The mysterious case of Blood Glacier, a.k.a. The Station

Wednesday January 22nd 2014


At the beginning of the year, I took over the Guardian Guide’s home entertainment column. After half a decade of covering only theatrical titles, my letterbox is now laden on the regs with forthcoming DVD and Blu-ray releases, from the sublime (Upstream Colour) to the ridiculous (Insidious: Chapter 2) via a high definition re-release of Tinto Brass’s saucy early-noughties sex comedy Cheeky.

Every now and then, I’ll also receive something utterly perplexing and instantly fascinating, as I did earlier this week when — hidden amongst a wodge of press releases and review discs — I uncovered Blood Glacier, a.k.a. The Station.

The film, due for release next Monday from StudioCanal, arrived burned onto a DVD bearing the latter title, though an attached compliments slip warned that…

The disc will be marked as “The Station” but please rest assured that the film’s name has been changed to “Blood Glacier”. In any reviews or coverage that you may give for this, please refer to it as “Blood Glacier”.

It seemed odd that a single film might bear two such disparate names, so I assumed that perhaps StudioCanal had purchased a sophisticated arthouse title called The Station and were now trying to market it to the FrightFest mob by giving it a provocative title. That is, until I turned over the press release to reveal…

… AN ACTUAL BLOOD GLACIER.

It turns out that the film is about a team of scientists (a bit like the ones in The Thing) who travel to a remote, wintry research centre (a bit like the one in The Thing) and are stunned to discover a mysterious sickness (a bit like the one in The Thing) affecting local wildlife. Amazingly enough, the film has drawn comparisons to The Thing, as noted at the top of its DVD cover art:

It’s original German title — Blutgletscher — translates literally as Blood Glacier, making no bones about the film’s horror credentials (or the involvement of a blood glacier) so it’s hard to imagine what some sales agent or other was trying to achieve when they elected to offer up The Station as the film’s English-language title. As if there weren’t already enough boring indie movies with almost precisely that name.

Still, the name must have gained some kind of traction, because as you can see above, it still merits a small mention on the film’s otherwise overwhelmingly bloody, glaciery, cover art. Fellow UK distributors, take note — it can’t hurt to hedge your bets…


Here are this year’s BAFTA nominations, beneath five paragraphs of arbitrary text

Wednesday January 8th 2014


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Best film

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Philomena

Outstanding British film

Gravity
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Philomena
Rush
Saving Mr Banks
The Selfish Giant

Actor

Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)

Actress

Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr Banks)

Supporting actor

Barkhad Adbi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Matt Damon (Behind the Candelabra)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)

Supporting actress

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
Oprah Winfrey (The Butler)

Director

Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips)
Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
David O Russell (American Hustle)
Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)

Adapted screenplay

12 Years a Slave
Behind the Candelabra
Captain Phillips
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Original screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

Animated film

Despicable Me 2
Frozen
Monsters University

Documentary

The Act of Killing
The Armstrong Lie
Blackfish
Tim’s Vermeer
We Steal Secrets

Foreign film

The Act of Killing
Blue is the Warmest Colour
The Great Beauty
Metro Manila
Wadjda

Cinematography

12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

Costume design

American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
Saving Mr Banks

Editing

12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Rush
The Wolf of Wall Street

Make-up and hair

American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra
The Butler
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Music

12 Years a Slave
The Book Thief
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Saving Mr Banks

Production design

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Behind the Candelabra
Gravity
The Great Gatsby

Sound

All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Rush

Visual effects

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Short animation

Everything I Can See From Here
I Am Tom Moody
Sleeping with the Fishes

Short film

Island Queen
Keeping Up with the Joneses
Orbit Ever After
Room 8
Sea View

Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer

Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson (writers, Good Vibrations)
Kieran Evans (writer-director, Kelly + Victor)
Scott Graham (writer-director, Shell)
Kelly Marcel (writer, Saving Mr Banks)
Paul Wright. Polly Stokes (writer-director and producer, For Those in Peril)

Rising Star award

Dane DeHaan
George MacKay
Lupita Nyong’o
Will Poulter
Lea Seydoux


Bizarre fact for a Tuesday morning

Tuesday January 7th 2014


It’s a little-known fact that Ron Reagan, son of 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan, had a small role in the film Soul Man (in which C. Thomas Howell blacks up in order to qualify for a African American-only scholarship to Harvard Law School) while his father was in office. He’s pictured on the right in the photograph above as ‘Frank’, a Harvard student who conspires to get Howell on his basketball team because he’s black.

In today’s money, that’s Barack Obama’s 15-year-old daughter Malia popping up as an extra in White Chicks 2.


Netflix need to lose the star ratings and embrace the chaos

Monday January 6th 2014


I’ve just about tuckered myself out going on and on and on in praise of Netflix. Safe to say, I think it’s a brilliant service. Nonetheless, there are a few niggling oddities in the system — mostly hangovers from the company’s previous life as a DVD mailout service — that strike me as odd. The most obvious is their continued operation of DVD rental in the States, an absurdly archaic practice that they sensibly did away with when they began expanding internationally a few years ago. But equally worthy of reconsideration is an altogether more inconspicuous part of the Netflix experience: star ratings.

Star ratings are one of the things that finally convinced me to do away with my LoveFilm account, besides their hopelessly convoluted navigation system, pervasive advertising and insistence on making you speak to a guidance counsellor before they’ll allow you to cancel your account. It seemed as though every time I loaded up LoveFilm, I was being told what the 100 best movies of all time were, asked whether I’d seen the 12 most important documentaries of 2011, or ordered to rate Forrest Gump out of a possible five stars. If I’d wanted to turn my film-viewing habits into a competition, I could have just browsed through the IMDb Top 250 (which reminds me, let’s all watch Fight Club and City of God a few thousand more times shall we?)

LoveFilm’s entire interface seemed to be based on locating the best film available, and shoving it down your throat. Now is it just me, or is that precisely the opposite of what a streaming service should provide? Unlike a video rental store, where your £3.49 buys you a single film and therefore you have a certain amount invested in it being good, streaming services don’t call for deliberation. You can try out whatever you like, whenever you like, and for as long as you like. You might stumble upon something brilliant or you might not, but the level of commitment required is so small that it hardly matters. It’s a bit like watching a film on a plane: All rules are off, and the adventurer within each viewer is unleashed.

Hell, just look at my recently watched list…

(I will say that Too Cute!: Season 1: “Puppies & Ducklings” fully deserves its five stars.)

Netflix is exceedingly good at not discriminating between its ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ films. Scroll through a selection of horror movies and you’re just as likely to come across The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) as you are Rosemary’s Baby. So it seems anachronistic that they still insist on branding everything with an indication of its supposed quality. What kind of feeble mind would eagerly load up Gaspar Noé’s three-hour psychedelic mess-terpiece Enter the Void only to renege at the last minute due to its two-star rating? Has anyone ever thought, “well, InAPPropriate Comedy looks like the worst art ever created by a human being, but I guess it can’t be all that bad if it has three stars on Netflix”?

Don’t get me wrong — I think people should be free to watch InAPPropriate Comedy as many times as they choose. (I’ve seen the inexplicable Lindsay Lohan framing device three times already.) But let’s not kid ourselves: the joy of a film like that — and the joy of most of the good, bad and impossibly ugly stuff on Netflix — is that it doesn’t matter how good it is, it only matters that it’s there.


THERE IS NO GOD

Saturday December 28th 2013


I’m going to Los Angeles next month. I’ll be there for a week. I return home on February 15th.

The following announcement was made this morning:

“On February 20th, Arclight Hollywood will play host to a 10th Anniversary screening of EuroTrip with a Q&A moderated by Kevin Smith.

Not only will writer-directors Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer be answering questions, but the kids from the film — Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg and Travis Wester — are scheduled to attend as well. I’m also hearing that a handful of the film’s other co-stars, like the Green Fairy (Steve Hytner) and the Robot Man (J.P. Manoux), and the band Lustra, who sang the film’s iconic pop-punk song Scotty Doesn’t Know, will be there.”

I feel like I’ve not been invited to my own birthday party.


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