Cinema City Film Quiz #208

[25 February 2018]


Winning Team:
Ice Babe: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apeosaurs
Genre – Babe, Sid, Manfred, Diego and Scrat go to a dimension of ape/dinosaur hybrids, where Scrat establishes an acorn colony

Runners Up:
Anthea Turner Does Hooch
Genre – Ex TV presenter gets pissed on alcopops
Bambi Shot First
Genre – Disney’s new live-action classic, where Bambi shoots the hunter in this George Lucas special edition
Babezilla
Genre – Nuclear weapon testing creates Godzilla’s ultimate foe; Babe
Ladies And The Tramps; Socialite Soup Kitchen
Genre – Documentary


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. 2004’s Flight Of The Phoenix is a remake of which 1965 film?
FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX
2. How many Mission: Impossible films have been made to date (including the upcoming Fallout)
SIX
3. Norman Bates and Marion Crane are the lead characters in which film?
PSYCHO
4. Who played the lead roles in Face/Off? (one point per correct answer)
JOHN TRAVOLTA / NICOLAS CAGE
5. The planet Jakku features heavily in which science fiction film?
STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS
6. Sonny is a blue-eyed sentient robot accused of murder in which film?
I, ROBOT
7. The roles of Jim Lovell, Andrew Beckett, Captain John Miller, Robert Langdon and Santa Claus were all played by which actor? [bonus points for naming the films the characters appear in]
TOM HANKS [Apollo 13 / Philadelphia / Saving Private Ryan / The Da Vinci Code / The Polar Express]
8. Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman appeared together in which film?
BRUCE ALMIGHTY
9. Planet Of The Apes was released in which year?
1968
10. What is the name of the high school based adaptation of Taming Of The Shrew starring Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt?
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU


ROUND II: Filming [Animal Leads Special]
1. What type of animals are the centre focus of Happy Feet? Velociraptors? Kangaroos? Penguins?
PENGUINS
2. Finding Nemo was released in which year? 2000? 2003? 2006?
2003
3. Who voiced the role of Charlotte in 2006’s Charlotte’s Web? Sandra Bullock? Julia Roberts? Cate Blanchett?
JULIA ROBERTS
4. How many Madagascar films (including spin-offs) have been made to date? 3? 4? 5?
FOUR
5. Who co-wrote the script for Beethoven with Amy Holden Jones? John Hughes? Harold Ramis? George Lucas?
JOHN HUGHES
6. Which of the following has not appeared in a King Kong film? Jeff Bridges? Christopher Plummer? Colin Hanks?
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER
7. Who is Old Blue’s owner at the start of Air Bud? A test pilot? An alcoholic clown? A blind geologist?
AN ALCOHOLIC CLOWN
8. Which Disney film had the two poster taglines of “The famous book of the month becomes the picture of the year” and “A great love story in multiplane technicolour”? Robin Hood? The Fox And The Hound? Bambi?
BAMBI
9. Jason Alexander, Faye Dunaway, Rupert Everett, Glen Shadix and Paul Reubens appeared in which film? Flipper? Dunston Checks In? Andre?
DUNSTON CHECKS IN
10. Babe was nominated for Best Picture at the 1996 Oscars. True or False?
TRUE (along with best director, best adapted screenplay, best actor, best art direction, best editing and best visual effects [which it won])


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Thomas Gabriel is the name of the villain in which Die Hard film?
DIE HARD 4.0 / LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
2. Who directed The Lovely Bones?
PETER JACKSON
3. The following is a quote from which film, “What, we’ll have a coupon day or something”?
JURASSIC PARK
4. Which film won Best Picture at the 72nd Academy Awards (held in 2000)?
AMERICAN BEAUTY
5. How many children does Miles Dyson have in Terminator 2?
ONE (Danny)
6. What animal does Al McWhiggin dress as in the advert for Al’s Toy Barn in Toy Story 2?
CHICKEN
7. Which Middle Earth film made the most at the box office (unadjusted worldwide gross)?
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING ($1.1 billion dollars) [H1 $1b / H2 $958m / H3 $956m / L2 £923m / L1 $869m]
8. Which superhero does Bill talk about when describing Beatrix in Kill Bill Vol. 2?
SUPERMAN
9. What two colours are the VW van in Little Miss Sunshine? (point only awarded if both colours identified)
YELLOW / WHITE
10. While not said in the film, what is the name of Paul McGann’s character in Withnail & I?
MARWOOD


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following is not a character in 2001’s Zoolander? Maury Ballstein? Nigel Kipling? Jacobim Mugatu?
NIGEL KIPLING
2. The following is a quote from which film, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”? The Great Escape? Oliver! The Musical? Casablanca?
CASABLANCA
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The man, the music, the madness, the murder, the motion picture”? All Eyez On Me? Chapter 27? Amadeus?
AMADEUS
4. Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In was release in which year? 2005? 2011? 2016?
2011
5. Which 2008 British film is based on the allegedly true story of MI5 contracting criminals to recover risqué photos? Sleeping Dogs? The Getaway? The Bank Job?
THE BANK JOB
6. The following quote is from which film, “I grew up in a tough neighbourhood. We used to say, you can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word”? The Departed? The Untouchables? Carlito’s Way?
THE UNTOUCHABLES
7. In Amelie, what event causes Amelie to discover the old metal box hidden behind a tile in her flat? The 1996 Paris Metro bombing? The death of Princess Diana? The hijacking of Air France Flight 8969?
THE DEATH OF PRINCESS DIANA
8. What was the budget for 1978’s Grease? $500 thousand? $2 million? $6 million?
SIX MILLION DOLLARS
9. Brazil was nominated for two Oscars, which of the following was not one of them? Best Editing? Best Art Direction? Best Writing?
BEST EDITING
10. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was originally titled Bill & Ted’s Excellent Afterlife. True or False?
FALSE (it was originally titled Bill & Ted’s Go To Hell)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Piano / Sunshine / The Fountain / Training Day
Poster: Bringing Out The Dead
Actor: Cliff Curtis


BLACK PANTHER

Long Live The King

Director
Ryan Coogler

Starring
Chadwick Boseman
Michael B Jordan
Lupita Nyong’o
Danai Gurira



My review for Avengers was an incredibly messy love-letter, praising everyone involved for creating something enjoyable and thrilling that I never thought possible (as a comic book fan). Prepare yourselves because this review is going to pretty much repeat that sentiment.

Set shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns to home, the secretive country of Wakanda – a technologically advanced thriving African nation, posing as a third world country – following the death of his father. As he takes his place as monarch, his responsibilities change from warrior to leader and when an old enemy appears in South Korea, his council present different advice for how best the king can lead his people.

To start with the most outwardly obvious factor, this is a spectacularly pretty film. The production design, costumes, sets, props, hair, make-up, they all live and breathe with an exquisite beauty unique to central African culture. And this is a feat repeated multiple times as each of the five tribes have their own look and its evident that so much thought and attention has gone into every facet of the visuals on display. Going beneath the spellbinding surface, Wakanda and the way it’s represented as a thriving (albeit secretive) nation is such a singular vision; an antithetical portrayal of how African people have been presented cinematically to date. More than merely role reversal, the film raises extremely interesting questions about isolation and national responsibilities. This isn’t some surface level fantasy, an idyllic dreamland paradise but a grounded aspirational community with its own realistic faults, flaws and contradictions. This is true world building, this is what high-fantasy writers try to create when picturing a complex society unlike anywhere on Earth but one that feels like it could be real; the great tragedy is that such a place could exist were the landscape of our shared history drastically different. Another way Wakanda and its citizens are impressively created is being called to question for their inaction. They are clearly a global geopolitical force with agents placed around the world but solely for the purpose of their own protection; when operating in South Korea, their goals are exclusive and they have little time or tolerance for the workings of other nations.

In the past I have chastised Marvel for their lack of themes and engaging musical scores. By and large they feel like safe renditions of other work, sterilised and distilled from temp tracks. Thankfully, this has been changing of late and we are starting to get a few standout pieces which come closer to matching the visual accomplishments. But Black Panther hit me in a few ways. The inclusion of so many big artists makes complete sense and sets this fantastical tale in our universe; this is an obvious move and nothing stood out in a negative way. The score itself, however, by Ludwig Göransson is blisteringly good; a memorable medley of African instruments and rhythms combined with futuristic swells and impacts that we have come to expect from big superhero/scifi blockbusters. On a more depressing note, as the drums beat away and the vocals slowly rose above them, I immediately thought “Huh, reminds me of The Lion King.” In of itself a harmless statement but the fact that I can’t think of a mainstream release of extreme notoriety with an African setting that doesn’t portray the people and setting in question as a desolate warzone was crushing. And that film is filled with cartoon fucking animals!

Much like the setting, it would have been so easy to create a cadre of idealised individuals, void of failings and ultimately personality. Instead, we have an array of fascinating characters with their own motivations and visions for how their nation should be presented to the world and at the centre of them all is T’Challa, trying to establish a harmonic equilibrium. On the one hand you have T’Challa’s teenage sister Shuri [Letitia Wright] who wants to bring Wakanda further into the future with her technological plans and advancements. Equally, Nakia [Nyong’o] feels Wakanda should advance by stepping into the light and helping the world as a course of national moralistic responsibility. On the other end of the spectrum we have W’Kabi [Daniel Kaluuya] the leader of the tribe who have protected the border and feel Wakanda’s place is at the top of the food chain, leading the world – by force if necessary. I would argue that Killmonger factors into that too but I’m going to talk about him in great detail later. The moderates of the cast are General Okoye [Gurira], leader of the fearsome Dora Milaje, loyal to the throne of Wakanda, only wanting the best for her people, M’Baku [Winston Duke] leader of the isolationist mountain tribe, the Jabari and the deliciously reprehensible Klaue [Andy Serkis], a South African arms dealer who is only interested in profit and exposing Wakanda for the lie they globally project. In truth, I could list every single character and tell you why I love them, nothing is too small from the secretive world of global espionage to the smart and powerful female roles, this is such a bold feature in terms of characterisation of black people. And at the centre of all that is Boseman, carrying the weight of this entire character and franchise on his shoulders (as all Marvel leads do). Interestingly though, Black Panther is not a superhero as such. Nor is he a space cowboy, deity or wizard surgeon. He is a warrior leader of his people, balancing when to act and when to negotiate. He is as much politician as he is fighter, as much statesman as spy and Boseman carries over this diverse magnanimity from Civil War with ease.

Let me put this as simply as I can: there is next to nothing to criticise in this film. I appreciate that may sound like a copout but it’s genuinely hard to fault. One could argue that you need to watch a backlog of Marvel films to appreciate the nuances of the story but in truth, you really don’t. One could say that the CGI is a little questionable in places but what major blockbuster doesn’t suffer a few ropey shots? You could also say that the editing in the fight scenes left a little to be desired, making the action a touch hard to follow but none of these things detracted from the overall for more than a couple of minutes. The greatest negative I walked away with was the sensation of feeling robbed. That because of how films and society have supressed cultural and creative decisions we could have had decades of films of this calibre.

In summary, Black Panther undeniably stands above other Marvel features and ascends its superhero trappings to tell a pertinent story about justice, history, heritage, race, politics, pride, power and unity. Frankly, it’s a triumph.


Release Date:
16th February 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
Black Panther genuinely is a feast of standout scenes that musing on a particularly impressive moment starts a rabbit-hole spiralling of compounding scenes, evoking memories of childlike wonder with phrases like “and this happened, oh and obviously this bit.” One moment that stood out for me was Shuri and T’Challa discussing the new tech. We’re pretty used to seeing some wizened mentor like Q or Lucius Fox outfitting our hero with the latest tech but it’s rare that it actually reflects our reality by presenting an eager, talented and excitable young woman who is passionate about her advancements and in Shuri we get that by the bucket-load.

Notable Characters:
Michael B Jordan’s role as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens is quite easily Marvel’s greatest villain; complicated, deep and absolute in his belief that he is right. But more than that, the message he brings about Wakanda’s refusal to help over two billion fellow black people the world over is an incredibly powerful one. If this film were shown from a different perspective, it would be quite easy to portray Stevens as a hero. Jordan’s presence and physicality is amazing and the power and venom behind his words are brutal. Case in point, when we first see him in the role, he is observing African artefacts held in a British museum. When he challenges the curator as to the origin of a particular piece, he is met with hostility and an assumption of ignorance. A derision which is heightened when the museum official explains the items are not for sale, to which Stevens counters “How do you think your ancestors got these? They took them” A fantastic and poignant portrayal and a truly interesting, ruthless character.

Highlighted Quote:
“You’re a good man, with a good heart. And it’s hard for a good man to be king”

In A Few Words:
“I have seen the future and it is glorious”

Total Score:

5/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #207

[11 February 2018]


Winning Team:
Atomic Dragon Calls Me It
Genre – Francis Dollarhyde dresses as a clown in Berlin

Runners Up:
Let The Right Ones Win… With Sexy Results
Genre – In 1980s Sweden a film quiz team begin communicating with the team next to them using Morse code
Nobody Puts The 80s In The Corner
Genre – Parody
PERManent Monstrosity
Genre – A hairdresser’s nightmare
My One Regret Is Having Boneitis
Genre – Finance / horror / coming of age


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. 1995’s Tank Girl was an adaptation of which comic series?
TANK GIRL
2. What resource is harvested to power Monstropolis in Monsters Inc?
SCREAMS
3. How many solo MCU Captain America have been released to date?
THREE
4. Who played the lead role in A Beautiful Mind?
RUSSELL CROWE
5. Four Weddings And A Funeral was released in which year?
1994
6. David Fincher directed Ed Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter in which film?
FIGHT CLUB
7. Amy Adams plays Princess Giselle in which Disney film?
ENCHANTED
8. The poster for Heat is predominantly what colour (other than black)?
BLUE
9. Who played the title role in 1997’s The Fifth Element?
MILLA JOVOVICH
10. In which film does Robert Mitchum play a tattooed preacher?
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER


ROUND II: Filming [80s Films Not Shot In The 80s Special]
1. Which of the following did not appear in Dallas Buyers Club? Matthew McConaughey? Jared Leto? Christian Bale?
CHRISTIAN BALE
2. What is the Red October in The Hunt For Red October? A journal? A submarine? The concept of equality through extremist socialism?
A SUBMARINE
3. What is the name of Adam Sandler’s character in The Wedding Singer? Robbie Hart? Barry Egan? Sonny Koufax?
ROBBIE HART
4. When Frank first appears, in Donnie Darko, when does he say the world will end (roughly)? 14 days? 28 days? 42 days?
TWENTY EIGHT DAYS
5. Which of the following weapons is not used by Anton Chigur in No Country For Old Men? A gas-powered bolt gun? Liquid poison delivered on a silk thread? A silenced shotgun?
SILK POISON DELIVERED ON A SILK THREAD
6. Who composed the score for Fargo? Clint Mansell? Peter Nashel? Carter Burwell?
CARTER BURWELL
7. Who plays the role of Detective Donald Kimball in American Psycho? Willem Dafoe? William Hurt? William Fichtner?
WILLEM DAFOE
8. What is the name of the company that Jordan Belfort sets up in The Wolf Of Wall Street? Newitt Greenleaf? Chapman & Lambert? Stratton Oakmont?
STRATTON OAKMONT
9. What was the budget for 2010’s Submarine? $150,000? $1.5 million? $15 million?
1.5 MILLION DOLLARS
10. All the listening and recording devices used in Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others) were actual Stasi equipment on loan from museums and collectors. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which film, “Do they understand the concept of the tooth fairy”?
THE RUNDOWN / WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
2. Which actors play the three lead roles in Million Dollar Baby? (one point per correct answer)
CLINT EASTWOOD / HILARY SWANK / MORGAN FREEMAN
3. Who directed The Kid, The Gold Rush and City Lights?
CHARLIE CHAPLIN
4. How many faces feature on the main theatrical release poster for The Grand Budapest Hotel?
SEVENTEEN (and a key)
5. MacReady, Blair, Childs, Nauls, Bennings, Clark and Norris are characters in which film?
THE THING
6. Which John Woo film tells the story of the Navajo language being used as code during World War II? [bonus points for naming the two lead actors]
WINDTALKERS [Nicolas Cage / Adam Beach]
7. What was the title of Denis Villeneuve’s first English language feature?
PRISONERS
8. Which character delivers the narration in Trainspotting?
MARK “RENT BOY” RENTON
9. Who is the first to arrive at the warehouse in Reservoir Dogs? (one point per correct answer)
WHITE / ORANGE
10. Dog Soldiers was released in which year?
2002


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The following quote is from which film, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world”? Zero Dark Thirty? Dead Poets Society? All The President’s Men?
DEAD POETS SOCIETY
2. The Help was released in which year? 2011? 2013? 2016?
2011
3. The Maltese Falcon is set in which city? San Francisco? New York? Chicago?
SAN FRANCISCO
4. How long is 1959’s Ben-Hur? 152 mins? 212 mins? 302 mins?
212 MINS
5. What is Don Lockwood’s (played by Gene Kelly) job in Singin’ In The Rain? Silent Film Actor? Race Car Driver? Commercial Airline Pilot?
SILENT FILM ACTOR
6. Who directed 1981’s Blow Out, starring John Travolta and John Lithgow? Francis Ford Coppola? Brian De Palma? Sidney Lumet?
BRIAN DE PALMA
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The rare film story of a father who must expose his children to a small town’s outraged passions”? Mississippi Burning? Intolerance? To Kill A Mockingbird?
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
8. What did David Lean direct in between The Bridge On The River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago? Lawrence Of Arabia? A Passage To India? Hobson’s Choice?
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
9. How many characters can see Death in The Seventh Seal? 2? 4? 9?
TWO (Block and Jof)
10. Grace Kelly refused to smoke on film and was subsequently never seen with a cigarette. True or False?
FALSE (the statement is true other than she made an exception for Rear Window)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Legend Of Tarzan / The Big Short / Focus / Suicide Squad
Poster: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Actor: Margot Robbie


I, TONYA

The Truth Is A Matter Of Perspective

Director
Craig Gillespie

Starring
Margot Robbie
Sebastian Stan
Allison Janney
Paul Walter Hauser



I, Tonya darts back and forth between candid retrospective interviews of the main characters and the events they are describing. Tonya Harding [Robbie] is introduced as a figure skating child prodigy, an extraordinarily talented individual pushed by her extraordinarily crass and hostile mother, LaVona [Janney]. As Tonya gets older, she meets Jeff Gillooly [Stan], along with his friend Shawn Eckhardt [Hauser], and starts a relationship with the rather simple Jeff. LaVona doesn’t approve of the match at all and scolds Tonya for dating an abusive individual. Blinded by love and positing that her mother hit her too, Tonya endures the relationship. Various skating tournaments come and go before Tonya is expected to perform her signature move (the triple axel – which no other American has attempted and completed in competition) at the Olympics. Technical issues lead to her coming fourth and the media pit her and fellow US skater Nancy Kerrigan against one another. Without unceremoniously unspooling the entire story (even if it is documented history and takes place in all of the trailers), events unfold and escalate until Kerrigan is assaulted and Harding’s involvement is called into question by the authorities.

For a figure skating biopic with comic undertones, I doubt many people would go into this release knowing how heavily it focuses on themes of abuse, domestic violence and class divide in America. While the Gillooly surrogate openly proclaims none of the violence actually happened, the narrative presented states it unequivocally did and through sound design, acting and make-up, the constant onslaught that Harding endures is hard to watch. Elements are played up for comedic effect but the overall presentation of the abuse and Harding’s logic that she deserves to be hit is brutal. Equally, the snobbery and exclusion she encounters because of her background and lack of funds is crushing. Every step of the way, the fact that she is one of the best in her field is overlooked because of presentation and factors about her upbringing that she has little to no control over. On multiple occasions the judges are confronted antagonistically but when Tonya quietly tries to learn why they refuse to mark her fairly, she is told “It was never entirely about the skating;” implying that her image and lifestyle have to be one that America can be proud of when sending someone to represent them on the international scene. Hurt, she responds that she doesn’t have what America wants, “Why can’t it just be about the skating?” Once you realise that this exceptionally talented individual is getting beaten up and home and shut out of the one thing she’s good at, it’s heart-breaking and all builds to present a truly sympathetic central character – despite the incident she is most famously associated with.

Most biopics tend to pull centre focus on their subject and one of the greatest criticisms of this is that the supporting roles get lost in the background. This is far from the case here as the peripheral characters are rather eccentric and ensure a more rounded experience. Starting with the most eccentric, Alison Janney steals every single scene she is in by being both maniacally fun but completely irredeemable. She reasons that her motivations are sound because her own mother was nice which didn’t get her anywhere in life, whereas LaVona’s cruel manner with Tonya ensures inspiration and a thirst for success. Much like JK Simmons’ character in Whiplash I wholeheartedly disagree with this but (again much like Simmons) the performance is so intense and so repulsive, for lack of a better word, that we can’t look away and relish every moment this larger than life pseudo-villain is on screen. Two of the other prominent performances come from Stan and Hauser as Jeff and Shawn respectively. These two are hilariously pathetic male characters and feel very evocative of the self-righteous trolls that populate and patrol the internet. Weak, small, overinflated sense of ego, warped view of their importance to the story and utterly responsible for Toyna’s downfall (according to this narrative at least). Yet despite being awful human beings, both are made surprisingly endearing and entertaining through the performances.

Up until recently I’ve never been particularly impressed by either Chris Gillespie’s work or that of composer, Peter Nashel. Thankfully both work exceptionally well here. Gillespie weaves between tension and levity with ease while Nashel channels the darker tones of Carter Burwell – most notable during the execution of the assault on Kerrigan. But for everything that Gillespie gets right there are a few creative decisions which I simply can’t agree with. The majority of the film is presented through flashback as detailed in interviews by older versions of the characters, reflecting on the events. In addition to this narrative structure, every now-and-then, the film opts to break the fourth wall and talk to the audience. It’s not a bad choice but it’s a seemingly neglected one which appears infrequently and feels a little jarring. Arguably one would assume the film should have gone full Wolf Of Wall Street/24 Hour Party People and do away with the interviews or just have the interviews – but the mix of both doesn’t always have the desired effect. Speaking of desired effect, the presentation of the skating routines is one which will age very badly. Admittedly, for a small independent release, the CGI masks over Robbie’s skate double are really good and the editing between each component is very impressive but when the CGI masks are obvious, they really draw you out of the impact of the moment and the achievement. There’s also the issue of plot threads that never really develop. Admittedly these are minor things but with all the jumping around, certain elements are lost in the edit. Case in point, we see a shotgun scene which we all assume will be explained but never is and Bobby Cannavale’s character is never really seen outside of the interviews so his connection to the story seems stale. And finally we have a matter of taste and opinion – the idea of horror played for laughs (much like Fargo). What happened to Kerrigan was condemnable and while this film chooses to focus on Harding’s involvement, or lack thereof, without really addressing Kerrigan as anything more than a catalytic plot point rather than a developed character. In truth, I can’t confidently say that she has any dialogue throughout the film. I, Tonya does its best to skew the roles of villain and victim but the film could have been a touch deeper if they had time to explore Nancy’s story a little more. Having said that, with a two hour run time, maybe that would push it over the edge into fully bloated territory. Who’s to say?

As with most January releases (in Britain, at least) this will be an acting award magnet and rightfully so. Unlike other biopics, it neatly avoids the traps and pitfalls of its genre and presents itself as a thoroughly engrossing and arguably well-balanced piece.


Release Date:
23rd February 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
After a disappointing performance, LaVona scolds her daughter for being graceless and not caring. Feeling that all the hard work has been squandered, LaVona lashes out at the dinner table, chasing her daughter around, hurling objects at her. After one particular comment, LaVona casually picks up a knife and throws it at Tonya. Both women are startled at first before Tonya pulls the knife from her arm, slams it on the table and storms out, leaving LaVona in the only visible state of shock and regret expressed throughout the entire film; only to have the moment undercut by cutting to LaVona’s interview tape wherein she counters, “What family doesn’t argue?” It’s a nice slice of how the film takes something genuinely awful and lightens the mood with just a touch of dark levity. Whether you feel that creates awareness of abuse or cheapens it, is your call.

Notable Characters:
Like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher or Miles Teller in Whiplash, a great deal of the praise will fall at the feet of the more outlandish performance, meaning Janney will get the lion’s share of the attention. Considering the performance she gives, I would say that is completely fair but not at the expense of Robbie. I’ve always appreciated Margot Robbie’s acting (cinematic at least) and her role as Tanya is one of extreme mental, physical and emotional dedication that it would be impossible not to acknowledge the craft on display.

Highlighted Quote:
“And all those people who said I couldn’t make it. Fuck you, I did”

In A Few Words:
“A tense, energetic and extremely well-performed piece with hearty doses of black comedy throughout”

Total Score:

4/5

PHANTOM THREAD

Beneath The Surface

Director
Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring
Daniel Day Lewis
Vicky Krieps
Lesley Manville



Reynolds Woodcock [Day Lewis] is a renowned fashion designer, tailoring dresses for the upper echelons of 1950’s London with the help of his sister, Cyril [Manville]. Following the debut of a dress commissioned for a countess, Woodcock heads to his country home. While there he meets a young quizzical waitress, Alma Elson [Krieps] and pursues her. Soon, Alma is plunged into Woodcock’s world and quickly learns of his more unpleasant side as the veneer of his charm thins.

When entering a Paul Thomas Anderson feature, I think it’s fair to say one should know what to expect – perhaps not in terms of story but of the tone, a potentially meandering flow and intensity of character. More often than not, I seek out Anderson’s films specifically for these things and relish in the curiosities on display. Subsequently, Phantom Thread was a very difficult film for me to process, largely because I can appreciate why it could be considered good but I feel it faltered in various places.

Addressing where the film succeeds, it’s evident that the characterisation is spectacular and fascinating. The central trinity of performances (Reynolds, Alma and Cyril) are powerfully intriguing and difficult to look away from. They are seemingly heightened yet grounded in reality and the tension between them is unbearable at times, despite the fact that very little danger ever feels present. With Reynolds we have a clearly talented but horrendously arrogant and insecure man. The difference between him and other iconic roles by Daniel Day Lewis is that I never felt the need to probe deeper into the psyche of this individual. He was merely an oddity and I didn’t overly care what happened to him. Neither wishing malice toward him nor wanting him to succeed I was left apathetic to his tale; which, for someone of such extreme personality, certainly shouldn’t be the case. Then we have Alma, our audience surrogate, who is whisked into this world of high-fashion and extreme devotion to an idea. Krieps performs wonderfully and holds her own with her co-stars masterfully but the deeper Alma settles into Reynolds’ life the less she functions as a surrogate and reveals herself equally as bizarre as her fellow characters. Finally, we have the curt and prim Cyril, who initially feels like a walked-over sibling but through a few subtle and simple gestures and lines, we learn that she has survived alongside her brother as both a master interpreter (for lack of a better word) and keenly intelligent superintendent.

Phantom Thread also functions as an exquisite example of technical function, combining absolutely stunning costume design with smoky, muted cinematography. Initially I wasn’t a fan of the score at all; it starts off somewhat out of place, like a late musical replacement forced onto an edit that doesn’t suit it. It’s only later that it seems to sit neater as we are exposed to Reynolds’ true manner. Which could be argued is a nice parallel of the film itself, showing us a picturesque 50s Britain that simply doesn’t exist anymore but is fondly remembered and this older romantic, enigmatic figure only for the film to unfurl and reveal this vicious environment centred by a disturbing individual, escalating something frankly slow and dull into something deeply difficult and painful to watch.

Unfortunately, for me at least, the film simply didn’t work. The first third is relatively tedious and only hints at something of greater interest through the mystery of the reflective book-end narrative – which has Alma describing Reynolds with an honest affection. The central section is uncomfortable and where the film arguably works best, showing Alma surrounded by cold, robotic individuals, void of expression in a manner we can relate to or interpret. Presenting Alma as a naïve, impressionable young woman we want her to escape the rude, abrasive, controlling nature of the House of Woodcock. And then there’s the third act which feels like it will illustrate the consequences of a woman scorned but twists to become a very unorthodox love story; which I both loved and hated.

Ultimately, cinema is about experiences, be they positive or otherwise and while I walked away from this film imbued with thoughts and emotions I wouldn’t say they were predominantly complimentary. Phantom Thread is undeniably a well-crafted feature but odd in its flow and not all together entertaining outside of the unusual fetishistic waltz between the central characters; leaving it one of Anderson’s weakest.


Release Date:
2nd February 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
Shortly after Alma and Reynolds first meet, he invites her back to his country house and asks if he can make a dress for her. For Alma it is an extremely romantic encounter, this new liaison in extreme close proximity, exploring every detail of her body while partially clothed; the whole thing is played very sensual and flirtatious. Yet all of that changes so quickly with the addition of Cyril, whom Alma has not met. Suddenly this intimate moment is exposed as a very clinical examination with all of Alma’s intricacies laid bare and her left feeling rather foolish. It’s a wonderful little vignette and tells us so much about the manner in which these characters see the world, themselves and each other.

Notable Characters:
This is unquestionably Day Lewis’ film. The part is grandiose but only really because of the actor – on paper there isn’t a great deal to work with but the backstory, the unspoken quirks and elements of his personality are what make him towering. Reynolds is both overpowering yet frail, childish yet composed and talented yet unable to grow. Day Lewis’ concentration, devotion and obsession for the craft feel completely real and when Reynolds sets out to find Alma at the New Year’s party, it is evident his fixated obsession has shifted somewhat from clothes to her, through manipulation and design.

Highlighted Quote:
“That’s such a sweet sentiment.. at such a bad timeI think it’s the expectations and assumptions of others that cause heartache”

In A Few Words:
“Both provocative and hollow, Phantom Thread suffers from being a film at odds with itself, neither moving and memorable nor utterly lifeless”

Total Score:

3/5