All posts by harloaf

RBG – Review

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The superhero that we didn’t deserve.

If you have not heard of her then you must be one of those rare people who manage to both have no social media presence and avoids any and all reference of American news (the second one is impressive given the current political climate we are all living in). Associate Justice of the Suppreme Court of the United States, she has been a powerful force in the fight for gender equality since the 1970’s. Appointed to the Supreme Court by President Clinton in 1993, her popular appeal started to increase in the early 2000’s when she became the only female judge on the court and became a strong voice of dissent in several cases.

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RBG lays out the above explanation in an hour and thirty eight minutes of documentary film brilliance. The film focuses on her life from childhood, her dedication to the fight fo gender equality and all of the hurdles and personal slights that she has overcome along the way to give her the voice that she has now. Combining interviews from family, personal friends, colleagues and people she has inspired, it provides a humorous, emotional and insightful look into the life of an exceptional woman who dedicated her life to her cause. The filmmakers made the decision to focus on cases where the plaintiffs are still alive and where there is audio recording of Bader Ginsburg in court, knowing that having this human element and being able to see the people that she has explicitly helped, while creating a framework  for wider change will be more interesting that just having narration or having someone talk about the cases from a removed perspective.

The absolute heart of the film though is the love story between Ruth and her husband. Setting new couple goals for everyone, the story of unquestioning support and love between them gives the film an emotional centre and reminds you that these are real people despite the incredible things that they are doing.

There is great use of musical scoring in the film which manages to combine opera, a musical form that she loves and has even appeared in, and rap (you couldn’t make a film about the Notorious RBG without referencing the Notorious B.I.G.).

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I am honestly finding this review hard to write as all you need to know is that it is amazing, she is amazing and everyone should go and watch this. I saw this at the BFI with two friends and all three of us were tired going into this. By the end, we were all reenergised by this film and I hate to think what would have happened if RBG had actually been at the screening. Extreme fan girling of an incredible human who has done so much and is not done yet despite being 83. The best way to end this review is to repeat how it was started.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The superhero we didn’t deserve but thank goodness we got her.


 RBG is out in cinemas Friday 4th January! 

The Mortal Engines – Review

(This review contains spoilers.) 

It seems fair to say that after The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent etc, there seemed to be a fair amount of burn out for YA dystopian future based on series of novels films. Having watched what feels like all of them but definitely isn’t all of them, I did not think that another was needed so it is into this non-void that The Mortal Engines has sneakily slunk.

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Based on the series of the same name, we follow Hester Shaw as she tries to get revenge against Valentine, the man who murdered her mother while being chased by a cyborg who wants to kill her. She is joined by Tom Natsworthy who, after stopping Hester’s attack on Valentine, tries to save her from jumping off the city (they walk now, the cities that is) and is instead kicked off for knowing too much about Valentine’s past. He wants to get back on the city, she doesn’t but agrees to take him to a trading town to help him get back. They end up being chased by a scavenger city before being kidnapped by slavers, from whom they escape with help from Anna Fang, a leader from the non-walking town behind the wall called Shan Guo. Valentine is off doing diabolical things. The people of Shan Guo must fight to stop him.

If you are confused from reading this, that is the feeling you have from watching this in the cinema. There are so many plots and characters introduced, none of whom are properly developed or concluded and things happen for no real reason at all. There is a whole sequence with Valentine’s daughter and Tom’s friend which leads nowhere and seemed mainly to be included so that she could make defiant statements and then later get to be a hero for doing very, very little. How the world was destroyed and how the cities became mobile is not explained at all nor is the split between the walking cities and Shan Guo. There is the normal love story aspect where the two characters hate each other and then before you know it, they are in love. The ending lines of the movie are so cheesy that I laughed out loud at them. None of the performances are bad, though Robert Sheehan’s accent wanders all over the place, and the characters all seemed interesting. You just aren’t given any real background or insight into them.

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In the second act, when you meet everyone from Shan Guo, it suddenly seemed to become a heavy handed metaphor for how destructive and small minded British colonialism is, while of course making sure to sacrifice its characters of colour so that the white saviours can survive to save the day. Also Anna Fang and the other leaders of the walled city, seemed to be the most interesting people in the film and were given nothing. There is one comment on Anna’s past, which seems to be forced in just to set up something that happens later and it is obvious what will happen from this one comment. Subtle foreshadowing is apparently a lost art. Tom putting on a jacket is given more screen time and importance then a great many of the cast in this. It copies so many scenes from other movies, that every now and again if a Hobbit had walked through in the background or an X-wing been shown flying overhead, I would not have questioned it.

Despite everything that I have written above, I did actually enjoy the movie (other than the over done white saviour trop). The CGI and the design of the different cities, mechanics and costume are beautiful and I would have loved to have them explored more. Hugo Weaving is clearly having a great time, though people should check scripts carefully as it occaisionaly felt like he was quoting Elrond which was an odd moment. I do actually want to read the books now if only to find out what everyone’s back story was and find out what happened to the world to get it to this state. I had known that it was being made into a movie but until I was asked to watch this to review it, I didn’t know that it was out any time soon as there seems to have been no advertising for it. All said, it is a fun romp of a film but don’t expect anything genre changing or a well rounded or fully explained plot. 


The Mortal Engines is out in cinemas now! 

The Image Book – Review

by Frankie Harlow

There is a video installation piece currently in the Tate Modern by Christian Marclay called The Clock. It uses archival film footage from when clocks are shown or when people mention the time to create 24hr piece about time. It is beautiful and I recommend seeing it. Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book both reminded me of this and is totally unrelated to it. There is the obvious cross over of using pre-exisiting film to create a narrative but that is where the immediate connection between the two of them ends.

I felt that I understood The Clock in a way that I did not grasp The Image Book.

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There was the language barrier in the Godard film which uses mainly French language film and narration and does not subtitle all of it (which I salute as I do not expect the people to adjust their artistic view to allow for everyone else). It also came with a warning as you go into the room of the use of flashing images, varying volume levels and the aforementioned lack of consistent subtitling. It started immediately with none of the preamble that we have come to expect when we go to the cinema now. It was chaotic and cacophonous in its use of image and sound.

Two people walked out of the screening and I am pretty sure that the man near me had a small nap for the first ten minutes of the film.. and I was drastically fighting the urge to slip into slumber myself.

It does not follow a typical narrative structure and is not something that you will sit down and easily watch. It was about 20 minutes in when I made the link to The Clock and, while my reactions to both of these are different, it was this association that actually allowed me to settle into the film and enjoy it more. I stopped trying to watch a film and thought of it as watching an art piece instead.

There’s a different expectation when watching art to watching cinema, changing my positioning in the viewing made the watching much more enjoyable. When you stop trying to find a narrative, you start to enjoy the spectacle in front of you. I accepted that due to the selective subtitling I would not understand everything and tried to use what understanding I was given to embrace what I was being shown.

About half way through, the focus shifted to the West’s relationship with Islam and the Arab states. There seemed to be more of a traditional story in this section, discussing a Sheikh’s desire to become ruler of all the Arabic states. At this point though, I had embraced the lack of perceptible narrative and the one thing that really stays with me in the beauty of the film that you are shown.

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There was one clip of two men in front of a rundown building where the colour saturation of the film is breath-taking. The sky is the blue that we all dream of in the middle of winter and the sand is an orange that just screams warmth. To link that different sections of the film there are title cards where the same music clips are used that hold everything together.The same male narrator is used throughout the film to give a continuous thread to everything that you see. This will not be to everyone’s taste and in reality the people who will see this will mainly be the afficionados of Godard.

However, if given the opportunity to watch it again, I would (maybe after a better nights sleep). There is a beauty and dedication to someone’s own ideals that is fascinating to watch and sometimes being allowed to sit in the dark and watch art for ninety minutes is what I want


The Image Book is out in select cinemas now!