Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

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‘Only Yesterday’ Is Studio Ghibli’s Secret Masterpiece

August 11, 2015

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With Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli’s increasingly prominent seeping into Western culture (e.g. a Ghibli-infused sequence in The Simpsons; a Totoro toy in Toy Story 3), it seems odd to declare any of the studio’s back catalogue as, in any way, “hidden.” But then, there does seem to be distinct criteria to those that gain Western pop culture praise.

First of all: be directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Following the crossover success of Princess Mononokeand, in particular, Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s output is basically all Ghibli is to many people. More than any other Ghibli filmmaker, it’s his creations (My Neighbour Totoro, Porco Rosso) or those he has adapted for the film medium (Howl’s Moving Castle) that get the merchandise the casual otaku buy in droves. You’re not so likely to find hats and iPhone 6 cases modeled on the characters of From Up on Poppy Hill

Full piece for Vague Visages

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Rogue Sequel: In Defence of John Woo’s ‘Mission: Impossible II’

July 28, 2015

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In the largely homogeneous world of blockbuster franchise filmmaking (hi, Marvel Studios), the nearly 20-years old Mission: Impossible series is perhaps the only still ongoing one that can, without a doubt, be described as director-driven. Brian De Palma’s first film in the series was loosely based on the popular television series of the same name, but it saw fit to treat fan service as red herrings: all IMF squad bar members except Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt are slaughtered within the first act, while series protagonist Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) is revealed to be a traitor. Of the utmost concern to De Palma are his trademark motifs regarding voyeurism, and his spy film fits better in the company of his films like Blow Out than something like the prior year’s Bond entry, GoldenEye. He takes the basic concept of Mission: Impossible and reboots it to suit his own whims.

And so, it is that a similar approach has been carried over to each installment, where every sequel is like its own reboot in a way. There’s continuity and commonality here and there (hi, Ving Rhames), and more so of that in the most recent three films (hi, Bad Robot Productions), but the big connective tissue is always that of using Cruise as a tool, placing him in oft-incredible, elaborate cinematic spectacles — Ethan Hunt is a device, not a character. Yet, the installment that arguably made the best use of Cruise as an instrument of violence is considered the black sheep of the series. Not to say that John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II is the best of the franchise, but there’s much to appreciate here and its rhythms have only become more interesting with age…

Click for the full feature for Vague Visages

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Programme Notes: Love & Mercy (Bill Pohlad, 2014)

July 9, 2015

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I was commissioned to write a programme note for Glasgow Film Theatre for their screenings of Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy during July. You can find an online copy of what I produced for them here.

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Programme Notes: Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)

May 15, 2015

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I was commissioned to write a programme note for Glasgow Film Theatre for their screenings of Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria during May. You can find an online copy of what I produced for them here.

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Programme Notes: Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)

January 12, 2015

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I was commissioned to write a programme note for Glasgow Film Theatre for their screenings of Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher during January. You can find an online copy of what I produced for them here.

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LFF 2014: The Old Guard

November 27, 2014

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Wrote some things about Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe and Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard as part of a series of London Film Festival roundups for The Skinny.

Read here.

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LFF 2014: The New(ish) Voices

November 22, 2014

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Wrote a wee thing about Ignatiy Vishnevetsky’s Ellie Lumme as part of a series of London Film Festival roundups for The Skinny.

Read here.