Thursday 20 September 2018

Article: The Marvellous Number Game

The discourse is dead. Long live THE DISCOURSE. Only a day after a rather needless spat allegedly on the idea of film critics and class, we are slapped in the face by the new Captain Marvel trailer and the unbelievably "spicy takes" which come with it. Below is the trailer and the very strange reaction that’s been gained by one person:

Melissa McEwan, editor in chief of, a progressive feminist blog decided that after counting the amount of dialogue uttered by characters within the trailer, the fact that Samual L Jackson's Nick Fury had more lines than Brie Larson's title character was a clear reason to call shenanigans. Never mind that the trailer is clearly set up in a way to provide the character an air of mystery by one of the characters which helped formed the glue of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The sheer fact that a man had more lines than a woman in her own trailer was contemptuous. When the tweet was queried by a fan, their well meaning arguments were dismissed as appalling. Because even though the film may not even have its runtime figured out yet, Marvel must do better because sexism.

To question the methods of populist films is something that pop culture writers should critique and provide insight. Screen time and the vocal representation of gender and minority characters should most definitely be notified. Captain Marvel comes in after the Warner Bros hugely successful Wonder Women and as Marvel Studios’ first female-led superhero feature, it’s a film with very high, very particular expectations.

However, the age of twitter takes, instaopinion and microanalysis has created a platform of dubious, broken narratives that look to derail movies before they even get a chance to be watched. This quick take tweet comes across as one example. I have no doubt that Captain Marvel's movie will have Brie Larson's Carol Danvers character front and centre, yet McEwan hot take is so obnoxious that a person like myself is more switched off by her than an apparent meagre word count. Melissa's fans have highlighted her as a smart and insightful writer, whose writing on feminism is worth reading. However, it only takes one thing to switch someone off. For McEwan, it’s the bizarre idea that Captain Marvel will be about Nick Fury after counting the words to a two-minute trailer. For me, it’s the idea that something so myopic is worth being outraged about. Especially if the writer is unapologetically doubling down. 

At the same time, another Twitter member, whose name isn’t really worth mentioning decided to partake in some dubious trolling purposely designed to “trigger to snowflakes”. The “gag” involved some quick photo editing to change images of non-smiling Larson to display a cheesy grin. The idea? Female heroes should “smile more”. Despite the fact that male heroes are not asked the same thing. 

The problem is, both tweets land themselves in the same wheelhouse. Deliberating about the vocal representation of the main title character in a promotional advertisement designed not only to provide a broad description of the overall movie but to also proposes that we will need to actually see the movie to obtain the full picture, comes across as outrage for the permanently outraged. Good critiquing can be an entertaining as well as a thoughtful process, whereas ignorant hot takes such as these can suck the very joy out of those caught in the vortex. Just because we are progressive does not mean we aren't also ignorant at times. We must also think what chance does a film have if these are the battles we're looking to fight for?

I do not condone the vile insults which flowed from the thread soon after the tweet was sent, but I do find it eye-rollingly irritating to see a progressive feminist writer go down the route more used by the same faceless trolls who would be all too quick to lambast her. We all watch movie trailers. Characters you expect to have larger roles have significantly less to do. Scenes are rearranged and chopped, and in a situation like Captain Marvel, it’s no surprise that a character of the universe who is familiar to the audience would “take centre stage” in order to introduce a character.  

An interesting opinion that came up (that I'm not sure I would ascribe to) is that the thought is yet another example of "white feminism" in which the idea of Jackson’s Nick Fury, despite being a Marvel character with the most number of info-dumps, should be subdued so the pretty white girl should have more lines than the POC character no matter the situation. Once again highlighting the problematic issues that have dogged the current generations debates of Intersectionality and whether people really care about minorities. For the most part, I think most people do.  

Comments such as McEwan’s feels less like a sharp insight and more like snide comments in an out-of-place framework. Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa has no words in the first Black Panther trailer. Most of which is of two white characters talking about where the character is from as opposed to the character himself. The original spider-man trailer (pulled for its use of the Twin Towers) not only has a wordless Spider-Man but a Spider-Man who doesn’t turn up until late on into it’s very short run time. Due to the nature of the 1989 Batman film, Jack Nickleson has far more play than Michael Keaton. Such examples make McEwan’s comments feel more like the so-called manufactured outrage, that certain groups love to claim progressive indulge in.

As the online culture wars rage on we see more tools and projects which help us engage with the media around us. Methods such as The Bechdel Test as well as Every Single Word Spoken project (which deal with tally lines of dialogue spoke by minorities) for example are particularly helpful with emphasising marginalisation. However, they rightly can come under criticism of being utilised as complete cultural barometers for films. Amusingly, the Captain Marvel trailer is of course great news for black African American’s as Jackson occupies so much of its word count. Of course, these methods of evaluating those who are maligned are effective when used correctly and in the right context. Like within a whole feature for instance. 

Knee-jerk reactions like McEwan’s only muddy waters. Going through the thread, the tweets did nothing to engage any real debate or concern. It did, however, do lots to agitate those with cartoon faced avatars as well as many black and white feminists who seemed pissed that a female writer with a large following is needlessly dumping on Marvel’s first female feature for no other reason than the word count. Speaking of which. This post has gone on way too long. So how about some trailers to finish?   

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Article: The Perception of Class

 Did you hear what that film critic said about the other? Well, it all started with a cryptic tweet from one Mark Kermode stating:

"That moment when you fall out of love with a film mag about which you once cared passionately. Oh well …"

In the latest issue of Sight and Sound (Oct 2018), Danny Leigh’s article on film criticism and class seemingly alluded to the idea that fellow film writer Kermode's private school education holds a certain aspect of gatekeeping:

The whole thing felt a little odd to me. A misguided pot-shot to some, a benign reference to others. In all honesty, I joked with a film friend that both were joyfully sharing a brandy and a cigar as they did enough to raise Film Twitter's love for gossip and perhaps got another couple of Sight and Sound copies out the door. Although Kermode feelings to the comments and Leigh's self-removal from Twitter state otherwise. 

Strangely, this reminds me of when Gawker broke the news of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape and rampant racism in which the Hulkster mentioned not only his wishes of his daughter to not date certain types of Black men, but also liberal use of the N-word. I remember when this news broke, the social media audience was more bothered at Hogan's use of a racial slur as opposed to his far more disturbing view on interracial relationships. I'm also reminded of the 2014 Sony hack in which then Sony Entertainment Chief Amy Pascal joking remarked on Obama's film tastes being somewhat stereotypical. While the information leaked was founded on dubious grounds, it displayed the problematic relationship between ideas of race and film production. This was not conversed about in The Discourse, because this was criminal gossip which shouldn't be looked into in any way or form. Although now we don't mind discussing pee tapes

The mucky discussions that should really be discussed are dismissed for something more palatable. The same thing will happen here. The more important aspects of Leigh's commentary will be overshadowed via a smaller, less important area of discussion. There are no winners here. The comments made will now be viewed by some as a grudge on a film writer who is currently the most prominent national voice on cinema. While another film writer will disappear from social media at a time we actually need folk to discuss cinema in a boarder sense. Something Leigh was happy to do. A shame. In the brief conversations I've had in the past with both writers, the most important element that came across from both of them was their passion for cinema. 

A couple of sentences between two prominent white film writers is simply not as important as the talk of class. We’re still in a labouring world in which London based critics and film writers chirp over "essential" screenings that they can see due being able to afford an array of rep cinemas that they can just fall into. Working class actors are disappearing. Films which highlight the varied range of cultural landscapes flitter on by due to poor distribution and yet we see have more to say about twitter beef. This ain’t Sarris vs Kael. This isn’t even White vs Baumbach and yet we are invested. The issue that lingers is that there IS a class concern that remains in film criticism like a repugnant stench. However, the concern is being masked by folk grinning and nodding in acknowledgment to MUBI’s smug advertising campaign or doubling down on their recent tweets about the state of Cinema culture, so much of which safely ignore any real insights on socio-political areas. The online film community can often give off an ivory tower demeanour about itself. All it takes is a glance at the right message boards or tweet threads to see it. There is a problem with how class, as well as race and gender,  is viewed in criticism. It goes far beyond the two writers mentioned in this piece. The fact that we will again ignore it is pretty classless.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Blu-Ray Review: Journeyman

Disc Release Date: 30/07/2018

Director: Paddy Considine

Screenplay: Paddy Considine

Starring: Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker

Watching Journeyman at times reminded what a joy I find in watching British features, and how disappointed I am with production companies and distributors with their marketing and releasing of British films on their own soil. 16 years ago, I remember sitting in my (then) only local cinema being able to catch at least one screening of Shane Meadows, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (2002). In the present day, in the same town, now equipped with two cinemas, it’s doubtful that a film like Journeyman would even get a sniff. The variables are many, yet it’s troubling to see that a film like this, despite its flaws, can seemingly disappear even easier in an age where so much social media mutterings relate to which begone property will be sequeled or rebooted. Journeyman is not for all tastes, but it’s existence gently reminds me of when that seemed to matter less, and a net would be cast further to see who would get caught.

The reference to Shane Meadows in the previous paragraph seems necessary when mentioning Paddy Considine as it was the casting choice of the director which brought Considine to prominence with head-turning displays in films such as A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) and Dead Man’s Shoes. (2004). It was around the time of Dead Man’s Shoes that the outlet placed consideration into the idea that the duo could be an English Scorsese and De Niro.  The films they worked on together often dealt with themes not too dissimilar from Scorsese, often centering around troubled males wracked with mental ambiguity constantly verging on the psychotic. Meadows already dabbled in pugilism with Twenty-Four Seven (1997), but it does feel somewhat surprising that the two hadn’t looked to create their own Raging Bull (1980).

Considine’s Journeyman, much like his feature debut Tyrannosaur (2011), carries Meadows DNA within it in many areas, not only with the similar direction of montages driven by melodic acoustic guitar artists. Journeyman not only utilises the sport of boxing to tell its story but again deals with mental health as well as questioning ideas of masculinity. Like Raging Bull, the boxing ring is a place where a toll is taken. Unlike the histrionics that fill many popular American fight features, the film holds a far more sobering tone.

Starting with Considine’s character Matty Burton looking to defend his recently won title against a cocky young fighter (Anthony Welsh). The boxing quickly moves to the background as Burton is found unconscious in his family home by his wife; Emma (Jodie Whittaker) after the title defence. What occurs afterward is a “fight” for Matty to find himself again as the delayed trauma obtained through the fight has resulted in memory loss and a profound alteration to his personality. The most challenging aspects of the film lie with how the dynamic changes between the previously warm, likable Matty and his family.

Journeyman’s effectiveness lies in its interest in what happens after the fight as opposed to a more typical build towards a final fight for glory, with the films most painful sequences being struggles between Matty and Emma. The most successful aspects of the film lie in the subtle manner Considine makes even the most mundane exercise a minefield of precarious hazard. Making a cup of tea. Dealing with a crying child. Many of the sequences feel reminiscent of dealing with someone with dementia. Whittaker excels here, and we can see all the patience of the character in her eyes and vocal cadence. Considine provides a great foil. Matty is told at the beginning of the film that the fight - in which his abilities are questioned from the off – will be a life changer and Considine’s performance pulls off the overwhelming effect of Matty’s head injury without leaning into I Am Sam (2001) territory. This is bread and butter to Considine of course with the punctuated outbursts of emotion and violence, having that same unpredictable feeling that was felt in his early work with Meadows. Despite this, it is the new Doctor Who who brings the deeper resonance, simply by not having the more “showy” verbal tics.

The film is neatly captured by regular Ben Wheatley cinematographer Laurie Rose. The crisp visuals once again become yet another showcase for Rose, with a wonderful mirrored shot of Matty reflected within a picture of himself in his glory days being a highlight. The muted, chilly tones shown here are also a refreshing change from the larger trend of warm yet strangely flat palettes that have inflated many films and shows as of late.

With all that Journeyman has going for it, there is frustration with the film’s relative neatness in its narrative. Considine poses a compelling question about what happens to Sportsmen who must hang up their gear by force. The film doesn’t shy away from having its lead character – whose job is led by intense and controlled aggression – be exposed by moments of vulnerability and uninhibited emotion. However, the film’s latter stages begin to knit things up in a way that feels more akin to the sports features of America, than finding its own path. It’s also unfortunate does this with what appears to be a sprinkling of unintended vanity. This perhaps won’t be a negative to sports fans who are happy with Journeyman’s “one man’s struggle” narrative. However, for those who may be looking for something that lingers in the mind a bit longer, may do well with heading back to Considine’s first feature. Either way, Journeyman is a film that highlights Paddy Considine’s considerable talents both in front of and behind the camera and reminds us of what often gets lost amongst the fight for filmgoers attentions. 

Monday 30 April 2018

Article: Some thoughts on Infinity War

Note: While I have taken an effort to try and not and spoil the film, this piece will mention other fragments of the Marvel Universe which may affect your thoughts on Infinity War.

The Avengers: Infinity War has been a project which has been ten years in the making. It looks set to become one of the most financially successful features of its era, and it’s vindication for marvel studios who, prior to their release of 2008’s Ironman, were staring bankruptcy in the face. In watching the film, it has highlighted itself to be the best of what it is, a mega-franchise, a spectacle-laden, big-budget episode. A cinematic universe.

In the past few months, friends have objectified to my views that these films (nay all films) should ever be critiqued. They should be only viewed with the aims of “entertainment” only. As if we are all entertained by the same thing. Social Media, fan tribalism, and brand loyalty have also helped contribute to a nasty form siege mentality. Not only you should only look at these cultural texts as trivial distractions, you must pick a side and deal. All these films should be looked at like candy floss and we should be happy that we’re being delivered with all sugar we crave. I do like to indulge in sugar, but I’m also highly aware of my root canals.

Infinity Wars is a grand, all singing, all dancing affair. Something that in all honesty should be seen to be believed. A film looking to encompass pieces of 18 other films and finally drive them towards an end game. It is a fascinating and frustrating endeavour. It is a film full of eye-boggling spectacle, enjoyable laughs, and stunning imagery. But it is also a film that not only requires you to watch 30+ of other films for a viewer to truly understand it’s sense of gravitas, but it moves towards a climax that rings hollow. Less because it’s section one of two parts, more because the rules of this universe, as well as our own governing rules via the executive bean counters, have already taken away a true sense of closure. This is the ultimate “tune in next time folks”.

Joss Whedon has his detractors and understandably so, yet his previous excursions into The Avengers universe, while imperfect, always had a particular sense of purpose. A reasoning of why The Avengers avenged. The best Marvel films have a reasoning and understand of stakes which set them apart from some of the other entries. Whedon’s simple placement of a young waitress placed in danger and saved by Captain America (Chris Evans) in the first Avengers film may only be two scenes but gives a simple grounding of what’s at stake that is simply missing in Infinity Wars. It hasn’t got time. There’s all the characters to get through. Most of them Superheroes. Jokes have been made at The Defenders expense, but seriously, where could you fit them? But this complicated series of connections feels does feel odd. The world is truly at stake from one of the most interesting villains seen in this universe but I as a few never gained a sense of the world, because unlike some of the more compacted or isolated Marvel features, there’s never a sense that the world really features.

The film’s tonal shift and the downbeat climax is meant to portray a sense of maturity and feels like a clear shot at critics who have commented on how there often a feeling of comeuppance isn’t felt with some of these characters. However, this is where not obsessing over Marvel product would come in handy, we’ve been here before when it comes to “losing” characters within this universe and it’s hard to feel any emotion to the events, with the knowledge of contractual obligations and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson appearing as fresh as a daisy on a certain tv show. Add to this the need to wade through 18 films to get why these characters “just turn up”, what’s witnessed feels disjointed. Other writers have labeled the film's climax as cheap, and it’s easy to see why.

Of course to say this is to be traitorous. How dare anyone say anything at all negative about a film that looks set of being one of the biggest money spinners of all time. It must be loved and only loved. There are parts that I really enjoy. See the guardians of the galaxy here was far more enjoyable than their second adventure. I cannot and will not fault the performances of the cast, in particular, an unbelievably solid Josh Brolin (I can’t wait for the meta references in Deadpool 2).  The Russo’s and their unit teams frame and execute the action set pieces with far more skill and grace than Ryan Cooglar’s efforts in Black Panther, while Thanos will stand alongside Killmonger, Loki, and Killgrave as the best villains of the Marvel rouge’s gallery. There is a lot to like here. Possibly even love. I just wish it hadn’t felt so empty. I’m relatively ok with having to plow through 30 hours of films to get to a certain point. It’s just sad that said point only feels like it’s gearing you up to watch another 30.  

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Afrofilmviewer is changing!

Hello there!

If you were a regular visitor to this lil spot and wonder where I've been...

Don't worry! I'm not quitting yet. 

I'm looking to change my focus on film a tad. There'll be less reviewing of what's out at the cinema and more articles, notifications of the podcast work I do and....some reviews (ahem).

Once I get some ideas down, this site will once again be up and about for your viewing pleasure!

See you soon.