Thursday, 29 January 2015

January Watch List

1. Birdman 5/5

How can I even begin to describe Birdman? I first read a small article about the film in Empire and was hooked. I saw the words, Michael Keaton, playing washed up superhero actor trying to make a play while being tormented by visions of the character he played. I was hooked. The more information surfaced the more it fueled my desire to see the film. The cast was brilliant and the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu was brilliant, it looked set to be a great film and it was, oh it was. I loved the early films that Iñárritu made and I remember studying his films at college back in 2006! Apart from finally getting to see Keaton back on form again, it was the story that had me. Set in a theatre on Broadway, going behind the scenes with the actors and various other characters, all connected not just by the play but through the strange creator, Riggan Thomson (Keaton). He has brought them together to create. His hopes of being remembered are put on the play he has adapted, written, produced, directed and starred in, as well as putting everything he has, physically, mentally and money wise. He has adapted, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver and even has a sweet story about his influence from Carver, Riggan is flawed but the question is, is he a genius or going crazy? Others might argue that he is unstable and no he cannot fly. The scene where he jumps from the roof but exits a taxi a moment later is odd but I believe that he did fly and that its not all bleak out there. It's brilliantly made film and I admire everything about it, not to mention the fact that it feels like the film has no cuts and it smoothly goes from one scene the the next without any jolts. An amazing film that deserves the attention its getting and it really funny. Cannot ask for much more than that or maybe a peculiar fight scene between Norton and Keaton, oh wait it gave us that too.

2. Love is Strange 4/5 

I was almost brought to tears by this film. I think its something about old men telling a touching story. I cried my eyes out at Christopher Walken in A Late Quartet. Alfred Molina (George) and John Lithgow (Ben) are couple who have been together for 40 years and they finally get married. But as George is a music teacher at a Catholic school, the archdiocese finds out and the school are forced to fire him. This is more than appalling as everyone knew and was fine with his relationship. The couple are forced to move out as they cannot afford the flat they live in and ask their friends and family to take them in. They are separated, Ben staying with is nephew and his family, George staying with their friends on their sofa. There is a scene where George turns up at Ben's nephew's flat and breaks down into tears in Ben's arms. It's horrible and heartbreaking. The just want to be together. Ben later says 'you know I can't get to sleep unless you're lying next to me'. Such a simple story with quiet scenes, barely any big moments and beautiful. Molina and Lithgow are a brilliant actors and make such great couple on screen. The only part I had an issue was near the end, but I won't say anything more on that.

3. Big Eyes 3/5

I was happy to see Tim Burton step away from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and from fantasy. I liked Burton's older films, they were exciting and different and no one had thrown up CGI. There have been comparisons made between Big Eyes and his other biopic, Ed Wood. Ed Wood was a failure and a cult figure. Margaret Keane was a great success and was triumphant in the end. They are not alike. I found the casting choice for Walter Keane infuriating. Christoph Waltz is a great actor but as an American he always 'hams it up' and its quite sickly. Amy Adams is brilliant as the fragile artist, thinking she's doing the right thing only to end up in despair. I should say now, I really don't like the artwork and I don't understand the appeal but that aside, I was angry that she wasn't getting credit for her work and my favourite scene was at the end. Keane vs Keane in court was brilliant and it is actually what happened. Not the greatest of biopic and terrific true story of overcoming overbearing husbands and finding a voice.

4. Foxcatcher 3/5

Usually, a film about wrestlers would not interest me in the slightest but the true story about a millionaire who hired two brother who were 1984 Olympic champions to help train US wrestling Olympians and how he murdered Dave, now that's a film I have to see. John Du Pont was a millionaire, author of a several books about birds and wrestling enthusiast. He was all mentally ill which contributed to his strange behaviour. He hired Mark Shultz to join his wrestling team, "Team Foxcatcher" and to train for the World Championship. Later he hired Dave Shultz. After Mark left Foxcatcher, Dave stayed on. Du Pont murdered Dave on 26th January 1996. The film is eery and uncomfortable throughout. The characters (or real life portrayals) always seem uneasy in each others company. Even Mark and Dave, the only time they seem relaxed around each other is when they are training or taking part in a competition. John Du Pont seems loom over the brothers and anyone else he encounters like giant eagle, which is fitting as he requested that Mark call him 'the eagle'. Steve Carrell is brilliant as he us unrecognisable, not just in appearance but his voice and mannerisms too. The comedian in him, is not completely erased, there are a few rare moments where you can image him saying those lines as a joke. Classed as a true story, biopic, sports film, its a fantastic study in character for all three of the main actors involved, they all play against type and as a few others have said, Bennett Miller, director, has brought out the best in them.

5. Big Hero 6 4/5

At first this story didn't interest me. I thought it was about a clever kid who builds a robot. It's not, it's so much more. Inspired by a Marvel comic of the same name, the story is about Hiro and his older brother Tadashi who are both incredibly gifted, specifically in robotics. They live in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo (amazing) and were orphaned so live with their aunt. Hiro is typical kid in that he is always getting into trouble, hustling people in what looks like robot wars on the street. Hi brother wants to him enroll at his university (where apparently you can enroll at any age). After visiting the campus he does after making mini robots that connect together and create shapes through a mind device. After a tragic accident (SPOILER) Tadashi dies. Hiro, heartbroken eventually finds his brother's project he was working on, a robot, Baymax, who is programmed to help the sick. From here the adventure begins, involving an evil masked villain, a group of friends, all scientists who become his superhero type team. But as always, its about the relationship between a boy and his robot. It reminded me ever so slightly of Robot and Frank. How A.I. can bond with humans is a great story, especially for a children's film. It's beautifully animated too, and the elements of American and Japanese influence works perfectly and neither overbears the other. Although incredibly sad, it's an uplifting feeling at the end, don't give up.

6. Dear White People 4/5

Ever since I saw the trailer when I was going through all the upcoming movies last year, I was intrigued by this satire, as it was described. I have to admit,  the name was off putting and the subject of the film, racism at an Ivy League College in American, is not my go to film. But after all the buzz around it, I had to see it. It's good. In fact as an outsider to this (or at least I think I'm an outsider on this subject) I thought it was really good. I was wrong initially, its not about racism at an Ivy League College, its actually about the subject of race, responsibilities to family, finding an identity and standing up for yourself and for what you believe in. That's how I interpreted it. I feel that the subject of racism, when brought up, is always discussed so that we're stepping on egg shells and that's what I'm doing now. 

It begins with the end.  A riot broke out after some 'predominately white students' held a hip hop party where they all dressed up as black people. Then the story goes back to how this all happened. We are introduced Winchester University and their most famous schools, all showing mainly white students apart from the lonely Issa Rae (cameo) in the School of Media. This sets the tone of the film. Sam, is a milant media student who wants to 'bring black back' to her house where she lives and runs for house president against, Troy. He is son of the Dean of Students who wants him to become a lawyer even though Troy doesn't really want that future. Coco wants to be a reality star and prefers to be around 'the rich white kids' and says a few times, 'I'm not into black guys'. Lional is a drifter, he feels that he doesn't fit in anywhere. These four students, are each trying to find an identity or in some cases create one. 

At first it was slightly daunting and just shows that racism is still an issue, in America more so. But its not all about that, for me it was sort of shocking that they would have a blackface party in the first place but all it knits together is great storytelling.


  1. What a great selection of movies! I adore Birdman and really enjoyed both Foxcatcher and Big Eyes too. I loved that court scene at the end with Christoph Waltz. I'd really like to see Love Is Strange - I think John Lithgow is an incredible actor - but it isn't showing at my local cinema. I hope it appears somewhere close by soon. Great post.

  2. Thank you! I was lucky that I caught a showing of Love is Strange, limited release. That always seems to happen to me, missing films on short release. Hope the film comes to a cinema near you soon!