Tag Archives: Eavesdropping at the Movies

José Arroyo in Conversation with David Baldwin, Film Programmer, Midlands Arts Centre

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A conversation with David Baldwin, new film programmer of the Midlands Arts Centre Cinema and former programmer of The Electric, with some timely interventions from Michael Glass of Eavesdropping at the Movies.

An illuminating talk not only about David’s hopes for the Midlands Arts Centre cinema program but also about distribution practices in general, about the different factors that need to be weighed in relation to programming, the availability or lack thereof of works in relation to particular venues, new distribution practices and video on demand.
We talk about programming for venues as part of a network of information on film, the brochure, local listings information, the importance of Filmwire and the usefulness of at least a second screen in relation to what can become pragmatically programmable.
We also discuss audiences from different social formations and how to engage and involve them (LGBTQ, East Asian, Polish, Spanish-speaking, differently abled audiences etc.). What do audiences go to the cinema for nowadays and what to entice them with? How important is the projection system and what do introductions to films and discussions after bring to an event? What’s been doing well and what hasn’t and why?

The podcast can be listened to here:

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 100th Anniversary Extra – Eavesdropping on Ourselves

With 99 podcasts under our belt at time of recording, we take the opportunity to look back and reflect. At Eavesdropping at the Movies we try to speak honestly about what we see and don’t attach too much of a formula to our discussions. Our philosophy – yes, philosophy! – is to try to see films as unmolested by hype and expectation as we can, and to consider questions of aesthetics and individual experience as well as the likes of plot and performance.

So what do feel we’ve done well, what have we done badly or too little of? And are there films that, with hindsight – given that the podcast records our first impressions, by and large – we’d reevaluate now?

A slightly self-indulgent but hopefully frank look at a podcast we’re ultimately very proud of but has room to improve. Happy 100th anniversary!

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 91 – American Animals

 

An imperfect combination of documentary and dramatisation, American Animals gives us a lot to talk about. Its story of four college students embarking on a heist raises ideas of privilege, ambition and hope (or lack thereof), self-image, and above all, masculinity. In its self-conscious invocation of the kinds of films twenty-something white guys adore, such as Fight Club and Reservoir DogsAmerican Animals builds a portrait of the modern young man with which Mike sympathises but which José cannot tolerate.

Neither of us finds the film without deep flaws, and indeed we could not claim to have really enjoyed it. But it is valuable and leads to a lively debate. We use the phrase “American masculinity” a lot without burdening ourselves with defining it, and Mike observes that all films with American in the title are full of themselves.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 80 – The Meg

 

 

Big shark, big Cockney, big fun. We dive into The Meg, a film we can all agree should have been called Chomp. It’s definitely trashy, though precisely how trashy is an area of disagreement. For José, it’s a bad movie. For Mike, it’s a good bad movie.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 79 – The First Purge

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Low-budget, unexceptionally made, and absolutely vital. The First Purge takes the story of the Purge series back to the beginning, with a poor community composed of people of colour being savagely experimented upon for political purposes. Mike slightly had to drag José to see it, as it was showing only in single late-night screenings, but both were glad he did, as it’s perhaps the most direct and powerful critique of white hegemony that popular cinema has offered in recent memory.

We examine the imagery of the deliberate terrorisation of black communities in the USA. It draws on real-life attacks on black churches, Ku Klux Klan members wielding guns in pick-up trucks, and the resurgence of Nazis – one image of a blackface mask being removed to reveal an Aryan stereotype is particularly poetic. Mike finds that the film protects the white audience from their own complicity in the inequality portrayed, but it’s only a nuance, and as José says, we should be so lucky to have such flaws in most films! And José explains why films of this sort come along so rarely. (It’s not about risk. It’s about power.)

There’s simply so much food for thought and we urge you to see it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 73 – Incredibles 2

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After a fourteen-year wait, The Incredibles are back! We discuss how well the comedy is directed, how full of ideas the action is, and our love of Edna Mode and the mad baby. José finds food for thought in the conceptualisation of the antagonist, while Mike makes sure the animation, somehow so often overlooked in animated films, is given its due. And we discuss the imbalance in the treatment of the two main characters, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl.

The podcast can be listened to in the player below or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 66 – Solo: A Star Wars Story

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I hem, haw and get all the actors’ names wrong. Mike is there to pick up the pieces and make lucid comments. We find much to mull over in Solo, which José finds the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back and Mike finds overlong and depressingly dull. Our discussions take in the merits and flaws of the film’s visual design, its relationship to the saga’s history and fans, Ron Howard’s earnestness, the way the film builds a lawless world to develop and reconfigure Han Solo, and more. Is it a textured film with interesting rounded characters played by good actors or is is dull and unstructured? Two very different points of view on the film.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 65 – Tully

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Charlize Theron stars in Tully, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody’s fourth collaboration as director and screenwriter, as a mother of two with a third on the way, heavily put upon and struggling financially and personally, who hires a nanny to help her out at night. We find room for both praise and criticism, José in particular singling out Reitman’s direction for his ire and Mike disappointed in the film’s ultimate treatment of its central female friendship, but keen to discuss its portrayal of stress and mental illness.

 

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 63 – Custody

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This week we go arthouse and discuss Xavier Legrand’s first feature film, Custody (Jusqu’à la garde), though ‘arthouse’ perhaps only in the sense that it’s subtitled. In some ways, the film is shot in a realist style, halfway between British kitchen sink drama and the Dardennes’ more leisurely, microscopic style. The film revolves around a couple in the process of divorce battling for custody of their young son. The boy wants to stay with his mother. Has he been coached? Is his mind being poisoned against his father?

We discuss how the first section is basically an exposition of the law where the father is surrounded by women, how the film initially orchestrates the audience’s sympathy around the father, and how this changes as the film unfolds. Is the film a critique of male privilege? Why is it so unpleasant so watch? Is it material that television handles better? What’s the point of putting an audience through this type of experience? We both adore Denis Ménochet as the father but really praise the whole cast. José loved it; Mike did not. The conversation as to why this is so occupies much of the second half of the podcast.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies – 53 – Ready Player One

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I was bored through most of it and actively irritated by the end of the film. Mike kind of liked it. We talked about references, about address — it’s aimed at boys but some confusion about which generation — the quality of the animation. ‘It’s like a kid’s movie used to be but just not aimed at you,’ says Mike. A work in which the maker of a video game is treated and read as the equivalent of the bible; a sad film indeed. To me further proof that Spielberg doesn’t quite rank with the greatest of filmmakers: incredible technical skills, a prodigy. But to what end? I found it full of pop-cultural references pop-culture geeks will delight in but ultimately dumb and empty. I can’t imagine what people who don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of music, film and video games of the last forty years will make of it. There’s no emotional resonance to this film at all; and its view of human nature and the way the world works is as banal as it gets. Brummies will be interested in seeing how their city is used to signify  a dystopic futuristic Columbus, Ohio. West Midlands News was delighted; more sophisticated viewers might get enraged. Throughout, Mike offers much more generous readings than the above.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 52 – Annihilation

 

 

annihilationAlex Garland’s curious sci-fi adventure comes to UK cinemas – for one single evening. A disappointing theatrical release in the US made Paramount fear that the film wouldn’t make money elsewhere and thus sold it to Netflix, foregoing a theatrical release in most territories outside North America. But we waited for the special event to see it properly. And it was worth it, its stunning visual design singing on the big screen.

But what did we make of the rest of it? Has it stayed with us? Does it cohere? What would we have liked to have seen more of, what surprised us, what did it do well, how do we evaluate its representational strategies? No matter what we make of the details, it’s certainly deserving of a second look, and now we can be grateful rather than rueful that Netflix gives us that opportunity.

Also, Mike bangs on for a bit about Ex MachinaLifeAnomalisa, and The Beach.

 

 

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 50 – Lady Bird

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Our 50th! We finally get around to seeing the one Best Picture nominee we were missing, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. It’s been highly praised, but has the hype hurt it? We discuss its female-centric twists on coming-of-age teen movies, the mother-daughter relationship, its attitude to sex, and the Everyman Cinema in Birmingham, which we visit for the first time.

Recorded on 27th February 2018.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 46 –The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, USA, 2017)

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A discussion of the great Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water, a film full of what he’d describe as eye protein. It’s beautiful to look at and that visual beauty is shaped for meaning and feeling. We discuss how the opening shot evokes Sirk in Written on the Wind, Sally Hawkins’ performance; we have problems with the conceptualisaton of the Richard Jenkins character; note how the film, though it’s set in the Kennedy, era feels 30s. We discuss why all the musical clips are from Fox musicals of the classic era. In short, we discuss its characterisation, its performances, its cinematography, its relationship with the classic cinema and fairytales from which it builds. We use the word “beautiful” about two hundred times. Michael Shannon retains my vote for best actor of his generation in spite of playing a one-dimensional type rather than a fully rounded character. He conveys more with the planes of his face than other actors do with soliloquies. A fascinating but not perfect film.

 

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

39 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Second Screening

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Feeling he gave it short shrift the first time, Mike’s keen to revisit Three Billboards, and drags me along for the ride. With the clumsy handling of race issues clouding the film less, we pick up on listener feedback that leads us into ruminations on Frances McDormand’s Mildred, particularly her defiance of the misogynist society in which she lives and zealous attitude towards collective responsibility, and whether the character of Sam Rockwell’s Dixon truly is a redemptive one.

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Red (Caleb Landry Jones) reads Flannery O’Oconnor

We also double down on our criticism of the film’s use of derogatory terms, comparing this to a similar issue in Tarantino’s films. Mike’s been reading about Flannery O’Connor on Wikipedia, and we consider what would have been gained and lost had the film been written and directed by the Coens.

 

The connection to Flannery O’Connor we discuss is obvious since one of the characters, Red (Caleb Landry Jones) is reading one of her books (see above). However, Andrew Griffin, has pointed out a further connection to another Southern Writer, Carson McCullers’, and her Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which Edward Albee turned in to a play and which Simon Callow made a movie I remember as being stiltedly poetic but with a fierce uncompromising performance  from Vanessa Redgrave at its centre, that is not unlike Frances McDormand’s in Three Billboards.

‘The parallels are quite amazing: a woman who has been brutalized by her husband and ostracized by the town who forms a relationship with a dwarf with explosive, violent results’, says Griffin, ‘ I didn’t think of it until you guys mentioned O’Connor, but thinking about it, the dwarf, the setting, the Redgrave character and the images you posted, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is obviously an inspiration for McDonagh, as both a writer and a director’. I think that’s right and perhaps something to pursue, but not by us; as I think two goes at this film are, for me at least, all I want to give it.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Homophobia in Z

As discussed on our podcast on Z in Eavesdropping at the Movies, Z is a great political film marred by homophobia. In talking to friends about it, many of whom had seen the film on its original release, it became clear that they could not remember this aspect of the film. And yet it seems to me to be central. Vago (Marcel Bozuffi) and Yago (Renato Salvatore) are the film’s main henchmen with Vago taking particularly glee in the damage he causes.

In the first clip (below), shortly after we’re introduced to them, and as Yves Montand’s voice talks of the problems of society and the great ideals he espouses, Yago follows Vago’s gaze, tells him, ‘shit, that’s all you think about’, the camera moves up to show us where Vago’s gaze is leading to, and we see an adolescent boy in his undies. Vago grins knowingly and says, ‘yes’. I have mixed feelings about this.

I like that Vago is unashamed of his desires. I like that Yago, particularly as he’s played by the amiable open-faced Renato Salvatore, knows of it; that Vago is out to Yago and that the latter jokes about this in what seems a ‘natural’ way. I don’t think the response would be any different if Vago had been looking at a woman, say. However, it’s very clear that Vago is meant to be the anti-thesis of the handsome, intellectual, heterosexual, idealist, Doctor/Poltician/Saint played by Yves Montand. Montand’s voice-over is the context through which we see and follow Vago’s gaze.

In the second clip (below), Vago, who has earlier wanted his name in the paper, now, since the police are making a case out of the incident he caused,  wants it out. What the clip shows us is that the newspaper editor is gay and there’s a suggestion of trading sex for favours. This feeds into the old cliché of gay men forming a cabal. Vago then runs to the bar next door and clicks his heels. Is this because he doesn’t have to have sex with the editor who’s his age but too old for him? Is this because his mission’s accomplished? Because he’s high on the havok he’s wreaked? Perhaps a combination of all these? After he clicks his heels he runs to the bar, positions himself next to an adolescent boy, makes sure their hands touch, first trying to make it seem by accident and then very deliberately so. The stereotype of the homosexual preying on vulnerable adolescents rendered explicit, and particularly disturbing in a film which finds cause and reason for and  which humanises every other poor person complicit in causing damage that day.

If it’s not enough that Vago is the anti-thesis of Montand’s Z, preying on young boys and part of a secret homosexual cabal, by the end of the film we’re told he’s a convicted felon found guilty four times, including once for raping a young boy whilst a camp counsellor. So to add to all the damaging stereotypes presented so far, this homosexual is a convicted pedophile.

But that’s not the end, as you can see below, Vago’s thuggery is shown to be brutally misogynist as well.

I find this representation of gay men simultaneously exiciting, unusual and reprehensible in what is meant to be a left-wing film. It’s typical of the era’s politics where the ideal left wing figure is that which Montand represents here (and particularly so considering his star persona of working class Communist man of the people; a model of virility who married Signoret and bedded Monroe); and where to be the era’s most reviled figure is to be that which Vago represents. I suspect the only reasons to make Vago an exuberant thug rather than a mincing queen is to condense clichés of that most reviled by the era’s Marxists into one figure. The gleeful thuggery and lack of shame is what makes Vago unusual and exciting. But to put this figure forth at a time when gay men were actively oppressed in all areas of life seems to me to be reprehensible and one of the film’s great flaws.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 32 – Mountains May Depart

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Mike’s brother corrects our pronunciation of director Jia Zhangke’s name, helping us settle into a discussion of his ambitious, deeply moving tale of friendship and loss that spans two and a half decades. We talk about motifs of keys and coats, themes of capitalism and home, the changing aspect ratios and clarity of the image, the documentary feel to its portrayal of Fenyang and the way of life there, and much more besides. We admire almost everything and still can’t get Go West out of our heads.

Recorded on 11th January 2018.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

You can download it from i-tunes here

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 29 – Molly’s Game

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Eavesdropping celebrates the New Year with a snappy, sharp crime flick about the world of underground, high-stakes poker. We discuss the material’s weakness, our different takes on Molly’s character, the film’s descent into schmaltzy daddy issues, Sorkin’s directorial mediocrity, what David Fincher might have done with the material; the audience’s response to Sorkin’s dialogue; how good Chastain, Elba and Cera are; and the way Star Wars is dominating every bloody screen in every bloody cinema. Mike sounds different because he has a cold; I, because I’m occasionally trying to eat cake and talk simultaneously.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

27 – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – Second Screening

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Mike and I return to a galaxy far, far away, in search of new perspectives and thoughts on The Last Jedi. Mike in particular has been itching to talk more about it since he feels he was unfairly lukewarm the first time. We ruminate on what makes Star Wars feel different to other sci-fi; how films may feel tighter and shorter on second viewing (this one does); Han’s dice; confusion on the resistance cruiser;  we give proper due to the character and performance of Rosie; talk about the great uses of sound in the film; we compare seeing the film in 3D-IMAX and 2-D; whether a Jedi can survive in space; and the differences between the First Order and the Empire, and Hux’s construction as a figure of fun. We still disagree about Mark Hamill’s performance and end the podcast by talking about love.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Eavesdropping at the Movies 26 – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

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I loved looking at it. I loved the action. I loved the world it created. I loved Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro in it. Adam Driver is filmed as a Byronic hero, anguishingly romantic and at his sexiest. It’s my favourite film in the series, including Star Wars V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Mike felt differently. Matt Moore, also a bit lukewarmish about the film as a whole, joins us for this discussion and points to how the film focusses on female characters and interestingly alters the focus of the series.

We discuss how the film represents a shift from an aristocratic focus on blood and destiny to a more democratic purview on social change everyone, of whatever class, race or ethnicity can engage in. Mike came out of the film gleefully playing with a light-sabre only to sit down and slash through what he saw as the film’s weaker points, though he also points out how he believes Rian Johnson is the right director for the film and how, in spite of its faults, it truly does feel like a Star Wars film. Lots of spoilers.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

 

Matt Moore, José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Recorded on 17th December 2017.

Flatliners – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 9 – 7th October 2017

 

With a weary sigh, we get to Flatliners. Ellen Page, James Norton, Diego Luna and Kiersey Clemons expand their minds and run around shitting themselves in fear. Questions abound: Why did they call this Flatliners when the obviously correct title is Hot Doctors? Was Kiefer Sutherland wasted? Is it wise to be wasted while appearing in a film? In precisely how many millions of ways is the film inconsistent? Just how stupid and blind is its attitude towards the very real problems it presents? Does it make sense as a horror flick? Just how obsessed are Mike and Jose with the cast’s attractiveness? Who’s hotter, the ginger guy or the hot girl? All this and Catholic guilt too.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film