News Reel & Blog

Written by Flora Kimberley on 30th May 2019

This year Cannes Film Festival has received more publicity than ever before due to the #Metoo protest from last year, the dismissal of any film originally shown on a Svod platform, as well as the premiere screening of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. This year Cannes took a big step towards diversity and the mainstream, stepping away from its swish art-house persona. This is particularly prominent in the inclusion of a variety of horror films and psychological thrillers which are not featured at the festival often.

The festival highlighted the horror genre immediately, screening Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die. The deadpan comedy features performances from Bill Murray, Chloё Sevigny, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and Iggy Pop and depicts the fight against 21st-century zombies. It takes inspiration from the George A Romero cult classic zombie films, but with a twist. These zombies were “dead” before they physically died. Conformism, capitalism and consumerism ate away at their souls whilst they were alive. This is a modern film taking a modern stance on what it means to be a zombie, subverting our expectations while making a political statement. The horror theme continued with Bacurau, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Jury Prize-winning psychedelic dark neo-western portraying the story of a small Brazilian village that is deleted from Google Maps after the death of their matriarch. Due to this, the village ends up being attacked by homicidal American tourists who are on a human safari. The film itself becomes an allegory for the value of cultural memory, suggesting that humans become vulnerable when severed from their past. The horror of the film is the fragility of technology. Our reliance has made us susceptible as we don’t need to have our own thoughts or memories anymore, it is saved and provided for us. The psychological horror also made an appearance at Cannes in Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. The film stars Wilem Defoe and Robert Patterson and is supposedly a career best for both actors. It is shot in black and white and its witty and comically absurd script evokes a sense of Samuel Beckett intertwining natural speech with archaic sailors language. The Lighthouse shows the two characters slow descent into madness as they tend for a dilapidated lighthouse. Visceral and violent, it shows the shocking impact isolation can have on the human psyche.

This year, Cannes celebrated some momentous occasions proving that they are moving away from their “boys club” reputation. After being slated last year for the lacklustre representation of female directors, this year four female directors (Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Justine Triet and Céline Sciamma) were selected to have their work in the main competition. Although that doesn’t necessarily sound like a great achievement, it was the best female showing since 2011. However, it is still perplexing that Mati Diop is officially the first woman of colour to ever show at Cannes film festival; she was later awarded The Grand Prix prize for her film Atlantique. The film is set in Dakar, Senegal and follows the story of two young lovers who are torn apart when one leaves the country. The story falls into the trope of a vengeful ghost story while showing the willingness of the rich to bury the poor to create the future they are building. However, the fundamental historic moment of the festival is the first South Korean Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon-Ho. His film Parasite was voted for unanimously by the panel causing it to be one of the most remarkable victories in the festival’s history. Parasite is a darkly comic thriller with flashes of violence depicting a very poor family who become servants to a rich family. It is a candid portrayal of the class system in South Korea and the inherent truths about what it means to be classless.

Overall, it is clear that Cannes has recognised that it must step into a few modern tropes in order to stick to their initial roots. Similar to Tarantino, Cannes is saying “I'm just saying I made this movie for myself and everybody else is invited."

Here are a couple of recommendations from the stand out films:

Pain and Glory- Pedro Almodóvar- An autobiographical piece showing his health crisis and mental anguish following the death of his mother. Antonio Banderas won the award for Best Actor in a career-best performance according to critics.

Sorry, we missed you- Ken Loach- Cannes golden boy Loach writes a social realistic drama about the struggle of British families living and working on zero hour contracts.

Portrait of a young girl on fire- Céline Sciamma- A drama depicting the love of an artist and her muse and how a relationship can develop from complementing artistic values.

The Unknown Saint- Alaa Eddine Aljem- A thief on the run digs a hole for his spoils. After he gets out of prison he sees that people have begun worshipping the grave as a burial ground for an unknown saint. This is a comedy depicting the absurdity of belief while examining the importance of it.

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 23rd May 2019

After ten years, eight series and seventy-three episodes Game of Thrones has come to an end. The HBO series finished on Sunday night in the US and Monday evening for the UK. While the conclusion has left several people unsatisfied and disgruntled, but you can’t deny the impact the show has had, and how it has redefined the media industry forever. It leaves behind a void similar to shows like Breaking bad, The Sopranos and The Wire. Which means we now have to search for the next show to binge (at least until the prequel airs).

Firstly, following the rise of Game of Thrones Sci-Fi/fantasy shows have become the fashion, with them accumulating steadily, and with even more in production currently. The apparent replacement of who will continue the fantasy legacy is the Game of Thrones prequel. The untitled project begins shooting in the summer with Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts attached. The project is set five thousand years before the current series and will only feature one familiar character, the Night King. HBO has stated that the narrative will be “the horrifying secrets of Westeros's history to the true origin of the White Walkers, the mysteries of the East to the Starks of legend”. However, while we wait there are other shows to engage with. The television adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials which just released it’s first trailer. The HBO and BBC co-production is set in an alternate world, where one’s soul is held within a shape-shifting animal. The plot features an orphan who goes in search of a kidnapped friend which then takes her on a terrifying journey. This show emulates the Game of Thrones ethos because of its sharp dialogue and complex plot twists. In the coming months, there are many shows to fill the fantasy market with Amazon’s Lord of the Rings prequel, Apple’s For all Mankind and Disney’s The Mandalorian.

Now Game of Thrones has finished the world will be in search for the next ground-breaking show. Stranger Things is a pop culture contender with the third season coming to Netflix on July 4th. There is already a cult fascination with Stranger Things due to the mystical elements and innovative performances emulating the original mystique of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Set in the small town of Hawkins Indiana, a young boy goes missing suddenly; so his friends begin to investigate the peculiar secrets and mysterious goings-on of their hometown. Similarly, HBO and Foxtel’s Big Little Lies returns for season two in June after critical and viewer acclaim. The show has an innovative take on female’s role in society taking a darkly comic stance on ex-husbands, second wives, schoolyard scandal and the dangerous things we tell ourselves. With stars like Nicole Kidman and Reece Witherspoon starring, it has the potential to become a cultural phenomenon. In the production line, Ryan Murphy’s The Politician could prove as popular as his previous hits. Ryan Murphy has become one of the most powerful men in television after creating cult shows such as Glee, American Horror Story, American Crime Story and Pose. The Politician is based on a boy who decides he is destined to be president with every season following another campaign he runs throughout his life. It is a comedy told in the style of Boyhood whilst featuring a young diverse cast, it has all the ingredients to gain a cult viewership.

If none of these take your fancy here are our recommendations from the Searchlight office:

• Amy- Glow (Netflix), American Crime Story (Netflix) and Dead to Me (Netflix)

• Victoria- The Stairway Killer (Netflix), Tin Star (Sky), Bird Box (Netflix) and any of the Marvel shows on Netflix

• Trinity- Titans (Netflix), Westworld (Sky), Queen Sugar (Hulu) and Black Monday (Netflix)

• Daniel- Sopranos (Now TV), Flowers (Netflix), Utopia (Amazon) and True Detective (Amazon)

• Flora- Altered Carbon (Netflix), A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix), Lucifer (Netflix), Derry Girls (4OD), Peaky Blinders (BBC Iplayer) and Line of Duty (Netflix)

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 9th May 2019

The theatre in London had a renaissance just after the English Reformation when the first public playhouse being built in Shoreditch in 1576 by James Burbage. From humble beginnings, London’s “Theatreland” is thriving with some of the biggest names in the industry performing. Musicals have always been popular across the stage, but some of the most successful musicals have also become films.

In the last three years, some of the highest grossing have been musicals (Beauty and the Beast and The Greatest Showman) whilst others have even been nominated for Oscars (La La Land and A Star is Born). From older more classic musicals through to the resurgence of the modern musical, Hollywood has a soft spot for them continually putting them into production.

A Steven Spielberg remake of West Side Story is in production, set for release in December 2020 and starring Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) as Tony. The original was released in 1961 based in New York City. The retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet depicted a love story that overshadowed gang and racial tensions within the neighbourhood. The songs illuminate the passions of youth with a young Natalie Wood (odd casting choice in hindsight) giving a beautiful classic performance as Maria. Whilst the production was a disaster with troubles to the point where half the cast was not singing; the choreography (Jerome Robbins) and the score ( Leonard Bernstein) helped Robert Wise (Director) win the Best Picture Oscar for the film. The remake of this mid-century modern classic could be outstanding and, without a doubt, be a box office powerhouse.

In 2016, La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s masterpiece ,scooped up fourteen Oscar nominations tying it with Titanic and All About Eve for most nominations in Oscar history. The film itself became an ode to Hollywood nostalgia representing the need for a musical resurgence. Musically, Justin Hurwitz created a homage to the classic musicals of the ’40s and ’50s whilst giving it a new wave French romanticism feel through the Jazz piano elements (which Ryan Gosling learnt to play from scratch for the role). The film was criticised for the portrayal of music, showing that both the director and writers were clueless on real Jazz rather than the cliché that they presented. However, despite some negative critique, the film walked away with a staggering five Oscars including Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Score.

Then there is the fan favourite musical film: Mamma Mia. The original was released in 2008 with an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Piers Brosnan, Julie Walters and Colin Firth. The musical features all of Abba’s greatest sing-along hits that had all audiences dancing along. With a fantastic reaction from the audience, ten years later the sequel Mamma Mia; Here we go again was released with an again stellar reaction. Mamma Mia has become one of the greatest musical film hits in the last decade making $230 million globally.

However, my modern musical favourite is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Writer, Director, Actor and all-around superstar John Cameron Mitchell collaborated with Stephen Trask (Songwriter) to create an off-Broadway musical. The narrative they came up with is the story of a Glam- Rock fan and nightclub singer who has been left with a nub from a botched sex reassignment operation. The film uses dynamic camera angles, montage and animation to show how Hedwig and her band shadow a Rock Star who stole her music and who she fell in love with. The witty script and political stance on gender make Hedwig and the Angry Inch a modern classic because they reflect a more contemporary mindset.

Overall, it is clear that the renaissance of musicals on the big screen will continue, bringing the genre  into a more modern context and to a new audience.  

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Written by Flora Kimberley on 2nd May 2019

It’s time to address the age-old question, which is better the book or the TV show?

The Publishing and Media industries have always co-existed borrowing ideas from each other. The world of literature still flourishes; recently television has taken a big step towards captivating narrative whilst adding vibrant visuals. In recent years many of the biggest shows on television are based on novels, think of shows like Game of Thrones, The Night Manager, Big Little Lies, Sherlock and Sharp Objects.

One of the most successful transitions from the novel into TV series is the Hulu drama The Handmaids Tale. The dystopian thriller written by Margret Atwood depicts a nation struggling with a decreasing birth rate, which causes the more fertile women to essentially become human incubation chambers. The series has gained critical acclaim and its first season won eight Primetime Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series. The Handmaid’s Tale has already shot its third series which is set for release on the 5th of June.

After the success of The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu has commissioned more dramas based on classic novels. For example, they have just released the trailer for a new limited series based on Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Brooklyn born Joseph Heller was a bombardier pilot during world war two taking part in over sixty dogfights. His rebellious nature shrewdly discerned a paradox within the army regulations surrounding pilots mental health; a pilot could be grounded for being insane but if the pilot thought he was going insane the army considered them sane enough to fly. The witty absurd nature of the novel makes you laugh (sometimes out loud) whilst simultaneously exploring the conflicting dichotomy of the Army. The producers have made some fantastic choices to update the classic to give it a modern twist. They have placed it in a contemporary setting and added dynamic dogfights to captivate a new audience for the show. The cast is outstanding with big names such as Hugh Laurie, Geroge Clooney, Kyle Chandler and Christopher Abbott. The casting of George Clooney in the role of Lieutenant Scheisskopf is inspired, considering this character is at constant odds with himself as his love of parades leaves him too busy to cope with his wife’s libido. The co-production between Paramount TV and Sky Italia is set to premiere online on the 17th May and is expected to be an outstanding success.

Another novel that is being adapted to screen is the 1990 collaborative fantasy classic Good Omens; The nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter penned by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This novel follows an uneasy alliance between an angel and a demon whilst they try and save the world from the apocalypse. Amazon and the BBC have decided to take on co-production rights commissioning Gaiman to adapt the novel into a comic apocalyptic miniseries. This will be streamed on Prime video on the 31st of May and then six months later it will air weekly on BBC 2. Good Omens is set to star David Tennant (Crowley, demon) and Michael Sheen (Aziraphale, angel). Tennant himself has struggled to explain what the show is like in an interview he said “it’s like a sort of fairy tale with a kind of very real-world setting. It’s a farce and it’s also deeply serious”. The rest of the cast reads like a who’s who of Hollywood, featuring Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), Frances McDormand (Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri), Derek Jacobi (Gladiator/The Kings Speech), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Brian Cox (Human Universe) and Jack Whitehall (Bad Education).

Overall, it is clear that adaption is one of the cornerstones for the broadcast industry. As the king of adaptation, Stephen King says “books and movies are like apples and oranges. They are both fruit, but taste completely different.”

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