Even though I may make it look like any idiot can do it, writing reviews is far from easy. The hardest things to review aren’t the plot-heavy science fiction movies or the obscure art house efforts with impenetrable plots like you would imagine – the most difficult movies to review are the films that are just plain boring. I watched Child 44 two days ago, where I made up 100% of the audience for that screening – in the two days since, I have found myself struggling to remember quite a lot of it.
No matter how good their circumstances are, many young people wish they were born in a different time, in a different place, belonging to a different generation they believe they fit in with more. This is almost definitely due to the influence of pop-culture; the 80’s weren’t exactly the best time to live in, yet show a John Hughes movie to any impressionable teenager and they will almost definitely long to have lived in that time period. While We’re Young, the best film to date from director Noah Baumbach, takes a unique look at this theme in the space of one of the best movie montages in recent memory – whereas the young, hipster types long to live in an area of vinyls, VHS tapes and typewriters, the ageing are trying to stay relevant to today, filling their lives with useless technology in order to stay relevant in an ever changing society.
The problem with award shows of any kind is that you’ll always find yourself comparing the nominees to each other, regardless of how different they may be. However, this is infinitely more true of awards with tied winners. The two victors may be different in every conceivable way, but the fact that we have been told they are not just equally good, but equally the best, leads our minds directly to compare the two.
Without trying to simplify the cinematic output of an entire nation, it could be argued that there are only two types of British independent films. There’s the prestige fare, that depicts the lives of the upper classes and the monarchy (notable recent examples are The King’s Speech and The Theory of Everything), that are almost always boring, a smash-hit at the international box office, and a major awards contender. The other example is the polar opposite – dark, gritty dramas about the working classes that are never boring, but also never in contention for box office or awards success.
We all know that mainstream Hollywood loves making movies about show business. Heck, there was an article on this very website recently that outlined the Academy’s obsession with rewarding movies that either celebrate or send-up the showbiz lifestyle. Clouds of Sils Maria is a very different take on that same subject.
One of the worst clichés that appears in an alarmingly large number of movies is the “two kinds of people in this world” speech. In Focus, Will Smith’s suave con artist Nicky Spurgeon tells his protégé/part-time lover Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) his version of the done-to-death cliché: there are two types of people, hammers and nails.
With the blockbuster success of Fifty Shades of Grey in cinemas worldwide, many pundits are claiming that this marks a new era for “sex positive” movies – and much more importantly, the basic idea of a woman being as sexually open as her male counterparts not being a source of cinematic shame, but one of pride. It has only been two decades since what I dub the “unofficial Michael Douglas misogyny trilogy” of Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Disclosure hit cinemas, films that (like Fifty Shades) were successful due to their frankness of sexuality. Yet those movies were inherently misogynist in suggesting that women were mentally unstable, or just plain evil for daring to be as open about their sexuality as men.
It’s often stated that January and February are the two worst cinematic months of the year, as all of the major new releases are more often than not the terrible movies major studios have just “dumped” there. Yet it could easily be argued that the months leading up to the end of the year (“awards season” or “prestige season”, if you prefer to forget that Hollywood backslapping ceremonies exist) are equally bad. They do usually provide the year’s best movies, yet they also provide the kinds of movies that have been made cynically to get awards.
At some point in life, everybody does something brave. Whether it’s as big as rescuing somebody from a burning building or just standing up to the bullies who have taken their lunch money, it’s these moments of courage that continue to define them as a person. In every single movie he’s in, Nicolas Cage has a moment of courage that elevates whatever straight-to-DVD mess he’s in from something mediocre into something slightly less mediocre.