Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

From the opening shot of this movie, you know you are in for a great movie. Roger Deakins, the master cinematographer, is behind the technically brilliant and artistic visuals that we see in Blade Runner 2049. The opening shot of the movie not only pays homage to the original Blade Runner but sets us up visually for what is in store; can you believe what you see in your mind’s eye?

I really loved the story of the film and the characters were brilliant. I hadn’t seen any of director Denis Villeneuve’s work prior to this film, but am definitely excited to see what he does next. I cannot speak highly enough of Ryan Gosling in this film. He is a fantastic actor & his performance is under-stated & undoubtedly authentic. I was expecting Harrison Ford to carry the film, but it really was the other way around. He’s already been nominated for two Best Actor Oscars, hopefully he can make this one his third nomination.

I have heard talk that Harrison Ford could look at getting a nomination for his role in the film. Although I would love to see Ford nominated, I’m not sure this is the film that he would receive his second nomination in this role. Mainly perhaps due to screen time, he’s not actually in this film all that much, but when he is – he gives a performance that reminds us why he has been the top of his craft for all these years.

Blade Runner 2049 has disappointed at the box office for it’s opening week. Not much different to the original film after all. It’s refreshing to see a film that is marketed towards the mainstream that isn’t just a blockbuster. What I mean by this is that the storyline & characters of Blade Runner 2049 is almost like an indie film. It’s still got the special effects and the big budget, but at the heart of the picture is the desires of our characters. What drives them drives the film. The special effects are secondary. I would love to see Hollywood produce more thoughtful ‘blockbusters’ like this one. It’s a welcome change, but after all, Hollywood is all about the money. Blade Runner 2049 hasn’t performed to expectation right now, but I think it’s got the hall markings of a cult classic all over it.

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Redford and Fonda – Barefoot at Night

Our Souls at Night is an understated and beautiful film about everyday life. It is a film driven, not by a fast-paced story or a complex plot, but by the emotions of our two main characters. The introverted Louis Waters is played to perfection by Robert Redford. Addie Moore is played by Jane Fonda (who looks amazing for her age). It is a pleasure to see Redford and Fonda reunited on the ‘big’ screen. Their off-screen friendship comes across in the film and makes their characters and the movie so likeable and engaging.

Their previous film , in which they played a newly married couple, Barefoot in the Park (1967) and Our Souls at Night are perfect bookends in their careers. Their characters from Barefoot in the Park and Our Souls at Night mirror each other. Redford is the down-the-line lawyer in Barefoot and Fonda is the free-spirited and extroverted newlywed. Nothing much has changed in 50 years for their characters. Redford is taciturn and worried about how people will talk, whereas Fonda is unconcerned, strong-willed and, in a way, brazen.

What I don’t like about the film is that it’s only released on Netflix (in Australia at least). These are two legends of the silver screen & a film about older people, for older audiences, that is just ending up online. I think that this is a problem. Movies are made to be seen at the movies. I watched the re-release of Lawrence of Arabia (1962) a couple of weeks ago in 70mm at the cinema & it was stunning. It made me wonder how I ever watched it on DVD. But Netflix is another step down from DVD. It’s designed to be played on computers and on phones. Our heroes in the films work hard to have the grandson get off technology and experience life & nature. But then to view the film, it’s all about the modern technology that our characters disagreed with. Just because there is an innovation in how to show film, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good thing. Look at how we have digital projection at the cinema nowadays, it’s nowhere near as good or as realistic as a film print.

Despite not being able to go to the cinema to see this film, it definitely was worthwhile to watch. I love that it doesn’t hammer it’s message home. It’s not a blockbuster, it’s a character study. It is subtle and open for interpretation. It’s a film that makes you think about your own life. What I take from it, live each day to your fullest & that change can be a good thing.

A reunion of two screen greats is always going to be enjoyable after all.

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

No filmmaker’s mind works like Baz Luhrmann’s. The guy is a genius of his craft & then some. Moulin Rouge! is a great way to end his “Red Curtain Trilogy” also made up of Strictly Ballroom (1992) & Romeo + Juliet (1997).

Moulin Rouge is out-there & bizarre. It’s a grand musical like no other. It’s post-modernism at it’s best. I absolutely love the love song melody when Christian (Ewan McGregor) and Satine (Nicole Kidman) meet for the first time. It is uplifting & it’s fun. It’s songs we know & love all mashed up together. Ewan McGregor’s voice is beautiful & he’s oh-so-dreamy as he sings to Nicole. I would’ve fallen in love with him too.

Just when you think you’ve seen the best post-modernist song (Elephant Love Melody) Baz knocks our socks off with a rendition of Roxanne. We start with the tango. “Desire. Passion. Suspicion. Jealously. Anger. Betrayal” says the Argentinian in the movie as he explains the meaning of the tango. We cut from a violent tango in the Moulin Rogue to Satine about to sleep with The Duke (Richard Roxburgh). The editing here is brilliant. We only hold each shot for less than a second. It’s chaotic and brutal, just as our characters are feeling. We see & hear Christian sing as his girlfriend gets abused by The Duke. It’s adrenaline pumping & awesome filmmaking.

The circular storyline of Moulin Rouge! is interesting. We know basically everything at the start of the film. I think Baz may have done this as otherwise the end would be pretty flat. But as we know it is coming, it’s not so bad. We go from the triumphant rendition of Come What May & Christian winning his girl to her death.

Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman have great on-screen chemistry & I love watching them both in this film. They are both fantastic actors. I watched their Variety “Actors on Actors” interview recently. It was really interesting & you can tell they both respect one another’s work as actors.

What do we learn from the Moulin Rouge? Well, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love & be loved in return. After all it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

And it also reiterates what I already knew. Baz Luhrmann is a legend.

The Big Sick: a modern day rom-com

The Big Sick (2017) is a modern-day romantic comedy. In the words of filmmaking legend Robert Redford, “storytellers can broaden our minds, engage, provoke, inspire and ultimately connect us”. I think The Big Sick is a film thats come to audiences at a perfect time. With so much apparent racism and hate in the world, one of the film’s messages is that love is love, regardless of the colour of your skin or your religious background.

The Big Sick is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in awhile. It makes fun of stereotypes, dating and modern technology. I love when Emily (Zoe Kazan) calls for an Uber and Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) phone starts ringing. It’s a pretty basic film to be honest. There’s no CGI, no special effects, no action sequences. It follows the story of Kumail and Emily who met and eventually fall in love. It’s about people, not about how good the special effects are, which is how more films should be these days. It’s also written by Kumail and the real-life Emily (Emily V. Gordon). You can really tell that the film is authentic, it’s not a made up tale and that’s definitely one of the reasons it is so enjoyable.

I’ve read that it’s one of the highest grossing independent films of the year. It’s refreshing to have a movie like this in the mainstream. The story really is paramount to the movie. I think that’s not always the case these days. It does provoke you to think about the modern world and how times are changing. I think it is also a film that has something for everyone, it’s appeal is universal.

I also love that the dad in the film is the same actor (Anupam Kher) who played the dad in Bend it like Beckham (2002). He’s essentially playing the same role except it’s his son this time, not his daughter like in Bend it like Beckham. There’s 15 years between Bend it like Beckham and The Big Sick. Hopefully in another 15 years time no-one needs to make a movie about race & culture getting in the way of love. Hopefully in 15 years the world has grown up enough to disregard bigotry when it comes to love & happiness. That’s what I am hoping for anyway.