Showing posts from 2014


I read a comment on Twitter earlier today that satire had ended the day Barrack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Putting aside the specious rationale of that particular bestowal it’s true that modern satire lacks something in grandeur and ferocity. It’s the age of  The Onion  and  The Daily Show ; more wisecracks than wizening. Last year the cinema brought us  Spring Breakers ,  The Bling Ring  and  The Wolf of Wall Street ; celebrations of hedonistic vacuity that wanted to have their cake and eat it, or perhaps a more fitting analogy might be going to an exclusive restaurant and being served    a Big Mac. We could see the joke but the nagging suspicion remained that the gag was really on us and that the films    were more an indulgence of style over substance. Which in a way makes Dan Gilroy’s  Nightcrawler  a pleasingly old school contrast in its lacerating of the American Dream and that age-old scourge of the cinema: television, played superficially as a crime thriller.

Fehér Isten [White God] (2014, Hungary); Dir. Kornél Mundruczó

T he story goes that in 1929 when the ballots were counted for the inaugural Academy Award for Best Actor, the male performer garnering the most votes was not Emil Jannings, who ultimately received the prize, but a ten year-old orphan of the First World War who had become one of Warner Bros most bankable assets in a succession of cheap and cheerful adventure yarns. His name was Rin Tin Tin.  Like many apocryphal tales it's probably more revealing than the reality. Jannings' Hollywood career would end shortly afterwards when the introduction of sound rendered his thick German accent impractical. He returned to his homeland, where he made The Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich, and continued working when the Nazis came to power, being lauded by Goebbels and appearing in several propaganda films during WWII. After the Nazis defeat Jannings was banned from acting, his reputation forever tarnished. Rin Tin Tin on the other hand became a byword for Hollywood's pioneering a

Fragments of Fame - Cigarette Cards & Forgotten Film Stars

One morning last summer, while watching The Wicked Lady , I found myself intrigued by the mischievous glint of the actress who'd been cast in the role of the supporting role of  Lady Henrietta Kingsclere, sister-in-law to Margaret Lockwood's character in the film. A quick check of the ever-reliable (except when it's not) Wikipedia advised me her name was Enid Stamp Taylor, a name hitherto unfamiliar to me. After first making her mark in Hitchcock's Easy Virtue,  Taylor had enjoyed moderate success as a leading lady in British films of the 1930's before settling into smaller parts.  As it happens The Wicked Lady  was her penultimate picture; she died as a result of injuries sustained in a fall (most likely caused by a seizure) just a couple of months after it was released, aged just 42.  It was when I ran an image search for Taylor on Google that my attention was grabbed not by a photograph, but an illustration of her that adorned an old cigarette card. Nothing

Margaret Lockwood: Darling of Suburbia - Part 1

Lockwood's former home: 34 Upper Park Road, Kingston ©Richard Halfhide L ondon’s cinematic psychogeography is a varied tapestry; some locations still seem permeated with mystery or drama, others bear no trace of their history. Sequestered in Upper Park Road, a quiet corner of Kingston upon Thames, is a house whose uniform nondescriptness belies its status as the final residence of an actress who was once the brightest light in British cinema.  Yet it’s entirely fitting. While she may have enjoyed its benefits Margaret Lockwood never courted celebrity. The star of The Man in Grey and The Wicked Lady was at heart an ordinary, middle-class girl; unpretentious and in some respects almost disappointingly prosaic. If her reclusive later years bestowed an enigmatic quality it probably owes more to Lockwood’s innate reserve than anything intrinsically Garboesque. Nor for that matter did she possess the caustic tongue of Louise Brooks, something borne out by the som

Fade out - 2013 in review

Okay, so this is unfashionably late. Seasoned hacks filed their end-of-year reviews back in early December and here am I, on January 2nd, finally composing mine. Is it any wonder this blog attracts so few visitors? If you're going to be mediocre you should at least have the courtesy to evacuate your verbal effluence in a timely manner. But enough of my long standing problems with indolence and self loathing, what of 2013? For me it was a year in which I ingested more celluloid, figuratively speaking, than ever before. 418 films in total; from Sailor Suit and Machine Gun though to Robot and Frank (the full list can be found at the foot of this post). Am I the richer for this experience? Probably not but cinema works out cheaper than a coke habit and it doesn't dissolve the septum. In terms of summarising all this raw data I've been in something of a quandary. Should all simply reflect my favourite films I've watched this year from any era? That would be too easy