Rowing: The Boys in the Boat, The Social Network, Fascism, Grieg, and Me

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My first visit to Trump-era US involved visiting various extended family, predominantly of an elderly, Catholic, and conservative persuasion. Upon arrival in Virginia, following an 18-hour door-to-door journey, several newly purchased paperback non-fiction books were thrust upon me as welcoming gifts. Amongst these was Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, the story of the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew that won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, narrowly beating a German team in the final. Due to certain familial connections with several of the crew (a great uncle was coached by the cox and one of the oarsmen at MIT in the 1940s, and would later embark on a failed business venture with another), it was gently insisted that I read, and finish, this book by the end of the week. Confident in my ability to ‘read’ (i.e. scan) and digest material quickly, and not being one to shirk from a challenge (much like American rowers racing against Nazis), I duly accepted.

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Guest Blog from Jordan Brooks – Children and Madness: Why are We so Afraid of Our Kids?

 

I am delighted to host Screen Readings’ first guest blogger: the wonderfully talented film critic Jordan Brooks – GC

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As a general rule, old people hate the young, and young people hate the old. Struggling for control over laws, culture and morality, battles waged between (generally speaking) progressive children and their more conservative parents have shaped modern society – and have, in many cases, provided us with fuel for the ongoing stereotypical images that likely formed in your head while reading these opening sentences.

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The Conventional Disruption of Amma Asante’s ‘A United Kingdom’

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When Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom was announced as the opening night gala selection for the 2016 BFI London Film Festival it was widely reported as an important landmark in the history of the festival. Not only was this the second opening gala film in as many years to be helmed by a female director (following Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette), it was the first to be directed by a black woman. Coming during a year that saw the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, and the BFI’s own celebration of black filmmakers (the ‘Black Star’ season), this was rightfully seen as a positive, and decades overdue, event.

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Confronting trauma and the past in It Follows

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David Robert Mitchell’s sinister It Follows exacts its chills from a simple central idea: an entity (“It”) that pursues its victims endlessly and slowly (at walking pace but is apparently a strong swimmer). The entity can take any human shape, and frequently takes the shape of its quarry’s loved ones. “It” only pursues one cursed victim at a time. The curse can only be passed on through sexual intercourse. If “It” catches and kills a victim then the curse reverts back to the previous recipient, and so on. “It” can only be seen by those who have possessed the curse and seemingly cannot be significantly harmed or destroyed. Continue reading

Symbolic archiving in Bad Timing

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Bad Timing (1980) bookended a decade of extraordinary creativity for its director Nicolas Roeg. In the 1970s he made Peformance, Walkabout, Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Roeg experimented with montage and sound to explore aspects of identity, memory, trauma, sex and time. Bad Timing represents the purest exhibition of Roeg’s unique style and thematic concerns. Continue reading

Metafiction and reflexivity in Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past

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Jacques Tourneur was a French-American director best known for three Val Lewton produced horror films made at RKO: Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and The Leopard Man (1944). He made a successful return to horror in 1957 with an M. R. James adaptation entitled Night of the Demon. Tourneur’s greatest achievement is one of his rare forays into film noir, the 1947 classic Out of the PastContinue reading

Like (Fore)Father, Like Son: Hirokazu Kore-eda and the Burden of Ozu

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‘Its Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman … Ghost meets Manchurian Candidate’. These are the film pitch meetings in Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire The Player (1992). Potential new films, Altman suggests, can only exist in relation to old ideas. When all art must be recycled, that which is truly original and does not have a traceable heritage is too alarming for studios, critics, and audiences. Continue reading