Category Archives: film reviews

Film Review: Love and Friendship

Not a huge Austen fan (that says more about me than her, perhaps?) but there were quite a few laugh-out-loud moments in this film, based on a novella that wasn’t published until 50 years after she’d snuffed it  (there IS a novella of hers called Love and Friendship, but the film is based on another – Lady Susan. Do keep up).

Whit Stillman , him of Metropolitan, Last Days of Disco etc directs with his usual aplomb and love of epigrams and too moral people colliding with those who either don’t get it or are actually monsters.  Kate Beckinsdale is great as Lady Susan, a (very) merry widow who trails destruction and seduction as she seeks suitable (stupid is fine, so long as they’re rich) suitors for herself and her daughter.  Chloe Sevigny is her equally amoral friend.  These two make Valmont look like a hand-wringing bleeding heart.  The supporting cast is just as good, and the guy playing the crushingly stupid (think Tony Abbott meets Donald Trump, only funny) almost steals the film.

The showing we saw, at the Mercury Cinema, had a useful context-setting pre-film speech by Kerryn Goldsworthy, and she led a good discussion afterwards. I mentioned the possibility of a Moll Flanders connection, but wish I’d suggested the possibility of a Dangerous Liaisons thing, given it came out ten years earlier and is a series of letters about seduction, money and manipulation….

If you like Austen, you may like a Reginald Hill short story in her style (homage/pastiche), a 20 years later ‘where are they now’ on Emma.

Other stuff I should  read –

New Yorker review

 Jane Austen and Empire – Edward Said

Nicholas Gruen “Why Adam Smith was to markets what Jane Austen is to marriage” in essay in best Australian Essays 2006.

Film Review: Nice Guys finish first, but a bit too slowly…

The film is worth your time.  You won’t emerge a better person, but there are some laughs, some excellent performances and nostalgia for “The Rockford Files”.  That’s a pretty good deal, I’d say.

nice-guysRyan Gosling and Russell Crowe are two men stumbling down mean streets in the ever-more-confusing and gritty (thanks to the pollution, both literal and metaphorical)  world of 1970s Los Angeles.  Gosling is Holland March , a mostly useless private eye whose wife died because of his ineptitude, raising a sassy (of course) daughter who is probably already smarter than him. Crowe, reprising his LA Confidential role of 20 years previously, is Jackson Healy, a thug who knows it but wants better of himself.  They bumble, as you do, into a conspiracy involving the government, pornography, auto-makers and some missing dames.

The director is  Shane Black, he of the Lethal Weapon films.  Given that this is another of those films about films (about films), part of the pleasure is spotting references.  It starts with a Brian De Palma “Blow Out” riff and the pace keeps up.  Black isn’t above referencing himself. especially the first Lethal Weapon (a widower in LA misfittedly teaming up with another bloke to crack a conspiracy. The film starts with a naked woman, and the investigation leads to a burnt out house, where a passing child gives them a vital clue. Only we live in less innocent times, and this one – a mid-teen at best – boasts about his penis size. Etc).  There’s a very funny riff on the two-guys-falling-into-a-swimming-pool from LW2, but that would be a spoiler).

As well as porno films, there are nods to blaxploitation, the paranoid thrillers of the 70s by Alan Pakula (Klute, Three Days of the Condor and especially The Parallax View).  There are explicit references to when Hollywood jumped the shark (Jaws 2) .  It brings to mind all those films about LA as dreamland and nightmare, a thriving sub-genre all the way from William Holden dead in the pool but narrating, through to  Chinatown,  Who Framed Rogber Rabbit,  the aforementioned LA Confidential (which was as sumptuous as this is clapped out),  Hail Caesar! and the recent and brilliantly unsettling Nightcrawler (my review here).

Black doesn’t stick to films – clearly loved the Rockford Files, the 70s TV show starring the late James Garner.  I spotted three nods – the gun in the cookie jar, the price of $200 plus expenses, and the newspaper adverts that Marchhas for his services.

What’s interesting (sort of) is just how much the actions of various women (not just the hilarious old lady who hires March) drive the plot. Far beyond just passing the Bechdel test, this movie has the men are reactive, trying to keep up and cover up.  This is true not just of the daughter, but also Kim Basinger (though to be honest, she can’t move her face these days; Russell Crowe gets to be fat and old, but still gets cast, eh #SmashthePatriarchy) and the missing and annoying but ultimately ‘right’ Amelia.

I won’t “spoil” the plot, but suffice to say it makes you look at the question of air pollution and corporate strategy in an interesting new light   Check out Penna and Geels, 2012.  The de-dramatising strategies here are quite, well, dramatic.

The films 20 minutes too long (the shoot-outs become a bit labored), and the end is never in doubt. Jake Gittes gets to have a rueful laugh about it all, rather than the gut-punch that Polanski gave you, but that’s not the end of the world.

 

Film Review: Hail “Hail Caesar”!!! Up there with LA Confidential, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Chinatown

Hail,_Caesar!_Teaser_posterFilms about the film industry, eh?  So arch, so damn knowing.  You know the ones I mean.

The Coen Brothers dance very very close, but as the numerous choreographed choreography scenes in this show – if you know EXACTLY what you are doing, and you hire the bets talent available,  and you’re lucky, you might get away with it.

They do, in spades.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a high level fixer and problem-solver for Capitol (this matters) studios. It’s 1951 (this matters, as does everything in this wonderful film) and he has the usual run of emergencies and logistical nightmares to contend with.  He loves his job, but he can’t quit smoking, and he isn’t there for his biological family (the actors and directors are clearly his emotional family).

The film starts with him doing his job (preventing a minor scandal, paying off some cops), then confessing at 4am on one day.  He seems not to sleep between then and the end of the film, at 10am ish the following day.  All his crises (they overlap) happen on the hour, every hour.

This is a film about desire, duty, honour, passion, stupidity, cupidity, and – of course – artifice – the roles we play (willingly or unwilling, witting and unwitting) and the choices we make (by making them or not making them).

Oh, did I mention that it is downright hilarious, enjoyable, witty and, yes, knowing?  Tilda Swinton stands out (because, I mean, she’s breathing -duh), but Brolin is amazing, as is Alden Ehrenreich).  Frances McDormand is in only one scene, but it’s a doozy.

SEE THIS SUMPTUOUS FILM.  It’s up there in the “films about Los Angeles” with LA Confidential, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Chinatown  (but far less depressing than the last of that list.  This is, after all, Hollywood, when a Catholic, a Protestant, an Orthodox Christian and a Jew could ‘debate’ a film script, and “Herb” Marcuse could be surprised by a Danny Kaye anecdote.

PS – this from wikipedia

Audiences were unenthusiastic about the film. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “C−” on an A+ to F scale. 52% of the opening day audience were males while 84% were over 25, with both demographics giving the film a “D+” grade, while those over 50 years old gave the film a grade of “D−”.[67] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 46% from audiences.[3]

confirms my hunch that People Are Morons.

Film Review: “The Big Short” and the air-brushed women

My brilliant friend (he really is) and I went to see “The Big Short” on Saturday. We both really liked it.  It’s clever without being tricksy, its well-paced and brilliantly acted.  We noted the maleness of it, but weren’t particularly concerned (though alarm bells should have been ringing for me, since I’ve seen “Inside Job”.
Another friend (not quite as brilliant, but that’s no insult- Friend A really is in a league of his own, and anyway a fair bit older than Friend B).  sent me this, which is by a friend of hers.  And it’s bang to rights.
“[Brief rant about gender and The Big Short]

So this is infuriating. I watched The Big Short last night, and really enjoyed it. It’s a very male heavy film, but I figured Wall Street was just like that. I’ve read time and again that it’s a racist, misogynistic, homophobic industry, and this is non-fiction(ish). So it doesn’t get a Bechdel pass, quelle surprise

Well, turns out that Meredith Whitney, one of the oracles of the financial crisis, and a fairly prominent figure in the book version of “The Big Short”, just got completely cut out. Because who wants to show a woman being clever? In the meantime, they show someone in her exact role, working for exactly the same person… only it’s a guy.

This got me thinking.

Now bear in mind that this film is all about a group of white guys showing up how dumb and corrupt Wall Street is. In this context, the prominent female characters (often not based on real people, or else highly fictionalised) are as follows:

(1) main character’s wife, who doesn’t understand the financial sector (real world: she worked at Merrill Lynch);
(2) a weak-willed, whiny, corrupt ratings agency employee;
(3) Morgan Stanley exec, who is excoriated by the film for being asleep at the wheel (and buying expensive handbags while the firm crashes and burns);
(4) a shallow government regulator, angling for a job at a big bank by sleeping around;
(5) a stripper, offered up by the film as its example of the kind of clueless person that the sub-prime mortgage industry exploited.

So, just so you know: the financial crisis was caused largely by women, but there were these awesomely clever white guys who saw it all coming. Everybody got that?”

….
“I started the book [of the big short] this morning, and the preface is literally along the lines of, “Meredith Whitney accurately forecast the demise of several big banks during the financial crisis. Traders so respected her opinion that her analyses wiped billions of dollars of value off the stock market. I asked her if she knew anyone who had made money out of the sub-prime crisis, and she gave me a list of people she had advised: [list of half main characters in the film].””

So, now I “have” to read the book…

Star Wars non-review. Good links

I was going to review Star Wars The Farce Awakens. Actually can’t be bothered.  Here below are the links I had accumulated that were pretty cool.

The wife liked it, but then she has had years of practice at keeping her expectations reaaaallllly low.

Retro-futures and lack of imagination

On the gender dynamic and here.

What type of twisted fantasy world does George Lucas live in where dudes just spend all day whacking their long, cylindrical swords together without any women nearby? Wait. Don’t answer that.

And push back against TFA as feminist from those clods at the National Review.

The best of all, though, is a review of the first three films (as in 1977 to 1983) by a guy called Jonathan Rosenbaum!!

 

The Luke Skywalker twitter feed is worth a look, if you like that sort of thing.

The spectre of Tom Cruise hangs over the latest Bond film

fectreA taped message. An agent forced to go rogue in his battle against a secretive globe-spanning violent criminal gang.  His boss initially pursuing him, but by the end getting out from behind the desk and getting his hands dirty.  Confused talk about democracy. An extremely beautiful and much younger European woman at his side, potentially seducing him away from all the violence and the killing. They go the secret lair in North Africa, and this is followed by a shoot-out on the banks of the Thames, with the baddies including moles-and-traitors-within-M16…  The forces of, well, good force, prevail.

Yes, Mission Impossible 26, with the indesctructible Tom Cruise wasn’t bad, earlier this year.  And the Bond film ‘Spectre’ was fun too, following a formula that doesn’t bear too much thinking about.  It’s one of those film you enjoy at the time (if you like fist fights, car chases, explosions and gorgeous European women) but dare not think about for more than a few seconds afterwards, in case the enjoyment evaporates like mist when the sun comes out.

How long can Daniel Craig keep it up? How long does he WANT to?  Will Lea Seydoux be back?  All questions I won’t think about for another two and a half years, till the next one comes out…  By then, Greengrass and Damon will have produced Bourne 4 (filming now!) #dontfuckitupplease

Verdict: If you have 3 hours of your life (including trailers and adverts) that you want to throw away, then go for it.