Metaphysical Thoughts – Cinema and The Deceased

Astoria auditorium, Mr Parker the projectionist arranged the coloured stage lighting, pink on the right and green on the left

Despite the morbid approach to the title of this short rumination, we will discover that the deceased can offer a plenty in the way of cinema. Not least, if we are talking literally, the thousands of great lives that cinema can relive etc., but on a more metaphysical level, the way that cinema shares a time and space with those who have passed. Cinema exists but only in so far as the dead exist in the present. I am not saying that cinema is a spirit (though this could be an interesting investigation), but rather that cinema continues its life hidden in the depths of our subconscious. The characters that we experience and that feel so real to us will always be dead; they cease to exist from the moment they are conceptualised. They are fictional, but more thoroughly, the moving-image does not breath, i.e. once an image is captured, the subject is no longer there (alive). This is most frustrating for audiences – we are witnessing a theoretical death.

A way to reach this conclusion is by primarily basing one’s ideas on memories. We witness and remember a film much like we do our own memories. Firstly, the material of a film can be transcribed as the physical rendering of memories. The memories of the writer, director, or whoever you wish to favour as auteur in the filmmaking process. Memories belong to the imaginary and cinema is one great big orgy of the imaginary. Secondly, when reflecting on a film, we process it as a lived experience, in a similar way that we may re-process an important meeting that took place last week, for example. It would, therefore, suggest that our minds are fooled into thinking that the cinematic event was a real event, Suspension of disbelief, and so on. But, I argue that the cinema becomes a real memory, intermingled with all the other chaos in our life. If you can think of something and it makes you feel or act, then the effect is very much a real one.

How does this fit in with the deceased again? The simple answer is that the deceased live on in our memories too. One might counter argue that the deceased actually did live once upon a time; so then how come cinema can exist on equal terms of time and space? This is very true, but there is still something missing. The cinema has lived, but only in a far shorter and more present moment of occupying the auditorium. It is a scattered life and not comparable to the consistent timeline of a human life, it is only able to exist in conjunction with our existence for ninety minutes or so (unless we sit through multiple viewings).

Yet sill, this is beside the point, we are talking about the time and space occupied after the spectacle, the space occupied by our mind re-processing the event. The cinema is deceased, but it can be remembered. Even if we revisit the cinema, it will still be a mortal experience. But, we are lucky, as we cannot revisit our deceased friends, or whoever they may be, yet we can dip back into the dark for another ninety minutes. Remember though, the cinema never did exist in the first place, it tricked you into thinking it did. It is like having a heartfelt dream of your loved one only to wake up to the shattering reality that they are actually deceased.

Note: I frequently use cinema to refer to film. This is because cinema can refer to the entire medium of film rather than an individual perspective of a particular film. It is also because any theories in cinema of spectatorship should be based on you sitting your butt in the auditorium and not in front of your bloomin’ mac-tosh!

For good measure, here, embedded, is a daring documentary on Michael Haneke that you might well enjoy:

 

Metaphysical Thoughts – Cinema and our fellow existence

stardust-memoriesDo you ever find it bizarre that we all exist in the same time and space? I am talking about the living, not the deceased. The deceased are much like cinema, but more on that in a later article.

We exist and we are often very concerned and consumed by this existence. Consequently, our burgeoning thoughts might be entirely self-centered. Yet, there are billions of other people equally wrapped up in similar thoughts at precisely the same moment in time. What does this mean? I have absolutely no idea.

But, do you ever ponder what another person is doing as you ponder it? They could be living their life in any shape or circumstance imaginable. You will never know, but you will always know that something is happening. I can’t work out if this is a freedom or an absolute affliction. How can it be that other people seem so free, yet, as individuals, we are wholly stuck with ourselves? I am not saying that we should all be Siamese twins. Rather, one of the many reasons is surely that our mind cannot belong to anybody else; I am focused on mind, not body. Our mind is a sole benefactor of our own being that can never ever, ever, ever be accurately distilled, or shared, by another individual. A sad truth, it seems.

This is where cinema comes in. I am not saying that cinema has the power to distill far away cognitions with unqualified accuracy, but actually I am, because cinema has no life in reality to tell us otherwise. In other words, the cinema (the character up on the screen) can’t turn back around at everyone in the auditorium and say, “Hey, actually that isn’t how I was feeling, you inconsiderate bastard!” Instead, we are free to interpret cinema by our own choosing. Yes, the arts really are liberal.

purple_roseForgetting this psychological insight, I want to return to my opening concern regarding time and space and suggest that cinema breaks apart our existence amidst this cosmic conundrum. When we watch characters on the screen, they do no longer exist in the same time and space as us (unlike our imaginary friend on the other side of the world) because they exist in a space of non-existence – the silver screen. We can think about these characters long after the show and know that they do no longer exist parallel to us, but that their effect can still be felt. Their effect might even be felt more than those, in reality, who exist as our friends and neighbours. These characters always exist in a completely altered reality of time and space. This is a profound magic trick that the cinema has been employing since its birth and one that has been interpreted in many ways through the history of film studies.

However, I want you to look at the trick from the bizarre perspective of why people in our real lives are all exactly in accordance with our own time. Don’t take this too scientifically (the laws of the universe can easily explain this), but looks at it more critically from a philosophical perspective. We are all living in the same moment. Being (a Martin Heidegger term for the universe – apologies for my painful simplification) can never escape from being (our own self), and vice versa. As this is the case for indefinitely ever after, we can begin to see cinema as it prevails to a utopian status! A simple conclusion: cinema is far more important, and more metaphysically demanding, than we may believe.

Written by Charlie Bury

A couple of film recommendations that shed light on some of these thoughts:

 – Stardust Memories (Woody Allen, 1980)

The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985).

CINEMA THINKS – Cinema and the Philosophical Project of Alain Badiou.

France - "Vous aurez le dernier mot" - TV Set“There is something interesting in cinema because we cannot reduce it to a conceptual definition.”

The above quote from renowned contemporary philosopher Alain Badiou opens up a world of theoretical enquiry into cinema as an art form and where it might be heading. However, as always, targeting the specifics of this interesting ‘something’ is not an easy task. This article will break down Badiou’s thought on cinema and hopefully open a way for more exciting thought on the cinema and appreciation of such art works.

We begin by asking the interminable question “What is Cinema?” It is an everlasting question because there is no definite answer. If cinema is an art form, then why can’t it be conceptually defined like all other arts? If not defined, then what is the special ingredient? For example, poetry is an attempt to say what cannot be said, theatre is a battle to form an external relationship between human beings and an audience, and painting aims to create the visible from the invisible – these are the fundamental ideas that promote and invoke these arts. There will always be further ideas on such a quest, but it is clear that cinema holds no such distinction. I always like to argue that cinema is a collective of all these ideas and that’s what makes its individuality eternal, it is never shaped by a definition, and therefore there can be a positive infinity in cinema production.

However, as Badiou makes clear from my previous assumption, cinema itself is a very complex question and therefore cinema as an art must also be a very complex question. It is rather simple really: cinema is complex, so hence anything we wish to attribute to cinema (philosophy, art, psychology, archaeology etc.) will also become complex. A philosophy of the cinema is a complex idea; we can never really know what cinema is. Badiou even attempts to postulate cinema as the “history of complexification of itself.” These layers inherent to cinema form a unique relationship whereby the spectator falls under the spell, or inside the cinema according to Badiou, but without knowing its real signification. Cinema is essential in the collective existence of today’s world and yet it continues to be something that we have no firm notion off – certainly from a theoretical standpoint, but arguably by way of practice also. Is this not a very dangerous idea?

Badiou_Cinema

 

Whenever we are considering the thing of something, or the what is, we need to retrace our passage back to some custom of historical antiquity. Plato is a good denominator to begin with, especially for cinema. With philosophy we are on a search for truth in life, or a true life, something that is pure and in accordance with our entire make up. How does cinema impact this quest? Can cinema be true to life? These questions are inscribed into every film, and it often comes back down to the spectator’s ability to suspend their disbelief: to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the sequence of images and sounds on the screen. If they can do this then the images they witness are true, at least true to themselves. Even so, this it too general, we need to look beyond the spectator and take the films at face value. What makes a good film? How can we identify good film with art and philosophy?

If Plato were alive today, he would probably be feeling very ill. We cannot escape images today. The famous cave allegory was a false reality for Plato, but it is the founding movement of cinema: moving shadows cast themselves across the walls of the cave once backlit from a great beam of light. This was a conviction of truth: the composition is an illusion! Illusions cannot be so! Here is the answer: cinema does not claim to be such a false reality, cinema knows very well that it paints a grand composition of illusion, and its images are no substitute for contamination, they are didactic images that speak off new formations and new bonds of knowledge! In other words, cinema is an answer for finding the truth in irreality; cinema knows that it lies, but it is a lie of edification.

Cinema is alive and speaking to us. Cinema has possibility, it is an art of possibility perhaps, and this is why it must have a relationship to philosophy and vice versa. Because cinema is so alive, it is constantly in battle, a fight between art and non-art. It is here that Badiou can draw out his belief that “cinema thinks”. By way of this vision in which a contemporary world battles with art through film, we are able to distinguish the good films from the bad. If, permitting to Hegel also, art is something of the past and cinema takes on a contemporaneous position as the ‘impure art’, then through constructing a successful conflict of images one has created a good film. This conflict is within the images themselves as well as the audience because the images require contemplation and are often ‘vulgar’ or disruptive. Cinema is therefore not a peaceful art and furthermore, this aforementioned fight between art and non-art is allowed to erupt between its fences. We can then resolve, in line with Badiou’s claims, that the more impure the artwork/the film, the greater the present battle is within the image itself and the better the film!

MelancholiaWhile this is all very metaphysical and might seem dismissible to most audiences, Badiou has targeted the underlying causes for our connection with the image from a strong philosophical standpoint. The point of most significant is this totalisation of cinema: cinema as the non-essential but all-permitting feature of new possibilities and limitlessness. Cinema creates new evaluations and new participations in dialectics. For example, great music can be given a new education in films. Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia features music from the prelude of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. The music is played at different points throughout the film and at each instance is inscribing new meanings onto the image. There is battle with the image and the music is forced to engage in new directions. The range of possibility is astonishing. It is here that cinema takes a form of judgment on all the other arts.

Badiou is telling us to “go to the cave.” We must approach cinema as a means and become involved in the democratic dialectics of our modern education. If none of this speaks to your way of thinking, then you must focus on the idea of possibility: the search for possibility. Cinema makes the search possible.

 

Author: Charlie Bury

 

You can watch the full video that inspired this thought below.

Looking Ahead to Summer Movies coming in 2014

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It’s largely been a summer season of atrocious movies and I think most of us are glad that autumn has set in and winter is rapidly approaching. However, with remakes and sequels dominating the marketplace in 2014, things aren’t looking any brighter, in fact, their looking as bleak as an ancient conduit.

The ‘tent-pole’ flop of the summer award goes to The Lone Ranger, which only grossed a domestic of $88 million and cost Disney $200 million plus to make. Jerry Bruckheimer has now split from Disney, it’s a sad affair and no doubt The Lone Ranger contributed to his final parting. They made 22 films together! However, trifling domestic victories were claimed by Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and Fast & Furious 6 – not that these successors were actually any good. 2012 was, domestically, the biggest box-office year in movie history, and in all fairness, 2013 somehow wasn’t far from it. As always with the movie industry, it appears to be the best of times and the worst of times.

Plans appeared well laid out for 2013, it was looking well balanced, but by July and August the wreckage had piled too high. This includes the White House blowing up yet again in White House Down, which unsurprisingly grossed $30 million less than Olympus Has Fallen with $100 million. The White House mirrors the destruction of San Francisco (Star Trek), New York (Man of Steel) and World War Z and Pacific Rim; chaos is everywhere. How many times can one watch CGI festering movies before they all just blend together in a heap of decaying junk?

Unfortunately, this explosive recurrence of ample CGI isn’t going away anytime soon. IMDB’s managing editor, Keith Simanton, sums the problem up effectively: “once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world.”

So, is 2014 looking any better in terms of less CGI destruction, sequels, space trips, superheroes and foolishness? Absolutely not, but there are a couple of tasty looking biopics and spec scripts in the mix – though they will probably get drowned out and suffocate in the pile-up.

To be honest, “Nobody knows anything,” wrote screenwriter William Goldman in what could just be the truest thing ever written about Hollywood. So, take my following scrutiny lightly and get rid of any sentiment – stuffs always changing.

Here are my personal prospects for the main studio’s summer movies (with May to August release dates):

Sequels:

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – Marc Webb is persistent in bringing us this sequel from the rebooted sequel The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s not only getting confusing, but Peter Parker must be getting tired. I am.

Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return ­– Is it trying to be a remake of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or just another deficient sequel? I’m not sure, but Oz the Great and Powerful was terribly cloudy, though I did appreciate the affirmative allusions to the master Georges Melies. With no-one singular behind the film for me to get excited, I’m just not getting excited at all.

22 Jump Street – The first one was extremely funny and with the same crew behind the sequel, I’m confident I’ll come out having had a good laugh.

How to Train your Dragon 2 – Other than a collection of nice voices, I’m not certain what this one has in store for me. I might go, but I probably won’t (there’s nearly always something better you can watch these days).

Think Like a Man Too – How clever, a sequel to Think Like a Man, but with ‘too’ instead of ‘two’. Either way, I can’t imagine this film will be worth anyone’s time.

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Transformers: Age of Extinction – Stop torturing society Michael Bay!  

X-Men: Days of Future Past – It’s a fight for survival across two time periods, the characters must change the past to change their future. It sounds fanatical for Marvel geeks. Bryan Singer will direct again, and credit to him for doing a really good job with these movies. I’m just not taken.

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Fast & Furious 7 – James Wan will never stop. I am a fan of the Fast & Furious franchise however, and will no doubt be racing to see this one.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Will undoubtedly be packed with more CGI destruction and risk of the Earth at stake than in Rupert Wyatt’s prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which actually had a moderately touching storyline.  Lets hope director Matt Reeves doesn’t try his Cloverfield tricks on this one.

Planes: Fire and Rescue – A DisneyToon sequel to Planes. I’m sure it will be fun for the kids – that’s all.

The Expendables 3 – I enjoyed the first, the second was a shame – the third can only be dreadful. However, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes will all be making appearances – Stallone really does love to dumb the status of our ancestor heroes. I will be dragged to the big screen once more no doubt, intrigued by the notion of what last stand the ‘big boys’ have in store.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – A sequel to Sin City, based on the graphic novels. Robert Rodruguez and Frank Miller co-direct. I simply can’t wait! Sin City was incredible – yes it will be hard to top aesthetically, but who cares? In this case, I’d happily have more of the same. I’m a fan.

Prequels:

Maleficent – A fantasy thriller with Angelina Jolie will either make me gawp or snicker the whole way through. It’s interesting to see Robert Stromberg take his hand at directing after being craftsmen of the century (production designer) on films such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. I’m hoping for something fresh and prosperous, but I can’t help get the feeling it’s another route down The Lone Ranger road for Disney.  

Remakes:

godzilla

Godzilla – It’s a reboot of the Japanese film franchise and a further remake of the 1998 film of the same name. We know what to expect, a heightened experience from the first: more destruction, more at stake, a more spectacular monster etc. I can’t help myself wanting to go see it though.

The Loft – It’s the remake where Hollywood ruins European cinema once more. However, Erik Van Looy, the original Belgian director of the Belgian horror film, will be directing it. But, there are numerous disastrous remakes of European and Asian movies by Hollywood; not to mention Michael Hanake regurgitating Funny Games shot by shot back in 2007. Just embrace the subtitles Western audiences!

Adaptations:

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Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise stars in another 3D sci-fi film, as if the debris of Oblivion wasn’t enough. It’s an adaptation from the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – it could be unique but more likely it will be an extravagance of messy proportions. However, with Doug Liman behind it my hopes are higher than they should be for a 3D sci-fi blockbuster.

Hercules: The Thracian Wars – Of course Dwayne Johnson is playing Hercules in Brett Ratner’s adaptation of the graphic novel with the same name. It will be interesting to see how the visual effects and production design is pulled off in what could be a really enthralling film, or one of disastrous magnitudes.

50 Shades of Grey ­– The one everyone’s been talking about – how much sex will they show? I have to say, I loathed the book, but I am intrigued to see how they handle the film. There has been lots of controversy about Charlie Hunnam playing Mr. Grey. I think all the girls are gabbling that he’s not handsome enough to play Grey – poor Charlie.

gaurdians_of_the_galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy – yet another Marvel comic superhero film produced by Marvel Studios. It is the tenth installment in the Marvel cinematic franchise and I can’t say that I’ve seen many – The Incredible Hulk was enough Marvel prescription for me.

The Hundred-Foot Journey – The novel by Richard C. Morais tells the story of two restaurant rivals based in France. It sounds interesting and with Lasse Hallstrom and Steven Spielberg behind the wheel, I’m certainly expecting something noble.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – a reboot of the film series that most of us remember watching as a kid. However, I don’t remember particularly enjoying it. My confidence is also diminished by the fact that Michael Bay is producing the film under his production company Platinum Dunes – the company that was to initially specialize in horror films!

Biopics:

Million Dollar Arm – A biopic of the two famous Indian baseball players, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, who were discovered by the New York sports agent J.B Bernstein after winning a reality sports show. Moneyball, in 2011, was the last great inspiring sports (baseball) biopic I remember seeing – it will be tough to top!

Belle – A British period piece based upon the historical character Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race daughter of the African slave and British naval officer. Dido meets the young lawyer John Davinier and catapults into a path of self-discovery and love. Set in 18th century Bristol Docks and shot entirely on location around Oxford, London and the Isle of Man, this may just be the British gem of the year. The film was also shot using Sony’s F65 SinyAlta camera in 4K!

Spec scripts (i.e. fresh, potentially original movies):

a_million_ways_to_die_in_the_west

A Million Ways to Die in the West Ted was brilliant so expectations are incredibly high for Seth MacFarlane’s new Western comedy. He is starring alongside Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried and Liam Neeson – waaa! It could be epic, it could be trash. Nevertheless this film is peaking on my shattered excitement chart for summer 2014.

Chef – Jon Favreau is starring, writing, directing and producing this comedy about a chef who loses his job and starts up a food truck. Blimey! However, he has got an interesting cast aboard with Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johanssen and Robert Downey, Jr. also starring. Appears like another hit or miss film.

Single Moms Club – A family movie or a movie for depressed single ‘moms’? The story follows a group of mums who bond and create a support group after an incident at their children’s school. Gossip alert!

neighbors_movie

Neighbors – It’s the adolescent comedy with an engaging cast. A couple with a newly born child moves into a new neighborhood, but next door they soon discover the establishment of a fraternity house. I don’t think they’ll be happy about this somehow. The film stars the persistent Seth Rogen, the complimentary Zac Effron, the gorgeous Rose Byrne and the young James Franco (Dave Franco). It will be funny if I can manage not to grind my teeth to tatters.

The Familymoon – Another collaboration between Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The romcom involves kids, blind dates, family resorts and a burgeoning relationship. I am hopeful, but you know my underlying attitude to romcoms…

Tammy – Ben Falcone’s debut film as director. It appears awfully unadorned. It is a comedy about a woman who loses her job and then learns her husband has been unfaithful – because we haven’t seen that one before.

Sex Tape – Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel have had enough of teaching in Bad Teacher and decide to get married and make a sex tape in Jake Kasdan’s new movie. Jack Black will also make an appearance – it’s about time! I’m hopeful this will be an amusing movie, but after 90 minutes of a couple simply searching for a tape, lets face it, things could get dull. I presume Cameron Diaz will lose an item of clothing here or there to keep viewers fully engaged – she didn’t exactly hold back in We’re the Millers.

jupiter_ascending

Jupiter Ascending – Another mind-boggling sci-fi film from The Wachowskis. Mila Kunis, our lead heroine, discovers that her DNA could mark her as the universe’s next leader. We can certainly expect oodles of fantastical adventure, which will no doubt receive a disproportionate bag of mixed reviews.

Jessabelle – Editor turned director, Kevin Greutert, teams up with comedy writer Ben Garant (known for Night at the Museum and Balls of Fury) to make a horror film for Lionsgate. The team has all had involvement in the Saw films, so perhaps we can expect common themes of bloodshed. However, in studying the plotline Jessabelle it just appears to be another rundown horror film were a widow goes on retreat and becomes possessed by an evil spirit. How corrosive.

Phew, that was a feat. To sum it all up, it seems the big studios are bringing us 13 sequels (it makes my blood boil), only 2 remakes, 6 adaptations, 2 biopics (they have to be interesting or I will scream) and apparently 9 polished specs (there is hope).

So, it is shaping up to be a pretty overcast summer of rotten sequels, but thankfully not too many remakes and a nice dosage of novel adaptations and specs, which should be refreshing. I’m keeping optimistic; not forgetting there will be plenty of independent gems buried six feet under and a few last minute revitalizations on the studio circuit. After all, we love cinema, right? So, let us embrace the trash.

What are you looking forward to next summer?

The Family – The Manzoni’s need a chill pill

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In most mob films it’s evident philosophy that the gangsters try to maintain some distance between family life and business. This is not so with the Manzoni’s, they are a mob, and they all feed off each other’s mishaps.

It’s refreshing to see Robert de Niro at home in playing Giovanni Manzoni (a great gangster name, by the way) as he blunders around, in contradiction of the witness protection restraining orders in place on the family, condemning trivial enemies to savage beatings with various tools (a sledgehammer and baseball bat, to name a few). It’s a reminder of why we thought of him as so great in the first place: De Niro is capable of honest warmth and love for his family whilst, at the same time, holding at bay his psychopathic tendencies which we’re always subliminally aware of. Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays Maggie, the wife, gets to toy with a role she has so perfectly executed in the past (Scarface, Married to the Mob) after a recovery of working sparingly for over a decade. Not to mention that she still looks amazing and manages to pull of a likable character, even though she has committed so many sins that even the priest is shocked and henceforth refuses her presence at the church. It’s a wonderful mix.

Another veteran in the mix is Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Stansfield, the main man assigned to overlooking the Manzoni’s case. Jones is his usual deadpan perfect self and has a few moments of invaluable countenance appearing next to De Niro. Stansfield is indeed given a hard time trying to keep the Manzoni’s at bay!

Luc Besson approaches the subject in a refreshing, witty and light nature. Despite mixed reviews, The Family is no different from Besson’s entertaining and chic approach, held across the board of his filmography, from Nikita to The Lady. He is not afraid of big, flashy action sequences, when the story demands it, but when he takes this direction he does so with a pleasant dose of over-the-top humour and a flair comparable to Tarantino. Although in this film, not meant to be seen entirely as a farce comedy, Besson doesn’t shy away from various in-jokes and occasional moments of sporadic tongue-in-check moments; moments I actually laughed at.

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Giovanni’s previous life is brought to attention when we see snippets of a previous mobster gang stewing in a rather luxurious prison cell – a refrigerator, music, and jail guards acting as servants? No doubt, Giovanni ratted out this gang, hence his current position under a witness protection plan in Normandy, France, and the gang being obsessed to find the Manzoni’s and literally blow them off the face of the Earth.

The way in which the Manzoni’s cover is blown is unequivocally whimsical and daft. It’s one of the many lunatic moments in this movie, others include: Maggie blowing up a French supermarket for not stocking peanut butter, Belle (the daughter) blooding the face of a creep with a tennis racket and Warren (the son) constructing a coalition to deliver vicious payback on bullies. This isn’t great cinema but it’s certainly good fun.

It’s not all fun however, some subplots just don’t work – whether this was intentional, I’m not sure. For example, Belle’s romance with the Math teacher, her despair over the fact he was the love of her life, and the families offbeat relationship with the Feds across the street. Giovanni’s attempts at being a writer also seem a little discharged and despondent.

A fantastic in-joke worth noting is when Giovanni is asked to perform a debate on an American classic at the local film society. Ironically the film that ended up screening was Scorsese’s Goodfellas – Giovanni’s typecasting on the film is a gigantic triumph with the residents who all stand up in astonishing applause.

To sum up, The Family is a deliberately eccentric, chirpy, violent and hit or miss film with just enough moments of inspiration to permit a recommendation. Be prepared for weird, different, but good.

3 stars.

Insidious: Chapter 2 – Don’t go and see this with your Dad!

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4 hours later… we arrive in Leeds.

3 hours later… we arrive at the cinema.

This weekend, my Dad kindly drove me all the way to Leeds from my girlfriend’s house in London. It was a long drive, and one that we celebrated by going to relax in front of a big screen. However it was not so relaxing for my Dad, who was up in his chair and sweating the whole way through. My Dad just doesn’t go to the movies, in fact, he told me he couldn’t remember the last time he saw a movie (we concluded perhaps it was The Lion King). It was literally like going to the movies with a Viking, he wore a baggy, shaggy coat, torn jeans and flip-flops – classy, right?

Once we’d purchased the tickets, Dad dumbfounded by the price, we headed to the ice cream counter. I imagine it was like your 6-year-old son spotting an ice cream van along the beach. He ordered a large, entirely mint choc chip flavored ice cream – let’s just say we were helping him out by the time the ads started.

Dad seemed a little on edge about watching a horror film. Especially once he had gasped at the size of the screen and heard the “incredible” quality speakers, which he was quick to discover, trigger his ludicrous reaction to fright. I asked him what the last horror movie he saw was; he replied, “I think it was Motel Horror.” A slasher parody evolving around cannibalism, that is definitely not exposure to the contemporary exhaustion of paranormal horror. ‘Video nasties’ (as they were coined) weren’t exactly scary cinema, just gruesome. I said to Dad, “This will probably make you jump but have a rubbish storyline.” He said nothing, his eyes simply transfixed on the screen as ads ran. In fact, I don’t even think he heard me the sound was so pleasant on his ears.

It’s approximately 15 minutes into the film, the first big fright. Dad is perched forward, leaning upon his knee; he is totally transfixed by the cinema. Suddenly, he launches backward into the seat in fright, afterwards he laughs and turns to me panting. “Wow that was a good one!”

“Ha-ha yeah,” I reply, trying to focus my attention back to the movie.

“I’m not sure what’s happening, is that lady the same as the one in the house?”

“Eh? Dad shut up, you can’t talk in the cinema.”

“It’s just a bit confusing that’s all.”

I ignored whatever else he said. Though, I felt like shouting: “It will make sense, we’re only 20 minutes in for Christ sake!”

However, to be fair, the movie was a bit all over the place, but did manage to pick up the pieces by the end.

The chatter didn’t stop. You know those annoying people who continually ask questions throughout (as the director has placed them their)? Dad is the groundbreaker of this group. At one point he commented, “Just take the batteries out!” This comment refers to when the baby’s toy kept going off by itself in a ghostlike fashion. Dad clearly doesn’t understand genre conventions; it was evident throughout that he simply couldn’t accept how horror movies are made. The typical “Why would you go in there?” was uttered a fair few times. Although I ultimately agree with my Dad, you just have to accept that a paranormal horror film wouldn’t really work without arrogant individuals upholding abundant idiocy.

At the end of the day Dad enjoyed the experience, but on the way out he alleged “well that’s me sorted for another 10 years.” I now make it my duty to drag him to the cinema whenever I see him. Insidious: Chapter 3 – where are you?

Now, on with the actual movie review for this extended blog post. I did enjoy Insidious: Chapter 2, which is saying something considering the constant pestering from my Dad! However, I went in with negligible expectations, Insidious was okay, but just as Paranormal Activity 2, The Grudge 2 and The Ring 2 affronted the first, I struggled to see how this one could differ. Frankly, horror sequels just stink from as far back as Exorcist II: The Heretic and Jaws: The Revenge. However, at least James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (screenwriter) stayed on together with the project, and it shows. I feel the script was actually significantly better than Insidious and, what’s more, it actually had some principal relativity to it – perhaps this is why my Dad was asking questions the whole way through? This is not the case however; the story is perfectly understandable for a fresh pair of eyes, or brain rather – a viewer just needs patience. Apart from a few minor disjoints in the narrative, and maybe a few belated plot revelations, the script isn’t going to get a whole lot better for the movie it is trying to be: a fabricated invasion of evil and elucidation on the course between life and death.

It’s worth noting that with Insidious: Chapter 2, Wan and Whannell have moments of variability submerged into a sub-genre of comedy. Here, comedy is not created through fear, to make us laugh (as would be apparent in Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead) but rather through character. These comedic characters are the two young male ‘spirit hunters’ whose humor occurs through sheer foolishness, and what could almost be considered slapstick. It doesn’t work. The whole movie almost becomes one big joke through these characters. They are meant to be the experts proving spirits are real, but who would believe anything these two idiots say?

The argument put forward by Mark Kermode is that these horror movies are made for people who don’t like real horror. They can’t be horror fans as they are content with watching something that goes “Quiet, quiet, quiet… BANG!” (Quoted from Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews podcast). This is exactly what the movie does, throughout. It is insufferable cinema, ‘cattleprod’ cinema, as the term coined by Nigel Floyd goes. This refers to the audience’s reaction being comparable to getting prodded every so often. It’s the generic horror tropes that stir this reaction: creepy children, rocking horses, hospital corridors etc. These rip off aesthetics are what keeps the cycle of ‘cattleprod’ rotating. It seems the phrase ‘less is more’ could be used to advantageous affect on the current state of contemporary horror.

Ultimately, the movie was forbidding enough to make you tense and jolt in your seat (even when the ridiculous title animation slams boldly onto the screen to ghastly screaming sound effects), but not engaging enough to keep my mind from drifting off to wondering when these preposterous films will stop getting made and why our society is so blindly infatuated over them. It’s simply a film to ‘prod’, enclosed by a genial theme with illusory characters. It unquestionably isn’t a human movie to care about.

My Rating:

Entertainment – 3/5

Intellect – 1/5

Craft – 3/5

Originality – 1/5

Score – 8/20

2 stars for Insidious: Chapter 2