Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Non-Review Review: Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is a well-produced and well-performed feel-good historical drama, one elevated by a strong sense of timeliness.

Battle of the Sexes is structurally a classic “historical buddy film”, a subgenre of the biopic that has become increasingly popular in recent years. The idea is to take a big historical event involving two important and opposed figures, and to build a narrative about that singular event following both characters on their collision course. Ron Howard is something of an expert with this particular biographical subgenre, having directed both Frost/Nixon and Rush, two very fine examples of the form.

Riggsed game.

Of course, there are plenty of films that still adopt the classic biopic format of documenting an extended portion of a single life. Recent films like The Founder or American Made come to mind, very traditional sweeping narratives that tended to pop up in awards nominations during the eighties and nineties. However, there is something to be said for the format of a tightly-focused two-hander, of a narrative built around two adversarial forces locked in some existential combat. It might look like sport, but it is always something more serious.

Battle of the Sexes is built around the historic tennis match played between Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs, but it is obviously about more than just a tennis match between a man and a woman. It evolves into a story about the symbolic weight of this match, of the culture that warps around it, of the dogma that it threatens to reinforce. Battle of the Sexes resonates surprisingly clearly, even more than thirty three years removed from its original context.

Causing quite a racket.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Non-Review Review: The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin is an ambitious tonal mishmash.

The Death of Stalin is funny and smart. It is a very well observed comedy of errors set against the backdrop of the power struggle that unfolds against the backdrop of the passing of the eponymous Soviet dictator. Officials, relatives and hangers-on all jockey for position, scrambling over one another to secure their place on top of the heap. “How can you scheme and run at the same time?” Lazar Kaganovich challenges Nikita Khrushchev at one point during the film, a line that sets the tone for the ensuing madcap chaos.

Fools Russia in.

However, The Death of Stalin struggles to find the right pitch for its political shenanigans. Based on historical events, The Death of Stalin juxtaposes the sly and transparent manoeuvrings of its central characters against depictions of real-life historical violence and brutality. The Death of Stalin is very candid about the collateral damage incurred by these sorts of regimes, as well it should be. The Death of Stalin would be wrong to gloss over the human cost of its political jousting. At the same time, these brutal beats undercut the movie’s broader slapstick comedic plotting.

The Death of Stalin is charming and endearing in places, but it struggles to find a proper tone. The Death of Stalin is at once too dark to work as a broad farce and too light to play as a pitch black comedy. The result is a movie that feels far too unbalanced and unhinged, with brilliant moments and great performances that never manage to find a consistent groove.

Sorry state of affairs.

Continue reading

47. The General (#151)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman’s The General.

Johnny Gray is a train engineer working in the South during the Civil War, with two loves in his life; the southern belle Annabelle Lee and the train engine known as The General. When a group of Union spies abscond with both, Johnny finds himself an unlikely hero on a quest that takes him down train lines and across enemy lines.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 151st best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

46. Ah-ga-ssi (The Handmaiden) – This Just In (#247)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Grace Duffy and Graham Day, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Park Chan-Wook’s Ah-ga-ssi.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin

Goodbye Christopher Robin is largely a container for a set of impressive performances.

The most memorable aspects of this biopic are the three leading performances; Domhnall Gleeson as the writer himself, Margot Robbie as Daphne de Sélincourt and Kelly MacDonald as the nanny Olive. This triumvirate elevates the material to hand, fleshing out an overly broad and overly sentimental script through their ability to underplay moments. Gleeson, Robbie and MacDonald communicate their characters effectively through meaningful glances as much as overloaded dialogue.

Bear with me.

In some ways, Goodbye Christopher Robin suffers from a surplus of ambition. Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan, the film casts a very wide net, hoping to encapsulate decades in the lives of these characters. The result is that many of the film’s emotional arcs and beats feel truncated in the move to the next important event, which in turn leads the movie to amp up the sentimentality for maximum impact. There are moments where Goodbye Christopher Robin works perfectly, but there are more moments where it seems to fumble.

Goodbye Christopher Robin tries to cover too much ground. “That bear swallowed us whole,” Milne reflects towards the end of the story, but there is a sense that the script poses just as much danger.

“If we could sell these stories, we’d by Milne-aires.”

Continue reading

45. Paris, Texas (#241)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT, with the occasional weekend off.

This time, Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas

Four years after mysteriously disappearing, Travis wanders out of the desert and back into the lives of his family. Adapting to the outside world, Travis embarks upon a journey across America to bring together the shattered remains of his past life.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 241st best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Kingsman – The Golden Circle

If Kingsman captured the nastiness of the early Roger Moore Bond movies, then Kingsman: The Golden Circle emulates the indulgent bloat of the later Roger Moore installments.

Part of the appeal of Kingsman was that it captured (and laid bare) the inherent ugliness running beneath the surface of the early Roger Moore movies, films like Live and Let Die or The Man With the Golden Gun. In many respects, Kingsman felt like a Roger Moore Bond movie that was acutely aware of how awful it was, willing to be transparent in its unpleasantness; whether in its sexual politics, in its casual violence, in its portrayal of individuals with disabilities. Kingsman took a lot of the sheen of nostalgia off those Sunday afternoon actioners, and revelled in the dissonance.

The Golden Circle is nowhere near as sharp and pointed. Instead, in its indulgence evokes the overstuffed and bloated feeling of the late Roger Moore films, of movies like Moonraker, Octopussy and A View to a Kill. Indeed, The Golden Circle seems coyly aware of that. What point could there be in casting Halle Berry in the thankless role of a member of an American counterpart to the eponymous British organisation, except to consciously nod towards Die Another Day, the belated tribute to the late Moore era?

The Golden Circle is a mess of a sequel, a film so in love with itself that it seems genuinely indifferent to anybody watching from audience.

Continue reading