Category Archives: Movies 2017

Movie: ‘Loving’

Richard Loving, a white labourer, married Mildred Jetta  in 1958, in contravention of the miscegenation laws current in Virginia which banned inter-racial marriages. The American Civil Liberties Union took their case to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

You’d never know that Joel Edgerton, who plays Richard Loving, is Australian because his monosyllabic utterances are just as incomprehensible to Australian ears as the rest of the dialogue in the film. Mildred Loving played by Ruth Negga, is a more nuanced character, although her doe-eyed sorrow became rather lugubrious by the end of what felt like a very long film.

I’ve been grizzling lately about films which purport to be ‘based on a true story’ that insert dramatic scenes that did not occur.  I don’t think that I need complain about such things here. The court action takes place off stage, because neither Richard nor Mildred wanted to attend, and whatever Richard Loving was thinking, he sure wasn’t saying it.  There’s no high drama in this film, and no knock-em-dead scene: just the sense of brewing trouble and festering injustice.  It’s a sobering story, and one that we should know. But, as I said, it did feel like a very long movie.

Consistent with my usual belated reviewing, ‘Loving’ is advertised as ‘Last Days!’ at Cinema Nova.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Movie: Alone in Berlin

This movie is based on a book by Hans Fallada (whose book Little Man What Now I read forty years ago but still remember) that fictionalizes the real-life story of Otto and Elise Hampel.

I was struck by how quiet this movie is.  Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson play Otto and Anna Quangel, whose only son is killed fighting for the German army. Their grief is so overwhelming that they cannot say it out loud. But Otto puts it into words, scratched out onto postcards, which he leaves to be found by others. His brief slogans of protest, signed ‘Free Press’ exhort people to rise up against Hitler. For all their simplicity and crudity, these postcards taken very seriously by the Nazis.

This is not at all an action movie.  It’s quiet, slow and imbued with a quiet, threadbare dignity. Writing these postcards was a small and very, very dangerous act of resistance. I’d like to think that I’d be similarly brave, but I know that I would not be.

My rating: 8/5/10

Movie: Jasper Jones

I’ve heard people speak about the movie Jasper Jones and felt quite bemused because it doesn’t sound particularly like the book I remember reading.  Parts of it – yes, but I don’t remember the strong emphasis on Jasper’s aboriginality. Looking back at my own blogpost about the book, I appear to be a bit underwhelmed and puzzled by the hype. I didn’t buy the basic premise of the plot – i.e. that Charlie would feel compelled to get involved – and I must admit that I still feel that way.

So I didn’t have great expectations of the movie (which was not my choice to see). But I was pleasantly surprised.  The acting was excellent, particularly Toni Collette as Charlie’s mother, who had slipped my memory completely from the book.  The small Western Australian timber town was captured faithfully, and it was a satisfying coming-of-age story that evoked shades of  To Kill a Mockingbird.  I really enjoyed it

My rating: 8.5/10

Movie: Hidden Figures

I’ve had to forego my guilty pleasure of sitting in a darkened cinema each Monday so far this year because I’ve been too busy working on an exhibition at the Heidelberg Historical Society (exciting details to come!)  But it’s all bedded down now, and so I can return to my beat into the city, onto the tram up Swanston Street to Melbourne Uni, down to Lygon Street and into the cinema Nova to catch a movie that is almost inevitably on its ‘last days’.

Not this time though- it was the garish Northland Hoyts, in order to use up free tickets that Mr Judge had won in a footy tipping competition last year. (Not only do I only catch exhibitions and films just as they’re closing, but we often find ourselves using up coupons and vouchers the day before they about to expire.) I’d heard good things about ‘Hidden Figures’, and so catch it we would.  It is based on the experiences of three African-American women who worked at NASA in 1961.

It is a good story, massaged though it is for film-making purposes.  For example, although the three real-life women in this film did indeed work for NASA, they did not all start work there at the same time or travel to work together. Many of the white characters were invented or a composite, and the toilet-sign smashing scene never occurred. Perhaps I should let go of my discomfort at such narrative practices, although I think that NASA might have felt a little miffed, given that they had desegregated in 1958.   However, even if the most egregious elements of segregation had been eliminated,  the pettiness and degradation of small acts of both deliberate and unconscious prejudice is pervasive.  And as my friend Lynne pointed out when we were discussing the movie over lunch, it was interesting and unusual to see middle class African-American families in the 1960s depicted on the screen.

I did find the tone of the movie a bit saccharine, though. Maybe that’s to be expected, given that the whole NASA enterprise was shot through with American patriotism – an emotion and a political stance that I’m not personally comfortable with.  I was also conscious that this film would have been conceptualized and produced during Obama’s presidency, and wondered how the politics of pre-Trumpian American fed into it.  Nonetheless, a good film that brings three unknown African-American pioneers right to the front of stage, hidden no longer.

Movie: Rosalie Blum

I was sitting in the cinema, watching trailer after trailer of upcoming American movies. It’s so good to see something that’s not American for a change. Something that unfolds with a different sense of narrative pacing; something that doesn’t have American accents; something that is underpinned by values that are not American.  The absolute dominance of American news and Donald Trump in our media is making this deluge of Americana even more suffocating.

So I was well and truly ready for Rosalie Blum. This is a terrific movie, set in the present day in a provincial French town, where a prematurely-balding hairdresser who still lives with his mother, finds himself fascinated by an older woman who he’s sure he’s met previously. The gently-unfolding movie tells the same events from three different perspectives and although billed as a ‘comedy’ is bittersweet and nuanced.

The movie is in French,  sub-titled in English

My rating: 4 / 5.

Movie: ‘A United Kingdom’

There’s 54 countries in Africa, and each would have its own distinct post-colonial story. To my shame I know very few of them- just a smattering of knowledge about the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya and that’s just about it. Although some aspects of this film are for dramatic interest (e.g. the British public servants here are not historical figures), the rest is pretty accurate.  I thought for a minute that I might have to rethink my opinion of Winston Churchill- but I didn’t.  A United Kingdom is a good movie (and here’s a link to the obituary for Ruth Khama)

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

Movie: Nocturnal Animals

This movie was nothing like I thought it would be.  I knew that it was about a woman who was forwarded the draft of a book written by her ex-husband and dedicated to her. On reading it, she came to question past events, and finds that revenge can be served in many ways.

I was expecting a bit of a dinner-table psychodrama. I wasn’t prepared for the violence or dystopian bleakness of this movie.  A very critical review ‘I’m so glad to spoil this film for you’ found much the same thing.  I don’t know if I’ll be quite as malicious, but this film is certainly NOT a dinner-table psychodrama. Don’t think Woody Allen: think Mad Max.

My rating: Hard to say -4? but too violent and disturbing for me.