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In the first of what is promised to be a regular weekly blog, Slarek outlines why the column has come about and kicks things off with a quick note about reviews and reviewers and documentaries on the surveillance society.
 
25 December 2016
 

Getting started

When I first decided that the site should have a blog, my intentions were sound. A blog, I figured, would offer an ideal way to pass on snippets of information about upcoming releases, express opinions about film-related issues without having flesh them out into a fully-fledged article, and keep readers up to date on progress on reviews and sundry site hiccups, of which there tend to be many.

As you'll probably have realised, the site isn't run as a full-time concern. We carry no commercials and do not make a penny from our efforts, and thus have to make a living elsewhere and fit our writing and updates around our jobs and family duties and all the other baggage that comes with no longer being in our teens. With Twitter now a favourite outlet for short communication, you'd think we'd use it more, but it's a platform that none of the writers of the site really tend to engage with and a couple don't actually use it at all. It's the same story with Facebook, a platform I personally have no time for and serious misgivings about the ethics of.

I'll admit that in one sense the site is becoming something of an anachronism, carrying as it does a small number of reviews of considerable length at a time when such information is primarily consumed in bite-sized pieces. But we plod along anyway and probably will until one of us croaks it, probably whilst sitting at the computer making corrections to his or her latest review or when our readership fades to the point where it's no longerworth the considerable effort.

Which brings me back to my opening paragraph and the reasons for starting a blog in the first place. I began with the best intentions, but in the same way that banging out disposable comments on Twitter does not come naturally to me, I quickly discovered that I only seemed to post a blog when specific information needed to be communicated, like the site being put on hold whilst I hopped off to Japan for three glorious weeks. My plan to make it a semi-regular column thus fell by the wayside – even this piece was started over two weeks ago and then put aside to focus on reviews and the challenges of real life.

So, here's the deal. From this point on I've decided to make the blog a regular column to be posted between Friday and Sunday each week, which should provide myself or whoever fancies chipping in a regular deadline for whatever film or life of politically-related thoughts may be buzzing round our heads that week, as well as meeting the original intention of keeping anyone who's interested up to date in what we are doing and watching. This is the first, and by posting it I'm obligating myself to meet a deadline every week from now on. It won't all be film related, and given the world situation and our undisguised political leanings, there may be a rant or two about domestic and world events and a few angry pokes at those in positions of power, for which I will make no apologies.

And so, it begins...

 

Reviewers and reviews – where we're at

As the year comes to an end, we're juggling a combination of bad luck, ill health and new opportunities. I'm still in recovery from an operation on my foot that didn't quite go to plan and has left me in constant pain and with limited mobility, which has seriously fucked with my ability to attend film screenings and has even lost me an opportunity to shoot a video in Warsaw about the restoration work done for an upcoming Arrow Blu-ray release. And yeah, that hurts in more than just the physical sense. My co-reviewer Camus, meanwhile, is nursing injuries to himself and immediate family members and is juggling the extra work that this has created, which has left him with precious little time to devote to the site at the present. On the plus side, one of our former reviewers is (hopefully) poised to make a return soon, and a potential new reviewer is patiently waiting for me reply to his email as I promised I would, which I really must get onto after posting this.

My workplace has just closed up for the Christmas and I'll be using the free time to complete a small number of delayed disc reviews and catch a few of the films that I missed due to foot-related issues and having to take care of my now infirm mother. I'm currently working on a review of Eureka's terrific Blu-ray of Tom Holland's ace 80s vampire favourite, Fright Night, after which I'll be looking to revisit a few of the titles I've missed from the likes of Eureka and (especially) Second Run. I'm also about to start working on my annual pick of the year, my selections for which has been compromised a little by my immobility and the usual – but highly tolerable – issue of waiting to see some of the films on the big screen for the first time at our film society screenings in the new year. Gort, meanwhile, is still working on his coverage of the Hershell Gordon Lewis box set, which has been held up because he's been also asked to review a couple of other recent releases as well, the latest of which should be posted tomorrow.

 

Killswitch and the Snooper's Charter

I've a particular fondness for documentary features that explore the increasingly invasive nature of the surveillance society and those who expose or actively fight against it. With the passing of the so-called ‘Investigatory Powers Act', aka the Snooper's Charter, the UK now has some of the most intrusive surveillance laws in the world, though America's National Security Agency are not far behind. The depressing thing is that so many people seem almost nonplussed that every web site they visit, every email they send and every post they make to Facebook is now being meticulously logged so that it can be put to who knows what use at a later date by whoever comes to power, however extreme or prejudicial their views or intentions. While the British same depressingly complacent about this complete loss of online privacy (if deemed necessary – whatever that may mean – the bill even allows the authorities to hack your smartphone and use it to record your conversations), American filmmakers have been bringing the extremity of these activities to public attention and championing the work of the hacktivist community.

Pry-Minster poster designed by Richard Littler
Poster by Richard Littler @richard__littler

Leading the pack, of course, is Laura Poitras' superb Citizenfour, an as-it-happened record of Edward Snowden's decision to go public about the sheer scale illegal surveillance being carried out by the NSA and other governments worldwide. I'd also highly recommend the terrific Brian Knappenberger double of We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists and The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, as well as Cullen Hoback's Terms and Conditions May Apply. Just recently I caught up with Ali Akbarzadeh's Killswitch, a hugely informative and well-argued look at the increasing threat to net neutrality, which also comes enthusiastically recommended. If you're looking to catch them, Citizenfour has been released on DVD by Dogwoof and The Internet's Own Boy by Spectrum, while all except Citizenfour are currently available on UK Netflix. Yes, the European court may have thrown a spanner in the work regarding the Snooper's Charter, but it's unlikely that the current government – which is led by one of the key architects of the bill in its original form – is going to just let it lie. So try to see these films and tell others about them, as all are not just educational but compelling film documentary works in their own right. And if you have family members or friends who are not taking this issue seriously, then sit them down in front of a couple of these titles to expand their understanding and hopefully prompt them into positive action.

 

And with that I'll wish you all the best for the season, whatever you are doing, and assure that that while news stories are likely to be dry for the next few days, reviews will follow soon.