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)


Review of the year

Top 20 film/TV released this year

  1. Under the Skin
  2. Interstellar
  3. Pride
  4. 12 Years a Slave
  5. Borgen – series 3
  6. The Bridge – series 2
  7. The Missing – series 1
  8. Masters of Sex – series 1
  9. Gloria
  10. Fargo – series 1
  11. The Imitation Game
  12. The Trip to Italy
  13. Episodes – series 2
  14. Generation War: Our Mothers and Fathers
  15. The 7:39
  16. ‘71
  17. Locke
  18. The Riot Club
  19. Salting the Battlefield
  20. Turks and Caicos

Films seen last year

  1. I Am Cuba
  2. Children of Men
  3. Chronicle of a Summer
  4. Under the Skin
  5. Ivan’s Childhood
  6. Even the Rain
  7. Interstellar
  8. Pride
  9. 12 Years a Slave
  10. Ballad of a Soldier

Books of the Year

  1. Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch, Nick Davies
  2. The Circle, David Eggers
  3. Houseboy, Ferdinand Oyono
  4. The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor
  5. Autobiography, Morrissey
  6. Orfeo, Richard Powers
  7. A Quiet Flame, Phillip Kerr
  8. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  9. Blockbusters, Anita Elberse
  10. The Martian, Andrew Weir

Albums of the year

  1. Alela Diane, About Farewell
  2. Natalie Merchant, Natalie Merchant
  3. Alt J, This Is All Yours
  4. GoGo Penguin, v2.0
  5. Schubert: ‘Death and the Maiden’, Paavel Haas Qt.
  6. Britten: War Requiem, Paul McCreesh
  7. Tamikrest, Chatma
  8. Phronesis, Life to Everything
  9. Polar Bear, In Each and Every One
  10. Young Fathers, Dead

Live events

  1. Turner & the Sea – National Maritime Museum
  2. Halle Orch, Viktoria Mullova, Mark Elder, Town Hall – Leeds
  3. Gabby Young and Stephen Ellis (Artsbridge)
  4. Bellowhead and The Moulettes, Victoria Theatre – Halifax
  5. Orch of Opera North – van Steen, Town Hall, Leeds
  6. Nina Murdoch – Marlborough Gallery
  7. Philip Henry and Hannah Martin, Caroline Social Club – Saltaire
  8. Only in England– Toby Ray-Jones, National Media Museum, Bradford
  9. Roddy Woomble, Caroline Social Club – Saltaire
  10. Jakub Hrusa’s Czech series II – Royal Festival Hall

Best of 2013

Films/TV released last year

I think it’s clear that television is sometimes as visually rich as cinema though, of course, it cannot compete with picture quality and size (I see most films on television anyway). The growth of cable television in America (AMC, HBO, Showtime), that doesn’t need to pander to advertisers, has enabled long form narrative to thrive and there is no longer, from actors’ perspectives, the idea that TV is inferior and symptom of a declining career. In combining the media I’ve decided to double the length of this list.

  1. Borgen – series 3
  2. Borgen – series 2
  3. Gravity
  4. Before Midnight
  5. Broadchurch (tv)
  6. The Hour – series 2
  7. Philomena
  8. McCullin
  9. Lore
  10. Spiral (Engrenages) – series 4
  11. The Returned (Les Revenants) (tv)
  12. The Fall (tv)
  13. The Impossible
  14. Silver Linings Playbook
  15. Stories We Tell
  16. Compliance
  17. A Hijacking
  18. Stoker
  19. The Challenger (tv)
  20. Blackout (tv)

Films seen last year

  1. Pan’s Labyrinth
  2. Bringing Up Baby
  3. The Hunt
  4. Gravity
  5. Before Midnight
  6. We Need to Talk About Kevin
  7. Battle for Haditha
  8. Even the Rain
  9. The Reckless Moment
  10. I Saw the Devil

Books of the Year

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, Mark Fisher
A Kind of Loving, Stan Barstow
The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald
The Conductor, Sarah Quigley
Nod, Adrian Barnes
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Granta 120 – Medicine
Sleepless in Hollywood, Lynda Obst
Clampdown: Pop-cultural wars on class and gender, Rhian Jones
The Status Civilization, Robert Sheckley

Albums of the Year

  1. Josephine, Portrait
  2. Dan Deacon, America
  3. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight
  4. Monoswezi, The Village
  5. Warsaw Village Band, Nord
  6. Goat, World Music
  7. Vine: Symphonies (BiS)
  8. Oddarrang, In Cinema
  9. Empirical, Tabula Rasa
  10. KT Tunstall, Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon

Live Events

  1. Light Show, Hayward Gallery
  2. Rokia Traore, Howard Assembly Rooms – Leeds
  3. Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, Alan Janes – Victoria Theatre, Halifax
  4. The Pitmen Painters, Lee Hall – Alhambra, Bradford
  5. Cabaret – Alhambra, Bradford
  6. Chagall, Modern Master – Tate, Liverpool
  7. Visions of the Universe – National Maritime Museum
  8. Mark Thomas, People’s Manifesto – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
  9. Glam! The Performance of Style – Tate Liverpool
  10. Stornoway, Trades Club – Hebden Bridge


McCullin (UK, 2012)

War after war

War after war

McCullin is a biography of Don McCullin the photojournalist who is one of the greatest war photographers. What’s striking about his work is how it is infused with humanity despite the degradation shown in many of the images. He claims that’s he’s not a poet but the image above proves otherwise even though, as  he says, the woman in the door was happenstance. McCullin was in the place to get the decisive moment.

McCullin comments on his images, and himself, fairly dispassionately; clearly this ‘objective’ position allowed him to actually survive the experiences mentally intact. However, there’s no doubt, particularly when civilians were concerned, that he felt deeply about what he was witnessing. His account comes across as honest and in no way self-serving. Harold Evans, for many years his editor, has substantial input and he speaks about a pre-Murdoch dominated era of journalism where the story was what counted and not creating a suitable environment for advertisers.

Occasionally the editing doesn’t allow us to spend long enough looking at the stunning images, otherwise there’s little to criticise. McCullin ends by saying he’s going to spend the rest of his days photographing the British landscape, which is a bit of a relief. However, he apparently thought he was dying of heart disease when being interviewed and he’s since been to Syria; he’s a war junkie who’s shown us the truth about war. McCullin remembers, with incredulity, when the British government wouldn’t let him go to the Falklands. They clearly didn’t want the truth to get out.