This is being written today, a Tuesday, but I have a good excuse, and that was I hadn’t seen a movie to write about until last night on a flight. Now flights are not the best places to see films and mostly because most airlines are editing the films for content. Heaven knows if you will sit next to a 6yo and they don’t need to see breasts on the screen! So I give credit to American Airlines yesterday who make it plain that they do NOT edit the films, they are shown as shown in the theatres. Good on them. With that note, I was able to catch one and a half films.
Alison had sent to me the following blog list of Best Films as listed by Toronto critics.
I noted on this list both The Favourite, reviewed here just recently but also First Reformed and Burning (also reviewed – https://wordpress.com/post/mondayswithrobbie.com/567). So with that background I decided to watch First Reformed.
A reverand (played by Ethan Hawke) is the head of a small church in upper New York State which has been in existence since 1700s. They are coming up to their 250th anniversary and there is a celebration being planned. His parish is small and dwindling. There is a corporate sponsored larger modern church nearby which watches over this smaller church. The father has had some challenges in his life. He is asked to counsel the husband of one of his more consistent parishioners. Questions are asked which don’t have simple answers like: “Can God forgive us to what we have done to his creation?” ‘Can we be forgiven?” There is further discussion about despair and hope. Ultimately this is what I consider to be the main theme of the film. Things unfold, and a degree of tension steadily grows. The performance by Hawke drives this film ever forward. He is very good. You can see the anguish on the face of Hawke, who steadily keeps his tumultuous emotions to himself. There are moments I will not spoil. I will say that when the credits rolled, I paused and thought back to what I viewed and then felt it was appropriate. I had (after seeing the trailer/preview) texted to Alison that I felt I knew what the good reverand was going to do. I think it is fair to say that I wasn’t entirely wrong. But then again, I wasn’t right either. I am glad to have seen this.
I started to watch Adift with Shailene Woodley, and Sam Claflin, but this is Woodley’s picture. I am glad to see her once again since it seemed she hasn’t worked in quite some time. Ever since the whole Divergent debacle, where someone sold her a bill of goods on it being The Hunger Games, she has laid low. But I like her, and think she is good here. I have not completed the film (I got halfway through) but I have it on rent and will complete in the next day or so. I look forward to finishing it and completing this review.
In a recent conversation I had, I was told that women’s relationships are far more complex than those of men. Having seen the new film The Favourite about UK’s Queen Anne in the early 18th century, and her entourage I can believe this. The movie explores principally three female characters and their interactions. All three performances have been nominated for Golden Globes. Two supporting roles for Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, and one for Actress for the excellent Olivia Colman. Colman is the new Queen Elizabeth in The Crown for Season 3, she has also done plenty of TV and some smaller parts (The Lobster and Iron Lady). Here she plays Queen Anne who was as pictured an unpredictable and unstable leader. Her most trusted consort (Weisz) is the wife of a general, but manipulates and directs the sails of the Queen through her physical and emotional connection to her. Weisz enjoys a place of privilege and is the real power behind the Queen. Along comes Weisz’s cousin (Stone) who was disgraced when her husband was caught doing bad things and her station has been relegated to commoner. She has other ambitions for herself as she reconnects with her cousin and sees the position of power that she wields. The rest unfolds beautifully as the drama and the intrigue builds between the two ladies of court and they struggle and battle to keep their positions of power. All the while the Queen relishes all this newfound attention while she physically deteriorates. Colman is excellent in this regard. The film really shows and explores the dangers of having a rogue element at the top of a country directing where things will go. The real power lies unsteadily in the hands of various people with their own agendas. It further shows how corrupt and poor behaviour of the trusted servants can be rewarded as the leader can be swayed on a regular basis. The parallels to today’s political climate are not lost on the audience. This film was really good, and it has been nominated for Best Film as well. It has funny moments, it has disturbing moments and there are three fine performances.
One further comment about the moviegoing experience. I will state that I prefer the theatre experience to that of seeing films on my own at home. Despite having a really good quality TV and sound system, the audience can add to the enjoyment as there can be collective laughs and shared enjoyment. Here the film was disrupted by a buffoon who sat in the row beside me, and managed to bring in a 6-pack of beer all the while laughing outrageously loud at times when things just weren’t that funny. It detracted from the film and robbed me of the quiet at times that was welcome. I do not understand those who somehow believe they are still in their living rooms and feel as though the theatre is an extension of it. Do what you want, and act as you will in the comfort of your own home, but when you are in a crowded theatre, then tone it down and be more appropriate and sympathetic to those around you. This was similar to the Crazy Rich Asians experience I had. Ugh!! “It’s really snowing outside!”
A comment too about the Golden Globes, for the nominations were made this past week. I was pleased by some nominations, surprised by others and disturbed by the snubs. My biggest issue was the snub of Widows and more importantly the lack of a nomination for Viola Davis. My post earlier this month explained my love for this performance and I am genuinely surprised how she was not nominated. This is a fine film, and I don’t understand the snub across the board. The other snub was for A Quiet Place, which also was a really good film and was a box office success story. No performances acknowledged. The only nomination for (blink) Best Original Score. Weird. On the other side I am not sure of the love for Bohemian Rhapsody. Rami Malek was the reason to see this film, but it doesn’t go beyond that for me. Others have disagreed with my interpretation, and that is what movie and art is for. So I am surprised. Clearly Vice with Christian Bale in his Musical or Comedic performance should be seen, and apparently so too should be Mary Poppins Returns. We will see about that, even though I am a big Emily Blunt fan. She should have been nominated for A Quiet Place, so maybe two nominations, but can two different Mary Poppins win awards? Julie Andrews won the Oscar for Mary Poppins. Green Book is on my list of films to see as it won People’s Choice Award at TIFF already. For me the classifications of films are surprising, as in A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody could easily be called Musicals, and The Favourite and The Vice should be considered Dramas. I am genuinely pleased for Lady Gaga, I am not impacted by Bradley Cooper and surprised at snub for Sam Elliott. So let the debating begin!!
Well I realized when I posted today about First Reformed that I didn’t write about Burning, which I had seen at TIFF Lightbox on December 5th. I was caught up in writing about Intouchables (older film) than writing about what I saw in the theatre. Maybe that says a little something about Burning and how it may not have impacted me very much. I think, to the contrary, that I had written, or began writing, and thinking about Burning for so long long that I had thought I had already posted the review. Alas, I had not. So without further background, here is the review.
I had heard good things from Cannes and other film festivals about Burning. I went to see this, and I also have Shoplifters on my list to see which Won the Palme D’Or at Cannes this past year. Burning is the story of a young South Korean man who by happenstance meets up with a female childhood friend of his. He is smitten and looks to spend more time with her. She heads off and out of town and when she returns she is accompanied by another young South Korean, only this guy has more outward signs of visible wealth. He drives a Porsche. He has a fabulous house. He throws fancy parties and cooks fancy meals. The young protagonist feels a little suspect about this guy, as he keeps on showing up. Things happen and tension grows from there. Our young man has returned to the countryside to work on a family farm, such as it is. There his suspicions grow and he tries to piece together a puzzle that has been put before him, but for which he never would have wanted. The supporting actor who plays the rich acquaintance of his female friend does an excellent job of portraying his character. There is Teflon protective glass it seems around him and his struts around like royalty around various servants (not so unlike the Queen in The Favourite). See how he talks about what his plans are for a location not far from where our protagonist lives. How he seems infallible and unstoppable. Overall, there are some genuine scenes of suspense as the viewer wonders how all of this will unfold. I note that this film was reviewed positively in the blog from December 18. I would agree that this film was worth seeing and I was glad that I saw it.
This week I didn’t get to the theatre but I saw plenty of Netflix. Given that I will review in the level of quality of the films involved.
The first film is a re-watch of a film I have seen a number of years ago. Intouchables is a French film with subtitles, about a well-to-do middle aged man who is paralyzed, and his search for a caregiver and the bond that comes from an unlikely source. This is not to be confused with The Untouchables with Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. The new caregiver had no intention of ever accepting this job, but he brings a level of realism and street sense to his role. He treats the “patient” like a human being, and not a patient. There are no favours, and he argues with him and makes fun of him. He keeps him honest and they laugh together, along with pushing him further in his life. Both parties grow, learn something and are better for the experience with each other. I showed to youngest son, but also my Mom and step-father and they each enjoyed.
Hostiles is a western set in the late 1800s with Christian Bale playing an army captain who has been long fighting on the plains in the west various Indian tribes. His very good friend was gutted by one Indian chief years before, and he gets ordered to escort this elderly and dying Chief to his native lands in Montana. He struggles mightily with the request, which quickly becomes an order. Along the way he meets up with Rosamund Pike who has also had her own challenges out in the wilderness. Together they, along with an escort party, have a journey with the Chief and a couple other of his family. They are chased by the local Indians with revenge on their minds. For me, this movie was a bit too slow. It had pieces of Dances with Wolves in it, along with Unforgiven and The Homesman (egad!!). Bale plays intense well and you can see him struggle, but also look to bring some humanity and balance into the situation. He is making the best about it, and he begrudgingly learns to better understand the perspective of his counterpart. I am glad I didn’t pay for this is a theatre, and it was okay but I can’t recommend it.
Finally I saw I Feel Pretty with Amy Schumer. In almost every way, this film doesn’t work in the way that Trainwreck did. Trainwreck was a surprise hit and delightful romantic comedy with a complex family along with a fun romance between two people who had some good chemistry. Here the themes are muddled and the overall message of internal beauty versus outer beauty is confusing. I think it was better handled through Shallow Hal, where he sees the ugliness inside (while others see the real flesh on the outside). Here a bump on the head makes Schumer think she has her “dream come true” which was to be beautiful. The message of course is that attitude and friendliness makes up for a perceived lack of physical outer beauty. And of course that is the case. But the way it is presented here isn’t helpful and takes away from the message especially in the way the “beautiful” Schumer treats her close friends and pursues this receptionist job. I cannot recommend this in any way.
I neglected to post my thoughts on the new movie Widows that is out in the theatres. This movie is getting a lot of buzz and I was anxious to see it. My first comment is that Viola Davis is quickly becoming one of the best actors in Hollywood. Full stop. She is putting together an impressive body of work, but she’s really just so damn good. She shows torment, emotion, strength, intelligence, sensitivity and all effortlessly with authenticity and being real. In Widows, she plays a married woman to Liam Neeson’s character who we see early is part of a crew of thieves. This crew runs into some trouble on their latest job, and as the title suggests, leaves the world with widowed women, each with their own backstory. There is a political aspect to this story with a Chicago District that has an upcoming election. Colin Farrell is the incumbent with a family legacy there (Daddy was the representative before, played by aging Robert Duvall). They are being challenged by a black candidate who is more grass roots and lives and knows the neighborhood. He is effectively played by Brian Tyree Henry, previously unknown to me but he has done plenty of TV and stage work. The story unfolds with the Henry character approaching Davis’ character and saying that her husband was stealing money that was his for his campaign, and she now owes him a large sum of money and has a few days to get it. Davis moves into action, not believing the predicament she has been put into, all the while grieving for her husband. She engages the other widows from the crew to see if they can work together. This female supporting cast with Michelle Rodriguez, notably Elizabeth Debicki add a great deal of depth to the story. Add in some other effective supporting cast members and this ensemble creates real tension with good performances. In essence this is a heist film at the core (as a job needs to be pulled off in order for bad things not to happen) and there are challenges along the way. But the story doesn’t stop there, as through some flashbacks we see more about the relationships involved, and notably the Davis and Neeson marriage. This movie had a very good plot, tension and all things that a heist movie should have. Kudos to Steve McQueen who wrote this (along with Gillian Flynn) and directed this. At nomination time, I expect that a few of the performances (and likely the movie itself) will be recognized and rewarded. Well worth seeing.
On Netflix, there was the film Disobedience with the two Rachels (McAdams and Weisz) set in London with an orthodox Jewish family whose patriarch has just passed away. Weisz is the daughter who is informed about the passing and decides to come back to London from New York City. She an obvious black sheep, estranged from the family returns, which causes endless surprises and raised eyebrows. We later find out that she and the other Rachel have had a history together, which seemingly lead to the forced separation. Ultimately it is a story about a culture set in its ways, and how this pressures and forces those within it to conform and not be their true selves. In many ways this films themes are those from Boy Erased. Instead of trying to re-educate the offensive outlier, the community shuns and banishes the offending party. In a time of divisiveness and labeling those around us, the alternative is inclusiveness and realizing that we are all the same underneath it all. That may sound a little too politically correct, but the stories just highlight the past practices, and we can reflect upon them. I think Boy Erased told this type of story more effectively, but this was still worth a viewing.
This week I had the pleasure to attend a movie in person with my daughter and her best friend. We decided to see Boy Erased. The story is pretty straightforward with a Baptist preacher and car dealership owner (Russell Crowe) and his Wife (Nicole Kidman) who have one son, Garrod (Lucas Hedges). The parents decide to send their son to conversion therapy to cure him of his homosexual thoughts and actions, which was sprung on them by surprise by another troubled young man at College. This is set in Arkansas back in 2004, so NOT ancient history. The son was at the time 19yo and was given the choice to be disowned by his parents and family or go to get “cured”. He decided for the latter with his shame and uncertainty surrounding his own feelings. He attends Love In Action which locks the subjects away for an assessment and then later makes decisions on what should happen to them longer term. The viewer sees in detail the teachings and methods used to break down the subjects and get them to re-learn themselves and identify the source of their problem (usually past family members or others). There is plenty of finger pointing and justifications. The circumstances surrounding Garrod’s outing were dramatic. Later scenes with other subjects at the therapy sessions are emotional and powerful. In the end we learn that 700,000 people have gone through this therapy in the US. It’s sad to think of all these souls struggling and being subjected to this type of manipulation. For the family, we have an emotional couple of scenes where Nicole Kidman shows her acting chops (and I confess I am NOT a Kidman fan – but here she was very good at delivering an important moment in the film). We also see a much heavier Russell Crowe being pressed to think through his own values and beliefs, as a father, a husband and a preacher. Hedges plays this role very well and is articulate in expressing his feelings. We (daughter and friend) had a debate amongst ourselves about whether homosexuality is born or bred (nature vs nurture) from the science of is there a gene for this (there isn’t) or whether it is learned behaviour? In the end it doesn’t matter, but the impact will be on the viewer’s attitude of whether this type of therapy (by people who may not even be doctors or psychiatrists/psychologists) makes any real difference at all. Worth a viewing, and likely gets Kidman another nomination and could be too for Hedges.
Last night, the MLB network was playing The Natural, with Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Kim Basinger, Glenn Close and others. This film from 1984 is a fictionalized, fable for baseball with the NY Knights, and the legend of Roy Hobbs. Hobbs is a talent and gifted smalltown boy with dreams of baseball in the early days of the game. His journey gets sidetracked by a troubled woman, and he disappears for 16 years. He shows up in a last place team looking for a spark with a manager fighting to keep the team (battling a co-owner) and also looking wins and spectators. Along comes the new rookie and he eventually is able to play, and make his mark on the game. The rest flows as you would expect. The score is iconic, written by Randy Newman, and adds to the overall joy in the film. I can watch and re-watch this film many times over. Along with Bull Durham, and Field of Dreams and Eight Men Out, these are some of the best baseball movies that there are. It was nominated for 4 Oscars including music and for Glenn Close. I note that there are these films that I haven’t reviewed in the water cooler conversations, nor over the years, but they are friends who I am happy to invite back into my home and make me re-experience the joy of watching them unfold. These are what films are all about.
This week I saw two movies of note. First was the Netflix film, that was released at TIFF in September Outlaw King based upon the story about Robert the Bruce starring Chris Pine. The story is in many ways a follow up to the Braveheart story about William Wallace, which starred Mel Gibson and won Best Picture from 1995. The new film borrows a great deal from the Braveheart tale, but doesn’t carry with it the production value, nor the acting from the principals. Pine struggles with the Scottish accent, and the action sequences are nothing that we haven’t seen before. In fact, the charging horse scene with the English horses is very close to the Gibson version at Sterling with the long spears. In the end it felt forced and just not as good, and not really a story that needed to be told in this forum. I am pleased I avoided at TIFF, because once again the film simply wasn’t worth the money and I would have been disappointed. I like Chris Pine. But I think he has a particular niche where he fits where, and being a Scottish King, just simply isn’t it.
In the theatre I took youngest son to go see The Grinch. This is from the same company that did Minions and the Despicable Me films. I liked Despicable Me and felt it had a good heart. This film is another adaptation of the classic book and the 30 minute Warner Bros. cartoon with Boris Karloff voicing the Grinch. There were some memorable songs too in that original, a couple of which seemed to make it to this new version, which is a very good thing. The Who-ville Who’s song of rejoicing is there, and you have to be pretty Grinchian yourself not to feel the seasonal cheer from that. Anyway, the Grinch is now voiced by American sounding Benedict Cumberbatch. He has his sidekick Max, and they fret about the approaching Christmas season. There is a backstory made, which makes some sense that the Jim Carey/Ron Howard live version which simply never did it for me. Youngest son LOVED it, and watched it consecutively on a loop, but it was just not very good. This is better. Better than I expected. I liked the animation and the scenes of Who-ville. They took the idea from the book and built upon it. The homes are stacked and all flowing natural shapes. The look and feel of the film is pleasant and welcoming. From the storefronts to the interiors, it is creative and well imagined. We all know the story, and once again the Grinch is that flawed character who learns the true meaning of Christmas. That’s a message that everyone can hear again and have it reinforced. Do you need to see it in a big theatre? No. But it’s a holiday film that I think could be replayed on an annual basis and still create smiles.