Joker: Movie review


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“A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society” is IMDB’s excellent byline description of this deep exploration of disintegrating (disintegrated?) mental health.

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It’s described as taking place in the ‘Scorseseverse’ by some critics, in that Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck appears to be an homage to many of Scorsese’s monumental 70’s characters.  And what’s more, De Niro has a supporting role that shows he still can deliver the goods when not just taking a part for the money.

So I’ve already used the M word and in this Academy Award winning performance (of that there is no doubt) Joaquim Phoenix’s monumental performance will put the Academy back on track after their laughable decision to recognise Rami Malek for impersonating Freddie Mercury last year.

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I detest impersonation movies on the whole, but this is no impersonation, this is a character crafted out of magic.  It’s not a superhero movie in the slightest and all the better for it. It’s simply a character study of great depth and extreme nuance.

One thing I loved about this intense study of a disintegrating man is the extreme close ups that shows Phoenix in all his imperfections, his upper lip, his wonky teeth, his chewed finger nails, his nicotine stained fingers (possibly make-up).  It’s glorious.

It is unquestionably a masterpiece, not just for Phoenix’s performance, but for every SINGLE aspect of cinema:  music (White Room by Cream blasts out of the screen in the final apocalyptic act to tremendous effect – but it’s outstanding throughout), make-up (stunning), costume (stunning), cinematography (stunning – the dance on the steps and the aerial train track shot particularly blew me away), design (epic) and direction (Todd Phillips follows up his epic production, but not direction, of A Star Is Born remarkably It’s interesting looking at Todd Phillips’ Filmography though – a real mixed bag with much of it centred on comedy – The Hangover in particular.)

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But you don’t need me to tell you  how good this movie is – you don’t get a 9.1 rating on IMDB without reason.

See it and bathe in its mastery.

Once Upon a Time in Holywood. The Ninth (I think it’s ten when you include Death Proof) Film by Quentin Tarantino: My observations.


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To describe any Tarantino film as less than excellent would be, in my opinion, sacrilege.  So let’s cut to the chase here.  This is excellent.

The question is…how excellent? And how ‘acceptable’.

And that’s where deconstructing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood becomes tricky.

It’s most similar in its narrative structure, I’d say, to Pulp Fiction, probably his flawed masterpiece, in that it doesn’t really have one.  I mean there‘s kind of a story, a long one, but I don’t think that’s what he set out to do here.

He set out to capture the fragility of two fading performers; one a star actor (DiCaprio) and one a star stunt man (Brad Pitt).

That the movie’s triumph lies in the hands of Pitt rather than DiCaprio is interesting.  Probably DiCaprio has more screen time, but Pitt has more presence.  And Pitt is coping better with his fall from grace.

It’s almost a portmanteau (I know my friends say I’m a pretentious twat for using that word) but it is a THING.  Usually a portmanteau is a loosely linked collection of short films under a kind of director’s curation.

Here, though, I think it is a sort of continuous dream sequence, of beautiful but uneventful linking scenes, between big ‘pieces’  – the portmanteaus – it’s like walking through an art gallery enjoying a painter’s studies before BOOM, here’s the big canvas.

Tarantino creates 8 or 9 stunning canvases. One of the most affecting, for me, being the beautiful and funny scene DiCaprio shares with 8 year old Julia Butters as his method acting co star in a last chance Hollywood western.

To say the one scene of violence is a career high would be to both underestimate it and potentially spoil the movie so I won’t disclose where, when or how it happens, like the best of Tarantino it is unexpected and both viscerally shocking and hilarious.

One of my female companions only had eyes for the stunningly handsome Brad Pitt (there’s quite a diet Coke moment about an hour in – and I have ordered the Champion Spark Plugs T Shirt)  and I thought he stole the show (see above), but let’s not gloss over DiCaprio.  He’s great. But the devil has the best tunes.

Margot Robbie is no more than a muse, and wasted.  He does that a lot – does Quentin – a weakness.  Uma Thurman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Pam Grier have bucked the trend, but it’s rare to leave a Tarantino screening with the actresses front of mind.

Is he a masoginist?  No, I don’t think so, but close, but it’s the guys that get the greater spoils in the master’s work.

The other question the film undoubtedly raises though is…is he racist?  Uncomfortable, yes, but I felt pretty creeped out by the Bruce Lee scene where Karate and eastern fighting arts are pretty much laughed off the screen in the Bruce Lee fight scene.  I didn’t find it acceptable actually.

The music has been hailed as a masterpiece, but for me it’s one of his weaker selections.  Trying to cram too much in.

The styling, though, is exquisite, as is the cinematography.

Overall I’d rank it as in the upper half, just, of his repertoire.  But what do you think?

I’d go.

  • Kill Bill Part 1
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Jackie Brown
  • The Hateful Eight
  • Once Upon a time in Hollywood
  • Django Django
  • Death Proof 
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Inglorious Basterds
  • Kill Bill Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Virtues: Channel 4.


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This is Stephen Graham, Channel 4, Shane Meadows and just British TV overall at its very best.  The Russians and the Poles can make movies this depressing but the Brits excel at it.

Occassionaly.

And this is one of those occasions.

I thought Stephen Graham was decent in Line of Duty, but that was a mere warm-up outing for this career-defining hour of TV.  He is simply breathtaking.

The second act, in which he gets smashed to drown the sorrows of the loss of his son who has emigrated with his new ‘dad’ to Australia, is indescribably brilliant.

Doing a drunk is tricky.  (Even Gillian Anderson struggled in All About Eve) but this captures it astonishingly, in no small part because of the direction of Shane Meadows and genre-bending camera work.

It was deeply disturbing TV from start to finish with a constant barrage of depression. But that’s what makes Meadows such a unique talent.  What lies ahead one can only guess but you can be sure of one thing.  It ain’t gonna be comedy.

Wonderful, wonderful TV.  Thanks guys.

After Life : TV Series Review


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Ricky Gervais has never, ever written a bad script.

And although he is pigeonholed as a comedian, writing comedy-drama he is far more than this.

He is an observer of the deepest human emotions and psyche. How else could David Brent exist?  How else could Derek be considered even remotely acceptable to be the star of a comedy, let alone have Gervais portray the part he had written, rather than cast an actor with learning difficulties?

In this latest offering, brought to us by Netflix, Gervais has reached a creative zenith.  In episode four there is a moment with a rice pudding that is the funniest thing I have ever seen on TV.  In episode 6, I wept for 15 minutes solidly.

It’s the story of a local free newspaper journalist who works to live, it’s not a career, it’s a job to fill the time between leaving his home, and his beloved wife Lisa (Kerry Godliman – Godly talent more like), and returning to spend each and every night with her.

The trouble is she’s just died of cancer and Tony (Gervais) can’t cope.  Only the dog is keeping him alive and it brings his dark cynicism and sarcasm to the fore. It gives him a super-power.  The power to be a total **** to everyone and anyone.  Sometimes to bad people who deserve it, like the school bully, but at other times to borderline cases (like a cheeky chugger).

His dad has Alzheimers and doesn’t recognise him.

His therapist is a moron.

His colleagues, led by the truly outstanding Tony Way as ‘photographer’ Lenny, are all ‘arseholes’.  Except they aren’t.  They’re just ordinary people.

He gradually falls for the nurse who works in his dad’s care home and that has a touch of joy about it.

But more than anything this show just shows that people are largely good.  Even the bad ones like Tony’s naughty postman.

The moments in the graveyard with a grieving widow, played by the magnificent Penelope Wilton, are pure philosophy.

And we have Diane Morgan (Philomena Cunk).

And during the cremation of a junkie that results in Tony standing in the smoke with a nun, it means he has to say to her, “Don’t breathe that in sister, you’ll be off your tits.”

We watched all six episodes back to back and I urge you to do the same.

Better than any TV I have seen in an awful, awful long time.

Utterly perfect.

Thank you Netflix for having the bravery to commission this.

(Oh, and the soundtrack is brilliant too.)

(And so is the dog.)