Feb 11, 2018

La La Land - by Patrick Foley

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Los Angeles has had its fair share of both cinematic love letters and deconstructions down the years. For every ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ extolling the virtues of Hollywood and pursuing ones dreams, there is a ‘Mulholland Drive’ that pulls back the bedsheets to expose the dark underbelly of corruption. It’s rare to find a film that manages to portray the magic and hypocrisy of Hollywood simultaneously. But Damien Chazelle’s La La Land takes a wide aim at the movie business while still managing to show why so many flock to Tinseltown to chase their dreams – even if most of them end up writing think pieces in between their shifts at Starbucks.

 

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress looking for her big Hollywood break. Through a chance encounter on the highway she argues with Seb (Ryan Gosling) a jazz fanatic desperate to start his own club and reinvigorate the disappearing art he has devoted his life to. As they both struggle through tedious day jobs to pursue their dreams, a chance meeting at the bar Seb works at, and a later incident at a party convince the two that there are sparks between them. They begin dating, and their individual passions power their romance. But as each becomes more successful and closer to their dreams, the demands of success threaten to tear their relationship apart. Also there’s a lot of singing.

 

Movies about moviemaking are regular fixtures on the Oscar-hype train. Many cases are incidents of Hollywood giving itself a nice, self-indulgent slap on the back over how wonderful, mysterious or difficult their lives are. With La La Land however there are quite clear reasons why awards will be heading its way. The film is stunningly directed, with some wonderful and original ideas in its presentation. It can be difficult to offer any innovative scenes in a city like LA, which has been covered head-to-toe in cinema leaving practically all corners a cliché. But every scene in La La Land is drenched in classic Hollywood style and mixed in with modern Hollywood vanity. It’s like existing in a present with a filter of the past covering everything you see. Colour bursts from the screen presenting the world as a land of opportunity at all the right times – when our characters meet and fall in love. This is later drained and unsaturated as reality kicks in, and issues between the characters arise. More impressively, this never becomes a distraction to the story. The subtle differences are what stand out, in lighting, wardrobe and shooting, which work to amplify the story we see played out. The plot itself is not anything particularly special, but the ways the story is told elevate it to greatness.

 

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both inspired choices for the leads. Stone’s Mia is a hopeful but frustrated dreamer. Her acting career is headed nowhere when we meet her, yet her creativity and spirit remains intact. As Seb enters her life things begin to look up, despite little progress being made. Stone then gets to bring out the characters true feelings of despair as her relationship begins to suffer, despite her creativity blossoming and eventually seeing some payoff. The role is filled with the typical boisterousness you would expect from Stone, and it’s easy to pull for her to achieve her dreams. Gosling’s Seb meanwhile is himself a dreamer, albeit a much more aloof one with a touch of arrogance. His passion for Jazz is the only driving force in his life, to the point where he is willing to join humiliating 80’s cover bands to fund it. Despite his reserved attitude, Gosling brings a warmth and maturity to the role that plays incredibly well off of Mia’s vulnerability. Despite being the standoffish type, it is Seb who is the one supporting the more outgoing Mia and pushing her to aim for the stars. She in turn opens his eyes to new opportunities and ways to make his love of Jazz more relatable to the people he is so desperate to attract. It’s very easy to root for the characters to be together because of these performances, whilst still seeing all the differences in them that make them strong individuals. It’s food for thought maybe that the next person you flip off on the motorway could be your soulmate, at the very least.

 

La La Land’s strongest point is the theme of the film and the battle it tells through the story between chasing your dreams and dealing with reality. The whimsical musical numbers are often interjected with humorous quips regarding the actuality of life outside of the movies. The growing apart of the characters is facilitated not by typical Hollywood misunderstandings or coincidences but by fundamental issues in their relationship relating to the characters careers. Seb’s life on the road as a keyboard player for example and the stress a long distance relationship puts on Mia. These matters are what facilitates the drama of the movie and raise the questions over what we need to compromise on when two sides of a relationship have different goals and dreams. It is clear as these characters become closer that each side requires sacrifice from the other to fulfil their goals. Seb’s goals involve being on the road to earn enough to start his club, leaving Mia alone. Mia’s require Seb to be more present in the relationship where she can stay in LA to secure acting roles. And while both are at a crucial point in their careers, their demands of each other threaten their dreams. In an old Hollywood movie, they would each know exactly what to say and do to solve their issues, and live happily ever after with all their dreams come true. But that isn’t the world in which La La Land exists. It’s a world where people make mistakes. It’s a world where people don’t always know the perfect thing to say. And it’s where people have to give up some of the things that mean the most to them to find what they need to be happy. It’s hard to imagine that a film about an aspiring Hollywood actress and a Jazz sensation falling in love in the Hollywood hills can be applicable to most people on the planet – especially in today’s culture of anti-elitism and disdain for all things metropolitan. But despite all its whimsy, La La Land is one of the most realistic films of the year.

 

Final Thoughts

La La Land is no average LA love story. Much like Damien Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash, central to the film is the price that must be paid for success. It’s the story of two creative individuals with hopes and dreams and what they have to sacrifice in order to attain them. Whilst far more optimistic in its outlook than Whiplash was about doing what it takes to achieve greatness, La La Land isn’t afraid to ask questions about whether the pursuit of dreams will truly lead to happiness, and whether relationships can survive against the demands of a passion. Looking past the toe-tapping songs and excellent performances, and the richness of this modern day classic is on full display. If it sweeps the Oscar’s, it won’t be because of Hollywood’s need for self-indulgence (alright, not JUST because of that). It will be because no other film takes the same risks in telling an original story about love, commitment and creativity as La La Land has done. Now, if only J.K Simmons’ cameo appearance could have been changed to feature him screaming ‘NOT MY TEMPO!!!’ at Ryan Gosling, it would have Whiplash beat in every way.

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  • (Release Info London schedule; November 14th, 2019, Genesis Cinéma, 93-95 Mile End Rd, Bethnal Green, London E1 4UJ, United Kingdom, 18:10) "The Nightingale" "The Nightingale" is a meditation on the consequences of violence and the price of seeking vengeance. Set during the colonization of Australia in 1825, the film follows Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi), a 21-year-old Irish convict. Having served her 7- year sentence, she's desperate to be free of her abusive master, Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin) who refuses to release her from his charge. Clare’s husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby) retaliates and she becomes the victim of a harrowing crime at the hands of 'The Lieutenant' and his cronies. When British authorities fail to deliver justice, Clare decides to pursue Hawkins, who leaves his post suddenly to secure a captaincy up north. Unable to find compatriots for her journey, she's forced to enlist the help of a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) who grudgingly takes her through the rugged wilderness to track down Hawkins. The terrain and the prevailing hostilities are frightening, as fighting between the original inhabitants of the land and it's colonisers plays out in what's now known as 'The Black War'. Clare and Billy are hostile towards each other from the outset, both suffering their own traumas and mutual distrust, but as their journey leads them deeper into the wilderness, they must learn to find empathy for one another, while weighing the true cost of revenge. At the heart of the story is Clare, 21, an Irish female convict. Convicts generally came from terribly poor backgrounds, stealing for survival. A theft of a loaf of  bread, or a coat, could see a person being transported for 7 years as an  indentured slave to a free settler or soldier, their poverty ensuring permanent exile. She has served her time, and is now trying to secure her freedom and start a new life as a free settler with her husband Aidan and baby Brigid in this new world. But Hawkins is unnecessarily withholding her release, preventing her from fleeing the violence and despair of the situation She's an indentured servant for Lieutenant Hawkins, who took her from prison to serve out her remaining sentence at his barracks, and Hawkins  uses and abuses Clare sexually, a fact she keeps hidden from her husband  out of shame and fear. Clare has a beautiful voice, a thread of purity in this bleak place, and is sometimes called on to sing for the men. To them she's their little nightingale. Female convicts, were often treated badly by their masters, as is the case with Hawkins, the officer in charge of Clare’s fate. It's this abuse and loss of everything she holds dear, that serves as the trigger for Clare’s revenge, seeing her take a life-threatening journey, from the south of the island to the north. This is during a period known as The Black War’, and the land is not safe to travel, nor easy to navigate, with huge tracks of rugged wilderness. The character of Clare has to possess a fierce tenacity and a steely strength, character traits that came from close research into the era. In the convict prison in Richmond, Tasmania, a plaque on the wall explains that women inmates were put in solitary confinement  for three weeks straight, no light, freezing cold, on a sandstone floor with a hessian sack. They're put in for talking back to  their masters,  or  getting drunk, or other  very  minor  crimes. They would be released after 21 days to go back to that same master, and they would deliberately commit another crime so that they could be put back into solitary  confinement. To be poor in 'The Georgian' era is not seen as an economic problem but a moral weakness. So convicts are viewed with next to no compassion. And female convicts are seen as worse than male convicts, because  women are meant to be a symbol of purity. And 'The Irish' are seen by 'The English' as 'The Scum Of The Earth'. Why would a  woman  do that? What's so bad about that  situation that they would prefer total deprivation? The answer is rape, beatings, physical and psychological abuse. Clare shows how resilient so many women are and how resilient women can be has her flaws, she’s  not always likeable, but she’s  incredibly resilient and powerful;  a fully-formed human being as a lead female character. Lieutenant Hawkins is a lower middle class lieutenant, who, perhaps because of his class, perhaps due to  who he's,  has not risen to his much desired rank  of  captain. He's intelligent, handsome, but driven by blind ambition, and profoundly damaged by his past. He expects to shortly be promoted by his superior in Launceston, and when this is compromised by his own behaviour,  he lashes out violently at those  around him, then sets off to take  control of his own future. Hawkins demonstrates physical and psychological cruelty to his men, as well as to civilians. He's amongst other things a rapist, who commit acts of sexual violence. It's about power and, in Hawkins’ case, rage. To build up a character like Hawkins, you've to understand the first-hand accounts of Tasmania in the period, as well as contemporary psychological texts, which led him to identify Hawkins as suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. Hawkins has a profound lack of empathy, and genuinely thinks that it’s his right to have more, to be  recognized and raised  up, and he  uses people  around him to  get what  he  thinks he needs, but he’ll never be happy or satisfied. He’s a man who has a very difficult upbringing. When all his power is taken away, his rage is directed out onto the feminine, at Clare; or whoever's around. In his complex relationship with Clare, signs of fragility and possibility can perhaps be briefly glimpsed. Hawkins spent his life  thinking that women weren’t as good as men. At the time, men were generally thought to be the stronger and the better sex, and that’s something that's so deeply embedded in his being. He struggles to see the world as it really is, and as it should be. The character of Hawkin is damaged. To exact her revenge, Clare must head towards Launceston, in the north east of Tasmania,  but will have no chance  of surviving in the rugged terrain  unless she pairs with the character of Billy, a young 'Aboriginal' man who acts as her tracker, or guide. Billy, also 21, a 'Letteremairrener' man, who as a child watched his uncles, brothers and father killed in front of him by 'The British'. Billy has experienced forced assimilation and slavery, so he speaks English, When Clare offers him a shilling now and a shilling once he tracks down her quarry, Billy is drawn not just by the money, but by traveling north, a trip that will see him returning to his country, and potentially finding his mother and aunts, who disappeared when the men of the family were killed. He has suffered greatly too, a result of the terrible treatment of his people by the invaders, and although the pair are  initially distrustful and openly hostile  towards each other, through the physical and psychological challenges of their journey, they come some of the way to understand and support each  other. 'Mangana The Black Bird', is  Billy’s totem, an animal  that's his  medicin, his way  towards healing, and the animal that gives him most strength. Clare and Billy  begin by  treating each other badly, and any  steps that move in the opposite direction towards understanding and care are earned as the story unfolds. We cannot imagine what it would've been like for Billy to see his family murdered, then to be brought up by the people who had done the deed, but that was common for 'Aboriginal' people across Australia. It's unfathomable, but the film explores more than that; Billy’s tenacity, his will to survive. Ultimately, it's a story of him coming home to  himself.  Sergeant Ruse (Damon Herriman) is Lieutenant Hawkins right hand man and attack dog. He has the qualities of a traditional drill sergeant; we see him speaking to the soldiers underneath him in an aggressive and belittling way. He’s not a pleasant human being. Around his men and civilians, Ruse  projects a domineering alpha male  persona, but that all changes when he’s around Hawkins. Hawkins is not only his superior, Ruse genuinely respects him. Ruse likes the hard, cruel line that Hawkins takes, so they’re very similar characters, but around Hawkins there’s a sycophantic version of Ruse that emerges. He wishes he could be Hawkins, but second-best to that's being able to perform whatever Hawkins demands. Jago  (Harry Greenwood) is a young ensign, new to  the army. Unlike Ruse, he has come  from the  middle classes; and despite his entry level position, he's an ensign, which is an officer’s rank not a soldier’s. He's in effect Ruse’s superior because of this, but struggles to gain any sort of authority in this environment, a fish out of  water. He’s  on his first tour, and doesn’t really know anything about how  the army works or  how soldiers operate, so he’s flying by the seat of his pants. He’s thrust into possibly the worst penal colony in the world, Tasmania, and not even the larger 'Hobart Colony' but a small outpost, under the command of Hawkins, who’s a hard boss at the best of times. Jago initially looks up to Hawkins, but as the film unfolds the relationship changes as he’s exposed to the disturbing things that both Hawkins and Ruse do. Aidan (Michael Sheasby), Clare’s husband, represents both the hope of love, and the perils of revenge and violence. He has a fierce love for Clare and for his baby, Brigid, but he’s a very instinctual, gut-driven person. He can tell that something’s not right with Clare, and decides to confront it, with terrible consequences. In this world  that’s so dark and violent, they've an  unadulterated love for each other. The energy and care between them provides important moments of light. Tasmania is a place of extraordinary natural splendour, sitting alone at the bottom of the world, but for some there's a haunting quality to the island, which lent itself perfectly to the mood of "The Nightingale". 'The Landscape' emerges as another powerful character in the film, with it's own areas of light and darkness. As you learn more about the history of the  place, that only heightens your awareness  of the terrible things that  happened there. There's a deep, longstanding culture in Tasmania, but for the arriving 'British', there's nothing there that they're used to, so it became frightening and alienating. 'The British' characters are continuously in a state of fight orflight; they never know  what’s around the  corner. Suddenly the demons of history started to emerge. It’s definitely something the film is aware of from Aidan’s perspective; a sense of pure  fear. In line with  eschewing standard iconic views of the island, the film avoids using equipment such as drones for capturing the landscapes in a glorified way. What also sets Tasmania apart is that the majority of it's forests has been preserved, and a large amount is 'World Heritage' or 'National Parks', so the film enters those areas, make it feel real, and showcase the beauty. But it’s a scene about Clare and her relentless drive, and the emotion of wanting to cross a dangerous river because her revenge is driving her, and so we take the lead from the character’s  motivations. Through the characters of Clare and Billy, the film asks; how can human beings retain their compassion,  humanity and courage in a brutal environnt In looking at the futility of violence and revenge, the film carries a striking message of anti- violence and  forgiveness. Clare and Billy have endured extreme suffering and loss. They’re broken when they meet, and therefore have a very hard time trusting and respecting each other at a basic human level. When they go on their physical journey together, they’re put through a series of tests; nature beats them down, and finally they open up to each other. They make the idea of living a bit more bearable for each other. Billy for Clare provides a sense of hope for life. In this environment where  things are brutal and violent and there are so many obstacles they've to overcome to get what they desire, the fact that there’s a correlation, a mutual understanding, is something that takes them a long time to realise, but when they do it’s the most beautifully poetic relationship, so authentic and human. Feeling for 'The Aboriginal People' wasn’t part of their psyche. So, we’re  judging these characters, in that  sense, but the audience have to see how the characters are motivated and we've to show the brutality to put the audience in Clare’s shoes. What Clare  learns, and what the audience sees, it that the shining light from the beginning to the end is hope. All the characters are yearning for lightness, for something more, in this brutal reality. Through Clare and Billy’s  journey, despite  the horrific things they’re exposed to, there are moments of lightness and humanity. Despite the situations we’re faced with in life you can communicate with and understand someone. That’s at the core of the film; despite the terrible things that people do and experience, they do go on, they continue to live. "The Nightingale" is set in  'Van  Diemen’s Land' (now Tasmania), 'The Australian  Island State' off the far south east coast of the mainland. A fledgling 'British' penal colony was established in Tasmania in 1803, following on from the Sydney penal colony established on the mainland 15 years  earlier. Setting the film in 1825 Tasmania isn't an intellectual choice to make a period film, but something to remove the story from the present day, and in doing so allowing it's universal themes to take precedence. Tasmania was the most brutal of the Australian  colonies, known as hell on earth  through the western world at the time. Repeat offenders sent there; the rapists, murderers, hardened criminals. And severe punishments are devised for them to strike fear in the hearts of those back in Britain, to deter them  from crime. Women on the other hand who’d often  committed minor crimes are sent to Tasmania to even the gender balance. They're outnumbered 8 to 1. You can imagine what kind of an environment that would set up for women. It's not a good place or time for them. And in terms of 'The Aboriginal Invasion', what happened in Tasmania is often considered the worst attempted annihilation by the British of 'The Aboriginal' people and everything they hold dear. Many Australians know what happened in certain parts of the country during that time, and other people don't. A lot  of people outside Australia know  nothing or very little about it. We can not go into this part of our history and water it down. Like many other countries that have been colonized, the indigenous people of Australia were  subject to horrendous treatment by  the colonizers. 'The Aboriginal People' lived through two 'Ice  Ages Evidence' uncovered in one of the latest Tasmanian archaeological digs dates back 42,000 years. Besides the massacres and taking land away that happened, similar to anywhere else in Australia where 'Aboriginal' people were invaded and colonized, kids were taken away from families and put in Tasmanian orphanages. When they're old enough, they’d be used as cheap  labour on farms. It wasn’t uncommon  for 'Aboriginal'  people to be working  in all sorts of jobs, and a lot of 'Aboriginal' people in Tasmania today are here because they survived by mingling in with white fellas, right across the state. Violence against women is as relevant now as it has ever been. This is a story about  violence. In  particular the fallout of violence from a  feminine perspective. The colonization of Australia was a time of inherent violence; towards 'Aboriginal' people, towards women, and towards the  land itself, which was  wrenched from  it's first inhabitants. Colonization by nature is a brutal act. For this reason, this a current story despite being set in the past. And the arrogance that drives it lives on in the modern world. The film features graphic and potentially triggering acts of sexual violence towards women and violence motivated by racism. "The Nightingale" presents complex issues, and the film doesn’t attempt to offer neat solutions to systemic issues of race, misogyny, sexual violence, or classism. Nothing depicted in this film is fictional. The story itself is fictional, but the events are based in historical fact. The film deals with a story of colonization and  violence that some people say didn't happen, so it's really important that  things are accurate. The story of "The Nightingale" is important because  it’s a  history that was never told, about what 'Aboriginal' people went through in this time. It's a dark story and there will be tears, but it will touch  people. The film presents the opportunity to open up an honest dialogue about cycles of violence, the repercussions of colonialism, and in experiencing our own discomfort to reflect on humanity and the importance of empathy for our survival. All the concerns about violence, towards women, towards indigenous people, towards nature, the repercussions of colonization, they're very much in our mentality and in the way we live now, but by placing something in the past, you can give people a distance from it, so they can see it without feeling like they're being attacked. Everything is relevant now. This is a story set nearly 200 years ago and we’re still dealing with the same crimes against women. It’s a mythical film, in the true sense of the word. It’s visually astounding. Not as in something that never existed, but a story that deals with very universal themes, things that happen everywhere in the world, to all of us. "The Nightingale" questions the state of the world. What are the alternatives to violence and revenge? How do we retain our humanity in dark times? We do not have all the answers to the question of violence. But they lie in our humanity, in the empathy we hold for ourselves and others.
  • (Release Info London schedule; November 14th, 2019, Everyman Broadgate, Finsbury Ave, London EC2M 2PF, United Kingdom, 21:00 pm) "Le Mans '66" From James Mangold comes a film inspired by a true-life drama about a powerful friendship that forever changed racing history. In 1959, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) is on top of the world after winning the most difficult race in all of motorsports, 'The 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. But his greatest triumph is followed quickly by a crushing blow, the fearless Texan is told by doctors that a grave heart condition will prevent him from ever racing again. Endlessly resourceful, Shelby reinvents himself as a car designer and salesman working out of a warehouse space in 'Venice Beach' with a team of engineers and mechanics that includes hot-tempered test driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale). A champion British race car driver and a devoted family man, Miles is brilliant behind the wheel, but he’s also blunt, arrogant and unwilling to compromise. After Shelby vehicles make a strong showing at 'Le Mans' against Italy’s venerable Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), 'Ford Motor Company' recruits the firebrand visionary to design the ultimate race car, a machine that can beat even 'Ferrari' on the unforgiving French track. Determined to succeed against overwhelming odds, Shelby, Miles and their ragtag crew battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to develop a revolutionary vehicle that will outshine every competitor. But their tireless efforts take a difficult toll; for these bold men, victory comes at a price. The film opens with Shelby’s victory at 'Le Mans' and his subsequent diagnosis, before moving forward in time to 1963, when 'Ford Motor Co.', once the industry leader, is trailing in sales behind 'U.S.' competitor 'General Motors'. 'Marketing Executive' Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) suggests that if Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) wants to appeal to the young people of the day looking to buy their first cars, the company should focus on speed, if Ford has winning race cars, their consumer automobiles would become that much more attractive by association. Since no company produced faster or sexier cars than Enzo Ferrari, an acquisition of 'The European' carmaker seems like the answer. An envoy of top executives is dispatched to Ferrari headquarters to negotiate the purchase of 'The European' carmaker only to return to Michigan empty-handed. Outraged, Ford immediately places his right-hand man, senior vice president Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), in charge of a new high-tech race car division, 'Ford Advanced Vehicles', tasked with quickly building a car that will beat Ferrari at their own game, defeating them at 'The Mount Everest Of Motor Racing', 'Fhe 24 Hours Of Le Mans'. 'The FAV' team builds the exciting-looking 'GT40 Mark I', but it's first outing at 'Le Mans' in 1964 ends miserably. All three models fail to finish the race while Ferrari’s place first, second, and third. Finishing fourth is the 'Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe', a fact that Ford II doesn’t fail to notice. Ford II hires Shelby to develop, test and ultimately oversee the corporation’s entire racing program, but Shelby’s lead test driver Ken Miles complicates the relationship. The outspoken Miles quickly makes an enemy of Beebe, who does his best to manipulate Shelby and box-out Miles at every turn. Still, against impossible odds and virtually non-stop corporate interference, Shelby and his team, which also includes chief engineer Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon), and young British mechanic Charlie Agapiou (Jack McMullen) build one of the greatest race cars ever produced; 'The Ford GT40 MKII'. The vehicle changed the perception of both Ford, and America itself, when it takes part in one of the most infamous racing showdowns in history, the 1966 running of 'Le Mans'. The most challenging sequence to capture by far is the restaging of the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours At Le Mans' race. The last 40 minutes of the film is this race predominantly, and you really feel like you're hunkered down and living in the race. The film loves that idea of racing for 24 hours to start to dawn on you, to feel what that really would be like trying to drive faster than any man for longer than you ever can stay awake. The magic of that, of driving 200 miles per hour in the most cutting-edge race-car prototypes on a series of French country roads over and over again through day, night, rain, sleet, dawn, dusk, doing that for 24 straight hours in one vehicle seemed like the most powerful thing we could try to convey. The central drama turns on the heated relationship between renegades Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. Like legendary car racer and sports car builder Carroll Shelby, whose creations included 'The Shelby Cobra' and 'Shelby Daytona', as well as modified race-worthy editions of Ford’s legendary 'Mustang' series, 'The Shelby Mustang' celebrity status stretches back decades. Shelby had been a great driver and had kind of hit the pinnacle of that. Because of this heart condition, he’d lost his great love. He does wear a cowboy hat, but he wears it selectively in key scenes where it intentionally is supposed to seem a bit over-the-top along with his crocodile cowboy boots. He's really on the cusp of fading into oblivion and just being another guy hustling trying to sell cars to people. This Ford opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for him. The stakes are incredibly huge for him as they're for Ken Miles. Miles drove tanks in 'World War II' before finding his way onto the race track. Shelby just feels Miles is indispensable to this mission, and Ken is known for not suffering fools. He's irascible and not afraid to speak his mind and did not want to just fall into step with everybody else. If he thinks an idea is stupid, he’d tell you, and he has very little political skill or diplomatic skill. In terms of costume, Miles spends much of his time wearing a racing suit and coveralls. They refer to him as a beatnik, even though he never dressed as a beatnick. And so he's a constant source of frustration to Shelby because he couldn’t get out of his own way. But Shelby really needed him to help build the car and to then subsequently drive it at 'Le Mans'. It's one of the most legendary tales in the history of motorsports. Carroll Shelby, working closely with his spirited test driver Ken Miles, develops a revolutionary car that bests a fleet of vehicles built by Italian racing legend Enzo Ferrari at the 1966 running of 'The 24 Hours Of LeMans'. This is the story of a group of unconventional thinkers who overcome incredible odds to achieve something extraordinary through sheer inventiveness, determination and force of will. The film offerers the opportunity to stage thrilling racing sequences that essentially puts the audience inside the cars with these fearless drivers, and the chance to chronicle the turbulent friendship between Shelby and Miles. Both had quite distinct, larger-than-life personalities, Shelby, tough yet eminently likable; Miles, prickly and unfiltered, but they're united by a passion for innovation and an abiding love for racing. Quite simply, Shelby and Miles are driven to excel, even if it means putting their lives on the line every time they got behind the wheel. They understand each other at the most profound level. When Shelby’s confronted with the fact that he can’t race anymore, he reinvents himself from a driver into a car salesman and designer, and Ken becomes a vessel for Shelby’s dreams. But Ken can’t quite filter himself or control himself in corporate situations or publicity situations. He just says whatever he thinks, so Shelby takes on this role of protector or spokesman for Ken. They've a very symbiotic relationship. One fills in where the other leaves off. Lee Iacocca, who, from his humble roots as the son of Italian immigrants in Allentown, Pennsylvania, becomes a legend in the automotive business, reviving 'U.S.' automaker 'Chrysler' during the 1980s. His strength comes from his intensity. It comes from his intellect. When he's at Ford, Iacocca has the presence of mind to understand that there's a whole generation of 17-year-olds with money in their pocket who are interested in rock ’n’ roll and sex and moving fast, and the stale, stagnant repetition of reproducing 1950s cars is failing Ford. Lee Iacocca is the flashiest exec on the team. He’s got a good shark skin suit, mohair suits, little slivery ties, ultra ’60s. Mollie Miles (Caitriona Balfe) is Ken’s wife, and mother to their young son, Peter (Noah Jupe). Even though she’s a stay-at-home mom in the film, she’s very much an equal partner in the relationship. She wears old 'Wranglers' from the 1960s and cotton sweaters or shirts. She's’s a little rough around the edges with his personality and his people skills may not be that great. But this is where their relationship is strong. She tells him when he needs to pull up his boot straps and to also encourage him. There’s this real sense that they’re a team who supports each other. Detroit auto legend Henry Ford II is 'The CEO Of Ford Motor Company' from 1960 to 1979. It’s a classic story of man versus machine, man versus man, and man versus himself. It touches upon a lot of the points of a sports story, but at the same time the historical story that’s being told here's a good one. A lot of the cars that we know now, and a lot of the advancements we’ve seen with technology, starts with this period. By contrast, they’re ample archival images of Henry Ford II available to create a full picture of the auto titan’s fashion style. The film outfits Ford himself in classic 'Brooks Brothers' suits. Old money, button-down shirts, blue blazer, it’s recreating what they really wore. And he always wore navy blue with plain navy blue ties. His clothes are very traditional. Leo Beebe, is 'The Ford Motors Company' executive who's given control over Ford’s racing program. He has a shadier color palette, a little bit darker, a little bit oiler. Like his father, Peter Miles is completely consumed with the sport of car racing. Peter is a happy boy, but he’s also a kid whose dad could die at any point in a race. From an early age, he’s been brought into the racing world and wants to be a racer when he’s older just like his dad. It’s all he’s ever known. Phil Remington is the chief engineer at 'Shelby American'. A technical genius who can fix or fabricate anything, Remington is a key partner to Carroll Shelby in helping develop 'The Ford GT40 MKII' that takes on Ferrari at 'Le Mans'. Charlie Agapiou works with Ken Miles at Miles foreign car repair shop in Hollywood before joining him at Shelby’s shop in Venice in early 1963. Ken is something of a father figure to young Charlie. The challenge is how to navigate this story so that audiences feel the love and camaraderie and energy of these drivers and designers and mechanics and pit crew, but it doesn’t depend upon a cliché kind of victory. Whereas the Ford executives are sort of cool, wearing blues, grays, silvers, the Ferrari people are more old world. Their wardrobe is primarily browns, creams, knit ties, vests. The film gets deep enough into these unique characters, the winning and the losing of the races is secondary to the winning and the losing of their lives. One can believe that they’re characters who represent the last of an old school, brave, humble, gracious, male prototype. This is an inflection point in both of their lives. The goal in an age of incredibly computer-enhanced action movies, is that there's something profoundly analog and real and gritty about the film and the sexiness of these beasts, the cars, their engines, the danger. These characters are riding in a thin aluminum shell at 200 miles an hour around a track. The miracle that's their daring and their survival under these circumstances is something that the film tries to convey. This film is about the epic rivalry between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari and the scrappy team of upstarts that Ford hires to help him in his quest. Both the classic 1966 sports drama "Grand Prix" and Steve McQueen’s 1971 film "Le Mans" served as references. It's about characters striving for excellence, trying to push against the onset of corporate market-tested group-think. It’s an essential struggle in 'The 21st Century' in our country, the risk-taking and daring and leaps of instinct that are required to invent a lot of the things that define our country are things that we’re almost too frightened to do anymore. The film creates a naturalistic portrait of what life is like for Shelby and Miles. In a modern era when 'CG' spectacle has come to define many blockbuster films, it's critical to take a grounded approach to the action in "Le Mans ‘66" to both more accurately depict the 1960s and to help the audience understand what these drivers experienced as they're pushing themselves, and their cars, to the limit. This isn’t Carroll Shelby’s whole story or Ken Miles’ whole story. This is about a hugely defining moment in their lives that shaped all they're to be. People really connect with this idea of trying to do an excellent job at whatever your job is with the challenge of dealing with oversight and corporate management and the corporate tendency to round every corner that’s a little sharp and to soften any blow that could offend somebody. We all miss the world when it's just a little more raw and prone to taking a risk. The reason the story is so legendary is because these misfits challenged God and won, didn’t they? God was Ferrari. He was a monster, a Goliath of reputation and style, legendary in the racing community. And this little band of misfits, with Ford’s backing but in spite of Ford’s interference, they did it. This is an incredibly compelling film because it’s about the behind-the-scenes conflicts and choices of passionate, competitive, driven, larger-than-life people caught in the very moment the American landscape is changing from the optimism of the post war 1950s and early 1960s to the more cynical late 1960s and ’70s. The visual inspiration comes more from the films of the ’60s and ’70s, rather than contemporary interpretations of race car films, no exaggerated movement, keeping it intimate with the use of close-ups and always maintaining a character’s point-of-view. The film sticks to camera techniques of the period. The production design follows suit and is much in sync with realism and plausibility and keeping the audience in the magic trick of this world that has been created. You’re both hearing and seeing the bolts rattling in the chassis of the car. You’re feeling the vibration of the engine. You’re understanding how hard they’re pushing this vehicle and how close to exploding it's. Today, we've computer-aided design. We can postulate with much greater accuracy what’s going to work. There was no way with a pencil and an abacus you could know that. You just had to build the car and drive the car and see if it just blew up around you. It’s a big, emotional, distinctive theatrical experience that embraces all of the reasons we want to sit in a movie theater. We want to be invested. We want to be moved, to cry to laugh, to be inspired. This movie is all of that.
  • In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck embarks on a downward-spiral of social revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his infamous alter-ego: "The Joker". “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? You get what you f****n’ deserve!” The big question asked by Todd Phillips’ Joker. The answer; an in-depth character study unveiling the myth behind one of pop culture’s most twisted creations. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film upon its release. People state that it mishandles the representation of mental health and that it’s a dangerous film which could potentially insight violence. I believe Phoenix and Phillips handle Arthur’s descent into madness with great nuance and with masterful direction. The same controversy surrounded one of the film’s clear influences; Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle represented the disillusionment and PTSD of war veterans and how society abandoned them and people still regard it as a masterpiece and one of Scorsese’s finest films. The time and setting are irrelevant as the issues and society depicted in period-time Gotham wreak of Trump’s America which has been embodied by Thomas Wayne. This is an angry film with so much to say. One of the reasons why I loved this film is not only is it a great genre film (calling it a genre insults the quality) but a modern-day masterpiece which will be dissected for years to come. As for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, it’s pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a masterclass in physical and emotional artistry, we truly see an actor pushing his body and mind to its limits. It does not overshadow the magnificent work achieved by the late Heath Ledger, but is in fact a deeper psychological study to the myth behind the character. The use of the unreliable narrator only adds to Arthur’s fragile state of mind and a masterstroke by Phillips. Overall, yes this film is controversial and yes this film is a commentary on today’s society but with Hildur Guônadóttir’s haunting and mesmerising score and an all-time, Oscar-winning performance from Phoenix and Phillips has crafted one of the best films of the past ten years.