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

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Quick Fire Review: The Theory of Everything

Who is in it?

Eddie “can you hear the people sing?” Redmayne, Felicity Jones and David “will always be Lupin in my eyes” Thewlis

What is it about?

The story of the genius physicist Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis of motor neurone disease and his relationship with his ex-wife, Jane. The film is an adaptation of her memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.

Why did I want to watch it?

I am always drawn to biopics and having recently seen and loved The Imitation Game, I wanted to once again, hear a relatively unknown  story of  someone extraordinary.

Did I like it?

I thought it was excellent! I had expected to cry and the film delivered on that level. Am I the only person who goes to the cinema wanting to cry? I heard that Stephen Hawking had an almost unrivalled sense of humour, but I hadn’t expected to laugh so much either! A very uplifting film which was very welcome in the post-Christmas gloom.

Should you watch it?

Yes, if you enjoy hearing remarkable stories. Don’t be put off though, by the “science bit” – certainly too much for an ex-Arts student like me! The period parts set at Cambridge are lovely and good viewing for anyone who wishes they could keep on learning and revisit campus days!

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

Once again, no. Although, I forgive Jane, she is after all,  remaining strong against remarkable odds.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

Eddie Redmayne has thus far gone under my radar – he was ok in Les Mis, but his performance as Hawking was moving. Felicity Jones was divine! I shall now be looking at her filmography and maybe looking up The Invisible Woman from 2013 for which she was nominated for a BIFA Best Actress award and from 2011, Like Crazy.

Having said that, this is surely her best performance to date and I await a “Big O” nomination on January 15.

LB

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: The Imitation Game

The Imitation GameHere’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Benedict “socially awkward otter” Cumberbatch, Keira “posh lady required”Knightley, Mathew “distractingly pretty” Goode, Mark “your wig guy needs their own special Oscar” Strong, Charles “so you think you can” Dance, Tuppence “not a main character but love the name” Middleton, Rory “Classy northerner” Kinnear

What is it about?

How Alan Turing the father of the modern computer helped break an unbreakable code and the society which vilifies and degrades outsiders and the sexually different, irrespective of their immense talent.

Why did I want to watch it?

Alan Turing’s tale is a poignant one, which needs to be told.

Did I like it?

I thought it was magnificent.  The script was equally funny and touching, and the tale was told in an unpretentious enjoyable way.

Should you watch it?

Yes.  It is one of the best films I have seen in recent months.  If nothing else, if you like crosswords you will feel like you have the makings of a genius and capable of defeating despots the world over.

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

Nope.  There aren’t that many women in the film and there are discussions about how hard a time an intelligent woman has to be taken seriously.  When Joan turns up to be assessed for the Programme the patronising way she is treated says it all.

Other films it doesn’t remind me of:

The Social Network.  Whilst both about social outcast computer geniuses who have difficulty making friends,  Turinf comes across as an affable recluse, Zuckerberg is portrayed as an obnoxious child.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

I’ve still not seen it but Benedict Cumberbatch plays another real life figure, Julian Assange, in The Fifth Estate. Daniel Bruhl is in it so it could be watchable (feel free to let me know what you think in the comments)

The Kings Speech is the forties, once again scored by Alexandre Desplat (guess who I think will get an Oscar nomination?).

ELC

Quick Fire Review: Magic In The Moonlight

magic_a

Here’s The Trailer

Who is in it?

Colin “I really am rather posh” Firth, Emma “I really am rather quirky” Stone, Dame Eileen “Can anyone look at her without remembering that she turned down Colin Farrell for a jump” Atkins, Simon “Hey it’s That Guy” McBurney  and a highly competent supporting cast including Oscar nominees Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver as a stunning, blonde widow.

What is it about?

A reknowned magician and debunker of fraudulent mediums struggles to unmask a charming mystic in the South of France

Why did I want to watch it?

The inevitable Oscar nomination (screenwriting) and my friend is a huge fan of Woody Allen.  Otherwise I might have been happy to wait for the dvd.

Did I like it?

It was whimsically charming, and a very nice way to spend a Sunday.

Should you watch it?

This lifted my spirits in a way I hadn’t expected. I giggled a lot during the film and after Blue Jasmine this was a welcome relief.  The comedy is in the deft performance by Colin Firth’s austere and arrogant Stanley and his interplay with Emma Stone’s engaging Sophie.  Also some truly terrible ukulele playing is played for laughs in the most delightful way.  It won’t go down as anything extraordinary but it’s certainly not terrible.

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

It does, several times, my favourite probably being all the exchanges between Sophie’s highly calculating mother and the contrastingly trusting  Mrs Cattlidge.

Other films it reminds me of:

Easy Virtue & The Importance of Being Earnest. Well they both star Colin Firth and are set in the 20s.  Woody Allen is clearly trying to evoke Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward and is quite successful to a degree.  I thought it would remind me of Midnight in Paris but that was a more raucous affair, this was very restrained.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

An Ideal Husband.  By far and away my favourite 20’s set farce has to be the 1999 film led by an inimitable Rupert Everett.

ELC

Quick Fire Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolf-of-Wall-Street-Header1

Who is in it?

Leonardo DiCaprio leads, Jonah Hill showing us his versatility, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley.

What is it about?

Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, the film follows Belfort from humble beginnings selling penny shares to his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life. To say Belfort lives life in the fast lane is somewhat an understatement. He takes us with him on a non-stop debauched orgy of alcohol, drugs and sex which leads ultimately to his fall at the hands of the FBI.

Why did I want to watch it?

Two reasons, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese. If you’ve read my post from May 2013 “Why doesn’t Leonardo DiCaprio have an Oscar” you’ll know that LDC is my all-time favourite actor and I was excited to see him in what I think is his best shot yet at Oscar glory. Scorsese is a fabulous auteur and so I assumed Wolf had to be an excellent product of such great talents.

Did I like it?

Yes. Not as much as I wanted to, admittedly, but I enjoyed the film and I was entertained for the whole of the 3 hours of the film’s duration. I laughed much more than I had expected to and Leonardo was fabulous in the leading role – portraying Belfort as a charismatic, greedy self-serving slime ball. The sort of character that you love to hate. To be fair, it could have lost some of the drugs or sex scenes though and overuse of the “f word” became a little much – there’s more than 500 uses apparently!

Should you watch it?

Watch it if you love Scorsese, definitely watch it if you love Leo, watch if you are…. a lad?!? It’s a proper lads film and the cinema I went to watch it in was absolutely packed with groups of men!

Other films it reminds me of:

Goodfellas, or other films about money men – Wall Street (of course), Trading Places, Rogue Trader.

Watch this instead/as well/before/after:

Any other Scorsese or Leonardo offering, why not The Departed?
LB

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