Tag Archive for guest post

Horses on Film

5346043863 a9b1b15453 Horses on Film

Think of any historical, war or Western film or television programme and you’ll be hard pushed to find one which doesn’t involve horses. Many animal rights campaigners would assert that the use of any animal in a film, programme or any other form of media is cruel and unnecessary and with the recent controversy relating to American “HBO” programme “Luck” starring Dustin Hoffman in which three horses tragically died before filming was shut down with no hope of resurrection, it would appear that they might have a point.

It’s worth wondering then what precautions are taken in production to safeguard the lives and comfort of animals including horses and where Luck got it so horribly wrong


In the United Kingdom and on any British backed or financed production, all animal activity is overseen and supervised by the Animal Consultants and Trainers Association (ACTA).

In their mission statement, they state “ACTA provides professional excellence and the highest standards of welfare in the preparation, training and supervision of animals throughout the media and performing arts.”

Their United States counterpart is the American Humane Society and from this, each company of production has their own unique governing body and their own rules.

The role of all or these individual bodies is to ensure that no animals are harmed or distressed during the production and are properly catered for as they work.

The Precise Role of ACTA

As part of their role in the media industry, ACTA have four main objectives. They aim to provide “a professional and comprehensive service” in supplying and training animals for any media including film, television, advertising and so on. They safeguard the welfare of the animals; they promote policies of veterinary care and conduct health and safety assessments and interventions where necessary.

As part of their work, they are involved in pre-production in which they encourage programme and film makers to prepare for the involvement of animals, including budget, time and care, they are also involved with arranging and maintaining insurance, risk assessment as part of health and safety.

A large part of their work involves the provision of a suitably qualified vet on any set. Their role is to certify the health of the animal prior to their work and to supervise all animal activity during filming and production including the equestrian property where the horses are kept during filming. It is their sole responsibility to confirm that the health of the animal is exactly as it was at the beginning and it is on their say-so that any certification from ACTA is allowed to appear in credits as advice to the public who can often be concerned for the health and welfare of animals in film.  


To all intents and purposes, the appeal of A-List actors and directors, high production values and a compelling storyline set around horseracing, the HBO series “Luck” was a hit waiting to happen but tragedy would strike three times before production was shut down permanently in March 2012. The alarm was first raised by PETA who were critical of the production methods used which led to the fatal injuries of two horses.  The AHA investigated and claimed it was satisfied with arrangements but the death of a third horse was too much to ignore and after a shut down by the AHA to investigate the tragedy, the network themselves took the unusual step of closing down production themselves claiming that “accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future.”

This is a guest post on behalf of Anna Wright who believes in horse for loan schemes, blogs on equestrian property and the outdoors. 

4 Visually Stunning & Profound Films of 2011

With the technological boom of the 21st century driving art and media forward at a head-spinning rate, even films from just a few years ago are being regarded as ‘dated.’ While mediocre films will always hold subjective value to their fond viewers, the more demanding audience will crave style and relevance from films, delivered at any point in time.  The movies that remain timeless are those with messages that take thought to digest: reflection, honesty, abstraction of truth, and like any great work of art, contemplation of the past, consideration for the future, and an exhibition of contemporary self-awareness.  2011 was a damn good year for film, in that sense, because for the first time in a long while, audiences could be inspired by the notion the traditionally flashy and vapid Hollywood does not necessarily have to govern our theater-going experiences.

This exegesis is a reflection on the 2011 films that exhibited artistic intelligence, and will surely remain timeless due to their representations of contemporary consciousness.

Tree of Life

tree of life screenshot 4 Visually Stunning & Profound Films of 2011

Likened in many reviews to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tree of Life really holds no comparison aside from it’s relentless contemplation on the nature of humanity, but for this reason, Terrence Malick’s artistic masterpiece will remain one for the galleries.  Promoted with an ambiguous, but beautiful, trailer, viewers might find themselves wondering when the drama about Brad Pitt and Sean Penn really sets in. Well, once the viewer accepts that those anticipations will not be met, they can sit back and go on one of the most meaningful movie-theater rides available.

The film examines philosophical issues such as life, death, guilt, love, and family through the ever-evolving dialectical battle between nature and grace. Never has the complexity of a youth’s consciousness in our time been so accurately portrayed in film: love for his mother, resentment for his father, his relationship to his siblings and friends, his desire to be loved, and the latent masochist who betrays the trust of those closest to him. Freudian themes subtly appear throughout the film.  Focusing more on the significance of certain themes in human development, rather than traditional cinematic character development, Tree of Life has tagged itself as the hallmark film for expression through thematic representation. If you’re not interested in looking into Malick’s profound philosophical quandaries, then the gorgeous cinematic visuals will leave you breathless.


Perhaps the best film of 2011, Shame has established Steve McQueen as more than merely a completely capable filmmaker, but may implicate him as one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers of this era.  Aside from the impeccable performances from Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, and James Dale, it is the way this film invites the viewer into a sex addict’s psyche and causes the viewer to feel his humiliation that makes Shame a seminal film.  Holding back on nothing, McQueen picks away at the socially constructed boundaries of sexuality and says, Yes! We think about fucking our relatives, and Yes! We all question our sexuality, and despite knowing that we all wonder and imagine, we deny our curiosity and regard our contemplations as perverted, which ultimately leads to the manifestation of resent and angst.

02SHAME articleLarge v2 4 Visually Stunning & Profound Films of 2011

Despite the unique story, and the brutal honesty behind it, what really makes Shame a work of genius is its masterful use of subtlety. A fierce run, the insidious crossing of legs, the restlessness, the playful wresting which erupts into a fight, and of course, the piercing stares; it is the careful attention to these details that really lets us into our hero’s mind. Perhaps one of the greatest scenes in film history: Fassbender runs toward us (the scope of the camera), breaking down, and falls to his knees, and we (the camera) look down on him as he prostrates himself. We are the eyes of judgment that arouse his shame, and then the camera takes on a second view from behind Fassbender, still on his knees, to reveal him kneeling before a barren horizon, for there is no one there – the eyes of judgment are within.  There is no doubt that Shame will be a classic, regarded in generations to come.

Melancholia and Take Shelter

melancholia original 4 Visually Stunning & Profound Films of 2011

Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia and Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter are ideological cousins, both following an enigmatic champion with foresight into an apocalyptic future.  As per usual, Von Trier implements a confounded and misunderstood woman, in this case Kirsten Dunst, to tell a story of woe along with his usual-unusual cinematic style of drawn out slow motion sequences with deeply-moving music.  Melancholia is equally beautiful as it is bizarre.  From the start of the film, at Dunst’s wedding, there is a sense of something strange – an impending doom.  As the film carries on, we discover that there are reports of a planet in orbit that may potentially collide with the Earth.  Media broadcasts and all the characters of the film rest assured that the planet will pass by harmlessly, but Dunst is certain of the impact.  What we as an audience have to ask ourselves about this predicament is how the story of an impending doom relates to our reality.  Von Trier expressed that the film was inspired by his depression, thus, we can regard the strange planet as a metaphor for the certainty of death and the pointlessness of living in the face of that truth – quite literally, melancholy.  In this way, Melancholia may very well be held up beside absurdist masterpieces such as Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger.

2011 take shelter 002 4 Visually Stunning & Profound Films of 2011

Like Nichol’s first film, Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter is not an especially stunning film; however, what he succeeds in doing with this film is express the frustration of precognition in the presence of ignorant peers.  While this film can be dissected and interpreted in any number of ways, its metaphorical significance is due to its contemporary relevance.  Take Shelter uses the common tale of a man who sees what others are blind to, challenging the people’s faith, such that, in the midst of warning, society dismisses the prophet as a lunatic until it is too late.  Given the prophecies of world’s end that frequent our attention in current news/media, society fails to meet the measures necessary to prevent and/or prepare for potential disasters. Also, society at large fails to recognize the ignorance of its ways and hears only a faint echo of warning in the back of its mind.  Take Shelter is one of very few films to approach a contemporary real-world dilemma through an artistic lens, which makes this film one of 2011’s most worthwhile cinematic experiences.

As portrayed by these popular blockbuster hits, independent films are now capable of keeping up with the high quality of major studio films.  Each of these brilliant works feature high definition quality and are worth seeing on the big screen, with blu-ray media or through other high-def mediums to experience the full creative dimensions of these beautiful and powerful films.

Rhys Raiskin graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in anthropology, and is now immersing himself in the film and music industries. Follow him at @rhys_on.

The VMAs: Why the Bloggers Got It Wrong

The following guest post is from Michael Merritt. Enjoy.

The MTV Video Music Awards were given out on Sunday, August 28, and without a doubt, Katy Perry was the night’s big name, winning Video of the Year. The results of the program resulted in some grumbling among some “professional” observers – namely the bloggerati and music critics – who saw their hard work making predictions go straight down the tube. I count myself as one who feels the night was stolen from the likes of Adele and Pitbull.

The reason some artists won isn’t a secret. Online voting was introduced this year as a deciding factor. I believe its inclusion was the reason for the gap between what the predictors divined and what ultimately went down that night. Essentially, the observers had much different criteria for their predictions than the fans did for their votes, and they failed to account for that difference.

The predictors based their decisions on aesthetics and editorial decisions. I mean things like cinematography, editing, and direction. That’s the reason Adele won many of the technical awards like Best Cinematography. Voting wasn’t allowed for those awards, so the predictors’ views were more in line with that of the judges. Fans, on the other hand, based their votes on any multitude of reasons, though I’d speculate that most votes went to the artists the elector liked. Basically, it was a popularity contest, and whoever could gain the most votes won.

Guest Post: The Top 3 Classic Horror Villains

Ryan here, with a guest post on what I believe to be the Top 3 classic horror villains.

Although 9 times out of 10 you will find that it is the villain that ends up losing out to the “hero” of a franchise, it is safe to say that the villains are arguably the more interesting characters in that they have a reason for being so dark and twisted inside. The hero is simply doing all they can to protect the world or, in the case of horror movies, themselves.

 So in no particular order here are the top 3 classic horror villains.

Freddy Krueger

A Tribute to Freddy Krueger (no embed, NSFW)

One of the reasons that Freddy is such an awesome villain is due to his ability to frighten the hell out of the audience whilst also throwing in a bit of humour along with it. He is certainly one sick individual but one that audiences fell in love with when he first appeared in 1984. Whilst it might not be best to talk about his portrayal by Jackie Earle Haley in the remake it is safe to say that the person that made Freddy famous, Robert Englund is one of the most respected and recognised villain actors on the planet.