Check Yourself Before You Trainwreck Yourself


I loved Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck. It was painfully funny, genuinely moving, and featured an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton. There is so much to love and yet… and yet… Before I went to see Trainwreck someone mentioned that perhaps the film had a surprising number of jokes about race and sexuality for a romantic comedy about a straight white couple.

Just like that the seed was planted.

I have a confession to make. I am privileged. I took the quiz on and scored 170 earning myself the title of “Shitlord”. I am a white able-bodied heterosexual cis-male atheist who was born in a prosperous Western country and as time goes by I learn more and more how lucky that makes me. This means that I do often having to stop and think about aspects of media that would otherwise pass me by. The main result of this has been an exploration of feminism and learning to understand all sorts of new phrases like “patriarchy”, “the male gaze”, and “victim blaming”. It makes certain types of film a lot harder to enjoy but ultimately is a good thing.

Trainwreck is arguably a huge feminist success story. In the lead role is a woman who enjoys sex, has a decent job, and talks to other women about subjects other than men. Good stuff. We have a winner. Let’s move along now. Oh crap there’s still racism and homophobia to deal with.

Trainwreck 2

With my mind tainted by the idea that Trainwreck might not be completely kosher I couldn’t watch the film without each joke about race or sexuality sticking out. I kept a tally and reached a count of 16 jokes in total that boiled down to either “Ha! You’re gay!” or “Ha! You’re black!”. As I said before this is made all the more jarring considering the film was about a white woman falling in love with a white man. That’s not to say the cast is entirely white; Schumer’s love interest, played by Bill Hader, has a best friend who just happens to be black (and LeBron James) but the race jokes still find their way in.

Just to be clear I am not saying Trainwreck is ground zero for all racist and homophobic comedy. I’m not even saying that Trainwreck is either homophobic or racist. What am I saying then? I guess I am asking questions; I am wondering whether a comedy can exist that not only shows feminist qualities but does so without turning race or sexuality into cheap jokes. Does comedy need a target to be funny? Can you have a joke without someone being the butt? Amy Schumer is an excellent comedian and writer and has created a film bursting at the seams with jokes that will make you weep. Could it have done without those 16 jokes? I’d say so. Am I being over-sensitive? Perhaps.

Go and see Trainwreck and judge for yourself. It really is a magnificent comedy.

BFI London Film Festival 2015 Line-up

BFI LFF 2015

Yesterday saw the reveal of not just the sexy new logo for the BFI London Film Festival 2015 but the full line-up of films. Which is more important I will leave up to you. The festival takes place in various London venues from 7th to 18th October 2015 with booking for members opening on 10th September and for the general public from the 17th. The full list of films can be found at the BFI website while below I have chosen one film from each strand of the festival. The films below constitute my gut reaction as to which films are the most exciting.


In the Room
In the Room
Spread across many decades but set within one hotel room this film promises to explore love and lust through numerous encounters in just the one room. What better way to explore love than by examining what happens behind closed doors between couples?


My Scientology Movie
My Scientology Movie
Louis Theroux turns his sceptical gaze towards the church of Scientology in a film that has caused sufficient debate to cause the church to film their own opposing documentary about Theroux. Come for the film and stay for the likely protesting Scientologists.


The Lobster
The Lobster
Yorgos Lanthimos has impressed with his previous efforts Dogtooth and Alps so arrives at his third feature with great expectations. Set in a world in which singletons are given just less than two months to find love this romantic thriller caused a big stir at Cannes and is high on my watch list.


Live from New York!
Live from New York!
Standing out for me in the comic strand of the festival is this documentary on the history of Saturday Night Live. As a fan of the show I relish the opportunity to get behind the scenes and see how the show that launched a thousand careers is made.


The Ones Below
The Ones Below
The best thrillers can turn the mundane into the exhilarating and what is more mundane but intriguing than new neighbours moving in downstairs? So it is for a wealthy couple who invite their new neighbours around for dinner only to experience a tragic accident.


Elstree 1976
Elstree 1976
With Star Wars fever reaching a new peak there is no better time to enjoy a documentary featuring ten anonymous individuals who appeared as extras in those early George Lucas films. More a character study than behind the scenes exposé this looks to be a sweet documentary.


Ruined Heart
Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore
I can’t resist a lengthy title and a confusing synopsis so how can I not be drawn towards a film described as a “kaleidoscope of sex, violence and crime” with a “banging soundtrack at its core”. The idea of someone at the BFI using the term “banging” is charming enough on its own.


I’ve heard very mixed reactions towards this film coming out of other film festivals but any film giving older actors a chance to be centre stage again is OK in my book. With Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel in the lead roles Youth threatens to be a lot of fun.


When Marnie Was There
When Marnie Was There
As part of their family friendly selection of films the BFI have included what may well be the final film from Studio Ghibli. How can you not watch it? This is history in the making.


The Stuff of Film
The Stuff of Film
I have had a mixed response to this challenging strand of the festival in the past. My previous coverage of the artistic shorts has previously resulted in angry emails and notes of thanks from artists; both from the same blog post. This collection of shorts which examine how we see the moving image promise to be as frustrating and fabulous as usual.

Wes Craven 1939 – 2015

Wes Craven

2nd August 1939 – 30th August 2015

“I believe the cinema is one of our principal forms of art. It is an incredibly powerful way to tell uplifting stories that can move people to cry with joy and inspire them to reach for the stars.”

52 Tuesdays – Film Review

52 Tuesdays

Set and filmed over a year’s worth of Tuesdays this remarkable directorial debut from Sophie Hyde follows young teen Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) as her mother (Del Herbert-Jane) transitions into a man. While undergoing hormone treatment and adapting to life as a man James asks Billie to move in with her father but they agree to meet up for one day every week to ensure they stay in each others lives. Over the course of this year it is not just James that undergoes a dramatic change as while he tries to become the man he always wanted to be Billie explores her own sexuality and finds herself transitioning from a girl into a woman.

You’ll have to excuse me, I think I am about to gush.

52 Tuesdays is a special film. The performances are supremely and convincing and result in naturally flawed characters I really believed in. Despite the potential for the film to get preachy considering the subject matter there was more emphasis on authenticity than getting any particular message across. Potentially heavy issues were dealt with using a refreshing lightness of touch; not trivialised as much as they are humanised.

The film is as much an exploration of young female sexuality as it is about transitioning gender. It looks at the notion of identity, maturity, and love. There is even an exploration of the ideas Men, Women & Children was toying with but there is no sense that the audience is being bashed about the head with them. 52 Tuesdays is simply a well-considered and well made film which succeeds in normalising a niche experience.

52 Tuesdays 2

What more do you want me to say?

Each Tuesday is introduced with a few seconds of news footage from the week it was filmed giving the film a real sense of time and place. The relationship between Billie and James is at once the strongest on-screen familial relationship I’ve seen in a long time and on the verge of breaking down at any moment. The progression of time leaves the two characters changed from the start of the film to its end and the question becomes whether the two individuals at the film’s close can have the same relationship they shared at its start.

52 Tuesdays is sweet, sexy, and painful. 52 Tuesdays wears its heart on its sleeve and while not perfect it is made with love, determination, and authenticity. 52 Tuesdays is a special film.

52 Tuesdays is in UK cinemas from today.

Priced Out of Indie Cinemas

Picturehouse Central

The Cineworld in London’s Trocadero near Leicester Square was a grim place; mice scuttled across the floor and every surface was sticky. When the lights went down and a film started to play it was a sweet release to be lost in a fictional world but when the final credits rolled the horror of the surroundings dragged you back to reality with a bump. A sticky, slightly squelchy, bump. Thankfully the dark days of the Trocadero Cineworld are behind us and the era of Picturehouse Central is here.


Picturehouse Central is a beautiful temple to cinema with exposed brickwork, a grand staircase, and an inefficient but effective use of light-bulbs. While the Cineworld was an ugly duckling the site has now grown into a gorgeous Picturehouse swan. What films do they show you ask? Why only the finest selection of mainstream and art house films of course! (And Ted 2.) So why did I go to book tickets last week and balk at the idea?

£18 a ticket is why.

This combined with a £1.50 booking fee makes the new Picturehouse Cinema more expensive (for a standard adult ticket) than going to the country’s biggest screen at the BFI IMAX. Admittedly a closer look at the ticket prices does reveal discounts for Picturehouse members and £8 tickets until 2016 for a select group of screenings including Picturehouse DOCS, Discover Tuesdays, Vintage Sundays and Culture Shock. Sadly no sign of the £7 tickets on a Monday as mentioned when the cinema first opened last month.

The independent cinema chains (an oxymoron surely?) do tend to be a bit pricier but even the Curzon Soho, just up the road from the Trocadero, only charges £14 and the truly independent, and truly spectacular, Price Charles Cinema clocks in at £11 at peak times.

I love films and I love Picturehouses, Greenwich and Hackney Picturehouses have been graced with my presence on multiple occasions, but I struggle to justify spending more than £15 on a single cinema ticket. Call me cheap or call me sane but prices this high will simply make most screenings at an otherwise fantastic cinema inaccessible to those below a certain salary band. My main point is that I really, really want to go to Picturehouse Central. I want to eat organic snacks in tastefully upholstered seating but don’t have enough disposable income to do so.

To put the £18 ticket fee in context, and to find a more affordable place to spend time in the dark, I have taken a look at all the cinemas you can find in central London to see how much they charge. I’ve even put them all on a map for you. Clicking on each cinema on the map shows the price of a single adult ticket for a Thursday evening 2D screening with no concessions or membership deals taken into account. Booking fees are shown in brackets where available.

If you are looking for a mainstream movie your best bet is to visit one of the not too sticky smaller Odeons and for smaller films the Prince Charles Cinema is always worth a look. When you’re feeling a bit more flush then maybe you’ll want to give Picturehouse Central a try. Take me with you when you go, I’ll buy dinner if you get the tickets.

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