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).

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Film Review


This was one of those films that I felt that I needed to watch years ago. So, when it was on sale somewhere, I picked it up, took it home and watched it. And thought it was boring, a complete waste of time. Yet, I held on to the DVD. I think I knew that I was missing something. I moved into a new place, and I’ve been cutting down on belongings. I never had a huge DVD collection, but I’m culling. But, there have been several DVDs and books that I don’t want to get rid of until I give them another chance, and this was one of them. And thank goodness.

I cannot recall what mood or state I was in when I first watched this, but it mustn’t have been great.

Essentially, the film tells of the later months of the legendary criminal, Jesse James. It is a story of conspiracy and mistrust, with Jesse and the various new members of his gang that he doesn’t trust, and who don’t trust each other. They visit each other, they lie, and eventually (it’s not a spoiler –it’s in the title) Jesse James (Brad Pitt) is killed by Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a young man who idolised James throughout his young life.

It is very slow-moving, but it is so beautiful. The slow pacing gives the space for deep, deep emotion. The relationships are complex. And the soundtrack is amazing – but what more can we expect from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Casey Affleck) and Best Achievement in Cinematography (Roger Deakins)



I’m Still Here (2010) Film Review


Remember when Joaquin Phoenix went a bit off the rails, seemed to stop showering, quit acting and announced he was starting a rap career, only heaps of people said it was a hoax and it was all for a film he was making with brother-in-law Casey Affleck? Yeah, me neither, but I suppose I’m not a great one for watching tabloids and stuff. I vaguely recall hearing something about an interview on Dave Letterman. Well, it turns out, it was a hoax, and that they were making a mockumentary type film, but kind of living it as they made it.

I think it was probably a lot of fun to film. But it wasn’t that much fun to watch. Perhaps if I knew more about Joaquin and his personality – I mean, is he that much of a wanker? He was very good at playing a wanker, but was that just acting? And the other big question – does anyone care?


Interstellar (2014) Film Review


The world is dying. There is not much food and there is dust everywhere. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, but was previously an astronaut. Now, with his father (or father-in-law, I can’t recall if that matters) Donald (John Lithgow), he is raising two children; Murph (Mackenzie Foy, then later Jessica Chastain and still later, Ellen Burtsyn) and Tom (Timothee Chalamet and then later Casey Affleck). Then he ends up stumbling across a NASA station or something and gets roped in to a mission to explore possible inhabitable planets through a wormhole. There is the Professor (Michael Caine), a fellow astronaut, Brand (Anne Hathaway) and later the nice surprise of Mann (Matt Damon. Didn’t know he was in this film!).

Yawn. I just couldn’t get into this film. I couldn’t car about the characters, I didn’t have any particular care about the planet dying. I think it is a really well made film, if about an hour too long (it’s just under three hours). The one standout thing was the soundtrack – amazing, really bringing forth the emotion without being overly annoying or overbearing.

Interstellar was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) and BAFTAs for Best Cinematography, Best Original Music (Hans Zimmer), Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) Film Review


Like the two films leading up to this, it’s a big, exciting heist film with lots of misdirection and cleverness. This time, it’s all about revenge on Willy Bank (Al Pacino), a casino operator opening a new hotel, who has ripped off one of their own, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliot Gould), causing heart failure and a coma.

My big issue with the last two films was the women in the film having very little character and being (sometimes willingly) manipulated very obviously by the men of the film. This time, it wasn’t the wives or girlfriends. The one female in the film, Bank’s top assistant Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), initially appears to be in control and in charge, strong and spotting the bullshit being weaved around her. Then, she is painted as a ‘cougar’ (such an insulting term, but I won’t get started on that one today) and manipulated into seducing Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), one of the eleven who is playing a character as part of the plot. I guess the big question is – how good does the film need to be to be able to ignore this? (Or perhaps a bigger question – after being annoyed by this in the first two films, why did I go on to watch the third?)

Ocean’s Twelve (2004) Film Review


So, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is back out of jail (again) and he and the rest of the eleven have found things to spend their millions on. But Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) has found them, and insists on compensation. And then there is Francois Toulour (Vincent Cassel), a super-rich, super-clever gangster who wants to compete against Ocean to be considered the best thief in the world, and Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) a beautiful police officer who was dating Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), but now is set to catch him and arrest him.

Again, there is a lot of fun, trickiness and playing with expectations, but it is, yet again, ruined for me by the representations of the females in the film. At least Tess (JuliaRoberts) gets a bit of a better go this time, actually doing something (even if she is forced into it by a whole bunch of men she doesn’t even know… creepy) (although seeing her play a character pretending to be Julia Roberts was a lot of fun). Then there is the Catherine Zeta-Jones character, a high-ranking police officer who is driven to fraud by her emotions – the need for revenge against her ex, and who (spoiler alert) is manipulated into giving up her very successful career by the very same ex and her father, who she believed was dead. Men manipulating women a lot. Way to spoil a good, fun film.


Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Film Review


Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has two goals when he gets out of jail; to win back his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) and to rob the casino that belongs to her current beau, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He gets together a crack team of specialists (ten others to be exact… hence the Ocean’s Eleven).

A heist film is great. A casino heist film is even better. And with a whole bunch of hunks and spunks, clever writing and fun technology, plus twists that have you thinking one thing then it flips? What more could one want? How about a half decent female character in here? There is only one woman of any significantce in this film, and she is an object to be possessed. What’s more (spoiler alert), when she learns that her current beau is not the nicest guy, does she go and work her own life out? Hells no. She goes back to the man who lied to her and ruined her life. Sheesh, this film would have been better with no women at all. Annoying, because I really liked the rest of it.


ParaNorman (2012) Film Review


Norman is an odd boy. He sees the dead everywhere he goes (not just people, dead animals too) and can interact with them. His family wants him to be normal and kids at school tease him relentlessly. Then his uncle, Mr Prenderghast, passes away, and passes on the responsibility of reading from a book to please a dead witch and ensure that the dead don’t rise again. But it’s not that easy.

This is a great kids film. Probably a bit scary for little kids, but heaps of fun. The characters are well created on the whole (although, as with most kids films, there really is not much in the way of female role models… a put-upon mother, a stupid and a bit slutty teenage sister, a nerd with thick glasses and braces, a stupid cop and that’s just about it) and the story flows well. I love it when I’m watching a film like this and it turns things on its head – when the zombies hit town, the townsfolk have seen enough films to know what to do to killer zombies. Only these guys aren’t killers. It’s great.

ParaNorman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and a BAFTA for Best Animated Film.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) MIFF Film Review

AintthembodiessaintsfeatureUSA 97 mins

Ruth (Rooney Mara) and Bob (Casey Affleck) are young, in love and have just found out that they are going to have a child. But when one of their crimes goes wrong leaving a friend dead and a policeman shot, Bob ends up in jail. Four years later, he escapes and tries to reunite the family. He is up against the police who are trying to recapture him, Skerritt (Keith Carradine) who he used to run crime for, Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster) the policeman who is at the centre of his conviction and a few very bad men who have swung into town to seek revenge.

Set in the early 70s, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints tells the story of young criminals in love in a gentle, slow manner. It was a very beautiful film with a feel reminiscent of Badlands or even Lawless. I really enjoyed it, although I can see that others may not have been quite so engaged. In fact, a fellow cinema attendee loudly exclaimed on the way out “boring and pretentious”. Different strokes, I guess.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints screens at Greater Union on Friday, July 26 at 9:15pm and at the Forum Theatre on Monday, August 5 at 9pm. To book tickets, visit