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There is always a film that everyone is talking about, earlier this year it was Top Gun: Maverick, a few years ago it was Cats.  Maverick, because it was so good, surprisingly good,  Cats on the other hand was for the wrong reason, it was a car crash (so I’m told, I chose not to see it).  But now we have another film that everyone is talking about for the wrong reasons, Don’t Worry Darling, not because it it’s a poor movie, this started way before release.  It is all because of things that may or may not have been going on behind the scenes.  This is a great shame because the film is actually really good!  I’m not going to go into what has gone on, that’s all pretty well publicized, but I will just dip into the effect before getting back to the film.  The film is currently sitting on an IMDB rating of 6.2 but when you dig a little deeper and look at the spread of voting it looks like there is more going on.  Nearly half the voters gave it seven or more out of ten, so you would expect an average in the mid sevens.  However, a whopping 23.3% of voter gave it one out of ten.  Even movies that average around five out of then only get 10-15% one out of ten votes.  In the interest of balance 13.6% gave it ten out of ten, this is also artificially high.  Possibly the Harry Styles effect?  Whatever the reason, I suspect the ratings are even less reflective of the movie than usual.  But so many people choose to watch a movie based on ratings and reviews.

Back in 2009 I predicted Olivia Wilde to be the next breakout movie star.  She was coming off the back of a show stealing performance in The OC and was also outstanding in House, and starting to get film roles.  Although she has had a good career, she hasn’t been the star I predicted.  Little did I know that was a good thing, as it gave her the time to pursue her real interest, directing.  Her first feature Booksmart (2019) was fantastic, and she has a couple of future projects rumoured to be in pre-production including the obligatory comic book movie.  Don’t Worry Darling is a far mor ambitious project in scope, style and production.  Set in an idyllic late 50’s company town that is drenched in pastel colours as much as it is in sunlight.  The production design is nothing short of perfect combined with the cinematography the film has a real visual style and language.  This doesn’t happen by accident; this is clearly a director taking charge of every detail.

It is difficult to give a synopsis beyond the setup, most of which is in the trailer:  Every morning the men, many of whom are somewhat insecure and dweeby, leave their beautiful homes and even more beautiful wives, dressed in perfect suits, and get in their stylish 50’s cars and drive out of town and race across the desert to work at the “Victory Project”, a mysterious endeavour they are not allowed to talk about.  The wives stay at home cooking and cleaning or go shopping and to dance classes.  They know nothing of their husbands work beyond it involves “progressive materials”.  Our focus is on the youngest and most beautiful of the couples, Jack and Alice Chambers (Harry Styles and Florence Pugh).  Making the most of their perfect lifestyle we are introduced to them at a party with their friends and neighbours.  Everyone in the movie, including a pregnant woman seems to have an alcohol intake that James Bond or Don Draper would struggle to keep up with.  The hedonistic lifestyle is personified by Bunny (director Olivia Wilde), she seemingly spends most of the film with a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.  Wilde is fantastic and would steal the show if Pugh weren’t so mesmerising.  The Line “work hard, play hard” is even spoken at one point.  The guru at the centre of the Victory Project is Frank (Chris Pine) and his wife Shelly Gemma Chan, both on top for with a strange creepy charisma of a cult leader, or serial killer.

There is clearly more going on than what we can see on the surface, as the movie unfolds and reveals itself it manages to hold the viewers’ attention and interest, but it never totally lives up to the early promise.  The ending and payoff is good but not spectacular.  If there is a crissum, it is with the script.  The story is a little thin for the visual treat and propulsive direction.  There must come a point when the movie reveals itself, and while the reveal is handled well, it is no great surprise.  This prevents it from ever reaching the greatness of a few movies I was going to mention but won’t for fear of spoilers.  But this doesn’t make it a bad film.  It is dripping with style, and the performances, particularly Pugh and Wilde. Harry Styles isn’t bad, he isn’t the best actor in the world, but he clearly has a lot of charisma.  He spends most of his time alongside Florence Pugh who has repeatedly proven to be one of the best young actors around since her debut less than a decade ago in The Falling (2014), and her breakout role in Lady Macbeth (2016), this sometimes helps him, but at others shows him up. 

While it has its visual style firmly in the 50’s melodrama this isn’t a piece of fluff, but then most 50’s melodramas weren’t either!  There is a lot going on thematically, and its deeper than the trailer would have you believe.  These themes and the subtext are never far from the surface.  Rather than try to put them into words, I am going to borrow the words of Terri White: There are a handful of brilliantly compelling ideas at the heart of Don’t Worry Darling. Bodily autonomy, female desire, misogyny, radicalisation, coercive control, female complicity, late-stage capitalism, the dysfunction of the nuclear family. There is a certain section of society (I would include the 45th US President in that list) who will hate this movie, because its about them.  They will not knowingly go to watch a movie like this, I just hope a few of them stumble into see it by mistake.  Having said that they probably wouldn’t recognise themselves on screen anyway! 

A potentially exciting note to end on, I don’t think this is Olivia Wilde’s masterpiece, I believe she has a lot more to say.  To temper that optimism, if she were a man there would be no question she would get the chance, its never as certain for a female filmmaker.  But don’t worry, I somehow don’t think she is going to let anything stop her. 

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Happy New Year

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A little (two weeks) late, its time for my movie of the month. I only watched five movies at the cinema in October, but it was a great month.  Venom was a little better than I expected, the other four were all excellent:

The Last Duel – Ridley Scott is a little hit and miss as a director, he has made some of my all time favourite movies, he has also made some really bad ones, and lots of average ones.  As he doesn’t write his own scripts, he is very much limited by the material he has to work with.   Happily, he is well served by screenwriters Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Nicole Holofcener.  Its the first time Affleck and Damon have worked on a script since their Oscar winning debut.  Based on the true story of the last legal Trial by Combat in Medieval France.  Told in a Rashomon style with three chapters, each reflecting the perspectives of the three main characters.  The whole cast is excellent, but Jodie Comer really holds the story together. 

Dune – Denis Villeneuve ‘s adaptation of (half of) Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel is finally with us.  I first watched David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune when I was around ten years old.  I loved it and have watched it numerous times since.  A couple of years later I read the book, it was even better.  Villeneuve’s film looks amazing, the cast is fantastic and the storytelling is sublime.  It hits all the same beats of the Lynch movie but is a true adaptation to a movie as it relies on show don’t tell where the earlier version uses a lot of voiceover to speed the story along and vocalise the inner monologue of the characters.  The great news is that part 2 has been green-lit.

The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson is back with an anthology film that is just about the most Wes Anderson movie ever.   The ensemble cast is filled with all the Anderson regulars and a few faces to his repertory company.  Wonderfully quirky, I have heard mixed reviews, personally I loved it. 

Venom: Let There Be Carnage – The first Venom movie had some fun moments thanks to Tom Hardy, ultimately it wasn’t very good, it did however take over $850million at the world boxoffice.  This time they have hired performance/motion capture expert Andy Serkis, but the CGI isn’t the noticeable difference; the story is smaller, simpler and more contained, this is a good thing.  While still flawed, it’s still fun, and better than the first film. 

Last Night in Soho – Edgar Wright’s much anticipated movie is very different to his previous work.  Flipping between drama and thriller it is essentially  a psychological horror that owes a debt to giallo.  Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are both sensational; it is also a fitting final performance for the great Diana Rigg.  If I am hyper critical, it loses its way a little in the final act, but it still works.

If I am objective, Dune is a better movie and will probably be higher on my end of year list, but for now, my movie of the month is the film that haunted me for days after watching it: Last Night in Soho.

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Bond movies have been with us for nearly 60 years, longer than I have been alive.  In that time we have had 25 movies, nearly half of them have featured an Aston Martin.  Every Bond other than Roger Moore (more on that later) drove an Aston at one time or another.  Sean Connery will always be associated with the DB5 from Goldfinger, but he only actually drove the car in that movie and the pre-credit scene in his next movie Thunderball.  I haven’t added up the screen time, but would suggest of all the Bond actors Daniel Craig has spent the most time behind the wheel of an Aston, including two in his latest movie No Time to Die. 

Bond’s relationship with the brand goes all the way back to Goldfinger, not the 1964 movie, but the novel on which it was based.  Fleming’s eight novel, first published in 1958 predates the introduction of SPECTRE (that came two books later in Thunderball), at this time Bonds main adversary was the Russian security service in particular SMERSH.  The chapter where the Aston Martin was introduced is even named after the car “Thoughts in a D.B.III”.  There wasn’t actually a car called the BD III, it was actually, a BD Mark III an evolution of the DB2.  The first mention of the car sees Bond driving the car (fast) towards Sandwich to play golf against Auric Goldfinger at Royal St Mark’s Golf Club (inspired by Royal St George’s Golf Club).  “James Bond flung the DBIII through the last mile of straight and did a racing change down into third and then into second

The next paragraph goes back  to explain how Bond, who up to this point had mainly driven his own Bentley, came to be in an Aston Martin.  “The car was from the pool.  Bond had been offered the Aston  Martin or a Jaguar 3.4.He had taken the DBIII.  Either of the cars would have suited his cover – a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good fast things in life.  But the DBIII had the advantage of an up-to-date triptyque, an inconspicuous colour -battleship grey-and certain extras which might or might not come in handy.  These included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond’s front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barrelled Colt .45 in a trick compartment under the Driver’s seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive an apparatus called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men.” 

Not only did this represent the first time Bond Drove an Aston Martin, but it was also the first time he drove a Q Branch car with gadgets.  Other than a re-read of Casino Royale around the time the movie came out, I haven’t read any of the books since the 90’s,but don’t remember any other mentions of Aston Martin.  By the time the film came along, the latest Aston was the short lived but iconic DB5 (just over 1,000 were produced between 1963 and 65).  I probably don’t need to say any more about the most recognisable Bond car, other than to say it represented the first product placement deal in a Bond movie.  The DB5 (the same actual cars used for Goldfinger) returned for Thunderball in 1965, but were only used in the Pre Credit scene.  This was the last we saw of the DB5 until it made memorable return thirty years later.  But there are couple more cars to talk about before we get to that. 

By 1969 and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Connery had stepped down from the part, and was replaced by George Lazenby, an Australian model with no prior acting credits.  At this time there were two Aston Martins in production, the now dated DB6 that was really an evolution of the DB4 & 5.  And the new more modern looking DBS. This is the car Lazenby drove in the movie. It made sense, a newer more modern car for the new Bond. The car and actor both looked the part, but the Australian’s acting wasn’t that great and diminished what could have been one of the best films in the series. Connery did return to the part for Diamonds Are Forever (1971), his final (official) Bond movie, but didn’t get to drive as Aston this time.  A DBS does feature in the movie, but only as background vehicle.  It can be seen in Q Branch with a missiles being fitted into the engine bay.  Not sure where the engine would go!  Set mainly in America, the “hero” car was a bright red Ford Mustang Mach 1. 

After a false start with Lazenby, Connery’s replacement was found in the shape of Roger More.  Moore never drove an Aston Martin in a Bond film, his most famous car was probably the white Lotus Esprit that turned into a submarine in The Spy who loved me.  And just like that the Story of Bond and Aston Martin ended, Just like the other brand synonymous with Bond, Rolex that has been replaced my Omega as anyone who has seen Casino Royale know. For those that haven’t, seen the movie there is a sledgehammer subtle reference to Bonds new timepiece.

Although he didn’t drive an Aston as Bond, he did have a couple of memorable screen appearances with them. Shortly before he became Bond, Moore appeared in The Persuaders! a TV show that ran for one series of 24 episodes between 1971 and 1972. His character Lord Brett Sinclair drove an Aston Martin DBS.  The car that featured in the show was sold a auctioned a few years ago for a then record for a DBS of £533,500. Moore’s second screen Aston came in the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run, where he played a character called Seymoore, who claimed to be Roger Moore, and drove an Aston Martin DB5 with a lot of the gadgets from the Goldfinger Aston.

The Franchise really lost its way in the mid 80’s with Moores final two movies (Octopussy and A View to a Kill) ranking amongst some of the worst Bond movies.  Fortunately they came back with a bang!  After first choice Pierce Brosnan was unavailable due to TV commitments Timothy Dalton, who had previously turned down the part was convinced to step in.  He may have only made two movies, that while very good, are not amongst  the very best the franchise has to offer.  What he did however was take the character back to something closer to the one from the books.  And, as it turned out it wasn’t the end of the Aston Martin/Bond story. Dalton’s Bond was back where he belonged, behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, two actually despite Q’s attempt to make us believe them to be the same car.  We briefly see Bond driving a Aston Martin V8 Volante (their name for a convertible).  Before it is “winterised” by Q (we see a hardtop being lowered into place).  Its worth going on a slight tangent here.  The reason Bond is driving THAT car is down to one man, Victor Gauntlett.  The then owner/chairman of Aston Martin, Gauntlett negotiated the product placement to get Bond back into Aston.  The reason for that particular car was simple, it was Gauntlett’s car and daily drive at the time.  The Volante fitted with the more powerful Vantage engine, an option that had only just released for sale.  The coupe version seen later in the film was the standard V8 (made to look like a vantage).  Filled with even more gadgets than the DB5 back in the day. This is my favourite Bond car.  Partly I think because I saw one of the production cars up close at a car show when I was a kid, and partly just for the car itself.  It has made a surprising but welcome return to the franchise this year. 

Set in America, Bond doesn’t drive his own or a Q branch car in Licence to Kill. Dalton’s third Bond movie was held up by a legal dispute, and ultimately never happened.  This gave the filmmakers a chance to get their man, Pierce Brosnan.  His first, and by far his best movie GoldenEye came out in 1995, the same year as the BMW Z3.  You guessed it, by this time Bond was fully on-board with product placement (the movie is full of them) and  drove the Z3.  Fortunately there is a scene early on in the movie somewhere along the way somebody conceived a fantastic race scene between Bond in an Aston Martin DB5 and the Ferrari F355 driven by Xenia Onatopp (Famke Janssen) who turns out to be the movies main henchwoman.  It is never made clear if this is Bonds own car or a Q car, but it does have a few gadgets. The DB5 makes a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies, more than can be said for The World Is Not Enough where it a scene was shot with the car but left on the cutting room floor. 

Brosnan’s last movie Die Another Day (2002) is possibly the worst Bond eve.  However, it was the start of a product placement deal with Ford (who owned Aston Martin at the time) allowing Bond to drive the Aston Martin Vanquish.  They really jumped the shark with the invisible car,  but the ice chase was the one good part of the movie, not least because they gave the villain an equally tricked out car, a Jaguar XKR. Its worth looking out the making of documentary to see the lengths they went to to prepare the Vanquish for the ice chase. Jaguar and Land Rover that also belonged to Ford at the time were also used, and have continued to be used in Bond movies ever since.

In a post Jason Bourn world 2006’s Casino Royale gave us a new and very different Bond played by Daniel Craig.  For many watching the new Bond drive a Ford Mondeo was something of a joke.  It was actually yet more product placement as it was the Pre-Production version of the yet to be released new car.  Craig commented at the time, as a prototype it was more valuable than all the Astons and they were paranoid about letting him drive it. Things quickly got better when he won a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 in a poker game.  The second half of the movie is based on the book of the same name, where in the book he drove his own Bentley here, he is given his “company car” an 07 Aston Martin DBS.  An excellent film, but as with so many Bond cars, things don’t end well for the DBS. Quantum of Solace is the first direct sequel in the franchise, despite the unfortunate ending for his last car Bond is given another DBS. While not a traditionally Bond colour, it looks stunning in black. The film opens with a spectacular car chase; the car does survive, sort of!  

Skyfall (2012) gave us a plot reason to drive an old car.  The one he chose really messes with the continuity  of the series, but if you are worried about continuity, don’t bother with this franchise! Bond doesn’t pick the left hand drive DB5 he won in Casino Royale, but BMT 216A, the same car as in Goldfinger and Goldeneye, including all the gadgets.  Car fans, don’t worry, the one that got destroyed was a 3/4 scale replica. 

Spectre (2015) ends with a DB5 (supposedly the car from Skyfall restored by Q) but earlier in the movie Bond takes the car intended for a different 00 agent, a DB10.  A fictional car made for the movie.  A stunning car, but a strange choice for the movie, one of the movies villains drove a concept car that also never made it into production, the equally stunning Jaguar C-X75.

This brings us up to date with No Time to Die that was finally released in 2021.  The now retired Bond is first seen driving the DB5 he was driving at the end of the last film. Spoilers, the new 007 (Lashana Lynch) drives a DBS Superleggera.  The Valhalla hypercar was promised but only appears as a background vehicle.   If you have seen the trailer, you will know the fate of the DB5, he then visits his London lockup (same one as in Skyfall?) and drives away in my all time favourite Aston Martin, a V8 Vantage that shares its number plate with the similar car from The Living Daylights.  The car ends the movie in way that is a fantastic nod to a similar car in an earlier movie, that’s about as much as I can say without getting into spoiler territory. 

I am sure to have missed something, feel free to comment below.  I will leave you with this thought, a franchise that always has one in on the past and is always willing to nod to a previous movie, it is safe to say we haven’t seen the last of these cars.  Daniel Craig’s Bond has twice visited a London lockup and pulled back a tarpaulin to reveal an immaculately restored car from the characters past.  Maybe the next Bond, or the one after that will do the same, but this time they will drive away with Pierce Brosnan’s Vanquish or Craig’s DBS, because one thing is certain, James Bond WILL return…

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Nine movies makes August my busiest movie going month since the start of the pandemic last year.  I have seen some very good films and enjoyed them all, but one really stands out as my movie of the month.  Here are the contenders. 

Jungle Cruise – Given how poor the Pirates movies were you would be forgiven for being concerned about a Disney movie based on a theme park ride, but as bad as the sequels were, the first movie in that franchise was actually really good.  Jungle cruise doesn’t live up to the first Pirates movie, but is better than the sequels.  The plot for what it’s worth involves Emily Blunt hiring a boat captain Dwayne Johnson to take her upriver in search of a MacGuffin pursed by a German prince in a U Boat.  Silly, and predictable but Johnson and Blunt are likeable leads.  The inevitable sequel has already been green-lit.

Stillwater – A real change of pace for Matt Damon sees him travel to France to visit his estranged daughter, who is in prison for a crime she claims she didn’t commit.  The set-up sounds like a Taken style thriller, far from that, it actually has more than a passing resemblance to the Amanda Knox case.  Damon is excellent in what is probably his most low-key role.

Free Guy – Ryan Reynolds is at his most Ryan Reynolds as a none player character in a video game who become sentient.  The story is very slight, but good fun.  Reynolds is on great form as are Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi.

Reminiscence – Feature debut for director Lisa Joy best known as writer/producer of Westworld.  Blending an old-school noir with a sci-fi thriller.  The central conceit of replaying memories is reminiscent of the superior Strange Days, when you get past that it’s an enjoyable if predicable movie largely thanks to a likeable cast of Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thandiwe Newton.

Pig – Nicolas Cage plays a reclusive truffle hunter.  When he goes looking for his stolen pig, you would expect a John Wick style revenge thriller.  What we get is a much more low-key and thoughtful movie, and Cage’s best performance in years. 

Censor – Set in the height of the video-nasty scare of the 1980’s Niamh Algar plays a censor who losses her grip on reality as her twin obsession for her work and her sister, missing since childhood, overlap.  Algar is excellent, but the real star is writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond who has a clear love and affinity for the genre.

The Courier – Benedict Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne in the true story of a salesman who is recruited by the security services as a courier for a Russian source during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The real life case on which its based was reportedly John le Carré’s inspiration for The Russia House.  Very by the numbers and lacking any originality, but well made with some real tension and strong performances. 

The Night House – Rebecca Hall is outstanding playing a woman coming to terms with her husband’s suicide.  Living in the isolated lake house they built, she begins to question what is real as tries to understand what happened she.  Including but not depending on jump scares it is far more intelligently constructed than you would expect for the story. 

Our Ladies – Five friends travel from their small town in the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh as part of a choir from their catholic girls school.  They are given an afternoon of freedom in the big city with the caveat of some very strict rules set by Sister Condron (an excellent Kate Dickie), this all goes out the window as all they have on their minds is sex and booze!  Comparisons with Derry Girls are inevitable, it isn’t as funny or as irreverent, but very heartfelt and no less enjoyable. 

I have enjoyed all nine movies this month, but there is one clear standout, my movie of the month is:

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13 Reasons Why was a television series developed by Netflix and released on their platform in 2017.  It is based on the 2007 novel of the same name (stylized as TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY) written by Jay Asher.  The show was well written and directed, and featured excellent performances from the young cast.   The thing that set it apart from other similar shows was the brilliant concept: [spoiler alert] high school student Hannah Baker takes her own life leaving behind a set of cassette tapes detailing thirteen reasons why she killed herself. [end of spoiler] Each episode focuses on different cassette, each tape one of the thirteen reasons (or more specifically thirteen people) of the title.  The show was very good, and extremely popular, for the first season at least!  This was its undoing! What should have been “one and done” was strung out for a further three convoluted seasons, the last of which was truly bad.  Am I just bitter, that The OA, a stunning TV show with a planned five season arc got cancelled after season two? Probably!

Cruel Summer is a original idea created by Bert V. Royal.  Each of ten episodes focuses on the same day over the course of three consecutive years: 1993, 1994 and 1995 from the point of view of two girls: Kate Wallis a popular girl who goes missing, and Jeanette Turner an awkward girl desperate to be popular. The point of view alternates between the two girls each episode.  Skipping backwards and forwards between the three times is what makes it really work. drip-feeding the viewer.  Riddled with clichés and contrivances and a few plot holes, it isn’t up to the same standard as 13 Reasons, but is still an enjoyable show.  Making the most of the 90’s setting, the music choices are a little obvious but good.  The show is currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK having premiered on Freeform in the US in April.  The show had already been renewed for a second season before making its way to the UK. 

There many reasons a second season could be a problem, not least that the story started running out of steam towards the end, with final twist that was telegraphed from early on.  Is there really that much more story to tell? The structure of the show is fundamental to its appeal, but to repeat it for a second season wouldn’t be as effective.  The same was true of Quantico that ran for three seasons from 2015.  The first season had a similar high concept, the second repeated it to reasonable effect if you could get past the contrivance.  The thirst and final season became a villain of the week procedural shortly before its demise.  Had 13 Reasons Why stopped after one season, leaving audiences wanting more it would be forever remembered as a great show, now it is likely to be remembered for its terrible final season.  Cruel Summer doesn’t have as far to fall as 13 Reasons, but it would be better to leave audiences wanting more, rather than the inevitable disappointment of a weaker second season.  This does beg the question, will I watch season two?  Of course I will!

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I recently re-watched a movie by a director who to use the modern idiom, has been “cancelled!” The thing that struck me was just how good the film is.  There is an argument for separating the art from the artist, especially given the fact that some of my favourite films from the golden age of Hollywood were made by “problematic” directors, producers and stars.  Some of my favourite more recent movies were produced by THE most problematic producer, including one that would probably never have been made without his intervention.  But is there a step further, is there an argument for some sort of redemption for some people involved?  It isn’t just directors and producers, there have also been actuations made against some actors.  Some of whom have denied any wrongdoing (in some cases despite evidence of guilt), others have owned their actions, apologised and tried to be better.   

You may have noticed I am not mentioning any names.  This is partly so I don’t accidently say something libellous, but mainly because this isn’t about any individual but about the concept.  Let’s be clear I am not talking about the individuals who committed crimes.  Most notably those convicted of crimes.  But there have been abuses of power and position where people have been made to suffer inexcusably that do not fall into a prosecutable crime.   Long before the Time’s Up and Me Two movements there was a very high profile case of an actor/director whose career appeared to be over following personal issues and unsavoury things he  had said.  These were not just allegations, some of his actions were recorded.  While he hasn’t returned to the heights of his earlier career, he has certainly come back from the brink.  So where does that leave other actors, directors and producers? Clearly some are in where they belong, in prison, others have continued to work, many have disappeared from the spotlight. 

As a middle-aged white man who does not work in the film or television industry, the first thought, certainly mine is do I have the right to talk about these issues?  But on reflection, yes absolutely! This is not an issue where the victims stand alone, and only they and the accused have a voice.  The world as a whole needs to stand up and talk about injustice and inequality when we see it.  Only by talking about issues can we keep them on the agenda.  Back in 2018 in the fledgling days of the Times’ Up Movement, there was a call for women attending the 75th Golden Globe Awards to wear black.  At first it was suggested it was a gimmick and would have no impact.  Most woman attending did indeed wear black, some brought activists to the awards ceremony as their plus one, many attendees male and female wore Time’s Up badges (pins if you are American).  All in all it was probably the only time the Globes have ever been relevant!  The spotlight helped the movement raise around $15 million for the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund.

This in many ways is the hardest article I have ever written, simply because I have no answers.  As I have no answers, I will end with a question:  Is it better that people are pigeonholed by their misdeeds and shut away  out of sight, out of mind; or would it be better for them to try to find some kind of redemption by admitting their mistakes, apologising for them, attempting to be better people?

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Easy Rider (1969) didn’t chronicle the end of the decade/era, and the death of hope and optimism that the 1960’s promised, but it certainly symbolised it. It could be argued that the loss of hope wasn’t followed by despair, but by a new more measured hope with less lofty ambitions, a more weary even cynical hope, but hope none the less. And this is what we saw on the big screen, the cinema of new Hollywood. In truth, a child of the 70s, I saw it on late night TV, and VHS in the 80s and 90s. The Watergate scandal of 1972 may have ground zero for the political and conspiracy thrillers of the time, films like The Parallax View (1974), The Conversation (1974), but the spirit, or lack thereof found a place on screen before that, it found it on the road!  There has always been a link between cars and movies, the two were invented around the same time, and both found popularity in the United States, a country built out of exploration, and a country built on a dream; and as Mark Cousins reminded us The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a (2011) “movies look live our dreams”.


While there had been movies about cars and drivers before, the road movie as we know it was born in the 70s, buit on a foundation from the Golden Age of Cinema. We are not talking the capers of Gone in 60 Seconds (1974), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), or the various Gumball/Cannonball movies (various movies from mid 70’s to mid 80s), I am referring to the existential road movies like Two Lane Blacktop (1971), and Vanishing point (1971). Existential movies, where to drive is to live, to stop is to die. Kowalski (Barry Newman), the hero of vanishing point is just driving, we never understand why. He drives for the sake of driving the way we live for the sake of living.  If you don’t know the film, the plot of the film revolves around a man delivering a car 1,200 miles from Denver Colorado, To San Francisco.  He has a week to get there but for reasons never explained is compelled to do it in a couple of days.  There is little plot, and almost no explanation, but flashbacks give us an idea of what is going on.  The Driver (James Taylor) and Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) in Two Lane Blacktop may not have names but they have more of  purpose, or do they.  They cruise around looking for action in the shape of drag races like the subjects of a Bruce Springsteen song, but when we look a little deeper, they have no purpose, they are racing for money to fund their lifestyle, so they can continue racing.  They are not the unwilling or repentant criminal looking for one last job so they can go clean, they are living day to day, a modern take on the hunter gathers of our past.  But does that make them any different to anybody working a day job, as Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt from Fight Club ((1999) said nearly 30 years later “working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need”.  Are they closer to the breadline than the average wage earner, or do they have a fallback? Both films have an other-worldly character enhanced by uncertainty and ambiguity,  this was lost in the 90s, made for TV remake of Vanishing Point, everything they gave Kowalski by way of motivation, stripped away a layer of meaning from the subtext of the movie. 

Although most associated with America, the genre isn’t exclusive to the nation. By the end of the 70’s the angst and desire had been forgotten, swallowed up by “blockbusters”.  Australian filmmaker George Miller fussed the road ideas of the road, if not the road movie itself with a dystopian future.  For a more recent generation, their knowledge of the Mad Max franchise may not stretch beyond the fourth, and most recent instalment: Fury Road (2015), but it started long before that in 1979. Inspired by the fuel crisis and economic crash of a few years earlier the first film depicted the beginning of society crumbling. Max, the movies “hero” first hits the road for revenge, but by the end of the first movie, he disappears down the road.  Not with the glory of a cowboy riding into the sunset, but a long and dark road, as a man with nothing, and nothing to live for.  Max’s only option for survival it to live, to exist, and he can find this simplicity, only after he has lost himself on the road.  A generation later, the characters of Fury Road think they can find hope, redemption, or even eternity on the road, for most none of this is true. 

Both as surreal and mainly masculine genre, director Chloe Zhao gave her a new take, and grounded and more real take.  Nomadland is loosely based on Jessica Bruder none fiction book of the same name we see real life people living a nomadic existence.  This, like many other road movies was exist in the traditional heartland of the western genre, but this isn’t a pioneering story of A to B, of someone with a destination. It is the story of a person not looking where to live, but how to live.  As the world gets smaller, and cars have begun to lose importance in the world, we may think the days of the road movie are numbered.  I don’t think they are, we may see a day were they become nostalgic chronicling relatively recent past rather than telling their own contemporarily stories, but in the hands of talented filmmakers, this artifice will not prevent the real story, one that is lingering beneath the surface. 

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