We’ve taken a leaf out of Santa’s book, and have decided to reflect on the films of the year by determining which ones have been ‘good/nice’ and which ones have been downright naughty/bad. All of the team have put forward three films on their nice list and three for their naughty lists, giving their reasons why certain films have made the right or the wrong impression. So, grab a mince-pie and some egg nog and join us to examine the lists. Ho, ho, ho!
That’s Not Me
When Bianca and I spoke to Aussie filmmaker Kate Lefoe back in September, I got giddy when she mentioned she knew of Alice Foulcher. The very same Alice as the terrific lead of That’s Not Me, an Australian indie that Foulcher co-wrote with the director, Gregory Erdstein, her actual husband.
The film itself is a pure delight. Often bittersweet, often charming, but hardly ever diverting from the tricky scope of ambition and what it takes to become a performer. Foulcher plays Polly (and her sister Amy in a smaller role), a wannabe actress, faced with the typical dilemmas of casting sessions and living in the shadow of her hugely successful sister. What’s more, everything is encompassed by plenty of sharp, intelligent comedy moments, shrewdly capturing a young woman’s drive amidst a cruddy job and lousy social life.
A Gentle Creature
With a Cannes premiere in 2017, Sergei Loznitsa’s extraordinary A Gentle Creature crept quietly through the festival yet not without garnering some favorable reviews. The film made me feel all kinds of both serene and uncomfortable emotions. And those last thirty minutes were unexpected; to even delve into it in any way would perhaps warrant a spoiler warning.
The subtle, magnetic performance from Vasilina Makovtseva, lives up to the title, surrounded by the hectic troubles and digressions of her culture. Sergey Losnitsa and Makovtseva worked hard on the character, the untainted innocence, which certainly shows in the actress’ turn. Hardly saying a word, Makovtseva expresses so effectively through her face, eyes, and expressions, her captivating presence simply renders the verbal redundant.
So what does Andrea Riseborough have to do exactly to get the attention she deserves? A remarkably accomplished actress, capable of such diverse characters at the drop of a hat. Her acting muscles are still aglow given her roles in Mandy and The Death of Stalin this year., however, it’s her lead in Christina Chow’s Nancy that impressed me the most.
Imagine seeing an amazing resemblance of yourself in a constructed photograph, of how a kidnapped child may look now, decades later. The psychological dilemma that this births, if fathomable, is explored so carefully here. Nancy is a film that holds any potential deception or mistrust at arm’s length. This is a film dealing with the immeasurable clouds of loneliness, grief, and identity. Riseborough is, of course, sorrowfully wonderful without overshadowing the great supporting performances, from Ann Dowd, J. Smith Cameron, and Steve Buscemi.
Fifty Shades Freed
The absolute greatest aspect of Fifty Shades Freed is that it is the final installment of this paper-thin, nonsensical junkfest. I can’t call it a romance, and I can’t call it erotic, as it is neither. Jamie Dornan is a docile lout who barely knows how to say the ridiculous lines of dialogue. Inflated pecs, a fully-functional sex dungeon, and a few billion to his name are all it takes to make a plank like him a real catch, apparently.
As for Dakota Johnson, her Anastasia is a wet blanket of a powerless woman, hardly able to pout or look like a wounded rabbit convincingly. The film also incorporates a thriller sub-plot, one simply thrown in as if the writer had finally come to terms with the vast emptiness of the central love story. Johnson, still landing distinctive roles, is proving me wrong in my assumption that the Fifty Shades franchise is, or at least should be, a career-killer.
The sooner Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg end their affair, the better. There are just too many people getting hurt. Lone Survivor was passable, but the double-whammy of Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day was just more than enough ‘America, Fuck Yeah’ for me. Mile 22 continues in the same vein, with a ludicrously macho, formulaic action/violence tap dance. With way too many left feet.
Wahlberg’s character is an overly aggressive, bullshit-spouting hoodlum, somehow entrusted with such deadly, secret missions. The main action is overlapped with his character being interrogated, shot half-arsed with leaning, close camera angles, as he vomits crummy line after shoddy quip. And there’s little to salvage from the narrative transitions, boom-boom set-pieces, or what you might call tension-builders; simply on account of the film’s editing being such a clusterfuck of clumsy chaos throughout.
Some questionable casting choices here make more of a scar than the supposed sinister alien killers of the film’s franchise. Fresh off impressing in Best Picture winner Moonlight, Trevante Rhodes is a marine who hunts the hunters. Jacob Tremblay now seems to be the token troubled kid we observe as he super-quickly becoming typecast. Olivia Munn as a smoking-hot, but also, make no mistakes, extremely intelligent doctor. Sterling K. Brown showing off his Emmy-winning credentials playing a non-threatening agent. And then Keegan-Michael Key as a military veteran – pushing it.
In the story itself, there’s a regular predator, then a huge predator, not to mention some not-at-all-cute dog predators. The most controversial casting choice, and more suited to the ‘predator’ moniker perhaps, is when Shane Black cast a buddy of his to play a small role. This friend of the director was a sex offender no less. It seems only Olivia Munn came forward to Fox, while many of the other folk on set buried their heads in the sand.
Well, I guess when it comes to roots and seeds, an ostrich would be regarded a predator.