Film Diary: February 2018

What a month. Not only did I, Tonya prove The Skeleton Twins’ Craig Gillespie to be more than a one hit wonder, but Black Panther delivered – and then went on to make a billion for Disney and set tongues wagging about a potential Best Picture nomination come February next year. But first, let’s rewind to the start.

The fourth entry in the Insidious franchise, The Last Key, rested solely on Lin Shaye’s shoulders, while attempting to tie the backstory of her life with the sinister events that impacted the Lambert family from the first two films. I love Shaye and her role as parapsychologist Elise, but this series has run its course by a long mile. Sally Hawkins took me to heaven and back with her darling and profound performance in The Shape of Water, which also brought Guillermo Del Toro back to the fold after a few misfires (Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak). The beauty of the film hit hard – something that was clearly shared by Oscar voters as the film beat out stiff competition to land the prestigious Best Picture award. In fact, the film won a total of 8 Oscars altogether, well deservedly so. It’s rare to see a mute person portrayed in a film these days. How on Earth Hawkins managed to pull it off with such authenticity is a mystery to me. But hats off to her.

Margot Robbie ran rings around audiences in I, Tonya, Gillespie’s cutting documentary-style film about figure skating Tonya Harding. It was a satirical lovers’ dream, and Robbie was matched every step of the way by Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother and Sebastian Stan as her on-off husband. The balancing act achieved by Gillespie in terms of tone was a treat to behold. It reminded me of Whip It in a way, the roller derby film directed by Drew Barrymore. Mental note: rewatch Whip It. I also remember watching The Skeleton Twins at the Inverness Film Festival knowing nothing about it and crying and laughing in equal succession. Kristin Wiig really should be in everything. Phantom Thread, not a typical film I’d find myself enjoying, won me over with it’s curious nature. It’s oddly absorbing considering how far away the audience were kept throughout. It played as a sort of slower, less obvious version of Fifty Shades of Grey, the third instalment of which came out around the same time. With the reigns handed over to the novels author and her husband, Fifty Shades Freed succumbed to its trashy and dumb origins, sadly missing the refined approach Sam Taylor-Johnson brought to the film first that made it such a success with audiences and a not-as-terrible-as-expected pass with critics.

In amongst all these regular film screenings was the Glasgow Film Festival, which bore such delights as Lean on Pete, Beast (Jessie Buckley has a long career ahead) and A Fantastic Woman. It also brought Karen Gillan’s directorial debut The Party’s Just Beginning, which I watched through extremely clamped and irritated teeth. Suicide is a topic that needs to be explored more in film, but not like this. And that, then brings us to Black Panther, which landed mid-month but deserves more emphasis which is why I left it until the end. This mould-breaking blockbuster from Marvel blasted into the stratosphere during opening weekend – and barely let up until its cinema-run came to an end. The talk of Oscar nominations isn’t out of the realm of possibility either. The fact that Marvel, though so tied up in their Cinematic Universe, managed to shake things up and do something a little bit different is commendable. The fact that the resulting film was so fun and entertaining and interesting took it to another level. The standard workings of a superhero film are still there, however it tapped into the demand and hunger for something not seen before, something that showed a side of society and culture that’s often unseen or reduced to the sidelines in films this expensive and commercial.

I did some reviewing at the Glasgow Film Festival for Cine-Vue and must say that there’s no better feeling than being wrapped up in the atmosphere of a film festival. It’s especially nice to support one so close to home that’s rapidly rising through the ranks. One of these days, I’ll attend one of the big festivals like Cannes, Venice or Toronto. But for now, the Scottish ones are just as good – and cheaper to get to.

Round-Up:

Best film of the month: The Shape of Water

Best performance: Sally Hawkins

Random thought: Go to a film festival

Films seen this month: 13

Films seen to date this year: 19

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