Film Review: Interstellar (2014)

 Interstellar How to begin with Christopher Nolan’s eagerly anticipated Interstellar?Visually the film is stunning. From the golden lighting of the southern states to the inky black depths of space, Intestellar is pleasing to the eye. Nolan’s depiction of a black hole is mesmerising, especially given that this is the most scientifically accurate model scientists have to date. It is because of Interstellar that several new papers are currently being written regarding our knowledge of space. Nolan also includes a gripping view from a spaceship in which Earth looks to be the size of a dinner plate - and another view of a trip down a wormhole. Both place the small crew on the spaceship very, very far away from a dying Earth.The film begins with the acknowledgement that the earth is slowly but determinedly reaching the point where it will no longer be able to sustain human life. Nolan depicts the dying Earth through the ever-increasing swathes of dust storms that force farmers to hide together in their homes away from the dangerous dust. Ex-pilot Matthew McConaughey laments that humans are bound to this desolate Earth and are no longer attempting to explore other planets. When his daughter again mentions the ghost in her room is trying to communicate, together as father and daughter, they discover co-ordinates to a hidden NASA facility. A charming NASA scientist, Michael Caine, approaches his old friend McConaughey and convinces him to leave Earth to visit up to three planets Caine has found discovered that may be able to sustain life. McConaughey accepts and the crew on the spaceship is made up of four astronauts, notably including Caine’s daughter, NASA extraordinaire Anne Hathaway.McConaughey, by accepting this interstellar mission, chose to leave his daughter and son behind. He promised he would return but he faces a more pressing issue: time. In Interstellar Nolan crafts a timeline so intricate that one day after the film’s release avid viewers had created time maps and put them online for viewers to access before or after the film. As in Memento and Inception it is Nolan’s manipulation of the timeline, and the viewer’s attempt to untangle the plot, that is the film’s most fascinating feature.When McConaughey visits the first planet, every hour spent on its surface translates to the passing of roughly six years for those still on the spaceship and those back on Earth. McConaughey then faces the daunting prospect of not just missing out on his daughter’s childhood, but perhaps missing her whole life, of returning to Earth when she has perhaps been dead for several years. Between fuel resources and the passing of those on the spaceship and those on Earth, the mission becomes fraught with complex questions about how to proceed to help the greatest number of people. The first plan had always been to find a suitable planet so those left on Earth could relocate; however, as Hathaway reveals, repopulation using stored fertilised eggs on the ship may be the only viable option. This raises a difficult question concerning Michael Caine’s character. He chooses to send his only daughter on this mission knowing it may be the case that she has to become a surrogate mother many times over on a new planet; acting as a kind of troublesome Eve.Meanwhile back on Earth McConaughey’s daughter has never forgiven her father for leaving. In a surprising turn of events - amidst a story focusing on space exploration, loneliness and isolation, manipulation and fear - the story’s crux rests upon the strength of the relationship between father and daughter. At first I found this troubling, as if the complexities of the plot were being too easily shoehorned into resolving a strained relationship that the audience only sees properly at the beginning of the film. However, it works - namely because of McConaughey’s superb acting which in one unmentionable scene involving communications sent from Earth from his children, reveals just how much his character has sacrificed in the name of both saving Earth and following an old dream. It is McConaughey’s performance throughout Interstellar that rightly centres the father-daughter relationship at the heart of the film.With Interstellar Nolan has crafted a film frighteningly scientifically accurate in some places, and with an unescapable atmosphere of doom, yet championing a quest not for exploration but for reunion. McConaughey’s need to reunite with his daughter becomes the driving force of the mission for him and it does not feel misplaced. Instead I rooted for McConaughey attempting to manipulate the unforgiving nothingness of space to find a way back to his daughter even if that resulted in the detriment of the mission. And why did I do that? Nolan had reminded me the whole mission, the stunning visuals, the thrilling ride, had been to save those on Earth, but it was McConaughey that portrayed the raw need to see his daughter again. His performance carried more weight than the success of the mission, and I left the film feeling spaced due to the mind-boggling visuals, but somehow reassured that even though space, as Nolan had depicted it, is vast and unforgiving, it is the perhaps weakness or perhaps strength of human love that means you have no choice but to venture into the unknown. Nolan has crafted a film deeply interested in the possibilities of space travel and yet simultaneously grounded, due to the complex and clearly well written character relationships; this is a film I cannot wait to see again.  Cassice Last  Image Credit: thatfilmguy.net 

'Gone Girl' (2014) and a Social Critique of Contemporary Cinema and Modern Film Criticism

 Gone-Girl-2014-film-poster I had invariably mixed feelings walking out of David Fincher's Gone Girl. The first part of the film plays out like a neo-noir thriller, carefully interplaying between elements of melodrama and the traits of investigative 40's Hollywood film-noirs. Ben Affleck gives what I can safely say is one of his best and most committed performances to date, delicately balancing his portrayal of the 'scapegoat' husband in an empathetic and equally dubious manner, with many clues pointing towards his role in the 'murder.' The incredible aspect of the first hour or so is that it plays out like a visual and psychological puzzle, with an absorbing, incessant mix of sequences from the past and present. It intelligently manages to leave the wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), out of all the scenes taking place in the present. Thus, the audience is more sympathetic to her perspective; her appearances show her as a glamorous and alluring dame, whilst her husband Nick (Ben Affleck) often seems suspiciously detached. Nonetheless, the viewer is kept at a perfect distance from both characters (although the wife is empathized with more), which leaves more room for them to analyse the enticing mise-en-scène and clever editing which remain visually distinctive to Fincher's style – all whilst trying to keep a grip with the briskly-unfolding storyline. However, after a certain twist of events, approximately just over an hour in, things take a major turn for the worse.I will not go into detail so as to not spoil it for readers who haven't seen Fincher's latest endeavor, or the book by Gillian Flynn on which it is based. For those of you that have seen or read Gone Girl, bear with me: the final two acts of this promising feature produced abhorrent results. David Fincher is a director who, throughout his career, has created inventive but darkly realistic worlds, focusing on sociopaths and psychopaths, often offering claustrophobic insight into a character's damaged psyche. Meanwhile, Flynn – who wrote Gone Girl’s screenplay – is known for creating similarly harrowing worlds filled to the brim with unsettling characters. Like Flynn, Fincher builds tension until the final moments before giving you the 'big' reveal (the most impressive example of which remains in Se7en). Se7en remains one of his early and most majestically minimalist works; it never borders on self-indulgent and even after its emotionally devastating climax it chooses to end on a silent, smaller (yet equally effective) note.Fincher’s major problem in recent years (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and now Gone Girl), or maybe even since Fight Club, is that he has become too pompous, too obtrusive, and too radically sure of himself in certain respects – whilst in others refusing to let his audience figure out things for themselves. His films feature far too much exposition – and although I do agree that every film needs enough to set up the framework of its world and the characters that inhabit it, Fincher often goes over-board. He sets up a compelling mystery with tiny erratic clues hidden everywhere, but as this story takes off with its brisk pace, it suddenly offers radical amounts of exposition.The 'big' reveal comes in less than halfway into the film, and although this twist may seem inventive and unsettling, it makes huge portions of the rest of the film tiresome to watch. Now, I know most will argue that the point of the film isn’t the twist but rather the exploration of the psychological state and suppositions of the wife's internal psyche, as well as the marital relationship between her and her husband. I agree up to a point. Even if we forget the first part played out as an investigative, edge-of-your-seat thriller and then took a drastically different turn, the film still has many dilemmas. Until very late in the film, the viewer is still left to indulge in unnecessary plot-strands, over-long sequences, and wasted side-plots that rarely develop characters significantly or progress the story any further.Finally, the film’s third act provides a huge gap in logic in terms of Flynn’s screenplay, which sets the film up to provide a vicariously disappointing conclusion. It attempts to tackle the concept of marriage, the ideological façades that are built around a degrading relationship in order to sustain it for the public image, and the fabrication and lies that exist and make up every couple's foundation. This is a harrowing and deeply bleak viewpoint – and although it merely represents these elements on film, it never evokes empathy, emotion, or even a sense of recognition in the viewer. The ultimate conclusion is completely open-ended, in this sense mimicking the never-ending state of psychosis that its central characters are trapped within, and the endless pain the couple will end up inflicting on each other.The film left a bitter aftertaste. Even if critics and fellow viewers now argue that this is the point, this simply can't be all there is to film. Cinema is an art form for expressing profound meaning, from which further readings and similarities can be drawn about our life, feelings, experiences and a shifted view and depiction of society, whilst often discovering deeper moral and socio-political messages on the way. Gone Girl fits nowhere near this bracket - if it wants to simply serve as a depiction of a hollow marital relationship and this pair's role in a wider, mindless public sphere, it works. Additionally, if the intention is to depict the unleashed psychological state of a psychopath, it works once again. In fact, one of the film's most astounding, albeit most revolting sequences, is an incredibly bloody murder sequence involving Desi Collings (Neil Patrick Harris). This is one of the moments that manages to resonate with Fincher’s style and testifies to his ability in shooting a scene differently. It's filmed with unsettling high angle and side-on takes, also with rapid fade-in, fade-outs in the editing being used to go between different angles of the graphic murder, rather than simplistic cuts. This projects not only the fragmented, deranged mental state of the psychopath involved but unsettles the viewer thoroughly, remaining one of the strange highlights of the film. However, if we go beyond mere effective representations, if the audience is left to look for more depth or meaning than the aforementioned aspects, they'll be left thoroughly disappointed.The film's tagline is ''You don't know what you've got 'til it's...'' implying that all the things we hold most dear are taken for granted until they are gone. Likewise, it further implies that the film's layered with clues and meaning you won't be fully able to grasp, even after the credits roll, therefore eliciting the need for multiple viewings. Nothing remains in this film that I'd like to re-visit. Despite how hard it tries to have meaning and multiple layers and complexity, mirrored through its diverse and 'complex' narrative structure, it fails to provoke any true deeper meaning that resonates with the viewer, or demands a need for multiple viewings.To conclude this immense analysis, Gone Girl is a seriously underwhelming work from a talented, although extremely over-praised director, whose critical approval in contemporary cinema has far overstayed his welcome. Hopefully in his future works – including another collaboration with Gillian Flynn in an upcoming HBO TV Series – we'll get a more nostalgic throwback to his earlier gems and long forgotten classics.  Mina Radovic  Photo credit: http://msmagazine.com/  

Legal note: all included photographs are used solely for the purpose of criticism and review as outlined via the fair dealing exception of UK Copyright Law and the fair use clause of US Copyright Law. This work was previously made available to the public, the source of the material is acknowledged, and the material itself is accompanied by discussion and assessment in line with fair dealing/use standards. Additionally, no more material is used than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of the intended criticism and review.

Event Review : The Creative Lock-In

 

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 The Creative Lock-In was advertised as an imaginative and inspiring all-nighter that would bring together the arty types of St Andrews between the hours of 11pm and 7am. The evening kicked off with a stellar performance from Prehistoric Friends, who made the trip from Glasgow thanks to the organisation of Music is Love. The quirky duo played music consistent with their self-proclaimed ‘dreamy-synth pop’ genre, generating the perfect mood for the rest of the evening: a relaxed atmosphere that inspired creativity. For their performance the theatre was packed full of people watching and listening intently, and throughout the event's duration, a steady flow of people went in and out of the venue.

The Barron theatre itself was beautifully decorated; copious amounts of fairy lights were draped around the blackened rooms joined by bunting and lanterns, creating an ethereal vibe. A projector shone onto a transparent drape in the middle of the room and featured a lucid-dreamlike film, which people comfortably watched on the sofas the committee had laid out.

The Art Society offered cakes, canapés, tea and coffee, as well as free art supplies in order to quench people’s creative needs for the evening. The lock-in also featured several set activities: life drawing, lantern decorating, jazz and poetry. However, people were also able to indulge in their own activities; sprawled on the floor and seated, they produced beautiful drawings, poems and music.

The atmosphere was very much relaxed, full of those who simply appreciated the opportunity to be in a group of like-minded people revelling in the creativity of the event. Being a part of this evening left me feeling very much inspired to pursue my own artistic means. Ultimately, I found the Creative Lock-In a highly worthwhile evening that definitely brought a much needed break from the chaos of freshers week.

 

Emily Rose Pearce

 

Photo credit: The Art Society

Film Review: Philomena (2013)

Jeni Morris reviews Philomena, the 2013 film directed by Stephen Frears and based on the true story of Philomena Lee.  philomena Starring Judi Dench as the eponymous character and Steve Coogan as writer Martin Sixsmith, Philomena is a tale—based on a true story—about one Irish woman’s search to find the son that was taken from her by Magdalene nuns when she was just a teenager. After many years of getting nowhere in her pursuit, she enlists the help of “human-interest” writer, Martin Sixsmith. Though at odds with one another about their religious beliefs—or lack thereof—they work together, travelling across continents to find out what happened to the boy. Of course, like any sort of road-trip movie, it has plenty of humour and drama and is as much about self-discovery as it is about the discovery of others.Through the course of the film Philomena and Martin discover that the religious and social class differences they assumed of one another are only one side of who they both are. As they embark on their journey to Ireland and the US (then back to Ireland again), they are placed in unfamiliar surroundings that inevitably bring to light their less obvious personality traits and little idiosyncrasies. Their identities—and how their religious beliefs and social upbringings have shaped them—are called into question. Despite its title, Philomena perhaps questions the character of Martin Sixsmith more than Philomena herself. Though treated with such cruelty by the nuns and shunned by her family, Philomena is physically weakened, but still spiritually strong. She is neither a pushover (but does have a dodgy hip, as she often explains) nor is she naïve. In contrast, Sixsmith—to all appearances—is confident in his abilities and convictions, but beneath this façade he is very nervous about his physical and spiritual wellbeing.A number of critics, Catholic or otherwise, have argued that this film is hypocritical, that in its supposed attack against institutional religion, the writers and director have used and abused Philomena just as the church did. Their viewpoint is pretty understandable, but I think this hypocrisy was the intention of the filmmakers. So many of the characters in the film can be seen as victim and victimiser, the used and the user of others in furthering their own objectives. Furthermore, the blurring between fact and fiction is thematic in the movie, underscored by the music and—like breadcrumbs—little references to fairy tales dropped along the course of the movie. From a half-eaten red apple to a hall of mirrors at a fairground, the distinction between what is reality and fantasy is intentionally distorted. The movie, like so many fairy tales, thus invites the viewer to question all they see and believe: how do our memories alter past experiences? How much of the “truth” can be discovered and does it necessarily matter? It is hardly any wonder that Philomena would choose to believe in God when all she sees before her is at once real and unreal.Overall it is a quiet film but one that resonates long after you leave the theatre. Like other Stephen Frears films (Tamara Drewe, Dangerous Liaisons and My Beautiful Launderette, to name a few) Philomena, is a fascinating study of human nature. It depicts fully rounded characters—neither entirely hero nor villain—that the camera explores and toys with, highlighting the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of human nature.  Jeni Morris Photo credit: The Weinstein Co. 

Documentary Review: Call me Kuchu (2012)

4x6_VerticalJeni Morris reviews Call me Kuchu, a documentary about LGBT issues in Uganda directed by Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright.This documentary gives a personalised yet balanced view into the LGBT community of Uganda. Filmed before the signing into law of the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, which amongst other things legalised the death penalty for certain homosexuals, this documentary provides a detailed background of the homophobia entrenched within Ugandan society, offering a better and more level understanding of how LGBT people are viewed and why they are viewed in these ways. After watching the film, I struggle to understand how the directors managed to keep from getting too emotionally involved in such a harrowing issue, but I respect them for having done so successfully. Zouhali-Worrall and Wright interview a variety of people involved in the LGBT rights movement in Uganda, each one —be they homosexual (“kuchu”), advocate, lawyer, politician or preacher— giving their personalised and candid accounts. For those who know little about Ugandan culture, like myself, the scope of these interviews and their subjects allowed me to get a stronger grasp of the sheer complexity of the situation and how each individual navigates their way through it.Whilst delving a little into the explanations for homophobia, the documentary centres around a court case between openly gay Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato and the Ugandan magazine Rolling Stone (no relation to the stalwart U.S. music magazine.) As the story unfolds, we glimpse the world of Kato, his friends and family, as well as the world of the Rolling Stone Editor and his employees who are out to attack him. The extent to which the magazine will go to infiltrate the LGBT community —to expose and marginalise them, isolating them from even their own families— is quite upsetting and enraging.The film shows how a number of the LGBT community’s marginalized members have created strong emotional bonds with one another, as well as how they remain strong together and support one another. It is pretty uplifting to see how positive and funny they manage to be despite their daily struggles, anxieties and anger. I was particularly struck by the stories how in Uganda, even before this latest Act of Parliament, any person who knows of but does not report a homosexual is subject to judicial punishment. The fact that family members and even a Christian preacher remain loyal to their homosexual family and friends merits considerable respect.However, not all LGBT supporters are angels. The smug and gleefully giggly Editor of Rolling Stone makes the stomach curdle when he says “human rights do not mean gay rights in Uganda”, and his lifelong mission —his calling to terrorise homosexuals— comes across as sad and pathetic. Without wanting to spoil the end of the film, David Kato was sadly murdered in 2011 by an attacker. It was thought to be motivated by his increasing activism and his position as an openly gay Ugandan.The Ugandan government and their associates desire to break free from western influence, and yet by persecuting the LGBT community and claiming that homosexuality is an immoral, sinful choice against God’s will, they are simply advocating the kind of beliefs which they first encountered from the mouths of Western missionaries during and after colonial times. The Ugandan government (as opposed to the Ugandan populace, just to be clear) is, arguably, enslaving itself. As a result, this begs the question: who actually has more freedom —the Ugandan government and their associates, or the LGBT community? The film seeks to elicit just such responses as these; it seeks to show the rest of the world what life is really like if you gay and Ugandan. Jeni Morris  Photo credit: Cinedigm Entertainment Group

Film Review: Carrie (2013)

Carrie metrogoldwynmayer screengemsJeni Morris reviews Carrie, the 2013 adaptation of the 1976 classic horror film based on Stephen King's book by the same title. Back in October 2013 when this film was released (Halloween —how appropriate), I ignored it. I figured it was yet another remake of a classic horror flick, yet another adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Plus, it was another film about an insecure teenage girl with a serious identity crisis (though Carrie’s is definitely worse than most). Sometimes when you enjoy the original and then see the remake, you feel robbed, not just of your brief moment of escapism but also of a few quid. I decided I didn’t want this to happen again.Despite this resolve, I gave in to temptation. Regardless of how painful it is to watch such movies, one can always wreak vengeance by writing a biting review that butchers the new adaptation the way it butchered the original film. Such satisfaction can be delicious. I can certainly complain about how the film was probably made to ensure a profit and how it emphasises Hollywood’s lamentable lack of creativity. Moreover, I can state that the infamous prom night scene at the end of the 1976 version easily tops this version. No offence to Chloë Grace Moretz (Carrie White of the 2013 version), but her screams, gesticulations and angry glares shrivel in comparison to Sissy Spacek’s Carrie, standing blood-drenched on stage, physically static, muscles stiff and tense, but her hypnotic wide-eyed stare communicating her electrified emotions.However, to compare the two is not entirely fair. Firstly, it was an unnecessary remake rather than an unnecessary sequel (that would be scary). Secondly, perhaps one should judge remakes on their own merit rather than weighing them up against their predecessor. So I aimed to assess it as a stand-alone film.Besides Moretz as the eponymous character, the other well-known actor starring in this piece is Julianne Moore (of The Big Lebowski, and The Kids Are Alright) who plays Carrie’s self-loathing, puritanical maniac of a mother. A talented and daring performer, one can see why Moore was cast in the role, and yet she goes so woefully underused that we are left asking why her character is the way she is. Indeed, all the characters are pretty superficial and come off as clichés and stereotypes, especially when viewers —because of the previous production— know there is depth to their personalities left little-explored by screenwriters Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Director Kimberly Peirce. For instance, chief bully Chris (Portia Doubleday), comes off as nothing more than an evil, vindictive rich Daddy’s girl one might see in other Hollywood flicks —horror or otherwise. Furthermore, all the characters look as fake as they are, like extras from the far more terrifying High School Musical films. This applies in part to Carrie as well. Moretz is too in control of her body to completely illustrate the naivety and awkwardness of her character. One is all too aware that she is pretending to be shy instead of being so.Carrie, as a character, is meant to be unique beyond just her telekinesis. A narrative about the insecurities of adolescence, a coming-of-age tale with no sunshine-and-daisies conclusion, Carrie is the story of a girl struggling to come to terms with who she is in relation to others around her. The film does explore this, but it sacrifices large parts of it in favour of cheap Hollywood tricks. There is a profusion of close-ups, continual usage of slow-motion (which is more likely to get a yawn than a yelp), and over-the-top death scenes mixing violence, crashing, clanging and flinging things around. It actually reminds one of action films of late, such as Kick-Ass, Batman, or X-Men. Hang on a second —is this Carrie or Carrie the Telekinetic Superwoman on a bad hair day? It ticks a number of boxes describing a clichéd action film. Consequently, it sacrifices its individuality, opting to conform rather than stand out, and so losing its shockability. This conformity defeats the point of the film, the point of Carrie herself.One highlight of the film, though, was Judy Greer (Arrested Development and Archer) as the gym teacher, Miss Desjardin. Otherwise, the best thing I can say about this film is that it might encourage people to see the original version if they haven’t already. Jeni Morris Image Credit: All rights owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/ Screen Gems

Film Review: 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

WallStreet2013posterParamountPicturesUniversalPicturesJenni Morris reviews the film everyone is talking about, The Wolf of Wall Street.Let the chaos of Stratton Oakmont commence! From the numerous orgies, to the coke-clouded minds, to the uninhibited exploitation of the self and others, this latest Martin Scorsese film has offended many. Feminists declare it misogynistic, PETA supporters cry “Cruelty to animals!”, and Christians denounce it as morally bankrupt. True, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) does not learn his lesson and justice is not served. After years of essentially robbing others and then abusing them further with an outrageous lifestyle, Belfort spends a measly 22 months in prison —where he earns more money. He is the anti-hero that fails to become our true hero.Yet, by being so morally ambiguous, the film asks us to reflect upon ourselves. Just 22 months in prison? Evidently, there are problems with the legal system, not just with Wall Street. Also, are we any better? Sitting in the cinema, we all howled with laughter at the Wolf’s crazy antics and escapades. I know it is only a film and therefore fictional, but I cannot help feeling I was complicit in his crimes. Plus, it was cruel to cackle as Belfort and Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) nearly killed themselves with drink and drugs. Ironically, it was quite sobering to see.Depravity runs amok in his world. Of course, the most obvious and hard to avoid is the visual. There is plenty of nudity, both male and female. Prostitution is a popular pastime and the wives of the stockbrokers are treated as commodities. The women are used and abused, physically and emotionally. Feminist critics do have a point; the film does seem misogynistic. However, while the characters undoubtedly are, that reflects on neither the film nor the actors necessarily. Furthermore, if the men are misogynists, the film shows it can be to their detriment. After all, Belford —aka King Midas— ends up rich but isolated, having been abandoned by wife and daughter. He, and his cronies, sell their bodies, their souls (if one believes in such things) and their own fortunes to satiate their lusts. Each is their own pimp and prostitute. Ultimately, a moral lesson is there, just not overt or especially felt by the characters themselves.DiCaprio is excellent as Jordan Belfort. It is no wonder he wanted to play this part. He is not well-known for his comedic talents, but Dicaprio proves he is more than capable of making the audience laugh. Furthermore, his act combines particular elements we have seen from him before in other movies. In Catch Me If You Can (2002) he plays a young, cocky but naïve conman. In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) he plays a mentally and physically handicapped boy. How does the latter apply, you may ask? Well, DiCaprio uses his body contortion skills to bring to life both roles; though, for Grape, his character didn’t handicap himself with Quaaludes and booze. Reemploying skills acquired through a wealth of acting experience, DiCaprio gave an arresting performance that almost excuses his parts in cringe-worthy films like The Beach or Titanic.Even given Dicaprio’s laudable acting, for me, the stand out performance was Jonah Hill. Playing a sex-obsessed socially awkward dweeb is nothing new for him, but this performance is more nuanced than ever before. The thick spectacles and luminescent white teeth are one thing, but he succeeds in being funny without knowing he is making a joke; he is absorbed in his role and utterly convincing.Despite great acting, this did not quite seem like a new Scorsese classic. It is evidently infused with his characteristic style and technique, but it was like he was handing over the reins–albeit cautiously–to DiCaprio. But, ultimately, I cannot imagine Scorsese disappearing into darkness under the bright glare of DiCaprio like the stockbrokers did under Belfort. The film was simply not as gritty and the characters less fleshed-out than other Scorsese tales of morally corrupt men who sharply shoot to stardom only to fall flat on their face.Raging Bull (1980) is a prime example of classic Scorsese. Jake LaMotta (played by Robert DeNiro), like Belfort, is an obsessive character. Along his journey, the aggressive middleweight boxer allows his ambitions to rule him to the extreme that he not only damages himself physically and mentally, but also hurts those closest to him. Though similar to Jordan Belfort in many ways, LaMotta is more intense and enriched; thus, we can connect with him on an emotional level that we never do with Belfort. Maybe DeNiro is simply a better actor? But then again, Raging Bull is much more of a character study than Wolf. Told from an omniscient perspective, Raging Bull is far more successful in providing us with a well-rounded idea of who its main character really is. In Wolf, we only see Belford’s viewpoint, and he is far from introspective. Therefore, we only have superficial understandings of the characters. Even Jordan’s nickname —The Wolf— is a shallow assessment of his personality. With LaMotta, we believe he is like a bull: brutal, and his own victim. Jordan, while also his own worst enemy, is not “The Wolf”. Jordan Belfort is just another wolf. Jordan is another wolf on Wall Street that hunts and devours his prey, howling with pride. Then when life gets tough, he huffs and puffs, acts without thinking like a petulant infant, and so gets trampled by bigger, badder predators.While not a masterpiece, it asks the viewers to reflect on themselves, not simply the film, and for this, if nothing else, it is worth seeing.Jeni Morris Image Credit: all rights owned by Paramount Pictures/Universal Pictures

Pachamama: An Inspiring Perspective on Climate Change

Credit: Vance GellertWhether we realize it or not, the impact of climate change is prevalent across the globe.As students, we have all at some point in our lives been educated about the topic through a variety of ways; monotonous videos, tedious scientific texts, green-friendly talks. Unfortunately, the influence of these methods for most people seem to last a minimal amount and we tend not to gain enough motivation to make a difference. Alice Rowsome and Eliza Upadhyaya, second year students from the University of St Andrews have decided to take a fresh approach to the subject with their project, Pachamama.Pachamama is a unique feature-length film documentary focusing on an indigenous population residing in the Bolivian Andes called the Kallawayas’. With climate change being a prevalent issue in the Kallawaya community, the peoples have found imaginative and inspiring ways to deal with their changing environment. The project will provide audiences with “the human aspect” and hopes of “bringing a whole new angle to climate change”, explains Rowsome. The project will focus on the methods of the Kallawaya peoples and how we can learn and potentially adopt their perspectives of climate change.The Kallawayas’ are famously recognized for being naturopathic healers with an impressive reputation for healing Inca kings. They are dedicated to uphold their reputation by creating an intensive yet harmonious relationship between the secrets of Mother Nature (Pachamama) and healthcare, and have been successful in doing so as their skills are demanded all over Bolivia and in countries across South America. However, having such a strong relationship with the environment, the Kallawayas’ face extreme sensitivity to climate change.Producers Eliza Upadhyaya (left) & Alice Rowsome (right)Producers Alice Rowsome and Eliza Upadhyaya plan to explore and present to audiences how climate change affects not only the Kallawayas but “everyone, because everyone is interconnected”. Upadhyaya further explains that climate change is an “issue of the future” and stresses that “it’s not too late to change things around, but it’s too late not to do anything about it”. The producers have managed to overcome a huge step in the project by being accepted into the Kallawaya community with full support from traditional healers and local officials.“They know that we are trying to share their stories and knowledge with the World, which they couldn’t have done otherwise.”The next step lies in the hands of supporters. The producers are keen on raising funds primarily from students so that the youth has a chance to “pick up the pieces” and create an impact through the production of the film. Donations can be made on Kickstarter, and depending on the amount you donate, you are eligible for some great perks, including becoming a producer of the documentary.The project has a limited number of days to raise £8000 and the deadline is fast approaching. If you feel like donating, this is an amazing opportunity to get involved with, so get your flatmates/sports team/friends involved and make a difference!To learn more or to donate, click on the following links:Official Website: http://www.pachamamafilm.com/Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/573963648/pachamama-documentary-film?ref=usersFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/pachamamadocumentaryTwitter: https://twitter.com/alice_and_eliza M Lyla Saifi

‘Defiant Honesty’: 12 Years a Slave Reviewed

Adobe Photoshop PDFAn attempt to honestly portray a history which has been curiously downplayed until recent times.In the opening credits of 12 Years a Slave we read the infamous line: ‘this film is based on a true story’. The reference to the film’s origin; the 1853 memoir of the same name by Solomon Northup, reflects on a larger scale the defiant honesty with which the film wants to depict slavery. Stylistically sharp from the beginning, the film that led critic Armond White to heckle Director Steve McQueen and dub it ‘torture porn’ is as painful to watch as it is educational. The film follows Solomon’s story, taking on slavery in an unapologetic fashion. This uninhibited depiction is likely where White’s criticism originates. The more graphic scenes proved difficult to sit through — but the film’s integrity lies in the empathy it implores from its audience.Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor), an educated, violin playing ‘free negro’ born in New York State, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He spends 12 years working as a slave on the plantations of Louisiana before a labourer named Bass (Brad Pitt) discovers Solomon’s true story and agrees to write to his family about his whereabouts. But by this point Solomon has reached the end of hope, as we see him struggling to survive and despairingly destroying the violin he had been gifted by one slave owner. The wish is to ‘live, not survive’, as he proclaims upon his kidnapping. As the film progresses, this seems to slowly disappear. Ejiofor’s performance sees a choreographically poignant gradual hunching of body and spirit as time passes.The camera pauses on Solomon’s face, focuses and waits for us to grasp the magnitude of each significant event. We watch his reaction whilst the cotton plants sway, beautiful, hazy and unfocused in the background. The hum of movement remains constant whilst Solomon tells his story through stillness in the foreground. Reminiscent of McQueen’s Shame, the spaces in between the action are the most important, full of potential which is quickly negated by reality. Whether it is a speeding subway train, or slaves continuing work whilst another hangs from a tree branch, the scenes McQueen creates agonise the audience from the beginning.Steve_McQueen_at_TIFF_2013_ChrisCheungThe brutality of the slaves’ treatment is never avoided. Michael Fassbender’s performance as Epps, a slave owner renowned for ‘breaking’ slaves, is terrifying in its unpredictability and violence. His desperation only worsens his tyrannical treatment of his ‘property’, whilst his mental demise reflects the impact of human cruelty on the perpetrator and the victims. In one drunken scene he proceeds to chase Solomon around and through a pigsty; the slapstick elements of Epp’s falling through the muck juxtaposing Platt’s attempt at reasoning with him and almost ridiculing the slave — slave owner relationship.Contrasting Tarantino’s outlandish inversion of roles to evoke comedy in Django Unchained, McQueen uses a classic comedic trope of silent film. The result is an avoidance of slipping into emotionally fuelled tear-jerker territory, and a realism that drives home the injustice of slavery. A subject historically avoided by Hollywood producers is being taken up with gusto, and 12 Years a Slave provides a harrowing reality that perfectly balances its different elements to create a film that holds an important role in honestly recounting one of the darkest, least honourable parts of our history. Naomi Morrice  Image Credits:-movie poster, all credits to Fox Searchlight Pictures and affiliates-Steve McQueen, Chris Cheung