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7 Films… Nocturnal Animals, Fantastic Beasts, Hacksaw Ridge, La La Land, Mahana, I Daniel Blake, The Hunger.

Hi everyone

There have been no plays on my calendar for the past few weeks, so I indulged in a film-going binge. Just for change I thought I would just sum up some of my experiences.

I am not suggesting that I am a film critic (yet) but some of us have missed Margaret and David as a guide, so here is a quick flick from me about what I have seen. Maybe you’ll go see.

1. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – This is the Tom Ford follow up to his A SINGLE MAN. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is not as satisfying. Beautiful to look at, always. A great score. Good performances from all. Amy Adams giving another performance of charismatic depth on the screen for you to puzzle through,as she did in ARRIVAL, earlier this spring. Jake Gyllenhaal is good, as usual, (though not as good as he was in NIGHTCRAWLER). Michael Shannon amazing, again. Laura Linney, in a tiny role, mesmerising as usual, what a great actor – you have to look well to pick her – I had to. While the good looks and gifts of the ‘bad boys’ of the plot of the film of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Karl Glusman is such that it is often hard to look away from the ‘scary’ bits of the story, making it kind of what? -“torture-porn”, someone suggested to me. Certainly some of my friends have argued the opening credit images might be just “misogynistic porn”. I reckon it is the basis of a good after movie debate among friends. I had a very good time. Recommend.

2. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. If you’re a Harry Potter fan this film might do. I found it inert. My attention wandered over and over again. Bored.Bored. Bored. Aren’t you over such gross CGI now? I am. Eddie Redmayne has been type-cast in the Hollywood tradition of when on a good thing stick to it, as the ‘fragile human being’ again (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING and THE DANISH GIRL) and he is really a much more interesting actor than that – hated all that shy cringing in the corner stuff – ehhh! Best in it was Dan Fogler as the American non-magic person, Jakob. Of course there was a little compensation in getting to see Colin Farrell’s eye-brows – always worth the ticket! What about Johnny “lower-depths” in that cameo? – tired of that performance, too.

3. HACKSAW RIDGE. Went to this film reluctantly. I knew I was being shockingly manipulated with all that ‘goody-goody’ set-up stuff featuring Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffith, in that first half, but Mel Gibson is such a great storyteller that I was drawn in to the whole thing during those ‘gob-smacking’ and brutally ‘ugly’ battle scenes. Technically, how amazing is that stuff? I admit I had a little ‘cry’ or two. Mr Garfield impressed me so much in last year’s film 99 HOMES, that I found his work in this a little challenging to believe and looking at the trailer for Scorsese’s latest SILENCE – he looks a worry again. Maybe 99 HOMES was a fluke?! Loved catching all those Australian actors popping up all over the place in cameo appearances – taught a lot of them – how proud! Luke Bracey impressed me, while Vince Vaughn just convinced me further that he just can’t act? – all that unconvincing stuff from him during the first half training/bullying sequences. HACKSAW RIDGE, ok.

4. LA LA LAND. Well, this is the follow-up film from Damien Chazelle, who pressed some buttons with his last, WHIPLASH, last year. This is a musical. Song and Dance. It features Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – both gorgeous – and not many others at all – no sub-plots. Neither of them look as if they can really sing-and-dance (but, I reckon that ‘flexed’ at the wrist hand of Ryan Gosling in the big number will become an iconic gesture – code to nostalgic joy as we remember this film in years to come), for if you remember the images of people singing and dancing in, say, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, it looked as if that cast could sing-and-dance and were doing it spontaneously on screen – for real. It seemed to me that these performers were ‘singing’ along to a pre-recorded sound take, obviously – just slightly out of sync: “are you lagging or are you rushing?” I wanted to ask.  It made no difference really, the stars’ personable charm and chemistry covers up any nagging quandaries. There is a lot of nostalgia and multi-film references going-off all through the film that can only give one further pleasure as a film-buff, if you pay attention. This is a musical that will surprise you in its storytelling twists-and-turns. Listen to the references to the great classic, CASABLANCA, and remember how that central romance worked out and you will anticipate where you might end up in LA LA LAND. I loved it. Amelie with Audrey Tatou was my last truly romantic treasure, and this is the next. A great date movie.

5. MAHANA. A New Zealand (NZ) film from the Director of ONCE WERE WARRIORS, Lee Tamahari. This is based on a novel from one of the great NZ writers: Witi Ihimaera (he was also one of the producers). Two families with adjacent sheep farms in 1960’s work out the ‘psychic-scar’ of their joint existence during the course of this story of a young ‘circuit-breaker’ called Simeon and his maturing ‘battle’ with his Grandfather, in the film’s ‘third act’. It is a home spun tale and is just as manipulative as HACKSAW RIDGE, but has so much charm, gentle wit and grace, that you just go with it, with no qualms at all. I just surrendered. The countryside is so beautiful and the cinematography by Ginny Loane is so captivating, that if it weren’t for the recent earthquakes, one might go to live over there immediately. Temuera Morrison is a commanding anchor to the film, as the district tyrant; Nancy Bruning full of dignity as grandma and Akuhata Keefe is winning as Simeon. On-the-side I would say the acting overall, except for Mr Morrison, is a bit shaky – thank goodness they weren’t given long speeches to sustain – but the sincerity of all their effort and the visual handsomeness of it all is very, very seductive. I recommend this film as an honest feel good old-fashioned experience.

6. I, DANIEL BLAKE. This is a Ken Loach film. It deals with an ill out-of-work carpenter negotiating his way through the labyrinthine ‘terrors’ of government bureaucracy in trying to just survive – live. Included in this story is that of a young single mother. Like the Dardenne Brothers film TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT it covers the plight of the ‘working poor’ of contemporary society. I recognised many of the issues of the film, being of a certain generation, and often wanted to leave the cinema, as it was a very painful truth-telling, but stuck it out and found it an extremely rewarding experience. Dave Johns , as Daniel Blake, carries the documentary style of playing with humbling vulnerability and is balanced by the work of Hayley Squires, as the other major protagonist. A copy of this film should be sent to every politician in every level of government and the public service. All of you should champion this film as a necessary social observation that ought to be a game changer as to how we confront the necessary negotiation that the growing gap between the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ of our society, reveals. It is horribly moving. In the culture of our present working revolution and the need for jobs this is a must see. Fearfully predictive. Thank God I am old and not facing the future of my young friends and their families.

7. THE HUNGER. Now, I saw this at a Birthday party after the food at my host’s home. So, not exactly at the movies. BUT, this is an arty Vampire film beautifully designed with a  glacial pace. It paid off to be patient. Some, having to be very patient. I loved it. I have been affected by it – I can recall some of the visuals vividly.  Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie (encased in many, many make-up jobs of gradual decay) are the featured players – all wonderful. There is full on lesbian stuff going-on. What did they make of it in 1983? Tremblingly controversial, I imagine. Still, fairly startling and daring. Directed by Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott), you know it is an old film because of the amount of cigarette smoking that goes on – unbelievable. I know this is a retro-flick but I thought after watching it, it could comfortably stand beside Jim Jarmusch’s recent, 2014, ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE – delicious Tida Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and John Hurt; The Swedish, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, from Tomas Alfredson in 2008; and the Great classic Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY, 1968. Pull it out, or up load, depending upon your equipment. Sit back and have a thrilling but sophisticated time. I guarantee.