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Film Review: Gone Girl

18 (149 min)
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris
American | 2014

Gone Girl is David Fincher’s latest piece, adapted for screen by Gillian Flynn from her book of the same name. When a much loved local woman Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, suspicions of murder arise and all eyes turn to her husband Nick (Ben Affleck).

Gone Girl is by no means a flawless movie. Having not read the book, I cannot judge on how true it stayed to the source material. But at nearly two and a half hours, I’m guessing it didn’t leave much out. Similarly, smashing Hollywood barriers by showing a woman receiving oral sex and having Affleck’s best-friend character being his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon) leads me to believe that the film didn’t conform to studio norms. If it did, it would have probably been a two parter because, as I said before, this film is really long.

Of course, it’s not as long as epics such as The Wolf of Wall Street or The Deer Hunter, but it does feel longer. This is largely due to the twist being revealed half way through the film, changing the dynamic of it completely, and rendering it almost impossible to talk about without spoiling…

Despite the films length, each scene was an integral cog in the overall machine and, although it churned slowly along, each piece was as every bit important to the end product as the last. Gone Girl injects enough suspense in the first half that it stays coursing through your veins for the remainder; the set up is enough to retain your interest and keep you absorbed in the film’s twisted world

The way Fincher picks up the intricacies of the actors and the environments is something to be celebrated. We as the audience pick up on things in the film that may or may not be important to working out ‘whodunnit’, like picking your favourite sweet out of a Haribo mix. We are blinkered, looking beyond the environment around them, but without them being shoved in our face with glaring signs and bells attached. However, it doesn’t mean we don’t see everything else. We can simultaneously take in the pale beauty of Gone Girl, while inspecting it through a magnifying glass.

The film’s editor, Kirk Baxter (Benjamin Button, The Social Network) should also be commended. Flashbacks mingle with the present day, weaving in-and-out of one-another at different rates throughout the film, becoming a ‘clue’ within themselves.

I cannot talk about the actors performances without giving too much away, but both provide a startling realism in their depictions of two very flawed individuals. Initially I thought the opposite, but as the film progressed… Well, that would be surely saying too much now, wouldn’t it?

The film is multilayered within its narrative and what it feeds the audience, slowly building upon itself. The tone of the film reminded me of Fargo; it’s balance between humour and thrills provided by Detective Boney (Kim Dickens), the sure-handed direction, even the colour palette. Although Gone Girl doesn’t quite hold up to the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece, it’s an enjoyable, savagely well made film that deserves a watch.

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The Paper Birds: BLIND

A few of us from the Canon Hill Collective had the privilege to attend the most recent performance by The Paper Birds (see trailer above). As we all shared this experience we decided to amalgamate our blogs into 3 short reviews of the night … enjoy!!!

Review 1:

Blind invited us into the mind and world of the incredibly, bafflingly talented Grace Savage. She can beatbox (UK champ), she can sing, she can act and she can definitely make powerful theatre. We were guided through the influential and decisive moments and relationships that have come to form and define the 25 year old woman that Savage has become. This was done through some times hilarious, some times dark and some times moving story telling, beatboxing, shadow puppetry and music produced live that utilised her vast range of sounds. We were even treated to a quick beatboxing lesson. I was captivated for the jam packed hour. Things explored included Savage’s obsession with imitation, unconventional motherly advice, the influence of the media on young people and the sexism that Savage has had to contend with in her line of work. A wildly entertaining and honest show. Savage and members of the company that devised and produced the show, The Paper Birds graduated from my course at the University of Leeds before I arrived. There’s hope for me yet.

Review 2:

Blind by The Paper Birds theatre company is one of those productions that reminds me why I am interested in theatre in the first place. Performed by Grace Savage, Blind explores the influences throughout her life that have led her to be the person she is today: an actress, singer and two-time UK Champion beat boxer. A gripping, moving and brutally honest piece, we were taken through important influences in her life such as her mother’s unconventional advice, what she hears on the news growing up, as well as more emotionally gripping stories of violence. There was also an educational element to the performance, as Grace explained a brief history of beat-boxing and even gave us our own beat-boxing lesson which was both entertaining and amusing. A range of different performance techniques were used effortlessly to keep the audience gripped throughout, from multimedia to physical theatre. Having gone into the performance knowing next to nothing about beat boxing and unsure as to whether I was even interested in the form, I found myself completely transfixed by Grace’s talent for beat boxing, particularly her use of a loop machine to create entire multi-layered songs using just her voice. However, what struck me most was her self-assurance as both a performer and as a person. Seeing some of the sexist and degrading comments she receives on her beat boxing videos and hearing about her response to this had me leaving the performance feeling an immense sense of empowerment. Seeing such a likeable, talented and inspirational performer do exactly what she wants rather than what she feels she should do is a lesson that everyone who sees Blind will surely take away with them.

Review 3:

I had never been to a Paper Bird production before but after going to see Blind – a theatrical piece comprising of mix media, acting, beat boxing, puppetry (to name a few) – I can tell you they have certainly caught my attention. This piece, which was performed by the UK’s top female beat boxer and all round talent Grace Savage, brought more than just music and stories to the table. Grace used all the art forms that were at her disposal to bring us into some of the most vulnerable parts of her life and herself. Through the performance she relived her childhood and her up bringing, her first beat boxing battle and an emotional experience on a train, and we relived it with her. The more she unraveled about her journey made me grasp how hard she has worked to become who she is today and how comfortable she is being herself. As a musician/singer/music maker, for a long time I have not left a performance so inspired with music as an art form. The way Grace Savage used her vocally created sounds to paint pictures, tell stories and disprove stereotypes re-invigorated my passion to do the same, and the fact she is still growing artistically reassures me that as long as I moving forward, I am moving in the right direction.

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Film Review: Le Jour se léve (Daybreak)

PG (92 min)
Director: Marcel Carné
Cast: Jean Gabin, Jacqueline Laurent, Arletty
French | 1939 | Subtitles

If Michael Bay films are 90 minutes of action sequences strung together by dialogue spewed out of a random word generator, then Marcel Carné’s Le Jour Se Léve (Daybreak) is the antithesis of these movies.

Le Jour Se Léve is a painting, its brush strokes: the words of writer Prevert. His mastery of the written medium creates a tapestry, woven in the poetic discourse between lovers and rivals.

The subject matter is held in great stead by the talented hand of Carné, and it is easy to see why Le Jour Se Léve is considered by some to be his masterpiece. Although the film is a work of realism, the direction preempts the form of the American noir that would boom in the following decade. Staple tropes of noir filmmaking come into play to create some beautiful uses of light – back when films treated shadow with as much respect as they did its counterpart – as well as bringing an air of suspense and sexuality to the piece.

The film is about a man, Francois (Jean Gabin), who has recently committed a murder and is looking back on the events that lead to him to taking such actions. To say the film is about a murder (as I was told before watching it) is like being told Pulp Fiction is about two guys sent to collect a briefcase. It is about two guys sent to collect a briefcase, but that synopsis hardly does justice to the content of the film.

Jules Berry plays the murdered Mr Valentin, and does a fantastic job in creating a reprehensible villain in a film full of grounded, realistic characters. An almost Jack Nicholson level of manic creepyness helps bring to life this original role.

The main issue I have with Le Jour Se Léve however, is that I’m not sure what it wants me to feel. Do I feel sympathy for Francois as he sits on his bed, alone and confined, surrounded by bullet holes? Francois, the jealous, womanizing thug? The murderer? Do I feel for the women he has hurt along the way but who are ultimately the catalysts for his actions? Do I feel sorry for the murdered Valentin who beats and mistreats animals for a living?

Throughout it’s 93 minute run time, as strong as the dialogue is, it’s power starts to wain when you realize it’s the only thing holding the film together. The intimacy between characters is captured with a genius subtlety, and techniques such as long establishing shots and extended flashbacks shown via dissolve transitions show a maturity beyond the films years. But when there is little else waiting for you at the end of your journey than the murder scene from the beginning? Well, ones attention can’t help but wonder…

Ultimately, Le Jour Se Léve will probably be a love/hate film for many people. If you aren’t invested in the characters, you’ll be bored to death by it. But if you’re a sucker for meticulous camera movement, gorgeous dialogue, fantastic acting and exposed nipples (approximately two whole seconds to be precise), then this film is most certainly for you.

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A Cheeky Chunk of Afrovibes

An amalgamation of dance, music and theatre, all of which holding the narrative of South Africa 20 years after apartheid. If that’s not mind blowing enough, Afrovibes Festival also featured pop up performances from local talent, post-show discussions and a taste of South African food. All could be found at the Township Café, a wonderful enhancement to the already wonderful festival! Now in efforts to expand my knowledge of South African culture and eat as much Bunny Chow as I could, I had planned to attend all the shows featured in the programme. However due to a severe case of the sniffles I only managed to view three; sad I know. Here are some reviews!

Skierlik – Written and performed by Phillip M Dikotia

An intense and heart wrenching story of one man’s home and livelihood, stolen from his grasp by racism’s greedy finger tips. The weight of the heartache experienced from travelling was drilled into us from the moment protagonist Thomas (our main man Phillip M Dikotia) took off on his journey. Through repetition he drags us on his laborious journey to Skielik, his home. He returns, only to be flooded with painful memories of the wife and child lost in a violent mass shooting. Thomas explains how the loss of his loved ones was shrouded in bright lights and film crews, how the incident put Skierlik on the map as a place of poverty and the bodies of those mourned were over looked. Skierlik was heart breaking, powerful and unassumingly suspenseful to say the least.

Rainbow Scars – Written by Mike van Graan, Directed by Lara Bye

We follow Lindiwe, a young black South African girl adopted by Ellen, her white middle class mother, affirming the belief that South Africa 20 years on from apartheid is a “Rainbow nation”. Unintentionally she is reintroduced to her blood cousin Sickello (I apologise if this has been misspelt). He enters baring the news that his mother is dying and Lindiwe is presented with her last request, to help Sickello in any way she can. Now stripped of her sheltered home, Lindiwe is forced to question her identity. An interesting piece of realism which delves into themes such as “the white saviour” in the form of Lindwe’s adopted mother. When relaying her views on her adoption in a heated conversation, Lindiwe refers to herself as her mother’s “pet, project and trophy”. This, alongside elements of internalised racism within Lindiwe, frequently delivered from Sickello in the term ‘coconut’, formed the thought provoking piece which is Rainbow Scars.

Uncles and Angels – Choreographed and performed by Nelisiwe Xaba. Video Artist Mocke J van Veuren

An alluring piece centred on the Reed Dance, a traditional dance which promotes chastity in young women, resurrected in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Uncles and Angels explores the preciousness of virginity and chastity amongst young girls. Ironically, the Reed Dance is performed in traditional clothing which exposes most of the body and has been said to trigger the rape of these young girls. Featuring effective video projections, we were taken on a mind blowing visual exhibition involving multiplication of live images, repetition and manipulation of time; thus creating a mesmerising and somewhat trippy performance.

Dark Cell – Created and performed by Themba Mbuli

A potent piece of contemporary dance, layered in the shadowy themes of mental imprisonment. As an audience member, it’s safe to say we were all transfixed within the concept of Dark Cell, which happens to be based on the harsh surroundings of Robben Island Prison. Music was drawn from chains and buckets which held symbolism of the living conditions at the prison. The buckets were representative of the toilet system which is still held in some communities today. Themba Mbuli then began to strip and perform nude, reflective of the indecent treatment of the prisoners by the wardens. An extremely powerful piece I could watch again and again.

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Cannon Hill Collective ’14/15 Week Two Blog

In a slightly perplexing order of events, following on from out first Collective first session in which we garbled on about ourselves while a room full of (what was at the time) strangers psycho-analysed our body language and deepest passions, we decided to spend week two getting to know each other a bit better.

This love-in took the form of individual presentations about ourselves. Presentations being an incredibly loose term for the genius that unfolded when you give a room full of artists free rein to talk about themselves for five uninterrupted minutes.

I’ll start with myself because history is written by the victors and I am the one with the proverbial pen in my hand.

Omar’s presentation

First of all, call me Murdock.

I’ve never been a fan of talking about myself when there are so many other interesting things in this universe. Why are we here? What is the secret ingredient in the Colonel’s chicken? And so fourth. So I decided instead to represent some of my passions and inspirations physically, using my own personal artefacts. Among them included my limited edition Pokémon GameBoy Colour, a Johnny Cash biographic graphic novel, an original Polaroid camera, a clapper board, a pen, and other objects of intrigue. I shall spare you the details behind each one and what they represent, and move on to the second part of my presentation.

I then got each person to pose with an item of their choice and snapped them. Below you will see the final outcome as I delve further into the evening…

Mercy’s presentation
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Mercy being a woman of the world decided to treat us to a montage of her childhood across (off the top of my head) Yemen, America, Ireland and the UK. We were treated to photos of an intercontinental smile and were warmed by images of happy families, striking on-stage performances and huddles of friends in a presentation that simultaneously held our hand through a persons life, and drummed up 1001 questions about it all in one go.

Jess’s presentation
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Compared to Jess’s presentation, mine can only be described as vacuous and insipid. Jess very movingly spoke to us about her time at university studying fine art, her championing of anxieties and losing someone close to her, and how it all reflected in her own work, which was stunning. Her confidence in herself and her work was inspiring to see.

James’s presentation
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Well. Where do I begin?

Very rarely do you get the chance to see a performer so totally and utterly in their element. I can only compare having the privilege of watching James speak to the time I watched Slash tear apart his guitar at Download ’12. James talked us through his life, what choices he made and why in an engaging and inspiring way using props, stories and humour. A phenomenal public speaker and a motivational person to be around.

Callum’s presentation
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Callum treated us to a video of his peers describing him in one word. Callum then took these words and elaborated on them, giving us an insight into his core beliefs and principles.

Catrin’s presentation
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Catrin’s presentation was an emotional roller coaster, consisting of peaks of awe as we marvelled at her handmade puppets, troughs of agony as we learned many of them were damaged and broke in the post, and corkscrews of relief as we learnt the puppets were indeed salvageable. Telling us how and why she got into puppetry, Catrin showed us videos of her work with near-life size puppets, cutouts the size of a fingernail and shadows to remind us how magical the rarely-used medium can be, combining art, engineering and performance into one beautiful piece.

Sarah F’s presentation
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Sharing her passion with us, Sarah decided to imbue us all with a new skill: Finger knitting. The principle is (relatively) simple, one replaces the needles involved with knitting with your fingers and weave two strands of wool together, creating beautiful pieces such as the rugs brought in by Sarah. At least, that was the idea. In reality, I just trapped myself in a Chinese finger trap of wool and reminded myself how terrible my hand-eye coordination is. But it further developed my appreciation for the skills people like Sarah have that I can only dream of.

Heidi’s presentation
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Heidi is a woman after my own heart. Not a fan of talking about herself, instead she wears her inspirations and passions on her sleeves, creating a quiz about them for us to decipher. Among the things we learnt in this entertaining and engaging quiz are: What happens at King’s Cross Station stays at King’s Cross Station, Heidi’s favourite album; London Calling was released in 1980 in America.

Sarah H’s presentation
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Another born performer, talk to Sarah for five minutes and her passion for drama dazzles you. Her presentation consisted of ‘an audience with‘ style montage reserved for the likes of washed-up celebrities going though expensive divorces, but Sarah’s five minutes were filled with humour, detail and a maturity well beyond the young woman’s years. I found myself hanging on her every word, encouraging her to continue with my attention, lost in a world she created for me with her words and her performance.

There’s still more to follow as unfortunately we couldn’t squeeze all the genius into the two hour slot we had to work with, but one thing is for sure, this second session got me incredibly excited the prospect of collaborating with such a varied and talented pool of artists.

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Film Review: Magic in the Moonlight at mac birmingham

12A (98 min)
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Eileen Atkins
English | 2014

Magic in the Moonlight is a charming, whimsical tale that is entertaining without ever being enthralling. Set in the 1920s French Riviera, it is shot beautifully and invokes the trademark feeling that I get when sat in front of the latest Woody Allen cinematic slice. Colin Firth is his usual debonaire self, this time as a world famous illusionist with an enormous ego hellbent on exposing fraudulent mystics, and Emma Stone is generally captivating barring a few uncomfortably modern line readings as the fraudster in his sights. It was witty, classy and clichéd. I watched with content which then turned to pride after I correctly guessed the major plot twist 20 minutes before it happened. It has nowhere near the amount of bite as Allen’s last film, Blue Jasmine, but it was a worthwhile 100 minutes spent, even if the predictable love story between the 54 year old Firth and 25 year old Stone is quite gross.

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Film Review: The Riot Club at mac birmingham

15 (107 min)
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Max Irons, Douglas Booth, Holliday Grainger, Jessica Brown Findlay
English | 2014

I went into this film having read the play on which it is based, Posh, only a few days ago. It was therefore an interesting experience to see how the film made the leap from stage to screen. It’s certainly been Hollywoodified in order to appeal to a broader audience and a new love interest has been woven in who accentuates the class divisions explored in the film. This new take means the portrayal of class division is more blunt and subtlety is certainly not one of its strengths, but the very strong cast featuring some of the leading lights of the new generation of British acting talent charm, dazzle and repulse. As a young fresh faced actor it feels like I’m receiving a constant Chinese burn when watching a 28 year old play an 18 year old but personal gripes aside, Max Irons and Sam Claflin in particular offer superb performances.

Written by Laura Wade and directed by Lone Scherfig, the film offers a hypothetical example of what the high-class youngsters of the Riot Club (based on Oxford University’s Bullingdon Club) could be capable of and what their ideology might be and it is an entertaining ride. It is easy to be seduced by the allure and mystique of the club and its members in the first half before it all turns sour as their behaviour descends into repugnance.

The film also suggests that the club holds enormous influence in who holds high political and financial positions. It is hard to know what to believe about the real elite dining clubs of Oxford but there is something about the concept of out of control over-privileged toffs running amok that is richly intriguing.

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How to fail…

The first in the new series of the ‘Creative How To’ sessions starts on Tuesday 14th October and is entitled ‘How to Fail’. These free sessions for 16-24yr olds offer professional development for emerging artists and offer ideas that may support you to navigate your creative career. They are produced by mac birmingham in partnership with Amy Martin & Bearheart.

How to fail 

Steve Jobs was a loser, well he lost a company and countless opportunities before gaining big time as the boss of Apple. In this session we’ll look at the positives behind failure and how to pick yourself up after a bump in the road.

Starting Tue 14 Oct 2014 | Hexagon Theatre | Free | 6pm-8pm

Each session will feature a keynote by creative producer Amy Martin and a guest lecturer from the creative sector. Our guest for the first session is Matt Nation from PROVIDE.


Image taken from PROVIDE blog.

Matt Nation has been fighting a fear of failure for as long as he can remember, but in recent years has been trying to embrace failure as an integral part of life, and something that’s essential to success. Opening himself up to the possibility of failing has led him to create PROVIDE, an independent clothing brand and lifestyle store based in Birmingham.

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‘You were remembering buildings demolished in your mind’ – Misplaced Memoirs at Hotel du Vin

I blame Warwick Castle for the fact that every time I see a site specific piece of theatre, I expect the ghost of Henry VII to jump out from behind a corner, but Qasim Riza Shaheen’s Misplaced Memoirs was a strictly no thrill, no scares, no gimmicks piece of theatre. It was, instead, a beautiful piece of well thought through theatre that told one man’s story as the story of many.

If you went to see his exhibition at mac and were in the majority of enjoying it but not quite understanding it, then this won’t make the exhibition make any more sense – but it’s still enjoyable. It is a personal story told through a series of strangers, jumping continents from Chicago ‘where you waited from 8:33 to 8:42, but I never came’ to Pakistan where ‘you dreamed of your ex’s ex’.

A tale is told to each of audience members through various parts of the hotel, for me winter in Chicago was depicted on the balcony and the wedding night perched on the side of the bath tub in a hotel room, and included slow dancing around the bathroom floor. The whole piece ends with a photo shoot for audience and characters, which I wish they told you before hand, otherwise I would have washed my hair and made an effort.

All in all, did it make me reassess my emotions like someone told me it would? No, but it was interesting how the hand of a stranger became more intimate and familiar as the performance went on. Was it an interesting experience in story telling that made me question what is theatre and what isn’t? Yes, I’m still not sure if the waiter who asked what floor I wanted in the lift was in the performance or not.

(One final note Qasim, if you ever read this – I’m really sorry that I trod on your beads on the bathroom floor when we danced)