Film

Oscars Countdown #2 ‘Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri’

I love love loved Three Billboards. I was sceptical going in as there’s obviously a whole lot of hype but boy did it live up to it!

This film is so perfectly of the moment what could be more apt for the year of #metoo, of women standing up for themselves than a film about a woman standing up for herself and her daughter who was raped and killed. She wants justice and she will stop at nothing to get it.

This is no fairytale, no neatly tied up loose ends and certainly no happy ending. This is about broken people in a dead end town trying to find some joy and purpose in life and trying to fix their hurt. It is deeply emotional and raw and will have you sobbing within minutes. Yet amongst all this heart ache and rage and anger there is comedy, it is darkly funny and so entertaining. And so real. I laughed and I cried and I came out wanting to kick some ass!

I was sure Sally Hawkins was a shoe in for best actress until I saw Frances Mcdormand. Terrifying and unswerving in her determination to find her daughters killer. She is resolutely unsmiling and tough yet at the same time so vulnerable, McDormand shows us it all. I seriously hope she wins the Best Actress award because quite honestly this is one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long long time.

Every performance given in this film is so great, Woody Harrelson is wonderful as per usual and Sam Rockwell blew me away. He plays the racist and idiotic deputy who goes on to show surprising depth.

I never expected the story to go where it goes, I thought I went in knowing what this film would be but I was so so wrong. I want this to win Best Picture so badly, it is a fantastic film and far and away my favourite of the nominees. Plus it has a truly awesome soundtrack! Fingers crossed for the win!

Film

Oscars Countdown #3 ‘The Shape of Water’

The Shape of Water is a beautiful, ethereal love story. It is as we are so told at the beginning “A tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all.”

The premise is a little weird, a young girl falls in love with a half fish half man dragged back from the amazon by the incredibly terrifying Michael Shannon. But if anyone could make it work it’s Guillermo Del Toro and boy did he make it work.

A twisted beauty and the beast fairytale for the grown ups. It’s a tale of the lonely people of the world. Elisa, the mute, her closest friend the older gay man fired from his job, her work ally the black woman whose husband never talks to her. These people who are rejected by the 1960’s American society are all looking for acceptance, for happiness, for love.

Sally Hawkins is incredible. She does not speak once but you never once feel as though she needs to. She conveys everything, every emotion, every thought, every feeling so superbly. It is a true testament to her skills as an actress and she is well deserving of her best actress nomination.

This film entranced me it is so beautiful all green and blue tones conjuring up a dreamy world where Elisa lives above a stunning and sadly empty movie theatre. This is juxtaposed by the dirty gritty underground world of the Cold War laboratories where the fish man is kept and tortured until Elisa breaks him free.

This is an emotional fairytale, it has darkness and anger and hate but also lightness and hope and friendship and love. What a truly wonderful film and a huge contender for the Best Picture award!

Film

Oscars Countdown #4 ‘The Phantom Thread’

This is going to be short because I’ve just done a double shift on my eighth working day in a row and I am to put it politely pooped.

I did not get The Phantom Thread. I feel like it was trying to tell me a story but I’m not entirely sure what it was. I suppose this is a love story a particular, short tempered older dress designer falls in love with a (I’m assuming) German waitress. A younger girl falling for an older man is nothing new in a film, but this is just a little weird.

There is nothing here that endears me to either character, honestly I spent most of the film wanting to punch Daniel Day Lewis in the face, which just goes to show how great his acting is, most of the time I really quite like Daniel Day Lewis. Alma just constantly irritated me yes she displayed a little backbone but really a better ending would have been her going off and living her life without him. I guess it shows just how insane and twisted love is.

It cannot be denied that the dresses and design are exquisite, it is a beautiful sight watching all the ladies twirl in these elegant creations. The filming is crisp, all smooth clean lines. I guess you can see the great filmmaking here but there is no heart, nothing to connect to, nothing that made me feel anything other than “well this is bizarre!” By far my least favourite of all the nominees, it’s not a film I’ll be watching again.

Film

Oscars Countdown #5 ‘The Darkest Hour’

After Dunkirk it was only natural to watch the second World War Two film up for nomination this year.

The Darkest Hour shows not the battle itself but the battle going on behind the scene. The focus is on the older men at home who control the war and the war waging in the Houses of Parliament. Churchill is made prime minister as Europe is on the brink of falling to the unstoppable Nazi machine. His party does not support him and seem more preoccupied with ousting him than fighting the Nazis, the British Army is cornered at Dunkirk without means of escape and country after country is falling.

Gary Oldman is stunning. If he does not win best actor it will break my heart. Almost unrecognisable in his prosthetics, everything about him is Churchill. You can truly see him carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. There is the saddest scene when he is on the phone to Roosevelt and essentially begging him for help from the USA and we can see an almost broken Churchill trying not to let the despair burst out of him. Then on the other hand there are the inevitable scenes of triumph of strength, him shouting at his war cabinet demanding they find a way to fight, and off course his rousing speech to parliament rallying the nation. An alcoholic, old man with a short temper put in an impossible position yet a great and wonderful man, this film shows all of him the public and the private, the strong and the weak.

This film is thrilling, even if we know how it ends, and perhaps that is part of the reason why it’s so thrilling, because the decisions made in this film changed the world. As the dates go by in giant writing on the screen we feel the tension build and Churchill’s despair deepening. Despite its focus being on the government we still get some fantastic and heartbreaking glimpses of the battle in France, including a stunning aerial shot of the fighting which fades into a fallen soldier. It is a political and historical drama but it is also a war film.

Here we have film making at its finest, so beautifully shot, every scene pulls us in and makes hearts pound, brains whir and tears well up. This is a fantastic piece of cinema.

Film

Oscars Countdown #6 ‘Dunkirk’

Dunkirk is all action and sparse dialogue.

Nolan’s war epic is a true cinematic feat making use of every special and visual effect to create a harrowing snapshot of the British Army’s retreat from Dunkirk.

Remember that chilling scene from Atonement when James McAvoy is walking along the beach at Dunkirk, this is basically a two hour version of that.

He gives us a whole host of characters the young soldiers trying to escape the beach, the officers trying to get them off it, the civilians heading over in their small fishing boat to aid the rescue attempt, the pilots fighting the Germans trying to sink the ships, as the film jumps from one scene to the next the suspense becomes almost unbearable.

It paints a terribly bleak picture of war, we watch planes go down, ships sink and bodies wash up on shore. The task seems to be hopeless. The hopelessness and despair is most poignantly shown in one scene where the three of our young protagonists sit on the beach and watch as a soldier walks into the ocean and disappear not one of them tries to stop him, says a word or even reacts.

The score for this film is truly the star, with so little dialogue it is the music that adds the emotional element to the scenes.

What it lacked though was any form of character development. Yes the horrors depicted made you feel for these men, you wanted them to make it home, but where was home? What was home? Who was waiting for them? And I’m sorry but I just could not see Harry Styles as being anything other than that annoying member of a boy band.

There was the odd moment that tugged the heart, Cillian Murphy’s fevered exclamation that he “can’t go back” the young soldiers scrabbling up on deck because they “just want to see the cliffs” and perhaps the most powerful moment of the film when one of our returning soldiers reads Churchill’s famous speech out loud from the paper whilst we see images of each character returning home.

Technically I cannot fault this film I’ll be very surprised if it does not pick up awards in the technical categories but it does not have any heart. I always want to come away from a film feeling something but here I did not, my eyes remained dry which considering the subject is surprising. Disappointingly my least favourite of the nominees so far.

Film

Oscars Countdown #7 ‘Lady Bird’

From one coming of age story to another Lady Bird is a wonderful portrayal of a 17 year old girl as she takes on her senior year of school and all the chaotic heartbreak that that involves.

Saoirse Ronan is fantastic as she acts out as only a teenager can do, arguing with her just about every member of her family, complaining about putting her clothes away and how her eggs are cooked, getting drunk and of course rebelling by renaming herself Lady Bird, she is a typical teenage brat. But the character is just so loveable as we watch her muddle through life and work out her frustrations. So many of us will recognise our teenage selves in this story.

Tens of dozens of teenage coming of age films come out every year but there are so few like this. All the big milestones moments are there losing your virginity, falling out with your best friend, passing your driving test, going to prom and graduating high school. In short all the elements of any American teen movie are here but they’re handled so wonderfully and simply, we don’t dwell on or have a grand build up to these moments rather it is, as it so often is in life, all the little moments in between, the small moments that carry the importance that shape Lady Bird. This isn’t slick or glitzy, in fact it’s full of the fashion of the early noughties and we all know that’s not glamorous, but it is real and it is raw and by god is it funny.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, played by the awesome Laurie Metcalf. The way in which the two slip so seamlessly from talking to bickering to confiding in each other is exactly how families are, they argue, they fall out but they love each other fiercely. Who hasnt argues with their mother at one time or another?

Greta Gerwig wrote and directed the film and she is a genius. Partially based on her teenage years spent in Sacramento, California it is so genuine and true and honest, there is not one perfect character here each is flawed and real and human. Rightfully nominated for Best Director Gerwig is a genius, and she is now officially my idol.

This is a wonderfully funny and heart warming film that truly captures what it is like to be a teenager and what it is like to grow up. And Saoirse Ronan I love you!Can we please be best friends?

Film

Oscars Countdown #8 ‘Call Me By Your Name’

I am obsessed with Call Me By Your Name. It is so enticing, that all I want to do now is spend my summer at a beautiful Italian villa eating fresh fruit, having long lunches full of wine and cigarettes and spend my days swimming and reading in the sunshine. This film is a gorgeous treat for the eyes and the soul.

It is a romantic film. Here we have 17 year old Elio, played so incredibly by Timothee Chalamet, experiencing the most heart breaking and exciting of all romances, a summer romance. Elio falls in love with his father’s intern Oliver, slightly older than him, and played so attractively by Armie Hammer, you can see how Elio is drawn to him he is charming, intelligent and does everything with great passion and enthusiasm.

There are no cheesy love scenes, no passionate declarations of love, this is a slow burning film and we watch as Elio gradually falls for Oliver and slowly makes sense of his feelings. Eventually the two men give in to their desires and they come together with such a passion, we see the electricity crackle between them in every exchange, every touch. This is not a light youthful romance but a deep and passionate one that will shape Elio and Oliver for the rest of their lives.

Although it is a film where two men fall in love the only obstacle they have to face is the battle within themselves, they have no disapproving parents to overcome, no judging community. Eventually their relationship ends because the summer ends, not because they’re gay, but because that is what happens in a summer romance when you are 17 years old, inevitable heartbreak.

‘Call Me By Your Name’ truly shows us the power and enduring effect of first love. The most poignant moment of the film is the raw and emotional speech Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives him after Oliver leaves, where he tells Elio to never take love for granted, to not give up on it despite the pain. It is speech that will resonate with anyone who has loved and lost, to anyone who has suffered. It is a beautiful and lasting message to never close yourself off, because “to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste.”

This is a story of young love, set against a beautiful backdrop, it is utterly spellbinding and I will watch this again and again and soak up every wonderful second of it.

Film

Oscars Countdown #9 ‘The Post’

Very much in the vein of Spotlight, The Post follows the journalists of the Washington Post as they take on the federal government and race to publish the Pentagon Papers, leaked documents that reveal the lies told about the Vietnam War that spanned four presidencies. This true story of people taking on a corrupt presidency is extremely relevant to modern day America.

The fact that all the power falls into the hands of a woman further makes the film so current to todays society, as we watch a woman who never expected to be in this position, who is not taken seriously by the men who surround her, defy all their advice as she makes perhaps the biggest decision of her life, to print or not to print.  It makes for a serious ‘Yes Girl’ moment. Streep, as usual, is all class as Katherine Graham, and there is the most wonderful scene at the end of the movie where she exits the courtroom to a crowd of women all completely entranced by her and what she has achieved. It is a touching and inspirational scene that really packs a relevant punch.

The film also manages to capture a profound sense of nostalgia. It is an homage to the era of the print press. The shots of the newsroom, the journalists leafing through piles of papers as they desperately search to find their story, the calls from payphones to secret sources, the piles of newspapers being delivered to the street vendors and the ending with the impressive scene inside the printing room where we see the papers going to press are all so visually inviting. There’s something so wonderful about this glimpse into a 1970’s newsroom, into a time when we couldn’t get breaking news within seconds when we relied upon the journalists to give us the truth, to give us the stories, to give us the news. I like to think if I’d have been born a few decades earlier I would have would have been one of them!

There are no huge action scenes here, but the film still features such high drama, we watch the story gather pace as the journalists frantically uncover the truth whilst the stakes get raised higher and higher, and by the time the film reached the dramatic crux of the story I was on the edge of my seat in the cinema. The dramatic score, the talent of Hanks and Streep and the clever camera shots all come together to make this an incredibly tense and thrilling journey.

At the end of the day it is a film about the fight for the freedom of speech, people speaking out against the establishment and fighting for the truth to be told and I loved it. I’m surprised that there has not been more of a buzz around this film particularly considering the major players of Hanks, Streep and Spielberg, but I have yet to see all the nominees so I’ll reserve my final judgements for later. For now let me say this is a superb piece of cinema and I thoroughly recommend you give it a watch!