Suffragette

“This is not a movie you look at and think “”That’s entertainment!””, but it is one that makes you think “”That’s important.””

The film follows a mix of fictional and real life women in early 1900’s England, who are fighting for their rights. Not just their rights to vote, but their rights to equality and fairness, the chance to speak for themselves and improve their own lives. The story is told thru the eyes of Carey Mulligan’s Maude, a young wife and mother who is drawn to the cause by casual curiosity and soon finds herself in the heat of the struggle. At this point, the women in this movement have realized that their peaceful protests and actions have done nothing to help their cause, and that the only way they will be heard is thru extreme action and even violence. We watch these women rioting, jailed (where they are force fed), setting off bombs, and generally being unruly. The more attention they tried to bring to their cause, the harsher opposition they faced, the more determined they became.

I read a review that complained that there was just too much done to Maude in rapid succession, that it ultimately undermined the movie. I agree that it did seem like there was some intense escalation of events and consequences for her, in a way that may seem a bit forced for shock value. But at the same time, all those events are rooted in truth. There were women who went thru all the same things back then. Sure it could seem like a little much, or trying too hard, but to me it felt appropriate.

I also think that Mulligan gave one of the best performances of her career. Certainly on par with her Oscar nominated turn in An Education. Lately I’ve complained about the way that women are portrayed in film, and this is a prime example of their potential. These are the stories we should be telling, and these are the characters we should be portraying. Mulligan was also joined by fellow previous Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter, also incredible. And in a small cameo, the queen of all actresses and champion for women’s rights today, Meryl Streep got in on the message.

With so much discussion today about equality for women, especially in Hollywood, this film couldn’t have come at a more important time. We have to recognize and remember what people fought for before us, and realize that the fight still isn’t over. We’ve certainly come a long way, but if anything, this film encourages us to take up the mantle and keep the dispute and discussion going.

Suffragette – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Spotlight

“I’ve been procrastinating and kind of dreading this write up. Not because I have nothing to say or didn’t like it. God no, far from it. It’s because I have so many thoughts and emotions abounding, and feel so much respect for the filmmakers and their real life counterparts, that I’m scared of this blog post like I’ve never been before. I don’t know that I can do this movie any sort of justice, and I want to so so badly. The thing is, when I walked out of that auditorium, the thought that resounded in my head was “”this is why I go to the movies””. This is the type of film that makes me love my Saturday afternoon double matinee routine. This is why I sit thru so many movies. Because I’m always waiting and hoping that there’ll be a movie as affecting and incredible as Spotlight.

And I’m not just saying that because it’s a Boston movie, although the setting did make me take such pride in my city. Honestly, I’d love for this to become a defining film for our town. Not the corruption and crime depicted in The Departed or the cheesy fluff of Fever Pitch, but this film that depicts true life Bostonians excelling at their work and changing lives in the process. Seriously, I am just in awe.

The film examines the Spotlight team of the Boston Globe, a department of investigative reporters that work on long term projects on large scale stories. In 2001, the team began to look into allegations of child abuse within the Catholic church, specifically reports of priests molesting parish boys. As they begin their research, they find that the scope of this issue is far wider than they could have ever believed, with evidence of a major cover up tracing back to high ranking individuals in the organization hoping to sweep it all under the rug.

First off, the job itself is just fascinating. The way this team works to uncover their story is just so cool to watch, regardless of who or where they are or what they’re looking into. That in and of itself would be enough to carry the film. Then layer on the emotional impact of the story itself that they’re covering. The film never stoops to being exploitative or emotionally manipulative. It rationally presents facts, going into just enough detail to frame the severity of the situation or the incidents. You hear from a variety of victims and you see the toll it takes on the investigators. This is one of those situations where if I didn’t already know it to be true, I would never have believed it. Many many moments of shock and disbelief at what was seeing on screen, and at the same time understanding why this story was so important to tell, both for the original Spotlight team and for the Spotlight filmmakers.

And the cast? Impeccable. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo (who in one particularly big scene may have just won himself a supporting actor Oscar, calling it now), Rachel McAdams, Brian D’arcy James, Liev Schrieber, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci, John Slattery. I mean, are you kidding me? All those names in weighty roles in one film? Do you really need me to discuss their merits any further?

Oh and yes, the Boston factor! First off, I’m a daily reader of Boston.com which is affiliated with The Boston Globe, so I have come across so many supporting articles they’ve published. A quick primer on the gist of the movie and it’s subject, links to the current Spotlight project about concurrent surgeries at major hospitals (fascinating read), a match up of cast and true life counterparts, insight on the real events around one haunting scene. Although I think what I liked best was the list of Boston references shown in the movie. Mostly I liked it because I felt proud of myself for having caught the majority of them while watching (I read the list after).

Another angle they’ve been covering online is the Catholic Church’s response to the film. I gotta say, I have a lot of respect for how they’re handling it. They’re not up in arms over how they’re depicted, or staging protests against the film or throwing shade on its participants. Rather, they’re taking the opportunity to apogolize for their involvement and highlight the efforts made to rectify whatever they can. Most importantly, they’re taking advantage of the hubub to extend a hand out to the victims and offer any aid or counsel they can give. They’re viewing the film as a talking point that can hopefully bring healing to the staggering number of those affected. That is probably the best possible reaction you could ever hope to expect.

Now that I’ve said so much, I don’t know what note to end on, other than strongly encouraging you to see this film. Yes, the subject matter is difficult, but it’s important on many levels. It’s also just an amazing amazing piece of cinema. Just when you may have thought they don’t make ’em like this anymore, they go and do that. Writer/director Tom McCarthy, I salute you.

Spotlight – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Spectre

“What was it, about a year ago that the Bond 24 announcement was streamed? Watching it, I remember being ridiculously excited. First, it was the returning supports: Ben Wishaw as Q, Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny. Excellent, we’ll be building up some newly established classic favorites. Dave Bautista was added. Solid choice. It continued and announced our Bond girls: Monica Belluci (!!!!!) and Lea Seydoux. Excellent. And then, came the big announcement (for me at least). Before Daniel Craig was brought out as James Bond, the final new addition was spoken: Christoph Waltz. Oh. My. Gooooooood. Cue the fan-girling.

Everyone else in the cast is all well and good (better than that actually), but why did this one name send me into such a frenzy? Simply put, this man was born to play a Bond villain. True, it wasn’t actually said he’d be the baddie, but it was an easy conclusion to jump to. As we all (likely) well know, this man has won not one, but two Oscars, both for Tarantino movies. The first of those being for Inglorious Basterds where he was introduced to the world at large, and played his villainous role much like those classic baddies of old, and in four languages no less. As the one shining aspect of Green Hornet, he was basically auditioning for his role here. And now, finally, it was happening. I only had to wait about a year to see it.

And now here we are. I gladly skipped yoga in favor of catching one of the first screenings. Even trying to arrive early, I had slim pickins as far as seats. Except for the bit of a crick in my neck from turning at the same angle I spend much of the day (screen config at the office and couch/laptop/tv config at home), I was happily seated in a single chair at the front, just before the front becomes obnoxious.

The movie played and I had a doofy big grin on my face throughout much of it. There were a lot of throwbacks, mostly digging thru Craig’s tenure though there were some big classic ones as well, many of which I recognized for what they were but some significances were blurry. I tried to recall some of the major details from having watched the full franchise a couple years back. However, there are definitely details I’m wikipedia-ing.

How did it stack up? I don’t know that it beats Skyfall (prolly my fave) or Casino Royale, but it at least keeps pace with those. (We don’t speak of Quantum of Solace). All the names that excited me a year ago delivered last night (relative to when I’m writing, not posting). Waltz especially had me giddy, being everything I hoped for and more. I loved the opening sequence in Mexico City. Apart from some of our bad guy mischief, that would probably be my favorite part. Not too impressed with the theme song or opening credits, but they can’t all be winners. Without thinking about it too hard, I think Casino Royale is what wins that one for me.

And I do really love Daniel Craig. While so many of Bond’s actions are inhuman, his version of the character himself feels very grounded and real. He’s not afraid to show his flaws or delve into his darker side. I very much hope that he does fulfill his contract and sign on for a fifth. He’s still my favorite incarnation of the superspy, and I want to get all that we can out of him.

Spectre – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

Our Brand is Crisis

“Continuing the unintended theme of movies that showcase jobs I don’t want, we have Our Brand is Crisis, in which Sandra Bullock plays a political advisor brought out of retirement to help a candidate win the presidency of Bolivia. Yeah, don’t care too much for politics, and the idea of marketing myself the way that politicians are required to fills me with so much dread. I campaigned for student council in high school once, and that took a heck of a lot out of me. Not an experience I’m looking to replicate, nor one I feel like going into now.

The biggest conversation topic around this film was the fact that Bullock’s character was originally written as a male role. But when decrying the state of women in cinema, and the lack of decent roles being offered, with friend George Clooney, he decided to take this film he was producing (and circling for a role) and switch the gender of the lead. I cannot say how happy this makes me, and I certainly hope that it’s something Hollywood becomes more open to.

So of course, throughout the film, I kept picturing how it would be different with even more testosterone. Well besides the fact that the fairer sex would be drastically underrepresented, I feel like the story was more interesting this way. It created an interesting power dynamic with Bullock bossing around the man who would be prez. And of course she kicked butt at the role. Bullock is one of the best actresses of our generation, and while it’s sad that even she struggles to find roles that are worth of her (or at the very least respectful of her), I’m grateful that she fought her way into this one. And I hope that many more follow her.

Anyways, I thought the film gave an interesting look into a world I don’t know too much about. Okay so I’ve seen things like The Manchurian Candidate and Ides of March or The West Wing, so those have given some insight into the process. However, this time the focus was more on the strategy and the PR. That was fun and educational, but still, don’t wanna do it.

Our Brand is Crisis – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Burnt

“Honestly, sometimes I don’t even know why I see certain movies. Because they’re there, I guess. Sort of the deal with Burnt. Wide release, Bradley Cooper, no red flags for things I won’t like, tepid but not scathing reviews. Sure why not. It’s how we do.

Bradley Cooper stars as an arrogant chef who is coming off a self inflicted penance for throwing away his career and rising star status. Now that he’s got his life back in order, he’s on a mission to regain his reputation and prove himself to be among the best of the best. In an unplanned twist of fate, both of my movies for this weekend showcased careers that I would never want. Our Brand Is Crisis and it’s look into political life being the other.

Why don’t I want to be a chef? Wow, this movie made so many arguments against it. Frankly, Cooper’s Adam Jones is a total @$$. Arrogant and mean and judgemental and not the type of person I would want to surround myself with, and even less want yelling at my perceived incompetence in the workplace. No thank you. So many of the characters in the movie were total food snobs, whereas I’m perfectly content to eat a happy meal. You’d think if nothing else, the fancy looking food would make me hungry, or at least that’s what I expected. The small portions of things that look more like art than food just do not get me going. Seriously, happy meal. Emphasis on the happy!

It wasn’t a particularly remarkable movie, but it was a pleasant enough experience. A little cliche and contrived and a lot predictable, even as a seemingly irredeemable character Cooper has charisma. Although MVP for me would be Daniel Bruhl as his business partner and maitre d’. Kind of an interesting look into a lifestyle I know little about, but ultimately, I’m not likely to remember it past next week.

Burnt – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Dark Places

“I first discovered Gillian Flynn soon after college. I was working two temp jobs and spent a couple hours total commuting every day. I was going thru books like crazy for those couple months. About once a week or so, when I’d stop in Harvard Square to switch buses, I’d stop at the bookstore. One day as I was making my usual lap around the fiction floor, I scanned the display tables and my eye was drawn to a book with a shiny raised razor on the cover. It was Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Intrigued, I picked it up and saw the endorsement from Stephen King. I almost didn’t even need to read the summary on the back before buying it.

Of course I loved it (and have since read it again). And of course when Gone Girl was released and making waves across pop culture I bought and read that one, and read it again after watching the movie. The only one missing was Dark Places. For some reason, I’d never gotten around to reading it.

Then when I was rereading Gone Girl, a friend started talking to me about Flynn and reminded me of Dark Places. Somewhere around then I’d heard about the movie adaptation starring Charlize Theron. Normally, I’d just wait to see the movie and then decide from there on the book, but I was too amped up on a dark high and read it soon thereafter.

The movie had a big (or at least normal) sized international release, but barely made a splash here. I had to seek out the trailer online, and it played one early morning show a day for almost a week and that was it. Thankfully, I kept an eye out for the DVD release, and once that happened I invited previously mentioned friend (and a book club buddy of hers) over to watch. After a run down the street for Dominoes and drinks, we settled in to finally watch.

For the most part, it’s a pretty faithful adaptation. All the storylines and twists and turns are there, and none of us were able to bring to mind anything blatantly missing. As to be expected, lots of details were left out and various threads weren’t really expanded on. What stood out most for me was the lack of detail around the Krissy Cates situation, and I wonder if someone who hadn’t read the book would have caught the full picture. My movie companions did comment that overall the film seemed less dark and twisted than the book. Maybe it’s just the nature of what can be shown on film vs what terrors your imagination could produce. For me, I thought that I’m just so jaded by the various messed up books and film I consume, that I didn’t really notice a spike in the dark feels on either end.

Oh right, story. Theron’s Libby Day is the survivor of a gruesome homicide in her childhood. Her mom and two sisters are violently killed, and her brother Ben is convicted of the crime, in part thanks to Libby’s testimony. Now we’re 30 years in the future, and Libby hasn’t made much of herself, living off donations and other funds related to her ordeal. But now, the money’s running out and in desperation she agrees to meet with the Kill Club, a group of true crime enthusiasts who collect murder memorabilia and work together to solve unsolved crimes. This club has a theory that maybe brother Ben is actually innocent, despite his lack of appeals or remorse.

What the movie really got right was the cast. Theron is so good at playing unlikeable characters that you still find incredibly interesting (see also Young Adult and Monster). Flynn loves to write unlovable and flawed yet strong females and pairing her work with this actress was a match made in heaven (or hell). I was particularly captivated by young Ben, Tye Sheridon. I’ve seen various publications and critics say that this kid is one to watch, and I absolutely agree. Very engaging and emotional performance. My movie gals were in agreement that for them, the best casting was Chloe Grace Moretz as young Ben’s gf, Diondra. She was manipulative and edgy and intense, in a way we haven’t really seen from her before. Other standouts include Christina Hendricks as Libby’s Mom, Corey Stoll as adult Ben, and Nicholas Hoult as Kill Club leader Lyle.

It’s really such a shame that this film passed so low under the radar. It’s absolutely worth checking out if you dug Gone Girl, esp for this remarkable cast”