Diary of a Soul Boy

Diary of a Soul Boy (Northern Soul the Film.)  On a rainy autumnal night in Wolverhampton surrounded by fellow soulies, at long last I was seeing Northern Soul the Film. The atmosphere was tangible and I hoped I wasn’t the only one who felt like they could get up and dance.

Northern Soul

Only two years earlier my friends and I had been dancing in dimly lit hall in Blackburn shooting this film directed by Elaine Constantine, trying to recreate Wigan Casino in all its 70s grandeur. Hair and makeup had cut off my precious quiff and slapped my hair into a middle parting and in my high waisted Oxford bags I felt like the dogs bollocks.

Set in 1974 Matt and John discover Black American Soul music and throw themselves in the hedonistic lifestyle that is Northern Soul, all-­‐nighters, drugs, music, dancing, friendships and then the comedown of heading back to reality when it is all over. You must have a frozen heart not to have found something to relate to in this film. As it happens I have gone to the cinema to watch it at least four times. It is wonderfully shot and portrays the Soul scene in a gritty and realistic way. Having danced for 10 hours to shoot the Wigan Casino scenes I was keen to spot myself in the crowd bobbing along to the music. What I took away from filming and watching the film was so much more than that.

Shooting the dance scenes enabled me to establish some solid friendships with like-­‐minded soulies. Before I had only ever seen some ancient folks bobbing along on the dance floor and made a fool of myself trying to copy them, but now I was face to face with young people who were clearly empowered by what they were listening and dancing to. I felt something innate inside me telling me that I had finally found my kind of people. Three years on I am out most weekends, spinning, back dropping, shuffling and generally thriving in a sweaty soul filled state of mind. There are so may records out there which no matter how I am feeling will always make me dance, Yvonne Fair, ‘Walk out the door if you wanna,’ Lenny Welch, ‘100 Pounds of Pain’ and Ike and Tina Turner, ‘Baby what  you want me to do’, to name but a few. My wallet may not agree as record collecting is an expensive business but it is very empowering to know that as a bloke I can get up and dance without anyone taking the piss.

Diary of a Soul Boy

Northern Soul has not only boosted my social calendar as I get to hang out with some of the most fantastic and passionate people out there. But is has also provided me and my mates with some extraordinary experiences. Leaving the    film shoot for instance was gut wrenching as I had lived and breathed the 1970s for two days, I think fondly of Keith the coach driver (Keefy baby) parking the  colossus coach in a terraced street in Blackburn for 20 or so of us dancers to invade a tiny off licence on the street and ransack its stock of booze for the after party. Dancing For Lisa Stansifeld in her music video and on her tour was a highlight, as well as dancing on the One Show and donning our costumes and  doing our thang for a press screening of the film are experiences you cannot buy.

It is the little things that make me want to stay in this crazy scene forever, that instinctive feeling to dance just because you have to or watching Bob effortlessly spins to a high octane tune with perfection, that spine tingling excitement when your favourite records plays and you hit the right beat with a move. I just hope I don’t come crashing down to reality too soon.

Why Watch Anime or Is Kindness Good Enough?

From Up On Poppy Hill, Ghibli Studios, 2011

I have recently visited my brother abroad, in a beautiful country renowned for its strong flavorsome beers, cozy pubs and vivid nightlife. During my week or so of my stay we travelled around the countryside and had a great time together, however, we did not go out a single night. What other, pray tell, did we do instead in this beer-blessed land? Well, we stayed at home and watched anime in front of the fireplace, each with a wine glass in hand. We both work full-time and tired after our long work-hours this was the perfect holiday relaxation. Geeks, I hear? Now, now, let’s think about that.

Why Watch Anime or Is Kindness Good Enough

Whether you are new to anime or a keen fan, you probably have some idea of what this Japanese cult is, but let me remind you anyway to make things straightforward. Anime is often a very stylized type of Japanese animation – think cartoon characters with huge eyes and vivid mimicry in an unusually bright coloured environment. Anime, as we know it today, originates in the early 20th century together with early origin of filmmaking. Its paper predecessor, manga, has been with us since long before with the oldest ‘manga scrolls’ dating back to as far as 12th century. The scale of genres that anime covers is countless, embracing everything from cartoons aimed at toddler audience through the darkest dramas and mysteries to hardcore fetish porn (yes, when I said all genres, I meant all of them).

There is a common shared idea amongst those not particularly intrigued by anime that it is a very self-contained culture accessible only to hardcore geeks. On first sight this seems rather understandable: anime can be, briefly said, a bit weird, which makes it slightly daunting to approach. The sole fact that we are talking about unnaturally-large-eyed animation easily branches it out and places it into a separate rainbow coloured box labeled ‘immature, for children.’ This labelling, although not entirely true, admittedly has some colourful relevance to it, but there are reasons why it does not quite exactly tick the box.

I am sure that by a hardcore anime otaku (Japanese term for an obsessive anime fan) I would be, at best, described as an amateur, occasional and unfaithful genre switching anime traitor. Truth be told, I do not watch anime very often nor am I uncritically devouring every new anime piece. Yet some of my all-time favourite television shows and films fall amongst anime ranks. Naturally, not all animes are good and many of them are utterly rubbish. Following my previous statement that some of the best films I have seen are animes, some of the worst ones I had the dubious pleasure of watching are from the very same category.

I have several reasons why I tend to take refuge in watching anime. As I already mentioned above, the variety of genres, topics and different, mostly breathtaking graphics and illustration styles is limitless. No matter what age group you belong to or what mood you are in, there is something different to choose from. Being a keen and passionate reader, I have always had high demands of book adaptations taken to film screen. Real acted films somehow nearly never reach the qualities of the original pure story, however skilled the film crew and the director are. There are exceptions, indeed, but personally I could count these on one paw of a three-fingered sloth. Anime can consider itself lucky in this sense as it does not have to concern itself with being entirely truthful to the manga or novel it adapts. One of the main characteristics of anime is its rich imaginative world filled with fantastic ideas and this being a generally understood consensus, gives a lot of space for improvisation and for diversion from traditional story-telling paths.

Why Watch Anime or Is Kindness Good Enough

Anime is entitled to be strange yet I am always taken aback at the level of creativity and of breathtaking crazy whims that jump out at you from behind every corner and out of each rabbit hole. Some animes are just plain weird – they are so weird you will actually start to question your own sanity or become nostalgic for both your own and the rest of the world’s (that is, outside anime’s deranged world) limited imagination.

Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ghibli Studios, 1989

What actually induced me to write this article was a relatively old anime film by Ghibli studio that I watched a couple of days back, Kiki’s Delivery Service. It was far from being one of the ‘good days’ for me and I was convinced nothing could possibly improve that. Well, it did. Kiki’s Deliver Service is an utterly nice film. Here nice is not being the word that is in excess applied to anything and everyone plus magnified by hundred, but nice springing out of the heart and soul that have been put into this film. It touched me with its simplicity, beautiful animation and atmosphere breathing out sea breeze mixed with magic. This film made me smile, with its adorable main character, Kiki the little witch who is trying to kick off her flying delivery service, and with its uncomplicated yet absorbing narrative set in a world where people help each other and – yes, even smile at one another.

Too often today we forget to smile for simple things: because it can be hard to smile. Smiling at someone or something unnecessarily has become a luxury that strains muscles and wastes one’s time. When was the last time you smiled at a stranger in the street or on the underground? This leads me to my last and also the simplest reason for my watching anime. I seek kindness. Because I miss it around me – and also inside me and inside other people. I miss empathy, selflessness, curiosity, spontaneity. I miss compassion and understanding. I miss all this, which seemed to be everywhere when I looked at the world through children’s eyes decades ago and then it somehow evaporated as I got to so-call understand the world better.

Imitating the real world, film and television seem to have taken a long vacation away from simple kind notes. In order to amuse ourselves today we need drama, murder, abuse and real-life stories to feel a bit better about our own lives; to see that, yes, some people are still worse off than we are. – Rejoice humanity! The facts stand that kindness is not enoughtoday. Kindness is weak, it’s inefficient and it does not pay off the business. Kind equals stupid. John Steinbeck hit the nail on the head in his short story Cannery Row (which, anime aside, is another great story to reach for):

‘’It has always seemed strange to me… the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.‘‘

If this was an ultimate truth about our reality, it would be a sad, twisted world we would have the pleasure of living in. Yes, Steinbeck is right in how diligent and effective we are when it comes to submitting our moral standards and values to the money-driven survival game most of us are forced to play. And yes, we have been happily pacing towards our own heartless doom, but things are not lost yet. There are many small ways to work on our lives to incorporate kindness* into them and, yes, to even throw the occasional purposeless smile here and there.

 

*I would gladly give you, the reader, my Top Ten Advice On Introducing Kindness Into Your Life but, alas, I do not feel quite entitled to do so. Try your own way.

 

In Kiki’s Delivery Service, Kiki is not always a happy little witch. Through most of the story she struggles, makes mistakes. She even gets grumpy and depressed, which results in her losing some of her magic abilities.Yet despite this, all the time Kiki has good intentions on her mind and kind attitude towards other people. She helps selflessly, accompanied by her talking cat and flying broom.

Imaginative stories of anime films, bearing strong resemblance to traditional fairy tales, gently point out some basic ethical values that we so much lack in the real life. Such stories have power over us that we do not realize: to teach, to move, to inspire, to make us laugh and to show kindness to each other. Indeed, even in anime, kindness often does not pay off and not everyone is kind. But there is an ever-present element of the fantastic: that of pure free imagination and child-like carefreeness. Hard work and ideals are not laughed upon and magic is possible; evil will be punished, and kindness rewarded. You can live a happy life and not be ashamed of yourself. You can be kind and not regret it. I could go on and on.

And so what, if this gives us a wrong, false image of the oh-so-real world where you, a hotel owner, throw your guest in the streets when they do not pay in time and where business wins over your principles and money over your heart. Is it not more important to show our children that kindness is something possible in the first place and to remind ourselves of it over and over again, as it is not children who are most prone to forgetting it?

In itself, anime of course does not present any tangible solution to the current state of our accustomed-to-be-coldhearted society. But, together with fairytales, myths and fables and all other stories brimming with imagination, it can serve as a reminder of what we can loose and how much we can still gain. Even if kindness is not a good enough reason for you to watch anime, you can still consider giving it a chance next time you have a day off for all the other reasons that make it an incredible genre: its diversity, lucid imagination, beautiful artistry of illustration and well developed stories.

Alice Maselnikova

Jumpcut!

During my previous four years at University I was told consistently and repeatedly how important work placements were for boosting future employability, and, like most lazy, initiative- lacking students, I decided to ignore the advice. Consequently, I graduated with nothing to distinguish myself from my (thousands) of identically, or near-identically, graded co-graduates. New film course, new year and new perspective, I decided to finally embrace the world of work experience this summer. After hundreds of applicants and two interview rounds, I was one of the very lucky 22 students to be selected for the 2014 JUMPCUT Summer Production crew. I quickly realised that lecturers aren’t in fact lying when preaching and promoting their massive benefits, and it was one of the best personal and professional experiences I’ve ever had.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

JUMPCUT is an initiative founded by SIGMA FILMS and Film City Glasgow to enable the development of young film-makers living and working in Scotland. With Channel 4 as a broadcast partner and funder, the mentored training programme takes place over twelve weeks for young people aged 16 – 25, enabling the production of a high quality 10 minute short film. The professional mentors include producer Paddy Higson (credits range from Gregory’s Girl to The Magdalene Sisters and numerous Television Drama productions); Production Designer Mark Leese (God Help the Girl, This is England, The Magdalene Sisters); Location Manager Lloret Dunn (World War Z, Never Let Me Go); Assistant Director Susan Clark (Coronation Street, Still Game, River City) and Production Manager Claire Campbell (Sunshine on Leith, Starred up) – all of whom worked closely with us during the production process.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Being a rather inexperienced first year film student, it was both heartening and interesting to learn that even the graduate film students, with four years of uni experience, were just as clueless as I was about what actually goes into a professional production. This industry, with its massive budgets and large-scale crews, is so vastly different from the small-scale student films we’re accustomed to making as students, and JUMPCUT provided an invaluable experiential bridge between these two worlds. The process was split into pre-production and production, and in the first week I bonded with my fellow crew of eager students/graduates, alongside meeting with, and hearing inspiring words from, some very wise and experienced people within the TV and Film Industry. One particular meeting with Production Executive Gillian Pauling (Fresh Meat, Peep Show, The Cube) was extremely valuable. She opened my eyes to professionalism and good practice not just being common sense, but something that so many people unfortunately fail on. Something as simple as sending a formal email seems to cause difficulty for many hopeful graduates.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

The film itself is one of two initial script choices that had to be pitched by us to SIGMA FILMS. ‘Dropping Michael Off’ was the winning preference, and pre-production commenced by organising our office space into its various department teams of Production, Art department, Camera, Locations, Sound and Post-production. The script, written by prior 2013 JUMPCUT participant James Price, depicts 18 year old Michael’s final day of freedom before his court hearing. Trying to calm his apprehensive nerves, his Uncle Duncan takes him out for what he believes should be a ‘real man’s’ last day before jail. However, Duncan’s true intentions soon become apparent.

Directed by Bafta award winner Zam Salim, ‘Dropping Michael Off’ was an incredible production to be part of. Alongside my production assistant and locations assistant role, I was also able to shadow direct, where I observed Salim’s directorial techniques and his interactions with our actors Brian McCardie (Filth, Speed 2) and Michael McCardie. Their relationship as real life uncle and nephew really magnified the realism Salim was hoping to achieve.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Jumpcut Shots, 2014.

Returning to normal life was a difficult transition after being so immersed in the professional world of the production. It seems crazy schedules aren’t a burden one bit if you genuinely love what you’re learning, doing, and the incredible people who surround and work with you. Director of Photography James Blann and his camera team render a gritty yet stunning look with the industry standard ARRI alexa camera, and I’ll be proud to see my name on the end credits next to many talented people. ‘Dropping Michael Off’ is currently in the post-production stages and will be shown around various festivals and air on Channel 4 in 2015.

All about Wes…

To many cinemaphiles, Wes Anderson is a director like no other. In a world full of sterile blockbusters, unnecessary sequels and unwanted remakes, the films of Wes Anderson offer a safe haven of brilliant weirdness, vivid imagery and original storytelling. Anderson has a filmography to rival the likes of greats such as Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog or the Coen brothers, with stellar titles such as the Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) delighting both audiences and critics worldwide, and just like Tarantino and the Coens, Anderson has an ever-growing and loyal fanbase who hang on his every word.

 

Wes Anderson

 

Wes Anderson has long been seen as the one of great titans of the indie cinema circuit, a true auteur who really understands the power of cinema, a Kubrick-esque figure who makes every single frame count. The director rose to fame and reached international recognition shortly after the release of his debut movie, Bottle Rocket (1996), which also helped launch the careers of both Luke and Owen Wilson (with Owen being credited as co-writer). Early hits such asthe phenomenal Rushmore and the groundbreaking The Royal Tenenbaums cemented Anderson’s status as a talented director who blended comedy and drama with the absurd and esoteric. As he became a more recognisable figure, his films became noticeably grander. Recent projects such as The Darjeeling Limited (2007), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and particularly, his newest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) showcase Anderson’s brilliant eye for the big screen.

There are several visuals motifs, techniques and traits that Anderson employs in his films in order to bring his creative vision to life and many keen cinemagoers have been amazed by Anderson’s clever and subtle use of colour palettes. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson utilises colours that are closely associated with autumn (yellows, oranges and browns) reflecting the earthy and organic bearings of the film. Similarly, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) the colours feel much more vibrant and eclectic (think of Team Zissou’s red caps!), in touch with the tone and feel of the movie.

 

Wes Anderson

 

Perhaps the most brilliant part of any Wes Anderson movie is the focus on practical effects and tricks of the camera over CGI. In the most memorable scene of The Life Aquatic, the infamous Jaguar Shark is revealed to us, second by second it’s beautiful luminescent pattern is shown, then finally, we get to see the beautiful creature in all of its majestic glory. In reality, the shark was a stop-motion puppet courtesy of animation genius, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), but during the movie, the shark seemed to have a life of its own, obviously it looked fake, but I believed it was alive in Wes Anderson’s cartoon-like world.

In one memorable moment, Zissou faces the shark that killed his dear friend and utters the line “I wonder if it remembers me?” to the melancholic sound of “Starálfur” by Sigur Rós. This particular moment of the film caused many cinemagoers to tear up and that’s the power of a great Wes Anderson film. You invest in the lives of characters that you will only know for a few hours, but you believe in their problems and adjust to their crazy world. Anderson manages to make the fantastic seem normal but never quite takes the magic away.

It’s no secret that the director has a fondness for nostalgia. If The Life Aquatic was a very personal love letter to the work of the underwater filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau, and Moonrise Kingdom was a bittersweet youthful love story set amongst an antiquated Eagle Scout 60’s backdrop. The Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson’s most bold and welcome attempt at bringing a lost period in time back to the big screen. He has a strange love for life’s peculiarities and the self-imposed rules we live by.

Wes Anderson

Anderson appreciates film as an art form, something that sets him apart from his contemporaries. He has a unique way of bringing his kinetic passion for the moving image to the screen. The Grand Budapest Hotel, offers a different aspect ratio (1.33, 1.85, and 2.35:1) for each timeline in the film.

We are very lucky to have a director like Wes Anderson in our lifetime. Anderson’s films fight against the popular image of modern cinema as a greedy, cynical and self-fulfilling creature. He treats his wide-eyed audience with respect that they deserve and he knows exactly how to play them. Anderson somehow manages to blend a childlike sense of wonder with offbeat comedy and just a tad of weirdness, whilst throwing in the serious issues that plague our everyday lives, from the fears of infidelity, to parenthood and even the death of a loved one. After watching one of Anderson’s films, I come away feeling heartbroken but underneath there is a feeling of hope, an uplifting sense of wonder, for all of his credit, Wes Anderson is an original.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

The 68th Edinburgh International Film festival ran from the 18-29th of June, and I was lucky enough to score a press and industry pass for the occasion. Showcasing over 124 films, including 11 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 7 European Premiers and 95 UK Premieres, the festival boasts a range of indie surprises alongside several recognisable faces. Inviting glamour and red carpets to Edinburgh for 12 days, the atmosphere inside and outside the various showcasing screens was incredible. Buzzing with industry casts and crews, there seemed to be an infinite amount of activities to ignite excitement in any cinephile. From question and answer sessions, panel discussions, outdoor movie screenings, and interactive workshops, it became hard picking the best events to attend out of an overall impressive list. I was very thankful for the final day, entitled: ‘Best of the Fest’, allowing a catch up of some great films I’d unfortunately missed. And since I know how thankful I was for that day, to anyone who missed the whole event, here is my article for you: a chance to hear about the 2014 festival and a guide to some brilliant independent films.

An elegant red carpet masking the familiar floors of your local cinema is not something you experience every day. Either is Elljah Wood casually strutting along said walkway, for the World Premiere of his new film, Set Fire to the Stars. Albeit a classy and VIP filled event, the welcoming atmosphere of the fest really made the world of film feel accessible. Not just something we sit back and watch behind a screen, but something anyone who appreciates cinema can be a part of. Stick on a nice dress and anyone might think you’re some sort of elite tycoon. Furthermore, the director of Set fire to the stars, Andy Goddard, is a past graduate of the BA (Hons) course I’m currently attending, and it shows success is clearly possible so very far from Hollywood.

FMG Arts

Feeling just slightly underdressed in my jeans and T-shirt, I sat next to a couple sporting a picturesque tux and frock. With high expectation of Set Fire to the Stars, I was marginally disappointed. The film is a semi-biographical portrait of the complicated relationship between the poet, Dylan Thomas, and John Malcolm Brinnin, the manager of Thomas’s final American tour of 1953. I felt that the idolisation John felt towards Dylan wasn’t portrayed effectively enough, and I didn’t feel the emotions, or believe the bond, that was trying to be conveyed through their relationship. After the end applause, I was asked by the smartly dressed lady to my left what I thought of the film, and I said just that, not knowing she was in fact the sister of lead actor and co-writer Celyn Jones… Thankfully, before I gained this information, I also mentioned that the film was beautifully shot, well acted and an interesting depiction of a literature hero. She told me very proudly that Celyn had wanted to make the film since he was 13 years old. As I listened to him answer the audiences’ questions during the afterwards Q and A sesh, I truly admired his ambition and determination. It evidently paid off in the end.

Although it would be impossible to comment on all of the many movies that appeared at the festival, there were a further three significantly accomplished films that captured my interest. Firstly, Uncertain Terms uses a very organic and raw approach. It may not be the first ever film to use improvisation, but it’s the first indie I’ve ever seen that didn’t shoot with a pre-written script. Director David Silver has a small role in the movie himself, alongside his own mother, and ‘Exit Elena’ cinematographer David Dahlbom. Keeping it personal within his circle of family and friends, the film is based loosely on his mothers own experience as a pregnant teen. The girls starring as the pregnant teenagers attended the LA film festival just a few weeks prior, wearing their pregnant stomach suits for the occasion. Shame they couldn’t make it across the ocean, but Silver’s Edinburgh attendance was just as appreciated.FMG Arts

A second personal piece, which isn’t so loosely based, is the autobiographical final film of Nils Malmros: Sorrow and Joy. The tragic account of the Danish directors adult life depicts the death of his infant daughter at the hands of his mentally ill wife. The directors presence made the viewing deeply intimate due to the sensitive issues the film deals with. Pouring the most personal time of your life onto screen is intense, let alone opening the floor to prying questions, which Malmros commendably did. However, my favourite film has to be Jim Michle’s revenge thriller Cold in July. Being a huge Michael C. Hall fan, it was a rather strange experience seeing him sustain the role of feeble redneck Richard Dane, who accidentally kills an unarmed intruder. The intruders father, a felon recently released from prison, eerily sets out to inflict justice upon his son’s murderer, leaving Richard fearing for his families safety. I felt a part of me was waiting for the Dexter in him to come out and show everyone who’s boss… And although this didn’t happen, moral justice is served up rather nicely with a trio vigilante team. I’m glad I didn’t watch the trailer before watching the film as it annoyingly gives far too much information away. All i’ll say is there’s something satisfying about initial enemies teaming up and working together. The film corresponds a tense atmosphere with unpleasant brutality, and some subtle aspects of comedy. Its electro soundtrack also adds a sleek and stylish vibe. It was the last film I seen at the festival, and I’m glad I ended my experience on a high.

So there we have it. Your short recap of the Edinburgh International Film festival. And since I feel the small amount of films I’ve discussed doesn’t even nearly do the 124 films shown justice, I shall leave you with two final films that also deserve a watch. The powerful drama Joe, directed by David Gordon Green and starring an emotionally complex badass/hero Nicholas Cage, and the independent horror film Honeymoon, which follows newlyweds Paul and Bea to a cabin in the woods. Best known for her Game of Thrones role as feisty wildling Ygritte, Rose Leslie was present for the films UK Premiere at the festival. I hope you check out these films. I hope you enjoy them. And see you all next year!

Is it still worth going to the cinema?

No-one can deny the power of cinema, most of us agree that film has a unique power to move and inspire us, but in this tough economic climate, is it still worth going to the cinema? We are deterred by hiking prices of admission, peak time charges, extortionate costs of snacks and beverages, 2D and 3D screenings and online booking mishaps. On the other hand, can you put a price on seeing a film like Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave for the first time or spending your first date with your future love at the pictures? The debate has become even more relevant in the age of online streaming and Video-on-Demand.

Let’s face the facts, the cinema is the best possible place to watch films. Nothing can compete with a massive screen and a state of the art sound system. Watching a movie on the big screen is very different from watching it on a laptop or mobile device. Movies look far more cinematic and mesmerising on the big screen, especially when screened in the correct aspect ratio, whether it is 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. Though cinemas offer a bigger and louder movie-watching experience, you tend to get a certain unsettling feeling that cinemas have turned into quite soulless and sterile entities. Nowadays most chain cinemas use digital projection systems to show films, meaning that the film is being played off a hard drive from a computer. A far cry from the loving portrait of the movie theatre as depicted in films such as Cinema Paradiso, Hugo and Ed Wood.

Cinemas just aren’t as glamorous as they once were and I for one still love going to the movies but often my experience is not as enjoyable as it could be. After paying over £10 to watch a film, all I ask for is for the film to be projected correctly in a quiet darkened room. I am usually treated to an unbearable barrage of annoying adverts that I have seen on television countless times, then followed by an eclectic mix of trailers and then finally finished off with a rage-inducing advertisement for an app that requires you to turn on your mobile phone to answer questions that a caveman, who has no idea of the concept of cinema, could probably get.

I appreciate the fact that cinemas have to earn their revenue back but these constant adverts are a real hindrance to the cinema experience. I can tolerate the adverts and everything else to a certain extent, but I don’t appreciate a film being advertised at 8pm only to start almost half an hour later. In fact, in recent weeks, I have often left the house at the exact time the screening is meant to start and after a 15 minute walk, I take my seat before the trailers have started. To many, the behaviour of the cinemagoers is often the most crucial point in my experience and most audiences are well behaved. The only time I have had a problem with my fellow cinemagoers, was in a screening of the remake of Carrie, where two teenagers were texting all the way through. Luckily the film was so bad that the eternal distracting glow of the phone screens made little difference to my enjoyment of the film.

Where I live, there is a chain multiplex cinema and a local independent. The chain multiplex offers the same sort of experience not too dissimilar to the one described above. The independent cinema offers a completely different experience, both with good and bad qualities. The independent offers a more personal and human experience with the walls adorned by movie posters and lobby cards of films long forgotten. The staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the venue is as grand as you can imagine, having being built in the 1930’s in the style of a vaudeville movie palace. The screen is not as great as one you would expect to see from a massive chain but you get the feeling that the cinema is based around treasured memories and emotion rather than action-packed spectacle. Their packed programme schedule is nothing short of a showcase of lesser-known titles, foreign releases and screenings of classics. We are treated to Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Roman Polanksi’s Venus In Fur and a screening of the American classic, 12 Angry Men.

Perhaps, the greatest asset to the cinema is its sense of community. They are very willing to promote cinema in all its forms, showcasing student projects, local films and participating in film festivals, which you wouldn’t get the sprit anywhere in the brand. I feel that the service is worth the price of admission but they cannot accommodate to the blockbuster crowd.

I am aware that not everyone is able to go to the cinema whether its due to the cost, the hours that they work,  or where they live, Cinemas try to fulfil everyone’s needs but often its is not enough. Some people wish to the hustle and bustle gamble of going to the cinema and prefer to wait until the film is released on the home market, where they can enjoy watching it in the privacy of their own homes whenever and wherever they want. A lot of journalists and writers, especially Mark Kermode, who wrote a book about the various problems of modern cinema, have written about the death of cinema, suggesting that the film industry has become something of a cynical and desperate business. The great auteur filmmaker Quentin Tarantino compared watching a digitally projected film to watching “television in public” and if that is the state of modern cinema, then that is what it is. Some of us will stick to our independent sanctuaries but the age of the blockbuster is far from dead. It looks like the digital projection and sterile mega-chains will continue to rule the industry for decades to come, forever battling the DVD/Blu-Ray and VOD market.

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

Are we living in a cine-literate society?

We live in a society where we have unlimited access to pretty much every movie that has ever been released. From physical media such as Blu-ray and DVD to streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Flixster, we have been given the opportunity to watch what we want, whenever and wherever we want. However, in this age of digital media, do we take full advantage of what is offered to us? Are we living in a society that over-indulges and obsesses over media in any form? Whatever the case, the way in which we watch and understand movies has changed vastly from what it once was.
George Kingsley

A decade ago, we could only watch a film at the cinema or have to wait for months later until it was released on DVD. The concept of watching a film over the internet was still considered to be something of a novelty, a wasted effort for those devoted individuals who were willing to put up with dropping bandwith and sub-standard video quality. Now, back to present day, services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video offers HD streaming of thousands of titles available to watch on Computer’s, TV’s, Tablets, Kindles and even mobile phones. The online streaming of movies and television has become the norm in contemporary society and a Netflix subscription is as common as a Sky + box. In fact, by August 2013, the video streaming site Netflix had almost 1.5 million subscribers in the UK alone, a figure, which has been attributed to, the growing popularity of critically acclaimed hit American shows like Breaking Bad and House of Cards. The idea of “binge-watching” came directly from these shows; compulsive viewers would marathon countless episodes or entire seasons of shows like Breaking Bad in the comfort of their own homes, often on a weekend or days off, perhaps replacing the event of “Saturday night at the movies”.

Netflix and Amazon Instant Video don’t just offer popular television shows and hit blockbusters; they allow for contributions from world cinema and independent documentaries, films like the controversial Blackfish have found a new level of popularity and acclaim that would never have been achieved by a theatrical or DVD release. Art house cinema, in particular has found a second home on these streaming sites. Viewers at home are able to watch Joss Whedon’s award-winning adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing on Amazon Instant Video or Woody Allen’s seminal Annie Hall on Netflix, without having to track down an obscure Region 1 DVD release or find a independent cinema hundreds of miles away from where they live.

One of the most interesting elements of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video is the access to the various sub-genres. Both services have a growing library of titles in the Gay/Lesbian subgenre, which in my eyes, is a great thing. These online movie-streaming services have increased the diversity in the way that we watch movies in the 21st century.

 

Online streaming sites often suggest linking social media with the service, allowing us to share, recommend and rate the films and television that we watch. To give an example of the impact of social media on Netflix, I was recommended the documentary Catfish by a friend on Facebook. After I watched the documentary, I went onto rate and recommend the film to several friends on my Facebook page, hoping they would enjoy it as much as I did. This may seem like an everyday occurrence, but when you break it down, Netflix has changed the ways in which we watch movies as a collective. Watching a movie has become a social experience and Netflix and Amazon Instant Video have integrated this process and made it much easier to circulate movies within our social circles making it a more cine-literate modern world.

In the age of streaming sites, many have come to believe that physical media is dead, but as a worldwide audience, we are still impatient and demanding. For example, Disney’s Frozen managed to sell 3.2 million units in the first day of its home media release, whilst it was still playing in cinemas all around the world. As a cine-literate society, we want to watch new films not only as fast as possible but also in the best quality, we buy Blu-ray for the best possible audio and visual quality, meaning that most modern film audiences will use a mixture of physical media and streaming services to fully quench their movie thirst.

The internet has played a key role in the rise of cine-literacy and one of the most important online movie resources is the Internet Movie Database (abbreviated as IMDB). Since 1990, IMDB has become one of the most important and integral tools for moviegoers, both for professional and recreational users alike, the website provides full and concise information for almost 3 million movies: detailing the cast, crew, locations, soundtracks and even complex technical information. Anyone with access to IMDB will have the knowledge of an expert film buff at their fingertips: they will be able to wield the power to end the countless “Is that the guy from?” and “What’s that film called?” conversations that plague our everyday lives. IMDB can even be accessed on mobile phones and tablets, allowing for instant access to a whole encyclopaedia of film, and with over 52 million users, IMDB is evidence of a more cine-literate knowledge-hungry generation of film enthusiasts.

The idea of a cine-literate society is a society that is familiar with cinema, one that is obsessed by moving images and their meaning. Online streaming sites and reference tools let us indulge in the world of cinema whenever we please, we want to know everything about cinema and we want the world to know it. We have become an impatient audience who wants to watch everything that we possibly can, at a location or medium of our choice, whether it’d be a packed Cineplex on a Friday night or in the comfort of our beds on a tablet.

Whether the idea of a cine-literate society is a good or bad thing is another argument for another time, but we cannot deny that as an audience, we have changed so rapidly that the entertainment industry has to alter to our own growing demanding needs.