An unsolved mystery, especially one as peculiar as the case of the Lizzie Borden murders, should be like gold dust for filmmakers looking to tap into a ready-made audience. The chance to portray a real story that has peaked our communal curiosity for over a hundred years provides an opportunity to update those old tales for a new, fresher audience, and dare to make judgements through the interpretive lens of a camera. With a wealth of grisly information on the aftermath (Mr. Borden was struck 18 times with an axe; his wife 17), here is the perfect circumstance for an artist to create something devastatingly haunting from a story so deeply embedded in American popular culture. Lizzie promises all of this but never delivers, presenting us instead with a bare-bones carcass of a biopic that is stripped of all individuality, charm, or character.
Some films don’t need an elaborate script, or stylish editing, or flawless pacing to be deeply impactful. Some films incorporate such a heavy amount of passion that the cage of perfectionism falls away to allow an audience to simply feel their way through the story, forgiving a few technical flaws due to sheer emotional impression. Some films present themselves as they are, with all their rough edges, building towards a breathtaking payoff that will provoke tears in the eyes of even the most detached viewer.
These are my favourite kind of movies, and A Star is Born is one of them.
That is not to say that Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is poorly-made. After a rocky start that features a bit too much story exposition, the film settles into its stride. From direction, to lighting, to editing, all elements fulfill the roles they need to play perfectly to bring together a well-worn story for a fresh audience. The true pull of A Star is Born, however, is the dynamic chemistry of its two stars, and the freedom they are given to shine as two irresistibly likable performers.
Michael Inside features many kinds of petty criminals. From his despondent father to his drug-dealing friends, the eponymous Michael McCrea (Dafhyd Flynn) is surrounded by loss and violence, despite his own reluctance to become involved with the darker side of Dublin life. A haunting take on the responsibility of choice, Frank Berry’s second feature explores what happens when an average young man becomes a cog in a dangerous system – and the damning repercussions of coerced toxic masculinity.
The film begins by introducing its teenage protagonist as an everyday 18-year-old boy with everyday concerns; within the washed out grey-blue hues of Berry’s working-class Ireland, Michael plays football, attends college, and spends time with his girlfriend. His past may be spotted with mistakes and ill luck, but the film quickly establishes that Michael is not innately violent nor ill-meaning. When Michael is caught hiding drugs for a mate’s brother, however, he is sentenced to three months in prison, to the despair of his beloved grandfather, Francis (Lalor Roddy). What follows is a harsh and intimate look at the eradication of Michael’s teenage innocence, as prison life pushes him further and further towards a violence he had always sworn against.
Reality television has a tendency to become all-encompassing. Whether through demonstration of talent (The X Factor, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Project Runway), the close observation of an isolated group (I’m a Celebrity, Big Brother) or semi-scripted personality-driven chaos (The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea), this brand of entertainment asks for very little from its audience, while delivering a uniquely involved experience. ITV2’s Love Island is no different. The concept of the show is fairly simple: throw a group of young adults into a Spanish villa, instruct them to couple up, arrange some drama here and there, and the hoards of viewers will tune in nightly, becoming increasingly obsessed with the grafting, bitching, crying and scheming that naturally occurs once straight people are encouraged to find a partner. At the heart of the show, however, is a genuine charm that’s rarely found in reality shows, and a secure knowledge of an audience that has brought this controversial title its fame.
Any fan of Love Island knows that the daily hour spent watching the Islanders’ antics is only the tip of the iceberg. Memes, hashtags, and viciously opinionated factions explode across the internet, providing ample content with which to pass the time between episodes, or even during ad breaks. The producers encourage this interaction, with the Love Island Twitter and Instagram accounts updating frequently to note key developments, and the voting portion of the show being entirely based within a downloadable app. The essence of experiencing this immensely popular show relies on a shared viewing event – even if the people you are sharing it with are situated miles away.
The Criterion collection is not the most inclusive of lists. The majority of films introduced into the canon belong to cisgender and heterosexual filmmakers. While the lack of representation reflects cinema as a whole, and Criterion tends to lean towards an era not known for acceptance, it’s still a disappointing fact. Regardless of this, there are a handful of gay filmmakers whose works have been given the Criterion seal of approval, a trusted sign of the contributions they have made, not only to the art of filmmaking, but to the gay cinematic community as a whole.
Mysterious Object at Noon (2000)
Weerasethakul, affectionally known by his fans as “Joe”, is an experimental filmmaker whose interest in the unconventional makes his feature-length debut, Mysterious Object at Noon, a must-watch from Criterion’s archive. Taking the concept of exquisite corpse (a surreal method by which art is assembled based on chance), Weerasethakul combines documentary filmmaking with art-house style, pushing the boundaries of cinema and successfully creating a patchwork story from various interviewees across Thailand.
Though Weerasethakul’s debut does not explicitly address sexuality, the theme is often explored across his work, alongside various subjects such as nature, Western perceptions of Asia, and dreams. His passion for looking beyond the expectations of the mainstream is undoubtedly influenced by his homosexuality. “For me, the word queer means anything’s possible,” Weerasethakul explained in an interview, allying himself immediately with the concept of queer cinema.
If you’re into lesbian cinema, then you’ve probably heard of Angela Robinson. Her profile has recently expanded; long after blessing us with the likes of D.E.B.S. and Girltrash!, the writer-director went mainstream last year with her vastly under-appreciated Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. (You can read our LFF review of the film here.)
At Much Ado About Cinema, we cherish LGBTQ+ film, and queer cinema is a core foundation of our lives. Robinson is an example of a filmmaker who constantly centres lesbian/bisexual women in her stories, and produces these stories in a way that often makes us feel validated and genuinely represented – she is a brilliant example of why LGBT stories are told best by LGBT people. Whether it’s through comedic parodies or psychosexual dramas, we’ll be following Robinson’s career wherever she chooses to go. If you’re new to her work, take a gander at the profile below: you’ve got a whole lot to catch up on.
RuPaul’s Drag Race, for all its flaws, has become a staple of the reality television calendar. Mixing pop culture with petty drama, Drag Race provides light entertainment to audiences regardless of sexuality and gender – and highlights some of the greatest talents of the queer community at the same time. The show may have become more mainstream, but one thing has remained: the infamous lip-sync for your life, a two minute battle between contestants to establish who truly has the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to impress the all-seeing, all-powerful RuPaul.
To celebrate ten fantastic seasons of the show, I’m taking a trip down memory lane and counting down my favourite lip-syncs in Drag Race her-story.