The Sessions (2012) Film Review


Mark (John Hawkes) is an academic who spends much of his day in an Iron Lung helping him to breathe. His nurses are able to take him out for hours at a time, but he has very limited movement. After learning about sexual surrogates, people who work with the disable to allow them to have sex, he engages the services of Cheryl (Helen Hunt) and discusses the process with his priest, Father Brendan (William H Macy).

It’s a fairly gentle film, really. There is little drama or action – it almost feels as though the filmmakers decided that it was enough for people to learn that these services exist and can improve the lives of those involved. Having said that, I don’t think that the film would have been improved by adding unnecessary drama; as it was, it was interesting and beautiful and fascinating. And does raise the debate of disabled actors playing disabled roles – John Hawkes is wonderful in this, and is generally quite wonderful in most things that he does, but why not have a disabled person in this role? (Money, for one. John Hawkes is a respected actor who would be a draw to producers. But still…)

Helen Hunt was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a supporting Role in The Sessions .


Everest (2015) Film Review


Based on the wonderful book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, Everest tells of the tragic story of one season where several expeditions fell into tragedy. It follows two of the main adventure tourist groups who work together to reach the mount despite having to compete with a variety of other groups. Then they are hit by some disastrous weather and many of the climbers die.

It had been several years since I read the book, so I couldn’t quite remember the fates of the various different characters. None-the-less, I knew bad things were going to happen, and this did not make things any less tense. Plus, the cinematography is spectacular – I am aware that it is a combination of computer graphics and real shots, but it was just stunning. Oh, and the variety of different actors with their fabulous New Zealand accents – I loved that bit!

Contagion (2011) Film Review


Starting at Day 2, Contagion follows a virus that rips across the world, killing millions. It deals with individuals, companies, the government, conspiracies, all of kinds of things.

I remember seeing this in the cinema and being quite bored. It seemed slow and strange, and even though it killed off several of the more famous actors, it didn’t grab me. Yet I felt I’d missed something, and I’m so glad that I revisited it. It is not at all tedious, in fact it is totally compelling. It is fast and intense and, at times, really full on. I’d highly recommend it, though it is pretty darn depressing a lot of the time…


Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) Film Review


Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has returned to her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) after an absence of two years. Martha told them she’d been living with a boyfriend who lied to her when, in fact, she’d been living and being abused in a cult led by Patrick (John Hawkes).

What is annoying about this film is that you feel that Lucy and her husband would be do much better able to help Martha if she told them, but she is so traumatised that she is unable to tell them. It’s a very beautiful film, but very difficult to watch – many of the really stunning scenes are accompanied by penetrating whining sounds that do not allow the audience to relax for a moment.


Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) – Film Review


Miranda July is a bit of a crazy arts type and I love her work – or what I’ve seen of it. She does various projects from her website,,  her short story The Swim Team is a marvellous piece of work, and her second film, The Future, which was a selection at MIFF 2011 was great. Apart from the talking cat puppet – I didn’t really like that creepy dude. I really wanted to like this film. But I just didn’t.

There are several storylines – a couple breaking up, with the husband, Richard (John Hawkes) setting his hand on fire in a strange opening sequence. He must deal with the custody of his children in a small apartment whilst holding down a job in the shoe department of a large store. He starts a strange kind-of relationship with Christine (Miranda July) who is an aspiring nutso artist whose job is to drive elderly people to various appointments. There are also his sons and various other people involved, including couple of teenage girls who are sexually teasing and tormenting a creepy dude.

I think the main issue I had was that while the characters were connected  in some way, the stories were very disjointed, and I had no real interest in what was happening or what was going to happen.

Deadwood – TV Review


The Wild West was an ugly, filthy, smelly time and place to be living, and Deadwood shows this in all its darkness. The show is set in the late 1800s as various states in the United States are being created and people from a variety of backgrounds are trying to escape their past and forge a new life.

Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and Sol Star (John Hawkes) are new in town, setting up a hardware store to provide to the miners that are flooding into the area during the gold rush. Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is the unofficial head of the town, the owner of The Gem, the town’s pub and brothel. Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe) moves into town and opens the Bella Union Salon in competition. Wild Bill (Keith Carradine) is also in town, with his companions Charlie Utter(Dayton Callie) and Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert). There are so many more characters, from the whores and heavies that work in the establishments to the Chinese community whose pigs often devour the bodies of those who have died suspiciously.

The show is heavily layered and extremely rich in both plot and character. Watching season three with friends, I recall a long conversation about how Shakespearean it is; not only is much of the language impenetrable yet the intention of the characters clear through performance, there is murder, violence, betrayal, power-struggle and profanity. Oh, so much profanity. The statistic quoted on Wikipedia (true or not, I’m not prepared to count it myself) is that the f-bomb was dropped 43 times in the first hour, 2,980 times throughout, which apparently works out to one per 1.56 minutes of footage. There is also a good explanation for the choice of profanity given the time period of the show – essentially, that using appropriate swearing for the time would make the characters seem comical, so they chose to use modern swearing.

Some people cannot get past the language and graphic violence of the show, which is a shame. It is a wonderful, wonderful show.

Lincoln (2012) Film Review


The American Civil War was a war to end slavery. That was the key issue, as was my understanding. The thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution made slavery in the United States illegal. These things happened around the same time; they were related to each other, but not actually connected. Who knew? Not me.

To be fair, I have very little knowledge of US history. There are some things I know, but a lot I don’t

The film Lincoln follows US President Abraham Lincoln in his second term as President as he and his colleagues work to get the amendment passed. It’s not a rip-roaring action flick – if you want to see a film relating to slavery that is, see Django Unchained. This is a political drama, and for that reason, it’s pretty slow-paced and borders on boring. What stops it from being boring? I think for me it was the fact this was such an important moment in the world, deciding on the level of humanity to be shown to a group of people. Yet, it was all decided in such a political way, with votes being bought with jobs and political promises. Politics – such a dirty business.

Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor notorious for his research into his roles, so I believe that he did a lot of work to bring Lincoln to life as much as possible. Still, I find it hard to believe that he walked with such an unusual gait – it made him look like some kind of a puppet, and really distracted me from the importance of the story at hand.

I felt as though the story structure was a bit misguided at times; for me, the story was the politics. There were other parts that were connected in some way, but not totally crucial that the story would not have suffered if they had been left out of the film. For me, the whole storyline involving Lincoln’s son, Robert, was not all that relevant. Of course, that would mean losing Joseph Gordon-Levitt from the cast, but it wasn’t the most exciting role anyhow. He’s done lots better.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I don’t think it was necessarily worthy of the many nominations it has received. I sometimes wonder if you get a cast like this with a story of such great importance to the US directed by Steven Spielberg and it would be considered wrong for it to not be nominated. Is this how awards work?

Daniel Day-Lewis has been nominated for a Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar, won the a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama and won the BAFTA for Leading Actor

Tommy Lee Jones has been nominated for a Best Actor Supporting in a Supporting Role Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Performance of an Actor in a Supporting Role, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting Actress

Sally Field has been nominated for a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting Actress

Janusz Kaminski has been nominated for an Oscar for Cinematography, was nominated for a BAFTA for Cinematography

Joanna Johnston has been nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design and was nominated for a BAFTA for Costume Design

Steven Spielberg has been nominated for an Oscar for Directing, a Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture

Michael Kahn has been nominated for an Oscar for Editing

John Williams has been nominated for an Oscar for Music (Original Score), a Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Orginal Music

Lincoln has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, an Oscar for Best Production Design, a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, was nominated for a BAFTA for Production Design

Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins have been nominated for an Oscar for Sound Mixing, was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film

Tony Kushner has been nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Adapted Screenplay), a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay

Winter’s Bone (2010) Film Review


Rae lives on a farm on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozark Mountains (a region that covers parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas) with her unresponsive mother and two young siblings. She is seventeen and taking care of a family that has no money and relies on the kindness of her neighbours and Rae’s know-how to survive. The sheriff arrives to inform Rae that her father put up the farm as bail bond and appears to have disappeared. If he does not turn up in court, their home will be forfeited. Rae goes on a mission to find her father and save the family.

This is a beautiful piece of cinema that is beautifully carried by Jennifer Lawrence who plays Rae. She is strong and prepared to do whatever she can for her family – regardless of what sacrifice it may mean for herself. The scenery is grim and cold, and reflects the hopelessness of Rae’s situation. The film is violent and gritty and awful, but moving and amazing.