Emma – Review

Rated: U
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Josh O’Connor and Callum Turner
Directed by Autumn de Wilde
Written by Eleanor Catton (Screenplay) and Jane Austen (Novel)
Length: 125Mins

February 2020 saw Autumn de Wilde’s first feature length film hit the big screens, bringing a classic Austin Novel to life in a fresh, new remake. The task of producing yet another Jane Austin hit comes with the high pressure of competing with previous versions and some audience’s asking ‘why bother?’ but also paralleled with the reassurance that your story is a much loved classic that will ultimately draw in an audience.

This delightfully kooky retelling of Emma really brings forth the humour of the story. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and really allows the comedic text and situation to rise to the forefront. The jocular skills of Miranda Hart, Mia Goth and Bill Nighy bring laughs from start to finish while still creating characters that the audience warms to. The story is compelling, you fall into this wonderful, picturesque world and although I felt the first ten minutes a little disjointed, it doesn’t take long to be completely wrapped up in the wonderful world of Austin.

The story follows the titular character of Emma, known for her matchmaking ways, as she takes a young girl under her wing with hopes to set her up to marry a man of high esteem while sustaining her reputation and considering her own future. The story charmingly twists and turns giving the audience everything it could desire from the plot. I didn’t particularly warm to the character of Emma, but I love that within this story our leading lady makes mistakes. She messes up and as her character unravels, as demonstrated visually by her tight ringlet curls falling loose at climactic moments, we get to see a wonderful glimpse of the human condition. Someone making an error, having their behaviour questioned and then working to right their wrongs. Jane Austin herself wrote “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like” which I just love – the very personal approach to writing this character, deliberately giving her a storyline and characteristics which readers might dislike, wrapped in a personality that the author so carefully constructed. I feel like this was honoured in this adaptation, we the audience like Emma just enough to stay interested but not so much as to be blind to her poor choices.

A large portion of Autumn de Wilde’s professional experience is in photography and I felt like that was obvious from the first frame of this film. Each scene was so visually pleasing, so much care taken on production design, costume and carefully selected shots that frame the actors, timeline and mood of the scene. This film is a true piece of art with careful consideration around the framing of her shots.

Overall this film is just lovely, you will know from the poster whether you’re going to enjoy it or not. It’s a quirky period drama intertwined with hilarious humanity and a good dashing of romance. I felt like for a debut feature film Autumn de Wilde has burst onto the scene with bright, bold choices and I’m really excited to see what she does next.

Charlie’s Angels – Review

Rated: 12A
Cast: Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks
Directed by Elizabeth Banks
Written by Elizabeth Banks, David Auburn and Evan Spiliotopoulos
Length: 118mins

As soon as I heard about a third Charlie’s Angels movie I knew that people would love it or hate it. The first two films (2000, 2003), starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz, are not typically considered ‘great films’ and I would absolutely agree with the general consensus. The 2019 movie had a make over – new cast, writers and director, as well as a more contemporary approach to the whole thing. If, like me, you loved the idea of the first two films but cringed at the cheesy moments and physically impossible ‘stunts’ then I urge to you give this new film a go. If you hated everything about the originals then perhaps, I would suggest, this one isn’t for you.

This revamped story of female spies working for the Townsend Agency isn’t a retelling. It’s not replacing the characters of old and just jazzing up their story. It widens the world of the original, including a few nice subtle ‘nods’ to the past films without forcing it’s audience into confusion if this is the first Charlie’s Angels film they’ve watched. I think the one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this so much is because they made it that little bit more believable – in a world where so many films are about superheroes, I quite like that the film makers created a world with heroes that could, in theory, exist. Although it compliments the older films with little throwbacks, you don’t need to have seen them to watch and enjoy this film.

While not particularly complex, the story does have a couple of twists and turns which keep you gripped. The film is kept light by the comical moments, brilliantly executed (usually) by Kristen Stewart. My least favourite element was the somewhat comical villain, played by Sam Claflin. Don’t get me wrong, I really like him as an actor, but there are a few scenes where his squeals and slightly panto-esque facial expressions changed the tone of certain moments. I imagine they were choices made for comical effect, but for me, they weren’t really funny and cheapened it slightly.

One theme, explored in both the older movies and the new, is considering women and how they were/have been/can be perceived. I actually found the attempts from Banks to try to modernise the gender politics appropriately pitched – there were powerful messages of intelligence and strength alongside a sharper awareness of how men might underestimate the skills and physical competency of women which is nicely heightened. The leading trio are made to be sexy without being turned into sex objects. Equally, the film isn’t perfect, and it’s important to remember that one film will never cover all areas and, alone, wont impact the masses into social change.

If you pull this movie apart and analyse every frame, you’ll struggle to find cinematic genius or deeply powerful undertones. But I do believe that if you enjoy a bit of fast paced fun then you could thoroughly enjoy the watch and might find one or two moments that speak to you outside of the story.

Active Spectator Film Awards – THE RESULTS.

After an incredible year of film it’s always difficult to pin point one winner per category, to compare films that are completely different, with varied characters, styles and choices it’s always going to cause debate as to one ‘winner’. But as long as excellence prevails within the industry it’s always fun to take all elements into consideration and try to come to a decision. Now we know you’ve been waiting a whole week for these results, so without further ado…

Best Picture:

Little Women
Marriage Story
Parasite
1917

Winner: MARRIAGE STORY

Noah Baumbach brought us what is described as ‘a love story through the lens of divorce’. Although a topic that most wouldn’t choose to spend their evening contemplating, it’s undeniable that this film is an incredible piece of art. Powerful performances, brilliant writing and a real whole package delivered with the raw truthful feel that Baumbach is known for.

Best Lead Actress:

Renee Zellweger (Judy)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)

Winner: RENEE ZELLWEGER (JUDY)

Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Judy Garland during her final concert tour of England is simply outstanding. From transforming physically into Garland with gesture and movement to the phenomenal vocal performances of both spoken word and song, this was a no brainer. A really strong category but one of the easier choices.

Best Lead Actor:

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)

Winner: ADAM DRIVER (MARRIAGE STORY)

Adam Driver stepped into a whole new league with his work in Marriage Story, he was outstanding in every way and his performance propelled the telling of this incredible story in such an authentic way. A really difficult category to pick a winner from, but for us, Drivers performance is the one that stood out in a way that the others didn’t.

Best Supporting Actress:

Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Jessie Buckley (Judy)


Winner: FLORENCE PUGH (LITTLE WOMEN)

When it comes to the role of supporting actress, it’s undeniable that Florence Pugh’s performance not only succeeded on its own, but also elevated the acting of those around her. Despite the often immature and boisterous nature of her character, Pugh maintained a clear understanding of her status in relation to the others, but was still able to shine when articulating the ways in which Amy – the youngest of the four sisters – had matured as an artist, and a member of the family.

Best Supporting Actor:

Timothee Chalamet (Little Women)
Brad Pitt (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood)
Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell)

Winner: WILLEM DAFOE (THE LIGHTHOUSE)

Willem Dafoe perfectly emodies everything that The Lighthouse is. Terrifying, complex and mysterious, the power with which some lines and monologues are delivered are brilliantly overwhelming. From moments of careless cruelty to scenes where we can’t help but feel empathy for him, Dafoe’s range within this film is truly excellent.

Best Director:

Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
Sam Mendes (1917)
Bong-Joon Ho (Parasite)
Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)

Winner: BONG-JOON HO (PARASITE)

There are so many brilliant intricacies within Bong Joon-ho’s work that further the impact of his overall message. The themes presented within Parasite are so well articulated that they must be celebrated, and that’s why we’ve chosen him for best director.

Best Cinematography:

Roger Deakins (1917)
Marshall Adams (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie)
Hong Kyung-pyo (Parasite)
Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)

Winner: JARIN BLASCHKE (THE LIGHTHOUSE)

I know, I know, why did this beat 1917? It’s undeniable that Deakins work on the war drama was brilliantly effective, but so too was Blaschke’s work on The Lighthouse. The ambiguity emphasised by shots throughout the film, as well as how each moment was effectively under or overstated as a result of the camerawork fit perfectly within the film’s narrative – just what great cinematography should do.

Best Original Score:

Hildur Guonadottir (Joker)
Thomas Newman (1917)
Mark Korven (The Lighthouse)
Michael Abels (Us)

Winner: HILDUR GUONADOTTIR (JOKER)

The score that accompanies the twisted origin story for the world’s most beloved villain is so intoxicating that it’s almost tangible. Guonadottir’s unorthodox approach to composition presents an entirely knew way of making film music, bringing in the real-world sounds of the film to further immerse the audience. In a year of intelligent composing, Guonadottir stands above the rest.

Re-Watchability:

Fishermans Friends
Fighting With My Family
Yesterday
Little Women
Knives Out

Winner: FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY

Filled with great characters and great moments, Fighting With My Family is one of the most joyful films of the year. With moments of conflict that further immerse you in the future of these young wrestlers and their families, you can’t help but warm to those on-screen. As well as this, it’s great to see those in the film go on to bigger and better things, with Florence Pugh starring in both Midsommar and Little Women, Jack Lowden being nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award, and director Stephen Merchant continuing his great comedic work in JoJo Rabbit.

Tension-Builder:

Us
Midsommar
The Lighthouse
Parasite
Uncut Gems

Winner: MIDSOMMAR

Though 2019 delivered a wide array of terrifying films, Ari Aster’s Midsommar is perhaps the tensest of them all. As so many have highlighted, Aster takes everything that is so horrifying in the dark, and brings it into broad daylight, where no one can shy away. With a fairly extensive runtime, the intensity of this film only heightens throughout, drawing audiences on the edge of their seat the entire time.

Most Impactful:

Bombshell
1917
Parasite
Judy

Winner: 1917

1917 takes it’s audience on an emotional, edge of seat journey giving a glimpse of the horrors of war. Though not a film for people to sit down and watch over and over again it powerfully moves its audience with it’s extraordinary storytelling.

Based On A True Story:

Official Secrets
Richard Jewell
Fighting With My Family
The Irishman
Ford Vs Ferrari

Winner: FORD VS FERRARI

There have been some exceptional films made ‘based on a true story’ this year. Ford vs Ferrari (also known as Le Mans ’66) managed to draw in audiences that have no interest in cars or racing, purely because of their ability to tell the story. They honoured truth while captivating and entertaining audiences.

Escapism:

Avengers: Endgame
Jojo Rabbit
Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
Spiderman: Far From Home
Toy Story 4

Winner: AVENGERS: ENDGAME

It’s unmistakable that Avengers: Endgame utilised everything at it’s fingertips to transport it’s audience into the MCU. Whether by years of build up from previous films and getting to know the characters or through the phenomenal effects or performances; Avengers: Endgame is the perfect film to forget about reality and jump into an action/fantasy adventure.

Family Friendly:

Maleficent 2: Mistress Of Evil
Toy Story 4
Aladdin
Detective Pikachu
The Lion King

Winner: ALADDIN

In May 2019 Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin burst on to our cinema screens in a rush of colour, excitement and songs. With a slight twist on Disney’s animated version there’s something for everyone and is a great choice for the whole family to enjoy.

Laugh Out Loud:

Jojo Rabbit
Booksmart
Fighting With My Family
ZombieLand 2: Double-Tap
Jumanji: The Next Level

Winner: JOJO RABBIT

Perhaps its the surreal nature of the narratives context, maybe its the perfectly-timed delivery of the films dialogue, there’s something about JoJo Rabbit that can’t help but make you laugh. Taika Waititi’s ability to capture childhood imagination once again shines through in his latest film, and he manages to find humour and hope in even the darkest of situations.

So that’s it for this years Active Spectator Film Awards, we’re excited to see which films we’ll be discussing this time next year.

Parasite – Review

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Rated: 15
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Written by Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
Length: 132mins

Themes of class have echoed throughout many of masterful director Bong Joon-ho’s earlier works, ringing through the very literal interpretation of division within ‘Snowpiercer,’ to the more complex relationship between employment and status within ‘Okja,’ and in the directors 2019 release, ‘Parasite,’ the attention towards such an idea becomes almost deafening.

Such is the nature of this film, every moment within the narrative is so integral to the overarching story that it becomes difficult to speak on many of the film’s specific moments without risk of spoilers, but I’ll do my best to articulate the brilliance of Parasite without giving anything away. The story follows that of Ki-Taek’s (Song Kang-Ho) family, who are all struggling with work until he’s offered employment as a tutor at the eccentrically-rich home of the Parks family. It is from this pivotal moment that the complexity and intricacies of the narrative thematically develop, and the events of the film build to scenes of comedy, conflict and tension in a brilliant manner.

On the surface, it may be easy to interpret such a synopsis as a simple representation of class division, but as a contemporary piece of art, Parasite applies the contextually modern surroundings of the extreme contrast between the super-rich and poor which has emerged within recent decades, not only in South Korea, but across the world, within the mise-en-scene of the film – from the architecturally beautiful Park family home, to the acceptance of pollution which riddles the lives of Ki-Taek’s family. It isn’t just this approach to socio-political ideologies which has been adapted for a modern audience by screenwriters Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, but also the status of characters within such a divide. The wider audience of these screenings will empathise with that of Ki-Taek’s family’s experiences, as they are won over by the luxuries of wealth and become possessive through their envy. Socially, we are aligned with them, but morally there is a corruption within such support, as their actions are born out of a selfishness that further dishonours audience expectations of protagonists, which only becomes more prevalent as the narrative progresses. The contextually relevant complexities of Parasite’s themes is just one of many reasons why the film is truly brilliant.

Another element which attributes to Parasite’s excellence is found within the performances. The frequency at which relationships change as a result of narrative events is highly persistent, and yet the natural way in which each performer articulates their character feels completely effortless. In particular, Song Kang-ho’s portrayal of the father of the family is one of both excellent comedic and dramatic timing – often within close proximity. A frequent collaborator with Bong Joon-ho, Kang-ho has been described by the director as being capable of articulating even the most complex of emotions through his voice alone, and it’s within these intricate moments of character that Kang-ho, and the rest of the film’s performers excel.

There is so much that can be said for the intelligence that Bong Joon-ho applies to this film, whether that be found within the characteristic nature of the cinematography, or the perfectly paced rhythm of the editing, but to delve too deep into such areas of film form would be to risk spoilers, and more than anything, ‘Parasite’ is a film which everyone should experience with as little prior knowledge as possible. Though for some the film may be slightly harder to access than usual, that pricier film ticket or longer drive are entirely worth it when given the opportunity to watch a master filmmaker at work.

Active Spectator Film Awards 2019/2020 – Shortlist

Hello Ladies and Gentleman, and welcome to the first and (currently) most popular Active Spectator Film Awards ever! We’ve comprised a list of the 2019/20 film releases that we think deserve recognition for their brilliant addition to the world of cinema. Have a look and see what we believed was worthy of celebration from an excellent year for film, and check back in a weeks’ time (Sunday the 16th) when we’ll be sharing the winners for each category, as well as little bit of reasoning for why we think they deserved the top prize.

The nominations are…

Best Picture:

  • Little Women
  • Marriage Story
  • Parasite
  • 1917

Best Lead Actress:

  • Renee Zellweger (Judy)
  • Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
  • Florence Pugh (Midsommar)
  • Saoirse Ronan (Little Women)

Best Lead Actor:

  • Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
  • Adam Driver (Marriage Story)
  • Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse)

Best Supporting Actress:

  • Florence Pugh (Little Women)
  • Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
  • Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
  • Jessie Buckley (Judy)

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Timothee Chalamet (Little Women)
  • Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)
  • Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)
  • Sam Rockwell (Richard Jewell)

Best Director:

  • Greta Gerwig (Little Women)
  • Sam Mendes (1917)
  • Bong-Joon Ho (Parasite)
  • Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)

Best Cinematography:

  • Roger Deakins (1917)
  • Marshall Adams (El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie)
  • Hong Kyung-pyo (Parasite)
  • Jarin Blaschke (The Lighthouse)

Best Original Score:

  • Hildur Guðnadóttir (Joker)
  • Thomas Newman (1917)
  • Mark Korven (The Lighthouse)
  • Michael Abels (Us)

It isn’t always just the most ambitious or dramatic films which deserve the most attention, and so we’ve comprised a list of a few more unusual categories. Take a look at what we’ve nominated and have a think about what you want to see win. Perhaps you’ll be reminded of a few smaller releases that you missed last year, and can catch up on in 2020!

Re-Watchability:

  • Fishermans Friends
  • Fighting With My Family
  • Yesterday
  • Little Women
  • Knives Out

Tension-Builder:

  • Us
  • Midsommar
  • The Lighthouse
  • Parasite
  • Uncut Gems

Most Impactful:

  • Bombshell
  • 1917
  • Parasite
  • Judy
  • Marriage Story

Based On a True Story:

  • Official Secrets
  • Richard Jewell
  • Fighting With My Family
  • The Irishman
  • Ford vs Ferrari

Escapism:

  • Avengers: Endgame
  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
  • Spiderman: Far From Home
  • Toy Story 4

Family-Friendly:

  • Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil
  • Toy Story 4
  • Aladdin
  • Detective Pikachu
  • The Lion King

Laugh Out Loud:

  • Jojo Rabbit
  • Booksmart
  • Fighting With My Family
  • Zombieland 2: Double-Tap
  • Jumanji: The Next Level

Bombshell – Review

Rating: 15
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow
Directed by Jay Roach
Written by Charles randolph
Length: 109mins

In a society where everyone has heard of the #MeToo movement, it was only going to be a matter of time before the filmmaking world started to bring some of these stories to the forefront. A potentially tricky task due to the current (and ongoing) unearthing of the horrors around sexual abuse and assault within it’s own industry; though vitally important. It’s worth saying that for anyone who has suffered in this area, this film could present emotional triggers so please only watch this film with a clear understanding of the themes.

Bombshell tells the true story surrounding the downfall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (Lithgow) – the plot focuses on 3 career driven women as the audience witnesses moments of inappropriate behaviour and see a shift as Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) files a sexual assault law suit against Ailes, the concern of backlash from Megyn Kelly (Theron) and the fresh faced fictional character Kayla (Robbie) as she’s starting her career at Fox. There has been some backlash over the casting of Margot Robbie and the creation of her character, some angry and confused at the introduction of a fictional character while there were many real life people to pick from and include in the story. I can’t really comment on this as other than to say I can see why Robbie was cast in this role and feel like her character progressed the story. We can see similarities between the three women all at different ages having to deal with the comments and pressure thrown their way. Where Bombshell succeeds is in showing how the predatory and sinister abuse plays out in the corporate environment, it really demonstrates the manipulative control involved which can help the audience understand on a deeper level through empathy.

My main struggles with this movie is the lack of interaction between our leads. I understand that the choices to have three storylines highlights the enormity of the issue, particularly in this case of Roger Ailes, but the disjointed story hopping does mean that the individual storylines aren’t particularly fleshed out and you need to pay attention to keep up with it all. I feel somewhat conflicted while considering the movie as a whole – if it wasn’t based upon truth and around such an important topic then I’m not sure I would have valued it to the same degree and yet because of those factors I really did. I think it’s such an important film and it deserves an audience.

Bombshell has a textured, focussed, audience/character togetherness that truly taps into empathetic side of human nature for it’s audience. It doesn’t portray it’s heroines as perfect, which in a way allows us to relate and engage even more with the fact two of the key storylines are mirrored from reality. It’s a movie that has stuck in my mind and I find new aspects of it interesting each time I consider it. For me the main takeaway was a deep sadness, and heartbreak for victims. It really struck me how difficult it must be to discuss; from a shame and embarrassment through to a feeling of helplessness and being manipulated, it truly broke my heart. I can only hope that society continues to progress in this area, keeps highlighting issues and provides the care that victims deserve. Movies like this will help people talk, bring people together and hopefully keep us taking steps in the right direction.