Hunt for the Wilder People (2016 dir. Taika Waititi)

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Hunt for the Wilder People is a comedy about the adventures of 13 year old Ricky Baker (Julian Dennisson) and grumpy middle-aged Uncle Hec (Sam Neil) following the death of Ricky’s foster mother and Hec’s wife, Bella. The film concentrates on the main characters’ friendship, which goes from dysfunctional to brotherly over its 101 minute running time. In the backdrop is a calamitous manhunt by the Child Welfare Sevices, the police and eventually the army.

Hunt for the Wilder People does not take itself too seriously and works both as a family film and one that is targeted at an adult audience.

Neil and the rest of the supporting cast give a witty and entertaining performance, but the real star of the film is Dennisson, who is utterly hilarious as the gangster obsessed wild child and manages to steal every scene that he is in. I would highly recommend this film.

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Moonlight (2017 dir. Barry Jenkins)

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Image result for Moonlight film posterIf I told you that this film was about a gay man from the Miami housing projects, his drug addicted mother and his friendship with a local drug dealer what would you expect? Dark imagery, gratuitous scenes of sex, drug abuse and violence?  Probably. However this film is not typical or is it stereotypical of the people it depicts. Instead it is a beautifully shot, delicate, very thoughtful and thought provoking look at sexuality, masculinity and the moments that shape us.

Based on the semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin Mccraney it explores the coming of age of Chiron in three acts as he progresses towards adulthood. His mother, played by Naomi Harris, is addicted to crack and through this neglect he meets and befriends local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Chiron is an outsider, he is chased by local boys in the film’s opening and viciously bullied as a teenager and although he grows into a muscled adult who can defend himself he is vulnerable throughout.

The most explicit scene in this film is between a man and a women yet the film explores gay masculinity and sexuality. It does this through inference, using gesture codes and sound in a way which is sensitive and sincere.

The cinematography in Moonlight is beautiful. The frames are filled with colour and light which reminds the audience that this story unfolds in sunny Miami and the shot types and angles capture the characters’ emotions, vulnerability and point of view.

I went to see the film at the Ritzy in Brixton with my sister, who, as I am, is full of praise for this artistic piece of moving image. After the film there was a Q & A with the director Barry Jenkins, who says that he was given full artistic freedom on the film, and playwright Tarell Alvin Mccraney. Here is an extract from the discussion.

La La Land (2016 dir. Damien Chazelle)

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With 14 Oscar nominations, La La Land is a triumphant musical  about Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist, and aspiring actress, Mia (Emma Stone). The story line focuses on the changing states of their relationship while they seek out their dreams in Hollywood.

Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have received much praise for their performances and it is well deserved. Ryan Gosling is utterly charming as the dexterous Sebastian and his tender looks draw the audience in closer and create empathy.

I loved this film, the colours, the characters and the chemistry between the leads but the best thing about La La Land, much as I expected, is Justin Hurwitz‘s musical score, holding the narrative together, keeping the film’s pace and making the audience relate to and revisit the protagonists’ journey.

 

My Old Lady (2014 dir. Israel Horovitz)

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My Old Lady is a comedy drama about a troubled American, Mathias (Kevin Kline), who inherits his father’s apartment in Paris only to discover that it is inhabited by 90 year old ‘viager’ Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). The viager system for buying and selling apartments means that Mathias will not get the apartment until Mathilde dies, and that while she is alive he must pay her €2400 a month.

Recovering alcoholic Mathias is broke and homeless and Mathilde allows him to stay with her in exchange for his watch. Whilst there he plots to sell the apartment to a wealthy lawyer, upsets Chloe and secretly sells and pockets money in exchange for their precious vintage furniture.

He is obnoxious and yet through the retelling of past experiences is able to eventually bond with the pair.

This is a sophisticated film with a complex and entertaining storyline that though meanders to a somewhat predictable end, remains engaging and funny throughout.

Belle (2014 dir. Amma Asante)

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Anyone who classes themselves as a true friend will know of my interest in the stories and experiences of the African-Caribbean diaspora and my penchant for period dramas, thus it will be of no surprise that I went out of my way to see this film.

Inspired by a painting of  Lady Elizabeth Dido Lindsay, Britain’s first black aristocrat, Belle explores the social conventions and hypocrisies of 18th century England. 

The film was written by black British writer Misan Sagay and directed by Amma Asante and boasts a sterling cast of accomplished actors such as Tom Wilkinson and Miranda Richardson as well as relative newcomers Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid; all of whom contribute to making this film a real gem.

The film, I hope, symbolises a move amongst those in the British media to portray the lives of black Britons before 1948, although the British film industry need to pull their socks up and tell us the stories of The Empire Windrush generation too.

Belle is an excellent British film and one that I would expect to become a classic. As well as an alluring love story it addresses race, gender and class inequality in the 1700s.

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The painting, by an anonymous artist, that inspired the screenplay, now hung at Scone Palace in Perth, Scotland, the family seat.

 

The Fault in Our Stars (2014 dir. Josh Boone)

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For a film depicting teenage love this film is a pleasant surprise and although the main characters are supposed to be in their teens this story has so much substance that it is suitable for those of any age.

Hazel, played by Shailene Woodley of The Descendents and Divergent, is a young lung cancer patient who meets 18 year old amputee Augustus, Ansel Elgort, at a group therapy session. She is struck by his honesty and fearlessness as he is with her beauty and wit and after the session they leave together. Their friendship grows into a mutual unconditional love that few adults experience and although advised against it they journey to Amsterdam to visit Hazel’s favourite author.

Many people will cry during this film, it has memorable and inspirational dialogue, which I am sure will be quoted by fans again and again, and some beautiful exchanges between the pair; having you laughing out loud one minute and weeping hopelessly into your hands the next.

An idealistic yet beautiful story about how love ought to be.

Paradise: Love (2012 dir. Ulrich Seidl)

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Paradise: Love is a quirky black comedy set in modern-day Kenya. It is part of Seidl’s Paradise trilogy which features films Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope.

It is the final instalment and follows 50-year-old Teresa, a lonely over weight and stressed out Austrian, who goes to Kenya to meet up with a friend. Locally her friend is known as a “sugar mama” which basically means a kind of sex tourist, picking up young black Kenyan men for sex in exchange for money and expensive gifts, she boasts about buying her lover a motorbike as an investment toward her sex life and later buys a dancer to perform at Teresa’s birthday gathering with the intention of having sex with him.

At first Teresa is subdued, shy and giggly. Although intrigued by the Kenyan men she is uncertain about picking them up and literally runs away from her first sexual encounter.

At times the film is awkward as Teresa and friends talk about all the Kenyan hotel workers looking the same. The women objectify the Kenyan men referring to them as wild and exotic. During the story Teresa becomes less and less innocent as do the men she picks up.

Paradise: Love is a brave film which is both harsh and tender with an excellent performance by Margarethe Tiesel.

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