Cinematic Justice & Kevin Costner

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Last night I was invited to introduce Cry the Beloved Country at Stormont Presbyterian church as part of their justice month. I’ll blog a little on Cry the Beloved Country later but first here is last night’s introduction  on how the justice we should strive for looks a lot like Kevin Costner.

What does cinematic justice look like?

Dare I suggest it looks like Kevin Costner but first a little bit of Deuteronomy & James. Deuteronomy is not many people’s go to for biblical quotes and inspirations around just but Deuteronomy 27:19 puts it bluntly for us:

“Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan and the widow of justice”

The biblical imperative is clear long before Jesus of how we are to act.

Some say that faith alone is enough for the Christian. The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus is sufficient and will see us safely into the golden streets of heaven.

I’ve never liked that suggestion.

For me it makes Christianity nothing more than a box ticking exercise. Believe these simple steps and have your ticket punched into the grandest club house of them all.

I can’t believe that.

James 2 14-18 is the antidote to this school of thought an speaks of the value of work and says

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”

One if these works I believe, is the pursuit of justice and that brings me to Kevin Costner.

Costner has never played Jesus on screen but in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves he wasn’t that far away.

Have you ever considered how radical a story Robin Hood is?

King Richard has left for the Crusades and left his brother, John, in charge. John has none of his brother’s good intent and England very quickly descends into a land of greed and corruption with a structure that squeezes its people for all they have.

Taxes up and the value of people down and more scandalous all lords, authority and the church come on board.

One man thought rises up against this.

Robin sets himself in opposition to society, gathers a group of disciples and set about their radical mission. They attempt to redress the balance, taking from the rich giving to the poor, sheltering the infirm and protecting women.

Now you may think I’m stretching parallels and its important to say that I’m not suggesting that seeking justice means taking to the woods with mates, bows and arrows in hand and ambushing people in fancy cars. However when Jesus tell us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick. Robin Hood is no that far away from living this command out.

Ask yourself who is the more Christ like? The outlaw attempting to redress the balance; or the pious priests of the church collecting alms from the poor for the wealthy and refusing to be their advocate?

Robin Hood rises against a society that doesn’t work. Robin Hood takes action against a society that does not protect all of its citizens’ welfare and is no longer fit for purpose.

The question then needs to be asked of us. Are we any further on in 2016?

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Belfast Film Festival 2016 review : Closet Monster (dir. Stephen Dunn)

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Closet Monster is a coming of age tale, with a dash of body horror and a talking hamster (voiced by Isabella Rosselini). That alone should give an indication of the originality of this film.

Oscar (Connor Jessup) is attempting to escape his dead beat town, discovering his sexuality and attempting to deal with the damage caused by the breakdown of his parent’s marriage. This Molotov cocktail of emotion and hormones is from the film’s early exchanges only set to end one way.

After witnessing a hate crime, at an early age, the struggle Oscar feels is partly brought on by his father who, although loving towards his son, advises him to get rid of his floppy long hair in case someone mistakes him as gay. The lasting impressions of this throw away comment and the event surrounding it have a profound and lasting effect on Oscar and the physical churning of his guts at various points provided a few interesting body horror moments that I was genuinely surprised and impressed by.

In his attempts to escape his town Oscar will also escape his father who as the film progresses becomes more monstrous is also an excellent depiction of families. The early moments of the film show a child in awe of his Dad but as he grows older Oscar is more aware of the flaws of his father.

Closet Monster is not a perfect film. The coming out of Oscar, while interesting, is never fully formed. The father son conflict we expect from this event never quite arrives. Plenty of build is given to allow this expected confrontation but it never quite lands bar a couple of brief encounters.

Aaron Abrahams in his role as Oscar’s father is clearly struggling with what he is learning about his son but this is never fully dealt with on screen. The monster we expect never fully arrives. Oscar sees himself as the monster of this piece and his internal wrestling is interesting to a point but it always felt as if he needed further antagonism from his father to fully flesh this out.

A great electronic soundtrack really helps to enhance party sequences and sexual encounters.

This voyage of discovery is interesting and impressive when compared to some of its cinematic kin. It is however not as fully formed and developed as it could be and this is what (for me) stops this film from being great.

A Post for Back to the Future Day

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“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.” – Doc Brown

So today’s the day. The day Doc and Marty land in 2015 and see the world we are all supposed to be living in. As we now know Power Laces never made it (sadly) and Jaws 19 never made it either (probable for the best) but fans today will gather today in cinemas worldwide to celebrate this date contained in what many consider a perfect trilogy.

Back to the Future is without doubt the film that I have from the age of 8/9 repeatedly watched. I love it to bits. If I hear the music I find the nearest chair and settle down for what is to me perfect cinematic comfort food. Back to the Future is in part responsible for my love of movie watching and I am unapologetic in my love for it even though I’m at an age where I should probably know better.

A great family film I’m on the cusp of introducing it to my kids and hoping that it sticks with them as a favourite too. Essentially its a story about family as Marty tries to help his family in the past, the future and (in his relationship with Doc Brown) his ‘family’ in the distant past too.

This is why I feel Back to the Future endures, possibly more so than any other film of that era.

What other film speaks to that motion of family today in 2015 more strongly that Back to the Future?

What other films deals so smartly with time travel (take note people responsible for Terminator Genisys)?

What other film so clearly affirms for us that the future lies ahead, unwritten with unlimited potential?

Tonight I’ll settle down in Belfast’s Grand Opera House and watch one of my favourites and feel the film’s warm embrace again. I hope wherever you are you do too.

Happy Back to the Future Day folks.

Pulp Fiction: Cinematic Grace

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This weekend in Belfast the lovely folk of Pop Up Film Club are hosting a Tarantino weekender. It all kicks off tonight with a midnight screening of From Dusk Till Dawn, Sunday evening its Reservoir Dogs and on Saturday it’s my personal favourite Pulp Fiction (which is sold out).

The guys are promising a fully immersive experience each night complete with 5 dollar shakes, Big Kahuna burgers and even floor space to twist the night away.

It may seem odd for a blogger like me to plug a Tarantino weekend. Violence reigns in Tartantino’s work albeit in an explosive cartoonish way. However there is something about Pulp Fiction in particular that appeals. It may seem odd to say it but Pulp Fiction is  a film filled with the concept of grace.

Grace reigns throughout Pulp Fiction. Amid the body count, in amongst the violence, the drug taking and subsequent overdosing of Mia Wallace (A sequence that I still watch through fingers all these years later) and the cut and paster narrative there is grace in abundance.

Several of the high-profile characters experience a second chance. A second chance that for some characters we as the audience feel is undeserved.

Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is rescued from her previously mentioned over dosed state.

Bruce Willis’ boxer Butch (having showed undeserved grace to Marcellus Wallace) rides off into the sunset on a chopper called Grace highlighting that grace is the vehicle for a new start.

Jule (Samuel L Jackson) inexplicably avoids being shot leading to an ‘epiphany’ for the scripture quoting gangster.

Grace however is unique. It breaks into the most unlikely of places. It upsets the norm. It make us uncomfortable when those we deem unworthy receive it.

Pulp Fiction is violent, it is without doubt difficult to watch in places but it may just be the best example of grace we have on film.