The Post, USA 2017

From today and on Sunday January 28th at 5.00 p.m. with a Q&A

You can see the Academy Award nominated film and be involved with a Question and Answer session with Granville Williams at this special screening. Granville is an experienced writer on the Newspaper and Media Industries and is the Editor of ‘FreePress’ from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.  He writes;

The Post in an honourable addition to Hollywood films (All The Presidents Men (1976), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), Spotlight (2015)) which portray journalists and journalism in a positive way, as opposed to grubby hacks chasing squalid, sensational headlines .

When I see films like these I wonder why UK film directors haven’t tackled such subjects. Couldn’t the dogged work of Guardian journalist, Nick Davies, as he probed and finally exposed the industrial scale of phone-hacking at Murdoch’s ‘News of the World’, be a suitable subject?

The credits for The Post say it is ‘based on a true story’ and whilst I can quibble with the way the film modifies some of the facts about the way the Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, finally came to back publication of the Pentagon Papers, I think the film captures perfectly how enmeshed she was in the Washington elite and the political and commercial pressures on her to take an easier route, and not publish the papers.

I will talk more about this in the Q&A session following the 5.00pm showing of the film on Sunday 28 January at the Hyde Park Picture House. Here I just want to develop a couple of points about two aspects of the film.

One is the way that Spielberg focuses on the old hot metal printing press scenes and the workings of the Linotype machines assembling the lines of type for the stories. It’s very evocative.

In 1975 after Watergate there was a ferocious strike by printers which set her and the newspaper on a conservative course. Graham devoted dozens of pages in her autobiography ‘Personal History’ to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and “the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike.”

John Hanrahan, a Newspaper Guild member at the Post, wouldn’t cross the picket lines and never went back. He pointed out,

“The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America — in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes — used to throw thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The other point is on the role of Ben Bagdikian in the film – he’s the journalist who gets access to Daniel Ellsberg and persuades him to hand over 4000 pages for the Post to use. He was national editor on the Post, a man who the editor, Ben Bradlee, in his autobiography, ‘A Good Life’, describes as ‘thorny’. Bagdikian had a big influence on me, and others interested in media reform. He wrote a key book ‘The Media Monopoly’  (1983) which warned about the chilling effects of corporate ownership and mass advertising on US media. Fifty corporations owned most of the US media when he wrote the first edition. By the time he wrote ‘The New Media Monopoly’ (2004) it had dwindled to five.

NB A couple of friends who have already seen the film thought it helps if one is clear about ‘The Pentagon Papers’. You can check this out on Wikipedia.

 

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.

Films of The Year Catch Up

As the year comes to an end we’re starting to think about the cinematic highlights of 2017 and we’ll be posting some of our favourite films in a few weeks’ time. As I started to think about my own list I realised that I’ve missed a lot of films that are showing up in other end of year lists. So here, in no particular order, is a top ten list of (possibly) the best films I didn’t see this year:

  • In Between
  • The Beguiled
  • Elle
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Personal Shopper
  • A Quiet Passion
  • The Levelling
  • My Cousin Rachel
  • The Party

I’m going to try and catch up with some of these (Elle and A Quiet Passion are both on Netflix and I Am Not Your Negro and Lady Macbeth are included in Amazon Prime) which do you recommend I should see first? Also do let us know what your favourite films are and we can include them in our end of year round up. If you need a reminder of everything that has been shown at the Picture House this year, we have a list here.

 

Loving Vincent, UK / Poland 2017

                                                      There is one more screening on Saturday 23rd at 5.15 p.m.           with subtitles for the hard-of-hearing,

 

The last screening of this title was sold out, an uncommon feat at the cinema. It is the recipient of a number of Awards including Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 30th European Film Awards in Berlin. Comments have focused on the sheer visual beauty of the images.

This is an animated feature and it has used a set of distinctive techniques:

“Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, created by a team of 115 painters.”

The film also uses live action sequences. These are mainly flashbacks within the narrative.

Van Gogh is one of the most prized [and expensive] painters in European Art and he has a presence in popular culture as well. His personal life and tragic demise have fed into this celebrity. The narrative in this production takes the form of an investigation. A young man, charged with delivering Van Gogh’s final letter, delves into the final days of the artist. Thus the film explores both the personal and the artistic.

The director is a Polish animator Dorota Kobiela with her first feature. Her co-director is Hugh Welchman, who normally works as producer,. The film relied on funding from the Polish Film Institute, an institution with a long and illustrious history.

The production was shot on a digital camera and is in colour and the academy ratio. [IMDB gives 1.33:1 but thus us usually masked to 1.37:1].  The film used a number of ac actors as ‘models’ for the paintings and they also appear in the ‘live action’ sequences. The British release has an English language soundtrack, dubbed by the credited actors and other voices. .

Van Gogh has enjoyed frequent representations on film. There is Lust for Life (USA 1956), directed by Vincente Minnelli with Kirk Douglas playing the artist. Some of the relationships in the film seem a little facile but the artist and his work are well presented. Then there is Vincent and Theo (France, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Italy) a film by Robert Altman with Tim Roth as Van Gogh. Roth makes excellent casting for the tortured artist. And there are several well made documentaries.

The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist showing daily until Thursday 14th
The Room screens tonight (8th December) at 9pm

15 Years after its first premiere, notorious bad film, The Room (2003), has continued success with regular screenings all over the world. This success is down to its growing cult fanbase, and in turn, The Disaster Artist, a film based on the making of The Room, is created by those fans.

In August 2010, journalist Tom Bissell wrote a brilliant piece for Harper’s magazine entitled ‘Cinema Crudité’, charting his growing obsession with The Room, which he describes as “…the movie an alien who has never seen a movie might make after having had movies thoroughly explained to him.” His deep dive culminates in an interview with the director/screenwriter/producer/star himself, Tommy Wiseau.

In his interview, Bissell eludes to an article by Clark Collis entitled The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room’, which charts the growing cult success of the film among Hollywood’s comedy elite, including Judd Apatow alumni Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd. Bissell asks Wiseau if he had been approached by any of his celebrity fans, to which he gives a typically left field and cryptic answer, a roundabout way of saying ‘no’. Funnily enough, it would be Bissell, and his book The Disaster Artist (written with Greg Sestero, Wiseau’s friend and co-star), that would finally connect Wiseau with his celebrity fanbase. It was the book that also introduced director/star James Franco to the film, which he is already envisioning as a film of sorts in his 2013 Vice article about it (“The book reads like the combination of two Paul Thomas Anderson film scripts…”).

The film version of The Disaster Artist begins with a prelude of talking heads, including Kristen Bell (who is interviewed in the original Clark Collis article), trying to articulate their complicated relationship with “the Citizen Kane of bad Movies”. The film itself is made up of high profile fans of the film, including all three hosts of the podcast ‘How did that get Made’, who interviewed Sestero before The Disaster Artist book was published (at that point with the working title of ‘Lost inside The Room’)

Richard Brody’s review of The Disaster Artist for The New Yorker, describes the acting style of Tommy Wiseau (played convincingly by Franco) as a “theatre of attention” which is most apparent in a scene played out in a cafe, where Wiseau and Sestero command the attention of bemused patrons. This was an inspiration for producer A24’s viral campaign, an award given to the best scene from The Room acted out in public. This in turn mirrors those early midnight screenings, as it was a staple, to dress up as characters from The Room and act out scenes, in the aisles and in front of the screen, which essentially provides the core of The Disaster Artist. Apparently around 25 minutes of the The Room was recreated shot-for-shot, evidenced in the films closing credits.

There’s a clip on youtube (below) of Tom Bissell before he went to his first midnight screening of the film, the one he wrote about in his piece. In the video he is asked about his favourite scene, one which he calls “incomprehensible”. At that point he had only seen clips online, recently he said he has seen it “More than 100 times”, I wonder if it makes any more sense to him now, or if the delight is still in the incomprehensibility of it all.

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

Our #LIFF2017 Highlights

The film festival may be over but with arguably one of their best programmes, there’s still plenty to talk about. We asked our contributors for their highlights from LIFF2017 and it would be great to see yours in the comments:

Bill

  • Thelma
  • Félicité
  • The Wages of Fear
  • Loveless
  • Lover for a Day
  • The Teacher
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Gaza Surf Club
  • Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Jake

  • The Rider
  • Western
  • Untitled
  • Félicité
  • Happy End

Keith

  • Happy End
  • Félicité
  • Taste of Cherry / Ta’m e guilass

And the best film not screened at the Festival, Oktyabr / October 1917 (Ten Days that Shook the World, 1928), co-written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Stephen

  • Amélie
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Journeyman
  • The Florida Project
  • Good Time
  • Bad Genius
  • You Were Never Really Here
  • Jane
  • The Breadwinner
  • The Rider

 

Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potemkin, 1925) at Hebden Bridge.

This Soviet classic is screening at the Hebden Bridge Picture House on December 2nd. This is another of those rare chances to celebrate The Great October Revolution through the films that it inspired. If you saw The End of St. Petersburg / Konets Sankt-Peterburga (1927) here in Leeds in September you will have an idea of how impressive Soviet silent montage films can be.

The film is screening in a 35mm print from the restoration by the Munich Archive in 2005. This is now the closest version to the original screened at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1925. The restoration relied to a great extent on a surviving print in the BFI National Film Archive which was screened for the London Film Society by the director Sergei Eisenstein in 1929.

The print has both the original editing and title cards, some of which were cut by censorship later. It will have a live piano accompaniment by Darius Battiwalla. If you saw and heard the presentation of Berlin: Symphony of a Great City / Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grosstadt (1927) here  you will know what an excellent accompanist he is.

The film created a great stir on its release, both in the Soviet Union and internationally. The young Luis Buñuel was so inspired that he and his comrades erected a barricade in the street after watching the film. Especially famous is ‘The Odessa Steps Sequence’ but it seems likely that more people have seen that extract that have actually seen the whole film. Now is the opportunity to see the film complete and as close a possible to the version that created the sensation back in 1925.

The Hebden Bridge Picture House is accessible, about an hour by train or car from Leeds. It is an attractive cinema which opened in 1921, only seven years after the Hyde Park Picture House.