The Bad Batch (2017)

Not quite sure what I’ve watched. And not the follow-up from Ana Lily Amirpour that I was expecting.

But Jason Momoa is a fine sight to behold whatever he’s in. And he’s quite good in this too.

Not so sure about Suki Waterhouse.

Is Keanu now just filling in his time making creepy cameos in weird movies?

God’s Own Country (2017)

This feature debut from director Francis Lee is quite remarkable.

John (Josh O’Connor) is an angry young man for the 21st century – isolated, trapped, lacking in a means for self-expression.  Then Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) enters his life and forces him to rethink everything. Perhaps Gheorghe verges on manic pixie dream boy, but this I am prepared to forgive in an otherwise flawless film.

Gemma Jones and Ian Hart as John’s family are perfect, with Hart in particular capturing the loss of dignity and the fear which takes over when we become physically incapacitated. It’s all in his eyes.

O’Connor and Secareanu clearly spent a lot of time on farms before filming – to this city girl (albeit with farming forebears) the two certainly seem to know their way around a new-born lamb or the rear end of a cow. And Lee has captured the atmosphere of farmland in this part of Yorkshire – beautiful and brutal.

I was most impressed with O’Connor’s performance – John’s evolution from angry, lonely young man to where he ends up is beautifully nuanced, and heart-breaking.

Logan Lucky

Bring together Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver and Daniel Craig and it should be good – and it is!

Yes, it’s a heist in the vein of Ocean’s 11 (which Soderbergh slyly and deliberately acknowledges in the background) but this means that we know we are in safe hands as far as character and story are concerned, and it’s easy to sit back and enjoy the ride.

What I love about this type of Soderbergh film is the snippets that we’re fed throughout – we know that at some point they will be key in the plot, but we don’t know as much as some of the characters and so they just seem random. Until they are explained to us later on – such as why Daniel Craig’s character needs Gummi Bears. These instances are exquisite because it lets us know that the characters are more intelligent than they might immediately appear.

Genuinely funny, with characters we are totally rooting for, Logan Lucky appears (to my non-US eye at least) to be trying to say something about the heart of America – and I think this could have been explored even further, although perhaps this would have undermined the humour. There are injured army veterans, former college football players, child beauty pageants, Nascar, country music – almost to the point of being stereotypical. But there is the constant knowledge that Soderbergh has us laughing *with* our protagonists and not *at* them and so the balance is probably correct; there is more than likely another, very different, film lurking in here about economic poverty in 21st century USA but this isn’t the place for it.

So it’s funny, with some good performances (and the odd quirky ones), and definitely enjoyable.

 

Final Portrait (2017)

Here’s the thing about genius artistic creatures. They’re often self-centred shits. And no matter how wonderful their work is, they make difficult subjects for me to watch and appreciate. Mr Turner being a similar case-in-point.

Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) is a lauded, talented artist who is constantly sabotaging his own work, treats his wife and his mistress badly, and manipulates art writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) into repeatedly altering his own travel arrangements to pose for a portrait. Giacometti fusses, swears, interrupts his own work, destroys paintings and drawings and appears to have no endearing characteristics whatsoever. Heaven knows why anyone bothered with him at all. I wouldn’t have.

I’m guessing that Hammer’s character was just so keen and flattered to have been asked to be a subject that he didn’t want to give up sitting for the artist. But I felt annoyed that he was being used and couldn’t understand why he didn’t just not return the next day. There seemed to be nothing in it for him. And he could see he was being manipulated. It’s easier to see that Giacometti is an artist struggling with self-doubt and massive insecurity, and is having a constant internal (and sometimes external) debate about his relationship with art. It just didn’t grab me.

That’s not to say that Hammer and Rush don’t give good performances – they do – just that I never felt I understood the true nature of their relationship. Which I have to put down to the writing and directing. Stanley Tucci directs, and makes some good choices with the colour palette – white, grey, navy blue – to capture the feeling of artistic frustration, broken only once by a literal splash of colour when the work of a different artist is mentioned in passing.

The warmest, and most likeable character, is Giacometti’s long-suffering artist brother Diego, played by Tony Shalhoub. But beyond him, there was very little warmth which left a distance between myself and the subject matter.

 

Tom of Finland (2017)

The images created by Tom of Finland may very well be familiar even if, like me, you know nothing about the artist himself. His drawings have influenced modern culture in many recognisable ways since the middle of the last century, but there is even more to the man that this film seeks to reveal.

In true biopic style, the narrative is hampered slightly by having to or trying to cram a lifetime of work, love, life, happiness, sadness etc into an hour and a half. Time races forward, or a flashback conveys an idea, and the viewer can’t help but wonder if some of the difficulties encountered by the subject in his life have been glanced over simply because it isn’t possible to show or tell everything of note.

And yet, despite racing through 50 years in an hour, the film manages to capture the really significant moments of artistic  success very well indeed. There is a very touching moment when Tom realises just how important his work has been to large groups of people he had never even met before. And the occasional reappearance of Tom’s ‘muse’, Kake, is really well-integrated into the narrative just the right amount and at the correct moments.

For once, a biopic from which I actually learned a lot about its subject.