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Sacramento: Lady Bird's 'boring' hometown basks in cinematic glory

24 February, by Amanda Holpuch in Sacramento[ —]

California’s capital – not exactly known for thrills – celebrates starring role in local native Greta Gerwig’s film with walking tours and civic pride

When a group of 35 people suddenly started cheering in an empty parking lot in Sacramento on a recent weekend, onlookers might have been forgiven for wondering what on earth was going on.

There were, though, clues on the pins they were all wearing.

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Dismayed to discover a bear behind at the Baftas

24 February, by John Crace[ —]

This week I pondered awards shows, curling, fashion, antidepressants and ‘managed ambitious divergence’


I’ve never seen the attraction of awards events on TV. Especially when there is a new episode of Endeavour and a new series of Homeland starting on the other channels at the same time. So it wasn’t hard for me to give the Baftas a miss on Sunday night. There’s only so much confected hysteria I can take. And it’s all so predictable. First the shots of stars, whose faces are vaguely familiar, but whose names all too often escape me, arriving on the red carpet.

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The Young Karl Marx review – intelligent communist bromance

23 February, by Peter Bradshaw[ —]

Marx and Engels meet cute in this intense, fervent film about the early development of communism from I Am Not Your Negro director Raoul Peck

Raoul Peck is the Haitian film-maker who has an Oscar nomination this year with his James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Now he comes to Berlin with this sinewy and intensely focused, uncompromisingly cerebral period drama, co-written with Pascal Bonitzer, about the birth of communism in the mid-19th century. It gives you a real sense of what radical politics was about: talk. There is talk, talk and more talk. It should be dull, but it isn’t. Somehow the spectacle of fiercely angry people talking about ideas becomes absorbing and even gripping.

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Songwriter review – portrait of Ed Sheeran as an obsessive, smiley Kermit

https://www.theguardian.com/music/ed-sheeranplay episode download
23 February, by Peter Bradshaw[ —]

‘I want to be Adele,’ says the genial, driven megastar in this slight film shot by his cousin

Everybloke megastar, prince of ordinariness turned music legend, unassuming Jekyll to Robbie Williams’s Hyde … Ed Sheeran is now the subject of this diverting but pretty incurious promo-video-style cheerleading documentary about the build-up to the release of Sheeran’s album ÷, or Divide. It doesn’t patronise or mock Sheeran, doesn’t presume to criticise or anatomise him, and it doesn’t accidentally-on-purpose reveal any hints of diva-like behaviour. It also high-mindedly disdains to notice the staggering levels of fame and acclaim which must make any other artist snarl with envy, although it does show Sheeran’s own rare touch of envy when he thoughtfully says that he’s still not big enough. “If you don’t want to be bigger than Adele you’re in the wrong industry. I don’t want to be the male Adele. I want to be Adele.”

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Mug review – metalhead meets giant Jesus in peculiar Polish comedy

https://www.theguardian.com/film/dramaplay episode download
23 February, by Peter Bradshaw[ —]

A hard-rocking Polish builder is injured while working on a towering statue of Christ in Małgorzata Szumowska’s scabrous and strangely affecting drama

Małgorzata Szumowska’s Twarz (Polish for “face” or “mug”, the latter of which is the film’s English title) delivers the pleasure of vigorous storytelling. It is scabrous, mysterious and surprisingly emotional – inspired partly by the giant statue of Christ the King in Świebodzin in western Poland, completed in 2010, the tallest statue of Jesus in the world and a fierce religious and nationalist symbol. It is the face of patriotic Poland, and this is a film to put you in mind of Eliot’s lines about preparing a face to meet the faces that you meet.

Szumowska’s movie imagines a guy named Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), employed as a builder on a giant statue like this as it begins to loom surreally over the landscape. He is an amiably scruffy, long-haired metalhead living at home with his extended family, whom he annoys with his vague plans to move to London. His brash brother-in-law (Robert Talarczyk) – a man with a fondness for jokes about blacks, Muslims and Jews – tells him the Brits are “wised up” to immigrants these days and won’t let him in; he says this, moreover, with every appearance of respect. Szumowska has perhaps moved the time period forward to a Brexit-zeitgeist. Jacek has a girlfriend (Małgorzata Gorol), but the person who seems to love him most is his sister (Agniezska Podsiadlik). All these people have something in common – they are exasperated by Jacek’s appearance: dishevelled, grinningly cheeky.

Then Jacek is involved in a horrible accident at work. Standing on Jesus’s neck, preparing for his huge head to be lowered on to the shoulders, Jacek stumbles and falls face-first into Jesus’s huge hollow concrete torso. His injuries are horrendous and he has to have a face transplant, which is reasonably successful. His family, girlfriend and local priest have to decide how much they want to chip in for Jacek’s continuing medical bills and how they feel about someone with what seems like a new identity.

Mug is a strange, engaging film – well and potently acted and directed, a drama that puts you inside its extended community with a mix of robust realism and a streak of fantasy comedy. The first scene is a bizarre “underwear sale” at an out-of-town hypermarket – not a sale of underwear, but a sale in which buyers must first strip down to their underwear before they stampede into the shop, perhaps to make the inevitable physical tussles over bargain flatscreen TVs fairer, or perhaps just for the spectacle – a dream vision of the consumerism and undignified greed over which Giant Jesus impassively presides.

And what does Jacek’s new face symbolise? Perhaps nothing very much at all. He suffers as no one else in his community suffers, and certainly not the priest (Roman Gancarczyk), who has theoretically put Jesus’s suffering at the centre of his own vocation. And Jacek endures his suffering with unassuming dignity and integrity as he is betrayed or let down by everyone but his sister. It is an absorbing and strange story, expertly managed.

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The Ice King review – engaging doc celebrates figure skater John Curry

23 February, by Peter Bradshaw[ —]

This respectful film charts the career and dreams of an Olympic champion who escaped the homophobia of his 70s heyday

The current Winter Olympics is the most open about LGBT athletes in its history, which makes this a good time for a documentary about pioneering British figure skater John Curry, the Olympic and world champion of 1976 who went on to develop a brilliant career in performance, but never quite achieved the Nureyev-level reputation that he probably deserved.

The film interestingly shows that he was open about being gay but mostly escaped the nasty homophobia of the time. This was the age of the Gay News trial. It had something to do with his position in the Venn diagram overlap between sports and arts. Mid-market Fleet Street’s patriotism and reverence for successful British athletes meant he was not attacked – this was, after all, a star who appeared on Blue Peter and won the Sports Personality of the Year award. Yet his status as a dancer perhaps earned him the traditional reticence due to an artist’s private life.

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Why The Post should win the 2018 best picture Oscar

23 February, by Jonathan Freedland[ —]

Ahead of the Academy Awards, Jonathan Freedland celebrates Steven Spielberg’s timely tale of press freedom

For a man who is the world’s most successful film-maker, Steven Spielberg has a remarkably thin record at the Oscars. Of course, this points to the perennial Spielberg debate: is his accomplishment chiefly commercial, measured in box-office receipts, rather than artistic? Are his films bankable and crowdpleasing rather than great? Among those who take the former view, the fact that a director first nominated by the Academy 40 years ago – for Close Encounters of the Third Kind – has only won the best picture prize once (for Schindler’s List), is a critical piece of evidence. Sure, he has been nominated often and been named best director twice (for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan), but in a career as long and lucrative as his, those look like relatively slim pickings.

In truth, that 19-year winless streak is unlikely to end on 4 March. The Post is a 150-1 outsider to scoop the big prize. And while no one would have betted against the film being nominated, there is next to no buzz about it winning. In making the case for Get Out – on at 16-1 – Peter Bradshaw wrote that best picture is “a category that sadly often only rewards middlebrow-prestigious classiness” and the unkind would say The Post fits that description perfectly. Still, few would wager that it will vindicate Bradshaw by coming in first.

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Mute review – Duncan Jones's sci-fi thriller is a Netflix disaster

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/alexander-skarsgardplay episode download
23 February, by Charles Bramesco[ —]

The Moon director has delivered a catastrophically misjudged riff on Blade Runner with an astoundingly dull performance from Alexander Skårsgard

If one were to relax one’s eyes and stand very far away, the career of Duncan Jones might begin to resemble that of the young Hollywood savior he’s clearly angling to be. Like George Lucas before him, Jones made a name for himself with a blazingly original sci-fi sleeper (2009’s excellent Moon) which he then parlayed into a workmanlike box-office success (2011’s high-concept Source Code). But sometime in the five-year hiatus prior to 2016’s Warcraft, a difficult period marked by his wife’s battle with cancer and his father’s death, he strayed from the path. His adaptation of the popular online fantasy game was to be Jones’ graduation into the uppermost echelon of big-league film-making, but it was savaged by critics and ate dirt at the US box office.

Related: Annihilation review – Natalie Portman thriller leaves a haunting impression

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Karen Gillan: ‘I’m living with a consistent, subtle homesickness’

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/karen-gillanplay episode download
23 February, by Emma Brockes[ —]

The Scottish actor, ex-Doctor Who companion and Guardian of the Galaxy is making her directorial debut. She talks about Time’s Up, her love of the Highlands – and how she was ‘delusional’ about her acting ability

Karen Gillan enters the restaurant in downtown Manhattan, tall and slightly ungainly, with the high colour of one still young enough to be easily embarrassed. The 30-year-old recently moved to New York from LA, after five years spent appearing mainly in blockbusters, and is promoting a much more modest film today. The Party’s Just Beginning, written by and starring Gillan, is also her directorial debut and is set in her native Inverness, although “it’s not the postcard version”, she says, laughing. Nonetheless, it is infused with affection. “All the time,” she says, when I ask if she misses Scotland. “I’m living with a consistent, subtle homesickness all the time.”

In the movie, which had a budget of just under £5m – “not the smallest in the world,” says Gillan, “but in the grand scheme of things very low” – she plays Luisaidh, a woman in her early 20s still living at home and struggling to find a life beyond the cheese counter in the supermarket where she works and the emotionally deadened life of her parents. It is a film about youth, alienation and, above all, friendship, in which the strongest dialogue is that between Luisaidh and her married friend Donna, and strongly suggests that, while the movie is a drama, and at times a high drama, Gillan’s writing talent may lie more persuasively in comedy.

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Why I, Tonya is a gamechanger in the world of female sports movies

23 February, by Anne Billson[ —]

The Tonya Harding biopic is not the first film about women and sport. But, refreshingly, it’s one that isn’t about female athletes trying to break into a male-dominated world

If Tonya Harding had been no more than the first female ice skater to land two triple axels in competition, most of us would have forgotten her by now. But in 1994, an associate of her ex-husband attempted to break the leg of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. In the subsequent media frenzy, Kerrigan was cast as America’s sweetheart, with Harding as a soap opera villain. The incident turned “Trashy Tonya” into a cult figure, subject of TV movies, pop songs, plays and musicals, and now a movie.

I, Tonya takes its stylistic cue from Martin Scorsese, presenting her story as freewheeling mockumentary stuffed with larger-than-life characters, obscene dialogue and unreliable narrators. It is played for scabrous black comedy, but is a not unsympathetic character study of an outsider from an abusive background striving to make it in a discipline that expects its skaters to conform to public expectations of sweetness and femininity.

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