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

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

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.