The Aviator (2004) Film Review

What did I know about Howard Hughes? Only that he was famously germaphobic and reclusive and rich. In all honesty, I didn’t even know why I knew of him. In this biopic of his early life, Leonardo DiCaprio the playboy, the film producer and the aviation pioneer. And it’s fabulous. DiCaprio was fabulous, as was Cate Blanchette and Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law… the list goes on.

I shouldn’t be surprised at how good it is as it is a Scorsese film. He is a master, even though I often find that I don’t like his films. But this, to me, is really as good as a film can be. Great pacing, and the cinematography is brilliant, capturing that kind of technicolour look of films from this era. Just fabulous.

The Aviator won awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Costume Design and was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Alan Alda), Best Achievement in Directing, Best Writing – Original Screenplay and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing.

Selma (2014) Film Review

Davie Oyelowo plays Dr Martin Luther King Jr in this depiction of historical events during the civil rights movement. African-American people were allowed to vote, but in the South it was nearly impossible for them to register – many impediments were put in their way from the racist bureaucracy, and in meetings with President Johnston (Tom Wilkinson), King was unable to get the president to act to overrule this appalling behaviour. Eventually, a large group were to walk from Selma to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama, in a peaceful protest. And with opposition from the army, the police, the KKK and the white population of the state as a whole, things turned violent.

This is a very slow-moving film that shows King as human, with all his strengths and weaknesses. But when the action moves from the planning and discussions and meeting and gets down to the key events, it is truly horrific. I am a big crier in films, but this was absolutely heart-breaking. I cried because the events were terrible, but I also cried because this was happening, and I cried because so much progress was made during the civil rights movement and yet look at the world we live in. Things should be better. And we shouldn’t need horrors like this to change the world, should we?

Selma won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Music Written for the Motion Pictures  – Original Song (Glory) and was nominated for Best Picture.

Silence (2017) Film Review

In the 1800s, Christianity was banned in Japan, but a group of Portuguese Jesuit priests had established an underground group that was being pursued by the Japanese inquisitor. Ferreira (Liam Neeson) was a mentor priest who went missing, and word returned was that he had given up his faith and now lived in the Japanese way with a wife and child. Disbelieving that this could be true, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) travel through the country, hidden by believers and secretly preaching and hearing confessions. However, they are constantly tormented by a cruel regime that torture indiscriminately.

It is an absolutely stunning film – very hard to watch in the torturing scenes, but the scenery is stunning, and the depictions of Japan so long ago was beautiful. However, unsurprisingly, I have some issues with the story. I have a real issue with evangelical missionaries who ignore the local culture and religion to preach their own religion. What’s more, what is shown in Silence is that the poor to continue to be oppressed and abused with the belief that the ultimate reward is after death. It is questionable that there is anything they could do about their oppressed position in those times, so perhaps having this belief is some kind of kindness. I don’t know – to me, it raises a lot of issues relating to colonialisation and destruction of culture and oppression. Who’d have thought discussing religion could be tricky?

Silence was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Cinematography.

Passengers (2016) Film Review

A ship taking 5000 people to a distant human colony across the universe is damaged in a meteor storm and Jim (Chris Pratt) is woken from hibernation 90 years too early. After over a year of entertaining himself, including having conversations with the robot barman, Arthur (Michael Sheen), Jim is joined by Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and they try to figure out how to live in this world.

I quite enjoyed watching this film, but it is more in contemplating it afterwards that I find myself really appreciating it. It’s a strong concept (though I’m certainly making no comment on the actual science within the world), and I do like the idea of putting people in a bizarre situation and just seeing what happens. It is an absolutely stunning film – I loved watching the way the spaceship made its way through the universe.

Passengers was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) and Best Achievement in Production Design.

Moonlight (2016) Film Review

Moonlight depicts a few different times during the life of Chiron, an African-American man who grew up surrounded by violence, drugs and poverty. It’s not exactly a linear story, but more a series of moments from his life. It’s rough and, at times, hard to watch. It raises the question of how can one person live their own truth when any sign of difference is seen as a weakness to be exploited and destroyed.

This is one of those slow-moving films that I find I either love or very much dislike. Moonlight is one which I loved despite the sadness it brings. It’s a tough film, it’s hard to watch characters get damaged and have so much pain, both inside and out. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Chiron is making a bed with Teresa, pretty much the only person in his life that he truly trusts. She manages to get him to smile, and there is a moment of hope. Just a moment.

Moonlight won Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali), Best Adapated Screenplay and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Naomie Harris), Best Achievement in Directing (Barry Jenkins), Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Film Editing and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score). It won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mahershala Ali), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Naomie Harris), Best Direct – Motion Picture (Barry Jenkins), Best Screenplay (Barry Jenkins) and Best Original Score – Motion Picture. It was nominated for BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Best Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris) and Best Screenplay (Original) (Barry Jenkins).

Hidden Figures (2016) Film Review

How often do we hear that some of the key players within NASA in the sixties were African American women who were still forced to ride in the back of public buses and use separate bathrooms and drinking fountains to white people? For me, it was never until now. Hidden Figures tells of three women and their rise against the odds. There’s Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) who sees that the department she is unofficially managing (Computers – this being at the very start of machines being called computers, so computers means people who doing the calculations, and in this department, black women)is becoming obsolete just as a huge IBM machine is brought in. As she has a skill for mechanics, she steps in to find a future for herself and her fellow employees. Then there’s  Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) who is assigned to compute with the engineers and is soon identified as having a brain that is capable of far greater work and is encouraged to take a degree in engineering. Finally, Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) who is put to work with the department working out the mathematics for the re-entry of the first manned mission to space. She is battling not only the attitudes of those around her who see her as a threat, but the politics of the time, with the only bathroom she is allowed to use being quite some distance from her desk. Then there is the love interest, Jim Johnson (Mahershala Ali), which I felt was totally unnecessary to the film – in fact, kind of undermined it in a way, because it was as if being extremely intelligent wasn’t enough, you have to have a man too. Still, it’s a great story and a thoroughly enjoyable and funny film.

Hidden Figures was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi). It was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Octavia Spencer) and Best Original Score – motion Picture and for a BAFTA for Best Screenplay (Adapted ) (Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder).


127 Hours (2010) Film Review *Spoiler alert*

James Franco plays the self-absorbed adventurer Aron Ralston who, without telling anyone, goes running across a desert and through canyons in Utah only to get his arm trapped under a boulder. He spends 127 hours attempting to free himself, keeping a sporadic video diary, before having an epiphany about his life, cutting off his trapped arm and saving himself.

I say spoiler alerts, but I think almost everyone who sees this film knows in advance that he cuts off his arm. It’s a good film, though I wasn’t totally drawn in. I don’t know if it is just because I knew he was going to be fine, or because I found him really annoying and didn’t really care how he got through. That’s a bit harsh – it was interesting the way his demise was treated, and certainly the way he cut his arm off was fascinating – certainly I couldn’t have even figured out how to do it, much less performing the actual act. But then, I can’t see any situation where I will end up with my arm trapped by a boulder. Touch wood.

127 Hours was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (James Franco), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy), Best Achievement in Film Editing, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score, best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song (If I Rise)

Sully (2016) Film Review

In 2009, pilot Chelsey Sullenberger made an emergency landing of a plane onto the Hudson River in New York and every person on the plane survived. The investigation that followed suggested that he made a bad decision and could have still saved everyone in a far less flashy manner. This film follows the investigation, showing the emergency landing and everything leading up to it in flashback. It’s big and cheesy and Sully is the American hero against adversity. Big government vs the little guy. One guy against the world. A real Clint Eastwood story.

I’ve not been a huge fan of Eastwood’s directing, and this could have been the one that I got into, except for the film Flight just a few years ago. Similar story, only that was fiction. I didn’t really love that one either – although the crash scene was most spectacular. None the less, I got quite irate watching this, thinking how dare they try to prove Sully and his co-pilot wrong when they did such an amazing job? Yeah, one man against the world!

Sully was nominated for an Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Editing.

Zootopia (2016) Film Review

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a rabbit who wants to be a cop – the tradition domain of much larger animals with more aggressive natures. And she hates sneaky foxes – until she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a fox that is more than he appears. Or is he?

It’s a film that explores whether we can change our nature, or whether we should find ways to work within our nature. And I feel like I really should have liked this film. But I found it overly cheesey and annoying, and overall, just a bit crap. Apart from the sloth. He was brilliant.

Zootopia won the Oscar for Best Animated Film of Year.

Wild (2014) Film Review

Cheryl (Reece Witherspoon) has had a tough life – single mother who died quite young, going off the rails, drugs and sex and a failed marriage – and so she walks across American on her own to find herself. That sounds a bit glib, but that’s kind of it.

There will be people who find this inspiring. Apparently, the book is amazingly inspiring. I thought it was good. The problem was that it’s almost impossible for a film of nearly two hours to properly capture such a big event. Yes, I got that she was tired and made mistakes and was injured and was alone and had a terrible life, but I didn’t really feel it. The way the flashbacks were cut in was nice, kept the flow. I think it is a very good movie. I just didn’t really like it.

Wild was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Reese Witherspoon) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Laura Dern), for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama (Reese Witherspoon) and a BAFTA for Best Leading Actress (Reese Witherspoon).