Awards Season is a complicated time of the year, and as much as we love it, we couldn’t do it all year round. And as a matter of fact, we all have mixed feelings about it, as it is impossible to come to an agreement on whether nominations and awards are fair, especially in an industry where publicity and studio power seem to have more weight than actual talent. With Oscar nominations just a few days away, it is a good time to remember one of this year’s biggest snubs: The Big Sick.
Biopics – and especially those depicting notable historical figures – seem to always be a safe bet for Award Season. Some people love it, other hate it, but every so many years a movie catches the attention of critics and voters alike and becomes a potential contender – i.e, The King’s Speech, among others. This year, Darkest Hour portrays the first days of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister, at a time when the United Kingdom was losing the war to Nazi Germany and Europe seemed to be doomed. I am going to be honest, the race for Best Actor is over: The Oscar goes to Gary Oldman.
Ebbing, Missouri. Foggy morning. Three billboards stand abandoned by the side of a small road. Like a ghost. Martin McDonagh wastes no time setting up the scene of his third feature. After her daughter’s brutal raped and murder remains unresolved for over seven months, Mildred Hayes, a mid-western single mother rents three billboards to call the village’s police force out for their inefficiency: “Raped while dying”, “And still no arrests”, “How come Chief Willoughby?”. It is not hard to imagine that we are facing a tale of revenge, outrage and rage. But Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, is far from being your typical revenge drama. This is not a story of a heroic mother courage, corrupt police officers and mean villains, you should know that ahead. This is a story that shows what we would be capable of doing in such a terrible situation. This could have been – and probably is – a real story we can all identify with.
What is – or should be – the role of movies? To entertain and distract us from our mundane lives? To inspire us? To make a positive impact on society? Cinema, like art, is not science, and thus we may never be able to find a proper consensus on what its role should be. I personally believe that our social reality should be reflected in the entertainment we consume. Which is why, at the time of post-truth, fake news, media mistrust and general political crisis, both in the United States and Europe, The Post is the movie we needed all along.
Let me just start by saying that chances are Molly’s Game is going to be the most disappointing movie I’m going to watch this Awards Season and that based on the critics I’ve read online, I’m either wrong about it or the critics love Aaron Sorkin too much to realize it. I had been anticipating this release ever since I heard of a movie written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and starring Jessica Chastain, whom I believe is one of the greatest actresses of her generation, despite never having won an Oscar (although she deserved it for Zero Dark Thirty). It had all the ingredients: one of the best screenwriters in the world, Aaron Sorkin, was going to be able to direct his first feature based on the thrilling real-life story of Molly Bloom.
Writing a review on a biopic is never easy, but writing a review on a biopic about a convicted real-life murderer told from the killer’s point of view might be the most difficult task ever (perhaps not “ever”, but pretty much). Phil Spector, the 2013 TV movie directed by David Mamet based on the 2003 murder of the actress Lana Clarkson in hands of one of the most renowned music producers in the world, is, in my opinion, one of the best TV movies made recently by HBO. Is it accurate? Every party will say it is not for different reasons (I myself am not expert on the trial so I’m not going to judge its accuracy), but truth (THE TRUTH) is not its main goal: “This is a work of fiction. It’s not ‘based on a true story.’ It is a drama inspired by actual persons in a trial, but it is neither an attempt to depict the actual persons, nor to comment upon the trial or its outcome.” Phil Spector is a fiction that goes beyond the actual events and challenges our perception of objectivity, bias and celebrity culture.
I am a firm believer that movies (especially American movies) portraying teenagers and high schools and these sorts of things are usually terribly wrong on so many levels: first of all, most of the actors are not even teenagers (Rachel McAdams was 26 when she played Regina George in Mean Girls), every high school looks the same and relies on the same stereotypes (maybe it’s my European point of view, who knows. Please, don’t take me wrong, I still love Mean Girls (the screenplay is simply brilliant) and I grew up obsessed with High School Musical, but the way these types of films depict high school is simply stereotypical and in a way it makes me feel that whomever wrote or directed them is out of touch with the youth and with the real topic of social anxiety among teenagers. Even movies such as The Duff, which criticizes the way teens who do not fit the mold are simply cast aside by popular teens, ends up being a stereotype blown out of proportions. The idea may be realistic but the “mise en scène” is plain wrong. Which is why The Edge of Seventeen is such an important movie and has simply moved me: it is the most relatable movie that I have ever seen, probably in my whole life.
Films have the power to change people’s perception of life. Cinema is considered a way to see life through somebody else’s eyes and experience things that we would not be able to experience firsthand. Short films have the same power, with the added difficulty that they have to make us feel and experience life in just a few minutes, with just a few shots, and yet they can move us and make us understand characters we hadn’t even met some 10 minutes before. They can teach us invaluable lessons so that even though we may have not lived that experience, we can relate it to our own lives, our own experiences. Stutterer, the first film by Irish writer director Benjamin Cleary and winner of the 2016 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, tells a story that goes beyond the screen to tackle a theme at the core of our society: communication.
One of the indisputable truths in life is that The Beatles never go out of fashion. This was especially proved last year when the documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years grossed over $12 million at the box office worldwide, which means that despite splitting over 40 years ago, people of all generations still love the Fab Four. It would then be no surprise that the 1964 comedy “mockumentary” A Hard Day’s Night is still wildly popular amongst Beatlemaniacs and just about anyone who likes the Beatles (myself included), but has it stood the test of time?
“I believe the characters we read on the page become more real than the men who stand beside us”.
If I could sum up Jackie in a quote that would be it. A lot has been said about Jackie, mostly (not to say almost exclusively) about Natalie Portman’s flawless performance. I think Jackie is much more than that, it is an extraordinary biopic (“biopic”) about perception, image creation and the thin line between reality and fiction at a time when most of our contact with reality comes from preconstructed images from the Internet and the media.