KISS ME BEFORE IT BLOWS UP has a running time of 101 minutes. It is not yet rated. The film opened in Germany last year and played BFI Flare 2021.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
Saturday, March 27, 2021
TOVE is a beautifully filmed, fascinating biopic about Tove Jannsen, the creator of the Moomins. We first meet Tove as young woman in bombed out post-war Helsinki, stifled by her famous sculptor farmer, so much so that she moves into a flat with no water or heat. Like her graphic artist mother, Tove has a talent for caricatures and cartoons, but has internalised her father's disdain for anything other than fine art. Nonetheless, she has courage enough to publish anti-Hitler cartoons, and to live her life in search of happiness and without concern for convention. Accordingly, when we meet her she is beginning what would be a lifelong friendship and a fairly long affair with a married Member of Parliament. And when she meets the talented theatre director Vivica Bandler, she doesn't hesitate to express her love for her too. What follows is a passionate love affair but also one carried out in post-war Finland where the risk associated with it and the pressure to marry leave both Tove and Vivica ultimately unable to live together. But - by the end of the film - a Tove empowered by her financial independence and success and increasing self-confidence - does find her lifelong love. Though it's testament to her talent for friendship that she remans close to both Vivica and her Arno, the politician.
TOVE has a running time of 100 minutes. The filmed played Toronto 2020 and BFI Flare 2021. It opened in Finland last year but does not yet have a commercial release date in the UK or USA.
SWEETHEART has a running time of 94 minutes. It is not yet rated. It played Glasgow and BFI Flare 2021 and does not yet have a commercial release date.
The entire film takes place over five days in Tel Aviv, where the somewhat haphazard but charming Tower (Niv Nissim) sublets his apartment to the New York Times travel writer Michael (John Benjamin Hickey). For the first hour of its brief running time we think we have a certain perception of Michael as a rather timid man, dealing with the bombshell that his husband back in New York has approached a surrogacy agency without his knowledge or consent. But there are hints that his relationship toward parenting are more complex, and this opens up beautifully in the final third of the film. By contrast, Tomer seems to live entirely in the open - openly gay, sex-positive, unabashed to admit his lack of funds, even making films that are provocative and challenging but without subtlety or sub-text. Tomer is also a little lost, and again, in a pivotal late scene with his mum we realise that he too might be looking for something from Michael that is beyond a lover, and perhaps paternal.
This quiet, drily funny film says so much without words and rests on the superb performances from Hickey (unsurprising - he is one of our finest stage actors) - but also in a debut performance from Niv Nissim. The performances are complemented by incredible framing and lensing from DP Daniel Miller that lifts this film into something beyond just a beautifully performed romantic dramedy.
Most of all I love that the film resists cliche or lack of realism in its denouement. Rarely has an airport hug been so loaded with emotion, meaning and transformation - rarely has a shyly broadening smile on a young man on a bike been so full of promise.
I feel I have taken both of these characters to my heart. I would love to see a follow up film five years ahead. This level of engagement and empathy speaks to the profound power of this film.
SUBLET has a running time of 89 minutes and is not yet rated. It also does not yet have a commercial release date. It played Tribeca 2020 and BFI Flare 2021. It will be released in the USA in June 2021.
I'm not going to lie. Like many people I booked this film because of the legendary Cloris Leachman - and she is wonderful here. But it's Thomas Duplessie who really impresses in a performance that is by turns vulnerable, powerful, bitchy, flamboyant, contained. I also absolutely loved the music choices for the pivotal drag lip sync scenes and the neon-lit dance scenes shot by DP Viktor Cahoj. This really is a film that in its look, sound, style and performances punches way above its weight as a low-budget debut feature.
JUMP, DARLING has a running time of 90 minutes and is not yet rated. It played the Toronto Inside Out Festival and is currently playing BFI Flare. It does not yet have a commerical release date.
Sunday, March 21, 2021
As it is, the documentary picks up with Connie already perfectly formed: living as a trans woman, recovered from her addictions, diagnosed with HIV in the early 1980s, married to her wonderfully supportive husband. In her words "I lived it. I got it. I'm dealing with it." She throws her energies into leading ACT UP Los Angeles - an organisation that lobbied for the LGBT community to have equitable access to healthcare resources. She quickly became well known in the activist and public health communities and helped push for help specifically for the trans community. Along the away she became educated about gender and how it is treated by indigenous communities and came to believe that rather than being polar it is actually a spectrum. So, she was decades ahead of us.
What comes across from old video and TV footage is just how smart, sensitive and articulate Connie was. I could listen to her all day. Whether sensitively describing the spectrum of gender identities to students at UC Santa Barbara or angrily describing her frustration at the lack of movement in AIDS healthcare on TV - she is always captivating. Even at her most angry, she never loses her compassion. She always feels relatable and wise. Thank goodness this has been captured for posterity. After watching this film I searched the internet trying to find out more and to my shock, Connie doesn't even have a wikipedia entry! No offence to Larry Kramer and all the other famous heroes of activism but come on - let's see Connie take her place in the firmament. This film is - I hope - the first step in that mission to capture the authentic voices of that time - not just Connie but her fellow activists - so that we can all learn from their words and deeds, and continue that thread of progressive activism to the present day.
AIDS DIVA: THE LEGEND OF CONNIE NORMAN has a run time of 60 minutes and is not yet rated.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
CURED has a running time of 80 minutes and is not yet rated.
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
FIREBIRD has a running time of 107 minutes and has not yet been rated. It opens the BFI Flare Festival tomorrow.
NOMADLAND is rated R and has a running time of 107 minutes. It played Telluride, Toronto, Venice and London 2020. It was relased in the USA in February and will be released in the UK on April 30th.
Sunday, March 14, 2021
THE MAURITANIAN has a running time of 129 minutes and is rated R. It is currently available on streaming services in the USA and will become available in the UK on April 1st.
GREENLAND was released in some countries last summer in cinemas but in the USA on streaming services last December and in the UK this February. The film has a rating of PG-13 and a running time of 119 minutes.
Saturday, March 13, 2021
MOXIE has a rating of PG-13 and has a running time of 111 minutes. It was released on March 3rd on Netflix.
Sunday, March 07, 2021
Billie Eilish comes across as a nice kid - talented? yes although her resistance to singing beyond a whisper makes it hard to discern how much. I was actually far more impressed with her elder brother who evidently writes a lot of the music and produces it - and surely its the ethereal electro tone that's the real trademark here. I wonder if he resents her success as the face of his music? The parents are a bit weird as is the whole home-schooling/ minor league actors/singers creating little talent show performers vibe. But you can see they really love their kids and are loved in return and that they have a justified fear about what happens to Billie now she's famous. The most moving part of the doc is when Billie passes her driving test and drives off, and the dad has this emotional moment where he's worried about her leaving but needs to let her - rationally he'd coddle her forever but knows he can't.
There's a deep foreboding throughout this film. Billie's insta-famous open-ness with her fans is concerning, and we see she clearly has issues with setting emotional boundaries in her relationship with her douchebag ex-boyfriend. And yes she has a close relationship with her family that's saving her but what happens when one day she falls out with her brother or her mum and is left vulnerable to the world? And how on earth is that relationship going to stay normal when the brother depends not his sister for employment and the mother's role is to coddle Billie with reassuring reviews of her performances? It's so telling that when Billie (totally justifiably) flips out at meeting endless studio hacks after a show, her mum's immediate response is "we failed you". This isn't a relationship of honesty but of keeping the bandwagon on the road. Billie can never do wrong.
Maybe it's my recent viewing of Framing Britney Spears, but I just look at Billie Eilish and see an accident waiting to happen, and when it happens it's going to be worse because it's going to involve her family. Lets just hope that her body and mind hold up.
BILLIE EILISH: THE WORLD'S A LITTLE BLURRY has a running time of 140 minutes and is rated R. It was released by Apple+ in February.
When I first became serious about film, it was taken as given that CITIZEN KANE was the greatest film ever made and that Orson Welles was its single-handed auteur. Great directors made great films. As I grew older and wiser, and thanks mostly to a second hand copy of Pauline Kael's Raising Kane, I realised that movies are the product of many diverse talents and that auteur theory is largely there to puff up the director's ego. In Kael's seminal essay, published orignally in the New Yorker in 1971 - link here - she explored the making of Kane and restored credit principally to its screenwriter, the legendary Herman Mankiewicz.
The answer is very, very bad indeed. This film is so humourless, joyless, lacking in originality or surprise, that it genuinely boggles the mind. Adam Shankman (BEDTIME STORIES) directs like a hack. Scenes slickly move forward, but nothing coheres, nothing moves, whether to laughter or tears. It's all just deeply blah.
Taraji P Henson is utterly wasted in the Mel Gibson role. She plays a tough as nails sports agent raised by her single dad (Richard Roundtree). She fears she's being blocked from promotion because she's a woman. But one of the more troubling aspects of this film is that while she IS being disinvited from the boys' poker games, she's actually being blocked not because she's a woman but because she's just not very nice, and certainly not a team player. So essentially this is a film about how its progonist is a dick, and the men are actually okay. Weird.
Also this may be one of the very few films in which Tracy Morgan - playing the dad of the young sports star the heroine has to sign to make promotion - is just annoying and unfunny. What a crime against cinema! All of the scriptwriters -and there are many - need to go and sit in the corner and think very carefully about what they have done.
WHAT MEN WANT was released in 2019 but is now streaming on Netflix. This makes the marginal cost of watching it zero but that's still too much. It is rated R and has a running time of 117 minutes.
The result is that this documentary skates close to hagiography. Biggie is a ludicrously talented rapper, influenced by jazz improvisation. He is generous and loyal to his childhood friends and loves his moms. He loves his children. To be sure, he's a drug dealer too. But he wants to leave that life and dedicate himself to music. Apparently.
Still, I didn't regret watching this film. I learned a lot about Biggie and in the best way possible - watching candid home videos and behind the scenes footage of his rise to fame. We also get wonderfully honest and charismatic talking heads - from Biggie's no-nonsense mother to Diddy to childhood friends. I felt that I came out of the film with a better understanding of what life was like in that era of Brooklyn, pre gentrification - a slice of sociological history - and a new appreciation for Biggie as a rapper. His early death was a tragedy. But let's be honest, his hands were not entirely clean in the matter and neither were Diddy's.
BIGGIE: I GOT A STORY TO TELL is rated R and has a running time of 97 minutes. It was released on Netflix on March 1st.
The performances are impressive if deliberately rather stagey, but this film really misses having another couple to play off, in the manner of WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. We need some air in the room, and a route into the argument, but I guess that wasn't deemed possible given Covid restrictions. Still I loved the look, style and feel of the film - infused with a jazz heavy score - and it really works as a showcase for both Zendaya and John David Washington's acting talent. As a film - I dunno. Given that it was being funded by Netflix I might've shortened the running time to an hour.
MALCOLM & MARIE is rated R and has a running time of 106 minutes. The film was released on Feburary 5th on Netflix.
The resulting film is a profoundly moving and important biopic that teaches us how impressive Hampton was, and how despicable was the plot to take him down, and the toll it took on those who did it, and those who were left behind. It cleaves as closely to the historical record as a work of fiction can. It is perfect? Not quite. A cameo from Martin Sheen as J Edgar Hoover was utterly unnecessary and cartoonish. But pretty much everything else is so beautifully rendered as to make this one of the most outstanding films of the year. I cannot wait to see what director Shaka King does next.
JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is rated R and has a running time of 126 minutes. It played Sundance 2021 and was released on the internet on February 12th.
COMING 2 AMERICA was released on Amazon Prime Video on March 5th. It has a running time of 110 minutes and is rated PG-13.