Month: December 2014

The Grandmaster (2014)

Written for RAF News Dec 2014

The Grandmaster follows revered martial artist Ip Man (Tony Leung) as he sets out to the different provinces of a China divided by Japanese invasion, seeking Grandmasters of different fighting styles so that they can exchange knowledge through hand-to-hand combat.

grandmaster

Ip Man was a Chinese Grandmaster whose legacy can be seen in the widespread practice of Wing Chun – a martial art that he popularised – and in his best known student Bruce Lee, though now his legacy has been transposed to cinema: The Grandmaster being the fifth film to centre on him in the last decade.

The fight scenes are met with director Wong Kar Wai’s distinctive aesthetic style. From the inward twisting of ankles of the Wing Chun stance, there is a dance like elegance that accompanies the fight scenes. Though this is not a particularly new idea it dovetails perfectly with the romantic stylisation of Wong Kar Wai, showing the fluidity of martial arts in slow-motion, punctuated with the sound of cold hard thuds as fists connect and bodies are thrown.

Giving very little away, the taciturn Ip Man lets his craft speak for him, possessing a coolness that borders on smug through his permanent half-smile. Those interested in seeing a regular martial arts genre film may be caught off-guard by the philosophical turns in-between fights, and may very well feel cheated when there is no big fight finale, instead presented a montage of a young Bruce Lee.

While the films beauty is undeniable it can feel disjointed when changing pace to the deliberately slow and thoughtful exchanges between characters – perhaps due to the cuts forced on the film to bring down its running time. It may be that the visual style isn’t enough to hold together a film that attempts to cover an entire era in Chinese history.

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festive

I don’t celebrate holy days, bar easter

I’m strictly a coffee drinker

and chocolate bar eater.

not one for eating from a calendar

with time dictating when I have my provisions

I bought the fucking thing

so I’ll make the decisions.

you can keep your cakes

with loose change in

make way for new ideas

the times they are a-best on sunday

like roast dinner and church.

the masses are in

so they can off some merch

necklaces and bracelets

to serve as a reminder

of our one lord and saviour

and to always be kinder;

a silver ring above your ring finger knuckle

or a faggot being stoned on a golden belt buckle

just in case you’re running out of space

I’ll sit at the table but I won’t say grace

because I don’t prey where I eat

I do love a nun’s company

but two’s a crowd

and three’s unlucky if you’re superstitious

write that on the wall stevie

and while you’re there

pin the tail on the donkey and hit the piñata

nan’s left the room cas she’s afraid you’ll cut her

not cas your blind, mind

it’s cas you’re one of those blacks

no it’s christmas

we tolerate intolerance

it reminds us of jesus and turkeys and that.

fuckin crackers.

Prolonged Sentence

When I was a teenager – old enough to know better but young enough to be a bit of a prick despite the fact – I pulled what I thought to be a harmless prank, thinking it would get me out of some schoolwork. Instead it took me deeper than I could have possibly imagined and taught me something about social constructs that effects me to this day.harry-houdini

Once before in school, when I felt unprepared for a French oral exam, I took an impromptu sponsored day of silence. I told a couple of friends to explain this to everyone, Mademoiselle in particular. The pièce de résistance: a note scrawled on the front of a ‘donations’ envelope that would serve as a prop that I could carry around as testament to my lie. I didn’t raise any money but this didn’t matter – I had gained another day of revision. Success.

Confirming my ability as an escape artist, I took it as a challenge when one day a new substitute teacher announced that we would each have to read our work to the class. Though I would often take on the role of the clown, I feared the spotlight when it was out of my control. This underlying nervousness paired with the contradictory confidence provided by my previous scam, led me to take extreme measures to avoid reading out loud. I made my decision and began to warm up for what I was about to do.

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Kajaki: The True Story (2014)

Written for RAF News Nov 2014

Kajaki: The True Story captures the harrowing events of September 2006 when a group of British paratroopers in Afghanistan found themselves in the middle of an unmarked minefield. Beginning in the mountainous desert of the Helmand province, we are introduced to 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, stationed on a ridge that overlooks the Kajaki Dam. From here we see the vast stretches of sand to the horizon where there has been little activity. That is until a three-man patrol sets out to investigate a Taliban roadblock and a landmine is set off, blowing off one of the patrols legs. Immediately the film is confined to mere millimetres as a rescue mission is put into action, with any movement on the ground possessing the potential to trigger another deathly explosion.

Kajaki

The mines are a relic of the Soviet invasion of the 80s, left behind by Russian forces, ‘God knows what we’re gonna leave behind’ says one of the fresh-faced ensemble cast. This is perhaps the only reference to British occupation in Afghanistan, which is coming to an end this year, but Kajaki has not been made as political commentary, it is a film that shows a single situation – a true story based on the testimony of the soldiers involved – from which we can glimpse the extremes of the frontline, outside of combat even. We see the sheer bravery that is required in circumstances such as these. It shows the comradery and heroism of the British forces without firefights and action scenes, giving them a cinematic presence that has been largely absent for decades.

Though it will undoubtedly collect comparisons to The Hurt Locker, it’s Britishness is evident in the relentless banter and dark humour, especially in times of horror and devastation – you’d be hard pressed to find an American GI writing ‘Gay’ on the face of Private Ryan after having his leg blown off.  The filming style also breaks from the dominant style in Hollywood as largely still, wide angle shots evoke palpable tension without having to jiggle the camera about. Long stretches of silence and focus on the careful movements of those in the foreground invites the inevitable and you can’t help but tense up in anticipation. The blistering heat of the Afghani desert adds to the tension like a Lumet film (think: 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) growing in intensity as the group becomes more and more desperate. This uncomfortable suspense doesn’t let up, making it impossible to not be involved in the film.

Christmas Survival Guide

Written for TotalJobs Dec 2014

Tis the season to be jolly. Or to try and be jolly at least… against the odds. It is more likely the season to be stressful, as everyone takes on the mad-dash panic of last-minute gift buying and food shopping, and as they prepare to see the people they usually love but this time of year tolerate.xmas

Now let’s spare a moment for those working over Christmas, for those who will suffer the wrath of never-ending customers enduring this annual stress. They need someone to take it out on and reliably it will be those of you simply trying to help. So here is some help for you: a Christmas survival guide based on the advice of those who have experienced the frontline for themselves. (more…)