Tuesday, 6 May 2014

0 Cuba: A New Era?



The Cuban Government has recently made commitments to modernise the Cuba and in particular it's economic model. In this post I want provide a quick overview of the Cuban economy, the tourism it is based on and how it is very much tied up with Cuban politics. 

The Cuban economy remains highly socialist with a strongly state-controlled economy. A total of 83% of the Labour force is employed by the state (USDoS 2011). This has historically lead to impressive growth in the Cuban economy.  The Government of Cuba has recognised however that its centralized political structure poses a barrier to economic productivity, as the private industry has not been allowed to grow .

Already struggling due to the US trade embargo, the island was hit both by the 2008 financial crisis and multiple, damaging hurricanes in the same year. Growth in 2009 fell dramatically from 2007 and 2008 as a result. Importantly this had the effect of forcing the government to lay off 10% of the workforce and simultaneously reduce regulations on private sector employment and expand the cooperative sector (USDoS, 2011). 

This could help to encourage foreign investment, which has previously been put off by inefficient and overpriced labour, dense regulations, and an impenetrable bureaucracy.  These reforms also mark a possible move for Cuba to Rostow’s second stage of modernization, a transitional stage in which ‘entrepreneurs emerge as incomes, savings and investment grow…a strong central government encourages private enterprise’. 

Time will tell to see if the Cuban Government will continue to reform the economic structure of Cuba to allow it to further modernize and develop in the style Rostow outlines.

Tourism


Tourism is now the backbone of the Cuban economy. One-fourth of the investments in Cuba have been made in tourism and it contributes 43% to the balance of payments-more than any other industry. 

This is an industry that continues to grow, roughly 1.7 million tourists visited Cuba in 2001, generating about $1.85 billion in gross revenues, by 2010 that number was 2.53 million, and had generated $2.4 billion. However there are concerns about what the effects such a reliance on tourism can have on the developing island. It has been argued that tourism has a limited potential to contribute to the alleviation of poverty and can in fact disadvantage the poor in many ways. Tourism is renowned for its high incidence of revenue leakage, with any revenue that is collected going purely to high or middle class. 

Moreover tourism is a highly volatile industry that is prone to, for example, natural disasters and recessions. This is particularly prevelant at the moment, growth is currently only predicted to be between 2.5 percent and 3 percent as a result of the difficulties encountered since the end of 2012, when Hurricane Sandy caused losses of $6.97 billion to the country. Furthermore the increasing numbers of tourists visiting Cuba may effect the environment. The Government plans to build many more beachfront hotels without taking into account that they are in prime habitat regions for dozens of unique birds, rodents and iguanas.

With exports such as sugar falling on hard times (in 1989, production was more than 8 million tons, but by 2009, it had fallen to barely one million tons), Cuba will continue to grow the tourist sector. 
However the Government should be careful that it does not ‘put all its eggs in one basket’ and risk harming the long-term development of the country. Time will tell to see if Cuba will reach it's economic potential. However with its relationship with the Americans improving slowly, Cuba may be entering a new era.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

0 Best Films Made in March

Credit 'Alberto Perea' Gopdfather

The BAFTAs are over, the Oscars are all but decided, surely nobody would bring out a film in March? You couldn’t be more wrong, here’s a list of great movies its about time you rediscovered, and guess what they all came out in that boring, film-less month of March. Enjoy!

March 15th, 1972- The Godfather

The Godfather has topped endless best film lists and remains one of the highest grossing pictures of all time. This film just refuses to get dated and it’s one that I’m more then happy to watch again and again. Better still whenever this snowstorm happens that we’re promised open up the DVDs and watch the whole lot back to back. It’s the ultimate move duvet experience (is that even a thing?).

March 27th 1987- Withnail and I
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.48.11
Still the best thing Richard grant has ever done, Withnail and I is the sort of film that spawns endless ‘quote-offs’. The film follows two eccentric, out of work, actors off on a mini break to the Lake District. It’s very funny but also quite dark as….wait why I am bothering with this you’ve surely seen it before? I think you should all just go and watch it again.
March 6th 1998- The Big Lebowski
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.45.28
Directed by the Coen Brothers I’m not gonna bother with a plot summary for this one because, to be honest, it’s very random. That said it’s an ideal choice for one of those dark and depressing March evenings. Funnily enough it didn’t get that much praise in the press when it originally came out in March 98 but it built itself a cult following over time, and surely deserves its place on this prestigious, if slightly strange, film list.
March 31st 1999- The Original Matrix
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.46.47
I put the word original in the title here so as not to accidently recommend the sequels, of which it has become almost obligatory to slag off when talking about The (original) Matrix. I still remember first watching this film and being completely blown away by all the effects. What’s great is that they still look convincing to our 2014 eyes, so you can watch it again without feeling like you’re watching something that was made on Windows 97.
March 19th 2004- Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.47.22
This film doesn’t get as much credit as I think it deserves. It’s one of the few films where I actually enjoy Jim Carey’s performance and it’s both quite funny and very sad in equal measures. It was pretty big when it came out but again it’s sort of built up a cult following since then. I won’t be surprised if you haven’t seen it, but even if you have, the DVD’s probably dirt cheap, join the cult.
So you may have noticed I haven't been posting on here. That is because I have been appointed the new Film Editor of About Time Magazine. Take a look here: About Time. If you want to write about film then email me at cass@abouttimemagazine.co.uk.

The BAFTAs are over, the Oscars are all but decided, surely nobody would bring out a film in March? You couldn’t be more wrong, here’s a list of great movies its about time you rediscovered, and guess what they all came out in that boring, film-less month of March. Enjoy!
March 15th, 1972- The Godfather
Credit 'Alberto Perea' Gopdfather
The Godfather has topped endless best film lists and remains one of the highest grossing pictures of all time. This film just refuses to get dated and it’s one that I’m more then happy to watch again and again. Better still whenever this snowstorm happens that we’re promised open up the DVDs and watch the whole lot back to back. It’s the ultimate move duvet experience (is that even a thing?).
March 27th 1987- Withnail and I
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.48.11
Still the best thing Richard grant has ever done, Withnail and I is the sort of film that spawns endless ‘quote-offs’. The film follows two eccentric, out of work, actors off on a mini break to the Lake District. It’s very funny but also quite dark as….wait why I am bothering with this you’ve surely seen it before? I think you should all just go and watch it again.

March 6th 1998- The Big Lebowski
Directed by the Coen Brothers I’m not gonna bother with a plot summary for this one because, to be honest, it’s very random. That said it’s an ideal choice for one of those dark and depressing March evenings. Funnily enough it didn’t get that much praise in the press when it originally came out in March 98 but it built itself a cult following over time, and surely deserves its place on this prestigious, if slightly strange, film list.

March 31st 1999- The Original Matrix
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.46.47
I put the word original in the title here so as not to accidently recommend the sequels, of which it has become almost obligatory to slag off when talking about The (original) Matrix. I still remember first watching this film and being completely blown away by all the effects. What’s great is that they still look convincing to our 2014 eyes, so you can watch it again without feeling like you’re watching something that was made on Windows 97.
March 19th 2004- Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind
Screen shot 2014-03-06 at 18.47.22
This film doesn’t get as much credit as I think it deserves. It’s one of the few films where I actually enjoy Jim Carey’s performance and it’s both quite funny and very sad in equal measures. It was pretty big when it came out but again it’s sort of built up a cult following since then. I won’t be surprised if you haven’t seen it, but even if you have, the DVD’s probably dirt cheap, join the cult.

Monday, 10 March 2014

0 About Time Magazine




I am very excited to announce that I have been appointed the Film Editor of About Time Magazine which launches today. A joint venture by Angelica Malin, one of the UK’s Top 10 Young Bloggers of the Year 2013, and Marc Boyan, CEO of Miroma Ventures, the company that have supported SBTV, Pinterest and Who What Wear, the magazine will set a new tone for approaching the concept of time.

This means I will no longer be posting so frequently on this site but will continue to add articles I have written for About Time after they appear. This blog has really grown in the past two years and Im very grateful to people who have read, shared and commented on articles. 

If you're interested in film and would like to write for About Time then please email me at cass@abouttimemagazine.co.uk

Thanks,

Cass

Monday, 17 February 2014

0 The 5 Best Documentaries You Haven't Seen



It's great to see that documentaries are slowly becoming more and more popular. They even have their own category now at the Oscars. The only problem is that most people only ever watch mainstream docs, the Michael Moore's, Man on Wire, Project Nim etc etc. I guess the problem is that the lesser known but equally brilliant ones are difficult to find. If only someone curated a list on their obscure blog...the wait is over:

1. My Kid Could Paint That.

This is a brilliant doc, totally absorbing. It's in the same style as other, more well known factual films like 'The Imposter' in that it's full of twists and turns and you never know quite what to think. The film follows the story of the 'young prodigy' artist Marla Olmstead whose work is launched into artistic fame when her art is noticed by local dealers etc. Her art keeps rising and rising in value until questions begin to be asked about its authenticity. The clever thing about this film is that it becomes as much about the making of the film as it does about the subject matter. Art can be boring, this film isn't. 


2. Mitt

This came out quite recently and completely passed me by (and probably most of you guys too)..it's a Netflix film, so that is probably why. Anyway anyone who is remotely interested in politics and in particular U.S politics should watch this. Amazingly the director, Greg Whiteley, had access to Mitt Romney over a period of six years and he shows us for the first time what it's like to be running in big political campaigns in the USA. The only worrying aspect is that access may have come at the expense of neutrality as Mitt certainly comes over as an awfully nice guy. That said, the film is amazingly personal and deeply revealing. 

                                  Trailer Link

3. Big Brother Watching Me: Citizen Ai Wei Wei

I knew about Ai Wei Wei before I watched this film, 1 hour and 12 minutes later I was obsessed with him (to the point that I even tried to buy one of his turbine hall seeds). This documentary shows Ai Wei Wei for what he is, a crazy, fearless, random, GENIUS. The timing is perfect as it begins the moment he is released from Chinese prison. Whereas most journalists are stuck just shouting questions at him on the streets, this documentary crew follow him into his home where we see the effect captivity has had on him (he is even more mad). For me this man is one of the most important in China and therefore by association so is this film. What's more it's still on IPlayer so you can watch it in the UK for free. Good old BBC.

                                 IPlayer Link

4. Deliver Us From Evil

With Mea Maxima Culpa coming a close second this is easily the most shocking and disturbing documentary I have seen on the subject of abuse within the Catholic Church. The completely outrageous thing about this film is that it's subject, potentially one of the most evil men I've ever seen, is one of the main contributors. The fact that he agreed to be on this film seriously enhances its impact with his cold words juxtaposing the raw emotion that his victims are feeling. This is certainly one of those documentaries that makes you really angry, and would turn anyone, however religious against the Catholic Church. I think it's such an important film so sit down and take note.

                                   Trailer Link

5. The September Issue

So I thought I would balance out the last one with something a little lighter. I'm not that interested in fashion but this documentary is fascinating from a journalism point of view. With unique access it follows the making of Vogue's September 2007 issue, with all the office politics and preparation that goes into making the edition. By no means is this the best documentary on this list but it's very watchable and provides an interesting REAL insight into the fashion business.

Trailer Link


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

0 The Backbencher: Interview




Here is an interview I did recently with the Founder and Editor of "The Backbencher". You can find his site here.


As a bit of a political fanatic, “The Backbencher” is a website I’ve had my eye on for a while. It has seemingly come from nowhere, and has slowly being making a name for itself as a political website with a bit of an edge. Today it has 1.7 million readers and is starting to find ground amongst a busy market. For a University project, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try and speak to the backbencher himself.

At 25, Alex MacDonald is almost the same age as me, and is currently a student up in Scotland. Amazingly, he tells me, he only started the site a year ago, with the all too familiar motivation of frustration with his University newspaper. Alex was so annoyed with a typo on the front page that he started his website the very next day. This wasn’t actually the first time he’d tried to launch a politics site. His first, followed in the mould of “Total Politics” and tried to remain impartial. It was Alex’s first failure and it was at the front of his mind when he set out to create “The Backbencher”.  What started out as just a small personal site, soon grew and began taking pieces from impressive contributors.

He describes his new site as “libertarian, but really borderline anarchist”. The way he sees it, there was one final gap in the market for a site that was truly radical, vehemently pro-business and unafraid to be very, very controversial. It was controversy that got things started, the young editor can barely contain his glee when he tells me that his first article to garner a ton of hits was a list of “three things you didn’t want to know about Mandela”. Where other writers like Paul Stains and Iain Dale have all the political connections, Alex argues it’s his original columns and content that sets his site apart.
Now in it’s third year, investors are regularly approaching “The Backbencher”. Investment would allow for the hiring of writers to boost the site’s output. Alex knows there’s no money to be made but he’s also well aware of the power that comes with having an influential online political voice. Furthermore he’s been working freelance at the Telegraph after he wrote to their Editor complaining about errors they had made in a story about his website. Being a (very) part-time blogger myself, I ask Alex for some advice. His immediate response is to choose a niche subject and a great brand. Promoting that brand means using new forms of social media and ensuring that content is original and of course, controversial. In a market that is already filled with big brands like “The Spectator” and “New Statesman” on both sides of the political compass, it’s without doubt that, for Alex, in order to be successful you have to first dare to be different. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

0 How the Lib Dems Should Fight the Next Election.


I thought it would be an interesting idea to try and put myself in the shoes (or sandals) of a lib dem advisor ahead of the next General Election. What follows is not espeically my views, but more what I imagine a pre-election brief might look like. If you ask most people, they'd probably say there's no hope. But if they follow some of these tactics, there may be a chance for them yet...

Background: 

With the election approaching fast (7th May 2015) the party is in the unprecedented position of fighting from the position of the incumbent government, having been a part of a coalition. It is thus more important then ever to have a clear and distinctive strategy. The issue revolves around people’s perception of our role in Government. A YouGov poll (29/11/13) told us that people are no longer sure what we stand for anymore. When asked which party policy "chops and changes” to the point where you no longer know what they believe in, the Liberal Democrats came top with twenty-six percent (compared with Lab25 and Cons22). This poll makes it clear that we need to approach the election with a very clear policy message. Furthermore we must show the public how we have been consistent in government by both fighting for our own policies (as promised in our manifesto) and also acting as a constant check on a potentially brutal Conservative Government. 

The problem facing the Liberal Democrat Party: 

Our perception problem is going to be antagonised by the election tactics of the Labour and Conservative parties. Labour will attempt to attack the party for being in government with the Conservatives. This has consistently been the position of Ed Miliband who in a Times interview in March this year said he would find it “very difficult to work in a future Labour government with somebody who has taken the opposite position in a Tory government”. 

Meanwhile the Conservatives will try and take credit for any economic recovery. This is an important factor as this election will be won and lost on arguments over the economy. The latest IPSOS-MORI poll (September 2013) that looked at which party people believe would best run the economy put the Liberal Democrats last on just five percent, compared with thirty-eight percent for our coalition partners. We need to fight hard at the next election to change this figure and take back some of the credit from the Conservatives for Britain’s economic recovery. 

To battle these problems, we propose a simple four point solution that should be considered when shaping our campaign in 2015. 

1. We need to work hard to highlight positive Lib Dem policies that we have implemented and which wouldn't have happened without the Liberal Democrats in Gov. The Liberal Democrats have managed to introduce several social policies, which may not have been implemented under a Conservative only government. Examples of these include free school meals for six and seven year olds as well as the extending of free childcare to 130,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, starting from September 2013. The economy is key. By a margin of two to one people expect the economy would get worse if Labour won the next election. Our campaign needs to point to individual economic policies that were in or manifesto and that have been implemented with a positive effect. For example raising the personal allowance from £6,475 to £10,000 a policy that only we fought for at the last election and which has taken half a million people out of tax altogether. 

2. We must point out where we have lessened or blocked further cuts/ bad policies from coalition partners. We must remind voters that without a Liberal Democrat influence the cuts to public spending would have been faster and deeper. Before the 2010 election, the Conservatives promised an instant cut of twelve billion in Government funding across departments. Had the Liberal Democrats not joined in coalition these cuts could have stifled our economy and prevented the growth we see today. Other examples where the party successfully blocked the Conservatives are in their attempt to change the election boundaries for their own political gain, plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m and the attempted revival of O-levels. At conference you argued that the Liberal Democrats had blocked no less then sixteen policies and we need to lay these out and highlight them as proof of our effective opposition to our Conservative coalition partners. 

3. Point out flaws in policies of Ed Miliband on Labour. Throughout our time in government the leader of the opposition has been highly critical without offering very many alternative policies. We have made difficult decisions in the public interest, resulting in an economic recovery. Meanwhile they have talked down the economy and have been proven wrong in key areas such as their predictions for unemployment and growth. Early policies we should seek to opposed are their implausible promise of an energy price freeze as well as their lack of clarity over the exact nature of the cuts they would have to make in government. As a leader YouGov polling (02/12/13) shows you score the highest of the leaders for being "honest" and "in touch with ordinary people". This can be pronounced throughout the campaign by making it clear that you fought for ordinary people as a minority coalition partner whilst Ed Miliband simply opposed from the sidelines. 

4. Layout some of the key changes we would fight for if we win more seats/a majority. The media is portraying the party as being potential coalition partners to whichever side wins in 2015 (if we do not win ourselves). Therefore we need to make clear to the people the policies we would fight for if we were to join in another coalition. The public were put off by the behind-doors dealings after the last election and so we must outline in our manifesto several deal-breakers of any future coalition. Although it is currently too early to announce these, popular policy announcements could include a total shake up of the UK banking system as well as doing more (in terms of taxation) to help the least well off in society.

Just some thoughts really, what do you think they should do? Comment below.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

0 Wolf of Wall Street: Review





If you don't like reading film reviews with a plot synopsis followed by an inevitable attempt at an original analysis, I will make this really easy for you. Go and see this film. Damn it, I'm even going to post a link at the bottom of this review right now so you can buy tickets to your local Odeon, Vue whatever. I'm in America where it has just been released, but don't worry Brits, you don't have to wait long- the film is released 17th Jan in the UK. To be honest you can just skip the rest of this post and book your ticket to go and see it as it really is one of the best films I have seen in 2013 and probably it will be better then anything I see in 2014 too.

Right so if that gushing opening paragraph wasn't enough for you, I guess I have a couple more paragraphs to persuade you a little further. Im going to cover the synopsis bit quickly. The film is (amazingly) based on the true story of Jordan Belfort. He starts out as a young man working in a bank firm but quickly builds up to a wealthy stockbroker who sets up his own firm and begins living the high life, with plenty of sex, drugs and flaunting of banking regulations. As he makes more and more money, his life begins to spiral out of control.

The plot makes it sound all a bit financial. Don't worry, there's probably about ten minutes in total of financial technicalities. The rest of it, is an absolutely unrelenting roller coaster journey through the extraordinary life of this extremely sinful young millionaire. Every scene, from the first to the last, is an intense and graphic portrayal of a life on Wall Street. The detail is incredible and the story is so outrageous that when I was asked, half way through, if it was based on a true story, I snorted 'of course not'. 

A word on the acting. This is by far the best performance Leonardo DiCaprio has ever given. It's a shame he's up against Nelson Mandela, as any other year this would be a shoe-in for an Oscar. DiCaprio goes through the whole range- he's motivational, he's mad, he's smart, drugged up, depressed, delirious. He is totally absorbing throughout the film and seeing as he's in pretty much every scene, there's no doubt he takes a big chunk of the credit for it's excellence. That said, there's not one actor who stands out as giving a less than brilliant performance. Jonah Hill in particular is a revelation combing his work in serious and comedic drama to etch out a perfect supporting performance. 

Martin Scorsese, you are well and truly cemented in my mind as a genius director. The depth and detail in this film is unprecedented. Every chaotic image is so carefully captured, that you become completely absorbed in the world in which the story takes place. The scenes that happen in the firm, are like nothing I have seen before and remind me almost of the first time I watched the thousands of Orcs lining up for an epic battle in Peter Jackson's first Lord of the Rings. Scorsese pulls no punches, I was shocked, surprised and amused in equal measures and he finds (in my opinion) a great balance in the film both portraying the mad lives of these young millionaires whilst also mocking the whole chauvinist, capitalist culture at the same time.

Maybe it's because it was Christmas, but I could barely sleep after this, my mind processing all the various elements. If you want to start this year right, you'll take my advice and book tickets as soon as you possibly can. Then you'll probably understand why this review was quite so insanely gushing. 


Friday, 29 November 2013

0 The Royal Family: Behind Closed Doors.



I recently went to a lecture given by Heather Brooke (the unsung hero of the expenses scandal) all about freedom of information, how to use it, when to use it and who to use it on. One of the main lessons that came out of this lecture is that this 'free' information is actually hidden behind walls of bureaucracy, intricate laws and painfully time consuming processes. However what was even more startling was some of the establishments contained in the list of "no go" areas. 

 To cut a long story short, I'm talking about the Royal Family. Yes, Britain's favourite upper-class family was allowed (by the Government) to remain completely exempt from FOI. As it says on their own website: "The Royal Household is not a public authority within the meaning of the FOI Acts, and is therefore exempt from their provisions." By what definition could the Royal Family not be a public authority? They get money from the public, they 'rule over' the public, if it wasn't for the public they'd just be a an out-of-touch family with a giant council tax bill. Of course, criticising the Royal Family is massively unpopular, but they shouldn't be allowed to act like a public body when it suits them and a private family when it doesn't. 

 So what justification do they give for closing their gates to freedom of information? A spokesman for Buckingham Palace quoted in the Independent in 2011 argued that the "Freedom of Information Act had failed to protect the constitutional position of the monarch and the heir to the throne." Basically they feel that a major part of the Royal Family's job is to listen to and advise the government and by extension the future King/Queen, to do this requires total confidentiality. So in other words the two bodies that rule over the United Kingdom, and who draw their power from the people, should be allowed to discuss how to rule those people behind closed (locked and sound-proofed) doors. The argument just doesn't stand up. Furthermore, this aspect of the monarchy's role is a very small part of what they do (which if absolutely necessary could be ring fenced), everything else should be out in the open. 

 Now if this didn't go far enough, there's a whole extra part to this story. In 2011 the coalition sneaked through some extra changes within a document of plans ironically labelled "opening up public bodies to public scrutiny". These new additions to the FOI act reversed any slow creep towards increased transparency to England's most private public family. Now not only is the family covered but also lobbying and correspondence from junior staff working for the royals is also protected. This means whole new swaves of communication and costs can be hidden from the people paying for them. And there have been examples of expenses being exposed. Take the exposure of an attempt to use a state funds earmarked to tackle poverty to heat the over-sized rooms of Buckingham Palace. As of 2011, attempts like these will go unchecked and dangerously un-noticed. 

 I'm not having a go at the Royal Family themselves, they do a lot for the image and atmosphere in Britain. I just wish they'd grow up, move with the times and accept that being open about what they do and what they spend on a day to day basis would not be the end of the world. They should open up their perfectly polished doors, and let the likes of Heather Brooke take a look around. 

Any comments please post below.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

1 Shorts On Tap: Event Review





So Monday saw the first "Shorts on Tap" event take place at Juno Bar in Shoreditch. The event showcased ten films that were broadly based around the theme of the senses. Events like this are really important as they give a platform to young/undiscovered filmmakers and allow them to receive  feedback on their films as well as meeting other filmmakers. I for one was really pleased to be a member of the jury for this event which saw about 50 people gathering for an intimate screening of the ten professionally produced films. The jury was asked to pick three winning films, the directors of which will go on to form a jury at the next event. Here are the winning films with some of my reasons as to why they were chosen.

Then We Are Together- Richard J Moir Watch it here

This was personally my favourite film of the night. From the very first shot, you could tell this was a Director that knew what they were doing, and the film is brilliantly shot throughout. However what really set this film apart from the others was that it had a real story which had been well thought through. There was also an interesting use of sound employed, with contrasting levels used to reflect the solitude of the main character compared with the bustle of the outside world. It's well worth a watch, it's a chilling ten minute film that fully deserves its place on this list.

Haze- Meiko Deren 



This was a experimental film which to be honest I wasn't expecting to enjoy. However with the lights off and the sound up, you couldn't hep but be mesmerized by the heady swell of music and image. The film was inspired by the directors work with mental illness and was centered on different themes such as 'adjective' 'noun' and 'verb'. The film stood out for its originality and interesting use of techniques. It was originally meant as an art installation, but in the right atmosphere it works just as well as a short film.

Planet Gong- Ian Habgood Watch the Trailer

I have to be honest and say this wasn't in my top three. Firstly the most impressive thing about this film is that Ian had found an absolutely brilliant documentary story. The Gong Masters are a very spiritual/alternative bunch that believe that the power of gong vibrations can clean the atoms in your body and thus heal you of any stress/ailments etc. For Ian the task was easy, just point the camera and let the audience observe this strangely amusing ritual taking place. However at times I felt Ian allowed his own opinions to permeate too much in the film. Whether it be through plonky music, mocking captions (there was no need to inform the audience that one Gong Master was an ex-insurance salesman), juxtaposing the spiritual with the scientific or asking leading questions. Ian gave the rope for this harmless bunch to hang themselves and more. It's no wonder he admitted he hadn't shown his new friends the film, and wasn't looking to do so. To be fair though, the film was well made and did offer some positives towards the end. Furthermore it got the room laughing and that's never a bad thing.

Overall this was a great event and I look forward to hearing more from "Shorts on Tap" in the future. If you are interested in going then this is a link to their Facebook.

Monday, 18 November 2013

0 5 Best Films on Sky Go: November 2013



Winter is arriving. The nights are getting colder and I feel it's as important as ever for me to help you on your quest to find the best films amongst Sky's generous online collection. I have noticed that this service is no longer automatically free (for us existing customers) but that shouldn't put off any die hard film watchers. Anyway, here we go:

1. GoodFellas- *****

SkyGo Link

Trailer

What? Goodfellas is on Sky Go? Well it's not too surprising as their collection of classic films is actually pretty good. And this film is really a classic. The film charts Henry Hill (De Niro- at his best) as he rises up through the Mob ranks. Anyone who reads this blog regularly (Mum?) will know I love mob films and this is one of the best. Watch it.

2. Argo- ****

SkyGo Link

Trailer

Okay so it's not the most balanced film. All the Americans are either brilliantly funny or brave, the Canadians are just kinda pointless and the Iranians are, well, mad. But Argo is a really enjoyable film that won Affleck deserved plaudits. Just make sure you read a bit about the actual story before taking everything you see in this film as gospel. A good film full of tension.

3. The Mask- ****

SkyGo Link

Trailer

This is just one of those films that really hasn't aged at all. Okay maybe the CGI is looking a little old but when you have clever filmmaking and great acting (Diaz & Carrey) then it doesn't matter about CGI. This is just one of those films that reminds me of my childhood and I'm going to go ahead and call it a classic. Watch it with kids (or without)

4. American History X- ****

Trailer

SkyGo Link

Another four stars but this one was very very close to getting five. Some may not have heard of this, in my opinion it's one of Ed Norton's best films/performances. He plays a reformed neo-Nazi, recently out of prison who tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same path as him. This is quite intense so not good if you're feeling Christmas-y.

5. Flight- ***



This is by no means a perfect film, but I think it's worth a watch even if you just watch the opening sequence and then switch to something less depressing. That said it does provide an interesting look into addiction and Denzel Washington (as always) is very good. Just think this film got a little too "Americanised" along the way. Look out for a brilliant cameo for John Goodman.

A really high quality list this month I think. Well done Sky. Any thoughts or additions please comment below. 
 

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