McQueen

Documentaries are a genre of film that I wouldn’t ever consider myself a fan of. Not to say I don’t enjoy them – the two I have watched in the last few days, I have loved them both. It just takes a particular topic for me to get invested.

I don’t actually know what drew me to wanting to see McQueen, maybe it was because I’d read good reviews. Or maybe it was simply because I liked the fact that I knew who he was (let’s face it, fashion really isn’t my thing).

Whatever the reason is and whatever it was that made me decide to see it, I’m glad I did.

The film tells the story of Lee Alexander McQueen but it delves so much deeper than just that. Yes, he was an outstanding fashion designer and succeeded to great heights at a ridiculously young age, but this documentary tells us so much more about Lee. The human being behind the lavish designs.

It starts by telling us how he began in the fashion world and the producers did a great job at getting some of his past co-workers and employers to feature in the film. He found fashion at an age when he wouldn’t have known what he wanted, he just needed a job and it came in the form of an apprenticeship in Saville Row.

Within only a few years of this first venture he became founder of his own line, McQueen, holding vibrant shows and creating stunning collections. To then go on and (with a group of his closest friends) became creative director of Givanchi in Paris and soon enough becoming head designer of Gucci. He was a man of many talents and managed to retain his own personal style throughout his career becoming, quite simply, a visionary.

The film is built upon this outstanding human being as well as his career. Friends, family, colleagues, models and admirers discuss their love and gratitude for him. His friends moving statements about the kind of person he was are warming and at times funny and charming.

The whole production design of the film is as stunning as the content. With the astounding graphics of the skulls which defined him as a designer leading the documentary through the story and the constant reflections of his personal life, the pace is perfect and the film is fascinating.

One thing I love particularly about documentaries like this is how much I learn from them. I know they’re designed to inform but I always feel enlightened by the subject and I am so glad I was drawn to this one.

I highly recommend it, even to people who are not interested in the sheer madness of the fashion industry, but purely for the incredibly mastery of the filmmaking.

Fantastic film.

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McQueen

A night of 100 heroes

Last weekend I had the honour and privilege of attending “a night of 100 heroes” at St. Paul’s church in Covent Garden. It was an evening full of outstanding performances from leading names from London’s West End all to raise money for the North Kensington Fire Fighters who are running the London Marathon in aid of “Kids on the Green” this Sunday.

The evening was a hit right from the off, as soon as we entered the church and we found our seats the room was filling up around us. We overheard one of the volunteers say that the event was a sell out. The room was decorated with 72 heart shaped balloons, one for each of the fallen victims of the tragic fire. These balloons were then for sale at the end of the night to help raise as much money as possible.

The show began with an incredible performance from Nadim Naaman (who I had the pleasure of seeing as Raoul in Phantom). It was a beautiful performance and the perfect way to open the show.

Each performer came on the stage and sang one song, I was completely blown away by the level of talent in that room. All singing songs from hit musicals both from stage and screen.

A couple of stand out performances for me were;

Matt Harvey singing Heaven on their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar, his voice was utterly flawless.

Simon Bailey and Gina Beck’s performance of All I Ask Of You from Phantom was also perfect, the two performed opposite each other in Phantom so it was beautiful to see them perform it again. Both such beautiful voices.

Emma Lindars brought the house down with her rendition of Never Enough from the smash hit The Greatest Showman, you know it’s a great performance when the audience feel the need to applaud half way through the song – incredible.

The Barricade Boys never fail to impress when I see them live. It was a fantastic addition to the night when they came on stage and invited presenter and organiser (and fellow Barricade Boy) Kieran Brown to join them in a note perfect rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Scott Garnham then stayed on stage and did a fantastic mash-up of Its My Life by Bon Jovi mixed with Master of the House from Les Mis. Such brilliant voices and a great group of guys. It’s always a pleasure to see them perform.

Amongst all the wonderful performances we were graced with the presence of a true hero, firefighter Tom Abell was invited on stage to give a speech and to give thanks to his team at North Kensington Firefighters. We also got to hear a beautiful poem written by one of the locals to Grenfell read by Harriet Thorpe.

It was an outstanding night with incredible organisation from Kieran Brown and Sabrina Aloueche. What a perfect way to celebrate the incredible bravery of the North Kensington Firefighters and a chance to reflect on that tragic event. Thank you to everyone involved and congratulations to the incredible performers.

A night of 100 heroes

Unsane

***SPOILERS***

Sawyer (Claire Foy) is accidentally committed into a mental institute on what turns out to be an insurance scam, after befriending a fellow “inmate” (who was quite clearly a journalist from the off) she finds herself under threat of an old familiar face.

I have just spent the last 15 minutes reading other people’s reviews (something I rarely do) on this film to try and structure how to write what I thought because, to be quite frank, I can’t tell if this film was utter brilliance or completely dreadful.

All I found from my readings were people applauding Soderberg for filming the entire thing on an iPhone. A detail I think he should have kept quiet until after the release as all I could think throughout the film was “this was shot on an iPhone”. I don’t really think it added anything special to it, if anything it just made me feel a bit motion sick from all the insane closeups and bad use of framing. It was clever in the sense it felt very intrusive and claustrophobic but that’s something that could have been achieved by shooting in the conventional way.

The story itself was definitely gripping but the plot didn’t quite take me where I thought it was going to. I was waiting for some big psychological twist at the end but actually it stayed fairly tame in terms of storyline. There also seemed to be some big gaping holes throughout and moments where I found myself thinking “what on earth would she have done that for?” – one of the reviews I read said it seemed like a script written in college that is finally being made and I totally agree on that. The script itself is weak.

There are some stand out performances throughout the film, Claire Foy outdoes herself in the lead with a strong supporting cast from Juno Temple, Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah. Foy has definitely proven herself in this role given that the only thing most people know her as is the Queen in Netflix’ The Crown.

I also have the same issue with it that I had with Get Out. It started off as a very clever concept and didn’t mess about with getting right into the story and the first half was strong. It got to the halfway mark and I found myself checking my watch and feeling bored. “Girl gets captured, girl figures out way to escape, girl escapes, girl kills capturer” which is exactly what I thought of Get Out. Textbook.

Anyway, in terms of film it was enjoyable for one watch but I doubt I’ll see it again. The cleverness of shooting on an iPhone was wasted and the plot was weak. Strong performances throughout and how could we have a film set in Boston without our favourite Bostonian making a cheeky cameo? (Easily my favourite part).

Unsane

Wonder Wheel

I know, I know. Woody Allen has a bad rep. But there is absolutely no denying his films are works of art. My favourite to this day is Midnight in Paris because the radiance it brings to the screen is not like anything I had seen to date. Wonder Wheel is on par with that. (Cafe Society is also one of my favourites but that’s mostly because Jesse Eisenberg is a dream).

Wonder Wheel tells the story of Ginny (Kate Winslet) a waitress in a clam bar on Coney Island. Ginny’s husband also works on Coney Island as a ride engineer and subsequently they live in an unused shack which used to be one of the carnivals main attractions, it is now a not-so-comfortable home to them and Ginny’s son.

Ginny’s stepdaughter arrives on the scene fairly early on in the story, Carolina (Juno Temple) is on the run from a mob as she has left her gangster husband and told too much of his story to the police, resulting in his hoodlums wanting to kill her.

The story is narrated by one of Coneys lifeguards, Mickie (Justin Timberlake) who ends up having an affair with Ginny whilst gradually falling in love with Carolina.

The story is full of twists and turns, although being fairly predictable (story-wise) it’s witty and charming nature makes it very easy to watch and the pace keeps the viewer interested.

Although Ginny isn’t the nicest human being on the planet (she is having an affair after all) I did end up caring deeply about her.

The whole film is a triumph but the icing on the top of a large, delicious cake comes in the form of Kate Winslet’s performance. She is just outstanding, her accent is flawless, she’s naturally genuine and completely captivating to watch. The support performances are also very strong, Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple work perfectly as the jam and cream within the cake (I think I might be hungry).

I strongly recommend this beautiful piece of original cinema. 🎡🎢🎠

Wonder Wheel

I, Tonya

I, Tonya follows the story of champion figure skater Tonya Harding from the age of 3 right up to her 40’s when she gave an interview about her career. It battles with domestic violence in the worst kind and family dramas. And it wasn’t for me.

I find it a lot easier to write about films I didn’t enjoy, compared to films I love. There’s only so many times I can say “it was amazing” before it starts loosing it’s meaning.
As always, at this time of year, like a lot of people I try and see as many of the Oscar nominated films as possible before the big day (for me, second to Christmas Day, the biggest day of the year). I now have exactly 1 week until the Golden Statue will be shining again and everyone (inevitably dressed in black #timesup) will be walking the red carpet in sunny Hollywood. I’m down to just 1 ‘best picture’ nominee left to watch, Lady Bird, which I am going to see today and yesterday I had the…pleasure? of watching I, Tonya.

I’m disappointed to say, I didn’t like it. I know, I know, you should never start a review off by saying you did, or didn’t, like something but that’s the honest truth. I wouldn’t say I was particularly excited about it in the first place but I was looking forward to seeing something new and different but was disappointed with what I saw.

I had the impression from the trailer that it was going to be a heavily performance based film and I thought the entire thing was held together with Alison Janney and Sebastian Stan, Janney was raw and honest and Stan was gritty and nasty to watch which both worked really well for me. Margot Robbie, who is nominated for the best actress award at the Oscars, was good but not like blow me away amazing. I think she has serious potential and has, obviously, been in a lot of big films but I just haven’t seen her in anything yet that made me think “yes, she’s one of the greats”. I look forward to the day I can say I was wrong.

The script was a big downfall for me, I couldn’t bare the way they kept breaking the fourth wall outside of the interview scenes, it didn’t fit in at all and I didn’t see the relevance of it. Not only was it a bit weird to watch but everything they said during those moments was pointless, not funny, not relevant and just out of place. It was like it was trying too hard to be something it’s not and didn’t need to be.
I also didn’t quite understand why it was trying to be a comedy, there were people around me laughing at things that in my head I was thinking “what on earth is funny about a mother throwing a knife into her daughters arm” – do people just laugh when they’re uncomfortable or was that the desired reaction?
There was a huge spotlight on the domestic abuse throughout Tonya’s life, which I understand was a big part of her growing up and her marriage but it felt a bit like it was constantly being repeated for audience reaction instead of actually focusing on the story. I got a bit lost in the middle when the “incident” happened and I didn’t even know who the person they were sabotaging was…or was that just me? Maybe I drifted off for a bit.
I was kind of hoping for something huge to happen at the end, which I know couldn’t have been made up because it was biographical but it felt very anti-climactic to me, like I was literally just waiting for it to end and for the “this is what happened to Tonya after the film” text came up.

I always take it as a sign that I’m not enjoying a film when I have to look at my watch during to find out how long I’ve got left and when I did that during I, Tonya I was disappointed to see I’d only watch an hour so far.

Clearly, this wasn’t a film for me and won’t be getting my vote come Sunday, even though I know Alison Janney is very likely to win. I’d much rather see Octavia Spencer pick up the Supporting Actress award.

But hey, I don’t decide the winners, yet.

I, Tonya

Journeys End

After having seen a lot of films based on/during the time of World War 2 I was looking forward to seeing a film that’s about the heart and soul of World War 1.

Journeys End tells the story of a British battalion going into the trenches in France during the First World War to attempt to gain land from the Germans. We meet the men of Captain Stanhope’s (Sam Claflin) troop as they prepare themselves for their designated 6 days in the trenches. Stanhope leads the group of men as a well respected captain with his co-captains as aid. During their second day in the trench Stanhope is called up by his superiors to send 10 of his men, plus two captains, on a raid to capture a German soldier for questioning. Whilst dealing with his own personal demons Stanhope makes the decision to send up Osborne (Paul Brittany) and Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) to lead the troop during the raid.

After a successful mission, despite the loss of Osborne, he comes to learn that on their 4th day in the trench they would be subject to an attack from the Germans, it is his duty now to prepare his men for such a challenge.

Their future is unlikely and Stanhope knows this from the start but with his strong intuition and bravery he leads his men into the battle.

The narrative of this film is slightly patchy in parts and is vague in terms of a clear beginning, middle and end. However, it is a strongly performance led film with standouts from Claflin and Butterfield (with a special shoutout for Toby Jones who plays the Baldrick-style army cook perfectly). A very realistic take on what life for those soldiers would have been like and a real eye opener.

A must see for any war film fans, be prepared for powerful sound effects and highly tense moments.

Journeys End

Early Man

It’s hard to find an Aardman production that I don’t like. I think the closest I’ll ever come to saying “I wasn’t keen” was for The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and that’s purely because the original W&G films are perfection. Early Man is another great example of just that.

The story of Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his Stone Age tribe is told through some of the best British comedy I’ve seen in a long time. We meet Dug and his companions during the Stone Age when there biggest challenge is hunting down a rabbit, until Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and the Bronze Age come along and take over their land. In a bid to keep there valley for themselves Dug and his friends challenge Lord Nooth to a duel, however in this case, the duel is a game of football.

Jam packed with British puns and football related humour this is definitely a film for the entire family to enjoy. It’s quirky, quick paced and all round entertaining. The use of some great British actors as the voices of the characters is genius, a particular stand out for me was Johnny Vegas and his character Asbo, just champion.

I love the style of Aardmans animation, it’s so iconic and makes the film feel somewhat nostalgic. They have a skill of using the claymation style to tell the story and it only adds to the jokes.

I recommend this film to anyone who is in the need for some harmless comedy and any lover of the beautiful game.

Well done Nick Park – you’ve done it again!

Early Man