The musings and jottings of a well-travelled, much wedded, Blighty-based limey wordsmith
More “Mobi-Mini-Movie-Reviews” – 6th March 2016
The 2016 Oscars – More “Mobi-Mini-Movie-Reviews”
In my last blog, I stated that I would be reviewing The Room but I can’t do that yet as I still haven’t seen it. Instead, I will review The Hateful Eight, along with The Danish Girl and Brooklyn.
The Hateful Eight
Although tipped as an early runner for a heap of Oscars, in the end, the only nominations it received were for best supporting Actress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and for cinematography and music. About par for a Tarantino film. It won for music. (Ennio Morricone)
I have always been a keen fan of Quentin Tarantino, who wrote and directed this epic western, but I don’t think it is one of his best. Having said that, I am not a particular fan of the western genre, as in my younger days, it was done to death, both by Hollywood and by the television networks.
But of course, a Tarantino western is no ordinary western. Darkly comic and violent as it is, in some ways, it is more like an Agatha Christie murder mystery – and is often just as silly and superficial. One man is poisoned, another is shot in the head, another has his head blown clean off and another is hanged, and so on. Almost to the end, we don’t know who the baddies and goodies are – in true Christie fashion.
The film is a massive 3 hours in duration. It is set just after the end of the civil war and nearly all the action takes place inside a single room of a stagecoach stop in the middle of the Wyoming prairie. Outside, a violent snowstorm prevents anyone from leaving. It could have very easily been a stage play and who knows? One day, it might be just that.
The ensemble cast, including Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell are outstanding, although I am not convinced that Jason Leigh should have been nominated for best supporting actress for playing the part of a deranged, violent criminal gang leader. But the superior acting by one and all and the regular insertion of grizzly violence keeps the simple plot moving along quite well.
I suspect that Tarantino had planned to make a western masterpiece, but in my opinion, he didn’t quite make it. The dialogue is good, without being outstanding. For me, the film was missing something that would take it right out of the ordinary. It didn’t quite make the sum of its excellent parts.
I can’t fault the cinematography, the acting, the brilliant direction, and the great music score and for this reason, I rate this quite highly. The Hateful Eight is not for everyone, but most Tarantino fans will probably enjoyit, unless they are heavy smokers….
Four stars out of Five.
Those of you who have read my review of Colm Tóibín’s book will know that I didn’t think much of it. I think I described it as a lightweight piece of fluff that didn’t draw me in as there is so little dialogue.
So I really wasn’t expecting much from the movie – especially when a friend told me he hated it. How wrong could I be? It turned out to be a blessing in disguise that the book had so little dialogue in it as it afforded Nick Hornby ‘carte blanche’ to write the screenplay in his own way – and what a wonderful job he made of it!
Almost from the opening credits, I knew I was watching a quality movie. It immediately drew me in, much as the book had driven me away. Amazingly, there were very few changes from the original story, although, as always, they cut some of it out. The ending was so subtly changed, that you can’t really call it a change, but it made a world of difference to the enjoyment of the story.
Brooklyn was made by people at the very top of their game.
The great cinematography, the expert direction, the sparkling dialogue, the music, the costumes, the sets… I could go on and on. Brooklyn is what movie making is all about.
Set in the early 1950’s it relates the story of a girl in her early twenties from rural Ireland who immigrates to Brooklyn. A job is awaiting her, arranged by an Irish Catholic Priest. Her struggles to adapt to her new life, her romantic liaisons both in Brooklyn and back in Ireland, form the backbone of the tale.
Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead part of Eilis Lacey, is a wonder to behold. Almost single-handedly she holds the film together and is rarely out of shot. She is truly a towering presence who commands our enraptured attention. The supporting cast is also pretty good, including the great Julie Waters who plays the owner of the Brooklyn boarding house where Eilis lives, and the redoubtable Jim Broadbent, who plays Father Flood.
The film magically captures the spirit of the time and you really feel that you have been transported back to rural Ireland and bustling Brooklyn in an age when morals and social behaviour were so different to what they are today.
A lightweight story it may be, but the producers saw a gem in Tóibín’s tale that has turned his book into a magnificent film.
Tóibín is a very lucky man.
Four and a half stars out of five.
The Danish Girl
If this film had not been amongst the Oscar nominees, I would not have bothered to watch it.
I have absolutely nothing against transgender people – indeed, some of my best friends have been Thai lady-boys…. but I wasn’t sure that I really wanted to watch a film about transgender surgery. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted to see Eddie Redmayne in drag.
Again, I have nothing against men in drag, but it just isn’t my thing.
As with Brooklyn, the film is beautifully made and I had already fallen in love with the brilliant and beautiful Alicia Vikander following her roles in Testament of Youth (a great film!) and Ex-Machina, (also pretty good).
It is Copenhagen in 1926, and Vikander plays Gerda an artist, the wife of Redmayne, who plays Einer, also an artist.
Einer believes he is a woman in a man’s body and decides to change his appearance into a female and his name from Einar to Lili. Gerda continues to love and support Lili in his/her quest to become a female. Lili becomes the first person to ever undertake transgender surgery.
Redmayne was nominated for best actor for this role. Quite frankly, I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t totally see it last year when he won the Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking; but this time around, it seems that the luvvies of Hollywood have nominated him for the nature of the role, rather than the way he actually played it.
He was okay-ish… but nothing special. I am sure that there are hundreds of actors out there who could have made a better fist of it – What’s wrong with using one of those brilliant Scandinavian actors who all speak excellent English? They act their socks off in their Scandi noir dramas. But Redmayne is the man of the moment and no doubt a draw for audiences.
The film is beautifully shot and sensitively directed, and for what it’s worth, it does hold your attention, especially when Vikander is on the screen. It’s an interesting story, and the setting of Copenhagen in the 1920’s makes for some fascinating sets and cinematography.
It goes without saying that Swedish Alicia won the Oscar – the first of many I suspect.
The Danish Girl isn’t for everyone; but if this is the kind of subject matter that appeals to you, you could do worse than give this well-made film the once over.