Thursday 28 January 2021

The Capote Tapes


Documenting from his start and first novel, where the photograph on the book jacket was more talked about than the book itself, Truman was unashamedly himself. This was not only brave but dangerous in a time when being gay was illegal. Capote created a character for himself to play throughout his life whenever he was in the spotlight and in private, he tried to live up to his creation. 


My full review is over at Filmhounds HERE.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Neo Noir: Blood Simple


Quoted as having a voice that is ‘undeniably and violently original’ the Coen Brothers have been letting us into their world of numbskulls, vivid dreams and eccentrics with names to match since 1984. Following a trend throughout their filmography, which usually involves a crime that goes horribly wrong, whether is it dark comedy as with Burn After Reading (2008) or of a more serious nature, such as No Country for Old Men (2007), the common thread that links their films together, along with the various uses of violence, are the genre twisted stories that the Coens create.


The Coens’ first feature film, Blood Simple, is tale of lust, revenge and miscommunication. Almost a B Movie with its simmering tale set in the heart of Texas. Painted as a treacherous place from the start, in the opening quote from the Private Investigator, the location already makes creates a sense of unease, readying for something ‘big’ to happen. Abby is having an affair with Ray, a bartender who works for her husband, Marty. Already suspicious of their affair, he hires Visser, a private detective, to follow them. Once the affair is confirmed with photographs, he hires Visser to kill both Ray and Abby.

Blood Simple illustrates the difficulty and dirty dealings of murder, proving that it is anything but simple. Even the genres in which the film would usually fall (thriller/crime drama) don’t apply as easily as just slapping a label on the cover. Part film noir, part horror and, also in part, black comedy, the Coens play with the identity of the film without losing sight of plot or falling into genric parody. Instead, they balance the hybrid modes to create a story that’s simple and yet complex. Playing with story elements, borrowing from film noir, such as Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, Blood Simple twists these typical stories through the characters and the decisions they are driven to make, going ‘blood simple’.

The Coens’ use genre to create a story that is both familiar and unexpected at the same time. They said that they ‘didn’t want to make a Venetian blind kind of [detective] movie’ yet they are obviously influenced by film noir, which features this type of lighting. There is of course a detective, tracking down the lovers, solving a case, the cuckolded, suspicious rich husband and a thick atmosphere of doubt and lust in the air. The lighting, setting and tone of the story all to ‘typical detective story’, yet the players don’t fall into place. The detective, usually the ‘good guy’ wearing a white hat, isn’t what he seems. He follows the generic rules until he double crosses Marty over something petty: money. He’s killer, but only after he makes a mistake. The responsibility of ‘good guy’ falls squarely on Ray’s shoulders but, in theory, he isn’t one either: he has an affair with his boss’ wife, asks for money, then buries a man alive, but does so only after thinking Abby has killed Marty, which is his mistake. There is no femme fatale role in the story, either – Abby is just too clueless to take the initiative. Still, there is the question of her loyalty when Marty puts doubt in Ray’s mind, but Abby is oblivious, right up until the end when she says, “I’m not afraid of you, Marty,” and Visser answers back, “Well, ma’am, if I see him, I’ll sure give him the message.” It could be argued that Abby is the femme fatale of the piece, but only by default, as her own flaw is in being unable to communicate – all the men around her can but tend to die. The Coens’ favourite devices – a crime gone wrong, miscommunication and the age-old lust for violence – determine the fates of everyone in the story. This is because, at the start of the story, no one wants to kill but, by the end, they have all either killed someone or intended to.

In detective stories and most film noir, characters don’t go through an uplifting story arc. Instead, they come to the realization of their circumstance, or conclusion. But, in Blood Simple, the characters keep making mistakes, which is what drives the plot and each other’s actions forwards. Each character wants something and their selfish need is their ultimate their downfall.

Marty, driven my jealousy and anger, wants revenge on his cheating wife, going so far as to hire someone to kill her and her lover. Not wanting blood on his hands, he can’t do it himself, suggesting he is not ‘man enough’. His mistake is in trusting his wife in the first place and, again, in trusting Visser. Abby breaks his finger while beating him up, later noted by someone who refers to it as his ‘pussy finger’, further emasculating him. Marty is the desperate man who resists being made to look a fool but, as the only character to be murdered twice, is the joke of the film.

Ray is not the hero in this story. He doesn’t even manage to defend the woman he supposedly wants to be with – it is Abby who beats up Marty and kills Visser. Ray’s mistake is in thinking that Abby killed Marty and he doesn’t even think to ask her. Ray’s judgment is in question throughout, especially as it’s not entirely clear whether he loves Abby. He says, ‘I told you. I liked you,’ but love isn’t mentioned unless someone is scared. He questions Abby after he buries Marty and doubt starts to seep in, when she repeats what Marty says she’d say. But, as neither Abby nor Ray factor in Visser, he ends up dead, showing how unassertive he is.

Visser is the established detective, complete with voiceover and late night surveillance but he isn’t stereotypical. He seems like he’s going to be the voice of reason, like Tommy Lee Jones’ Sherriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men, at the film’s outset but, by the time his story ends, he’s cackling into a pool of his own blood. His mistake is minor, leaving the cigarette lighter behind, but it’s one that has repercussions: foiling his plans and, ultimately, causing his death.

The Coen Brothers’ first feature is an introduction to their universe of violence mixed with comedy, crime and unique character names. Their ability to twist genres round their talented little fingers is the cornerstone of what makes their films stand out. Taking their influences, honouring them whilst still claiming them as their own, is what makes Blood Simple a stand out film.


For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Originally written for Cinema Rediscovered in 2017 – also made as a Zine

Friday 22 January 2021

Neo Noir: Cape Fear


The 1991 version of the film was dramatic but felt dated, compared to the 1962 original, as if it were just an imitation. Danielle Bowden, the teenager is not doing well as school and is forced to take summer classes, which is how she meets Cady as he pretends to be her drama teacher and he manages to convince her to suck his finger in a seductive manner. Leigh Bowden, Sam’s wife, works from home, she is a ‘modern woman’. The two lead male roles felt strange to me. Nick Nolte played Sam Bowden, who I found extremely uncharismatic. Jessica Lange and Juliette Lewis are the ones that carry this film for the Bowden family. Robert De Niro as Max Cady was terrifying but it wasn’t the tattoos or the greasy hair or the way he spoke, it was his ability to flip from seemingly charming guy to raging maniac. He is repulsive, which is what the character is meant to be and De Niro really does throw himself into the role. Unfortunately, Nolte, beside De Niro just feels miscast.


Cape Fear, both films, boast an impressive cast and director yet it’s quite difficult to compare the two films as they are almost identical in how the story plays out. The differences are obviously the ending and the change of character of Lori Davis and Diane Taylor. The former was a colleague, who has a crush on Bowden and after being rejected by him, meets Cady in a bar. She is then violently raped and beaten and left too afraid to testify. The change from the 1962 film, where Diane is a woman, not connected to other characters Cady picks up at a bar. Cady threatens Bowden when he attacks his friend, showing this is what he’ll do to his wife and daughter. Both women are used as plot device to show what Cady is capable of and shaming these women for having sex with someone they hardly know. An age-old device.



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Thursday 21 January 2021

Neo Noir: The Game



"I don't care about the money. I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard." - Nicholas

David Fincher's 1997 thriller literally teeters on the edge of sanity when his protagonist becomes involved in an elaborate game gifted to him by his brother. Discovering what is and isn't part of the game is left up to the audience even right to the very last moment. There is at points detours to what we think is the narrative and just feel like challenges to overcome. There are moments of dread and very little pleasure. We witness a man who on top of the mountain, be it lonely, and fall slowly to rock bottom. We see him over come struggled he may never have thought he would go through and then through it all, question his own reality. Is this real or part of, the game?



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir

Wednesday 20 January 2021



Rams is a comedy with equal part heart-breaking and heart-warming moments all centred around sheep, rams and the farmers that raise them is unexpectedly entertaining and, in some moments, rather thrilling.

Full review is over at Filmhounds and can be read HERE

If you'd also like to read my post about the original Rams, you can go HERE - its short but sweet.



Tuesday 19 January 2021

Long Live the Physical Media!!


Last year, right at the start of the first Lockdown I had the idea to start making zines. Not the film ones I make from time to time but real pen and paper and photocopy zines. I managed to put together a few pages but, in all honesty, it wasn't my best work. I salvaged the best pages and will be adding them to something I'm putting together for my 10-year anniversary of this blog. One page that I kept was a rant, a train of thought, relevant for the time, about owning DVDs and Blu rays. Apologies for the scattered handwriting. This reveals how crazy my handwriting is.

Despite streaming services being the go-to for most people, including myself, to watch films, TV, music and the odd audiobook, physical media is being kept alive by the collectors. The ‘old’ media that entertained us when we were young is always looked upon fondly now and resurrected for a nostalgia trip. As we’ve all been kept inside away from everything, these nostalgia trips are happening quite frequently. I’d love to go through the boxes still at my parents that I know contain cassette tapes, videos and there’s even a shoe box with the last of my CD collection I couldn’t get rid of. I used to be the proud owner of a large audiobook collection, mostly children’s and young adult books, quite a few Jaqueline Wilson tapes and a few Jane Austen tapes, as well as a few odd ones that I never heard of anywhere else, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen anyone? With only a few videos surviving, half of which are recorded, I had tried to convert this collection to DVDs but some I couldn’t find. Without these boxes of nostalgia to pour over, I’ve looked to collection that I moved with.


It’s been said that the Millennials are the ones keeping physical media alive, having grown up in an age without everything at our fingertips or having the ease of streaming services for anything you could dream of. But I also think there has been a resurgence of the ‘special/limited edition’ that has caught the eye of those who collect. Distributors like Arrow and the Criterion collection are going strong with these releases, bringing cult classics into the new era and those long-forgotten gems out of the dark for new audiences to discover. Other labels such as Indicator, Vintage Classics and 101 Films focusing different genres, also offering extra features and physical extras too. Bringing out new releases to celebrate an anniversary or even just a ‘first time’ release is an opportunity. These are all for the collectors, of which I thought there were few but after a search on Instagram with the right hashtags, I find that I am most definitely not alone or at least it’s not just film writers and Film Twitter out there. The appeal of physical media is not a niche thing as I had thought.


My scribbles from last year were in frustrated response to digital copies being deleted as and when companies wish rendering bought digital copies useless. For anyone who loves to own the real thing, there will always be DVD/Blu ray and now 4K releases. Vinyl made its way back from being 50p in a charity shop to back on the shelves, cassette tapes are also having a mini comeback. CDs might not have the same appeal, but, you never know.


Monday 18 January 2021

Neo Noir: Miller's Crossing



"I am gonna send you to a deep, dark place and I am gonna have fun doing it!" - Eddie Dane

Despite being set in 1929 the story is still a classic neo noir. Not with femme fatales and noble men trying to save them but with criminals, gangsters and mixed messages. The most interesting way to read this film was to understand the motives and character of Tom Reagan. He's our would be hero but he's shady as the rest of the gang. But he does have one weakness, Leo, his boss and best friend. If we read that Tom is in love with Leo, everything falls into place and his actions sense. He does everything for him. In fact there is good evidence to read into the other male relationships too as being sexual. This makes a whole of sense, not to mention the incestuous relationship between Bernie and Verna and why no other guy is interested in her. A fascinating story that goes beyond the gangster genre. 



For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Sunday 17 January 2021

Neo Noir: Wild Things


"People aren't always what they appear to be. Don't forget that!" - Ray 

With more double crosses than you can shake an alligator at, Wild Things really goes above and beyond to try and trick you into thinking it’s a cleverly devised thriller disguised and several ways; a teen thriller, erotic thriller (at a push), revenge flick and straight forward crime story but of course its deep seated neo noir at its core, especially with the very unsavoury relationship this teacher has with two of his students.


For more #noirvember & #NeoNoir follow @little_sister_filmnoir


Thursday 14 January 2021

Watch List: December



Without comparing this to the 1998 film, there is merit in the story and the spectacle and it’s an uplifting tale of bravery and honour BUT because this is a live action Disney film, the fact that characters are very much altered/added, there are no songs and Mulan’s character is changed beyond recognition. The agency of our heroine’s character is about saving her father but here, she’s a tomboy, has some special power and is already a warrior. The development of Mulan’s being is all off balance which makes the film off centre. This was such a missed opportunity. 3/5 



 Full review can be read over at Filmhounds HERE. 3/5


Just when you thought that body swapping films were dead and buried, you’re hit with a gory as hell comedy(ish) horror where Vince Vaughn plays a teenage girl. Beginning with usual slasher deaths and intrigue including a special knife that allows you trade bodies. Then the film launches into a blood bath with revenge deaths handled by the serial killer while the heroine is trapped in a man’s body running around town with her friends trying to catch said killer. It’s very entertaining. 4/5 


Undertaking Betty

With cast that features ‘award nominated/winning’ before their names deserves a watch especially as the cast features Christopher Walken as a funeral director with outlandish ideas and yes, he does dance at some point. Betty and Boris (the other funeral director in the small Welsh town) are in love but they can only be together if they fake Betty’s death, apparently. There are so many bizarre things in the film it was pleasant surprise of a film that could have easily been terrible. 3/5 



Pixar has a way of breaking into your mind, heart and now, soul too. A beautifully illustrated story about a musician who's been looking for his big break, obsessed with Jazz and focused not much else. Joe looks back at his life and it’s not filled with great memories or achievements or at least this is what he sees in himself so instead of thinking of taking stock of his life, he continues to obsess about his one big shot which he was so close to before he ended up in the great beyond. The detour he takes is trying to convince another would be soul to take the journey but of course this soul doesn’t want to go. The clashes between characters is very clear and from this meeting you can predict what happens next which doesn’t take away the heartfelt moments but it does make for a less exciting story. I also wonder, as did most people, how was this aimed at children? There is practically nothing that young children could enjoy. Most of the existential discussions will go far over most children’s heads. But if this was really for adults to enjoy then, it makes sense. 3/5


Wednesday 6 January 2021

Anything For Jackson

With hints of Rosemary’s Baby mixed into this gory tale of grief and obsession, Justin G. Dyck’s Anything For Jackson really does get under your skin and stays there even after the bone chilling end.


Mourning the tragic death of their grandson, Satanic couple Audrey and Henry, kidnap a pregnant woman in order to use her baby to bring their grandson back. Using an ancient book and reciting a ritual they don’t quite understand, they invite more than Jackson’s spirit into their home.


Having made quite an impression at the latter end of last year, Anything for Jackson is something of an oddity as well as any horror film aficionado’s dream. Packing into the film several terrifying moments, twists and turns, the sweetest Satan worshiping couple you’ll ever see and of the most architectural marvels of a house. As the bare bones of the plot is easy to add on to Dyck is able to add more into scenes and the main characters. Beginning with a calm and distressing hoping, which is given context through a flashback later on in the film, the story unfolds in a peculiar way, creating tension and curiosity. This is thanks mostly to our protagonists, Audrey and Henry. They are in a Satanic cult but are also a friendly doctor and devoted grandmother. They are the least suspecting couple to kidnap and perform dangerous and evil filled rituals on, but grief does take us to dark and desperate places. Despite the heinous acts Audrey and Henry commit, they remain themselves, never over dramatic, never cruel. Treating their captive with as much dignity as they can without letting her get away. The bumbling behaviour of people their age is also brilliantly observed and manages to stay authentic amongst the ghosts and Satanic church gatherings. 


Strangely enough, director Justin G. Dyck’s background has been in making cheerful, frothy ‘holiday’ films, but they have prepared him for his transition to the dark depths of horror, keeping the family element alive here. With familiar genre tropes used, the injections of dark comedy seep through the crack and a make a clever relief from the gore and blood we’re inflicted with. The best moments and scenes in the film belong to Shelia McCarthy and Julian Richings as the central couple. Their chemistry and charm are what makes this horror an utter delight to watch which you can’t say for any other film in this genre out there. The surprises thrown out throughout the film, including the bloody end, are ones we’ll hopefully see in more ‘traditional’ horror films, just to keep things fresh.

Saturday 2 January 2021

New Year, New Hope

 I've had the tradition of writing a post every December 31st or there abouts and this year the post is for the first day of the year instead. I recently came across a compilation of clips from 2018. It was for the 1 Second Every Day app which I didn't get to complete because the app stopped working. Back then I thought 2018 was the worst year ever, mainly because I'd been forced to leave a job I loved but in fact the year was one the best. I travelled, I had had great times with friends, I saw and tried new things and yes I may have had 3 jobs that year, but I got to go to film festivals and make progress with my writing. 2019 wasn't a good year, over shadowed by losing someone very important to me. But there were moments where I had had a good time, seen things, been places. So there things to be grateful for. This year has something completely different. This year has been terrible for everyone everywhere in some way. After this year, I will take nothing for granted ever again. 

Like most people, the year began really well and hopeful. I started a new job which I enjoyed. I finally moved into my new flat, my own space. I got to continued to celebrate friends' 30th birthdays. I was getting writing done, going to screenings. I was learning more about Tarot. Things were looking up. Even after lockdown and the months of separation, working meetings on zoom, cinemas being closed, which affected me work wise and personally, I still managed to salvage some moments where I felt I had achieved something worthwhile. 

I got to see my family, a few friends and tried to continue on as much as I could under the circumstances. There were silver linings this year. I have my job, I have my flat and I did meet someone. Thankfully my friends and family are safe and well. And as things are, I'm grateful for this. 

I'm not making big sweeping resolutions this year except to keep positive. 

Happy New Year everyone!