Brexit: The Uncivil War (2019)

Brexit: The Uncivil War is current, fascinating, terrifying and quite frankly absurd in equal measure.

It came as no surprise to find out a major consultant on this joint Channel Four and HBO drama was Tim Shipman, the author of All Out War, a comprehensive, forensic exposure of the battle central to Toby Haynes’ film: the Leave and Remain campaign’s divisive, controversial conflict to decide the outcome of the EU Referendum in June 2016, which very quickly became known as ‘Brexit’. For anyone in the UK, there is no word you are more likely to see, read or hear about politically right now than Brexit, save perhaps the surname Trump. It is all pervasive, all-consuming, and Shipman’s book places into clear context just how we ended up where we currently are.

The Uncivil War is, essentially, an adaptation of his non-fiction tale of events from both sides of the camp, though it is framed around, frankly, the far more interesting side of the divide: the Leave campaign. The campaign who won. The campaign with characters far less milquetoast than anyone who fought to Remain. The campaign who fought a dirty war of new frontiers and who the Remain organisation were, almost always, two steps behind. I say this as a firm Remainer—lets get that pretty clear right off the bat—who thinks Brexit is the single greatest British catastrophe since appeasement.

Nevertheless, The Uncivil War attempts to show us the *real* story. The story behind all of the news reports, and the political briefings. The story you have heard on fringe websites or even via conspiracy theorists, or slanted from newspapers right and left. The story of how Brexit changed democracy and changed politics, in a way nobody in Britain, the EU or beyond, ever expected. ‘All Out War’ is teeming with inside jobs, murky suggestions of dark political wizardry, and schemes upon schemes in a battle often outside the minds eye of the public.

What we actually end up with is Brexit: The Panto, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the veritable Peter Pan.

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Life Itself (2018)

Life Itself is a story about stories. It aspires to be a deconstruction of narrative and narration and, ultimately, fails at both.

A warning sign for any newly released film these days is if you can either simultaneously stream it and view it in cinemas, or even worse it goes straight to Netflix or Amazon or Sky Cinema. You only have to recall that calamity that was The Cloverfield Paradox last year as an example of the latter. Life Itself, written and directed by Dan Fogelman, falls into the former bracket, at least in the UK. It has been released both in cinemas and on Sky Cinema on the same weekend. This suggests Sony Pictures internationally cut a deal to maximise engagement after some dire critical responses in the United States.

This is the second picture as director by Fogelman after 2015’s Al Pacino-starring Danny Collins but by no means his first foray into screenwriting. Fogelman wrote Disney’s Cars, Cars 2 and Tangled, not to mention the surprisingly strong Crazy, Stupid, Love. Sadly, he is also responsible for dead on arrival comedy The Guilt Trip starring Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen, plus OAP comedy Last Vegas. Historically, this suggests Fogelman is roughly a fifty-fifty talent – sometimes he scores, sometimes he misses, and badly. If this is *his* story, it’s the story of most creatives in Hollywood.

Life Itself is, demonstrably, a sizeable miss.

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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…

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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…

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