Sunday, October 8, 2017

interview with amanda reyes

Amanda Reyes is an author and podcaster who concentrates most of her work on the made for television movie (although she loves and writes about horror movies and soap operas from time to time!). She edited and co-wrote the book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999, which was released through the UK publisher Headpress earlier this year.

Her blog, Made for TV Mayhem and its companion podcast are the central locus for most of her writing/discussions. Amanda has also been a guest on several other podcasts and has traveled all over the world to discuss TV movies. Most recently, she provided the commentary track for Shout! Factory’s release of the 1977 tele-horror The Spell.

JB: What have you been watching lately? Any favorite movies of the year so far?

AR: To be honest, I haven’t had time to watch much in the way of new. I did see Get Out earlier this year and really, really loved it! I was happy to see it do so well too. While I don’t get to see as much as I’d like, I can see a real shift in the way post-modernism is dictating some of what is happening in horror, and I quite enjoy it. At the same time, there’s still a hold on the more classic stuff, like the things James Wan is doing with the Conjuring films. He’s a great filmmaker, but admittedly I’ve fallen behind on his films too.

In terms of what I normally watch and have been watching of late, I’m currently working on a paper about female-centric paranormal telefilms of the 1970s-80s and their response to second wave feminism, which means I’m watching things like Midnight Offerings (1981), which is a favorite, and Night Cries (1978). I’m having a lot of fun with the topic. 

JB: Tell us a little about your podcast and what we can find there.

AR: The podcast is named after my blog, Made for TV Mayhem, but I added the word "Show" at the end to differentiate it! I have two co-hosts. I do the show with my good friends Dan Budnik and Nathan Johnson. While we’re open to discussing all facets of classic television, the podcast concentrates mostly on the made for television movie. It’s a double feature show, and the way I program it is that I do my best to put one well-known title alongside a more obscure title, pairing them by some sort of theme.

For instance, we did Dark Night of the Scarecrow and Revenge, and they were put together because they are both revenge titles. Also, we did Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Crawlspace together because John Newland directed them both. It’s a lot of fun. Just the other day Nate said he enjoyed doing the show because he hasn’t seen a lot of the titles I’ve chosen and he’s never sure what he’s about to see. That’s fun for me. Mostly, we’ve loved all of the movies, but there’s a clunker or two in there! 

JB: When did you start getting into TV movies?

AR: As a kid. I grew up on TV movies, although I didn’t know that’s what they were. They were just movies playing on the "Afternoon Movie" on the local station. It was a gateway into horror for me and I can still remember being fascinated by the monsters in Gargoyles, and terrified of the creatures in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. And as I got older, I went to the movies as often as I could, but I didn’t have a real source of income, and we didn’t get cable until I was almost out of high school, so I relied heavily on TV movies in terms of feeding an early cinefile habit I was developing.

JB: It seems like sometimes people are reductive when comparing a theatrical picture to being like a "Lifetime" or "Disease of the Week" picture. Do you think TV movies get a bad rap? How would you describe television movies as an art form?

AR: Yes, TV movies get a super bum rap. While it’s true that TV movies were and still are produced in a sort of factory system, there is still artistry within these films. I think that we know that low budgets, quick script writing, and sometimes even quicker production schedules hamper a lot of potential in TV movies. Furthermore, because they are beholden to FCC standards, they are limited in their ability to into anything even marginally objectionable, and therefore, we think telefilms have nothing to offer. But TV movies can be fantastically subversive, or at the very least, extremely entertaining. So, I guess if I were to describe the telefilm as an art form, I would say that TV movies say more with what remains unsaid. They may look superficial, but often have layers of meaning, and it’s a tribute to the medium that many of these films not only endure, but also mean something, even all these years later. 

JB: Are there any TV movie directors who are particularly great?

AR: My favorite small screen director is John Llewellyn Moxey. He’s probably best known for directing The Night Stalker, which introduced the world to Kolchak, but he made so many good films. He was a bit of a journeyman, and just seemed to know how to set up suspenseful set-pieces. Some of his best horror films or thrillers are The House that Would Not Die (1970), Home for the Holidays (1972), and No Place to Hide (1981). He also kind of redid the vampire thing in the underrated I, Desire in 1982, which had David Naughton fighting vampires not so long after he had turned into a werewolf in An American Werewolf in London!

I also really like Gordon Hessler, who had a really nice eye, and his films were often very moody. I think Hitchhike, which stars Cloris Leachman, is my favorite of his films. He also did the underrated The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.

JB: Any TV movies with a great music score?

AR: Oh yes, pretty much anything by Billy Goldenberg, who did Duel and The Legend of Lizzie Borden. But honestly, I really, really love the music for Night Terror, which was done by Fred Steiner. It’s so discordant and really gets into the disturbed mind of the killer chasing Valerie Harper across the desert. The soundtrack to The Spell by Gerald Fried runs along those same lines and is also oh-so-seventies!

JB: It was exciting to see that you did commentary for the The Spell. This is actually my first TV movie memory. I believe it aired as an also-ran on TBS. I was haunted and disturbed by it and didn't know the name of it for years! I finally traced it down a few years ago and it seemed so much less sinister but more of a fun watch. What are your experiences with the film?

AR: I didn’t discover The Spell until I was an adult. I had a friend who was obsessed with it and thought it was a must see film, so he made a copy of his copy for me. I can imagine what seeing it as a kid must have been like, and I’m sure that re-watching it with adult eyes made it a little less sinister. It’s got a lot of depth to it though, which I discovered as I was prepping the commentary track. It’s like I mentioned before, these telefilms can appear inconsequential at times, but there’s a lot going on at their core. I was glad I got to revisit it and give it some deeper thought.

JB: Are there any other TV movies that should be on bluray?

AR: Oh yes! My favorite TV movie, This House Possessed has never had any kind of legitimate home video release, and it really needs one. It’s endlessly entertaining, and I just recently watched it with a crowd and they loved it too.

Also, there’s some classics that are just woefully in need a real release such as Midnight Offerings, Don’t Go to Sleep, Satan’s Triangle and I Saw What You Did, just to name a few off the top of my head. Also, there are some dramas like Griffin and Phoenix and That Certain Summer that deserve a chance at a second audience. And I think Murder By Natural Causes is such a clever mystery/thriller. It would be nice to see that get a release as well. Oh, who am I kidding, can we release every TV movie on bluray? Please?

Actually I’ve a seen a few people comment that they’d like to see an Aaron Spelling boxset. Spelling is, of course, best known for his TV series, but he produced something like 140 telefilms, many of which are absolutely wonderful. I think a box set like that would be a good place to start.

JB: Do you think that's common--that we sometimes have vague memories of a TV movie but can't place the name of it or know who's in it?  Perhaps because it was always hard to find a resource list of films or the actors in them? It sounds generic but I have one where a woman is being followed by a truck (or another car?) for a long amount of time on a deserted highway. Any guesses?

AR: Check out the aforementioned Night Terror and let me know if that’s it or not. I think it might be!

I had a vague memory, which I don’t want to go too into because it will spoil two films, but it turns out I was conflating a telefilm – Scream, Pretty Peggy and an episode of the British series Thriller – "Dial a Deadly Number" together, and for years I was looking for one film. I’m not quite sure how I extrapolated the memory but I’ve been able to get copies of both things, and I can see the similarities now.

I think when we’re young there are just some images that resonate and we don’t really know why yet. Those are the types of memories that linger. If you grew up in the seventies or even the eighties I can see where those images might have come from a made for TV movie. If you caught it on its network airing, it may not have aired ever again.

JB: What do you think the state of television movies is today? Have you enjoyed any recently?

AR: That’s a good question, and very difficult for me to answer. I don’t watch all that much in terms of new television. For one, I don’t have as much time as I used to, and secondly, I’m not as drawn to long form series the same way I once was. I am a soap opera addict though and am really into The Young and the Restless right now. I only mention that because modern TV really takes a nod from the soaps in terms of long-term story arcs, and I do love stories that take a long time to unfold. But for whatever reason, I haven’t found a show that has hooked me yet.

JB: Many are calling this era a renaissance for television.  As someone who prefers the medium and time constraints of a film, rarely do I last through multiple seasons of a show. Lately I've been re-watching early Dynasty though. Do you have favorite TV shows?

AR: Old shows? Yes, I love a lot of them. As far as nighttime soaps, I’m an uber Dallas fan. It’s so amazing. Lots of fun, and great acting. My all time favorite show was One Life to Live, which I watched religiously for 30 years. I miss it every day. But my favorite prime time series is Magnum P.I. Now, that’s a show that just keeps giving. While there’s a lot of a fun-in-the-sun-car-chase episodes, there was a lot of depth given to many of the stories, and certainly to the characters. So much of what came during and after the fifth season could be really esoteric and thoughtful. I fell in love with every recurring character and constantly return to my DVDs to enjoy the show. I also worship at the altar of the Golden Girls, but who doesn’t?

Another show I’m revisiting and loving is Reba, which was an early 2000s sitcom that is truly funny. And I’m a sucker for Three’s a Crowd, which was the spinoff of Three’s Company. It only lasted one season, but it’s all about John Ritter and Robert Mandan chewing the scenery. That was a show that needed a longer life. Oh, and I really adore Lucan, which is another short-lived series that had a surprising amount of depth and heart. And Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Charlie’s Angels are my go-tos when I need to escape from the world. Lately I’ve also been revisiting and loving Eight is Enough. Oh, I also love The Waltons!

This is why I don’t have time to watch new shows, apparently!

JB: And how is your day today?

AR: Very well, thank you! I really enjoyed this interview! Thank you!

Friday, September 29, 2017

10 favorite films so far of 2017

The studios' Oscar-hopefuls and festival darlings are about to ramp up and drop into theaters but before those make waves and suck up all the attention, I wanted to shout out some of my favorite films so far of the year.


Somber and dryly funny Japanese film about a faded writer turned private detective and compulsive gambler (Hiroshi Abe) who is struggling to deal with divorce and the gradually dwindling connection he has with his young son. Kirin Kiki as the protagonist's mother delivers a sly and moving performance. Known for his astute and thoughtful direction, the movie is helmed by Hirokazu Koreeda (Nobody Knows, Still Walking).

"I would say that After the Storm is much more informed by my personal life than my other movies. Much of it is based on memories of myself as a child. And then there’s the “How do I portray this?” approach, which is based on several things in Japanese tradition: the house, the way in which tatami is depicted. There’s a whole tradition of this and I certainly see myself as fitting in that history, the history of Japanese drama. I particularly relate to the films of Mikio Naruse and Shinichi Kamoshita, a person whose work I watched very much as a child, a director of family dramas for television. He’s about 80 now. And I feel more and more that I’m exploring Naruse, and feeling Kamoshita’s influence, in terms of how to create drama." -Hirokazu Koreeda


Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both excellent and engaging as the real-life dueling tennis stars. Alongside them are a game, eclectic ensemble in this rousing and touching sports drama based upon the famed and socially significant 1973 match. A crowdpleaser, yes, but one that rounds out its characters with insight and compassion and pays attention to detail in artful ways (Linus Sandgren's elegant photography and Mary Zophres' spot-on costumes are just some of the tech highlights).

"I think [the movie] caught the essence of the time, the essence of my life, and what I was dealing with. I think the movie caught the essence of what Bobby Riggs was going through, too. I think they caught the essence of what we were dealing with on and off the court — off being probably more interesting in some ways, I think. I thought Steve Carell did an amazing job of capturing the different layers of Bobby, and the authenticity and accuracy of him as a human being. And I think Emma captured who I am. It's kind of eerie actually. If I have my head down, not watching, just listening to the dialogue, her voice sounds exactly the same [as mine]. I don't enunciate well; she got it just right. And she got the phrasing, the tempo, all that in my speech patterns. She must have worked really hard on that." -Billie Jean King


Extraordinarily atypical of the traditional rah-rah war film, director Christopher Nolan and editor Lee Smith shape the complicated story of Dunkirk through separate points-of-view. It has the burnished look of a traditional picture but it's a bizarre piece, with a lucid, mostly dialogue-free narrative. It's also strangely distant from the subject matter with gorgeous visuals shot on 35 mm and a thrumming Hans Zimmer soundscape. The sense of wide-spread suffering is overshadowed by themes of isolation, small scope incidents of violence and the coalescing of disparate lives.

"It was very carefully orchestrated. Literally the film was always designed to be the third act of a movie. You drop into the action from the first frame, no backstory. There was no let up in the sense of dread, just this burning desire for survival without all of the exposition and the dialogue that would normally be attributed to a World War II film. We didn’t have the ability to crosscut between the war room and the generals and all of the traditional stuff you’d have in a war movie." -editor Lee Smith


At 88, Alejandro Jodorowsky, best known for his acid westerns like El Topo, is frankly still doing whatever he pleases in his late career with this daring and vibrant autobiographical tale of his life in Chile. It's a messy movie with occasionally beautiful and sometimes garish visual imagery. Sometimes brash and brazen and occasionally a sentimental, meditative sojourn on mortality.

"I am not speaking in reality of myself... I am mixing art creation with real life... I'm not working with rationality, but with emotionality, to show the viewer his or her capacity for sublime feeling… in this case of me and my family, it is a public display of family therapy. And that is real. Not the film." -Alejandro Jodorowsky


Jordan Peele's perceptive, funny and masterful horror film is the best, complex and layered of the genre since The Silence of the Lambs. But it's also just a flat-out great picture overall, with a great ensemble and technical bravura--brimming with Peele's sobering, witty and ingenious ideas. As we watch young Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) stuck in the woodsy, remote enclave of his girlfriend's (Allison Williams) seemingly genial family, peculiar incidents begin to stack up until the twisty, breathtaking climax that cements the picture as one of the most subversive popular entertainments of the decade so far.

"The gestation period for this idea kind of spanned several years, and I think one of the most important milestones in that process was just realizing that every true horror, human horror, American horror has a horror movie that deals with it and allows us to face that fear, except [that] race in a modern sense, hadn't been touched. It really hadn't been touched in my opinion since Night of the Living Dead 50 years ago. Maybe with the film Candyman. That to me, I just saw a void there. So it really started with this notion of like, this has to be possible, let's figure it out." -Peele


Absorbing doc weaves in and out of the lives of various passengers as they ride along the Empire Builder. A celebratory documentary, skillfully assembled  and a fitting swan song for legendary and groundbreaking filmmaker Albert Maysles.

"After many months of negotiating permission with Amtrak, our small crew was given full access to film on the Empire Builder, Amtrak’s busiest long-distance route. We took three round trips from Chicago to Portland/Seattle and back, finding all of our subjects spontaneously on these trips. Our Story Producer Martha Wollner and an Associate Producer were tasked with canvassing the train as soon as we boarded, and they would begin meeting passengers and getting a sense of who might be interesting on camera or at least willing to participate. They would then pass along the passengers’ info and location to one of our four to five cinematographers who would also themselves meet passengers as they explored the train. Sometimes we’d be able to record several hours of someone’s story and sometimes we’d only have captured several minutes of footage before the passenger had to disembark at their stop." Co-Directors Lynn True and Nelson Walker


I was surprised how much I loved this shaggy, ramshackle NASCAR heist yarn. Much is owed to Channing Tatum's charismatic lead and Adam Driver's eccentric supporting turn as his one-armed brother. The blend of droll comedy, and slowly-paced observation with energetic slapstick works well under Steven Soderbergh's beautifully-attuned direction.

"If it weren’t different enough, then I don’t think it would have appealed to me. It fit in this place where I was excited by the inversion that was necessary. They have no technology, no money. They are not criminals. One of the biggest differences between Logan Lucky and an Ocean’s film is in the Ocean’s films they’re already criminals. They’re already con men. This is their world. They’re multi-generational recidivists. And here you have to watch a group of people kind of learn... how to put a job together. There are a lot of trust issues involved because some of these people know each other and some of them don’t. -Soderbergh


Writer / Director Oliver Assayas has a way of hooking us in with dreamy imagery and taut plot-lines that often unravel in unexpected, quizzical ways. Entertaining, slick ghost story / thriller / psychological drama with a bewitching lead turn by Kristen Stewart.

"On Personal Shopper, I was like, "oh man, this is going to kill me, I can tell." I have experience with loss. I don't have experience with mourning death. I think there are few catalysts that send you unanswerable, existential questions that are very necessary. But not satisfying because there's no resolve, but they're very necessary to move forward. It's either traumatic, traumatic events such as death and loss on a grand scale, or extreme physical anxiety. I'm so physical that I'm often times really limited by it, and it starts a thought process for me that absolutely is the same one that Maureen has, which is, "is this fucking real? I don't even know if I can go on, I might actually just not be able to go on." So that, I knew, is painful and scary, and the only way that we could do it for real is if you abandon all of your default facets, and you actually become honest about how incapable and unknowing we are, rather than relying on all of these constructs that you've built in order to move on. It alienates you immediately, you become like a foreigner in the entire world." -Stewart


I gasped early on with a brilliant use of time lapse in the portraits of family members (the luminous photography is Florian Hoffmeister) and for the remaining run time, I was entranced. This unhurried, aching Emily Dickinson biopic features a mesmerizing Cynthia Nixon, not to mention great supporting players (especially Jennifer Ehle and Joanna Bacon). Directed by Terence Davies; his rich and witty script pierces.

"When I’d written the script, I thought, “We’ve got to have that 10, 15 minutes, however long it goes, to introduce all these people, but also to lay down the template of the film, the nature of her relationship to religion and her family.” But it couldn’t have been a long, gradual “they grow up and get old” — it would have taken too long and we simply didn’t have the money, it was as simple as that. So what is the simplest way of doing it? When I looked at the photographs, the simplest way to do it was track in on them as they aged. It was succinct — and it was cheap. There were just two tracks, one when they were young and one when they were old. When we did it, we told the actors, “You mustn’t blink.” We did Cynthia last, and she said, “Sorry, I’m a blinker.” I said, “Well, try your best.” And at the end of the track on her, she just half-blinked." -Davies


A good pairing with another humanist documentary--In Transit--Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands bring us to Uncertain, Texas. Lush, green and beautiful-looking, we meet a scattering of townspeople hanging by a thread as the socioeconomic and environmental changes continue to shift. It's a poetic, metaphorical film, with deep insight into redemption, American poverty and the human condition.

"The biggest challenge in making “Uncertain” was that for a really long time we didn’t know what the film was about exactly. We knew is that we had these great characters, with extraordinary stories in an incredible place. Our instinct was to keep filming. We could feel it, but we couldn’t explain what the story was. It was about a year into filming when it really started to cohere. Oh the irony of making a film called “Uncertain” and being uncertain what your film was about." -McNicol & Sandilands

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Soundscape like amplified tones of a finger on the rim of a wineglass.

Nature as a possessor: Kristen Dunst smokes up and sleepwalks through the dreamy ins and outs of her existence in the wake of her mother's death.

Somewhere in the redwoods--trunks like the feet of dinosaurs

Trees as living bodies. Hands caressing bark. Hands caressing wood paneled walls.

Tightly tying a ribbon on a nightie.

Blond-lit photography. Elements of trees: wooden dresser, papers to flame, leaf-adorned curtains.

K.K. Barrett did the tactile art direction. The artist behind the visionary sets of Her.

Whenever men appear, the dream world is broken with less interesting imagery and sonic volume--usually fuzzed-out indie rock strumming around them, their hair and beards the color of wood.

Songs like "Dream Baby Dream" by Suicide.

There's the dissonance of synthetics versus natural--plastic baggies--a plant shaped neon light, the automatic brushes in a car wash.

A sleek and stark dispensary in what used to be a flower shop.

Earth drugs as a possessor.

Campfire-lit house party. Tapping at goldfish in an aquarium. Lit match blowout.

Misty, rain-glazed car windows.

The film is directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters who founded Rodarte. Their filmmaking is visually appealing. The film throbs.

Their sartorial choices for Dunst: soft, muted, white mohair (?) sweater, waffle thermal shirt. Black bra and jeans.

A house mostly cut off from the accouterments of popular culture.

A mustard princess phone. Eggs gone bad in the fridge. Cake adorned with flitting moths.

Prisms through trees. Prisms through a crystal vase.

Some of the dispensary customers begin to die.

Dunst is like a bird in a cage that perches itself at the end of a toothbrush. Like the goldfish behind the aquarium glass she taps upon.

Sudden curdling of strings during levitation.

Faces and bodies cut in mirrors like a forest of trees.

Dried flower overlays.

Berry-stained lips.

Blood splattery mist of wood shavings flying at the chainsaw's cut.

The final dress is a wisp of a silvered sheath.

The film is for ones who like to be left under a spell. ***

-Jeffery Berg

new painting

Painted this while I was sick with a 100 degree fever, watching the 1981 horror film The Prowler.

Monday, September 25, 2017

battle of the sexes

We have seen the use of the logo in unison with a film's period many times recently (including other 70s-set pictures American Hustle and Argo). Yet there's something apposite in Alfred Newman's "20th Century Fox Fanfare" as an opening to Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris's (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks) Battle of the Sexes; a once bombastic ditty introducing a product of entertainment that now sounds vintage and tinny. The same could be said of the primary subject of the movie: September's tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome. This is Americana at its most stirring-- a competition emblazoned with advertising (Sugar Daddy among them) with headstrong, consciously aware players at its core (Riggs trying to make a buck and garnering some attention; King trying to make a buck as well, but more importantly, also pushing social change), watched by a frenzied audience with clear loyalties through a major media outlet (ABC).

In homage to the formula embraced by the 1970s disaster picture of its time and the typical sports movie, the film criss-crosses an array of characters, with our heroine at the helm, up to the main spectacle. King and her all-women's tennis co-horts ditch the United States Tennis Association in protest of unequal pay and end up touring, under the feisty, chain-smoking guidance of Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) with sponsorship from Virginia Slims. King, married to husband Larry (Austin Stowell), is wrestling with her sexuality and striking up a romance with her tour's adpoted hairstylist Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough). Meanwhile, pro-player Riggs is a boisterous gambling addict with a wealthy spouse (Elizabeth Shue) whose grown tired of his antics. Even though the audience and the film has warmer feelings for King and her fight for equality, the parallel stories are both compelling, sympathetic, and well-played by the seasoned cast. Once the two agree to the match, Riggs' clownish behavior increases alongside rising media attention, while King makes her own shrewd decisions (such as nixing an outwardly sexist sports announcer) and trains her heart out, refusing to back down.

There is an inherent risk in an actor's portrayal of playing a real person, especially a particularly determined, noble person, of being too "actorly"--and yet Emma Stone, with her grounded naturalism, delivers an exceptionally fine performance of warmth and spirit. Carell, a love-him or hate-him actor perfect for this part, infuses the story with humor and with a knowing wink to the audience at the eye-rolling lines of his character. The film around him respects King too much to make Riggs her one-note adversary: when we see the blight of panic on his face during the match, there's a glimmer of pathos for the showboating chauvinist. The bigger villain is probably Bill Pullman's Jack Kramer; like Riggs, he is entrenched in the ways of old-guard white male tennis elite; but unlike Riggs, he doesn't make any motions to stir things up. One doesn't bring Pullman into a picture for subtlety. He's great at hamming it up just slightly enough to make his Hollywood stick figure effective. Overall, the ensemble is aces. Known primarily as a stand-up comic, but underrated as a character actress, Silverman nails her role with great wit. It was also a joy to see Shue back; despite her small role, she imbues it with humanity and dry humor. 

Dayton and Faris are excellent at bringing a talented, misfit cast together and also a top-notch crew. Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) drums up Rocky-like excitement with an exhilarating score that mixes early 70s-Baroque moog-melody kitsch with charging sports motifts and a bittersweet bend that emphasizes the historical importance of the event. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren (one of La La Land's great assets) stage people within and against geometric designs (similar to the boxed-in feel of the court) of hotel balconies and spaces that are distinctly Californian; in a nod to the time period, that isn't too on-the-nose, the film is dipped in a richly fuzzed, navy hue. The costume design (Mary Zophres) is particularly tremendous--with a keen eye for the everyday, the suits, the glam (Shue's get-ups) and Alan Cummings' character's brilliantly-captured tennis skirt creations. It seems that 70s cinematic costuming has become more sophisticated over the years--accuracy with vivid visual appeal and without blatant condescension--and the work in this film is particularly strong. 

Overall, unlike King herself, the movie doesn't necessarily break much ground: Simon Beaufoy's script (Slumdog Millionaire) is peppered with cliches and easy set-ups. I can see how many could find the lesbian romance, as well-played and gently nuanced as it is, not particularly fresh (didn't we also hear "Crimson and Clover" in the love scene in Monster?). There's also Cummings' character (real life Ted Tinling, who probably deserves his own film) which may seem somewhat stereotypically peacocky by today's standards but to me, also feels like a reverent figure lost in time. Despite all this, the cinematic depiction of this story and the ensuing match as traditionally crowdpleasery feels just right: hopeful, acutely refreshing and rousing in these times. More than once my audience clapped and oohed-and-awed through the electric climax. Like the film's recycled 20th Century Fox logo, since the year of the match, much has changed in society, been steamrolled over; yet much still hasn't or has just morphed into new forms. ***1/2

-Jeffery Berg