The Hunger Games and Generation K


Ever heard of ‘Generation K’? No, I hadn’t either, until the upcoming release of the final Hunger Games film resulted in a spate of articles about the teenagers who have grown up with heroine Katniss Everdeen.

The term has been coined by economist and academic Noreena Hertz, who did a study of more than a thousand British and American teenage girls to find out about their hopes and fears for the future. The results were fairly alarming.

I discovered that unlike those currently aged between 20 and 30, the “Yes we can” generation, who grew up believing the world was their oyster, for Generation K the world is less oyster, more Hobbesian nightmare. This is the generation who’ve had Al Qaeda piped into their living rooms and smartphones and seen their parents and other loved ones lose their jobs. A generation for whom there are disturbing echoes of the dystopian landscape Katniss encounters in The Hunger Games’ District 12. Unequal, violent, hard.

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Why I care about diverse films

What does it mean to have a diverse media, and why does it matter? These questions are explored by Anna Holmes in a recent New York Times piece, which looks at the issue more generally but touches on the film and TV industries. The term ‘diversity’, says Holmes, has to many people become at worst an irritant and at best a box to thoughtlessly tick.

She suggests that we tend to trumpet the exceptions to the rule whilst conveniently downplaying the enormous – and very provable – amount of bias that still remains.

Small victories are often overenthusiastically celebrated as evidence of larger change. In September, for example, when Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win the Best Actress in a Drama Series Emmy, the moment was cheered in the press as a triumph of racial equity in Hollywood. But just a month before, Stacy L. Smith, a professor of communication at U.S.C. who, with other researchers, had just released a damning report that studied gender bias in 700 films made between 2007 and 2014, lamented ‘‘the dismal record of diversity, not just for one group, but for females, people of color and the L.G.B.T. community.’’

Actress Viola Davies
Actress Viola Davies – a historic Emmy win

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Rogue laughter and shared happiness at the cinema


King Lear? Not, on the whole, a barrel of laughs.
King Lear? Not, on the whole, a barrel of laughs.

I recently came across this piece by Don Aucoin in the Boston Globe about the perils of ‘rogue laughter’ for theatre actors. You’ve probably experienced the phenomenon – at a particularly intense, tragic or dramatic moment of a play, an inappropriate reaction from someone in the audience breaks the mood.

It was opening night of “A Number,’’ Caryl Churchill’s dark, chilling drama about cloning gone awry, and Nael Nacer was giving it his all in a performance of nonstop intensity at Watertown’s New Repertory Theatre.

Suddenly a young woman near the back of the theater shrieked with laughter. As the play went on, she punctuated the performance earlier this month with loud bursts of merriment, often joined by more than a dozen other chortling spectators — apparently convinced, against all evidence, that they were watching a comedy.

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A closer look at… Brooklyn


© Lionsgate, 2015.
© Lionsgate, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Brooklyn is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate sex.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop a sweet-natured, old-fashioned love story that’s bound to charm.

A big change is coming for small-town Irish girl Eilis (Saoirse Ronan). Concerned about the lack of opportunities for her at home, her older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) has arranged for her to emigrate to Brooklyn, New York. One rather rough voyage later and Eilis is walking through the famed checkpoint at Ellis Island, into her new life.

At first all she can think about is how much she misses home. But with the encouragement of kindly priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), and of the community of women in the boarding house where she stays, Eilis gains confidence. When she meets a kind, funny Italian boy named Tony (Emory Cohen) she begins to fall in love both with him and with Brooklyn.

Just when she’s beginning to think of America as her home, Eilis gets some shattering news from Ireland. She will need to decide, once and for all, where she really belongs.

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The wimp’s guide to scary cinema

I scare easily. I’m not ashamed. (OK, maybe a little bit.) I don’t watch ‘proper’ horror films because my poor overactive imagination can’t handle it. But I do enjoy a bit of menace and weirdness and darkness in my fiction, so it’s a constant toss-up between watching what I want to watch and getting a good night’s sleep afterwards.

In honour of this spooky time of year, here are a few of the scariest films I have ever subjected myself to.


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A closer look at… The Lobster


© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.
© Picturehouse Entertainment, 2015.

This is a level 3 guide, suitable for more experienced groups. The Lobster is rated 15 for strong language, sex, sex references, bloody images.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A pitch-dark satire on the contemporary relationship game. Would make an excellent double-bill with ‘Her‘.

Think it’s tough being single? At least you don’t live in the off-kilter futuristic world inhabited by David (Colin Farrell). When his wife leaves him, he is sent to stay in a hotel where he and a large group of other singletons have forty-five days to fall in love with someone, or be turned into an animal. David decides that if it comes to that, he’ll be a lobster. He’s always liked the sea.

When things at the hotel go awry, David runs away to the woods, where he encounters a group of rebel Loners whose fearsome leader (Lea Seydoux) enacts bloody punishments on those who are tempted by romance. Falling in love with a Loner woman (Rachel Weisz) could be a short-sighted move.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Lobster

5 questions to ask about… James Bond

© Sony Pictures Releasing, 2015.

Some honesty, upfront: I am not much of a Bond fan. Both in the sense that I haven’t seen a lot of Bond, and in that I’m not hugely keen on what I have seen. Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t grow up watching old Bond films, so they don’t even have nostalgic appeal for me. But I recognise that for many people, they offer just the right kind of escapist entertainment.

The release of a new Bond film is a major cultural event, and it’s well worth pausing to ask why. Here are some questions to reflect on as Spectre, ostensibly Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond, hits cinemas.

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5 questions to ask about… Back to the Future


Yup, it’s finally here. After months of seeing doctored versions of this image all over the internet, the real Back to the Future Day has arrived. Don your self-lacing trainers, get on your hoverboard, re-hydrate a pizza, and celebrate Doc and Marty’s arrival in our present.

I hope that you, like me, will be re-watching BTTF2 tonight. In the meantime, here are five questions to ask about this classic series of films.

  • Why does Back to the Future have such enduring appeal? Films become classics for a reason. The original BTTF is a blast of pure entertainment: it’s got action, it’s got comedy, it’s got a fantastic soundtrack, it’s got romance, it’s got crazy science. It’s got a cast who all knock it out of the park. But more than anything, it’s centred on a perfect gem of a story idea.
Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future (1985)
  • What can we learn from the films’ vision of the past? What happens when we start seeing our parents as people? Do we inevitably inherit their flaws, or can we change our own destiny? Nostalgia tells us that the past was a cleaner, more innocent place: but is this really true?
  • What can we learn from the films’ vision of the future? What hopes and anxieties can we read into the second film’s vision of the year 2015? Did any of these actually come to pass? What kind of future do today’s Sci-Fi films imagine?
Back to the Future Part II (1989)
  • Why are we so fascinated by Back to the Future Day? People have been sharing that image for months – why do we get such a kick out of it? Are we amused because the real future is better than the one the film imagined, or disappointed because it’s not as good? Does it make us feel old, and maybe even a little frightened, to know that the future is now the present?
  • Why does Marty’s paternal grandmother look exactly like his mother? And who, I ask, who in the world, thought those Irish accents were a good idea?
Back to the Future Part III (1990)


Read More

‘Back to the Future’ is now all back and no future

‘Back to the Future’: 13 things you may not know

Back to the Future Day: Six experts predict life in 2045

Back to the Future: the complete history


A closer look at… Suffragette

© Pathe, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Suffragette is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, moderate violence, a scene of force-feeding.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A powerful account of an essential chapter in history

Maud (Carey Mulligan) is a dutiful wife to Sonny (Ben Wishaw) and a loving mother to their young son George (Adam Michael Dodd). Her laundry job is back-breaking, and she barely has it in her to question why she is paid less than the men who work there, or why her supervisor routinely gets away with sexually assaulting the women in his charge.

When her friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) introduces her to the Suffragette movement, Maud’s frustration finally finds an outlet. Cautious at first, she is soon influenced by women such as Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) and the movement’s outlaw leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep).

Maud is about to learn how much it will cost her to be a revolutionary. But the more she loses, the bolder she becomes.

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A closer look at… The Martian


© 20th Century Fox , 2015.
© 20th Century Fox , 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. The Martian is rated 12A for infrequent strong language, injury detail.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – Matt Damon’s stuck in space, again. And he needs saving, again.

When a fierce storm during a manned mission to Mars leaves astronaut Mark Watney stranded alone on the red planet, it seems all hope is lost. But Watney is not the type to give up easily. Using his botany skills, his ingenuity and a lot of duct tape, he sets about staying alive until somebody can come and rescue him.

Help is only 140 million miles away. Back on Earth, NASA head Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and his colleagues – including mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and spokesperson Annie Monroe (Kristen Wiig) – try to figure out how to achieve the impossible.

Meanwhile, Watney’s commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew are on their return voyage, still believing that they left him for dead. What will they do if they find out the truth?

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