Eighth Grade: Movie Review.


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I don’t imagine many 13 year olds have been nominated for a Golden Globe, although some brief research reveals that Jodie Foster won  an Academy Award at the age of 13 for Taxi Driver.

Jodie Foster had an important role in the aforementioned movie but she was playing opposite De Niro at his best so she didn’t have to OWN the movie.

Elsie Fisher OWNS Eighth Grade in a remarkable way and that’s why she was nominated this year.  Such a shame she didn’t win because she deserved to.

It opens on an extreme close up monologue of her talking into her laptop’s Photo Booth as she records a self help YouTube film that nobody will ever watch. It closes on the same but with the camera on her face.

In between we experience her life, not her story; her being, her existence.

What’s unusual about the opening is that we see Fisher, warts (well zits) and all, nothing hidden. All her blemishes exposed to the world.  Later in an uncomfortable scene we see her at a pool party with a similar degree of intensity.

It’s not pervy, it’s just honest.

This film steers an excruciating course through everything that we all went through, as a thirteen year old.  When I say ‘all’ I exclude prom queens from the list because they, in their bubbles of popularity, are immune to the absolute horror show that is being 13, shy and free of attraction from (but not for) the opposite sex.

Add to this the fact that Fisher (playing Kayla Day) is a single child with a single, male, parent (played sympathetically by Josh Hamilton – he has one moment that’s so laugh out loud in a mall that I nearly choked), and the spots, and the puppy fat, and the panic attacks all add up to one hell of an eighth grade (the end of middle school) for Kayla.

Fisher’s performance is mind-blowingly good.

The direction by first time director (and stand up comedian ) Bo Burnham looks like the work of a seasoned pro.  It’s stunning.

But the reason I wanted to see the movie, in the first place, was because it was scored by Anna Meredith and the pool party scene I referred to earlier is presented on top of her epic tuba piece called Nautilus.  It’s like a cross between Jaws and National Lampoon’s Vacation.  The music which BURSTS onto the soundtrack is cranked up to the max and does not disappoint.  Bravo Anna.

At one or two points the movie drops into slightly too low a gear, but when it is performing at its most efficient it is at turns hilarious, toe curling, deeply moving, cruel, redemptory and hopeful.

It’s a truly beautiful work of art and I urge you to see it, preferably in the cinema on its very limited UK release.

 

 

 

 

Lilith: The Jungle Girl by Sisters Grimm at The Traverse: Edinburgh Fringe Review.


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Sisters Grimm is a multi-award winning Melbourne based experimental queer theatre group and Lilith is the barmy brainchild of Ash Flanders (who plays Lilith) and Declan Greene.

The three person cast includes Candy Bowers as the hilarious Sir Charles Penworth a Dutch based brain surgeon and Genevieve Giuffre as his assistant, Helen Travers, who is deeply in love with him (her as it happens).

The show concerns the civilisation of a feral jungle girl Lilith, who has been brought up by Lions in the jungles of Borneo and has an irrational fear of Penguins.

From the off it is obvious that Lilith is actually a man as Ash Flanders makes his entrance completely naked and ‘soaped up’ in a pink gunge that makes the vinyl floor of the set a veritable ice rink and creates many off script moments of hilarity.

Bowers’ hilarious Victorian bombast creates belly laughs a plenty.  Her performance is at the heart of the show but all three are excellent.  In a particularly amusing ongoing gag he can’t (or won’t) pronounce Helen’s name correctly; it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

There is a degree of Pygmalion about this because if Lilith cannot reach an acceptable level of civilisation and language she will be lobotomised by Sir Charles (or worse).

The threat pushes her onwards and the transformation is real until it all goes wrong and we are transported to London Zoo where Bowers has now assumed the persona of a South London Rapping Lion.

It is again hysterical.

This show is brilliant.

I’m not sure it has any deep meaning, but with its mix of a fine ‘Ripping Yarn’, slapstick, gender bending, extreme full frontal nudity and terrific acting it’s an absolute treat.

4.5*****

 

 

Richard Gadd’s Monkey See, Monkey do at Summerhall: Review, Edinburgh Fringe


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I was taking no risks seeing this.  Voted the hit of last year’s Fringe Gadd has toured the world performing it over 200 times.

what I was not prepared for was its kick in the heart emotional trauma.

This is billed as comedy but it’s so much more than that. (But, yes, it’s outrageously funny.)

The ‘more’ is an entire treatise on sexual abuse and the resultant depression.

The monkey of the title is Gadd’s subconscious creating massive panic attacks and extreme self doubt.  The show is a metaphor about running away from money demons (the monkey on your back) and so, to bring that metaphor to life Gadd performs it from a tread mill and his vest top gradually saturates as his one hour run slowly overwhelms him physically.

But the low-fi technical brilliance of the show with his sound and video designer, Phil, is what makes it so original and ultimately extremely moving.

My wife is not one to demonstrate her emotions by way of leading a standing ovation.

Until last night.

Bravo.

Bravo indeed Richard Gadd.

*****

Ted


I’m not going to dwell on this .

Ted is so funny you actually have to look behind you to check if anyone else in the cinema is actually phoning the police to report you for having thoughts that are

a) illegal

b) illegal

c) socially unacceptable

d) sick

e) illegal

f) perverse.

The good news though is that between the bits where it is so funny that you should actually hand yourself in for treatment/councelling it’s really rather dull.

So  as the film progresses you’re like “this is a ten man” to “this is a two man”  (ah, only if you are sad as me that I think in IMDB mode at every movie I ever see.

So it’s like 10, 2, 10, 2, 2, 2, 9, 5, 10, 2, 2, 2, 10, 9, 2, 2, all the way through and the average of that is about 6 so I’ll give it a 7.

It’s really funny (but boring).

The “I can smell your wife’s pussy from here” by a Teddy Bear in a job interview gag is outstanding.

The Angels’ share. A must see feel good movie with a bitter core


Wow, Ken Loach’s 21st movie (might be more) further deepens his fondness for documentary style movie making in Scotland.  As a child I was supremely moved by Kes.  My Uncle took me to see it as a 7 year old and it scared me.  The anger and bitterness of a Northern life of poverty, dominated by a glowering Brian Glover as the bullying PE teacher and the innocence of the lead character played by David Bradley left me all aquiver.  Since then I’ve followed Loach almost universally.  Riff Raff, Raining Stones, My Name is Joe, Carla’s Song, Looking for Eric.  All brilliant.  All gritty, all uncompromising.

Looking For Eric raised his box office bar by ingeniously casting Cantona and described as a comedy it had the odd laugh, but was no comedy.  And this in some way compares.

This man is a national treasure.

And, so, to a movie billed as a proper comedy.

Well, it is very, very funny.  Paul Lavety has made sure of that with a brittle acerbic, cynical script that bowls along spewing expletives faster than you can say “see you next Tuesday”.  The plot itself is a little fantastical but you can forgive that because the performances are extraordinary, not least by British TV stalwart John Henshaw in a career defining role.  In some ways it’s Henshaw’s movie and the denouement, which features him, is extremely moving.

I said it was a bit fantastical but the overall effect is fantastic.  At one moment gut wrenchingly violent.  The completely believable East end of Glasgow Gang culture that it’s set amidst is quite shocking at times, and at others it’s laugh out loud especially with its liberal use of top notch gratuitous swearing.

Don’t take your mother (although my mother had been the week before me and loved it!).

This is a great movie.  A certainty for award victories and a life affirming way to spend an afternoon or evening in the cinema.

8.5 out of 10.

This is England 86


This is starting to confuse me.

Tonight’s episode was lampoonishly humorous. (But only funny in parts.)

And then horrifyingly depressing.

The rape was just awful.

The humour at times, likewise.

It may be the greatest combination of emotional manipulation ever.

But it might be the worst.

The jury is out.