That feeling you get when you have been scrolling through films and TV for 2 hours without making a decision. Here I’ll try and help with that.
Nobody can really say a bad thing about Netflix and the like. Even the most gentlemanly Christopher Nolan retracted naughty comments he made about it. Some of the best content out there is coming from the streaming giants, and having come from a generation where a trip to KFC (Bargain bucket) via Blockbuster was a regular occurrence on a Friday evening. The only issue now is the selection process. Allowing for some really dodgy algorithms, they try their best to recommend but often you find yourself scrolling and scrolling before waving a white flag and settling to rewatch that episode of that ‘thing’ you have already watched 127 times. So here are what I think can be settled upon for the month of November.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond — Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton
Available on Netflix
In 1999 Jim Carrey was at the height of his fame. The year previous he had released one of his biggest films, and one that becomes more and more relevant each year; The Truman show. In 1999 he took on the role of one of his idols, comedian Andy Kaufman for the biopic Man on the Moon. It would be one of his worst performing films, but possibly, if this new documentary is anything to go by, his most personal. During filming a documentary crew would follow Carrey around whilst he slowly became Andy Kaufman in both the film and his own life. It is a masterpiece of method acting that adds a whole new layer to the original which didn’t come close to breaking even. It is his passion project and it is easy to see what representing Andy Kaufman meant to Carrey, going to great lengths (sometimes at the cost of the production) to imitate his every comedic nuance. It is an extremely interesting watch to have an actor look, back 20 years on, at a performance where he had to leave ‘Jim Carrey’ at home, for such an energetic performer this was some feat.
Available on Netflix
Dee Rees might not be a name that many are familiar with, but in around 2 weeks time it is a name which will be discussed with a high level of gravitas. Mudbound, is Rees 2nd feature length film following her beautiful debut Pariah. With Pariah she focused on an African American girl from Brookyln struggling to understand her sexuality. With Mudbound, Narrated by multiple characters in voiceover, the film depicts the Jim Crow era of post war America by focusing on the intertwined stories two families. The McAllan family headed up by Henry (Jason Clarke), his wife (Carey Mulligan) and his racist father (Johnathan Banks) run a farm in rural Missisipi. The Jackson family work on the McAllan farm, led by Hap and his wife Florence (the superb Rob Morgan and Mary J Blige). Both have a member of the family arrive home from fighting in WWII; Henry has his brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and Hap has his oldest son Ronsel (Jason Mitchell). Both are damaged goods by the atrocities they have experienced, and both find solace in the friendship they precariously form.
Unfortunately as the film shows, America stood still during the war and racial tensions slowly simmer up to the surface. Rees has done what many World War II films have failed in, or just flat out ignored; to depict the experience of a black soldier both in war and post-war. It has some truly brilliant performances, especially from Rob Morgan and Jason Mitchell, and is more than worth 2 hours of your time. Expect Oscar chatter to build and build.
Available on Netflix
Created by the great Steven Soderbergh and Scott Frank, writer of films such as Minority Report, Out of Sight and Logan, Godless the new western set mini series comes with high pedigree talent. Soderbergh has pretty much tried and tested every genre, next up he is even releasing a horror film shot on his Iphone, but this series marks his first foray into the Western genre. Originally asked to direct it by Frank, it was Soderbergh’ influence that led Frank to go down the television route. Very little seems to intimidate Soderbergh and Frank, and they have taken to the Western genre like a duck to proverbial water. The series is set in the town of La Belle, a town where a horrific mining accident killed all of the men, leaving the women to take control of the town, protecting it from outside influence with the aid of the brilliant Scoot McNairy as their half blind sheriff McNue and his deputy Whitey.
There are strong performances aplenty. From Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey fame, alongside veteran actor Jeff Daniels (His best work for some time) as the villain of the piece, chasing down his previous partner in crime, played by the superb Jack O’Connell. It is a cast that on the face of it looks greatly misshapen, but Frank and Soderbergh do a brilliant job in getting the best out of every piece. It’s more Deadwood than Westworld, and although it aims to elevate the genre above its masculine constraints, it eventually (and unfortunately) gives into them. As it develops it becomes more homage than antithetical text, which is not necessarily a negative thing. There hasn’t been a great Western since Deadwood, maybe now we have one.
The Big Sick
Available on Amazon Prime
The Big Sick makes its way onto Amazon Prime this month, which seems absurdly fast for a film released in late June, a sign of the times perhaps? Cinema’s loss is Prime’s gain i guess. The Big Sick will most likely end 2017 with the crown of best comedy, which would be a pretty accurate description, but might also do a disservice, albeit a positive one, to a film which also has an insane amount of heart. Starring Kumail Nanjiani from Silicon Valley fame alongside the criminally under-appreciated Zoe Kazan, the plot has both familiarity and also an individuality which separates and elevates it from other romantic comedies. The film was also written by Nanjiani and his real wife Emily V. Gordon, and somewhat crazily, given the films plot, is based upon their own relationship. With this in mind Nanjiani plays a version of himself, falling in love with Kazan’s Emily, unfortunately their relationship is curtailed by a distinct culture clash from Kumail’s more traditional Pakistani family.
It is here where the comedy then takes turns left where most romcoms turn right; Emily suddenly falling ill and becoming comatose is not the kind of storyline you see very often in this type of film. It also features two superb supporting performances from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano as Emily’s parents; yes, that Ray Romano. It was a surprise box office hit, and hopefully will be the launchpad for the extremely talented Kumail Nanjiani.
Available on YouTube
When all is said and done in the world, Wong Kar-wai will go down as one of the greatest film directors of all time. His films sometimes say very little in terms of dialogue but so much visually that they speak volumes. Often focusing on love and hidden desires that simmer below surface level, Wong Kar-wai is the composer of some of the most beautiful tales of passion cinema has ever seen. His work can be hypnotic, aided by the fantastic cinematographer Christopher Doyle, the colour tones are fused into the understated plots which can often leave you emotionally drained. This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of his best films; Happy Together.
Revolving around the relationship of two gay Chinese immigrants in Buenos Aires played by Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung, Happy together is bittersweet, the building of a tapestry composed of love, anger, distrust and hostility. The lengths that people will go, to fix what is on the surface; unsalvageable. At times one of his more miserable films, Wong Kar-wai lets his stylistic nature say as much as his characters, his filmic choices intertwined with his characters. The editing is skittish, he toys with both black and white and colour filming, it’s fast and sometimes disorientating, all are attributes of young love. It is a film which displays his thoughtfulness and connection to his characters through his choices as an Auteur. It may not be his best film, but it is the perfect introduction to what is a phenomenal filmography.