Year: 2018
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Charles Adam, Alia Shawkat, Edgar Arreola

Written by Jessica Peña

‘Blaze’ plays out like a hardy poem come to life, as much a devastating musical as a beautiful portrait of love and tragedy. But it’s a love story of so many little corners of life, mostly the ones that defined, inspired, and befuddled underground country musician Blaze Foley. Newcomer Ben Dickey portrays the late Arkansan singer and doesn’t let his lack of acting background fool you because he is a revelation here. A singer/songwriter himself, Dickey captures the inviting and sometimes unlikable spirit of Foley, strumming the chords of a loose narrative that just wrench us in the right way. If you’re keen to the music of ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ or ‘Crazy Heart’, you’ll find a comfort in the music of unsung legend Blaze Foley.

From its inception, the journey of adapting Foley’s life story is encapsulated within the structure of three different timelines in the film: Foley’s recorded performance at the Austin Outhouse (on the night he died), his long-running love with Sybil Rosen, and the guiding of an interview with Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton) looking back on Foley’s life. With such effortless direction, Ethan Hawke lets the story glide over with an immense devotion to making art and not just a standard, play-by-play biopic. As those close to the singer have said, Blaze would’ve just wanted to see art. There’s something marvelous happening as the film treks on, following Blaze and then wife, Sybil Rosen, across states and rolling out the fires and joys of living in a treehouse, life on the road, and life on the rocks. His hitchhiking way of touring brought on more troubles with the bottle than a humbling career comfort.

“I don’t want to be a star. I wants to be a legend,” Foley tells Sybil in the back of a pickup truck before the throes of a lifelong meditation of wayward aches. ‘Blaze’, as much as it teases the tropes of a sad, hardened man, plays with a formula of reliving the best memories to recover the best in us. The film is a precious, rustic adaptation of Sybil’s own book, “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley,” where she recollects the bittersweet moments that once were.  

Ethan Hawke’s self-proclaimed “country western opera” finds itself comfortable in lush, natural stability. The warm color palette and cinematography by Steve Cosens is one of many defining charms. Dickey and Shawkat are miraculous with chemistry, making it known that Sybil’s character is as much a highlight as Blaze is. If ever Foley had doubts about anything, it was Sybil who reignited his ability to believe again and again that people should be listening to pure talent. She’s supremely free-spirited and has a connection with Blaze that becomes just as much of a key component to the film as the musician’s many profound songs (all part of an amazing soundtrack). Even if Sybil ever questioned the beating energy of confidence, Blaze would amuse her and say it’s the feeling of being alive in the moment. And just like that, their adventures through woodsy whimsy and priceless moments entangled into a lifelong muse. It’s their love story written out like a memory and then pieced together in a heartrending puzzle.

The story of this ‘Duct Tape Messiah’ as told through the lens is almost too relished in its lingering pace midway through. If not that, audiences may not find it all that important if the style isn’t their cup of tea. It’s basked in its own backwoods style, revolting against high standards as much as Blaze Foley himself saw the outside world. The peculiar directorial choices Hawke takes are unmistakingly a comment to a bigger picture, a wider understanding. Seeing Blaze take the stage for the last time becomes something less about himself and more about the veering existence of everyday joes at the dive bar that same night. A subtle, interchanging transition, but still on par with its narrative.  

‘Blaze’ is a deserving remembrance of a man we may not have known, but spirited by a swan song legacy, we come out on the other side so touched. Ethan Hawke is surely putting out his best directorial work to date, resting on a handful of past projects but nonetheless showing an artistic precision. Ben Dickey and Alia Shawkat are mesmerizing as they live within their characters, breathing life to the best scenes of the film. ‘Blaze’ is noticeably a personal piece of work, handled with care, and the way Hawke rests this project on us is a sight to behold.



The Headliners & Hidden Gems At The 62nd BFI London Film Festival

Yesterday saw the announcement of the full line-up of films for the 62nd BFI London Film Festival (LFF), and boy is there a ton to get your teeth stuck into! But this year we have even more reason to be excited as JUMPCUT will attending and covering the festival for the first time ever!

We’ll be covering a whole range of films screening at the festival, including some of the headliners and hidden gems! JUMPCUT’s LFF Queen Sarah has kindly picked out just some of the films she thinks you are going to want to keep your eye on!

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The Headliners

Directed by: Steve McQueen
Starring: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya

Why it is worth a watch: I mean that cast list alone is worth the admission price, but this female-fronted action thriller is also helmed by the man who brought us 12 Years a Slave, a film which previously enjoyed awards success. But the talent doesn’t end there, Widows is penned by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn and Hans Zimmer provides the score. This is an action movie of the highest calibre and one that will be well worth your time and money.

Screening at LFF: 10th, 11th, 12th October
UK Wider Release Date: 6th November 2018

Stan & Ollie
Directed by: Jon S Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C Reilly, Nina Arianda, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston

Why it is worth a watch: An ode to cinema, entertainment, and with two leading actors known for their brilliance as physical comedians, Stan & Ollie seems like the perfect film to close out London Film Festival. Coogan and Reilly bring beloved comedians Stan Laurel and Ollie Hardy to life on the big screen, focusing on the twilight years of their career. This is set to be a real crowd-pleaser and the most fitting curtain call for the festival.

Screening at LFF: 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 11th January 2019

The Favourite
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz

Why it is worth a watch: A divisive filmmaker, but certainly one that gets people talking, Yorgos Lanthimos brings his third English-language film in four years to the London Film Festival. With stand-out performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, The Favourite promises to be bizarre, bonkers, and brilliant!

Screening at LFF: 18th, 19th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st January 2019

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, Tom Waits, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck

Why it is worth a watch: It’s the Coen Brothers! In all seriousness, the latest from the incomparable Coens promises to be wild (west) entertainment, hilarious, offbeat, and surprisingly melancholic. Dark humour and the trademark Coen brothers flair will be here in abundance

Screening at LFF: 12th, 13th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA

Beautiful Boy
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan

Why it is worth a watch: Just try and get through the trailer to this one without crying. Sometimes you just need to let it all out, and this will be the film that gets audiences at LFF reaching for the tissues. Starring man-of-the-moment Timothee Chalamet, hot off the heels of last year’s Call Me By Your Name, and Steve Carell in what is set to be another great dramatic role for him, Beautiful Boy will be the one to watch for those early Best Actor hints…

Screening at LFF: 13th, 14th, 16th October
UK Wider Release Date: 18th January 2019

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloe Grace Moretz

Why it is worth a watch: Full disclaimer, I am a massive horror wuss and will therefore not be seeing this on the big screen, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention it here. There is no denying the trailer is stunning, and the hype levels amongst the JumpCut team have reached fever-pitch for this one. It won’t be for everyone but it’ll certainly be a talking point. And also it has Tilda Swinton in it; you can’t go wrong!

Screening at LFF: 16th, 17th, 19th October
UK Wider Release Date: 16th November 2019

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The Hidden Gems

Wild Rose
Directed by: Tom Harper
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Sophie Okonedo, Julie Walters

Why it is worth a watch: After impressing in Beast, Jessie Buckley stars in what is set to another impressive film. A Glaswegian single mum dreams of being a country singer, how hard could it be?! This is the sort of film that will make your heart soar, and with Julie Walters also appearing, it is hard not to draw comparisons with the underdog story of Billy Elliot. This film is already set to be one of the truly underrated gems of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 15th, 16th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 8th February 2019

The Hate U Give
Directed by: George Tillman Jr
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, KJ Apa, Common

Why it is worth a watch: Adapted from Angie Thomas’ ‘Black Lives Matter’-inspired Young Adult novel, this film certainly feels like an important one, and one which is sadly still so relevant. Focusing on the young lives affected by the tragic shootings of their peers, the BFI are also offering £5 tickets to see this one for 16 to 25 year olds. Even outside of this age range, this film has a lot to offer, promising to be a powerful and timely watch.

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 26th October 2018

Assassination Nation
Directed by: Sam Levinson
Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bella Thorne

Why it is worth a watch: Don’t let the early trigger warnings put you off, this is a film that bears everything upfront and then unleashes all hell. Assassination Nation is the Salem witch trials meets the digital generation in this thoroughly modern cautionary tale, and one which is poised to join other teen cult classics such as Heathers and Spring Breakers. Subversive and utterly unique, this could be one of the surprise hits of the festival.

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: 23rd November 2018

Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Jeon Jong-seo, Steven Yeun

Why it is worth a watch: This film wowed audiences at Cannes, which is often the mark of a successful festival film! This lean slow-burning thriller promises to have you gripped right from the start, as well as exploring complex themes such as obsession, class-conflict and suppressed male rage. It will be unlikely to have a wide cinema release, so catch this one at the festival whilst you can!

Screening at LFF: 19th, 20th October
UK Wider Release Date: 1st February 2019

Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

Why it is worth a watch: Yes, Nicolas Cage. Stop reading now! Just kidding, this synopsis alone is enough to make you want to see it so we’re not even going to add to it: “In a mountain-cabin idyll, lumberjack Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) lives in perfect harmony with his great love Mandy (Andrea Riseborough). But the couple’s blissful utopia is cruelly shattered when a ragtag band of Satanic cultists invade their humble abode and claim Mandy for their own. Traumatised and distraught, Red is left with no option but to exact a bloody revenge.” (Michael Blyth, BFI)

Screening at LFF: 11, 12, 17th
UK Wider Release Date: 12th October 2018

Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Sam Rockwell

Why it is worth a watch: Ethan Hawke is having quite the year, and fresh from his acclaimed performance in First Reformed, his latest directorial offering his heading to LFF. This biopic about a little known musician is shot with affection and true passion that is hard to replicate, and quite frankly anything Ethan Hawke is passionate about, we love already!

Screening at LFF: 20th, 21st October
UK Wider Release Date: TBA