Films seen February

After Hours (1985 – Martin Scorsese)

 

My monthly cinema treat was a showing of this on 35mm at the BFI.  It’s one of my favourite Scorseses – his immediately lightweight, Hitchcockian one man’s descent into unreality film made in the wake of the collapse of his initial Aiden Quinn/Sting version of The Last Temptation of Christ.  It’s a delightful film, one that explores how fear, sex and prejudice can cause people to do very strange things and its always been quite refreshing to watch a movie that says you shouldn’t step out of your comfort zone.  You shouldn’t be impulsive and disrupt your carefully constructed life.

 

35mm screening at the BFI in NFT 1 – which is a pretty crappy theatre for what it is.  Ticket cost about £11 and was preceded by his early short What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1963)

 

 

Prevenge (2016 – Alice Lowe)

 

Written about, in a round-a-bout way here: https://asidesteps.com/2017/02/22/a-new-england/

 

Seen on Screen 1 – a perfectly decent small screen – at the Odeon Panton Street.  Ticket cost £11.  Someone needs to write a book about the stinky old bad ladies that come into London screenings and eat curries.

 

 

Moonlight (2016 – Barry Jenkins)

 

It was a wonderful film, but I can understand why it is not loved in the same way that La La Land appears to be.

Much of this had to do with having three different actors play the lead role, ensuring that we didn’t build a connection to the film in the way that we could have.  Most independent cinema doesn’t always appreciate the value of charismatic central performances.  And everyone is quite correct when they say that Naomie Harris’ performance is a bit out of sync with everything else going around it.  There were cheers from the crowd when the bully was hit with the chair.  It is also a film completely directed by a heterosexual man, such is the passivity and tastefulness of the sex act.  We needed a blow-job at the very least…

But (and I have tried to check my privilege on this) I think this is a film not about homosexual and black experience, but of childhood trauma.  The repression (both verbally and sexually) that the character experiences later in life, stems from the abuse and lack of acceptance that he suffered when he was young.  2/3 of the film portray him as a child; quite why this element has been drowned out in all the chattering, I’m not sure.

 

Seen in a packed screen at the Odeon Covent Garden – it’s one of my favourite London cinemas as the screens are all of a good size and the tickets often only cost – as they did here – £6.

 

 

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017 – Chad Stahelski)

 

Keanu Reeves is in this film doing a performance that is almost note-for-note the same as Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea.  Except with more guns.  Only one of them was nominated for an Oscar…

By that, I mean he is a highly traumatised individual completely out of touch with those around him.  Reeves is always an intense screen presence, relying on small emotions and inflections to convey meaning, but here he is deliberately offset against campy, stylised actors such as Lawrence Fishburne.

The action scenes were terrific, especially once we passed the 1 hour mark, where it was moment after moment of unrelenting pressure.  The film moved away from the electro-synth pop of the first film, which suitably complementing the neon lit, pitch black lighting scheme it employed, and the opening car chase was a bit weak, but generally this was a thrilling experience and it made me genuinely excited for a third entry.  This is the new Fast & Furious – and initially dismissed action movie that ultimately becomes one of the most thrilling franchises on the screen.

 

Seen on a huge screen at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket cost £9, but I had a voucher.

 

 

Fences (2016 – Denzel Washington)

 

Which never lets you forget that it is a play – even the blocking of scenes (hushed whispers in corners) seem to have had little embellishment from a bettered wooden floor in some creaky theatre.  Washington wisely employs a strong use of close-up, knowing that this is one advantage this medium has over the other, and it goes without saying that the performances are whole-heartedly excellent.  Washington is perhaps more adventurous on the stage that on the screen in his choice of characterisation – his patter, charm and arrogance are the same, but he is playing a thoroughly unlikable character here in a way he would never do in most movies.

But it is long, and the final scene (which lasts 20mins) seems superfluous in any other context than the generosity as Washington as a performer to allow his fellow actors time to demonstrate their ability.  But his final moments are powerful, and a bolder, more selfish director would have ended the movie there.

 

Seen on a decent screen at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket cost £9, but I had a voucher.

 

 

Network (1976 – Sidney Lumet)

 

Christine (2016 – Antonio Campos)

 

There was a time when Network was one of my favourite films.  Which is to say, that it is one of those pictures that I have lived with a long time now – and like all good films of that nature, you notice new aspects on each viewing.  This time, it was the revelation of just how many outstanding monologues there are in this film, far more than just Peter Finch’s and Barbara Straight’s and Ned Beatty’s…

I’ve long moved past the point at which I believed this to be a stunningly prescient insight into the role of the media (Aaron Sorkin has never managed to move beyond that insight.  But then what should we expect from a man who includes the most basic of email circulars in his dialogue.)  Instead, I see it as a deconstruction of the selfishness with which we behave, the way we flit into other people’s lives for work, and sex and approval.  Television has always been so desperate because it chases those fickle gods without pausing for breath.  The film is exceptional, genuinely funny, and treats its audience with a degree of respect.

 

Rebecca Hall’s performance in Christine is superb, and the one desperate moment where she berates her mother for not accepting her with her weak mental health is superb, and speaks so truthfully to the complete lack of understanding that many display during these periods of ill-health.  Crazy that it hasn’t got more recognition than it has.  Too many good movies around at the moment

 

Double-bill at the Regent St. Cinema – a really lovely screen.  Ticket cost £16.  Which was all good, but the screening of Network was projected from a Blu-Ray… which was a shame, and I’m not really sure why I should pay for that privilege.

 

 

Patriot’s Day (2016 – Peter Berg)

 

It’s a film you can’t help but be caught up in, such is its celebration of the industriousness and ability of ordinary working people in the face of catastrophe.  And it moves at a fair pace (as did Berg’s film last year Deepwater Horizon).  Like all great adaptations of true life events, it revels in the moments that never made headlines – murderers popping out to get milk, police chiefs hurdling fences to tackle terrorists.  Which of course makes any moment with Mark Wahlberg’s basic, overly emotive and completely fictional character seem all that more absurd in this context.

 

Seen on a huge screen at Bluewater Showcase.  Ticket cost £9, but I had a voucher.

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