FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Not really my thing . . . a CGI-heavy Christmas Fantasy film but we wanted a Boxing Day family outing so this was what we did. It has terrific reviews from even serious film reviewers [5* from the Guardian] but it seemed sprawling to me; trying to pack too much in to two-hours fifteen minutes. The CGI is effective and the beasts are imaginatively realised; acting is good, particularly the two leads, Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston and if you like this kind of thing I think you would find little to criticise: so I’m not going to criticise it.
I was thinking this morning that it is probably at the peak of cultural influence alongside Strictly Come Dancing and Bake-Off on TV and the likes of Lee Child in books. J K Rowling has found the formula. Well, good luck to her not resting on her Harry Potter laurels but pushing open new doors and taking on new challenges: a one-woman Disney Studios. How does she not get crushed by it? The depth of character required to mount something like this must be remarkable.
This one cost $180m and according to the Internet has already taken $610m at the worldwide box office.
There are five more films in the pipeline which should see Eddie Redmayne through to the end of his working life.
LA LA LAND
Liked this a lot. Not a massive amount of depth but the story of making good in Hollywood after trying for years to hang on to your dreams is something almost everyone can identify with. I really liked the fact that they managed to accomplish their hearts desire at the end. At a price.
Dancing: great. Songs: great. Acting: couldn’t fault it. I thought Ryan Gosling was perfect for the part. I tend to blow hot and cold about him but he was in one of my all-time favourite films, Blue Valentine so I am generally well-disposed toward him.
I very much liked the ongoing theme of Jazz and its place in the contemporary music scene.
RICKI & THE FLASH
This is an old-ish film  that I didn’t see at the time but was on on Saturday afternoon [yesterday]. I had always liked the concept but was foolishly put off by the poor reviews, so I didn’t go at the time. Then a couple of months ago I read a list of ‘most overlooked films of 2016’ and there it was, redeemed and receiving belated appreciation. It’s written by the great Diablo Cody who was responsible for Young Adult with Charlize Theron and Juno, both of which I enjoyed. It stars Meryl and is directed by Jonathan Demme, who appears to have been working in television for most of the last decade; Silence of the Lambs seems like a long time ago.
It is billed as a comedy but didn’t get many laughs from me although that’s not to say it doesn’t work. Meryl Streep plays a kind of ageing rock-chick in a bar-blues band who left her husband and family several decades earlier to pursue her dreams as a musician and singer. The film revolves around the events of her overdue return home to her re-married, wealthy husband, recently divorced daughter and gay son. Streep [or Diablo Cody one suspects] plays her as world-wise but not particularly deep; someone who didn’t examine her choices much, just followed her heart. The live band bits are extremely well done not relegated to thirty perfunctory seconds: they are given their due weight.
Although it is light, it has some heft and all in all is warm and engaging and poignant. There is a short and under-emphasised scene where Ricki is alone at home in her grungy apartment in which she strips off her make-up to reveal the fifty-plus woman behind the gutsy rocker public image that tells the audience everything they need to know; that the most hopeless loss is the absence of even the sense of loss.
I haven’t seen Jackie or Denial, only these three good but fairly lightweight films, this year. I may visit Loving if only to see the beautiful Ruth. I did despite my illness last year see the cream of the crop: Our Little Sister; The Assassin, although in retrospect, Victoria seems like a major omission. I will catch up.
It’s partly because I don’t want to upset my new-found equilibrium that I don’t want to be reminded of the evil in the world which both Denial and Jackie will confront me with but and this is going to sound like a contradiction, I still haven’t got over Son of Saul which transcended its subject matter to such a degree that it became a work of art. True art, up there with Monet and Joni Mitchell and Johann Cruyff.
It raised the bar to such an extent, everything else pales before its power.