Category Archives: Leeds Film Festival

The Brainies

Welcome, ladies and gentlethem, to the first annual Brainies. The web’s most prestigious made-up award ceremony that ends in “ies” to honour the most revered works in film and music and anything else that I feel like talking about. Today, I will be awarding 2019’s best in film, acting, and writing. There will be no in-memorium, this year, because nobody died. Without further ado, to present the award for Best Actor, I present… me!

  • Best Actor
    Lorn Macdonald as Spanner in “Beats”
    Cristian Ortega as Johnno in “Beats”
    Justice Smith as Tim in “Pokémon Detective Pikachu”
    Evan Alex as Jason / Pluto in “Us”

I’m not really as captivated by male-centric films as I am with female lead films, but Beats for me was easily one of the best films I saw from 2019. I decided to watch it based on repeatedly sitting through the trailer in Hyde Park Picture House. I can’t say why exactly, but undoubtedly the portrayal of Spanner’s character was unlike anything I’d seen before and I needed to know more. Outstanding! 

  • Best Actress
    Beanie Feldstein as Molly in “Booksmart”
    Dawn Luebbe as Lisa “Greener Grass”
    Pollyanna McIntosh as The Woman in “Darlin'”
    Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide / Red in “Us”

Here’s where it got difficult. Picking only four actresses to highlight for their work in 2019. As amazing as they all were, Lupita just eases ahead of everyone else for her dual portrayal in Us. She also wowed in the very under appreciated Little Monsters.

There was a lot of expectations riding on Pokémon’s first live action feature film. So many things could have gone wrong. How do you make a 20 year old franchise feel brand new whilst still honouring the original and not alienating long time fans? Can it even be done? I’m here to say, Detective Pikachu came pretty damn close to being perfection. I had to call it the best of 2019, because of the expectation versus payoff.

    Best Original Screenplay
    Booksmart
    Beats
    Us

    Greener Grass

Indescribable. I could watch this film another 10 times and see a different side to it every time. I feel like every frame is chockfull of so much colour; so much detail. Even the costumes alone are exquisitely demented! If you don’t like Greener Grass, keep calm and carry on, because you may be the exact people this film is making fun of!

    Best Foreign Language Film
    And Then We Danced
    Matthias & Maxime
    Synonyms
    Monsoon

Whilst And Then We Danced rated higher for others, and Matthias & Maxime was directed by my favourite Xavier Dolan, Monsoon has stayed with me long after seeing it and is the one I want to watch again. I liked all of the characters, and thought they we’re really well written and helped give insight into a film where there may not have been much scripted dialogue (I even wondered if this counts as a Foreign Language film). I think you could tell Kit’s estranged neighbour is wanting to say all throughout their time together, “if your family had stayed, we might have fallen in love.” It’s not just me that was picking some vibes up, right?

  • Best Documentary
    Leaving Neverland
    Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
    The Great Hack
    Fyre

What a year for documentaries! Another election, another year of lessons not learnt from The Great Hack (I couldn’t exactly delete my Facebook and Twitter, but I did scale way back on everything so that now I am a shallow husk of a former human being). Whilst I still haven’t been able to see the other (apparently more coherent) Fyre Festival documentary, it feels like that is so irrelevant and happened years ago. For me, 2019’s best documentary was the shocking, exposing, sickening recount of Bikram. Jackie Lacey, extradite him! It’s 2020, extradite him now! You should have extradited him long before now! Most days I pass by the proudly displayed Bikram Yoga sign in Leeds, and had always wondered how one opened AFTER the deposition. Now I know. I want to go to every other business that operates inside that mall and ask, are they happy to have their brand displayed next to that of a predatory rapist?

  • Best Short
    Yellow Peril: Queer Destiny
    Cuban Heel Shoes
    The Distance Between Us and the Sky
    A Night With Noorjehan

I saw more short films in 2019 than ever before, thanks to Leeds International Film Festival putting on two nights of screenings for both its Queer Short Film offerings. The best offering I felt was Cuban Heel Shoes from Spain by Julio Mas Alcaraz.

Horror is my thing. It’s the genre I love most. And in 2019, I saw a lot of horror. 5 films in one day, in fact. For me, the best was Darlin’, the directorial debut of Pollyanna McIntosh. Taking the story from Lucky McKee’s utterly bloodthirsty and outstanding The Woman, and creating a unique film that can still be watched either stand alone or in tandem with the other two films from the series. I came into this film only having seen The Woman once – over a year ago! I completely even forgot the two were connected until I got a proper look at Pollyanna McIntosh. The lead character of Darlin’ is expertly brought to life, and the kid actors that surrounded her were equally talented.

And so, it has come to this, the most coveted award of the night. Time may pass, but my love for Booksmart will never fade. It may even grow. I’ve been a fan of Sarah Haskins for over 10 years, and to finally see her name up on the big screen filled me with so much pride and joy and respect! I’m a little pressed about Olivia Wilde taking so much of the spotlight, it having been her directorial debut, but I loved the underwater scene, followed by the long tracking shot into the house. It was undoubtedly really well directed, and really well cast. Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever were outstanding. In fact, everyone was outstanding. Billie Lourd, Noah Galvin, Jessica Williams. It reminded me so much of Daria, which I love, but this exists really well in the here and now.

Friends

I’m a little late in getting round to promoting this week’s episode of the Thomas McNab podcast, but I have a worthy excuse… I was born with an illness, jerks! Some days I feel worse than other days. What do you want me to say? I’m supposed to be attending lots of lovely film screenings, but I’m not feeling one-hundred up to it, so my goal of seeing forty films is already out of the question. That devastates me, but I need to take it easy. Hence, my lapsed promotion.

So, this week’s episode is all about My Friends – literally. It’s a song I wrote when I was eight-years-old, and you’ll hear me sing a bit of it in the podcast, but as a bonus treat for you dedicated blog readers, here’s the original recording from when I was ten-years-old. Listen now…

End of LIFF 2011

Another festival draws to a close, and the last film I plan on attending is The Artist. I’ve a feeling the 25th Leeds Film Festival was a runaway success, screenings felt very busy. I won’t be posting individual reviews (maybe for one or two of the best, I don’t know), but you can expect a post soon with a rundown of everything I managed to sit through, and what I think is worth sitting through again!

Milestone!

I’m about to pass 10,000 visitors. Thank you all, it really makes the hours I’ve put into perfecting my website all that more worth it. If you haven’t already, please take a look around at the new layout. I’ll draw your attention to the new column on the side which is an awesome day-by-day schedule of my 2011 Leeds Film Festival screenings. I would love to see some of you there, just get it contact with me!