RSS

Tag Archives: 2015

Selma

Selma film posterSynopsis

About Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and the civil rights struggles in 1965 in Selma Alabama.  King organizes a march for the right to vote.  About the persecution of black people by southern whites led by George Wallace (Tim Roth).  Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom wilkinson) tries to put off civil rights to a later date.  FBI chief Hoover (Dylan Baker) tries to slander King.  Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) is the scarier alternative to King’s non violence. Carmen Ejogo plays Coretta Scott King.

Review

Selma commendably avoids the sentimental trap of epiphanous moments on the self congratulatory road to liberal democratic heaven.  There is no ambushing of the film by a white film star (as there might have been until recently).  David Oyelowo avoids the sort of statuesque dignity which would turn King into a black Lincoln.  He has affairs and is humanly flawed yet is a powerful presence.  His funeral and political ovations are musical and stirring.  His decision to ‘retreat’ after the second march on the Edmond Pettus bridge is all the more impressive for its subtle selflessness.  The focal scene in Selma is the march on the bridge, its role as a symbol is obvious.  In numerous films bridges have been critical meeting points and the reality of that is bloodily illustrated in Selma.  Malcolm X is there to act as a reminder that radical opinion might view non violence as an Uncle Tom tactic, that martyrdom was a useless gesture in the face of white power, speaking of which, Lyndon Johnston does look as cynically self serving as any politician condescendingly acknowledging that civil rights is morally fine but not an immediate priority.  J Edgar Hoover looks like a well groomed rat and behaves like one.  Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King also avoids the stereotype of purse lipped dignity foisted on so many black actors in these sort of films.  The Kings have to deal with the simplified image of the good man of poetic rheetoric and the reality of a middle class couple caught up in the terrors of civil rights and the emotional torments of marital infidelity.  There is a memorable scene at the beginning of Selma in which Oprah Winfrey is asked to prove her eligibility in registering for the vote.  She’s undone by the simple malice of institutionalised injustice.  A triumphant film.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Still Alice

Still Alice film posterSynopsis

Based on a novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova starring Julianne Moore as Alice, a professor of linguistics who, after becoming forgetful of words and on one occasion of her whereabouts, is told she will suffer Alzheimer’s disease.  Still Alice follows the emotional impact on herself and her family.  Her husband is played by Alec Baldwin.  Her daughter Lydia (Kirsten Stewart) learns there is a likelihood of her being a future sufferer.  Alice becomes increasingly helpless as the disease takes hold.

Review

Back in the ’80s and ’90s there were films about social issues such as domestic violence and depression and these were dealt with in an often bland fashion.   Given our supposed advances since then in cultural sensitivity Still Alice manages to look like Hollywood looking after it’s own.  It’s fortunate that Alice is affluent and surrounded by caring academic liberals who are all smart, and of course, beautiful.  The prospects for those of lower status, or the poor, would be so much grimmer thus unfit for mainstream viewing.  Given these limitations, the film just about manages to convey the menace to domesticity in the way of thrillers.  You get the early scenes of domestic bliss (usually the family has just moved into a new home) and then the threat arises.  It’s a neat way of melodramatizing for a two hour production.  The cold panic in loss of memory and control are reasonably shown, and the film largely avoids the trap of facile sentimentality that you might get in a film about cancer, but only just.There is poetic acknowledgement of the role of memory in identity and of course the loss of this is the horror.  There is a quote from the poet Elizabeth Bishop in the speech Alice gives about possible responses to its onset.  Alice arranges for her suicide when the disease takes over.  Leaving the shower gel in the fridge is a startling sign of the disease.  Still Alice avoids the physical effects (except for incontinence because of not being able to find the bathroom), so is this an evasion of a responsibility to deal with reality?  Emotional coping is what the family has to offer but of course we can’t know the subjective reality of Alzheimer’s.  There is need to go further in this subject.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 30, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year film posterSynopsis

1981 is the year when Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) gets into the New York heating oil distribution business, but he wants to do it legitimately.  He inherited his business from his criminal father-in-law.  He makes a deposit on a waterfront deal and has 30 days to close the deal or risk losing it all.  He wants to persuade the District Attorney (David Oyelowo) of his legitimacy, and he must protect his business from violent competitors.  Jessica Chastain plays his business-shrewd wife.  Morales’ employees are afraid since they are in the firing line.  Will Morales’ business survive?

Review

Oscar Isaac looks like Al Pacino (especially when in Scarface), so it comes as a bit of a shock to learn of Morales’ aspirations towards legitimacy, in fact he makes a big deal about it, as if he expects us to congratulate him when he says “I AM NOT A GANGSTER”.  He is goaded into chasing one of the thugs who attacked his employee, he gets rough with him but does not shoot him.  The street and waterfront scenes of New York recall the dour gritty look of the seventies like in Serpico.  The interiors are gloomy and tacky, was 1981 really this grim?   When, as a well dressed businessman, Morales gets out of his car to negotiate with the DA and the police one expects somebody to get shot but it doesn’t happen.  The feel is Sidney Lumet and Scorsese, the waterfront could be On the Waterfront from 1954.  The film is all the more fascinating precisely because it shuns the easy option of violence.  Resorting to guns can be counter productive to the usual pursuit of profit in spite of the numerous “it’s business” excuses for violence in the Godfather and other gangster films.  Morales is trying to maintain self respect as his patriarchal pride is wounded when his wife Anne offers her help in his business problems.  When the DA orders a search of the Morales house it looks like a re-tread of Eliot Ness pursuing Al Capone but Anne makes it look like the hounding of a respectable yuppy household.  The presence of a gun in the house startles because it seems out of place.  Chastain’s Anne looks like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface but she is too intelligent to be overawed by the threats inherent in the ropiness of business dealings.  Her father was, after all, a criminal who succeeded through violence.  When there are business meetings we think about the pomposity of Mafia procedure, especially when suspicious recriminations fly about over Morales’ rival,s but no-one comes in waving Capone’s baseball bat.  Excellent.

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: