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Spencer – Review | Venice Film Festival 2021

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I can say with some confidence now that I’ve witnessed Kristen Stewart’s enchanting performance as Princess Diana in Spencer – the race for next years 2022 Best Actress Oscar has officially begun. And Stewart is out with a comfortable lead.

Spencer is directed by Pablo Larraín best known for his similarly-themed biopic about a notable female historical figure; Jackie. The script has been penned by Steven Knight (Locke) and Kristen Stewart stars as the titular Diana Spencer. While you might be thinking this is a biopic about Diana, Larraín has labelled the film as a “a fable from a true tragedy”.

Oddly enough Spencer joins the likes of Die Hard, Iron Man 3 and Carol as an unconventional Christmas film. Set over 3 days during the festive season, the film opens on a shot of a dew-kissed Sandringham estate where the Windsor family will be spending their Christmas together.



We watch as a cavalcade of staff roll into the grounds to set up the mansion for the royal familiy’s pending arrival. Everything runs like clockwork; the chefs, servants and security march in unison to their stations with military precision. Large carriers containing the most opulent foods are popped away in the fridges of the grandest of kitchens. The grandeur of this scene can not be overstated. It immediately tells us that even though the Royals may celebrate Christmas like everybody else – they aren’t like anything us.

We then cut to the Princess of Wales exclaiming “where the fuck am I?” Lost somewhere in the countryside, she pulls into a dingy little roadside café – the kind no royal would be caught dead in. She shyly walks up to the counter to a gawping worker and asks for directions.

This opening sequence is quite frankly genius. Not only is it intoxicatingly shot and paced but the everyday-relatability of Diana stopping to ask for directions cleverly juxtaposes the lavish, pre-planned, chauffeured lifestyle of the royals. This time we’re thinking she is one of us.

Jonny Greenwood seems to be everywhere at this years Venice Film Festival. Not only did he provide the score for Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog but he’s also produced the score for Spencer too which aches with melancholy. There’s a notable tinge of tragedy in the strings. However when Diana finally arrives at the estate, Greenwood infuses his score with some jazzy trumpets. Jazz by its nature is surprising, spontaneous and disruptive – so it makes total sense that when Diana walks through the hoity-toity entrance to the manor, that she herself is disrupting the status quo.

The keeper of the house Major Gregory (Timothy Spall) insists that Diana follows the strict regiment that has been laid out for her over the Christmas period. Everything has been set. From the food she eats, to the clothes she wears to the traditions she must upkeep; such as the yearly weigh-in before and after the 3 festive days. Everyone is expected to have gained 3 pounds as proof of just how much festive frivolity they’ve had. However a buleimc Diana is petrified of the notion of being weighed. But as Major Gregory insists not even the Queen is exempt from tradition.

This strict adherence to systemic tradition is what is causing Diana to feel like she suffocating. The family she has married into has removed so many of her individual freedoms that it’s squelched all semblance of who she once was. Her life is now so intensely planned out for her right down to the second. It’s why she insists on driving herself to the Sandringham estate because her car is one of the few remaining places where she feels like she has control.

I seriously believe that her turn as Diana Spencer will be the role that finally swings public opinion on Kristen Stewart as an actress. And rightfully so.



Think back to a decade ago during the Twilight years. Stewart had long been on the receiving end of public criticism about her acting style. The infamous stuttering and mouth-breathing became the source of many-a-meme. But much like her co-star and former Paramore Robert Pattinson, they’ve both slowly shed the stigma of wooden Twilight acting away.

Stewart has been taking on meatier roles in smaller projects like Camp X-Ray, Personal Shopper and Seberg – and earning herself a lot of critical clout in the process. She even became the first American actress to win the Cesar award for her supporting performance in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria.

And now she’s taken on the role of arguably the most famous woman who ever lived – mere months after Emma Corrin captured the worlds heart in the 4th season of The Crown. And yet Stewart still manages to come into the Oscars race with the full force of a wrecking ball.


Not only does she look like Diana from the signature blonde bob to the ballet-dancer frame. But she’s also nailed the mannerisms that were quintessential Diana. Like her posture as she posed for photographs; Stewart raises one shoulder, tilts her head down and flutters her eyelashes while letting the coyest smile curl around her lips. It’s perfection. And of course she gest the accent spot on too. Stewart really did her homework.

Not only can I foresee her winning the Best Actress Volpi actress in Venice but she’s sure to ride the wave of momentum all the way to the Oscars. It’s a role too irresistible for the Academy to overlook. It ticks many of the criteria they gravitate towards; tragic historical figure, the actress has 95% of the screen time, it touches on challenging topics such as Bulimia and the scrutiny/mistreatment of female celebrities in the media. And ultimately it feels like the right role, for the right actress at the right point in her career to celebrate. I can see the Academy choosing Stewart as their Best Actress champion.

But it’s not just Kristen Stewart who will be acknowledged come awards season. Spencer is likely to be a major player with potential supporting nominations for Spall and Sally Hawkins. A Best Picture nomination seems highly likely along with a screenplay nomination for Steven Knight. Jonny Greenwood’s painfully beautiful score is likely to be favoured and we mustn’t forget about Jacqueline Durran’s exquisite costumes. I’m convinced the montage sequence of Diana dancing was only added just so Durran could show off the dozens of fabulous outfits she had picked out for the film.

Kristen Stewart [Spencer – Komplizen Film]


Larraín’s direction is thoughtfully evocative. It’s often been said that Diana’s life was like a fairytale; an ordinary girl who became a princess. Larraín utilises a lot of trucking shots to symbolically suggest a storybook unfolding before our eyes.

The tracking shots which stalk Diana down the bellowing corridors help us to empathise with Diana’s headspace – the walls are closing in and all eyes are constantly watching her. The mansion maybe huge but there’s no space for her to hide.




The only creative step that won’t be to everyones taste is the repeated motif of comparing Diana to King Henry the Eighths second wife Anne Boleyn. Camilla Parker Bowles is even compared to Jane Seymour in one scene. While the execution is a little on-the-nose, Larraín’s astute grasp of his surreal fairytale makes this creative choice feel justified. There were some derisive sniggers in the audience audience of my screening – particularly when Diana at one point morphs into Anne but it didn’t feel overplayed or out of place.

Spencer is magnificent achievement for everyone involved. A career highlight for Kristen Stewart that’s sure to be on everyone’s lips once they’ve seen it. it’s lusciously shot and has an intoxicating atmosphere thanks to Greenwood’s tremendous score.

Spencer will be released in Cinemas internationally from November 5th but is also screening as part of the BFI London Film Festival.

If you want to follow more of Luke’s coverage from the Venice Film Festival be sure to check out his Youtube channel.

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Entertainment

Throwback to Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

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Jacques van Zyl at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre

The annual Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 was a blast! Come join on me, Jacques van Zyl on a throwback to a very marvelous event!

Guests at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The local South African movie guests included Aidan Scott, Albert Pretorius, Alexander Maniatis, Arno Greef, Bianca Oosthuizen, Brett Williams, Celeste Loots, Chioma Umeala, Grant Ross, Langley Kirkwood, Leroy Siyafa and Theo Le Ray.

International stars who made a turn were Lesley-Ann Brand, Sean Gunn and Veronica Taylor.

Lesley-Ann Brandt is famous for her role as Mazikeen on Lucifer. Sean Gunn portrays the role of Kraglin in the Guardians of the Galaxy. Veronica Taylor does the voice of Ash Ketchum in Pokemon.

Lesley-Ann Brandt as Mazikeen in Lucifer (IMDb)
Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri (Marvel)
Veronica Taylor (IMDb)

Overview of Programme

The annual Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 ran from 27 April 2024 to 1 May 2024. Here follows a brief overview of activities that caught my eye during the convention.

Saturday, 27 April 2024

Veronica Taylor, Lesley-Ann Brandt and Sean Gunn was available for photos and autographs. The cast from the One Piece television series on Netflix had a discussion panel and a spotlight session was held on the latest Boy Kills World movie.

Boy Kills World Official Trailer (RoadsideFlix)

The following question for discussion was posed to our fellow comic book artists, “Is traditional comic book art dead?” A panel was held on the concept of investing in comic books versus buying just to collect.

Games, games everywhere at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The day ended with an amazing after-dark event, the Pokemon quiz.

Sunday, 29 April 2024

Gavin Thomson, a South African cartoonist shared some insight on how to bring life to cartoons and a panel of comic book writers came to share valuable insights on writing comics. A workshop was hosting on helping you deal with stage fright.

Monday, 29 April 2024

Horror Monday delivered a good scare with cosplayers dressing up as some of their favorite horror character. I came in early on the day to help with horror decorations at the main entrances. A discussion was held on how to write horror. One of the attendees who presented on this topic was Paul Blom who coordinates the annual South African HorrorFest.

Jacques posing with Paul Andre Blom

A quiz was held on the Conjuring Universe and a tutorial was offered on how to do your make-up for cosplaying as a horror character. The art of toy photography was one of the topics of the day. Sean Gunn and Veronica Taylor was around for more photos and autographs. The one discussion that caught my eye was on how artists can overcome artificial intelligence since most jobs are phasing in the use of artificial intelligence as a tool.

A movie screening was held on the movie Fried Barry.

Fried Barry Official Trailer (Shudder)
Some horror decorations
More horror

Tuesday, 30 April 2024

This day was called Pajama Tuesday and visitors could grab their favorite sleepwear for the day. A Harry Potter quiz was held to test the knowledge of fellow muggles and wizards and a disco party brought much needed entertainment. Veronica Taylor was back for more photos and autographs. A session was held to guide new and upcoming writers on the approach to follow when writing for different genres.

Wednesday, 1 May 2024

Paul Roos Orchestra came to open the day with amazing music.

Paul Roos Orchestra at Comic-Con Cape Town 2024

The One Piece cast and Veronica Taylor made a last turn for the day. A Disney quiz was hosted to test everyone’s knowledge about our favorite Disney movies and characters. Brandon Reynolds came to share insights on how to do a comic book strip at and helpful advice was shared on becoming either a scriptwriter for movies or a stunt professional. The concept of artificial intelligence was touched on since it is a tool that is also used for creating content.

Tabletop games, dungeons and dragon sessions, Pokemon card games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Star Wars Unlimited session took place everyday at the Tabletop Game area. Video games were also on offer throughout the week from racing to fighting games.

A mobile application was developed to help guide fellow comic-con fans throughout the journey. Maps were provided at the reception area as well which made the journey easy throughout the convention.

Cosplayers Galore!!!

I had the chance to catch a few photos with some of the cosplayers at the comic convention. Many of the cosplayers went to the next level with their outfits.

To me, my X-Men

Here I am posing with cosplayers who dressed up as X-Men. As a huge Marvel, and X-Men fan in particular, I couldn’t pass an opportunity for a photo.

X-Men Cosplayers at Comic-Con (Jean Grey, Scarlet Witch, Jacques, Wolverine, Cyclops)
Jacques and Rogue.
Wolverine and Jacques

DC

There weren’t as many cosplayers dressing up as our favorite DC heroes and villains. As usual Batman put crime-fighting aside for a week to surprise us at Comic-Con.

Batman (DC) and Jacques
Scarecrow (DC) and Jacques

Horror Monday

Lunchtime I disappeared into the crowd as Ghostface from Scream to take a few photos with some of the cosplayers embracing their favorite horror character. Many cosplayers decided to do Pyramid Head from Silent Hill and we saw Freddy and Jason also run around at the convention.

Pinhead (Hellraiser) and Ghostface (Scream)
Jacques and The Nun (Conjuring Universe)
Pyramid Head (Silent Hill) and Jacques
Jacques and Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)

We had other cosplayers who made a turn during the week. I found the Witcher, but sadly couldn’t toss a coin to him this time. I saw a few Mortal Kombat cosplayers as well. Even Tomb Raider decided to skip treasure hunting day and visit the convention.

The Witcher and Jacques
Round 1: Jacques versus Kitana (Mortal Kombat)
Round 2: Jacques, Raiden and Sonya (Mortal Kombat)
Jacques and Lara Croft / Tomb Raider

Comic-Con Cape Town 2024 was really amazing and I’m definitely looking forward to the next comic convention. The organizers went totally Super Saiyan with the programme and all the planned activities were next level.

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Film Festivals

The Dive (2023) is a Claustrophobic Thriller | FrightFest

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Maximilian Erlenwein’s The Dive stars Billions’ Louisa Krause and Medieval’s Sophie Lowe. It follows two sisters May (Krause) and Drew (Lowe) as they go on their yearly diving trip off a remote coast. However, disaster strikes, and the sisters find themselves underwater when a rock slide occurs. May gets trapped under some of the rocks and must instruct Drew on how to get out of the situation. What follows is Drew needing to find a solution to rescue her sister, while her air is slowly starting to run out.

The Dive brings us a claustrophobic thriller that uses the real-time oxygen supply to keep us on edge. It gets to highlight how remaining calm is the best way to survive. The Dive uses the real-time situation to show the desperate measures Drew must go through to rescue her sister. Along with the obstacles that have now been placed in her way.

The Dive [credit Augenschein Filmproduktion]

The Dive gets to set the pulsing racing and the blood pumping even though the characters remain incredibly calm. This gets to explore the dangers of diving in remote locations without any added safety measures. The movie involves problem-solving and flashbacks to the sister’s childhood getting into the hobby. Louisa Krause brings an unbelievably natural calm to her performance. While Sophie Lowe shows us the inside panic she is dealing with.

Over the recent years, we have seen a lot of movies with somebody trapped in or on the water being hunted by a predator. In this movie, we get to keep the situation down to the accident and the idea of trying to figure out a way out of the situation. This creates an edge-of-your-seat journey that keeps us wanting to see the next challenge they are facing. Think 127 Hours meets 47 Metres Down and you know exactly what you are facing.

The Dive is tense, suspenseful and gets the blood pumping as we join the race to survive.

Rating 4/5

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Dune: Part Two Where Will The Anticipated Premiere Land?

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Dune: Part Two is one of the most hyped movie releases for 2023. The latest announcement from the project, is that it will not premiere at the Venice Film Festival, unlike the first movie. This is due to the Visual Effects (VFX) team needing more time, which has prolonged the initial release date. Originally scheduled for 20th October 2023, “Dune: Part Two” will now be released November 3, 2023.

Dune: Part Two will see the return of Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Charlotte Rampling. In addition to the new cast members Florence Pugh, Austin Butler, Lea Seydoux, Christopher Walken, and Tim Blake Nelson.

The immediate successor to the 2021 film, it will be the second installment of a two-part film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, and will cover approximately the second half of the book and possibly include aspects of Dune Messiah.

Dune 2021, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya | Warner Bros. [Credit: Alamy Stock Photo]

The sequel will follow Paul Atreides (Chalamet) as he joins forces with Chani (Zendaya) and the Fremen to exact vengeance on the villains who murdered his family. Faced with a decision between the love of his life and the destiny of the universe, he attempts to avert a dreadful future that only he can predict.

Dune premiered at Venice Film Festival two years ago, followed by Toronto, New York and London Film Festivals. There is a possibility for the film to still premiere at other film festivals such as London Film Festival which will also run from 4th October to 15th October 2023. This also doesn’t mean the cast may not be present at the Venice Film Festival.

While Challengers starring: Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor directed by Luca Guadagnino announced a UK release on 15th September 2023,  the aim is perhaps do an initial premiere at Venice Film Festival. There is also potential of Wonka (2023) premiering at the Venice Film Festival despite the viral online leak of the trailer two weeks ago and announcing its UK release on 15th December 2023.

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