Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Film

The latest in a series of writers recommending under-appreciated films available to stream highlights a schlocky late 70s Star Wars rip-off

When the Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe (that is, Christopher Plummer, in a patent leather suit beneath silver armor, a cape and oven mitt-like gloves) wants to calm his worried son (David Hasselhoff) during a climactic moment, he steps forward amid a room full of warriors and slain robots and bellows: Imperial Battleship stop the flow of time!!!

It is an apogee of trash brilliance unrivaled anywhere else in the galaxy.

The Star Wars big bang created a universe that is still expanding, but never was the fiery scream of that first eruption felt more furiously than in the late 1970s. Producers far and wide hitched their fortunes to the Millennium Falcons hyperdrive, to varying measures of financial and artistic success.

It got Star Trek (the far superior of the two franchises) back into business, with the curiously terrific Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 and begat Battlestar Galactica in 1978, Flash Gordon in 1980 and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century in 1979.

But these are the more respectable titles. On the lower budget shelf came Battle Beyond the Stars (penned on assignment by John Sayles), Galaxina (starring Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten) and one of the all-time pieces of junk, Italys Cosmos: War of the Planets.

In the middle of all this is something that demands further study. Mixing low-budget schlock with genuine design brilliance is Starcrash. Produced at Romes Cinecitt Studios in 1978 and distributed by Roger Cormans New World Pictures, Starcrash was directed and co-written by future Dario Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (credited as Lewis Coates)

In addition to Plummer (only in a few scenes, whispering his ludicrous lines with a true thespians straight face) and Hasselhoff (dashing, and wielding a cheapo green lightsaber) is a nervous police robot with a wacky American Southern drawl, a goon named Thor with green makeup on his face (but not his neck), and the real reason this movie is as remembered as it is: Caroline Munro.

Munro, already known for appearing in Hammer Studio films, the Ray Harryhausen Golden Voyage of Sinbad and as Bond villainess Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, is Stella Star, a bikini clad smuggler with Patrick Nagel-like makeup and eternally blown-out hair. Though her voiced is dubbed by Candy Clark (Plummer referred to her accent as one you could coot with a fookin knife when I asked him about Starcrash in a recent interview), her charisma still blasts through the screen. Yes, it is absurd that all the men are wearing spacesuits or typical high fantasy gowns, but she wears her various skintight, fabric-light outfits with confidence and verve. She is a vision of vertices, a striking image on her own, but even more so against the primary colors of the various interplanetary interiors and spaceship bridges of the film.

At her side is Akton, played by former child preacher (and subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary feature) Marjoe Gortner. Resembling a lovechild of poultry magnate Frank Purdue and Foreigners Lou Gramm during his Jukebox Hero peak, Gortner is a baffling pick as a leading man, but he does have access to cool, neon-like laser magic and a red-and-black rubbery outfit.

Read more:

The singer is known for her honesty in life and her music. Shes been talking about solitude, sobriety and how Quentin Tarantino convinced her to give up cocaine

Its been eight years since Fiona Apple last graced the world with a studio album, but an illuminating profile in the latest issue of the New Yorker, filled with a fair number of wild anecdotes involving her celebrity cohorts, serves to remind us of her brilliance. Here are six reasons why Apple is just the performer we need in this mixed-up, locked-down world.

She doesnt shy away from the difficult topics
Apple has said that her new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, is about women and not being afraid to speak. Throughout her career she has spoken, in her songs and in the press, about her issues with depression, self-harm, OCD, PTSD, and the fact that, when she was 12, she was raped by a stranger.

In so doing, she paved the way for other women to speak about their experiences, from Kesha to Lady Gaga, and on to the #MeToo movement.

She has the best story about giving up cocaine
Every addict should just get locked in a private movie theatre with QT [Quentin Tarantino] and PTA [Paul Thomas Anderson] on coke, she jokingly told the New Yorker magazine. And theyll never want to do it again.

She can teach us a thing or two about self-isolation
Apple doesnt venture out much these days, save to walk her dog along the beach near her home in Venice Beach, California.

She has learned how to live a little more wisely
Once a bottle-of-vodka-a-day level drinker, Apple is now sober and has been vegan for many years.

She knows her political onions
Last summer, Apple pledged two years worth of earnings from her song Criminal to the While They Wait fund, which finances legal support and necessities for immigrants seeking asylum. In 2017, she released Tiny Hands for the Womens March on Washington. She has said that one of her latest tracks, For Her, was written in a cloud of rage after the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to Supreme Court Justice.

She has her priorities straight
In late 2012, Apple postponed the South American leg of her tour due to the ill-health of her dog, Janet.

Read more:

From Wuhan-400, the deadly virus invented by Dean Koontz in 1981, to the plague unleashed in Margaret Atwoods Oryx and Crake, novelists have long been fascinated by pandemics

According to an online conspiracy theory, the American author Dean Koontz predicted the coronavirus outbreak in 1981. His novel The Eyes of Darkness made reference to a killer virus called Wuhan-400 eerily predicting the Chinese city where Covid-19 would emerge. But the similarities end there: Wuhan-400 is described as having a killrate of 100%, developed in labs outside the city as the perfect biological weapon. An account with more similarities, also credited by some as predicting coronavirus, is found in the 2011 film Contagion, about a global pandemic that jumps from animals to humans and spreads arbitrarily around the globe.

But when it comes to our suffering, we want something more than arbitrariness. We want it to mean something. This is evident in our stories about illness and disease, from contemporary science fiction all the way back to Homers Iliad. Even malign actors are more reassuring than blind happenstance. Angry gods are better than no gods at all.

In Homers Iliad, the Greeks disrespect one of Apollos priests. The god manifests his displeasure by firing his arrows of contagion into their camp. The plague lasts nine days, brief by modern epidemiological standards. When the Greeks make amends and sacrifice sheep and goats to Apollo, the plague is cured.

Seven centuries later a plague struck Periclean Athens, killing a quarter of the citys population and setting the city-state on a path to military defeat at the hands of Sparta. Thucydides, the Athenian historian, has a simple explanation for the epidemic: Apollo. The Spartans had cannily supplicated the god and he in return had promised victory. Soon afterwards, Spartas enemies started dying of the plague. Hindsight suggests that Athens, under siege its population swollen with refugees, everyone living in unsanitary conditions was at risk of contagion in a way the Spartan army, free to roam the countryside outside, clearly wasnt. But this thought doesnt occur to Thucydides. It can only be the god.

Between then and now there have been prodigious advances in medical science. We understand contagious disease vastly better, and have a greater arsenal of medicine and hygiene to fight it. But in one respect we havent advanced at all. We still tend to see agency in our pandemics.

Disease has no agency. Bacteria and viruses spread blindly where they can, their pathways facilitated by our globalised world. We, meanwhile, bring to the struggle our ever-improving drugs and hygiene. With Covid-19, experts insist, your two best bets are: wash your hands often, touch your face never. But people do not warm to the existential arbitrariness of this. Just as the Peloponnesian plague was seen as evidence that the gods were angry with Athens, so HIV was seen by a deluded minority as Gods judgment on homosexuals. Of course, HIV spreads wherever it can and cares nothing for your morals or sexual orientation.

This attribution of agency is clearest in the many imaginary plagues science-fiction writers have inflicted on humanity. In place of gods we have aliens, like those in Alice Sheldons chilling and brilliant short story The Screwfly Solution (1977). A new disease provokes men to begin murdering women en masse. At the storys end we discover an alien species had introduced a brain infection so that the human race will destroy itself and the aliens can inherit the emptied planet. Its a story about what we now call toxic masculinity and it says: its not gods we have angered, but goddesses.

A scene from The Andromeda Strain (1970), directed by Robert Wise. Photograph: Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Sometimes the alien plague is less picky. In HP Lovecrafts The Colour Out of Space (1927; recently filmed, starring Nicolas Cage) an alien infection arrives via meteorite, wastes the land and drives people mad. In Michael Crichtons The Andromeda Strain (1969) potentially world-ending contagion falls from outer space. This bug repeatedly mutates as Earths scientists try to combat it. Were doomed or would be, if it werent for the tales germus ex machina ending, in which the alien spontaneously mutates into a benign form.

If its not aliens behind our world-threatening plague, then it is probably that other SF stalwart, the mad scientist. Dozens of zombie franchises start with a rogue scientist infecting the population with a genetically engineered bioweapon virus. In Frank Herberts The White Plague (1982) a geneticist, pushed into insanity by the murder of his family, creates a pathogen that kills all humanitys females. A cure is eventually found, but not before the worlds population balance has been shifted to leave thousands of men to every woman.

In Joanna Russs feminist masterpiece The Female Man (1975), Whileaway, a gender-specific virus has wiped out all the men, creating an effective utopia for women left behind, procreating by parthenogenesis and living in harmony. By the novels end it is hinted that the man-destroying plague was actually engineered by a female scientist. Never mind the antibacterial handwash: it is patriarchy that we need to scrub out.

So characteristic is assigning agency to pandemics in todays culture that a video game such as Plague Inc (Ndemic Creations 2012) styles its players not as doctors attempting to stop the spread of a pandemic, but as the sickness itself. The players mission is to help their plagues spread and exterminate the human race. In HG Wellss seminal War of the Worlds (1898) and in its various modern retellings, including Independence Day (1996), the virus is on our side, destroying alien invaders that lack our acquired immunity.

One of the most striking twists on this conceit is Greg Bears novel Blood Music (1985). A scientist, angry at being sacked by his lab, smuggles a virus out into the world in his own body. It infects everybody, becomes self-aware, and assimilates everybody and everything to itself: human beings and their infrastructure melt down into a planetwide sea of hyperintelligent grey goo. It sounds unpleasant, but its actually a liberation: the accumulation of concentrated consciousness, our own included, punches through a transcendent new realm. The plague becomes a kind of secular Rapture.

The mad scientists of Channel 4s Utopia hope their germ will wipe out humanity. Photograph: Collection Christophel/Alamy

If on some level we still think of contagion as the gods anger, these stories become about how we have angered the god about, in other words, our guilt. When Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver planned their reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise, they decided an agent, a neuroenhancer spliced into simian flu, would both raise the apes level of intelligence and prove fatal to humans. The resulting movie trilogy (2011-17) was more than just a commercial hit; it proved an eloquent articulation of broader environmental concerns. The few surviving humans move through the films lush rejuvenated forestscapes, compelled to confront avatars of humanitys generational contempt for the natural world.

The plague that has destroyed us has uplifted these animals, given them wisdom, and they are angry with us why wouldnt they be? Its a common genre trope. The scientist in Alistair MacLeans The Satan Bug (1965) is an environmental fundamentalist who hopes his germ will wipe out humanity. The mad scientists from Channel 4s TV drama Utopia (201314) and Margaret Atwoods Oryx and Crake trilogy are both driven by the same animus.

Having invested ourselves with the crown of all creation, coronavirus arrives to puncture our hubris. Think of the computer intelligence Agent Smith inThe Matrix (1999), played with sneering panache by Hugo Weaving: humans, he tells Laurence Fishburnes Morpheus, are incapable of developing a natural equilibrium with their environment: You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. In this telling, we are the virus.

Read more:

An ambitious franchise-starter offers only the smallest of pleasures, mainly thanks to the star himself, while mostly descending into cliche

It is the Hollywood screenwriters great misconception that self-consciously acknowledging cliche in a script neutralizes it. When one character does something hackneyed and another remarks on that quality, thats the author of their dialogue signaling that they know the score and that theyre with us. But unless such a comment does something with the recognition of its artifice, channeling that towards auto-critique or deconstruction or postmodern what-have-you, it just seems like the writer couldnt be troubled to think of anything better. Calling out their own hack tendencies can make a person seem clever and savvy just as easily as it can make them seem like a hack.

Theres a whole lot of winking going on in Bloodshot, David SF Wilsons silver screen take on the flagship superhero of 90s alt-comics outfit Valiant. Though his origin story introduces him as a lethal combination of flesh and technology, the man born Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) actually fuses little more than RoboCop to Wolverine. The script goes through the factory-issue beats for any star vehicle about a supersoldier stripped of his memory and converted into a killing machine, an oddly specific setup to be so well trodden. Theres a loving wife as silent as she is blond, an eccentric murderer dancing around to Psycho Killer by Talking Heads, the barked vow to find and destroy the men responsible. After the first act winds up and our hero gets reborn, the lab techs responsible for converting Garrison into the unstoppable force known as Bloodshot mutter about how they went strictly by the book in concocting this scenario.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film fails to do anything with this trite simulation beyond plug it in to a story equally bereft of imagination. While sinister robot-handed scientist Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) and his lackeys pull the digital wool over Garrisons brains eyes, their reality feels no realer. Everyone speaks in a pseudo-techno dialect that only breaks up the long strings of jargon with pat affirmations of thin archetypes. Garrison gains the obligatory Sturdy Female Ally in fellow augmentee KT (Eiza Gonzlez), and a flavorless rival in the cybernetically enhanced Dalton (Sam Heughan). The film doubles up on tokenized comic relief, between bad nerd Eric (Siddharth Dhananjay) and good nerd Wilfred (Lamorne Morris, doing a dreadful and inexplicable English accent).

Theyre all taken to school by Diesel, outdoing the entire cast in terms of sheer magnetism even with part of his characters brain turned off. He delivers his every line with the gravitas of a platoon leader preparing his troops for certain death, and his rubble-gargled voice goes a long way toward selling it. His physical attributes prove a great boon to the film at large, particularly in the pair of standout fight scenes mounting the lone argument for this films existence. Diesel has the build and gait of a person who could conceivably be the recipient of a bionic boost. His punches look like how they sound. The standout sequence, a slow-mo ballet involving an overturned flour truck and a fistful of crimson flares, brings out his brutality via hypersaturated music-video expressionism.

Eiza Gonzlez and Vin Diesel in Blooodshot. Photograph: Graham Bartholomew/AP

That constitutes the height of Wilsons stylistic flair, the overall lack of which betrays him as a VFX technician first and rookie director second. Its not hard to see why he was tapped for the job, CGI showcase that it is. He milks that skill set for all it is worth, from the many synthetic limbs to one impressive shot in which an Italian port vista materializes from digital nothingness. Hes never more in his element than when a computer geek rotates a 3D holo-model of an environment hes building; in fact, this qualifies as the sole moment in which the film evinces a lived-in, authoritative perspective. Wilsons direction otherwise hews on the side of the expected, staging each scene as if hes trying to create minimal obtrusions while the post-production team does their stuff.

A report last year announced Valiant Comics plan to build a connected universe around their intellectual property, making Bloodshot the vanguard of a grittier counterpart to the Marvel-industrial complex. That would explain why Diesel doesnt assume the characters trademark pallid skin and scarlet eyeballs until the climax, along with the mercenary tinge of an ending that shamelessly sets itself up to be built on. Franchises must be earned, by putting forth something that audiences could conceivably see themselves spending hours on over a course of years. Aside from the singular brawn of its leading man, this would-be springboard has nothing much worth launching. Its a stack of wormed-over action tropes, and to make matters worse, the movie knows it and yet does not know enough to spare us its missteps in the first place. Our collective memories of Wilsons blunt-force feature debut wont last much longer than Garrisons.

  • Bloodshot is released in the US and UK on 13 March

Read more:

The actor and his wife Rita Wilson now in self-isolation and feeling a lot better, says their son

Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have been discharged from an Australian hospital but remain in self-isolation as they recover from coronavirus.

Their son, Chet Hanks, posted a video message on Instagram about his parents being released from hospital after they tested positive last week. He said their health had improved and people needed to stay calm.

They are still self-quarantined obviously, but they are feeling a lot better so thats a relief, Chet said in the video post. I just want to say, anyone else out there that has loved ones, or if you yourself are inflicted with the virus, my prayers go out to you, because a lot of people are suffering other than my parents right now. I just wish everyone a swift and speedy recovery.

Hanks is in Queensland filming a Baz Luhrmann biopic about Elvis Presley. Production has ceased for two weeks; Hanks is not believed to have infected any other cast or crew. Singer-songwriter Wilson recently performed in Brisbane and Sydney.

Hanks issued a statement last Thursday saying he and Wilson had gone to hospital after feeling run down. He said they would comply with all Australian health restrictions relating to the virus.

While in hospital, Hanks tweeted his gratitude to the medical staff caring for them. The post, which included a photo of two pieces of toast smothered in Vegemite, sparked a furious social media debate about the correct amount and application of the popular spread.

Wilson asked Twitter to help her compile a music playlist for those in isolation, calling it Quarantunes.

Read more:

Court filing says producer treated others with inhumanity as authorities seek prison time that reflects more than crimes for which he was convicted

Harvey Weinsteins record of sexual attacks and harassment against women dates back to the 1970s in a lifetime of abuse in which he trapped women into his exclusive control and assaulted or attempted to assault them, according to New York prosecutors.

In a note to the New York supreme court released on Friday ahead of Weinsteins sentencing next week, the lead prosecutor at his rape trial essentially threw the book at the fallen movie mogul. Without providing the states desired sentence, Joan Illuzzi-Orbon urged Judge James Burke to impose a sentence that reflects the seriousness of [his] offenses, his total lack of remorse for the harm he has caused, and the need to deter him and others from engaging in further criminal conduct.

Illuzzi-Orbon gives a devastating account of Weinsteins sexual crimes. She says of Weinstein that throughout his entire adult professional life, [he] has displayed a staggering lack of empathy, treating others with disdain and inhumanity. He has consistently advanced his own sordid desires and fixations over the well-being of others.

She then itemises a stunningly long list of Weinsteins alleged sexual misconduct, drawing on a two-year investigation out of the New York district attorneys office. She breaks the shocking litany up into three categories: sexual assault and harassment, bad acts and behavior in the work environment and other bad acts.

In total, the sentencing memo chronicles 36 instances of alleged sexual abuse, bullying, harassment and threats over a span of 40 years.

Last month the jury of seven men and five women found the former movie mogul guilty of sexually assaulting former production assistant Miriam Haley and of raping an aspiring actor who the Guardian has not named as her wishes in terms of identification are not known.

Haley testified that Weinstein forced oral sex on her in his home in 2006, while the other key witness testified that he raped her in March 2013, early in an extremely degrading relationship she had with him.

The jury acquitted Weinstein on the most serious charges, which carried a potential life sentence.

Extraordinarily, the prosecutors litany of Weinsteins sexual and other bad behavior begins as far back as 1978, when it alleges a woman working in Weinsteins then music company in Buffalo, New York, met him in New York City for a business meeting. There he told her there was only one room left at his hotel; later that night she woke up in their shared room to find him lying on top of her and forcing himself sexually on her.

The next entry is dated to the summer of 1981, when a woman turns up for an audition. She is met by Weinstein in a hotel room wearing only a terrycloth robe. Everyone calls me Teddy Bear because Im so big and cuddly and harmless, he is alleged to have said.

Weinstein then told the woman that he would give her any movie part she wanted if she had sex with him, the sentencing memo says. Defendant said that when a man is obese, normal sexual positions would not work and other options would have to be used to get him off.

In the UK in the 1990s, Weinstein is alleged to have lured a 19-year-old employee to his hotel room under the guise of a script meeting. Defendant then sexually assaulted the employee, who was left in extreme shock and had difficulty comprehending what had happened.

In another incident in the UK in 1991, a woman also aged 19 who worked as an intern for Weinstein for just one day was told by her supervisor to visit him in his hotel suite. There she was forced to see him naked in the bathtub and to watch him lying on his bed with his dressing gown open. He forced her to take her own top off before she fled.

Actor Rose McGowan speaks at a news conference with actor Rosanna Arquette outside a Manhattan courthouse where Weinsteins trial was held. Photograph: Mark Lennihan/AP

Under the category of abusive behavior in the workplace, the memo lists numerous examples of Weinsteins alleged tantrums and tirades. They include the movie mogul throwing a table of food at an employee who disagreed with him, threatening staff physically and professionally, and getting executives to lie on his behalf.

One business executive described Weinstein to prosecutors as despicable, aggressive, demeaning, coercive, threatening and as someone who would make you do things you dont want to do.

Another witness described Weinstein attacking his brother Bob Weinstein so badly that he bled a great deal and was briefly unconscious. A former board member of Weinsteins movie production company said he threatened to send someone to his office to cut off his genitals with gardening shears.

The final entry in the litany of horrors relates to the woman who Weinstein raped in 2013 for which he faces a possible maximum prison sentence of four years. Illuzzi-Orbon alleges that the woman was one of multiple people who reported to prosecutors that Weinstein had bragged to them about his ability to get people killed.

Weinstein told his rape victim that he could send men with baseball bats to assault her father if she wanted, bragging that he had done that with other people in the past, the memo claims.

A lawyer for Weinstein had no immediate comment about the allegations made in the sentencing note.

In its memo, the New York district attorneys office is seeking to firm up the groundbreaking nature of Weinsteins conviction. The once-powerful titan of Hollywood, who produced such cult films as Pulp Fiction and Shakespeare in Love, was found guilty of one charge of a criminal sex act and one of rape in the third degree which combined carry a maximum sentence of 29 years in prison.

The guilty verdict broke a glass ceiling in prosecutions of sexual assault in the US by convicting a defendant who continued to be in intimate contact with his victims, in some cases sexually. Such cases have almost never been taken all the way to trial as prosecutors have assumed that juries would acquit.

Marking the historic victory, Illuzzi-Orbon states in her memo: It is totally appropriate in this case to communicate to a wider audience that sexual assault, even if perpetrated upon an acquaintance or in a professional setting, is a serious offense worthy of a lengthy prison sentence.

Weinstein was moved to the prison on Rikers Island in New York on Thursday having undergone heart surgery. He will be sentenced on Wednesday.

He still faces sexual assault charges in Los Angeles, which were announced just hours after his New York trial began in January. Dozens of women have also filed civil lawsuits against him.

Read more:

Hunkering down to avoid coronavirus? With romcoms, fantasy yarns and at least one disaster melodrama, heres all you need to make the most of your time in front of the TV

25. Babe (1995)

Digital deepfakery has progressed since this emerged in 1995, but there is a warm glow to be had from the adorable talking piglet who wants to do the work of a sheepdog.

24. Amlie (2001)

It melts in the mouth like a Waitrose pain au chocolat. Amlie is the innocently mischievous gamine who has whimsical fantasy adventures in Paris.

23. Casablanca (1942)

As with others on this list, there is a debate about whether really great films deserve a comfort ranking, but Humphrey and Ingrids great romance in wartime Morocco soothes the soul.

22. Zoolander (2001)

In troubled times, we all need a blast of supermodel Derek Zoolanders compelling blue steel face. A film that never goes out of fashion.

21. Downton Abbey (2019)

Perhaps this is cheating (you could as well put on something from your Downton Abbey TV DVD boxset) but a visit to the Crawley familys leisured world will go down like a non-Christmas glass of sherry.

20. Back to the Future (1985)

The Freudian themes might make it less comforting than other films here, but Marty McFlys time-travel adventures in the small-town America of his parents youth is always reassuring.

19. Quiz Show (1994)

Great performances from Ralph Fiennes, Paul Scofield and John Turturro in this true story of a rigged TV quiz show. A morality tale that is weirdly calming and pacifying.

18. Guys and Dolls (1955)

Cinematic greatness is always comforting: wonderful songs and comedy in this fantastic New York musical with Vivian Blaine, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons.

17. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Director Rob Reiner makes the first of his two appearances on this list with this great romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

16. Dreamgirls (2006)

Jamie Foxx, Beyonc, Jennifer Hudson and Danny Glover in this outrageously calorific double-helping of music and romance, all about the Detroit music scene from the 60s and 70s.

15. Love & Basketball (2000)

Here to prove that sports movies can be as comforting as romances, and that they can moreover be romances, is Gina Prince-Blythewoods Love & Basketball. Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan star as the boy and girl next door who are both fiercely good at basketball, and pretty competitive, and perhaps not yet ready to confess how into each other they are. Its a very seductive love story with some sharp commentary on sexism on the basketball court.

14. Jupiter Ascending (2015)

This supremely wacky and world-historically daft sci-fi extravaganza is just what you need to cheer you up, featuring as it does an outrageous scene-stealing turn from Eddie Redmayne, playing the scheming space-lord Balem, an epicene pharaoh of intergalactic evilness. He completely upstages the films notional leads Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis who encounter the vampirically arrogant alien clan led by Redmayne. It really is wildly silly but very funny.

13. Mary Poppins (1964)

When you want cinema itself to be your nanny, dispensing wisdom and comfort, here is the Julie Andrews classic, cheering you up, spit-spot.

12. Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986)

A wonderfully comforting movie that celebrates the world of idling, skiving, goofing off, and what the French flaneurs called botanising on the asphalt. Matthew Broderick plays a high-school kid from Chicagos North Shore called Ferris Bueller who fakes an illness so he can award himself a personal day in the city with his girlfriend and his best friend, who will be bringing his dads treasured Ferrari. The movie bops around the city from joyous set-piece to joyous set-piece and some words from Ferris about how life goes by so fast that you have to make sure you appreciate it.

11. Clueless (1995)

The greatest Jane Austen adaptation in film history is also as richly comforting as drinking a mug of milky tea while curled up on the couch, eating a family-sized tub of Celebrations swathed in a cashmere slanket. Alicia Silverstone is glorious as Cher (the Emma of her day) who is happy, pretty and extremely well-meaning, with a great love of the mall, and an altruistic need to fix other peoples love lives. She achieves a strange kind of intimacy with her stepbrother Josh, an earnest college kid home for the vacation, played by Paul Rudd, and they hang out in the kitchen or huddled up watching TV and realise that have feelings for each other.

10. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Unashamed and unabashed at all times, this is an industrial-strength Hollywood heartwarmer that lets you have the feelgood monosodium-glutamate right in your veins. Will Smith stars in this based-on-a-true-story of an ordinary guy who suffered heartbreak and homelessness as a single dad, and gets offered a once-in-a-lifetime shot out of poverty: an unpaid internship at a top financial firm. But he has to keep up appearances in front of all the other entitled Ivy Leaguers while covering up the fact that he is sleeping in a homeless shelter at night.

9. Paddington 2 (2017)

At a time when all of us feel like nothing more than self-isolating and eating marmalade direct from the jar, here is one of the most profoundly comforting comedies of recent times, which incidentally shows how a confident nation is happy about immigrants. Hugh Grant gives what many believe to be the finest performance of his career as the peevish, cravat-wearing actor Phoenix Buchanan who steals a precious pop-up book with clues to hidden treasure from Mr Grubers shop and frames Paddington for the crime. Despite doing jail time, the bear comes bouncing back.

8. Galaxy Quest (1999)

All together now: By Grabthars hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged! Alan Rickman had a glorious role in this brilliant postmodern sci-fi comedy as Alexander Dane, the grumpy British thesp who had his moment of fame playing Dr Lazarus on a cancelled TV show called Galaxy Quest and now, like the rest of the jaded cast (including Sigourney Weaver and Tim Allen), makes a living going round fan conventions, signing photos and reciting the catchphrases to the tragic nerdy fans. But then a deputation from outer space arrives believing the show to be a documentary history of what actually happened, and desperately needing our heroes help. Galaxy Quest has one of the cleverest, funniest plot premises in film history, worked out to perfection.

7. The Princess Bride (1987)

William Goldman, who adapted this movie from his own novel, became famous for his screenwriting axiom: Nobody knows anything. But we certainly know that this film is absolutely great: sweet, charming, funny, with a dash of idealism and a genuine eccentricity that distinguishes it from regular Hollywood product. Cary Elwes plays the handsome farmhand who falls in love with a beautiful noblewoman played by Robin Wright. Their love is sabotaged by evil court plotters but the lovers find friendship with the passionate, hot-headed Spanish swordsman Montoya, played by Mandy Patinkin. Great to watch with all the family, or the grownups can savour it all on their own.

6. Notting Hill (1999)

This inspirationally glutinous fantasy from screenwriter Richard Curtis is about what would happen if an ordinary civilian bloke (and a Brit, to boot) fell for a super-glamorous Hollywood star, and she with him. The bloke is the tousle-haired stammerer Hugh Grant (making his second appearance on this list) and the star is Julia Roberts, who had what some of us believe to be her greatest career moment in Notting Hill, and the scene when she tearfully tells him that shes just a girl standing in front of a boy is a classic. Rhys Ifans found stardom as Hughs appalling flatmate Spike who says: Im going to tell you a story that will make your balls shrink to the size of raisins, which incidentally is what happens to the male audience when the arrogant star, played by Alec Baldwin, dismisses poor Hugh from the hotel where he had been hoping to have sex with Julia. But it all ends happily.

5. Duck Soup (1933)

A brilliant and rather prescient satire on 1930s nationalism and indeed fascism, but also a hilarious comedy. The bizarre Ruritanian state of Freedonia, in deepest central Europe, is enduring a continuous and worsening economic crisis and forever on the verge of war with its equally belligerent neighbour Sylvania. But a rescue plan is at hand. A wealthy American widow (played in magnificent deadpan by Margaret Dumont) offers a multimillion dollar loan to Freedonias coffers on condition that they install her close friend as president and that is the free-thinking visionary and genius, Rufus T Firefly, played by Groucho Marx. Wisecracking Rufus soon causes mayhem in Freedonias quasi-fascist staterooms. Is this the USs quasi-colonialism in action?

4. Its Complicated (2009)

Nancy Meyers is the Michelin-starred chef of cinematic comfort cuisine and here she serves up a richly flavoured dish of escapist storytelling, a veritable festival of gastro-lifestyle porn featuring very rich people who dont particularly regard themselves as rich. Meryl Streep is the divorced woman with grown-up kids who is now a chocolatier, of all the outrageously implausible things, running an upscale deli-cum-eaterie, although the actual work involved is minimal. Her roguish lawyer ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, broke her heart by running off with a hard-faced younger woman who is now failing to satisfy him on the life-affirming laughter front, so he starts having an affair with his ex-wife. You really do need to suspend your disbelief in this world of almost weightless freedom from work and ordinary money worries, but it is undeniably enjoyable and comforting in its weird way.

3. Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Waiting to Exhale is basically the equivalent to eating an entire Haagen Dazs tub of ice-cream while watching the greatest daytime soap opera of all time and it is tremendously addictive. Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Loretta Devine and Lela Rochon play four smart, successful women who are discontented with the men in their lives and the way society somehow finds that a womans inability to be in a relationship with a man makes their other accomplishments somehow second-rate. But these discontents are showcased in a horribly watchable world of nice clothes and nice cars. It also has a great male cast, including Wendell Pierce, later to be Bunk in The Wire and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman on the London stage.

2. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Meryl Streep makes her second appearance on this list in this fashion comedy movie based on the Lauren Weisberger novel, reportedly inspired by the terrifying fashion empress Anna Wintour. It is a comedy, but without the sharp, angular edges of satire or bleakness that might endanger the comfort factor. New York City is replete with glamour and gorgeousness as the location for this aspirational story: Anne Hathaway is the callow literature graduate from the sticks who somehow flukes a job at the colossally prestigious fashion magazine Runway edited by Streeps terrifying Miranda Priestly, the boss from hell who enforces a Stockholm-Syndrome love on all her employees and on us, the audience. Stanley Tucci is wonderful as her long-serving, long-suffering senior executive and this was the film that launched the elegant Emily Blunt on the world, as the super-snobbish fashionista who is to be Hathaways unwilling guide.

1. Titanic (1997)

There can surely be no doubt as to the No 1 slot. As Liam Neeson says in Love Actually: We need Kate and we need Leo and we need them now. Cheesy it may be, but this film delivers weapons-grade feelgood and, at well over three hours, it delivers an awful lot of it. Because, paradoxically, nothing says filmic comfort eating like screaming in terror and being plunged into the icy Atlantic ocean, resurfacing, discovering that for some reason the woman you are in love with somehow cant scooch up on her bit of driftwood to let you on, and then going back down again, with Cline Dion in the background singing that her heart will go on. Kate Winslet found her moment of global greatness as Rose, the young well-born passenger in first class who is unhappily engaged to creepy Billy Zane (fated not to cover himself with glory once the trouble starts). Rose finds that she has a distinct spark with Leonardo DiCaprios Jack who has won his third-class ticket in a poker game and thinks himself the luckiest young fellow in the world to have got on board for this exciting maiden voyage especially when he feels that Rose is in love with him, and secretly gets to paint her in the nude. (Thats her in the nude, not him.) It is amazing to think that just before this film was released, all the talk was about how it could be a disaster how it was going to be like Lew Grades Raise the Titanic; what a tyrannical monster Cameron was to his cast etc but the films instant rip-roaring success simply blew all this away. A film to lull you into a bovine stupor of wellbeing.

Read more:

That the film coincides with a pandemic which will kill the uninsured, sick and elderly is just another layer of discomfort

My entertainment options this week were a movie in which liberal elites hunt down and murder deplorables for sport deaths that are ultra gory and played for laughs and a Hulu documentary in which Hillary Clinton explains with a chuckle and a smile why the policies supported by her 2016 opponent, Bernie Sanders policies like universal healthcare and prison reform, which would help countless Americans are just not doable. In other words, essentially the same thing.

The Hunt was supposed to be released last fall, but it was put on hold after some people wondered if a movie about political polarity and divisiveness in contemporary society, in which a bunch of poor people die violently was really going to be a good idea. Released now, the controversy is its main selling point. And since we are in the beginning stages of a pandemic for which the United States is not remotely prepared and in which the uninsured, elderly, and poor are much more likely to die well, lets just say the timing creates a certain tone.

The co-writer and producer Damon Lindelof who recently read the legendary anti-fascist comic Watchmen and thought, huh, okay, but what if instead we made the cops the heroes? has created a world where a group of rich, NPR-listening liberals, who bicker about gendered language and whether black or African-American is the more acceptable term, drug, abduct, and murder Trump voters for sport. One of the Trump voters actually isnt a Trump voter but is brought there by mistake, and not being a redneck hillbilly idiot, she manages to fight back. I think thats a metaphor. For something.

Ultimately the film wants to pretend to be a commentary on cancel culture and our new culture wars. It turns out the whole plan for liberal elites to hunt deplorables becomes a reality because deplorables cant take a joke about liberal elites hunting deplorables. The slapstick deaths are supposed to indicate that hey, were just playing around here, rather than show a callous disregard for human life on the part of the film-makers. And if you dont find it funny to watch a woman impaled on spikes or a man blown up on a landmine or a woman choking to death after shes poisoned, you must be one of those humorless cancel culture freaks who need to learn to take a joke.

But of course if youre from and of the coasts its easy to believe these new culture wars are just about a difference of opinion about gun control or abortion and not about the hopelessness and loss of meaning and instability causing the deaths of despair killing white middle Americans without college degrees through suicide and addiction. Its similar to how one segment of the population will remember the culture wars of the 1990s as a discussion about whether a crucifix of Jesus Christ submerged in urine should be considered art, and not about whether the thousands of gay people, IV drug users, hemophiliacs, and others deemed ultimately disposable by the government and society should have been allowed to die from Aids. Or as a debate about whether children should be exposed to vulgarity in music, and not about whether black people or people in poor neighborhoods should be murdered, brutalized, and harassed by the police forces that claim to protect them.

Its not clear that anyone involved with this film has ever even been to the south. The star, Betty Gilpin, plays a working-class woman named Crystal who spends the entirety of the film holding her jaw as if she is trying not to let any spit from the chewing tobacco dribble out, and yet at no time does she partake in chewing tobacco. Its like she saw a picture of someone once and thought, Oh, that must be how they do it down there, but no one explained to her its not just that all southerners have a severe underbite. But then no one involved in the production thought it might be weird for the action of the film to play out in Croatia, a country still dealing with the aftermath of its own uh, lets call it political polarity and divisiveness, I guess.

Im sure the millionaires who endorsed billionaire Mike Bloomberg in the Democratic primaries will watch this movie on their private jets and have a good chuckle at the depiction of clueless and out-of-touch elites heading to Croatia on their private plane with a cargo full of white trash. Oh my God, thats so us! I also enjoy a little caviar snack while on my way to my private manor in the Balkans. And then theyll go back to deciding which underprivileged group should receive their charity this month instead of just paying their taxes, which could fund an adequate public healthcare system that would keep people from having to beg online to afford chemotherapy.

Cinemas across the US are currently closing because of coronavirus; perhaps only the elites who can afford private screenings of The Hunt in their palatial estates will be able to see it. In the meantime, the rest of us are about to go on quarantine lockdown, forced to sustain ourselves on whatever mediocre bilge Netflix has put out this week. I think thats a metaphor. For something.

  • Jessa Crispin is the host of the Public Intellectual podcast. She is a Guardian US columnist

Read more:

Historian campaigns to have Los Angeles location renamed Chaplin Keaton Lloyd Alley after the silent movie stars who filmed there

Theres a short alley in Hollywood, running east-west between Cahuenga Boulevard and Cosmo Street, which currently has more than 100 five-star reviews on Google. One user describes visiting the street as akin to a Catholic entering the Vatican. Another calls it the Holy Grail of Hollywood sites and others have hailed it as iconic, legendary, of monumental significance and sacred ground.

There is a reason for these glowing reviews of a tiny strip of Hollywood real estate. This passage is featured prominently in three silent classics: Charlie Chaplins The Kid (1921), Buster Keatons Cops (1922) and Harold Lloyds Safety Last! (1923). Film historian John Bengtson is leading a campaign to have the street named Chaplin Keaton Lloyd Alley and the recent surge of Google reviews is the latest move in his crusade.

Bengtson has been identifying the Los Angeles locations used in silent movies since 1995. He offers tours and lectures, and has published the details of scores of film locations on his website Silent Locations. He usually works by consulting aerial photographs of Hollywood from the 1920s and comparing them against film scenes. In this case, a festival screening of another silent film, The Last Edition (1925), tied a few unsolved cases together.

That movie filmed many scenes at the alley, from many different angles, says Bengtson. I nearly fell out of my seat. Finally, the pieces all fit, it all made sense.

It all made sense a recent image of the alley. Photograph: Google Streetview

The alley had also been used by directors Lois Weber and Cleo Madison, and star Harry Houdini, before Chaplin spotted it. It was close to the studios. It faced south, so it was lit by the sun most of the day, says Bengtson. So it makes perfect sense film-makers knew this was the place to go.

Chaplin chose this alley, about a mile from his Hollywood studio (now owned by the Jim Henson Company) to shoot the scene in which he discovers an abandoned baby in the opening scenes of The Kid. In Cops, Keaton stages a phenomenal stunt there grabbing one-handed on to a speeding car that drags him, feet flying, out of the frame. The alleyway can also be seen multiple times in Lloyds thrill-comedy Safety Last!, best known for the sequence in which the star climbs a department store building and finds himself hanging from a clock face.

Over the years there have been many reasons cited for changing street names in LA. In the 1880s, the residents of Charity Street objected to living on charity; their home is now called Grand Avenue. Last May, Rodeo Road was renamed Barack Obama Boulevard, joining a selection of other local streets named after former presidents. Despite a significant amount of opposition, in 1996, a section of the street near the Church of Scientology was officially named L Ron Hubbard Way.

There are several LA streets named after film stars, too. Youll find Astaire Avenue and Garland Drive in a new suburb built on land that was once the MGM studio lot, for example, but renaming existing roads can be trickier. After comic star Edward Everett Hortons death in 1970 the city renamed a street in the shadow of Ventura Freeway as Edward Everett Horton Lane. The section covered land that Horton had sold to the city when the freeway was built.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and others rename Rodeo Road as Barack Obama Boulevard in May last year. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

Notoriously, singer Rudy Valle petitioned to have the section of Pyramid Place near his home in Hollywood Hills named Rue de Valle. The city rejected his proposal after locals objected. Dismissing his neighbours as disgruntled pukes, Valle erected a similar sign on his driveway instead.

Giving a strong precedent for Chaplin Keaton Lloyd Alley, Silverlake is now officially home to The Music Box Steps scene of Laurel and Hardys unforgettable piano-shifting calamities in the 1932 movie.

In 2018, a historical marker was placed outside the site of the studio on Lillian Way that was used by Keaton in the 1920s and Chaplin from 1916-17, though the studio itself was demolished in 1931. Six blocks north of there, the section of Cahuenga Boulevard just south of Hollywood Boulevard, where youll find the alley, occupies a special place in Bengtsons research. According to his studies, Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd shot more films on this stretch of road than anywhere else in Hollywood.

If someday this alley is named in their honour, if someday silent-film fans visit here from around the world because people know about this alley, it would be beyond humbling and gratifying, says Bengtson. History is everywhere, if we only know where to look. Somehow this alley was meant to be remembered, it deserves to be remembered, and thats why Im lobbying on its behalf.

Read more:

Brad Pitt got political, the Cats cast got their claws out and Eminems appearance left everyone confused

Joaquin Phoenix went full vegan

After Phoenixs speech at the Baftas, in which he said that it was incumbent on the dominant culture to increase representation of minorities in the film industry, many were expecting something on a similar theme. But his Oscars speech went much further. Beginning with the uncontroversial view that people like him should use our voice for the voiceless, Phoenix went on to say that humans disconnection from the natural world makes us feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk thats intended for her calf and we put it in our coffee and our cereal. It must be one of the most high-profile avowals of veganism there has ever been.

Bong Joon-ho ruled the night

The South Korean director ran an Oscars campaign based on gently poking voters about their US-centric worldview. The Oscars are not an international film festival, he ribbed at one point. Theyre very local. His other tactic was a full-on charm offensive, with his interpreter Sharon Choi becoming a star in her own right as she helped Bong navigate the late-night talkshow circuit. On Oscars night, his fanbase the Bong Hive were busy on Twitter and the man himself roused the audience with his tribute to Americas finest: When I was young and starting in cinema there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart which is, The most personal is the most creative. That quote was from our great Martin Scorsese.

Parasite, which has taken $40m at the US box office could be a bellwether for a more-outward looking Academy although this is the same voting body that picked Green Book last year, so its anyones guess what will happen in 12 months time.

James Corden and Rebel Wilson put the boot into Cats

The pair awarded the prize for best special effects dressed in Cats costumes and announcing: As cast members of the motion picture Cats, nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects. It got a big laugh although probably not in the home of Tom Hooper, the films director.

The In Memoriam section still cant get it right

There was no mention of Cameron Boyce, the Disney star who died aged 20 after suffering a seizure due to epilepsy in June and who played one of Adam Sandlers sons in the film Grown Ups. Luke Perry was another notable omission. The former star of Beverly Hills 90210 died in March aged 52, and even appeared in one of the nights nominated films, Once Upon a Time In Hollywood.

Eminems surprise guest slot was baffling

As if to confirm that the numbers up for best original song werent up to much this year, Eminem appeared for no apparent reason and blasted through Lose Yourself, his Oscar-winning song from 8 Mile back in 2003. He hadnt performed it, or even turned up, that year but this time he performed the tune sporting an alarming black beard as the audience nodded their heads with the exception of Scorsese, who merely seemed to be nodding off.


Martin Scorsese reacts to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” performance #Oscars

February 10, 2020

Taika Waititi has broken new ground

First of all, hes the first Mori film-maker to win an Oscar a fact he nodded to when he dedicated his awards to all the indigenous kids all over the world who want to do art and dance and write stories we are the original storytellers and we can make it here as well. Second, he gave the first land acknowledgment speech the ceremony has ever seen, saying: The Academy would like to acknowledge that tonight we have gathered on the ancestral lands of the Tongva, the Tataviam and the Chumash. We acknowledge them as the first peoples of this land on which the motion pictures community lives and works.

cherrywaves (@heather28df)

Yes @TaikaWaititi!!!! #Oscars2020

February 10, 2020

Chris Rock is in no doubt on the question of Ford v Ferrari

Ive got both and it aint even close, said the comic at the top of the awards. Its like Halle Berry versus gum disease.

Brad Pitt can do politics

He has been acclaimed all awards season for his witty and charming speeches, but Pitt added some political bite at the Oscars with a nod to the thwarted impeachment of Trump. They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, he said. Which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.

Billie Eilish made everyone feel old

When asked on the red carpet about the films shed grown up with, Eilish mentioned The Babadook released in 2014. And when Eminem came out to perform a song released when she wasnt even a year old, she could not have looked more bemused.

Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod)

What a reaction to Eminem from Billie Eilish. #Oscars

February 10, 2020

Read more: