Movies of the Weeks #7 #8 (2019)

Of Mice and Women

  • The Favourite (2018): Just before its surprising (and not quite so) Oscar win for Olivia Coleman, I had the chance of watching the newest from Yorgos Lanthimos. Set in the early 1700s, it’s a half-fictionalized look at the rather feeble Queen Anne and the relationships she (might have) had with her friend Lady Sarah and Abigail, a run-down cousin of Sarah’s. Put together with restrained flair from Lanthimos, it’s easy to follow narratively, while borrowing elements from various other period pieces, with Barry Lindon coming to mind. In spite of dealing with classic archetypes, the characters take on unexpected traits and emotions, which is ultimately why The Favourite manages to hold its own, beyond matters of cinematic composition. And now that I’ve run out of big words, I’ll leave you to it. 8/10

On a Cold Night in Poland

  • Cold War (2018): Another strong contender at the Oscars, which had the misfortune of running against Roma, Cold War is a tale of love and woe. Director Pawlikowski returns to the black and white of Ida and brandishes some beautiful imagery to underpin the emotional and political turmoil that so seamlessly comes together in the tragedy of the movie’s protagonists. Their intimacy in the most complicated of times lingers with passion, which is to say that if you can get beyond some of the splashy drama, there’s a lot to be found in Cold War. 8/10

On a Cold Night in Nazi Germany

  • Der Hauptmann (2017): Director Robert Schwentke returns to form with this movie set at the end of WW2, about a deserter who stumbles upon a captain’s uniform and takes up the role with remarkable skill. It’s the kind of thing you need to tolerate, all the unlikely events that come to be here, but there’s always some shared understanding that stays unsaid between the characters which keeps a shred of believability alive. As the events descend into relentless violence, there are no good guys left to root for, but in spite of it all, Der Hauptmann is a mostly enjoyable flick. 7/10

On a Cold Night in the 90s

  • Can You Ever Forgive Me (2018): Without trying, the movies I watched sort of came in twos. This would be the second one with a hard-to-like protagonist, as the story of Lee Israel is a difficult story to embellish. Thankfully, Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant managed to find the appealing sides of their characters, as the movie mostly feels oppressive in its cynical glibness. This all makes for a strong follow-up from Marielle Heller, whose only other feature film credit was the quirky, yet borderline disturbing Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015). With CYEFM I am three for three on the decent Oscar movies this week. 8/10

On Just Any Cold Night

  • Vier Minuten (2006): If you didn’t have enough pain and suffering, Vier Minuten is here to top it all off for you. The story of an elderly piano teacher who works in a prison and stumbles across a talented, but recalcitrant young girl feels like it can go only from bad to worse. Difficult characters in a difficult setting, the movie really piles it on you, to the point that it becomes tedious. Yet, on the whole, it’s not a morally and cinematically bankrupt movie, which is why I’m giving it a slight nod. 6/10

Movies of the Weeks #4 #5 #6 (2019)

Bicycle!

  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): Expecting a wildly popular movie to be bad is never a good thing. With middling reviews, I kept wondering what’s wrong with BR, which painted some clear expectations for me. And so, I found out what was wrong: it’s bad movie-making, structurally unsound and mostly uninvolving. Bar for the last ten minutes, which consisted of a few musical numbers that left me with a bit of a pump (because the music is good), only the performance of Rami Malek is worth the hard drive this movie was shot on. 5/10

We Are the Children

  • Brexit: The Uncivil War (2019): Half-interesting, but mostly uninspired and depressing, any attempt to synthesize the essence of Brexit in 90 minutes was bound to come up short. There’s a lot of preaching, a lot of they’re right, but they’re right, but #fakenews, yet it’s all for show, with little to chew on. The portrayal of this behind-the-scenes mastermind has some merit, even if it remains unexplored for the most part. Any world where Brexit exists is a sad, effin world. Fuck. 6/10

Let’s Start Giving

  • Wildlife (2018): Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan wrote, while the former directed this thoroughly engaging piece on parental angst, which there’s too little of in movies to begin with. Jerry and Janette’s family of three, with son Joe in the mix, starts tearing at the seams when Jerry loses his job, fails to evade the rut of mid-life disappointment, then heads off to fight some forest fires for pennies, instead of taking care of his family. Janette takes a different spin of things, not particularly laudable either, with Joe having to cope with his parents’s disenchantment by himself. Sounds dire – well, it is dire, but it’s also topical and real, a dissection of sensitive youth in the headlights of midlife drama. 8/10

There’s a Choice We’re Making

  • Life, Animated (2016): A touching, if not particularly riveting documentary on the cause of Owen Suskind, an autistic child turned adult who is about to take on life by himself. The twist of Owen’s fate is how he has grown up to understand the world and express himself through Disney movies – something, I reckon, we all do, to some degree or another. Sure, it’s not always Disney, but there’s this structure we expect to see reflected in our lives, through which we define it and ourselves. In spite of its tameness, Life, Animated is worth a watch. 7/10

It’s You and Me

  • Into the Forest (2015): Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood and Callum Keith Rennie (!!) star in this post-apocalyptic, yet conspicuously zombie-less movie, that looks beautiful, but has a plain, even borderline silly narrative. Set in the not so distant future, with Mad-Max-ian fuel scarcity, but still lush nature to make things feel less oppressive, two sisters and their father try to hold the fort and just…survive. And that’s about it, some stuff goes south, there’s a bit of tension, some harrowing brutality and a pensive conclusion. A bit of a shame, ultimately. 6/10