FILM REVIEW: TRACKS

A 1,700 mile trek across some of Western Australia’s deserts may not sound like everyone’s idea of fun, but ‘Tracks’ is the true story of one lady, Robyn Davidson and her attempt to do just that, with an entourage of four camels and Diggity the dog in tow.

Whilst Mia Wasikowska seems excellently cast as Robyn, the film’s success is every bit as much due to our emotional investment in and  attachment to the five animals that make the journey with her. It soon becomes apparent as the terrain becomes more inhospitable  and unforgiving that it’s the animals’ reactions and instinctive behaviour under such conditions that are just as important to the adventure as the physiological and psychological issues that unfold for Robyn herself.

It’s not so much a story of wanderlust, but of the need to get away from everything and more importantly everyone, but there’s a gradual realisation for Robyn that although her journey is indeed about removing herself from the company of other people and the many negatives that they represent in her mind, it’s this intense, extended period of relative isolation, as well as chance encounters with both native Aboriginals and well meaning folk along the way, that ultimately reaffirms her need for people too.

‘Tracks’ is a beautiful film in many ways, not least for the majestic cinematography and the engaging animal scenes throughout; a visually exquisite, life-affirming, beautiful film.

 

Advertisements

WAYWARD WOLF: COMMENT: The Shakespeare Half Marathon 2014

Shakespeare Half Medal

Well, that was highly enjoyable and another excellent effort from the Rotary Club of Stratford-Upon-Avon for this, one of my very favourite half marathons in the running calendar, this year commemorating the would-be 450th birthday of William Shakespeare.

Perfect conditions (for the runners at least) prevailed with overcast skies, a light breeze and occasional ‘spits’ of rain, so there could be no complaints for those runners seeking a good time and… a good time.

Talking of which…

One of these days, I’ll put together a training schedule and actually stick to it; post winter malaise has been severe this year, but I had enough in the tank today to just sneak inside my previous best time, set, strangely enough, some years back on this very course, with a new personal best of 1:47:18*

*Unconfirmed officially yet, but there or thereabouts.

I’ve not run this course for a few years now and a few things have changed since last I was here. The start has moved to Church street and the finish threw me a little, taking a slightly different route through the park, but still very much the same, enjoyable course around the town and the surrounding, undulating  countryside.

Finally, two big thank yous:

Firstly, to Tina and Gary Taylor and their very excellent bed and breakfast ‘First-Night’ in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I’ve been staying there for years now and they always go out of their way to make sure everything is just as YOU need it. A 7am breakfast, especially for race day was a lovely touch and above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you Tina!

http://www.first-night.co.uk

Secondly, a big thanks to Mick and Phil who took pity on this shivering Londoner as I made my way into town early this morning giving me a lift in their van to the race start area.

For those unaware, Mick and Phil are the awe-inspiring, Dad and Son marathon running team from Stratford-Upon-Avon. Phil is disabled and Mick runs each course, pushing Phil’s wheelchair. I’ve encountered them on a few occasions (often as they’ve passed me en route, mid-run!) They’re an inspiration to us all, Find out more at:

http://micknphil-marathonlads.com/

Incidentally, Shakespeare himself crossed the line today in 2 hours, 11 minutes or so, or at least someone dressed in Elizabethan regalia vaguely resembling him did; it was hard to tell though, he had a hat on.

Wonderful occasion. Wonderful day.

FILM REVIEW: CALVARY

John Michael McDonagh’s ‘Calvary’ is a tip of the hat to ‘Father Ted’ and maybe just a little nod of the head to the weird and wonderful ‘League of Gentlemen’ (Aiden Gillen’s character  even having a passing resemblance to Reece Shearsmith). Overridingly though, it’s a darkly comic whodunit that examines the apparently decreasing role and relevance of the Catholic church in today’s society, along the way.

The Catholic priest has often been treated with a degree of derision throughout the history of the motion picture. One conjures up images of the old Hollywood, drunken Irish buffoon, swigging from his hip flask, wittering away to anyone that will listen, but in Father James Lavelle (portrayed wonderfully by Brendan Gleeson) we see a very different kind of priest, still much derided and in this case held accountable for all of the historic wrong-doings of the Catholic church, but a man of integrity and a heart-felt belief in what is right and good; a man whose parish unfortunately for him, is a truly representative microcosm of a very troubled society’s ills and ‘sins.’

With the clock ticking down to Father Lavelle’s own personal D-day, we scrutinise a rather bizarre array of odd local characters to identify a would-be killer, each with their own troubles and each with a sneering disdain for the church for one reason or another, yet each with an underlying, deep-rooted need for the compassion and healing that perhaps only spirituality in some form, can provide; more maybe than they realise?

Set along the rugged and beautiful, wind-swept coastline of rural Ireland, Calvary is a story of coming to terms with our issues, acceptance and more importantly forgiveness and the fact that, whilst perhaps organised, rule and fear-driven religion is an outdated concept today, many of its sympathetic and poignant teachings remain as relevant as they ever were and ever will be.

Amen to that.

FILM REVIEW: LOCKE

Everything can be fixed. There’s always a solution… Or is there?

‘Locke’ is the story of how any of us, no matter how in control of our lives we assume we are, can see the whole thing come crashing down around us through just one moment of weakness. None of us are infallible.

Tom Hardy expertly portrays Ivan Locke, a highly honourable, dependable and meticulous construction site foreman, battling manfully and methodically, as is his nature, to stay on top of his rapidly crumbling existence, as a catalogue of hellish, personal and professional logistical scenarios unfold, all of his own making.

Director Steven Knight has certainly taken a brave stance basing an entire film on just one visible character, a night drive and a series of increasingly desperate phone calls, but it works and does so convincingly.

Littered with metaphors, innovative and engaging throughout, Locke is a definite ‘must see’ for me.

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Vi är bäst! (We are the best)

Well, well, well. Some of life’s little treats sometimes come from the most unexpected of sources and a Sunday morning, free viewing of this Swedish offering, thanks to the ever excellent Greenwich Picture House Cinema, was just precisely that.

Aside from testing my poor Swedish language skills, it was an opportunity to reminisce a little following my relatively recent time spent in the wonderful land of Sweden.

‘Vi är bäst’ is a delightful, gem of a film, acted out by a young, ever so naturally talented cast that had me hooked from start to finish.

On a personal note, a particular highlight was the amusing Västerås lampooning. Västerås is a Swedish town in the province of Dalarna that I’m rather familiar with (and have absolutely no problem or axe to grind with at all, I should add).

The all girl, punk outfit improvise on the night of ‘Tomta Rock’ and re-write their ‘Hate the Sport’ anthem to instead ‘Hate the Västerås’ thus getting under the skin of some irate locals and earning the unenviable moniker of ‘Communist Cunts’ in the process! Only a dutiful Santa Claus is on hand to avert much ensuing carnage.

It’s all most amusing, but I suspect it will be lost on those unfamiliar with the territory.

“They say that punk rock is dead, well it isn’t” – and that’s the premise of this innocent, coming of age tale that’s touching, charming and amusing in equal measure.

Highly enjoyable, early 80s, Swedish fun.

Mycket bra!

 

 

FILM REVIEW: UNKNOWN KNOWN

“An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – the words of Donald Rumsfeld, then Defence Secretary to the George W Bush administration in his party’s defence of the WMD issue.

‘Unknown Known’ is an all attention and focus, Errol Morris documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most influential figures in shaping the last 40 or 50 years of U.S and indeed world politics.

I know I certainly had my own personal opinions of the man going into this film and to be honest, nothing has really changed having seen it except perhaps a little grudging respect that this most slippery of super-sharp, career politicians is and has been a master of what he has always done, putting a positive or at least palatable spin on the unpalatable; or should that be, making excuses for the inexcusable?

My own opinions aside (formed as much outside of Rumsfeld’s days as the Secretary of Defence  as within), how well does this ‘spotlight on one man’ documentary work as a film?

Well,  it’s cleverly put together in a mostly nonlinear fashion, using interview techniques that probe for answers without ever demanding them, instead attempting to allow Rumsfeld to fall into his own webs of spin, backed up by substantial film and television footage and indeed vast archives of memos and documents that Rumsfeld himself dictated over the entirety of his career. It’s an intriguing spectacle.

One shouldn’t fall into the trap of seeing this film as an attempt at one up-man-ship for the left over the right or Democrat over Republican in this case, for as Rumsfeld himself says (and I found myself in a rare moment of agreement), to loosely quote, “Barack Obama opposed every national security measure that George W Bush put in place in the wake of the Iraqi conflict, yet, to this day, not one of those policies has been overturned, so we must have been doing something right…”

Perhaps, or more likely it’s a prime example of both political sides being driven by one agenda politics, irrespective of what their illusory political leanings may appear to be.

That, I feel is far a far more likely scenario and maybe a lesson in there for those that choose to nit-pick at the minutiae of political policies ignoring the bigger and more obvious political picture.

Personally, I’d like to have seen some focus on the man’s heavy corporate, political leanings and affiliations; potentially as damning in many ways as the military-related subject matter, but maybe that’s for another day.

Not one to break any box office records this, but a fascinating glimpse nonetheless at a man who’s been up to his neck in the cloak and dagger, shady dealings of U.S and world politics for many a decade.

Draw your own conclusions. I have mine…