Welcome back, dear readers and cinephiles. The Oscars came and went with some of its lowest ratings in years, but Chris Rock certainly brought a sense of shtick realism and, as always, there were some surprises, especially in the supporting actor categories. Our picks here at Barcelona Metropolitan had the awards going to Sly Stallone and Jennifer Jason Leigh, but there were surprise wins from Mark Rylance in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies and The Danish Girl’s Alicia Vikander, though I’m sure it was a combo win for Vikander in that film PLUS her stellar work in Ex-Machina…great supporting material there, as well. The est Actor/Actress gongs went to DiCaprio for The Revenant and Brie Larson for Room. The Catholic pedophilia scandal film Spotlight won Best Picture, and deservedly so. I will say that, by far, my homeboy Iñarritu deserved the Best Director nod for what is undoubtedly one of the harshest, moving, and slowest epic films released in recent years. But when Spotlight won the final grand prize, it meant a lot, because if there is any film that needs to be seen by the masses, it’s this one. A film that shines the brightest light on an issue that has been the proverbial pink elephant in the world for years and reveals how closely and sickeningly-guarded the Roman Catholic Church has been about this for so long. This is cinema that every adolescent to elderly person the world over must see.
And on with the new, as this week brings in a new slew of movies. I want to begin with Rock the Kasbah, the latest strange romp starring Bill Murray, this time under the direction of Barry Levinson. The film has not been well-received by many critics, while audiences have praised it’s earnestness. I’m somewhere in the middle on this one. While I quite like the role that Murray has picked here, it’s a hard sell with some of these scenes depicting life in Afghanistan, and although the film is very loosely-based on a documentary from several years back called Afghan Star, this current film failed to capture the reality of life in the region. It’s obviously stated but it’s done so in a way that keeps the film in limbo between deep, American guilt and ‘who-gives-a-shit’ humour. With a cast including a delectable Kate Hudson, Bruce Willis, Danny McBride and Zooey Deschanel, one would expect a stellar comedy delving into the world of music agents (Murray’s likeable Richie Lanz) gone awry in the Middle East. Instead, we get a privileged American’s viewpoint-comedy that’s light on laughs and heavy on weird suspension of disbelief. ##-1/2
How a film like Danny Collins just came and went on the other side of the pond without much fanfare and yet such good reviews is beyond me. Inspired by the life of British folk singer-songwriter Steve Tilson, it tells the story of an ageing rocker (Al Pacino in a genius role) who decides that, after discovering a 40-year old letter from John Lennon to him that he never received or read, he must start rectifying his life’s mistakes. He leaves his cheating, younger wife, checks into a Jersey Hilton Hotel, and slowly attempts to heal the strains he has created by abandoning his now-grown son (Bobby Cannavale), who is married to a gem of a wife, played by Jennifer Garner. This film is a tale of redemption, straight up. Where its beauty lies in the way that the actors all meld together in an organic way, and it’s really like taking a peek into the real lives of desperate Middle America. Pacino, Cannavale and Garner are all so great in their parts, you stay riveted throughout the film. A true gem of a sleeper film! ###-1/2
Atom Egoyan first came onto my radar during my teenage years when his film Exotica hit the screens. I recall being riveted by lead actress Mia Kirshner in her seductress/stripper pose and Sarah Polley’s young innocence in that film from two decades ago…mind you, I’m surprised I got anything out of it at all at fifteen, but…. Remember tells the harsh revenge story of an Auschwitz survivor who is not only hitting 90 years of age, but is in an old folk’s home and suffering from early onset Alzheimer's. Watching Christopher Plummer, who incidentally is also playing Pacino’s best mate and manager in the aforementioned Danny Collins, is riveting. How the hell his performance was not duly noted at Oscar time is another mystery…oh mystery! When he gets himself out of his retirement centre and off to the gun shop, what commences is a chain of revenge events that lead to a scary, untimely incident that will have you completely hooked until the strange ending. Agoyan has moved into middle age with the art-house hand of new age cinema still firmly intact, but a film like this could (and should) now have a wider appeal beyond the indie markets. I love how he has stayed true to himself and his storytelling, film after film. A true Canadian! A tense and supremely well-done drama to the fullest. ###-1/2
Shout out to my dear mate Miquel Fernandez and fellow acting mate Francesc Pages, whose latest eerie production Vulcania premieres this weekend to our Spanish-speaking/native audience. Telling the creepy story of a village-like grouping of people in the forest, Jonas (Fernandez) loses his family through mysterious circumstances only to wind up working in this strange pueblo’s metal-making foundry where he meets Marta, who has also experienced a tragedy that, once shared, leads to a discovery that will shake the community’s foundations to its core. Another dystopian tale that crosses bridges of existentialism in a rather hard-to-follow but hard-to-look-away manner. Kudos to the film, which actually premiered at Sitges Film Fest last autumn and finally gets its wider release this weekend. ###
Have a wander and help us all out by doing dances that call forth the spring, once and for all! Have a great weekend all and get yourself warm in some cine seats and enjoy life, kiddos!