Collaborate or resist: Thoughts on the first 3 episodes of Colony season 2

(image courtesy USA Network)

 

In the tense and politically-charged times in which we live, Colony, from creators Carlton Cuse and Ryan J Condal, has never seemed more relevant or instructive.

With the new Trump Presidency firmly in the White House and showing an alarming tendency towards fascism, the idea of a rigidly-policed society controlled from behind the scenes by yet-to-be-glimpsed alien invaders doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Indeed, science fiction has always excelled as an allegorical way of examining society’s darker proclivities and in that respect, Colony sits very comfortably in a long and venerable tradition, illuminating just how easily longstanding traditions and bulwarks against tyranny can be subverted and lost, and how many people will go with it, either to advance themselves or simply to survive.

As we rejoin the Bowmans, we find them scattered across two separate colonies, trying desperately to regroup as a family as they are forced to confront whether their differing approaches to dealing with the stealthy interlopers have been the right ones.

Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) is in the Santa Monica Bloc in search of son Charlie (Jacob Buster) and finding out that however bad things might be in food and freedom deprived Los Angeles, they are a factor of a thousand times worse in The Lord of the Flies brutality of Santa Monica.

Here warlords rule, with the tacit approval of the overlords as long as a steady supply of human labour is constantly given up to be sent to the much-feared The Factory, and Will finds himself needing to draw on every last bit of his FBI and military training to even make minimal headway.

In the end he has to lean on his ex-partner Devon (Carolyn Michelle Smith) who is connected to all the warlords where she acts as a bounty hunter; she proves to be the conduit through which Will finds and rescues Charlie who seems strangely disinclined to leave his life of street crime and who is, understandably angry that his father didn’t arrive sooner.

 

 

Meanwhile back in Los Angeles, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) is facing up to the fact that while acting on your ideals is all well and good, it comes with a heavy price.

Her role as a resistance fighter, at the same time as husband Will is working for the Hosts, as they’re euphemistically called – ironic given it’s our planet they have seized for themselves although given their vastly more advanced technological power it doesn’t look like humanity has too much say in the matter – has led to all kinds of complications such as son Bram (Alex Neustaedter) ending up in a labour camp, and Will’s onetime colleague Jennifer McMahon (Kathleen Rose Perkins) breathing down her neck in an attempt to get Katie to give up her close resistance friend and fellow-fighter Eric Broussard (Tory Kittles).

You can help but admire her for her bravery and her willingness to lay everything to lay everything on the line to fight for humanity’s release from alien tyranny but it comes at a huge price, one that is weighing heavily on her as the three episodes progress.

Her sister, Maddie (Amanda Righetti), by contrast, has found a safe heaven up in The Green Zone, a palatial area of luxury homes, greenery, relative freedom and bountiful food – in common with the tight flow of information and deprivation of liberties, food is very hard to come by in this cold, cruel new world – and while she helps with Katie where she can, it’s clear that she has thrown her lot in with the Hosts, even being inducted into their cabal which has a theocratic air to it with constant references to The Greatest Day when humanity will achieve its supposed true potential.

These stories, which are played out over the first three episodes, beginning with “Eleven.Thirteen” which acts as a chilling flashback to the day the Hosts revealed their presence and took control, are instructive lessons in the various ways in which people accommodate tyranny.

 

 

What is terrifying about Colony, and lies at the heart of its brilliantly-nuanced and unbearably slow-drip tense storytelling, is its depiction of how easily any society can succumb to dictatorial control.

In one short day – preceded however as “Eleven. Thirteen” portrays by years, perhaps decades of building a discreet and slowly-building presence on Earth – life as we know ceases to exist, with freedom, democracy, civil liberties and a slew of other facets of our Western liberal democracies, disappearing as quickly as the electronics that are lost to a worldwide EMP.

It’s all done with brutal, military precision as you might expect, but even more alarmingly, it’s accomplished in small incremental steps, all of which add up over time to a takeover that no one really sees coming.

Colony excels because it doesn’t sugarcoat the deprivations nor does it promise some sort of heroic resistance to the Hosts; there is a Resistance sure and its determined, mowing down anyone suspected of showing even the slightest allegiance to humanity’s shadowy new overlords as we see at the start of “Sublimation”, but ultimately any fightback will be long, slow, deadly and come at an enormous cost.

Even more chilling though in one sense is how eager people are willing to sell away their humanity for a seat at the table presided over with fascist efficiency by the Hosts who value “hard work” and “obedience” over thinking for themselves.

The people in the Green Zone, who are the human face of a government now controlled by extraterrestrials, are directly complicit in the new regime, seeking to position themselves for the new promised land of opportunity.

But there are legions more who rather than resist, which as we’ve noted, always comes at a high price, throw their lot in too becoming the Red Hats (military police who are everywhere) and arms and legs of the new fascist rulers.

The Resistance for all their verve and resolve are tiny by comparison, facing an enemy so powerful and determined that facing off against them might seem like a fool’s errand.

Colony, quite cleverly, doesn’t position itself as some sort of nakedly obvious moral compass; carefully and coolly, with a brilliant mix of heart-stopping action and character-driven interludes, it simply and powerfully documents the way in which the tyranny arrives, perpetuates itself and seems to be inexorably heading some sort of mysterious denouement.

The Hosts have revealed themselves as brazenly cavalier with human life, willing to kill as many people as is need to achieve their ends, an you have to wonder just what kind of fate awaits even those in what is euphemistically called The Circle.

As a lesson in the terrifying ability of tyranny to arrive in the slowly-unfurling blink of an eye and the willingness of the majority of people to acquiesce rather than militantly resist, Colony is incisive, pitch-perfect drama, a show very much of its time that is both compelling television and a lesson in what happens when good people choose to say nothing.

 

 

 

Wilson: Life is crap and then you die … or find your long-lost daughter

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Woody Harrelson stars as Wilson, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged misanthrope who reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and gets a shot at happiness when he learns he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) he has never met. In his uniquely outrageous and slightly twisted way, he sets out to connect with her.

I have long been, and remain, firmly of the opinion that Woody Harrelson should be the go-to person for playfully mischievously curmudgeonly people in every movie possible.

He has proved his superlative skill in this regard in films like Zombieland and The Edge of Seventeen and is back again in Wilson, playing a man who believes, quite firmly, that “life is lonely and miserable”.

So no overusing of the smile emoji for him then right?

He has managed the transition from childhood to adulthood, or from marriage to single life all that well and has pretty much decided life has little to offer him.

Then he discovers he has a daughter … and everything changes?

Not quite but it is does get a whole lot more interesting and hilarious. Family reunions have never been this dysfunctionally tactless or funny.

Wilson opens in USA on 24 March.

 

It’s all a matter of Trial and Error … and trying not to look guilty

(image courtesy NBC)

 

SNAPSHOT
In the spirit of true crime documentaries, this outrageous fish-out-of-water comedy features bright-eyed New York lawyer Josh Segal (Nicholas D’Agosto), who heads to a tiny Southern town for his first big case. His mission? To defend an eccentric “rollercizing” poetry professor (John Lithgow) accused of the bizarre murder of his beloved wife. Settling into his makeshift office behind a taxidermy shop and meeting his quirky team of local misfits, Josh suspects that winning his first big case will not be easy, especially when his client is always making himself look guilty. The cast also includes Jayma Mays, Sherri Shepherd, Steven Boyer and Krysta Rodriguez. (synopsis via Spoiler TV)

Mockumetaries done well make for hilarious storytelling.

By keeping a narrative straight face throughout, no matter how outrageous the content, and in most cases the content is gloriously over the top – see anything by Christopher Guest (his latest, Mascots, is now on Netflix), The Office and What We Do in the Shadows, maximum commentary can be had on a whole host of issues that engage with audiences in a way that far more straightforward genres might struggle to match.

NBC’s new sitcom, Trial and Error looks to be very much in the spirit of the mockumetaries we have come to know and love, hilariously making fun of the slew of real crime documentaries that have become a genre du jour of late.

Even more pleasing, it stars John Lithgow, who was born to play the role of the defendant, as an entirely unsympathetic, highly likely to be guilty suspect who is utterly oblivious to the way in which he is imperilling his own defense and the sanity of his beleaguered lawyer.

While a trailer does not a funny ongoing series make, there are enough comic gems here and scene-stealing (or killing?) performances, that the signs are good that Trial and Error will be every bit as amusing as it promises.

Quite whether it lives up to its promise Trial and Error is something we will find out when the NBC show premieres on 7 March at 9.30/8.30c.

 

Poster Me This! Character posters released for Beauty and the Beast

(image via IMP awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Disney will release Beauty and the Beast in 3D on March 17, 2017. The beloved tale will be retold for the big screen with a modern live-action lens and the help of transformative CG magic. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens will star as Belle and the Beast/Prince respectively, and Luke Evans will play the role of Gaston. Emma Thompson has joined the cast as Mrs. Potts and Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice.

Eight-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards for the 1991 animated classic, will score the film, which will feature new recordings of the original songs in addition to several new songs written by Menken and Sir Tim Rice. Bill Condon will direct from a script by Stephen Chbosky, and the film will be produced by Mandeville Films’ David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. Production begins in May at Shepperton Studios in London. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Whatever your failings about turning animated films into live action ones, and Disney has acquired a certain mania for the process in the last few years with many such projects in the works, it’s hard to fault how beautiful the new remake of Beauty and the Beast looks.

Assisted by new music from the original composer Alan Menken and an age-old story which shows no signs of losing its engaging lustre, the film looks set to keep Disney at the opt of the Hollywood pile in 2017, after a record breaking time of it last year.

The character posters are beautifully imagined too, with both the human and the living furniture images of each character visible in the exquisitely wrought posters.

Beauty and the Beast opens in USA and UK on 27 March, and in Australia on 23 March.

 

(image via IMP awards)

 

(image via IMP awards)

 

(image via IMP awards)

 

(image via IMP awards)

 

You can see the full set of 12 posters and the motion posters at Hypable.

Book review: Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2) by James S. A. Corey

(image via The Expanse Wikia)

 

There’s an admirable Utopian tendency among some science fiction to advance the idea that once humanity takes to the stars that all its problems will be solved, that we will join together in a spirit of selfless sacrifice and devotion to noble ideals, not only among ourselves but with many of the alien species we encounter.

It’s an appealing idea, the idea that the future holds not just technological advances but the entire betterment of humanity.

Alas, if history is any guide, and it is usually instructively accurate, while we may wish for the better angels of our nature to take ascendancy, the reality is that the faults and foibles of people down through the ages will continue to play out as always, whether they’re on Earth or one of the planets of our solar system and beyond.

That’s not to say there won’t be progress but humanity’s basic propensity to squabble and fight over pretty much everything will remain undiminished; it’s this central idea that forms the core of The Expanse series from James S. A. Corey, the nom de plume of two collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

In the sprawling world they have created, humanity has taken to the stars with gusto, terraforming Mars which is now home to 4 billion people and a fearsome military power in its own right, and staking claims on Uranus, Neptune, Jupiter and Saturns and all their attendant moons.

It is on one these moons, Ganymede, the biggest moon orbiting Jupiter, and the breadbasket of the Outer Planets which are engaged in an increasingly fractious and oft-violent battle for independence from Earth, that the second instalment in the series, Caliban’s War (named after one of the main antagonists in Shakespeare’s The Tempest), that follows Leviathan Wakes, begins its breakneck ride.

Attacked by an altogether new human hybrid form of the aggressive, mutative alien lifeform known as the protomolecule – sent eons ago by an unknown alien race, this militant black sinuous life was supposed to seed Earth with extraterrestrial biology, a plan which foundered when its vehicle got caught in Saturn’s pull – Ganymede is a casualty of a dangerous arms between Earth and Mars particularly, with the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) watching on and taking advantage where it can.

Into this brewing mix of intrasolar rivalry comes William Holden and the crew of the Rocinante – Naomi, Amos and Axel – who are once again caught up in the violent machinations of humanity’s drive to compete and grab all the spoils, a tendency that expansion into the stars hasn’t diminished one iota.

 

James S. A. Corey – the pen name of co-writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (image courtesy Google Play)

 

And so unspools, with ever-escalating fury and tension, another gripping tale of battles for power, influence and sheer survival, all underpinned by shady backroom machinations and underhanded dealings that reek to high heaven no matter where in the galaxy they are taking place.

Once again James S. A. Corey spins a deliciously dense and appropriately expansive narrative that is bigger than a galactic Ben Hur but which retains an engrossing sense of intimacy and emotional impact by dint of focusing on the many people affected by these realpolitik plays.

People like Praxidike Meng, a botanist on Ganymede, who finds his world turned upside down when his home is destroyed and his daughter is kidnapped by nefarious people unknown; by focusing on Meng’s struggle to find his daughter, with the help of Holden and crew, in as fine form as always, and a number of surprising other players, Caliban’s War, though epic in intent and execution, retains an intimate and deeply appealing sense of emotional authenticity.

This is how all good cinematic soap opera should be written.

Large, immense and compelling, with stakes so high that the fate of humanity literally hangs in a black goo balance, Caliban’s War succeeds in setting a stupendously large stage for events to follow while remaining a gripping story in its own right.

It does this by remembering that while humanity now comes equipped with solar system-crossing starships and the ability to change and transform worlds at will, it is still very much a creature of its failings, and no amount of Epstein Drives (think a warp drive) and colonies on distant solar moons can change that.

It’s not a hopeless cause, and the good guys stand a pretty good chance of winning all things considered but at the heart of it is humanity’s long-lasting ability to undo itself in spectacular fashion just when the world is at its fingertips.

It also highlights the inability of people to draw together in any kind of cohesive, unified way even in the face of grave threats from terrifyingly powerful alien lifeforms who aren’t encumbered by morality or amorality, or any kind of emotional drag.

In many ways that’s a good thing for storytelling as fine as this, which reads like an epic sci-fi blockbuster, pushing us along at breakneck speed, but which never forgets that at the heart of all good stories are the small, intimate tales of people simply trying to fashion a meaningful life for themselves.

It’s impressive in every way and marks The Expanse, which has just released the sixth volume in its series, Babylon’s Ashes, and is not heading towards a second series on syfy, as a stellar sci-fi series that understands that no matter how glorious the future may be, that humanity won’t necessarily rise to meet the challenge.

Which for anyone who values incredibly well-written gripping power plays across an impossibly big galactic background, perfectly counterbalanced by small intimate stories of innate humanity, is a very good thing indeed.

Beyond La La Land: the top ten toe-tapping film musicals (curated article)

(image courtesy Summit Entertainment)

 

In the Great Depression, movies were an escape from life, and musicals gave audiences hope that things would get better. The recent release of La La Land – a contemporary twist on a classic formula – has reignited interest in the musical genre. At the Golden Globes this week, the film won Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), Best Original Score, Best Screenplay, Best Original Song (City of Stars), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling) and Best Actress (Emma Stone).

I enjoyed the escapism of La La Land, and appreciated the bravery of both director and cast as they stepped into a challenging field. But there are other musicals that qualify as greats.

As a musical tragic, here is my list of the ten most memorable musicals. It’s not conclusive. It excludes silent films like The Jazz Singer (1927); the first official Hollywood musical The Broadway Melody (1929); ground-breaking films like Grease (1978) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971); cult musicals like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia! (2008). Credit should also be given to shows that reference classic music theatre, for example, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a made-for-television musical comedy-drama series.

However, the following musicals continue to influence today’s world of music theatre. Each has a unique quality that lends to its iconic status.

42nd Street (1933)

 

 

The plot of 42nd Street, based on the creation of a musical show during the Depression, launched the career of Ruby Keeler, a name synonymous with early musicals. The film showcases the visual imagery of choreographer Busby Berkeley, whose method is still unrivalled today. Berkeley was famous for his filming from above. It meant that his choreography was not only visually stunning for a seated audience, but when viewed from above, each step helped illustrate an image. For instance, a series of dancing girls might spin in a circle in flowing gowns. A dancer in the centre would spin in the other direction and the viewer would see a beautiful, spinning flower.

Top Hat (1935)

 

 

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the leading dancing duo of the 1930s, starring in 10 films. Their pairing happened by accident, when they were brought together for the first time on the set of Flying Down To Rio (1933), as support characters. The production team was stunned by the chemistry between the pair – as the saying goes, Ginger could do everything that Fred did, but backwards and in heels. This was the first film written specifically for them as leading characters, and as The Oxford History of World Cinema puts it, in a Fred & Ginger musical, “boy meets girl; boy dances with girl; boy gets girl”. In the film’s classic song and dance scene, Cheek to Cheek, Rogers wore a dress swathed in feathers, which kept floating off during filming. If you look very closely, you can see one errant feather that fell on the set and was missed in the post-production editing.

An American in Paris (1951)

 

 

This Oscar-winning film brought together dancers Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly. The tale of an American painter living in Paris who falls in love is fairly straightforward. But the dance sequences are sumptuous. One of them, An American in Paris ballet, is a 17-minute extravaganza choreographed by Kelly. It features costumes inspired by a smattering of French painters (including Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec) and a beautiful George Gershwin score.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

 

 

With the recent passing of Debbie Reynolds, this film has a new poignancy. Reynolds was just 20 when she made it, starring alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. One of the most successful musicals ever filmed, it is filled with memorable songs, lavish dance routines and of course, that scene-stealing title song. This film is a light-hearted look at Hollywood, at the time when silent films gave way to “talkies”. Amongst surveys of the greatest American films, Singin’ in the Rain inevitably ranks in the top ten. Several stage revivals have appeared in recent years. And everyone I know is able to sing (or hum) along to Good Morning.

Oklahoma (1955)

 

 

This first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, based on Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs (1931), explores the love story between a cowboy (Gordon MacRae) and a farm girl (Shirley Jones). It develops the idea of the “book musical” – a musical play where the songs and dances are an integral part of the narrative, emerging from the story to evoke profound emotional responses.

There is a darker side to this story, with the secondary character Jud, a farmhand, in love with the leading lady. Some classic numbers from this production include “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and the title song.

My Fair Lady (1964)

 

 

This Lerner & Loewe adaptation of Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion is a tale of transformation. A cockney flower girl wants to “better” herself, so she can work in a flower shop. An arrogant phonetics professor wagers that he can teach her to speak “proper” English, and training ensues. Audrey Hepburn charmed as the wayward Eliza – although her singing was dubbed by another. Her partner in musical crime was Rex Harrison, who, strangely enough, doesn’t sing, but is completely convincing as Higgins. Eliza’s father was entertainer Stanley Holloway, who delighted audiences with the classic “I’m Getting Married in The Morning”, sung in a pub, his favourite place on earth. The film ends with hope, unlike the play that inspired it, and won eight Academy Awards.

The Sound of Music (1965)

 

 

Adapted from the Broadway musical of 1959, this Oscar-winning film introduced audiences to Julie Andrews. As Maria (Andrews) and the Von Trapp children sang and danced their way across the Austrian Alps, songs such as Do-Re-Mi and My Favourite Things became classics. Though not a dance musical, per se, it is still one of the most commercially successful films of all time, and has continued to enjoy revivals throughout the world.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

 

 

This rock opera began as a concept album, before launching on Broadway in 1971. There is no spoken dialogue, hence the term “opera”. It is a loose depiction of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, with added struggles between the key protagonists. This musical was the launching pad for singers, such as the late Jon English, Marcia Hines, and more recently, in the West End, Tim Minchin. Again known for its singing rather than the dancing, the title song, and Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, were softer moments in an intense score. The film of the show was released in 1973 and is a leading work in the rock opera genre.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

 

 

Lloyd-Webber’s composition is based on Leroux’s novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The plot focuses on a soprano ingénue who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius. This musical is surprisingly popular, because its main hero is an anti-hero. He is unbalanced, unattractive and his only saving grace is a God-given talent for composing. Which, I must say, holds him in very good stead. If the Phantom is well cast, one sympathizes with this sad creature. The opening sequence with the chandelier suspended above the stage reduces my sister to tears each time, and is truly a spectacle to behold. And who can resist an overacting opera singer with a dodgy Italian accent and musical spectacles such as the amazing choreography of “Masquerade”, or the simplicity of Christine’s singing to her father’s grave, in “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again”? The 2004 film featured Gerard Butler in his first singing role, which, as an accomplished actor, he performed very creditably, alongside Emmy Rossum as Christine. The standout however, as the obnoxious opera singer, was Minnie Driver, who put in a sterling performance, evoking much laughter.

Les Misérables (2012)

 

 

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, this Tony Award winner is another sung-through musical, having run continuously in the West End since 1985. This story of love, freedom and morality, set within the tragedy of the French revolution, evokes great emotion and composers Schönberg and Boublil manage to sustain the intensity throughout. The 2012 film was a vision of cinematic brilliance, with Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe as Valjean and Javert respectively. Jackman has sung with great artistry in other productions, but I felt that in making himself physically portray the struggles and weakness of Valjean, his vocal performance suffered. However, Crowe’s portrayal of Javert showed his moral compass swaying, and he sang with technical proficiency and artistic expression. There are so many pieces of note within this score, but “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, as the revolutionaries face their death, is perhaps for me, the most touching moment. This is a classic piece of music theatre history. It will bring you emotionally to your knees.

If I had to choose one of these as my favourite, I’d be hard pressed. However, Oklahoma stands out as a performance full of love and laughter, where something good can come out of something bad. I like hope in my musicals – as Rosie O’Donnell said to Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle: “You don’t want to be in love – you want to be in love in a movie”. Well, I want to be in love in a musical.

The Conversation

Nicole Thomson, Associate Lecturer – Theatre, CQUniversity Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Fiery red to coolest blue: Cinefix looks at the use of colour by filmmakers

(image via YouTube (c) Cinefix)

 

SNAPSHOT
Color is one of the most effective tools in a storyteller’s arsenal. From fiery red, to the coldest blue, a great filmmaker knows just what colors to paint on the screen. Move over light and shadow, lets take the color wheel for a spin! Here are the very best uses of color in a movie ever! (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

Being a visual medium, film relies every bit as heavily on what we see as the story it is telling.

Cinefix has once again demonstrated how vitally important it is to have every visual piece perfectly in place, concentrating this time on the top 10 ways film has used to colour to convey story, a sense of time or place, emotional states and a host of other elements critical to truly impacting film-making.

The usual well-deserved suspects are accounted for such as The Wizard of Oz, American Beauty and What Dreams May Come, but this brilliantly done piece examines the use of colour in films you may not immediately think of such as Schindler’s List (that red coat is an emotional blow every time), O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Vertigo and Mad Max: Fury Road.

It’s immersive, instructive and a reminder of just brilliant the very best filmmakers are at creating a world away from our own and taking us deep into the engrossing tales they are telling.

 

Everyone wants to celebrate Girlfriend’s Day. Well, except Bob Odenkirk

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
In a city where greeting card writers are celebrated like movie stars, romance writer Ray used to be the king. In trying to recapture the feelings that once made him the greatest, he gets entangled in a web of murder and deceit as writers vie to create the perfect card for a new holiday: Girlfriend’s Day. (synopsis via Netflix)

Life is a series of ups and downs, sometimes on a daily basis.

But if you’re Ray, the once great writer of romantic greeting cards who has fallen on hard times so profound that his only escapism is watching homeless men fight on TV, the downs far outweigh the ups.

His only way out of his wordless hole? A contest launched by the city’s mayor, in honour of a new holiday called Girlfriend’s Day, to create the perfect, heart-fluttering greeting card.

It has the potential to restore Ray’s fortunes and set back on the path to greeting card greatness but there’s a lot at stake and some people are willing to do anything to win.

Such as inflict paper cuts in some weird and painful places.

It sounds like a quirky, clever premise and with Bob Odenkirk both starring and writing (with Eric Hoffman), it’s bound to be an hilarious excursion into life’s rise and falls and the insane (and very funny) amount of effort it takes to turn things around.

Girlfriend’s Day is yours to Netflix and chill on 14 February.

 

Movie review: Jackie

(image via IMP Awards)

 

History, it is oft remarked, is written by the victors.

But as Jackie, directed with restrained eloquence by Pablo Larrain, demonstrates throughout its sublimely meditative length, it can occasionally be written be written by those who may be deemed, in whole or in part, to be its victims.

It is odd to think of Jacqueline Kennedy in this way given that for a time, during the heady days of Camelot when the Kennedy family had finally attained their Holy Grail of the US Presidency, she was far from a martyr in waiting.

Rather she was the glamorous face of a young and vital administration, bringing back elegance and fashion to the White House – she oversaw the restoration of historic artifacts to the Presidential home and centre of power – and overturning a great many social conventions in the process.

She could be considered in every respect to have had it all, and yet on 22 November, 1963, as she sat beside her husband in a motorcade tour of Dallas, Texas, she bore witness to the brutal assassination of the 35th President of the United States, his blood spattering her dress as she vainly tried to hold his shattered skull together.

It would be traumatic for anyone but for a woman at the centre of power, it was a devastating blow, at once robbing her of her beloved husband – she knew of his infidelities, describing them as akin to wandering off into the desert and being tempted by the devil, but knew that her husband would always come home – her status and her sense of place.

Jackie focuses on this narrow, emotionally-harrowing window, save for continual references throughout its narrative to a 1962 TV special that showed off the newly-restored White House which speaks of her desire to control the way she was perceived – her spending on the restoration program had caused some controversy – giving us an intimate insight into the way grief plays out when its stage is not simply the intimacy of a marriage and family but that of the entire US political establishment and in many worlds, the world.

 

 

This was grief writ large and where Jackie, working off a cleverly nuanced, deeply-meditative screenplay by Noah Oppenheim, excels is contrasting how the intimacy of raw, untrammelled grief is distorted and misinterpreted when it essentially becomes a thing of public consumption.

Outside of her inner circle, which included the White House Social Secretary and Jackie’s childhood friend Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Robert Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard) with whom she had a sometimes fractious relationship, Jackie, played with inner strength and raw emotional vulnerability by Natalie Portman in her finest performance since Black Swan, was a figure of much conjecture.

For many she was a style icon, a breath of fresh air through the atrophied halls of political and social power; for others however she was a reckless spendthrift, a woman hellbent of overturning hallowed social institutions and convention.

All too aware, and keenly cognizant of how she was perceived, both good and bad, Jackie seized the moment in the days between her husband’s death, his burial on 25 November and the days that followed before she vacated the White House in favour of new President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird (John Carroll Lynch and Beth Grant respectively), to control the narrative as much as she could.

Thus Jackie begins, ends and is interspersed with an interview she gave to Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) a week after her husband’s death, where she skillyfully and at times quite obviously and without apology makes it clear that she will control the story of her husband’s legacy.

Initially White, a celebrated war correspondent, is resistant but acquiesces to Jackie’s cast-iron steering of the interview and the subsequent article, eventually penning a 1000-word article for Life magazine that matched exactly Jackie’s vision of the truncated Kennedy Presidency as that of King Arthur and Camelot.

It led him to pen lines like this one – “a magic moment in American history, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers, and poets met at the White House, and the barbarians beyond the walls held back. ” – a flowery evocation of an era he later said never existed, his hand forced by a grieving widow eager to ensure that the legacy of her husband and herself remain glowing and untarnished.

 

 

In this way, Jackie, with quiet poise, and thunderous intent, illustrates how Jackie Kennedy, though genuinely grief-stricken and panicked by the loss of her place in the storied political firmament that had so defined her, stayed clear-eyed enough to recognise that time was of the essence and that she had to act before her control over JFK’s legacy was lost.

You could well argue in some ways she lost that particular battle but in one important way she emerged victorious, a victim of events far beyond her control, who was able to seize the initiative and with a combination of sweet talk and iron will (mostly the latter) ensure that the days of the Kennedy administration would be as glorious as that of Arthur’s fabled court.

The substance may well be overblown but as a masterclass in controlling the narrative of history, Jackie, a beautiful, intelligent and touching meditation on grief, power and memory and shaping of myth, shows us it is possible to create a gilded reality that is more enduring than the era it purports to represent.

Jackie Kennedy knew all too well how the game was played, not just politically but historically, and Jackie impresses on every level by showing us, augmented by rapturously luminous cinematography (Stéphane Fontaine) and deftly-used, highly-evocative music by Mica Levi, how ably she created and sustained the very mythos that the film so magnificently represents.

 

 

You bet your chimichangas Deadpool should get an Oscar nomination!

 

When you hear people talk earnestly and loftily about the movies that will be nominated for this years’ Oscars, films like Jackie, Manchester by the Sea, Loving, Moonlight and La La Land, among a number of worthy contenders,  are mentioned as likely to get a nomination for Best Picture come tomorrow Australia time (24th US time).

You don’t often hear Deadpool, last year’s irreverent, hilarious, superhero  movie-template-breaking smash hit mentioned but that, as we, and The Washington Post know, is a major, unforgivable oversight.

Thankfully Ryan Reynolds, armed with the same in-your-face wit that made Deadpool such a standout film last year, is not letting that stop him, pitching his film as worthy of Oscars recognition, if only for the use of three good walls and one broken one.

Or the use of 600lbs of chimichangas which as we all know is essential for the production of any Oscar movie worth its salt.

You can only hope that this deeply persuasive video – hell I’m not even a member of the Academy and I’m ready to vote for it! – sways enough hearts and minds in Tinseltown so that Reynolds, in assless chaps naturally, can claim the award that is so rightly, and piss-takingly, his and his alone.