Tag Archives: drama

63 – Custody

This week we go arthouse and discuss Xavier Legrand’s first feature, Custody (Jusqu’à la garde), though ‘arthouse’ perhaps only in the sense that it’s subtitled. In some ways, the film is shot in a realist style, halfway between British kitchen sink drama and the Dardennes’ more leisurely, microscopic style. The film revolves around a couple in the process of divorce battling for custody of their young son. The boy wants to stay with his mother. Has he been coached? Is his mind being poisoned against his father?

We discuss how the first section is basically an exposition of the law where the father is surrounded by women, how the film initially orchestrates the audience’s sympathy around the father, and how this changes as the film unfolds. Is the film a critique of male privilege? Why is it so unpleasant so watch? Is it material that television handles better? What’s the point of putting an audience through this type of experience? We both adore Denis Ménochet as the father but really praise the whole cast. José loved it; Mike did not. The conversation as to why this is so occupies much of the second half of the podcast.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

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59 – Journeyman

A boxing film that opens with its climactic fight and develops drama in its aftermath. We find Journeyman disappointingly contradictory – a showcase of performance, writing, and observation, executed with no cinematic nous or flair. Paddy Considine lacks credibility as a world champion boxer, but captures beautifully the impotent rage and misery of such a star physically and mentally diminished. His road to recovery is a clever and interesting twist on the typical boxing film formula of training for a life-changing fight, executed too sappily and casually.

A film we like but don’t admire.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

41 – Downsizing

Mike is in a tailspin of grief. Jose likes Matt Damon and little else. It’s Downsizing, a film that looked good in the trailers. Ostensibly a light satire on middle class life and aspiration, it leads us into discussions of its attempt to weave several themes together, its lack of humour, the way it constructs its worlds, whether its use of stereotypes drifts into offensiveness, and most importantly, how unbelievably tedious it is.

Mike reminisces about the few movies he saw at the cinema that inspired him enough to leave the film for a bit to play on his phone, or just leave. And Sideways is rubbish too.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

39 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Second Screening

Feeling he gave it short shrift the first time, Mike’s keen to revisit Three Billboards, and drags Jose along for the ride. With the clumsy handling of race issues clouding the film less, we pick up on listener feedback that leads us into ruminations on Frances McDormand’s Mildred, particularly her defiance of the misogynist society in which she lives and zealous attitude towards collective responsibility, and whether the character arc of Sam Rockwell’s Dixon truly is a redemptive one.

We also double down on our criticism of the film’s use of derogatory terms, Mike’s been reading about Flannery O’Connor on Wikipedia, and we consider what would have been gained and lost had the film been written and directed by the Coens.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

37 – The Post

Spielberg. Streep. Hanks. Nixon. A political thriller that adopts some clichés and slightly sidesteps some expectations, The Post is a historical drama that follows the internal conflict at the Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers scandal. We find plenty to talk about in its parallels with the Trump White House and the current President’s attacks on the news media; its careful but stilted style; its relationship to the 70s cinema it evokes; its central figure of a woman out of place in a world of men; and the balance between its nationalistic boosterism of the US Constitution and American exceptionalism on the one hand, and on the other, its surprisingly direct denunciation of the powers that be in Washington. You can literally hear Mike learning about the Nixon era, live!

Also discussed: Mike loves Bridge of Spies, Jose doesn’t love Bridge of Spies, Mike thinks Spotlight is uniquely brilliant, Jose espouses his theory on Meryl Streep’s stardom, and old people are pricks.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

36 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

An extraordinary, near-Shakespearian meditation on misdirected rage, guilt and grief, deeply marred by clumsy lunging into a loud theme of racism and a strong sense that the film neither knows nor especially cares about the culture it’s portraying. Frances McDormand excels as the bullish, bellicose, foul-mouthed mother, but the film suffers as it shifts its focus to Sam Rockwell’s stereotypical racist hick. The central premise is brilliant; its treatment is ultimately uneven, and although there are elements we absolutely adore, we can’t get its lurches between tones out of our heads. Rewarding to watch, though, and it would benefit from a second viewing.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

35 – Darkest Hour

A chamber piece about history which evokes a combination of Rembrandt and an old photograph. We discuss how Joe Wright might be getting short shrift as a director and the excellence of the performances: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn and Lily James are all marvellous. We discuss how the film is not the life of Churchill but a few defining weeks in his life, and how it depicts the political side of the chaos in Nolan’s Dunkirk.

Mike highlights how the cemeteries of Belgium and northern France tell a very different story from the official one in relation to Britain’s ‘going it alone’ in the two World Wars, and declares that one scene of clearly fabricated fantasy undermines any notion of historical verisimilitude. We discuss how the film’s emotional manipulations are cheap but how one finds oneself responding to the film’s jingoism. We are in agreement that Nigel Farage wants to be Oldman’s man-of-the-people Churchill – the entire film is rather Brexity.

Jose would really like to see a film that focuses on the relationship between Clemmie and Winston, played of course by Scott Thomas and Oldman, and there’s a wonderful volume of letters full of sketches of kitties and piggies called Speaking For Themselves that he wishes someone would draw on for a film. (He didn’t say that in the podcast but he wants to make it known here.)

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.