Another month down and still with only a glimmer of new theatrical releases on the horizon, we here at Flip Screen are working at full capacity to bring you the content you crave in this hour of need. Thankfully for us, regular column authors James Palmer and George Forster have had extra help this month in the form of good friend and NUA film graduate, Daniel Nicholl.
Inspired by James Palmer’s fantastic twitter thread, we’re shaking up the formula and bringing you 9 double bills to inject a bit of fun into your watch parties.
This is Flip Screen’s guide to June 2020.
Sam Neil in Lovecraftian Horror
In the Mouth of Madness – John Carpenter
Event Horizon – Paul W.S. Anderson
Sam Neil continues to be one of the best character actors around and luckily for us, we’ve got a double bill focusing on the strange and horrifying work he’s done for John Carpenter and Paul WS Anderson. Beginning with Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness, we get to see Neil at his most outrageous as he goes mad trying to find a famous author, whose work may be connected to incomprehensible beings from the depth of space and time. It fits nicely with Event Horizon, a sci-fi horror that was infamously cut down by its studio for being too graphic and disturbing. Anderson manages to drum up excellent scares with a story that focuses on the uncomfortable relationship between science and religion and the horrors that lurk from it. Both have Neil giving terrific performances that will be sure to fit amongst the actor’s best work.
Aniara – Pella Kagerman & Hugo Llja
High Life – Claire Denis
These sci-fi films stand above the crowd and act as some of the best genre has to offer. Aniara focuses on the eponymous spaceship which is knocked off its trajectory transporting its passengers to Mars. What follows is a look into despair and hopelessness as its inhabitants try their best to live with their newfound situation. Complimented by Claire Denis’s English language debut, High Life, which features the always great Robert Pattinson as a passenger on a ship, whose inhabitants are at the mercy of the scientist on board. Whilst a lot of sci-fi focus on the possibilities of space, these two entries explore its desolation, its emptiness and the unfortunate existential implications of its nature. Both feature powerhouse performances from their two leads and offer cerebral questions, making them the best kind of sci-fi.
Don’t Stop Filming
Rec – Jaume Balaguero & Paco Plaza
One Cut of the Dead – Shin’ichirô Ueda
“Why are they still filming?” is a question a lot of bad found footage horror seems to invoke. Some try to give an arbitrary answer, while others don’t even bother as they use the format lazily to invoke easy scares. It’s a shame as two juggernauts of the genre show that found footage can be an incredible method of engagement. The brilliant Rec may be the best example of this, using its first-person perspective to impress a terrifying sense of claustrophobia and intimacy upon the audience as we feel trapped with the film’s characters as they try to escape from a viral infection. A counterpoint to this is the sharp comedy One Cut of the Dead, unravelling over a long take as a film director tries to film a zombie movie that soon goes awry when actual zombies show up. It’s the best kind of zombie film, injecting a fresh spin on the genre that I won’t spoil here, as it’s a film best experienced as blind as possible. If you’ve often felt burned by the found footage genre’s many shortcomings, I’d highly recommend checking out the best it has to offer.
Rock & Roll Coming of Age
Sing Street – John Carney
Almost Famous – Cameron Crowe
I firmly believe everyone should be in a band at some point in their childhood. Channelling the energy and creativity of youth into music is one of the most fulfilling experiences out there, and the camaraderie of the ensemble can last a lifetime. More than that, the decision to form a band speaks to a broader following of one’s heart, the rejection of compromise and the notion of getting a “real job.” As such, the coming of age genre lends itself rather well to tales of sky-high dreams and rock and roll. Sing Street is probably my favourite coming of age flick in recent memory – the tale of Conor, a Dublin schoolboy with dreams of making it as a Futurist in 80s London, the film features some of the best original music around – Riddle of the Model and Drive it Like You Stole it are both legitimate bangers. The tale of a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone touring with a rock band for a cover story, Almost Famous is heavier on the disillusionment than Sing Street, yet the dreams are just as big and the highs just as lofty.
Cargo – Yolanda Ramke & Ben Howling
Children of Men – Alfonso Cuarón
The post-apocalyptic/post-collapse genres oftenfeel like well-trodden ground at the best of times, and right now, it’s more than a little close to home. However, bleak as these films invariably are, the ruined worlds within are breeding grounds for tales of hope in adversity. Time-tested symbols of this hope are children, who so often accompany an apocalyptic wanderer, who protects them as quite literally the hope for our species’ survival. There are many films which fit into this purview, but two of my favourites are Yolanda Ramke’s Cargo, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men. Cargo stars Martin Freeman as a stricken father seeking sanctuary for his baby in the outback, after the bite from a zombie leaves him just 48 hours before he turns. Children of Men takes place in a British police-state after humans became infertile 18 years prior. Theo (Clive Owen) must protect Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the first pregnant woman in decades, and get her to safety. These are two emotionally challenging watches, but their final messages of hope in trying times offer inspiration for us all.
12 Angry Men & Dog Day Afternoon
I’ll jump on just about any chance to heap praise on Sidney Lumet’s work. He is, in my opinion, on the Mount Rushmore of all-time great directors, and for me his skill is best on display in his bottle films – those set largely in one enclosed location. Lumet’s 12 Angry Men and Dog Day Afternoon excel thanks, in large part, to the career defining performances he extracted from leads Henry Fonda and Al Pacino. Their performances are some of the most compelling works of acting ever committed to film – you can’t help but become wholly engrossed in these movies, which works great if there happened to be anything going on in the real world that you’d rather not have to think about for a few hours.
Retrospective Gangster Marathon
Once Upon a Time in America – Sergio Leone
The Irishman – Martin Scorsese
If you’re ready for a marathon lasting over seven hours, then this is the double bill for you. Many compared The Irishman to Once Upon a Time in America during its release; the similarities are evident with both character and well as the subtext. Both films are about regret and confronting life’s mistakes, both made by two of the greatest directors of all time now old in age, looking back at their careers. These aren’t just De Niro fronted crime epics, but subtle reflections on lives of regret.
8 1/2 – Federico Fellini
Pain and Glory – Pedro Almodóvar
It seems 2019 was the year of retrospect. Pedro Almodovar made the impeccable Pain and Glory confronting his childhood, relationship with his mother and his collaborators along the way. Almodovar, like Federico Fellini in 8 1⁄2, is hugely self- aware and self-critical. The leads of both films, played respectively by Antonio Banderas and Marcello Mastroianni, are movie directors directly retreating into their memories and fantasies, making it unclear the line between what’s real and what’s not. Although 8 1⁄2 may appear more surreal than Almodovar’s 2019 drama, he cites it as a reference and the similarities are uncanny.
Auteurs of the Future
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Marielle Heller
The Old Man and the Gun – David Lowery
If you’re wondering where the next auteurs are coming from, these films are a great place to start. Marielle Heller already has three great features under her belt with Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Although all three have received acclaim, they all seem underappreciated for how good they actually are and for how strongly Heller depicts these characters on screen. The same goes for The Old Man and the Gun, directed by David Lowery – who is also responsible for A Ghost Story. The Old Man and the Gun was embarrassingly overlooked at the awards, with Robert Redford bowing out from an illustrious career with one of his finest performances. Both films represent the humanity in criminals, behind the vision of some of the greatest filmmakers working today.
Special thanks once again to guest writer Daniel Nicholl who helped tremendously in rounding out this column with three fantastic pairings. You can support Daniel on Twitter @Aspectinmyratio. You can also find James Palmer’s ongoing thread of double-bills here.
Stay safe, see you next month.