Movie review: Summer 1993 (Estiu 1993)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Childhood is supposed to be a safe, idyllic, untroubled place.

Yet for a million different reasons that are as diverse as the various failings of the human race, it fails to be the fairytale dream it’s supposed to be, overwhelming young growing minds with the kinds of challenges and traumas no one should encounter until they’re an adult (and not even then if at all possible but grown-ups are at least somewhat armed with the ability to handle the messy vagaries of life).

Estiu 1993 or Summer 1993, based on the life of Carla Simón who wrote and directed the Catalan-Spanish film, explores what happens one six-year-old girl Frida (Laia Artigas) is forced to leave the only life she’s ever known in Barcelona following the death of her parents.

While the film never explicitly comes out and states what happened to her parents, subsequent conversations point to the fact that they were junkies who ended up contracting HIV/AIDS at the height of the crisis when ignorance was rife and options for long-term management of the condition were next-to-no-existent.

In the end, while how the parents died does affect Frida’s life to some extent – the scene where she hurts herself playing and bleeds quietly but forcefully underlines how people reacted out of fear, not understanding in the early Nineties – the issue is more how someone so young processes such a loss, especially when it has the effect of sending her to a world wholly different to her own.

Sent to live with her mother Neus’s brother, Esteve (David Verdaguer), his wife Marga (Bruna Cusí) and their daughter Anna (Paula Robles), who very much want her, she reacts much as you would expect any child to, with a mix of uncertainty, quiet acquiescence, rebellion and escapism.

 

(image via Cine Las Americas International Film Festival)

 

The performance by Laia Artigas is phenomenally good, evincing this range of emotions with a palpable sense of disclocation, beginning in Barcelona where she is almost always the centre of attention, with the various adults, including her grandparents and aunts hovering off to the side, busy with packing up the lives of Frida’s parents and of course, the young girl herself.

You know there’s a lot going on behind the facade, that Frida may look quietly accepting of her new lot in life, going where she is directed, but as Summer 1993 progresses it becomes clear that it’s more shock than anything else at work here.

As she slowly becomes accustomed to her new life – keep in mind that for much of the film “accustomed” does not equal “acceptance”, more an interim uncertainty about how handle a markedly new set of life circumstances (it makes sense – she’s just a kid, after all) – she begins to push back, in ways small and life-threateningly large, at least for Anna who ends up as the recipient of Frida’s cruel acts of defiance.

You feel for Anna, who’s only four and utterly excited about and devoted to her new sister, since she’s the one, more than even Esteve and Marga who bears the weight of Frida understandable inability to wholly adapt to her new life out in the countryside hours away from Barcelona.

It would be easy to think of Frida as some kind of mini-devil incarnate, dispassionately lashing out the person least able to defend herself or work out what’s being done to her, but if you consider what she’s experienced in her short life from junkie, likely inattentive parents (that much is clear when you see her play “Mothers and Fathers” with Anna) to a life that is much more normal than what she’s known but a million miles from where she is most comfortable.

Not helping matters is the understandable over-indulgence of her grandparents who have sought to give her the love she’s missed out on, an approach which has had the effect of leaving Frida spoiled and uncannily able to manipulate the people around her because she knows it elicits a positive response.

 

(image via IMDb)

 

Cleverly, Summer 1993 doesn’t immediately offer an easy solution on its languid way to an indeterminate final act, choosing to keep the low key drama – this is a film that perhaps dawdles a little too much at times but in so doing it captures the slow, almost unchanging nature of time and reality from a child’s perspective – on its toes to the very end.

While Esteve and Marga find their patience tried at times, and Frida does occasionally delve into minimalist demon spawn from hell territory (again usually at poor Anna’s uncomprehending expense), it’s all very realistic in keeping with the fact that this is a story about a young uprooted, unsettled, uncertain child who reacting less as a monster and more as an ill-equipped small human well and truly out of her depth, despite now being in a loving home.

In that type of scenario, there is no immediate happy-ever-after and sometimes not at all, and Summer 1993 wisely stays true to that, offering Frida as a work in progress who will likely come good but not in the road-to-Damascus fashion so beloved of Hollywood and its cookie cutter easy answers.

That is the joy of this remarkable film – it’s willingness to let the reality in and eschew the fairytale, ushering us into a world that is bucolic in its setting and loving in its familial offering but which can’t instantly mend a problem years in the making, as true to life as you’re going to get in a world where problems and solutions don’t always find their way together.

 

Avengers Infinity War: How should it have ended?

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Avengers: Infinity War is grim, people, GRIM with the kind of ending that has you leaving the theatre with a desperate, impelling need to eat your body weight in junky comfort food (which as luck would have it, cinemas have in abundance; true, it will bankrupt you ten times over but it’s there).

But it did really have to end that way?

If you’re Marvel and want the mother of all cliffhangers to eat away at people like a cancerous plot point – I have no idea what that is but it sounds dramatic and so shall it stay in the copy – then it’s damn near perfect; but what if, reasons the good, fiendishly clever, and devilishly-funny folks at How it Should Have Ended, there was more than one out of 14,605 ways (the odds calculated by Dr Strange) to avoid Thanos’s click of the fingers?

What might that have looked like?

Well, wonder no more for there are 11 minutes of all kinds of humourously-delivered, well thought-out musings on how the film could have ended instead, which will leave you with the sickening realisation that you might have been able to avoid the 60 kgs of buttered popcorn you consumed after all. (I mean, IF you had; really who would do that? Me? Ha ha no, you’re kidding right … haha.)

 

Movie review: The Wife

(image via IMP Awards)

 

There is a brittleness that permeates the entire length of the Björn Runge directed, Jane Anderson-scripted film The Wife (based on the book of the same name by Meg Wolitzer) which has nothing to do with the snowy wintry setting of Stockholm where much of the story takes place.

The fragility at play is one borne entirely of emotional decisions long-ago made, and forever after regretted, a self-made Faustian pact that has locked husband and famed novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce as older Joe, Harry Lloyd as the younger) and supposed behind-the-scenes wife Joan (Glenn Close in a mesmerisingly-gripping, award-worthy performance; younger version by her daughter Annie Starke) into an alliance of duplicity that has corroded their marriage to the point that only the loving, picture-perfect facade, and some whispers of once vital love, remain.

Their tense-but-enduring bond may have lived on until the end of their natural lives had Joe not been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, triggering a cascading series of events that ultimately unravel the fraud in which they were both once willing participants and precipitate a reckoning that is long overdue.

To discuss this pact of beautifully-manicured but ultimately poisonous lies would be to reveal too much of a plot that unfolds with an exquisitely well-wrought glacial slowness that is never less than utterly engrossing; suffice to say that the revelations that passively-aggressively tumble out in long-held slow motion are enthralling, if only for what they disclose about the darker shadows of human nature and the lies we tell ourselves and others.

The unfurling is aided in part by the presence of writer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), an ambitious though opportunistic would-be biographer who finagles his way on the Castlemans’ Concorde flight to Europe in pursuit of the holy grail of biographies – the life story of the great Joe Castleman himself.

 

(image courtesy Sony Classics)

 

In response to Nathaniel’s cheerfully menacing approaches – his style is all sweetness, light and writerly camaraderie but his piranha-like intent is manifestly clear – Joe is brusquely-dismissive, Joan is icily-pleasant and their disaffected son David (Max Irons), who is an aspiring writer clamouring for his father’s imprimatur, is fair game, so laden with hurt and anger that he cannot see Nathaniel for who he actually is.

Nathaniel, however, is not the problem; rather he is the messenger, the one blowing a revelatory trumpet that Joe does not want to hear and which Joan, who is every bit as complicit in the literary charade as her husband, has grown tired of hearing to the point where her well-deflective facade begins to slip and fall, just when it is needed, in some senses, the most.

Long unhappy with the deal she long ago made with her husband, which has shunted her to a supportive she never wanted but felt she had no choice but to accept, she had made an art of acting as the happy spouse, the one an arm’s length from the messy business of writing, who is nonetheless, integral to her husband’s success.

The issue is, of course, just how crucial is she?

No one is saying, save for Nathaniel, but as Joe is schooled in Nobel Prize receiving etiquette, where he is both elated and conflicted and tempted to once more stray romantically, this time with Linnea (Karin Franz Körlof), the photographer assigned to capture his steps to Nobel glory, and Joan is forced to play the part of the supportive wife and nothing else, the smile long gone from her eyes and present only on her mouth, it all begins to unravel, thread by agonisingly painful, emotionally-repressed thread.

For a process so wretchedly painful, and yet for Joan simultaneously, oddly-cathartic, it is beguilingly beautiful to watch, with every scene, augmented by Close’s masterful ability to say a great deal with very little – the role is largely an internalised one with Close’s eyes doing much of the breathtakingly-impressive heavy lifting – and the gorgeously restrained cinematography of Ulf Brantås which uses shadows, the icy stillness of night and the vastness of the hotel rooms and presentation halls to speak volumes about the great divide that exists between Joe and Joan behind the picture-perfect “love of my life” facade.

 

(image courtesy Sony Classics)

 

In the early stages of the film where the outer veneer reins supreme, there are telltale lines of dialogue and facial expressions, courtesy of Close, that suggest everything is not as rosy as her pasted-on smiles and well-practised spiel suggests.

These hints of a storm beneath the idyllic overlay are given far more substance and import when flashbacks to the early days of Joe and Joan’s relationship, which begin in infidelity with the former as an Ivy League  married college professor and the latter an ambitious writing student, and continued in much the same deceptive vein thereafter.

Much of the duplicity stems from Joan’s internalised belief, based partly on the bitter late-1950s warnings of writer Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern) and on her observance of the misogyny of the day (which the #MeToo movement has highlighted is still all too rampant), that she will never make it as a writer on her own.

The brilliance of The Wife is that it never nails any obvious clumsy judgements to the wall; rather it lets Joe and Joan hosit themselves on their own failing petard, again and again, both complict, both fallible and both driven by personal demons that somehow common ground and sense of self in their marriage.

This is a morality tale that never attempts to be that patently transparent or clumsy; it is content to tell it story and tell it slowly, richly and with great unravelling import, and let the long-disguised chips fall where they may.

Though it recalls those immortal lines from Sir Walter Scott’s 1808 poem, Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field “Oh, what a tangled web we weave
/ When first we practise to deceive!”, the intent of The Wife, one of the most hypnotically-magnetic films to arrive in theatres in some time,  simply seems to be to shine a light on the crumbly fallibility of humanity, and in so doing, underline how even the most inspired of initial plans can quickly curdle and sour into a monster than quickly subsumes and subverts any of its promised or imagined rewards to the near-eternal detriment of everyone involved.

 

 

Jurassic Park: Using theme to craft character (video essay)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Michael from Lessons from the Screenplayyou can sponsor him on Patreon and you should, you really should – creates breathtakingly detailed but beautifully-accessible video essays.

In one of his latest instalments, he explores how a big, bombastic blockbuster, Jurassic Park, used it riveting storyline and finely-etched characters to explore some pretty big, important themes such as just because technology gives you the ability to do something, does that really mean you should do it?

That great ethical dilemma finds itself a “real world” example in its debate about bringing extinct species back from the dead; in this memorable case, dinosaurs who refuse to observe the script set for them and who underline, in their natural willfulness, how life has a way of testing our hubris.

The video essay perfectly explores this deep issue, and some fairly personal ones for Grant and Hammond, in the process serving a whizbang action thriller that seamlessly folds in some pretty cool philosophical debates.

Watch and realise all over again what a clever move is Jurassic Park.

 

What They Had: Sometimes going home brings us closer to where we belong

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
The film centers on a family in crisis. Bridget (Hilary Swank) returns home to Chicago at her brother’s (Michael Shannon) urging to deal with her mother’s (Blythe Danner) Alzheimer’s and her father’s (Robert Forster) reluctance to let go of their life together. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

Life, for all its many blessings, can be a frightening inhospitable place at times.

That’s why family and friends, and the shared lives we create with them are so important; they anchor us, give us a sense of belonging, of time and of place, and so losing them … well losing them is just about unthinkable.

But sadly it happens, and What They Had dwells in that awful in-between place where everything you once loved and enjoyed is on its way out but hasn’t yet left, leaving you grieving and lost in an almost-impossible-to-bear limbo.

No doubt, this will be a devastating film for anyone who’s ever lost a parent, or really any significant life relationships at all, but it will speak the truth of what it’s like when life loses a little bit of its sustaining richness and we’re left to carry on as best we can.

What They Had premieres 19 October in USA and Canada.

 

 

 

http://www.vulture.com/2018/07/what-they-had-trailer-hilary-swank-reminds-you-to-call-mom.html?utm_medium=s1&utm_campaign=vulture&utm_source=tw

Wreck It Ralph 2 is off to the colourful madness of the interwebs (new trailer)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the netizens—to help navigate their way, including a website entrepreneur named Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site “BuzzzTube.”

The film will also include a team up of all the Disney Princesses including Auli‘i Cravalho (Moana), Kristen Bell (Anna in Frozen), Kelly Macdonald (Merida in Brave), Mandy Moore (Rapunzel in Tangled), Anika Noni Rose (Tiana in The Princess and the Frog), Irene Bedard (Pocahontas), Linda Larkin (Jasmine in Aladdin), Paige O’Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast) and Jodi Benson (Ariel in The Little Mermaid). (synopsis via Coming Soon)

The internet is euqual parts loved and reviled depending on what you need it for and whether it aids and enhances your life and fills it with sunshine and cat memes, or trolls the hell out of you leaving you a bruised and battered cyber mess.

You get a small taste of that when Wreck It Ralph 2 steps into the ‘net’s gaudy, busy environs and encounters all kinds of interesting offers including a chance to race in the Slaughter Race (sounds soooo safe, doesn’t it?) in which the Gal Gadot-voiced Shank has a pretty big stake!

All kinds of things could go wrong, and yet, you get the feeling that Disney princesses from the other side of the studio tracks – the Merida scene in a gem and worth the price of admission alone I think – notwithstanding, all kinds of things could go right and likely will in what looks like a gem of an animated film.

Wreck It Ralph 2 opens 21 November USA, 30 November UK and 26 December Australia.

 

Weekend pop art: Go travel the world with Disney!

Zootopia (image via io9 / (c) Dave Perillo)

 

Much as we might wish it to be different, stretching the budget to travelling to every part of the globe just isn’t possible for most of us.

So let’s give a Mickey Mouse-ian gloved hand to Gallery Nucleus and Cyclops Prints Works who have taken one of the great attractions, among many, of Disney animated films – their many and varied exotic locales – and turned it into the most wondrously escapist show, Dream Destinations: A Disney Travel Poster Exhibition that allows us to travel the world without leaving home.

Well, that’s only if you check out the prints online, which you can do by going HERE and yes, HERE (where you can also buy them!) ; if you do want to get out and about and you’re able to get to Alhambra, California between now and 18 August then you most definitely should!

Life, alas, may not be a Disney movie but for a just a little while you can pretend it is, losing yourself in all kinds of places in the imagination.

 

Frozen (image (c) Eva Vilhelmiina)

 

The Sword and the Stone – Sir Ector’s Castle (image via io9 (c) Adam Johnson)

 

101 Dalmatians – Tour of London (image via io9 (c) Chie Boyd)

 

Lilo and Stitch – Hawaii (image via io9 (c) Xinwei Huang)

 

Alice in Wonderland – Lose Yourself In Tulgey Wood (image via io9 (c) Steph Laberis)

 

The Princess and the Frog – New Orleans (image via io9 (c) Oliver Akuin)

 

Lady and the Tramp – A Taste of Italy (image via io9 (c) Benjamin Burch)

Smallfoot exists suckers! The people … and the film (new trailer)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
An animated adventure for all ages, with original music and an all-star cast, Smallfoot turns the Bigfoot legend upside down when a bright young Yeti finds something he thought didn’t exist—a human. News of this “smallfoot” brings him fame and a chance with the girl of his dreams. It also throws the simple Yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village, in a rollicking story about friendship, courage and the joy of discovery. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

If there’s one thing our fractured world needs right now – OK, there are many things but let’s concentrate on this one right now – it’s a lot more peace, love and understanding (so that’s three things really but let’s bundle them up into one big old heartwarming theme OK?)

That is exactly what Smallfoot delivers up in spades by the look of this trailer which combines all kinds of comedic hijinks – the scene where the smallfoot believe yeti Migo (Channing Tatum) is trying to warm up Percy (James Corden), the human-shaped proof that he’s not delusional is hysterically funny – are combined with a lovely message that might lack some Pixarian subtlety but looks like it’ll hit the spot anyway.

It’s always a good idea to try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and while much of the world seems to be struggling what’s really an elemental notion, Smallfoot appears to have it all sewn up.

Even better than this lesson comes with a whole lot of laughing because that is how people learn best, a spoonful of sugar and all that right?

So get ready to learn lots, laugh lots and indulge your inner child with some frozen fun (no, not that Frozen; the yeti kind all right?)

Smallfoot opens 27 September in Australia and 28 September in USA.

 

Deadpool 2 is yours to own and has an off-the-wall trippy trailer to prove it!

(image via YouTube (c) 20th Century Fox)

 

I’m not usually a massive fan of promo videos.

They’re usually fairly stock standard, name-rank-serial number kind of affairs that simply let you know something’s available and don’t go much further.

And while that’s mighty handy information to have since if you don’t know something’s out there you can’t stream it or own it, it’s pretty unadventurous which is why Deadpool is such a welcome change of pace.

By change of pace, I mean, 420’ing the hell of the usual promo routine.

This off-the-walls trippy effort has animatronic bears and gorillas, marching roast chickens and flying Emperor penguins, all doing their über-quirky things to the evergreen dulcet tones of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”.

It’s gloriously, profoundly silly and the best damn promo video to grace our screens in quite a while … now with added polar bears on the Eiffel Tower.

Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut is available for streaming on 7 August and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on 21 August 21.

 

Avengers Infinity War is a hoot! Yeah, not really – but its gag reel is

(image via IMP Awards)

 

Boy oh boy wasn’t Avengers Infinity War the funniest movie ever?!

I mean, what a thigh-slapping, rib-tickling laughfest of galactic proportions!

It was all I could do not to … OK, really, this was one GRIM, I say again, GRIM film and you were a cold person indeed if you walked out of the cinema skipping along and singing a merry tune.

But fear not, while we still have roughly a year to go until we find what ultimately happened to all our favourite Marvel superheroes, there’s now a gag reel available to add some jollity (and bleating goats!) to a film not exactly overflowing with it.

My suggestion? Watch the film again, and then take this gag reel as a funny bone chaser. (Trust me, you’ll need it.)