As we enter the second half of the year it seems like a good time to look back over all the films shown at the Picture House so far. 2019 started strong for me with The Favourite and I confidently claimed it would be the best film of the year. I loved how it took something quite familiar but presented it in such a unique way by mixing together humour, tenderness and some ridiculousness.
The Favourite remained at the top of my favourites list until very recently when I caught up with Minding The Gap (unfortunately I didn’t get to see it in the cinema). This is one of those brilliant documentaries that starts telling one wonderfully engaging story but as events unfold becomes a film about something else completely. I found it incredibly moving and if you missed it it’s currently available on iPlayer.
Something I’ve noticed this year is that here in the UK we’re having to wait a long time to see some really acclaimed American films. Minding The Gap was one of these but we had to wait the best part of a year to see Support The Girls (out this week and coming to Hyde Park later this month), Madeline’s Madeline and my third choice Eighth Grade. I’ve never been a teenage girl but I found Bo Burnham’s film so relatable. It manages to capture so much about hope and despair and all of life’s anxieties whilst being terrifying and funny in equal measures.
We didn’t have to wait quite as long to see If Beale Street Could Talk, a truly beautiful and moving film with an even better soundtrack and my fourth choice. Finally to keep this selection to only five films I’m going to include US. US didn’t quite live up to my expectations when I was watching it but it really hooked me in and it was a film I kept thinking about days later.
There we have it, my top 5 films shown at the Hyde Park Picture House so far this year are:
- Minding The Gap
- The Favourite
- Eighth Grade
- If Beale Street Could Talk
I should also mention there are quite a few other films that I really liked but saw them last year at film festivals before their 2019 release including: Pond Life, Colette, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Beautiful Boy, Border, One Cut Of The Dead and probably others I’m forgetting about now.
Now it’s over to you, do share your highlights of the year in the comments or if you want to say a bit more we’re still looking for contributors so get in touch.
Showing 21st-23rd June and 26th June
A quick recommendation for Sometimes Always Never, the debut feature film from Carl Hunter which is showing this weekend at the Picture House. Scripted by Frank Cottrell-Boyce who has previously collaborated with Danny Boyle (Millions, 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony) and Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, 24 Hour Party People). It tells the story of a father (Bill Nighy) who is preoccupied by the disappearance of his grown son who stormed out over a Scrabble disagreement years earlier.
When I saw the film at the Keswick Film Festival, Hunter said he wanted to make something that was British but uniquely so and he employs many different techniques to achieve this. It will remind you of other things, for me it was Wes Anderson, but as a whole it is unlike anything else. The strong cast and writing tell a heartfelt and charming story and some great cameos and funny moments provide lots of entertainment.
There’s a great soundtrack by Edwyn Collins as well.
Pond Life – showing daily until Thursday 2nd May
Growing Pains is a small season of films about “young people, their experiences, and perspectives on the world”. The season started a few weeks ago with Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s which follows a 13 year old boy as he discovers a group of skateboarders in a Los Angeles suburb and tries to find out where he belongs. It was a film I liked even though it didn’t always seem sure quite what it wanted to be but maybe that was the point.
We’re still in the 1990s this week but much closer to home with Pond Life which is set and was filmed near Doncaster. Nominally about the legend of a giant carp in the nearby ponds it’s really all about a group young people in a small community. The film was previewed at the film festival last November, a full house and an entertaining cast and crew Q&A made it one of my highlights of the festival. Some may say the film is slight but it’s this quietness and nostalgic feeling of endless summers that felt incredibly heartfelt, perhaps it resonated so much with me because I was also a teenager in the 1990s. The film is beautifully made with some really strong performances from the young cast who I am sure will go on to great things (Esme Creed-Miles can also be seen in Amazon’s TV version of the Joe Wright film Hanna). There’s also a great soundtrack from Richard Hawley which mystifyingly doesn’t seem to be available to listen to anywhere yet.
Pond Life is on general release this week and showing at the Picture House daily, it’s a shame that such a small charming film is getting a release at the same time as one of the biggest blockbusters but I do hope people seek it out as it’s really important that films like this get seen in the cinema.
Also on general release this week and coming to Hyde Park from Friday 3rd May is Eighth Grade another fantastic smaller film that will hopefully not get lost in the shadow of the Avengers. We’re very much back in contemporary times as Kayla, brilliantly played by Elsie Fisher, deals with growing up in the modern social media obsessed digital age. Mark Kermode sums it up brilliantly:
Released in America last year, it feels like we’ve had to wait an awful long time to see Eighth Grade in the UK but it’s definitely been worth it. It’s also been a long wait to see Madeline’s Madeline which is screening from the 10th May. I’ve only heard great things about this and the New York Times describe Helen Howard’s debut performance as “one of the great teen performances in film history.” which must be something considering how good the performances have been in the rest of the Growing Pains season.
The film festival is over for another year and what an amazing two weeks it was. I managed to fit in 47 films with a total running time of 82 hours which I thought was a lot until I saw somebody had made it to 70-something screenings. I think it’s an incredible achievement by everybody involved that it’s possible for somebody to see so many films and find something to like about all of them. There were some films I struggled with (Happy As Lazzaro and Birds of Passage) but I think this was more down to my own tiredness (one of the problems of seeing so many films). Other films such as Genesis 2.0, Killing God, Await Further Instructions and I Feel Good all had great ideas that got a bit lost in the final film.
My favourite films this year were all retrospectives from the brilliant Time Frames series. I’ve always loved the Before films and it was relief to find Before Sunrise was as good as I remembered. I finally got to see 12 Angry Men for the first time and it was every bit as good as I had expected. 12 Angry Men was one of many films that seemed surprisingly relevant for 2018, as was Sidney Lumet’s other film, Fail-Safe, another first viewing for me and made even more tense by the shadow of Trump hanging over it.
Of the new films it was Anna and The Apocalypse that I enjoyed the most. It’s the best Scottish zombie high school Christmas musical you’re going to see for some time and the soundtrack (out now) is brilliant. The audience for Pond Life seemed to be made up mostly of cast, crew and their friends and I’m not sure how many festival goers saw it or what people not involved with the film thought of it. It’s far from a perfect film but there was something about it that I really loved and I do hope that when it’s released next summer it finds an audience that appreciated it as much as I did. In Fabric was another new film that completely pulled me in;I can’t begin to explain what it was about but I absolutely loved it.
This year I was also pleasantly surprised by a lot of the more ‘mainstream’ films. One of my few 5 star ratings was for Beautiful Boy and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Widows, The Kindergarten Teacher and Colette were all much better than I was expecting.
I’ve tried to put all the films I saw in some order over on Letterboxd where you can also find my brief thoughts hastily written between films or at the end of a long day.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on the festival in the comments or if you would like to write a longer blog post (on the festival or anything else) get in touch.
Continuing our look at some of the highlights of the year, here are my thoughts on 2018 so far. I’ve not been to see as many films this year but not because of a lack of choice. Many of the best films shown at Hyde Park this year were ones I was lucky enough to see at LIFF or other festivals, so my list doesn’t included the likes of Three Billboards…, You Were Never Really Here, The Breadwinner or Journeyman.
Leaving me with the following:
- Leave No Trace
- Lady Bird
- A Quiet Place
- The Shape Of Water
- Lean on Pete
It saddens me a little that these are all American films but look out for the Icelandic film Heartstone if that shows up in a programme down the line. I saw it at Keswick Film Festival in February and remains one of my favourite films of the year.
As well as serving on the committee for the Friends I’m also involved with Keswick Film Club and in a few weeks their 19th Film Festival will be taking place. I grew up near Keswick and the film club played an important part in developing my love for art house cinema. I’ll be heading back to the Lake District town for the festival and would easily recommend a visit to see some great films in an idyllic location.
There are many films from LIFF in the programme so a great chance to catch up with some you may have missed or just want to see again. The Rider (a wonderful surprise for me and I may see it again), Sami Blood, Blade Of The Immortal, Dark River, The Square and, like Leeds, the festival will be closing with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.
There are films you (probably) won’t have seen yet. Director Simon Hunter will open the festival with Edie, starring Sheila Hancock as an 84 year old who is determine to climb a mountain. A Fantastic Woman has been wowing festival audiences and critics around the world and François Ozon’s L’Amant Double has yet to get a UK release date. We also have one of the first screenings of John Hurt’s final film, That Good Night. John was the patron of the festival and visited a number of times, his wife will be introducing the film.
We’re also delighted to be showing Ken Russell’s Clouds Of Glory, thought for many years to have been lost. Commissioned by Melvyn Bragg for Granada TV, this is Ken Russell’s interpretation of the lives and loves of Coleridge and Wordsworth and was filmed locally. The screening accompanies a talk, Cumbria On Film, exploring how the region has been used for films over the years including Withnail & I and The Force Awakens.
There are also talks on director George Stevens (with screenings of Shane and Woman Of The Year) and “Scared Stiff in the 1960” before a late night screening of the original Night Of The Living Dead.
There are many more films and more guests and I haven’t even mentioned the short film competition which I’m most heavily involved with.
The festival runs from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th February, tickets are £6.50 and passes for the whole weekend are £55 (concessions are available). It mostly takes place in two venues so you can see about half of the entire programme if you get a pass.
And it’s not just about the films, Keswick is great place to visit (especially at this time of year?) and it’s only a few hours away from Leeds.
As the year comes to an end we’re starting to think about the cinematic highlights of 2017 and we’ll be posting some of our favourite films in a few weeks’ time. As I started to think about my own list I realised that I’ve missed a lot of films that are showing up in other end of year lists. So here, in no particular order, is a top ten list of (possibly) the best films I didn’t see this year:
- In Between
- The Beguiled
- I Am Not Your Negro
- Lady Macbeth
- Personal Shopper
- A Quiet Passion
- The Levelling
- My Cousin Rachel
- The Party
I’m going to try and catch up with some of these (Elle and A Quiet Passion are both on Netflix and I Am Not Your Negro and Lady Macbeth are included in Amazon Prime) which do you recommend I should see first? Also do let us know what your favourite films are and we can include them in our end of year round up. If you need a reminder of everything that has been shown at the Picture House this year, we have a list here.
Last week the programme for LIFF2017 was launched along with the new Leeds Film City website (also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). The paper programme should be available in the usual places (including the Picture House) and there is also a PDF version.
As always the programme is packed full of a wide variety of films and deciding what to see is tough process for film lovers. In the end I made a lot of my choices on how easily I could get from one screening to the next, of course it wouldn’t be LIFF if I didn’t have a few dashes between town and the Picture House. I made a clashfinder which shows which films are on at the same time and you may find it useful when you’re planning your festival. Other people are using the clashfinder which means I can see what films are getting highlighted the most and, although this may not reflect ticket sales, the current top 10 is as follows:
- The Square: Opening Film
- The Florida Project
- Bad Genius
- Summer Time Machine Blues
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer: Opening Film
- Dave Made a Maze
- Happy End
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Closing Film
- The Endless
- Good Time
I’m hoping to see all of those films so that list doesn’t surprise me much. I’ve got another 40 or so films in my current plan plus this year I’m hoping to try Night Of The Dead for the first time! What else am I looking forward to? Well there’s new films from Clio Barnard (Dark River) and Paddy Considine (Journeyman), the breakfast screening of Amélie should be a delight (plus it’s a 35mm print) and Mutafukaz looks like it’s the kind of craziness we’ve all come to expect from the festival.
What about you? What films are you looking forward to seeing and have you managed to put together a plan yet? Let us know in the comments.
The new programme started last Friday with Lady Macbeth, “a British, period-set chamber thriller with a star-making turn on one side of the camera, and one hell of a directing debut on the other” (Tim Robey, The Telegraph), and there’s still chance to catch it on Tuesday and Wednesday.
This programme runs through until the middle of July, ending the long wait for Edgar Wright’s next film with Baby Driver. This Sunday the Yorkshire Silent Film Festival returns with a full day at Hyde Park featuring a free selection of cartoons, The House on Trubnaya Street (1928), The Four Just Men (1921), Behind the Door (1919) and Chicago (1927).
Other highlights include the brilliant animated films My Life As A Courgette and The Red Turtle and new releases such as My Cousin Rachel, The Levelling, Clash and After The Storm. There’s also chances to catch classics on the big screen including Manhattan (1979), The Seventh Seal (1957) and La Strada (1954) and Creature Of The Night screenings of The Thing (1982), Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and Heat (1994).
As you probably know the 30th Leeds International Film Festival starts tonight with a screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson at the Town Hall (it’s also showing at the Picture House on Saturday 5th at 8:30pm).
We were hoping to post more about the festival but it’s going to be busy few weeks so that might be difficult but don’t forget about our Twitter and Facebook pages. You can find all of our #LIFF30 posts here including a fascinating look at how the Friends started the festival 30 years ago. On Friday we’ll be highlighting some of the films in the Fanomenon strand showing at the Picture House. The Leeds Movie Fans Meetup Group also have a number of meetings planned during the festival, check out their webpages for more details.
There are nearly 150 films on offer over the next few weeks so there’s bound to be something for everyone. If you’re still planning what to see you might find this clashfinder useful. There really seems to be a lot of great films this year. I’m planning on seeing 45 films over the next two weeks (you can follow my progress on Letterboxd and Twitter) and I still feel like I’m missing out. Here’s a list of ten films I really wanted to see but couldn’t fit in (and that doesn’t include any of the classic films in the soundtrack retrospective which I’d love to have seen again!)
- A Divorce Before Marriage
- Dougal And The Blue Cat
- As I Open My Eyes
- Greetings From Fukushima
- Lady Macbeth
- A Silent Voice
We hope you enjoy the festival and would love to hear your thoughts about any of the films in the comments (or contact us if you’d like to write a longer post for the blog).