Darkest Hour

Director: Joe Wright

Nominated for: Best Picture; Best Actor; Best Hair and Makeup; Best Costume; Best Cinematography; Best Production Design

First off – I’m British and very proud of that fact. Darkest Hour is a brilliant film that made me so much prouder to be British – it’s about arguably one of the most recognisable  characters in British history so the expectation to be a good film was enormous. It more than lived up to those expectations!darkest hour

Darkest Hour actually deals with a tiny period of time within World War II, the lead up to  Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of Dunkirk – but it is such a divisive period; it’s the turning point of the War. And I actually came out of the cinema having learnt something about the War – I never knew about the importance of the Calais garrison in the success of Dunkirk. But then that was a massive defeat and we didn’t necessarily want to remember that fact. However I feel that this does a disservice to all those men who gave the ultimate sacrifice when asked of them in order to save others.

The cinematography is brilliant – it’s very clever. There are a lot of bird’s-eye shots. I particularly love the scene that moves seamlessly from a bombed out France into the face of a dead soldier – bit morbid I know but it’s actually rather beautifully shot. Darkest Hour seems to share a similar colour scheme to The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010). And that wasn’t the only comparison I drew with The King’s Speech – just like that film this one ends right at a really pivotal moment, the launch of Operation Dynamo, which I found quite unsatisfying. Luckily I had Dunkirk on my list of nominated films to watch. The moment you saw the little ships heading off to Dunkirk gave me literal goosebumps – there is something magical about knowing the incredible feat they manage to pull off!

Darkest Hour just highlighted how very lucky we were to have Churchill come into halifaxpower when he did. It could have been a very, very different outcome should Halifax have succeeded instead. Man, Halifax was a spineless little shit (excuse my French!!) there is nothing about him that endears him to me at all. He has read the whole situation completely wrong so thank goodness Churchill was there to set him straight! But then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

It’s always difficult to take well-known historical characters and do them justice. The hair and makeup in Darkest Hour is outstanding. While they may not have got King George VI’s voice right they certainly got the look right. The development of Churchill 171130_MOV_Ronald.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2and Bertie’s relationship is an interesting one that shows just how strained it was to begin with. Likewise the team managed to make Ronald Pickup look remarkably like Neville Chamberlain.

Kristin Scott Thomas is wonderful as Clemmie Churchill. You got the impression that she really was a rock to Churchill and provided him necessary boosts to confidence when everything rested on his shoulders. However, lead_960she doesn’t take any rubbish from him either. Gary Oldman is outstanding as Churchill – he’s one of those actors that completely embodies whichever character he is playing and this one is no different. It’s as if Churchill has come back to life on-screen. It must have been an incredibly lonely job especially given that he was trying to fight against almost everyone else in Parliament at an extremely pivotal time during the War. This leaves him very isolated and has been reflected in the cinematography with him often being framed by himself or being the only one in a certain type of lighting. darkest_hour

I was kind of hoping that Darkest Hour would do well at the BAFTAS because as much as I found this film amazing I have a feeling that the Americans just won’t get it in the same way. It’s not a part of their history – it’s not even a part of their war yet as they don’t enter WWII until almost a full year later in 1941 – so I don’t think that emotional connection will be there. So I was relying on BAFTAS to recognise it for the great British film it is – both  in terms of story and production … but that didn’t really happen thanks to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh) actually being considered a British movie due to its production. I also think this is one of, if not, the best performances I’ve ever seen Gary Oldman give and really believe it could be his year at the Oscars – but he is up against Daniel Day-Lewis and we all know how infatuated the Academy is with him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pips Best Actor tonight.

 

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Oscars 2018 Nominations

90scars_newsbanner_copyIt’s nomination day … or at least it was when I was writing this (evening rehearsals meant that I couldn’t get near a computer in order to post it on the same day!) I haven’t attempted my usual thing of trying to see as many nominated films as I can before the ceremony for a couple of years but my aim for 2018 is to be more consistent with my blog. What better way to start then with trying to watch 33(ish) films in little over a month (while working full-time and rehearsing for a show twice a week?!?!)

At first glance the nominations are not all that surprising because if you follow the awards season a number of the big hitters, The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro), Darkest Hour (Joe Wright) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh), have been racking up the wins through the season. I do find it surprising that Get Out (Jordan Peele) has got quite so many nominations as it has – and in some pretty big categories too – but that’s because I don’t tend to associate the horror genre with the Oscars. It’s also like it could be a pretty good year for the Brits with a fair few nominations racked up over a number of categories – and as a Brit this makes me incredibly happy.

Greta-Gerwig-Lady-Bird-2018There have been a number of wins for me already though as there seems to be slightly more recognition for women in the industry with Greta Gerwig becoming only the fifth female director to be nominated for Lady Bird, and Rachel Morrison making history for being the first ever female cinematographer to be nominated for rachel-morrison-e1516715520872her work on the Netflix movie Mudbound – let’s just take a moment to marvel at how rapidly the movie landscape is changing in that a movie created for a streaming service has been nominated for a number of Academy Awards! Now I know some may argue that the whole #MeToo movement has had an impact on this year’s nominations … and it probably has … but at least it’s put women at the forefront of discussion and these women have been recognised for their talent not their looks. And that, like I say, is a win for me!

I would love Gary Oldman to take home the Oscar for Best Actor … and people seem confident that this will be the case thanks to his recent wins at The Golden Globes and SAG Awards … but I have learnt to never underestimate Daniel Day-Lewis who seems to be the Academy’s darling and has in my opinion won previously over other more deserving actors because he is “method”. It all just becomes a bit boring when he is nominated for something as there’s a very high chance he will win. Anyway enough with that little rant.

I’m usually a bit indifferent to the Short Film categories because it’s so hard to find a way to watch them that I tend to give up. However this year, we’ve had quite a bit of local news coverage about one of the nominees for the Best Live Action Short Film, The Silent MV5BZTk4YzAzM2MtMGVjOS00Y2M5LTk1YTItZGM2ZmYwZTI1YzM0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc3OTI2MTM@._V1_UY268_CR4,0,182,268_AL_Child (Chris Overton) and this has piqued my interest in it. Not only is it a brilliant story for a film – what do deaf children have to overcome to have some sense of normalcy in a world that is predominately hearing – in the wonderful and fascinating language of British Sign Language (BSL) but it has a pretty cool origin story too. Two actors from the English soap Hollyoaks, who created it as a passion project, based on personal experience. Chris Overton even learnt BSL specifically so that he could communicate with Maisie Sly who plays the little girl and is profoundly deaf in real life. How awesome is that?!

The Best Animated Feature category feels a bit weak to me this year but I guess that happens on occasion. Some years there is a plethora of animated feature films to choose from and then other years there aren’t quite so many and you end up with a few randoms in the category. Kind of feels like that this year, not gonna lie.

Every Oscars nomination there is always something that leaves me a little bit disappointed and this year was no different. This year I’m pretty sad to see that The The_Greatest_Showman_posterGreatest Showman (Michael Gracey) has been largely overlooked with only one nomination – Best Original Song with “This Is Me” (which will be amazing when performed on the night by the way!!) I did sort of expect that it wouldn’t garner that many nominations, especially in the bigger categories, but I thought that it at least had a shot at both Best Makeup and Hairstyling and Cinematography, as both of these elements are outstanding. I’m not really sure why it’s not really picked up that many nominations as for me , as much as I loved La La Land (Damien Chazelle) and believe me as a fan of 1950s Musicals I really do love it, The Greatest Showman just blew it out of the water. But it doesn’t seemed to have touched the critics in the same way although everyone I know is astounded by it and pretty obsessed with the soundtrack it has to be said. I could go on and on about The Greatest Showman but I think I’ll wait until I actually review it properly.

And on that subject – any ideas on how I should go about reviewing the films for this year’s Oscars? Should I do them as individual films and note what it is they’re nominated for or do I do it by category and mention each film? Any thoughts would be muchly appreciated you guys. And now I shall leave you and make a start on watching all these incredible films.

JFK

Director: Oliver Stone

1991

I’ve been known to be a little bit of a conspiracy theory believer – sometimes just to wind up my mum who still staunchly believes that man landed on the moon – but there are a couple that I really believe and fascinate me (Kurt Cobain never committed suicide but don’t get me started on that!) and one of those is the assassination of the 35th President of America, John F. Kennedy. I’ve also been on a bit of a JFK fix at the moment, reading the Stephen King book 11.22.63, in preparation for watching the recent television programme of the same name. “Never a stranger to controversy, Oliver Stone followed up his powerful post-Vietnam movie, Born on the Fourth of July (1989) with a film that angered and amazed people in equal measure – his questioning, overwhelming, urgent conspiracy movie JFK.” (791, Joanna Berry, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

jfk-1991-picture-mov_202d5c37_b“Although many people have debated whether more than one person pulled the trigger that day, Stone went one further and committed some of the many theories to celluloid, and in doing so delivers a fascinating film that raises more questions than it answers.” (791) To say JFK had an impact on the american public is a bit on an understatement. The film and the questions it raised partly resulted in the creation of the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. Those papers should be due for release next year – but whether they will be is anyone’s guess. JFK is a mammoth film with a 3 hour run time – and a run time that actually feels as long as it is – but every single moment is compelling. And it asks some very uncomfortable questions. There’s something about the Kennedy assassination that has never sat well with me – it just does not seem plausible that one man could have caused as much damage as he did, and I guess the subsequent assassination of Bobby Kennedy only added weight to the conspiracy theory in my opinion – I mean really why did both Kennedy’s need to be removed? What was it about them that was so threatening?

“Using documentary footage – including the infamous home movie shot by Abraham Zapruder – as well as flashbacks, reconstructions, quick editing, and a skillful use of words and music, Stone weaves many ideas and theories together using the huge mountain of evidence and witness testimony without ever confusing or hoodwinking his audience. We don’t get a result by the time the end credits roll three breathtaking hours later, but we do know – as if there was any doubt in our minds previously – that it was impossible for Lee Harvey Oswald to have acted alone.” (791) I went into JFK already questioning the official version of the truth. And the film that Stone pulled together just reinforced all of the questions I had about that supposed truth. He pulls together an extremely compelling and convincing film that while never providing a conclusive answer gives you more than enough evidence to begin forming your own opinions of that historic event. The more I watched the more it reinforced the absurdity of the theory of a single shooter.

“He would not succeed in getting us to care so completely about this search for the truth without a strong central performance from Costner, who holds your attention throughout the film despite the numerous heavyweight actors who stroll in and out playing small roles – from Tommy Lee Jones as suspect Clay Shaw to Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman (as Oswald), Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Kevin Bacon, and Sissy Spacek, all of whom are superb.” (791) The cast is immense – it’s a veritable who’s who of Hollywood and as Joanna Berry says the majority of them appear in small supporting roles. Costner is magnetic as Jim Garrison, a man who has become somewhat lost to history. Sure everyone knows Kennedy was assassinated but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that there was someone who looked into the official report of the version of events and publically questioned it, at great personal cost to himself. Now I’m not naive – I studied film and television studies – so I know that every director controls exactly what story they want the viewer to see through their choices in editing and therefore every single thing you watch has its own agenda behind it. Even if you think that the single bullet theory is the truth, JFK is a compelling watch and who knows you may even come out of it with a different view on such an iconic event that shocked the world to its core. I cannot recommend JFK strongly enough.