44 Days of Paranoia #14: Flying Blind (dir by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz)

Today’s entry in the 44 Days of Paranoia is a low-budget British film called Flying Blind.  Made in 2012, Flying Blind got a limited release in the U.S. earlier this year and is currently showing up on cable.

Flying Blind tells the story of Frankie (Helen McCrory), an aerospace engineer who designs drones for the British military.  She also lectures at Bristol University and this is where she meets the much younger Kahil (Najib Oudghiri).  Despite the difference in their ages, Frankie and Kahil start an affair.  As Frankie becomes more and more obsessed with her younger lover, she also starts to realize that there’s a lot about his background that he seems reluctant to share with her.  Frankie’s prejudiced father (Kenneth Cranham) immediately distrusts Kahil.  When MI5 contacts Frankie and tells her that Kahil is “a person of interest,” she starts to do her own investigation into his background.  Is Kahil a terrorist or is he just a victim of a paranoid society?  The answer, to be honest, is not that much of a surprise.

I really wanted to like Flying Blind because it was obviously made with the best of intentions.  It was also made for only £345,000 and we always want to support low-budget, independent films that attempt to tell intelligent stories about intelligent people.  Unfortunately, this idealistic desire can sometimes lead people like me to make excuses for films that just aren’t that good.  When I look at some of the positive reviews that have been posted online, it’s hard not to feel like there’s a lot of people making excuses for Flying Blind.

The truth of the matter is that Flying Blind takes an interesting premise and then explores it in the least interesting, most predictable way possible.  For a film that’s attempting to say something about paranoia and ambiguity, it leaves very little doubt about who is in the right and who is in the wrong.  Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that Helen McCrory and Najib Oudghiri have next to no chemistry.  Their relationship never feels genuine and, while I applaud the film’s attempt to portray a mature sexual relationship, the sex scenes themselves are rather awkward.  It’s easy to understand why everyone in the film is so quick to assume that Oudghiri must be using McCrory because they never make sense as a couple.

Flying Blind tells an important story.  It just doesn’t tell it very well.

Other entries in the 44 Days Of Paranoia:

  1. Clonus
  2. Executive Action
  3. Winter Kills
  4. Interview With The Assassin
  5. The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald
  6. JFK
  7. Beyond The Doors
  8. Three Days of the Condor
  9. They Saved Hitler’s Brain
  10. The Intruder
  11. Police, Adjective
  12. Burn After Reading
  13. Quiz Show

Ghosts of Christmas Past #1: A Christmas Carol (dir by J. Searle Dawley)

Happy Holidays!

Some are celebrating Christmas.

Some are celebrating Hanukkah.

Some are celebrating Kwanzaa.

Some people are celebrating nothing and won’t shut up about it.

For me personally, this is my favorite time of year.  Admittedly, a lot of it is because I love getting presents.  But even beyond that, there’s always been something special about the holiday season.

Last October, for Halloween, we shared some old horror-themed television episodes and short films from the past and the reaction we got was pretty good.  So, why not do the same for the month of December?  From tonight until the end of 2013, I will be sharing a visions of Christmas past.  I hope you enjoy them!

Let’s start things out with this short, silent adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  First released in 1910, this may very well be the very first film adaptation of the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge.  It was directed by J. Searle  Dawley, who, that same year, also directed the first film adaptation of Frankenstein.  The same actor who played Frankenstein’s Monster in that film, Charles Ogle, shows up here as Bob Cratchit.  Scrooge is played by Marc McDermott.

As for the film itself, it’s obviously a very condensed telling of Dickens’ famous tale but the special effects are rather impressive for 1910.  Even better, there’s no Tiny Tim.  Seriously, Tiny Tim always annoyed me.


What Lisa and Megan Watched Last Night #95: California Dreams 3.10 “Daddy’s Girl” (dir by Patrick Maloney)

I’ve been spending the weekend visiting my sister Megan and her family.  Last night, Megan and I watched yet another episode of the mediocre yet oddly entertaining 90s sitcom, California Dreams.

Why Were We Watching It?

So, last night, after everyone else in the house was sound asleep, Megan and I were awake and doing some sisterly bonding, which — when you’re a member of the Bowman clan — usually concludes with watching something silly.

But what to watch?  Because I have the greatest big sister in the world, Megan happens to have every season of Saved By The Bell: The New Class on DVD and, at first, I was really tempted to suggest that we watch something from the storied history of Bayside High.  But, when I actually thought about it, I knew that we simply had to watch yet another episode of California Dreams.

 Last night, we watched a handful of episodes but I specifically decided to review the “Daddy’s Girl” episode because it was the episode that preceded the Family Trees episode, which just happens to also be the last episode of the show that I reviewed for this site.

(As some of our regular readers my remember, it’s been nearly a year since Megan first introduced me to this show when, during the Christmas holidays, we sat down and watched the 4th season episode, Dancing Isn’t Everything. )

What Was It About?

Future steroid addict Tiffani Smith (Kelly Packard) is worried because her father has been alone ever since her parents got divorced.  (I assume that the Smiths got divorced though it’s never specifically stated, beyond Mr. Smith saying, “Ever since your mother left…”  So, it’s entirely possible that Tiffani’s mom may have joined a cult or something.)  Tiffani arranges for her father to meet Ariel (Kristine Sutherland), a woman who claims to be an expert in dolphins.  Mr. Smith and Ariel hit it off and, at first, Tiffani is super excited!

However, Mr. Smith is soon spending all of him time hanging out with Ariel and a jealous Tiffani ends up having one of those extremely elaborate and plot-specific nightmares that always seem to happen on California Dreams.  So, with the help of Ariel’s criminal record, Tiffani breaks up her dad’s new relationship.

Problem solved, right?

Nope.  Now that Mr. Smith is alone again, Tiffani feels guilty and seriously, you have to wonder if there’s ever been a more wishy-washy character than Tiffani Smith.  So, Tiffani tries to get Ariel and Mr. Smith back together by singing them a song.

Meanwhile, in the B plot, Mark (Aaron Jackson) has come up with a computer program that tells Samantha (Jennie Kwan), Tony (William James Jones), Jake (Jay Anthony Franke), and Lorena (Diana Uribe) that none of them are compatible.  Since this was made in the 1990s, everyone automatically believes anything determined by a computer to be true and, as a result, there are mass breakups.

What Worked?

As soon as Ariel first stepped into Sharky’s, Megan and I immediately exclaimed, “Buffy!”  That’s because Ariel was played by Kristine Sutherland who is better known for playing Joyce Summers, the mother of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!  This, of course, led to Megan and I imagining a scenario where Tiffani’s dad turned out to be a vampire and Buffy had to destroy him.  That was a lot of fun.

I thought it was funny just how terrified Tony was of having to listen to Mr. Smith talk about humpback whales.  It made me smile.

What Did Not Work?

To be honest, this episode really had a pretty bad message and I’m glad that I didn’t see it whenever it originally aired because it probably would have given me a lot of false hope.  Tiffani’s father goes out with Ariel because Tiffani wants him to.  He breaks up with Ariel because Tiffani wants him to.  And then, eventually, they get back together again because Tiffani is really sorry and really wants everything to be better.

This episode takes place in a world where a daughter can heal a broken family just through sheer willpower and desire.  It’s a world where, even if that daughter screws everything up, all she has to do is let everyone know how sorry she is and then sing a pretty song and magically, everything will be better.  It would be nice if that was true but it’s not and that’s one of the hardest lessons to learn when you’re young and convinced that, since everything is somehow your fault, you’re also capable of fixing it all and making everyone happy again.

On a less serious note, do the members of the California Dreams ever do anything other than eat?  Seriously!  Almost every episode seems to feature them whining about how they don’t have any money and yet, they spend all of their time at Sharky’s eating.  If Mark is really struggling financially, maybe he shouldn’t have ordered that expensive desert.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

As usual, I related to Lorena because she had really pretty hair and the best fashion sense of anyone on the show.  Plus, I’ve got a weakness for bad boys who wear big, bulky jackets.

As I told Megan last night, much like Tiffani, I also spent a lot of my teenage years wishing that I could sing a song that would somehow make everything better.

“Lisa Marie,” Megan said, “that’s sweet but you know you can’t sing.”

And she’s right.  I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

Lessons Learned

Humpback whales are boring.


Song of the Day: Crown On The Ground (performed by Sleigh Bells)

I could offer up a lot of reasons why Sleigh Bells’ Crown On The Ground is today’s song of the week.

I could say that it’s because the Holiday Season is upon us and what better time to feature a song performed by Sleigh Bells.

I could also point out that this song is prominently featured in The Bling Ring.

But, ultimately, the main and most important reason is that I just happen to like the song.