The Films I've Watched This Year #27

Film It's the Commonwealth Games. Just completed watching the Australia vs England pool match which with my miniscule understanding of Netball, I thought would see us slaughtered but ended up being a thrilling match that ended with a fumble from Jo Harten, a goal shooter who until that point had managed to get the ball into the net with great accuracy. But I was out of my seat. I was screaming. I was more excited about this netball group match as I was for the whole of the football World Cup, perhaps because I can see the skill, precision and tactics as the ball's passed with such rapidity across the court in a way which simply doesn't seem as athletic, as kinetic when men are kicking a ball around a pitch.  Plus the whole thing is over in an hour or so with useful breaks every fifteen minutes.

The Wolf of Wall Street
20 Feet From Stardom
Violet & Daisy

Her is a difficult film to watch in isolation if you've any idea of its history.  Apart from its similarities to Electric Dreams (of which this is, as I suspected, essentially updated homage with Miles in love with the computer rather than his neighbour) but the fact that Samantha Morton, present throughout shooting was replaced with Scarlett Johansson.  It's to Spike Jonze's fantasy romance and Johansson's credit that I did eventually manage to largely put this to one side, but there were still moments when I thought, how would Morton have played this?  What the Morton line like that Joaquin Phoenix is reacting to here?  What did Morton not do that Johansson is?  Was it simply that Johansson's the bigger name and they were looking for a wider audience, was this a studio decision?

Presumably I'm not the first to say this, but however heartfelt and entertaining 20 Feet From Stardom is, in no sense should it have beaten The Act of Killing to an oscar.  It's oranges and lemons, of course, comparing a premium rate Friday night BBC Four music documentary (where this will surely end up) with a historically rich investigation into the Indonesian genocide, the wrongs done to Darlene Love by Phil Spector barely on the scale to the mass killings by the awful pen portrayed in Oppenheimer's film.  But like Secret Voices of Hollywood, in cultural terms this is still an important story as the people that are the aural scaffold of some of our favourite musical moments are finally amplified.  Plus it managed to make me think warmly about Sting again for the first time in a while, which is quite an achievement.

Violet & Daisy's been unloved, not granted a theatrical release here, just 23% on Rotten Tomatoes but I do think it's rather better than all that, even if I also think A O Scott's NYT review probably gets the measure of it.  Back in the 90s, this is just the sort of low budget, indie piece which appeared on the art house circuit and I'd end up blundering into at The Hyde Park in Leeds for the nine o'clock showing (just £1.50 on a Monday), in which genre characters would play off against each other in limited settings, where the filmmaker isn't trying to say anything especially new or important, especially since he's clearly likes French cinema a lot, but doesn't do anything especially wrong (cf, Living in Oblivion, Denise Calls Up, Mute Witness).

The advertising didn't really help, throwing together all of the otherwise minimal action sequences even though that's not really the genre its aiming for (and couldn't afford to be if it wanted).  There are Tarantino overtones, but to criticise director Geoffrey Fletcher for offering a direct homage to Pulp Fiction almost twenty years after release while venerating Quentin for borrowing extensively from John Woo early in his career simply isn't unfair.  Plus in exploitation terms having Rory Gilmore and pre-Hanna Saoirse Ronan as hitgirls facing off Tony Soprano is bang on.  Orphan Black fans might also like to know this features an early appearance for Tatiana Maslany in which she doesn't have anything  much to do but does it very well.  My film of the week.

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