Having highlighted well-known and popular short films so far with this feature, I’d now like to turn my attention to a future classic released just a few months ago. Premiering at the South By Southwest Film Festival in March 2018 (where it won a Special Jury Recognition prize), Danny Madden’s Krista is a powerful, provocative experience.
Shot in gorgeous handheld 4:3 and featuring an intense, drum-laden score, Krista focuses on the titular character as she takes to the stage in a high school drama class, intercut with a violent encounter in the street. A revenge drama told through improv theatre and an unnerving, surprisingly tense mystery, Krista establishes Madden as a talented director, and you have to hope teenage star Shirley Chen has a glittering future ahead of her. Great short films are being made and released every day – it’s up to us to seek them out and champion them. Watch Krista here:
By Harry J. Ford
At what point do you stop watching a television show? Sometimes it’s within one or two episodes, as you realise that the quality is poor and unlikely to get better. Other times, it’s after multiple seasons and dozens of episodes when the writers have begun to spin their wheels and drag out their stories as much as possible (please don’t go this way Orange Is The New Black).
In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, however, neither of these reasons apply. It’s only on its second season, and seemed to be setting up plenty of interesting story arcs by the end of season one. The direction, cinematography and art design is outstanding, offering some of the most haunting shots and images in television history. Star Elizabeth Moss is incredible, an actress so talented she rarely needs more than a look or a movement to convey the terror and anger of her character Offred. All signs point to The Handmaid’s Tale being one of the definitive shows of 2018.
So why did I stop watching after the first episode of season two?
In sad news, cinematographer Robby Müller passed away on Wednesday 4th July. For those who don’t know, Müller was perhaps the defining cinematographer of 80s and 90s independent cinema. Initially known for his work with Wim Wenders, including perhaps the most gorgeous film of all time Paris, Texas, Müller would go on to frequently collaborate with Jim Jarmusch and Lars Von Trier among many others.
Whether working with neon colours or stark black and white, crisp film stock or emerging digital cameras, Müller was among the greatest cinematographers of all time. What better way to remember him and his work then selecting just ten of his finest shots:
Repo Man (1994)
Paris, Texas (1984)
We’re over halfway through 2018 so far, so it’s time to look at my picks for the 5 best films of the year so far. Full transparency here: Due to a range of other things in my life (completing a degree, going away for a few weeks, working on other projects), I have seen far fewer films than usual. I’m hoping to catch up throughout the year, but for now, there are going to be a few great films that I’ve left off.
Also, as usual, I’m not including any film nominated for an Oscar this year. As great as Coco and Phantom Thread are, they’ve received all the acclaim they need (as well as first being released overseas last year). With all that said, I’ve still seen a handful of great films this year. Here are my picks for the 5 best films released in the UK so far this year:
Following up his terrific directorial debut Ex Machina, Alex Garland treated us to another great sci-fi with Annihilation. Though ignored at the box office and released straight to Netflix in the UK, Annihilation deserves to find a bigger audience. Featuring trippy visual FX, scary setpieces, and a thrillingly-avant garde climax, Garland proves he’s a director to watch.
As you may have noticed, there have been no posts from me this week. I’m currently on holiday travelling across Belgium and haven’t had much time to sit down, let alone write up any new articles or reviews. As I write this, I’m sat in an apartment just outside the centre of Bruges. Ever since I first saw Martin McDonagh’s modern classic In Bruges, I’ve wanted to visit, and I have to admit that Ralph Fiennes’ Harry was right: It really is a fairytale.
Tomorrow, I plan on visiting the Belfry of Bruges (“What am I trying to say? You’s a bunch of fucking elephants!”), the Basilica of the Holy Blood (“It’s Jesus’ fucking blood, isn’t it? Of course you don’t fucking have to!”) and the Groeninge Museum (“All the rest were rubbish by spastics but this one’s quite good”). As well as an ample opportunity to quote one of my all-time favourite films, I’m hoping my trip around Bruges is going to live up to nearly ten years of hype and anticipation. Finally, I’ll be able to see whether I agree or disagree with Colin Farrel’s Ray and his blunt opinion that “Bruges is a shithole”.
Ill be back next week where I’ll hopefully write bits and pieces here and there before my university graduation ceremony, after which I’ll hopefully be able to get back into the normal swing of things. Until then, au revoir and vaarwel!
By Harry J. Ford
Who doesn’t love alliteration? There’s something to be said for the way female friendships are portrayed in film (especially by male directors). While many platonic female relationships have been about empowerment (Thelma and Louise) or supporting each other through hard times (Steel Magnolias), a huge majority of films have portrayed female friendships in a more negative or disturbing light.
One such film is Corey Finley’s recent debut, Thoroughbreds. The story of a rich preppy girl, Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy), sent to tutor her sociopathic former-best friend Amanda (Olivia Cooke), the film is a disturbing, wickedly-funny character study of two young women who are, in their own ways, both unhinged. Insightful about class, money, and power, Thoroughbreds is one of the best films of 2018 so far, and Lily and Amanda make a delightful addition to the canon of cinematic female friends who suffer from identity crises, paranoia, reversing fortunes, or being plain old deranged. Without further ado, here are my picks for the five freakiest female friendships in film.
Nurse Alma (Bibi Andersson) and her patient, mute actress Elisabet (Liv Ullman).
As bare-footed Elisabet realises Alma has delibaretly left a shard of glass on the floor for her to walk over, the ‘projector’ breaks down and the screen implodes into a distorted mess.
What makes it so freaky:
Ingmar Berman’s psychological two-hander depicts a tense, ambiguous relationship in which the talkative Alma and the silent Elisabet slowly begin to merge personalities. One of the most influential arthouse films of all time, Persona remains a bewildering look at identity and power dynamics.
Warning: The following short film will seriously mess you up.
In honour of the recent release of Ari Aster’s effectively-horrible debut feature Hereditary, I thought I’d use this week’s Sunday Short to highlight his most controversial short film, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. Like Hereditary, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is a grim, deeply disturbing look at a family in turmoil. What is the source of discomfort for the Johnson family? To say would be to spoil the uncomfortable mystery within.
Upon its release, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons became something of a viral phenomenon, with people daring others to watch it in the manner of The Human Centipede, but dismissing it as empty shocks undersells Aster’s natural filmmaking talents. Inspired by filmmakers as diverse as Roman Polanski and Mike Leigh, Aster creates an atmosphere of nightmarish dread for his banal portrait of middle class life, heightening reality until you’re left with something only just recognisable as human behaviour.
While not an outright horror in the way Hereditary is, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons is in its own way just as unnerving. Some have accused Aster of racism (due to starring a black family, which seems fairly irrelevant) or mocking a serious issue (though Aster plays the central premise of the film totally straight-faced), but that just seems to be a natural side effect of making a film this provocative and genuinely difficult to watch. It’s an unforgettable experience, and one that will linger in your mind for hours afterwards. Watch The Strange Thing About the Johnsons here:
By Harry J. Ford
Having shocked and appalled viewers with controversial short films The Strange Thing About The Johnsons and Munchausen, director Ari Aster aims to traumatise the masses with his feature debut Hereditary. A dark, deeply disturbing story of grief, family trauma and possession, the film might be narratively inconsistent and a little familiar, but one thing is certain: Hereditary will fuck you up.
The problem with creating a ‘Best Of’ list at the end of each year is that some terrific films inevitably fall through the cracks. As much as I’d love to see every major film of 2018 by the end of December, I already know I’ll miss some underrated gems, box office hits and other terrific films when it comes to compiling the Ford On Film Awards. Just looking at the past few years of awards, I can see that I hadn’t seen Frances Ha or Pride when compiling my 2013 and 2014 lists, while 2016 saw the majestic documentary O.J.: Made in America fail to make the cut.
I say this because I finally caught up with Pixar’s latest release, Coco. When it first came out, I dismissed it as looking ‘second tier Pixar’ and decided I could wait until after its cinema run to see it.
How foolish of me.