The Favourite: A Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Yes, that is the name of a Kanye West album and yes it is the most fitting summary of this tragicomedy film set 300 years ago, bristling with outstanding performances and razor sharp writing.

Olivia Coleman, playing Queen Anne, has already picked up a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the disease-ridden, depressed, overweight and childlike monarch, while Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz have also enjoyed lavish praise for their own performances.

The film shows Stone and Weisz, contest for the favour of the mentally and physically fragile Queen, something which starts out as a game that the Monarch seems to enjoy, but quickly becomes much more sinister and damaging.

Rachael Weisz in the Favourite

That’s not to say that the film forgets to be funny halfway through, it simply combines its humor with the steady increase of suffering felt by Queen Anne.

As these moments arrive, the Queen’s erratic and sorrowful behaviour makes more sense, changing the perception of her as a spoilt child, to somebody who is tragically damaged, isolated and in need of real support.

Unfortunately, it never comes.

Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

Instead, she is seen as something to be toyed with and used the younger and more bloodthirsty women circling below.

Yorgos Lanthimos, Director of the weirdly wonderful ‘The Lobster’ and ‘Dogtooth’, toys with his audience, making you want to back the schemes of Abigail (Stone), while hating the imperialistic dominatrix, Lady Sarah (Weisz), until the tables turn and sympathies switch three quarters into the film.

The music employed is similar to the otherworldly and sinister score from ‘Under the Skin’, ramping up the dreamlike quality of the film while building tension with scratching violin and slow drum beats throughout.

Rachael Weisz and Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

The camera work also delivers a feeling of surrealism as it swings and flips in ways that simply don’t feel natural for a ‘costume drama’.

There are several lingering extreme close-ups on Abigail, Anne and Lady Sarah at key points which draws the audience even closer into their tangled world of lies and deception.

The Favourite is sure to enjoy a strong run over the next few weeks and it deserves to enjoy all of the success and coverage that it is currently receiving.

Many of the articles and stories are revolving around the performance of Olivia Coleman, but the performances of Emma Stone and Rachael Weisz are equally outstanding and it’s likely that most people will have different opinions on who is best, something that couldn’t be better for the success of a film.

Maniac Review

The brand new Netflix Original series Maniac, came out a couple of days ago and as I’ve spent a large portion of those days indoor and horribly hungover, I managed to get through the entire series….

The brand new Netflix Original series Maniac, came out a couple of days ago and as I’ve spent a large portion of those days indoor and horribly hungover, I managed to get through the entire series….

The infallible Emma Stone and always entertaining Jonah Hill play Annie Landsberg and Owen Milgrim, two lost souls who are barely able to exist as functional adults in the real world (I think a lot of us 20 somethings will relate…)

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The first couple of episodes introduce the audience to the pair as their failings as members of society are laid bare as well as their unstable mental health. For different reasons, Annie and Owen find themselves entering into a clinical trial which promises to change the patients lives forever.

Over the course of the next eight episodes, the world is turned upside down and shaken around thoroughly. Annie takes on the form of a half-elf / half-human drunkard for an entire episode while Owen is transformed into the son of a drill wielding criminal for another.

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The supporting cast are also thrown into their own cascading version of reality as the supercomputer which is used as part of the clinical trial, begins to act in ways which we all know any supercomputer tends to, when thrown into the mix.

Maniac is a real treat for film and TV geeks as there are so many influences and subtle nods to others who have tread upon similar ground in the past.

There is a literal reference to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as patient’s who don’t survive the trial are said to ‘McMurphy’ the name of the main character in the 1975 film featuring Jack Nicolson.

There is also a healthy dose of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich when it comes to exploring trauma, the power of the unconscious and the surreal nature of the minds ‘Blind Spots’.

MV5BMjM2Mzc2ODc4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDMzMzMzNjM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_The real world that the characters live in, is a slightly brighter version the one created by Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. Neon adverts are everywhere, promising a better life off world, away from the existence the characters already have.

The similarity to Stanley Kubrics 2001 a Space Odyssey is clearly apparent when looking at the characterisation of the artificial intelligence inside the supercomputer narrated by the outstanding Sally Field.

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There is also a huge amount of Wes Anderson here.

The movement of the camera alone would make you think you’re watching an Anderson flick while the quirky characters, humour, death, colours and absurdity of it all, furthers the similarities.

Finally, Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise seems to have left an impression on the makers of Maniac as the towering and intimidating architecture of the pharmaceutical giant’s headquarters are extremely close to the tower block which features in the 2015 art house film.

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But all of that does not mean that Maniac is unoriginal.

The series brought its own humor to themes which have been explored for years, while also offering a plethora of well-developed and sympathetic characters which are fantastically played.

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There are genuinely funny moments in every episode which are delivered to perfection by Stone and Hill who clearly had a huge amount of fun creating this series, however, the moments of impact are genuine and heartfelt, making this one of the best original series Netflix has produced.

Blade Runner 2049: Review and Analysis

Visually stunning and with reliably powerful performances from Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto and Harrison Ford, Blade Runner 2049 is easily one of the best films of 2017 so far.

But first, a little exposition…

10 years ago, on my 15th birthday, I was given the newly released Final Cut version of Blade Runner and from that day on, it became my favourite film. I didn’t necessarily know why but I was hooked. Like every kid on the planet, I had grown up watching Star Wars, so seeing Harrison Ford play Rick Deckard in the nightmarish dystopian landscape of 2019 LA, hit me hard.

There wasn’t a blonde kid with magic powers hopping around with a lightsabre and the robots in Blade Runner were a long way from R2D2 and C-3PO. They were murderous, philosophical, attractive, terrifying, tragic…

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This was a universe which was dark, dangerous and provocative.

Six years after seeing the film for the first time, I wrote my dissertation on how the novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, was adapted into the 1982 film.

So you can imagine my anxiety, excitement, fear and dread when a sequel was announced a few years ago. They don’t have the best track record.

Fortunately for me and everyone else who feared the worst, the decision to bring Denis Villeneuve on as director has proven to be a masterstroke.

The visuals and sound design are stunning as the mix of special effects and real life were inseparable. There was one intimate scene between Gosling and two women, which proved this point with immaculate detail. When you see the film, you will know what I am talking about.

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The beauty of the film aside, questions about identity, memory, creation and the creator are all raised. Allegorical references and nods to fairytales are aplenty as echoes of Pinocchio whistle through the dialogue, “I always knew you were special, now you are a real boy…”

This is the perfect universe for Villeneuve to play with an audience. His pervious film, Arrival, is a stunning piece of work and is easily one of the best films from the past few years. He toys with the audiences preconceptions and ideas of what memory really is, flipping it around and showing us just how unreliable it is. 

Blade Runner 2049 is no different as the story highlights our reliance upon memory for defining our actions and the people we are. 

The visual focus on eyes is carried over from the first film as 2049 begins with an extreme close up of a bright green eye opening. It fills the entire screen and is distinctly unnatural in how brilliant the colour of the iris is.

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(One of the opening shots of Blade Runner 2049)

I personally believe that the decision to open with an identical shot in both films is a direct reference to the ‘Watchmaker Analogy’, which cites the human eye as proof of a grand designer in the shape of God.

The argument from creationists goes; ‘How can something as complex and perfect as the human eye, come from evolution? If you were walking along in a field and stumbled upon a pocket watch and opened it up to look at all of the tiny mechanisms, then you would know that somebody had built and designed it as it was so much more complex than rocks and trees dirt.’

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(One of the opening shots from the original Blade Runner)

This is where the term ‘Intelligent design’ comes from and the continuous focus on the windows to the soul in both Blade Runner films, highlights the relationship between man, machine and God.

I could write another 500 words on this film but I would be surprised if anyone has made it this far so I will leave it at this.

Blade Runner 2049 is a film which has succeeded in doing what most thought was impossible by improving on the original film. It is majestically mesmeric and is rightly being lauded critically. Go and watch it, you won’t be sorry.

Film Vloggers: My top three Youtube influencers

A breakdown of three of the best Youtubers analysing film.

Before I start talking about who my favourite influencers are and why I like them so much, a little bit of info on what I actually mean by influencer….

If you don’t know what a social influencer is, go to youtube and have a quick scroll through the ‘most viewed’ section. Almost every three videos, you see one which consists of a person talking to camera about their day, fashion choices or their make up.

Influencers aren’t limited to Youtube but for this article, we’ll stick to the one social channel.

Cumulatively, they rack up billions of views on Youtube and they hold an incredible amount of power, it’s why they’re called influencers…

The likes of Alfie Deyes, Zoella, Pewdiepie, Tanya Burr and Casey Neistat hold tremendous sway over an engaged audience, something brands are acutely aware of.

However, I have very little interest in the type of content these guys are putting out. What I do enjoy, is listening and watching influencers who possess insight, knowledge, trivia and measured opinion of film specifically.

Film is an incredibly important part of our culture and is an art form which is almost unlimited in its creative potential.

Great films can stay with you for years, change your entire outlook on a certian subject and give new meaning to once unknown stories, characters and places.

I could write about the importance of film and its place in society for hours, but that is for another day.

Instead I want to talk about three Youtubers who influence and educate me each week. If you love film, you’ll get on well with these guys…

  1. Mr Sunday Movies

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I have followed Mr Sunday for a couple of years now and thoroughly enjoy his videos.

The Australian puts out a couple of videos a week as well as his weekly podcast, The Weekly Planet, a show he hosts with his mate, James and long suffering dog, whatever the hell the thing is called.

Despite the fact that Mr Sunday is in fact a goat, he manages to articulate his points very well when talking about the film industry.

Mr Sunday tends to stick to Marvel, DC, Starwars and X-Men films, while also covering TV series like ‘The Iron Fist’, delivering interesting insights on how the films were produced and the stories behind the making of the films.

It’s easy watching and his ’10 Things You Missed’ videos are always insightful, although he never sticks to ten, it could be any number of things really, he could point out that you missed your dental appointment last week and include that in the video.

Anyway, check out his channel and watch a couple of videos if you are into your superhero, Sci-Fi or action films, if you like it, make sure to subscribe, it does make a big difference to these guys.

Also………#Mulletforsuperman…

Mr Sunday Movies Youtube Channel

2. Nerdwriter1

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Nerdwriter1 is a channel I have only become familiar with over the past three months, however, his understanding of film and presentation of ideas is fantastic. His videos are excellently crafted and well written, bringing new found meaning to films which I thought I knew well. He calmly articulates his main points and comes across as an extremely passionate individual.

All of his videos are incredibly well researched and offer genuine insight into understanding the art of film. Not only does Nerdwriter review artistic films, he isn’t afraid to attack the bad ones and analyse why they went so wrong. His analysis of ‘The Desolation of Smaug’ is a great example.

However, his audience is also treated to videos which focus on single actors and specific scenes. Doing this allows an even greater analysis to take place. His video, ‘Helm’s Deep: How to film a battle’ is fantastically well made and it makes you want to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy all over again.

Furthermore, his video, ‘Jack Nicholson: The art of anger’ is another exquisite breakdown of an incredibly interesting niche subject.

My personal favourite is a video he produced on the Wes Anderson film ‘Darjeeling Limited’. The analysis is so enriching, not because I love the movie, but  because Nerdwriter1 brought so much more to my attention, details I had never seen before.

Other videos breakdown the work of musicians like Bon Iver, artists such as Picasso and comedians such as Louis C.K. Each video as unique and captivating as the last.

View his channel linked below and enjoy for yourself.

Nerdwriter1 Youtube Channel

3. Mark Kermode

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Along with Peter Bradshaw from the Guardian, Mark Kermode is my favourite archetypal film critic. He has been applying his trade for years, well before the ‘influencer’ brigade came along.

Kermode is probably the most famous British critic as his reviews are well respected and published everywhere.

Being filmed while recording a live show for BBC Radio Five Live, Kermode and co-host Simon Mayo talk about new releases and provide a confident breakdown of each fresh film to hit theaters in the UK.

The videos are succinct and usually include a clip from the film in question, a good break from the fixed webcam which sits and points at the two presenters.

What I like most about Kermode is his lack of snobbery. I remember reading a review in Time Out on Deadpool, some 20 something bobblehead had given it a 2 out of five star rating and tore the film apart for being juvenile, stating that ‘only 15 year olds with crusty boxers’ would enjoy the film….

But what happened? Deadpool went on to be loved by worldwide audiences and has been the biggest surprise hit of the last few years.

My point is that a lot of critics seem to be afraid to admit that they enjoy a bit of toilet humour and gratuitous violence every now again, but Kermode doesn’t.

When talking about ‘Skull Island’ the latest King Kong film, he didn’t sneer and go on and on about a lack of coherent art direction, he watched the film as a member of the audience for which is was made for. This allows Kermode to appreciate the so called ‘trashy’ elements of film more than many other esteemed critics, a quality which I applaud and am grateful for.

He tries to give every film a chance and makes sure to tell his audience what he likes about films instead of just trashing everything to seem like a true film purist.

Check out the Kermode and Mayo Youtube channel here. 

If you think there are any vloggers I should follow, let me know on Twitter or in the comments below!