Lan Yu (2001): Drama/Romance

A young, gay student from the countryside arrives in Beijing and falls in love with an older businessman who is undecided as to what life he wants to lead.

A sweet and sour, beautiful, yet thought-provoking drama! The story’s beauty lies in its simplicity; the complexity of romance. Contradictory, isn’t it? It’s because we are. And so are human relationships. The ancient source of artistic inspiration, the expression of feelings – or lack thereof, will always be contemporary and the more we turn the blind eye to it, the more we will have to face it.

Lan Yu (Ye Liu) and Chen Handong (Jun Hu) fall in love despite their efforts not to, but the heart hardly ever abides by our mind’s decisions. Ironically, the cause of drama is Chen, the more mature and more experienced of the two, who doesn’t even know what he doesn’t want. Therefore, when life presents to him the choice, he only blows past it, and moves on. But, does he? Life works in mysterious ways and, when he least expects it, time reveals to him opportunities he was too blind to see in the past.

From a filmmaking point of view, the narrative is constantly restricted so, from beginning till end, what you know, or think you know as audience is what the heroes do and vice versa, something that increases the suspense as much as it increases the tension. Writer Jimmy Ngai and director Stanley Kwan, based on an anonymous novel published online, bring to life a provoking drama that will make you question your life’s choices, and ask the one simple question that, as much as we would all loved to, we’ll never find an answer. What if…

An all round applause for Kwan, Liu, Hu, and all cast and crew who challenge through art their political system and cultural norms, and keep the fire of unconditional and unrestricted forward-thinking burning.

Please, don’t forget to share, and subscribe. If you enjoy my work and dedication to films, please feel free to support me on https://www.patreon.com/kaygazpro. Any contribution is much appreciated and valued.

Solidarity for Ukraine 🇺🇦 🙏

Stay safe!

Pontypool (2008): Fantasy/Horror/Thriller

What seems to be just another day in the studio for a radio broadcaster and his team, turns into a living nightmare when disturbing information comes in of brutal killings around town.

Claustrophobic and satirical, with poignant messages hidden under the surface. I love that film! It is the simplicity, the mystery, the restricted narrative, and definitely Stephen McHattie! The lady banging on the window in the first act is the harbinger of doom and the twenty-minute gap between that and the first information coming in from Ken about “the riot” serves as the doom’s delay. The moment the suspicions become confirmation, the audience’s imagination starts riding into the unknown, filling it with grotesque images of horrible death not seen at all. What is that crowd? Why do they do atrocious things to other people? What do these specific words trigger? Why do these specific words trigger it?

In the end, it feels like a satyre of certain known horror films, such as Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), but it carries a couple of messages that are open for debate. Without spoiling it to you, the mention of the “separatists”, and the use of the English language play a significant role to those subliminal messages’ interpretation.

Based on Tony Burgess’ novel “Pontypool Changes Everything”, who also penned the script, director Bruce McDonald brings to life a humorous horror that is meant to scare, entertain, and make you think at the same time. Lisa Houle, and Georgina Reilly amazingly accompany McHattie It is a must-watch regardless of how you look at it. I hope you enjoy it!

Stay safe!

Dead End (2003): Adventure/Horror/Mystery

A family’s trip to the in-laws on Christmas Eve becomes a nightmare in the middle of an endless, eerie forest.

Dead End is so bad that is amazing! Dead End is cult! Dead End belongs to the pantheon of Christmas horrors for numerous reasons. Let’s see… In Dead End, you get to experience the worst decisions ever made by anyone in the history of horror films. Forget about going to the basement when one hears a sound. We are talking about a series of THE most horrendous decisions you’ve ever seen. Dead End is a character-driven film so, it is the characters that move the story forward; people that you definitely don’t want to be next to you if you were to experience any horrific situation. From a filmmaking point of view, it often looks like a student project, but given the narrative’s development, I don’t think anyone should pay serious attention to how writers/directors Jean-Baptiste Andrea and Fabrice Canepa have made it. The jump cuts are definitely the highlight though.

Regardless of how I have described it so far, we need to keep in mind that Dead End has turned 18 and, maybe, that’s why it feels outdated. It could have easily been an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959) so, in the end, most of what’s been said and done kind of makes sense. Ray Wise and Lin Shaye (veteran in horror films) are a great on-screen, fighting couple and both of them perform brilliantly. Alexandra Holden and Amber Smith captivate with their presence.

If you are looking for something horrific yet entertaining, maybe, that’s the one for you. I very much hope you enjoy it, as well as this festive period.

Stay safe!

Black Christmas (2006): Horror

On Christmas Eve, a group of sorority girls are getting murdered one by one by an escaped psychopath who used to live in their house as a kid.

Blood, gore, incest, cannibalism, and sexualised females all up for the Christmas spirit. What can I say… Black Christmas is the poster child of standard Hollywood horror films that leave nothing to the imagination. All information is dumbed down and fully explained and that speaks volumes regarding the audience it aims to address. Based on Roy Moore’s 1974 original script, writer/director Glen Morgan creates a film that does a colossal disservice to the original film, and unfortunately, drags everything and everyone down with him. IMDb classifies it just as horror, but the comedic elements cannot be hidden, but if they were not meant to be comedic… well, they are anyway.

I could name and number everything that is wrong with the film, but I won’t. It will be like kicking down a film that has already suffered atrocious reviews and Morgan himself paid a very heavy price making this film. The only actress who made a successful career after Black Christmas is Mary Elizabeth Winstead who, to this day, proves to be an absolute gem. Don’t take my word for it though, see Kate (2021): https://kaygazpro.com/2021/11/01/kate-2021-action-adventure-crime/. Personally, I find Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe a gem that needs a lot more spotlight.

Reportedly, Morgan disowned his own film and blamed the Weinstein brothers for it. If anything, that’s the only reason I’m glad it didn’t do well. Out of the four Christmas horrors I reviewed this festive period, this one comes by far fourth, with:

I hope you enjoy this festive period! Stay safe!

Tsotsi (2005): Crime/Drama

When a young gangster commits a crime he never expected, he finds himself experiencing emotions he never had before.

Mise-en-scene and editing that enhance the narrative, move the story forward and emphasise on the pain but also hope. Tsotsi which, from what I read, means “thug” in Johannesburg slang, was the rightful Oscar winner 2006 for the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year!

When I first watched it back then, I may have had no idea about who Gavin Hood was, or may have not known about films what I know now, or even could not understand what I understand now about South Africa’s torment… but still I was filled with tears in the end while watching it mouth agape. Tsotsi is the torn (anti)hero’s journey that will make you hate him, feel for him, and then be left with so many mixed feelings, rethinking of Boston’s “decency” – and “redemption” (my addition). Megan Hill’s editing plays a tremendous role in narratives such as this as it paces the audience’s emotions and defines the film’s rhythm. It is a masterclass! There are so many more technical details that I could urge you to pay attention to, but no need. Let the film speak to you.

I was fresh out of the special forces back then and, to a certain extent, beside myself, and Tsotsi helped me reevaluate certain aspects of life. That is the power of cinema and, like every other form of art, it is part of our lives, affecting it in ways we could never predict or plan. As much as liked Hood’s Official Secrets (2019) https://kaygazpro.com/2019/12/16/official-secrets-2019-biography-drama-romance/ Tsotsi still remains my all time favourite of his. Last but not least, Presley Chweneyagae’s realistic incarnation of Tsotsi will make you forget he is actually acting. Enjoy the thrill!

Stay safe!

Friday the 13th – An Unlucky Day (?) and the Birth of an Instant Classic

Tonight, Michelle Satchwell comes back once more with, as always intriguing information regarding Friday the 13th both as a day and as a film. Is it actually an unlucky day? Does it still have an impact on us and the society we live in? What is it that made it a great horror film back then and why is it still considered cult today?

References

Michelle’s book: Psychology Review: A-level Exam Skills and Practice Paperback – 30 Oct. 2020 ISBN-10: 1398308013

Baron-Cohen, S (2001). Theory of Mind in normal development and Autism. Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, Cambridge. 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238603356_Theory_of_Mind_in_normal_development_and_autism

Yuki, Metal (2007). Are the windows to the soul the same in East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognise emotions in Japan and United States. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (43), pp 303 -311. 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/222549401_Are_the_windows_to_the_soul_the_same_in_the_East_and_West_Cultural_differences_in_using_the_eyes_and_mouth_as_cues_to_recognize_emotions_in_Japan_and_the_United_States

Rosenthal, A. M. (1964). Thirty-eight witnesses: The Kitty Genovese Case. Melville House Publishing. https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/thirty-eight-witnesses/

In-group and Out-group in Social Identity Theory (in reference to bullies); Tajfel, H (1979). Individuals and groups in psychology. British Journal of Social and Critical Psychology (18), pp 183 -190. 

https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.2044-8260.1979.tb00324.x

Skinner, B, F (1948). ‘Superstition’ in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology (38), pp. 166 -172. 

https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1948-04299-001

(Behaviourists / Learning Theory Approach) Negative Reinforcement in Operant Conditioning of phobias; https://www.psychologyhub.co.uk/the-behavioural-approach-to-explaining-and-treating-phobias-the-two-process-model-including-classical-and-operant-conditioning/

(Social Learning Theory Approach) Role Models; 

https://gcse-psychology.fandom.com/wiki/Social_Learning_Theory_-_Phobias

(Cognitive Approach) Confirmation bias; https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/seeing-what-others-dont/201905/the-curious-case-confirmation-bias

(Anomalistic Approach) Discriminative stimulus; https://www.murdoch.edu.au/news/articles/on-friday-the-13th-leave-the-superstitions-at-home


(Psychodynamic Approach in relation to the Mother-Son bond) Oedipus Complex in Phallic Stage of Psychosexual Development; Freud, S (1905). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. Standard Edition (7), pp. 123 – 246. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cavitch/pdf-library/Freud_SE_Three_Essays_complete.pdf
(Psychodynamic Approach in relation to the Mother-Son bond) Schizophrenogenic Mother; Fromm-Reichmann, F (1948) Notes on the development of treatment of schizophrenics by psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Psychiatry, 11(3), 263–273.

(Evolutionary Approach in relation to the Mother-Son bond) Bowlby, J. (1956). Mother-child separation. Mental Health and Infant Development, 1, 117 – 122. 

https://www.simplypsychology.org/bowlby.html

(Evolutionary Approach in relation to the Mother-Son bond) Bowlby, J. (1944). Forty-four juvenile thieves: Their characters and home life. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 25(19-52), 107-127. 

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Forty-four-juvenile-thieves%3A-their-characters-and-Bowlby/ecc5eeaef75614e4129f0088bb472c5de2a7800c

Uncanny Valley

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-uncanny-valley-human-look-alikes-put-us-on-edge/

SOCIOLOGY SPECIFIC:
Stephen: The murder that changed a nation. (2018). https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b0br42 (Three part documentary looking at institutional racism in the UK in the 1990s). 

Halo effect; Thorndike, E (1920). The constant error in psychological ratings. Teachers College, Columbia University. http://web.mit.edu/curhan/www/docs/Articles/biases/4_J_Applied_Psychology_25_(Thorndike).pdf

Anti-school subcultures and working class as bullies; Willis, P (1977). Learning to Labour. Columbia University Press Edition https://www.tutor2u.net/sociology/reference/classic-texts-paul-willis-learning-to-labour-1977
Anti-school subcultures form in working class; Mac an Ghaill (1994). The making of men. Oxford University Press. 

https://hecticteachersalevelsociologysite.wordpress.com/roles-and-processes-in-school/student-sub-cultures/

Youth buy their identity; Polhemus, T. Supermarket of Style. http://www.tedpolhemus.com/main_concept5%20467.html

GENERIC:

Paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of Friday 13th); https://www.fearof.net/fear-of-friday-the-13th-phobia-paraskevidekatriaphobia-or-friggatriskaidekaphobia/

Triskaidekaphobia (fear of number 13); https://www.verywellmind.com/triskaidekaphobia-2671880

Tetraphobia (fear of number 4); https://people.howstuffworks.com/number-4-unlucky.htm

Heptadecaphobia (fear of number 17); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heptadecaphobia

Frequency of Friday 13th; https://www.inverse.com/article/26371-friday-the-13th-upcoming-dates

History behind Friday 13th and social impact; https://www.history.com/topics/folklore/friday-the-13thhttps://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/what-is-friday-13th-superstition-facts-sciencehttps://people.howstuffworks.com/friday-thirteenth.htm
https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/do-you-fear-now-that-friday-the-13th-is-here.html

How odd: We’re hard-wired to prefer even numbers; https://www.wired.co.uk/article/alex-bellos

Male nudity; https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080761/trivia

Lunacy etymology; https://www.etymonline.com/word/lunacy

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi / Horror

Tonight, I created a short, yet concise episode about something that I was contemplating some time ago and published for the first time in The World of Apu online film magazine. As the episode’s title implies, it is regarding the pessimistic or even horrific view of our future.

References

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/society

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/utopia

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/dystopia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Dialogues_of_Plato

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lob

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavia_E._Butler

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Bradbury

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke

http://theworldofapu.com/category/film-analysis/

Dystopian Films

Metropolis (1927)

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Alphaville (1965)

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

The Omega Man (1971)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

THX 1138 (1971)

Mad Max Franchise (1979, 1981, 1985, 2015)

Brave New World (1980)

Escape from New York (1981)

Blade Runner (1982)

Videodrome (1983)

Nineteen Sighty-Four (1984)

Threads (1984)

Brazil (1985)

Dead Man’s Letters (1986)

RoboCop (1987)

The Running Man (1987)

Total Recall (1990)

Demolition Man (1993)

Fortress (1993)

The Stand (1994)

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Judge Dredd (1995)

12 Monkeys (1995)

Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Strange Days (1995)

Waterworld (1995)

Starship Troopers (1997)

The Fifth Element (1997)

Gattaca (1997)

The Postman (1997)

Dark City (1998)

Pleasantville (1998)

eXistenZ (1999)

The Matrix (1999)

Battle Royale (2000)

On the Beach (2000)

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Equilibrium (2002)

Minority Report (2002)

Resident Evil (2002)

The Time Machine (2002)

28 Days Later (2002)

Code 46 (2003)

I, Robot (2004)

The Island (2005)

V for Vendetta (2005)

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

I Am Legend (2007)

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Children of Men (2008)

Blindness (2008)

Daybreakers (2009)

District 9 (2009)

The Road (2009)

Watchmen (2009)

Book of Eli (2010)

Never Let Me Go (2010)

The Divide (2011)

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Looper (2012)

Snowpiercer (2013)

The Congress (2013)

Elysium (2013)

The Purge (2013)

The Zero Theorem (2013)

The Rover (2014)

Z for Zachariah (2015)

Westworld (2016 – )

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017 – )

Hotel Artemis (2018)

Ready Player One (2018)

Brave New World (2020)

Mother (2009): Crime / Drama / Mystery

After her son is jailed for a girl’s brutal murder, a mother does everything in her power to prove his innocence.

The mixed feelings begin from the opening shot and extend all the way through the first act. The music, the acting, the character development, the mother/son relationship, and all utterances and actions make one question why IMDb describes it as crime, drama, mystery. Twenty minutes into it, it starts looking that way but still… Yoon Do-joon’s mental disability and the way his surrounding environment and authorities perceive him, makes unclear of what it really is.

The role of his mother though, somehow, despite the human behaviour oddities, in the second act intensifies the drama and turns it into a whodunit with the stamp of Bong Joon Ho. After Memories of Murder (2003) and The Host (2006) and before Snowpiercer (2013), Okja (2017), and Parasite (2019) Bong Joon Ho feels confident directing Mother, most certainly knowing that unpredictable feelings will be evoked. Definitely not for everyone, but it’s the kind of cinema that allows westerners, through art, to discover a variety of cultural idiosyncrasies so different to their own.

Far too many years ago, someone told me that if you end up in hell, your mother will be the only one to find a way to sneak out of heaven, descent, and trade places with you so it is her that withstands eternal suffering, instead of you. Mother ends up being the soul-crushing drama that emphasises on the mother’s sacrifice, loneliness, and unbearable task of carrying a personal cross all the way to the top of Golgotha.

Stay safe!

The Contribution of Heroines, and the Role of Feminism in the Horror Genre – Part 2

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Tonight, I’m releasing the second part of the interview with Michelle Satchwell. Michelle analyses Martyrs and its contribution to the horror genre but she also uses it as a reference for the role of women in torture horrors. Moreover, she talks about advertisements and gender roles in the 80s, and how females have been portrayed, could have been portrayed and how that has affected the present. Last but not least, she talks about the representation of ethnic minorities and non-binary people in the film industry and what potentially the future holds.

Feminism References
Evolutionary Psychologists (no specific names), they focus on reproductive success in mate selection in humans.

Tuchman (1978) Symbolic annihilation (narrow range of roles for females).

Glascock (2001) Leading female characters (e.g. Lara Croft).

Bristol Fawcett Society (2008) Imbalance in media representation.

Ferguson (1983) Forever feminine; focusing on womens’ magazines and the cult of feminity.  Women focus on “him, home and looking good (for him)”.

Johnson and Young (2002) Impact of advertising on children.

McRobbie and Garber (1976) Bedroom culture.

Heidensohn (1985) Social Control of women and crime.

Westwood (1999) Transgression and Gender. “Transgressive female roles that go beyond gendered expectations”.

Gauntlett (2008) The representation of gender roles in the media. “Do the traits of the characters challenge conventional masculinity?”

Julia Kristeva (1980) Powers of Horror: An essay on Abjection.

Freud (1905) Psychosexual stages of development (Pre-Oedpial stage). 

Frieda-Fromm-Reichmann (1984) Schizophrenogenic mother theory.

Further References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suburb

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lives_Matter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woke

Media Representations of women

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette

https://www.waterstones.com/author/sallie-westwood/8084

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_homogenization#:~:text=Cultural%20homogenization%20is%20an%20aspect,but%20customs%2C%20ideas%20and%20values.

Sociological key terms:

Liberal

Marxist

Radical

Black Feminists 

Desensitised

Patriarchy

Agency

Power and Control

Malestream Criminology

White Knight / Saviour Complex

Male Gaze

Vicarious Reinforcement

Toxic Masculinity

Myth of Male Power (Strong)

Halo Effect

Heteronormative

Social Norms

Interactionism

Pluralist View (Reflects Taste of Audience)

Gatekeepers (Stakeholders)

Double Deviant

Takers of Shit

Dual Burden

Idealised Mother

Myth of Motherhood

Chivalry Thesis

Meritocracy

False-class Conscious

Ageism

Fatphobic

Cultural Homogenisation (of Western Individualist Views)

Cross-Cultural Research

Transgressive Sociology

The Contribution of Heroines, and the Role of Feminism in the Horror Genre – Part 1

Tonight, I’m interviewing Michelle Satchwell. Michelle is coming back on the show to talk about the role of women in horror films. Class, gender, and race will also be analysed as to how they have been portrayed over the decades and if and how nowadays things have changed. Michelle analyses classic female-led horror films through sociopolitical theories and practices, and sheds light on how psychology examines these filmic portrayals.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abjection

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sigmund_Freud

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_actions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactionism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oedipus_complex

https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-319-15877-8_482-1#:~:text=Introduction,the%20illness%20(Hartwell%201996).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informal_social_control#:~:text=Informal%20social%20control%2C%20or%20the,such%20as%20citizen%20patrol%20groups.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/evolutionary-theory#:~:text=Evolutionary%20theory%20highlights%20the%20adaptive,%2C%20health%2C%20or%20physical%20size.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slut-shaming

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Bandura

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_girl#:~:text=Clover%20argues%20that%20for%20a,the%20part%20of%20a%20male.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-white-knight-syndrome/200905/white-knight-commonalities#:~:text=White%20knights%20often%20have%20a,be%20hurt%20easily%20by%20others.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism

Prisons: Depravity and Decadence in Horror / Sci-fi… and in Real Life

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Neni Panourgia. Dr. Panourgia is Affiliated Faculty at the Program in Hellenic Studies. She is an anthropologist, Associate Professor at the Prison Education Program, Psychology Department, and Academic Adviser at the Justice in Education Initiative at Columbia University. Tonight, she is talking about the prison system in the US and how that has affected their current but also futuristic cinematic depiction. Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Biography

https://hellenic.columbia.edu/people/profile/388

Books

Score Composition for Dark and Eerie Sequences

Tonight, I’m interviewing Aris Lanaridis. Aris is a film & media composer, sound designer and music producer. Tonight, he is talking about how music affects and enhances the suspense in horror films and what principles dictate how and what kind of music is used.

About Aris

https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/staff/aris-lanaridis

https://tagg.org/teaching/mmi/filmfunx.html

https://www.linkedin.com/in/arislanarides/

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zofia_Lissa

Pulse (2006): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Mysterious entities, start taking over a group of friends through an obscure wireless signal that starts spreading rapidly all over the city.

I’ll be quick… Dark and promising opening sequence that once it gets you hooked it unhooks you with its formulaic narrative. The audience it addresses becomes clear straight away and is none other than… American pre-millennials. Just before the social media, androids and iPhones become our lives, this the generation that started carrying everywhere their cell phones with the ostentatious design.

In case you are wondering why I am doing a review now, it is because I’ve had that DVD on my shelf for the last 15 years and I never got to watch it. Now, I know why. Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s original script and Wes Craven’s adaptation were, allegedly, significantly altered by Ray Wright, something that made Craven walk out before production even started and renounced the film. Besides Wright, director Jim Sonzero did not do a good job either. Unfortunately, he treated his audience like they were mentally incapacitated and that alone is a reason to look down on the film. I’ll give you one example to get an idea. Kristen Bell is wearing make-up from beginning till end. No matter what happens, the make-up is intact. Shocking that there were two more (horrendous) instalments after that.

I’m not going to waste your time. To sum it up, the story could have been promising, the script is dull, the filmmaking techniques were outdated way before the film was made, and it is not Kristen Bell’s and Ian Somerhalder’s fault for being in it. They are really good actors. Watch it at your own risk.

Stay safe!

The Mist (2007): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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When a mist out of nowhere brings with it monsters beyond anyone’s imagination, a diverse group of people in a supermarket must do whatever they can to protect themselves from the monsters or from each other.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations. The film cuts right to it when at the same time develops the characters and brilliantly builds up the suspense. And when the mist covers the city and everyone’s trapped in the unknown… that is the calm before the storm. A calm that cuts your breath short only to take it entirely when the storm unleashes, gradually, what is beyond everyone’s imagination. Admittedly, the visual effects are not what they should have been but, please, see past their mediocrity.

The narrative is astonishing. It feels like the world’s schools of thought are gathered in a supermarket and argue realistically as you and I would have if we were stranded, surrounded by such extra-dimensional calamity. Every character in the store is relatable. Love them, loath them, side with them, or mock them… they constitute society as we know it. They form the mob, they become demagogy. See how the tide changes, how easily everyone shows their true colours when the sh*t hits the fan. Where would you stand – or think you would?

Frank Darabond, after masterfully adapting The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999) adapts yet another Stephen King novel, delving into the human nature while toying with the idea of hellish dimensions and man playing God. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Alexa Davalos, most of them frequent Darabond collaborators, side with each other or go against one another and offer you an unforgettable thrill.

As I said, stick to the psychological side of it, turn the blind eye to the digital VFX, and place yourself in that supermarket. As for the end, I have written an article on soundtracks and powerful cinematic moments so, feel free to check it out only after watching the film as it gives away the one of a kind Greek-tragic-irony-like twist: http://theworldofapu.com/powerful-sequences-soundtracks/

Stay safe!

Asylums: Factual Mental Illness vs Artistically Deranged Projection

Tonight, I’m interviewing Michelle Satchwell. Michelle, after shedding some new light on why kids are portrayed in certain ways in horror films, is coming back to talk about asylums and their portrayal in favourite, or not so favourite, horrors. The interview takes an interesting turn as she is pointing out that reality can be scarier than fiction as none of us is as free as we think we are. Regardless, the origins of asylums as the, arguably, scariest places a horror film can take place at is explained and so is the believability behind their projection.

Mental Health Act 1983 where people can be sectioned as “danger to self or others”.

Marie Jahoda (1958) “Ideal Mental Health” including six criteria; autonomy, self-actualisation, positive attitude to self, resistance to stress, accurate perception of reality, and environmental mastery.

Ethical guidelines originated from Nuremberg code (1947), later developed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS).

R.D Laing (1965) created a “safe heaven” for patients with Schizophrenia. This has been made into a film; Mad To Be Normal (2017). 

Rosenhan (1973) carried out three experiments titled; ‘Insane in sane places’ of pseudo patients being diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

Both Laing and Rosenhan were part of the 1970s anti-psychiatry movement.

Thomas Szasz questions how mental health is defined and how it’s been ‘constructed’. In 1961, this was published as the “Myth of Mental Illness”. Then in 2011, released the “Myth of Mental Illness”, Revised 50 years later.

Valentine Douglas (2016) The CIA as organised crime. This covers “Project MK Ultra”.

Weindling (2016) looked at victims and survivors of Nazi human experiments.

Ken Kesey author of One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest claims to have received LSD as part of CIA study as a student; https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2020/09/23/cia-took-lsd-twisted-experiments-inspired-ratched/amp/

The World Health Organisation (1977) said “no culture is free from Schizophrenia”.
Shamanism and Schizophrenia similarities.

Taijin Kyofusho (TKS) as a Japanese culture bound phobia.

Individualist (independent) Western cultures versus Collectivist (interdependent) Eastern cultures can affect diagnoses and disorders. 

Homophobia was seen as a mental health issue up until 1972 and DSM II edition (Diagnostic Statistical Manual reviewed by the APA). The depathologising of homosexuality; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/

International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) was published in May 2019 and is used by the WHO in the UK and Europe. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM 5) published in May 2013 is used by the APA in America.

1 in 4 adults with Mental Health and 1 in 10 young people according to NHS and mental health charities; www.mind.org.ukwww.time-to-change.org.ukwww.rethink.org.uk

1 in 8 young people in the UK with a mental health issue, found in research from MHCYP (Mental Health in Children and Young People) published by NHS in 2017. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017

P.T Barnum of Greatest Showman fame would parade “oddities” one such case was that of Phineas Gage who had a metal rod through his frontal lobe and his personality changed. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/the-curious-case-of-phineas-gage

Trepanning refers to drilling holes in the skull to release demons. http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20160826-why-our-ancestors-drilled-holes-in-each-others-skulls

Extra sensory perception (ESP) usually conducts ‘bad science’ also known as ‘pseudo science’ https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-7/extra-sensory-perception-controversial-debate

White Knight and Savior Complex; https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-white-knight-syndrome

Why are we fascinated by women who kill; https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/20/women-who-kill-female-murderers-killing-eve

Parsons (Functionalist) suggested youth is a time for storm and stress. Eisenstadt (Functionalist) saw youth as a time to let off steam. 

Rogers Client Centred Therapy uses unconditional positive regard; https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/person-centered-therapy. Uses positive psychology see www.actionforhappiness.co.uk

BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse, available here; https://youtu.be/oswUssXzFlY

“Time to Talk” day in February and World Mental Health Awareness in October celebrate diversity and try to remove stigma. #HelloYellow campaign for young people to promote positive mental health.

Powerful Sequences, Defining Soundtracks

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on soundtracks that have played a catalytic role in constructing powerful cinematic sequences. Some are well known, some not so much, and others, potentially unnoticeable to the vast majority.

Stay safe!

My Blueberry Nights (2007): Drama / Romance

A heartbroken young woman leaves everything behind her and goes on a journey across America in search of finding herself.

I was waiting for the whole year to write about this film. Almost no one knows about My Blueberry Nights and it saddens me.

Like a modern Odysseus, Elizabeth sets off for a journey of self-discovery where every stop is an experience and every encounter a new turning point in her life. That’s why with every “Ithaca”, what matters is not the destination but the journey itself.

First feature English-language film for director Wong Kar-Wai, and feature debut for Norah Jones who was the only option for the leading role in the director’s mind. Jude Law makes an excellent addition to the cast and the chemistry between him and Jones is fascinating. Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, and Natalie Portman complete the A-list cast of this unknown indie that, if you are not aware of it, it will make you ask yourselves how come you didn’t. Based on a short film that was made by Wong Kar-Wai in the beginning of his career, My Blueberry Nights is a pilgrimage of life, exploring our life’s decisions, our choices, and the way we let fear control both. Furthermore, redemption and find actual meaning and trust in people that are truly worth it and move us forward in life will leave a sweet taste in your mouth, almost as sweet as that long-anticipating for the denouement blueberry pie.

Thirteen years ago, in New Year’s Eve, I watched My Blueberry Nights at the cinema’s last screening of the day, with the girl working there. My last film of 2007. My last film review of 2020.

Stay safe and Happy New Year!!!

Sweet November (2001): Drama / Romance

A self-absorbed workaholic runs into a woman that her proposal will ultimately change his life.

Meet Nelson Moss! America’s typical self-aggrandizing yuppie asshole you wish he didn’t breathe the same air that you do. Well, don’t cast your stones just yet, Sara Deever is here. She comes into his life like an angel and, against all odds, sets the wheels of metamorphosis in motion.

Keanu Reeves, somewhere between The Matrix installments, gives a very convincing performance as that dude you wish you never become in your life and Charlize Theron is that angel you hope you one day meet. Now, here’s a fact: Sweet November, the remake of the homonymous 1968 film, got three nominations: worst actor, worst actress, and worst remake or sequel. John Wilson, the founder of the Razzie awards, lists the film as one of the 100 most enjoyable bad movies ever made.

Two things save the film. Firstly, the Keanu/Charlize chemistry; they were amazing in The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and they are very enjoyable here. By the way, Jason Isaacs is pretty awesome. Secondly, the film’s honest message: Seize the day, and make the most out of your life. Contrary to popular belief, life is a lot shorter than we think. But it can be sweet. That depends on the choices we decide to make.

No filmmaking technique stands out really and the story is quite flawed but, hey, watch it around this time of the year and forget about film theory for a couple of hours. It’s New Year’s Eve. Drink it in while thinking about your new year’s resolutions.

Stay safe!

Click (2006): Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

An ambitious architect who thinks that everything is an obstacle to his success finds a remote that, allegedly, can solve all of his problems.

Honestly, I never thought this would be one of my favourite comedy/dramas – especially with Adam Sandler in it. But the story resonated with me for more than one reason. Let me get the pleasantries out of the way though.

Adam Sandler is funny, he is made for roles like these. The exaggerated tragicomedy surrounding a remote that controls your life could be a bunch of different films in the hands of different writers. Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe wrote a condensed comedy (for the first part) about a guy who just wants to succeed in life as he had enough looking at the greener grass next to him. He finds this remote and, as probably most of us, uses it exactly as a child would. With Sandler always being a man-child, it is guaranteed that the remote’s uses will be definitely inappropriate. Changing colour of himself or the shape of others, muting them, dubbing them in different languages, and so much more, deems Click, admittedly, a funny comedy. Until it turns into drama…

The dire long-term effects of the remote’s use are seen halfway into the film and the realisation of what has happened, is happening, and will be happening from that point on is also the unfortunate time of one’s life where they realise that… Time. Does. Not. Go. Back. No matter how hard we wish it did, it does not. Click is paying close attention to that fact and sugarcoats it with humour but still manages to make your eyes wet. I’ve written some mediocre reviews on other Sandler films, but in this instance he is good. The balance between comedy and drama is maintained very well by director Frank Coraci in the second part of the second act and hits you a bit harder than you expected as you never saw it coming when you initially put the film on.

Regarding the rest of the cast, Kate Beckinsale brightens up every shot she’s in, David Hasselhoff is hilarious, Julie Kavner is amazing, and Henry Winkler deserves a special reference. The sequence where he looks at Sandler and says: “I love you son” and then turns around to leave, is a tearjerker. If you think otherwise, you are not human. Winkler significantly contributes to the dramatisation of the film and his performance is out of this world.

Oh, you also get the film’s full force for another reason. Michael Newman (Sandler) reminds you of you. Reminds you of these times you said: “Can’t wait to be done with this…”, “Can’t wait for this project to end…”, “Can’t wait to finish…”. Newman is all of us who don’t appreciate the present, the today, the “now”. Newman represents all of us who don’t appreciate the beautiful person next to us, the fact that we and our people are in good health, and how much “love” can enrich us with everything money or fame can’t. Careful what you wish for…

Stay safe!

P.S. As per IMDb, R.L. Stine, in 1995, in his “Tales To Give You Goosebumps” wrote something similar and almost sued Sandler for plagiarism but it was all considered in the end… a coincidence. After all, they could both be based on the old French tale, “The Magic Thread”.

Elf (2003): Adventure / Comedy / Family

Raised by elves, one day, a man realises he belongs to the humans’ world and goes to New York on a quest to find his real father.

Elf is the huge box office Christmas success that offered a lot of smiles. First leading role for Will Ferrell, who does what Will Ferrel does best in a comedy. He is really funny to be fair, it’s just Elf is not really my cup of tea. I know that Christmas films are meant to be implausible, cliched, and “tacky” but a man acting… the way he does, finding a girl like this, single, who falls in love with him, and with a dad like this who just manages to love him back… I know, it’s a Christmas comedy/fantasy but maybe not for my age or, simply, not for me.

Jon Favreau’s tributes to It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) are very obvious and understood – see, that’s an amazing Christmas film (the best of all time) – but I prefer other films of him from before and after the MCU or the Star Wars spinoff. Until Elf, he was a great indie yet, unknown director. At least, the film opened a lot of doors for him, making one of the biggest grossing directors of all time. Admittedly, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and Mary Steenburgen are very much enjoyable so, it’s just maybe not particularly liking it.

By all means, please do enjoy it. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. We all need a good laugh these days. It’s been pretty miserable and depressing out there so, Elf, will do nothing but cheer you up with its silliness.

Stay safe!

Superhero Movie (2008): Action / Comedy / Sci-Fi

A low self-esteemed and constantly bullied teenager gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and develops superpowers.

There are two reasons why I watched it… again. Leslie Nielsen, and the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! Other than that, what can I say? It is an hour and fifteen minutes of that kind of humour that was washed up even twelves years ago. I think it is the first time that I tried to analyse what makes it funny – if written and executed properly. That kind of humour has several components. It requires:

  • Some pre-existing knowledge on the films been parodied,
  • Exaggerated and utterly disjointed scenes,
  • The heroes’ reactions to the superfluous, anecdotal stimuli causing the disjointed scenes, but their immediate forgetfulness straight after until something else happens.

I was not planning to make a review, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really. I just wanted to put in my two cents about the particular comedy sub-genre. I wish there was something else to say, really. Even though it’s silly, to say the least, a couple of sequences will make you laugh – such as the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! And, hey, we do need some laugh. Especially, these days.

Stay safe!

The Psychology of Horror: Preparedness and Purpose

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Mathias Clasen. Mathias, among other things, is Associate Professor at Aarhus University, teaching at the School of Communication and Culture, director of Recreational Fear Lab, and Associate Editor of Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Literary Darwinism, Gothic, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Apocalyptic and Post-apocalyptic Texts, but also Cognitive and Evolutionary Theory are only but a few of the research areas he specialises in. Tonight, he is talking to me about a very interesting research of his on the pandemic and horror films but also explains what it is that attracts us to the genre.

https://pure.au.dk/portal/en/engmc@hum.au.dk

https://au.academia.edu/MathiasClasen

http://horror.dk/mathias/

https://esiculture.com/

Primer (2004): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Four friends, in an attempt to be innovative, invent something beyond their wildest dreams.

I remember watching Primer coming out of the army. As much as I was into films, I couldn’t “read” them the way I do now and, of course, the physics behind it meant nothing to me then and, respectively, without asking much, I accept it now. Consequently, I cannot comment on it, but I can speak of the filmmaking itself.

The voice over indicates that what we are watching has already happened and, for some reason, their story is worth telling, even though the first act indicates the opposite. So far, it looks like a mockumentary on a bunch of guys who are working on something that even they don’t know what it is. Much less the viewer.

Half an hour into it, the first plot point comes in strong. Both the main characters but also the viewer are now aware that they have invented a time machine. Narrative-wise, I will not reveal anything else. What has already been established is that composer / actor / sound designer / editor / producer / writer / director Shane Carruth, since the opening sequence, has remained meticulous with his writing on both character and story development. By the way, I have never seen anyone taking on so many different roles. Anyway…

What would you do if you knew you could travel in time? What would your thoughts be? What would you be afraid of? What would your reservations be? How far back would you go? Would you acknowledge causality’s dangers? Carruth does an amazing job perplexing even further his low budget’s sci-fi narrative and, at the same time, he maintains the dialogue more realistic than any of could develop it.

I do not understand certain people’s choices. Why isn’t Carruth a household name? Why show so much talent and then let go? Just do another film ten years later and that’s it? I know he struggled but the guy managed to make Primer with… $7,000. This is the most impressive and tiniest nano-budget mind-bending feature ever existed.

Ultimately, I am convinced that the film itself is greater achievement than its invention.

Martyrs (2008): Horror

After been physically and mentally abused, a little girl grows up, and with her childhood friend, they seek revenge against the people who tortured her as a child, not knowing though how deep that hellish rabbit hole goes.

Martyrs was shocking the first time in watched it in 2008 and it was excruciating last night. I guess the years pass by and our levels of tolerance change according to the lives we have lived and the way we have lived them. As much I despise happy endings, this is the first time I was hoping for one while knowing that it doesn’t have any. There is nothing I can say that will give justice to the film’s level of brutality, a concept that is not unknown to the French school of horror [see Haute Tension (2003)] and Martyrs, not only doesn’t hold any punches but unleashes them full force like only few horrors ever have. And the studios released that film knowing exactly what feelings it will evoke and the reactions it will cause.

Admittedly, writer/director Pascal Laugier was in a dark place during that period and shot, arguably, one of the most intense, violent, psychological, dramatic, and torturous horrors in the history of the genre. There are twists and turns in every corner, most of which, will cut your breath. There are scenes that you will want to look away and you will not be able to. At times, you will find yourselves squeezing your chair, pillow or yourselves while your brain tries to process the pain, especially Anna, endures. I guess, you may even blame yourselves for knowing what’s happening and not being able to help…

I bought the DVD knowing what I was signing up for. If you are not aware, I host the Cinehorrizon podcast where I deeply sink my teeth into the horror genre. I am in the process of trying to find Laugier and bring him on my show. There is so much I want to ask him and discuss with him. Laugier has mastered twists in his own, unique way and The Tall Man (2012) was his next proof. Two years ago, he came back with a yet another provocative horror that can ultimately mess up with your brain – Incident in a Ghostland (2018) – and even though it lacks the level of physical abuse, the psychological, for better or for worse, compensates for it. It was one of my earliest reviews: https://kaygazpro.com/2018/11/29/incident-in-a-ghostland-2018-drama-horror-mystery/ Going back to Martyrs, I would like to take my hat off to Morjana Alaoui and Mylène Jampanoï for taking on roles that their characters are thrown into the deepest ends of human depravity.

Hostel (2005) and The Human Centipede (2009) are purely torture for entertainment and, simply put, disgusting. In Martyrs, you can sense a diabolical reason; a distorted and hair-raising perverted meaning. There is an eerie feeling crawling under your skin that all this agonising torment is coming with a purpose. So, what is more scary? Torture with or without purpose. Without it, is pointless. But if there is one, one can only wonder what kind of purpose would that inhumane, chauvinistic, and hellish journey might serve? A question that will haunt you till the end. A paralysing end that will make you pull your hair out and ask out loud, why didn’t she just leave earlier?

Stay safe!

Found Footage: The Beginning, the Escalation, and its Societal Impact

Tonight, Erik Kristopher Myers (ekm) is talking about the roots of the found footage subgenre, its evolution, its contribution to the cinema, and its effects on society. Myers is a writer and filmmaker. His film Roulette (2013) won numerous festival trophies and his latest feature Butterfly Kisses (2018) shot to the top of the Amazon charts for New Release Fantasy, scoring rave reviews. Myers has also won numerous awards for screenwriting and editing, and among others, he has been a producer for XM Satellite Radio, a reporter for WTOP News, and film critic for The Dagger and Ain’t it Cool News.

The Horror Inside Us: Leading Anxieties and False Certainties

Tonight, Dr. Michael Lee is talking about the horror inside us and why and how one’s inner certainties and anxieties can render the everyday person monstrous. Dr. Lee teaches courses on 20th-century music history, American music history, film music and film studies at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has been teaching courses on the history of horror films and one of his many specialties is Vampire Cinema. He is music historian, loving horror movies with passion and began researching their film scores and their diversified styles, especially, from the 1930s and 1940s. Listen to how our perception affects the way we interpret horrors and what was Val Lewton’s contribution.

Directors and Horror Films

Ashley Scott Meyers is a writer, producer and director and owns the blog sellingyourscreenplay.com where you can find practical tips and advice on how to sell your screenplay. He also runs SYS Select where you can subscribe to receive premium screenwriting leads, online coaching and mentoring, online courses, and more. Among other things, tonight, he is talking about the production and artistic differences between indie and studio level horrors, their perception by both audience and directors and the importance of narrative in filmmaking.

Ashley Scott Meyers: Writer / Producer / Director

http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/

The Importance of Dystopia in Sci-fi

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on why constructing the perfect society is nothing like constructing a seemingly perfect society. In other words, why filmmakers see the future in a cataclysmic and calamitous light.

Stay safe!

Kids in Horror: Source of Evil vs Source of Resolution

Michelle Satchwell is Head of the Social Sciences Department at a large school in Derbyshire, UK. She analyses the use of kids in horror films and examines the genre through the prism of Evolutionary, Cognitive, Psychodynamic, and Social Psychology. She will definitely make you question yourselves why you feel the way you do when you watch a horror.

References:

Trypophobia – fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps, e.g. buttons, crumpets, sponges etc.

Evolutionary/Biological psychology

There’s not a named psychologist, but we tend to take Dawkins and apply to psychology.

Emamzadeh (2018) Origin of common fears: A review (Psychology Today)

Parapsychology

[ESP cards]

Utts (1991) Replication and meta-analysis in parapsychology.

Cognitive psychology

[Elizabeth Loftus pioneer in the field and expert witness in courts].

Loftus and Palmer (1974) Reconstruction of automobile destruction (I mentioned experiment 1).

Loftus and Pickerell (1995) Lost in the mall study.

Jean Piaget (1952) Assimilation and Accommodation in Schema theory.

Psychodynamic psychology

Sigmund Freud (1917) Introduction to psychoanalysis.

[Id, Ego, and Superego all part of the Tripartite model of the personality in our unconscious like an iceberg].

Social psychology

Haney et al (1973) Stanford Prison experiment.

Zimbardo (2007) Lucifer effect.

Piliavin et al (1969) Good Samaritanism.

[The bystander effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSsPfbup0ac]

Behaviourism

Pavlov (1897) Classical conditioning in dogs

Social Learning theory:

Bandura et al (1961) Bobo doll experiment.

Michelle’s book: Psychology Review: A-level Exam Skills and Practice Paperback – 30 Oct. 2020 ISBN-10: 1398308013

Influential, Dissuasive, and Thought-Provoking Monologues

monologue-cover.jpg

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on some of the most influential, dissuasive, and thought-provoking monologues I hand-picked. I hope these chosen ones entertain you, educate you, and, potentially, find an application in the way you see and experience life.

Stay safe!

Influential, Dissuasive, and Thought-Provoking Monologues

Mohamed (2001): Short / Drama

Mohamed

In an attempt to save his life, a man enters an apartment building only to realise that his problems will only get worse.

First critical success for the – back then – young student, and writer/director Sergi Rubió who, despite the film’s little flaws, manages to clearly convey his message. It could be an excellent third act about a young man who has struggled his whole life because… he just looks different than the majority of the people around him. About a man who has so much love to give and no one to give it to. Unfortunately, there is so much hatred to get and everyone to get it from. You can watch it here: https://www.reelhouse.org/tropicanofilms/mohamed/4743014

Because some look like you or sound like you or have the same religion as you, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will or has to. No one can claim this world. We might be part of it, but it’s not ours. All of us can equally be a scourge on this planet or a blessing. Choose the latter. Mohamed did.

Stay safe!

The Unknown Woman (2006): Drama / Mystery / Thriller

The Unknown Woman

A woman’s promiscuous past becomes a constant reminder in the present and a motive for every obscure step she takes.

Giuseppe Tornatore proves time and time again over the decades that his diversity knows no limits. I remember watching Cinema Paradiso (1988) in the theatres as a kid and even though there was a lot I missed back then (I caught up the second and third time I watched in the years that followed), I believe it solidified the foundation of my love about cinema. The Unknown Woman, one of the three films he made in the noughties – with Malena (2000) and Baarìa (2009) being the other two – is a suspenseful, dramatic, physically but also thought-provoking mystery/thriller about the search of hope. About a woman driven by her past sufferings, in the hopes that life will smile at her for once. Tornatore though doesn’t believe that the past should be left in the past. He believes it will always be part of us no matter how hard we try to run away from it.

Kseniya Rappoport and Clara Dossena steal the show on screen. Ennio Morricone (over the last 60 years!) fills the atmosphere with doubt with his tachycardic music, amplifying and constantly prolonging the suspense until the film’s denouement. But here’s the thing:

“It’s not a film until it’s edited” – Michael Kahn

Massimo Quaglia, Tornatore’s loyal editor, is the one who “stitches” the film together with artistry. The flashback’s metric montage invisibly permeates the present with extremely meticulous match cuts. Outstanding chemistry!

Most of the time, we think we’ve had it bad in life. Guess what? While sometimes life gives us the shortest straw, to others she gives nothing but pain. Why? Because she can. The pandemic but also the unfathomable, bottomless human buffoonery have proved, once more, that life is not to be taken for granted. Make the most of it and…

Stay safe!

Epic Plot Holes in Iconic Films

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“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on some films we loved so much – or not – that we turned the blind eye to their plot holes. Hint: One is definitely not one of my favourites, and another actually has not a plot hole…

Stay safe!

Epic Plot Holes in Iconic Films

Dagon (2001): Fantasy / Horror / Mystery

Dagon

After their boat sinks, a young couple finds refuge in a decadent Spanish fishing town, with half-human dwellers, and an ancient deity waiting to rise once more.

It’s been months that I wanted to write about Dagon. I first watched it in VHS in 2001 and I was left in awe. Throughout the years I forgot a lot about it though and moved on. Part of the reason is that I wasn’t the avid admirer of H.P. Lovecraft that I am now. Another part of the reason is that I didn’t “read” films the way I do now. In March, the beloved writer, producer, and director Stuart Gordon sadly passed away. Gordon was a loyal Lovecraft fan who honoured him with films such as this one, Reanimator (1985), and Castle Freak (1995) https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/04/19/castle-freak-1995-drama-horror-mystery/.

Ezra Godden and Raquel Meroño make a brilliant on-screen couple and I for one, I can’t hide my admiration for Raquel. Also, the last film of Francisco Rabal. The location is eerie, the story is thrilling, and the plot is horrifying. Good, old-fashioned storytelling that makes Dagon a smashing adaptation of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. There is only one downside: The visual effects. Unfortunately, there are sequences that VFX will put you off, especially if you watch it for the first time now. My advice is to just turn the blind eye. It’s been almost 20 years and it is a low budget film. Let this one slide and get a small taste of Lovecraft’s petrifying mixture of “dream and reality”. I believe I have watched every H.P. Lovecraft adaptation to date. Beside Dagon, my top 3 are:

  1. In the Mouth of Madness (1994): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2019/01/04/in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994-drama-horror-mystery/
  2. Color out of Space (2019): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/02/07/color-out-of-space-2019-horror-sci-fi/
  3. The Lighthouse (2019): https://atomic-temporary-153424946.wpcomstaging.com/2020/03/03/the-lighthouse-2019-drama-fantasy-horror (veeeeery loosely / inspired by)

This is England ’83 / ’86 / ’88 / ’90

This is England.jpgThis is England '86 '88 '90.jpg

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on Shane Meadows’ film and miniseries This is England. A drama based on his childhood experiences, consisting of everyday heroes who share the story of a lifetime.

This is England ’83 / ’86 / ’88 / ’90

The Qatsi Trilogy

 

qatsi-trilogy-cover.jpg

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the Qatsi trilogy. A cinematic statement about civilisation, technology, nature, and the relationship among the three. A trilogy left behind in the shadow cast by blockbusters, forgotten by time, buried in oblivion.

The Qatsi Trilogy

Bad Santa (2003): Comedy / Crime / Drama

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A miserable thief and his angry sidekick keep posing as Santa and elf to con people but their Christmas Eve job goes terribly wrong.

Watch the unrated version! Right off the bat, Billie Bob’s monologue! This is when you know exactly what you sign up for; ‘an eating, drinking, shi*ing, f*ing Santa Claus’! Billie Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, and the always missed Bernie Mac make you laugh hard for an hour and a half. Plenty of foul language – with the word ‘f*ck’ and its permutations (over 170 times) ruling at the top, ‘sh*t’ (74), ‘ass’ (31), ‘bitch’ (10), and 1 use of ‘bastard’ plenty of political incorrectness, and plenty of actual booze… for Thornton… acting himself. The Cohen brothers and director Terry Zwigoff have done a brilliant job refining Glenn Ficarra’s and John Requa’s script. Excellent mix of Christmas and classical music!

Despite its hilarious profanity and misery, Bad Santa sets off as a dark, dark comedy, ending up being an emotional journey of a lonely, broken man who finds a reason to live.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2ZwBKd5

Original vs Remake: Hollywood’s Need to Retell the Story (or the Lack Thereof)

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on a few international films, not particularly well-known ones, that have spawned renowned Hollywood successes (whether critical or commercial). Maybe I can get you to watch either or both of them, and then get you to ask if the Hollywood remake added to the existing film it was indeed necessary.

Original vs Remake: Hollywood’s Need to Retell the Story (or the Lack Thereof)

Trick ‘r Treat (2007): Comedy / Horror

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Demons, witches, pranks going wrong, werewolves, serial killers and a virgin, all happen in a small town’s Halloween night.

Jack O’ Lantern’s favourite comedy/horror. Writer/Director Michael Dougherty offers great home entertainment by blending scared kids, horny teenagers, and mentally deranged adults in a non-linear narrative horror with plenty of laughs, quirky performances, snappy editing, and highly creative costumes. Winner of the 2009 Fright Meter Award for Best Horror, Trick ‘r Treat is surrounded by mystery itself as, without explanation, it was pulled from the schedule, did not get a theatrical release, and went straight to DVD two years later. Producer Brian Singer reunites the amazing Brian Cox and the mesmerising Anna Paquin after X-Men 2 (2003). So, turn the lights off, grab something unhealthy to munch, and forget about all of your problems for the next hour and twenty minutes. Happy Halloween!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2SA2DM2

Found Footage: Chronicles of Horror, Realism, and Case Studies

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on the origins, the decades of contestation, the development and expansion, the impact, and the current status of the found footage horror subgenre. I hope you enjoy the ride.

Found Footage: Chronicles of Horror, Realism, and Case Studies

City of God (2002): Crime / Drama

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Through the eyes of a young, aspiring photographer, the “favelas” of Rio unfold stories of drugs, guns, kingpins, and gang wars where always the innocent paying the price.

4 Oscars nominations, 66 wins, another 38 nominations, top-rated movies #21 (IMDb, 2019). If it wasn’t for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – which was nominated for 11 Oscars and won them all – it would have definitely won the “Best Editing” category. Fair enough. One of the best-edited films of the 21st century, City of God, tells the city’s true crime stories during the ’60s and the ’70s, in Fernando Meirelles’ brutally realistic documented way. Fear, insecurity, and despair spread throughout the streets of the slum overshadowing the beauty of people who have nothing to do with the gangs’ territorial issues.

Masterfully and non-linearly narrated, City of God delves into the poverty-stricken society of all Rio’s undesirables, digs deep into the characters’ soul and chronicles the rise and perseverance of violence.

Feature debut for the amazing Alice Braga.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/352gIUU

Exam (2009): Mystery / Thriller

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Eight chosen contenders competing for the same position are locked in a highly respectable company’s exam room for the final test which is nothing like they have seen or experienced before.

A one-location, British psychological thriller that delves into the human psyche, and infiltrates man’s darkest thoughts. A prime example of a low-budget thriller that keeps the viewer wondering from the opening scene to the end credits what is the meaning of this test, what the question is, who truly everyone is, why were they chosen, and what is the company getting out of it.

Mysterious, entertaining, and claustrophobic, “Exam’s” storytelling relies on actual character study experiments and utilises Hitchcockian approaches that go back as far as “Lifeboat” (1944). Low budget / high standards! Hats off to cast and crew.

I say no more. Lights and phones off, and pay attention to the details. Enjoy!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39k34Qs

The Wrestler (2008): Drama / Sport

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An aging professional wrestler, with an unsuitable for him part-time job, is forced to quit wrestling, forget his past glory, and find a way to cope in a world outside the ring.

You know why reviews can be harsh sometimes? Because of films like this one. Shot with a micro-budget of $6,000,000, “The Wrestler” is almost a perfect film. So when you watch unbearable films having cost ten times more, it can be infuriating. With Darren Aronofsky believing in and fighting for Mickey Rourke, and both of them believing in and dedicating themselves to the project like their life depends on it, The Wrestler could only be a masterpiece.

In a form of a docudrama, Aronofsky “cuts loose” Mickey Rourke letting him write and improvise his character and Rourke, in his mid-fifties, shines like never before (Oscar nomination / Golden Globe win). Both of them debunk the myths of WWF, and old wrestlers either “break down and cry” or characterise it as a “dark misinterpretation”. Be it as it may, it certainly gives a perspective and sheds some light on the professional wrestling world’s backstage.

Then, Evan Rachel Wood proves once more she possesses the Midas Touch of acting, turning all her performances into gold. And last but definitely not least, the always magnificent actress Marisa Tomei, in her mid-forties, puts women half her age to shame. Their short appearance in the film creates the perfect subtext that leads the story to the direction it was inevitably meant to be led.

The Wrestler is about a man facing the consequences of doing what he always thought he was destined to do and kept on doing despite everyone else’s disapproval or discouragement. External influences that come out of envy, kindness, hate, or pure love. But sheer will to succeed and remain at the top and blind dedication blur the lines and don’t leave time to distinguish which is which. And I guess if you only possess them both you ignore the influences and aim at your destiny regardless of the consequences.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39lwLk0

RocknRolla (2008): Action / Crime / Thriller

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A gang of lowlife crooks called the Wild Bunch, with the help of an accountant, steal money from a Russian developer that was meant for a London mob boss who has a drug addict, troubled stepson.

What could go wrong, right?! Storytelling like Guy Ritchie only knows how to deliver! RocknRolla makes it to my list of the top 3 Guy Ritchie films, followed by Snatch (2000) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). The editing controls the information exactly as it should have and enhances the humorous side of a British action/crime. Gerald Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Idris Elba, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, and Toby Kebbell work brilliantly together and clash with each other adding 100% A-list British quality acting.

In a different context now… What could go wrong, right?! People! People didn’t bother. I can only assume that one reason is “seen it all before”. But it isn’t. It is snappy, surrealistic, stylish, quirky, Cockney, and adds to the formula. Yet, what was meant to be a trilogy will never be. Our loss. Favourite scene: Robbing the Russians for the second time. Priceless!

Join me in filing a petition for the “Real RocknRolla”!!!

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39iWQQS

This is England ’83 / ’86 / ’88 / ’90: Crime / Drama

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“Combo: Men have laid down their lives for this. For this… and for what? So people can stick their fucking flag in the ground and say, “Yeah! This is England (pointing to the ground). And this is England (pointing to the heart)! And this is England (pointing to the mind)!”

Danny Cohen’s ’80s grainy cinematography and Ludovico Einaudi’s heartbreaking soundtrack accompany Midlander Shane Meadows, who creates a tear-jerking, life drama based on his childhood experiences, that debuted and elevated actors who were introduced to the world. Thomas Turgoose, Joseph Gilgun, Jack O’Connell – whose part was written specifically for him, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure who, as the years pass by, she turns into a more and more magnificent actress and woman, Rosamund Hanson, Chanel Cresswell, Michael Socha, and Andrew Ellis get into the role and truly become the everyday heroes you see on camera. The both amazing Stephen Graham and Johnny Harris need no introductions.

Straight from the kick-off, the opening credits, archive footage, montage spanning from the Falklands war to the “Knight Rider” (1982) pretty much sums up the story of the sociopolitical situation in England but also the world in the ’80s. Shaun, Milky, Lol, Woody, Smell, Gadget, Trev, Kelly, Lenny, Pukey, and Bully all go through a rite of passage; the inescapable process of becoming men and women. And share the story of a lifetime. The references are from both the film and the mini-series and start from ’83 until ’90. I believe I’ve kept all spoilers out. If you haven’t watched it, I hope they pique your interest. If you have, I hope you see where I’m coming from.

“Woody (to Milky): You are a fucking snake in the grass… We were brothers… I would have died for you… I would have fucking died for you… I fucking loved you!!!”

“This is England” is a state of mind that divides a what would have been an otherwise carefree, bonded, random ragtag bunch of skinheads and ska lovers living in ‘Thatcherland’. A mentality that consists of politics, economy, race, generation gaps, and religion and can be may as well translated as “This is [YOUR COUNTRY OF ORIGIN]”.

There are some astonishing cinematic moments that make both the film and mini-series be a league of their own.

  • The detestable Combo whose brutal, cowardice attack leaves a young, black kid half-dead.
  • Mick (the brilliant Johnny Harris) who, whenever shows up, makes your guts twirl.
  • The dramatic moment where Lol confronts Mick.
  • Combo’s brass balls, ultimate sacrifice for love.
  • The intense moment when Woody confronts Milky and the gang on the street.
  • Woody reuniting with the repentant Combo upon the latter’s release.
  • The house dinner’s revelation (Chanel Cresswell is simply mesmerising).
  • Milky putting the final nail on the coffin facing, the hero in our eyes, Combo who strives to keep a stiff upper lip.

“This is England”…

Is the domestic violence that knocks on the door of every single household that has faced it.

The decency of everyday people you probably have never met and maybe you never will who always had next to nothing, yet were always wealthier.

The pride of every English football fan has over the national team making it to the World Cup.

The genuine British humour that has always been part of but also characterised British society.

The vast diversity of accents that make this island unique.

It is the everyday struggle to keep the head above water.

It is the everyday struggle to keep the head above water and, against all odds, somehow, find the courage to move on.

It is the English responses, reactions, idiosyncrasies, and mannerisms that you’ll find nowhere else, exhibiting England to the world with the purpose of understanding rather than judging.

It is the forgiveness some people never gave and some people never received.

“Combo: I forgive you… I just hope one day you’ll be able to forgive me…”

“This is England” pointing to the ground, to the heart, to the mind starts off as a racist interpretation at the beginning of the journey only to become the harsh realization of life when it remorselessly pins you against the wall. Combo’s (Stephen Graham) monologues and outbursts are phenomenal and his path is the cornerstone of this journey. You will hate him with a passion in the beginning only to feel for him wholeheartedly in the end.

There are innumerable moments of English realism throughout the film and series where you will find yourselves confused as to which utterances, actions, and reactions are a scripted, and which ones aren’t. “This is England” could as well be a sociological docudrama on Thatcherite England and life itself.

An unknown journey of happiness drowning in sorrow…

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/37fUu3e

Unbreakable (2000): Drama / Mystery / Sci-Fi

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A comic book gallery owner discovers that the lone survivor of a horrible accident has an amazing ability.

It is only befitting to review this one at this point in time and… you know which one is going to be next! Now that “Glass” (2019) has been heavily promoted as the third part of an otherwise stealthy trilogy, “Unbreakable” has been given a lot more gravitas.

When it was first released in 2000 some people loved it, some people laughed at it, some people were just left scratching their heads. I will avoid major spoilers about the ending just in case someone hasn’t watched it yet. As a standalone, there was really no closure. When it comes to ‘Mr. Glass’, justice was served. But what about David Dunn? He finally found his calling, and then what? Was that the end of the hero’s journey? To discover an ability and do nothing with it afterwards?

As part of a trilogy, the scope changes. It makes you now want to go back and watch it again, get to know the characters once more, and see how they can potentially be connected to the 24 personalities of Kevin Crumb in “Split” (2018) before you go to the cinema and watch “Glass” (2019). Remember the scene at the football stadium when David Dunn heads for the drug dealer? What if you suspected that the mother and child he brushes past and senses child abuse just before, is believed to be little Kevin with his mom? Hmm…

Anyway, “Unbreakable” is arguably M.Night Shyamalan’s most innovative and resourceful directing, Eduardo Serra’s darkest cinematography, and one of the best James Newton Howard’s score. It marks the fourth collaboration between Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson who are both irreplaceable. Memorable moments:

  • The hooded rain poncho obscuring Dunn’s face.
  • Long tracking shots and high and low camera angles to create the illusion we are in a graphic novel.
  • Repeatedly seeing Mr. Glass through or around glass to remind us of his connection with it but also his weakness.
  • Respectively, the raincoat David Dunn wears in most scenes to “protect” himself from the rain (water).
  • The graphic novel’s colour patterns; Dunn wears green and Glass purple.
  • Speaking of, the saturated colours over the muted colours at the station.

“Unbreakable” is not a superhero film, yet it follows the hero’s self-discovery path. And even though it is not a graphic novel adaptation, is most definitely made that way to “beam us up” to the narrative storytelling of the world of pictures.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/39bP6js