Lockdown Cinema

I have now returned to work to pour pints to people who tell me that Coronavirus is a myth. Yippie. I guess that means my lockdown is over. However, for all of you still stuck with your bottoms on sofas, here is some inspiration for what to switch on that screen you’ve been ogling for the last few months. But, try to keep those eyes circular.


The Wild Goose Lake

Booksmart (dir. by Olivia Wilde)

The new Superbad with girls in the leads. Endlessly rewatch-able and relentlessly heartfelt and funny. An ayahuasca scene for the ages.


The Servant (dir. by Joseph Losey)

A socio-political drama with devilish characters and punctuated by Harold Pinter’s screenplay where power struggles simmer underneath seemingly trivial dialogue. On top of this, it is a cinematographer’s dream. Anyone that uses a camera should watch the films of Joseph Losey.


Paddington series (dir. by Paul King)

Both films ooze charm and King directs with fun and a real proficiency for set-pieces. The look of both films also remind me of Wes Anderson and his pastel palettes. The use of set-up and pay-off added to the cohesion that allowed me to smile through the thick layer of cheese.

  • Paddington – 7.5/10
  • Paddington 2 – 8/10

The Wild Goose Lake (dir. by Diao Yinan)

Neon lit neo-noir set in Wuhan. A non-linear pulp approach to storytelling that is cool with substance and subtlety. It’s one I want to watch again.



The Royal Tenenbaums

The Godfather Part III (dir. by Francis Ford-Coppola)

Finally got to it. The failure of this film is the product of its predecessors’ brilliance. I mean, Brando, De Niro and then… Andy Garcia? Meh. Michael Corleone was better when he was a grade A sonofabitch.


John Wick (dir. by Chad Stahelski)

Flashy. Fun. The world’s favourite ‘bad’ actor. Despite the awesome fight choreography, the third act loses all momentum and the tension is never really there. I did enjoy all the illusions to the Greek underworld however.


Bacarau (dir. by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles)

This won the Grand Jury prize at Cannes last year so I was excited. It looked and sounded cool. The build up was intriguing. The social and political messages hit their mark BUT I’m still mourning the lost potential of some of Bacarau’s inhabitants. Instead, a lot of the film focused on bland stereotypically 80s antagonists.


The Royal Tenebaums (dir. by Wes Anderson)

It’s Anderson. It’s gorgeous and quirky. That’s a given. But these characters are just lacking compared to his other works and the emotional beats didn’t really work for me.



Cool shades and one unfortunate octopus – Oldboy

Irreversible (dir. by Gasper Noe)

Abrasive. Disorientating. It accomplishes everything that it sets out to do but you need damn thick skin for this one. It appears I don’t.


Silence (dir. by Ingmar Bergman)

When you watch it, you’ll get why it’s called ‘Silence’. It’s what it’s all about and what isn’t said in this film says more than most modern movies do.


Nosferatu (dir. by F. W. Murnau)

Silent yet scary… surely not? It amazes me what auteurs were once able to do with so little. It’s time to immerse myself with more silent age cinema.


The Passion of Joan of Arc (dir. by Carl Theodore Dreyer)

So I did. This film made the close up what it is today. If I was to rate it on the basis of its technical brilliance in the context of 1920s cinema, it’d be a straight 11. Silent cinema, however, is something to be revered, admired but not something you invite your friends over to watch.


The Vengeance Trilogy (dir. by Park Chan Wook)

Brutal but brilliant. An idiom that reads true for much of Korean cinema. If you haven’t seen or heard of Oldboy then grow up youngen.

  • Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – 7.5/10
  • Oldboy – 8.5/10
  • Lady Vengeance – 7.5/10

Enjoy these films? Enjoy Parasite? Check out Park Chan Wook’s The Handmaiden. It’s brilliant. Maybe don’t watch it with your parents though.


My face after watching Midsommar.

Honey Boy (dir. by Alma Har’el)

You can just tell that this film came from the depths of Shia LaBeouf’s soul. I hope this film revitalises his career and establishes Har’el’s as this deserved much more award’s recognition.

Maybe too many chickens for an alektorophobic like myself.


Room (dir. by Lenny Abrahamson)

I was surprised by how little I had heard about this film. It is the most emotionally charged film I’ve watched in a while, led by two stellar performances. Disclaimer: there may have been a little tear.


Want a similar concept with a tone that will make you bite your nails till they bleed? Watch Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane.

The Disaster Artist (dir. by James Franco)

An endearing and hilarious tribute to one if cinema’s most mysterious and inspiring productions: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.


The Martian (dir. by Ridley Scott)

I tried to watch this a year or so ago and found myself unable to. Whilst I can barely fault the film itself I just felt no connection to it.


Midsommar (dir. by Ari Aster)

Ari Aster is a name that is going to be on everyone’s lips for years. Hereditary is my favourite horror of the last few years and Midsommar is even more beautiful – the editing (the cut to Florence Pugh on the aeroplane, wow), cinematography and general technical proficiency is plain as Swedish sunlight.

But I couldn’t help but find the story lacking, if not, pretentious. Regardless, I’m very excited to see what he does next.



Le Duolos

Moonlight (dir. by Barry Jenkins)

Blue, black and beautiful. A modern masterpiece crafted with the simplest and most effective techniques. The use of contrast and fragmentation metaphorically and literally forming a fully rounded and multifaceted protagonist.


Tokyo Story (dir. by Yasujirõ Ozu)

A simultaneously heart-breaking and heart-warming drama about family estrangement in the midst of Japanese post-war modernity.

A minimalistic look that packs the emotional weight: a rule breaking 360 degree editing, perfect framing and blocking that expresses the disconnect. The quiet fragility of this film made me appreciate my family after I watched it.


Le Doulos (dir. by Jean Pierre Melville)

The French are cooler than you, deal with it. And believe me, they’ve influenced every modern film you love.


Shoplifters (dir. by Hirokazu Koreeda)

This naturalistic tale of an odd family of petty thieves is an example of how tender cinema can be. The characters steal from their local shop and they stole my heart.


Les Diaboliques (dir. by Henri-Georges Clouzot)

In a famous story elucidated to me on Roger Ebert’s website, a man wrote to Alfred Hitchcock: “Sir, After seeing ‘Diabolique,’ my daughter was afraid to take a bath. Now she has seen your ‘Psycho’ and is afraid to take a shower. What should I do with her?” Hitchcock replied: “Send her to the dry cleaners.”

The fact that it is mentioned in the same breath as Psycho should be reason enough to watch it. And I promise you, the final line is perfect.



The Tree of Life (a.k.a the most beautiful film you’ve probably never seen)

2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)

I think that trying to explain why some films are so good can almost do them a disservice – they are meant to be experienced. Kurbrick’s finest hour is one such film.


The Tree of Life (dir. by Terence Malick)

This is another such film, but since you may know less about it, I will indulge you with some of my feelings towards it.

After watching the film, my senses felt heightened, my eyes opened and my heart imbued with things I did not and still, do not fully understand. The camera appeared to act like time itself. In some ways, I feel like it is a spiritual descendent of Kubrick’s 2001, yet grounded on the earth amidst the sense of the otherworldly, of things humanity can experience but not fully understand. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but in my opinion it is poetic transcendence.


The Godfather (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)

There’s nothing that I can say that hasn’t already been said. Sit back, watch it and feel the three hours fly by.


The Godfather Part II (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)

It builds on its predecessor as well as could be imagined. Personally, Brando’s presence edges the first film in my eyes.


Seven Samurai (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

I urge anyone who has apprehensions about watching either foreign language or black and white films to start with this. Those apprehensions will be shattered.


Love Star Wars and noticed the connections? Watch Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. There’s heaps more.


“C’est la vie”, say the old folks – Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)

My favourite film of all time. Yes, I know, I’m a basic bitch but it made me think about what makes films special for the first time and when a film starts past midnight on TV and you just HAVE to watch it all, you know it’s special.


Hot Fuzz (dir. by Edgar Wright)

And now for my most re-watched film of all time. Edgar Wright is the most underappricated director around, in my opinion. Whilst Shaun of the Dead is arguably slightly less flawed, Hot Fuzz holds a special place in my heart.


Love Edgar Wright like myself? His Channel 4 comedy Spaced is new on Netflix.

Spirited Away (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)

I don’t know if there is a world depicted in cinema that I want to see explored more than the one created by Studio Ghibli in Spirited Away. It is Miyazaki’s magnum opus.


The Shining (dir. by Stanley Kubrick)

Gorgeous horror. I guess that’s an oxymoron?


Inglorious Basterds (dir. by Quentin Tarantino)

“This just might be my masterpiece” – not quite, but I’d say you’ve set the bar pretty high, Quentin.


Howl’s Moving Castle (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)

A childhood favourite. I had to indulge myself when Netflix added it to its catalogue. Only the before-mentioned Spirited Away blows it away.


The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy (dir. by Gore Verbinski)

I want to write a pirate-centric screenplay every time I watch these films. A combination of nostalgia and escapism allows me to overlook their cheesiness and occasional incoherences.

  • The Curse of the Black Pearl – 7.5/10
  • Dead Man’s Chest – 7/10
  • At World’s End – 8/10

And yes, the third is my favourite, get over it.

The Inbetweeners Movies

They’re hard not to watch when they’re on TV. No TV show has defined my sad little generation better. And I’ll probably be that creepy old dude still laughing at it when I’m bound to my wheelchair.

  • The Inbetweeners Movie (dir. by Ben Palmer) – 7/10
  • The Inbetweeners 2 (dir. by Damon Beasley and Iain Morris) – 4.5/10



Rear Window (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)

Ditatched yet intimate. Voyeuristic yet leaves you feeling a strange breath on your shoulder. Hitchcock is the seer of suspense, the master of manipulation, one of the best ever.


Vertigo (dir. by Alfred Hitchcock)

Hypnotic and psychedelic before it was cool. Just edged out by Rear Window as my favourite Hitchcock film.


Ran (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Only Kurosawa can make epic seem effortless.


Do The Right Thing (dir. by Spike Lee)

Necessarily in-your-face from the get go. Firstly, the screenplay is fantastic. Influenced by Mohammed Ali to The Night of the Hunter and has influenced the likes of Tarantino – “you shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologise”, sound familiar? Secondly, the actors elevate the words the a rhythm that mirrors Lee’s American world. Thirdly, it is eternally relevant and essential viewing. Fight the power.


Breathless (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)

The French New Wave should wash away your plans to watch yet another Judd Apatow comedy. Seriously, go watch it now.


Sunset Boulevard (dir. by Billy Wilder)

“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” Every single line of dialogue in this film is a dream. Billy Wilder as the best screenwriter ever? A claim as big as one of Norma Desmond’s and probably one with much more credence.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. by Céline Sciamma)

Every frame is a painting. How appropriate.


Die Hard (dir. by John McTiernan)

The blueprint for what every action film should do. And every Christmas film.


The Conformist (dir. by Bernardo Bertolucci)

I’m lost for words to describe this film’s cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro. The light and shadow constantly tread the line between seduction and restraint. It is a film that will leave you questioning your own allegiances.



Collateral (dir. by Michael Mann)

Whilst I find most of Mann’s filmography pretty ugly, this film fares well in the night-time LA setting. The true triumph of this film is its script, a budding screenwriter’s wet dream.


The 13th (dir. by Ava DuVernay)

The first and only documentary on this list, it is one of incredible importance. Sleek and informative throughout, it is essential viewing. My rating is based upon my feelings of how well it is developed from a filmmaking point of view.


American Beauty (dir. by Sam Mendes)

A touching interior to a film with a creepy exterior. It is an inspection of the American Dream in a Fitzgerald-esque mood.


The Matrix (dir. by The Wachowski Brothers)

It’s a crime that I had never seen it before. It is also a crime how exposition was relentlessly dumped upon me in the first act without me even noticing at the time because of how damn entertained I was. And that hallway shootout: disgustingly good.


Shadow (dir. by Zhang Yimou)

Whilst I found the plot slightly lacking at times, this film is BEYOND beautiful. Whilst the action scenes are imaginative and supremely done.


Want some samurai action but want your eyes to be bombarded with colour? Try Yimou’s 2002 film Hero.

Raising Arizona (dir. by Joel Coen)

You know something is going right when a would-be despicable tale is fucking hilarious.

The Grandaddy of Pegg and Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, which if you haven’t seen, don’t speak to me. And go watch them. Now. NOW.


Zodiac (dir. by David Fincher)

Mysterious, gritty and prime Fincher. The man’s a genius.


Roma (dir. by Alfonso Cuarón)

As personal a film as you could find. And the story of how the lead actress, Yalitza Aparicio, was casted is as beautiful as the film itself.


The Conversation (dir. by Francis Ford Coppola)

This one makes you think. The sound design forces the viewer to share the obsessive POV of a man who listens to a secret recording whilst engulfed by guilt and paranoia that sheds away his faith and personal space.


If you like The Conversation, try Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.

Your Name

Training Day (dir. by Antoine Fuqua)

Whilst the direction is bland, this film is a testament to what a good script and an animalistic performance from Denzel can do. It also shocked me how similar the first act is to one of my own scripts. If the third act stuck the landing, it’d be one of my faves.


Your Name (dir. by Makoto Shinkai)

Probably the most beautiful and cinematic anime I’ve seen in a long while. It was a brilliant concept and fusing of genres but it got a bit too melodramatic for me. The spoon-feeding voice-over was unnecessary when the emotional beats would’ve landed without it.


Army of Shadows (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)

An existential war film about resistance fighters doomed to failure but with the strength to try anyway, by any means necessary.


Inside Llewyn Davis (dir. by The Coen Brothers)

Not my favourite film from the Coen’s. Nonetheless, it’s intimate, ironic and the script is insanely good. No shit, Sherlock.


Da 5 Bloods (dir. by Spike Lee)

Spike Lee is a cinematic prophet, who is currently more relevant than any other filmmaker. But the film itself is worth watching and Delroy Lindo is superb. Despite this, I felt there were some pacing issues and it didn’t always weave together seamlessly.


E.T. (dir. by Steven Spielberg)

For some reason whenever I think of the term ‘movie magic’, this film and the iconic image over the moon is what comes to mind. Having watched it for the first time since I was a child, I think Spielberg’s magic is found more in his other films.


Un Flic (dir. by Jean-Pierre Melville)

The more I watch Melville, the more I recognise his influence. The painstaking emphasis on character’s actions and skills? Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Who shot first? Han Solo did. He was even the one who told Godard to cut to the best parts of his shots, hence initiating the jump cuts that became a stylistic staple of the French New Wave.


Alphaville (dir. by Jean-Luc Godard)

This film includes the precursor to Kubrick’s HAL-3000 but with a philosophical and insecure edge. Unfortunately, this film poses questions rather than tells a story. Whilst quintessentially Godard, it isn’t as fun as his other works. Worth a rewatch.


Kiki’s Delivery Service

Fedora (dir. by Billy Wilder)

No one shows off the old Hollywood like Wilder. But this seems too much like an echo of the past, with almost self-indulgent similarities to Sunset Boulevard. Whilst the first half is excellent with a killer twist, the second half is killed by exposition. Regardless, a few iconic shots and Wilder’s whip smart writing makes it worth a watch.


What We Do In The Shadows (dir. by Taika Waititi)

Taika Waititi is the best type of weird. And weird is good.


Kiki’s Delivery Service (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)

I want Jiji.


Black Mass (dir. by Scott Cooper)

Since when I first watched it, the only thing I remember is that Depp is excellent in the role of Whitey Bulger and a brilliant dinner table scene where David Harbour soils himself. I watched it again a few weeks back, and again, that (along with dodgy pacing and story structure) are the only things I remember.


A History of Violence (dir. by David Cronenberg)

The themes resonate. The performances are strong. But I just felt the premise could have been stretched to greater potential.


The Death of Stalin (dir. by Armando Iannucci)

Jet-black political satire that had me laughing but not in stitches. The chemistry of the great cast made it but I miss it when a film appears to lack any proper weight.


Free Fire (dir. by Ben Wheatley)

Messy, senseless fun about people with bad aim and bad legs.


The Town (dir. by Ben Affleck)

Just a big old yawn. Whether you’ve watched this film or not, you’ve seen it all before.


Ponyo (dir. by Hayao Miyazaki)

Cute. Beautiful. Forgettable.


January 2020 – Cinema Roundup


Usually, my finger nails are allowed to grow out until Manchester City’s next big game unless an unexpected wave of anxiety forces my teeth to chatter them down. After watching 1917, I looked down upon nearly nail-less fingers. 

Why did I endure such a nerve-shredding experience? Roger Deakins.

Hail Mary for this god of a cinematographer. For those few who are unaware of who he is, he is responsible for:

Deakins is now, alongside long-term collaborator Sam Mendes (Skyfall), responsible for one of the most technically astonishing films of the decade. And we are a month in. 

1917 follows two young soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message to neighbouring Allied forces to call off an attack. To do that, they must travel through no-man’s land. The Germans appear to have retreated and be on the ropes, but new information reveals the Allied attack would result in calamity, including the death of a brother of one of the protagonists. The plot is simple and effective. The way it is executed, however, raises the stakes, the experience and one’s senses when watching. 

Filmed as a ‘one-shot film’, the viewer becomes the third person in the party. The execution of this method is beyond impressive with only a couple of obvious cuts throughout the runtime, and one of which is done to display the passage of time. Whilst 2014’s Birdman: The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance used this technique for completely different reasons. In Birdman, a character-study, displayed the protagonist’s instability through constant camera movement and the quiet struggle of his every action when the camera’s stillness appeared to halt time. In 1917, it makes the soldiers’ every action questionable. At one point, the camera floats along the water, like a predator, as the soldiers struggle around it. At another, it moves like our eyes would in a videogame spotting one enemy and then another and leaving us to question where the violent-less path is.

Whilst Birdman (2014) popularised the one-shot technique in the public consciousness, an earlier film that used it was Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). Check it out.

The audience is never allowed to be lulled back into a sense of security, Mendes does not afford us that pleasure as no soldier was ever afforded it. As soon as we experience the first set-piece, a trip-wire in an empty bunker, the nerves and continually wrecked until you leave a beaten and bruised audience member. Even the production design and props intensify the horror. When the camera waded through a hoard of flies over the skeletal corpse of a rotting horse, I instantly felt more immersed in the world than I had in any war film since Saving Private Ryan.

And when the experience couldn’t get any more visceral, the film has a terrific score. At one moment it will float between eerie synths that rumble indistinctively, as if you have to keep your ears out for movement. Seconds later, the tension has snapped and the pounding of drums and horns pummels around you as the race against time and for one’s own life is afoot. 

Nonetheless, the film knows when to be quiet. Whether we close in on a character to allow sorrow to sink in, or we retreat to nature to remember that life is what these characters are fighting for. And within these moments, the characters are allowed to show glimpses of themselves. It is only within these brief instances of shared laughter and comradery that any light manages to penetrate the bleak darkness of this film that displays the horror of war in the starkest way imaginable. 

The scenes shot at night are where Deakins’ cinematography is most elegant.

Like I said though, these moments are not the bulk of the movie. Thus, circulating arguments that the two protagonists, portrayed by Dean Charles Chapman and George McKay, are not developed enough do have merit. The film is like Dunkirk in a sense, incredible filmmaking with very little character development. Despite this, I did not find sympathising with these characters hard. Their actions speak things that their words do not. And whilst their shared stories add an air of believability, it is the moments when they speak about medals and family that reveal the most about them as people. The sheer fact that you are taken as the third member of their party throughout made up for the lack of characterisation through dialogue. 

Interspersed throughout their journey is a number of fleeting cameos from brilliant actors, which really help to add a punch to many of the dialogue scenes. Andrew Scott’s turn as a make-shift nihilist of a lieutenant was my favourite and a curveball away from the archetypal stoic British officer with their chin held high, eyes directed below and chest puffed out. Which unsurprisingly is the characters portrayed by Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch with little nuance separating the three of them.

The film is not about the actors or the characters though. It is pure technical excellence. See it on the big screen.


JoJo Rabbit

I feel like I can write normally again now I’m discussing a film about an imaginary ironic Hitler. I watched 1917 and JoJo Rabbit the same day. To say I couldn’t have seen two wildly different approaches to World Wars in films is an understatement.

The film, helmed by writer-director-actor, Taika Wahtiti, follows the journey of Johannes “JoJo Rabbit” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), a young Nazi fanatic who has become indoctrinated by nationalist ideology. As he puts it, he’s “massively into Swastikas”. So too, was Wahtiti once upon a time, who confessed in an interview he would obsessively draw them around his books and house. Superbad style. Only to realise what he had done and forge them into windows and sometimes houses. Wahtiti’s honesty and quirkiness permeates the fractured world he conceives and the characters that inhabit it. 

There will never be another high-school comedy like Superbad (2007).

Originally dreaming of becoming a Nazi war hero, JoJo goes to a Hitler youth camp only to show his inner squeamishness when refusing to snap a bunny’s neck and then, in a moment of zealousness, blows himself half to hell with a hand grenade.  Thus, he is resigned to handing leaflets around town and picking up metal in a robot costume, whilst being constantly being spurred on by his imaginary friend and stand-in father figure. Adolf Hitler.

In a caricatured performance of Hitler by Wahtiti, a role he admits no respectable actor would wish to play, he strays away from imitation and instead embodies the goofiness of a child’s own imagination. One moment he is a clown and sidekick, the next he is an enraged satire of dictators, kicking chairs in frustration. 

Bursting the bubble of Nazi ideology is just the springboard for the film’s comedy. All the actors have fun with their roles. Sam Rockwell and Rebel Wilson relish the opportunity to be camp and gratuitously over-the-top as the leaders of the Nazi Youth Camp. Whilst Alfie Allen, is Rockwell’s silent shadow, staring at his superior with a loving twinkle in his eye. JoJo’s friend Yorkie, portrayed by newcomer Archie Yates, crops up occasionally with perfect tone and comedic timing. Meanwhile, stalking around is a bug-eyed Gestapo officer…

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

…That is seven feet tall (Stephen Merchant) and contributes to an entire minute of characters saying ‘Heil Hitler’ and somehow, somehow, all these actors make it funny. 

There has been a lot of criticism surrounding the film. That it is one dimensional. That it is childish. That it isn’t funny or touching enough to cut to the heart of the subject matter. But, for me, this was the first time in a while that I had heard an entire cinema audience laughing. Out loud.

When the film switched to its more emotional core, as JoJo discovers that his mother (Scarlett Johannson) is harbouring a Jewish woman, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie), it pulled it off just as effectively as the humour. JoJo begins to rethink his alliances, as he forms a love-hate relationship Elsa, and thus the ideology that has infested his mind.  When his worldview changes, as does his imaginary inflection of Hitler. The film then deals with tragedy and pathos, focusing on the tenderness of human connection. It is about discovering where our biases come from and how humanity can hate so blindly. All of which are universal themes that resonate just as much now, with dictators rising again, as ever. Just because critics do not find it funny enough, think of it as beneath them and subconsciously comparing it to the profoundness of other war films, such as The Pianist and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, does not mean it is a bad or offensive film. It means they are missing the point. The focus on how conflict saturates all walks of society, down to the children that it shapes, should be fulfilling enough.


Dolemite Is My Name

The costume design in this film is COOL.

Dolemite Is My Name was not a film that raised my attention all that much. Other than the constant conversation about this being Eddie Murphy’s glorious comeback, I didn’t see much to be excited about this film for. And yet, watching something with little to no expectations is the best way to watch films. 

Dolemite was the most uplifting and ‘feel-good movie’ I have seen in a long while, as it traces the ascendance of Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) from stand-up bum to self-made movie star. Whilst I first struggled to empathise with Murphy’s character, Rudy, who starred in the cult Blaxploitation film Dolemite in 1975. He begins with an air of self-importance and bitterness as he hasn’t met the expectations he set for himself. The eventual narrative of how he attempts, through pure force of will, sweat and tears, to achieve his dreams is a universally relatable and inspiring one. 

The characters around him that strive to beat his dreams down are manifestations of someone that everyone knows, the people that tell you no and that look upon you with a raised eyebrow and sarcastic slits of smiles while you pour out your dreams upon them. This figure was encapsulated by Wesley Snipes’ diva director, D’Urville Smith – who I found consistently making me laugh than the rest of the cast. This excellent performance by Snipes also finds the ying to its yang in Rudy’s leading lady, Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). The relationship between herself and Rudy is the emotional heart of the movie and this trio of actors uplifted the film to new heights. 

Whilst the moments of comedy and the performances are what will stand out for most, it was the story of people coming together and forcing a movie into creation and thus, their love for it and determination defeating the high and mighty Hollywood figures, that I found the most empowering and fulfilling. If you need some laughs and smiles, I couldn’t recommend a new film more than Dolemite Is My Name.


The Gentlemen

From one comeback, to another…

Guy Ritchie is back on form. He is once again back where he feels most comfortable – an ensemble of gangsters with sharp blades and even sharper words. And the delivery of these words is near perfect. Hugh Grant no longer plays Hugh Grant, now he’s a camp slime-ball journalist with a penchant for the dramatic and its nearly as refreshing as all the whiskey he drinks. Matthew McConaughey is just a perfect fit for a Guy Ritchie film, although I don’t think he gets the best lines or is the best character. Charlie Hunnam is the best I have seen him as the cool and calculated understudy to Mickey (McConaughey), although I still think he struggles to deliver any nuance to his characters. Colin Farrell, meanwhile, is the scene stealer. I wish he was in the film more. 

The story rotates between these four (and many more) characters as McConaughey’s character, Micky Pearson, aims to sell up his multi-million dollar marijuana company to a subtext-speaking American businessman, portrayed by Jeremy Strong. When multiple parties start to smell blood and circle like vultures, notably the Chinese mob represented by Henry Golding’s character and a plait-tracksuit laden wannabee-gang called the Toddlers, Mickey and co. have to navigate many different threats.

The Toddler’s grime video ft. Manchester’s own, Bugzy Malone, still has me cringing…

The quasi-narration that drives the first two acts of the story gave extra vigour to the film but I felt that it got messy in parts with too much zipping and zapping between different story points. As a result, it initially took me a while to get to grips with what is going on onscreen, it can be hard to put with Ritchie’s relentless pace. Stitching all these plot-points and comedic avenues seems like a logistical nightmare from a filmmaking point of view but it is done relatively effectively whilst being constantly enjoyable. Upon first viewing, however, some moments of the editing (especially uses of montage), whilst similar to his signature style, look like a poorer Edgar Wright impersonation nowadays.

Whilst the dialogue is extremely entertaining, sharp witted and hilarious – Shakespearean with more ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ I believe Nicholas Barber gracefully put it. The drawback in parts, however, is that it almost seems in rhyming couplets with every line having a sort of punchline and when that doesn’t hit, it draws you out of any realism of the words or what is happening. 

But that isn’t really the point, is it? Guy Ritchie’s films are style over substance and they are remembered for that style. And regardless of realism or emotional impact, what doesn’t fail to shine through is Guy Ritchie’s own voice, a voice we have long loved since 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.


Little Women

One of the best parts of seeing this film was viewing the faces of my fellow audience members. 2 o’clock on a Thursday, a scattering of exclusively old women sit down and natter among themselves content to get out the house and see a film that they passionately want to see. Then in comes in a solitary young man dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a puffer jacket. Pure astonishment on their faces.

Little Women is not necessary my ‘type’ of film (I wince a little when I say that). Often films need an element of threat to really grip me. Unless, it is something like Greta Gerwig’s latest outing. This is a near-perfect film.

Adapting Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 book of the same name, Gerwig creates an environment brimming with life as she retells the lives of the March sisters, through past and present narratives of their loves, passions and tragedies. The non-linear storyline is dealt with expertly, especially when I compare it to the messiness of The Gentlemen. The cinematographer’s use of colour to distinguish the two different timelines is so simple but brilliantly effective. The hue of blue indicates the present, especially during the moments of tragedy that take place. Whereas the yellow used for the flashbacks is energetic, it evokes the comfort of home when they were all together and happy, untainted by the realities of their patriarchal world.

Timothee Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep are all excellent in supporting roles.

It is these moments that gave me the most joy, where all four sisters are together. Each one’s personality is distinct and established from the start. One begins by walking through the masculine hum of a publishing office, the world she wants to break into, where another plays her piano before she speaks a word. When they are all in the same room, these personalities bounce off one another. A spirit of communion radiates throughout their scenes. Their lines almost seem improvised by the way they’re delivered, firing words and interrupting one another in the messy sibling way.

The performances, as I’ve already hinted, are wonderful and make you gravitate towards all these characters. Florence Pugh, in my opinion, is the queen of the stage. A stage they all inhabit together, early in their lives as women with dreams and ambitions. Between them they all inhabit the great cultural art forms – writing, painting, music and performance, and their choices about pursuing these passions or to follow the roads that society has built for them is the heart of the film.

Whilst it isn’t a film which craves me wanting more, that acts like a drug for me, it is nonetheless a beautiful film, from the costume design to the sound mixing. The reasons why Gerwig was not nominated for Best Director remain as much a mystery to myself as it does the rest of the community.


The Rise and Fall of Skywalker – Rants, Not Reviews

Retrospect and hindsight are almost necessary when reviewing any Star Warsfilm. Flashback to any release date and all my memories are clouded by torrents of angry fans yodelling about the integrity of Star Wars lore or critics preaching from pedestals about the films’ use of feminine figures, rather than actually analysing the film within the context of its own medium.

Flashforward to now, there is now only me talking about it, and probably no one cares. The wet flop of quiet now surrounding the film probably sums up the impact of the film. 

Currently, this all appears VERY negative and you’ve probably got the impression that I can think that I could have done it better. I don’t. Admittedly, when I watched the film, I was entertained. Film is an entertainment industry therefore J.J. Abrams (sort of…) needs a round of applause. He did his job on the most fundamental level. Yet it should not be understated how difficult that job was. 

The trilogy began with Abrams’ own vision. Whether it was too similar to Lucas’ original vision or not, is an argument for another day. Similarities or not, fans were happy. THEN came about the rage-fuelling, hate-inspiring, devil-incarnate, Sith-ridden, Luke-should-not-have-thrown-that-fucking-lightsabre-ing film called The Last Jedi. Which I really enjoyed. And most of the reason I enjoyed it was purely because it wasn’t The Force Awakensand it wasn’t a carbon copy of The Empire Strikes Back, it was its own movie. Unfortunately, with Star Wars you can’t do that because it has to be the fans’ movie. It may have been far from perfect but it made its own choices and Rian Johnson was a brave man. (I can just imagine that man laughing at videos of Star Wars nerds breaking their collectors’ items like a berserker when talking about The Last Jedi).

As a result of Rian Johnson being at the helm for the second film, we effectively had two different build ups, two ideas, two trajectories, a big-bad Sith primary antagonist killed off AND to make matters worse, there was only two and a half hours to pay everything off and finish a nine-film saga. I’d say I don’t envy Abrams but he’s probably shitting gold at this point. Hence, the lack of focused direction throughout the largest movie trilogy and narrative of the decade resulted in it being lacklustre. Shock. I sympathise with Scorsese’s grudge towards recent blockbusters. I know that he targeted the Avengers films more, but Star Wars is in the same bracket at this point. In this trilogy, whose story was told? Not Rey’s – whose artistic mind? What did it all have to say? What did it teach us about its characters on a profound level? What’s the fucking point?

Again, all quite negative at this point BUT it was a tall, tall order to pull off this film. They needed another two films and one person directing each one. 

So what was done well? You know the CGI will be immense. As will John Williams’ score. Those factors will always be the case. The actors all did a pretty good job. Some got less of a role than I would have hoped, granted, as Finn was seemingly relegated to a tag-along side-kick that just loves screaming ‘Wooooo!’ just to tell everyone in the audience how they should be feeling. Props to Daisy Ridley though, I actually thought she did a pretty good job. Rey has seemed a bit stale in the past, a bit too perfect. In The Rise of Skywalker, her history is finally revealed and thus her inner torment intensifies. She is practically invincible though, looking as if she has turned the difficulty down to beginner in an RPG.

Going over the cast briefly: Adam Driver is Adam Driver. Which is fantastic. Kylo Ren was easily the character I was most invested in. Which is often the case with Star Wars, the best characters are the ones that hover in the grey zone of morality. The entire crew did the best job possible with Carrie Fisher’s old footage, piecing together old recordings of Leia so that her story can come full circle and her passing can be respected. Ian McDiarmid was full Palpatine like you could ever imagine and was as good as a stand in for Snoke as could have been mastered (all plot holes aside). John Boyega and Oscar Isaac were both fine, I just don’t think they had the best material to play with. 

In total honesty, I think the majority of the film was very well put together. It is just aspects of the script which made me want to claw my eyes out at parts and unfortunately, that often overshadows all other aspects of a production. 

MAIN GRIPE NUMBER ONE: deaths. Scratch that, fake out deaths. This film went all out Walking Dead. Be warned, spoilers ahead (but in total honesty if you haven’t watched the film then what are you doing reading this review?). When the ship that Chewbacca WAS in, don’t tell me he wasn’t, blew up I got so excited, it’s quite sickening. At that point, I thought to myself, fuck this is bold. Picking up Johnson’s mantel of going against fan’s expectations? Yeah, I couldn’t have been more wrong. One scene later and oh there he is! Two scenes later and the rest of the characters looked like they had forgotten about him anyway. Thus, the most exciting scene so far was ultimately reduced to a set piece just to provide exposition to show the Rey is a Palpatine.

Maybe I could have forgiven them if they only did this once but no, they undermined another one of the best scenes in the movie an hour later. The lightsabre fight between Kylo and Rey upon the wreckage in the midst of a sea storm was stunning, their sabres blazing amidst the raw monotone environment. The emotion in such moments was just not there for me when I recollect upon it though. It was touching that Kylo seemingly dies when his mother does but what did that or the fight itself actually mean to the characters? Not much. This film was once in which can carry the audience upon the wave of its spectacle but when the film ends and that wave crashes, all is left is this empty beach, each promising idea incapable of becoming more than a grain of sand among millions. Like they couldn’t even let Kylo fucking die and make that mean something, no Rey goes OP mode and brings him back to life. But I guess she did it on a better CGI Anaconda so all is well in the world. I feel like this part of the sequence would not have frustrated me anywhere near as much if they had not done the Chewbacca farce earlier.

Side note… in all fairness, the scene between Kylo and his father was pretty touching and critical for his arc. Fan service done well.

In all fairness, the helmet looked cool af.

Damn, that was a big gripe. GRIPE NUMBER TWO: Palpatine. Yes, Abrams had to pluck gold out of his arse to pull off a great antagonist after Johnson killed off Snoke, however, bringing back Palpatine isn’t really the gripe here. It is just the moment when he raises thousands of Star Destroyers out of the ground that A) makes a franchise, that was originally for kids, reach new heights of disbelief, and B) makes the Death Star just look insignificant.  

GRIPE NUMBER 3: Some fan service fell flat. Lando appears magically on the one planet they need something on. Other than that, he is entirely disposable. When Rey hears all the voices of past Jedi’s. Some people might lose their minds on this one but for me, it was a bit unnecessary. I can’t believe I’m actually complaining about Samuel L. Jackson being in a movie.

GRIPE NUMBER FOUR: Myself. Moaning endlessly is getting quite superfluous and tedious in all honesty and if you enjoyed the film, you may well hate me at this point.

So in essence, when I was at the cinema, I had a good time. The film is a feast for the eyes and no one can take that away from everyone involved. Star Wars has always and still is entertaining regardless of its other faults. To bash it to this extent now seems pointless but with its armies of fans constantly being brought to my attention, I can no longer take this franchise at face value. It has been installed upon almost everyone that these must be dissected and they must follow its strict lore and EVERYTHING must always be compared to the original trilogy. This is inevitable but so is a dip in quality when those in charge of production do not follow a blueprint throughout a trilogy and go gung-ho because its profitability is a certainty. 

RATING: *Big Sigh* 5/10.

My Top 5 Films of 2019

Firstly, I must address the honourable mentions. I enjoyed Us more than I did Get Out. Whilst its multivalent messages were less eloquently explored, it kept me more hooked and terrified. Avengers: Endgame was a near-perfect send-off for the original cast of the franchise and its slower first act was a welcome change for the franchise as its characters’ reactions to the events of Infinity War were rightly given the limelight. Meanwhile, Knives Out has a delicious first act and a half which unfortunately gets dazed and confused. Nonetheless, the cast and one-lines are worth a watch alone.

There were a few films I unfortunately missed, such as RocketmanParasite and Midsommar. And a few more which I haven’t seen as they are not yet available in the UK, namely Uncut GemsThe Lighthouse and 1917. I’m not including The Rise of Skywalker because I’m already predicting disappointment.

But one film I feel I need to address is Marriage Story. It made me feel more emotional than any film in a long while. Noah Baumbach has a fantastic talent for focusing on the minutia and character-driven narratives and his excellent script is only elevated by immense performances from Scarlett Johannsen and Adam Driver. I honestly think Driver will pip Jaoquin Pheonix to the Best Actor Oscar, whilst I wouldn’t be surprised if Baumbach picks up the award for Best Original Screenplay for his semi-autobiographical story. Whilst Marriage Story is undoubtedly a superior film on a technical and acting level, there is one I enjoyed slightly more…

Marriage Story, dir. by Noah Baumbach.
Side Note: Please appreciate this composition.

5) The King

Now take this as my ‘controversial’ choice. This film has been bashed by some critics who are trying to kiss Bill Shakespeare’s arse. But personally, I’m a sucker for medievalism in cinema and I have been waiting for something to soothe my Game of Thrones heartbreak (which is still raw). The King achieved that. Politics, deception and words that cut as deep as any sword take the foreground. That is where Game of Thrones thrived and where most medieval dramas thrive. Forget the dragons.

Where there are words, we need actors and fuck me, the cast does a fantastic job. Timothée Chalamet plays Henry V of England who has to go from drunkard to king overnight and learn the intricacies of power and politics. Chalamet keeps confirming that we have another powerhouse of an actor on our hands with an exceptional performance to build upon his work in Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. His co-stars, however, take turns to eclipse him in certain scenes. Robert Pattinson, who is now in my eyes a million light-years away from his role in the Twishite films, acts as the antagonist, the French Dauphin. His accent and delivery is hilarious one second and then terrifying the next. Sean Harris probably gives the strongest performance of the lot, whilst Lily-Rose Depp delivers a more convincing performance in ten minutes of screen time than her father has given in 10 years.

The King, dir. by David Michôd

My main gripe is the length of the film. I wished it was longer. Rather, I wish this was translated into a mini-series as opposed to a film. Some of the character’s transformations, most noticeably Chalamet’s Hal, from irresponsible drunk to stalwart king, seem to happen overnight. If this had been given time, Chalamet could have had even better material to work with that depicted more internal divisiveness and anxiety – instead, at times the portrayal can appear a bit too perfect. The fact that director, David Michôd attempted to cram so much into 140 odd minutes left many critics raging at how he defaced Shakespeare’s source material, Henry V parts 1 and 2. Let the man use the source material as he pleases, I say. Despite the somewhat cramped feeling of the film, Michod provides us with so much. The battle scene is fantastic. It’s directed to appear tactile and distressing, forcing claustrophobia and wincing come into play. Although one overhead shot was a mirror image of Jon Snow rising among the masses during the Battle of the Bastards *cries once more*. Other than that, the direction is effective and the excellent production design really helps to pull yourself into the battle and the film. 

So next time you’re scrolling endlessly throughout your Netflix like a junkie that doesn’t know where to get his next fix, just stick The King on. 

4) The Irishman

Okay so first and foremost, don’t be put off with the 3 and a half-hour run time. Watch it episodically, an hour a night. Or be a nocturnal maniac and watch it in a single binge-fest. Whatever you do, just watch it. 

The Irishman, dir. by Martin Scorsese

‘Based off a true story’. In Hollywood, that doesn’t mean shit. The Irishman is based on Charles Brandt’s book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ (i.e. you splatter a house’s walls with someone’s brains), which is mostly an interview with Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran on his account of his life as a mobster and his relationships to Jimmy Hoffa and the Ruffalino mob family. So, it’s based on a book, BASED on one man’s words. Get that salt and pinch it – Sheeran also claimed to provide Harvey Lee Oswald with three rifles days before JFK’s assassination… So expectation number one, crushed. 

Expectation Number Two: this is not Goodfellas 2.0. This is not Casino 2.0. This film is slower, it deals with loyalty rather than excess. The dynamic of the relationships between De Niro, Pacino and Pesci are dissected constantly. The film uses silence brilliantly to show this. On occasions, a big decision has or has to be made and we are made to sit there with the character and think and more importantly feel about all the repercussions of these decisions, which is something not seen enough in cinema anymore. However, it must be said – this would not have worked nearly as well if it wasn’t for the legendary triad of actors. 

Who stole the show for you: De Niro, Pacino or Pesci?

There is something so gratifying about seeing these men, all with legacies as great as Scorsese himself, come back and knock it out for six. Especially Joe Pesci. The little old dude has been retired for over a decade and returns with the coldest, most understated and comfortably terrifying performance of his career. Hurt his associate? He’ll kill you. Touch his family? He’ll kill you. Think he’s funny? He’ll kill you. He is the perfect foil for Pacino’s perfectly over-the-top Jimmy Hoffa. Meanwhile, De Niro has made up with Al since Heat and now acts as the mediator between his superiors whilst giving an incredible considered performance. All of which are elevated by Scorsese’s direction, which is wiser and almost simpler. There is nothing exaggerated about the camera’s direction or the edits because there is no need to be.

This wiser approach is exhibited in my favourite part of the film, a climactic car sequence. When I say he takes his time, he takes his time. It’s a good twenty minutes and that is part of why the film is so long but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Claustrophobia, stillness and elongation result in one of the tensest sequences I’ve seen in a long while. Think Sicario’s car sequence but on a smaller scale and with bigger stakes. 

Also, if you need any more reason to watch this film, there’s an Action Bronson cameo. 

“Every five minutes look in the fridges as if magic happened”. Look at the screen, ACTION.

3) Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, dir. by Quentin Tarantino

DISCLAIMER: I’m a basic bitch. Pulp Fiction will always be my favourite Tarantino film. 

But seriously, has there ever been a cooler film than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Well, yeah, Pulp Fiction

BUT after Pulp Fiction, has there ever been a cooler film than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Probably not.

Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt just have a golden aura around them. They’re effervescent and in their first on-screen collaboration, they hit it off just as much as everyone would have expected. What is this film about? Their friendship more than anything else. Sure, the film is a love letter to Hollywood and an elucidator of its fickle nature. It is also somewhat about the Manson murders that shook the industry. But is that all it is about? Most of the film appears to be about nothing. It’s just characters hanging out without doing much to advance the plot. I doubt any other director would be able to get away with this. But it is just so Tarantino. It hinges upon his immense dialogue and the actors who are able to do so much with it. 

The flaw in this is that the movie only produces a couple of points of real tension. One scene with Pitt in a small disturbed desert community made my palms sweatier and sweatier yet fell a bit flat. Perhaps, I’m too used to Tarantino killing off the majority of his roster. And in honesty, this is exactly the expectation that Tarantino will have been playing on. He knows you’re thinking of Inglorious Bastards‘ basement scene AND of the pop tarts in Pulp Fiction AND the Mexican standoff in Reservoir Dogs AND the eventual blood bath in The Hateful Eight after over two hours of tension and buildup. He knows this and so he’s probably laughingly evil saying ‘Mwhaha you’re going to have to wait a little longer for the blood and guts’. And we have to wait until the penultimate scene. And the wait is worth it. I don’t think Tarantino has ever been funnier. It sums up the film’s tone. Tarantino but a comedy, Tarantino but the protagonists are goofy and more imperfect than ever, Tarantino but it’s also DiCaprio, Pitt AND Margot Robbie. Orgasm.

Margot Robbie portraying real-life figure, Sharon Tate, who was tragically a victim of the ‘Manson Murders’.

2) Le Mans ‘66

Rip-roaring, white-knuckle, adrenaline-fuelled, roller-coaster-mother-fucking-ride. I didn’t have any expectations for this film. I saw Matt Damon and Christian Bale were the leads and I thought, ‘well it’s not going to be bad’ and yet I have no interest in cars whatsoever so I wasn’t overly excited. But boy was I wrong. This was the biggest surprise of the year for me.

The director, James Mangold, needs a round of applause because he directed the shit out of this movie. Every punch landed, whether that was emotional or sensual. The race scenes were unreal, the production design and practical effects were on point. The camera work was exceptional, never letting you lose track of what is happening with choppy cuts and unfocused direction. I felt in the car with Bale at all times. 

Whilst these long racing set pieces were gripping, the narrative was even more so. It is primarily about friendship. The original title, Ford vs Ferrari, was scrapped and for good reason. Whilst this is the foundation of the narrative, the almost impossible real-life task of Ford creating a car to beat Ferrari at Le Mans, it is all about the men who up took the task. Bale’s fearless Ken Miles is the Ying to Carroll Shelby’s Yang, portrayed by Matt Damon. Their performances ignite their friendship which becomes the real heart of the film, two men who work on this project for a shared love of cars and racing that builds the bridges between them that the corporations of both Ford and Ferrari try to burn to the ground. Sparks fly between the pair as much as they do on the race track.

Le Mans’ 66, dir. by James Mangold

Nevertheless, the film is not scared to deal with tragedy and sadness. Even in these moments, it shines and the writers, as well as everyone else, involved truly did a terrific job. You feel the sound design as much as the emotion, smell the burning rubber and share in a wholly satisfying experience. This is one of those films I think you need to see in the cinema, it defines cinematic. If you didn’t, the jokes on you.

1) Joker

Joker, dir. by Todd Phillips
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.” – Joker, The Killing Joke.

For Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck, every day is a bad day. His face is crushed to the curb like dirt on one’s shoe. He is the brunt of cruel kids’ jokes, beaten and scorn. The movie establishes Arthur as a societal outcast. Half an hour in and you start to think ‘wait… do I feel sorry for… The Joker?’ Yeah, you do. He is downtrodden and begins the film with childlike innocence, repeatedly claiming (and believing) that he was “put here to spread joy and laughter to the world”. 

Time to get the obvious out of the way. Phoenix is incredible. He has proved to the world that someone is worthy to play The Joker after Heath Ledger (P.S. Dear, Jared Leto… please eradicate your depiction from the world). It is Oscar-worthy, in my opinion. Whether or not The Academy will be brave enough to award such an award to a ‘comic-book movie’… it’s not really a comic-book movie… or go with a safe direction like Adam Driver, we shall see. Kudos to Phoenix for the body transformation, he is skeletal which helps project the portrayal of this physically and psychologically fragile character. This whole film can be described as a psychological character examination. One can understand Arthur’s motives for his dissent into narcissistic rage yet we are not asked to forgive his eventual actions. His motives arise out of misunderstanding, the beforementioned societal disconnect. He is a clown who isn’t funny. The only time he’s seen someone laugh is at his own expense.

Speaking of laughs… what they did with Joker’s laugh was genius. He *supposedly* suffers a medical condition that causes him to laugh randomly, it usually seems triggered by anxiety or discomfort. But the actual laugh rises into piercing cackles and then corkscrews into exasperating exclamations of pain which are exacerbated by his physicality. Does he enjoy laughing? Is it really a condition? Does he get the joke? The prevailing ambiguity of the film is one of its greatest merits.

“If I’m going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha Ha Ha!” – Joker, The Killing Joke.

Away from Phoenix’s show-stealing performance, the rest of the film was executed brilliantly. The cinematography perfectly captures Gotham as a seething pit of disease and unrest. As such, it is meant to allegorise 70s New York yet we also see its roots in Nolan’s Batman Trilogy and the graphic novels. When paired with the social unrest, that Arthur eventually becomes the spearhead for, we are introduced to the most nihilistic Gotham ever put to screen. The score meanwhile, was fantastic, encapsulating the film’s heightened lamentation and constant tension within the individual and the masses. 

When I first watched the film, the script tore me. When the romantic aspect was first introduced I was internally screaming ‘no, no, for fuck’s sake no’ but when it eventually twisted in a different direction I breathed a huge sigh and relief and satisfaction. Throughout the script, there are not-so-subtle nods to its influences, in particular, Martin Scorsese’s films Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. Alike to a hall of mirrors in a funhouse, reflecting the themes, settings and images of 70s cinema but also reflecting images of the human condition.

This is where the film has come under some criticism. To give you an example of said criticism, Diana Saenger declared [those] ‘Who should see it: Only those with strong stomachs for bloody violence’. Whilst Joe Morgenstern wrote ‘If you’re feeling insufficiently anxious in your life, “Joker” could be just the ticket. If not look elsewhere to be entertained.’

Have a fucking day off. 

Arthur Fleck when he’s gone full Travis Bickle.

I guarantee that these same people will praise Taxi Driver as a masterpiece. Despite, it is significantly more violent, sharing identical themes and being released over 40 years ago, in a society where violence in art was deemed less conventional than usual. And what about the torture-porn Saw era? Joker’s violence is moderate in comparison to many recent films. Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a perfect example. Yet the culminating showdown of that film did not inspire criticism that weighed down its critical reception. Violence is an essential part of the human condition, it is not being glorified in Joker. As Tarantino once said when asked why there’s so much violence in his films, ‘Because it’s so much fun, Jan!’ Another argument is its depiction of mental illness and how it can incite the mentally ill to be violent. I see Joker as an example of how the mentally ill are often misunderstood and rejected by society. And personally, I think grounding Joker’s origin within the realms of mental health makes perfect sense, it heightens the film’s grim realism. But after all, did anyone genuinely expect a light-hearted tale about a comedian? No, you expect death, depravity and darkness. And fuck me, I enjoyed it.  

Now at the time of writing, Joker has smashed the box office record for the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time. Evidently, the Clown Prince of Crime has had the last laugh.