These are films I watched in the last week. Shout out to The Deer Hunter, which was absolutely magnificent on the big screen – I won’t review it below as I’ve seen it too many times, but I must mention Meryl Streep’s angelic grace, which never fails to amaze me. Also, after experiencing it with cinema speakers, the thud of an empty chamber during the films savage Russian roulette scenes is now the most terrifying sound in the world. Enjoy the words.
Precious (2009) – 3/5
Director: Lee Daniels
Cast: Gabourey Sibide, Mo’ Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz
Double-Oscar winning drama from Lee Daniels (The Paperboy, The Butler) which introduced the world to the atypically large frame of Gabourney Sibide, the obese African American actress of the title role. Precious is a downbeat, bullied, overweight and poorly educated seventeen year old girl; during the opening twenty minutes we learn she is pregnant with her second child – a product of rape by her father, as was the case with her first born – and for this is being ejected from high school. Trapped in a nightmarish, creaking apartment with her vicious lowlife of a mother (Mo’ Nique in a performance so mentally frying that could kill, cook and batter a chicken) Precious must choose between continued abuse or the opportunity to pull herself out of the highrise and up the ladder of education. Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) is the understanding matriarch of the all female alternative school that Precious attends against her mother’s wishes; she is a character of warmth, an open door where before there were only dead ends, and she inspires hope where there is little to be had – most of all she inspires Precious.
Lee Daniels is a champion for broadcasting the untold stories of poverty stricken black people, the same stories that money-grubbing producers have been stifling for decades, yet there are a few Hollywood-pandering scenes that ring false amongst the clamours of human reality. One issue would be Mariah Carey being in this for some reason, which she should not be. The second would be the classic ‘total personality change in ten seconds’ when lonely main character is told by somebody, ‘I love yooooouuuuuuuuu’. Still, good film.
The Paperboy (2012) – 2/5
Director: Lee Daniels
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, David Oyelowo
I semi-accidentally chose The Paperboy, directed by Precious shooter Lee Daniels, to contrast the two films and see just what the man is capable of when he’s not making Oscar-nudging fudge like The Butler (2013). The Paperboy is starkly different to Precious: it’s starkly different to just about any film, really. The sizzling backdrop of the backwards 1960s Floridian countryside sets the gritty feel firmly and holds it like an alligator with its prey, but the editing (at first experimental, later on just plain sloppy) and sheer pointlessness of the plot are the things most people probably took issue with. Jack Jansen (a mostly topless Zac Efron, going for The Graduate vibe) falls in love with a temptress named Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman, whose legs are on full display throughout) who is in town to free her fiancé, whom she’s never met, from the electric chair with the help of Jack’s journalist brother (Matthew McConaughey) and father (Scott Glenn).
The Paperboy is a pulpy noir throwback, bearing all the hallmarks of a seventies video nasty: Gratuitous steamy sex scenes, questionable camera work, sweat, and animal disembowelling. As alluded to previously, the plot goes absolutely nowhere, leaving John Cusack’s psycopath and David Oleyewo’s go getting black reporter to pick up their acting kits and finish the job.
Harold and Maude (1971) – 5/5
Director: Hal Ashby
Cast: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Charles Tyner
This film was tailor made for me. Obsidian black humour, a Cat Stevens soundtrack, Kubrickian shot design, hilariously accurate stereotypes, and, at the heart of all, timeless performances. Unusually for a comedy, Harold and Maude starts out with a meticulously planned suicide attempt. And then another one. And another. And then some more.
Harold (played by Bud Cort, a beanstalk made up like a corpse) is a troubled young man with a dark streak a mile wide and a penchant for staging his own death to gain the attention of his aloof mother – or so it seems.
When he encounters a sprightly older woman at one of the many funerals which he attends for fun, the connection is magical and immediate. Maude (Oscar legend and lifetime beauty Ruth Gordon) may be approaching eighty, and Harold only twenty-odd, but the progression of their romantic relationship – fuelled largely by vehicular theft – couldn’t feel more natural. Director Hal Ashby’s editorial genius shines through this film, while the combination of classical symphony with Cat Stevens’ greatest tracks is an uplifting joy. A perfect film.
Safe (2012) – 2/5
Director: Boaz Yakin
Cast: Jason Shouldbeatupjonhamm, Catherine Chan, Reggie Lee, Robert John Burke
In what is probably Jason Stalebread’s worst outing since the ruinous War (co-starring Li Airlines), and most definitely his worst American accent to date, Safe sees our rugged action stalwart as CIA Ghost-turned-MMA fighter-turned hobo Luke Wright, who is deterred from suicide when he spots a small Chinese girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) being pursued by the same Russian mobsters that killed his wife. Upon ‘disposing’ of Mei’s pursuers, Luke learns that the girl is a mathematical genius abducted from Beijing to help the New York Yakuza with their finances (have they not heard of a calculator, or Excel?), and that the dirty Eastern Europeans are tying to steal her back from the Chinese because of a code to a safe which she has stored in her memory banks. Luke knows his Wright from Wong, and takes it upon himself to bring down the Russians and the Chinese, with a little help from his old NYPD compatriots and some appallingly written one liners: ‘I’ve been in restaurants all night. All I got served was lead.’ #JasonDeadpan
Thanks for reading.