Film Review: City Of Tiny Lights

A city of tiny lights that remained dimly lit throughout the entire film. There’s an occasional flicker of light in City of Tiny Lights but this slow, cliched riddled attempt at film noir London style is so dimly lit and hides in the shadow. By the end of City of Tiny Lights  you only stay to see it play out the story by numbers and have it confirmed you guessed who the baddie was.

City of Tiny Lights is trying to be clever. Initially it does appear intriguing and there are moments the action appear to offer hope but all that remains when the lights are turned on is a weak attempt at a film noir. A girl is missing, not just any girl but a Russian prostitute. Her friend, another high class prostitute and housemate, Melody, hires Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed), private detective to locate her. There is a rather amusing conversation about prostitute names and ford cars. I won’t ruin it for you. Aside from a few lines of interesting dialogue it just didn’t get better. The social commentary was definitely strong with this one: ISIS, refugees, social mobility and whether getting out of your environment can change your very nature all set against a London backdrop. However, the supporting cast was not very strong and Billy Piper’s lips acted more than she ever did.

Riz Ahmed is the best thing about City of Tiny Lights – as he chainsmokes his way through the entire film only allowing the smoke to disappear as he sips on wild turkey with no ice.  He at least is convincing as the private detective trying to solve the mystery and haunted by his own past. However, he alone isn’t reason enough to see this paint it by numbers attempt at film noir. If it were on dvd about half way through you would fast forward to the end to confirm that you’d guessed right and get up and make a cup of tea. Whilst it is easy enough to guess who the baddie is, what is surprising is the way in which the film concludes. The ending belonged to a different type of film those final ten minutes should have been cut.

Who is going to see this?

Not many people, if you live in London and don’t have an unlimited cinema membership card. City of Tiny Lights just it isn’t worth your popcorn money.  It’s a dimly lit attempt at film noir that fades into the abyss even before the end credits.

City of Tiny Lights is released in cinemas across the UK on Friday 7 April.

Oscars 2017: Dismissive or Diverse?


Moonlight finally got to step into the spotlight. It was made on a micro budget as compared to the other films nominated and told the story of its protagonist in a different way. A black man on screen admitting he’s gay – gosh that is an oxymoron in itself.

Yet who really watches the Oscars anymore? I don’t. Well I do but in part for the fashion although it is not as much of a guilty pleasure as when the late great Joan Rivers would be dismissive of most of the fashion. And then there are the prizes, you know the ones, the important prizes: best actress, best actor, best picture. Frankly, by the time that the Oscars comes around after SAG, BAFTA, Indie Spirit, Cesar and all the other countless awards it almost feels like a forgone conclusion who will win.

Last year the only winner seem to be a hashtag: #OscarSoWhite. Oscar was just too white glossing over the fact that he’s actually golden. Where were the black nominees. And there goes the neighbourhood and meaningful discussion about prizes. You aren’t guaranteed to win. There are plenty of great films and actors that haven’t won an Oscar over the years and should have. It’s a prize – albeit shiny and golden but just a prize.

Cue 2017 and nobody said it but I will: the Blacks have arrived or maybe to be politically correct – African Americans. Yet diversity isn’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a, pun alert, black or white issue. It’s about telling stories in a variety of ways and from different points of view. One of my favourite films – Children of a Lesser God is a love story. The main character is deaf and she falls in love with her speech therapy teacher. Marlee Matlin won the Oscar for best actress that year, the first deaf actress to ever win such an accolade.

Anyway as with all hashtag movements, #Oscarsowhite, it became disposable. 2017 was all about Old Hollywood glamour, feel good after some reality tv star and property mogul, someone called Trump  became the 45th President of the USA and we were all told we needed escapism. That distraction came in the form of La La Land. Either you loved it or loathed it. I don’t enjoy musicals – the end. So when it came to the final and most important Oscar of the night – Best Picture. It didn’t come as a surprise that La La Land was announced except, O-M-G, that was the wrong winner. Here’s how Oscar is dismissive – rather than allow Moonlight it’s rightful moment in the spotlight and getting those multi award  Oscar La La Land winners off the stage, confusion reigned. I still don’t know whether the producers, director etc of Moonlight gave a speech or in fact what they said. For all Oscar 2017’s effort to make it about diversity and there were notable African American Oscar winners – best actor and best supporting actor, what we were left with was a how did the La La Land team feel about being ejected off the stage.

Let’s focus on Moonlight – glorious moonlight under which I do my best writing. I am a creature of the night. This is a movie made on a micro budget something that could have been crowdfunded. It is narrative driven and tells the coming out story from a different point of view and has African American actors in central roles. This film is truly diverse. It’s not about race but the story – who’d have thought there would be a story about a black man coming out. This story is rarely told but needs to be. So I’m happy Moonlight won. My other favourite was Hidden Figures because it showed how far we’d come as humans getting to the moon and as women. Actually a number of films nominated were diverse – Elle as well as Manchester by the Sea. You may know the core story but not told in that particular way. This is definitely the case for Moonlight.

Dismiss disposable hashtags and start demanding to see diverse storytelling. I hope this a trend that will endure and that the Oscars will continue to recognise and award such films.

Film Review: Silence

Silence is an examination of keeping the faith when the courage of your convictions is tested. Just how strong is the human spirit when the only voice you hear is that of your inner critic? All of this is examined in Silence directed and co-written by Martin Scorcese.
Firstly if you’re hoping for a Scorsese film — that of yesteryear – Raging Bull, even that with Leonardo Di Caprio, The Departed – that was before but this is now a very different Martin Scorsese. Silence is based on a bestselling book and dedicated to all those Christians and Portuguese Priests slaughtered during feudal Japan. The roles of three priests at different stages of their faith are played by Adam Driver, Andrew Garfield and Liam Neeson. We only see Liam Neeson briefly and then he’s gone to return much later in the film. What we are left with is a two hour mediation on faith and a flimsy psychoanalysis of the Japanese psyche and humanity et al.
What’s the film really about?
Well that’s the question. Here is what I left thinking:
  1. Is it just a simple adaptation and transposition of a tome of a novel; or
  2. An overtly political film about having the courage of your convictions and faith even in a nihilistic swamp that America’s become culminating in the election of Trump!
Then there is the curious case of Andrew Garfield who takes on the main role in this film. This is the first of two films in which he faces hellfire and wrestles with the courage of conviction, the other is Hacksaw Ridge which is released later this month. He does an admirable job in both although I preferred his role in Hacksaw Ridge. This meditation on faith and humanity left me exhausted and slightly delirious for one blessed moment I imagined I saw Richard Chamberlain in Shogun but alas the Silence is maddening.
Who is going to see this?
  • Well, three quarters of the cinema was full when I saw it at a public screening but then again the choice was limited on New Year’s Day.
  • Then there are Scorsese fans although be warned this is an altogether different Scorsese, one that I don’t recognise or even really want to ever give another 3 hours of my time to. Yes it is 3 HOURS long!
  • If feudal Japanese history mixed with religious iconography gets your juices flowing, then welcome to Silence and you may just have a silent auditorium to watch it in.
Silence was released across cinemas in the UK on 1 January 2017.

It’s always cocktail hour somewhere! Solo cocktail @ The BFI, London

The thing I miss most about Paris are bridges. Oh I knew I was a Parisian in the city whizzing over bridges on the back of a motorbike (clichéd but true). Now I am back in London and rediscovering my brilliant, busy and anonymous hometown. The Southbank is glorious in the early Spring sunshine. Walking along it seeing the people performing shows. I still don’t understand people standing watching someone pretending to be an immobile statue that only moves for money although I will admit floating Yoda is cool. Anyway the BFI home of the British Film Institute and showing incredible films and it has a bar – a proper bar.  Film and cocktails  are some of my favourite things.

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