I planned to watch my remaining Oscar contenders this week and make some informed choices. Not that it matters, we all know La La Land (2016) will sweep them – with merit. Instead, I went down memory lane again and compensated my dietary restrictions with food on (junk) film. Additionally, I found myself at a restaurant boasting an open kitchen, sat just across from the counter where all the orders I couldn’t eat were being readied. Awesome!
Two diametrically opposed movies for MotW, because you don’t argue with nostalgia.
Movies of the Week: Trainspotting (1996) / Il Postino (1994)
- Burnt (2015): Every man, woman and child needs to get a required dose of food porn a quarter. Burnt delivers just that, with a macho, do-it-all lead, portrayed by Bradley Cooper, who is searching for his third Michelin star after a self-imposed hiatus, the span of cleaning one million oysters. Although panned by critics, most will still begrudgingly accept that the movie is more fun than it deserves to be. I agree with the latter assertion, and was only really bothered by one pivotal set-up that’s both predictable and underwhelming. Also, it would have been worth capturing my face when I recognized a particular musical piece, originating from Donnie Darko (2001). Yum. 6/10
- Jackie (2016): The only contender I did watch, turned out to be this rather unusual movie about Jackie Kennedy, portraying the former first lady of the US in and around the hours of the assassination. She didn’t grow on me with ease, yet I found myself fascinated by the inner tension the protagonist provided. The whole affair feels really tight around your neck, severe, austere and vulnerable, just like Jackie herself in those hours and days. I adore Natalie Portman, so naturally I ended up fawning over her. Nonetheless, something felt amiss, a higher purpose, a side of transcendence perhaps, to go with the combination of patriotic despair and political squalor. 7/10
- Passengers (2016): How bad could it really be, right? God-awful bad, that’s how bad. It hurt my brains, really it did. Resident Evil bad! Right, get a grip. The movie has no personality at all, just like the interior aesthetics of the colonial spaceship carrying five thousand plus souls to a planet 130 light-years away. When a pod containing Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) misfires and wakes the man up some ninety years before the due date, an interesting premise is established. A few minutes and a montage or two later, things get really controversial, as Jim, overcome by solitude, starts chillin’ like a villain with Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence, but, seriously, that name!) and they have sex at some point. Oh, sorry, spoiler alert. Then the ever deteriorating ship starts choking up, a new plot element is introduced to solve the unsolvable situation our heroes find themselves in, and, surprise, all ends reasonably well. Except if you start wondering about some of the practicalities of what you’ve just seen or try to give a crap about a by-the-numbers romance in space. I kinda wanted to like this, me fawning over JLaw as well, but failed miserably. Shame on me. And shame on those who wrote this stuff. 4/10
- Trainspotting (1996): Having decided to indulge on some T2 the following day, a revisit of the original was required. One of my favourite movies back in the early 00s, Trainspotting has aged reasonably well, although the flair of drug-induced, over-narrated stories is not quite as popular now. Danny Boyle does a great job in offering an aggressively paced portrayal of a group of heroin addicted friends at their lowest, smacking hard at anything that moves, with consumerism and stifling societal expectations bearing the brunt of things for the first half of the film, as the latter repositions itself on more of an existential skewering of its protagonist(s). Some of the shockingly gross and deplorable moments haven’t lost their kick, with the descent into a toilet bowl full of diarrhea in search of the excrements containing two narcotic suppositories still amongst my favourites. Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. I think I’m still working on these. 9/10
- T2 Trainspotting (2017): It was an almost impossible task for Boyle to come close to what he delivered in the original, since Trainspotting was about the disengaged, drug-riddled youth and its pursuit for instant gratification – and now all the characters found themselves in their forties. It’s much harder to be riveting, sharp and incisive about middle age. T2 feels like a film without a voice, especially in contrast to its predecessor. It’s competent enough and has some good moments, but mostly feels insignificant. The meta-nostalgia line that Boyle & co try to walk didn’t win me over, quite the opposite in fact. And whereas Trainspotting also offered some really sweet tunes of the 90s, anchoring it even more in the groveling depths of the decade, T2 lacks the same definition. It doesn’t help that the storyline is unimaginative, or that the characters are dull. Just sitting there in the cinema, getting all emotional and whatnot, I got a sense of something I am not used to – anger. Anger that such a banal sequel was allowed to exist. 5/10
- Il Postino (1994): For a cozy dinner with friends, I had to impromptu change my Oscar viewing choice when one of our group declared to have seen them all. I had rewatched bits of Il Postino a few weeks back and felt like indulging once more in the fictional story of Pablo Neruda’s (Philippe Noiret) real-life exile in Italy and his friendship with Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi), the local postman. Ruoppolo is a person with little education who somehow intuitively manages to connect with Neruda’s poetry. The dream-like fairytale is framed by a distinguished musical score and Massimo Troisi’s spectacular performance in the leading role. While it might come across as overcooked for some, Troisi’s portrayal demands empathy, with no pretensions and soapy lines of self-enlightenment. It feels natural and believable or, rather, he feels natural and believable. The fact that Troisi himself tragically passed away of a heart attack a mere twelve hours after filming was finished tucks on your heartstrings and completes the romantic tragedy. Michael Radford has produced a truly gentle movie about our connection with writing in general and poetry in particular. It comes to show that just last week, at a book presentation, one of the authors told a story of a train meet-up with a fellow who used to work as a station attendant, where he spent most of his time reading poetry. There’s something there and whatever it is, Il Postino captures an expression thereof. 9/10