Tag Archives: drama

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.

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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.

32 – Mountains May Depart

Mike’s brother corrects our pronunciation of director Jia Zhangke’s name, helping us settle into a discussion of his ambitious, deeply moving tale of friendship and loss that spans two and a half decades. We talk about motifs of keys and coats, themes of capitalism and home, the changing aspect ratios and clarity of the image, the documentary feel to its portrayal of Fenyang and the way of life there, and much more besides. We admire almost everything and still can’t get Go West out of our heads.

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.

30 – Happy End

Michael Haneke’s precise, layered Happy End takes on – what else? – the bourgeoisie, and sees Eavesdropping welcome 2018 and iTunes availability at last! Opening with praise for the extraordinary image quality provided by the mac’s 4K projector, we consider the film’s surprising comic sensibility, its observation of different social strata, how our expectations shaped our experiences of what we saw (or didn’t see), Haneke’s careful craft and subtle subversions of cinematic conventions, and his continued exploration of violence as a central theme.

And, finally, in a revelation to rival Psycho and The Sixth Sense, we nervously admit that we enjoyed the film as one might enjoy a Hollywood comedy or a trip to the zoo. Even now it’s tough to come to terms with that. Perhaps that is Haneke’s greatest achievement and truest subversion. We never before knew that he wanted us to have a good time.

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.