East End Film Festival 2018 – Line-Up

As festival season approaches, the East End Film Festival is returning to it’s usual spring slot to deliver another celebration of some of the best films the world has to offer this year. Let’s take a look at this year’s line up.

Opening the festival this year is Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a documentary exploring the pre-fame years of the celebrated American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and how New York City, its people, and tectonically shifting arts culture of the late 1970s and ’80s shaped his vision. Closing out the show this year will be an outdoor showing of the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name, as well as program of New Vision Queer Shorts.

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In competition this year, titles include documentary I Am Another You, the story of Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang crossing America with drifter who chooses to be homeless; teenage dramas Team Hurricane (Denmark) and Different Kinds of Rain (Germany), tackling subjects such as loneliness, anorexia, isolation and parental issues; Tigre (Argentina), the story of a mother trying to connect with her estranged son, and High Fantasy (South Africa/Luxembourg), where a group of friends on a camping trip wake up in each other’s bodies, challenging the idea of South Africa’s Rainbow Nation. The winner of last year’s competition, Sebastian Hoffman, is returning with his second feature Time Share (Mexico/Netherlands), the story of two men attempting to save their families from a sinister American timeshare conglomerate. Finally, there’s also The Bangle Seller/ Balekempa (India), the tale of a couple in a close knit village trying to hide the fact that they cannot conceive a child, and Daha (Turkey), based on an award winning novel about a boy helping his domineering father smuggle refugees to Europe.

UK premiers taking place at this year’s festival include In the Fade (Germany), for which star Diane Kruger receive Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival. Other premieres include Super November (UK), written by and starring Skins actress Josie Long, revenge tale Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Indonesia/France/Malaysia/Thailand), Deborah Haywood’s Pin Cushion (UK), Never Steady, Never Still (Canada), Revenge (France), Freddie Foreman documentary Fred (UK), coming of age football memoir The Bromley Boys (UK), and Blerta Ziqiri’s The Marriage (Kosovo).

Taking place from 11th-29th April, visit www.eastendfilmfestival.co.uk for more information, and see if you can make it down for some excellent cinema.

Ingrid Goes West – Review

With the rise of technology,  there always comes inevitable detractors. Many people who believe that we’ve all become zombies, attached to our screens and our social media lives. There is some truth to it: As much as the internet connects us to anyone overseas, opens us up to worlds of knowledge, and allows us a secret respite from the real world – it has a large and encroaching darkness. As we all buy into these online personas and fantastical lives, we’re addicted to bettering ourselves in self-indulgent ways or the comfort of slinging insults at whomever displeases us.

There are plenty of films out there, like sci-fi dystopias, that deal with the that  impact of social media and technology have had on our culture. Black Mirror, Friend Request, and more have all tried to slice our society down  by attacking this “addiction.” But none seem so hilariously cutting as Ingrid Goes West.

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Starring Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen, the movie by Matt Spicer revolves around the titular character who is a mentally unstable woman. After deluding herself into thinking that she is friends with a woman online, resulting in the latter being maced at her wedding, Ingrid is sectioned and subsequently released to start over. Lured to California with the money inherited from her mother’s death, Ingrid soon becomes obsessed with social media business woman Taylor and wastes no time in infiltrating her life, becoming obsessed. How long can she keep up the lie before disintegrating mentally?

Spicer’s witty and intellectual script is not merely an indictment on social media but, instead, puts the onus on the user and our lack of education for social media use. Using this black comedy vehicle, Spicer aims for similar veins of obsession but different in their usage. For Taylor, her addiction is to outsource fame and adoration. While inherently a victim in the film, Taylor is also a keen Instagram user, cracking over aspects of her life for cool photos and corporate sponsorship. Ingrid is more dangerous, consumed with a wanton desperation to be in Taylor’s lives. As the film progresses, it gets darker in these elements and when Ingrid’s plan begins to fracture, the atmosphere switches into a darker and more perverse manner whilst still keeping the off-beat comedy.

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The titular role has to be written for Aubrey Plaza because she is the only one who can encapsulate Ingrid with a compelling nature morphed by her mental illness. Only Plaza can switch through dozens of emotions in seconds and portray every single element in a quiet insanity. With a dry tone, Plaza pushes Ingrid to her limits and it is wonderfully executed. Opposite her is Elizabeth Olsen as Taylor. This character is interesting because she is an airhead masquerading as someone spiritually enlightened; a typical LA socialite. Underneath that is someone equally as lost as Ingrid, using those around her to elevate her status into someone of importance. Together, they have brilliant chemistry that pushes Spicer’s script forward.  In support is the excellent O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ingrid’s Batman obsessed landlord Dan .

Ingrid Goes West‘s finale is bleak; an undercurrent message of how we put status and fictional relationships ahead of our mental illness and life. It is assuredly going to stop to make you think…and even put that Instagram down. For at least, like, an hour.

Ingrid Goes West is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Wonder – Review

We’ve seen this movie before: a disfigured child struggles to find acceptance but bonds with [complete the blank]. From Mask, the 1985 film starring Eric Stoltz as Rocky Dennis, a child brought up with a skull deformity raised by his biker mom (Cher) to Penelope (2006), in which Christina Ricci (The Addams Family) played a young woman with the nose of a pig, the genre comes with a familiar message of appreciating people for who they are regardless of class, ethnicity, disability (or different ability), size, sexuality or in the case of the upcoming Permanent, bad hair.

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Wonder, adapted from the 2012 novel by Rachel J Palacio and starring Jacob Tremblay as August ‘Auggie’ Pullman, a boy with a genetic deformity that has distorted his face and led to him being home schooled by his mom (Julia Roberts) but finally entering fifth grade for the first time, is different. The story is told from multiple perspectives, from Auggie himself to his big sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) to his new best friend Jack Will (Noah Jupe) to his sister’s best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).

It still plays that familiar card of giving the ‘different’ kid a special ability – he’s great at science. So when there is a science fair, we know who will win. The multiple viewpoints allows for multiple climaxes, so there isn’t just one tear-jerking moment, but four of them.

As Isabel Pullman, Roberts doesn’t have much to do except play the all-American self-sacrificing mom, who put her dissertation on hold – symbolised by a floppy disc – to raise her family. As dad, Owen Wilson offers light relief as well as genuine gratitude that he is in a movie married to a woman who was once the world’s number one movie star. This primarily is about children, and has the ensemble feel of a superhero movie, one in which a Star Wars character turns up in a cameo – the film capitalises on anticipation for Episode VIII – The Last Jedi.

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But co-writer (with Steven Conrad and Britain’s Jack Thorne) and director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of a Wallflower) misses a trick, by not tackling the source of bullying. Bullying is as endemic to American society as the right to bear arms. It is built into the ruthless individualism of the culture, which objectifies the opponent to justify the rightness of winning. It is the culture that brought us ‘America First’ and Donald Trump rather than community values which have reacted to it, when bullying has gone too far. Yes, the film skilfully allows us to enjoy the mini-triumphs – all four of them, and gosh, I wept buckets. What didn’t do is imagine America abandoning individualism for a ‘more perfect union’. Audiences can cry and keep their guns locked and loaded.

Wonder is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now! 

Ready Player One – Review

by Charlotte Harrison

I had my doubts. It seems important to open with this admission to fully understand my post-watching feelings about the film. The disasters with the poster art, overblown trailers and snippets of the book being shared on social media had caused me to be slightly wary. Even though I knew that it was being directed by one of the greats, the Steven Spielberg, I was still wary.

I was wrong.

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Although Ready Player One isn’t perfect, it has so many redeeming qualities. What could easily have been a Generation Game revolving conveyor belt of 1980s references is instead, first and foremost, a proper science fiction adventure story. Emersion into things is instantaneous and we stay fully engrossed for 140 minutes.

Both worlds, that of 2045 Columbus, Ohio and the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation) are fantastically rendered. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is our guide to proceedings. Orphaned during some of the disasters that have rendered the world’s cities he spends most of his time in the OASIS. It’s there he can be someone else, Parzival – someone who has friends and is capable of achieving great things. His biggest quest is one that most of the OASIS are undertaking, trying to find the three Easter Eggs left behind by its late creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Whomever finds the Easter Eggs will be awarded full ownership of the OASIS; something that the CEO (Ben Mendelsohn) of a large corporation will do anything to get this hands on.

Even the biggest sceptic will find their worries appeased very early on. That’s because within minutes you remember just whose hands you are in. Think of Spielberg’s back catalogue, think of his narrative trademarks and themes – this is the perfect movie for him to direct. This may not be the most classic of his movies, but neither is it a greatest hits compilation.

It’s a solid story told in his style and packed with all manner of references. With the wrong director this could have been a patchwork quilt or scrapbook of 80s nostalgia. Instead it’s an addition to his filmography that has throwbacks to his previous works, and the works of others, whilst also packed with humour and some truly dazzling set pieces.

The challenge for the second Easter Egg is one of those set pieces; an extended tribute to a film that involves a level of recreation so perfect it feels like a spoiler to name the film. If you are a cinephile, even to a small extent, you will get a joyous kick out of it. It’s truly mind-blowing how spot-on this sequence is.

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The only major downside of this film is more audience related than the film itself. With the wrong audience this film could be a less than positive experience. There is a certain noise some people are prone to making when they recognise an in-joke or reference within a film. It’s a quasi-ironic, rather self-congratulatory, and slightly smug blend of a laugh/chuckle/snort. When you consider just how many of those references appear within the film, well, you can imagine…

The Eighties references vary in terms of obscurity (my personal favourite ‘As you wish.’) There’s something for everyone and you don’t have to get all of them. This is a menagerie of pop culture that doesn’t require an encyclopaedia as it is first and foremost a well-told story.

So go see it, get your geek on (just don’t laugh/chuckle/snort too often…)

Ready Player One is out 29th March! 

God’s Own Country – Review

Directorial debuts seem to be getting better and better. Confident filmmakers are emerging with these incredible and masterful movies. Francis Lee is one such director who has commanded a sensitive yet powerful piece of cinematic art in God’s Own Country, which is out on DVD & Blu-ray today.

God’s Own Country revolves around young Johnny Saxby. He lives on a farm with his disabled father and grandmother. Having to undertake more responsibility than he ever wanted, Johnny deals with his exasperations by drinking all night and looking for quick one night stands. When his family employ Gheorghe, a Romanian immigrant, to help around the farm, Johnny finds himself opening up to new emotions and the pair become extremely close.

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Honestly, I’m struggling to put into words exactly how special, visceral, and important God’s Own Country is. This is a wonderful drama with intense acting and a universal story of awakening  and yearning.  It’s about finding home in the unlikeliest of places in a bold and brilliant way.

Lead Josh O’Connor is deserving of all the praise he has been given, including a BAFTA EE Rising Star nomination and British Independent Film Award. The work here is remarkable. As Johnny, O’Connor balances a young man who is trapped by his circumstances and inhibited by his duty, leading to a frustrating bitterness that lingers throughout his day. It is no easy feat to take this angered man and unravel him in a compelling way so his love can come to the forefront. 

The smouldering Alex Secareanu as Gheorghe is a revelation. He is the opposite of Johnny with how he approaches life, a delicate and tranquil spirit who softly approaches his feelings and conveys them to Johnny. It’s on Gheorghe’s approach that allows Johnny to be himself and connect with those feelings that have been enraging him. Secreanu is a clement support in this amazing film, and he and O’Connor have this amazing chemistry together.

The other two actors here are Ian Hart as Johnny’s father Martin and Gemma Jones as grandmother Deirdre. Honestly, the scenes with Martin and Deirdre are so, so good and so poignant that God’s Own Country descends it’s Brokeback Mountain allusion to become a movie about acceptance. Not just his families, but Johnny accepting love in it’s purest form within himself.

The tenderness on display here is a silent yet moving one. From a simple salt pouring gesture to a gentle finger stroke, Francis Lee has emoted sexuality in a palpable way. The whole affair is stirring and Lee wields his camera as a keen and eager observer, capturing the rolling emerald hills of Yorkshire as a sensual backdrop to this unforgettable story. It’s an intense and poetic film with intricacy and intimacy.

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The story unfolds in a glorious manner and provides intense sequences of passion and love. Tears will collate and you will be overcome with waves of emotions similarly to how Moonlight opened your feelings too. Grouped  with Lee’s fearless directing that tells this absolutely stunning romantic story and the beautiful cinematography, God’s Own Country is an intense and enriching movie.

Whilst you are watching, please remember that this is a debut feature, with brilliant performances by upcoming actors. This is British film-making at it’s finest.

God’s Own Country is available on Netflix now. 

The Spy Who Dumped Me – Brand New Trailer!

I adore Kate McKinnon – the Emmy award-winning SNL performer is just brilliant and Mila Kunis has come into her own as a comedic actor. So we’re excited for this team up.

The Spy Who Dumped Me does what it says on the tin: A woman has to hunt down her ex with her best friend after he gets into some shady espionage!

The trailer offers little laughs but I’m hopeful this would be good. What do you think?

The Spy Who Dumped Me is out later this year!