ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No.31: Destroyer

Earlier this year gritty thriller “Destroyer” (2019) stormed onto the big screen, with all of its rage, vengeance and gusto. Surprisingly it failed to blow up, instead crashing and burning at the box office making only $5.5 million in comparison to its $9 million budget. We can only really guess at what exactly caused the film to flop, but poor distribution and weak marketing certainly played their roles. Despite gunning for those golden gongs, especially with Nicole Kidman’s central phenomenal transformative performance, it received barely any attention on the awards circuit, although it has to be said organisations like The Academy have never been known for their good taste in cinema.

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ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry 37: Blinded By The Light

The screening I attended showed the making of this film and the journey of the director (Gurinder Chadha) and the man whose life influenced this film (Sarfraz Manzoor). I was moved and utterly sucked in just watching the preview! I enjoyed the making of this film; from the director reading Sarfraz's memoir and instantly wanting to make the film to both of them anxiously waiting to hear back from Springsteen after sending him the screenplay. Based on the memoir of Sarfraz Manzoor, the majority of the topics are universal, making them easier to relate. Chadha manages to capture the difficulties individuals endure on a day to day basis all while successfully allowing the music to aid in the narration. Although the story takes place on a different continent to the one I live, it resonated with me. Political issues, social tensions, identity issues, family dynamics, friendships, and many more topics are situations we’re are currently experiencing.

Review: Honey Boy

There hasn’t been a stronger or more talked about example childhood fame leading to a destructive transition into adulthood than the story of Shia LaBeouf. After becoming an absolute hit on Disney’s “Even Stevens” and other small movie roles, LaBeouf reached new heights in starring in “Disturbia” and the “Transformers” franchise – that is until people started to talk about something else with LaBeouf. With his countless run-ins with the law, the story of him sitting in a theater watching all of his films, and him telling everyone to “just do it” turning him into a living meme, he basically became the butt of the internet’s jokes.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry 38: Brave

A young girl has extraordinary skill in the defensive arts. She is independent, smart, humorous; in short, everything a mythic heroine should be. “Brave” (2012) captures the lush countryside of ancient Scotland in vibrant tones of green, brown and blue. We anticipate an epic journey for our heroine worthy of Joseph Campbell in the great tradition of Celtic folklore but are ultimately disappointed by a pedestrian plot that was clearly so much more at some point but has been reduced to clichés and confusion. At the heart of the film is the relationship between teenage Merida (Kelly MacDonald) and her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). Like so many others in a Disney/Pixar production, Merida is a princess on the cusp of being married.

ITOL TOP 50, Special Review: Faces Places

The Grand Dame of French cinema, Agnès Varda's work has ranged from the New Wave in “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1962), to feminism and friendship in “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” (1977), to rebellion in “Vagabond” (1985), to documenting the life of the poor in “The Gleaners and I” (2000). Her recent work has a more introspective feel; a reflection on what she films, and why. This is part of what would turn out to be her penultimate film, “Faces Places” (2017). A joyous and bittersweet look at the role of art in everyday life and work, as well as the role of the artist in society, “Faces Places” is an expansion of her work in self-reflection, a study in her constant quest to challenge herself as a filmmaker, and her love and attention to French rural and working life.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 40: I Am Not A Witch

A dry humour. An uncomfortable satire. A stunning fairytale tableaux. “I Am Not A Witch” (2017) has an impact that’s hard to describe. The film starts with a young Zambian girl Shula (non-professional actor Margaret Mulubwa) being accused of witchcraft. She is given the choice of being turned into a goat or declaring she is a witch. She chooses to say she is a witch and is taken to live in a ‘witch camp’. At the witch camp Shula is cared for and encouraged by the other women who all remain attached to long white ribbons at all times lest they fly away. Tourists arrive by minibus to leer at them as a local attraction and they’re loaned out to work long hours for someone else’s benefit.

Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

This is the female gaze like you’ve never seen it before. "Portrait"--a film set in Brittany, France in the 18th century--is a showcase of how the depths of insight and poignancy in a work of art comes as a result of the artist having a deep, loving, obsessive understanding of their subject. It is a film about two women on an island with hardly anyone else around them and the painfully, yet deliciously slow romance that materializes from a connection of their minds, bodies, and souls. The film is thematically rich and daring, yet never once seeks to shove a message or agenda down your throat; it’s a love story, plain and simple. Writer/director Céline Sciamma clearly isn’t interested in subverting history in an effort to appease the needs of a contemporary audience--yet in spite of that, this is a film brimming with human truths. It is reminiscent of the underpinnings and themes found Greek and Gothic literature and poetry. Tender, yet complex and multifaceted--this is in no way a political film, but rather, a subtle social commentary on the kinds of job opportunities available to women in the 18th century.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 41: Pariah

The Forever Young Film Club is a British organisation whose primary activity is to host screenings of coming-of-age movies. "Girlhood", "Booksmart" and "Mid90s" have all attracted large crowds, and the Club is clearly going from strength to strength. The main reason for this continuing success is down to the hard work of the three women behind the screenings, but there’s also the fact that, sooner or later, pretty much all of us have to grow up. Changing friendships, sex, sexuality, hopes, dreams and discovering your parent/s’ flaws are all part of moving from childhood to adulthood, which means that coming-of-age is perhaps cinema’s most relatable subgenre.

Dee Rees’ 2011 feature debut “Pariah” is one such film.

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