Film Of The Week: Nightcrawler

It is rare that modern cinema can work so well on a number of different levels. This definitely ticked a lot of the right boxes…

It would remiss of me not to decry the overabundance of comic strip cinema spewing from the studios of America but in its defence it has thrown up some pertinent questions. How we view outsiders for example, our paranoia about mass media and maybe even our perverse desire to see things get blown up. Maybe my problem is not what these films are saying but that the excessive ribbons and bows of CGI and spandex don’t do it for me.

What’s does get my engine running is great camerawork. Beautiful night time images, an American muscle car belting along at great speeds( naturally, with proper stunt drivers). And yes, a none too subtle takedown of the American dream. Preferably by an antihero, who uses the system against the machine.

Trailer for Nightcrawler

Lou Bloom(played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is an outsider who wants to be inside. The opening scene is him clipping metal fence in a creepy railway freight area. The first thing I thought was, why is he doing that, he can clearly walk around the fence. He is in fact stealing the wired fence. Lou is a thief, he just hasn’t figured out what’s worth stealing yet.

His natural progression is charted throughout the opening half hour of the film, until he manages to get himself a deal where he ends up with a modest camcorder and police scanner. Soon he is an ambulance chasing voyeur, turning up and road accidents and getting cheques from the local television new network.

He doesn’t stop there, the quality of his work improves through intense research and study, so much so that he takes on an intern(of Latin descent, obviously).

Soon we are in the throes of Lou’s own American Dream. Get to the top any which way. It’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump would bloody love this film.

What anchors the film is the realism of the local television network and how they go about their business. Nightcrawling is an industry onto itself. In L.A scores of wannabe video journalists prowl the streets for real, hoping to secure footage good enough to sell onto the local broadcaster. Perhaps the neatest trick that’s pulled off here is seeing a nobody like Bloom come in and break up the unofficial cartel. As horrible as he is, he has found a community of people far more unlikable. 

But when I say it works on a number of levels that is to give it appropriate dues. As a visual piece of cinema, it is beautiful to look at. Robert Elswit, a regular collaborator with the excellent Nichols Winding Refn, clearly relishes the challenges of filming the Los Angeles streets at night. Though we have seen them countless times, he brings a real sheen to the imagery.

If IMDB were giving you ‘if you liked this’ recommendations they ought to cite Thief(Michael Mann) American Gigolo( Paul Schrader) and The Driver (Walter Hill) as what you can follow up with. In truth that list could be quite lengthy however.

Director Dan Gilroy, whose previous credits have been mainly as a screenwriter, brings a real cogent, decisive story to bear. Very little dialogue is wasted, it’s as sparse as it is necessary. This is no mean feat considering he is basically self editing. But yet it doesn’t feel shallow. Even the TV station manager is perfectly pitched as a victim, not only of a pressure to improve ratings but also as a person worn down and desensitized by watching violence from the comfort of a video booth.

When this first came out, I missed out for some reason. Though I do recall the trailer was another modern hatchet job that did the film no justice. If you haven’t watched this, go do so. I would give it four and a half crappy camcorders out of five.



The Euro’s…beginning of the end?

Euro 2016 Infographic

The familiar refrain of David Guetta’s theme tune dies out and all we have now are the memories. It was alright while it lasted. Maybe even better than alright. After months of fear mongering about potential terror threats, people from all over Europe turned up and had some fun. The football itself was average, though many were quick to insist it was worse than that.

There were some surprises, though in the end the lopsided draw perhaps decided the fate of the usual superpowers more so than their own performances. In turn said superpowers bemoaned the bloating out of the competition, forgetting that despite its faults international football remains, arguably the most level playing field we have in the professional game.

Even so soon after the event, it is easy to start speculating on the future of the game. Ronaldo, despite the loathing, has an unparalleled record( as a European) in the modern game as a goalscorer.

With Cristiano now 31, the summer of his own career has drawn to a close and adaptation and game management will have to come to the fore. After him, you have maybe his club mate Bale, as a potential superstar. But after that?

One notable point from this year’s tournament was the lack of breakout players. Not even to mention those who might not have captured the imagination. Of course, this matters little in the marketing scheme of things. Pogba et al will be shot to the moon by the football machine regardless.

But even the most optimistic football fan couldn’t say this is a vintage time. In the twenty-five odd years since its inception, the Champions League has evolved into an elite competition with the same sides fighting it out each year. It hasn’t gone unnoticed these same sides figure highly on the Forbes list each year. And while it is great to marvel at Messi’s magic or another Zlatan contortion you can’t help but wonder who is next up on the throne.

Is the era of the superstar coming to a close? Will the team mentality begin to take over? And if so, how will they manage to film all 11 players in close up simultaneously?

Many would argue that international football could be seen as a breath of fresh air, with players from Crystal Palace to Fleetwood Town featuring highly. But Nike and Adidas will find it difficult to manage fresh air. That’s why Ronaldo probably got more close-ups in the final(even when off the pitch) than at least 18 of the other players.

If you want to see where it’s all headed, perhaps looking west will provide the answers. The NFL and NBA have stealthily managed to fit more commercials and other non-sport related nonsense into their live broadcasts for the past 40 years, all the while hoping that the general public would keep the money coming in. All the while grateful for the likes of Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning to keep their MVP status up. But Bryant and Manning are not Michael Jordan nor Joe Montana. And Europe is no longer the market for American sports that it once was.

It is not hard to imagine association football decreasing in aesthetic pleasure as the players become more athletic and risk averse. And with those professionals quite rightly being aware of their earning potential in these days of plenty it must be wondered when the bubble will burst. But don’t wait for Sky Sports to tell you about a football depression. Things have never been better..or bigger.


Archive: Alan Pakula

Here is a link to a piece I wrote for a friend’s website. Kevin Shields is a bona fide cinema buff and has an incomparable knowledge of all things cinema. Follow him on Facebook if you can.


Archive: My thoughts on the Same Sex Marriage Referendum

Here is a 2013 piece I wrote regarding the Gay marriage referendum-interesting to look back on it, see what I got right, see what I might have got wrong.

Many thanks to Conor O’Reilly who published the original piece. Please take a gander at his website. He has been at it far longer than I have and subsequently has plenty more to offer!


The Brexit: My Initial Reaction



Surprise.  No, happiness. I still cannot shake the resentment that comes with a life of unreached goals and bitterness. Still cannot see past the end of my own nose. I am not English. Culturally there are similarities but ultimately it’s like comparing the US and Canada; neither are happy with it.

A few days after this initial lashing out I began to think about those who had managed to build themselves a life in the UK. How upset they were. How abandoned they felt. I wanted to feel sympathy for those ‘leavers’ who feel the government abandoned them and then decided to look for some more facts.

I found enough ‘facts’ to confirm my suspicions. That Thatcher’s vision of killing off northern England was finally coming to fruition. That the Eton Snobbery that ruled the UK had forsaken the once great cities of Yorkshire and Teeside and now the ‘great unwashed’ were getting a long sought after revenge of sorts.

Once that was done I made myself a cup of tea, quite happy with myself. Right as usual. Sitting here, alone, right as usual.

Then something occurred to me. I knew nothing more than what I had started with. I had pre conceived ideas and discriminated in their favour. Were my sympathies misguided, a result of a wasted youth, watching Corrie and reading about Liverpool FC’s history, pre and post Hillsborough?

There is nuance and detail in everything. Thatcher might have ended up as a paper mache figure of hate, burned on bonfires in Merseyside and Belfast. But in the late 70s a lot of people all over England had been very happy this hard working woman had arrived to bring some of her values to a bloated, over-unionized nation.

More reading was needed, more fact finding. But it was difficult. Google ‘ten good things David Cameron has done’ and nothing will come up. Google ‘British Cities David Cameron has visited’ and you’ll struggle.

I think that is the nuance I was searching for. The media, be it traditional or online, never really made their minds up about this guy. In turn, it was easy for those who felt forgotten to take what they did know about their latest commander in chief and use it against him.

The man with a rich education, he who had the audacity to hold a bank account in Panama, he who never opened a community centre in Middlesboro.

This Brexit was the result of similar miscommunication. A half-baked effort by both Labour and Tory to stay in the EU with the promise of newly added caveats which the working class quite rightly had no reason to believe would come to fruition.

There were further things to consider. Most had voted to leave because of their stance on immigration. UKIP for their part claimed this was low on their list of priorities, despite some very choice ad campaigns.

On this side of the water, there was more to consider.The North have enjoyed a relative period of calm in the last 20 years, mainly due to an improved and inclusive economy. Should this be now under threat, because an old mining town had been screwed over before I was even born?

It occurred to me my sympathy lay with people I had very little in common with, barring perhaps an interest in football. Sure we all love that.

Again nuance comes to the fore. You might be right about the government brazenly telling lies to get your vote. But that has always been the case. Before the EU, before the World Wars, right back to the swords and sandals days. The key difference in other societies is the realization that no matter occurs, a government can only do so much for a person.

And for that reason, my initial feelings of perverse vindication, delight that the so called working class got one over on their upper crust superiors, has dissipated. They are still right, and probably will be ’til they die.

I am not one of these people. Because if I am I will spend what’s left of my life looking for something that isn’t there. An enemy. Let’s face it, hating Bono or whoever else is sitting in the Irish golden circle isn’t going to help me succeed. Distinguishing between a bout of sustained unhappiness and outright depression might be more helpful. Life is short and time must be used wisely. Let those who are right, be right. For the rest of us, we must carry on, occasionally with calm, but more so with haste.

To quote another Eton snob who managed to overcome his own melancholia.

“I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time”

Ian Fleming