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Non-Review Review: Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood is a fairy tale, for better and for ill.

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Millennium – The Thin White Line (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

The Thin White Line is the final script from James Wong and Glen Morgan for this season of Millennium, following closely after Never Again, their final script (ever) for The X-Files.

Indeed, there is considerable overlap between the two stories – at least thematically. Both are episodes about destructive cycles. In Never Again, Scully faces the very real possibility that she is now trapped with Mulder; that her life outside the X-files is over. In The Thin White Line, Frank Black contemplates the idea that people are trapped in perpetual cycles of violence and abuse; that the world resembles the ouroboros featured so prominently in the opening credits, a snake constantly eating its own tail.

Frank discharge...

Frank discharge…

Never Again is relentlessly cynical. The closing image suggests that nothing will change, that something is broken than cannot be fixed. Important statements hang in the air, unresolved. The Thin White Line is perhaps slightly optimistic. Both Frank Black and Bob Bletcher try in their own way to end cycles of violence and recrimination. While Bob Bletcher responds with brutal cynicism and more violence, Frank Black responds with compassion and humanity. There is a sense of cynicism to The Thin White Line, but there is also some hope.

The Thin White Line is a stand out piece of work, a fantastic illustration of what Millennium can do when it sets its mind to it. Like Force Majeure before it, The Thin White Line suggests that Millennium has very clearly and definitely figured out its own voice. It is no wonder that both episodes come from future showrunners.

Cutting retort...

Cutting retort…

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Non-Review Review: Unbroken

The true story of Louis Zamperini is absolutely fascinating. It lends itself to this sort of big spectacle. It has everything you need for a movie that might clean up during awards season: a historical setting; a war; a sporting story about triumph of adversity; incredible physical transformations from the cast; a character enduring incredible hardship and coming out the other side. These are the sorts of ingredients that make a Best Picture contender. Unbroken just heaps more and more on top of these already alluring elements.

It isn’t the terrible and messy script that ultimately defeats Unbroken, with beloved filmmakers Joel and Ethan Cohen at the top of the bill. It isn’t the pedestrian unchallenging direction, either. It isn’t Alexandre Desplat’s condescending and patronising score, that doesn’t trust the audience to determine what they should be feeling from one moment to the next. It is not even the cynical Coldplay song playing over the closing credits, to put a pleasant life-affirming spin on events.

The Oscar race is on...

The Oscar race is on…

The detail that really shatter Unbroken is the fact that all of this has been very carefully and meticulously calibrated to check off the requisite items on the big Oscar check list. Unbroken is just as mechanical and lifeless a production as Transformers 4, but it happens to be built for a different purpose. There is no energy here, no enthusiasm, no emotion. It is just a bunch of things that have been successful in other stories heaped on top of one another, hoping to hit the high score on that fateful morning in January 2015.

Despite managing to eat up an incredible amount of attention and discussion in the larger Oscar race – taking attention off far more deserving contenders – Unbroken is a complete and utter misfire.

"This is what happens to anybody who suggests Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence is a better Japanese prisoner of war film."

“This is what happens to anybody who suggests Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence is a better Japanese prisoner of war film.”

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