Fences (2016) Film Review

Based on the award wining stage play, Fences follows the lives of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) in their working class existence of 1950s Pittsburgh. They have to deal with the changing world, along with Troy being the most annoying character – and by this, I mean that he feels that the world has treated him bad and will not allow himself to see anyone elses point of view.

I think it would have been an amazing play. I think all of the actors in this film would have been incredible onstage in these roles – looking at Wikipedia, Washington and Davis starred in the remake of the 1983 play on Broadway in 2010 and both won Tonys for their performances. For me, the film does work, but really as a filmed version of the play – which is wonderful for all of us who didn’t get to Broadway to see the remake.

Viola Davis won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for Fences, and the film was nominated for Oscars Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington) and Best Adapted Screenplay (August Wilson, nominated posthumously). It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Denzel Washington) and won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for Viola Davis.

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Finding Dory (2016) Film Review

Remember Dory, the dippy fish who helped Marlin find his son in Finding Nemo? Ever wonder where she came from? Well, wonder no more. Here’s her origin story, and it’s so much fun. As a small fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who has a memory condition, got lost. Now that Nemo (Hayden Rolence)has been found and returned home, oops! Dory’s gotten lost again. This time, it’s not her parents but Nemo and Marlin(Albert Brooks) who are looking for her, and helping her to find her way home. And gradually, she starts to remember things.

Slight issue, and this is an odd one. But if she has had a mental condition which means that she cannot form new memories and she’s had it since birth, then why can it suddenly start coming back? I suppose at least they didn’t give her a real human condition, but it does annoy me that sometimes it seems like films are sending the message that hey, while it’s fine for you to have a particular disability, if you try real hard, you can overcome it. Apart from the fact that for so many conditions, no, you can’t just try hard to change, it suggests that all those people who suffer the condition just aren’t trying hard enough, and that’s bullshit. Oops, didn’t think this movie review would get me into sweary land. Maybe I need to not expect films to be better than they are.

Finding Dory was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

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Florence Foster Jenkins (2016) Film Review

I remember hearing about this woman on This American Life some time ago – she could not sing one iota, but contributed hugely to the arts scene in New York and put on shows that would have the audience dying to laugh. There is a recording, and she is appalling. And I’ve always wondered – was it cruelty that people allowed her to be ridiculed like this? Or was it right that she should do what she loved regardless? Were her friends and those around her kind to protect her or cruel to allow her to put herself in such humiliating positions?

This film didn’t help. It’s a good film, with a magnificent performance by Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins, and there are many ways in which I feel that this woman was let down by all those who should have been protecting her – in the same way that we see modern figures like Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse let down by those who should be protecting them. Of course, talent is the big different between these later figures and Jenkins – but nonetheless, they have all been ridiculed in many ways.

I found this a difficult film to enjoy because Jenkins, while ridiculous, seems very inncocent, and it just seemed cruel. But was it? Can someone else please watch it and let me know how they felt?

Meryl Streep was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Florence Foster Jenkins and the film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Costume Design as well as Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Hugh Grant), Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Meryl Streep) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Simon Helberg). It won a BAFTA for Best Make Up/Hair and was nominated for Best Leading Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Grant) and Best Costume Design.

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Lion (2016) Film Review

I must admit, I avoided watching this film for a while because, while I was curious to hear Dev Patel doing an Australian accent (awesome job there, by the way), I felt that I’d seen the whole film from the trailers. A young boy in India gets lost and ends up being adopted by an Australian couple, and years later goes back to track down his mother and brother. But no! I mean, yes, that is the story. But I though it would all be the tracking down – the first half of the film or so belongs to Sunny Pawar, the young boy who plays Saroo as a child getting lost. It is beautiful and tragic, and very, very wonderful. Yes, the later parts with Patel and David Wenham and Nicole Kidman are good, but only because they had such a strong start.

See it. Yes, have tissues, it’s clearly a tear-jerker, but in all the very best ways.

Lion was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Dev Patel), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Nicole Kidman), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). It was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture- Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Dev Patel), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Nicole Kidman) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It won BAFTAs for Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel) and Best Screenplay (Adapted) (Luke Davies) and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman), Best Cinematography and Original Music.

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Manchester by The Sea (2016) Film Review *Spoiler alerts*

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a loser, living a life in a small town that involves being a half-arsed handyman and getting into bar fights. Then his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies and he has to try to pull himself together because his brother has left Lee as guardian of teenager Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Then, it is revealed that Lee drunkenly put a log on the fire in his house while his wife and two or three children slept, then went out. When he came back, the log had rolled off the fire and his house was burnt down, with his children in it. His wife, Randi (Michelle Williams) survived, but their relationship didn’t. He was cleared of fault, but has never got over the guilt.

I really disliked this film. It was told through a series of flashbacks that were so unclear that it took time to figure out what was current and what was in the past – so much so that while I thought Joe was dead, the next thing he was on-screen and I was confused. I didn’t like any of the characters. Yes, I felt terrible when Lee returned to the house to find the tragedy, but not enough to care about what happened to him. I found little to appreciate in the film, but clearly I’m not speaking for everyone because it was nominated for loads of awards and even won some. Oh, dear, Casey Affleck won Best Actor? Well, there you go.

Manchester by the Sea won Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Casey Affleck) and Best Original Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan) and nominations for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Lucas Hedges), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Michelle Williams) and Best Achievement in Directing (Kenneth Lonergan). It also won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama and was nominated for Best Motion Picture- Drama, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Michelle Williams), Best Director – Motion Picture (Kenneth Lonergan) and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture (Kenneth Lonergan). It won BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Casey Affleck) and Best Screenplay (Original) (Kenneth Lonergan) and was nominated for Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams) and Best Editing).

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Spotlight (2015) Film Review

Based on a true story from 2003, Spotlight follows a newspaper investigation unit in Boston who are investigating the cover up of sex crimes by the Catholic Church, moving offending priests around rather than allowing them to be charged officially. It’s something that we take for granted now – this happened by the Catholic Church across the world and is still continuing to be investigated, and new allegations seem to constantly being revealed. What is fascinating is that the church had been able to get away with it for so long without it coming out, and that it was revealed in Boston, a very heavily Catholic City which raised its own difficulties in the investigation.

This was a fascinating film. It’s important to remember that it is a dramatisation, so it’s not necessarily all factual. However, it is a great story. I think while you wouldn’t want to use this film as a basis for an argument on the cover up of such behaviour, it isn’t the worst place to start, and then go an investigate the actual facts. It also didn’t shy away from the fact that mistakes were made, people were hurt, and that there are so many bad things that should not be covered up by money or power.

Spotlight won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Ruffalo), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel McAdams), Best Achievement in Directing (Tom McCarthy), Best Achievement in Film Editing. It was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. It won a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rufalo) and Best Film.

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Steve Jobs (2015) Film Review

We all know who Steve Jobs was – that guy who stood up in front of crowds showing his new exciting products – iPhone, iPad, iPod – to masses of engineers and computer geeks. Pretty much all else I know of him was that he started Apple with Steve Wozniak and was fired by Apple later, and then later was back at Apple. This film tells of some of those early days – and of a daughter that apparently he didn’t believe was his.

When the music is so dominant, it makes whole sequences of the film sound like a trailer, and that can be really off putting. In fact, at times I started to drift off because not only was the music sounding like an ad, but the sequence on the film was actually advertising a product – Mac computers, and it is my automatic reaction from years of watching television to drift off during the ad breaks. It’s an interesting film, but not amazing. Perhaps to someone with more interest in the man, it would have been. But for me? Nup.

Steve Jobs was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Fasbender) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Kate Winslet).

 

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