Here are some films that have held my imagination captive for a long time after seeing them this summer. Along with a few other films that I regret seeing and wish I could have the time back. * Contains no spoilers
By the way, when I say summer, I mean the southern hemisphere summer, which may not apply to many of you, as you’re probably reading this from your cosy winter bear dens somewhere in the north.
Directed by Jonah Hill, this is an ode to being young and free in the 90’s. Replete with skateboarders, scruffy hair and ‘parental advisory’ stickers. For people who grew up in the 90’s, this is the ultimate nostalgic rewind. It takes all of the painful, intense and exhilarating parts of being a teenager, finding your identity and your gang of friends and renders a realistic, intensely enjoyable drama out of it. Be prepared for a lot of swearing, a lot of skateboarding, 90’s hip-hop and a trip down memory lane.
An extravagant and somewhat terrifying story of the life of Queen Anne and her court of jostling, power-hungry temptresses. Brimming with sparkling wordplay, crackling and hilarious characters who swan about coquettish costumes, and mollycoddle and infantalise the queen. We are left in no doubt about who holds the power in this grubby game of wills. A film of towering might with not a man to be seen or heard anywhere. There’s a dark underbelly of pathos and danger underneath of it all. Insanely good.
A warm-hearted and melancholic story of a family of misfits trying to survive in Japan that won the Cannes Palm d’Or. This is a nuanced, complex and emotional film with some plot twists that happen effortlessly along with some heart-wrenching revelations at the end. This is the story of how poverty can isolate families and render them invisible in the rampantly competitive system of Japan in the 21st century.
Another highly watchable WWI movie. After the amazing Dunkirk, comes 1917. It’s the high-stakes journey of two young men who have to deliver a letter over enemy lines in northern France to a neighbouring company, or else risk the loss of thousands of lives. With its long-take and close-up shots of its two main characters Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), it shares similar style to a video game. Yet surprisingly, this is actually a good thing, it’s nail-biting all the way through.
A thoroughly modern and brooding take on the life of Henry V with more hairpin plot twists than you can imagine. Timothée Chalamet has enough stage presence to power a small country. He plays a young king, Henry V, who comes of age under the weight of a heavy crown and many murderous threats of war and subterfuge that he must untangle. Co-writers of this modern take on Shakespeare have smoothed out the language for modern ears. It’s absolutely amazing.
The story of a young woman, Julie (Honor Swinton-Byrne) who is led astray by a manipulative, drug-addicted guy, and of how affluence and influence can’t really protect the young, naive and vulnerable from the cruelties of inexperience. Director Joanna Hogg tapped into her own youth in Thatcherite Britain for the story. This is a well-rendered depiction of how relationships can go pear-shaped, although it’s a tiny bit slow at times, the way the film is shot is beautiful, the performances are tight and it’s a story that I’m sure many women can relate to.
An intensely violent and yet realistic depiction of what it would have been like to be a young Irish woman in colonial Tasmania in 1825. 21 year old Claire (Aislibng Fanciosi) endures unspeakable things including being raped and the murder of her child. She goes on a journey of revenge. The violence in this one is tough-going, although there is storytelling here from the point of view of an indigenous main character, and the film was overseen by an indigenous elder. For this reason, it’s worth watching but prepare to block your ears and close your eyes in parts. It is a superb film and worth watching to better understand Australia and its bloody history.
Don’t bother films
What should have been a great science fiction movie simply wasn’t. Casting Brad Pitt as the lead didn’t save this movie from mediocrity. Pitt’s character Roy heads on an interplanetary mission to reconnect with his father (Tommy Lee Jones) who has gone rogue on another planet. The illogical physics-defying space antics which fling Roy around the place, along with a series of unrelated and seemingly random characters and events all conspire to make this film seem silly and there is a rather unsatisfying ending.
For all of the hype and all of the gushing about this movie. I honestly thought this was an incoherent pile of shit and practically unwatchable because it completely lacked any kind of clear narrative. Other than: ‘A lonely and sad guy gets treated cruelly by various random people, until he loses the plot, puts on some make up and goes dancing around the streets.’ This was a waste of two hours of my life that I really wish I could have back. Then again, and I may get completely castigated for this – all of these so-called comic-book adaptations are about people with magical powers (infantile) battling each other’s superpowers (clichéd) and their own inner demons (clichéd). With their ridiculous special effects and explosions, these Marvel films are nothing more than poorly drawn caricatures of the complex human experience.
The equation seemed likely to work. Martin Scorsece at the helm, along with a cast of amazing actors including De Niro, Pesci, Pacino and Keitel. Although, what we are given is a sprawling 3 hour long regurgitation of narrative tropes from other great Scorcese films like Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets, etc. The dialogue is long-winded, pointless and banal. The acting is a bit wooden and De Niro doesn’t look believable as the titular Irishman, but weirdly like an albino Italian.
Have you seen any of these movies and if so, what did you think? I’m sorry if I offended you with my blunt assessment of some of these favourites from the past year, do you agree or perhaps disagree? Feel free to let me know your thoughts below