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I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story

Australian, Documentary, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Entertaining and insightful, this is a must-see for anyone with an interest in celebrity and the subtle (and not so subtle) workings of fandom.

Taking a clear-eyed look at obsessive tenancies and pop music, Jessica Leski’s illuminating feature documentary is a moving, poignant and often very funny detailing of what it means to be a die-hard fan. Tracking the stories of four women separated by age, background and location, the film examines the various ways being a fan has helped to shape and inform them.

At points these obsessions with Take That, Backstreet Boys, One Direction and The Beatles resemble full-blown addictions, and hearing the stories of former or ‘recovering’ fan girls highlights the all-consuming psychological processes at work.

Leski shows a deft touch in the presentation of such stories, and doesn’t let things get too dark or despondent. The tone is more optimistic and energised, even when the realities of life become sharply intense.

That is certainly the case with former One Direction mega-fan Elif, whose self-referencing lament and subsequent capture on viral video forms part of the film’s title. The doco sympathetically looks at how she has to come to terms with dealing with growing up and how life isn’t really like it is in the pop songs. This, plus the disapproval of her less than understanding parents brings in a strong dramatic edge to the film.

Take That – and specifically Gary Barlow – fan Daria offers an analytical examination of the whole fan-girl experience, bringing her skills as a brand strategist into play when designing a boy-band-101 lesson. This and other amusing anecdotal material ensures that the film maintains an optimistic and, ultimately joyful, path.

Sydney based Daria, also has the best line in the film. When recounting how she understood she was gay and also a devotee of the pop singer she comments, “I wasn’t in love with Gary Barlow, I wanted to be Gary Barlow.”

The film also hears from The Beatles fan Susan, who provides not only a story from the dawn of pop but also a look at the context of gender roles and how pop music can open up the world and provide a different way of looking at things.

Backstreet Boys fan Sadia is the fourth star of the film, offering her experience as a fan and how it impacted on her relationship with her conservative and religious family.

After hearing all of the stories we begin to realise that being a die-hard fan – particularly of the screaming and crying hysterically variety – acts as a catharsis for questions of identity usually asked before and during adolescence. Belonging to a tribe, singing along to ear-worms and rehearsing dance moves are all ways to recognise and reassert one’s value and self-image.

Entertaining and insightful, this is a must-see for anyone with an interest in celebrity and the subtle (and not so subtle) workings of fandom.

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Skinford: Chapter Two

Australian, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

Even after the detailed visual catch-up sequence that runs alongside the credits to this imaginative comic-book style fantasy, it soon becomes apparent that this certainly isn’t a standalone movie.

The ‘Chapter Two’ in the title also makes it clear that this is definitely an ongoing story. While not without its confusing plot points and character appearances to anyone unfamiliar with Chapter One, it is nevertheless a striking low-budget feature, impressing with taut action scenes and high-octane performances.

The film is told around two different timelines. The first focuses on Jimmy ‘Skinny’ Skinford (Joshua Brennan), the son of a cockney gangster hard-man, and Zophia (Charlotte Best), the heroine cursed with eternal life. The two try and avoid detection from those keen on living forever, including a whole host of former friends and bad guys including Skinny’s tough old geezer dad, his kick-boxing body guard, and a murderous little girl with one eye.

The second timeline tells the story in flashback of how Zophia became immortal. It does so in the style of a costume-drama/romance with the added tension of knowing that this is an affair that does not end well.

Back in the 1920s Zophia is an au-pair hired at the palatial residence of wealthy artist Helen (Jess Bush). The two become lovers and we learn bit by bit how the relationship is tested by the jealousies and grievances of the outside world.

While the renditions of London accents vary a bit, the acting is on the whole perfect, with the three main performers making the most of their screen time. The visual effects are well produced too, and the action of the present day combines well with the gothic-horror undertones of the past segments.

The film is sure to engage fans of the first chapter, and may well pick up more devotees along the way. An entertaining romp through time and the criminal underworld, Skinford: Chapter Two makes a resounding impact.

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Trailer: Dumplin’

Patti Cake$' breakout star, and Australian, Danielle MacDonald is Jennifer Aniston's beauty pageant loving mum in this Netflix Original.
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Provocative Aussie Sequel Ups the Ante

Immortality is a death sentence. That’s the tag line for Skinford Chapter Two that perfectly sets up the moral premise: that there is no golden ticket in life without a considerable cost attached.
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Ben C. Lucas: Fighting Fit

Two of six episodes of the gripping local series Fighting Season are directed by Ben C. Lucas, in his first foray into television. We spoke with the OtherLife filmmaker about tailing Kate Woods and what he brought to the short order drama.