Isle of Dogs: A Dog-friendly screening 

A dog-friendly screening? Hmm … part of the Cinema’s relentless efforts to build new audiences. What could possibly go wrong? And who could resist writing a review peppered with references to Dog Day Afternoon (1976), K-9 (1989) and Lady and the Tramp (1955)? So, here are my notes:

The Picture House: Auditorium lights on low during the film, film subtitled. Dog blankets and (shh!) treats provided.

The audience: diverse and generally well behaved. A few barks here and there but, as I remarked to Jack (Russell), at least I didn’t see any dogs checking for messages on their phones while the film was running. Certainly popular. Both dog-friendly screenings have been sold out.

The film: The Isle of Dogs was a great choice. Beautiful stop-motion animation and a simple story. Despite it being set in Japan I didn’t notice any Hokkaidos or Kai Kens in the audience.

This screening was a credit to everyone, canine and human: director Wes Anderson and the excellent voice cast; with  special mention for the staff and volunteers at the Hyde Park Picture House; and of course the support of Dogs Trust.

We are promised more dog-friendly films at the Picture House. What next? Watership Down (1978), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), or the wonderful Kedi (2016) about the street cats of Istanbul?

Tibbs, the cat who once took up residence in the Picture House foyer, must be turning in their grave.


Bill Walton

Hairspray, USA 1988

Showing Saturday 31st March 11pm

Maybe you are too young to remember the ‘60s.
And if you remember the ‘60s, you really weren’t there!!
Now, who first said that … was it Timothy Leary, Pete Townshend, Grace
Slick, Robin Williams or someone else? … well, whoever it was, this
great John Waters movie is your gateway to early ‘60s Baltimore.

Hairspray reveals a world of big hair, plus-size models, the Corny Collins
teenager dance show (with its “Negro Day” on the last Thursday of every
month), Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” and, of course, exuberant dances like
The Twist, The Mashed Potato, and The Watusi.

Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs (Ruth Brown): No matter what you’ve
heard, we are gonna teach the white children how to do The Bird!

Despite the upbeat music, all is not well in Maryland. Racism is an ever-
present reality. Life is certainly a bit of a challenge for some of the
parents like Edna and Wilbur Turnblad (Divine and Jerry Stiller), and
Velma and Franklin Tussle (Debbie Harry and Sonny Bono). And it’s not
just the dancing. Listen up …

Amber Von Tussle, Franklin von Tussle: Segregation today. Segregation
tomorrow. Segregation forever!

But the times, they are a changin’. Something’s blowin’ in the wind.
Iggy (Josh Charles): Would you swim in an integrated swimming pool?

Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake): I sure would, Iggy. I’m a modern kind of girl,
I’m all for integration.

It’s subversive. It’s gleeful. It’s bawdy. And the issues raised by
Hairspray remain very relevant today. Be there or be square!

As delightful Tracy Turnblad exclaims: Let’s dance!


Bill Walton

Aliens: Ripley’s Back Believe It or Not

sigourney-weaver-as-ripley-in-james-camerons-aliens
Released in 1986, the xenomorph returned to the silver screen under the vision of budding Canadian Director James Cameron, who got his start with Piranha II: The Spawning (seriously look it up).

Cameron’s incarnation of the Alien universe is different to the atmospheric space horror that Ridley Scott brought to life, bursting through some poor souls chest and into our collective consciousness. Cameron made Alien into an action-movie. That’s not a bad thing.

We return to Ripley (played by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver), who has been floating around in statis for 57 years. She’s rescued and unfortunately, no one really believes her stories of aliens and blowing up ships for legitimate reasons. The audience can really join in with the Socratic irony of the this, the enraging knowledge that THERE’S ALIENS and no one really believes her. Oh how wrong they were.

Ripley, along with a rag-tag group of marines, is sent to investigate a colony that has gone erily silent. This is where elements of Cameron’s Aliens take hold, where horror shifts gracefully (or not so) into action. Ships, guns and plenty of flame throwers make this ride into the Aliens universe intense in a whole other way, and the ending….oh boy.

Cameron isn’t just explosions and one-liners, he continues to explore the themes set out by Scott in the previous film. Ripley’s distrust of androids and the uncanny valley that comes with that territory is explored further with her interactions with Bishop (Lance Henriksen), a staple of science fiction, with good reason.

The extent of mega corporations power in the future, the ineptitude of those in power, survival and the horrors of things we do not know. Aliens is favourite amongst science fiction fans, because it explores these themes, and at the same time…it’s an adventure.

Ellen Ripley, is the real star of this, not the xenomorph (sorry Giger). Ripley is possibly the start of a long line of amazon-heroines. Sarah Connor, Xena, Buffy…the list goes on. But Ripley was at the forefront, and Weaver’s performance in this well rounded/written character cements her as an icon. This stock character is a firm favourite of mine, and Ellen’s true grit ensures no acid-spitting alien is going to take her down.

Please watch this film. It’s essential.

Stand out performance: Carrie Henn as Newt.

If you like this you should also watch;

  • Starship Troopers
  • Piranha II: The Spawning
  • Event Horizon

Henry Stocks-Fryer

The Creature From the Black Lagoon: A Fishman Out of Water Story

Creatures of the Night: Saturday 24th February 10.30 PM

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The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the title is typical of the science fiction films of the  1950s, especially, Jack Arnold, director of this motion picture. The title does exactly what it says on the tin. Same with Jack Arnold’s other films (which I encourage our readers to see), The Incredible Shrinking Man (one of his best), Tarantula and It Came From Outer Space.

Originally filmed in 3D (a fad which went away eventually…), Arnold takes the audience on a trip deep into the Amazon. The suspense of the piece is carried on masterfully by the director, the constant looming presence of the creature is felt, Jaws before Jaws.

The exploration of evolution, and of the future is a theme in this film. Constant references to the world of tomorrow, and how science can help humanity advance, its pro-science leading man and woman, help cement it as a film ahead of its time. Gil-Man, the creature, is not the only star player in this piece, Richard Carlson alongside the beautiful Julie Adams, bring a classic Hollywood charm to the film.  Carlson’s character (David) is a forward thinking sort, at conflict with his less noble intentioned coworkers. Julie Adams performance as Kay as one to watch out for, playing the girlfriend and coworker of David. A character in her own right (instead of the atypical damsel in distress), bringing a refreshing change to the two dimensional female leads of B-movies. Of course it is not all about scientific discovery, as we see Gil-Man become infatuated with Kay, and his various attempts to carry her off to his lagoon lair bring further drama to this tense film.

We can see that Jack Arnold wanted to portray David and Kay as the future, of what society and people should be striving towards. They are still imperfect, but they are getting there).

Future meets ancient past as the intrepid science team stumbles into the black lagoon, disturbing the Gil-Man, and prompting him into action against these intruders. There are no true bad guys in this film, which makes it all the more well rounded. There’s no cartoonish villain twirling a comic moustache. Gil-Man might be a tragic monster, more akin to Frankenstein’s Monster than Dracula. Although he is not a monster of human creation, merely left behind by evolution….

This is one of my favourite monster-horror films, and was the start of the 50’s sci fi film binge (recommended list below). The atmosphere, the well rounded characters, the action and of course, the design of the monster it(him?)self all come together to create an iconic piece of cinema.

Come join us at the Hyde Park Picture House, Saturday 24th February 10.30pm. Popcorn is essential.

Further viewing, if classic sci-fi is your thing, check out the following;

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Forbidden Planet
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • Attack of the 50 foot Woman. (so bad it’s good)

Henry Stocks-Fryer

An Update on The Picture House Project

Last Saturday there was a session to bring people up to date with the latest developments on The Picture House Project. Bill Walton went along to find out what’s been happening so far…

About forty people turned up to hear the exciting, latest refurbishment plans and to contribute their ideas.

Wendy Cook (the cinema’s general manager) set out the complexity of bringing together so many interests such as our current audiences, the wider community, film makers, funders and partner organisations, plus paid staff and volunteers. Further the project has to be achieved within a strict budget, while respecting the fabric and design of our historic building. And it has to provide a sound financial basis for the Picture House to prosper over the next ten decades!! Discussion on cinema activities will take place at a future meeting.

Eilidh Henderson (the Project’s lead architect) gave a detailed slide presentation of progress. She clearly likes developing the potential of existing buildings and gives a very high priority to maintaining the warm, friendly atmosphere of the Picture House. I can only give a flavour of the progress without showing the presentation. Eilidh pointed out that with such a complex project the result won’t be completely right for everyone!

More detailed drawings and plans will be available shortly on the project website, thepicturehouseproject.com.

Clearly. a huge amount of expertise and imagination has gone into relating design to accessibility, safety, conservation, maintenance and running costs, film screening and acoustics, community use, and the fabric of the building. The architects also aim to allow different approaches to be tried out over time with scope for adaptations in future years.

There was a lot of discussion about how the refurbished Picture House will fit into the local area. The cinema is a civic building which needs to be distinctive (hence the potential use of glass and some white brick in the extension) while blending in with the redbrick surrounding terraces. The architects have taken into account the appearance both in the daytime and at night, the outward views on to the neighbourhood from inside the new windows, the colours and architectural lines of nearby buildings, and how to best link the extension to the historic entrance.

There will be a ramped entrance, with a larger foyer extending out to the pillars. This will allow several points of sale for tickets and refreshments. It is hoped that audience habits will change over time with more people arriving early or staying on in the cafe, reducing queues. The second screen in the basement will allow improvements to programming. There will be cafe and meeting space (which is not a through route), and improved facilities for staff. The interior design will have a cinematic theme, and use a colour scheme based on the building’s history. There was some discussion about the pros and cons of unisex toilets.

The design will soon be going to the (sympathetic) Leeds Council planners for approval. It is hope that the final plans as part of a full project plan will go to the Heritage Lottery Fund in June, and that construction work will start in Spring/Summer 2019. The building work will take about a year, largely because of deepening the basement, and will give the opportunity to develop additional audiences while using other venues.

The Picture House Project – Public Update, Saturday 10th February

After a busy month spent thinking about subterranean excavations and their ramifications we would like to refocus our thoughts on the bigger picture and as such I am pleased to invite you to a special update session on our Heritage Lottery Fund supported refurbishment project on Saturday 10th February.

The session will include a presentation by the project’s lead architect, Eilidh Henderson of Page\Park. This presentation will explore the design development process undertaken by the team including understanding the way in which audience and stakeholder consultation has been fed into the process to date. Following Eilidh’s talk we will be open to questions and comments.

Doors will open at 2.30pm with the presentation set to begin at 3pm and run for approximately 30 minutes followed by up to an hour for questions and comments.

This session is open to everyone so do please feel free to forward details on to any friends/colleagues. In order to manage numbers I have set up an Eventbrite page which will allow you to reserve a space.  Of course you are also welcome to turn up on the day and we will fit in as many people as possible, it’s hard to judge in advance what numbers we’re going to expect.

For more details about The Picture House Project please visit: thepicturehouseproject.com

For more details about Page\Park please visit: pagepark.co.uk


Wendy Cook

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Showing multiple times daily from Friday 12th January

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Misouri

Let’s face it. 2017 was a crap year for most of us. So many outrages, and “the authorities” so slow to act. But wait! Three Billboards gives us a champion. Watch irrepressible Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) use her visceral rage to shame “them” into action. “Them” is the local police or anyone else who gets in her way. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and the rest of this superb cast had better watch out!
The issue is that Mildred’s daughter, Angela, was raped and murdered seven months ago. Have the police got any leads? Have they Hell! Maybe a few billboard messages will get them off their fat butts.
Mildred Hayes: What’s the law on what ya can and can’t say on a billboard? I assume it’s ya can’t say nothing defamatory, and ya can’t say, ‘Fuck’ ‘Piss’ or ‘Cunt’. That right?
Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones): Or… Anus.
Mildred Hayes:  Well I think I’ll be alright then.
This film deservedly won the Audience Award for new feature films at this year’s (2017) Leeds International Film Festival. It’s another triumph for In Bruges (2008) director Martin McDonagh. Ebbing, Missouri is as complex a community as any other. We get to see not only the anger but also the humour, kindness, sadness and violence of small town life. And naturally Ebbing is not exempt from Midwestern prejudices.
Mildred Hayes: So how’s it all going in the nigger-torturing business, Dixon?
Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell): It’s ‘Persons of color’-torturing business, these days, if you want to know. And I didn’t torture nobody.
And if Mildred Hayes doesn’t like this review, I’m keeping well out of her way …

Bill Walton

Our 2017 Highlights

We asked our blog contributors for their highlights of the year and this is what they came up with.

Bill

My highlights from the films shown at the Picture House are:

  • Elle, France 2016
  • I Am Not Your Negro, USA, 2016.
  • Lady Macbeth, UK, 2016
  • The HandmaidenSouth Korea, 2016
  • Lover For A Day, France
  • Kedi, Turkey, 2016
  • Thelma, Norway
  • Loving, USA, 2016
  • Detroit, USA
  • Human Flow, Germany

and from the film festival at different venues

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Showing at Hyde Park from January 12th), USA
  • Mutafukaz, France/Japan
  • The Teacher, Slovakia/Czech Republic, 2016

On a different day I could have included Neruda, Loveless, 20th Century Women or Human Flow.

Jake

My top 10 of 2017, sticking to films that got a general cinema release this year:

  1. Certain Women (USA, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
  2. Le Parc (France, dir. Damien Manivel)
  3. Toni Erdmann (Germany, dir. Maren Ade)
  4. Machines (India, dir. Rahul Jain)
  5. Cameraperson (USA, dir. Kirsten Johnson)
  6. Moonlight (USA, dir. Barry Jenkins)
  7. By the Time it gets Dark (Thailand, dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong)
  8. The Untamed (Mexico, dir. Amat Escalante)
  9. Dina (USA, dir. Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles)
  10.  A Ghost Story (USA, dir. David Lowery)

Keith

The new films that impressed me this year, in the order of when I saw them, are

A special mention for Casey Affleck in

And of the classics from the past,

  • Cloud-Capped Star / Meghe Dhaka, India 1960, really impressed me.

Stephen

I restricted this list to things I saw for the first time at the Picture House, otherwise the list could also have included Paddington 2, The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk.

  • Manchester by the Sea, USA, 2016
  • A Monster Calls, UK, 2016
  • 20th Century Women, USA, 2016
  • mother!, USA
  • The Florida Project, USA
  • Good Time, USA
  • A Ghost Story, USA
  • My Life As A Courgette, Switzerland/France, 2016
  • JackieUSA, 2016
  • Bad Genius, Thailand

I’m a bit disappointed that my list is mostly English language films but a lot of the ‘foreign language films’ released this year such as A Man Called Ove, The Handmaiden and Toni Erdmann I saw at LIFF30 so haven’t included here.

Friends’ Christmas Screening: Fargo

Thursday 15th December, doors 7:15pm, film 8:30pm

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Fargo (TV) Christmas Cards available from RedBubble

Our annual Christmas screening this year is the Coen Brothers’ Fargo. Jerry Lundegaard is a car salesman in Minneapolis who has landed himself deep into debt. Desperate for money, he hires two inept crooks to kidnap his own wife in the hope that her wealthy father will pay the ransom. But when Jerry’s plan goes horribly wrong, Marge Gunderson – a pregnant but persistent police chief in rural Minnesota – is brought in to try and unravel the deadly scheme.

Members are invited to join us any time from 7:15pm for sherry, mince pies and a chance to look at plans for the HLF scheme. The film won’t begin until after 8:30 though so arrive whenever suits you. We anticipate this will be a well attended screening so if you would definitely like to see the film can you please RSVP to Wendy before 10th December.

Blood Simple – Director’s Cut

Remastered Director’s Cut Showing Saturday 2nd December 8:40pm

Marty: “I got a job for you.”
Private Detective Visser: “Well, if the pay’s right, and it’s legal, I’ll do it.”
Marty: “It’s not strictly legal.”
Private Detective Visser: [Thinks for a second] “Well, if the pay’s right, I’ll do it.”

Definition of Blood Simple: What happens to someone psychologically once they have committed murder; craziness.  A phrase coined by novelist Dashiell Hammett.

Revenge is sweet. This could be the perfect crime. But who can you really trust? And might human fallibility bring unintended consequences? This tense Texas thriller will keep you guessing. Make sure you keep an eye on those little details … the gun, the cigarette lighter, the knife, the contents of the safe.

Blood Simple is the Coen Brothers’ first film and my personal favourite. They bring together a great script, cinematography and soundtrack. The director’s cut is just a few minutes shorter than the original. M Emmet Walsh (Private Detective Visser); John Getz (Ray); Dan Hedaya (Marty); Frances McDormand (Abby); and Samm-Art Williams (Meurice) bring their flawed characters to life. One damn things just leads to another …

The Four Tops record on the jukebox blares out:

You’re sweet as a honey bee
But like a honey bee stings
You’ve gone and left my heart in pain
All you left is our favourite song
The one we danced to all night long
It used to bring sweet memories
Of a tender love that used to be

It’s the same old song
But with a different meaning
Since you been gone
It’s the same old song

The screening will be the director’s’ cut of the film following a recent digital restoration from StudioCanal.


Bill Walton