Salva me ex Inferis

When you are on Divinorum, you see things. Your mind is consciously aware of this though, so you rationalise the more surreal, horrifying and unsettling images; it is ok, this is not happening. That guy repeatedly jabbing a syringe into his face? Just some fella taking a drink from a bottle. That lass trying to slice her wrist open with an abnormally-long nail? Just some girl toying with her bracelet. Your imagination has been taken over, sure…but you don’t have to be afraid. Just take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the sights.

Sometimes it can be a fun game to guess what exactly it is, in reality, that your mind is twisting into a grotesque parody. The first time I was on the drug, I watched two chirpy little kids cavorting with a human head – tossing it back and forth with giddy abandon. What, I asked myself, were they really playing with? A football, maybe. A basketball, perhaps. Any form of ball, really. Could be a doll, a bag of something… They might not even have been playing catch; they might have been flying a kite or simply playing tag, and my intoxicated mind feverishly filled in the rest.

I remember being quite proud of this hallucination, both of its chilling nature and of the creativity which had unleashed it, and conveyed this to my friends shortly afterwards. They seemed perplexed, which had me kind of miffed – I’d thought it was a pretty damn fine bit of tripping I’d just done, to be quite honest – and they were unduly fixated on the details of the two children. How old were they? What clothes were they wearing? What colour was their hair, their skin, their eyes…? On and on with tiresome questions. You’d swear that the human head was completely irrelevant.

It was not until I had properly detoxed that they deigned to tell me the truth: At no point, while we were enjoying our mutually drug-addled afternoon in the park, had there ever been any kids anywhere near us at all.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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Alcohol-fueled Night Movie

It began with a raindance. Or, at least, that is the earliest part I can remember. A beaming caucasian man, wiggling his fingers high above his head (presumably to represent the pitter-patter of raindrops), as dark ominous clouds gathered in the skies above. England, clearly, were in need of some saving. Again. The mellifluous tones of Richie Benaud, the sort of unflustered commentator who could remain wry throughout the ending of the world, confirming that, yes, the cricket was done. For today at least. All three results possible but, as evidenced by the gormless fellow’s grin, a draw looking ever more likely.

An enigmatic, rotund, bald figure gazed down on the scene from the window of his private jet. Not the sort you would see now – this vision was apparently of the far future, as you will soon recognise – but an impressively large airliner. Nonetheless, despite its increased capacity, there were only a dozen or so people on board. All were his employees, but at first it seemed improbable that such an individual could afford or merit such high-class accoutrements. He was constantly talking, dictating via some sort of wireless communication to a far-away underling, logging his report on the match, the country, the mood. Zeitgeist filler. Why did his musings hold such import?

As he droned on, so did his lavish aircraft. Presently, the weather’s turn began to impact more than merely the sporting occasion below. The pilots gave eachother brief nervous looks before deciding that, even though their master was never to be interrupted, this was surely the kind of exceptional circumstance that made such a rule obsolete. Walls came from the sky, making further forward progress impossible. They would have to turn back. Suddenly, they were in real trouble. As terrifying as the prospect was, they would have to try landing on the motorway, close to the cricket ground.

Even now, the passengers and crew are fairly confident. They’re in for a bumpy ride, of course, but nobody really doubts that they’ll make it out alive. The head honcho worries more about what this will do to his portfolio and reputation than any physical danger he might actually be in. The pilots are the best of the best. Naturally. Even in these trying conditions, they will bring the plane down. They do. Once the aircraft touches down though, disaster immediately strikes.

The left wing collides with the support structure of an overpass and is torn clean off. The airplane, hurtling along the mercifully-deserted highway, begins to rotate towards the sports ground. More flotsam and jetsam, more debris, more shrapnel is sheared from the plane and thrown in all directions as the main body smashes through the boundary walls and crosses the boundary proper. For the briefest of moments, having slid to a halt in the covers, the jet is still. They seem to have made it, basically intact.

Then the plane explodes.

Days later, as footage is replayed on an endless loop on every screen across the country and on many more around the world, the loss of life stands at an impossibly-high 500. A cricket score of  death. Nobody seems to know how this can be, given that the stadium was almost empty at the time, the aircraft only had between 10 and 20 aboard, and the responding firefighters – who suffered heroically in trying to quell the conflagration – did not have anywhere near those numbers on the scene.

There is definitely something wrong with this picture.

The rotund, self-important and fatally self-assured individual, it transpires, was the heir to the throne. A journalist by vocation, granted, but a man of opulence by birth. The only son of William V. In a world of Kings and Queens, 500 might lose their lives but only 1 really matters. Prince George is dead. There is no more appetite to continue the Royal line – he was not particularly liked anyway. The Monarchy is briefly revered and remembered, with festivals and ceremonies to commemorate its ‘greatest’ moments and members…and then…

It’s gone.


Any takers?

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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There is only ‘Ours’

“Aquinas or Müntzer?”

“Does it matter?”

“You’re right, fuck it.”

We probably shoulda had a little bit more interest in getting the basics right – the origins of the ideas etc – but have a little sympathy; we’d been up about twenty hours straight when the above exchange took place. It was 5 in the morning, and this project – pamphlet, really – we’d been given the job of completing by the following day had turned out to be a lot more of a pain in the arse than either of us had anticipated.

“Can we get historical materialism in here somewhere?”

“It’s barely more than a fucking leaflet, how do you expect us to just drop that in without any explanation?”

“You’re treating people like morons!”

“You’re treating them like adjunct professors!”

“Fine… Fair enough… Just thought it’d be a bit weightier than the usual shite.”

“It will be.”

Omnia Sunt Communia. Everything in Common. That’s the loose translation anyway. I never did Latin in school, so I don’t know the exact meaning. The most I understand is the odd phrase, like Dulce et Decorum est pro Patria Mori or Victoria Concordia Crescit. Still, what little I know does make me slightly doubtful about the grammar – shouldn’t it be Omnia Communia Sunt? Jesus, this must be the tiredness talking. Glad I didn’t mention it to Richie; after all the work we’d put in, it probably woulda sent him over the edge. You’d find him days later, huddled in a corner and stuffing scrunched-up wastepaper into his mouth, weeping and wailing about the Peasants’ Revolt.

“Promotion of a new Egalitarian Society?”


“Repudiation of divisive individualist notions such as Private Property and Enclosure?”


“Medieval Commons, Mongolian pastures, Maine fisheries, Nepalese forests, Mexican Acequia?”


“Digital Commons?”


Trying to distil a vast, complex and often contradictory ideology into what was essentially the equivalent of two A4 pages worth of information was, to put it mildly, a nightmare. If I’d known the task would be this draining and frustrating ahead of time, there’s no way I’d have agreed to do it. Richie though, he’d have done it. It’s just that he’d have done it totally half-assed. I guess that’s why I was following through; most of the time, when it came to responsibility, I’d volunteer to do something, procrastinate the shit out of it, and ultimately not do it. Hey, I’m not proud of it – it’s just what happens – but there’s something in me that says it’s better not to do something than to do something badly. With Richie on this as well, my options were to knuckle down and make it as decent as possible, or avoid it and see what shite he came up with. Fuck that.

“There is no ‘Yours’, there is no ‘Mine’… There is only ‘Ours’?”

“…Yeah. Yeah, fuck it, that’ll do.”

“Jesus, thank fuck that’s over.”

“What about the illustrations?”

“Bollocks to the illustrations, nobody ever said we had to do that. They know neither of us can draw. You know Photoshop?”

“Not really.”

“Well then.”

Solidarity, brothers & sisters… 

“The government we have gives freedom and livelihood to the Gentry, to have abundance and to lock up Treasures of the Earth from the poor, so that rich men may have chests full of Gold and Silver, and houses full of Corn and Goods to look upon; and the poor that works to get it, can hardly live, and if they cannot work like Slaves, then they must starve…”
- Gerrard Winstanley, ‘A New-Yeers Gift for the Parliament and Armie’, 1650


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Hounslow: Part XVII – Machination

As if she had learned the spiel by rote, Ramla rolled out a technical explanation of the facilities. Shani would almost furtively add the odd word sentence to elaborate on her sister’s discourse, but would otherwise remain still while Ramla led their visitor through the ins and outs – both literal and figurative – of the Dais’ communications leviathan. Presently, Melissa held up a hand. Ramla seemed to bridle somewhat – she was not used to interruption – but she pursed her lips and nodded regardless.

“Look, these…machines and…whatnot…are all very interesting. No, they’re fascinating, I would love to learn more about how this place operates and each of the functions it fulfils…but I haven’t got much time so could you just tell me; why was it built, and how is it so effective?”

A rare smile crossed Ramla’s lips, and Shani even managed a quiet giggle. The two shared a look, and Ramla whispered, “Now the Dais is cast”, which brought another chuckle from her more reticent twin. Melissa sighed in frustration – she didn’t have time for this irritating bullshit. Nonetheless, she knew the sisters would not be hurried.

“History taught us that the ubiquitous presence of interconnected devices, unregulated and mobile, was and is, simultaneously, a threat to the state and, conversely, another arrow in its quiver – if you’ll forgive the expression, Ms. Myung-Bo?” Melissa irritably waved away the question, and looked at her own device to see how much time she had left. Not much. Get on with it!

“There have been times – in the not-too-distant past, as I’m sure you are well aware – when those who would use this network for nefarious purposes were…underestimated. When the Dais was first conceived, this was thus the highest priority: Ensure the maximum possible level of information management.”

At that, Ramla briefly turned away from Melissa and gestured at a large nearby screen, which instantly filled with a rapidly-changing series of uploaded images, amateur videos, text messages, status updates, personal adverts…a whole smorgasboard of human digital interaction, flittering by faster than a hummingbird’s wings.

“The sheer volume of data represents the most obvious problem. No matter what some ignoramuses may tell you, total control is…impossible. Attempting to view, let alone censor, every scrap of information transmitted would inevitably result in catastrophic failure. We needed to be cleverer, more cunning, more…insidious, even…if we were to match our foes and, ultimately, defeat them.”

Another gesture. Now a dated, Communik8® prototype appeared on the screen.

“First, we must recognise that information and entertainment are one and the same. Second, we ensure that the citizenry receive, first and foremost, the news that we want them to see. Third, and most important, we acknowledge everything that could be damaging to us – but crucially, we present it from an angle which is beneficial to us and which minimises its significance and anything it entails which would otherwise be scandalous. Finally, we provide as much citizen interaction as possible in the more…meaningless activities of the state.”

The gesture this time appeared more dismissive, to Melissa’s eyes anyway. A sequence of clips showing various popularity contests and talent competitions was displayed. From the most derisively obvious, such as a cookery head-to-head, to the most pompously self-important election campaign.

“You might ask, what is so different here from the techniques of eons past? It is a valid question. A propagandist from the Age of Empires would doubtless recognise the basic tenets of what we are fulminating, but he would marvel at the depth of the dissemination and the subtlety of the messages. Such people can grasp the importance of the yoke, but they grasp it too tightly! To maintain order, you must maintain the individual’s illusion of freedom – freedom of movement, freedom of choice…and freedom of mind.”

Melissa’s Axe-S™ vibrated on her wrist. She gritted her teeth – barely scratching the surface! Ramla noticed and smiled.

“You must go, I see? Ah, such a pity. This was just a brief introduction to Gunnersbury’s delights. I had not even the chance to tell you about Shani’s specialty – the Shills.”

As she said this, Lt. Commander Soler strode into view, feigning a look of gruff indignation.

“So this is where you got to, Miss Myung-Bo! Bloody nuisance, been trekkin’ all over the shop tryin’ to find your sorry arse… Thanks to you I’ll hafta cut our tour short. My group of Learners will be mighty miffed an’ no mistake… She give you ladies any trouble?”

The twins shook their heads in unison. Melissa sighed once more, this time inwardly. They weren’t lying.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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As a cucumber… Part II

The guy was classic eurotrash. Had a French accent you could mature cheese with, one which sounded so affected that you would have half a mind to tell him to cut it out, but one look at his outfit showed he was on the level in his eccentricity; red polka-dot bowtie, frilled sky-blue shirt, brown tweed jacket with dyed-green leather patches at the elbows, light-tan pantaloons and black-&-white spats completing what was a pretty picture. If by ‘pretty picture’ you meant ‘eyesore’. Still, he had a story to tell – yeah I know, who doesn’t? – and I was in a mood for listening.

“Drink? Sorry I ain’t got any wine… I’d offer you some cognac but it seems we’re fresh out. Coffee?”

He winced outlandishly. Seemingly the very thought of one of our uncultured cups of Joe passing his lips brought on something akin to momentary electrocution.

“Ok, I guess we’ll have to go dry on this one. Whatever ya got, spit it out, Étienne, I can’t spend all evening in your fine company.”

As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Étienne Cabet mighta been somethin’ of a kook, but he was a dab hand at spinnin’ a tale. If what he said was true, there’d be a lot of money in it…and a lot of heat, too.

Étienne’s great-grandfather – also named Étienne – was apparently a man of God, and some sort of Utopian Socialist to boot. Wrote a whole slew of books about how Jesus was into social equality, and woulda despised the hierarchical bullshit of the modern Church. Never read the stuff myself, but his Messiah sounds like someone I could get on board with. Anyway, this bible-bashing proto-Commie tried to help set up some sort of community on the banks of the Red River in Texas, but the whole thing fell apart amidst the usual disease and disappointment that these endeavours tend to result in, and the elder Étienne died a frustrated pauper…but not before establishing a few familial mantras that apparently had quite the impact on Étienne Jr when he learned ‘em. Something to the effect of never letting the bastards in higher-up places put the squeeze on the truth. So, 90-odd years after grandpappy’s death, and half-a-century after his own birth, Étienne the younger came to see yours truly. He wanted to blow a story wide open.

To be honest, I couldn’t blame the bastards higher-up for trying to keep this one squeezed shut.


It all starts with a Limey. Friend of Étienne’s – “a trustworthy comrade, Mister Coolcarrigan” – and a college professor by the name of Christopher Hill. Along with a few other politically-minded types, they’d set up this Communist Party Historians Group a few years back, and the Limey lecturer came to see his old pal Éttie when he came over to New York for a conference just the other day. It was over lunch that this Chris Hill told our peculiar Frog about some rumours that had been flying around, about a new Marie Celeste in South East Asia, about a desperate SOS message, a ship discovered with a dead crew on board, and an explosion which took this doomed boat to the bottom. What got Étienne all a-fluster though, was the fact the the authorities were trying to obliterate any record of the ship, trying to make it out to be a mythical ‘ghost story’, when there were witnesses all over the place and sources in the Coast Guard swore blind that the whole thing was true.

The ship, Étienne told me, was called the Ourang Medan. Now, there’s no paper trail proving its existence, but the ship that found it – the Silver Star – definitely DID exist, so there had to be somethin’ to it, even if the business was murkier than the alleys of Harlem after closing time. There were chemicals on board, he said. Seriously nasty chemicals. Stuff that’d be dangerous in a nuclear lab, let alone on the open seas. Seems Uncle Sam was tryin’ to move some illicit substances in secret, and took a little too much risk in the transfer.

So. In February of ’48, a distress call goes out in the Straits of Malacca. It’d scare a seasoned bull to death to hear it; “All officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead”. This was followed by a burst of Morse code – gibberish apparently – before a final transmission, stating simply; “I die.” It’s picked up by a coupla US ships as well as some Military Listening Posts – British and Dutch, according to Étienne – and between them, they triangulate the SOS to work out the message’s origin. An American merchant vessel, the Silver Star, is closest and finds the SS Ourang Medan, totally adrift and seemingly lifeless.

The sailor-boys get aboard this steel coffin, and what do they find? A loada stiffs all over the place; the bodies of the Dutch crew, all contorted into positions of agony, eyes staring transfixed in their death throes, arms grasping at thin air and faces twisted in mortal horror. Even the ship’s dog, would you believe? Poor mutt. Even he wasn’t spared, a defiant snarl frozen onto his canine snout. Thing is, there wasn’t a scratch on any of the bodies. Not one. They all suffered, but from what?

Below decks, the sailors said they experienced an icy chill. Ya know what the temperature is in the Malacca Straits in February? Around 110 degrees. This was a pretty experienced crew, and they found no damage to the ship or any of its contents – such as they could ascertain in the short period they were aboard, anyways. The Cap of the Silver Star decides to tow the Ourang Medan to a nearby port, but no sooner have they got underway than his lookouts notice smoke billowing from the stricken vessel’s hold. The story goes that they barely managed to cut the tether before the Ourang Medan was lifted outta the sea by a huge explosion and immediately sank – had they not been so quick, the Silver Star probably woulda been dragged to the bottom too.


That was all Étienne knew for sure. Or so he said. The rest, he claimed, was just speculation on his part – but I know when there’s more to a story than I’m being told. The guy looked delighted to hear that I was interested – damn right I was interested! This guy looked like he had money to burn and a bottomless pit of a case to burn it in, and I hadn’t had a glass of good Scotch in months.

Murders can wait. Conspiracy theories and UFO are where the easy money’s at.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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As a cucumber

I hate my name. It comes from watching too many Bogart movies as a little kid, and reading too many Chandler books as a young adult. When I was barely into double figures, I took to dressing up in a raincoat and fedora, chewing on those candy cigarette-imitations, whispering, “Now listen here, wiseguy” and “I’m on to you, sonny” out of the corner of my mouth, and crossing my feet over the top of my school desk – no matter how often my teachers would make me take ‘em down again.

It was just a phase – every kid has ‘em, am I wrong? – but that was when the other little brats gave me this moniker, and it’s stuck ever since. People who meet me think I’m short-tempered, a firecracker just waiting for some poor bastard to light the fuse, but it’s just that damn nickname. I don’t even look like that archetypal detective no more; stopped wearing the raincoat at fifteen when I discovered that leather jackets were cooler and more attractive – objectively – to the opposite sex, had my fedora stolen off my head by Acne Phillips in the playground – I’d only been wearing it a year – and, well, once I contracted type 2 Diabetes that was pretty much it for those damned candy smokes I’d been gorging myself on. I spit every time I so much as see someone smoking these days, kid you not.

How as this name followed me through High School, College and out into the real world? Beats me. I’m just the victim. Any detective ever tell you they ascertained the motive and perpetrator of a murder by asking the victim? Well then, smart-ass.

Anyway. I mighta stopped doing all the clichéd things that noir crime cinema was famous for, but that didn’t stop me inhaling every damn murder mystery and cop caper I could get my bloodhound’s nose on. That nickname will follow me to the end of the Earth – I know it, you know it, those little monsters in the school cafeteria knew it – but it hasn’t shaken my ardent passion for good, honest crimefighting. Hell, maybe it strengthened it. Maybe some part of me fantasised that, when I grew up, those kids I pretended to be shaking down for clues actually would be the guys I’d be getting to shake down. It’s as good a motivation as any, I guess.

Look at me, ramblin’ on like a first-class obstructionist. Oughta be charged with perverting the course of justice – amongst other things. But I’ll get to those a little later. Probably much later, if what my former employers said about my risible work ethic has any merit. I’ve tried a lot of stuff – some of it legal, most of it less so – in trying to rid myself of that dumbass name. You’ll find out about all that jazz at some point. Doubtless you’ll derive some facile entertainment from it. The masses usually do, huh? Get a kick outta missteps like mine. Least it does some good.

Before I go any further, though, I’d better introduce myself properly. I was christened Conlan Carrigan, which isn’t the best name in the world I’ll admit – what were my parents thinking of, with that many ‘C’ and ‘N’ sounds? – but it was still better than hearing the nickname day in, day out. Cool Carrigan. Everybody calls me Cool Carrigan. Oh sure, you don’t think it’s that annoying now.

If you were addressed in that manner every day for twenty years, you might feel different.

Solidarity, brothers & sisters…

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My Best Films of 2013

This year I really pushed the boat out, and made it my mission to watch at least 1 new film per week – this was so that I could have at least a modicum of experience about the year’s theatrical releases to be able to judge their quality. Even so, there are a fair few movies that came to the silver screen last year that I was unable to view, movies which I was really looking forward to and may, when I eventually see them, earn higher regard than those I have chosen as my ‘best’; Blue Jasmine, Blue Is The Warmest Colour, Thor: Dark World, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Kill Your Darlings, Nebraska, Much Ado About Nothing, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Captain Phillips, The Fifth Estate, Winnie… Nonetheless, I managed to watch 55 movies released in 2013, the full list of which you can find at the end of this article.

Now, on to the winners of this prestigious arbitrary blog post!

5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Adapted from the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamed, Mira Nair directs a political thriller encompassing the ‘War on Terror’ featuring a magnificent lead performance from Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Closed Circuit). Starring as a radical Pakistani Professor whose American allegiance is torn apart by his experiences after the events of the 11th of September, Riz has an enigmatic and magnetic screen presence, and his is the character with whom our sympathies never waver. He is ably supported by Liev Schreiber (Sphere, Last Days on Mars) as the US journalist ostensibly seeking a story but surreptitiously working for American special forces, Kiefer Sutherland (Flatliners, Young Guns) as the protagonist’s initial professional mentor, and Kate Hudson (Almost Famous, About Adam) who excels as the grief-stricken, uncomprehending love interest.

The pace of the films pulls you along nicely and there are some knowing moments which stand well above any previous attempt to reveal how Muslims reacted to the 2001 attacks and subsequent witch-hunt, scapegoating and trial-by-media. The similarity drawn between religious fundamentalism and capitalist fundamentalism was particularly well executed, as was the symbolic inability of the love interest to understand she had done anything wrong when she betrays the protagonist’s trust. I have to be oblique here, as I do not want to spoil anything for any potential viewer!

In any case, this is a brilliant film; the script, characters, performances and direction are first-class. Watch it.

4. John Dies at the End

Sometimes you just love a film because it is unlike anything you have seen before. Weird, comedic, gruesome, inelegant, bizarre… Whatever it is, the result is something that stays with you, something you want to watch over and over again, something you want to recommend to as many people as possible – just to see how they react to it and interpret it.

This a dark comedy-horror, directed by Don Coscarelli whose work Bubba Ho-tep proves that he has the chops for the genre, with a wicked supporting performance from Paul Giamatti (Win Win, The Last Station) who, I must admit, is one of my favourite actors. It is difficult to describe the film, save for the fact that the ‘John’ of the title refers to one of our two intrepid heroes – John Cheese and David Wong – who are, essentially, demon-hunters. David relates the story to Giamatti’s sceptical Arnie, a reporter looking for a good yarn to sink his teeth into.

It is only now that I realise how this framing device is exactly the same as The Reluctant Fundamentalist’s. Huh. Seems I might be a sucker for that one. Ah well.

Anyway, that is literally the only thing these two movies have in common. John Dies at the End is basically a terrifying, hilarious, unpredictable romp, with monsters and bugs and possessions and gore aplenty. I defy anyone to watch it and not be immensely entertained.

3. Before Midnight

Mark Kermode, in reviewing this, called Richard Linklater’s Before… movies the ‘perfect’ trilogy. He is probably not wrong, and it has to be said that this is in no small order down to the brilliance of the final instalment of Jesse & Céline’s modern love story. I was sceptical when I first heard that this was in the works; for me, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset covered everything, nicely rounding-up the story in a romantic bow and giving the central figures a lovely ending.

How wrong I was.

The maturity of the characters is echoed in the maturity of the performances, the direction and the story (such as it is). If you know and love the previous two films, you know what to expect here, but the dialogue between the couple, now approaching middle age, is so believable and powerful that it is enthralling and painful in equal measure. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy remain the cutest and most captivating on-screen couple of our time, and their chemistry has not dimmed with the passing of years. The perfect symbiosis between them and the script is what classics are made of.

Describing the attraction of these films for someone who has not seen them is nigh-on impossible, as the central thrust of the movies is just two people talking…for an extended period of time:
Before Sunrise; Jesse and Céline meet, talk all night, fall in love, separate.
Before Sunset; Jesse and Céline meet again nine years later, talk all afternoon, fall in love again, stay together.
Before Midnight; Jesse and Céline hang around in Greece, talk and argue all evening…and I won’t ruin the end for you!

I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but trust me: Best. Trilogy. Ever.

2. Fruitvale Station

On New Year’s Eve 2009, Oscar Grant was apprehended by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police. In the course of his arrest, he was shot and killed. This is a dramatic retelling of his last 24 hours.

So, pretty depressing, right? Actually, it is strangely life-affirming. Sure, the feeling of knowing what is coming while the movie’s characters are blissfully unaware does cast a shadow over everything that unfolds, akin to the painful pre-cognition of an audience to a Greek play (perhaps something by Euripides or Sophocles). Nonetheless, this directorial debut by auteur Ryan Coogler is a thoughtful, engrossing and emotive account of one man’s final day, and it encourages us to live as fully as we can, fight against injustice wherever possible, and stand up for our fellow man.

Michael B. Jordan shines as the doomed hero, and it is rumoured that Octavia Spencer will receive another Best Supporting Actress nod at the Oscars for her portrayal of Grant’s dignified, devoted and ultimately grieving mother. If so, it will be one far more deserving than the Oscar she received for The Help. [Edit: She receive no such nomination, alas]

This movie could not have been made without the financial and active support of Forest Whitaker – this more than makes up for his participation in Lee Daniel’s abysmal civil-rights airbrushing, The Butler.

And my favourite film of 2013? DRUMROLL PLEASE!

1. The East

With echoes of political thrillers from the 1970′s, this is nonetheless the most original and politically bang-on movie of the year. Helpfully, it is also the best written. It is directed by Zal Batmanglij and stars Brit Marling, and was co-written by both, who lived as ‘Freegans’ for a year to research their subjects and make the film as believable as possible.

Boy, does that pay off.

The aforementioned Marling (Another Earth, Sound of My Voice) is extraordinary in the lead role, that of a corporate spy charged with informing on an Anarchist sect committed to eco-terrorism. The film takes its title from their group’s name. Alexander Skarsgard, best known for his fantastic performance in the HBO mini-series Generation Kill, is compelling and charismatic as The East’s most effective and confident member, while Ellen Page puts in another marvellous turn as the organisation’s youngest member who is determined to bring down her own father’s petrochemical company.

I won’t go into the storyline any more, suffice it to say that The East is the cinematic tour-de-force of 2013. Anyone who watches this and is not deeply-affected by it is no comrade of mine. A simply superb film, and another feather in the caps of Batmanglij and Marling, who look like truly exciting up-and-coming filmmakers.

Only time will tell if they can follow this up with something even approaching its standards. Make no mistake, in making The East they have set themselves one heck of a high bar.

Watch it. Watch it NOW. Seb commands you.

Solidarity brothers & sisters… 

P.S. I will have my ‘Worst Films of 2013‘ up shortly. In the meantime, as promised, here’s the list of all the films I saw this year. Those that are recommended viewing I have highlighted in blue:

Wreck-It Ralph, The World’s End, Mama, Pacific Rim, Before Midnight, How I Live Now, The Bling Ring, Kick-Ass 2, Parkland, Last Days on Mars, Stoker, Gravity, Warm Bodies, Maniac, Phantom, Elysium, Black Rock, Spirit of ’45, World War Z, Man of Steel, This is the End, Byzantium, The East, Kapringen, Promised Land, The Purge, Frances Ha, Hyde Park on Hudson, Lés Miserables, Europa Report, John Dies at the End, Iron Man 3, Prisoners, White House Down, Portrait of a Zombie, The Lifeguard, The To-Do List, Side Effects, Drinking Buddies, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Jobs, After Earth, Gangster Squad, Filth, The Wolverine, Fruitvale Station, I Declare War, Rush, The Spectacular Now, Don Jon, Closed Circuit, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mud, The Butler, Dealin’ with Idiots.

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