Friday, 20 January 2017


Isn't this what you wanted though? Isn't this what you need from AnnE? Out in the US on the 7th of April.


20th Century Fox's Logan is shaping up to be one of the best superhero movies... ever? That is, if this strong trailer and the even stronger first trailer are to be trusted. Looking to capture some of the same R-rated X-Men universe magic that Deadpool conjured up at the early-year box office last year, Hugh Jackman's reported final appearance as Wolverine is out in the UK on the 2nd of March and in the US on the 3rd.


Nikolaus Geyrhalter continues to stake a legitimate claim as one of cinema's foremost visual poets, and one of its most underappreciated. Homo Sapiens is his melancholy ode to humanity, its presence felt in its absence. In these fleeting tableaux of desolation, we are presented as powerless in the face of our own habitat yet unrelentingly hostile to it, we are callous and flippant and wasteful yet equipped with the capacity for sublime creativity, we are doomed to destruction yet enduring in what tacky thumbprints we leave on the surface of a simple sphere of rock, fire and water that we've never deserved. Homo Sapiens is a movie of the mind, in which the action is staged wholly within one's own interpretation of its content; contrary to this rarefied approach to filmmaking, Geyrhalter remains an uncommonly generous artist with a genuinely extraordinary eye. Cumulatively a curious portrait of an apparently alien landscape, this collage is conflictingly composed of a variety of vaguely recognizable images in isolation - this strange planet is undeniably our own, as is this aggregate of fearsome dilapidation and vulnerability. Geyrhalter is a minimalist in form, but a maximalist in force and in what worth he can wring out of the simplest of scenarios; his frames are alive with movement, architecturally striking, not merely accompanied by elemental sound but reconstructed by it, in the humbling realization that the world will carry on with or without us, and perhaps preferably without. If Homo Sapiens is altogether too poetic to succumb entirely to such pessimism, it's perhaps for the best - Geyrhalter turns despondency into artistry, to chilling, stunning effect.

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Elizabeth Wood devises an argument against the artistic conservatism of so much American cinema, particularly that which purports to trade in grit and frankness, in a very American movie. In showing, she too tells, and with a deference to unvarnished realism that only bolsters her argument. White Girl is a vivid, intoxicating hit of cinematic cocaine, one heavenly upper with one hell of a downer. Its candour comes with a necessary fecklessness, an apt reflection of its narrative content, in spite of its resolutely, refreshingly non-judgemental position. This apparent lack of care is not quite carelessness - Wood exhibits an artful, sensitive directorial touch at the film's most crucial junctures, and prevents it from slipping into cheap salacity. It does serve to make White Girl more memorable than consequential, however, though memorable it indubitably is. Its stimulating, provocative final act aside, Wood intends her picture to communicate at least some small part of the indulgent insolence of a life lived willingly, briefly on society's dangerous, enticing edges. It's a privilege for her lead, if perhaps more of a statement on the privilege of her lead, and Wood's perceptive blend of unprejudiced objectivity and empathetic immediacy make the film something of a privilege for us to watch as well. White Girl shows, tells, and makes the absolute most of what it can do to us in the process; this is a balls-deep experience, as sore, as sweaty and as satisfying as it should be.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


Mountains out of molehills in Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea, and molehills out of mountains in exchange. Lonergan the writer knows no gear besides full throttle, while Lonergan the director knows no gear at all. Layers of emotional depth are revealed not only in his dialogue but in Jennifer Lame's fiddly editing, shuffling through past and present to poignant, disorientating effect. Grief is visited and revisited, and endless circles of pain prove to have no easy route out. After all, the route in was anything but easy. In the intended verisimilitude of Lonergan's mise-en-scene, there's tremendous force to be found when these layers build up to breaking point, and for all its attempted minimalism, Manchester by the Sea is at its most powerful when it relies upon power itself - that of the writer-director, and that of his most capable ensemble. Yet that verisimilitude is ill-constructed, with self-aware dialogue that undoubtedly looked better on the page than it sounds on the screen undermining these attempts toward realism. Lonergan's methods and motifs are too obviously placed to fit naturally into the film's milieu; one always senses the cogs of his mind whirring away, yet rarely senses the grip of his hand guiding the film anywhere other than back to the script at all costs. And Lame's editing, though it serves one good purpose, is intrusive in its efforts to contribute a feeling of lightheartedness - a feeling for which Lonergan has already accounted, his screenplay at its best when it's at its saltiest. No wonder this windswept coastal town is populated by Hollywood's hottest, since these are characters on which to chew and chew. Lonergan the writer serves them well; in flat compositions, and accompanied by a horrible soundtrack, Lonergan the director very nearly negates all of his, and their good work.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


The desire to support a certain type of film, the urge to enjoy and exalt all cinema that seeks to achieve a noble political purpose or to tell a worthy tale heretofore untold is put to the test in Hidden Figures. It comprises the majority of what this film has to offer, and indeed is an urge thoroughly encouraged by its content - this particular tale being about the African-American women whose integral contributions to space exploration in the 1960s, in the face of extreme, direct prejudice, have been mostly overlooked in favour of the archetypal white male heroes. You want to love them and this story of their experiences, and indeed you do love them - they're smart, witty, personable characters given depth and detail by an earnest screenplay and some smart performances. These lovable attributes aside, however, the film around these marvellous ladies is an unfortunate dud in a number of fundamental ways. Corny dialogue recalls soapy studio dramas from the early '90s, routine plotting bends the truth around a transparently formulaic structure, and suspect attempts at watering down the film's racial themes betray the callous pandering whose impact is surely antithetical to its central message. Hidden Figures is a conservative film about groundbreaking people, whose service deserved better than decades of erasure from the pages of history, and must now be content with this. It's an upgrade, no doubt, and in some respects a noble one. But once again, these women take the strain, elevating the work of their white colleagues, turning it into whatever triumph they can.

Monday, 16 January 2017


These are very late. Leave me alone. I saw them posted and thought I'd already covered them. I hadn't. So here they are. And here the Houston Film Critics Society's nominations are too.

Best Picture
La La Land

Best Direction
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Best Screenplay
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)

Best Cinematography
Linus Sandgren (La La Land)

Technical Achievement
La La Land - production design

Best Original Score
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Original Song
Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul 'City of Stars' (La La Land)

Best Animated Film
Kubo and the Two Strings

Best Documentary Feature
O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Language Film
The Handmaiden

Texas Independent Film Award

Best Poster
Theatrical poster (La La Land)

Outstanding Cinematic Contribution
Neil Billingsley and Rob Saucedo


Whether or not its dominance with the critics is going to extend into the upcoming industry awards remains to be seen, but Barry Jenkins' Moonlight keeps winning big awards in big numbers this season. The Denver Film Critics Society, whose nominations can be viewed here, has chosen the drama for four awards for the best in film last year. Check it all out below:

Best Picture

Best Director
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Best Actress
Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Best Actor
Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis (Fences)

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Best Original Screenplay
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Barry Jenkins - based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's In Midnight Boys Look Blue (Moonlight)

Best Visual Effects
Doctor Strange

Best Score
Justin Hurwitz (La La Land)

Best Original Song
'Drive It Like You Stole It' (Sing Street)

Best Animated Film

Best Documentary
O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Language Film
Toni Erdmann

Best Comedy

Best Science Fiction / Horror Film


An apparently limitless trove of inspiration in over a century of cinema - may these time-tested classics continue to educate and enthuse the filmmakers of today. And may those same filmmakers please leave their inspiration as inspiration alone? Live by Night is a vapid, tedious slog through the sorely limited imagination of one of the most dependable filmmakers of today, whose reliability matches that of his most enduring peers, past and present. Ben Affleck might never helm a masterpiece, never produce a classic akin to those to which Live by Night is a dreary homage, but he'll surely never helm a genuine dud either. That dependability allows even this, his first folly as director, to be a pleasurable experience in bits and pieces, fits and starts. To cop a sight of Affleck's fearsomely geometric figure, you'd know that he's a smarter director of action than of emotion, that his grasp of space, geography and aesthetic is considerably more assured than his grasp of the people therein. He's no stylist, though, and his intention of producing a tribute to old-school gangster noir whilst contributing to the genre anew is skewed so heavily in favour of convention over innovation that the end product feels like a hollow template, wholly uninspirational in itself. Forgetting its numerous, draining scenes of forced feeling - as you'll wish you could - Live by Night is a soulless, impersonal film, a valiant but misguided effort and a fine undertaking - check out that production value! - but to largely fruitless ends. Its debt to the mini-mythology of its genre, which it pays in attempting to recreate, is listlessly embodied in sequences whose drab character and tone have a stultifying effect on a film that feels more like a silly superhero origin story at times than a modern gangster movie touchstone.


Ezra Edelman's O.J.: Made in America arrives as though to prospectively chastise its fellow historical documentaries - now there's no excuse, now you have a bona fide benchmark for thoroughness. It may unfold with simple, unsurprising ease, confirming our suspicions rather than provoking new ones, but this is an essential part of this masterful documentary's supremacy. Edelman has tracked his story back to its true origin, ignoring all of the false leads, jettisoning all of the extraneous detail, refusing to manufacture suggestion and subtext, instead allowing it to seep out of the seams of reality. O.J.: Made in America is a testament to truth, and a bold, though resolutely partisan, examination of how the nature of truth can cause it to mean brazenly contradictory things to different people. Edelman is safe in the partisanism of his approach, himself functioning as a barrister for that truth, using hard evidence to bolster his arguments, never permitting his arguments to determine the character of his evidence. He has it both ways in O.J.: Made in America, smartly and objectively diagnosing the guilt in every human being, that he might expose the faults on every side of the debate. If truth is the ultimate defence, it's also the ultimate indictment; the scope of Edelman's investigations, and his dedication toward sincerity in his storytelling leave the deniers to hang themselves with their own rope. This is an education we're receiving, and those ignoramuses who'd rather not be educated can keep their idiocy to themselves! This is a timely documentary that would yet be equally so at any date in history, and a peerlessly thorough document of the whole truth, and nothing but it!