One of the joys of having a JBs close at hand, apart from the obvious if you know me, is its monthly in-house magazine, ‘Stack’. Essentially this is a platform to sing the praises of the company’s popular media offerings, but at least it keeps me informed of the latest CD/DVD releases. Each issue, though, also contains the latest movie reviews. As these don’t impact on sales, at least in the short term, they can be honest. I was intrigued by those penned by John Roebuck in the latest issue. One of my favourites for the slim new year to date, ‘The Big Short’, could only manage two stars out of five. He also critiqued the pair of offerings I just happened to see during my recent Melbourne trip. His opinion of them was the exact opposite to mine.
If ever I am at a loose end in Yarra City and do not feel like a quiet night back at the hotel with a book or the tele, its off to the Kino I head. It doesn’t have the ambiance of our own State – there’s popcorn to be had – but, positioned at the Paris end of Collins, its central and can be relied on to have a range of movies of the type I like. As it turned out, this time I had two evenings free so I took in a duo of what I hoped would be treats, each also featuring in the big awards this year. Their titles – ‘Spotlight’ and ‘The Danish Girl’.
As for Mr Roebuck and the first film, he rates it a strong four stars, claiming it is ‘…as illuminating as it is engrossing.’ My best description for it would be ‘mildly interesting; just watchable’. ‘Spotlight’ is about the uncovering of the evil deeds, going right to the top, that members of the Boston clergy perpetrated on young children. If they were not participating, they were just as culpable by sweeping it under the carpet. That city’s Globe newspaper had a crack investigative team, going under the banner of Spotlight. Once they received a whiff of what some truly awful men of the Catholic church had done in the past to innocents, at the behest of their new editor Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), they were on to it. That some of the crew also had an inkling, in prior years, about these despicable goings on was a pertinent side issue. One knows, either from historical fact or Hollywood precedent, how this will all work out. Despite the evasiveness of the power brokers at the head office of the church, it will no doubt be a case of good winning out over evil in the great American tradition. This duly occurs, well, sort of. Really there can be no winners in this scenario. Schreiber is pitch perfect in his role as the head of the newspaper, as is Michael Keaton portraying the chief reporter for the team. Mark Ruffalo won an Oscar nod as another on the case, but I really thought he was all over the shop. Nowhere is this more evident than in the scene where we are told of all his life woes – quite excruciating. Ex-Mad Men alumnus John Slattery just seems completely out of his depth in this field as well. Rachel McAdams, in contrast to some of her other fare, turns in an attractive performance as one deeply affected by what the team is turning up. Kudos to director Tom McCarthy for keeping the tone from being too chest-thumping. The tale is competent in its telling and it is a story that certainly needs to be told – it just didn’t set the world on fire for me. John R obviously disagreed. Four stars though? I don’t think so.
And our friend did not like ‘The Danish Girl’ at all. It’s a cinematic recording of the recipient of world’s first sex-change operation, way back in the 1920s. Roebuck felt it smacked of ‘…prestige-mongering.’ He was also offended that the historical participants were placed on a canvas not remotely resembling the true story. He went so far as to say that the director, Tom Hooper of ‘The King’s Speech’ fame, turned in an effort lacking in any inspiration. He may have a point or two with his panning, but all of it totally overlooks the performances of two amazing thesps as its leads, Eddie Redmayne and the luminous Alicia Vikander. The former, as a woman (Lili Elbe), is simply mesmeric. For my money his showing of his capabilities in this was superior to his star turn in ‘The Theory of Everything’ as Stephen Hawking. Its worthy of another Oscar win, as is Alicia V for her role as Lili’s wife.
This movie grabbed my attention far more profoundly than ‘Spotlight’. Does it really matter so much that it veered so far away from factual events? Any viewer worth their salt these days will know that one does not take as gospel what is viewed up there on the silver screen – as well as being perfectly competent to do their own background checks if so desired.
Unfortunately the Kino also has the State’s habit of thrusting ice cold air onto patrons during summer screenings. The first night it was hot and humid and I came dressed accordingly in a t-shirt and shorts. I froze. On the second occasion, despite the temperature, I rugged up. Guess what? Of course. There was nary a whisper of chilled air.
Trailer for Spotlight = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwdCIpbTN5g
Trailer for ‘The Danish Girl’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d88APYIGkjk