Archive for March, 2023

Having declared last month that I was going to return to my movie of the month segment I have fallen somewhat behind.  We are two thirds of the way through March, and I am yet to report on February.  I only actually made four trips to the cinema throughout the month, but don’t feel I missed out on much.

Knock at the Cabin – When you mention M. Night Shyamalan the first thing people think about is plot twists, it is a lazy shorthand I am guilty of too.  My favourite of his films is the one where I didn’t see the twist coming, Unbreakable (2000).  On the other hand, I saw the twist a mile off in his beloved masterpiece The Sixth Sense (1999) and have never really liked the movie.  Would I have liked it more had I not worked out the twist?  Maybe! While there are many twists in his movies, that isn’t all they are about, Knock at the Cabin is no exception, and is one of the better films in a very up and down career. 

Based on The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay but with a significantly changed end that also changed the meaning.  A seven-year-old child, Wen and her parents Eric and Andrew are on holiday, staying in a cabin in the woods (nothing bad ever happens in a movie set in a cabin in the woods, does it?).  They are confronted by a quartet of home invaders led by Leonard, brilliantly portrayed by Dave Bautista.  Leonard is calm, polite and softly spoken to the point of menace!  He explains the great sacrifice they must make for the good of humanity.  What follows is a tense and well measured thriller that unfolds rather than containing any massive twists.  While the story is laced with religion and theology, it could easily be read as an allegory for climate change with the message that there is hope, but only with sacrifice.   All things considered, a film I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to. 

The Whale – Brendan Fraser has recently won the best actor Oscar for this movie where he portrays Charlie, a many who is terminally ill from the effects of his obesity. He wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter played by Sadie Sink who is also excellent playing a truly horrible person.  There is fantastic performances from supporting characters played by Hong Chau, and Samantha Morton. 

The single location set is effective in demonstrating the prison Charlie has created for himself, but it also betrays the movies theatrical origin.  The refences to Moby Dick throughout the film remind us of director Darren Aronofsky’s disinterest in subtlety, but again it works.  What Aronofsky is brilliant at is taking an ordinary character and pushing to the extremes of their actions.  The film seems to be telling people they can have faith without religion. While the film does get bogged down in its own theology (not sure I have ever used that word on this blog before, now I have used it twice in one article!) it is lifted greatly by the good pacing and great acting. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantomania – The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) hardly put a foot wrong with twenty-three films in eleven years split into three phases collectively known as “The Infinity Saga”.  Then came Phase Four, the start of a new series of films, “The Multiverse Saga”.  Phase Four is made up of seven distinctly average movies that failed to live up to what went before, Phase Five is the time to get back on track, and Quantomania needs to be the film to do it.  It is after all the film that was going to introduce the villain for the rest of the Saga (well sort of). 

The plot for what it’s worth involves Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and his Ant-family get sucked into the quantum realm, which turns out to be very different to what we had been led to believe from Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer).  The film leans into its weirdness which is good, but the story is very dull and lightweight.  As with the two previous Ant-Man movies Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne / Wasp is given nothing to do.  On a positive note, Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror makes in interesting villain. 

Woman Talking – You would be forgiven for thinking Woman Talking was based on a play, its limited locations and long speeches certainly give that impression.  It is actually adapted from a 2018 novel (of the same name) by Miriam Toews.  The visuals would also make you think it was set a long time in the past, unlit it becomes clear it is set in the very recent past.  The most shocking revelation is that it is inspired by a true story. 

The film centres on a group of who have to decide what to do following the revelation that a group of men within their community have been drugging and raping the woman.  The main issue they face is that they live within an isolated Mennonite colony.  The woman have little to no education, cannot read or write, and have never evens seen a map of the area surrounding where they live.  Most significantly they have the huge spectre of religious dogma clouding an rational ability to make a decision. 

The second Oscar winning movie in this month’s roundup, writer/director Sarah Polley won this years award for adapted screenplay.  This is well deserved as the screenplay is fantastic, not just because it is a dialogue heavy story,  but also for the structure it gives the film, keeping it interesting, and not repetitive.  The strongest thing about the film is the acting from a fantastic, mainly female ensemble cast, the standouts are Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, and Rooney Mara. 

A clear and easy movie of the month winner: Woman Talking


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I actually don’t like the Oscars and movie awards in general.  The idea of awards for art makes little sense to me, especially when that piece of art is made for mass consumption.  A piece of art exists on its own merit, and how it is consumed is the reward.  Then you have the question of how do you compare two very different things.  This year’s best picture Oscar nominees include the twelfth and third highest grossing movies of all time, one that has mainly been seen on home streaming, and a couple that haven’t been seen by that many people in total.  And, they span many genre.  It’s a little like if you were going to give an award for the best car of the year you have a shortlist including a championship winning race car, and the best new family car.  They both do what they do well but couldn’t do what the other does.  Taking it back to the best picture race, we have a voting system where the film that the majority thought was best will almost certainly not win.  It is decided by a system of preferential voting (or ranked voting, where the winner must achieve over 50% of the vote.  Each voter has a single transferable vote. They rank the films in order of preference, even though they probably haven’t seen half of them!  The votes are counted, with one vote awarded to each person’s number one choice.  If no film receives 50% of the vote (they probably won’t in the first few rounds) the film with the least number of votes is eliminated.  The votes are recounted.  If anyone ranked the eliminated film their number one, their number two choice gets the vote.  This is continued until one film breaks the 50% ceiling.  Eventually the film that people don’t mind or possibly quite liked (if they bothered to watch it) is awarded the best picture of the year.   Looking at it from this point of view I predicted wins for CODA, Nomadland, and Green Book.  I didn’t see the win for Parasite coming but was glad it did win!  This year’s film that fits the bill is The Fabelmans, which also has the added double bonus of being about filmmaking, and being made by Steven Spielberg who has a lot of love in the industry. 

This article was inspired by a tweet, that was unfortunately deleted before I thought to get a screenshot of it.  The general Idea of it was a reaction to Woman Talking getting a best picture nomination, the tweeter suggested that The Oscars where pointless if they were going to nominate films that no one had heard of or would go to see.  And this is the where I ramble to my point, Top Gun: Maverick, and Avatar: The Way of Water don’t need any more publicity, they have already taken all money in the world, Avatar has probably taken as much as all the other movies combined. But there are smaller movies like Women Talking and Triangle of Sadness who depend on awards buzz to get distribution deals, and get bums on seats. Going back to my point of how hard it is to vote/rank movies across multiple drama’s I thought I would give it a go.  Here goes my attempt to rank the best picture nominees as I would if I were voting for them. 

1.     All Quiet on the Western Front

2.     The Banshees of Inisherin

3.     Top Gun: Maverick

4.     Women Talking

5.     Tár

6.     The Fabelmans

7.     Elvis

8.     Everything Everywhere All at Once

9.     Avatar: The Way of Water

10.  Triangleof Sadness*

*Please note this isn’t my least favourite, sadly I am yet to see it.  If I were a voter I would still have to rank it.  How do voters decide on this?  Do they put the ones they haven’t seen at the bottom as I have done?   There are two issues with this.  It disadvantages the smaller less seen films, and if there are multiple films a voter hasn’t seen they one will still be ranked above the other!  Chances are they will slot them in the list based on if the they know/like/dislike the filmmaker, or based on past work, or word of mouth. 

And to finish who is going to win?  The Banshees of Inisherin was the favourite for a long time, but Everything Everywhere All at Once seem to have the momentum and is the favourite with bookmakers.  But there is far more to it than that.  As mentioned, the best picture is decided by a voting system that favours the middle of the road over the adventurous film.  I would like to see All Quiet on the Western Front or The Banshees of Inisherin win, but think it is actually between the favourite Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Fabelmans (fourth in the betting) with the Spielberg movie edging it. 

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