Nightmare Alley

Stan and Zeena

2021’s Nightmare Alley isn’t based on the 1947 film noir of the same name, so we’re told by various venerable authorities. Tell that to the judge. Even if it genuinely is a bona fide and honest reworking of the same source material, William Lindsay Gresham’s smash 1946 novel, even a quick look at the 1947 movie is enough to convince anyone that this Nightmare Alley has seen the older one, taken notes and then studied them hard. This extends to the casting choices. These start with Bradley Cooper as the grifter who starts out as a nobody in a carnival, works his way to the top of showbiz with a mentalist routine, over-reaches … Read more

I’m Not There

Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 19 March Bob Dylan releases first album, 1962 Having dropped out of the University of Minnesota and relocated to New York City to visit the dying Woody Guthrie and break into performing, today in 1962 Bob Dylan released his first album. Eponymously titled Bob Dylan it came about after Dylan played harmonica on Carolyn Hester’s album in September 1961 and caught the eye of producer John Hammond. Hammond signed Dylan to Columbia Records in October 1961 and within five months the album was done. It was a collection of folk standards, coffeehouse favourites plus two Dylan originals – Song to Woody … Read more

The Aviator

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner in The Aviator

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 19 January Howard Hughes sets transcontinental air record, 1937 On this day in 1937 Howard Hughes set a new world record for flying across the continent of America. Flying a H-Racer with extra long wings, he made the journey from Los Angeles to Newark in 7 hours 28 minutes and 25 seconds. The plane had been commissioned by Hughes himself and was innovative in many respects, not least its insistence on all rivets and joints being set flush, which greatly increased its slipperiness through the air. The record was one of many accolades that this man born into wealth would accrue. … Read more

Five Films about Margaret Thatcher

Andrea Riseborough as young Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley

Margaret Thatcher, Mrs T, The Iron Lady, is dead. 31 years ago she was the most unpopular UK Prime Minister in history. Then, after winning the Falklands War she was re-elected in 1983. She was elected again in 1987 before being defenestrated by her party in 1990, a defeat she never quite came to terms with. Politically she was deeply divisive but on one point everyone is agreed – she recast British politics, and to a certain extent global politics, with her doctrine of open markets, privatisation, financial deregulation and tax cuts. Thatcher made the world we live in now. To some she was the greatest prime minister who ever lived, to others … Read more

The Gift

Redneck Keanu Reeves in The Gift

Director Sam Raimi is an expert in genre-twisting. Back when he was making The Evil Dead he so overloaded his gore epic that it eventually became funny. With The Gift he takes on a genre even more arcane: the British whodunit. Then he does weird shit with it. First he transports the whole shebang to the Deep South to remove all traces of afternoon tea or warm beer. Then he gives us Cate Blanchett as a clairvoyant detective who can’t quite make out the identity of the murderer – well, it wouldn’t be much of film if she could, would it? And then, as a masterstroke, he takes a raft of famous faces … Read more