Category Archives: Features

Ten of the Best Films to Stream from Glasgow Film Festival 2021

The 17th Glasgow Film Festival has had to go fully online thanks to lockdown measures but, on the plus side, this model means that you can catch some of the best new films from around the world from the comfort of your home, wherever you are in the UK. And though the selection is a lot smaller than a traditional in-person edition in the Scottish city, the curation remains strong. In alphabetical order, here are ten of the best films you can rent as part of this year’s GFF, which runs from 24 February to 7 March…

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What to watch at the Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Last year’s Glasgow Film Festival was one of the final film festivals in the world to proceed as planned as an in-person event, concluding just 3 days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. In the 11 months since, British film festivals have shifted to largely online models, with some physical cinema arrangements depending on their timing in relation to eased restrictions. 

GFF 2021 – taking place from 24 February to 7 March – was planned to be a locally physical and nationally digital hybrid in the spirit of last October’s London Film Festival. In light of current lockdown measures that hasn’t been possible, yet Glasgow’s now fully online programme remains an exciting prospect. The selection may be much smaller in quantity compared with a traditional edition, but the quality in the curation is still there in spades…

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Where to stream the best Scottish films

From homegrown filmmakers who’ve gone on to international acclaim to features that make evocative use of its towns, cities, communities and landscapes, Scotland’s cinematic output has always been particularly rich. Excluding movies that you can currently only watch digitally by renting or buying them (sorry to The Wicker Man, Whisky Galore! and most of Bill Forsyth’s efforts), here are some of the best Scottish films you can stream right now…

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Fokus: Films from Germany 2020 Preview

As with almost every film festival in 2020 since the start of March, Fokus: Films from Germany, presented via a partnership between the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, is moving online for its sixth edition. The now fully-digital festival, running from 3 to 17 December, will be shorter and smaller than in previous years, moving from its usual late-November start. But despite the (hopefully) one-off format that won’t involve any cinema screens, the event should still offer an exciting snapshot of Germany’s contemporary film scene…

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Tape Crusader: The Bizarre Brilliance of ‘Batman Forever’’s Soundtrack

In Spin magazine interview marking the 20th anniversary of his band’s 1995 album Clouds Taste Metallic, The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne was asked about their involvement with the soundtrack for Batman Forever, an album described by interviewer Dan Weiss as, “Even by ‘90s standards… one of the weirdest batches of artists.” Coyne – reportedly not a fan of the finished film itself, though he enjoyed his group’s aural appearance – had this to say:

“I think it set up a blueprint that you could really have an interesting soundtrack that really doesn’t have that much to do with the movie and people would accept it. It was just a record that had another branding that went with it. I thought that was really a cool move, that it didn’t always just have to be a group of popular artists doing something to promote the movie. It really was a weird mixtape collection that had a movie with it too.”

Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips

A packed film soundtrack of popular music wasn’t a concept born in the 1990s, nor is it something that’s completely died out since, but various factors have led to that decade being the peak ‘music from the motion picture’ era, and how Coyne describes the Batman Forever soundtrack is reflective of why. And in the year 2020, Batman Forever’s album stands out as one of its decade’s most emblematic musical artefacts for how it both followed trends and also bucked the system in a way that arguably influenced the construction of soundtracks going forward; Entertainment Weekly ran a non-review article the summer of release on the extent to which the soundtrack was an outlier among its field…

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Ten of the Best Films From London Film Festival 2020

The 64th London Film Festival concluded this past weekend, taking place both online and in select cinemas across the UK in light of these unprecedented times, offering roughly a fifth of the usual number of features presented in a normal year, alongside shorts, experimental and VR works, and a couple of TV series previews. The festival ended with showings of Francis Lee’s period lesbian romance Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, in hundreds of cinemas nationwide, while Thomas Vinterberg’s drama Another Round won the inaugural LFF Audience Award.

Here are ten of the best titles from LFF 2020 worth looking out for in the future; some on their way to cinemas or digital soon, others further off…

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10 great Scottish youth films

From A Taste of Honey (1961) to Rocks (2019), British cinema has plenty to offer when it comes to films about the young and restless. But of all the nations of the UK, it’s arguably Scotland that has offered the most formal invention and thematic bite – regarding issues of class, wealth gaps and isolation – when it comes to cinematic tales of youth.

Some of Scotland’s greatest filmmakers – Lynne Ramsay and Bill Forsyth among them – got their start with films told from the point of view of troubled kids and gawky teenagers. Directors from further south in the UK, meanwhile, have made some of their best work when journeying north and drawing from young talent.

While the relatively small pool of Scottish teen films leans towards narratives set in or around Edinburgh and Glasgow, you rarely find one that’s indistinguishable from another thanks to the distinctive imprints of their directors. Delinquency is a common thread, but you’re not going to confuse Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen (2002) with Peter Mullan’s Neds (2010).

The feature debut of writer-director Ninian Doff, horror-comedy Get Duked! (2019), supported by the BFI Film Fund, sees 4 teenage boys on a highlands trek stalked by wealthy aristocrats hunting them for sport. Not just a foul-mouthed riff on The Most Dangerous Game (1932), the film also has much on its mind about class warfare and the bad hand dealt to Generation Z.

To mark its release on 28 August, exclusive to Amazon Prime Video, here are 10 of the best films about Scottish youth…

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A Julia Fox erotic drama explores domination and digital life

In one of the more attention-grabbing openings in recent memory, PVT Chat begins with a climax, opening on a young man, Jack (Peter Vack), in a dingy apartment, masturbating during a one-to-one session with leather-clad camgirl Scarlet (Julia Fox). They’re participating in roleplay, Scarlet commanding Jack to lick her boot and swallow the cigarette end she pushes towards her webcam.

Scarlet says she lives in San Francisco, while Jack lives in New York City. During their deepening nightly conversations where they get to know each other, Jack tells her he works in tech and waxes lyrical about his revolutionary app idea. In fact, his ‘profession’ is as an online blackjack player, using his wildly inconsistent earnings to pay for his Scarlet time at night, while bullshitting his way into constant rent deferrals for his tattered room and living off cheap noodles…

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Where to begin with Atom Egoyan

Why this might not seem so easy

Excluding contributions to anthology films, Canada-based auteur Atom Egoyan has nearly 20 feature credits to his name as a director. But Egoyan’s work also extends to theatre, opera, art installations and music. While footage of some of his installations can be found on YouTube, and a number of his shorts have a home among the extras on disc releases of his features, a full portrait of him as an artist working across multiple fields is nigh on impossible to achieve without access to any archives the man himself might have.

In terms of content, something that may potentially put off newcomers to Egoyan’s work are the hermetic worlds in which many of them, particularly his early string of features, operate. Intense emotions are repressed and human interaction is often communicated through transmitted images. Before Exotica (1994) and the twice Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter (1997) brought him wider recognition and commercial success, Egoyan, alongside fellow Canadian David Cronenberg, was one of North American cinema’s key chroniclers of life in the developing video age, where the nature of human relationships radically altered in the wake of technology’s expanding role in our lives. Bureaucracy and other power structures also tend to isolate characters in his films. They are about alienation and so can be alienating…

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Edinburgh International Film Festival: ‘The Traitor’

Towards the end of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill is confronted with the following statement from a contemptuous defence attorney in court: “People call them rats because a rat will do anything to survive. Isn’t that right, Mr Hill?” In Scorsese’s film, the viewer follows Hill across several decades of involvement with an Italian-American crime syndicate, up to the point that various complications of his Mafia career collide in a disastrous fashion. Convinced that he and his family are marked for certain death, Hill eventually decides to become an informant for the FBI, testifying against his former friends and then entering the federal Witness Protection Program.

“Rats” and informant characters are not uncommon in crime movies, though in cases where they may be the protagonist you will often find them serving the part of a double agent or mole. They may be an undercover FBI employee infiltrating the mob, such as in Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco (1997). In Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs (2002), and Scorsese’s subsequent American remake The Departed (2006), you even have informants on both sides of the law: an undercover cop, deep in the criminal underworld, trying to smoke out a mob mole lurking in the police department.

In mob movies where the lead eventually turns informant after some pressure, this will traditionally happen in the third act after a few hours of transgressive highs of the lifestyle leading to destructive lows. A rarer commodity is a film mostly set after the mobster’s choice has been made to spill the beans. After all, the derogatory term “rat” is used to denote that such a person is the lowest of the low in an environment that may posit the notion of honour among thieves. The perceived wisdom may be that audiences won’t want to follow such a character for a whole film; one that would, by its very nature, skimp on some of the glamour and success Mafia tales usually show before things go terribly wrong. But that is exactly what revered Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio has made with his subversive spin on the mob movie, The Traitor, in which the title character heads down the informant path within the opening half-hour…

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