Quick Fire Review : Selma

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

David “what do you mean there are no decent British roles for coloured actors” Oyelowo, Carmen “I’m not Tessa Thompson” Ejogo, Oprah “even I can’t get Ava DuVernay an Oscar Nomination” Winfrey, Tom & Tim “no Americans were harmed in the making of this film” Wilkinson & Roth, Lorraine “My glasses need their own Oscar” Toussaint, Dylan “always the creepiest dude in the room” Baker.

What is it about?

In the fight for Civil Rights, Martin Luther King takes the cause of the people of Selma to the US President. He highlights how Selma’s black citizens face enormous trials in registering for their legal right to vote and brutality at the hands of the authorities in the town.

Why did I want to watch it?

Black Woman director, check, Oscar baity biopic of an important political figure, check, Costume porn…

Did I like it?

The performances are majestic, the script is fabulous, it’s wonderfully paced and the scenery is beautifully shot. The dramatic tension is maintained throughout, whether the political standoffs or personal ones, and even though some serious injustices are given an airing, I didn’t feel bludgeoned by it (unlike Oprah).  The drama is excellently played and it felt like natural storytelling rather than historical lecturing.

I have always voted and this film reminded me why, even in the face of limited ideological differences between political parties, it is still important to try and have my say on things I care about, because people fought hard with their lives for that basic right.

It also reflects really well  how the Oscars voting system works, if you aren’t there to have a voice then you won’t be represented.

Should you watch it?

Absolutely. It has hit my top 3 of the Best Picture nominees – Birdman & Whiplash are the 2 others.

I also think it should be a stalwart of schools History lessons.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test?  http://bechdeltest.com/

It does, I only caught one scene, but it’s a great one with Coretta King discussing her role and struggles as Martin Luther King’s wife.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

Spike Lee’s, Malcolm X, for another side of the story, Talk To Me for a more light hearted biopic directed by an overlooked woman director – it also touches on the death of Dr King.

ELC

Quick Fire Review: BiRDMAN

Birdman poster

Birdman poster

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Micheal “BatBirdman” Keaton, Andrea Riseborough, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Lindsay Duncan

What is it about?

An actor, known primarily for his role as a vigilante comic book film franchise tries to relaunch his career by directing and starring in a Broadway production, he encounters various demons along the way in his struggle to redefine his career.

Why did I want to watch it?

I actually didn’t know much about it except that the trailer is intriguing and Micheal Keaton as Beetlejuice is one of my favourite film characters so I reckoned it would be worth a punt.  I really loved Amores Perros, but found 21 Grams a bit hard going at the time, but knew that everything Alejandro González Iñárritu does is dramatic and interesting so thought it would be worth a look.

Did I like it?

I really did, it kept me intrigued with some pretty fabulous acting and unpredictable flights of fancy mixed with a very solid script which explored the nature of celebrity and acting, as well as the complicated relationships with families – real and constructed.  The entire cast was great,Michael Keaton was thoroughly dynamic  and Edward Norton brought something I’d never seen in him before and showed immense versatility veering between happy go lucky and morose, Naomi Watts was in equal turns sweet, vulnerable and alluring, Emma Stone personified angst, disdain and insecurity (also do any references to Spiderman in a film she’s in count as an ironic shoutout?)

Should you watch it?

As much as I enjoyed it, it isn’t for everyone.  It’s topics include substance abuse & depression, the narcissistic values of the acting profession and has a pretty abhorrent scene at one point, that might leave a bitter taste in your mouth. That said it’s very interesting and pretty unpredictable and in a sea of movies that don’t make you think, this one does.

If you want a more in depth opinion (it’s quite spoilery), this is an alternative review which presents a different take (referenced through the Bechdel test entry). http://www.forbes.com/sites/markhughes/2014/10/24/review-birdman-tries-too-hard-to-say-too-little/

Does it pass the Bechdel Test? http://bechdeltest.com/

This is an interesting debate.  There is a major conversation between 2 actresses borne out of the frustration with their respective partners, which contains a discussion of their careers and ambitions. I would say on balance no in the defense of it’s treatment of women, but there is a pleasing number and age range of actresses, of varying temepraments.

Other films it reminds me of:

Bullets Over Broadway.  Admittedly I rewatched it recently so it’s in my head, but the themes of a troubled theatrical production, the struggles and anxiety of reception and what it is to be “an artist”and what to do when you miscast someone, recur here.

Watch this before/as well/after:

I you’ve never seen Andrea Riseborough in The Devil’s Whore, you should and then you will ask the inevitable question, why isn’t Andrea Riseborough more famous.

Edward Norton as Mike in Birdman (I paraphrase): “Writing, directing and starring in your own play, that’s a bold move” Folks I present you with – Keeping The Faith, a comedy directed by and starring Edward Norton.  Talk about playing against type.

Do you really need me to tell you to rewatch Beetlejuice?

Amores Perros – Love is a bitch don’t you know!

ELC

Quick Fire Review: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Louis CK, Bobby Canavale, Peter Saarsgard, Alec Baldwin – it’s a pretty intimate cast for a Woody Allen movie.

What is it about?

Once wealthy Upper East Side society wife Jasmine goes to live with her more modest living sister in San Fransisco and the story of her financial and psychological demise unfolds.

Why did I want to watch it?

I love Cate Blanchett and enjoyed Midnight In Paris the preceding Woody Allen film, so I thought this was worth a try.

Did I like it?

Yes, I was entertained for a couple of hours, but I think people’s reactions to the character of Jasmine will affect their enjoyment.  The stark contrast between Jasmine’s life of luxury and the life she is forced to lead makes her somewhat sympathetic, especially her relationship with her horrible boss at the job she takes. That said the woman is the living embodiment of the idle rich stereotype so there is still some ground to be made up.   It’s clear she is completely unsuited to the real world and that breeds for some very dark comedy.  The yin/yang is highlighted further by the antics of her fun loving, carefree sister Ginger and the men in her life.  Any troubles she has are definitely not helped by the arrival of Jasmine back in her life.

Should you watch it?

It’s good but not unmissable.  Cate Blanchett does damaged socialite very well, and the cast are all good value.  In particular Blanchett’s portrayal of mania and mental instability seemed pretty realistic.

At some point I’ll have to compile an Allenometer based on how neurotic the central characters are and how kooky the story is – this is an enjoyable film but more woody allen than WOODY ALLEN!

Other films it reminds me of:

I remember coming out of Somewhere by Sophia Coppola feeling like I enjoyed the film but the central character was too flawed to like.  I was slightly more emotionally invested in Jasmine and felt a little sorry for her, and a little haunted by how she would end up.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

This is on my Oscars bait list (Best Actress & Screenplay certainly). Since Sandra Bullock is the other current Best Actress frontrunner, I will be watching Gravity to compare performances.

ELC