The Mango

Video shop life isn’t only about movies. Sometimes it’s also about mangoes.

Earlier in the week the Shrewsbury Stoner brought a mango to work with him. The mango, at that time, had a simple destiny: it would be eaten. That is, until the Australian Feminist stepped in and queried the ripeness of said mango. And so it was, that the 20th Century Flicks staff battle about a mango began.

IMG_2802 Here’s a picture of the lime-like looking piece of fruit.

IMG_2803 This is its ‘Other’ side.

These pictures were taken on Tuesday. Due to several not-really-heated-but-at-least-comically-high-pitched arguments about whether or not a mango could possibly be ripe inside of such a skin, it was not eaten. It simply sat in the store and waited, as the days of the week wore on.

Then, on Friday, something happened.

IMG_2805 No, it didn’t suddenly change colour.

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But someone did write on it with a pen.

And now, here we are. It’s Saturday and the mango is still sitting in the shop, waiting to be eaten. My guess is this: next time the Shrewsbury Stoner and the Australian Feminist work together (that’d be Sunday) the mango will be savagely ripped open and the answer determined once and for all – one sweet, or potentially sour, bite at a time. And then, I guess, we’ll see whether or not it’s true that you should never judge a mango by its cover (skin).

[Ed’s note: meanwhile, in other sensory news, the mango feels ripe, but doesn’t smell ripe. Which of the senses should we trust? Have your say in the comments. Think of this as our gift to you: an equally as time-consuming and inane activity as trying to work out that whole dress malarkey. Only with fruit and people you know.]

The Oscars: ‘by request’ ramblings on inconsequential twatter

It’s not that we do ‘by request’ blog posts  – we don’t, please don’t – but those damn Oscars keep coming up in conversation and, just when I thought we were in the clear, my favourite customer (you’re not our children, we do have favourites) requested some kind of 20th Century Flicks Oscars predictions blog post and, well, here we are.

However, just because I’ve accepted the challenge doesn’t mean that I intend to rise to it. Quite the contrary. I’ve never been good at sticking to a brief, so, instead of a predictions post here’s some scrambled thoughts on why we here at 20th Century Flicks really don’t care much about the inconsequential twatter known as The Academy Awards.

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It’s not that awards are entirely meaningless – some awards mean something. I have faith in FIPRESCI Awards, for example. But that’s probably got something to do with the fact that FIPRESCI juries aren’t comprised of sycophants.

And it’s not because all of the films in competition are pants. We pretty much all liked Boyhood, Ida and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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It is because they represent a very tiny and honestly pretty bland view of cinema. At least the BAFTAs acknowledge how limited English language film award categories are and call their token non-English language award exactly that: ‘Film Not In The English Language’. The Academy calls theirs ‘Foreign Language Film’. Because English is the default language of humans and everything that’s not it, is foreign. Because there’s a really small number of films made in languages other than English and then there’s Hollywood. Because tokenism is awesome.

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So, what can we say about our predictions? I predict that the awards ceremony will be lengthy, dull, peppered with casual sexism and packed to the rafters with heady conservatism. I also predict that a bunch of mediocre films will be honoured and, as a result, when those titles do get their DVD releases we’ll buy extra copies.

I know this isn’t at all what the person who requested this blog post wanted to read. Sorry about that. I’d say that The Tale of Princess Kaguya is my pick from the Animated Feature Film category but, as it’s not relegated to ‘Foreign Language Film’, I can only assume that it’s the dubbed version that’s nominated, and outside of the one accidental cinema mishap where I saw Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea dubbed and not in Japanese language with English subtitles, I don’t watch Ghibli films dubbed. So, uh, onwards with the Oscars – may the awards for the most overwrought blockbusters begin!

Christmas Steps: The Pub Quiz Strikes Back

A long time ago, in a pub, just a few steps away….

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THE PUB QUIZ STRIKES BACK

It is a dark time for quiz teams. Although the Flicks Team has been destroyed, Inherent Mice have driven other quiz teams from their Christmas Steps pub tables and pursued them across the city.

Evading the dreaded movie run time round, a group of freedom fighters led by an unnamed quiz team runaway has established a new secret team on the remote outskirts of Fishponds.

The evil quiz lords from Clifton, obsessed with defeating the Inherent Mice, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of Bristol…

Film Quiz Poster

The day the pancakes came to the shop

When I got up today I was a little out of sorts. I’ve just moved house and most of what I own is either trapped in a suitcase that’s stored in a video shop, still on a book shelf in Australia or in a shop somewhere in England waiting for me to purchase it. Add to this the fact that I’m insanely clumsy and, while attempting to move a glass shelf, somehow moved it into my face – where I am now sporting a totally bad ass cut just below my eye – well, let’s just say that I wasn’t overly optimistic about today.

But, even the most unlikely of days can have joyous surprises just around the corner. Sometimes the people around you make things better – and I say this as someone who’s super cynical about both the idea and the film Serendipity (2001).

Or at least I was, until a couple of entirely amazing events took place. First up, we received an unexpected delivery. Now I’m sure there are examples of people being sent things in boxes in movies that end well, but all I can recall is (SPOILER ALERT) the head from Se7en (1995) and the bowel movement from Pink Flamingos (1972). Not so pleasant.

So imagine our surprise when we opened up our very own delivery box, tied up with string, with the only the #hashtag #welldone written on the side. Inside we found the following items:

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Love can be boxed! And apparently prosecco, chocolate and a framed tweet can melt even the hardest of hearts. I’m feeling the serendipity. #welldone indeed.

Today moved up in my estimations. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, something truly amazing happened. But not before something terrible: I found out that today is February 17th, PANCAKE DAY. Damn. We forgot. AND NO ONE HERE HAS PANCAKES. Cue panic.

Fearing that we would suffer an evening without batter-related goods, we put a sad tweet out into the world. Now imagine how intensely happy we were when the lovely people from Rosemarino (they’re just around the corner from us) answered our SOS and brought small parcels of deliciousness to our door! I’m not really sure that I can adequately put into words just how amazing this gesture truly was and how much joy it brought to the hungry, pancake-loving staff here at Flicks.

Now, as the day draws to a close and I sit here typing up its heartening events, in a post-prosecco and pancake haze, watching Mean Girls (2004), I can genuinely say that today has been swell. And not just because I hit myself in the face with furniture.

I probably still won’t watch Serendipity, mind.

Romance and the movies

On a cold Wednesday afternoon in a video shop on the Christmas Steps, two kindly fellas named Dave and a vaguely Australian woman named Tara reminisced about romance in anticipation of V-Day. Their collective disdain for Hallmark cards aside, the trio* shared their tall tales of movie related romances by the warm glow of the Flicks fire.

Dave Whiskey

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Movies played a key role in orchestrating Dave Whiskey’s life partner romance. So the story goes: Whiskey was all set to go see Lancelot du Lac (1974) but, in a Sliding Doors (1998) moment, he turned on a dime and went along to a party where he met the most wonderful woman in the world.** Sparks flew but true love only followed after a trip to the cinema. The movie: Communion (1989). Of course, I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if that Sliding Doors moment had gone the other way – would Whiskey be recommending Bresson? Only Gwyneth Paltrow will ever know…

Dave Taylor 

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For Dave Taylor, on-screen romance does not translate to the real world. He thinks it’s amazing that people see going to the movies as romantic – what with so many socially forbidden gestures; you sit in the dark with another person, physically close, but unable to touch them, talk to them or engage with them in any meaningful way. That you’re physically close and it’s forbidden, for Taylor at least, means internal distraction from the film, killing both experiences.***

Films can also act as a catalyst for the end of a relationship. We all have our opinions and, sometimes differences of opinion can be charming; like when any two people, ever, talk about Luc Besson’s Lucy (2014). A case can be made either way – sure it’s ridiculous, but what about those car chase scenes? Well, for Taylor there was an Adam Sandler film, Mr Deeds (2002) – a remake of the very good Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936) – that caused a fight and soured a romance. This is a problem I completely understand. For me, the realisation that I was once dating someone who thought Forrest Gump (1994) was a decent film was a step too far. We all have our limits.

Tara Judah 

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As far as I’m concerned movies definitely have the capacity to be more romantic than life – but that’s coloured by my own war stories. On a rather traumatic first date at the movies, I went to see Saving Private Ryan (1998). As the tall tale goes – I’ve told it often enough – the feller I was with lent over and asked me a question that I (mis)heard as “Would you like to hold hands?” Eager to do so, I said yes and put my hand on the armrest between our seats – and there it sat like a giant matzo ball. Some Matt Damon moments later, I realised, much to my horror, that the question had in fact been, “Do you like Tom Hanks?” So not only was my hand un-held, but I had also unwittingly agreed to liking Tom Hanks. I do not like Tom Hanks.

There is some solace, though, in knowing that real life can give the gift of film. One V-Day a few  years ago I was given a bag, the contents of which included a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and two Nicolas Cage films: Drive Angry (2011) and that oh-so-woeful remake of The Wicker Man (2006). Oh the bees, oh the romance.

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And though I often wish real life could be as wonderful as the passionate love between Lula and Sailor in Wild at Heart (1990) or only as painful as the break up between Dean and Cindy in Blue Valentine (2010), I know that, much like every film I watch, if it fails to appeal to my personal sense of romance, I can always turn it off and try something else – providing it’s not a Richard Curtis film, of course.****

And so, with Valentine’s/Hallmark Day fast approaching, we have dug up our various lists of recommended romance titles. We have the major bases covered, with everything from genuinely good, to schmaltzy, weepy and alternative. From Casablanca (1942) to Shortbus (2006), we’re here for you. Pop in for a recommendation, or maybe just because you want to share your own war stories, some cold day in February…

* The store is run by a quartet, but Wednesday was Adam’s day off.

** All claims by the writer of this post are final.

*** Though we can’t abide any actual copulative activity in our Kino, it is worth stating that if you hire out the space for yourself (a steal at £50) then you can at least touch and, if you so desire, talk to your companion. It’s a private hire of the space and we don’t police screening conduct. Just keep it clean, folks.

**** Despite the general anti-Curtis stance of the staff in this store, we will still rent his films to you, should you want to watch them. Well, for now, anyway.

Watch Moore. Julianne Moore.

Last week Maps to the Stars (2014) hit our new titles shelf. With an Oscar nom in tow for her latest film, Still Alice (2014), and a stellar back catalogue of titles to revisit (we have 43 in store), we think y’all ought to watch Moore: Julianne Moore.

Here’s 10 (in no particular order) of the best JM titles we have at the ready. Get renting!

1. Maps to the Stars (2014)

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Moore plays Havana Segrand, a neurotic egomaniac who harbours some pretty extreme ‘mommy’ issues and attends super intimate therapy sessions (with John Cusack) in an attempt to keep them in check. Between vying for the starring role in a new film – where she would play her dead mother – and taunting her new assistant, Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska), Havana has a lot on her plate. Maps is a mostly psychological drama from body-horror guru David Cronenberg, with a little gore thrown in for good measure. At any rate there’s more than enough of the grotesque to go around in this Hollywood incest/stardom satire. Moore is sensational and steals every scene – poor Wasikowska, she does her best but she’s no match for Moore.

2. Far From Heaven (2002)

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Douglas Sirk fans can swoon again as Todd Haynes casts a queer eye over a classic melodrama. Skewing the nostalgic tone just enough Haynes makes you rethink the intersection between aesthetic and ideology. Plus the story is a total heart-breaker. At its centre is Cathy Whitaker (Moore) whose performance of grace is exemplary. Her embodiment of stoic repression is possibly the greatest since Barbara Stanwyck graced the silver screen. Though it deals with so much more than just romance – race, class, gender, society – it’s still a film that yearns in a way that only a true, sad romance can.

3. Cookie’s Fortune (1999)

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A good old-fashioned crime comedy where Moore plays a small-town oddball and the endearingly shy younger sister to Glenn Close’s snooty cover-up conspirator. The whole thing is riotous good fun, like most of Robert Altman’s films and Moore shows her ability to adapt to broad character roles without ever slipping into caricature. A fine, fun and family-friendly film.

4. The Big Lebowski (1998)

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You don’t have to be a follower of Dudeism to enjoy The Big Lebowski. It’s a Cohen Brothers’ comedy romp that stars Jeff Bridges, a bathrobe, and a bowling alley. Moore plays another odd-ball here as the avant-garde artist Maude whose art work “has been commended as being strongly vaginal”. Turns out she does stylised and controlled justice too.

5. The Hours (2002)

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Moore joins Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Ed Harris is this Virginia Woolf tribute tear-jerker. She plays Laura Brown, a woman whose conventional family life drives her to suicidal depression. Reading Mrs Dalloway, she feels connected; through the story’s fragmentation, its free indirect style; to other times, places and women. Drawing on their strength, she finds her way through much of the pain.

6. A Single Man (2009)

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Adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel of the same name, A Single Man is highly stylistic, immaculately costumed (no surprises there as it’s directed by fashion designer Tom Ford) and superbly acted – not just owing to Moore’s skill but also featuring a strong performance from Colin Firth. Moore plays Charley who is a good friend and a glamorous woman but desperately miserable all the same. Stunning.

7. Safe (1995)

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Hold up, this might be the very best of the lot – As Carol White, Moore expertly portrays how binding oneself from the world’s dangers can work to build rather than dispel anxiety. She develops one chemical sensitivity after another until, finally, the very idea of being ‘safe’ becomes a horrifying farce. The second title in this here blog post from director Todd Haynes, Safe is a film like no other, and Moore’s performance of a woman who willingly wraps herself in cotton wool is filled with as much empathy as it is fear.

8. What Maisie Knew (2012)

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Henry James’ classic gets an update. Susanna (Moore) is a rock ‘n’ roll tragic who, despite having a young daughter desperate for her attentions, can’t help but fail to meet her maternal obligations. But despite the character flaws, Moore delicately balances pathos and hopelessness to allow her Susanna a greater complexity, bringing empathy to a role that could easily slip into one-dimensional territory should it be played by a less talented actress.

9. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

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LOVE Julianne Moore’s depiction of Jules: a woman who reaches a point in her marriage as a housewife, (to Annette Bening as Nic) that, thanks to her children’s curiosity about their biological father, opens a mid-life crisis-esque can of worms. The sex scenes are naturalistic and clumsy, the conversations frank. The film has every bit as much sincerity as one would expect of writer/director Lisa Cholodenko. Life’s confusing, it’s not always someone else’s fault, and even when things get screwed up, it can still be beautiful.

10. Boogie Nights (1997)

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As Amber Waves, Moore takes a supporting role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s break out film from 1997. It’s not all about roller girl – even though Graham’s body and Wahlberg’s wang seem to get most of the conversational attention. Unsurprisingly, she’s every bit as good here as she is in everything else.

Alright, that’s enough examples. Go watch Moore, innit.