Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden
While war has provided fertile ground for filmmakers for a long time, historically there has been a much greater focus on the Second World War than the First. World War II occurred during the height of the Hollywood studio system while World War I occurred during the early years of industrial filmmaking, before even the advent of sound. From a storytelling perspective, World War II was a neater war, possessing a clarity of good and evil which the murkiness of World War I lacked. The recent centenary of the Great War, however, has seen more attention being given to that conflict. As its title suggests, Sam Mendes’ 1917 is a First World War film. However, it is not really about the War. While set on the Western Front, it does not give any indication of why the conflict is being fought or of the immediate context of the events. 1917 isn’t about history. It is about an experience, and it is a masterclass of immersive storytelling. Continue reading
Director: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Dimiter D. Marinov, Mike Hatton, Sebastian Maniscalco
When Julia Roberts announced Green Book as the Best Picture winner at this year’s Academy Awards there was a collective groan from film Twitter quickly followed by the clattering keyboards of a thousand opinion pieces and editorials. Some saw the victory of this rather old fashioned drama as evidence that the Academy’s recent efforts to expand and diversify its membership had not yet succeeded in shifting the balance of power within the organisation. Some saw it as evidence of an anti-Netflix sentiment manipulating the preferential voting system to push against Roma. Whatever the theory, the opinion shared by most had Green Book as an underwhelming winner, with some going so far as to call it the worst best picture winner in history, or at least the worst since Crash. Continue reading
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colmam, Nicholas Hoult, James Smith, Mark Gatiss, Joe Alwyn
While far from a household name, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is somewhat of a critical darling, thanks to wildly original, confrontingly absurdist visions like Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Dear. The Favourite, a crackling, dark comedy which challenges our expectations of the costume drama, is Lanthimos’ third English language film and is his most accessible and straight up entertaining film thus far, marking his opportunity to cross over into more mainstream recognition.
Having been lost by her father, along with their estate and, therefore, her title, in a game of cards, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) to ask her cousin Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough, for employment as a servant. The Queen, petulant, infantile and seemingly more interested in her seventeen pet rabbits than in affairs of state, seems hopelessly unfit to rule, so as her closest friend and valued advisor Sarah effectively runs the kingdom. Continue reading
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothee Chalamet, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott
It is always great when a potent new cinematic voice announces themselves, but as a female, millenial voice Greta Gerwig’s arrival is particularly timely. Then again, ‘arrival’ may be misleading. Over the last decade Gerwig has established herself as a significant figure in the American independent film scene as an actress and screenwriter, first through her involvement in the emerging Mumblecore movement, and more recently through her collaborations with writer-director Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, Mistress America). However, the confidence and maturity of her first solo effort as writer-director, Lady Bird, has seen it transcend its indie status and capture a level of deserved attention that has previously alluded her.
Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who prefers to go by Lady Bird, is a senior at Immaculate Heart Catholic girls school in Sacramento who dreams of escaping the city for an east coast college, ”where culture is.” Continue reading
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg
Steven Spielberg once suggested that if someone can tell him an idea in a single sentence, it will make a pretty good movie. In the case of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, that sentence would be “A mute cleaning lady falls in love with a fish monster.” It’s an unusual sentence, and its an unusual film: a Cold War noir, fairytale romance to be precise. But you know what, Spielberg was right. It’s a pretty good movie.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) lives in a small Baltimore apartment, upstairs from a cinema. She is mute and lives on her own, but she is not alone. She spends her time watching old musicals on television with her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), a closeted gay artist, and works as a cleaner at a military aerospace research facility with the irrepressible Zelda (Octavia Spencer), who fortunately does enough talking for the both of them. Continue reading
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes
An accomplished playwright and director for the stage with an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, Irishman Martin McDonagh announced himself as a filmmaking talent to watch in 2008 with his brilliant debut feature In Bruges. However, his third and latest film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, takes him to a whole new level. A darkly comedic kick in the guts, this exploration of grief, anger, vengeance, but also forgiveness, is a firecracker of a movie that will make you sit up and take notice. Three Billboards is McDonagh’s best work and appears to be the frontrunner in this year’s Oscar race.
Outside Ebbing, Missouri (a fictional town), a trio of dilapidated, old billboards sit on a road rarely used since the arrival of the highway. Local woman Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) walks into the town advertising agency and, after rudimentary inquiries about what can and cannot be said on a billboard, puts a $5000 downpayment on the three billboards for a year. In simple black lettering on a red background they are to read: “Raped while dying,” “And still no arrests,” “How come, Chief Willoughby?” Continue reading