Taking A Pass: 30th Leeds International Film Festival

I naturally learned about Leeds International Film Festival promptly upon starting my first year of studies at Leeds University. Due to an overwhelming amount of trepidation about a great many things at the time (as many freshers experience) I attended a grand total of zero films. In the following years I vowed to not make the same blunder.

As a result, some of the strangest films I’ve seen over the course of each year are from the festival, including The Bothersome Man (the story of a man trapped in purgatory) and 22nd of May (about a security guard reliving a shopping mall bombing he failed to prevent). One of the most interesting experiences I had was getting trashed at a metal night before dragging myself out of bed to go watch One Piece: Strong World. Suffice to say, hungover and with no prior engagement with the source material is no way to watch what I later learned was the tenth movie installment of a manga series.

Since then I’ve seen the self-congratulatory lows of Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns to the neon highs of Blade Runner on the big screen. I even got to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing with two hilarious accompaniments:

1) A pre-recorded interview with Carpenter, in which he humbly expressed little desire to praise his own work over other people’s, which made the twenty minutes the interviewer spent trying to make him do so seem as awkward as possible, and…

2) A woman sitting one row ahead of me who had very clearly not seen the film before and likely made five permanent dent marks in her partner’s arm, applying a vice-like grip throughout a good portion of the film.


But this year, the festival’s thirtieth, I’ve taken the plunge and bought an individual pass so I can finally go absolutely berserk. Here’s my upcoming schedule, my pre-film expectations, and I’ll update them with post-film responses as the festival rolls on:

Friday November 4th – Interstella

Pre: Music video movie of Daft Punk’s album Discovery. An alien rock band’s superfan trying to free them from the clutches of an evil music mogul? I’ll have me some of that.

Sunday 6th – Schneider vs. Bax

Pre: Foreign movies are a good source of black comedy, so I’ve got good expectations for this one about a hitman’s job gone wrong. And ‘hitman’ is essentially the best occupation you can give a movie character without having to actually delve into their past, so it’s already ticking boxes in my book.

Sunday 6th – Under the Shadow

Pre: Sunday is my first double-header, with Under the Shadow being the UK’s foreign language Oscar entry. It’s looking to be a ghost story, but not necessarily a horror, so that says to me ‘enough supernatural elements to creep me out, but enough story sense to give me it in tiny doses’. My over-under on jump scares is 2.5.

Monday 7th – The Birth of a Nation

Pre: Nate Parker’s racial powerhouse doesn’t appear to be getting the slam-dunk responses that were suggested a few months ago, but it still has high-upside potential from ocasisonal stellar reviews. I have the feeling this is going to be either great or okay, with plain old ‘good’ not being an option.

Tuesday 8th – Being There

Pre: Following a rekindled love of Dr. Strangelove, and seeing his stellar work in Lolita, I need more Peter Sellers in my life. I’m just hoping that it’s a few beats away from Forrest Gump and Rain Man (neither of which I’m a fan of). At least I’m almost guaranteed another grade-A performance from Sellers.

Wednesday 9th – Aliens (with Royal Armouries Presents the Pulse Rifle)

Pre: I’m presently in the ‘Alien‘ camp of the great sequel debate, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Aliens on the big screen. Perhaps I’ll be a bigger fan on this go around, and I’ll definitely shout when Bishop gets what’s coming to him. Kickstarted with a presentation about the pulse rifle from the film, and I’ve got the makings of fun evening.

Thursday 10th – The Animatrix and The Matrix

Pre: First time seeing The Animatrix, so I’m looking for at least three enjoyable sections from the anthology. Seeing The Matrix immediately after should also let me judge how well the two work together. Strange how I missed this when I was 8, but making up for it when I’m 25.

Friday 11th – Drive

Pre: If you’ve read anything else from my blog, you’ll know I’m a Drive fanboy. Not much to say other than I’ll try to keep my head-bobbing to a minimum while ‘Nightcall’ is playing. Two home-viewings have taken a little off the edge these past couple of years, so a big-screen setting might juice things up and resharpen the senses.

Friday 11th – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Pre: Another double-header, this time with my favourite Wes Anderson film. Firmly a fan of the beginning and especially the end, so I’m hoping to laugh a little more through the middle and be annoyed a little less by Owen Wilson.

Sunday 13th – Assassination Classroom: Graduation

Pre: Assassination Classroom was a big hit last year at LIFF, so I was pleased to see the sequel make an appearance here. A synopsis has promised me closure, and I’ll likely get it, I just hope it’ll take itself seriously when it should for the sake of drama.

Monday 14th – Amadeus (Director’s Cut)

Pre: I adore the movie and if I could attend one screening, it would be this. The music is going to be incredible and I just hope I don’t have to crane my neck up for three hours. To the balcony seats I go!

Wednesday 16th – 2001: A Space Odyssey

Pre: In what has become a staple of the festival, 2001 is coming to the town hall and I’m honestly intrigued to see the effects of a repeat viewing on me. I’ve only seen it once, back in 2009, and I immediately had a great sense of appreciation for it. But to go through it all again? Like Birth of a Nation, high potential and little chance of a 7-8/10.


So there it is, twelve films across ten days and five different locations in Leeds. If you haven’t already, I implore you to check out the films on offer this year and to try to attend a couple.

I’m pleased to live in a city that hosts one of the best film festivals every year, so if you’re a local as well, are making the trip to Leeds, or are volunteering for the event, let me know with a comment below of what you’re looking forward to seeing!


Control, Access, Delete: How Digital Streaming Turned Us All Into Editors

An interesting development is occurring in the minds of moviegoers as Hollywood increasingly falls back upon remakes, sequels, and franchises. We’ve accepted with open arms the ability to consume content at a massive rate but are (largely) complaining that Hollywood is rarely original.

There are many factors that have contributed towards this – from the fact that Hollywood has built an idea that novels and plays receive a certain cache when a film is adapted from it, to the straight-forward idea that franchises can become secure sources of box office revenue. But considering the way we digest media at this moment in time, why would Hollywood choose now to seek a greater amount of originality?

Read More »

Marathon Maker: What the Hell Am I Doing Driving in LA?

With glamorous lifestyles, beautiful beaches, and the home of Hollywood itself, Los Angeles is the setting of some film’s all-time greats. From action greats like Die Hard and Speed to Hollywood love letters in the form of Singin’ in the Rain and The Artist, the LA landscape has been given the spotlight in ever-changing ways ever since becoming the backdrop for film noir.

For this marathon, we’ll be looking at a very particular facet of LA: its night-life. Which, of course, is full of terrible people doing terrible things. Because LA is a living dream by day and a cesspool by night. The following movies trawl the streets finding everything from neon clubs to murder and drugs. Let’s see how each one tours the city, and see if I can make it so you never trust a stranger trying to lend you a ride ever again.

Read More »

Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet (2002)

“spirit of adventure”

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, Emma Thompsons and David Hyde Pierce

The space pirate landscape of Treasure Planet makes for a grand adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale. Everything has a touch of futuristic-old-fashioned and the scale is naturally massive. Buried treasure pales in comparison to an entire planet worth of riches and galaxies sparkle like glistening oceans to portray an environment well-travelled yet difficult to traverse. Besides aesthetically, it doesn’t venture too far from other retellings and a mid-movie sidekick addition is occasionally grating. Overpowering everything, however, is a contagious sense of wide-eyed ambition. I can only wonder what grand adventures we could have seen if this wasn’t an adaptation.

John Silver: Look at you! Glowing like a solar fire. You’re something special, Jim. You’re gonna rattle the stars, you are!

Further Reading:
Tom Robinson et al. “The portrayal of older characters in Disney animated films.” Journal of aging studies 21.3 (2007): 203-213. available from Research Gate here

Chris Pallant “Neo-Disney: Recent developments in Disney feature animation.” New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film 8.2 (2010): 103-117 available here

What do you think of Treasure Planet? Leave a comment below!

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

“neon nightmare”

Directed by Jason Eisener
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey and Gregory Smith

Hobo with a Shotgun is far from my usual tastes. Low-budget and large violence seldom grips me and characters feel like rag dolls being messily flung around. However, what is undebatable is the film’s wonderful 80’s vibe, topped with an angry but not uncontrollable performance from Hauer. Music is electronic, colours are over-saturated and it does a damn fine job of replicating a style that many other movies fail to pass off as authentic. It’s clearly a movie made with care and of surprising heart, even if that heart ends up getting ripped out and set on fire.

Drake: When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat… covered in razor blades.

Further Reading:
Film School Rejects’ SXSW review available here

Clark Collis’ article for Entertainment Weekly ‘Hobo With a Shotgun: How a $150 fake trailer became the year’s maddest movie’ available here

What do you think of Hobo with a Shotgun? Leave a comment below!

Lost in Translation

Lost In Translation (2003)

“moment of weakness”

Directed by Sophia Coppola
Starring: Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris

There’s a very special kind of love on display in Lost in Translation. Tokyo transforms into a bizarre version of Rick and Ilsa’s Paris, where landmarks stir no emotion and translations remove detail from the world. It’s a movie concerned with trying to understand the unknown as Charlotte (Johansson) is paralysed by her future and Bob (Murray) is broken by his past. Though there’s a fair share of moping, between them, in Tokyo (and perhaps only for a week or so) they help tell each other that everything’s going to be okay. And that moment trumps any soppy, grandiose gesture.

Charlotte: Let’s never come here again because it would never be as much fun.

Further Reading:
Eduardo Urios-Aparisi’s ‘Dramatizing Intercultural Communication: Metaphors of City and Identity in Film‘ from Intercultural Communication Studies XXII: 3 (2013) available here

Tessa Dwyer’s ‘Universally speaking: Lost in Translation and polyglot cinema’ from Linguistica Antverpiensia, New Series–Themes in Translation Studies 4 (2005) available here

What do you think of Lost in Translation? Leave a comment below!

Tomorrowland pin

Tomorrowland: A World Beyond (2015)


Directed by Brad Bird
Starring: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy and Hugh Laurie

With vibrant colours, globe-trotting chases and brilliant visual effects, Tomorrowland is a healthy injection of optimism ready to reinvigorate a generation of young people in the information age. Resting in the middle of this light-hearted, family romp is a legitimate, critical jab at our apocalyptic media landscape. Tomorrowland is not somewhere our characters can escape to; instead a call for bygone ingenuity. The perfect analogy is found in Frank’s (Clooney) childhood makeshift jetpack. Does it do anything revolutionary? No, but the sheer excitement and spirit raised by its sights and sounds are too captivating for that to matter.

Jenny Newton: It’ll take a long time. A real long time. What if you get all the way up there and there’s nothing?

Casey Newton: What if there’s everything?

Further Reading:
Michael Goldman’s ‘Picturing Tomorrow’ available from The American Society of Cinematographers here

Tomorrowland Analysis: There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, Just a Dream Away post from TheLovePirate.net, available here

What do you think of Tomorrowland: A World Beyond? Leave a comment below!