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.

Nurse Jackie


The Americans have pulled another TV rabbit out of the hat.  This time originally commissioned by “Showtime”.

Edie Falco (in her first major appearance since Carmela Soprano) lights the screen up with fire in this tremendous series, directed so far (perhaps always) by another of my favourites, Steve Buscemi.

If you’ve missed the first five episodes catch up on the iplayer or on SKY Anytime where the series to date has taken residence for the next week or so.

It is utterly electrifying.

It’s a comedy drama set in an NYC General Hospital where the consultants/Doctors are overpaid demigods (or so they reckon) and the nurses are there to do all the work.

Falco is addicted to pain relieving drugs (which she is illegally supplied by her lover, the hospital pharmacist who she services every day at noon).

Meanwhile she lives a secret home life with her bar-tending hubby and two daughters, one who draws skies with no sun – she is ridiculously paranoid for a 9 year old.

It’s all, of course, in the writing (you said it again.  Ed) as I’ve said before.  But it’s true and this is written sublimely giving Falco free reign to deliver one-liners, moments of pathos, passion, hysteria and sheer vilness.  Surely there cannot have been a better written female TV part since, erm, Carmela Soprano.

But Falco makes this a masterclass as she holds the screen.  She must be in at least 95% of the action with her outstanding ensemble cast behind her to act as willing stooges.  My favourite is Zoey Barkow, Nurse Jackie’s poor put upon (but actually secretly loved) intern.

It is quite simply, the best and I’m intrigued to see how it develops.  Series two has already been commissioned.  Doh.  So it’s here for a bit yet.

Enjoy.  I’m off to watch Glee!

The Mystery of Irma Vep by the Lyceum Theatre Company and Horsecross


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Mark Thomson, The Lyceum’s Artistic Director, often talks before his shows of the need for theatre, and The Lyceum in particular, to entertain.

Now, entertainment comes in many forms.  I’d list The Shining, Apocalypse Now and Hunger among my favourite and most entertaining movies but they are not everyone’s cup of tea; nor are they uplifting.  My wife wouldn’t have described Hunger as entertaining, that’s for sure.  So the notion of entertainment is open to considerable interpretation.

But let’s get this straight from the off; Irma Vep is PURE entertainment.

I laughed until I broke out into a sweat.

I cried and howled with laughter.

I gasped with laughter.

This show is utter class from the first, and I mean the first, moment the curtain rises and we see Andy Gray as he walks onto stage sporting a fake wooden leg and the limitations that places on straightforward movement.  John Cleese would have applauded loudly.

This sets the scene for farce of epic proportions.  Not Pythonesque though.  It’s more in the tradition of Scots Panto.  There are many nods in the direction of Russel Hunter, Walter Carr, John Grieve (is he related to the director I wonder, indeed assume) Francie and Josie and, king of them all, Stanley Baxter.  Which is to heap a great deal of praise on the heads of the quite astonishing performances (in terms of characterisation, timing, energy and wit) of Andy Gray and Steven McNicoll.

Honestly, they will have you rolling in the aisles.

As I said, Panto, and slapstick, is the predominant genre here, although the show’s story is actually a pastiche of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca with a bunch of Hammer House of Horror thrown in for good measure.

I cannot imagine what the script must have read like because it is SO Scottish, so ‘of the people’ and so personal to Gray and McNicoll that you wonder what was on the page.

Each of them plays about four parts but they interchange through very quick changes from scene to scene all night and at times it is breathless and, as a consequence, even more hilarious.

McNicoll’s Jane Twisden is possibly the dominant role (the evil maid in Rebecca) played like the tea lady in Father Ted at maximum volume throughout.  It’s so beautifully crafted and voiced that it leaves you gasping again and again.

Gray’s best moments are in his Lady Enid Hillcrest character which moulds Stanley Baxter and Mark Walliams into an unholy combination.

But seriously, there is not a single moment of weakness in any of the characters they play.

The direction by Ian Grieve is faultless and the wonderful set is a key part of the show with its myriad of doorways from where every character appearance and disappearance heralding yet another belly laugh each time they appear.  It’s ingenious.

I cannot praise this show highly enough.

OK it’s got an odd name but don’t let that put you off.  (It’s an anagram of I’m a Perv by the way!)

Go.  Go now.  No, now.  Don’t think about it.  Just go. No, do.   Do it. Do it now.   Go do it.  Go on.  Go on, go on, go on.  Now.  That’s it.  Get down there.  Now. Yes, now.  Go on now.

Gilmore Girls


Is there anyone else out there who is as obsessed by this programme as me. We have it on series link and I can’t wait to see what has happened next.

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If you’ve missed this programme, now in it’s final season, it’s about single mother, Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory. They live in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Conneticut. The series explores family, friendship, generational divides and social class.

The show has won an Emmy and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

I don’t know how I will cope when it finally finishes

I should just point out that Jeana wrote this post, In no way do I endorse its contents. Indeed I hate this programme. Mark

It was a post for the ladies really, but there might be some men out there who like it.


Burn after reading by The Coen Brothers


Even geniuses can have a bad day at the office.

Frankly, the best thing about this movie is the poster.  The rest of it adds up to a whole heap of nothing.  Unquestionably the Coens’ poorest movie; it just never gets going.  The trouble starts with the writing which has its moments, not many of them mind you, and only then if you like the idea of John Malcovitch with Tourettes.  There is an amusing moment with a highly complex sex toy so it’s strange to see them sacrifice the more subtle end of their humour register for fairly crass fare.

It just feels like something the brothers dashed off in their lunch break.  The plot is pretty wooly and the point of it?  Well, I could see no great subliminal message.

Brad Pitt must have gone to the screenings and thought.”OMG what was I thinking of.  I am awful, like A-W-F-U-L.”  He’s not just bad, he’s criminally bad with his truly nauseating campy, gay but not gay, creepy yukky characterisation of a bungling idiot. (I didn’t like him in this).  But, maybe it’s just me, every lady in the audience guffawed every time he appeared on screen, at what I know not.

George Clooney just about passes muster as a paranoid serial womaniser and the best of the ladies (as per usual) is Frances McDormand, but again it’s far from her towering performance in Fargo and Tilda Swinton goes through the motions.

It is such a shame that this, The Coens’ first major league film – as a result of the success of No Country – had to be so poor.

Eric and ern


I watched a Morecombe and Wise best of on TV last night and they showed this drama.  To call it a sketch would be to totally devalue it.

It is probably their finest hour.  and, yes, here it is.

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A one-liner that had escaped my attention for some reason – until now – beat it though.

As a police car speeds past their homoerotic bedroom, sirens blazing,  Eric leaps out of bed adorned in silk pyjamas and dressing gown and declares

“He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he?”

They do not come funnier.