Y’know, I’ve wanted to see Daniel Kitson live for years now, but due to his publicity-shy nature and the fact that I’m pretty disconnected from what’s going on outside my room, his shows are always sold out before I even know they’re on. So finally I get a ticket to see him - and it’s for a show in which he doesn’t speak a single word. Of course that’s how it works out. It was good though. I don’t think I can be bothered explaining the plot or even the artistic conceit behind it, but Kitson’s confessional style and the story he wrote suited me down to the ground. It was sweet and funny and melancholy and there was certainly plenty for me take and turn inwards. Hopefully this is the first time of many seeing him.
Directed by: Ethan & Joel Coen // Written by: Joel & Ethan Coen // Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman
From the Coen Brothers I usually expect perfectly executed genre films or slightly offbeat comedy, so I was slightly surprised by what a straight and simple story this was. I really liked it though. The timeframe, the lone traipsing around New York, the alienation, the confusion about what to do with your life: it rang a lot of my Salinger bells, which, as you may know, is a faster way to my heart than directly through my chest. Throw in some nice folk music and some strong performances - Oscar Isaac especially, but also Carey Mulligan - and it’s a very nice little movie. I dug it.
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée // Written by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack // Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner
I liked this. I was kind of expecting to come here saying, “the performances were excellent, but the film was just okay”, but I thought the film was really interesting and illuminating. I mean, I’ve heard famous gay people occasionally mention what living through the AIDS epidemic was like, but if I’m honest I don’t think I ever really filled in the blanks to create a fuller understanding of it. The subject elicited the kind of automatic “oh, it must have been awful” sympathy and I guess that was enough. But watching this has made me want to learn a bit more about the time and the tapestry of interests at play. I thought it was very compelling stuff.
Directed and Written by: Spike Jonze // Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt
I deliberately avoided the reviews for this because I didn’t want to go in with any preconceived ideas about it, but the one thing I did see was someone calling it a “sad male fetish fantasy”. And as I watched it in the early stages I thought, “y’know what? I completely see that but I am also completely cool with it because I am a sad male”. I was literally beaming from ear to ear at the idea of an operating system that moulds itself to you at launch and learns and understands. How could someone not want that, right, sad male or otherwise? But y’know… as it progresses it turns out it’s all about love and relationships and human intimacy and not computers. Eww. So after that I spent a lot of time feeling sad about my emotional cowardice and the way it conflicts with my longing and there was a lot of confronting, depressing self-reflection. Naturally I liked it very much.
Directed by: Steve McQueen // Written by: John Ridley (Based on the book by Solomon Northup) // Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
Well… I can hardly fault this, to be honest. Admittedly it’s one I’m not going to watch again in a hurry, but that doesn’t speak of its quality. The film itself oozes class. It’s a difficult subject matter that’s handled in a way that’s palatable but never comfortable. It’s very straight and simple. I loved Steve McQueen’s work, the performances were solid and it just has this aura of timelessness about it. I’m not going to say “masterpiece” or anything like that, but it’s a movie you can imagine will still be watched and revered decades from now. You can’t really ask more than that.
Directed by: Alexander Payne // Written by: Bob Nelson // Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach
Now this I liked. It’s actually the first of the Best Pictures nominees I’ve felt sincerely enthused about. It’s small and quiet but it’s loaded. It made me think a lot about family, aging, openness, America, small towns and I don’t know what else. Lots of things. It calls to mind Peter Bogdanovich, which is a good thing, and it manages to feel personal and universal all at once, which is maybe the best thing a film can do. It probably even surpasses Election as my favourite Alexander Payne movie. Very good stuff.
Directed by: Martin Scorcese // Written by: Terence Winter (Based on the book by Jordan Belfort) // Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
I enjoyed this. It’s sharp, funny and compelling. If I’m completely honest, I’d say it’s tough for me to watch any three hour film these days without feeling it’s a bit of a drag, but that feeling was reasonably minimal here. Maybe it’s a little indulgent in how much it revels in the excessive lifestyle of the Wall Street brokers and it could have been trimmed down a little, but honestly that first hour or so is where most of the best stuff is. The lightness in tone highlights the absolute flippancy and ease with which this kind of crime is committed. It’s what differentiates it from the worlds of darkness and danger Scorcese usually deals in. It’s a fresh coat of paint on a familiar story.
I enjoyed it more than any of the other Best Picture nominess I’ve watched over the last week or so, but I’ll be surprised if it holds that position as I work through the others.