Archive for July, 2021

I recently re-watched a movie by a director who to use the modern idiom, has been “cancelled!” The thing that struck me was just how good the film is.  There is an argument for separating the art from the artist, especially given the fact that some of my favourite films from the golden age of Hollywood were made by “problematic” directors, producers and stars.  Some of my favourite more recent movies were produced by THE most problematic producer, including one that would probably never have been made without his intervention.  But is there a step further, is there an argument for some sort of redemption for some people involved?  It isn’t just directors and producers, there have also been actuations made against some actors.  Some of whom have denied any wrongdoing (in some cases despite evidence of guilt), others have owned their actions, apologised and tried to be better.   

You may have noticed I am not mentioning any names.  This is partly so I don’t accidently say something libellous, but mainly because this isn’t about any individual but about the concept.  Let’s be clear I am not talking about the individuals who committed crimes.  Most notably those convicted of crimes.  But there have been abuses of power and position where people have been made to suffer inexcusably that do not fall into a prosecutable crime.   Long before the Time’s Up and Me Two movements there was a very high profile case of an actor/director whose career appeared to be over following personal issues and unsavoury things he  had said.  These were not just allegations, some of his actions were recorded.  While he hasn’t returned to the heights of his earlier career, he has certainly come back from the brink.  So where does that leave other actors, directors and producers? Clearly some are in where they belong, in prison, others have continued to work, many have disappeared from the spotlight. 

As a middle-aged white man who does not work in the film or television industry, the first thought, certainly mine is do I have the right to talk about these issues?  But on reflection, yes absolutely! This is not an issue where the victims stand alone, and only they and the accused have a voice.  The world as a whole needs to stand up and talk about injustice and inequality when we see it.  Only by talking about issues can we keep them on the agenda.  Back in 2018 in the fledgling days of the Times’ Up Movement, there was a call for women attending the 75th Golden Globe Awards to wear black.  At first it was suggested it was a gimmick and would have no impact.  Most woman attending did indeed wear black, some brought activists to the awards ceremony as their plus one, many attendees male and female wore Time’s Up badges (pins if you are American).  All in all it was probably the only time the Globes have ever been relevant!  The spotlight helped the movement raise around $15 million for the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund.

This in many ways is the hardest article I have ever written, simply because I have no answers.  As I have no answers, I will end with a question:  Is it better that people are pigeonholed by their misdeeds and shut away  out of sight, out of mind; or would it be better for them to try to find some kind of redemption by admitting their mistakes, apologising for them, attempting to be better people?


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Black Widow has a problem, a big problem, timing! The issue is twofold, firstly it has been hugely delayed due cinemas being largely closed throughout last year and the start of this year.  The second more serious problem is that it is set before the previous two movies removing any real jeopardy for the main character.  Whether it can overcome these hurdles depends on different factors, on a critical level, the film is good; financially, we may never know!  It has received the strongest opening numbers since the start of the pandemic, but this is still way down on other movies in the franchise.  It is also available as a premium offering on Disney+ that may help with the ultimate bottom line but not the published box-office.  I would normally advocate watching movies in the order they were made.  However, in this case, I would suggest if you are new to the MCU that you slot this one on in somewhere between Captain America: Civil War from and Avengers: Infinity War. 

Following a prologue set in 1995 the movie kicks off with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the authorities aka Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) for breaching The Sokovia Accords (see Captain America: Civil War).  A MacGuffin and an attempt on her life later she finds her way to the often mentioned Budapest and on the hunt for a ghost from her past in the shape of General Dreykov (Ray Winstone).

Before I star anything that resembles a review, I have to admit I was predisposed to like this movie.  I have always felt that Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are the heart of the MCU, the franchises most interesting character, but they have never been given the screen time they deserve.  I am also a huge fan of a couple of Cate Shortland’s earlier movies. To add to this, the film most resembles, even echoes a lot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film that is both one of my favourites in the franchise and also the film that prior to getting her own film gave Scarlett Johansson the most screen time in the MCU.  Interestingly the final act (the MCU’s Achilles heel) is similar to, and has the same issues as the winter soldier. 

There are three big and several small action set pieces. As you would expect for a Marvel movie the action is well shot, and well choreographed, but this isn’t the films greatest strength.  The titular Black Widow is surrounded by great characters in the shape of her “family”  Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh),  Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz).  Both the performances and the dialogue are excellent.  The bickering and piss-taking all feels very real and natural as you only see with family or close friends.  Weisz has a level of calm and superiority that perfectly bounces off Harbour’s comic relief, but Pugh is comfortably the MVP.  She plays the part with a perfect combination of childlike sincerity and amazement with a certain grit and cynicism.  There have been suggestions that if this truly is Johansson’s Marvel swansong that Pugh will take on the mantle of Black Window within the Avengers.  While it would be a shame to lose Johansson, Pugh would make an excellent addition, it appears she has already been confirmed to reprise her role in the Hawkeye TV series due to hit Disney+ later this year. 

Like the aforementioned Winter Solider the villains are more grounded than many in other MCU movies, this isn’t a bad thing.  When a story is well told, personal tragedy and  grounded adversaries are just as significant as those that threaten worlds or universes! The plot is slim taking a central idea from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (although a different Bond movie is reverenced and another invoked!).  The accents drift in and out of Russian, often for no real reason.  But these and any other issues spring to mind after the film has finished, because while you watch it, you just go with it! This is testament to the taught direction and  great performances.  What could have been a paper thin narrative used to string together the action set pieces actually comes across as a fun hang-out movie.  The characters are so strong that you may want the action to stop so they could spend more time hanging out and arguing with each other, fortunately this never happens, because the bickering continues  during the big action scenes. 

Marvel have made 24 movies in a decade and half, a similar number to what James Bond Managed in nearly fifty years and around double the Star Wars output in around forty-five years. when you get to this point, you cannot just judge an MCU movie on how good it is, you have to look at in relation to the rest of the franchise, the greater world of comic book movies, and its competitors from the DCEU.  It’s far from the best MCU movie as it doesn’t move the narrative forward, it actually has little to no impact on the franchise as a whole, and you would not miss anything by skipping it, but that would be a shame, and a mistake.  It does something that a lot of the other movies in it stable cannot, it stands on its own.  You could watch and enjoy the movie without having seen any other MCU movie.  And for the record, it’s better than most of the output of the DCEU. Go see it support your local cinema and have some fun!

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