With awards season in full swing, Mr A-B and I are trying very hard to keep up on all the latest releases…
As we are in possession of Cineworld Unlimited cards (not a sponsored post), January is the month where they really start to prove their value and I’m now up to seven films in three weeks (Mr A-B is up to eight following a cheeky Star Wars re-watch). For my thoughts on Little Women, The Gentlemen and Jojo Rabbit, head to my previous post, and for my thoughts on what you should be seeing this weekend, keep on reading!
As the one of this set of three that has been out the longest (it was released on the 10th), in my opinion this should be top of the priority list. Sam Mendes’ WW1 epic has already garnered Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Motion Picture, as well as nine BAFTA and ten Oscar nominations. While Mendes conveniently fits the awarding bodies’ homogenous idea of what makes a good director (i.e. white and male), I can’t deny that it is a thoroughly award-worthy film.
1917 is basically a day in the life (a really shit one) of two young soldiers who are sent on a mission to warn a different regiment that they are walking into a trap. While I’m tempted to make all sorts of glib remarks about how much easier it would have been if they’d had iPhones, it’s genuinely an incredibly tense, STRESSFUL couple of hours. The filming style gives the impression that it was shot in a single take – I looked out for the cuts and couldn’t see a single one (though my eyesight is less than 20:20 as Mr A-B likes to remind me) – which only heightens the tension, It. Is. Absolutely. Relentless.
I didn’t recognise the two main actors, though I came away feeling George Mackay’s lack of award nominations is nothing short of criminal. I initially wondered if I was just unimpressed by the main characters as I didn’t seem to be moved emotionally (as we all know, I am a crier), but the very last moment reduced me to tears as I finally appreciated the subtle beauty of Mackay’s understated performance. Frankly, I just wanted to give the poor guy a big hug, because seriously that was the definition of a shit day. Cameos from the great and good of British acting (of the male variety) round off a thoroughly compelling piece of cinematic brilliance.
From world war to death row there’s nothing like an awards season to bring out those films that leave you feeling generally dire about the world. This is the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who chose to set up a practice in 1980s Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned to death row. His first major case is that of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), an African American man convicted of murdering a young, white girl. Despite an outrageous lack of evidence, the murder itself is high-profile, and the local law enforcement (who, unsurprisingly, are all white men) will stop at nothing to keep McMillian behind bars. It’s an appalling portrait of anti-black racism in the deep South as well as a reminder (if any was needed) of the horror of the death penalty.
While this film is very well acted, the pace is slow and I felt Michael B Jordan’s character didn’t show a lot of development given the campaign of intimidation and outright racism which is waged against him, though this feels weird for to say given that it’s a true story. Perhaps it was simply stoicism, the kind that has allowed Stevenson to continue standing up against injustice for more than thirty years. Regardless, it’s topic certainly makes this an important film, and the true stories of these innocent men, who spent years on death row, deserve to be heard.
Thankfully I can finish this post with an all-star cast of women after some very male-heavy stories! Bombshell is based on the true story of the women who took on the predatory head of Fox News, Roger Ailes (played disgustingly well by John Lithgow), for the toxic culture of sexual harassment he created. Acting heavyweights Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman, who play Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson respectfully, are joined by Margot Robbie who plays the fictional Kayla Pospisil (whose character is an amalgamation of multiple women’s stories), and all three give us nothing less than the solid performance I would expect.
I came away from this film feeling somewhat despondent. Mostly because it felt absolutely reflective of real life – Roger Ailes may have lost his job but Fox spent more money paying him and another lechy perve off than they paid in compensation to the women affected by their behaviour. Trump (who features heavily in the film given his run-in with Megyn Kelly) is still President (and is still vile). This isn’t the galvanising story of female empowerment one might expect because while the women ultimately prevail on this occasion, it feels very much like winning the battle but losing the war.
I also couldn’t help but be further disappointed by #BaftasSoWhite with Robbie garnering two nominations for Best Supporting Actress (one of which being for this film) while people of colour missed out – while her performance was perfectly good, it was not award-worthy (though really it’s the nomination for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood that’s more questionable given that she’s in it for about five minutes).
Overall, it’s a good enough film that I would still say is worth seeing – but not one I would prioritise over some of the other films I’ve recommended in this and my previous post. I will also concede that I may not have fully appreciated this film given that I’m not familiar with the American media (particularly those portrayed in here). However, if you do watch it and are feeling particularly dismayed, you can always play American TV Actor Bingo – I spotted alumni of Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Nashville, The Mindy Project, The Mentalist (not sure what this is saying about my taste in TV) and found consulting my internal IMDB a welcome distraction from the some of the more vomit-inducing scenes.
As I said, January is the time for movies, so here’s a few more that Mr A-B and I are particularly looking forward to / I will be reviewing in the near future (though looking at the size of this list I’m a bit concerned we won’t get to them all…):
- The Personal History of David Copperfield – a comedy based on the Charles Dickens classic starring Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton etc. (ANOTHER ALL-STAR CAST). Out 24th January.
- Queen and Slim – A first date gone wrong escalates a young couple to almost Bonnie & Clyde-esque notoriety, set against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement. Starring the ever-wonderful Daniel Kaluuya, out 31st January
- Richard Jewell – Another true story, this time of a security guard who saves thousands of lives when he discovers a bomb in an Atlanta park during the 1996 Olympcs, but becomes vilified by the press when suggestions emerge that he himself was the bomber. Starring Paul Walter Houser and Sam Rockell. Out 31st January
- A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – Yet ANOTHER true story (but thankfully a much gentler one) of a real-life friendship between the beloved American TV host Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks) and journalist Tom Junod (Matthew Rhys). Out 31st January
- The Rhythm Section – Blake Lively as you’ve never seen her before – a young woman avenging the death of her family, apparently by changing her hair multiple times (if the trailer is anything to go by). Also out 31st January (it’s a big day guys).
Have you seen any of these films yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments down below!