I’ve hated most movies lately. Where I used to watch any old thing, I withstood two minutes of the latest Guardians of the Galaxy before switching off. I decided to ease myself back into film-watching with some of the latest, more highly-acclaimed movies – after all, Oscars are a sure indicator of quality, right?!
FIRST MAN (2019 nominee)
Having glanced at the Neil Armstrong biography First Man (Ryan Gosling) is based on, I expected it to be as entertaining as a double seminar on the physics of rocket propulsion.
It’s dour, but the practical effects really excel – who knew NASA were firing men to space in tin cans? “You’re a bunch of boys,” rages Claire Foy’s predictably formidable Mrs. Armstrong. Supposedly that’s all it takes…
I’d rather watch Brad Pitt fight Moon pirates.. 🐞🐞🐞
THE FAVOURITE (2019 nominee)
A luminous Restoration-era comedy-drama, The Favourite is the fictionalized tale of ailing Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) relationship with brash aristocrat Sarah (Rachel Weisz). They’re depicted as carer/patient, friends, and as lovers, with Sarah the power behind the throne.
Where Mary Queen of Scots was a traditional costume drama with a woke angle, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is unconventional to its marrow.
Emma Stone, so insipid in La La Land, inserts herself into the bawdy period setting – and the Sarah/Anne relationship – with razor-sharp skill (plus a spot-on English accent).
Where women in power are as vile as the men. 🐞🐞🐞🐞
LADY BIRD (2018 nominee)
At her Catholic private school, Christine ‘Lady Bird’ (Saorise Ronan) is embarrassed by her relatively poor background, so she mean-girls to fit in with an edgier crowd.
Set just post 9/11, she can’t wait to ditch her hometown of Sacramento for college on the coast – upsetting her hard-working mother, frustrated that her daughter can’t be grateful for what she has. (I’d say putting a continent between them is clearly for the best.)
Even if Lady Bird needs to spread her wings, director Greta Gerwig makes their shared hometown look like bliss – it’s a love letter to Sacramento.
Little Women still looks insufferable. 🐞🐞🐞🐞🐞
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2018 nominee)
Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) believes local cops failed her slain daughter, so she rents three billboards with a damning message for Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson), provoking his Deputy, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) into a conflict that escalates to Molotov cocktails.
In Martin McDonagh’s 2008 black comedy In Bruges, you felt sorry for Colin Farrell’s bungling hitman, despite his crimes. You laughed when he beat up the Canadian Guy. In Ebbing, senseless violence makes viewers wince, while racist thug Dixon never endears like Farrell.
This ‘dark fairy tale’ is a failed black comedy. 🐞🐞🐞
GREEN BOOK (2019 nomine)
Named after the pre-Civil Rights guidebook for African-American road trippers, Green Book is based on the true story of classical/jazz musician Dr Don Shirley’s (Mahershala Ali) tour of the South.
Meant as heartwarming fare about the power of friendship, comedy is mined from the pairing of the refined Shirley with his driver/heavy Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), an uncouth, working-class Italian-American.
So feelgood, you could almost forget why it was called ‘Green Book‘!
Yikes, Aragorn really went to seed. 🐞🐞🐞
I, TONYA (2018 nominee)
This reminded me of David O. Russell’s American Hustle, so a no-go for me straight off the bat-on. It’s something to do with the camerawork or heavy-handed period detail.
Staged mockumentary-style (à la Drop Dead Gorgeous) we follow 90s champ skater Tonya Harding’s (Margot Robbie) connection to an attack orchestrated by her husband, on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.
Tonya’s traumatic childhood and abusive marriage are set to retro tunes. Mercifully, they stop short of adding a laugh track for when Tonya gets punched in the face. She’s playfully presented as a gutsy chick sticking it to the snooty skating authorities who never gave her a chance. An interesting take, challenged by some…!
As stressful as Margot Robbie’s frizzball hairdo. 🐞🐞
DUNKIRK (2018 nominee)
Christopher Nolan’s film about the evacuation of Allied soldiers in WWII sees practical effects again triumph. Kenneth Brannagh and Mark Rylance do stoic bravery; pilots Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy do stoic RAF fighter cover, while young soldiers including Harry Styles run the gauntlet.