Could 2016 be the start of the end for Hollywood’s cinema days?

Hollywood Sign in disrepair, circa 1978 by Bob Beecher

Right now Star Wars: The Force Awakens is busy making box office history.

In only its third week of theatrical release the film is set to overtake the all-time US box office record of $760m set by Avatar over 34 weeks, and after its release in China the sci-fi epic may well be capable of beating the record for the world’s largest grossing film in the history of the box office – also set by Avatar at $2.8bn.

But this is an odd story for the cinema industry, which many artists predicted was on its way out due to the effect streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have had on the way we consume movies.

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The Golden Globes: Who will win vs. who deserves to

Golden Globes 2016 via NBC

Earlier this week the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their nominations for 2016’s Golden Globe Awards.

Sadly, as any commentator worth their salts will attest, both the nominations and eventual winners fall prey to dubious Hollywood politics. Genre films, independent gems and even depressing age statistics can lead to outrageous but all too predictable snubs.

With this in mind, the Right Dishonourable will attempt to answer the questions we all love to speculate on during awards season: who will win and who deserves to win?

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No need to reboot: Spectre and the genius of the Bond franchise

Daniel Craig in Spectre, October 2015 by TM Danjaq and MGM

Box office figures for the new James Bond film show that the longest-running franchise in cinematic history is in excellent health.

The 24th film in the series, Spectre, broke records in its opening week, racking up ticket sales of £52m ($80.4m) in its first six territories.

And whether you love, hate, or don’t care about 007, the 24 movies are a film phenomenon. Decades before Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe or the Star Wars saga, James Bond pioneered something coveted by today’s film studio execs – a “shared universe”.

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The Importance of Being Elderly: Maggie Smith Stuns in The Lady in the Van

Image Credit – From The Lady in the Van by BBC Films

The Lady in the Van ‘s BFI London Film Festival premiere comes a week after new figures revealed that more than half  a million adults are missing out on care due to government welfare cuts.

I expected the film to entertain me – after all, it’s written by Alan Bennett (of The History Boys fame) and stars the brilliant Dame Maggie Smith. However, I didn’t expect the film to have such an emotional impact.

Adapted from Bennett’s 1999 play of the same name, The Lady in the Van is the “mostly true story” of Bennett’s relationship with Mary Shepherd, an elderly, homeless oddball whose van was encamped on the playwright’s driveway in Camden, London over a period of fifteen years.

Some criticism has been levelled at the film for its use of drama. For the most part, the film is a wonderfully whimsical comedy, with a predictably perfect performance by Smith. But what, to me, truly elevated the film was its engagement with issues of homelessness and old age.

Last year, the Institute of Economic Affairs labelled the government’s welfare spending a “debt timebomb”, suggesting that to solve the problem the government needed a “fundamental reform of pension and healthcare provision”. And the Lady in the Van reminded me of just how important welfare for the elderly and homeless is.

Over the past year, both of my elderly parents have relied heavily upon the NHS – I have to admit, I haven’t been particularly impressed. However, the movie alerted me to the plight of even the most impolite senior citizen.

Many of us are guilty of disregarding the aged and impoverished, despite campaigns by various charities attempting to encourage us to think about the loneliness of both situations. The multi-organisation Campaign for Loneliness claims that nearly one million over-65s feel alone and isolated.

In The Lady in the Van, Smith’s character is both verbally and physically abused. There were only a few of these moments on-screen, but they were some of the most important.

Vulnerable people like the old and mentally ill Miss Shepard are undoubtedly more likely to be the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. And yet, most of us avoid such people due to a momentary sense of fear, or perhaps embarrassment.

In the film, Bennett’s arc compellingly exposes a man who transitions from perspectives. The begin with, Bennett sees Smith’s character as just a homeless old woman. Society has all but dehumanized her, and she is nothing but a nuisance to all.

But as the story unfolds, Bennett sheds this view, coming to appreciate that Miss Shepherd has, like anyone, a complex and rich history. She deserves dignity and care, things all too often missing from many people’s final years.

The Lady in the Van is one of those rare comedies that, after all the laughter, makes you pause to consider the real world. It is, without a doubt, one of the most affecting comedies I’ve seen all year.

The Lady in the Van is set for release in the UK on November 13th 2015.

Image Credit – From The Lady in the Van by BBC Films

Life in the time of excess: A Bigger Splash at the BFI London Film Festival

Image Credit – From A Bigger Splash by StudioCanal

There’s a lot to unpack with A Bigger Splash – from the refugees crisis, to our material culture to, well, arses.

A loose remake of 1969 French-Italian film La Piscine, A Bigger Splash follows rockstar Marianne Lane (played by Tilda Swinton) and filmmaker Paul de Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), a fictional celebrity couple on holiday on a secluded Italian island.

Serenity soon turns to hedonistic chaos with the arrival of an old friend (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson of Fifty Shades of Grey fame). As the partying intensifies, each of their lives begins to unravel.

Undoubtedly the film’s most interesting idea is it’s most subtle. Scattered throughout the film are shots of immigrants, mostly huddled in refugee camps – far from a throwaway reference to the crisis in Europe. The movie fawns over the privileged, white, debauched protagonists, despite their careless and destructive ways, whilst the poor immigrants, who only seek sanctuary, are dismissed and ultimately vilified.

What A Bigger Splash really dances with is the seduction and revulsion of our materialist Western culture.

The film has a scintillating sensuality, objectifying everything and immersing the audience in a world of temptations.  The camera is a wandering eye, one never afraid of lingering on a breast or bum cheek.

That isn’t to say that the film’s objectification is misogynistic – everything is fetishised indiscriminately. Fiennes’ penis makes a surprising number of appearances, and the camera traces Schoenaerts’ physique gleefully. Fiennes’ character Harry is said to be happy to fuck anything, and clearly the camera wants to do the same.

We obviously live in a tabloid culture, one in which we relish reading about celebrity sex lives and who went to what club. It’s easy to romanticise and sensationalise these things; We even find perverse pleasure in high profile breakdowns. But the reality isn’t romantic, and whilst the images and sounds of A Bigger Splash may appear sexy, the characters all feel grimy and damaged.

The problem with material culture is that things become just things, they lose meaning, a truth A Bigger Splash confronts us with. The central question of the film becomes: what effect does this loss of meaning have on how we treat human beings?

Just like the booze and the pills and the clothes, people become disposable in A Bigger Splash. The character’s seem to only care about themselves, not each other.

Undoubtedly A Bigger Splash isn’t for everyone. It’s a sometimes humorous, but frequently dark examination of a lifestyle we all seem to aspire to and worship. The film’s a technical marvel, perfect for film fanatics. But if you’re a regular reader of Heat Magazine, this may be one to avoid.

A Bigger Splash is set for release in the UK on February 12th 2016.

Image Credit – From A Bigger Splash by StudioCanal.