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See what I mean about mood? James Wan's The Conjuring

9 December 2013-12-09

Out in the UK This Week The Conjuring (Warner, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) A family living out in the boonies is terrorised by a demon spirit in this moody horror film directed by James Wan and written by twin brothers Chad and Carey Hayes. The Hayes brothers are in their 50s but Wan wasn’t even born when The Exorcist was released in 1973. But he’s definitely seen the film; The Conjuring is an exercise in Exorcist atmospherics – all rosaries, Latin and vomit. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the weird earnest, hucksterish exorcists, Farmiga deliberately going for Ellen Burstyn in her performance, Wilson wisely staying away from any suggestion of channelling Max Von Sydow. … Read more
Aaron Taylor and Anne-Marie Duff in Nowhere Boy

Nowhere Boy

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 8 December John Lennon murdered, 1980 On this day in 1980, John Lennon was murdered by Mark Chapman outside the south entrance of the Dakota building, where Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, had had an apartment since 1973. Chapman shot Lennon four times in the back and Lennon probably died immediately. He was certainly dead by the time medics at the Roosevelt Hospital saw him. Lennon and Yoko Ono had been out for the evening, mixing a track from their forthcoming album. Lennon had the final mix of the track, Walking on Thin Ice, appropriately, in his hand when he … Read more
Napster founders Shawn Fanning and Shaun Parker with Alex Winter

Downloaded

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 7 December Record Industry Association of America files lawsuit against Napster, 1999 This is the day in 1999 that the self-styled “music industry” started its fightback. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Napster intended to prevent it from distributing music over its peer-to-peer file-sharing service. At the time the vast bulk of people didn’t know what peer-to-peer file-sharing was but the publicity that the case caused meant that many more of them soon did – thanks to helpful explanatory articles in newspapers etc. The suit came on top of previous attempts by individuals – notably members … Read more
Knut Osa Greger as Santa Claus in Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rare Exports

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 6 December Saint Nicholas dies, 343AD On this day in 343AD (or CE if you prefer), Nikolaos of Myra died. Born in 270AD, in Patara, Greece, to rich parents, Nikolaos was a devout Christian who became a priest, then a bishop and attended the First Council of Nicea, where he was against the Arian heresy (which states that Jesus is subordinate to God), and signed the Nicene Creed, which is still the mainstream declaration of Christianity to this day. On a less bureaucratic level, Nikolaos became known for the miracles he worked during his life (bringing murdered children back to life, … Read more
Inmates in The House I Live In

The House I Live In

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 5 December Prohibition ends, 1933 On this day in 1933, the USA ended one of its most disastrous experiments. The Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, had been passed on 28 October 1919. It banned “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States…” It had required a change in the US Constitution to get the act passed, which the Congress had finally done on 16 January 1919, when it ratified the 18th Amendment. On 17 January 1920, America went dry. Except it didn’t. What happened instead is that … Read more
Doug Jones as the pale man in Pan's Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 4 December Francisco Franco born, 1892 On this day in 1892, Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was born. He’d later style himself Generalísimo, or Caudillo, of Spain while he ruled the country, from 1939 to 1975. From a military family, Franco was the youngest general in Europe in the 1920s, and rose rapidly through the ranks. With the fall of the monarchy and the establishment of a Republic in 1931, the monarchist conservative Franco became increasingly marginalised and in 1936 he led a coup against the elected government. With help from Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany Franco prevailed in the … Read more
Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 3 December Joseph Conrad born, 1857 On this day in 1857, Jozéf Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, later known as Joseph Conrad, was born in Berdichev, in what was then the Russian Empire. Conrad was the son of Polish nobility and considered himself Polish. Conrad’s father was a political campaigner against the Russian occupation of his country and his activism got him first imprisoned in Warsaw, then exiled to Vologda, 500 km north of Moscow. Conrad was home-schooled by his father, who instilled in him a love of Polish literature and Shakespeare. By 1869 both Conrad’s mother and father were dead and his … Read more
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

The Wrestler

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 2 December Big Daddy dies, 1997 On this day in 1997, the wrestler born Shirley Crabtree in Halifax, England, in 1930, died. Crabtree came from a wrestling family – his father, also named Shirley Crabtree, was a wrestler, as were his nephews Steve and Scott Crabtree (though they both wrestled under the name Valentine). Shirley Crabtree followed his father into the ring in 1952 (the same year that Vince McMahon was creating the WWF brand in the USA). With his 64 inch chest and blond hair, Crabtree became a prominent blue-eye (ie hero type) and won the European Heavyweight Championships twice … Read more
Ryan Gosling in Only God Forgives

2 December 2013-12-02

Out in the UK This Week Only God Forgives (Lionsgate, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) After Bronson, Valhalla Rising and Drive (not to mention the Pusher trilogy) director Nicolas Winding Refn’s cool yet feverish look at violence and masculinity continues with a story set out in the badlands of Bangkok, where moody Ryan Gosling plays Julian, the brother expected to avenge the death of his intensely violent older brother Billy (Tom Burke). But the slightly more sensitive Julian balks, which brings into play his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), a tough old bitch as elemental as any out of Greek tragedy. It also brings into play a retired cop (Vithaya Pansingram), an automaton of remorseless brutality. … Read more
Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able in Monsters

Monsters

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 1 December Military Abolition Day, Costa Rica On this day every year, the people of Costa Rica celebrate Día de la Abolición del Ejército (Military abolition day), as a reminder of the day in 1948 when President José Figueres Ferrer got rid of the country’s armed forces, in particular the standing army. Unusual in itself, this act was all the more remarkable when it is considered that Ferrer was a general who had just led an army to victory in the 44 day civil war in Costa Rica, which had been precipitated by the parliament refusing to accept that the opposition … Read more
Jennifer Garner learns about adult underwear in 13 Going On 30

13 Going On 30

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 30 November Thriller released, 1982 On this day in 1982, Michael Jackson’s album Thriller was released. As I write, it is the biggest selling album of all time. And with unified collections of music now a “take it or leave it” item displaced by technology it is likely to remain so. Thriller has sold around 60 million copies worldwide (estimate) and continues to sell. It was Jackson’s sixth solo album, his second as a mature artist in charge of his career, and because Jackson had renegotiated his royalty rate with his record company only the year before (after the success of … Read more
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 29 November The Zong Massacre, 1781 On this day in 1781 the Zong massacre took place. A Liverpool slave ship called the Zong got lost on the high seas en route for Jamaica and, running low on water, decided to throw some slaves overboard. On 29 November 54 women were thrown overboard. 42 men were jettisoned on 1 December and over the next few days a further 36 slaves were thrown into the sea. A further ten slaves threw themselves overboard as a protest against the inhumane treatment of their fellows. When it arrived at Black River, Jamaica, the ship had … Read more

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