Monday, 20 February 2017

Jackie.

Chilean filmmaker Pablo Lorrain has made some very good movies including Tony Manero in 2008, Post Mortem in 2010 and No in 2012 but his latest movie, his first in the English language, is certainly not up to the standard of these three and to my mind nowhere near as good as the hype would have you believe. Jackie (2016) has been nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Costume Design, Best Original Score and a Best Actress Nomination for Natalie Portman, if this years BAFTA's is anything to go by, will probably manage to win Best Costume Design and certainly not Best Actress for Portman who mumbled her way through the talky role making it very difficult to understand what she was saying.

This biographical drama, originally conceived as a HBO miniseries, basically deals with the week between John F Kennedy assassination on the 22nd November 1963, his burial and when his wife and two children Caroline and John Jnr, who died in a plane crash in 1999 at the age of 38, leave the White House for the last time. Noah Oppenheim's lack lustre screenplay is partly based on Theodore H White's Life magazine interview with Jackie Kennedy a week after her husband’s death. It was during this interview that inappropriately the delusional ex First Lady compared the Kennedy years with King Arthur's mythical Camelot - the first American president to encompass the celebrity culture and to spend $2 million on the restoration of the White House, not quite the Knights of the Round Table.
 
The fatal last journey.
Larrain's movie is a rather hollow look at the period and at times minds numbingly boring not helped by the Journalist (Billy Crudup) interview that adds nothing to the film and would have been better without it. The drama is non-existent only the scene in Dallas when JFK gets shot during the motorcade shows any pretence of the story coming to life.
 
The infamous blood stained pink suit.
The film also stars Peter Sarsgaard as Robert F Kennedy with whom Jackie seems to have a rather intimate relationship, although who can blame her when her husband spent a minimal amount of time sharing her marital bed and John Hurt as Jackie's father confessor, this was his final film release before his death in January 2017and shows why he will be missed and to be quite honest the only actor in this charade to earn his salary.



Sunday, 19 February 2017

Paris is Burning.


On director Jennie Livingston’s web site she describes her controversial 1991 movie Paris is Burning as ‘depicting a New York fashion subculture’. This documentary, she goes on to explain, was shot in the late 1980s, and examines how a community of Black and Latino gay and transgender New Yorkers build sustenance, creativity, and family. The film sets out to explore ballroom culture; re-defines words like house, mother, shade, voguing and Realness and draw’s a series of incisive character portraits about the people involved in what is a vibrant time capsule of New York’s ballroom subculture in the 80s.
 
The "Balls" culture.
Livingston’s documentary was seven years in the making and followed African American and Hispanic gay men, drag queens and transgender women as they compete in “Balls” which are fierce and fun competitions involving fashion runways and vogue dancing battles, while sporting various styles that include Butch Queen, Town and Country and Luscious Body. Many of the contestants taking part represent “Houses” which serve them as surrogate families and social groups for a predominantly youthful community largely ostracized from mainstream society. But what the movie really does is that it explores the complex issues of class, race, identity, and the transformative powers of both dance and performance. 
 
Venus Xtravaganza.
The most interesting parts of the film are the interviews with key members of the community who take part in the Balls, which helps unlock our understanding of this colourful and entertaining culture. The saddest story is that of Venus Xtravaganza who is heavily featured in the documentary and was a transgender performer and an aspiring model who was saving money for her sex reassignment surgery before she was murdered at the age of 23.
This highly regarded documentary won several awards including a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Teddy Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Last year (2016), the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Monday, 13 February 2017

Manchester by the Sea.


The story of Lee Chandler is a study of a mans decent into depression brought about by an accident that leads to a terrible tragedy for which he blames himself. In Kenneth Lonergan’s movie Manchester by the Sea (2016), which he wrote and directed, we learn how a simple mistake can alter the lives of the people directly involved as well as people on the periphery of the incident.
Its brother Joe's death that brings Lee back home.
 
Lee with nephew Patrick.
When we first meet Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) we quickly relies that he is a bitter and lonely man who works as a janitor in a private block of apartments in Boston. On receiving the news that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died from a pre-existing congenital heart condition Lee returns to his home town of Manchester by the Sea a fishing village in Massachusetts where he was born and raised. Lee not only realises that he is going to have to confront the events that drove him away in the first place, revealed in an extended flashback, but he then finds out that Joe has made him the sole guardian of his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), a role he knows he is incapable of fulfilling.  
 
Lee's ex-wife Randi.
This is an authentic and stunning character study from Lonergan whose writing along with Douglas Aibel skill at casting really makes this poignant tale of grief and guilt a must see movie.  This critically acclaimed film that quite rightly been nominated for six awards at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director Best Supporting Actor (Hedges) Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams who plays Lee Chandlers wife Randi) and Best Actor for Affleck and Best Original Screenplay for Lonergan, two nominations it must surly must win and did at last nights BAFTA’s in London. 


Friday, 10 February 2017

T2 Trainspotting.


Twenty years have passed since Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) run off with the proceeds of a drug deal that was meant to be divvied up between himself, Spud Murphy (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and hard man Begbie (Robert Carlyle). The only person who did receive his share was Spud who wasted no time in shooting-up £4K of heroin. Now Renton has returned from Amsterdam where he has been living since leaving Edinburgh. His first task is saving Spud from suicide and then he teams back up with his best friend Simon repaying the 4K he owed him and offering to help him, and his beautiful East European girlfriend Veronica (Angela Nedyalkova), convert the pub his aunt left him into a brothel. Although his relationship with Simon is still not what it was before he left it’s when Begbie escapes from prison and discovers that he is back that his life expectancy starts to deteriorate.
 
Mark and Simon celebrate setting up a business with Veronica.
Reuniting the original cast with another great screenplay from John Hodge and with most of the filming taking place in Edinburgh, Boyle has succeeded in obtaining a believable 20-year gap between the two films. Scotland has changed since the time of the first film, with a diluted form devolution arriving since the original films release and a close run independence referendum taking place in 2014 (and another about to be announced). Its not the same country it was when Rent Boy and the others ran down Princes Street, even the movies premier took place in Edinburgh and not Leicester Square. But both the characters and Scotland are still victims of a system that neither like nor respect but both are working hard to change this. Even more so that we are being forced out of Europe against our will and being informed that we have to be grateful for scrapes from the table of a man that is the political version of Begbie.
 
Still as fit as ever - or are they?

This sequel to Danny Boyle's 1996 movie is absolutely cracking piece of adult entertainment and a credit to its predecessor. How anybody can fail to enjoy T2 Trainspotting (2017) is beyond me.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Revenant.



How much can one man take? Hugh Glass was a frontiersman, a mountain man who made his living as a fur trapper and trader. His main claim to fame, if the legend is to be believed, is that when on a fur-trading venture in 1823 he was attacked by a grizzly bear and so badly mauled he was expected to die. It was agreed that two trappers would be left behind to bury Glass when he passed away. Once the other hunters had left the two remaining men stole the unconscious mans weapons and other belongings and took off being feart of an Indian attack leaving him alone to die. Despite his extensive injuries that included festering wounds, a broken leg, and deep cuts that exposed his ribs he regained consciousness and found himself wrapped only in a bear hide that was meant to act as his shroud. After setting his own leg and allowing maggots to eat his dead and rotting flesh to stop the spread of gangrene he set out on a two hundred mile journey back to the nearest settlement. Living off the land, eating raw bison meat left after the beast was killed by wolves and with a wee bit of help from some friendly Indian's he was able to continue on this almost impossible journey.

Hugh Glass's story has been told in book form on many occasions and a feature film had been previously made entitled Man in the Wilderness in 1971 and starring Irish actor Richard Harris. This latest cinematic version of this story The Revenant (2015) is loosely based on a fictional retelling of the story in a 2002 novel by Michael Punke and directed by Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Inarritu previous body of work has include such movie gems as Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003), Babel (2006), Biutiful (2010) and 2014's Birdman all of which have been well received by both critics and the viewing public.
 
Hugh Glass.
The 19th century period drama stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Glass, Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald and Will Poulter as Jim Bridger the two men that abandoned Glass to die a lonely and painful death. Domhnall Gleason, who you may have previously seen in Shadow Dancer (2012) and Calvary (2014), stars as Andrew Henry part owner of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and leader of the expedition that included Hugh Glass.
 
The beginning of the legend. 
There is no doubt that this movie is a very absorbing but brutal and at times disturbing watch. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography is superb as is the acting from all the cast with DiCaprio especially deserving his first Academy Award for Best Actor after three previous nominations, his performance brings the term 'suffering for your art' to a new level. The movie was nominated for twelve Academy Awards, as well as best actor it also won Best Director and Best Cinematography for Lubezki who had previously worked with the director on Birdman. I did read that some critiques said that the film was to long, but I did not find this to be the case instead I found it to be a very rewarding watch but certainly not for the faint hearted.