REVIEW: Suffragette

9 11 2015

SuffragetteSuffragette” feels somewhat like the cinema’s equivalent of getting a flu shot. It’s a necessary boost of social consciousness that is good for the way it keeps the world honest. But is it fun or enjoyable, something worth looking forward to? Ehh.

Sarah Gavron’s direction gives some urgency to the century-old tale of British women gaining the right to vote that might otherwise reek of mothballs. The film does not need its scrolling list of dates for women’s suffrage worldwide before the credits to convey this. Good filmmaking renders fact recitation dull at worst, unnecessary at best.

Though Gavron’s frequent use of shaky-camera as a shorthand for intense moment is rather uninspired, “Suffragette” feels appropriately militaristic and angry given its subject. She conveys this most effectively when Abi Morgan’s script focuses on the women’s suffrage movement and the splintering divisions within its ranks. Some prefer a more aggressive, confrontational approach; others, however, support playing the politics of respectability to eventually curry enough favor for their right to vote.

Thankfully, the world seems in agreement that women should have the right to determine their own destiny by casting a vote at the ballot box. Yet these sections that specifically examine the challenges of organizing social action prove so compelling because they are applicable to plenty of modern movements, be it LGBTQ rights, Occupy Wall Street, or Black Lives Matter. At times, “Suffragette” even recalls “Selma” in the way it presents a fascinatingly nuanced but generalizable portrayal of organizing collective civil disobedience.

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REVIEW: Nowhere Boy

19 06 2013

Layout 1Everyone loves the Beatles, right?  Well, just because you love the Beatles does not mean you will automatically love director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “Nowhere Boy,” a chronicle of John Lennon’s formative years.

Maybe my view was tainted because I’m not a Lennon or Beatles obsessive.  I know the basics, your “Imagine” from his solo career and chart-toppers like “Hey Jude” and “All You Need Is Love.”  But I really haven’t invested much time in learning their history or going beyond the Beatles songs that everyone knows before they are aware that they know it.

So perhaps a Beatles neophyte fan such as myself missed some of the Easter Egg-style references.  I caught a few of the blatant ones, but I still felt like I was missing something watching the movie.

I will tell you what I did not miss in “Nowhere Boy.”  I definitely caught the lackluster performance of Aaron Johnson as Lennon, who has a way of sucking the life out of every movie he’s in, be it “Savages” or “Anna Karenina.”  I absolutely noticed the lack of compelling drama, be it between his aunt who raised him (a nonetheless good Kristin Scott Thomas) and his biological mother (Anne-Marie Duff).  I did, however, also hear some good music that kept my ears happy while the same could not be said for my eyes and my mind.  C2stars





Oscar Moment: “Nowhere Boy”

15 10 2010

With the expansion of the Best Picture field, we have to take into account all sorts of contenders for Best Picture.  “Nowhere Boy” is a movie that wouldn’t have much of a chance in a field of five, but it seems like a good Golden Globes film that might have a nice shot at some Oscar nominations.

Based on the early years of John Lennon (Aaron Johnson of Kick-Ass fame), the movie leads into the founding of the world’s most famous band, The Beatles.  It also focuses on Lennon’s relationship with two important women, his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) and his mother (Anne-Marie Duff).  It’s an appealing biopic that has been certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and is expanding into over 200 theaters this weekend after doing respectable business in its American opening.

I say American opening because “Nowhere Boy” opened last Christmas in the UK, making it eligible for the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Oscars.  It fared pretty well there, receiving nominations for Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and two nominations for Best Supporting Actress honoring Scott Thomas and Duff.  Given the press that the growing British faction of the Academy has received over the past few years, it would be unwise to discount a movie that they clearly liked quite a bit.

Since the movie is centered around the very musical Lennon, it will be considered in the Musical/Comedy category at the Golden Globes where it will not have a hard time scoring nominations for Best Picture and perhaps Best Actor for Aaron Johnson.  Scott Thomas and Duff, however, will be competing against dramatic supporting actresses.

In their favor, though, is that the category is still incredibly wide-open with no frontrunner or even sure-fire nominees.  Both is going to be hard for a movie that doesn’t have Best Picture written all over it, but one of them could find a nice slot.  My money is on previous Oscar nominee Kristin Scott Thomas, who found herself in contention for “The English Patient” 14 years ago.  Although if the voters are feeling younger this year – and they very well might with players like Hailee Steinfeld and Elle Fanning in the race – the pendulum could swing towards Anne-Marie Duff.  Hate to say it, but Johnson doesn’t stand much of a chance given his young age and the tight Best Actor category.

And in October, I don’t think we would be entirely remiss to say “Nowhere Boy” has an outside shot at Best Picture.  It’s an incredible dark horse, but if it finds an audience and does well at the Golden Globes, it might be able to sneak in.  It’s not looking good for “Never Let Me Go,” one of the movies I presumed would tickle the Academy’s British fancy, but “The King’s Speech” is looking strong, so who knows how much Brit they can take in a year?

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actress (Scott Thomas)

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Duff)