God's Own Country
Director - Francis Lee
Starring - Josh O'Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart, Gemma Jones
Francis Lee's debut movie God's Own Country officially opened the Edinburgh International Festival last night and there couldn't have been a better movie to showcase what British cinema and this festival is all about.
It's lambing season in Yorkshire and a young farmer, Johnny, seeks to silence his loneliness and hurt with excessive drinking and casual gay sex. Johnny's father is suffering the effects of a stroke and brings on a Romanian farmer to help during the spring time and soon the two begin to embark on a relationship that could bring Johnny that companionship he's missing and rejecting.
Johnny is feeling suffocated by the rural English farming life and being the only able bodied man running this farm, anytime Johnny seeks enjoyment or leaves the farm then something goes wrong. Gheorghe is brought the to the farm to help and immediately Johnny feels under threat that he isn't the alpha male of the home now and lashes out with racial slurs and silence to make Gheorghe feel unwelcome. One afternoon the tension is broken with fighting on the farm that soon turns into sexual acts and like many of the themes of the movie, it goes unspoken. Johnny soon begins to find that intimacy that is missing in his life in the hands and love of Gheorghe and the two must face an uncertain future together.
Francis Lee and cinemtographer Joshua James Richards deliver a stunning movie that feels like a documentary with so much focus on the natural beauty of the North of England and focusing on the day to day routines of a farm. The script avoids many of the trappings of similiar dramas with cliched dialogue, no dramatic coming out scene and there's certainly no "i can't quit you" moments here. Any such moments would be a betrayal of the muted movie that Francis Lee has crafted and to that famous Northern attitude of feelings shouldn't be spoken, they should be kept inside or medicated with a bottle.
O'Connor and Secareanu such confident performances, they feel so natural at every moment and you never once think of them as cinema characters but fully realised men. This movie isn't about coming out but about learning to allow yourself to be loved and realising that you're not alone. With male suicides so high and among the gay community, a movie like this can show the universal power of opening up and navigating the difficulty of finding those few words and asking for help, support and love.
You can still catch God's Own Country at the film festival...
Director - Peter Mackie Burns
Starring - Emily Beecham, Tom Vaughn
Emily Beecham shines in this wonderful movie that follows the aforementioned Daphne, a 31 year old Londoner who has given up on living life and hides behind quoting philosophy and her steely armour. Daphne floats detached from truly engaging with people unless she has a sharp remark to cut through those close to her and give herself an excuse to be unlikable and hide away. However, after paying witness to a stabbing, Daphne struggles to keep up her defences and realises she might need help.
Daphne takes a modest and loose approach to storytelling, with major events like a stabbing acting as a mere trickle through the movie and not being the catalyst for larger themes and emotions. This decision benefits the movie and keeps it all grounded and makes Beecham always relatable by learning to care about yourself and life again before the true change can happen. Daphne is struggling to understand why certain events do not cause her to experience operatic emotions, something that is truly relatable and all too rare in screenwriting where the easy option is to escalate the feelings and drama. Daphne believes she doesn't need anyone and always tries to push people with away with her drinking, behaviour and sharp words but cannot see that those around her are providing her with a support network. Emily Beecham creates a truly rounded character that is always believable and all too relatable for those who have realised that their life is the crossroads of change and that sometimes we need to preempt that harsh change and bunker down before the bomb drops.
Director Peter Mackie Burns creates a London using natural lighting that is stripped of the glamour and postcard shots and uses the side streets and suburbs, the use of muted colours shows a city that reflects Daphne perfectly. It always feels like Beecham, Burns and writer Nico Mensinga go for the stripped down to the bones option and it allows the acting and writing to be the star. Daphne's success comes from not trying to manipulate the crowd with cliches but by allowing a rounded character to dominate every scene and moment and drive the movie.
Daphne gets its UK Premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Friday the 23rd
Story of a Girl
Writers - Laurie Collyer and Emily Bickford Lansbury
Director - Kyra Sedgwick
Starring - Kevin Bacon, Ryan Shane
Deanna Lambert is a sixteen year old girl looking to find that summer job that will promise the money and belief that she might be able to leave her troubled home, however when she was 13 a sex tape was leaked and the consequences of that humiliation still strike the heart of the family.
When you think of a film festival, your mind thinks about international drama, independent American cinema and low budget but promising work, not a Lifetime movie of the week stretched from the tv onto the big screen.
Ryann Shane does very well and elevates beyond a poor script and comes out of this as a talent to watch. The movie is built on ridicilious decisions from our characters to move the "drama" on and allows everyone to turn it up to 11 in the crying and acting stakes.
This movie never escapes the trappings of your average Lifetime movie with it's awful dialogue, soap opera plotlines, poor acting and a score that lacks any subtlety. It was impossible not to snigger at some of the dialogue and plotting, it embraces all the cliches with a straight face.
A very interesting premise for drama is wasted and it just becomes a laughing joke in this limp and unintentionally hysterical drama.
Story of a Girl doesn't deserve the prestige of a festival screening and should join the rest of the Lifetime movies on the backwater channels on your Sky box.
Story of a Girl has its international premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival on Thursday 22nd of June.
In This Corner of the World
Writer & Director - Sunao Katabuchi
Japanese with English Subtitles - 129 minutes
Set in the Hiroshima and Kure during World War II, an 18-old girl, Suzu, gets married to a young Navy officer and has to support her new family as they begin to feel the bite of rationing and dwindling supplies. Suzu must endure repeated bombings from Allied Forces as August 6th 1945 looms, the day nuclear weapons were used on Japan.
This beautiful animation focuses on the day to day life as Suzu and her extended family try to continue their daily tasks, keep food on the table and letting an arranged marriage blossom. Suzu and her family live in the naval town of Kure, which becomes a target for repeated and savage bombings, there's no escape from the wider world in this idilic village. However, the unshakable dread as the calendar gets closer to doomsday pulses throughout the movie, even during scenes of carefree abandon the sense of fear grips even tighter.
The Japanse believe their Navy makes them invisible and the tales of their strength and power are common place among the children of the town. Suzu however is focused on putting food on the table with very little resources, drawing and becoming a more commanding figure within the household as the men both young and old are shipped off to war.
The focus on the female side of the families left behind during the war allows the women to grow beyond just the traditions expected of their sex in Japanese society and highlight their forbearance. Suzu's upbeat, sensitive and inclusive attitude to life is challenged by the relentless raids and the Japanese's no surrender approach to the war. We are hoping throughout the movie that Suzu will escape or survive the coming storm, in this current climate where we see images of dead children in Syria, we often want to escape to the cinema to escape the horror of our world and Suzu embodies those powerful hopes and fears.
The animation is stunning with many of the horrors of war are filtered through watercolour and abstract imagery which makes it stand out for the countless WW2 epics. "I wish i had some paint," Suzu remarks during a bombing raid, there truly is beauty in war to be found here.
In This Corner of the World will not disappoint the thousands of crowfunders who funded the movie for an incredible ¥ 39million and it sets a high bar for the rest of the Edinburgh film festival.
In the Corner of the World gets it's UK premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival this Thursday.
Recently, The Nerd Party show "Great Shot, Kid!" - about the creators, visions, and inspirations of Star Wars - revisited David Lynch's Dune. Show co-host John shares some further thoughts in the blog post below.
When I was growing up, few hypotheticals entranced long-time fans of the Star Wars films the way that the “David Lynch was going to direct Return of the Jedi” myth did. In the days before “blogging” and “thinkpiece” were in the vernacular, people wrote articles brief and long about what that mythical almost-film would have resembled.
People speculated that Lynch would have “made more” of the Luke/Leia attraction because apparently, being an abstract filmmaker makes some think that incest would have been on the table. (Of course, given Twin Peaks' storied symbolisms, it's hard to counter that with anything more coherent than, “Lucas wouldn't have let that one slide.”)
Tantalizingly on the cusp of our consciousness was what that would have meant for Return of the Jedi. Jedi was treated as the “red-headed step-child” of the series before the prequels came out; it took the polarizing heat of The Phantom Menace to temper it into a well-regarded classic.
We all wondered, though, what it would have been like if it had been Lynch instead of Marquand. We had seen Dune and we had seen his later works. Lynch later rose in esteem thanks to Twin Peaks as well, which added fuel to the speculative fire.
So this week on Great Shot, Kid!, @mumbles3k and I revisit Dune to glean what we can from it, and how it affords a glimpse into what-might-have-been. It was a fascinating exercise.
What I discovered is that Dune is what would have birthed from Lynch's turn in Star Wars' creative saddle. It was eye-opening.
About the Author
John is kept in a cage in The Nerd Party's basement, fed thin strips of meat and stale bread in exchange for co-hosting two shows, Great Shot, Kid! and Aggressive Negotiations. He's given water so long as he doesn't anger anyone. Learn more about him!
This review does contain Spoilers and originally appeared on Matt Rushing's Blog.
For over 75 years, Wonder Woman has thrilled fans in spectacular fashion, through comics, television shows and cartoons. Yet there was one place were she had still not broken though, the big screen. In 2016 she joined the rest of the DC Comics trinity, Batman and Superman in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman, teasing her history in the world and setting up her first solo film.
Diana of Themyscira grows up under the watchful protection of her mother Hippolyta who’s one goal is to keep her daughter safe. To do so, she forbids her daughter from learning how to fight, as well as keeping from her, her true lineage. Diana was not sculpted out of clay and bought to life by Zeus, she is actually a living weapon that Hippolyta and Zeus came together to create as a last defense against Ares, if he should ever return.
Diana and General Antiope (Hippolyta’s sister) have different ideas, they secretly begin Diana’s training and when Hippolyta finds out, Antiope is finally able to convince her sister that it’s the right thing to do. It turns out to be a wise decision as WWI and Steve Trevor accidentally stumble upon Themyscira, leading Diana to embrace who she is to stop Ares once and for all.
Hippolyta does not want her daughter to leave Themyscira. For one thing, if she does, she can never return and secondly, she’s worried about her safety. She asks her daughter not to go, to which Diana replies, “Who will I be if I stay?”. It may be the seminole question of our day; “Who are we if we shirk our responsibility in the face of evil?”. Diana must make the decision on what kind of person she wants to be. Steve Trevor helps her see the two options in a conversation they have. He tells her that his dad always said their are two options for anyone, do nothing or do something. He says he’s already tried doing nothing and that’s clearly not the answer.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What evils are perpetrated while men and women sit on the sidelines? The most innocent and helpless among us suffer and die while we stick our heads in the social media sand, pretending our outrage helps, when in reality it’s meaningless. Diana and Steve stand against that, they will fight and die for what they know is right, even if no one else around them will.
A Time to Fight, A Time to Love
Diana and Steve are able to bring a notebook he stole from one of the villains, Doctor Isabel Maru (Doctor Poison), back to the British, who he is working with. Even though the book clearly lays out the plans for an unstoppable gas, that could kill millions, the men in charge insist that the armistice with Germany is of paramount importance and that the men on the front are expendable in the name of peace. Diana is livid at the thought of men who are willing to sit in rooms, hundreds of miles away from the front, and treat the lives of their men so cavalierly. She and Steve can see the clear and present danger that this breakthrough in poison gas technology could mean for the world if is not destroyed. There is a time to fight and a time for peace and knowing which is which takes wisdom. It also takes courage to stand up and lead the fight, even when it’s not the popular course, but the right one regardless.
As the movie comes to the final confrontation between Ares and Diana, Ares tries to make her see the unworthiness of man. Hippolyta told Diana before she left Themyscira that mankind did not deserve her. As Diana ventures into man’s world she finds it an ugly place that is rife with more greys than she expected. Ares continues to press this idea that man does not deserve her protection, yet it’s something that Steve says and does that helps encourage Diana to do the right thing. Steve is well aware that man does not deserve Diana, but he tells her that maybe it not about what they deserve, but what she believes. Mankind is clearly not good, but they can be. Steve willingly gives up his life to save millions. Though all her experiences, Diana can see that mankind has the potential for good and that it’s though her love of Steve that she is able to see that spark in all men. She chooses to love men and defend them, even though they are unworthy and complete undeserving. Diana and Steve live out the greatest love there is, being willing to give up their lives for others. Diana is a hero that fights for love and to bring peace, to help show mankind a better way. Even in the face of the overwhelming evil man is capable of, she bestows grace and love in place of judgement. She’s the better angel of our nature, encouraging us to stand up for what is right, even if it’s not easy or popular.
Gal Gadot is a star. She sells every moment of this film. She has a wonderful, childlike innocence that is needed to bring this character, raised in paradise to life. Diana’s transformation from innocence to a fuller understanding of the real world is powerful and moving. The chemistry she has with Chris Pine is fantastic. They are the heart and soul of this movie and luckily they do not disappoint.
The fight scenes in the movie are incredible. Many superhero movies these days seem to have similar types of set pieces, but Wonder Woman does a marvelous job of making her fighting style feel fresh, leaving you silently fist-pumping in your seat. Even the more CGI-heavy battle at the end has enough emotion built into it, to make you care about what’s happening.
One final note, Patty Jenkins direction is excellent. This woman needs to be given a sequel, as well as more movies to direct. She understands clearly how to make a superhero movie feel serious and fun all at the same time and that’s not always easy to do.
Wonder Women is the first major female superhero to be given her own movie (yes I discount Catwoman and Elektra as they are more side characters) and it’s a triumph. The film is serious in tone, but with laughs aplenty. It’s the movie we all hoped for and deserve. Wonder Woman is rated 4 and half out of 5 stars.
On the 40th anniversary of Star Wars' theatrical release, Shawn recalls his introduction to George Lucas' amazing world and the impact it had on his life.
I was six years old the first time I saw a Star Wars movie. My mom had invited some friends over for a movie night. The movie they’d selected was Return of the Jedi. I had no idea what a ‘Jedi’ was or where one might be returning from, but these things didn’t matter. From what I could gather, it had spaceships and lasers and I loved both of those things almost as much as I loved the Power Rangers.
But right off the bat, I could tell there was something different about this movie. Something about the way my mom and her friends discussed it - the hushed awe, the sense of wonder - indicated it was special. Usually, I wasn’t allowed to attend these movie nights. My mom would always shoo me off to bed so the ‘grown ups’ could have their ‘grown up talk.’ But when her friends learned I’d never seen a Star Wars movie (“What kind of mother are you?!”) I got to stay up late and hang with the adults. I felt so cool.
Once the popcorn and the sodas had been divvied out, they fired up the movie. I sat on the floor, scooting as close to the TV as I could without getting scolded. The infamous pre-title disclaimer faded in: ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…’ My mom’s normally talkative friends became eerily silent.
BOOM. The words ‘STAR WARS’ appeared on screen in that iconic yellow font, blasting off into the furthest reaches of outer space. The explosive opening notes of John Williams’ iconic theme exploded from the crappy television speakers. The opening scroll began: ‘Episode VI RETURN OF THE JEDI.’
I suddenly understood with stunning clarity the meaning behind the term ‘knock your socks off.’ It had only been a few seconds, but in those few seconds everything changed. My six-year-old brain, so limited in its experiences, could somehow detect I was experiencing a rite of passage. I knew I was watching something unlike anything I’d seen before.
For the next two-plus hours, I was utterly captivated. Everything about Return of the Jedi was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. The lightsabers, the space battles, the droids, Darth Vader, even the Ewoks! (Hey, I was six.) I cheered on the heroic Luke Skywalker as he rescued his pals from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt; I let out a chorus of ‘ooo’s’ and ‘awww’s’ during the speeder bike chase. I specifically recall watching in horror as Emperor Palpatine blasted Luke with electricity near the film’s conclusion. My mom’s friends did nothing to alleviate the tension, making comments like, “Ooooh, he’s gonna die!” I remember being sadder than I’d ever been in my entire life. Luke can’t die! I thought. He’s the hero! I love him! I just about lost my mind when Darth Vader tossed the Emperor into that never-ending pit of machinery, saving his son and conquering the Dark Side.
Best. Movie. Ever.
For a long time Return of the Jedi was the only Star Wars film I had access to. My mom had recorded a TV version that started 30 minutes into the movie. I wore that tape out and eventually she hid it from me because I was spending more time watching Return of the Jedi than being outside with my friends. Eventually I got around to seeing the other two films in the Trilogy and I loved them just as much if not more so. I saw the Special Editions in theaters and collected all the action figures my feeble $10 a week allowance would buy. When The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, my mom let my brother and me skip school so we could all go see it together.
Star Wars has had an undeniable impact on my life. In fact, I could cite Star Wars, along with Christopher Reeve’s first two Superman films and Back to the Future, as the reason I became so passionate about films and storytelling. It’s given me and countless fans the world over so much joy, sparking our imaginations in ways few franchises are capable of. Hardly a day has passed since I first watched Return of the Jedi that I haven’t discussed Star Wars in some capacity.
So on this, the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars’ theatrical release, I want to say thank you to George Lucas for creating this wonderful world that has brought me and my friends and family so much joy through the years. To Kathleen Kennedy, for taking up the reigns and steering the franchise to all-new heights. To the countless actors, filmmakers and storytellers who have expanded upon this world in such brilliant fashion. It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. I can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson has in store come December.