Capsule reviews of feature films

AMERICAN SNIPER. 3 stars. Bradley Cooper delivers a powerful turn as Chris Kyle, the real-life Navy SEAL credited with the most kills of any sniper in U.S. military history. Clint Eastwood directs this taut Iraq War-era drama, although the sequences with Kyle returning stateside are diminished by textbook scenarios of family dysfunction and discord. 2 hrs.… Continue reading

Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Chappie’ Movie Presents The Other Side Of The Coin For A Robot-Filled Future

Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie is a movie about robots and artificial intelligence. Hearing that probably evokes countless tales of human-looking, sentient computers running through the streets and ending mankind as we know it. Some movies show robots and AI in a good light, but they’re usually limited — Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar showed Tars save a life in… Continue reading

Rebel heroines of teenage fiction could inspire the next generation

By Christine Jarvis, University of Huddersfield

In Moira Young’s Dustlands, Saba sets out alone across a post-apocalyptic desert to rescue her brother and joins the Free Hawks resistance fighters. Tris in Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy rejects the constraints of life in her family’s faction, becomes a member of the warrior class, and helps overthrow the entire basis on which her society is built. Katniss, the brilliant, brave resistance fighter, from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games battles not one but two corrupt regimes. Yes, there’s a bit of a theme developing here.

The 2015 What Kids are Reading Report shows that dystopian fictions have soared in popularity. A quick survey of young adult fiction in any bookstore confirms this. So what does this say about the fictional world teenagers are inhabiting right now?

Traditional love story

Although a few have male heroes, most follow the exploits of teenage girls. And heroines have changed over the years. Contemporary dystopian fiction features brave, independent and resourceful young women. They rescue others and are often physically, psychically, or supernaturally gifted.

But these futuristic hellish settings don’t change everything. The dystopian settings may be new, but many of these stories are old ones. They retain significant elements of that remarkably adaptive genre, the popular romance, just as they did in the recently popular supernatural/horror genres.

We have the dangerous, brooding boyfriend. Can Saba trust Jack? Will Gale put his political goals above his love for Katniss? Is Carter in Emily McKay’s The Farm collaborating with the authorities, who imprison young people and feed their blood to the vampiric ticks that infest the country? These heroes are enigmatic and ruthless; the danger they represent appears to be part of the attraction.

The familiar love triangle is common too – “Team Gale or Team Peeta?” trumpet many Hunger Games fan sites. Saba is attracted by the charismatic leader De Malo, who runs the eugenicist regime she is fighting, in spite of her love for the rebel Jack. In Ally Condie’s Matched, the regime determines everyone’s partnerships, the age they will die, when they can breed, where they live and the jobs they will do. But she is dangerously attracted to Ky, who is classified as an Aberration, and therefore unmatchable, in spite of her love for her official “match” Xander.

And we also have the classic makeover, in which the heroine’s remarkable beauty is suddenly discovered, even though she herself is unaware or uninterested in this. Katniss is forced, much to her disgust, to wear magnificent costumes, designed just for her, to have the very best hair and beauty treatments and is paraded on television for all to admire.

The lure of violence

So the traditional story hasn’t exactly been turned on its head. But its widespread transposition into generally dystopian settings indicates something else. What these stories share is a suspicion, verging on paranoia, about authority, power, and adult organisations. In these dystopian worlds not only is the government cruel and corrupt, but the resistance is often deeply suspect too.

Katniss is the symbol of the revolution against the brutal Capitol, but is manipulated by the resistance in the process – she worries that she “can’t tell a friend from an enemy”. She finds that the resistance in district 13 abuses prisoners, is controlling and dishonest, and its leader simply intends to replace the old president. This chimes with the political disaffection that leaves many young people without legitimate means to challenge power, perceiving opposition parties to be self-serving and corrupt.

In these dystopias everyone is spied on and daily life is tedious. It is a struggle to get the necessities of daily life, and technology, though ubiquitous, does not improve the lives of ordinary people. Katniss struggles to find enough food to feed her family, but the Capitol has the technology to run the spectacular Hunger Games and transmit them across all its districts. Officials snoop on every aspect of life in Matched.

It is perhaps unsurprising that such stories are being written – their authors generally live in a time of austerity combined with the increases in surveillance and reductions in civil rights that we have seen emerge from the “war on terror”. The false imprisonments, phone hackings, torture, and disappearances that young people hear about every day on the news resonate with the worlds of these novels.

But this fear chimes with the young people who read them too, and perhaps engenders in them a certain suspicion. At school, young people may meet those who have escaped their own dystopias; refugees from Syria, Africa, and Eastern Europe. It is perhaps not surprising that they relish stories which reflect their fears about society. The settings reflect dissatisfaction with daily life and disaffection with political process.

The answer these novels give is the power of individual graft and belief – they feature brave, independent and resourceful young women fighting for justice. These heroines have blood on their hands; Saba is called the “Angel of Death” she kills so many. The lure of violent resistance is strong. But they achieve respect and love in the process.

What this implies about the ideologies this generation are hatching? Time will tell.

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Be open to the impossible: Alice in Wonderland turns 150

By Rebecca Ciezarek, Victoria University

The star of Melbourne’s White Night 2015, held last weekend, was Alice. Tributes to her adventures were colourfully projected across buildings along Flinders Street, and formed a fantastical animation on Flinders Station, while the façade of the State Library had a sliding showcase of artistic interpretations of the story, including John Tenniel’s original illustrations.

Alice in Wonderland, 1903.
Paul Dalgarno

Entering the rabbit hole (actually, the library doors), a 3-D dreamscape was created on the Dome’s ceiling, set to an electro-pop soundtrack. And the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) showed a film adaptation from 1903, a sophisticated production at approximately 12 minutes running time.

Considering “wonderland” is such a key term for describing the White Night experience, it seemed as if Alice in Wonderland was the perfect partner – and this year the partnership was perfectly timed.

2015 is the year we get to celebrate 150 years of Wonderland. It was 1865 that Alice’s adventure was first published for the general public, having started as an oral tale in 1863, told to entertain three young sisters.

An illustrated page from the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.
Wikimedia Commons

Carroll first wrote the story down in 1864, as a keepsake for his child-friend, Alice Liddell. The story was then called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, and with publication, this was changed to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

150 years later, Wonderland is no longer simply a children’s story. It is films, theatre productions, songs, video games, and theme park rides, and forms the spine of thousands of literary adaptations, printed in more than 170 languages.

I can’t remember the first time I encountered Wonderland, but the story has been with me from a young age, in various incarnations.

Disney’s 1951 film had as strong an impact on me as Carroll’s original story. Looking to my experience, it is likely one which parallels the experiences of other readers and viewers of Wonderland.

Trailer for Alice in Wonderland (1951).

Wonderland moved out of copyright in 1907, which means writers and illustrators have had over a century in which to create new versions of the story and characters. It is now a part of our collective memory and cultural history, even for those who have never engaged with the original text.

Adaptations are now such a substantial part of the world of Wonderland that the story stands as one of the most adapted in literature.

The original story, with its fantastical world and characters, lends itself to flexibility. Wonderland has remained popular with readers, and a result from this combination of fantasy and enduring popularity, is that the story has remained a similarly popular choice with adapters from all mediums.

The cover of the Nursery Alice.
Wikimedia Commons

White Night 2015 showed how fixed Wonderland is in popular culture: that the organisers of the event knew enough attendees would feel connected to the story for them to cast Alice in a new leading role. It also showed the brilliant form celebrations of Carroll’s story can take.

The diversity of these tributes testifies to not only the creativity of their creators, but the extraordinary story Lewis Carroll created. What a thrill then to see what will come next.

For those interested in keeping track of global celebrations, two of the largest Lewis Carroll Societies are working alongside Carroll scholars and enthusiasts to track events scheduled throughout 2015. Some 91 events are planned so far, and over 100 publications, not counting the new literary adaptations publishers are planning.

For Melbourne, surely the next major celebration will occur as part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, in May, and the Melbourne Writers Festival in August, (hint hint).

Alice in Wonderland as street art.

To calculate the contribution Carroll’s story has made to English literature and popular culture would be a mammoth undertaking, as Wonderland grew roots which moved the story into unexpected places. It can seem almost impossible to believe that this children’s story can be positioned behind only the collected works of Shakespeare and the Bible as the most widely quoted book in the Western world.

One impression the Alice books left on readers however, is to be open to the idea of the impossible:

“I ca’n’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Ca’n’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

My current research is on Alice and some of the literary adaptations which make up such a large component of the Alice industry. This year is exciting for me, but for so many others as well. This anniversary provides all of us who love the story, a space to talk, read, see, and marvel at what Wonderland has become.

What Lewis Carroll created deserves to be celebrated. Here’s to Alice!

The Conversation

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Fifty Shades of Grey and the legal limits of BDSM

By Thalia Anthony, University of Technology, Sydney

Christian Grey knows exactly his hard limits in sadomasochism and he may also know a thing or two about his legal limits. The Dominant character Grey in the fantasy fiction Fifty Shades of Grey is bent on alluring his coprotagonist, Anastasia (Ana) Steele, to become his Submissive in a BDSM – Bondage & Discipline (BD) Domination & Submission (DS) Sadism & Masochism (SM) – relationship.

The layers of coercion, consent, pleasure and pain are as complex as the acronym itself and defined by the participants themselves. The cinematic account of this fiction – released this past weekend – illustrates some of the problematic demarcations in the law of assault in the real world.

When Grey informs the innocent Ana about the unnegotiable “hard limits” he sets down in a contract governing their BDSM activities – including no fire play, cutting, piercing, bloodletting, gynaecological instruments, scarring, permanent disfiguration, breath control, defecating/ urinating or use of electric current – she is confounded (probably with a blush and the cautious words of her subconscious). The law is a bit confounded too.

“Hard limits” – in the BDSM arrangement between Grey and Ana – are those activities excluded from the pair’s BDSM arrangement as a safety precaution. “Soft limits” – such as caning and flogging – are more negotiable: Grey does not regard them as a safety issue but they’re left open for negotiation on the grounds that they may cause unbearable pain.

So what does the law have to say about legal status of the sadomasochistic acts?

A legal perspective

For criminal lawyers, for humans in general, the hard limits described above may look a little bit like assault. The offence of wounding or grievous bodily harm with intent – which includes where there is permanent disfiguration or serious harm – attracts a maximum sentence 25 years imprisonment.

In Australia’s Northern Territory, mandatory prison sentences apply to first-time serious violent offenders. This may include acts involving cutting, scarring, whipping or caning. But the legislation does not prescribe the nature of violent activities or whether inflicting pain in the name of sexual pleasure is permissible.

In principle, if the participant suffering the harm consents to the violence, this would legalise what would otherwise be deemed assault.

In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey’s relentless pursuit of Ana’s consent before engaging in BDSM was well-advised, as consent provides an important pillar in nullifying assault claims – but it’s not the only pillar. There are, it seems, at least 50 shades of grey when it comes to the application of the laws relating to consensual bodily harm.

The law on consensual violence is cobbled together from a small pool of legal cases. The parameters are rarely tested, given that consenting and willing participants are hardly going to complain to police and press charges. Cases are often brought to the attention of authorities when something goes wrong or evidence emerges during an investigation for another crime (such as video tapes found during a drug investigation).

Demarcations of acceptable harm, beyond which would constitute serious assault, appear to hinge on the participants. In cases of “rough but innocent horse-play” in heterosexual relations, or manly violence inflicted in boxing or prize fighting, courts have refrained from convicting participants of assault due to the presence of consent.

Consent also legalises bodily harm arising in the normal course of surgery, contact sports, ritual circumcision, tattooing and ear piercing. But the law has been less accommodating with similar acts and similar levels of harm in different contexts.

Beyond consent

Courts have condemned consensual acts of gay sadomasochism or Indigenous law punishment. The Northern Territory Supreme Court in the 2004 bail case of Re Anthony held that it could not condone the offender being let into the community to allegedly have Elders in the Tanami Desert community of Lajamanu spear him in the leg and hit him with nulla nullas.

The Court regarded that it was immaterial that the offender consented to the spearing, on the grounds that it would restore relations and remove the curse of his offence, because the serious nature of the harm meant it was not in the community’s interest. In the 1994 case of R v Brown, the House of Law found that consensual sadomasochistic activities involving a group of gay men was illegal.

This case was brought to the House of Lords to determine whether proof of wounds or harmful assaults in the course of sadomasochism required the prosecution to prove a lack of consent. The majority held that the gay sadomasochistic assaults were unlawful “because public policy required that society be protected by criminal sanctions against a cult of violence which contained the danger of the proselytisation and corruption of young men”.

It also regarded the availability of code words that the participants could pronounce to discontinue the act as insufficient evidence of ongoing consent. This may be news to Mr Grey, in Fifty Shades, who sets down safewords (“Yellow” for caution and “Red” to stop) for Ana to use when the violence becomes unacceptable.

Permissible harm

Apart from courts relying on morality and colonial jurisdiction to set limits for lawful bodily harm, there is a spectrum of permissible harms in the context of consensual force (at least as far as BDSM and Indigenous law is concerned) that does not extend to wounding or serious harm.

The law may differ in other settings, such as permitting wounding in a tattoo parlour or through an elective caesarean. In R v Brown, where the House of Lords considered the legality of harm in gay sadomasochistic acts, it prohibited genital torture, violence (including beating) to the buttocks, anus, penis, testicles and nipples, branding, bloodletting and wounding with instruments.

The majority described these acts as uncivilised, involving the indulgence of cruelty by sadists and humiliating and degrading activities such as defecation. There is a lack of legal precedent on whether public policy would grant heterosexual couples with greater latitude to exact consensual sadomasochistic harm.

The excluded “hard limits of harm”, such as bloodletting and permanent disfigurement, in Christian and Ana’s arrangement is a sensible legal precaution (and naturally speaks to Christian’s high romantic ideals).

For Ana, however, it is the soft (more negotiable) limits inflicted in the punishment process that terrify and upset her they most. They include flogging, spanking, whipping and caning to maintain Grey’s control over Ana as part of their Dominant and Submissive relationship.

The punishment not only applies to Ana’s defiance in the Playroom (aka Red Room of Pain) but also contravening Christian’s decrees on her eating, exercise, sleep, dress, grooming, relationships and forms of communication. Ana is reluctant to offer her consent to the acts of punishment.

However, even with consent, it is unlikely that the acts would escape lawful punishment based on the level of serious harm and the intimidation that underpins the procurement of Ana’s consent.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens up a minefield on the issues at play in consensual acts of violence and their legal status in and out of the pleasuredome.

See also:
Violence dressed up as erotica: Fifty Shades of Grey and abuse

The Conversation

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Music teacher sentenced to 11 years in prison as abuse film Whiplash prepares for Oscars

By Ian Pace, City University London

Philip Pickett, a very prominent conductor in the early music world, has been jailed for 11 years for sexually attacking two pupils and a young woman. He carried out the assaults in sound-proofed practise rooms in the 1970s and 1980s.

Abuse in music education is an issue that also currently features in a very different sphere – the Oscars race. Whiplash, nominated for Best Picture at this year’s awards, is is set in the fictional New York Schaffer Conservatory, the setting of which is undoubtedly based upon the Juilliard School (and where the classroom scene is shot). We follow a student jazz drummer, Andrew Neiman, as he is driven to the edge by tyrannical teacher Terence Fletcher.

Despite relying on two-dimensional characterisation and implausible scenarios, the film makes some very pertinent points about bullying and the pervasive power games that conservatoires promote.

Recent cases

Abuse of students by teachers is a real problem in music education. The Venezuelan massive music education project El Sistema, once hailed as a social program, has since been described as “a model of tyranny”. In March 2013 Michael Brewer, a former music teacher at Chetham’s school of music was jailed for 6 years after abusing a student who took her own life during the trial; a further teacher at the school (my own conducting teacher there) was jailed for 8 months in September 2014 after admitting to sexually assaulting a student when she was a child.

Various other cases involving teachers from the school await trial at the time of writing. A series of women have come forward to attest to their abuse at the hands of former Director of Music at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the late Marcel Gazelle, while many men came forward too with horrifying stories about the late Alan Doggett, the major conductor for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and former music director at Colet Court School, following investigations by myself and The Times.

I have been involved in as a campaigner and researcher on the subject of abuse in music education for several years. I have chronicled many cases coming to light both before and after the Michael Brewer trial. I am aware of many other allegations, sometimes against very prominent musicians, throughout UK music education but also in the US, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Russia and elsewhere.

What I have seen, overwhelmingly, from having gone through an elite musical training, working as a professional musician, and also from a large amount of information disclosed privately to me, is a systematic pattern of domination, cruelty, dehumanisation, bullying and emotional manipulation from unscrupulous musicians in positions of unchecked power, of which sexual abuse is one of several manifestations.

Pure fiction?

Compare Whiplash. Terence Fletcher is very much a cartoon villain. He physically assaults and publicly humiliates his students, and fires off homophobic and anti-semitic insults like an unintentional parody of Joe Pesci in a Martin Scorsese film, or anything scripted by David Mamet.

All of which he justifies (at least outwardly) by the old lie that he is pushing students to get the best results. Any individual acting in such a blatant manner in a US or UK conservatory today would almost certainly face severe disciplinary action very quickly (in Russia or China it might be a different matter).

Few could deny that Fletcher is a vicious bully. The fact that he is a jazz rather than classical teacher, and as such less bound by conventions of bourgeois respectability, may make him superficially more plausible, but I have found that bullying musicians are often more subtle and insidious.

A more devastatingly incisive rendition – the most realistic rendition of the culture of the conservatory I have yet seen on film – is Isabelle Huppert’s portrayal of the monstrous Erika in The Piano Teacher. Erika is a bitter and twisted woman utterly unfit for teaching. She uses the language and rhetoric of musical discernment and sophistication to undermine the confidence and sense of self of those she resents and envies.

Despite being somewhat caricature-like, the nature of Fletcher’s power is portrayed with insight. Although his methods might be exaggerated, such abuse of power does regularly occur and the film should not be dismissed as entirely fictional.

Classical conservatoires

It is important to note that the conservatory environment portrayed here belongs historically to classical musicians. While jazz has occasionally been taught in such institutions ever since the first course in Frankfurt in 1928, it has remained marginal until quite recently. Juilliard, for example, first offered jazz courses in 2001 and few big names in jazz – such as Charlie Parker or Buddy Rich, both mentioned in the film – had this type of musical education.

Conservatories are still strongly weighted towards classical music, and a large amount of bullying is found in this field, though it is often less obvious than that of Fletcher. Fewer volleying barrages of insults. Instead, I have found that frequently students’ inferiority is insinuated through assertions about their perceived emotional maturity or even level of sexual prowess, on the basis of their playing.

Some use personality stereotypes, based on just a few tawdry attributes, to demean and humiliate the student and flaunt their own power. In earlier times these might be overtly based upon the student’s ethnicity or social background; the difference now is simply that this is implicit rather than clearly stated.

Whiplash’s Fletcher knows just how vulnerable and desperate fledgling musicians are. He exploits this situation. Relationships, friendships or other trappings of a normal life disappear under the weight of naked ambition; other humans matter only to the extent they can further one’s career. The pressure to act in such a manner is very real in advanced musical education.

Budding musician.

Those who lose out

The rather hollow “victory” achieved at the end of the film by Neiman (in a tour de force of filming as well as playing) could be argued to have legitimised Fletcher’s treatment of him. But the lasting message is not optimistic.

We find out that a former student, Sean Casey, likely hanged himself in response to his treatment by Fletcher. This is far more striking than some of the other implausible and melodramatic plot devices. But Casey was successful, at least in the terms set out here, having found a place playing in Marsalis’s museum-piece concerts.

More important, and ignored in most portrayals of musical education, is the fate of those who do not find success. These people have sacrificed everything else in their lives. Institutions teach significantly more students than could ever find available work. And so alongside the rosters of starry names brandished in conservatories’ publicity material, their legacy is equally to be found in the other alumni who are left bereft and disillusioned.

I know of many cases, some involving those I knew at school or college, in which the legacy of such study has been chronic depression, difficulties with relationships, drink and drug abuse. This is often prompted by the terror and paranoia engendered by repeated psychological, physical or sexual abuse, as well as the cripplingly low self-esteem that can result.

For those of us lucky few who have been able to devote our professional lives to music, many factors beyond supposed talent or natural selection are involved, often beyond one’s personal control.

This throws light on the real inadequacies of both the teachers and the institutional culture. Better results, both personal and musical, could be achieved by a teaching culture founded upon co-operation and mutual support rather than aggressive competition. The learning needs of students must be prioritised above the reputations of teachers. Educational breadth is needed to enable students to flourish as whole people, not just performing machines.

But this will only happen when the musical professions take real steps to reform a brutalising and dehumanising range of practices and attitudes, the justifications for which are no more convincing than those of Fletcher.

At the star-studded Academy Awards, remember that the essence of what is portrayed in Whiplash is very real and has profound effects upon many young musicians.

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Birdman and the intoxicating alchemy of cinema

By William Brown, University of Roehampton

Birdman is awash with in-jokes, but laugh and then forget about them. And forget about the fact that Birdman is a backstage comedy set in a crappy 800-seat theatre in New York. Because this is really a film about cinema – and a searingly insightful one.

Plaudits will – from within the crucible of self-congratulation that is Hollywood – rightly go to Michael Keaton, although they could equally go to any of the other players in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s piece: Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan – maybe even Zach Galifianakis. But the star of this film, alongside New York and the witty script, is director Iñárritu and most of all, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera.

Birdman is comprised, Enter The Void-style, of multiple shots that are made to seem as though we have before us a single, unbroken, 119-minute take. Iñárritu might well invite us to contemplate the relationship between theatre and cinema – and the lingering belief that treading the boards will legitimise an actor known otherwise for schlockbusters. But as we wander in and out of the St James theatre on West 44th Street, what really comes through is how cinema can trump theatre through its central device: movement. Not movement of the players on to and off of the screen, but movement of the camera itself.

Birdman or Batman?

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor best known for his roles in the Birdman superhero films (nice casting of Keaton here, who didn’t see much success after Batman Returns in 1992). Now he is risking his whole career to produce a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. He has an actress partner (Riseborough), a rehab daughter (Stone) and a best-friend producer (Galifianakis) all involved in the production, together with Broadway wannabe Lesley (Watts) and established stage star Mike Shiner (Norton).

We see rehearsals and previews, all leading up to an opening night that can be made or broken by critic Tabitha Dickinson (Duncan). Riggan also has around him two ghosts from his past: ex-wife Sylvia (Ryan), who haunts him like Marjorie haunts Mel in Carver’s title story; and, more particularly, the voice and sometimes body of Birdman himself (Benjamin Kanes).

The doubling would do Borges proud.
20th Century Fox

The film is somewhat ostentatiously called BiRDMAN. Highlighting “Bi” in this way tells us a lot. We are all plural (“bi”). We all have voices in our heads asking us questions, telling us what to do. The fact that Michael Keaton is actually Michael Douglas’s stage name in itself is weirdly appropriate then, too – the kind of doubling that would suit Jorge Luis Borges, whose Labyrinths Mike Shiner reads on his sunbed.

And so this voice, this alter-ego Birdman, tells Riggan how being a superhero movie star validates him above all these theatre fucks, while chastising him for his vanity. The inner voice also visually breaks out on to the screen as Riggan flips into fantasy sequences, meteors crashing to earth, battles breaking out and he flies around NYC, Spidey-style.

The screen is all

Birdman speaks of cinema’s capacity not just to move, but to move between fantasy and reality as if they were the same thing. Cinema’s power over society also comes through: theatre might well add gravitas and credibility to a performer, but these days no one at all is anything unless mediated by the screen, whether that be at the movies or on Twitter. The fear of being irrelevant has now become the fear of fading from our screens.

Daughter/personal assistant Emma Stone, fresh out of rehab.
20th Century Fox

Riggan asks his daughter to buy him some flowers, demanding alchemillas. A self-conscious nod to the alchemy that is cinema – which, at its best, makes something that is clearly not live seem so. You don’t script these references or get your camera to move the way that Iñárritu and Lubezki’s does without meticulous preparation. And yet the film plays out as if live – a single, unbroken sequence that moves through time in a way that defies the capabilities of the human body. Only when intoxicated can we miss a day and resurface as if no time had passed – but Birdman does precisely that on several occasions. And perhaps cinema is indeed a form of intoxication: joyful, mind-altering and pregnant with the risk of dependency.

In presenting us a continuous shot, the film performs the cinematic alchemical trick of showing that our fantasies are continuous with our reality, even if, like Riggan, we are but shadows full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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This Is a 5-Year-Old Girl’s Oppinion About Princess Leia’s Gold Bikini

Let’s be honest: the Star Wars films are not exactly known for being groundbreaking beacons of feminism. In fact, only two of the six existing movies pass the Bechdel test, which really shouldn’t be that difficult. There are lots of things that two women in this universe could talk about! Flying cars! Wookies! Uh, aliens? Magic…? Oops, I think my lack of Star Wars knowledge is showing. I’ll admit that I’ve technically never seen the movies, but I believe I’ve been thoroughly educated by the master of all things pop culture, Weird Al Yankovic. So I’m no stranger to the infamous metal bikini that Carrie Fisher donned to play Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi. It’s an outfit that some call “sexy” and others call “demeaning.” But what does a 5-year-old girl think of Leia’s skimpy attire? (Read More)

2014 Upcoming Horror Movies You Must See

There is a special night that you should be excited about in October. Indeed! It’s Halloween! Do you know what that means? It means there are a lot of horror movies are back in the game! Here is the check-out list for you about the upcoming horror movies you must see. Fasten your seat belt and be ready to scream!

List-1. Ouija (Click here to see the trailer and read more about Ouija)

Ouija is about a group of friends are trying to find out who or what kills their friend, Debbie. Her death looks like … (Read More)

List-2. The Babadook (Click here to see the trailer and read more about The Babadook)

The story starts with a broken family and a mysterious bedtime story about a fictional monster called the Babadook…(Read More)

List-3. Annabelle (Click here to see the trailer and read more about Annabelle)

A young husband John surprises his pregnant wife Mia with a beautiful vintage doll for their upcoming baby …(Read More)

List-4. Jessabelle (Click here to see the trailer and read more about Annabelle)

A tragic car accident took Jessabelle’s legs and her boyfriend’s life. She returns home to Lousiana with her father to grieve and recover…(Read More)

List-5. The Pyramid (Click here to see the trailer and read more about The Pyramid)

When a group of archaeologists found a mysterious pyramid is buried underneath the sands of the Egyptian desert, they seize the opportunity to be famous in the history…(Read More)

List-6. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Click here to see the trailer and read more about The Town That Dreaded Sundown)

The Town That Dreaded Sundown is a remake from 1976. 65 years ago, there is a masked serial killer threatened a small town of Texarkana…(Read More)

List-7. Horns (Click here to see the trailer and read more about Horns)

Daniel Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish, who wakes one day to find that he has grown horns…(Read More)

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Watch ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

I watched The Wolf of Wall Street the other night and afterwards there was one thought in my mind: If I run into any friends who mention it to me anytime soon, I’m going to say, “I don’t think you should go see The Wolf of Wall Street.”

I’m not going to say it’s because of the nudity or the treatment of women. I’m not going to say it’s because of the overuse of drugs. And I’m definitely not going to say that it’s because it glorifies boiler room trading scams. I’m going to say, “because it’s a waste of three hours.”

This movie is basically the underdeveloped, uncreative lovechild of Glengarry Glen Ross and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. There is so much that could have happened that never did. There is so much that deserved a closer look that got overshadowed by long scenes of our main characters being stupid on ludes. It’s not funny, it’s not exciting and it’s nothing that anyone will ever aspire to be. Sure, we all want to be rich and many people enjoy doing drugs, but that’s a scenario we’ve seen a billion times already. What’s worse is that we know how the story ends since it’s based on a memoir of someone’s actual life. You could read the wikipedia article on Jordon Belfort and have no need to see it played out on the screen.

All of that aside, the simplest problem with the movie is that it’s just too damn long. We don’t need to see people say the same thing 4 different ways in a conversation, we don’t need to see every single inch of Belfort crawling while intoxicated, we don’t need a flashback to his driving after getting arrested for a DUI. Basically, in the words of Bruce Willis, this movie is full of “chuffa”. It was one, great big chuffa-fest.

But ya know, there’s plenty of played-out controversy going on, if you’re into that sorta thing.

Grade: C-