Isn’t It Actually Fitzrovia?

Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, 2021)

Wright first came to prominence for me with the sitcom Spaced, working with Simon Pegg (and the fantastic Jessica Hynes/Stevenson), but I confess I’ve been a little less than methodical with his films. I largely enjoyed Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Baby Driver, although had issues with the blokeiness of both. I blinked when The Sparks Brothers was released and still can’t decide if he made it all up.

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Mentioned in Dispatches

The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun (Wes Anderson, 2021)

Anderson is a Marmite director and I confess to blowing a little hot and cold – I can’t help but admire the inventiveness and – like Jim Jarmusch and, formerly, Woody Allen, he gets a high octane cast. I just wonder if he doesn’t go too whimsical and self-indulgent.

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Facing Up

Clint Dyer and Roy Williams, Death of England: Face to Face (directed by Clint Dyer, National Theatre film, 2021)

One of the unexpected delights of lockdown culture was a screening of Death of England: Delroy, in which Delroy (Michael Balogun) recounts his arrest on the way to see the birth of his daughter and his subsequent electronic tagging. It was funny and gripping and anger-inducing and intelligent, and based on a play closed after press night. It was also a sequel to Death of England, in which Delroy’s friend Michael (Rafe Spall) discusses his relationship with his father, Alan, itself based upon a ten minute short.

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No Time to Diet

No Time to Die (Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2021)

I confess I’ve lost track of which Bond films I’ve seen — they were Christmas and Easter and Bank Holiday films and ITV had a phase of showing them on a Sunday afternoon. They followed a familiar pattern, a precredit sequence full of stunts, Bond being sent on a mission by M and being geared up by Q, a car chase that graduated to a lot of cars chasing, to helicoptors chasing, the entire Russian army chasing on skis, seemingly unable to shoot one man. And thence to a volcano base, and a final confrontation and a big bang. And along the way, one liners and a several Martinis and a bit of the old in-out with a girl thirty or forty years his junior. Continue reading →

A Fever with A Fever

Distancia de rescate (Fever Dream, Claudia Llosa, Chile, 2021)

Samanta Schweblin’s The Man Booker International Prize Shortlisted novel is bought to the screen by her own cowritten (with Llosa) script, which judging by the book review in The Guardian is faithful to the dialogue, although I wonder if there is a new ending. Continue reading →

Mandarin of the Rings

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Destin Daniel Cretton, 2021)

Those of you who have submitted yourselves to my shouting at clouds Marvel Universe movies know that they are not my cup of Earl Grey, nor even a guilty pleasure. Well, perhaps the first of the Spider-Men. I suspect Black Panther was the most interesting, but Martin Freeman saving the day rather undercut the thrust of the film. But, like Black Widow, I’m pleased that it exists, even if I am unlikely to rewatch more than once. And there must be several I still haven’t seen — excluding Iron Man III which I am pretty sure I have but wiped from my memory and unfortunately that presumably answers the question of Ben Kingsley.

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Kiss of the Black Widow

Black Widow (Cate Shortland, 2021 film)

I confess I’ve only seen about a third of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I’ve long wondered with something like three hundred films in the franchise now, why the recurring characters were so male and pale. Black Panther challenged this — although for obvious reasons a sequel is problematic. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) seemed to be a character defined by her gynaecology, and I don’t think they ever explained who her husband was. Now she gets her own film and a female director, so as the world ended.

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Tilda Speaks

La voz humana (The Human Voice, Pedro Almodóvar, 2020)

Part way through this English-language short, I got a flash of memory of Law of Desire (1987) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), and realised that Tilda Swinton was channeling Carmen Maura, once Almodóvar’s muse and favourite actor. What I’d forgotten was that Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama, on which this film is loosely based, was performed in Law of Desire and fed into Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Like Tom Stoppard, Almodóvar loves this kind of mise en abîme and the whole film seems to be filmed on a film set. Continue reading →

Water Dropwort

Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2020)

This has the feel of a fable — the Yi family move from 1980s California to Arkansas to live in a static caravan where Jacob (Steven Yeun) starts a farm to grow vegetables for Korean restaurants and Monica (Han Ye-ri) works in a chicken sexing unit to try and bring more money in. After a short period, they bring her mother Soon-ja (Youn Yuh-jung) across for childcare and Korean War vet Paul (Will Patton) helps out.

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