Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 114: Wed Nov 4

 Boyz n the Hood (Singleton, 1991): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.30pm

This great  film about black American life is being screened from a 35mm print.

Time Out review: ‘Increase the peace’ pleads the final frame of John Singleton’s angry, era-defining 1991 story of young black manhood on the streets of Los Angeles. In this era of Black Lives Matter and #Oscarssowhite it may feel like little has changed – the peace has notably failed to increase. But that just makes this re-release, part of the Black Star season at BFI Southbank, all the more relevant.

‘Boyz n the Hood’ opens in 1984, as ten-year-old Tre is sent to live with his dad Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) in South Central LA and falls in with a gang of local kids. Seven years later Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr, who really does look a lot older than 17) is struggling to find his own path. His best friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut) hopes for footballing glory and neighbour Doughboy (Ice Cube) just wants to be a gangsta.

Employing a loose, episodic structure, Singleton’s script is a masterclass in making complex social and political issues easy to digest and audience-friendly – remarkable for a writer-director who was just 23 when the film was released. The characterisation is sharp, the plot basic but compelling and it’s all lightened up with lots of creative swearing. The central performances are strong too: Gooding is a pouty, relatable teenage hero and Fishburne an icon of self-contained masculinity. But it’s Ice Cube in his acting debut who steals the show as the loose, unpredictable gangbanger with mommy issues.

‘Boyz n the Hood’ hasn’t aged perfectly. Despite the occasional ‘I ain’t no ho!’ outburst, there’s clearly a problem with women, who tend to be mouthy and troubled or maternal and saintly. The supporting actors struggle a bit, and despite a great hip hop soundtrack, the jazz-tinged score is shockingly syrupy. Still, this is an important film for a reason: one of the first to lay out the truth about black American lives, it remains politically astute and fiercely entertaining. Tom Huddleston

Here (and above) is the trailer.


Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 113: Tue Nov 3

Mr Smith Goes to Washington (Capra, 1939): Prince Charles Cinema, 5.30pm

This Frank Capra classic is being screened from a 35mm print.

Chicago Reader review: "Boy Ranger" leader Jefferson Smith (James Stewart), appointed junior senator, battles corrupt senior senator Claude Rains and protofascist industrialist/media magnate Edward Arnold in Frank Capra's 1939 vindication of simple virtues and barefoot American democracy. Capra's films in the 30s—the screwball comedies that he nearly single-handedly created—reconciled the irreconcilable; bridged the rural/urban divide; showed love, decency, and neighborliness ascendant; and demonstrated conclusively that America was a land of perfect unity where all social classes were one. Capra's populist heroes—Longfellow Deeds, Jefferson Smith, John Doe—deflated pomposity at home and defeated the shadowy undemocratic forces threatening the globe. This is classic Capracorn, with the greatest girl cynic of the 30s, Jean Arthur. Dan Druker

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 112: Mon Nov 2

 Middle of Nowhere (DuVernay, 2012): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.45pm

This Sundance Festivak hit is part of the Women Make Film season at BFI Southbank curated by Mark Cousins.

Chicago Reader review: Those of us who head west to Sundance every year and still cling to old-school notions regarding independent cinema—that it can flourish as a forum for alternative viewpoints, that low production values and high-quality storytelling aren’t mutually exclusive, that independent isn’t just a label but also an ethos—often leave Park City experiencing a crisis of faith. But every so often, the festival midwifes a film that reminds us that a sense of discovery still exists on the margins of American moviemaking. Half Nelson, Compliance and Take Shelter are perfect examples; Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary chronicle of a marriage interrupted is another.

Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi, a true find) is introduced as the equivalent of a penal-system widow, comforting her convict spouse (Omari Hardwick) with the notion that this will all be over soon. Cut to four years later, and time—as well as the ensuing familial disappointments, financial burdens and false hopes—has taken its toll on both of them. A friendly bus driver (The Paperboy’s David Oyelowo) offers a second chance at happiness, but can Ruby let go of something that may be beyond repair? There’s every reason to think that DuVernay’s tale of a woman trying desperately to stand by her incarcerated man might fall prey to the cloying earnestness and clunky clich├ęs that infect too many Amerindie dramas. But this character study’s refusal to pander by sensationalizing its central social issue skirts such pitfalls with amazing grace; this is humanistic drama done right. David Fear

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 111: Sun Nov 1

Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004): Prince Charles Cinema, 3.50pm

This excellent spoof zombie horror film is screened from 35mm.

Chicago Reader review: George Romero's zombie trilogy has generated an endless parade of remakes and rip-offs, but this clever British spoof comes closer than many to the bitter satire that makes his movies so distinctive. TV writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright fully exploit the core gag of most horror comedy, as the title hero (Pegg), a feckless electronics salesman, remains stubbornly oblivious to the gathering danger. But they've twisted this conceit into something much wittier: in a workaday London populated by shuffling, pale-faced drones, Shaun can be excused for not recognizing genuine zombies when he sees them. Pegg and Wright are out of their depth in the second half, when they try to engage the more disturbing elements of Romero's movies, but their disaffected slacker take on the genre is a welcome alternative to the usual bloodbaths. JR Jones

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 110: Sat Oct 31

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973): Prince Charles Cinema, 8.30pm

The Exorcist (35mm) extended cut is on at the Prince Charles from Friday October 30th to November 4th. You can find the full details here.

Chicago Reader review: "Doubtless this tale of spirit possession in Georgetown packs a punch, but so does wood alcohol," wrote Reader critic Don Druker in an earlier review of this. I wouldn't be quite so dismissive: as a key visual source for Mel Gibson's depiction of evil in The Passion of the Christ, as well as an early indication of how seriously pulp can be taken when religious faith is involved, this 1973 horror thriller is highly instructive as well as unnerving. William Friedkin, directing William Peter Blatty's adaptation of his own novel, aims for the jugular, privileging sensation over sense and such showbiz standbys as vomit and obscenity over plodding exposition. Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here and above is the original trailer.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 109: Fri Oct 30

But I'm A Cheerleader (Babbit, 1999): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 6.10pm

This camp satire, part of the Women Make Film season at BFI Southbank curated by Mark Cousins, also screens on November 17th ... and in glorious 35mm. Full details here.

Chicago Reader review: High school cheerleader Megan (Natasha Lyonne) comes home one day to find family and friends gathered in the living room. They talk her into going to a rehabilitation camp for homosexuals that's no more surreal than her suburban community—the absurdist environment, with its rigorously defined gender roles, tweaks reality enough to show how little exaggeration the satire requires. As a ditz who's just smart enough to know something isn't right, Lyonne blends hyperbole and sincerity in perfect proportions. Jamie Babbit directed a screenplay by Brian Wayne Peterson; with Clea DuVall, Cathy Moriarty, and RuPaul Charles. Lisa Alspector

Here (and above) is the trailer.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Capital Celluloid 2020 — Day 108: Thu Oct 29

 A Man Escaped (Bresson, 1956): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.05pm

This 35mm presentation of the Robert Bresson classic will also be shown on November 28th (full details here). The film is part of the 'Near the Jugular' season (more here via this link).

Chicago Reader review:
Based on a French lieutenant's account of his 1942 escape from a gestapo fortress in Lyon, this stately yet uncommonly gripping 1956 feature is my choice as the greatest achievement of Robert Bresson, one of the cinema's foremost artists. (It's rivaled only by his more corrosive and metaphysical 1970 film Au Hasard Balthazar.) The best of all prison-escape movies, it reconstructs the very notion of freedom through offscreen sounds and defines salvation in terms of painstakingly patient and meticulous effort. Bresson himself spent part of the war in an internment camp and subsequently lived through the German occupation of France, experiences that inform his magisterial grasp of what the concentrated use of sound and image can reveal about souls in hiding. Essential viewing.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

Here (and above) is the trailer.