Review of the Year

Top Films

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Mudbound
  4. mother!
  5. Moonlight
  6. The Handmaiden
  7. Jackie
  8. Get Out
  9. The Olive Tree
  10. Hidden Figures

Top TV

  1. Godless
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale
  3. Alias Grace
  4. Top of the Lake: China Girl
  5. The Missing – series 2

Top films seen last year

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. Vertigo
  3. Dunkirk
  4. I, Daniel Blake
  5. mother!
  6. Moonlight
  7. The Handmaiden
  8. Mulholland Drive
  9. Blade Runner
  10. Interstellar

Top Albums

  1. Clare Teal, Twelve o’ Clock Tales
  2. Black String, Mask Dance
  3. Bugge Wessltoft, Somewhere in Between
  4. Jenny Hval, Blood Bitch
  5. The Rite of Spring, RLPO – Petrenko
  6. Lewis & Leigh, Ghost
  7. Nadia Reid, Preservation
  8. The National, Sleep Well Beast
  9. Arcade Fire, Everything Now
  10. The Flaming Lips, Oczy Mlody

Top Books

  1. Another Country James Baldwin
  2. Black and British: A Forgotten History, David Olusoga
  3. A Child in Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky
  4. The Game of Our Lives, David Goldblatt
  5. What Man Is, David Szalay
  6. Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Have Cornered Culture and What It Means For All Of Us, Jonathan Taplin
  7. The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser
  8. A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
  9. Everybody Brave Will Be Forgiven, Clive Cleave
  10. Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes

Top live

  1. Cambridge Folk Festival
  2. Koyaanisqaatsi, GoGo Penguin, Howard Assembly Room – Leeds
  3. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Petrenko – Town Hall, Leeds
  4. Maarja Nuut, Howard Assembly Rooms – Leeds
  5. Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek, Howard Assembly Room – Leeds
  6. Skylight, David Hare – Theatr Clywd, Mold
  7. Lisa O’Neill, The Brudenell Social Club – Burley
  8. Pixels Ensemble – Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, Leeds
  9. Janacek and Mascagni ‘Little Greats’ – Opera North – Leeds
  10. Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards – The Live Room, Saltaire

June 8th

Jackie (Chile-France-USA, 2016)

Blood and detachment

Blood and detachment

The buzz around Jackie has been about Natalie Portman’s fantastic performance as Kennedy in the moments between JFK’s assassination and his funeral. And she is brilliant. However, this has meant the contribution of Pablo Larrain’s direction and Stephane Fontaine’s cinematography (and his colorist Isabelle Julien) hasn’t been acknowledged to the extent it should have been.

In an excellent interview, in No Film School,  Fontaine explains how Larrain shifted the script’s emphasis from the story to Jackie’s interior world. Hence the preponderance of close ups and handheld shots that follow her grief stricken wanderings around the White House. This stylization contributes to the arthouse feel of the film which is no doubt contributing to the relatively low key box office performance. It’s not that it’s a difficult film to follow but it’s a little off-kilter for mainstream audiences.

The film’s shot on super 16mm, giving a noticeable graininess, and looks fabulous. The colours, very subdued for many of scenes with Jackie, reminded me of the iconic look of Time Life magazine in the 1960s. The shot of Jackie, in full funeral dress, standing at the graveside, where her pallour makes her look like a ghost, is stunning. Similarly, in the late night walks around the White House, the setting has a steely sheen that reminded me of Kubrick’s hotel at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A suitably otherworldly place reflecting Jackie’s dislocation from the world in her grief.

Portman’s performance anchors this technical brilliance, along with the pin point costume design; she also mimics Jackie’s eccentric pronunciation which adds to the eeriness of the narrative world. The support is superb, though John Hurt’s Irish accent should have discounted him from the role; Peter Sarsgaard as Bobby and Greta Gerwig’s assistant stand out.

Writing this coincided with Hurt’s death and it would be invidious to mark that with a criticism as he’s been such a superb actor for decades. Although I found his accent distracting, his craggy, worn out features, and intelligent demeanour made him perfect for the role of Jackie’s confidante.

This is the third film I’ve seen in the cinema this year and the others were good too: A Monster Calls (US-Spain, 2016) and A United Kingdom (US-UK, 2016). Add the fine Arrival (US, 2016), which I saw at the backend of last year, maybe I’ve rediscovered my love for cinema (‘Yeeeeeesssssss!’).

Jackie is likely to be one of the best films of the year.

Review of 2016

Politically a shit year which probably had nothing to do with me falling out of love with film. There’s hope, for me, in that I’m managed to watch, and enjoy, a few films recently. However, not enough for me to declare with a scintilla of sincerity that I can judge the year’s top movies.

Top TV

  1. The Bridge – series 3
  2. The Night Manager
  3. War and Peace
  4. Undercover
  5. Happy Valley – series 2
  6. In the Line of Duty – series 3
  7. Marcella
  8. The A Word
  9. Follow the Money
  10. Trapped

Top live

  1. Anna Meredith – Belgrave Music Hall – Leeds
  2. Melt Yourself Down – Wardrobe, Leeds
  3. A Night at the Museum – Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
  4. Orff: Carmina Burana – RLPO, Liverpool
  5. The Bad Plus – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
  6. Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra – Vladimir Fedoseyev, Leeds Town Hall
  7. Rachael Yamagata – King’s Head, Salford
  8. A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennesse Williams, Royal Exchange – Manchester
  9. Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards, The Live Room – Saltaire
  10. Making Mischief, The Other Place – Stratford

Top books

  1. Satin Island, Tom McCarthy
  2. Olive Kitteridge, A Novel in Stories, Elizabeth Strout
  3. The Establishment, Owen Jones
  4. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
  5. But You Did Not Come Back, Marceline Loridan-Ivens
  6. The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross
  7. The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O’Farrell
  8. The Other Hand, Colin Cleave
  9. A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler
  10. 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, James Shapiro

Top albums

  1. Shostakovich: Symphones 5, 8 & 9 – BSO -Nelsons
  2. Laura Gibson, Empire Builder
  3. Maarja Nuut, Une Meeles
  4. Melt Yourself Down, Last Evenings on Earth
  5. Rachel Newton, Here’s My Heart Come Take It
  6. Christian Scott, Stretch Music
  7. Phronesis, Parallax
  8. Ruby Hughes and Joseph Middleton, Nocturne
  9. Lisa Hannigan, At Swim
  10. Auntie Flo, Theory of Flo

Introduction to Film (2nd edition)


Movie watching has never been so wide-ranging or so popular (except with me – see previous post). The rise of Internet-based video on demand has transformed the way films are distributed and exhibited, with many previously unobtainable and obscure films becoming available for global audiences to view instantly.

The second edition of this concise yet complete introduction to film responds to these shifts in the medium, while continuing to address all of the main approaches that continue to inform film studies.

This new edition also:

• reflects the increasing importance of production contexts in chapters that focus exclusively on the film business, distribution and exhibition
• represents the significance of transnational cinema, moving away from Western-centric perspectives of film and drawing on a more global, non-Hollywood range of film examples and case studies from Europe, Asia and Latin America
• is now illustrated with a wider variety of film stills, representing world cinema from the classics to the latest in contemporary cinema.

Interweaving historical and current theoretical approaches, the book presents a tightly-focused and coherent overview of a discipline in transition. With its original narrative line and student-oriented philosophy, the second edition continues to enrich students’ appreciation of cinema, while equipping them with the essential skills and vocabulary to succeed in film studies. This is an ideal foundational text for all students and enthusiasts of cinema.

OK; even if I do say so myself. This is out today; you can get a sample chapter here.

Review of 2015

Top films


  1. Carol
  2. Citizenfour
  3. The Imitation Game
  4. Inside Out
  5. Mad Max: Fury Road
  6. Birdman
  7. Suffragette
  8. The Falling
  9. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
  10. A Syrian Love Story

Top TV


  1. 1864
  2. London Spy
  3. Spiral series 5
  4. The Game
  5. The Fall series 2
  6. River
  7. Homeland series 4
  8. The Eichmann Show
  9. Jonathan Norrel and Mr. Strange
  10. Wolf Hall

Films seen last year


  1. The Searchers
  2. Good Night, and Good Luck
  3. Crash (2004)
  4. The Matrix
  5. Carol
  6. Citizenfour
  7. Babel
  8. The Imitation Game
  9. Play
  10. Blue is the Warmest Colour

Top live


  1. Kunsthalle Museum, Vienna
  2. The Unthanks, Trades Club – Hebden Bridge
  3. Brodsky Quartet – Howard Assembly Rooms, Leeds
  4. The Unthanks – Irish Centre, Leeds
  5. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – The Live Room, Saltaire
  6. Richard Hawley, Scarborough Spa
  7. A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller – Wyndham’s Theatre
  8. Leopold Museum, Vienna
  9. Jackson Pollock, Blind Spots – Tate, Liverpool
  10. Richter/Part, Whitworth Gallery – Manchester

Top books

132.Richard Flanagan-The Narrow Road To The Deep North cover


  1. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Richard Flanagan
  2. The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell
  3. Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi
  4. Fallen Land, Patrick Flanery
  5. Buffalo Soldier, Tanya Landman
  6. Nothing is True, Everything is Possible, Peter Pomerantsev
  7. How Music Got Free, Stephen Will
  8. The Whites, Harry Brandt
  9. The Quest for a Moral Compass, Kenan Malik
  10. Digital Media and Society, Andrew White

Top albums


  1. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Nothing Can Bring Back the Hour
  2. The Decembrists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
  3. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse Girl
  4. Samantha Crain, Kid Face
  5. Smetana: String quartets, Pavel Haas Qt
  6. Wire, Wire
  7. Public Image Limited, What the World Needs Now
  8. Sexwitch, Sexwitch
  9. We Are Shining, Kara
  10. Emily Hall, Folie a Deux

10 Films for International Women’s Day

Vera Chytilová, writer-director of Daisie

Vera Chytilová, writer-director of Daisies

10 cracking movies made by and about women; in alphabetical order:

  1.  Antonia’s Line (Antonia, Netherlands-Belgium-UK-France, 1995)
  2. Daisies (Sedmikrásky, Czechosolvakia, 1966)
  3. Dance Girl Dance (US, 1940)
  4. The Day I Became a Woman (Roozi ke zan shodam, Iran, 2000)
  5. Frida (US-Canada-Mexico, 2002)
  6. Ginger & Rosa (US-Denmark-Canada-Croatia, 2012)
  7. Meshes of an Afternoon (US, 1943)
  8. The Piano (New Zealand-Australia-France, 1993)
  9. Where Do We Go Now? (Et maintenant on va où?, France-Lebanon-Egypt-Italy, 2011)
  10. Winter’s Bone (US, 2010)