The Favourite (2018) More aggravating than entertaining

Image result for the favourite images
I’m just an idiot standing around with no purpose looking like Tom Cruise.

I love historical dramas. It had all the ingredients of fine entertainment. Instead, I scratched my head with bewilderment at the end of it. Fellow-bloggers liked it a lot and many gave it high marks. But for me, I felt more aggravated than satisfied. Be my guest and disagree. Spoiler-alert! 

The Favourite (2018)  

A dark comedy? Yes. Did I leave the theater utterly depressed? Yes. For some, adding modernity to the early 1700s narrative makes Yorgos Lanthimosis‘s latest effort absurd. (The modern dancing, the overuse of the “C” word) is a time warp that doesn’t work. Absurd? No. Incongruent and jarring?Yes. Was the tone of his film to show the ludicrous lifestyle of the nobility? If so, he succeeded. Was his goal to show class-conflict and reveal the sordid details behind the curtains of Queen Anne’s bed? To illustrate an atypical love triangle between two female cousins whose ambition are Machiavellian? He succeeded. On the surface, it seems like a winner. So why was I turned off by the two cousins who battled to win the Queen’s favor, hence, ensure the power of court affairs and financial stability?

It has something to do with a trend in the entertainment industry. Hail to the stories of women who are strong and resourceful. Yes. But I feel there’s an exaggeration taking place at the expense of men. More films than ever showcase women as corrupt, aggressive, and savage while men are utter idiots. In The Favourite, for example, the scene where the naked man dances to avoid being hit by oranges by the rest of the men in the room. Whenever you have a black and white situation — all men are ridiculous and useless — or women are sex toys or dumb blondes– you’ve reached the same level, the basement. While I enjoy the actors Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, I found their characters repugnant and could not root for either one. Eventually, I became bored.

As far as cinematography, I thought the ultra-wide fisheye lens shots clever and in line with absurdism. The final scene was outstanding with the rabbits. She who steps on the rabbits is stepped on by the foot of the queen. Trapped and caged, all players in the love-triangle lose. The best reason to see The Favourite is for the outstanding acting job by Olivia Colman as Queen Anne of Britain. So while I can see how one could make a case for its virtues, overall, it’s not a film I would ever watch again. 3.0

Film Spotlight: Denial

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Guest Review: DENIAL (2016) by Cinemusefilms 

The nature of truth and the power to manipulate it have long been contentious themes in history and cinema. The outstanding film Denial (2016) resonates loudly in today’s post-truth world where power is often used to create alternate realities. It is a film that portrays denialism as a dangerous and perverse form of moral corruption, something that may be contained but can never be eliminated.

The story is based on the celebrated 1996 legal case fought between eminent academic Deborah Lipstadt, an American professor of Holocaust Studies, and David Irving, a historian of Nazi Germany. A book published by Lipstadt (Rachael Weisz) accuses Irving (Timothy Spall) of being a Holocaust denier and falsifier of history, and Irving sues for defamation. In the British justice system, the burden of proof is on the accused so Lipstadt must prove that the Holocaust did happen to establish that Irving is a liar. She engages a top legal team led by senior barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson) who insists that neither Lipstadt or Holocaust survivors should present testimony against Irving because of his history of promoting himself by humiliating victims. Lipstadt and her lawyers visit Auschwitz to gather evidence of the existence of gas chambers but the bulk of the story is played out on the legal battlefield at court.

Modern audiences are desensitised to the atrocities of war. It is glorified in movies and video games and feeds the entertainment and amusement industry. Today’s filmmakers struggle to find ways of remembering the Holocaust without alienating viewers. The extraordinary Son of Saul (2016) takes audiences right into the flames, whereas Denial (2016) explores the moral issues in a courtroom. In reality, this was a high-stakes legal battle that could have potentially delegitimised the entire history of the Holocaust. It is an outstanding achievement that this film can capture the tension and the burden of moral responsibility carried by the Lipstadt legal team.

The casting and characterisation in this film are brilliant. Rachael Weisz’s American brashness presents a stark cultural contrast with the conservative traditions of British justice. She convincingly portrays a principled academic and scholar of truth, showing restrained emotion beneath her loathing for Irving’s anti-Semitism. Tom Wilkinson gives a masterful portrait of wisdom and conviction, while Timothy Spall plays Irving with subdued Satanic malice. The other support cast makes up a strong ensemble. The narrative unfolds at a sweeping pace and the script is both intelligent and instructive in the legal nuance of courtroom manoeuvers. The footage of Auschwitz is emotionally harrowing and the film treats its subject matter with utmost reverence.

If you want light entertainment, do not see this film. It is for audiences prepared to confront the dark side of humanity as well as those interested in the intricacies and triumphs of the British legal system. But more than that, it’s an essay on the nature of truth in history and it exposes the moral abhorrence of those who manipulate facts to suit their prejudices It is also a warning that manipulators of truth will always be among us. 4/5

Director: Mick Jackson

Stars: Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall

Thanks, RICHARD, for contributing to my blog today! 

4 Films Worth Watching

Summer is over. A new teaching year has begun. So long international travel, spontaneous naps, extended walks, and the chance to catch up on movies and read books. What about my working manuscript, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol? I made steady progress and am pleased with its evolution. As I acclimate now to bells and loud, teenage voices, today I wanted to squeeze in some thoughts about my favorite summer films I’ve seen:

absurd fun
absurd fun

The Lobster (2016) Knowing it was a farce going in, I let the strange love story unfold. I’ll admit it took a bit for me to warm up to the monotone delivery and set aside logic and realism as the absurd premise worked itself into something plausible and universal. People at an asylum complex must find a mate in 45 days or be turned into an animal. What was the message of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos? Love and loyalty are blind and limited? Society represses the individual and instills herdlike mentalities, or in this case, the crustacean? I loved the ambiguous ending and Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz gave fine performances. 4/5. 

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Hail, Caesar! (2016).  Since I adore classic Hollywood, it won’t be a surprise to hear this Coen Brothers dark comedy thoroughly entertained me. Which parody was the best: George Clooney as Charlton Heston in Ben Hur? Channing Tatum as Gene Kelley in On the Town? Alden Ehrenreich with that Ricky Nelson western charm? Scarlett Johansson imitating swimming queen Esther Williams? Ralph Fiennes as fussbudget director Laurence Lorenz had me laughing aloud. So, too, did Frances McDormand in the editing room. Stuff in the communist writers and the art vs. crap argument, the tabloid cover-ups, the Orson Welles camera tip–perhaps that’s the fault of the film. The fragmented salute to all things Hollywood stumbled around and shortchanged a weak storyline. It was still a lot of fun and laughs. It’s a film I could rewatch many times.4/5.

background-twitterMidnight Special (2016The chemistry between Dad (Michael Shannon), Mom (Kirsten Dunst) and their special son (Jaeden Lieberher) was convincing. It’s an X-Files plot delivered with cool authority at the hands of director Jeff Nichols. Can you imagine how different this film would have been if directed by Steven Spielberg? Without a score that spoons out the sap, and believable performances with a very cool ending, Nichols is able to bring out the best of his actors. I can’t wait to see Loving. 4/5 

The Sunset Limited (2011) American writer Cormac McCarthy‘s play adapted into an HBO film, directed by and starring Tommy Lee Jones. Nihilism vs. Religion. I loved the dark dialogue between two opposing men. White, hopeful (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to keep Black, the professor (Tommy Lee Jones) from committing suicide. A tough 90 minutes to film and capture the arguments. Jones delivers his lines with apathetic resolve. Jackson is exuberant and funny. One rules with their head. One rules with their heart. The final chilling rant by Jones still hurts my heart weeks later. Want to be intellectually stimulated? I highly recommend it. 4.5/5 

You’ve probably seen these films before I did. Which ones from this list did you like best–or not? What’s the best film you’ve seen lately? 

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