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Non-Review Review: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex is a sturdy, old-fashioned awards season film.

On the Basis of Sex is earnest, unshowy and very conventional in both concept and execution. All of its beats are familiar, all of its rhythms predictable. It’s not especially inventive or innovative. It is a meat-and-potatoes awards fare, a fascinating story that is told in an uncluttered manner. While there are still a handful of these sorts of films released every year, it often seems like the ground is shrinking out from under them. As awards season has leaned towards quirky indie films like Vice or The Favourite, it has left films like On the Basis of Sex and Can You Ever Forgive Me? sitting in the dust.

Ruthless litigation.

There is nothing wrong with old-fashioned awards fare, even if On the Basis of Sex occasionally feels conflicted about which particular mode of old-school biographical film it seeks to emulate; it starts like a conventional subject’s-life-in-two-hours piece in the style of films like Ghandi or Patton, and then shifts into the slightly more modern twist on the genre that tends to focus on one formative event like Frost/Nixon or The Queen or Elvis & Nixon. It is a strange shift, with On the Basis of Sex spending half an hour on a general introduction to Ruth Bader-Ginsberg before focusing on the meat of this particular story.

This lack of focus is not a major issue. Old-fashioned awards fare can work reasonably well with the right material and talent, despite seeming quaint by the standards of the time. On the Basis of Sex never stands out from the crowd in the same way as its central character, but then that might be expecting too much given that surprisingly long shadow cast by Ruth Bader-Ginsberg.

Courting controversy.

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Non-Review Review: Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy is a cocktail essentially comprised of three contrasting main ingredients, none of which particularly gel.

Most obviously, it is a traditional performance-driven piece of awards fare designed to showcase the talents of Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell; there is a lot of shouting, a lot of confrontation, a lot of listless staring. On top of that, it is also a more modern piece of awards fare, one younger and hipper than stodgy old dramas about addiction; Beautiful Boy might be a good seventy-percent intercut montage set to music of beloved artists like David Bowie and John Lennon. The remaining third is a fifties moral panic anti-drugs film for the twenty-first century.

This movie is Timothée Chala-meh.

These three styles of film are constantly battling within Beautiful Boy. There must be a way to synthesise these three competing approaches into a holistic and satisfying piece of work, but instead Beautiful Boy bounces frantically from one mode to another, never settling on a single cohesive tone or approach. This is disappointing, as Beautiful Boy is a very earnest and sincere piece of work. There’s a strong sense that the film is trying to articulate something that is both important and profound. However, it just cannot clearly translate that sentiment into speech.

Beautiful Boy is a mess of a film, but a fascinating mess in a number of places.

Yes. Most of the screenshots of this film will be of Timothée Chalamet. Why?

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #39!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast! A somewhat bumper edition this time.

This week, I join Jason Coyle, Grace Duffy and Ronan Doyle to discuss the week in film. As usual, we talk about the top ten and the new releases, as well as what we’ve watched this week. In this episode, Jay talks about “instant classics”, Ronan discusses the heartbreak of Rosie, and Grace inadvertently watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings again.

In film news, we discuss the upcoming Cork Film Festival, Katie winning Screen Directors Guild Finders Series Award, and Netflix’s successful “Summer of Love.” There’s also an extended season about awards season social media fatigue.

The top ten:

  1. Night School
  2. Cliff Richard Live: 60th Anniversary Tour (Concert)
  3. Bad Times At The El Royale
  4. Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
  5. Kler (Clergy)
  6. First Man
  7. Johnny English Strikes Again
  8. Venom
  9. Smallfoot
  10. A Star is Born

New releases:

  • The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid
  • Dogman
  • Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween
  • Halloween

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.