Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WOMEN BJD Rene Zellweger - Just a pretty face?

There has been quite a commotion over Rene Zellweger's re-appearance in the media spotlight this past week, specifically surrounding her radically altered facial appearance. This is an actress, lets not forget, who piled on extra pounds to play a 'chubby' Bridget Jones (actually still well below the average size/figure of a British, never mind American, woman of her height, a quite invidious representation).

Steve Rose posts an interesting article which argues (quite briefly!) that, irrespective of gender, an actor's trade is centred on their face; it's their brand he effectively argues, with the close-up a key tool of cinema.

On the other hand ...

“Where did Renee Zellweger’s face go?”

Monday, October 13, 2014

'71: Initial thoughts, review

Went to see '71 at Bradford's National Media Museum on its day of release, October 10th 2014. Alongside about a dozen others in total; a very sparsely attended screening (including one patron slowly consuming a huge tub of frozen yoghurt with a tiny spoon - knitting might be a better option there to keep the hands busy!). I'm told this is fairly common: until The Guardian review comes through, there is often limited awareness of non-mainstream films like this, an interesting reflection of the ABC1 skew of the NMM's staple audience.

As the DVD will be a while (presumably) in coming, I fervently scribbled down notes afterwards, some of which I'll sum up below. You could save yourself the bother, and just watch Mark Kermode's R5 review below ... the be-quiffed master pundit raised some very specific reference points which I'd noted myself, although I think my own take was always going to be somewhat informed by being a Northern Irish viewer of this ostensibly 'Troubles' movie.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Curtisland: animated satire of Richard Curtis' WT rom-coms

NB: whilst animated, this sketch contains some fairly adult humour and sexual references linking into a notorious incident involving Hugh grant, better known recently as a campaigner for stronger press regulation through the pressure group Hacked Off.

Is this a fair representation of Curtis' approach?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Signifiers of 'Britishness'?

The post below links into the lesson, but note I've created MANY ... MANY posts on this topic which are accessible through the archive!!! There are even themed links lists down the side of this blog...

We've started considering what factors go into designating a film as 'British' or not, discovering first of all that there isn't necessarily a definitive answer ... though (as we'll explore later) there are some legal definitions tied into financing (a film's level of Britishness decides whether it is eligible for tax breaks or not).
We looked at some or all of the following; make sure you've got a full, detailed list of factors which go into deciding whether a film is British or not - with examples to back this up. (That approach reflects the way the exam is marked: on Use of Examples; Explanation, Analysis, Argument; Use of Terminology)

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
 (Ken Loach, 2006 - approx £5m budget. $23m worldwide box office, £3.2m in UK)
Seventeen co-production companies!!! Not least various European co's; many British Indie films only get made by pre-selling distribution rights (before production) to European markets such as France and Germany. Directors like Ken Loach find it easier to get their films into cinemas in continental Europe (where its a foreign language film don't forget) than their own country! The UK cinema market is utterly dominated by US films - even last year when 'British' films had an exceptional success, they still accounted for only 13% of UK cinema box office in 2011.

(DVD is in Media stock in Library)
Main characters Irish and British;
negative representation of British though - Irish the victims, British the villains;
mainly shot in Ireland (but also Scotland - tax breaks were a key consideration; the issue of state funding for cinema, or tax breaks, is a key one in the relative strength of domestic, as opposed to American imports, cinema);
a co-production, with the UKFC, Irish Film Board, various European co's and small UK Indies among the 17 companies to co-finance the production - see
the director was English.
So: British, Irish (or even just 'European')? There is no definitive answer, but it is interesting that with the exception of The Guardian, UK newspapers were extremely hostile towards the film: although it was historically accurate, it dared to challenge the established narrative that the Irish were violent terrorists and the British innocent victims of these savage people. Noam Chomsky would call this criticism 'flak', one of the 'five filters' he argued made up the 'propaganda model' (read more:

Mickybo & Me
(Terry Loane, 2004 - $5m [approx £3m]. UK box office £172,336!!! No release elsewhere. 1 week's release at Edinburgh International Film Festival + in N.Ireland, peaking at 28 screens [IMDB] [Wiki])
Also in Lib.
An excellent WT2 film that NBC-Universal and its subsidiary StudioCanal decided not to fund for a distribution that would mean expensive prints for cinemas and the cost of advertising and marketing ... despite its success at film festivals and positive critical reception.
Is this what YOU think of when the term 'British cinema' is raised? Why do you think it failed to get a full cinema release?

Factors in Britishness then:
British director;
British setting;
British characters and cast;
Mix of UK (WT2), US (Universal) and European (StudioCanal) funding, with additional finance from film boards in NI and RofI/Eire. See

The problem here was an unwillingness to gamble further funds on a film set in N.Ireland featuring strong NI accents. NI is British as part of the UK, but not what 'we'/you think of when using the term British. 
Consider the narrative of this film: two young boys from the 1970s are obsessed with a film and start to act it out. Now consider the following film...