Is cinema saying something this year?
Maybe it’s a dumb question. Cinema always has something to say whether or not it is worth saying. Yet, over the last few months I have been becoming ever more reassured that there are a remarkable number of new films that really have something to say about the time we live in. It being awards season I am lucky enough to get to see large numbers of films that are yet to be released although they will all have had some form of release before the BAFTAs winners are declared on 18th February 2018.
There has been no shortage of debut directors this year, some about whom I have written recently. Another to be added to the list with a remarkable film that might well pick up a gong or two is Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling. If you haven’t seen this remarkable and challenging film that resonates with contemporary as well as eternal relevance then get it on DVD or download soonest. Another British stunner – and tipped for wards success – is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. I think this review is worth a read. A powerful film that confronts uncompromisingly the misogyny, sexism and reality of violence against women. Frances McDormand is already on my shortlist for ‘Best Actress’. This is McDonagh’s third full-length Feature. His first, In Bruges (2008) for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay, was quite simply terrific. (He won an Oscar for his short film Six Shooter in 2004). Seven Psychopaths (2012) was another hugely entertaining black comedic gangster movie that is a great slob-out experience on a wet windy British winter night. Another really talented and original British director.
Continuing with the theme of misogyny and sexism, another thoroughly engaging but unlikely-to-be-award-winner is Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’ Battle of the Sexes. A very good documentary by the same name by James Erskine and Zara Hayes and made in 2013 about the infamous tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 was shown on TV earlier this year and is absolutely worth watching alongside the latest fictional remake. In 1973 I was just starting my career in film and television and I well remember misogyny and sexism as absolutely endemic. For a hippy and supporter of Women’s Lib, the media’s attitude to women was shameful to be a part of. As a man, much in the film makes me cringe, but the story is an important one in our journey towards equality of opportunity regardless of our sex, sexual preference or identity.
So little seems to have changed and again this has been reflected back to us in another potential award winner, Steven Spielberg’s latest outing The Post, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks with a stellar supporting staff. Recounting the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers first by The New York Times and followed up by The Washington Post; the film, seen primarily through the lens of the Washington Post, first reminded me that in 1971 it was still very much a man’s world and the newspaper business was entirely a male domain. However, it’s real resonance as a story today is with the mantra of ‘Fake News’ spouted by those who don’t like to hear stuff that goes against their own personal and national narrative and the amazing fortitude and resolution of the US media in the face of a government that wanted the media to represent the elected as opposed to the electors. If ever it mattered then that an independent and free press is essential to keep government accountable it certainly matters as much now. The film, due for release in the UK in January is a must watch. But will Trump take a trip to the movies for a much-needed history lesson?
The pile of DVD’s I have to view in the coming weeks grows ever higher; but for me at least, I think 2018 might prove a vintage year for cinema.