Films To Watch Out For
With the British and US Academy Awards approaching, we’re awash with screenings. It’s a strange year as many movies had to be made during the lockdown in extremely trying circumstances. In a way it was easier for independents to film and just as importantly, to find the space to be seen.
It’s unsurprising that nearly all of the Oscar hopefuls are coming from Amazon or Netflix. The old Hollywood studios are hardly anywhere to be seen. But from Hollywood we had a couple of great comic book bashabouts, the delightful ‘The Suicide Squad’ and the punchy ‘Black Widow’. They bode well for the next Marvel metaverse film, ‘Spiderman: No Way Home’. I have no problem with these films, and am looking forward to seeing ‘The Eternals’.
It’s a year for good documentaries; In ‘Bank Job’ a local community takes on the world of finance by setting up a bank, printing their own money and blowing up a million pounds worth of high interest debt. ‘Eye of the Storm’ looked at the life and work of the Scottish artist James Morrison. In ‘A Cop Movie’ Director Alonso Ruizpalacios takes you deep into the Mexican police force. ‘Getting Away with Murder(s)’ is a demanding, long watch; almost 1 million people in 22 countries carried out the slaughter of 11 million people. 99% of those responsible were never prosecuted; most were never even questioned. The Allies knew what their crime was and failed to prosecute. Why? Perhaps a more disciplined filmmaker would have got to the root of the story faster but it’s a disturbing polemical view.
On the animation front there’s the usual mix of swirling candy coloured nonsense like ‘Vivo’ and ‘Luca’, and a few for grownups, ‘Flee’ being a standout. It tells a powerful tale of a gay Afghan survivor through animation and archive footage.
Let’s get to the stories; Mads Mikkelsen takes time out from being a living God to star in ‘Riders of Justice’, in which geeks take on killers as they try to work out how a bizarre train accident could have been murder.
‘Being The Ricardos’ is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in a gentler mode than usual. The story of Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Desi Arnez (Javier Bardem) and the making of ‘I Love Lucy’ is perhaps a bit niche – who remembers them now? But I loved it – and the pair are at times uncanny lookalikes.
‘Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn’ is indeed pornographic, but for a very good reason. A schoolteacher is caught in a sex scandal and faces a formal judgement by concerned parents. It’s brave, intelligent filmmaking.
‘Annette’ is a challenge, but what would you expect from maverick filmmaker Leos Carax? Adam Driver (who is clearly contractually required to appear in everything) and Marion Cottilard are the starry couple – she’s an opera singer, he’s an angry stand-up comic – whose relationship turns violent. Here’s the thing; It’s mostly sung (with songs by Sparks) and the baby they have is a wooden puppet. And things get stranger after that. I loved it, although Driver’s stand-up stage act sucks.
We’re all waiting to see ‘Titane’, about…well, about a woman who has…er…relations…with a car. And there are some other heavy hitters coming. Meryl Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio stress out in ‘Don’t Look Up’ from Adam McKay, who brought us ‘The Big Short’. It’s about the media coverage of the end of the world. And another bleakly funny apocalypse movie, ‘Silent Night’, is British and stars Keira Knightley as the hostess of an end-of-things dinner.
Watching ‘Boiling Point’ was so stressful that it nearly gave me a heart attack. Set in a London restaurant over one night it follows the head chef, battling his addiction, his family, the food critic who just arrived and the health & safety inspectors, all shot in a single take. You’ll never want to work in the restaurant trade after seeing this.
‘The Power of the Dog’ has Award Winner stamped all over it. Jane Campion’s tale of another toxic male, this time a cowboy played by Benedict Cumberbatch, left me cold but you may love it.
‘The Innocents’ is a re-imagining of Henry James’ eerie ghost story. It’s hard to wipe away the memory of the Jack Clayton remake with Deborah Kerr, and better to let it stand alone. Set in playgrounds and neighbouring houses, it feels closer to ‘Let The Right One In’, but has a disturbing sensibility all of its own.
As for British films there’s plenty of English Heritage rubbish and things with gangsters in of the ‘Oi, did you call my pint a poof?’ variety. ‘Last Night in Soho’ is reviewed here. Coming soon is the Railway Children sequel with Jenny Agutter and yes, Bernard Cribbins.
I liked ‘Worth’ starring Stanley Tucci about the compensation paid to the victims of 9/11. There are too many near misses like ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’, which goes too easy on Faye’s complicity in the religious broadcasting scandal, and the musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’, which shoots itself in the foot by casting the original stage star, now in his late twenties, as a 17 year-old.
It was a good year for musicals, from the bouncy, feel-good ‘In The Heights’ and ‘Everybody Loves Jamie’ to the biographical ‘Tick…tick…Boom!’, ‘Cyrano’ and the upcoming ‘West Side Story’.