Films To Watch Out For

Film

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’.

 

 

31 comments on “Films To Watch Out For”

  1. Adam says:

    Annette was brilliant; I’m a huge Sparks fan, and it was great to hear their songs on the big screen. I suppose Adam Driver’s stage show was supposed to be awful? It looked great, and lingered with me longer after I’d seen it, which is rare with most recent films I’ve seen

  2. Stu-I-Am says:

    Had a chance to see Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” this past weekend before its official release next month and it should definitely be in the ‘Best Picture’ conversation. Branagh’s ‘Belfast’ would also be a sentimental choice.

  3. Joan says:

    Wow I haven’ t seen any of these yet, except Black Widow (Disney+) which I really liked. I think the problem with The Eternals is their characters are just landed on us. Unless we are comic book followers we might not really know or care about them. With the Avenger series all the characters had their background stories told in the carefully planned releases of films prior, so we had an invested interest in their stories. When it all came together it was hugely popular. Our theatres haven’t been open very long and we are being hit all the big blockbuster films one after another, to see any of the smaller fare sometimes you have to travel into the city. We are all still masked and have vaccine passports to enter the cinemas, so you really have to want to see a film to go. I worry for the future of the theatres, as they are being driven at the moment by the very young. I am very much looking forward to West Side Story.

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin I have to ask — how many pairs of glasses or contact lenses did you burn through !?

  5. Stu-I-Am says:

    I always find it interesting how much more absorbing many of the films of the ’30s, ’40s and in general, from the pre-CGI era, are — and especially the great classics — on the large screen of a revival or repertory cinema. This may have to do with the lack of obvious special effects, forcing a viewer to focus on the acting and story — as simple or formulaic as the latter may be. Perhaps, with exceptions of course, they generally were better written, acted and directed and again — the classics, in particular. It could also be that they were, on average, shorter, which meant everything had to be more concentrated — no egocentric distracting interludes from the director.

    I had the pleasure of recently seeing a sensitive restoration of Elia Kazan’s ‘On the Waterfront’ starring Brando in his famous role as ex-boxer Terry Malloy. With its all around superb acting, direction certainly, locations and Leonard Bernstein’s memorable score (surprisingly, his only one) — it was, in a word (okay, two words..), absolutely stunning on the big screen. On the other hand, a number of contemporary films (other than those in the full on CGI category which I tend to avoid) I saw pre-pandemic could easily pass for TV fare, albeit with slightly better production values.

  6. Debra Matheney says:

    Watched Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut ‘Passing’ this weekend. Unlikely to garner nomination, but well worth watching. Filmed in black and white, fitting in several ways, it has stuck with me. Quite a unique take on race.

  7. Joan says:

    I hear you Stu, I once saw The Maltese Falcon on the big screen! But really there is a lot of good stuff out there if you look for it. I saw Belfast the weekend it debuted and it was really good, so good that it got standing ovation from the decimated theatre goers.

  8. Joel says:

    @Joan-I would note that the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy were also completely unknown…the big difference for me is that GoG was all frat humour and action, so of course people connected with it immediately…i loved eternals b/c it was beautifully shot, it was slow enough to feel like time was spent on each character and it is so different from the rest of the marvel canon…it is as beautiful as shang chi…I will admit that the only time i go to the theatre is to watch a marvel movie, anything else i will wait and see at home…except for Encanto, which opens this weekend…peace out, love the blog6

  9. Joan says:

    Your review of the Eternals sounds good Joel, maybe I will give it a look see after all.
    Chris can I ask if you are streaming a lot of these films, or are you actually in the cinemas watching them? Does watching them in a short time frame take away some of the enjoyment you might have experienced otherwise?

  10. Helen+Martin says:

    That’s a good question, Joan. I often wonder if seeing a lot of films in a short time dulls the senses and results in lower evaluations.

  11. Paul+C says:

    I enjoyed The Power of the Dog (on the big screen) although I wasn’t convinced by Cumberbatch as a ruthless tough guy or his wandering accent (why cast a Brit?). However, if it doesn’t win the Oscar for cinematography I’ll eat my socks

  12. Stu-I-Am says:

    Off topic, but in the entertainment arena. I hope the PM’s speech before attendees of the Confederation of British Industry conference in Tyneside on Monday was recorded. Don’t very often get Moses, Peppa Pig and the simulated sound of a car engine in one address. Should be up for a Bafta in the ‘Shambolic’ category. Only question I have is does Boris wear a red dress in his off hours ? Although, of course, there are those who would say he is always ‘off.’

  13. Jan says:

    I dunno that much about the details of their lives but the marriage of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez seemed a bit outside the accepted norms for 1950s America.

    Even though I was only a kid I didn’t half think she was funny + clever. Those “I love Lucy shows” were comical, she was funny. To me as a kid she was funny in herself rather than playing second fiddle to a bloke being comical. As a young kid I really felt she was a comedian in her own right, in her own way. which was something a bit different back then.

    (Her and Hilda Baker.
    Now SHE was funny. Sort of a cross dressed precursor to Les Dawson she was. I talk like her too – I know that you know. Lots of folk aren’t going to get that are they?)

    Ball was a powerful woman + perhaps brave. When you look at the production company her and Arnez formed the work they backed was groundbreaking. Their production company made the original “Star Trek” series didn’t they? I know the marriage ended. I’d give the film about them a watch.

    Stu can only agree with you about Boris’ recent plug and perhaps audition for Peppa Pig world!

    He certainly startled the CBI! If the times approaching for him to make a fortune on the after dinner speech circuit he wants to start numbering the pages of his speeches and invest in a paper clip or two.

  14. Peter+T says:

    Mr Fowler seems to have shown himself to be a member of the Liberal Elite by not producing a single review of Peppa Pig. Whatever next, Camembert on toast? As for Boris, do intelligent neuro-typicals with immense language skills need notes?

  15. Martin Tolley says:

    Peter, people who are not quite so clever as they think they are usually don’t think they need notes. But sometimes reality bites back…

  16. Paul+C says:

    I think I’d prefer Peppa Pig as PM even tho she looks like a hairdryer drawn by Picasso as someone once pointed out.

    Agree that Lucille Ball was brilliant – almost as good as Carole Lombard who is the best comic actress I’ve ever seen : My Man Godfrey, Nothing Sacred, Twentieth Century, and To Be or Not To Be are all sensational. In the UK I like Irene Handl and Beryl Reid – marvellous old players

  17. Stu-I-Am says:

    Speaking of Lucille Ball and comedy (warning: tangent ahead) — a study in the Journal of Research in Personality found that 63% of men were funnier than the average woman. Ladies, contrary to what many of you may be thinking, ‘funny’ here is as in ‘amusing,’ rather than ‘odd’ or ‘strange.’ Apparently women tend to look at a sense of humour in a partner as correlating with intelligence whereas we uncomplicated males, prefer a partner who simply laughs at our humour (oblivious to whether it’s polite laughter or not).

    This need for this approbation (pet-like chaps that we are) may be a major reason why males far outnumber female comedians. Now ‘statistically,’ this probably means there are more ‘good’ male comedians, but on the distaff side it seems to me that there are far more very funny British females (writers and performers) who have Lucille Ball’s broad appeal (if not necessarily her physical comedy talents) than across the pond. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of very good young female comics in the US, it’s just they don’t (yet) have the Lucy-like appeal of just a relative handful of American comédiennes and many more ‘handfuls’ of their British female cousins in comedy. I stand ready to be confirmed or rebutted.

  18. Joel says:

    i have read a lot about lucy and the show…she is a brilliant comedienne…i do find that as i’ve gotten older, i find ethel’s reaction to be funnier than lucy’s antics…the whole show was just the right time, people, writers, etc…looking forward to this movie…lucy was a tough, talented, no nonsense lady, and desi was a laid back, intelligent womanizer…and they loved the hell out of each other until they couldn’t…their daughter said she was fully on board with the movie, even the stuff that wasn’t strictly accurate (timing wise), and that she loved it

  19. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin I choose to assume that the obviously chilled brew you quaffed at the Seven Dials (per Twitter) was in fact a lager and not an ale. Can’t have you becoming even more cosmopolitan. And while you look like you developed a pleasant glow, I trust the streets remained more lit up then you.

  20. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Jan Ah yes, the incomparable Hylda Baker, the Pride of Manchester (‘You haven’t had the pleasure of me yet’). Still remember her turn as ‘Aunt Ada’ in ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.’

  21. Jo W says:

    #Stu-i-am
    In that research you mentioned, just who (gender wise) was doing the judging?
    Comedy is subjective, who can really say if one person is funnier than another?
    By the way, while you’re down in that hole you’re digging for yourself, would you like us to pass you down some wallpaper and paste?

  22. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Jo W First of all I was quoting research findings. I didn’t make it up, so your snark is misplaced. Secondly, no researcher — male or female — judged anything. They looked at the results of various studies in which people were asked to rate men and women’s humour – without knowing their sex first. You want to argue about the methodology, be my guest but I suggest you don’t jump to conclusions before you actually know what you’re talking about in the future.

  23. Paul+C says:

    Can we keep it friendly please ? I derive a lot of pleasure from this blog and these arguments are upsetting.

  24. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Paul+C I could not agree more. But I don’t take kindly to ad hominem attacks nor should anyone else, especially based on misunderstandings. Enough said.

  25. Wayne+Mook says:

    Stu on the classics but that really is cherry picking (honest there are still good films being made), there were plenty of awful films in the past, I once tried to watch as many as John Carradine’s films as I could (He even played a vampire in an episode of McCloud.), at least it cured my of ‘completism’. And they knew how to trample a series into the ground, like The Dead End Kids and all the off shoots like the Eastside Kids, The Bowery Boys and so on.

    The effects that can really spoil a film for me are bad back projections, Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain with the really bad projected outside on the vehicles is a stand out. It’s really bad in a number of films, I find it worse than CGI, although the CGI in Birdemic: Shock and Terror actually makes the film funny it’s that bad.

    Warning Birdemic is as bad as people say (even though I did enjoy it, it was a chore at times), and there is a third one on the way.

    Wayne.

  26. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Wayne+Mook Wayne — I agree, depending on the length and number of the scenes involved, background projection or process photography and even poorly done matte shots can be distracting in the old films. I just think there are now several generations who I believe would be enthralled by the hundreds of wonderful golden age and classical cinema films which can only rarely be seen on the large screen these days.. In fact, I think they could give a slowly recovering cinema industry a necessary and inexpensive shot in the arm, if only as an alternative to the standard CGI extravaganzas.

  27. Paul+C says:

    Wayne – I’m a big John Carradine fan : he was great in The Grapes of Wrath and Stagecoach before descending into the mire with Astro Zombies and some of the worst films ever made. I’ve just seen his son Keith in a cameo in the current Power of the Dog. David Carradine was often memorable too. The Carradines are an interesting clan of actors – someone should write a book

  28. Wayne+Mook says:

    Stu – Home in Manchester does put on classics from time to time, and there is a healthy indie film scene that could be plundered, there is a whole cottage industry of crime and horror films plus drama being made and only shown at fringe festivals like Horror On Sea Film Festival or one I go to the Festival of Fantastic Film in Manchester. And talking Pictures is on of the best TV channels evr.

    Paul – I love the old horror films and even quite a few of the new (Sean Pertwee has been in some fun horror films.) John Carridine in Bluebeard is a favourite and even some of the later films are good such The Scarecrow from the early 80s, which is set in New Zealand and although involves a serial killer is more a coming of age film set in the 50s.

    The Al Adamson films are worth avoiding unless you are a connoisseur of bad films. Al Adamson had a very colourful life and terrible death. He was even in Michael Winner’s the Sentinel which is one of his better 70s films.

    The Long Riders has Robert Carradine as well as David and Keith plus the Keach & Quaid brothers. There is a 3rd generation of Carridines in film.

    Wayne.

  29. Stu-I-Am says:

    A tip of the cap to the great Stephen Sondheim who passed away on Friday (26 Nov) at 91. Known for his extraordinary work for the stage, he also occasionally wrote for film, winning an Oscar for the song ‘Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)’ for Warren Beatty’s ‘Dick Tracy,’ sung by Madonna. And of course his stage work has been adapted for the screen many times, the latest being Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ to be released next month and Richard Linklater’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along,’ to be filmed over 20 years and (more or less) scheduled for release in 2040.

  30. Helen+Martin says:

    Will we get to see the installments of Merrily We Roll Along or will it be held back until its final release date? If the latter is the case then I at least can forget about it.

    A friend was determined I would learn “the Ladies Who Lunch” a la Elaine Stritch as a party piece. (I haven’t – you’re safe.) Strondheim did that tricky thing with words where you’re sure what the next will be and then it isn’t, like: “sitting in their caf— tans”.

  31. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Helen+Martin Helen: And here I was looking forward to your debut at the Queen Elizabeth. And, unfortunately, some (a few ?) of us will have to wait for the entire Linklater ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ to be filmed to see it. Although, maybe he’ll just give up and drastically shorten the production period.

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