Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Friday, September 26, 2014

"Guardians Of The Galaxy" / O4W

I went to see “Guardians Of The Galaxy” largely out of curiosity. On first release the trailer looked unpromising, and I’m not entirely up to date on the Marvel Comics universe and those films inspired by it. But, it has been a huge success, so, I reasoned, there must be something in it.
And so there is. James Gunn’s direction is more coherent than it might have been, given the CGI-intensive sci-fi-action goings-on, and aided by a witty script, he maintains a tone which is irreverent without veering into charmlessness. The nostalgic pop soundtrack is also a clever touch.
Chris Pratt maybe lacks charisma as the central protagonist, but then his is the everyman character, and he’s likeable enough. The cast surrounding him is extremely strong – Zoe Saldhana as the love interest, Karen Gillan as her evil sister, Bradley Cooper (voice only) as a genetically engineered space-racoon, Michael Rooker playing it dark; as well as such luminaries as Glenn Close, John C. Reilly and Benicio Del Toro, not to mention familiar British character actors such as Peter Serafinowicz and Christoper Fairbanks.
The plot remains a mystery to me. Something about an orb, and bounty hunters, and the end of the universe. The importance of friendship is a key theme, and the character of Groot (Vin Diesel) seems to pay homage to the power of nature. The whole thing is slickly done, and an enjoyable enough ride, even if it doesn’t really leave a lasting impression.
The post-credits “joke”, however, really isn’t worth hanging around for.

(Marilyn Monroe in a still from "Inside The Poetry Storehouse")

Meanwhile, my film of pieces from The Poetry Storehouse is currently showing as part of Screening #1 of Outcasting’s contribution to the Cardiff Contemporary festival of moving image art; firstly at Porters’ Bar, then, next week, at the Panopticon, the event’s main city-centre venue, close to the bus-station. Exciting.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 19, 2014

"Crazy Gary's Mobile Disco" / "Wendy Hoose"

I could have sworn I’d once attended a rehearsed reading of Gary Owen’s first play “Crazy Gary’s Mobile Disco”, but a few minutes into Waking Exploits’ revival of it at Chapter, the first in Wales, I realised that it was entirely unfamiliar to me. The vividness of the writing earned glowing critiques back in 2001, and the inventive direction and acute characterisations in this production, which I reviewed for the British Theatre Guide, ensured that it remains a powerful, disturbing piece about too-easily recognisable lives.

My other recent theatre-reviewing visit was to Sherman Cymru to see Scottish play “Wendy Hoose”. It was sold as a sex comedy “with a difference”, although the merest glance at the publicity material made it clear that a central theme was disability. Very funny, too, with engaging performances, although at least one person I’ve spoken to since has suggested that the writers were possibly trying too hard to be un-PC in their treatment of the issue.

In other news, my training to become a community arts facilitator has continued; and my film of Bill Yarrow’s poem “Florid Psychosis” has been accepted into the Visible Verse Festival in Vancouver, Canada – something of an achievement when one assesses the pedigree of the other pieces.

"Florid Psychosis" by Bill Yarrow from OTHNIEL SMITH on Vimeo.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 11, 2014


The latest in the endless string of film premieres to which I get invited was a BAFTA Cymru screening of “Pride”, at Chapter. The film shines a light on the little-known story of the London–based gay liberation movement’s involvement in the 1984-1985 Miners’ Strike, especially in South Wales. Co-sponsors on the night were film/TV craft union BECTU, and the evening turned into something of a celebration of local official David Donovan (who was a guest of honour), and his former role with the National Union of Mineworkers.

The film’s plot sees a group of activists, operating out of the Gay’s The Word bookshop, making contact with Donovan, beautifully played by Paddy Considine, and setting up a number of fund-raising activities, inspired by the two groups’ shared experience of persecution by the Thatcherite establishment. A cast of familiar Welsh faces (Menna Trussler, Rhodri Meilir, Nia Gwynne, Jams Thomas) is rounded out by trusty (and box-office friendly) international stars Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, who effortlessly carry much of the emotional weight. Lisa Palfrey is equally impressive as the staunch face of small-town negativism.

Director Matthew Warchus makes excellent use of the Valleys landscapes, as well as moody suburban interiors; and Stephen Beresford’s script moves things along by cleverly shifting focus from individual to individual – Ben Schnetzer’s fiery activist, George MacKay’s initially closeted "Bromley", Jessica Gunning’s blossoming housewife, Dominic West’s flamboyant thespian. It also ticks the requisite number of boxes (gay-bashing, AIDS, lesbian feminism, Elton John) without seeming overly schematic. Outbreaks of sentimentality (such as the miners’ welfare club singalong) are wittily undercut by moments of cynicism.

And, yes, the miners were defeated, but a relationship between the trades union and gay equality movements was forged, to the lasting benefit of both. The tone of “Pride”, therefore, is upbeat and celebratory.

In the post-screening Q and A, Beresford noted that one of the producers had come on board in part to atone for their role in bringing “The Iron Lady” to the big screen. He also pointed out that the fictionalisation process involved exaggerating the amount of adverse reaction suffered by the activists, and Donovan was careful to play up the roles of real-life individuals who were missing from the narrative.

The film was received with great warmth by the invited audience (with the exception of one line about the femininity or otherwise of Welsh women which was met with a stony silence). “Pride” certainly deserves to take its place alongside “Made In Dagenham”, “The Full Monty” and “Billy Elliot” as a commercially successful politically-focussed feel-good comedy-drama.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, September 05, 2014

"Two Faint Lines In The Violet" - by Lissa Kiernan

I was delighted to discover recently that American poet Lissa Kiernan had used the short mashup film I'd made of her poem "Census" - as discovered in The Poetry Storehouse - as part of the on-line publicity campaign for her book "Two Faint Lines In The Violet" (the full story is outlined on the Moving Poems website).

"Census" - by Lissa Kiernan from OTHNIEL SMITH on Vimeo.

One hopes that others will follow her lead.

Labels: , , , , , , ,