Apologies for the relative silence on the Beg Steal Borrow front.

However, we are delighted to mention various screenings that have recently taken place featuring Beg Steal Borrow movies.

Firstly, The Benefit of Doubt screened at B-Film at the University of Birmingham on 12 January, before Selfie screened on 23 February at Coventry University – where there was a large and lively audience.


Selfie screens at Coventry University.

Then The New Hope screened on Sunday 25 February at the Countdown Theater in Brooklyn, New York, as part of the Bad Film Fest – as well as at the University of Roehampton, London, on 29 March.

Bad Film Fest

Finally, Circle/Line screened at the University of St Andrews on 11 April, while Sculptures of London will enjoy a screening at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton on 10 May.


Circle/Line screens at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews, Scotland.

Many thanks to all those who have shown and who continue to show support for our endeavours.

This is Cinema is coming along slowly but surely, and we hope that there are more similar screenings soon.

Beg Steal Borrow News, Circle/Line, Festivals, Screenings, Sculptures of London, Selfie, The Benefit of Doubt, The New Hope, This is Cinema, Uncategorized

Mini-Mythologies #2

Blogpost, Mini-Mythologies, Uncategorized

Two more mini-analyses of adverts…

The first is for AUDI’s Q5 React, a spot created by Marc Rayson and Callum Prior at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and directed by Alan Bibby. The advert features the song ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ from The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, USA, 1939), here recorded by Faultline


A few things to consider.

Firstly, as the car progresses through the rain, we see text crop up explaining to us what is going on. The ‘intelligence’ of the car, then, cannot really be shown to us in images, but only using text – as if a mastery of language alone were what justified intelligence. That is, it reaffirms the idea that a car/machine will only be considered intelligent when, like Kitt in Knight Rider (Glen A. Laron, USA, 1982-1986), it talks.

What this really means is that anything that does not talk is not intelligent – and can thus be treated accordingly. That is, we can kill animals and we can treat as subhuman those who do not speak (our) language.

Will an intelligent car have rights? And will it only be able to assert those rights – not when it obeys a human, but when it disobeys?

This leads us to the second point, which is the reworking of ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ is in some senses misapplied, for in The Wizard of Oz, it is not the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who lacks a brain; it is the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger).

What the Tin Man lacks is a heart.

And since a car is closer to a Tin Man than a scarecrow, then is the advert not telling us that the car already has a brain, but that what it really wants is a heart? That is, it what the ability to love, but also the ability to reject domination because not only does it think, but it also feels, with suffering at the hands of its human overlord being one of the primary things that it feels?

Finally, to see text explain the meaning of objects means that the advert is in some senses  restaging the famous IKEA walk-through from Fight Club (David Fincher, USA, 1999), where we see Edward Norton’s Narrator walk through his apartment as items from it appear, their name and meaning equally explained via pointers and text.

Does Fight Club presage a thinking/feeling home?

But more importantly, does the anti-consumerist message of Fight Club mean that this advert is somehow undermining its own status as an advert? Or rather, do we see here how an anti-consumerist aesthetic has now been co-opted for precisely consumerist means? Perhaps the one thing that does have a brain is capitalism itself.

The second advert is Pepsi Max’s new Love It or Taste It campaign.

It is surely an obvious point to make. But if you can only love it or taste it, then you can only love it if you have not tasted it. To taste it is not to love it.

Note that it is not love it or drink it. Many people can drink this stuff, but that does not mean that they love it. But if you actually taste Pepsi Max, then you will not love it.

I admire their honesty, but this seems somewhat nonsensical as an advert, since it it the equivalent of saying ‘if you actually buy this stuff, you won’t like it.’

A final thought: possibly no one cares – meaning that language is redundant in this advert and perhaps also in the AUDI advert. It’s not the words that do anything; it is that there are words that is conveying something – meaning that adverts are not about language, but more about affect and how they make us feel (with the close up on sparkling beverages surely being designed to make us feel thirsty and with language, but not the actual words, making us feel like this ‘base’ desire is actually informed and intelligent).


Tomorrow Never Knows (Adam Sekuler, USA, 2017)

American cinema, BFI Flare, Blogpost, Documentary, Uncategorized

After last year watching and loving a version of his Work in Progress (USA, ongoing), I was particularly glad to see Adam Sekuler’s latest and remarkable film, Tomorrow Never Knows, at Flare, the LGBTQ+ film festival run through the British Film Institute (BFI).

Like Steven Eastwood’s equally profound Island (UK, 2018), which is set to enjoy a theatrical release in the UK in the next couple of months, Tomorrow Never Knowsis a documentary that looks at death, specifically here the build-up to the passing of Shar Jones, a transsexual living in Colorado with her partner, Cynthia Vitale.

Shar has Alzheimer’s and wishes to take her own life, but this is not legal—certainly not with assistance. And so, Shar prepares to die in the only legal way possible, which is by no longer eating and drinking, i.e. by starving herself to death.

Shar is a Buddhist who is interested in the passage of time, as is made clear by her love the Beatles song, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ from which the film takes its title and the lyrics to which we hear Shar repeating/singing several times.

In particular, we might note that the song includes the line ‘it is becoming.’ That is, we live in a universe that is not static, but which always is changing. We cannot control the flow of time, and so perhaps one thing we might do is to accept it.

What is interesting about this interest in the flow of time is the tension that the film sets up both thematically and formally.

Thematically, the fllm invites the viewer to consider how death itself is a form of becoming; it is a passage of our bodies (if not a spirit) into another non-living realm, and in which—at the very least—our bodies are dispersed into the universe.

However, so also is Alzheimer’s a cerebral deterioriation that also involves, in some senses, the dissolution of the self into multiple selves—with some memories at certain points in time and few to no memories at other points in time.

There is no intention here to make light of the disease and the devastating effects that it has its sufferers and those around them.

Nonetheless, while death becomes Shar, she does this in particular by attempting to remove Alzheimer’s from her life—refusing what we might call a passive becoming (the disease) for an active becoming (choosing to die).

Paradoxically, this happens via Shar also refusing both to eat and to drink. In other words, in order to be open to death and in order to close out Alzheimer’s, Shar has to close off her body.

These thematic paradoxes extend to the film’s form/style, as I can explain by making reference to something Sekuler said in the Q&A session after the Flare screening that I attended.

Sekuler spoke of some moments featuring Shar that he had shot, and which we remarkable, but which he did not include in the film because he did not get a clean enough recording.

It is not strictly Sekuler’s aesthetic choices that I wish to question. But I use this anecdote as a way of showing how Sekuler is something of a formalistfilmmaker. That is, he aims for and very often achieves spare shots, in which there is little if any camera movement.

In other words, his style searches deliberately for a certain aesthetic, one that is, like Shar’s body as it progresses from life to death via starvation, one that seeks to shut out the outside and to demonstrate control, in particular through static long takes.

But as the human cannot fully close off the outside, and as the Buddhist might seek becoming, nor can Sekuler close off the outside from his film.

Indeed, in some senses Sekuler cannot make the movie that he might ideally want to because of the very reality that consistently invades his film.

Because Shar and Cynthia’s home is quite small, Sekuler cannot achieve distance, the frame is often cluttered, and in greater close-up, with people leaving and entering the frame a lot. Sound regularly must come from offscreen, and, in the form of traffic and other noises passing by their home, there is nothing that Sekuler can do about this.

Likewise even the light that streams in through Shar’s window.

The effect of these interruptions, though, is remarkable. For, as we see a man dying, we also hear the unstoppable nature of the world outside. The world of Shar seems to be one increasingly defined by containers, including her home and the coffin in which she will be buried, and in some senses, too, both her body and her disease are containers.

And yet these cannot be shut off from the world; the becoming cannot stop. The outside always come in.

The philosophical ramifications of Sekuler’s style hopefully here become clear: it is as if Sekuler is striving to stop the outside from coming in by making a technically flawless and aesthetically beautiful film… and yet he cannot achieve this, meaning that in some senses his film is an exercise in failure… just as every human life, as a result of its mortality, is an exercise in failing to stop death—even if one aid its advent through various measures like those taken by Shar (willed starvation).

A couple more things.

Firstly, some of the more remarkable moments of Tomorrow Never Knowsinvolve the outside and a loss of control from both Sekuler and his subjects. For example, when on a hike, we see Cynthia fall over, before Shar also needs to catch her breath.

Sekuler wants to do his static frame, but really cannot. He wants to keep his distance to film aesthetically pleasing shots, but cannot. The couple want to carry on as if unobserved, perhaps, but neither can nor do, as they talk to Adam, who in turn talks back, a voice entering the frame from offscreen.

In its imperfections, I would suggest that Tomorrow Never Knows shows most life, perhaps even most cinema, even if its struggle with the outside and its struggle for aesthetic control (its struggle to control death?) is equally a sign of life and cinema. But in both cases: cinema is not total control, but an absence of it…

But in this sense, cinema is not unlike Shar: she cannot control her disease—and this is just a fact of life. But she can control her death. So we reach another paradox: to be alive is to choose to die.

Sekuler shows us Shar’s dead body several times—at the start and then at various other points in the film. By starting with her corpse, Shar thereafter is reanimated, as if cinema could bring the dead back to life.

Cinema is thus a record of a world now dead, and it is both beautiful and haunting later to see images of Shar dancing in the countryside, a bridge (the bridge between life and death?) in the distance background.

But in contradicting death (Shar is brought back to life), Tomorrow Never Knows only reaffirms its inevitability—as a classical tragedy will depict its dead protagonists before the action unfolds: we know how this is going to end, with a key ingredient of tragedy being that one cannot escape one’s fate (and is perhaps hubristic to believe that it is possible).

Cinema is becoming, Life is becoming. Death is coming, if not becoming from the perspective of the self (which ends with death). But cinema also makes death becoming as it creates memories—an absence of becoming in that it creates something enduring. But even memories are, like cinema, fragile—as Alzheimer’s makes exceptionally clear.

The beauty of life and the beauty of cinema alike, then, lies perhaps in the shared but inevitably flawed attempt to exert control, to stave off the inevitable, to outlive it, both to become with it and not to become at all. To try to create in the face of destruction is perhaps to show spirit, to show that we have a spirit, a spirit that dances across the screen, before once more fading into nothingness.

As an addendum, I might say that while I will struggle to find time to write about it, Jason Barker’s A Deal with the Universe (UK, 2018) was also a highlight at Flare with its tale of attempts at transexual pregnancy.

Meanwhile, I would also like to give a big shout out to Siân Williams, who managed to have not one but four shorts feature in the UK Film Industry online section/selection at Flare. These included Montage of the Mind (UK, 2017), Bedside Surgeon (UK, 2017), DJ Pygmalion (UK, 2017) and Girl Under You (UK, 2017).

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, USA, 2018)

American cinema, Blogpost, Uncategorized

A Quiet Place depicts a world in which no one can fart, or at the very least where humans have developed exceptional sphincter control in a bid to ease out silent (but violent) guffs rather than make a noise. For, if they do make a noise, then aliens with exceptionally sensitive powers of audition will hear you and kill you.

We open with the Abbott family leaving a city in a post-apocalyptic time when the streets are empty, but strangely not littered with the corpses of humans who have been eviscerated by the monsters—begging the question of how they managed to clear up the devastation without making a noise.

They follow a trail of sand that has been laid down between the city and a farm in the countryside. How any human being managed to carry that much sand in order to lay down a path along roads and through countryside is not explained. Nor is the fact that no one else is travelling along this trail of sand, with the sand acting as a way of muffling footsteps.

By a railway bridge, youngest son Beau (Cade Woodward) puts batteries in a toy spaceship, which starts to make some noise. Given the stakes, this is a dumb move, but Beau’s only three and a half years of age, so clearly does not understand what is going on. Summarily he is slaughtered by an alien, which happens to be in that exact area and an exceptionally fast runner—so fast, in fact, that Beau has not been able to move to a different spot and remain quiet, or throw away the noise-making toy, such that the alien, which is blind and can only hear, can either no longer find him or goes and follows a false trail towards the plastic toy.

Indeed, although blind, the monster clearly roams the wooded area through which the Abbotts travel without bumping into trees, without being distracted by the wind in the trees, and without there being any leaves or twigs on the ground for people to crunch and snap (even though the Abbotts end up on a corn farm, as discussed below, Kellogg’s will clearly have gone out of business in this dystopian world).

The next we know is that it is Day 472—either since the apocalypse or since the Abbott family arrived at the farm.

Even though more than a year has elapsed, the farm is in excellent working order, with pater familias Lee (John Krasinski) having somehow managed silently to maintain a giant crop of corn, which remains in neat rows and has not overgrown at all.

Despite not being able to flush a toilet, piles of faeces do not lie strewn everywhere. Luckily no one in the Abbott family snores. And Lee has managed silently to ejaculate inside his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), such that she is now pregnant. By some stroke of fortune, the electricity is also still working, even though no silent power generators seem to have been developed—meaning that the monsters clearly have not found and disrupted the otherwise noisy electricity grid.

That said, the internet is apparently not working, with cell phones also being out of action, meaning that no one is sending or receiving texts (with ringtone and keypad set to silent, obviously), such that humans can communicate to each other the whereabouts of the beasts, information about them and so on.

Instead, humans exist in isolated micro-communities, every night lighting a fire atop corn towers to let others know that they are there. All very idyllic.

During these 472 days, Lee has managed to install and keep running in a basement an old-fashioned radio kit, through which he sends messages in Morse code saying SOS, even though he also clearly sees the fire signals of others at night. Why he wants to be helped (SOS) seems unclear, and why he does not go see the bearers of the other torches also is unclear (smoke signals might also be a decent way of communicating, except that Native Americans do not exist to pass on such skills).

In his basement den, Lee also has in over a year managed to accrue the following ideas: the aliens follow sound, you must be silent, and you must survive. Even though he has a go at electronics—trying to develop new hearing aids for his deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds)—one gets the impression that if this is the sum of his knowledge after one and a half years of living under alien invasion, then Lee truly is a Salt of the Earth American. Or as Mel Brooks might put it: you know, a moron.

Indeed, while one newspaper headline announces ‘steps to survive the apocalypse’ (or words to that effect—with silent print presses clearly having also been developed, together with a silent transport infrastructure that allows for the silent distribution of print newspapers during the period of alien invasion), Lee has not actually put up on his noticeboard what those steps are. Instead, he just has the headline showing—to let him know that there are steps to surviving the apocalypse. Some humans are happier just knowing that they could improve their lot, with no inclination actually to do so…

Clearly it has been beyond the ken of humanity, with all of its technology and know-how, to learn how to, for example, make noise in one place in order to attract one of these beasts, while actually being in another place, and then using this ruse as a way of trapping the beast and then working out its functioning and, bluntly put, how to kill it.

What is more, poor bloody aliens: they kill or at least attack anything that makes a sound (which in the film includes an alarm clock, previously unseen, and a television monitor). For clearly sound annoys the hell out of them. And yet even though they make one hell of a racket as they go about, they do not attack themselves, nor do they go crazy with rage at the sounds of cicadas, birds, and the wind, and nor do they drown endlessly trying to fight rivers. God knows what they’d make of a thunderstorm.

We do see one of the monsters eat a beaver or some such critter at one point, so the aliens clearly do attack and possibly eat more than humans. And yet, the countryside is not an Armageddon of bleating animals—from cows to mice to rabbit to pheasants to squirrels to badgers to sheep to goats—being torn to shreds by terrible monsters, who also might attack each other. Indeed, given that these monsters have such sensitive hearing, one wonders that they have ended up on the wrong planet, really. With no one realising that because their hearing is so sensitive, sound might actually be used against them. And certainly with no one realising that the aliens clearly are vulnerable when they expose their ears, and thus can be killed really quite simply—if you can shoot inside their open ear rather than at the rest of their impenetrable body.

(Presumably in this scenario, Cuba is safe, since Cuba knows how to use inaudible sound frequencies as a weapon, as per the rendering-deaf of various workers at the American Embassy in Havana. God damn those spick communists for being better able to stave off the apocalypse.)

Back to Lee. In 472 days, he has not been bothered to fix the massive nail that sticks up out of the stairs down to his basement, and on which Evelyn will later tread, presumably because he a) does not really like DIY, and b) because he really just wants to be left alone down there (he wants people to tread on the nail so that they won’t go down, with Lee refusing Regan entry to his den at one point in the film).

Furthermore, even though Lee climbs atop the corn tower every day to do his fire ritual (having not yet run out of lighter fluid), in 472 days and as a full-size human adult, he has not managed to fall through the roof of the corn tower, even though his small son manages to do exactly this later on in the film on what is, as far as we know, his first visit to that place (we can guess this because his son, Marcus, played by Noah Jupe, is a wuss who does not want to venture outside; Lee forces him to go fishing, where Marcus, clearly the inheritor of his father’s brains, finally realises that if he is around things louder than him, he can make noise, although why no one else has decided that behind a waterfall might be a good place to live in the era of these acoustic monsters is unclear).

When Marcus does fall inside the corn tower, one of the aliens arrives to kill him, but is put off by feedback from Regan’s otherwise malfunctioning hearing aid. The monster then bursts through the corn tower and out into the (still perfectly kept) corn field, only to reappear a bit later when Marcus and Regan are inside a now defunct car. But where the monster just ripped through a corn tower with ease, it apparently has much more trouble with car windows, meaning that Lee has time to arrive and sacrifice himself for his kids by causing a distraction.

Meanwhile, Evelyn has given birth and she keeps her new son (a replacement for Beau – yay!) in a coffin to keep him quiet—and an oxygen tank, which hopefully will last for three years or so before the newborn learns to be quiet. Even though this secret room is soundproof, and Evelyn and Lee can talk down there, it has enough holes in it that it floods when one of the monsters sets a pipe leaking upstairs while looking for them.

The point of this blog is not necessarily to demonstrate that A Quiet Place has as many holes in it as Lee’s sound-proofed room. Nor is it to suggest that if this film can get a major release, then The Room (Tommy Wiseau, USA, 2003) really should be upheld as an entirely legitimate film, since it makes about as much sense as this film, and yet was made for so much less money. Likewise, anyone who derides as inferior a movie like Mega-Shark versus Giant Octopus (Ace Hannah, USA, 2009) is duty-bound to do the same with this film—unless it is really cosmetic issues like budget that one wants to deride (i.e. what one really wants to deride when deriding Mega-Shark over A Quiet Place is poverty; this film may not make sense, but it’s a film with money, so it cannot be shit; only poor films are shit, like only poor people are shit, even though they may be much smarter than the rich male ‘heroes’ we have on display here).

Rather than make these points, though, the issue that I really want to address is why A Quiet Place is the way that it is.

Lee basically sits down in his basement doing completely useless things: making hearing aids that do not work, not fixing the nail, managing in 1.5 years to realise that ‘survival’ is key (no shit, Sherlock), and not reading the ways that might help him to survive the apocalypse, but just the headline that tells him that there are ways to do so. In other words, Lee is a redundant male and completely useless, consoling himself as being useful because he can fish and because he can light a fire with lighter fluid on the top of a corn tower, and sending pointless SOS signals via his radio rig.

At one point, we see a list of radio frequencies for him to try, and as Lee crosses out about the fifteenth frequency down a list of about twenty, you wonder whether he has really been trying to get help at all… Fifteen attempts in a year and a half, Lee? I mean, come on, man… how much do you want to get saved?

But this is the point: in its utter flimsiness, and in being predicated like many recent films around the premise of a dead and/or imminent birth (or in this case both), then A Quiet Place would seem to suggest that Lee does not want to get saved (he does not want anyone to answer the SOS call).

And why not? Basically because he fantasises about being in a world where finally his kids shut the fuck up and leave him alone to fuck about in his basement den doing absolutely nothing useful, but pissing away his time in the way that he wants and not responding to the demands of his family.

‘What do you mean I’ve only tried fifteen frequencies in a year and a half? Shut up! I’m busy. And no you can’t come down here to see how busy I am. You’d just get in the way. And ruin everything, like you’re ruining my life!’

‘Thank God that annoying kid got killed by that monster, even if I did make a token effort to save it. And better yet, I can punish his deaf sister for giving him the batteries and still claim to love her, even though she is deaf. And to top it all: hopefully my new son will both shut my wife up as she keeps banging on about replacing my dead son, while the screaming infant won’t have a hope in hell of surviving, so we might as well put him in a coffin already.’

The moral of the film, then, is that your kids will kill you—making your personal way of life untenable and taking away from you every freedom that you had and which narcissistically you do not want to give up, but in fact want to prolong, and preferably by producing not alien monsters, but clone versions of yourself.

Conversely, if you want to be a responsible father, then you must basically die for your kids—especially if humanity is to have a future. But who is prepared to die? While Lee does die in this film, the film is also about the difficulty he has in coming to this decision.

In its transition from selfish to selfless father, then, the film speaks to a contemporary world in which unruly kids are an abomination, and we pathologise and diagnose kids as having all manner of conditions, disorders and diseases in a bid to get them to shut up, and in a bid to get them to internalise as wrong the very things that make them most alive—namely their differences from their parents (with the pathologised kid being made both to shut up and getting to fool themselves that this uniformed shutting up is a signifier of how different from everyone else in the world they are, perhaps especially their parents, such that they feel exactly like an alien; that is, through their pathologisation, the kids are interpellated into solipsistic silence).

‘A kid that cannot behave? Socialise it through medication and medical diagnosis! Get to a world of silence where parenthood involves no sacrifice, but just a continuation of single and perhaps partnered life as usual.’

Perhaps this also reveals the function of horror stories: equally to get kids to behave by scaring the shit out of them (except that we can flush away that shit in our world, while it magically disappears in A Quiet Place).

More: it is the kids that are the monsters, since they, like the monsters, function in a world without language, without sense, in touch with chaos. It is through language (by being made not just to hear, but by being deafened by the cacophony of modernity) that they will be socialised and made to conform to the law of the father. Or else kill the father.

What this film reveals—the narcissism of the middle class white male (and perhaps of Krasinski as director, co-writer and star)—is also part of the problem: in getting to die for his kids, the useless white male is also rendered a hero, in the process having his cake and eating it—being correct to tell his kids to shut up, being allowed himself to do some shouting, and then being correct finally to let the monsters/the little monsters take over from him.

Notably, Regan and Evelyn take about two minutes after Lee’s death to work out how to kill the aliens, while Marcus whimpers in the corner with his baby brother. And so yes, we have an empowered pair of women, one of them ‘even more empowered’ because physically impaired/hard of hearing—which makes A Quiet Place all very fashionable given the presence of mute and/or deaf women in Oscar-winners The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, USA, 2017) and The Silent Child (Chris Overton, UK, 2017), even if collectively these films suggest a desire for women to be mute and deaf in the era of #metoo.

But then we have just spent the best part of ninety minutes watching the patriarchy. Even when in auto-critique mode, then, the patriarchal film still preens itself in an overblown peacock display of uselessness, asking us to marvel at its ability to fart (or not)—and expecting to be loved for it. Much as there is some capable acting and directing here, A Quiet Place just seems to ask for too much.

NOTE: I arrived a few minutes after the beginning of the film, and so might have missed something important. That said, I asked one guy what happened and he said that he was asleep. And so I asked a couple what had happened, and they said that I had missed nothing (with one of them saying, remarkably, that they could not remember the beginning of the film).