Posts Tagged Pat Harrington

Eternals (2021)

PG-13
2h 36m
Director
Chloé Zhao
Writers
Chloé Zhao (screenplay) Patrick Burleigh (screenplay by) Ryan Firpo (screenplay by)
Stars: Gemma Chan Richard Madden Angelina Jolie

Eternals follows on from the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019), and features the Eternals (ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years) to come out in the open and come together to fight against mankind’s ancient enemy, the Deviants. Straightforward enough story and I’m a big Marvel fan, so I should have enjoyed this, right? Wrong. I largely hated it. Here’s why.

Too long, too many characters and an unconvincing version of diversity. A mess but an interesting one!

The film is just too slow and long. Two and a half hours where I found it difficult to take much interest or empathise with any of the characters. It has far too many characters and it promotes an unrealistic version of diversity.

Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos) is the Marvel franchise’s first openly gay superhero. As Jenna Benchetrit · CBC News points out: “Previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have featured “gay moments,” like Avengers: Endgame’s brief scene in which a non-superhero character, portrayed by director Joe Russo, describes a same-sex date. In other cases, characters are canonically LGBTQ+ in the comics (including Asgardian warrior Valkyrie) or in other Marvel properties outside of the realm of films (like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who hinted at his bisexuality in the eponymous Disney+ television series).

In 2016, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool winked and nudged at the character’s pansexuality — but that’s where it stopped.”

I welcome the fact that Marvel reflects reality by including gay characters. I don’t like the fact that some backward nations saw this as a reason to try to censor or ban the film. I dislike the way that Phastos is depicted as a ‘family’ orientated character. The family relationship between Phastos and his husband, Ben (Haaz Sleiman) and their son Jack (Esai Daniel Cross) is cloyingly stressed. Turning to my Woke Newspeak Phrasebook I would call it a hetreonormative portrayal of queer life. We will be making real progress when this vanilla coating isn’t seen as necessary. I look forward to the day the Marvel ‘universe’ is big enough to include bad gay people – even villains! I’m just not sure whether the studio’s promise that Phastos’ sexuality would simply be a part of his character and not a defining feature has been kept. The (no chemistry) kiss between Phastos and Ben has upset some but I’m glad that the studio refused to edit it out when they came under pressure – it’s just a part of life and really in this day and age is it something people should get worked up about even if they don’t like it? I don’t think so.

The hetrosexual sex scene in Eternals (between Richard Madden’s Ikaris and Gemma Chan’s Sersi) is a new departure too. The only thing close to a sex scene in any Marvel universe movie previously was early in 2008’s Iron Man. It’s very tastefully done and I believe it’s a good thing to show this as part of relationships even in Superhero movies. As the film’s Director, Chloé Zhao, said: ““For us to be able to show two people who love each other, not just emotionally and intellectually but also physically, and to have a sex scene that will be seen by a lot of people that shows their love and compassion and gentleness — I think it’s a really beautiful thing.”

The sheer number of characters means that characterisation is underdeveloped. This results in it being difficult to identify with or care about any of them. There are just too many characters that need backstories and motivations explained. The only character in Eternals I liked was Indian actor Harish Patil. He steals every scene he is in and I would have liked to have seen more of him as his appearances are brief.

All in all the film is a bit of a mess. It’s an interesting mess and there are some firsts which I applaud but I can understand why some Marvel universe friends say it seemed to last an eternity!

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House of Gucci (2021)

Director
Ridley Scott
Writers
Becky Johnston (screenplay by) Roberto Bentivegna (screenplay by) Sara Gay Forden (based on the book by)
Stars: Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, Jared Leto

House of Gucci is a difficult film to categorise. That’s led to some criticism. It’s a straightforward enough tale which centres on the love affair between Maurizio (Adam Driver) and Patrizia (Lady Gaga). Patrizia is the daughter of the owner of a truck company and Maurizio is an heir to the Gucci fashion dynasty. Maurizio’s father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons) doesn’t like Patrizia. He is a snob who reacts to the marriage of the two lovers by cutting them off. His uncle, Aldo (Al Pacino) sees potential in Patrizia and includes her.

An enjoyable film that switches between a dark drama and comedy.

The film chronicles the feuds, back stabbing, plotting and even murder in this high drama but at times it switches to comedy. This is particularly true when Aldo’s son Paolo is on screen (an incredible performance from Jared Leto). I laughed outloud at some of the scenes with Paolo. His strange fashion designs and interactions with the rest of the family were hilarious. I didn’t have a problem with the film switching between that and darker content.

Perhaps this is a perverse view but at the end I couldn’t help but think that had they listened to the streetwise and savvy Patrizia the Gucci’s might have fared better!

House of Gucci is an enjoyable and very watchable film with a great ensemble cast. The interactions between different cast members is fascinating to watch – Irons and Pacino, Salma Hayek (as the Psychic Pina Auriemma) and Gaga and Gaga and Driver to list just a few of the combinations. Keep an open mind and you will enjoy it.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Culture Vulture Xmas Special

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Rodin in his time Sky Arts 6 am

A documentary that looks at the life of Rodin through his writings and correspondences set against the political-cultural and artistic backdrop of 19th-century Europe.

Great Expectations (2012) BBC2 11:45 pm

Orphan Pip rises through high Society with the assistance of a mysterious benefactor. Pip tries everything to win the heart of the rich cold-blooded Estella in this classic Dickens tale. Stars Helena v Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

Thursday 23 December 2021

The Polar Express Sky Showcase 6 pm

A great animated movie. See our review here

Lucy Worsley’s Christmas Carol Odyssey BBC4 1130 pm

Lucy reveals the surprising stories behind our favourite Christmas carols.

Rumpelstilzche Sky Arts 11:45 pm

A miller boasts to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold, and the monarch tells her life is forfeit on the third time she fails. She despairs until a strange man appears, offering to spin straw into gold in exchange for a gift. A production of the fairy tale by dance company Ballet Boyz, with Jane Horrocks in the title role, alongside Tanya Reynolds and John Marquez. Stage adaptation of the German fairy tale written by Willhelm Grimm.

Friday 24 December 2021 (Christmas Eve)

Spitting Image: Christmas Special ITV 10 pm

A special Xmas episode of the puppet-based satirical sketch show. Elton John meets Brad Pitt, Nicola Sturgeon shares a Glasgow kiss under the mistletoe, Phoebe Waller-Bridge pens the Queen’s Speech and Tom Cruise saves Christmas.

American Oz

Like my fascination with Alice, I’ve always been fascinated by Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. This documentary explores in two parts the life of L. Frank Baum the writer of the American classic ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. And yes you read it right the book has ‘Wonderful’ but not the classic 1939 film. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle his political views, which were decidedly mixed! I also want to see what the documentary says about the supposed hidden meanings in the Oz stories. Baum was often asked whether his stories had hidden meanings, but he always replied only that they were written to “please children”.

Saturday 25 December 2021 (Christmas Day)

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga Cheek to Cheek Sky Arts 9 pm


Cover art from the album Cheek to Cheek. The cover art can be obtained from Interscope Records.

A television performance at the Rose Theatre supporting their collaborative studio album Cheek to Cheek. Cheek to Cheek consists of jazz standards by popular composers such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin. It was inspired by Bennett and Gaga’s desire to introduce the songs to a younger generation since they believed these tracks have a universal appeal. I’m pleased that Gaga and Chrissie Hynde have, separately, recorded Jazz standards for a new generation to appreciate and enjoy.

Sunday 26 December 2021 (Boxing Day)

A Very British Scandal BBC1 9 pm

Who doesn’t like a great scandal? This three-parter tells the story of Margaret Sweeny who meets the dashing (and married) Ian Campbell, future Duke of Argyl.

Selected by Pat Harrington

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Mark Kermode’s Secrets Of Cinema: Christmas Cinema Secrets

A festive edition of the series that entertainingly explains the inner workings of the Xmas genre. Christmas themes have often inspired writers and artists and Mark shows how these popular themes are reinterpreted in many different ways in different films.

Mark Kermode unwraps a glittering selection of Christmas cinematic treats, from much-loved classics to hidden gems, from Hollywood blockbusters to international films.

Mark puts it like this:

“As with every popular genre festive films share common themes and traits which can be combined, jumbled, and reconfigured in myriad different ways. Like snowflakes, each one’s different but somehow the same. And because Christmas is so deeply embedded in our lives and culture it’s a rich seam for filmmakers to mine. And tonight I’m going to show you how they turn our shared experience into the stuff of cinema gold.”

The themes analysed are:

  1. Scrooge Variations
  2. Countdown to Christmas
  3. Good Ghosts
  4. Dark Santas
  5. Family Christmas
  6. Nativity
  7. Far From Home
  8. Christmas Romance
  9. The Healing Factor

Mark Kermode’s knowledge, sweep and ability to group so many different films into themes and then discuss those themes with insight is impressive. It made me realise how much we take things for granted and don’t think about how films work or why we like them. It also left me with a long list of films I either wanted to rewatch (notably the Scrooge variations and my favourite Xmas film – Bad Santa) or that I had somehow missed like Divine in Female Trouble and Nativity featuring Martin Freeman as a put-upon Teacher.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Secrets of British animation BBC Four 12:30 am

A documentary exploring more than a century of animation in Britain including the creative and technical inventiveness of our greatest animation pioneers. BBC4 says: “The defining characteristic of British animation has always been ingenuity. Unable to compete with the big American studios, animators in Britain were forced to experiment, developing their own signature styles. The documentary uncovers the trade secrets of animation legends like Bob Godfrey, John Halas and Joy Batchelor, Len Lye and Bristol’s world-renowned Aardman Animations.”

Tracey Emin: this cultural life BBC4 2:30 am

A deeply personal interview in which artist Tracey Emin talks to John Wilson about the experiences that have shaped her life and career. Tracey speaks about undergoing treatment for cancer, her two abortions, and the profound impact that both of these experiences have had on her artistic output. She also discusses the extraordinary effect that a painting by Mark Rothko had on her as a young woman, her affinity with the work of Edvard Munch, and her friendship with David Bowie. I’m a big Fan of Emin who I think is both brave and original. I was fascinated by her Desert Island Discs choices and story and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Mark Kermode’s Christmas Cinema Secrets BBC4 11:00 pm

I try to ration my Xmas themed TV programmes as they can be a bit overwhelming but Mark always has something interesting to say. In this Christmas special, Here he analyzes what makes the perfect Christmas movie.

Peterloo Film4 1250 am

A film bringing to life the story of the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Field in Manchester saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protesters were killed and hundreds more injured. A fascinating insight into how brutal the UK state can be to its own people.

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Love, Simon Film4 1.25am

See our review here

Russell Howard: Lubricant is available on Netflix from Tuesday, the 14th of December I admit that I have a Marmite reaction to Russell Howard’s material. I either love or hate it. He can be very funny but his Woke virtual signaling can irritate.

Brexit the Uncivil War is available available on Netflix from Thursday 16 of December. It’s the dramatised account of Dominic Cummings efforts to convince British voters to vote to leave the European Union. I’ve seen it before but I think it’s worth another viewing.

Out now to buy and rent are two films I saw at the cinema.

Respect where Jennifer Hudson does an excellent job of playing Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Aretha had a troubled life and an amazing talent. Despite the ups and downs, this is a film with a positive message.

If The Many Saints of Newark has a message I’m not sure what it is but I doubt that it’s positive! As a big fan of the Sopranos, an American crime drama television series created by David Chase, I love this prequel, however. It gives an insight into the life of Tony Soprano. Young Tony is played by the late James Gandolfini’s (who played Tony in Sopranos) son Michael. Set in 1960s New Jersey it shows Tony growing up and growing meaner.

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Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Phil Lynott: Songs for While I’m Away BBC Two 10 pm

Tells the story of how a young working-class black boy from 1950s Dublin became Ireland’s greatest rockstar told extensively through the words of Lynott himself and focusing on some of his iconic songs. The film gets to the heart of Phil’s story who died at the age of only 36 in January 1986.

Sight and Sound in Concert: Thin Lizzy BBC Two 11:30 pm

A vintage gig by the Irish guitar rockers at the Regal Theatre in Hitchin Hertfordshire from January 1983. Such classics as Jailbreak Baby, Please Don’t Go and the Boys are Back in Town along with the cover of the Bob Seger song Rosalie are featured.

The Irish Rock Story: A Tale of Two Cities BBC Two 12:05 am

The Story of how Rock music evolved in Ireland over 40 years through the different musical traditions of Belfast and Dublin. The creators of some of the Emerald Isle’s most famous exports are charted including Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, The Undertones, and U2.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Animal Farm (1954) Film Four 11 am

An animated version of George Orwell’s modern classic. After ousting humans animals try to create the perfect society.

Women’s FA Cup final BBC One 1:30 pm

The final between Arsenal and Chelsea. They last met in September with the Gunners winning a close game.

Other Like Me: The oral history of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle BBC4 10:35 pm

How a pioneering 1970s art collective invented industrial music.

Gaga for Dada BBC Four 11:35 pm

Jim Moir (also known as Vic Reeves) goes on an irreverent trip into the world of influential avant-garde art movement Dada.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021

The Code of Conspiracy: QAnon Channel 4 9 pm

Looks behind the curtain at the wildest conspiracy of our times, QAnon. What leads people down such a divergent belief? A one-off documentary that seeks an answer.

Play For Today: Hard Labour (1973) BBC Four 10:30 pm

Mike Leigh’s play centres around a middle-aged housewife and charwoman, Mrs Thornley (played by Liz Smith) who is abused and exploited by almost everybody. I grew up watching Play for Today from the BBC and loved them. We’ve started reviewing them for Counter Culture as they are gems. I wish the BBC would do something similar now.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Destry rides again (1939) Film 4 12:30 pm

Worth watching for the divine Marlene’s performance alone

A classic comedy western with Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart. Destry returns to a town (Bottle Neck) where his father once served as Sheriff. It’s now a lawless place so he tries to restore order. I will mainly be watching for the performance of Marlene (playing saloon singer Frenchy) but this is a good film overall.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Trainspotting Film 4 1120 pm. A great film we reviewed here.

Friday, 10 December 2021

The Graham Norton Show BBC One 10:35 pm I don’t usually watch this, but this features Keanu Reeves who talks about resurrecting Neo in the new Matrix movie.

Nick Cave: Idiot Prayer BBC Four 9 pm

During the pandemic, Nick Cave did a solo piano set in the deserted West Hall of London’s Alexandra Palace which was then live-streamed globally. This is a film of his mesmerising performance containing songs drawn from his 20-year repertoire.

Future of Home exhibition, Custom Lane, 1 Customs Wharf, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6AL, 3rd to the 19th of December 2021

Following a critically acclaimed debut at the London Design Festival exhibition created by an Edinburgh-based studio, Local Heroes arrives back in its hometown. The exhibition features work by 16 Scotland-based designers and brands revolving around the idea of the hybrid home and the recent need for flexible working offering a remarkable snapshot of the intersection between design and socio-political conditions.

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Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jjr5

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The Boomtown Rats in Ireland

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats has its faults but is hugely entertaining and informative. Director Billy McGrath records and analyses both the band’s history and its music. He highlights key (sometimes iconic) footage documenting its huge success and subsequent fall from popularity. Guests include Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Stewart, Jools Holland, David Mallet and Sting, as well as music writers, photographers, and historians all give their views on the history and social impact of the Rats.

I should declare my interest. I am a Boomtown Rats fan. I loved ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ when I first heard it. I loved the mix of punk rebellion with people who could actually play instruments and carry a tune. I loved the relative complexity of the lyrics.

The Boomtown Rats originated in Ireland. An Ireland that was economically grim and socially frozen. Ireland was dominated by the allied Church and State and to many young people was depressing and corrupt. All many wanted to do was escape. That was certainly true of the members of the Boomtown Rats. Added to that sense of alienation or estrangement was there disrupted family backgrounds. All in all a mix for anti-authority, questioning and rebellious positions. And that’s exactly what you got.

For me, the relationship between their Irish roots and the state of that nation was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. The lyric of Banana Republic written in response to the band being banned from performing in the Republic is uncompromising. Take the chorus:
“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Suffer in the Screaming sea
It sounds like dying
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests”

The Irish establishment took a dim view of this song and Geldof’s earlier “denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians” in a 1977 interview/performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show. The Irish Times described the band as “a thorn shoved into the skin of church and state”.(1)

Yet the Rats were also one of Ireland’s most successful exports for a time opening up opportunities that other Irish bands followed. And Geldof never abandoned Ireland itself whilst maintaining his criticism of the system there.

There are many ‘might have been questions’ raised by the documentary. The Rats were ahead of their time in terms of producing music videos but there was no dedicated music video channel at the time. Had there been maybe they would have broken through in the United States. If Geldof had been less abrasive and understood America and Americans better perhaps they would have done better there. As the Irish Times put it: “Geldof, for whom keeping his mouth shut did not come naturally, went out of his way to alienate US audiences by deriding the sainted Bruce Springsteen.” (2)

You can mark the end of the band at different points but I would place it when they failed to breakthrough in the United States. It didn’t help that the anthemic I Don’t Like Mondays was blocked by legal threats from being produced as a single there.

Bob Geldof kept busy. He starred in Pink Floyd the Wall (released in 1982) cast as the mentally deranged Fascist leader Pink. He brought his energy to organise the massive 1985 Live Aid charity concerts and the Xmas hit Do they know it’s Christmas? and many associated efforts for famine relief in Africa.

The Rats reunited as a part-time touring act in 2013 and in 2020, 36 years after their last release. They also produced a seventh album, Citizens of Boomtown (after which the documentary is named). Although keyboardist Johnny Fingers and early-era guitarist Gerry Cott are both absent, the Rats of 2020 — Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, and drummer Simon Crowe – are all original members. The album received mixed reviews but the live gigs were said to be filled with energy and passion by those who attended.

In both the documentary and in an interview with Rolling Stone Geldof insists that the band’s older songs aren’t nostalgia but are relevant today:

““When I sing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ I’m not in 1979,” he says. “I’m in last night’s school massacre, which nobody anticipated at the time. When I’m doing ‘Rat Trap,’ it’s not for the hopelessness of the people in that abattoir I wrote it in, but hopelessness now. When I do ‘Banana Republic’ it’s not for the Irish Republic, which eventually grew up and matured. It’s for the American republic as it descends ever further into political infantilism.”

“When I do ‘Lookin’ After No. 1′ it’s not about the conditions of life in 1979,” he continues. “It’s about Google and Facebook and [Mark] Zuckerberg always on, always monitoring, collating every thought you have, every friend, every choice, packaging and selling it to a third party who in turn exploits you and your preferences. It’s utterly now. That rage, that animus propels the Boomtown Rats.” (3)

I can’t hope to cover all the informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining aspects of this documentary. It is so full. Though there are still aspects missed such as Geldof’s support for Father’s Rights and his opposition to Brexit.

I said at the start that it had flaws. There is a very contrived ‘interview’ with Bob Geldof at the beginning which I think is meant to be funny but isn’t. I didn’t make much of the rather ‘art-schooly’ of the band walking through a tunnel behind a figure wearing a gas mask and pulling a board laden with rocks. Each to their own though! It is also a little self-congratulatory but given the band, and particularly ‘Saint Bob’s’ contribution to humanitarian relief and social progress maybe we can forgive them that!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

(1) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-boomtown-rats-citizens-of-…
(2) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/citizens-of-boomtown-bob-geldo…
(3) https://www.rollingstone.com/…/bob-geldof-interview-boomto…/

Picture credit: By Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/5486877395/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14267259

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1950s Tiki Culture / Exotica Documentary (“The Air-Conditioned Eden”) (Parts 1 and 2)

Tiki_Anthony_Eisley_Hawaiian_Eye_1961

Tiki culture gave repressed 50s Americans an excuse to be freer

This documentary is about “Tiki Culture” & Exotica in 1950s American pop culture. It aired circa 1999 as part of Channel 4’s “Without Walls” series. It’s a fascinating look at how Americans created a weird fusion of cultures (originally drawn from Hawaii, Polynesia, and Oceania), to escape from the sexual and social repression of their daily lives. Tiki had its own music (Martin Denny & Exotica music is featured) and the style influenced arts, design, leisure, architecture and much else. Some even tried to create a Tiki home. But why? What drove this?

Jarrett Hedborg, an Interior Designer who contributed to the documentary said:

“A lot of this look is about running away from technology. The idea of the White man’s garden of Eden and this feeling of refuge. It is feasible to have the fantasy of sitting on the beach under a palm tree looking out at the Pacific even though you’re sitting on your bamboo sofa in Des Moines, Idaho staring out at your back garden.”

Delusional? Maybe!

Walt Disney even created a big Tiki attraction at Disneyland.

At one point America (and particularly American men) went crazy for the idea of natives who lived by different standards and who gave them permission to be freer. The swaying hips and beckoning hands invited them to join a fantasy. The effect on other cultures and how they defined their identity was almost certainly more negative. Their culture was distorted and projected back to them. By the 60s Tiki began to disappear. It became an embarrassment and most hid their Tiki paraphernalia.

As one of the contributors sums up: “Tiki was a purely populist or pop culture phenomenon. It was very loved by the people but discarded and shunned by culture critics and writers. The elitists were demanding more authenticity. The people didn’t care. They didn’t know better so they just had fun with it.”

Fascinating.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Part one is here

Part two is here

 

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@JohnLewis: Never Knowingly Undertweeted

johnlewis

Simon Jay gives a compelling performance in this one man show

Venue 93
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom – The Basement
12:00
Aug 4-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-26
1 hour

Simon Jay gives a versatile performance in this fascinating one-man show. Based on a true story, the play is about an American teacher called John Lewis whose twitter account is confused with that of the well known co-operative Department Store. A strange tale and no wonder that the Standard picked it as one of the ten quirkiest shows of the Fringe!

It’s a story that is funny but raises serious questions about identity, corporate branding and social media. Jay portrays different roles apart from John Lewis including customers and staff at the HQ of the store. Jay oozes energy and humour. I liked his miming of shaving and his dancing (Jay is quite a physical performer!).

I should make special mention to the enjoyable and diverse music soundtrack which accompanies the show and underlines themes in the script. Best of all the show is part of the free festival so go along, enjoy and put money (what you can afford) in the bucket at the end!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

#IntoTheUnknown #EdFringe2018 #EdFringe

5 Star Images - Clipart library

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Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

bowiethemanwhochangedtheworld

Click on image to buy

Bowie: The Man Who Changed the World (2016)

1h 25min | Documentary, Biography, Music | 9 May 2016 (UK)
 
Genres: Documentary
Director: Sonia Anderson
Starring: David Bowie, Lawrence Myers, Paul Nicholas
Supporting actors: Dana Gillespie, Mary Finnigan, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, Clive Langer, Chris Sullivan, Breege Collins, Angie Bowie
Studio: Under The Milky Way
 
 
There are things to like in this documentary. It offers some of insight into a very complex, multi-faceted and creatively restless man. A man stimulated by new ideas and experiences. It features interviews with Bowie himself and people who knew him (if you ever could!). The documentary is fascinating because the subject never ceased to amaze, entertain and, at times, baffle us.
 
Bowie was a versatile innovator who had a huge impact on popular culture. Everyone saw the waves emananting from what he did but Bowie the man was a mystery. This documentary doesn’t solve that mystery but the interviews do give us some glimpses of the character behind the creativity.
 
For me the most interesting part was the first part dealing with his early life. Both Dana Gillespie and Mary Finnigan paint a bleak picture of his homelife.
 
Mary Finnigan says of Bowie’s mother “she was very stiff, very starchy, you had no chance of getting to know her properly, very reserved”.
 
Dana Gillespie speaks of visit to his home – “a cold house” “it was like walking around with cement blocks on your shoulders” and reveals Bowie said “Whatever it takes I want to get out of this place. I never want to grow up here”.
 
The rest really charts his escape to and triumph in a different world. There are some great Bowie moments. The 1976 interview with Russell Harty is very funny. Harty tries sarcasm on Bowie but he more than meets his match. The interviews with close friends and business associates can be informative. I had no idea that when he was broke he auditioned for the musical Hair! or how hands on he was on different aspects of his stage productions like lighting.
 
There is some great information in this documentary but it does jump around in terms of timeline and isn’t well structured. The images don’t always match the story being told and some are overused. My other big criticism is the complete lack of Bowie music which I’m guessing was down to not reaching agreement with the Bowie estate.
 
I saw this on Netflix so if you’re on there check it out. Would I buy it if I wasn’t on Netflix? On balance yes because, as a Bowie fan, despite my criticisms, it is worth watching.
 
Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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