Tag Archive: Brad Pitt

12 YEARS A SLAVE directed by Steve McQueen  (UK/USA, 2013)

The Academy members undoubtedly did the right thing by naming 12 Years A Slave the best picture and, if there was any justice, Steve McQueen would have been awarded an Oscar for best director in place of Alfonso Cuarón. Gravity is a remarkable technical achievement but directing technology is less deserving of a statuette than man management.

McQueen not only gets the best out his actors but he also knows how to pace a movie. The huge temptation in telling Solomon Northup’s story is to revert to Hollywood clichés and crank up the sentimentalism. It is to his credit that he doesn’t milk the emotional content and heroic lines like “I don’t want to survive, I want to live” are few and far between.

In one remarkable scene, Northup is strung up and has to desperately cling on while waiting for ‘the master’ to cut him down. In conventional films there would be dramatic music and close-ups of the man’s life and death struggle. Instead, the camera pulls back so show life going on around him and makes us realise how commonplace such torture was.

Northup (Chiwetel Ejofor) quickly learns that maintaining a low profile and keeping schtum about his education are the only ways to guarantee survival. Patience and will power are the main reasons why he lived to tell his remarkable story.

It is only right, therefore, that the movie never has the quality of an action movie. The power of the drama comes from the systematic abuse and degradation he and his fellow slaves have to endure. Continue reading

runner in fieldSummer is officially the time to celebrate the great outdoors, so sport and exercise are frequently promoted as fun ‘al fresco’ activities for all the family.

I’m not a fitness fanatic but in recent years I’m become more proactive in fighting the flab that is the inevitable consequence of entering middle-age and beyond.

Aside from being more careful with my diet, I aim to do at least an hour’s exercise every day through a combination of power walking, light jogging, leisurely swimming and gentle workouts in the gym.

All of these could, in theory, be done in the company of others, but my independent (read anti-social) streak means that for the most part I sweat and strain alone.

I find that August is the cruellest month in which to pursue my modest programme of fitness related activities in and around my home in Northern Italy. Continue reading


I haven’t read the book or seen the movie of World War Z but , having read the reviews, and knowing the past history of such vanity projects, I’m willing to bet that Oatmeal‘s summary is fairly accurate.

Even if it isn’t, it made me laugh:


FIGHT CLUB directed by David Fincher (USA, 1999)

This is the story of an insomniac office worker and a maniacal soap maker. It’s a movie you have to watch more than once but no matter how many times you see it you’ll almost certainly end up confused.

With its overt rejection of religion (“We are God’s unwanted children”) and a moral vision that can only be described as nihilistic, it’s easy to see how this has earned a cult status and won a place in the list of top ‘mindfuck’ movies.

David Fincher directs as if it were a two-hour rock video and it belongs to the genre as the disturbingly (and deliciously) deranged puzzle movies by mavericks like Cronenberg, Aronofsky and Lynch.

In one sense it could be seen as a satire of feminised masculinity, ridiculing reconstructed males who try to be all touchy-feely to get in touch with their sensitive side. The single object of the men’s group the unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) attends seems to be to get the members to cry a river to release their  inner pain. This briefly cures his insomnia but makes him unhealthily addicted to support groups, getting ‘support’ for problems he doesn’t even have just to get a fake sense of belonging. Continue reading


LA JETÉE directed by Chris Marker (France, 1962)
12 MONKEYS directed by Terry Gilliam (USA, 1995)

Chris Marker's The Jettygilliam's 12 monkeysIf you have a good story, you don’t need elaborate sets or A-list actors. This is probably why most Science Fiction works better in books or graphic novels than in big budget movies. These two movies illustrate this point perfectly.

They each tell the same story but in very different ways. In both, a time traveller is sent on a mission from the future to find the origin of a deadly virus that has all but wiped out the human race. Continue reading

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