So, it turns out that several flights and a few evening’s worth of entertainment add up to several movies I’ve seen recently. In no particular order (certainly not chronologically) …
Miss Sloane is one of the best movies I’ve seen for a while. It is the story of a ruthless political consultant, a power behind one of the many thrones in the empire, who is summoned to take up arms against a powerful emperor (the gun lobby). I’ll unpack it a little more below, but if you don’t want to read spoilers, just know – well worth watching.
How will her ultimate battle go? Will she win or lose? Those are all interesting questions, and ones I won’t spoil for you.
What I think is interesting is that any movie, or text, that discusses a political story, has implicit in it some theory of political economy (see for example the Potterian economy). Miss Sloane portrays a world of corrupted power and shady backroom discussions.
Within that world, Miss Sloanne is a lobbyist who is intriguing because she understands deeply the laws of power and how they work behind the scenes, and uses them to good effect in her everyday work. Because of that, she is a study in cynical exercises in manipulation. Fascinating, none the less, because she takes up a cause that even her allies tell her is doomed. Not because of some childhood incident (which would explain away her anomalous behaviour), but because of principle.
There are some moments where the movie feels slightly unrealistic. [SPOILER ALERT: I’ll be talking about key plot points from here on out].
In a world as cynical as the one Miss Sloane portrays, it seems unlikely that a sex worker might not have been pressured, or overpowered, into giving up the information her enemies needed. It might be unlikely, too, that her antagonists would fall quite as neatly into line as they do for her big reveal. It might be unlikely, too, for what it’s worth, for a gun-carrier to protect someone else from gun violence seems very unlikely*.
* This paper suggests that self defence is unlikely and doesn’t reduce the risks. I couldn’t find anything on bystanders carrying and reduced risks, but let me know if there’s any data?
I watched Table 19 over the course of two separate flights several days apart, which made it a somewhat disjointed viewing experience. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a fun premise: the table of people ‘Who should have known to RSVP ‘No”, bonding at a wedding as they work through their own problems.
All of them come to the table with some form of baggage; they go on a hilarious journey as they let down their guards to admit they’re all flawed. Through it they bond, and ultimately, they come out the other side just a little bit stronger. And maybe, just maybe, someone at that wedding will find true love.
I laughed out loud. If you’re in the mood for cheesy comedy, you might too.
Kedi is the story of several cats in Istanbul. It seems like the kind of story that could only be told in Istanbul, where a large population of cats roams the streets, receiving food and care from the humans they pass amongst, and largely tolerated if not sanctioned by society at large.
The story features swooping shots over the city, and brilliantly shot knee-level camera action that seems like it must have taken months. There are a few other brilliant pieces of work as well, including the night vision shot of a cat hunting. The care of the cinematographer is evident throughout. The music is well picked. If you’re tired the slow pace can be soporific, but in a gentle rather than a frustrating way.
The titular Florence Foster Jenkins was a New York socialite in the early twentieth century. She is famous for both having had a terrible singing voice, and for none the less performing widely, and purportedly being unaware of how bad her own voice was.
The movie Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of Ms Jenkins and her partner (in a complex relationship) St Clair Bayfield. Jenkins is utterly unaware of how bad her voice is, and because of her wealth and her financial support of the artistic community, a smaller number of people are willing to tell her. Those close to her shield her from the truth.
With a scenario like that, it’s hard to know whom to settle on as a protagonist. The movie seems to settle on St Clair Bayfield; his struggle? To encapsulate Jenkins in a bubble of misguided self-esteem, protecting her from the harshness of the real world.
It could, if you weren’t thinking about it, sound like a nice thing. But the reality is that Florence Foster Jenkins had a terrible voice, and was only prevented from being disabused because of her wealth, which seems to have been wasted on some awful concerts. Perhaps she provided some amusement. But I don’t think we should admire her lack of courage or insight in examining her own abilities.
Wonder woman – the story of a daughter of Zeus born in a secret all-female warrior paradise, destined to fight the god of war to save the world.
There’s been a large number of reviews of Wonder Woman – I won’t rehash most of that. I didn’t find the movie particularly enthralling as a movie, although there were some decent action scenes. I’m not well placed to comment, but from my limited perspective it didn’t strike me as a particularly well-placed blow against the patriarchy. Others may disagree.
Once upon a time there was a franchise, a set of stories about superheroes all owned by the same company. Gradually, through the magic of IP law, they were transformed into an unstoppable box-office juggernaut that suffocated anything within sight, leaving us with an endless iteration of superhero structured movies, with a plot outline so formulaic you could recite it in your sleep, and a cast so stereotyped you have trouble remembering which movie you’re watching.
If you feel like a protagonist trapped in an infinitely repeating time loop in (of course) a Marvel superhero movie, you can mark your clock by the fact that the latest (off season) Marvel movie is Spiderman.
There is a superhero. He (sometimes she) must transform himself to save his community. He fights a villain. He is successful.
If you like all the other Marvel movies enough to be excited by the thought of seeing another, then maybe Spiderman is for you. If not, do anything else at all. Beat your head against a wall. Check for lost pens under your couch. Scrub the grime from your bathtub. Any, or all of those activities, will be better than subjecting yourself to yet another blow from the piston-like production line of Marvel movies.