One last mad trip to Jo-burg: The flawed brilliance of Chappie

After mixed results after the explosive District 9, Neill Blomkamp’s latest effort Chappie arrives on the scene once again to lukewarm reviews. Jack Brindelli, looks beneath the film’s ungainly outer shell, to reveal a beautiful message within it’s circuitry.

I make no secret of the fact I am unconditionally a Neill Blomkamp fan. His detractors often cite a lack of lacking subtlety and finesse as his work’s major downfall, with his somewhat black and white allegory of class-based inequality Elysium (2013) taking the brunt of the criticism. But even in the supposedly unfinessed haphazard film there are flashes of brilliance (the literally inhuman Job Centre for one) that show for all Blomkamp’s faults, he is a world-class sci-fi satirist. That is not something that restraint or understatement is necessary for, as you can see from his explosive début District 9 (2009); it’s about blowing up the contradictions in society between the promises of mainstream ideology and the reality it actually delivers, it is about taking dominant ideology to its logically absurd conclusion.   Continue reading

Fifty Shades of… Huh?

It’s been two weeks since the release of Fifty shades of Grey gave the topic of abusive relationships a rather troubling Valentines Day gloss. Complaints have ranged from accusations it romanticises violence against women, to the somewhat moot point that the acting, writing and direction are all to put it bluntly, “flaccid”. Weeks later, in the cold light of day, away from the saccharine veneer of it’s Valentines weekend release, Ruth Grahame outlines why Fifty shades wins Hollywood Hegemony’s “most confusing sexual politics” award.

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Trigger warnings:  Abusive relationships. Fifty shades of Grey. BDSM*. Psychological abuse. Rape culture. *warning because many individuals have damaging experiences with it, not because its inherently damaging

As a  queer, kinky feminist, I read most of the first book and got very, very angry. The Christian Grey of the books has no consideration of boundaries, constantly pushes Ana to do more when she has explicitly made her discomfort unclear (Which she shouldn’t even have to do, he can read hints, he just doesn’t care about them), and literally rapes her in more than one scene across the trilogy.  In a society where, in England and Wales 2 women are killed by their partners or ex-partners every week, only a third of convicted rapists get jail-time, and “why did she go home with him?” is a more common question than “why didn’t he stop?”, the defending of abusers because “they were in love” or “its just a book and therefore has no social context or influence” is such strong bullshit I almost cried on several occasions. Continue reading

Oddly Enough: A Love Note to Birdman

Oddly enough, it’s currently infuriating the culture snobs it was explicitly about. It’s the film that “robbed” the ‘superior’ Boyhood, that infuriated po-faced broadsheet critics and red-faced tabloid hacks alike, and that trumped Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking and Martin Luther King Jr. Amidst the wreckage of Sunday night, after the Academy declared Birdman Best Picture, writer Lucy Cowburn argues in favour of a much-maligned masterpiece.

So; I am gobsmacked.  When I walked out of the cinema after seeing Birdman I knew that I wanted it to win the Best Director Oscar.  I didn’t expect it to win the Best Picture award for a moment.  I thought it too small a film for that and there were other films about more inspiring men vying it out for that title.  As much as the Academy claims to love a story about an everyman, it’s a lie.  They give awards to stories about men who change the world, preferably while being really patriotic or fulfilling the American Dream.  Clearly why Selma was nominated for so many awards.  It’s nice that it fell back onto the actors playing actors option.  We haven’t seen that since Argo in 2013.  Continue reading

“The Stones Cry Out” Norwich Palestinian Solidarity Campaign AGM Screening

Wednesday 18th February, 7.00pm
Friends Meeting House, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich
The Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign will be showing this much acclaimed film on Wednesday. All are welcome to attend the film show, whether or not they are members of PSC.

Filmmaker Yasmine Perni  brings us the voices of Palestinian Christians and covers the period from  the Nakba of 1948 until today. This is its first showing in Norwich and an opportunity not to be missed. Continue reading

Night of the Loving Dead

Forget the thinly veiled misogyny of 50 Shades of Grey, this Valentine’s there’s only one film you need sink your teeth into. So rather than the usual sugary sweet gunk that clogs up our screens this time of year, cuddle up with your loved ones – although not too close – and cower in silence to the ignored genius of Bruce McDonald and Tony Burgess’ Pontypool. 

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We Have a Dream – ‘Selma’ reminds us there is still so much to fight for

There is a conspicuous absence of a particular speech in Selma. There is no “I have a dream.” But then, in a film that is just as much about encouraging us to fight collectively to enable each other’s dreams in the modern day, that single call to arms is just a tiny part of the story anyway. That’s why, in a world fraught with division and desperation, it is the most important film nominated at the 2015 Oscars.

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Do Employees Dream of Electric Sheep?

“If we release the slaves, they will rob, rape and murder their former masters.” “If we allow universal suffrage, the proletariat will elect Bolsheviks and execute the monarchy.” “If we create machines without subverting them to human needs, they could supersede us and cause humanity’s extinction.” Jack Brindelli examines the ruling class fears at play in sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, and asks why exactly we should fear their liberty?


There is something of the slave-owner’s ‘logic’ about Stephen Hawking’s recent assertion, along with many other eminent ‘scientists’ (who, we should note, are mostly experts in fields that are irrelevant to the debate on Artificial Intelligence), claiming that we should seek to ‘rein in’ research that could lead to machines thinking, feeling and creating for themselves. Because I suppose if you think about it, if you were a supremely intelligent being capable of conferring the construct of “beauty” on the world around you, you’d probably want to inexplicably wipe out all life too. Continue reading