On Sunday the 30th June 2019 I did two of my favourite things. I took a long walk through the city of London and watched loads of short films.
London is obviously a very busy city and hive of activity during the week. However, on a Sunday it, despite there still being traffic, is way more peaceful. Well, especially from eight in the morning until around lunchtime. Indeed, until I got to the tourist trap that is Westminster it had been a pleasure to walk down the Thames Embankment and through the city of London.
I set out to walk from Clapham to Hackney and my destination was the Yard Theatre, Hackney. I made the walk of around ten miles in good time and the event was The Shortest Nights 2019 – Short Film Festival.
The Shortest Nights is an annual celebration of British short film. They bring you five cutting-edge programmes across a range of themes and genres featuring new works from emerging British filmmakers.
The people running the event are so enthusiastic and put on a great array of different British short film productions. Overall, there were thirty-nine short films and I watched all of them. It was a great day and I was especially impressed by the: comedies, horrors, documentaries, dramas, animation and art-house films on show.
There were low-to-high budget short films of brilliant quality and the programmes were broken down into five categories. So, if you ever get a chance to go to their film events I recommend it to all filmmakers and film fans alike.
2018-2019 – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR F.C. – SEASON REVIEW
This year I have really tested my discipline by embarking on a sober year of not drinking alcohol. This is a personal challenge for health, financial and for-the-hell-of-it reasons. One thing I have noticed from this experiment is that drinking alcohol and the level of enjoyment when watching football are inextricably linked.
High or drunk on booze can heighten the enjoyment of football to riotous levels. Although, it can also create lows of soul-crushing despondency in the face of my teams’ defeat. Ultimately, while sober a football game becomes more a cerebral dissection rather than an emotional rollercoaster.
Thus, being a Tottenham Hotspur F.C. fan I have found that since being sober my support has been more logical and Mr Spock-like. That isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed a fantastic season of giddy high and the occasional lows. Here’s a little review of how Spurs season went for 2018/2019.
SCORES ON THE DOORS – 2018/2019
Premier League finishing position: 4th
Premier League total points: 71
Premier League goals: 67
Champions League: THE FINAL – IT WASN’T A DREAM!
FA CUP: 4th round
Carabao Cup: Semi-final
Top Scorer: HARRY KANE – 24 goals in all competitions.
Most Assists: CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN – 16 assists in all competitions.
Highest Attendance: 81,332 v. Arsenal – Premier League – Wembley, March 2019.
SEASON HIGHLIGHTS – 2018/2019
Where do I start? The Champions League, of course! While we would ultimately lose in an underwhelming game to Liverpool in Madrid, Spurs had a charmed and gutsy run to the final. I mean who could ever forget needing three goals in the second half to beat Ajax away and coming back to win. LUCAS MOURA’s last minute goal in injury time is one I WILL NEVER FORGET! Allied to that incredible night, Spurs almost got beaten by Manchester City in the previous round, when a last-minute offside goal was correctly ruled out by VAR. Lastly, we almost went out against Inter Milan and Barcelona in the group stages too, but last ditch goals saw us through.
Overall, throughout the season we mainly battled and scrambled to many results in the Premier and Champions League. We rarely hit the performance heights on the pitched compared to previous seasons, in my view. While we were very solid, it was only in games against: Everton (6-2 away win), Bournemouth (5-0 home win), Chelsea (3-1 home win) and Borussia Dortmund (last 16 Champions League win), where we really demonstrated total dominance throughout games.
Sadly, our indifferent performance standards, were not helped by key injuries to: HARRY KANE, DELE ALLI, HARRY WINKS and JAN VERTONGHEN, led to THIRTEEN DEFEATS in the Premier League. Thankfully, we held onto fourth place due to our rivals being a bit rubbish too.
The other major highlight of the season was the new stadium was FINALLY completed at White Hart Lane. I have not been yet as tickets have always sold out, but I look forward to going next season! Wembley was great and I went to some amazing games, but there’s no place like home – and what a home it is!
MANAGER, PLAYERS AND TEAM
Firstly, MAURICIO POCHETTINO and his coaching staff, in my view, are incredible. For whatever reason, by choice or Chairman Daniel Levy’s decree, we did not SIGN ANY NEW PLAYERS! I think this was a mistake. Our squad, while of high quality, became very stretched due to injuries and a fixture list pile-up. This meant Pochettino was forever juggling the players at his disposal; so it is full credit to his management that we had the season we did.
There were many fine players for Spurs. Some were not as sharp due to injuries and those jaded by England’s almost glorious World Cup campaign. HEUNG-MIN SON was voted our PLAYER OF THE YEAR for his buccaneering attacking play. He was brilliant throughout, scoring goals and scorching defences with his wicked pace.
MOUSSA SISSOKO was very close to winning best player of the season with a series of revelatory performances in midfield. TOBY ALDERWEIRELD was outstanding in defence, while HUGO LLORIS was so solid too; even saving a couple of crucial penalties during the season. Despite some terrible ankle injuries HARRY KANE was our top goal scorer and CHRISTIAN ERIKSEN, despite his form deserting him at the end of the season, remained our most creative midfielder.
Special mention must go to LUCAS MOURA who scored vital goals throughout the year. He was SO unlucky not to start the Champions League Final, especially after his heroics in Amsterdam. I mean, he was the player that SCORED A HAT-TRICK IN THE SEMI-FINAL. He definitely should have started in the final.
THE FUTURE AND BEYOND. . .
I have come to accept that Tottenham Hotspur F.C. is a proud and high quality team to support. It is a shame we are very much a nearly team though on the pitch, finding opponents with that bit more quality or luck when it matters most. But, we are a very well run business with an incredible new stadium. Indeed, the T.H.F.C. brand has never been shinier and the future hasn’t been brighter.
I would expect rather than hope we can purchase three or four top class players to add to our squad because the manager cannot fire us to glory without the ammunition on the pitch. There is only so much magic MAURICIO POCHETTINO can perform year after year.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? A BRIEF CONSIDERATION OF FILM TITLES
While reviewing the entertaining HBO show Barry, it struck me that I have an irrational dislike of film and TV programmes which resort to using people’s singular names in the title. Why, though? Let’s be honest: it’s not a big deal. So, why does it bother me? To answer this question I decided to a hold a brief whimsical exploration of such titles.
Titles are important. They create the first contact for the audience. They pull you in or push you away before you even know who made the film or who stars in it. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a film called: Jaws (1975) or Alien (1979) or The Terminator (1984)? Conversely, who wants to watch a film called The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 (2008)?
Obviously, big decisions are made at the title-naming stage of any works. Or are they? I think naming a film after a single name, on the surface, just seems a tad lazy. But, on reflection, using single names for the titles of a film or TV show can be impactful and to the point.
It’s weird, because I don’t mind place name titles at all. In fact, Fargo (1996), is one of my favourite films. The singular title just works. Similarly, so does Chinatown (1974). Fargo, especially, names both a place and the two syllables within the place — ‘far’ and ‘go’ — suggest the actions of the characters in the story. Chinatown, on the other hand, is more poetic; naming a place but also hinting at something exotic and mysterious. Either that or a cultural area where you can visit and perhaps get a certain kind of food.
I also don’t object to personal names being part of the title. For example, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), is such a great title because it’s better than just plain old ‘Rosemary’. What does the singular Rosemary tell us? Very little. But add the ‘baby’ element and you conjure up suspense and a desire to know what will happen to Rosemary and her child. Similarly, When Harry Met Sally (1986), is a simple yet delightful title which tells you the character names, events and we’re most likely to witness some form of romance.
It may be that the film is an adaptation and just named after the original source material. Rebecca (1940), by Daphne Du Maurier is a good example of this. Rebecca works for me though as the name has a haunting feel; and this is certainly confirmed once you read the book or watch the film. On the other hand, the film Carol (2015), feels benign in comparison. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s literary classic, it’s a sumptuous and touching romance, however, the title did not draw me in. It was only when I saw the cast and that it was directed by Todd Haynes, I decided to watch it.
The best singular name film is Rocky (1975). Here is a classic underdog story of a boxer who is Rocky by name and rocky by nature. He’s streetwise but lacking intellect and seems to have literal rocks in his head. He’s scrabbling around trying to make ends meet with a head as hard as rock too. But, because of this he can take the blows and punches and still come back for more. We love the character because he never gives in; he literally rocks!
In conclusion, like everything, there are good and bad examples of film titles. Some singular named titles work way better than others. Titles like: Barry (2018), Dave (1993) and even a fine film like Carol, seem weak to me. Meanwhile, a title like Rocky just works perfectly. Anyway, here are eleven singular named film titles which also fly against my pet annoyance and mostly work really well.
With Avengers: Endgame gloriously bringing to a close the twenty-two film interconnected multiverse, I thought it may be fun to pick my favourite films of the superhero releases. Of course, that won’t be the end of the Marvel/Disney money-making behemoth but we can take a breath for a moment.
In keeping with Thanos’ modus operandi I have chosen half of the films in release date order. At the end I pick — under pain of death — my favourite THREE! My favourite three are based on impact on release, entertainment value, quality of story, direction and writing etc. Plus, they are films I could watch again and again. Although, to be honest I can watch most of them again as they are all such fun and easy viewing.
If you would like to read my review of Avengers: Endgame – then you can find it HERE.
MY TOP ELEVEN MARVEL UNIVERSE FILMS (IN ORDER OF RELEASE)
IRON MAN (2008)
AVENGERS: ASSEMBLE (2012)
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016)
DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017)
BLACK PANTHER (2018)
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR (2018)
AVENGERS: ENDGAME (2019)
MY TOP THREE MARVEL UNIVERSE FILMS (BY PAIN OF DEATH)
I love a good train film. They make perfect settings for suspense, thriller, horror, comedy and, in fact, any genre. This is because they contain movement, pace and a destination too. Above all else they trap the characters within a confined space, thus creating an abundance of opportunities for drama and action.
In this little article I pick out six of the best films I have seen that have been set mainly on a train. I omit films which, while they may have had a train or train station setting they also veered into other locations. Thus, for the purpose of this piece classics such as Strangers on a Train (1951), Brief Encounter (1945), Great Train Robbery (1903), and Source Code (2011) are cruelly omitted. Lastly, I’m sure there are loads I have missed off so please do suggest any.
**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**
THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (1976)
Germ warfare, a runaway train, European terrorists and and all-star cast feature in this pretty awful disaster movie which I absolutely loved watching as a kid. The cast get their payday and we get Martin Sheen, Burt Lancaster, Sophia Loren, Richard Harris and OJ Simpson etc. all hamming it up to great effect.
THE LADY VANISHES (1938)
This is still one of my favourite Alfred Hitchcock films. Starring the radiant duo of Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, the sparks fly between the two amidst a fast-paced spy plot. Hitchcock takes his time establishing the characters at the start but really ratchets up the suspense when no one believes Lockwood’s assertion a woman has gone missing.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)
Agatha Christie was a genius and this story is one of her best. What we now consider to be a cliched genre, the “whodunnit”, was practically invented and reinvented by Christie and this one has a particularly brilliant plot and ending. Even though I know who committed the crime the starry cast in Sidney Lumet’s production are a joy to behold. Kenneth Branagh gave us a fine, if unnecessary, remake last year too.
Cruelly buried by the Weinstein studio, this under-rated graphic novel adaptation was absolutely brilliant. Set in an apocalyptic future, the train becomes an analogy for class struggle between the haves and have-nots. Bong Joon-ho directs Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton expertly, as the film marries social commentary and blistering action with aplomb.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (1974)
Another film I watched the hell out of as a teenager, this classic New York Metro set film is gritty, funny and as tense as waiting for test results. Walter Matthau provides the everyman charm as he attempts to negotiate with Robert Shaw’s menacing criminal. A big influence on Tarantino, this little classic remains one of the 1970s unheralded crime films.
TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)
Zombies on a train – I’m in! What an amazing movie, as this kinetic mix of horror, family drama and action grabs you by the throat from the start and never lets go! While taking a lead from World War Z (2013), notably the ferocious plane set-piece, it surpasses that zombie film with an incredible pace, violence and unrelenting tension.
Hello 2019! So, here are my favourite twelve films of last year. It was a very decent and enjoyable year across cinema and streaming platforms and these are, not necessarily the best, but the ones I enjoyed the most that were released in the last twelve months. I obviously may have missed some films so please do point must see movies if I have. For the record I have taken into account all cinema, Netflix and film festival releases I have seen. Lastly, for comparison I also include 2017’s list first.
Favourite films of 2017!
A GHOST STORY (2017) BABY DRIVER (2017) BLADERUNNER 2049 (2017) BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017) COLOSSAL (2016) THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017) DUNKIRK (2017) FENCES (2016) INGRID GOES WEST (2017) SILENCE (2016) THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017 WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)
FIX FILMS RETROSPECTIVE #6 – THE CHESS GAME (2012)
TITLE: THE CHESS GAME (2012) – short film (15 mins)
TAGLINE: “Not all of us are destined to be Kings!”
DIRECTOR: Gary O’Brien
WRITERS/PRODUCERS: Paul Laight and Gary O’Brien
CAST: Philip Delancy, Bill Thomas, Tyrone Atkins, Bobby Freeman and Andy Davies
I haven’t written one of these short film retrospectives for a while but I thought I’d look back on my sixth short film – The Chess Game – and how it came to be made.
We hadn’t written or produced a film since 2008 when Elephant Trunk (2008) was released. Looking back it was for a mixture of personal and financial reasons. I mean making short films is a passion but sometimes the amount of work you put in can sometimes be the only reward. It is pleasing to complete a film but then what do you do? With Elephant Trunk (2008) I should have tried to get it into more festivals but ultimately I did not market it well enough. Moreover, I’d started doing more stand-up comedy as a creative hobby so decided to commit to that for a few years. I basically did not have enough time for filmmaking, especially with other family and work commitments.
In 2012, my filmmaking partner, Gary got in touch and quite rightly said it was about time we got back on the horse, as it were, thus we began working on the script that would become The Chess Game (2012). He had a basic premise of a seemingly harmless person living in a village fully integrated into the community. However, that said individual was actually hiding a secret past. We wrote the screenplay and, in terms of its length, became an ambitious thriller focussing on themes of guilt, revenge and war. It starts simply with the offer of a ‘friendly’ chess match between two strangers and spirals into a game of cat and mouse culminating in a deadly end game. Arguably, the story would probably have suited a Tales of the Unexpected half-hour length but we felt, given the lack of budget, we could do it justice at fifteen minutes.
Once we were happy with the script we raised the very low budget from independent sources and set about casting. We decided to use the talented Phil Delancy, who we’d worked with before and could be trusted to deliver a great performance. We also cast three excellent actors I knew from the comedy circuit in Tyrone Atkins, Andy Davies and Bobby Freeman. With regard to the lead role of Viktor, we knew we’d have to cast someone of great experience. Here was a character with charm keeping a dark secret close to his chest. Eventually, we cast seasoned professional Bill Thomas; an experienced screen actor who had been in many television and film roles including: The House Of Eliot, Cutting It, The Bill, Doctors, Holby City, Pusher (2012) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016) etc.
The rehearsal process was fantastic as myself, Gary, Phil and Bill really stress-tested the story and characters. Conversely, it was a script which changed a lot prior to production; not in terms of structure but rather the development of the characters’ motivations. Ultimately, the production would be a very successful shoot over two weekends in Oxfordshire. The story itself stands up to a re-watch as it twists and turns to a big reveal. My only regret is the end of the shoot was a bit rushed, however, the cast and crew were amazing and I think the film is not too bad, despite being shot on a shoestring budget.
Please check out subscribe to our respective YouTube channels if interested in short films and other clips: