Pepa (Carmen Maura): Learning mechanics is easier than learning male
psychology. You can figure out a bike, but you can never figure out a man.

Almodóvar’s film doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel test for representation of women in fiction, but it comes pretty damn close. (More than two named women ✔︎; who talk to each other ✔︎; about something besides a man – some of the time).

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown takes place mostly in a snazzy Madrid penthouse. Pepa wants to know where her lover Iván (Fernando Guillén) is because she has to tell him something, Over a hectic 48 hours. Pepa, her friend Candela (María Barranco), Iván, Lucia (Julieta Serrano), Carlos (Antonio Banderas), Marisa (Rossy de Palma), and Paulina (Kiti Mánver) gradually figure out their relationships to each other. Spoiler alert: expect the unexpected.

Iván: How many men have you had to forget?
Pepa: As many as the women you remember.

Surely you deserve a bit of fun. On New Year’s Eve at 4pm put the trials and tribulations of 2018 behind you; treat yourselves to a beer or glass of wine from the Picture House kiosk; and prepare for the trials and tribulations (and successes) of 2019, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is being shown as double-bill with 9 to 5 (1980) which features Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda.


Bill Walton

Bill’s Highlights From #LIFF2018

Bill Walton looks back at his highlights of Leeds International Film Festival 2018:

This year I got to 32 screenings, the majority at the Hyde Park Picture House. My choices were nearly all booked in advance from the programme, often with little background knowledge. This can mean missing out on some films that turn out to be very popular, but also means a lot of delightful surprises. Now that the experience has had time to settle, here are the films that stuck in my mind.

Night Train

A lot of my highlights were in the Time Frames section, and were in black and white: Night Train (1959), 12 Angry Men (1957), Odd Man Out (1947), The Docks of New York (1928) with live musical accompaniment, and my festival favourite La Notte (1961) which is just beautiful. I also enjoyed comedies like After Hours (1985) and Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018).

Capernaum

One of the things I like about the Festival is the rare chance to see films made in areas of conflict, often in the face of physical danger and on a financial shoestring. I would highlight Capernaum (2018) set in Beirut, The Journey (2017) set in Baghdad, and The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (2018) set in West and East Jerusalem. They were nicely complemented by the thoughtful documentary What is Democracy? (2018).

Tampopo

Then there were delightful films like The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) – another top film for me -; a very funny Japanese food-based comedy Tampopo (1985); In The Aisles (2018) set in a huge German supermarket; and highly original Belgian animations This Magnificent Cake + Oh Willy (2018).

I avoided headline films like Peterloo (2018) and Suspiria (2018) because I know that I’ll soon be able to catch them when they are released more widely. A big thank you to everyone who made LIFF 2018 possible.

 


Bill Walton

The Blues Brothers

Showing Saturday 24th November 10:30pm


Sister Mary Stigmata (Kathleen Freeman) to the Blues Brothers: “You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so hard for you. It saddens and hurts me that the two young men whom I raised to believe in the Ten Commandments have returned to me as two thieves, with filthy mouths and bad attitudes.
Get out, and don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”

‘Joliet’ Jake Blues (John Belushi): “We’ll put the band back together, do a few gigs, we get some bread. Bang! Five thousand bucks.”

Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd): “We’re on a mission from God”.

The Blues Brothers takes us into the world of Joliet Correctional Center, honky-tonks and sleazy backstreets, the “L” train, shopping malls, the Chicago Cubs, gas stations, Bob’s Country Bunker, the Palace Hotel Ballroom, and Chicago City Hall; a world of music, carnage and mayhem,  not to mention a varied diet of soul food, prawn cocktails, beer, dry white toast, cocaine, and Cheez Whiz.

Theirs is a world populated by nuns, gospel choirs, Holiday Inn resident musicians, Illinois Nazis, Good Ol’ Boys, and jilted sweethearts. The music and dance numbers are fabulous and fun. Get rocking with the Blues Brothers band, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker, amongst others. There’s country and western too (“We got both kinds”).

But Elwood has run up 116 outstanding parking fines and 56 other traffic violations. The authorities are after them. Use of unnecessary violence in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers HAS been approved. But the cops haven’t reckoned with the Bluesmobile (an ex-police Dodge Monaco).

Elwood: Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don’t fail me now.

The car chases involved more than 40 stunt drivers, plus many stunt pedestrians. 103 cars were wrecked during filming (a world record at the time).

Bill with the Bluesmobile in Illinois

So can Jake and Elwood outwit the cops, the SWAT teams, Sherman tanks, helicopters, the Nazis, the mystery woman (Carrie Fisher), and the Good Ol’ Boys and accomplish their mission?

The Lord moves in mysterious ways!

This cult film was made for the big screen. So dig out your trilby fedoras and  Ray-Ban Wayfarers, and get yourself down to the late night screening of The Blues Brothers at 10.30 pm on Saturday November 24th.


Bill Walton

Film Festival Programme 2018

The full programme for the 32nd Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF2018) is out now. The film guide should be available to pick up in the usual places, including the Picture House (an online version doesn’t seem to be available yet). The programme is  on the Leeds Film City website,  a Clashfinder has been put together which is really useful tool to help plan your festival and there’s a Letterboxd list of all the films.

There are more than a hundred films to choose from as well as several programmes of short films and other events. The difficult process of deciding what to see begins and we’d love to hear what you think of the programme and are planning to see; let us know in the comments and we look forward to seeing you in November.

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Showing multiple times from Friday 24th August
Panel Discussion With Leeds Black Film Club & the Racial Justice Network
Sunday 2nd September 5pm

Bill was going to encourage you to go and see BlackkKlansman, but he realised that Spike Lee himself does a much better job in this video:

Blackkklansman is already been called one of the most important films of the year and should provide plenty to talk about so The Picture House is excited to welcome representatives of the Leeds Black Film Club and the Racial Justice Network to participate in a post film discussion after our screening of BlacKkKlansman on Sunday 2nd September. The discussion will be not be limited to the panel and audience members are invited to share thoughts/questions and ideas about topics raised in the film including the relevance of Lee’s 1970s set American drama to contemporary British culture.

If you see the film and want to talk about it before the panel, why not leave a comment below. Or even better why not send us a review and become a contributor to this blog.

Do the Right Thing (1989)

Creatures of the Night, Saturday 18th August 18th 10:30pm

Do The Right Thing

Phew, What a Scorcher!! I’m not talking Leeds 2018. I’m talking 30 years back when blood temperatures matched air temperatures in Brooklyn.

Director Spike Lee takes us into the smells of sweat and garbage on a Sunday in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Here we find the Blacks and Italians, Hispanics and Koreans, living and working together. And the cops and firefighters too. Do the Right Thing was inspired by real incidents in the Baked Apple we also know as New York City.

Mister Senor Love Daddy (Samuel L Jackson): Whoa. Y’all take a chill. You got to cool that shit off. And that’s the double-truth, Ruth.

So get out the cold beers, the ice, the fans, and turn on the fire hydrants. We’ll find the summer heat is taking its toll on everyone. Tempers are rising too.

Boring this movie is not. Analytical it is not. Do the Right Thing is a gripping, funny and stylish drama of Love and Hate, with a wonderful cast (including Spike Lee himself, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Richard Edson, Bill Nunn, Roger Guenveur Smith) and many locals from the area who are not famous names, The film-makers even paid Fruit of Islam to keep away local drug dealers who were worried about this interruption in their trade.

ML (Paul Benjamin): Well, gentlemen, the way I see it, if this hot weather continues, it’s going to melt the polar caps and the whole wide world. And all the parts that ain’t water already will surely be blooded.
Coconut Sid (Frankie Faison): You’re a simple motherfucker. Now where you read that shit, eh? Polar caps…
ML: Don’t worry about it. But when it happens, and I’m in my boat, and your black asses are drowning, don’t call for me to throw you no rope, no lifesaver, or no nothing.
Sweet Dick Willie (Robin Harris): You fool! You’re 30 cents away from having a quarter! Where the fuck you gon’ get a boat?

Spike Lee’s brilliant movie does raise many difficult questions and gives us no easy answers. It’s not just climate breakdown that is so up to date …  Black Lives Matter, boycotts, sexism, reparation, “decolonisation” of cultural images, and other drivers of racial tension are all boiling away in this steamy and complex stew. There’s even a mention of a potential Trump Plaza/pizza empire in Bedford-Stuyvesant! It’s us who need to come up with our own answers.

And it’s not easy when the odds are stacked against you:

Buggin’; Out (Giancarlo Esposito): You the man.
Mookie; (Spike Lee): No you the man.
Buggin’; Out: You the man.
Mookie: No you the man.
Buggin’ Out: No. I’m just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world.

Our movie’s title comes from a Malcolm X quote, “You’ve got to do the right thing.” But what IS the right thing? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argues that violence is never justified under any circumstances; Malcolm X, argues that violence is not violence, but “intelligence” when it is used in self-defence.

And Mister Senor Love Daddy says: My people, my people, what can I say; say what I can. I saw it but didn’t believe it; I didn’t believe what I saw. Are we gonna live together? Together are we gonna live?

It’s all there. Empathy and respect; miscommunication and hate. Public Enemy sings “Fight the Power”. Al Jarreau sings “Never Explain Love”.  And we’re still standing. Even Barack  and Michelle Obama who went to this movie on their first date in 1989.

Da Mayor: Doctor…
Mookie: C’mon, what. What?
Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
Mookie: That’s it?
Da Mayor: That’s it.
Mookie: I got it, I’m gone

So, do the right thing. That’s YOU! No excuses. Get your sorry ass down to the Picture House on August 18th.


Bill Walton

Mario, 2018

Tuesday Wonder – 24th July 6:10pm

It’s apt that Mario is screening in the ‘Tuesday Wonder’ strand at HPPH. Many would find the movie’s theme – gay footballers, and the struggles they face simply to be themselves – to be a source of some amazement, at least in Western Europe where LGBT rights are now seen to be well established. There’s barely a bat of an eyelid these days to learn someone in the public eye is gay in music, entertainment, politics… so why should sport be different? How can professional men’s football across the entire continent not have one single out gay male player?

The director and co-writer of ‘Mario’, Marcel Gisler, was similarly baffled – at first. Admittedly “not a football connoisseur”, the Swiss film-maker was interested to learn of how the competitive, often hyper-masculine environment of a pro team sport like football can be so pressured, to the extent that conformity is everything. To get ahead in a career that can be incredibly lucrative, you need to fit into the team ethic, be easier to manage than other players fighting for your position, and have a potentially tradeable market value. When it comes to personal relationships, the expectation is to have a beautiful girlfriend who in time becomes a wife, or be ‘jack the lad’ and play the field. In terms of sexuality, there’s only one team to represent.

So when professional hopefuls Mario and Leon – team-mates and flatmates at Swiss club Young Boys Berne – unexpectedly fall in love with each other, they set into motion a chain of events they can never fully control – least of all the reactions of friends, family and team-mates. Gisler’s film fizzes with energy in its scenes on the pitch, builds tension and drama off it, and invites empathy towards its two leads – both free to explore their feelings in private through youthful exuberance and a sense of fun, but forbidden to be in love in public due to the traditions of their sport.

When the time comes to make decisions, Mario must choose between his dreams of success, or the prospect of happiness with Leon. It’s a wrench of a dilemma with which to grapple. Little wonder then, that in real life we rarely ever learn of matters of the heart affecting gay or bisexual footballers.

In ‘Mario’, we’re afforded what amounts to a brief glimpse into one of the beautiful game’s longest-running and saddest stories. If football’s really not your cup of tea, don’t worry – there’s more than enough off-field drama to keep you watching. Two of its stars picked up the highest acting accolades available in their native Switzerland and it’s received applause at film festivals worldwide this year. Go along, show support, give ‘Mario’ a cheer – and hope that one day soon, someone in the Premier League or the EFL might show that being gay and being good at football are by no means mutually exclusive.


Jon Holmes (@jonboy79)

Bill’s Films of 2018 (so far)

What with the rain finally arriving, various ball game tournaments coming to an end and school terms drawing to a close, it must be the start of the great British summer. What better time to look back over all the films shown so far this year and pick out our favourites. Over the next few weeks our contributors will be posting their highlights, starting with Bill Walton:

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Human Flow
  • A Fantastic Woman
  • Distant Sky – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen
  • The Shape of Water.
  • The Yorkshire Silent Film Day including Another Fine Mess, The Unknown, and Hamlet

A good list? Feel free to share you feedback and your own highlights of the year so far in the comments below.

Human Flow, 2017

A pay-what-you-can screening Sunday 24th June 2pm

This extraordinary and beautiful documentary is being shown as part of the Hyde Park Picture House contribution to National Refugee Week. ‘Human Flow’ is a deeply human and respectful response to the plight of 65 million people displaced worldwide: a fusion of art, cinema and politics which helps us to develop the empathy and understanding we need when looking for political solutions to the global refugee crisis.

Why is Human Flow so special?

  • Director, Ai Weiwei, himself lived in internal political exile in terrible conditions during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. He later escaped to the United States and then to Germany. Governments tend to think of migration in terms of numbers, of masses of migrants lacking in personal identity. By way of contrast, Ai focuses on intimate portraits of individuals and small groups, introducing us to people with hopes, families, friends, and pets. ‘Human Flow’ takes us into their frightening worlds of border fences and gates, disused railway stations, life jackets and survival blankets, interpreters and mobile phones.
  • We are facing a shifting world order. Displaced people flee the effects of war, poverty, hunger, racism, and climate breakdown which leave them with no hope for their future if they stay. Here are stories of people so desperate that they leave behind their language, homes, habits, friends and communities for life-risking journeys and unknown futures. Ai Weiwei uses technologies ranging from iPhones to drones to take us to 23 countries as far apart as Afghanistan, Greece, Myanmar and Kenya to hear from them directly.
  • Let’s not forget that Ai Weiwei is an artist as well as a human rights activist. His openness and empathy reminds me of performance artist Marina Abramović when she shared a period of silence with each stranger who sat in front of her in the New York Museum of Modern Art for three months (The Artist Is Present, 2010).
  • ‘Human Flow’ is ultimately an expression of solidarity. If someone is hurt, we are all being hurt. That refugee could be my mother, my son, my husband, or my neighbour. We are all citizens of the world. This harrowing global migration is a challenge to our freedom and democracy, for all of us, wherever we live.

Ai Weiwei says that, in the face of global displacement of human populations, resorting to physical borders and walls is like building a dam to stop a flood. It doesn’t solve the issue entirely and may well make matters worse. It is better to make paths which let this human flow continue with as much dignity and respect as possible (for example through implementing policies which match our obligations under international conventions relating to the status of refugees), while at the same time working to tackle the reasons for human displacement at their source.

‘Human Flow’ is screened at 2pm on Sunday June 24th. Entry is pay-as-you feel with proceeds going to support Asylum Seekers in Leeds through Leeds Refugee Forum and Leeds Asylum Seekers Support Network.


Bill Walton