Ex_Machina

Unlike my Movie Mondays co-host, Ben, I wasn’t super excited about the arrival of Ex_Machina on DVD. Alex Garland and I don’t exactly have a troubled past but I’ve always found the realisations of his penmanship pretty dull. The Beach (1999), 28 Days / Weeks Later (2002, 2007), Sunshine (2007), Dredd (2012) (I didn’t get around to seeing Never Let Me Go,  2010) all left me unimpressed. It’s not so much that they’re bad films, just that they aren’t good ones. Still penning the screenplay, but adding a directorial feather to his filmmaking cap, Garland’s Ex_Machina makes for some pretty unintelligent and far from inventive viewing.

ex-machina

Perhaps its strongest point – let’s start with that and descend into disdain from there – is its one contemporary grounding. Nathan (Oscar Isaac) explains to Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) that he has created real artificial intelligence, through the mining and analysing of internet search engine data. Instead of thinking about an individual’s search history as ‘what’ they’re searching, he interprets the movements and trajectory as ‘how’. Without explaining the science in too much, or perhaps any, depth, we then learn that Ava’s (Alicia Vikander) brain is kinda like an electro magnetic map of a search engine. Considering where technology is headed – down and up-loadable brain activity, human enhancement and bio-politics – this seems like a plausible near future sci-fi premise.

Lucy-Movie-2014-Wallpaper

What’s not so progressive is the film’s themes. Its exploration of gender politics and creationism, or the god complex, is pretty standard fare. Ex_Machina plays out somewhere between Luc Besson’s Lucy (2014) and Spike Jonze’s Her. Where the former was entirely bat shit crazy in its premise and somewhat troubling for its gender politics (Lucy is a not very smart woman whose body is literally used as a transportation device only the whole thing goes wrong and, oops, a hot woman got smart) it did at least offer fantastic car chase scenes. As for Her, again starring Scarlett Johansson only this time as a disembodied OS, there were some intriguing ideas about gender, through voice and imagined sensibilities (the OS, like Siri, can be assigned a gender). Ex_Machina, comparatively, simply shows us a man creating a woman (and, as it turns out, several women) as prototypes that are built with sexuality – mostly with the intent to manipulate, because, you know, that’s what female sexuality is – and who adhere to a mainstream heteronormative socially acceptable notion of beauty. Yawn.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Theodore in the romantic drama "HER," directed by Spike Jonze, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

JOAQUIN PHOENIX as Theodore in the romantic drama “HER,” directed by Spike Jonze, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

The dialogue that best reflects this simplistic idea varies from Nathan asking Caleb “what’s your type of girl?” because desire is all about types and has nothing to do with other human qualities, and “If you wanted to screw her, mechanically speaking, you can and she’d enjoy it”, because sexual intercourse is something a man does to a woman not a consensual act between two people (or, in this instance one human and an AI) and because the fact that physically she would ‘enjoy it’ completely surpasses the need to consider any other motivating or engaged responses to sex and sexuality. The scenes where she quite literally constructs her gender from skin, clothes, wigs, etc., and the fact that Nathan has her created based on Caleb’s porn profiles doesn’t in any way further make this a very basic nod towards the idea that women are constructed for the pleasure of men.

Ex-Machina-01-GQ-22Jan15_rex_b_1083x658

Now, if you wanted to defend the film by going down the whole, ‘but it’s a story about a woman trying to escape from the literal and figurative oppression of men’ that’d be fine, except for that she is created by a man which means that, even if she does escape, she still owes her very existence to men.

Creepy-Dance-Ex-Machina

So for me it was unsatisfying. That said, there’s a great dance sequence and the house where things unfold is at least as desirable as everything else ought to be.

Mad Max: Troubled Road

Mad Max: Fury Road is here. It’s big, it’s loud and the car chase scenes (which make up about 90% of the movie) are ah-may-zing. Though the four of us tend to do the vast majority of our viewing on DVD (and occasionally VHS), what with our being an old school video shop and all, we do sometimes take ourselves to the cinema. Last week, Taylor, Bags and his housemate, Pete from Bristol Silents and I made our collective way down to the de Lux to see Mad Max: Fury Road in XPlus 3D with Dolby Atmos surround sound. It was awesome, if a little troubling…

maxresdefault

After we got used to the feeling of the bass rumbling its way through our bodies and were entirely taken by the film’s impressive production design and kick-ass live action sequences, we had only to let the content play out. Or so I thought. As a part-time Australian, I found its representation of Indigenous cultural issues a little clunky.

George Miller hasn’t shied away from ideology and social commentary in this franchise. Sure, the Mad Max films are brilliant action movies but, like most dystopian storytelling, there’s plenty more to get stuck into. His earlier films have been subject to queer readings and discussion on issues of development and technology, fear of drought and diminishing natural resources, addiction, gender, race, class and other such serious social concerns.

Mad_Max_2

Fury Road, as expected, has already been written about all across the internet. Surprisingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, MRAs along with your garden variety misogynists have taken to the great uncensored cyber space to warn other men against seeing the film, lest they accidentally expose themselves to its supposedly sinister feminist agenda!

644324-3b3eb3f6-f398-11e4-a523-fc3a24a56e3f

I’ll admit that hearing they were up in arms about the whole thing was what piqued my interest and, ultimately, inspired us lot to book such expensive cinema tickets. So, in that regard, well done MRAs for getting a part time Australian off her arse and into the cinema!

T1ppUpmVZX

Unfortunately, and not at all surprisingly, MRAs and garden variety misogynists are also total farking idiots who don’t understand and can’t read film. Fury Road isn’t so much pushing a feminist agenda as it is a film that has a strong female character in a lead role, with other female characters in supporting roles and with a storyline that includes women trying to escape and fight against sexual enslavement and fascist rule. There are also strong male characters, in leading and supporting roles. The only difference is that in their quest to escape and fight fascist rule, there’s less to do. This is because they are, as male characters, not subject to sexual exploitation. They also fit into three categories, each one implicit in said fascist rule: 1) apathetic (Max), 2) brain washed minions (Nux) or, 3) the proverbial oppressors (Joe & co).

272CEDBC00000578-3020441-image-m-3_1427837651629

What is most fascinating about the film is when it shifts from top gear entertainment down into serious post-colonial Australian issues terrain. Miller might make big budget movies these days but he is Australian and the film did receive Screen Australia Producer Offset funding. Plus, the Mad Max films, for all their cross-culture entertainment value, have always been deeply Australian.

Fury Road is, for this part time Australian (and I dare say anyone who’s ever lived in Australia for any amount of time) a film that takes a sharp turn when it transitions from second to third act. In her quest to save the women from their bridal and breeding enslavement to Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is headed straight to the place of her birth: The Green Place. When she talks about why she ever left, she reveals that she was stolen. Miller very deliberately uses the word ‘stolen’ in the dialogue and pauses thereafter. The Green Place no longer exists.

The weight of the stolen generation in Australia can never be lifted. It is one of many scars that post-colonial Australia must always bear.

What’s curious to me about the choice of this particular issue to serve the narrative is that Miller does so without casting Indigenous Australians in any of the key roles. Theron does an outstanding job as Furiosa but what are the implications of casting a non-Indigenous Australian in such a crucial role? Especially when Indigenous Australian women are so hugely under-represented in Australian cinema. One of the (many) stipulations of the Producer Offset funding is that it must have a certain percentage of Australianness (not SA’s official terminology) – some info on that can be found here.

628x471

Miller did plan to shoot the film in Australia, but apparently the weather gods were against him and it wasn’t quite dry or barren enough, forcing the shoot to relocate to Namibia – a little more on that here. Whether or not that had anything to do with other ways in which the film ended up being deeply Australian, I can’t say. What I wonder, though, is if the treatment of such a significant social, historical and cultural issue is adequate.

Though I’d agree Miller has paved a dangerous journey, I’m just not sure it’s furious enough.

Should you want to revisit any of the earlier films, we have them all, ready for renting, here at Flicks. 

Australian Feminist Film Trivia: coming to a pub near you!

Our monthly film quiz returns in June, a week later than the first Monday of the month. For reasons…

In other ‘reasons’, there’s a substitute situation you ought to be aware of – DJWillSpinz will be away and the Australian Feminist will be filling in! So, brush up on your Australian feminist film trivia because the battle to topple those Bristol Silents is ON.

JUNE Film Quiz Poster

Maximum of six people per team, entry is £1 per person. Bring friends who aren’t already Flicks members and we’ll sign them up for a quid on the night. You might win prizes, you might earn our respect and you’ll probably drink a pint or two. Good times guaranteed*.

* As always, it is not a real guarantee. 

3D in the Kino

If you’re not enjoying a film, you can reject it. In the cinema this takes the shape of a walk out – a bold statement, for some. In the home it’s far easier, and free from judgement, you can just turn it off. Recently, though, I read a post on social media that, for all my rejection-defending, made me really sad. A friend of mine turned off a 3D home viewing experience of Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, Goodbye to Language (Adieu au langage, 2014). Fed up with Godard’s use of the medium and the meandering story – well, sort of, I mean I wouldn’t really call it a story, it’s more like a series of experiences – said friend decided that it was not worth persisting with. And, though I fully support anyone’s right to turn a film off whenever they so desire – I sure as hell do it, often – there’s something about the aesthetic and tone of Godard’s recent, often disliked and rejection inducing film that makes me want to encourage the disillusioned to reconsider.

goodbye-to-language-1-e1411309759512

I ought to explain myself. Last year, I saw Goodbye to Language at the Melbourne International Film Festival. The experience did two things for me: 1) it gave me a literal headache, and 2) it showed me something I have never seen before and had no idea cinema was even capable of. Aside from its low key observations about life, love, humanity, park benches, dogs, time and, obviously, space, Godard constantly interrupts the idea of entertainment and passive viewing by showing the distance between 2D and 3D as extreme. First, he does it quite literally by putting ‘2D’ and ‘3D’ on screen together, each in their relative dimensions. It feels uncomfortable looking behind the very intrusive ‘3D’ that is protruding from the screen, just inches from your face, to see the flat ‘2D’ stuck to the screen in the exact same place, but in the background. It might be ugly but it makes its point with aplomb. Later, we see a lot of soft 3D – that is, we see the medium used as it so often is in the types of 3D films we have become conditioned by. Then, just when you think you have a handle on what he’s saying, he goes and does something truly amazing.

Title-1-600

There is one section of the film that I find, technically, beyond my capacity to explain. But I’ll at least try to describe what it looks like. The image splits and does something both fascinating and difficult to watch: the left side of the image stays where it is while the right side of the image separates and appears to turn in on itself. Confused? I was. Essentially, your eyes are seeing different things within the same image, I think. It’s truly sublime. In a sort of Lyotardian Kantian kind of way…

So, while I do understand my friend’s frustration with the film, I can’t help but feel sad that he didn’t persist. Even if you hate Godard’s smug intellecturising (totes a word), the advancement of the medium is worth your time, imho.

In the comments section on this social media post there was also some Film Socialisme bashing. This only made me more sad. To some extent I suppose I want people to finish watching Godard’s films even when they’re frustrating because giving up seems too easy. He knows his works are challenging, which makes finishing them all the more important – “Don’t let him win!” I want to shout. Seriously, look at this guy:

godard3d3

It’s not news, Godard has always been a provocateur. Some might even say an ‘enfant terrible’. But love him or hate him, he has always used the medium in inventive ways. Sure, his films carry an air of arrogance and often require a little more in the way of active viewing, but, ultimately, I think that’s also what makes watching them so rewarding.

So, without a theatrical release in this here country, and with the festival circuit having come full circle yet again – apparently it’s time to look to the vacuous celebrity clad / quality film boasting shores of Cannes once more – the fact is, if you don’t have 3D capable set up at home and if you don’t want to buy and own it, then the only place to see Goodbye to Language is here, in your friendly neighbourhood video shop. Yup, if you’re a member, you can hire our Kino, it seats 11, and you can subject your friends to Godard’s latest. Or, if I haven’t managed to win you over, then we also have Dredd (2012) and Jurassic Park (1994) in 3D.

How well do you know your local video shop?

Welcome to our month of May giveaway competition!

We thought we’d test your general video shop knowledge. There are ten questions, they’re multiple choice and, if you follow our social media and come into the shop fairly regularly, they ought to be super easy. To enter, you simply need to email your answers to: info[at]20thcenturyflicks[dot]co[dot]uk with ‘How well do you know your local video shop’ in the subject header. Tell us your name as well and that’s you entered.

Now, because we anticipate loads of you will score a clean ten out of ten, there will be an element of luck involved. It’ll probably be some kind of random algorithm. That decision will be final. The winner will receive TEN FREE RENTALS.

Lastly, a disclaimer: we will not accept bribes or give out answers over the phone, via email, social media or in human form. Unless you serenade us, then we might consider it.*

* It’s worth stating that I have not consulted with my colleagues and they may not want a serenade. In fact, the more I think about it the more certain I am that they definitely will not want a serenade. 

Alright then, let’s get on with the questionnaire:

1. How many Daves are there working at 20th Century Flicks?

a) One

b) Two

c) Three

d) Four

2. Which film magazine does Flicks carry a ‘neighbourhood copy’ of? 

a) Sight & Sound

b) Little White Lies

c) Electric Sheep

d) Film Comment

3. Which ex-member of staff visits regularly and hand writes recommendations? 

a) Kelly

b) Becky

c) Shelly

d) Mary

4. Which two voices run the Flicks social media? 

a) Austrian feminist + Salisbury stoner

b) Australian stoner + Salisbury feminist

c) Austrian stoner + Shrewsbury feminist

d) Australian feminist + Shrewsbury stoner

5. Which Peter Jackson film is only available to rent on VHS? 

a) Heavenly Creatures

b) Bad Taste

c) Brain Dead

d) Meet the Feebles

6. How many seats does the Kino have? 

a) 10

b) 11

c) 12

d) 14

7. Who hosts the Flicks pub quiz? 

a) DJWillSpinz + Mr Bags

b) DJMeNizzle + Mr Bags

c) DJWillSpinz + Mr Basket

d) DJMeNizzle + Mr Basket

8. At which cinema does Flicks host a monthly film night?

a) Watershed

b) Orpheus

c) Cube

d) Showcase Cinema de Lux

9. Which movie is the Flicks mascot taken from? 

a) Nurse Betty

b) The Notorious Bettie Page

c) Betty Blue

d) Babette’s Feast

10. Which actor does Flicks have a shelf dedicated to? 

a) Ryan Gosling

b) Bruce Willis

c) Nicolas Cage

d) Kevin Costner

Christmas Steps Movie Poster Competition Winner

We have had some STUNNING entries for the Christmas Steps Movie Poster competition. First up, congratulations to all who entered – at first I wasn’t sure that anyone would! – and, when you did, it was AH-MAY-ZING. Secondly, congratulations to RICH FOX who took out the grand prize of 10 free rentals. You can follow the very talented rich on his official tumblr. 

Here’s a pic of Rich holding his glorious, glorious poster. Ain’t it grand? IMG_3309

The tag lines read:

What he discovered was history around every corner

What he witnessed was a city in the shadows

Where he walked was absolutely treacherous in the ice

Runners up include Tim Popple, Duncan Craig and Aaron Boardley.

All posters will be displayed in the Flicks windows throughout May, make sure you check them out! Details of our month of May giveaway coming soon….