Thursday, 22 February 2018

Feb 22
Game Night
Finding Your Feet
A Fantastic Woman
Oscar Shorts @ Nova

My pick this week is a wholehearted recommendation to get yourselves along to Cinema Nova for a rare treat - the opportunity to catch the short films nominated in this year's Academy Awards. I loved them. It is equalled by the new Spanish film, A Fantastic Woman. There is also fun to be had with two light-hearted, fairly mainstream releases.  

Game Night
Director: John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Length: 100 min
© Roadshow -  plenty of laughs with this whacky
take on a games night that runs off the rails.
A group of friends meets regularly for a bit of old-fashioned fun, playing charades and other parlour games. Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdam) are regular hosts, but have decided to exclude their neighbor, local cop Gary (Jesse Plemons), because they find him weird and boring. Max's rich and wild brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) arrives for a visit and decides to host a special murder mystery game night, complete with thugs, guns and a kidnapping. Things soon turn crazy with the participants having no idea what is real, and what is part of the game. My regular comment is that comedy is such a personal taste. This particular piece of light-hearted lunacy amused me, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Despite moments of unbelievability the plot is engaging, steadily ratcheting up the action, and credit to the script-writers that the twists, turns and surprises keep on coming until the very end. McAdams and Bateman are a terrific foil for each other, while Plemons's creepy cop is a memorable character.  
3 - recommended!

A Fantastic Woman
Director: Sebastian Lelio
Length: 104 min
© Sony - Daniela Vega's performance is a tour de force. 
Marina (Daniela Vega) is a waitress by day and nightclub singer by night. She is planning a future with her older boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes), when he dies unexpectedly. Orlando's estranged wife and family add to Marina's grief by their cruel reactions. If ever a film can further the understanding of transgender people, this is it! Vega, a singer and trans woman in her real life in Chile, brings a strength and compassion to her performance, in a story that is at once heart-breaking and uplifting. The film is visually lovely, with a classical elegance interspersed with several surreal scenes. Lelio directs with total respect for his lead character, allowing her to sear her way into our hearts. This film is nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and has already won a slew of other awards.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

Finding Your Feet
Director: Richard Loncraine
Length: 111 min
© EOne -  Two stalwart Brit actors in a sweet
but formulaic story
Lady Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) discovers  her husband of 40 years is having an affair with her best friend. She lobs up to her estranged sister Bif (Celia Imrie), who lives a bohemian life on a council estate. Is Sandra too snobby and old to recover and find her long-lost joie de vivre? How difficult it is to review a film of this nature. It sports an absolutely stellar cast with Timothy Spall rounding out the central three leads. The actors give their all, but are battling a script so riddled with cliches of ageing, it beggars belief. Think oldies' dance class, Alzheimers, cancer, death, sibling reconciliation, romance thwarted by lies of omission, not to mention the classic final shot which is a variation of a cliche done to death. Knowing that this is formulaic, predictable plotting and film-making, I nevertheless had pleasure in watching top Brit actors, while enjoying the soundtrack. I almost succumbed to warm fuzzies, which were inevitably squashed by the repeating recognition of  just how hackneyed a story this is, despite having its heart in a good spot.
2.5 - maybe!

Oscar nominated Shorts @ Nova
Length: 192 min
Exclusive to Cinema Nova
I was totally stoked to have the opportunity to see this year's Oscar-nominated offerings for Animated Short Film and Live Action Short Film. The lengthy, totally engrossing program is split in two with an intermission.

© Finch - hilarity in this increasingly convoluted session
of doctor and patient
Live action shorts
These deal with a broad range of pertinent topics, and I'm impressed at how much depth can be generated in such a short time. That's the true art of short film-making, and these are all top examples of the genre. 

Dekalb Elementary: a disturbed gun-toting man enters a school's office. 
The Silent Child: A little deaf girl is helped by a caring social worker who teaches her sign language. 
My Nephew Emmett: In America's south, an uncle tries to protect his young nephew from racist killers. Based on true events. 
The Eleven O'clock: A psychiatrist deals with a patient who thinks HE is the shrink. (Go Aussies!! This is Australia's nominated film, and it's both clever and funny.)
Watu Wote (All of Us): Based upon a terrorist bus attack in Kenya, in which Muslim passengers tried to protect their Christian co-travellers. 

© MOPA -  hard to believe he's animated!
Animated shorts
I'm in awe at the imagination and creativity of these film-makers. They pack visual fun and emotion into things only lateral-thinking minds can come up with.  
Dear Basketball: Glorious pencil sketching tells of a sporting legend's reflections upon what the sport has meant to him. 
Negative Space: A boy reflects upon learning the art of packing a suitcase from an oft-absent father.
Lou: A schoolyard bully is given a salutary lesson by the strange creature living in the Lost and Found box. It's a Pixar production so pretty slick. 
Garden Party: Extraordinarily imaginative story of frogs living in an abandoned wealthy home. A visual treat. 
Revolting Rhymes - this is a long short from a mainstream Hollywood production house. Roald Dahl's warped fairy tales come to animated life. 
Then there is a bonus of THREE non-nominated films, including a poignant Aussie one about a Lost Property Office.
4.5 - wholeheartedly recommended!

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