20 years on, Josie and the Pussycats is a meta, zany pop time capsule

Time has been kind to Josie and the Pussycats. Long before the fictional rock band featured in TV’s Riverdale, their Archie Comics source material was brought to the big screen in 2001. Writer-director duo Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (Can’t Hardly Wait) were at the helm, with Rachael Leigh Cook, Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid cast as band members Josie, Valerie and Melody, respectively, and the glorious scenery-chewing pair of Parker Posey and Alan Cumming as antagonists. But there was a twist.

While operating perfectly well as a sincerely heartfelt tale of friendship in the face of growing fame, the film is also a feature-length jab at the industries behind its existence, skewering consumerism, subliminal advertising, and the very notion of adapting a comic into a movie. Josie is an indelible early 2001 time capsule, but it also feels of a piece with the later meta stylings of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, whose 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie also walk a fine line between enthusiastic adaptation of an intellectual property and more cynically questioning their very existence. Comparing it to closer contemporaries, it’s something like Spice World meets Zoolander

Full feature for Dazed

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Stray (Elizabeth Lo, 2020)

A celebrated director of documentary shorts, Elizabeth Lo makes a compelling leap to features with Stray, a concise ethnographic film that’s presented from a nonhuman perspective. Filmed mostly in Istanbul between 2017 and 2019, with an occasional detour to slightly further afield, the film uses the city’s interesting and complicated history with stray dogs as a means to explore life on the peripheries of human society, free of status and security.

The Turkish state has attempted widespread annihilation of stray dogs since the 1900s, resulting in mass killings of the street dog population. But while campaigns to drive non-pet dogs from towns and cities still gain a little traction now and again, widespread protests against these killings have allowed Turkey to become one of the only countries where it’s currently illegal to euthanise or hold captive any dog without an apparent owner. Meanwhile, dogs that don’t appear to be a human’s property are integrated into the fabric of urban existence with relatively minimal backlash…

Full review for Little White Lies

Sex, Magic and Anarchy: Ten Highlights From Berlin Film Festival 2021

Traditionally the biggest European film festival in the calendar year’s first quarter, the Berlinale unsurprisingly had to shift to an online-only model for its early March incarnation in 2021; one that was only open to industry professionals and buyers, plus journalists reporting on the premieres. (The organisers are planning to host a later in-person repeat of the programme in the summer so that the public can experience the films on the big screen, vaccine rollout permitting).

Nevertheless, it was an impressive line-up. Although much smaller than in a more normal edition, this year’s programme has widely been deemed one of the most exciting in terms of overall quality. In alphabetical order, here are ten of the best features we caught that you should keep on your radar, some of which already have UK distribution lined up…

Full feature for AnOther

A Socially Distanced Berlinale’s Socially Distanced Films

A year on from the World Health Organisation declaring the Covid-19 outbreak a pandemic, film production has continued across the globe with increased safety measures in place; for shoots interrupted last March and later resumed, or productions that had their start delayed finally beginning filming. We’ve also had projects that were not only conceived during early lockdown stages (depending on where the filmmakers have been based), but also those that have already gone into production since. Some have even managed to be released already, albeit mostly directly to streaming services or video on demand in light of the crisis facing theatrical exhibition in a majority of the world’s major markets…

Full feature for Frameland

Limbo (Soi Cheang, 2021)

Ben Sharrock’s 2020 Limbo concerns refugees waiting for asylum approval while housed on a remote Scottish island, the film’s title referring to the logistical circumstances setting its plot in motion. In contrast, Soi Cheang’s 2021 Limbo allows for some interpretation with its choice of title.

Presented in particularly bewitching black-and-white, this grisly Cantonese noir flirts with various genres and is full of characters dealing with very different forms of abandonment, each waiting to move on with their lives. And spinning off from the title’s biblical connotations, there’s one lead who’s essentially made to be a martyr, then facing a form of Hell on Earth…

Full review for Little White Lies

Tides (Tim Fehlbaum, 2021)

A German-Swiss co-production with Roland Emmerich among its executive producers, Tides is an atmospheric sci-fi anchored by an engaging performance from Nora Arnezeder. Although computer-generated vistas are employed for the presentation of a dystopian Earth, Tim Fehlbaum’s film benefits greatly from the tactility of the sets and real-world locations he employs, particularly the mudflats of Northern Germany…

Full review for Little White Lies

Ten of the Best Films to Stream from Glasgow Film Festival 2021

The 17th Glasgow Film Festival has had to go fully online thanks to lockdown measures but, on the plus side, this model means that you can catch some of the best new films from around the world from the comfort of your home, wherever you are in the UK. And though the selection is a lot smaller than a traditional in-person edition in the Scottish city, the curation remains strong. In alphabetical order, here are ten of the best films you can rent as part of this year’s GFF, which runs from 24 February to 7 March…

Full feature for AnOther

Creation Stories (Nick Moran, 2021)

The spirit of executive producer Danny Boyle looms large over Creation Stories, a biopic of Scottish businessman Alan McGee, whose influential Creation Records label launched such acts as Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Oasis. Trainspotting seems a conscious influence on director Nick Moran’s film, from the editing style and frenetic pacing to Irvine Welsh being one of its screenwriters. The presence of Ewen Bremner as McGee only hammers home the connection.

But there’s another filmmaker looming over Creation Stories. Someone who also made a largely comedic, self-reflexive biopic concerning a British record label head who was inspired by seeing Sex Pistols perform, which covered a similar period of time: Michael Winterbottom. Speeding through three decades’ worth of events but lacking any actual momentum, Creation Stories is like a version of 24 Hour Party People gone horribly wrong…

Full review for Little White Lies

What to watch at the Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Last year’s Glasgow Film Festival was one of the final film festivals in the world to proceed as planned as an in-person event, concluding just 3 days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. In the 11 months since, British film festivals have shifted to largely online models, with some physical cinema arrangements depending on their timing in relation to eased restrictions. 

GFF 2021 – taking place from 24 February to 7 March – was planned to be a locally physical and nationally digital hybrid in the spirit of last October’s London Film Festival. In light of current lockdown measures that hasn’t been possible, yet Glasgow’s now fully online programme remains an exciting prospect. The selection may be much smaller in quantity compared with a traditional edition, but the quality in the curation is still there in spades…

Full feature for the BFI

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams