It’s nice to sometimes take a break from the mainstream cinema and see something super unique and very obviously indie. This is The Party.
IMDb summary: A comedy wrapped around a tragedy. It starts as a celebration and ends with blood on the floor.
- The Party was written and directed by Sally Potter, whose previous movies have all been indies/experimental or art films in the short or the feature-length format. So, The Party – a real-time, black and white, just over an hour long picture was very much a continuation of her style. What a brilliant film it was, though.
- The Party’s narrative unfolded over a single hour. Its story was full of major personal dramas for each of the characters. All the issues that were touched upon were all directly related to the domestic space, and, while I’ve never been particularly interested in those types of topics, I was extremely into The Party. The film explored the concepts like politics, marriage, friendship, love, family, money, life, and death. It also had an extremely smart dialogue: the most intelligent small talk ever put to film. It was also full of real-life situational humor.
- The Party’s 7 characters made for a weird bunch. An idealist politician, a cynic and ironic best friend, a spiritualist life coach, a cheating and ill husband, a money-driven capitalist druggie, and a lesbian couple, consisting of an academic and a pregnant-with-triplets woman all found themselves present at the same party. The whole plot was all about them so there was plenty of character development. Also, that title – The Party – had a double meaning of both a political party and a social gathering. Thus, I’ve seen the picture interpreted as a metaphor for the modern Britain – a country in turmoil, incapable of reconciling its differences.
- The movie was filmed in black and white (don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie in B&W in a cinema), so the play between the shadows and the light was super important and interesting to notice. The real-time setting of the plot was exciting and extraordinary. The mobile frame and the handheld shots were authentically indie. All these features also made the movie seem a bit like a play. I guess the closest film I’ve ever seen to this one is Fences, which also felt like a filmed stage production (cause it was based on a play).
- The Party had a stellar international cast and was a brilliant display of acting. Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy (Dunkirk, Free Fire, In The Heart of The Sea), Kristin Scott Thomas, Cherry Jones, Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson (The Maze Runner), and Bruno Ganz put on incredible dramatic (both tragic and comedic) performances. Murphy and Clarkson were my favorite.
In short, The Party is a great film about a really bad party. Short, smart, sophisticated and satisfying.
Trailer: The Party trailer
A counterprogramming drama that dared to go against Blade Runner 2049. This is the review of The Mountain Between Us.
IMDb summary: Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain.
- The Mountain Between Us was written by Chris Weitz (the writer of Cinderella and Rogue One) and J. Mills Goodloe (the writer of Everything, Everything, The Age of Adaline, The Best of Me), based on the novel of the same name by Charles Martin. The Palestinian/Dutch director Hany Abu-Assad directed the film. While his non-English projects have been well received and even gotten a few Academy Awards nominations, his latest English language project will definitely not reach that level of success.
- The Mountain Between Us could be briefly described as Sully + Everest + any generic romantic drama from the last century. As you can probably tell, that last part (the romance) was the thing that I had the most problems with. I really thought that the whole romantic aspect of the movie was extremely forced. I did not buy the two characters as lovers. There is such thing as getting closer when facing a crisis and then there is just bad writing. The strangers to dislike to love arc did not work at all.
- I also didn’t particularly appreciate the very traditional archetypes for characters based on their gender. Of course, the female of the two had to be the more emotional one (an old-school damsel in distress), while the man could be rational/logical. Also, the driving factor for the woman had to be family/love/marriage, while the male character would focus on his career more. Having said that, if you are gonna make your character into a doctor (what a lucky coincidence for the plot), I can at least applaud you for picking the specialization that I wanted to practice – neurology.
- Structurally, the picture was fine. The opening set-up was efficient and quick even if a bit far-fetched. However, the drawn-out conclusion felt unnecessary and like an afterthought. Visually, the film did look good, mostly because of the gorgeous mountainous settings. However, some of the accidents on the mountain, like the characters falling, seemed rather fake – problems with CGI? Lastly, the inclusion of the dog into the story did nothing for me, as not an animal lover, but I’m sure that it was a positive factor for a lot of moviegoers.
- The two leads of the movie were played by Idris Elba (The Dark Tower, Star Trek Beyond, Bastille Day, Beasts of No Nation) and Kate Winslet (Collateral Beauty, Triple 9, Steve Jobs, Insurgent). Their performances were satisfying, cause the both of the actors are professionals, but nothing extraordinary. Also, I feel like their performances were not as good so as to carry the whole movie, which was exactly what they had to do.
In short, The Mountain Between Us was a confused survival/romance drama that felt really dated. A definitely skippable (at the cinema) movie, though it would probably work as a rental.
Trailer: The Mountain Between Us trailer
The British awards contender for this year – Victoria & Abdul – has premiered in its motherland/fatherland, so, let’s review it!
IMDb summary: Queen Victoria strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim.
- Victoria & Abdul was written by a playwright and a screenwriter Lee Hall, who based the script on a book by Shrabani Basu. Halls’s last produced film was 2011’s War Horse (one of Spielberg’s recent and lesser films). Victoria & Abdul tells a true-ish story of Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim. I’m calling this narrative ‘true-ish’ because the movie itself stated that the events depicted happened only ‘mostly’. The plot was written as a comedy and to me, as an anthropologist-to-be, this raised a question/a problem: should the British make fun of colonialism? Are they right to depict a sort of nice side of the whole affair, while leaving out a lot of uncomfortable details? In the case of this picture, should they be allowed to make light of colonialism because they also poke fun at the ridiculousness of the British royal culture? I don’t really have answers to these questions, but they certainly sprung up in my mind while watching the movie.
- A few specific details that were of note in the film were: 1. the commentary on the Western civilization as being one of immense caste difference (the first thing the arrivers see – beggars) and 2. the showcasing of the artificial creation of the Oriental, specifically Indian, culture to be more exciting to the Westerners (the garments and their fake authenticity). In addition, a lot of the comedy in the movie arose from the cultural differences and the way the characters reacted to them. If not digging deeper (basically not thinking about the question I raised in point 1), on a surface level, the humor was working and the jokes were funny.
- The last and most important part of the film was the portrayal of friendship between the queen and her servant. I thought that the screenwriter added a lot of neat details for the two individuals to bond over, like the stories from India, the learning of the language, and etc. The friendship was very believably portrayed by Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. Their performances made the movie heartwarming and very enjoyable and almost quieted the nagging issues in my mind.
- Stephen Frears has directed Victoria & Abdul to follow in the footsteps of his other similar films like Philomena and Florence Foster Jenkins. He has also already made a movie about a queen, be it a more current one, in 2006, called The Queen. I thought that he did a good job with this picture: the visuals were stunning and the pacing okay too.
- Judi Dench has already played Victoria in Mrs. Brown as well as other royal/aristocratic/historical figures in Shakespeare in Love, Pride & Prejudice, and even the recent Tulip Fever. She is also the current M in the 007 films (one of the best parts about them too). Her speech in the movie about being many things but insane was phenomenal. Ali Fazal has not appeared in many English-language films but I do hope that his appearance in this one will lead to more roles for him. Tim Pigott-Smith also appeared in the movie, in the last role of his career. Lastly, The Big Sick’s Adeel Akhtar played my favorite character in the film, who was both the comic relief and the voice of reason/truth in the movie.
In short, Victoria & Abdul is a light-hearted and heartwarming true-ish tale that is both funny/entertaining and disturbing if you just think a bit more about it.
Trailer: Victoria & Abdul trailer
Recently, I had some spare time to catch up on the 2017 movies that I’ve already missed and, since this one will definitely come up in the conversation later in the year, during the awards season, I decided to review it. Of course, I’m talking about the modern masterpiece that is Get Out. A note on the review: since I’m at least half a year late to the initial discussion of the film and I also don’t feel qualified enough to give you an extensive look at it, I’ ll just express my brief, general thoughts on it. However, I highly suggest you watch some more in-depth coverage on the picture, cause both the film and the debate surrounding it are truly fascinating.
IMDb summary: It’s time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend’s parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare.
- Get Out was a directorial debut (and his first solo screenplay for a feature to be produced) of one-half of the Key&Peele comedic duo – Jordan Peele. While the majority of his previous work has been in the comedy genre and on TV, here, Peele reinvigorated both the horror genre and the modern cinema landscape by injecting some contemporary, very topical, and, most importantly, original ideas, into them.
- Get Out tackled the untouched concept of the liberal racism – an even more uncomfortable side of the already dreadful issue. However, no matter how unsettling the issue is, I have always been a strong believer in a necessity to still talk about it, and Get Out did just that. The movie also introduced the concept of racist compliments, which was such a simple and easily noticeable idea that all previous filmmakers have somehow still missed. The picture spread a message of common humanity and I do hope to see it being achieved in my lifetime.
- While Peele created a modern, discussion-worthy, masterpiece by taking a simple outline of a narrative and injecting brilliant themes into it, he also created a very entertaining movie. The reveals in the story were subtle yet still shocking and suspenseful, while the viewers’ expectations were constantly played with, from the very beginning to the closing images.
- Peele also assembled a great cast for his picture. Daniel Kaluuya, who some people might remember from the 15 Million Merits episode of Black Mirror, was incredible in the lead and I’m so happy that the role in this film led to a boost to his career – he will also star in Black Panther. This Marvel deal could not have happened to a more deserving actor! Girls‘ Allison Williams was also amazing in her role. Her performance had layers and the reveals and shifts in her character were just wonderful to witness.
- Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener delivered bone-chilling nuanced performances, while Caleb Landry Jones (American Made) was brilliantly crazy. Lil Rel Howery was delightful as the comic relief and was never out of place. Every time he appeared on the screen, it felt like a much needed minute to catch one’s breath. LaKeith Stanfield (who went on to star in Death Note) also had an interesting cameo role.
In short, Get Out, which has already been hailed as the best movie of 2017, is very deserving of that title. I really don’t remember the last time I saw a film that was both simple and straightforward and yet so complex and layered.
Trailer: Get Out trailer
Before the big 2017 releases start, let’s review a possible awards contender from last year. Today, I’m discussing one of the strangest film I’ve ever seen – Swiss Army Man.
IMDb summary: A hopeless man stranded on a deserted island befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.
- Swiss Army Man might be the most ‘indie’ (as in ‘out there’) independent picture ever. It was written and directed by a duo of filmmakers – Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. Swiss Army Man was also one of the most original experimental movies in 2016.
- At the center of Swiss Army Man, we find a bizarre combination of a depressing survival story mixed with disgusting and childish comic relief – fart jokes (next level fart jokes). Although this combo should not work, it somehow did. The jokes lightened up the tone, while the serious narrative made the jokes seem more legit.
- I also loved the film’s self-consciousness and the meta-reference to Jurassic Park (my all time favorite flick): ‘If you don’t know Jurassic Park, you don’t know s*it’. The play on the dichotomy of the diegetic and the non-diegetic sound was interesting and unique too. Basically, Swiss Army Man was a real ‘WTF’ film (that’s also the last line of the film) that was either stupid or brilliant.
- Danielle Radcliffe’s (HP, Kill Your Darlings, Now You See Me 2) performance as the farting corpse with superpowers was the only thing that everybody talked about in reference to this film, and I can see why. His acting in the picture was extraordinary: the ‘dead’ (literally) delivery of the dialogue and the look all worked and were equal parts realistic and believable and kooky and cartoonish.
- The other main character was played by Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), who also did a magnificent job. He had a few different levels and layers to his performance and added a lot of relatability to the film.
In short, Swiss Army Man is not a film for the mainstream audiences and even cinephiles might find it too weird. And yet, whether you hate it or love it, this film is one to remember.
Rate: ?/5 (I have no idea how to rate this film in a numerical frame)
Trailer: Swiss Army Man trailer
I am not a big comedy person when it comes to movies. I enjoy watching comedic pictures at home, but I rarely go to see them at the cinema. However, I made an exception for The Nice Guys, because it was a comedy/action film, not just comedy and also because I have enjoyed previous films by Shane Black. So, let’s briefly review The Nice Guys!
- Shane Black: Black is most well-known for directing and writing Iron Man 3, which I, personally, really enjoyed but did understood why other viewers didn’t. It wasn’t the best Marvel film and not even the best Iron Man film, but it was still vastly better than other comic book films. The other film by Black, which I really liked, is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It is really similar to The Nice Guys, in that, it has a clever story that combines action/crime and comedy. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is also the film that saved Robert Downey Jr. career and look where he is now.
- Writing: The Nice Guys was written by Black and Anthony Bagarozzi. I thought that the writing was really good: the story’s premise/set-up was funny to begin with (it involved a porn star), so all the additional jokes were like the icing on top. The humor was both awkward and uncomfortable but came organically and was very real-life like. The jokes were also really cynical and satirical. In general, the dialogue was rich yet simple.
- Directing: Black directed the film and did a nice job. The shoot-outs were interesting, the 70s vibe – cool and cooky, and the stylization – awesome as well. I liked that they used Earth, Wind and Fire’s song September – that added an authentic 70s vibe.
- Acting: The Nice Guys were played by Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and they were not that nice. One of them was quite a shitty father and an alcoholic and the other one was a paid killer. Both of them were not great detectives either. However, I enjoyed the subtle character development that showed their nicer sides. Gosling’s character really cared about his daughter and grieved for his dead wife and Crowe’s character just wanted to matter (that dinner story really made his character more likable). Gosling and Crowe also had great chemistry and their back and forth was amazing (‘did you fall?’ and ‘did you fall again?’ were wonderful moments).
- Acting: The supporting cast was pretty great too. The daughter was played by Angourie Rice, who does not have a lot of experience but did a really good job and held her own against Gosling and Crowe. She was the most efficient detective out of the three. Other actors involved with the project were Matt Bomer (Magic Mike, will be in The Magnificent Seven), Margaret Qualley, Murielle Telio, and Kim Basinger (who has joined Fifty Shades series as a major character from the books).
In short, The Nice Guys was a nice little buddy crime comedy with amazing jokes, good action and great performances by Gosling, Crowe, and newcomer Rice. A must watch for Black’s fans and a recommended watch for all cinema goers.
Trailer: The Nice Guys trailer