Category Archives: Movies 2018

Movie: I, Tonya

I really enjoyed this.  It’s filmed as a mockumentary and it places competing narratives against each other. After seeing the film, we watched ‘Tonya Harding: The Price of Gold” which is available on SBS On Demand.  I’m really glad that we went from the movie re-enactment to the documentary and not the other way round.  Margot Robbie was excellent, as was Allison Janney who played her chilling mother.  The documentary was actually the source inspiration for the film, and seeing them almost side-by-side, yo realize just how well Robbie picks up on Harding’s brittleness.  The film gives more weight to the domestic and emotional violence that was wrought all round.

Really good.

My rating: 5 stars.


Movie: Sweet Country

Set in the Northern Territory in 1929 and based on actual events, this is a beautiful filmed story of menace and injustice. When an aboriginal stockman kills a crazed white station owner in self-defence, he and his wife escape into the outback, where they are hunted by a posse of self-appointed avengers, assisted by other stockmen as trackers.  It has Bryan Brown and Sam Neill, both of whom have appeared in too many films like this. There are no romantic frontier myths here: it’s brutal and harsh and unforgiving.  Hard to watch, but necessary to watch, too.

My rating: 3.5 stars

Movie: Menasche

This is certainly no action movie, and it’s more an exploration of a situation than a plot. Menashe is a widower, and as a result his son is taken from his custody and raised in his brother-in-law’s house in a ‘proper’ family.  He works as a poorly paid grocery clerk, and is looked down upon by the other men of the community. The best way to think of the film is more as a documentary than narrative, and it certainly gives a fascinating look into a Hasidic community within a modern city.  The main character is actually acted by the real-life man on whose story the film is based, and it’s a bit like watching a reality program as it does not feel acted at all.  It’s completely in Yiddish with subtitles.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

Movie: Wonder

Dad thought I’d probably enjoy this. Then he thought again.  As someone with a cleft lip and palate, I’ve had my own share of stares and cruelties as a child.  I’ve also felt the pain of being the parent of an affected child.  Perhaps it might be too close to the bone? he wondered.

He need not have feared.  I was not uplifted.  I was not cast down. My main response to this movie was nausea at its unrelenting saccharine-ness.

The little boy who starred in the movie does not have Treacher-Collins syndrome. His appearance was created through prosthetics and makeup. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I acknowledge that it would be an exceptional child who could both act and live a life of being stared at and shunned.  I don’t know if anyone would want to play in a kid’s head that way.

On the other hand, there’s something inauthentic about a movie with the message of “you are beautiful no matter what” and “be kind” choosing a non-affected child to pretend to have Treacher-Collins.  Something a little too easy about being able to wipe off the prosthetic and then go on to the next movie.  I’m uneasy about it.

Movie: Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is the story of a young man who, charged with delivering a letter between the now-deceased Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, tries to find out how Vincent died.  Story-wise, it’s a bit of a whodunnit, questioning the assumption that it was suicide.

But you’re not here for the story, which is lacklustre. Instead, you’re here for the animation, which is just amazing.  You can detect who the actors through their voices and posture but they, along with the backgrounds, are painted with trademark Van Gogh brushstrokes. Each of the 65,000 frames has been painted by one of 125 artists, organized into 125 teams

It’s not a long movie at 95 minutes, but originally it was conceived as a short 17 minute film. It could possibly have remained at the shorter length and made a similar impression on the watcher.  I use the term ‘watcher’ deliberately, because this is very much a visual experience rather than an intellectual or emotional one.

Worth seeing for the spectacle.

Movie: Darkest Hour

I always stay to watch the credits at the end of a film, even with the cinema staff sweeping around me. The credits at the end of ‘Darkest Hour’ list 93-year-old historian John Lukacs, and I found myself wondering just how he feels about this movie. He was the author of the absolutely brilliant Five Days in London: May 1940, which tells in almost hour-by-hour detail the decisions faced by the British government as France and Belgium fell to the Nazis.  I  think he would have fully supported the film’s emphasis on Churchill’s personality and the uncertainty that surrounded the decision to stand up to Hitler, I wonder how he felt about some of the scenes in the movie.

I’ve often quoted the adage that I gleaned from somewhere when watching a film ‘based on true events’: think of the most dramatic scene in the movie and that’s the bit that’s made up. It certainly holds true here. About 2/3 of the way through a scene on the Underground made me think “Oh hold on – surely this isn’t true”- and sure enough, it’s not.

It’s a beautifully lit film and Gary Oldman is brilliant – although I think it’s easier to ‘nail’ a well-known, true-life character by impersonation than to build a completely fictional character up from scratch.  The music was perhaps a little too obtrusive.

I found myself looking for current-day political statements in the film. I don’t think that it necessarily set out to bring a message, but the funding decisions for films surely look for resonances amongst their audience.  So the message here? Perhaps the paucity of modern courage and leadership (although, of course, if the whole thing had gone pear-shaped …..) and a reassuring message that ‘the people know best’. A message for Brexit times, maybe?

Movie: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

It’s violent, it’s funny in places, it presents cliches and then subverts them.  It’s a rather Coen-Brothers-ish movie, and Frances McDormand (who has starred in several Coen Brothers movies) fully deserves the acclaim that she is receiving.

My rating: 4.5 stars.