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Tony Black

Happy New Year, Colin Burstead (2018)

After two pictures that fused deliberately acerbic British filmmaking with Hollywood stardom, Ben Wheatley returns to his roots with Happy New Year, Colin Burstead.

You only have to consider what the original working title was for Wheatley’s film: ‘Colin, You Anus’. When it was announced that Wheatley was producing a brand new picture to be shot over eleven days in a stately home, critics wondered if the director was exploring Shakespeare or the historical period he had so impressed viewers by with A Field in England. Rather than continuing the one-two punch of J G. Ballard adaptation High Rise or the pulpy, Tarantino-baiting Free Fire, Colin sees a return for Wheatley back to stripped down, near documentarian theatrics, the likes of which we haven’t seen him tap for some years.

Where his previous two pictures saw Wheatley rope in Hollywood stars such as Tom Hiddleston, Armie Hammer or Brie Larson, the director here once again recruits the services of Neil Maskell, the lead in Wheatley’s dark, uncompromising and powerfully weird Kill List. Maskell is a prolific British character actor who straddles both TV and cinema but a traditional leading man he is not, and that makes him perfect for the eponymous Colin Burstead. Wheatley’s film is intentionally short, sharp, darkly acerbic and filmed with even more of a televisual, tele-play lens than even Kill List was. This is a director cutting loose and having fun.

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Film Music Monthly Recommendations – January 2019

Film music has long been a passion of mine, but I’ve realised I don’t really talk about it on Cultural Conversation as much as I would like. 2019 I plan to remedy this, partly with a monthly cluster of recommendations.

The aim will be, similar to my end of year lists, recommend five albums by highlighting a track from them each. The idea will be for this list to drop at the start of the month and concern films to be released in UK cinemas that month, accompanied by a Spotify playlist which goes into a bit more depth about each album.

January 2019 to start, then, featuring tracks from composers including Alan Silvestri, Max Richter and Rob Simonsen…

12 Films, 12 Months – Movies to look out for in 2019

2019 is now upon us which means another year of pictures that are likely to thrill, spill and disappoint in equal measure. Some we know a lot about, some we know little, but I thought I’d pick out 12 for 12 of those I’m the most intrigued to see.

These aren’t one film per month or anything, but are probably in order of my excitement. Let’s explore some of what’s to come…

My Top Films of 2018 #5 to #1

As I stated in the first group of five in my Top 10 listing of films, 2018 has been a slim year for me in what I’ve been able to see. While I imagine some of these would still end up on a best of list, would they be top 5? I’m not sure. It’ll be an ever-evolving list.

I’d love to hear your Top 5’s though. I have a litany of recommended pictures I’ll work through in time but there could well be pictures I haven’t seen that are worth recommendation, so do point me in the direction of them.

Okay then, for better or worse, here are my Top 5 Films of 2018…

My Top Film Score Tracks of 2018 #5 to #1

This was an exceedingly hard list to put together, harder than either the main TV or movie selections. 2018 has an absolute cavalcade of great film music to choose from, so selecting a top 5 was hugely subjective. There are plenty of other albums that could have made it.

As a result, I’ve added below a Spotify link to 40 different film tracks from 40 different movies, many of which didn’t make my personal top 5. Hopefully you may pick out some more film music treats from that expanded list.

Anyway, here we go with my Top 5 film score tracks of 2018…

My Top TV Shows of 2018 #5 to #1

It’s been a pretty fantastic year for TV in general, so it’s been fairly challenging whittling down ten shows, never mind five, and I haven’t nearly watched everything that has struck a chord with people in 2018.

The following, in my opinion, have nonetheless been some of the strongest TV of this year. Some new, some older, some just taking off. All still with a lot of led left in their pencil.

Here we go with #5 to #1…

My Top Films of 2018 #10 to #6

You’ve already heard my best film experiences of 2018, but I intentionally left new releases off that list in order to have some clear blue water, aware that I’d be presented a 2018 only list.

Now, in all honesty, I’ve seen just over 150 movies this year, and less than 30 of them are 2018 releases. There are many omissions from this ten. This list will, in the fullness of time, absolutely change as I see films many others already have on their lists. This is what I saw, however, so this is all I can, right now, go by.

#10 to #6 then. Let’s do this…

Black Mirror – ‘Bandersnatch’

There is every possibility we may look back upon Bandersnatch, the latest episode of Black Mirror, and be amazed at just what a pioneer it was.

Black Mirror has seeped into popular culture in a remarkable way since Charlie Brooker moved from being one of TV’s most entertaining cult comedians, when it comes to analysing popular media, and into the realm of writing and producing what could be the most innovative and format breaking television show of the modern age. Black Mirror has come a long way since its first Channel Four episode, telling the disturbing story of a David Cameron-parody being blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on television. 

What began as a darkly comic examination of our evolving relationship with new media, akin to Brooker’s earlier scripted series Dead Set (zombies meets Big Brother), has grown into a 21st century Twilight Zone; a dark, indeed black mirror for our own fears, anxieties and cautionary tales about the technology we are allowing to dominate and consume our lives. While Brooker’s show, on being snapped up in a savvy move by Netflix and getting a hefty budget increase in the bargain, has benefited from A-list movie stars and directors wanting to be involved, the modern day Rod Serling has always had one eye on the past as he puts one foot in the future.

Bandersnatch feels like the ultimate realisation of Brooker’s fascination with retro 1980’s and 1990’s culture, particularly gaming culture. Fionn Whitehead’s troubled protagonist Stefan Butler could be Brooker in another, alternate life.

My Top Film Score Tracks of 2018 #10 to #6

It would be easy to present a list of the top 10 film scores of the year but that doesn’t always feel hugely representative – sometimes a particular track may leap out of an otherwise decent but not great album and stick with you.

Therefore, I’m going to present my top 10 tracks from film scores across 2018. Many of these albums are worth listening to in their entirety, but these are the pieces that really stood out from the crowd.

To start with, here is my first five, from #10 down to #6…

My Top TV Shows of 2018 #10 to #6

Time to move on with appreciating the new stuff, as I break down the first of ten TV shows which I consider to be some of the best content released in 2018.

No negativity planned for examining this year’s TV or movies. I may throw in a disappointment down the line but let’s concentrate on the shows which worked, rather than those left best forgotten.

So! Here’s 10 down to 6 of TV you really should check out if you haven’t already…