Mank: The Golden Globe nominations came out last week for the Film and TV Dramas and Comedies. On that listing came the Netflix film,Mank with an impressive cast including lead Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins (Phil’s daughter), and Tom Burke as Orson Welles. Oldman plays Herman Mankiewicz, who was a writer in Old Hollywood. For a lowly writer he seems to be very well connected with powerful friends, including Leo B Mayer and William Randolph Hearst among them. He is a drunk but a well respected writer. He is tasked with writing Welles’ Citizen Kane, which Welles at 24yo was brought in to resurrect RKO Pictures’ fortunes. It is a black and white period piece set in the early 1940s with flashbacks. Actually the flashbacks can be somewhat of a distraction, taking away from the direction that the story seems to be focused on. It isn’t clear to me how the gubernatorial election in California from 1934 impacted the Kane storyline, despite having some nice tie-ins to more recent Presidential elections, and that is a criticism for me. It’s all very fuzzy. I would be much more interested in the making of the classic film. The other major distraction for me is how a 62yo Gary Oldman, plays the 33yo Mank from 1940. Why? Add to this the backstory of his Oscar winning role of Winston Churchill and him claiming that he must have a fat suit, because he refused to add the weight that he said would be difficult to ever get back off after filming. Well, he seems to have added the weight on himself, perhaps he swallowed the Best Actor Award? One cannot say. In the end, I cannot recommend this film. It was long and slow. It had brilliant production design for places like Hearst Castle, which in many ways one should know a little of that story (Hearst and Marion Davies) to put into context what transpires. It looks beautiful. The plot is a headscratcher from which Hollywood types will vote for it (like Birdman a couple years ago).
The Flight Attendant: This Kaley Cuoco TV series is named as a Best Drama (Musical or Comedy)??, and her as a Best Actress. Ummmm, no. To me, the lines of Comedy get blurred when there is a murder to be investigated. The series is all about that. So it’s no Schitt’s Creek. The eight episode storyline leans heavily on the pretty and drunkard young blond flight attendant and her life. In many ways it channels the character of Amy Schumer in Trainwreck from 2016. Schumer is funnier. But here there are these surreal flashbacks when our constantly drinking protagonist messed up in a situation that clearly is way over her head that push this intoAmerican Werewolf in London territory. Strange and yet an important plotline that they continue to perpetuate. She is after all just someone who is a “party girl” and hooking up on a layover (literally and figuratively) with a handsome guy in first class. Much of what happens is a drunken haze for her, but it comes back to her in snippets. It all becomes a little too nice and tidy in the final episode. You KNOW that they will be working on a sequel (season 2) so that many of the characters have to continue on. I won’t be rushing out to see this character enter more shady situations. I don’t think one wins awards for being pretty and acting drunk. There is more than that.
Tom Segura –(Netflix) I have seen now three separate comedy specials by this guy, and I like him. I like his point of view and the stories that he tells. It is light entertainment that is welcome in these times. Much like Jim Jefferies he has a cutting humour, doesn’t really care about political correctness and makes interesting human observations. Smile and enjoy!
Ammonite: Set in the early 1800s, this period piece stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan. For that reason abut forgotten lone I wanted to check out this TIFF film from September. This movie follows a now more familiar pattern; it is a repressed time for women who are told that they must live their life in the service of a husband and for his benefit. She is meant to have children and be valued less. She has no ability to be herself and follow her own dreams, even in the eyes of her own father and family. I am reminded how even 140 years later, Queen Elizabeth isn’t given a proper education by her parents because she just doesn’t need one. She disagrees. Winslet here plays Mary, an accomplished but forgotten (mostly) archaeologist who studies fossils found along the shores of her English home. Single, aging, and living only with her elderly mother. She early on in her life found a fossil that is in the British Museum and which paid for life for her sizeable family. Ronan plays a deeply depressed married woman who has recently lost a child. Her husband has an avid interest in fossils, but also yearns for his wife of earlier days. He leaves for a lengthy business trip but pays Winslet to look in on his wife. Winslet gets more than bargained for as she begrudgingly accepts the task, but Ronan falls ill. Much goes unsaid. Much is assumed. Wrongly or rightly. The viewer tries to piece together what has happened to both of these women. How have they been wronged? What has lead to the rather lonely existence of Winslet and her hardness? Ronan appears to be more of an “indoor girl” to borrow the words of Jack Dawson when speaking of Rose in Titanic. Mary alternatively is more sturdy and rugged. She is more outdoorsy, with dirty nails and no appetite for traditional women’s interests. She takes good care of her Mom and the sick Ronan. Mary is though rather awkward and uncomfortable around people. Things happen. Some more surprising than others. Portrait of A Lady On Fire was a very similar story. I think that it was told better. The difference being the star power of the main characters. This film has two top A-list stars who are showing more in many ways than expected. In the end I think we can better appreciate how difficult that these times could have been. Many would have lived, loved and fit directly into society. But quite a few would have had a great deal of difficulty and feeling as though they were likely living in the wrong time. I expect in a lean year that Oscar nominations will likely be forthcoming for one or both.
Downhill: A few years back at TIFF the Swedish foreign film Force Majeure was released and it was a dark film showing the tensions in a marriage when a husband and father at a ski resort betrayed his wife and family in an unexpected way and suffers the consequences. In truth I don’t remember the comedy elements. I just remember that there were uncomfortable situations and tension. Then, presumably Wil Ferrell and Julia Louis Dreyfus saw this as a movie to remake as more of a comedy. It doesn’t work. It’s not funny, but more contrived. I didn’t laugh. I marvelled at the mountain ski resort in Austria. The views and skiing makes me wish for a year ago at Whistler. But otherwise, this dysfunctional family is not where I would want to spend time. Like many Hollywood remakes of European films, this was not a good idea.
Wanda Vision: This new series on Disney + has been advertised hard in the past few weeks. It stars Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen (the best actress in the Olsen clan). Both accomplished actors. After seeing the first episode and 10 mins in the second episode, I have to ask myself “what the hell were they thinking?!” This is bad in a way that I haven’t seen in quite some time. Episode one is a black and white Bewitched remake feel, with the robot “Vision” as Darren and Olsen playing Wanda (a woman with magical powers). I don’t know the point. I don’t the background. I don’t know the Marvel “superheroes”. Frankly, I don’t give damn.
Bridgerton: Saw the end of this. Enjoyed Season 1. I think that the ultimate resolution was satisfying if not altogether predictable. It was a good story. The characters were engaging. It was well written and well acted. Check it out.
Frost/Nixon: I watched this last night. I liked it. Although in some ways, the entire movie turns on whether or not Richard Nixon actually made that phonecall to Frost in his hotel room. If, in fact, he did, then that was a colossal blunder. Like gloating in the 7th inning when winning 11-0 it does nothing but motivate the other guy (who is already down) to put you away. This is what happened to Frost who was not over-matched but simply did not direct his mind to the no holds barred duel that he was only watching until then. He had to focus on the 10% of the time that Nixon did stuff that he knew was wrong and did them anyway. I was surprised that the Nixon team did not subtract from that last taping episode the 25 minutes that Frost spent asking about burning the tapes.
Nixon was a sharp guy, no doubt, but he was also highly suspicious and had an inferiority complex. Losing his governor’s race earlier in his career scarred him for life. Anyway, I enjoyed this as I had studied Watergate back in University with John Dean (book Blind Ambition) and All the President’s Men. It’s an interesting lesson in mistakes and trying to cover them up. Both the principal actors did a fine job here, and notably the guy who played Nixon (Frank Langella). That was good. I loved the mental games he played with him just before going on air “So…did you fornicate last night?…” LMAO!!
I watched Slumdog Millionaire last night and I enjoyed it. There are a lot of depressing images here from the slums in India , and I cannot imagine going there and seeing it first hand. At the same time it opens your eyes as to why you have a money pouch when you travel. It’s a feel-good story with a plot that is interesting But it was good to watch and created some real tension. I was most impressed by the child actors in this film as they are all very good. They made this film what it is. Sure, on some level I wonder how a young girl living in that kind of poverty and situation turns out to look the way that she does (and she is a striking woman). I liked the way that they explained Dev Patel’s knowledge of seemingly independent questions with things that have happened in his life. The relationship with the brother is an interesting one and the redemption that occurs at the end. Was this the BEST movie of the year? I don’t know. But so far it is a pretty good one.
This weekend Ex-wife rented Blindness with what looked like a good cast (Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover and Julianne Moore). In a word it’s HORRIBLE. I am glad to only have caught the last 45 minutes of this, and thinking I utilized the other hour for better pursuits. This story is a mess. It reminds me a bit of Doomsday (a UK version of an outbreak movie with Scotland this time being isolated and rescuers going in to see who if anyone has survived). Neither movie really works that well but Doomsday was better. There is this uncertain virus in a city that makes people blind and so they are put in isolation. In truth I am not sure where Ex-wife finds these movies, but she strikes me in her selections like a kid playing with her parents’ gun. You don’t know what she’s going to pick, but in the end you know someone will get hurt. Usually it’s me having to sit through another painful selection. She usually hates my picks.
This weekend I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I am halfway through the book, and I found this story to be the least satisfying of the bunch. It could have been summed up in a word and in 15 mins on the screen.
Open with Harry credits, show Harry at his house. Watch as Ministry of Magic dispels the theory of the return of Voldemort, then see how they see the truth. Ending credits.
When we finished, eldest son’s reaction was “Is that it?!” I agree. The characters did not advance much, and there was only a couple tidbits of juicy info. Otherwise it was forgettable.