‘A Long-Awaited Reckoning’: Hollywood after Weinstein

On 5th October, New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey published a story detailing decades of sexual harrassment allegations against Hollywood mega-producer Harvey Weinstein. This predatory behaviour had been part of the rumour mill for years, but previous attempts to publish anything substantial had fallen foul of Weinstein’s far-reaching influence.

This article went off in Hollywood like a bomb. Within days, Weinstein had been sacked, and more women were coming forward. On 10th October, the New Yorker published a piece by journalist Ronan Farrow accusing Weinstein of many more counts of sexual harassment and assault. High-profile actresses like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow joined the chorus.

The New Yorker

And it didn’t stop there. Emboldened, women – and men – across the entertainment industry spoke about their own experiences of being sexually harassed, assaulted and intimated at work. Their stories implicated Kevin Spacey,  Steven Segal, producer Brett Ratner, comedian Louis CK, and many more. They lifted a lid on a toxic culture where powerful men feel entitled to do whatever they want, without fearing consequences.

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A closer look at… Okja

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Okja is available on Netflix and on DVD

The Scoop

It’s the latest thing in food production. Lucy Mirando, the new CEO of the formerly ruthless Mirando corporation, is happy to announce that they have developed a new breed of genetically engineered super-pig. As part of a publicity stunt meant to bolster Mirando’s touchy-feely new image, twenty six piglets will be sent out to farms in different parts of the world to be raised by local farmers using traditional methods.

In South Korea, a pig named Okja is brought up by young Mija (Seo Hyun) and her grandfather (Byun Hee-Bong). Girl and pig share a close bond – and Mija is heartbroken when the Mirando corporation return to claim what’s theirs. To make matters worse, animal rights activist Jay (Paul Dano) tells her that Okja is being sent to America to be slaughtered. Can Mija and her friends make a stand  and save Okja’s bacon?

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A closer look at… Inherent Vice

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California, 1970. Beach hippy and private eye Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) receives an unexpected visit from his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston). She has been seeing wealthy, married property developer Micky Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), and suspects that his wife is plotting to have him kidnapped and committed to an insane asylum. Despite Doc’s lingering feelings for her, Shasta wants him to investigate the case.

It turns out that the next two cases Doc is asked to take on both have a connection to Wolfmann. In fact it seems that everyone he stumbles across – from saxophonist Coy Harlington (Owen Wilson) to brothel worker Jade (Hong Chau) to bull-headed police detective ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) – is somehow tangled in the web of conspiracy. Cults, communists, street gangs, white supremacists, the FBI, an international heroin smuggling operation, politicians, pirates (possibly) and a syndicate of dentists are all involved. None of it really seems to make a lot of sense; but Doc, shambling from clue to clue in a dope-induced stupor, is quite used to that.

Continue reading A closer look at… Inherent Vice

A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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A Most Violent Year is rated 15 for very strong language, strong violence. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

New York, 1981 – the most violent year in the city’s history. Immigrant businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) are trying to expand their heating oil company, but a DA agent (David Oyelowo) is investigating their dealings. To add to their troubles, the Morales’ trucks keep being hijacked at gunpoint by anonymous goons. Not only is the company losing money, but the drivers – including Julian (Elyes Gabel), who lands in hospital after a savage beating – are becoming too afraid to work.

Though Abel suspects that one of his competitors is behind the attacks, he’s determined to behave honourably, and not resort to violent tactics in return. Anna, whose father and brother are in the mob, has other ideas. How far will each of them go in order to protect what they’ve built?

Continue reading A closer look at… A Most Violent Year

A closer look at… Nightcrawler

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.

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Nightcrawler is rated 15 for strong bloody crime scene detail, strong language. The film is available on DVD.

The Scoop

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is ready to try his hand at anything. Full of self-improvement aphorisms and entirely empty of scruples, he stumbles across the Los Angeles underworld of ‘nightcrawling’: following police-radio tipoffs to incident sites, and filming the grim aftermath. The resulting footage can be sold to cable news stations, who have no qualms about broadcasting images of car wrecks or bleeding shootout victims. If it pulls in viewers, it runs – or as Lou’s fellow nightcrawler Joe (Bill Paxton) puts it, ‘if it bleeds, it leads.’

As Lou’s fledgling business grows, he develops a symbiotic relationship with news director Nina (Rene Russo), who’s every bit as ruthless as he is, and an uneven partnership with ‘intern’ Rick (Riz Ahmed), a young man too desperate for money to say no. Just how far is Lou willing to go in pursuit of the success he craves? And who will end up paying the price?

Continue reading A closer look at… Nightcrawler

A closer look at… The Big Short

© Paramount, 2016.
© Paramount, 2016.

The Big Short is rated 15 for strong language, sexualised nudity

The ScoopA mixed bag of a film which nevertheless acts as an effective primer on the financial crash.

It’s 2005, and socially inept hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) thinks he’s spotted something huge. The housing market, long considered to be the foundation of the American economy, is far less stable than everybody believes. In fact, Burry predicts, a huge and catastrophic crash is on its way. If he plays his cards right, he can benefit from it.

Paying visits to numerous incredulous banks, Burry ‘shorts’ the housing market, effectively placing bets against it. When trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears about what Burry is doing he accidentally alerts another hedge fund manager, the cynical Mike Baum (Steve Carrell), and they team up to short the market themselves. Meanwhile, another team – young investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Whittrock), and their older mentor Ben (Brad Pitt) – have also stumbled on Burry’s prediction and are doing the same.

As Baum and his colleagues dig deeper into what is causing the market collapse, they discover a financial system riddled with more fraud, corruption and stupidity than they could have imagined. The party will soon be over – and it won’t be the banks who have to pay.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Big Short

A closer look at… Spotlight

© Entertainment One, 2016.
© Entertainment One, 2016.

Spotlight is rated 15 for child sexual abuse references

The Scoop – An intelligent drama which manages to be both restrained and powerful.

It’s 2001, and the Spotlight investigative team at the Boston Globe are looking for their next big story. They’re dubious when their new boss, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), asks them to dig deeper into a case involving an abusive priest, John Geoghan. The documents are all legally sealed, and any attempt to access them will be viewed by the Church as a hostile move. In a city where Catholicism is part of everybody’s life, the Globe doesn’t want to alienate its readers.

But when journalists ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaten), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) start asking questions, they realise that Geoghan is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are there more abusive priests in Boston than anybody had guessed, but the cover-up encompasses powerful figures from the Church and across the city.

Shining a light into this story will involve not only confronting the painful experiences of the many victims, but also coming to terms with the shocking complicity of everyone involved.

Continue reading A closer look at… Spotlight

A closer look at… The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

© Lionsgate, 2015.
© Lionsgate, 2015.

This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is rated 12A for moderate violence, threat.

Warning: Contains plot spoilers

The Scoop – A sometimes meandering but ultimately satisfying send-off for Katniss Everdeen and a game-changing blockbuster series.

After the events of Mockingjay – Part 1, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is sick of being a pawn in somebody else’s plan. Both her mortal enemy President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and her supposed ally President Coin (Julianne Moore) are looking to use her for their own ends. But Katniss has other ideas.

As an alliance of rebels gets ready to storm the Capitol and overthrow Snow’s oppressive government, she hatches a plan to face him on her own terms. But with her old friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) growing increasingly warlike and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) struggling to get his sanity back, Katniss can trust nobody but herself.

Continue reading A closer look at… The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

A closer look at… American Hustle

Note: Guides from our archive are in a slightly different format and have been edited here to make them more user-friendly.
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American Hustle is rated 15 for strong language. The film is available on DVD.
The Scoop

Is Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) a fake? His hair, an elaborate combover held together by hairspray and bravado, certainly is. His work revolves around selling forged paintings and conning people through a loan scam. But when he meets the clever and glamorous Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), his feelings couldn’t be more real.The two fall madly in love and soon go into business together, ramping up Irving’s con operation and raking in the money. The only fly in the ointment, as far as they’re concerned, is that Irving can’t bear to leave his adopted son with volatile wife Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who refuses to divorce him. Love and business both continue illicitly, until FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them in the act of a scam.

Richie, ambitious and reckless, proposes to release the con artists if they help him with a scheme of his own. He wants to entrap Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a popular politician whose passion for helping people makes him less than scrupulous about where his funding comes from. As Richie sets his plan in motion, the lives and loves of all five characters become so entangled that it’s no longer clear who’s conning who.

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