20 Feet From Stardom – Film Review

20 Feet From Stardom

Left to its own devices then 20 Feet From Stardom would come across as a solid documentary about an interesting subject. Focussing on the life and career of the backup singer 20 Feet From Stardom explores how these underrated performers have over the years been both celebrated and exploited and tries to explain what stops these singers from breaking out as artists in their own right, or why they might not want to.

The film is fun and occasionally quite touching but more importantly features and epic soundtrack filled with dozens of tunes that will have you dancing in your seat and joggling the legs of the person sitting behind you. Vanessa Feltz took the role of dancer and I was the joggled when I saw the film but I don’t bear a grudge. If you want a fun hour and a half spend in the company of women with big personalities and even bigger voices then 20 Feet From Stardom is the documentary for you. Heck, it even won the Oscar for Best Documentary as predicted by me!

Sadly it is that very Oscar win that lets the film down. Without an Oscar win I would have enjoyed the film in isolation without over thinking it and could have moved on with my day. But no, it went and beat The Act of Killing to the top award and as such has become firmly lodged in my head as a film that must be superior to Killing and justify its win. Unfair as this maybe that is how my brain works.

Unfortunately The Act of Killing was an inventive and important feature in which Indonesian death-squad leaders were asked to dramatise their mass killings for a non-existent film project in the hope that they would finally be able to understand the horror of what they had done. Killing plays with the genre and as a result in a peerless examination of human nature and all the flaws and cruelty that come with it. By comparison 20 Feet From Stardom is much more traditional, staid, and ultimately trivial.

On its own 20 Feet From Stardom is a lot of fun but in context lacks enough punch to compete with the best.

On its own:
In context:
20 Feet From Stardom is in UK cinemas from today.

Out Now – 28th June 2013

The Despicable End

Despicable Me 2
I did not see the original film so have no real idea what is going on here. Apparently someone called Gru helps to defeat a new super criminal. Gru is a man… let’s move on.

This Is the End
Meta-comedy in which actors play themselves as aliens invade and the world comes to an end. Expect a cameo from Emma Watson as she slowly invades all films out this summer… well… two of them.

Stand Up Guys
I thought this film would be about stand-up comedians and that the title was a slightly painful pun. In reality the film is about a pair of “stickup men” so the title is still a pun, just not one that works in the slightest sense.

Jason Statham runs around London with a gun. Let’s not lie to each other and pretend that we need to know anything else before we decide whether or not we want to see this one.

Comedy! Crime! Romance! Bollywood!

The East
The writer/director and writer/actor combo of Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling return with a thriller about an investigator infiltrating an activist group, their follow-up to Sound of My Voice. Ellen Page stars and that doesn’t happen nearly often enough for my taste.

Renoir (limited release)
Frenchy drama about impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, his son Jean and a pretty young lady who brings with her “nudity, moderate sex and one use of strong language.”

The Act of Killing (limited release)
“A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to re-enact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.” Oh. My. Criminy.

Stories We Tell (limited release)
Sarah Polley directs a documentary exploring the lies told and stories spun within her own family. One day I will make a film about how my parents cruelly lied to me about Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

I Want Your Love (limited release)
Drama about gay relationships among a group of San Francisco friends. Contains real sex. Like porn but in the form of an art house film so it’s all OK.

Night of Silence (limited release)
Arty film about the wedding night of a couple involved in an arranged marriage with a large age gap. To make peace between their families they must consummate the union and have the sheets to prove it. I am convinced that this film is well made but unlikely to appeal to the majority.

The Battle of the Sexes (limited release)
Tennis documentary #1. Looking at the 1973 match between retired men’s champ Bobby Riggs and the current (at the time) women’s Wimbledon winner Billie Jean King.

Venus And Serena (limited release)
Tennis documentary #2. Looking at one year (2011) in the lives of the tennis-playing siblings.