Beg Steal Borrow direct first music video for Extradition Order

Beg Steal Borrow News, Music Videos, New projects

With the finishing touches being put to The New Hope, and with Selfie and Ur: The End of Civilization in 90 Tableaux slowly beginning to be submitted to select festivals (keep your eyes open for screenings!), Beg Steal Borrow Films has moved for the first time into the world of music video direction.

William Brown directed the video for Extradition Order’s new song, ‘Boy in Uniform’ in early December 2014. The video was edited over the Christmas period, and is now just awaiting grading and a confirmation of release date from the band’s label before becoming available shortly – online and in other places, no doubt.

The clip tells the story of the band playing an illegal concert that the police disrupt. However, the music is just too seductive for the coppers, who soon find themselves seduced into having fun, rather than doing their job!

Inspired by Banksy’s famous ‘Kissing Coppers’ mural, the video features performances from Beg Steal Borrow regular Dennis Chua and first-timer Ariel Pozuelo, while Tom Maine was as usual in charge of cinematography.

Beg Steal Borrow's video for Extradition Order's 'Boy in Unifirm' takes inspiration from Banksy's famous and controversial mural, Kissing Coppers.

Beg Steal Borrow’s video for Extradition Order’s ‘Boy in Unifirm’ takes inspiration from Banksy’s famous and controversial mural, Kissing Coppers.

Beg Steal Borrow newcomer Tony Yanick acted as assistant director, while the crew was made up of Angela Faillace, Bahareh Golchin, Sara Janahi and Dasha Sevcenko.

Friends of the band acted as party goers and crowd as shooting took place in Roehampton, London on 6 December 2014.

Extradition Order consists of lead singer Alastair Harper, bassist Nick Boardman, lead guitar Jez Walton, with Radhika Aggarwal on drums and Matt Bergin on keys. For the video, the band all wore costumes inspired by the Village People.

Extradition Order‘s new album, Kennedy, is due for release in early spring 2015.

Afterimages screens on British TV channel

Afterimages, Beg Steal Borrow News, En Attendant Godard, Screenings, Selfie

Hot on the heels of the UK premiere of En Attendant Godard on, the channel has also screened Afterimages as part of their FilmFest at 8 season.

The screening took place on Freeview channel 8 or Virgin 159 in the Brighton area, as well as via livestreaming at, on 7 December 2014.

Beg Steal Borrow Films is delighted that the film was selected for screening – and hopes that some people managed to catch it while it was on.

The logo for, who screened Afterimages on 7 December 2014.

The logo for, who screened Afterimages on 7 December 2014.

In other news, En Attendant Godard has also been selected for screening at two places so far in 2015. The film will enjoy its Italian premiere at the Associazione Kilab in Rome on 28 February, before then being screened at B-Film at the University of Birmingham on 13 March.

What is more, Selfie also enjoyed a preview screening at the University of Roehampton’s Film Society on 25 November 2014, where it was greeted with an enthusiastic reception.

With Beg Steal Borrow beginning to submit Selfie and other new films to festivals, and with a screening of at least one Beg Steal Borrow film at the University of Lancaster arranged for May, let’s hope that 2015 marks the possibility for many more Beg Steal Borrow screenings!

American Sniper (Clint Eastwood, USA, 2014)

American cinema, Blogpost, Film reviews

Thirty five feature films in 44 years means that Clint Eastwood is one of the most prolific filmmakers working in/around Hollywood today.

Violence, including violence during wartime, is an issue that is never too far from Eastwood’s mind, with titles like Unforgiven (USA, 1992), Flags of Our Fathers (USA, 2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (USA, 2006) most clearly demonstrating this.

American Sniper, then, is Eastwood’s first take on the recent conflicts in the Middle East, specifically in this case Iraq. It tells the story of a former rodeo cowboy, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who, appalled at the news of attacks on American embassies by Islamic fundamentalists, enlists and, at the age of 30, joins the Navy SEALs.

After 11 September 2001, Chris then does four tours of Iraq, during which time he becomes known as The Legend as a result of 160 confirmed kills (with an estimated further 95 unconfirmed).

In the film, Chris’ tours are motivated both by his desire to save Americans from the murderous Iraqis that we see (as he repeatedly asserts), but also to put an end to the evil work of two people, The Butcher (Mido Hamada) and a Syrian sniper working for the Iraqi insurgents, Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).

This he eventually does, but even having achieved his goal, Chris seems to be – in Eastwood’s film – somewhat ill-at-ease at home with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and his children.

I don’t particularly care to comment on certain aspects of this film. Briefly, though, the movie gives a lot of opportunity for Americans to describe Iraqis as evil and Iraq as a nasty place. Chris’ first kill in the film is of a child and then a woman who are trying to throw a Russian hand grenade at advancing soldiers. ‘Good job,’ he is told. These people are evil; even the women and children are bred simply to hate Americans.

That said, just as Chris pulls the trigger on the child, the film cuts to a flashback of him killing his first deer with his father. Is this suggesting that war is sport? (Or that war is sport for Chris? That the real reason he is out in Iraq is because he likes killing people? Or that he kills to please his ‘father’/the USA?) It is hard to tell – but there is something troubling in this cut – but something that I am not sure will trouble many viewers, who simply see a hero doing his job.

Furthermore, while the juxtaposition of family life and conflict in Iraq is possibly intended to suggest that Chris is over there saving his family from being killed eventually by Iraqis – ‘eventually’ because they’d have to travel 6,000 miles from Baghdad to Washington DC (or further into the USA) in order to do so in the way that Chris at one points describes them as wanting to do it, namely, in person – it also seems to suggest that family gets in the way of war.

Chris no doubt is traumatised by the war, as Eastwood suggests by his paranoia when a truck follows him too closely, when he reacts confusedly to car alarms going off in the background, and when a dog gets too feisty at a children’s birthday party.

And Chris seems to be uncomfortable with the adulation that he receives as a result of being The Legend – modest chap as he is.

In short, then, Chris is not simplistic, Cooper’s performance is nuanced, and Chris Kyle surely was a war hero, especially in the eyes of many Americans (and perhaps others).

But a day before I am teaching a class on Caché/Hidden (Michael Haneke, France/Austria/Germany/Italy/USA, 2005), to see American Sniper reminds of a line that Majid (Maurice Bénachou) says in Haneke’s film to Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil): ‘Kicking my ass won’t leave you any wiser about me.’

All that said, I only really want to comment on two moments from Eastwood’s film, both of which are in the film’s second half.

The first is when Chris is home shortly after the birth of his second child, daughter McKenna. Both Chris and Taya hold McKenna at various points in this scene – during which it becomes apparent that the baby is not a real baby, but a doll with perhaps some computer generated imagery (CGI) added to give it some dynamic movement.

Whether intentionally or not, the veracity of this moment is destroyed as a result of the fakery of the baby. It is not that Chris Kyle in real life did not have a daughter McKenna, but Eastwood’s film here troubles our understanding of Chris’ family life; is his family in fact a simulation, a fake, something in which he does not really believe?

The second moment comes later on when Chris is sat in front of a TV – from which we hear emanate sounds from moments of conflict in which Chris has earlier been involved. However, as Eastwood’s camera slowly moves around Chris, it transpires that the TV screen is blank – and that Chris is probably just remembering these sounds.

This latter is a complex moment. In terms of images like it from other films, it naturally recalls the famous moment in All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, USA, 1955), in which widowed mother Cary Scott (Jane Wyman) has been offered a television by her son Ned (William Reynolds) – as some sort of replacement relationship figure for gardener Ron Kirby (Rock Hudson), with whom Ned does not want his mother to be – mainly because as a gardener Ron is from lower stock than Ned.

(This creates another intertext, oddly enough, with Caché: on a visit to see his mother (Anne Girardot), Georges asks her whether she is lonely stuck out in her remote family home, to which she replies: ‘Are you less lonely because you can sit in the garden? Do you feel less lonely in the Métro than at home? [Georges shakes his head.] Well then. Anyway, I have my family friend… with remote control [i.e. the television].)

To return: as we see Cary reflected in the television screen in All That Heaven Allows, so do we see Chris reflected in the television screen in American Sniper. In the former film, the image seems to suggest that Cary’s domestic life is a void without other people; television is no replacement for physical human contact. In the latter film, however, we get the sense that Chris’ life is a void, despite being surrounded by other people. What is more, even though the television screen is blank, that the sounds of war emanate from it suggests that the screen actually does help fill the void that is life.

All That Heaven Allows is a melodrama and American Sniper is a war film. Nonetheless, the comparison to me seems apt. What is more, in the 50 years that have elapsed between the release of the two films, much has changed in terms of how we understand the role that television plays in everyday life.

That is, while Sirk might in 1955 have seen already that television is a trap for keeping women on their own and away from anything real, Eastwood in 2014/2015 sees that television has perhaps replaced reality, meaning that Chris cannot engage with reality at all – but instead must engage with reality via the medium of the screen.

Perhaps his role as a sniper here is interesting; his is not direct combat, but combat that more often than not – in the film – is mediated by the lens of the rifle. (The television is also prominent in various other scenes set on American soil, but – mea culpa – I was not paying close enough attention to get to grips with how.)

Either way, in an age when the Gulf war apparently did not take place, the difference between Sirk and Eastwood is also timely.

No one has said that the Gulf War did not actually take place. However, what Jean Baudrillard argues in his essays on this topic is that the Gulf War was not really a war but an atrocity, and that the war was as much a media spectacle – with television at its core – as it was a real war. That is, war was presented as (quite probably an atrocious form of) entertainment, and not as war.

American Sniper, then, suggests in the television scene described above that the war paradoxically was real – as Kyle’s traumatic recollection and inability to forget it would suggest. What is more, Eastwood seems to suggest, in a shot of a blank television, that much of the blame for the evil wrought as a result of this war – in terms of casualties, but also in terms of psychological trauma inflicted on veterans – is not simply as a result of the ‘evil’ of Iraqi rebels, but as a result of the media circus that wanted and perpetuated this conflict.

As we continue to militarise our lives as much as possible – driving around in vehicles that shield us from the outside world rather than connecting us to it; bombarded by violent war-like noises all day every day in our urban environments – American Sniper perhaps even suggests this: the real trauma provoked by war is that war does indeed replace reality, and life is entirely militarised, suggesting that even a baby seems fake, composed of CGI, while we cannot get out of our heads the images of violence that we have seen via our screens and our gunsights.

In other words, it is not war that is the simulation to keep us domesticated and at home; the domestic has become the simulation in order to keep us in a state of perpetual war.

I think, ultimately, that Eastwood’s film both suffers and benefits from the suggestive power of these two – perhaps isolated – moments of his film.

It benefits, because in its ambiguity, the film encourages us to give pause to think.

It suffers, however, because in its ambiguous ambiguity, the film can be seen as (perhaps because it is) flag-waving propaganda that cannot tell the ideological war from the real war, because repeatedly we are told that all Iraqis are evil, and that the west was justified in what at times is literally presented as a crusade to eradicate them.

In short, then: does Eastwood share the belief that war is the true reality, and that domesticity is simulation, or does he point out how this is the case? On this score, the jury is perhaps still out. Either way, may the real Chris Kyle and all those who died as a result of the conflicts in Iraq rest in peace.

Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, USA, 2014)

American cinema, Blogpost, Film reviews

There is a scene in John Cameron Mitchell’s somewhat overlooked Rabbit Hole (USA, 2010), in which mourning mother Becca (Nicole Kidman) talks with Jason (Miles Teller), the young man – a boy, really – responsible for the loss of Becca’s child.

In one scene, set on a park bench – just like the moment when Mark Ruffalo also did something extraordinary with the equally wonderful Laura Linney (whither Laura Linney, though?) in Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count On Me (USA, 2000) – Miles Teller became for me a real talent to watch.

A bunch of teen drinking movies later, and here he is playing Andrew in Whiplash, being given the hardest, probably unethical push by his jazz teacher, Fletcher (excellently played by J.K. Simmons – but the award nominations mean everyone already knows this), and then becoming the man, or realising the potential that he has had all along.

Spoilers: this film is really all about its stupendous, virtuoso climactic scene in which Andrew steps up and takes over from Fletcher in order to begin his own life.

That said, the film is entertaining throughout. Well paced, well acted, with an excellent script involving great put-downs from Fletcher, the film also contains some nicely conveyed moments of arrogance from Andrew (at a family dinner – maybe Thanksgiving), and, in a mildly original way, he does not get the girl because he has acted like a tool towards her earlier on in an equally arrogant way.

I came out of the film thinking that this was the first film among those that I have seen at the cinema in 2015 that I’d want to see again – mainly for that final scene, because I also feel that both Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, Canada/Spain, 2013) and National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, France/USA/UK, 2014) are excellent (and I hope to blog about them when I get time).

And don’t get me wrong – Teller and Simmons are both fantastic, but that final scene is really about the drumming (apparently Teller himself, with some highly accomplished editing) and, for me, a reaction shot from Andrew’s father, Jim (Paul Reiser), when he sees/hears just how good his son really is.

People have been enthusing about Whiplash for a while, and not for any wrong reason. ‘It’s a music film shot as though it was a thriller,’ is what I remember hearing around the time it played at the London Film Festival (for reasons of ticket pricing and opportunity, I don’t go to see films at the festival that likely will have a major release at a later point in time).

But – here’s where we get to the meat of the blog – I am not particularly convinced about a student-teacher relationship as thriller being so original. I never really got what was that original about Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008), either. So I could be an ignoramus. But this kind of hybridising of genres is for me inevitable – someone would have done it at some point in time. What it is not is that original – i.e. of a uniqueness that one can never look at anything the same way again.

Let me clarify: Whiplash is excellent, but it is also conventionally shot, cast and played. What is more, about 20 hours after seeing it, other questions and doubts about the film come to mind.

Charlie Parker is referenced a lot in the film, especially the (incorrectly recounted) story about how Jo Jones threw a cymbal at Parker’s head one time, inspiring Parker to go away, practice and to become the legend that is Bird.

Two things: Charlie Parker was black. And Charlie Parker was a jazz musician – a form of music originating in America, and which consists not uniquely of black musicians, but regularly, or most often. Indeed, it is sometimes referred to as a form of black music.

So major critique number one is the fact that a form of music that has race at its core, or in its blood, we might say, becomes here a struggle between two white men. Sure, white musicians play jazz, and it might well be that in the contemporary era white musicians have over-run jazz, thereby making Whiplash something of an insightful film about the state of jazz today. But while we get to see black faces in this film, they are supporting roles – i.e. barely a speaking part – as the story becomes in the end the thesis-antithesis-synthesis of two white dudes.

It makes me think that more people should watch Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, USA, 2013), which is a truly extraordinary film, or, failing that, something like Finding Forrester (Gus Van Sant, USA, 2000).

(In Andrew’s rise to greatness, the film also tells us that women are unnecessary, perhaps even a plain hindrance, for men, but I shall leave that critique for someone else to make. Perhaps it is significant that Nicole, played by Melanie Benoist, works in a cinema, and that Andrew watches movies there with Jim. With a missing mother, he maybe realises that Nicole is a stand-in mother – a cinematic projection – and that he does not need her; men can raise each other, as Jim and now Fletcher have done with Andrew; women are evil wastes of time, anyway, and best seen as objects on a screen and not as autonomous human beings…)

And now beef number two is that this is a film about jazz. And I am just not sure that formally the film reflects its connection to jazz, being structured and paced much more like a mainstream film – even if a thriller while being about music school – rather than the slightly offbeat, somewhat hard to get into, sometimes downright oppositional mode that jazz historically has been.

Here we have again a racial dimension: the form of this film is about as white as we can get. But more than that… For me, given cinematic form, jazz looks something like the movies of John Cassavetes, who dealt directly with jazz in Shadows (USA, 1959), which with the central character of Ben (Ben Carruthers) explores precisely with the issue of race and to which places and rhythms of life the colour of one’s skin gives us access.

I’d also like to refer to other Cassavetes movies like Husbands (USA, 1970) and Gloria (USA, 1980), in which you don’t have any idea where these movies are going to go from one moment to the next. This inability to read these films, their dangerous, improvised quality, in which everything teeters on the brink of disaster and in taking us to the edge makes us find beauty of the most fragile sort, that is what cinematic jazz is and feels like for me.

It is perhaps problematic – for this argument – that Cassavetes himself was white. But one feels like he’s risked everything to make every single one of his films, and that the freedom and fear involved in this produce amazing work. We get a sense of this happening for Andrew in Whiplash, but not necessarily for its director, Damien Chazelle.

‘The road to greatness can take you to the edge,’ pronounces the UK poster for Whiplash. Damien Chazelle’s film demonstrates great talent – but in the spirit of Fletcher, perhaps one ought to say that it is controlled, scripted (even if the film involved ad-libbing) and basically a safe if excellent film. Its ‘safety’ is demonstrated in its whiteness. Maybe Chazelle will next time produce something truly extraordinary; I hope that he does. Maybe he will be able to do so by engaging more closely with gender and colour. Maybe I shan’t go to watch this at the kino again.

Cock Cock Cock Cock Cock (On the Oscar Nominations 2015)

American cinema, Blogpost

This is the unedited version of an article that otherwise appears on The Conversation.

Here goes:-

In order to suck one’s own cock, I guess one needs a cock in the first place. In some senses it is logical, then, that awards ceremonies, along with other systems of self-congratulation, have a touch of the priapic about them.

However, in the spirit of a recent essay on ‘masculinity in crisis‘ over at Souciant, Hollywood this year seems strongly to be about penises. Don’t get me wrong – penises can be beautiful things, even if often also the cause of much embarrassment to their owner (for being too small, for shrivelling up at the wrong moment, for arriving too early at a meeting with a vagina, an anus, a mouth, or whatever other orifice and/or implement it cares to encounter).

A good number of the films nominated at this year’s Academy Awards are pretty good films. Hell, technically, they’re all excellent. That is: yep, they’re penises, and they demonstrate that they work like penises do.

But it all seems like a lot of penis to me. Best Film nominees are about learning how to grow a penis (Boyhood, Whiplash), having a massive penis (American Sniper), trying to retumesce a flaccid penis (Birdman), having a vagina-liking penis that most people think is an anus-liking penis (The Grand Budapest Hotel), having an anus-liking penis that has to hide the fact that it likes anuses (The Imitation Game), having a fully working penis that most people think is a crippled penis (The Theory of Everything), and being a famously cocky civil rights campaigner (Selma).

All the fiction directors – including the ‘foreign’ ones and the ones working in animation – have penises. All the writers – original and adapted – have penises. All the cinematographers have penises. All of the composers have penises. All of the sound editors have penises. Five out of the six nominated editors have penises.

There is one documentary directed by someone with a vagina (CitizenFOUR), but it is about someone with a penis. There is also a documentary about someone with a vagina (Finding Vivian Maier), but it is directed by someone – two people, in fact – with a penis. What is more, this film is really about someone with a vagina who was too afraid to show their work or come out as an artist in their lifetime – perhaps in part because they did not have a penis (and therefore trying to become an artist was a bit fruitless; still, at least a penis is there to rehabilitate her now).

Of course, there are some vaginas nominated in the categories reserved for actors with vaginas. Among the Best Actress nominees, one is a murderous bitch (Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl), one has early onset Alzheimer’s (Julianne Moore in Still Alice), one is an antisocial loner (Reese Wetherspoon in Wild), one a woman who is rejected by most of the men she works with since they’d prefer a bonus to her having a job (Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night), and one is the foil to a genius whose own doctorate and motherhood duties play second fiddle to a man who ends up dumping her for a woman who’ll give him a handjob while looking at Penthouse magazine (Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything).

Compare to the men – and we have a hero (Bradley Cooper in American Sniper), two geniuses*** (Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game; Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything), a harmless madman who becomes hailed as a genius (Michael Keaton in Birdman, with this being a ‘woah! he’s still got a penis’ nom), and a bonkers rich recluse who eventually kills someone because his mum is a bitch (Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, with the ‘woah, he actually has a penis’ nom).

And the supporting actresses are nominated mainly in roles that are vaginas supporting penises (Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game, Emma Stone in Birdman, Patricia Arquette in Boyhood), with Meryl Streep as a witch (Into the Woods). Maybe only Laura Dern in Wild, playing Reese Witherspoon’s mother, manages to evade being the penis-crutch that most vaginas are expected to be. But, you know, the title alone suggests that independent women are ‘wild’ and dangerous and not to be trusted.

I saw Boyhood and thought that Patricia Arquette was the best thing in it and came out of the film thinking that instead of Boyhood the film should be called Motherhood (or at the very least Texas). But no – it got named after the penis and the vagina is overlooked again.

Even the nomination of Meryl Streep seems more obligatory than worthy – especially when someone like Octavia Spencer made me cry within three minutes of being on screen in the massively overlooked Fruitvale Station (which, admittedly, would not have qualified for these Oscars because it had a – limited – US release date in 2013, even if released in the UK only in June 2014).

But the point remains… The man from Hollywood, he say hail the cock. And fuck the cunt. This is our world.

*** I am intrigued about how these two nominations are about specifically scientific geniuses, and the reverence that scientific geniuses receive, which stands in some contrast to artistic geniuses, perhaps. If the universe is mathematical, then working out formulae that best describe it is inevitable over time – because one must find the formula for A.I. (Turing) and/or the big bang/black holes (Hawking). In other words, if not these men, then someone would have worked out how to do what they did – even if these men were in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time to work it out. Contrast this to a work of art: if Picasso had not lived, his art works would not exist, while someone would have worked out what both Turing and Hawking worked out at some point in time because all they are doing is maths (no disparagement intended). Given the irreplaceable nature of Picasso, but given that logically Turing and Hawking are entirely replaceable, why do we celebrate scientific genius (this year, anyway) more than artistic genius?