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Pride

It’s 1984, Joe (played by George MacKay) celebrates his 20th birthday at home in Bromley with his parents. They give him a birthday cake and a gift. But he’s got somewhere else to be so he races out of the house and catches a train to London. He emerges from the station and timidly joins his first Gay Pride march. He meets a group of gay men and their lesbian friend Steph (by Faye Marsay). They nickname him “Bromley” and take him into their fold. The group’s informal leader is Mark (by Ben Schnetzer) who’s never short of a few words and won’t back down from a fight when he feels strongly about a cause. This time, Mark’s heard about the strike involving the National Union of Mineworkers and the difficulties the miners face, seemingly being bullied by the Thatcher government. He sees strong alignment with his own group’s experience being gays and lesbians trying to fit in to society, so he takes up their cause. The group meets at a Soho bookshop run by the eldest in the group, Jonathan (by Dominic West) and his Welsh partner Gethin (by Andrew Scott). They set up “LGSM” – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners – and start to raise money for the cause. They gain some notoriety then pick out the Welsh village of Onllwyn in the Dulais Valley to be the recipients of their efforts. The group makes contact with village representative, Dai (by Paddy Considine), who invites them to visit the village in person. Some villagers welcome them warmly, but most are not ready for the “gays” and clearly show their displeasure. Undaunted, Mark and LGSM continue to raise funds and awareness of the miners’ situation grows. The villagers are hard to convince and Mark gradually loses faith in his work. Will the villagers eventually see the good in what the group are doing, or will the efforts fall on mostly deaf ears and be wasted? …

This is an entertaining and compelling movie. The script and performances are marvellous thanks to a very strong cast and a well written screenplay. The village characters are wonderful – there are several, but I’d particularly mention Cliff (by Bill Nighy), Sian (by Jessica Gunning) and Hefina (by Imelda Staunton). The “gays” are lovely and the people in the village are portrayed authentically. It’s a very enjoyable movie, with wonderful lines of dialogue, particularly by the Welsh villagers. Several important messages come through too – speak up for what you believe in … be who you are … believe in yourself … loyalty runs deep … It’s inspired by a true story, which makes it even better. The movie is very well regarded and in the 2014 awards season it received the Ghent International Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Film and the Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm award. In the 2015 awards season it received a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. Imelda Staunton received Best Supporting Actress from the British Independent Film Awards, and they awarded Andrew Scott with Best Supporting Actor; the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) awarded it the Dorian Award for LGBTQ Film of the Year and Unsung Film of the Year. Well done everyone.

Made in 2014. Directed by Matthew Warchus

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Movies

 

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The Lady in the Van

Margaret Fairchild’s life is full and wonderfully varied – she loves the piano and is a gifted pianist. As a girl, her parents recognise her talent and she spends time under the tutelage of Alfred Cortot, one of the 20th century’s most renowned classical musicians. Young Margaret even plays Chopin in a promenade concert. As she grows up she hopes to become a nun, but it doesn’t eventuate and her brother commits her to an institution. She manages to escape, but later she’s driving along a country lane when her van is in a motor accident. The motorcyclist involved is badly injured and she believes she’s responsible. From that day onwards she lives in total fear of arrest and takes fright every time anyone approaches her. To “disappear”, she becomes Miss Mary Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith) – and lives in a Bedford van, moving from place to place around London each time the locals become suspicious or too close to her. One day she parks in the Camden street of writer, Allan Bennett (by Alex Jennings), who tolerates her, even when she regularly avails herself of his bathroom and moves her unsightly van into his driveway. He agrees that she can stay “temporarily”, which becomes fifteen years of Miss Shepherd and Mr Bennett barely enduring each other’s presence. This is a true story …

Whilst there is no doubting the strength of Maggie Smith’s performance as the belligerent and eccentric Miss Shepherd, I did find this movie hard going. She plays the ungrateful “Lady in the Van” very well and her character is fascinating, if not frustrating. Also, the script has its very witty moments, but overall the movie didn’t really grab me. Something’s not quite right with it. Alan Bennett’s narrative is told in a double-act – Allan Bennet the writer and Allan Bennet the man – who chat with each other of the frustrations of this woman and what they will do about it, also how writer Allan will develop his book based on the story. The neighbours are typical of the time (seemingly welcoming, but suspicious and eager for her to depart) and Allan’s interactions with the Social Worker, Lois (by Claire Foy) provide an interesting interlude. Miss Shepherd, aka Margaret Fairchild, died in 1989. Overall, the movie is okay, but I would wait until television to see it.

Made in 2015. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Movies

 

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The First Monday in May

Every year, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the venue for the Costume Institute Gala (usually known as the “Met Gala” or the “Met Ball”). It’s an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. The Gala has become one of the biggest global fashion events and it marks the grand opening of the Institute’s annual fashion exhibit, with a specific theme each year. The theme becomes the formal dress code for the Gala evening and guests interpret it to dress accordingly.

This movie follows curator Andrew Bolton’s creation of the 2015 theme “China: Through the Looking Glass”. He collaborates with Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, as he sets out to design an exhibit that’s even more stunning than the benchmark he set with his Alexander McQueen exhibit “Savage Beauty” several years earlier. The movie includes appearances by filmmaker Kar-Wai Wong and fashion designers Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano.  Several contemporary stars also appear (such as Rihanna) as the Gala is attended by anyone who’s anyone. It’s an interesting documentary and if you liked The September Issue or Valentino: The Last Emperor you’ll like this one too.

Made in 2016. Directed by Andrew Rossi.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Movies

 

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Spotlight

Walter “Robby” Robinson (played by Michael Keaton) manages a special investigative branch of the Boston Globe. He and his team of skilled journalists focus on developing stories and spend several months in research, investigations and validation to create comprehensive coverage of issues in the lives of the Boston Community. One story begins to take real hold of the team. Under Robby’s leadership, investigators Mike Rezendes (by Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (by Rachel McAdams) and Marty Baron (by Live Schreiber) start to uncover the unbelievable and horrendous story if child abuse within their local Catholic Archdiocese. The story grows and becomes a significant scandal of molestation and cover-up that shakes the entire Catholic Church to its core.

This is an excellent movie. The story itself is horrendous but the movie makes compelling viewing. Well done to Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and everyone involved. It’s great to see Stanley Tucci in the key role as Mitchell Garabedian and also Len Cariou as Cardinal Law. Deservedly, the movie has received global acclaim – awarded an Academy Award (Oscar) for “Best Motion Picture of the Year” and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay”; Mark Ruffalo received a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor, the AFI awarded it “Movie of the Year”. The full cast were awarded with “Outstanding Performance” by the Screen Actors Guild. Well done everyone.

Made in 2015. Directed by Tom McCarthy.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2016 in Movies

 

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Suffragette

At the turn of the twentieth century, many women in England are frustrated at being constantly “invisible” or identified as only “his daughter …” or “his wife …” They see that their lives can be different – particularly if they’re allowed to vote – and many feel strongly enough to take action against the “establishment”. Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) is one such woman. She’s been to the same workhouse every day since she was a child at her mother’s skirts. At thirteen, she started working there herself and she’s put up with constant sexual harassment by her cruel boss ever since. Women learn to “keep quiet and stay in their place”. Emmeline Pankhurst (by Meryl Streep), emerges as a leader of this ripple of discontent as women across the country start to publicly protest so the government will take notice of them. The “women’s suffrage” movement grows – women take part in secret, while men view the whole thing with disdain. Along with others from the area, Maud becomes a disciple of the women’s movement. She faces police brutality when she’s jailed and shame from her husband Sonny, (by Ben Whishaw) as he disowns her for taking a stand – isolating her from her son George (by Adam Michael Dodd). But she strongly believes in her quest for equality and “votes for women”. This story is based on true events during the early days of the feminist movement in England and demonstrates the lengths some women are prepared to go for the cause …

This is an effective and moving drama. As Maud, Carey Mulligan portrays the emotions and challenges of women’s lives during these turbulent times. She cares deeply for her son but the demand for women’s rights cuts deep too, so she struggles with her conflicting emotions and instincts. The hardship of their lives is clear and the ignorant hatred many (including women) in the community have for the suffragettes is palpable. The movie features several strong and entertaining performances – it’s great to see Helena Bonham Carter in the key role of Edith Ellyn. A particularly influential character at the time, she is very well supported here by her husband Hugh (by Finbar Lynch). The story features all the aspects of a good drama – high emotion, deep principles, poverty, hunger strikes, secrets, violence, sexual tension and political intrigue – all told well in a very watchable movie. It reaches its climax when the Suffragettes plan to take non-violent action at a race meeting. Here, the real life drama of 1913 plays out – when 40 year old Emily Davison (by Natalie Press) is tragically and inexplicably struck down by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. The movie has won several awards for best actor, supporting actors and characterisations.

Made in 2015. Directed by Sarah Gavron.

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Movies

 

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Bridge of Spies

It’s James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) is an unassuming insurance lawyer with a settled life, great family and nice home. One day he’s going about his normal business negotiating insurance claims when his boss Thomas Watters Jr (by Alan Alda) calls him into his office and offers him an opportunity that’s impossible to refuse. He was once successful in negotiating a great outcome that involved high level political stakeholders – now the US Government wants him to do it again. He’s recruited by the CIA as a defence lawyer to represent Rudolf Abel (by Mark Rylance) – a suspected Soviet Agent charged with spying and sharing US secrets with his own government. Abel is the most pleasant and calm of men, who looks like he wouldn’t hurt a fly – far less work as a Soviet spy. Donovan provides his defence and in the face of political influence he gives him a fair representation, true to his own morals and ethics. During the hearings, he realises there may be more at stake here than first appears so he appeals to the CIA. Then when US pilot Francis Gary Powers is arrested alive in the Soviet Union after his plane is shot down during a mission, things get far more intense with much higher stakes. This is the story of James B. Donovan’s involvement in the negotiation in an attempt to secure the safe release of Powers.

This movie promises much and the performances are good – as James B. Donovan, Tom Hanks is as strong as ever and Mark Rylance puts in a remarkable performance as Rudolf Abel.  He really deserves the awards he received for this effort from the various film critics’ societies of Boston, Indiewire, London, US National, New York, Phoenix, Toronto and Vancouver. It’s good to see Alan Alda here too, he does well. But, for me it somehow fails to deliver in full. I know it’s a true story – and it’s a good story – but the suspense is not there for me. Having said that though, I did find it a good movie to watch all the same. I may be on my own in that regard as not only has Mark Rylance been universally praised, but the movie itself has been nominated for several Academy Awards (Oscars) and has already received “Movie of the Year” awards from the AFI and the National Board of Review. The Boston Online Film Critics Association gave it 7th place in of the “Ten Best Films of the Year” and director Steven Spielberg won the Heartland Film Truly Moving Picture Award. Cinematography, Sound and Images have also been awarded by the Hollywood Film Awards and the Women Film Critics Circle Awards. So it might be just me …

Made in 2015.  Directed by Steven Spielberg.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2016 in Movies

 

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Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Henri Donat Mathieu-Saint-Laurent (played by Pierre Niney) grows up in Algeria and loves to design dresses for his mother, Lucienne (by Marianne Basler) and his two young sisters Michèle and Brigitte. At 18 years old, he moves to Paris to study fashion and quickly gets the attention of the Parisien Haute Couture set. He is instantly hired by Christian Dior. Slowly, his sketches and designs are adopted into the collections and when Dior dies prematurely, at only 21 Yves becomes his successor. His first solo collection achieves rave reviews and to ease media angst he shortens his name to Yves Saint Laurent. He struggles through the next few years, then he and his partner, Pierre Bergé (by Guillaume Gallienne) form their own fashion house – YSL. His label and “look” grow in popularity and many celebrities become his clients. Yves Saint Laurent’s heady lifestyle as one of the Paris jet set involves heavy drinking and cocaine. He continues to sketch and design, living in both Morocco and France. He holds fashion shows but struggles with his health and addictions, so if often distant from the day to day arrangements – relying on Pierre to keep the business operating. By the 2000’s the pair have established a steady routine, but he develops brain cancer and dies in June 2008 in Paris. Soon after, heartbroken Pierre undertakes an auction of their extensive collection of art and treasures.

This is a beautifully made movie and the performances by both Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne are wonderful. As Yves Saint Laurent, Niney is captivating, strikingly like YSL in appearance, with a totally authentic portrayal of him. The relationship between these men is turbulent, at times violent but always passionate. It’s a very well told, fascinating story. For this work, Pierre Niney was awarded the César Best Actor (Meilleur acteur) at the 2015 France César Awards. Well done.

Made in 2014. Directed by Jalil Lespert

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Movies

 

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