Natalie Stendall

Film and fashion writer based in Birmingham, UK. Contributor to Gorilla Film Online and Audiences Everywhere. Film critic for Mansfield & Ashfield Chad newspaper and syndicated across the Midlands. Blogs at WriterLovesMovies.com.

2014 Film Countdown: The Top Ten

It’s Oscars’ Eve and, to mark the occasion, here’s my top ten personal favourites from the 2014 movie calendar. If you missed by top twenty and top thirty you can find them here and here. Perhaps the most talked about film of the year, what’s most gripping about Fincher’s Gone Girl are not the twists and turns, of which there are many, but its unflinching attempt to jab and cut its way into the dark, bleeding heart of modern marriage. There’s also a much more delicate and contentious question a

Call Yourself A Hero? Christian Grey & Mr Rochester

Is there such a thing as irresponsible cinema? Is the relationship presented in Fifty Shades Of Grey an example of it? And is Christian Grey a domestic abuser or simply the latest in a long line of romantic anti-heroes? Around 40 minutes into Fifty Shades Of Grey, millionaire businessman Christian Grey asks virginal literature student Anastasia to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. It’s easy to see why he does this: he’s about to show Ana his BDSM play-room, something he’d prefer to keep out of t

Year Best Cinema: Counting Down 2014

Here in the UK, the majority of awards season movies are released during January. It makes for an exceptional month of cinema. This year Birdman, The Theory Of Everything, Foxcatcher and Whiplash were all crammed into January. But this bias towards new year releases poses a problem for end of year countdowns. Many of my personal favourites from 2014 – Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years A Slave, August: Osage County – already featured in lengthy discussions about year best cinema twelve months ago. As a result, this year I’ve decided to adjust my 2014 countdown to run from February 2014 to January 2015. Without further ado, let’s begin part one of the Writer Loves Movies 2014 countdown…

Talking Point: American Sniper & That Slow Motion Bullet (Spoilers)

In American Sniper’s final mission, US Navy SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), spots his target in the distance. The target is an Olympic shooter who’s been tracking Kyle for the bounty placed on his head. From his current position Kyle’s target is picking off US military one by one. Kyle faces a dilemma. There are two problems with the shot he needs to make: it’s a vast distance that he will likely miss; and the shot will give away his unit’s location. Kyle chooses to take the shot and hits his target. American Sniper’s director, Clint Eastwood, chooses to depict the gunshot in slow motion, emphasising the time it takes for the bullet to reach the target, and the bullet’s moment of impact. But what’s the effect of depicting the shot in this way? And did Eastwood make the right choice?

Night Will Fall, Shoah & the 70th Anniversary of the Holocaust

Described as “a forgotten masterpiece” German Concentration Camps Factual Survey was commissioned by the British army film unit as documentary evidence of Nazi crimes – to prove, beyond doubt, that they actually happened. It was made in the immediate wake of the Holocaust and the liberation of the camps by the allies in 1945. Directed by Sidney Bernstein of the British Ministry of Information, the documentary also had a very famous producer – Alfred Hitchcock – who advised, for instance, on how to avoid accusations of camera trickery. But Bernstein’s film was never finished and it isn’t entirely clear why (although there is evidence of a Foreign Office memo advising against it). Some of the film was used in Billy Wilder’s Death Mills and PBS screened an incomplete version Memory Of The Camps in 1985.

The Biutiful Art Of Survival: Iñárritu, Intimacy & A Quadrilogy Of Life

‘Biutiful is a tough film,’ says director Iñárritu in conversation with The Telegraph. ‘It doesn’t make concessions to the vulgarity of light entertainment. It’s not the kind of film that you see, every day, in the Cineplex. But as an artist, it’s the thing that I needed to do.’ If Iñárritu’s first three films can be described as a ‘death trilogy’, the director’s fourth film is a cinematic ode to the subject. Biutiful’s main protagonist Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is dying of prostate cancer and the

The Anatomy Of Babel: Inarritu, Arriaga & The Art of Thematic Storytelling

Of all the films in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘death trilogy’, Babel (2006) is arguably the most richly textured and thematically diverse, taking us beyond love and death to encompass politics and international relations. Babel also sees Iñárritu expand on the messages of his earlier films Amores Perros and 21 Grams in relation to fate, grief and brotherhood.   ‘In the beginning all the Lord’s people from all parts of the world spoke one language. Nothing they proposed was impossible

21 Grams: How Much Does Life Weigh?

In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s second feature, three lives intertwine following a tragic car accident. In his debut feature, Amores Perros (2000), Iñárritu explored the cruelty and violence of love, the destruction of hopes and dreams. 21 Grams forms the second part of his ‘death trilogy’ and focuses on the corporeal separation and finality of physical death. Iñárritu gives us a dying heart patient, a grieving wife and a tormented lawbreaker, intertwining their lives so tightly they can hardly breathe.

Deciphering Amores Perros: Three Recurring Images And What They Mean

In 2000, director Alejandro González Iñárittu released his first feature-length film, Amores Perros. It was the first film in a trilogy exploring the theme of death. In Amores Perros there are few human deaths but ideals, hopes and dreams are obliterated.   The Spanish title of his debut, ‘Amores Perros’, has numerous meanings. Perros translates to ‘dogs’ which feature heavily in the film (more on that later) but has also been said to mean, in pejoritive terms, ‘an unworthy person’, ‘a h

The Greats: Withnail And I

Overview: It’s 1969 and two, rarely sober, out of work actors take a holiday from their squalid Camden Town flat to a no less dilapidated cottage in Penrith, courtesy of eccentric Uncle Monty. 1987; Handmade Films; Rated 15; 107 minutes. Joining the cult: A smoke infused living room, dingy wallpaper, a sink overflowing with ‘matter’ and eggs deep frying in an inch of fat. Marwood (Paul McGann), the ‘I’ of the film’s title, looks up from a salacious newspaper, his face pale and eyes red with dev

The Greats: Toy Story

Overview: Cowboy doll Woody feels his status as favourite toy is threatened when his owner receives a high-tech Buzz Lightyear action figure. Pixar Animation Studios; 1995; Rating PG; 81 Minutes. There’s a First Time for Everything: Toy Story was the very first computer-generated feature film. Arriving in theatres just one year after Disney’s acclaimed 2D animation The Lion King, the technological advance was astounding. From Buzz Lightyear’s clear helmet – complete with its reflections and squ

Top 5 Disney Villains That Deserve Their Own Movie

This month sees the release of Maleficent, a live action movie based on the wicked fairy from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Starring Angelina Jolie, Maleficent signals a wider trend in live action fairytales that offer a twist on the villains. In 2012, Charlize Theron took on the role of Ravenna, the evil Queen from the Snow White story in Snow White And The Huntsmen. This got us thinking. What other Disney baddies deserve their own film? And what might these movies look like?

Writer Loves... Requiem For A Dream

Requiem For A Dream is not just another straightforward story about drugs. It’s a much more complicated narrative about addiction. Based on the book by Hubert Selby Jr. and adapted by the author and Aronofsky himself, it follows three heroin addicts as they are drawn deeper into their addictions while simultaneously trying to create themselves a better life. Harry (Jared Leto) and Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) think if they can sell enough drugs to buy themselves some ‘pure’ they will be able to get out of this illegal game altogether. Harry plans to use the money to help his girlfriend, Marion (Jennifer Connelly), who’s also an addict, set up her own clothes store.

Summer Preview 2014

With awards season now firmly behind us, it’s time to see what summer 2014 has in store for movie fans. The warmer months are typically home to the action blockbuster and the family flick - and if those are your cup of tea you won’t be disappointed - but in this year’s onslaught of new movies there’s something for everyone. Join us as we take a take a sneak peak at this summer’s essential big screen viewing. 10. The monster movie. Godzilla - the original giant - is back, this time with a reboot

The LAMB Devours The Oscars: Dallas Buyers Club

This emotionally charged film based on the true story of Ron Woodruff who defied odds when diagnosed with HIV and given only 30 days to live, sees the reinvented rom-com actor Matthew McConaughey at his career-best. A string of recent indie film roles from Killer Joe (2011) to Magic Mike and Mud (2012) have put McConaughey on the map, but his performance in Dallas Buyers Club demonstrates even greater finesse. Shedding 47 pounds for the role, McConaughey completely inhabits the rage and determination of macho Dallas bull rider, Ron Woodroof in his struggle to obtain and distribute alternative treatments, unapproved by the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration)...

The Lamb Devours the Oscars: Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Beasts Of The Southern Wild is one of those rare films that completely carries its audience away. When I saw it for the first time back in October, I was captivated and found myself thinking about it more often than any other film I’d seen all year. From start to finish, Benh Zeitlin’s debut feature runs deep with emotion and an unexpected truthfulness that makes his audience feel so much. For me, Zeitlin’s film is what the Academy Award for Best Picture should be all about...