Tina

Absolutely fantastic! What an inspiring, interesting, in-depth documentary.

Tina traces the life of Tina Turner, world renowned superstar. This is definitely one of the better music biopics I’ve seen, really doing a marvellous job of pulling together a wealth of sources to tell the story of an extraordinary woman’s life.

I knew Tina from her hits in the 80s and 90s, and I knew that was kinda the second chapter in her career, but it was weird for me to see her singing way back in the 50s. That seems almost too remote a time. Like, Tina Turner is basically as old as rock and roll. And she was in music from the age of 17 until she retired at the age of 70. I mean, that’s just incredible.

Also, she had so much tragedy that befell her early on. Firstly, she really came from nothing. Her family were dirt poor, picking cotton in the South. Her father was abusive and her mother fled the family without warning to escape him. She never really had a bond with her mother and that relationship remained strained their entire life. Her father also abandoned the family not long after, and she had to be put into the care of relatives.

Then at 17 she fell into the hands of Ike Turner. And you could see what a hold he had on her from the beginning. He was older than her at 25, he was her favourite musician, and he mentored her, giving her her first break in singing. He was like an older brother to her, which then morphed into having a sexual element, and eventually marriage. He worked her day and night in the studio and on tour. She was almost never out of his sight, and he controlled everything about their music. And for her, he was the only family she had in the world, the only person who wanted her, and had sworn never to abandon her, and who was desperate that she stayed with him. She was central to his life, so much that his personal and professional lives both revolved around her, surely that was love.

But that continual monitoring and control, disguised as attentiveness, love and loyalty, soon descended into abuse. It was physical, sexual, mental and emotional. And it last for over a decade. So to the world, they were the adorable couple singing love songs together on the tv or wireless. And that image was his shield.

She was approaching 40 when she finally got the courage to leave him. It’s hard to imagine, being a big music star, having sold millions of records, and she left in the night with the clothes she was standing up in, running across a motorway in the dark, dodging trucks and cars to make it to safety. In the divorce, he got everything. She literally got one thing, the trademark to her name. And in middle age, with 4 kids, and no money, she had to start all over again.

And it’s from here you really see was an incredible woman she is, because with nothing but hard work, and iron-strong belief in herself, she fights every uphill battle to, not just reclaim the ground she has lost, but to propel herself further, into a level of superstardom she had only previously dreamt of. Given her talent, to me as a kid in the 80s it was unremarkable and self-evident that Tina Turner was a star, but now I look at it years on, you see what she was facing. That a 40-year-old woman was able to launch a solo music career, with herself as a sex icon frontwoman, is just unheard of.

She did it, and she did it on her own terms. And it’s an enduring legacy. Her work is still being discovered by younger generations of audiences through the Tina! musical. She became an icon for music fans, an inspiration for women, and a beacon of hope for survivors. She was handed trauma and poverty, and what she gave the world was song and strength.

Just a great film.

Gay Chorus Deep South

Well, that’ll break your heart.

Gay Chorus Deep South follows the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Choir as they tour the South in the wake of Trump’s election. They go with the intention of hopefully breaking through some of the homophobic bigotry and hatred that characterised that election, and providing a beacon of hope to the queer communities in those areas.

They do that but moreover, they are surprised and overwhelmed by the acceptance and warmth they receive there. They too have had bought into the dominant political narrative that the people of these states were in some way their enemy, that they would be hostile and they would have to battle the whole way. The narrative of division which is so lucrative politically bore small resemblance to the diverse, warm, and changing face of the South as it is in reality.

This film is about so much healing. The chorus members go there to heal divisions in the country but instead find deeply personal healing. Parents who haven’t spoke to their children in years come to hear them sing. The chorus leader, who was kicked out of his 20,000-strong Baptist megachurch where he was the preacher, is invited to sing in a Baptist church for the first time since he came out. This journey doesn’t just provide hope to queer communities in the South, it provides hope to the choir members as well.

Grab a hankie.

The Changin’ Times of Ike White

The Changin’ Times of Ike White is a documentary about the bizarre and mysterious life of Ike White.

Unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t have a thorough knowledge about obscure one-hit records from the 70s, so I’d never heard of Ike White. He was a musician, a real multi-instrumentalist prodigy that got picked up by legendary producer Jerry Goldstein, who had him tipped to be the next Jimi Hendix. Only problem though, he was in prison serving a life sentence for murder.

It very much introduces you to the character of Ike, that he managed to get a record deal, record his album The Changin Times of Ike White, get married to his producer’s secretary, and knock her up, all from behind bars. There was a lot of buzz around him, and Stevie Wonder even came to visit him in jail after hearing his music, starting talk of a possible colab.

Then at the peak of his potential, he is paroled. You would think, “Yeay!”, world’s your oyster kinda thing. He’s went into prison with nothing, and came out with a wife, kids, and career. Happy story, right?

Wrong. He abandons his family and disappears. And there the story of Ike White tails off . . . until the documentary makers find him in 2014.

I would put solid money on this film being snapped up by Netflix for their expanding What The Fuck documentaries section. However strange it seems, it gets stranger.

He’s now living under another name, one of many, playing as a crappy lounge singer, married to a Russian mail order bride, both of them eccentric as fuck. He makes windchimes out of disco balls, and decorates the bedroom in a neon seascape. The whole house is the most gorgeous explosion of kitsch tat, it has to be seen to be believed. And the road between that place and this . . . it’s even weirder.

An even handed look at a complex, charismatic, violent and chameleonic man.

If you like this

Kuso

Kuso is a movie that poses one simple question – What. The. Fuck? It’s about the nightmares had in the aftershocks of a New York earthquake (I think?). At first I was like Phhft, this isn’t as bad as my dreams, then a long cockroach crawls out a guy’s goatse and the guy lying underneath him breaks off one of its antenna and drinks the green cum that spurts out, and I thought naw, this is as bad.

For those interested, the cockroach’s name was Mr Quiggle.

Favourite line “I think the polite thing now would be to name me”.

Actually fucking hilarious.

Bad Rap

A documentary about Asian-American rappers. I found interesting the interplay between the hypermascinilised rap culture with the demasculinised racial stereotype of Asian men in a search for authentic representation of masculine identity. Side by side to that, Awkwafina has to go into that world where the stereotype for Asian women is massively sexualized, and the rap culture is pervasively misogynistic, and still be the Smurfette of the group. It’s a constant assembling and disassembling of gender, race and class to create a true voice.

This is one of the few feature-length documentaries I’ve seen where I didn’t actually like how the documentary itself was made. It went on the defensive from the outset and stayed there far too long, gave little or no background to some of its main players, and seemed to lose focus, descending into a prolonged advert. While it’s definitely right that it showcase talent, it became muddled in its boundaries and could have done with reeling in. 

That showing was full of weirdies too. One guy, I shit you not, came in, lay down on the floor, took off his jumper and started humming loudly. At first I was fucking envious, until I looked up from my phone to find him staring at me from between the crack in the seats. Get back Van Mattress!

Luckily he left 20 minutes into the movie so I didn’t have to call for an adult.