film journalist
It’s been a bit too long since I’ve invited y’all here to cosy up for film o’clock, hasn’t it? We have a lot to catch up on…

Trailers are starting to trickle out for the Neil Armstrong biopic First Man and my spideysense feels we’re in for another stellar show from wunderkind director Damien Chazelle. The man who helmed Whiplash and La La Land has once again partnered up with everyone’s future husband, Ryan Gosling, to tell the story of the first man to walk on the moon and early indications from film festivals suggest it could once again land Chazelle in Oscar talks.

Despite a childhood spent championing Buzz Aldrin to anyone who wouldn’t listen (always here for the underdog), I can’t wait to see the film. Moreso than my typical cinematic geekery allows. I have been wrapped up in idealistic debates on the inherent dramatic potential of a major figure’s biopic. In the hands of the right cast and crew, biopics can educate, fascinate, and inspire us all at once. They do what I believe film was made to do and can easily (if not arguably) become Hollywood’s most valuable tool for change.

As luck would have it, there are several more exciting biopics heading to the silver screen over the coming months. With First Man just around the corner, here is my painstakingly decisive pick for the best of the rest…

Mary Queen Of Scots

One of the most famous chapters in British history is empire’s trials and tribulations during rule of Queen Elizabeth I. Even deeper, her soap-worthy rivalry with cousin Mary Queen of Scots. While historians have already aired their grievances with this film and a few inaccuracies hinted at in its trailer, the basic story is about to be brought to life in what looks to be a sensational – or sensationalist – fashion. Elizabeth will be played by Margot Robbie and Mary by Saoirse Ronan, both of whom were nominated for Best Actress Academy Awards just this year. A less familiar Josie Rourke will direct and – inaccuracies aside – she looks to have pulled off a wildly charismatic viewpoint. Early glimpses suggest Mary will become Ronan’s role of all roles.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Freddie Mercury. Rami Malek. X-Men direction. I mean, come on Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s almost too much for a filmgoer to take.

The long-awaited musical biopic looks set to become one of the greats – the ones that come along once or twice a decade and enthral those who don’t consider themselves fans of the group or genre at hand. Granted, everybody likes Queen at least a little bit.

The film’s focus on frontman Freddie – one of the bravest and boldest rockstars of our time – is carried by the critical care of Rami Malek (Mr. Robot, to the masses). By all accounts he assumed the role under incredible pressure, with astonishing dedication, and helped Bryan Singer’s direction (best known for handling the bulk of the modern X-Men franchise) reach unparalleled heights.

On The Basis Of Sex

This may be millennial bias speaking, but it’s hard to remember a Supreme Court justice who shook the proverbials up quite like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The “Notorious RBG”, as she now known, has not only become a hero for the liberal faction of the United States desperate to hang onto influence in the Supreme Court, but also an indisputable icon of women’s rights. Beyonce in wire frames, if you will.

Though she was the subject of Netflix’s RBG only recently, On The Basis Of Sex is taking the modern marvel to the megascreens. The film has been directed by Mimi Leder (who also happened to be the first female graduate of the AFI Conservatory) and Felicity Jones will play a young Ginsburg bringing a gender discrimination case to the highest court in America. Regardless of personal politics or interest in the (ghastly) American system, this is going to be phenomenal watch.

Leonardo Da Vinci

While we all recognise Leonardo Da Vinci as one of the true greats of art history, our cultural impression of the man behind the Mona has always skewed towards rumour and  fiction. The Da Vinci Code remains the most famous work from renowned thriller novelist Dan Brown and, to the everyman, infused the artist’s work with fake conspiracies that do little more than entertain. One of the most popular slots in a growing internet gaming category incorporates Leonardo Da Vinci’s portraits in ‘Da Vinci Diamonds’ with cliché slot symbols, effectively turning the artist into a generic source of historical nuance.

On the flip side, Walter Isaacson – most famous for writing the definitive Steve Jobs biography – completely reframed Da Vinci for his literary masterpiece and unknowingly convinced John Logan to adapt the book into a film. With our very own Leo D (Caprio, that is) starring as the artist and inventor, the biopic is full of promise.

Enzo Ferrari

If the sound of an Enzo Ferrari biopic sounds strangely familiar to you, it is likely you were one of the millions glued to HBO drama Entourage. The show had a real knack for delivering its protagonist – fictional A-list actor Vincent Chase –  dream roles in films that have since been produced by non-fiction Hollywood bigwigs. A biopic of entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari (creator of Ferrari, as you’ve likely guessed) was one such project that Chase got particularly excited about, and we can now follow suit. The film is slated to be directed by Michael Mann (director, screenwriter and producer of everything from Heat to Hancock) and Hugh Jackman will star in the lead role. Interestingly enough, the film will likely come out within a year of another gargantuan project, Ford v. Ferrari, which will tell the tale of the respective companies’ dramatic 1996 rivalry with the help of Matt Damon and Christian Bale.

moonlight movie
There has been an unlikely combustion in my life caused by the start of Lent (today) and a film that changed my life (Moonlight).

It is probably easiest to start with the latter. Moonlight, the multiple Oscar-winning underdog, introduced me to a character I understood like no other in my personal cinematic experience.

As a laughable “minority” – a once-poor bisexual white woman – Chiron (a character easily presumed to be nothing more than a flag-flyer for the Black Lives Matter movement) and I read incredibly different on paper.

But we’re not different. Not in any way that matters. We’re so similar it ripped the the carpet beneath my feet. Chiron and I share more than I would be willing to delve too far into; struggling through adolescence in Florida, living as the yin to the yang of a parent who – whilst overbearingly affectionate publicly – chose a life drug-addled catastrophes and lacquered every painful contact in guilty fear…and then some.

Chiron’s extraordinary story chose to forgo dangerous stereotypes. It explored the masks we wear like a game of Russian Roulette. It designed every single frame in a way that could penetrate the least empathic heart. It was perfect, poetic, and it changed me.

This very necessary piece of art reminded me just how connected we all are.

It even encouraged me to give up a few thing for Lent. For the first time in my entire life. I started looking into Christian Aid after bawling my way through the film (their all-encompassing goal is to end poverty, regardless of religion or nationality) and noticed they were doing a “Give It Up For Lent” campaign).

It seemed as good an excuse as any to channel my response into something good.

What I’m Giving Up For Lent
I’m giving up negative thoughts.
Fairly simple logic there. Negative thoughts are scientifically proven to be toxic and, though I consider myself an incredibly happy person, I very rarely allow myself the same positive critique that I give others. That changes now.

I’m giving up meat at home.
Read: climate change 101. It’s virtually impossible to give it up everywhere (as a food critic), but making a conscious choice to enjoy a primarily vegan diet at home will hopefully encourage others to do the same.

I’m giving up ‘almost’ doing things.
I often intend to do great things that fall to the wayside of work, “what is expected of me“, and general forgetfulness. No more. I am now a Yes Man for every positive impulse I have. Starting with raising money for Christian Aid.

It may be all fair and good to give up chocolate…but I want to start something I can continue to do well past April 13th.

If you feel like you would like to do the same, please do. And please click here to donate to my JustGiving page if you’re able to.

christmas gift guide

For the film connoisseur…

I’m not a huge fan of purchasing DVDs for people but I do love buying presents for fellow film-lovers so was thrilled to find out Cineworld have just released their gift box for the holidays to open the magic of the cinematic experience; two 2D or 3D tickets, two regular drinks, one regular popcorn and two Merryteaser chocolates for just £25!

The idea? Share more magic with Cineworld. Grab your Wizarding World-loving pal and present them with the gift box and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Cursed Child wrapped up in a Hogwarts hoodie (surprisingly easy to do and adorable as the sleeves can easily be fashioned into a bow!). Conveniently, the hoodie is also likely to be the only comfortable thing to wear to Cineworld on your food-comaed Boxing Day trip to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them before it leaves cinemas.

This gift idea can obviously work for any movie your loved one has shown interest in, so don’t hesitate to be creative! So many films are about to be released – – Rogue One, Assassins Creed, T2, Sing, etc – and all have an inspiring theme of their own to tie into your friends and families interests. The gifts are available online from and in Cineworld cinemas nationwide.

For the big dreamer…

I love group gifting but it can often be very hard to keep track of and often put a lot of pressure on one person (“the money handler”). Leetchi (which also works for crowdfunding) has completely taken the hassle out of it. Money pots (or projects) are set up within minutes, completely secure, and hold all of the money with no stress to the organiser.

The idea: Have a friend who has always dreamed of spending a romantic weekend in Paris? Luxury hotel costs, Eurostar tickets, and a restaurant gift card for two may cost £400 but you can split the cost between ten friends at only £40 a piece! Has your Mum spent the last ten years lusting over a Mulberry Bayswater? You can split the cost with the rest of your family for less than £100 each!

With a few messages exchanged beforehand to find all interested parties, group gifting can literally make dreams come true.

For the impossible to buy for…

Not to worry! I love helping people find and create special gifts so if you’ve trawled through the best gift guides around (hint: House of Fraser has a fabulous one!) and still feel stuck, shoot me a tweet (@lelalondon) and I’ll do my darnedest to help.

Happy Holidays, babes.

up for love
Laurent Tirard’s latest film, Up For Love, casts Jean Dujardin (The Artist, The Wolf of Wall Street) and rising star Virginie Efira as accidental lovers after a chance encounter. Having seen the film just before its UK launch, I found a lot of unexpected heart in the story; at four-foot-five, Alexandre (Dujardin) comes with shortcomings to rival divorcee Diane’s (Efira) own. And it is dealt with in a moving and honest – albeit sometimes ridiculous – way.

I took some time with the director, Laurent Tirard, to discuss his journey to the height of romance. Excuse the pun.

Lela: Bonjour, Laurent! How are you feeling with less than 24 hours to go until the release of Up For Love?

Laurent: I’m afraid the UK release of Up for Love has been totally eclipsed by another release: that of my third child – a girl – who was born last week and is taking up a lot of my time and attention. So to answer you question: how am I feeling? Very sleepy.

Lela: Oh, congratluations! You actually used to be a film journalist. How do you think this has helped – or hindered – your filmmaking?

Laurent: It has helped in many ways. Watching over a hundred films a year is always a good school, of course. But beyond that, it has allowed me to approach lots of film makers and benefit from their experience. It has also taught me discipline in writing…and to deliver a text on time!

Lela: At points, the film is very emotional and potentially uncomfortable for the viewer. At other times it feels slightly slapstick. How important is it for you to showcase each and at what percentage? Do you ever feel one risks negating the other?

Laurent: I always feel that the most dramatic – or even tragic – subject matters make the best comedies. Comedy works as a relief, it helps us take distance from painful situations and reminds us to enjoy life. But sometimes even that degree of complexity can be contained in the most basic slapstick gag. So, in terms of dosage, or percentage, I guess it’s really a matter of intuition. It’s not mathematical – you do what you feel – because a movie is really a transposition of how you see life. I like to mix dark and light. Do they negate each other sometimes? I know some people are disturbed by it. I know some people love it. All I can do is hope the second group is larger than the first.

Lela: As a remake of a relatively recent film, how did Corazón de León inspire or play a part in this film?

Laurent: We stayed very, very close. Because we loved the concept and the story. We cut a few scenes, added a few ones, but that was it. What we did change a lot, however, was the inside of the scenes. Our version is in a very different tone. A little darker, maybe, a little less extravagant, too. A little closer to the vest. A little more European, I guess.

Lela: What were the major technical challenges of making Jean Dujardin a more diminutive man? Was there an option to work with an actor that wouldn’t require special effects to play the role ?

Laurent: Working with an actual “little” man was never an option for me. A huge part of the fun of the movie’s concept, I felt, was to see a movie star reduced on screen. Also, it immediately implied that this wasn’t trying to be “real”. On the opposite, it was to be taken like a fairytale, one in which prince Charming was a few inches too short. The challenge wasn’t really technical because, these days, you can do pretty much everything with digital special effects.

The challenge is making sure the technique doesn’t take all the room, and that your actors remain at the center of the stage because they are, in the end, the ones that convey the comedy and the emotion.

Lela: Up For Love strikes a nice balance between formulaic “rom-com” and heartfelt storytelling; did one feel more important than the other to you?

Laurent: To me, the “rom-com” aspect of the movie was always a pretense to address deeper, more heartfelt things. People kept saying “this is going to be very funny”, and I replied “Maybe…but I think it might be more moving than funny”.

Lela: If you could get one person to watch the film, who would it be and why ?

Laurent: My grandfather, who has taught me the art of storytelling.

Lela: What is next for Laurent Tirard?

Laurent: So many things! I am shooting another film with Jean Dujardin next year (a period comedy), and I have three more projects at different stages of completion. And I think I’d like to take a vacation, too, at some point…

Up For Love is in cinemas now.

london blogger
For the 90s kid…
…round up your peers and get yourself to Goosebumps Alive. The new immersive theatre experience has taken our favourite childhood horror series from R. L. Stine and turned them into a 90-minute spectacle. Under the ground in Waterloo’s Vaults, you explore seventeen rooms filled with demonic masks, haunted electronics, killer scarecrows, and much more; storytelling has never been so eerie or enveloping.

good ship benefit
For the beauty guru…
…nothing makes more sense than the Good Ship Benefit. The beauty brand have recently taken over the R.S. Hispaniola (the docked ship across from the London Eye) and turned it into a San Francisco-themed attraction coated in all things pink and fabulous. There is a bar, brow lounge, boutique, restaurant, secret underwater lounge, and even yoga classes on certain days!

My initial visit was made to get a private introduction to Benefit’s Cheekathon palette (exclusive to House of Fraser) – an incredible palette of five full-sized Benefit cheek products including cult favourites like the CORALista blush and Hoola bronzer. Initial…but not my last.

good ship benefit

For the London escapee…
Of course, if you’re still feeling restless after all of the above it might be time to get away. In preparation for an upcoming trip to Birmingham (before jetting off to Lanzarote!) on Wednesday, I came across 50% off Virgin Rail breaks on as well at 40% off deals with Etihad, business class vouchers and more. If you’re needing a little break from the city, you might as well save yourself some spending money for your destination, eh?