One Shot #2: Darkest Hour

Though I had an overall so-so opinion of Joe Wright’s 2017 Winston Churchill biopic, one aspect of the film stood out to me just as much as Gary Oldman’s spellbinding lead performance – and that’s Bruno Delbonnel’s brilliant cinematography.

And part of the reason is this one shot, right here:

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Even if you haven’t seen the film or know nothing about Winston Churchill’s tenure as the British Prime Minister during the chaos of WWII, this image tells the story. The entire sequence is evocative – as many sequences throughout the film are, thanks to effective lighting techniques and superb directing – but this one shot perfectly encapsulates the way Churchill is portrayed this movie. He is a man alone, and restricted, facing a terrifying, unknown darkness. But there is a single light – he can’t clearly see the path, but continues to forge ahead.

In the film, Churchill faces an endless onslaught of doubt and opposition – much of it justified, due to his somewhat checkered track record – as he leads the nation against the ever increasing threat of the Axis powers. And though it’s a position of prominence, he is still effectively in a cage. Bound by law, bound by those who fear him and those who loathe him, bound by indecision, bound by the threat of being deposed. He grapples with what to do in the face of the Dunkirk evacuation, and how to handle a nation – and a world – at war. Asserting you cannot reason with a tiger while your head is in its mouth.

This is what that still means – this is a man with his head in a tiger’s mouth. Alone, restricted, and facing the unknown.

Any suggestions for more films/shots, message me!

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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2018 Oscars Reaction!

Pre-Show (I missed like, ten minutes because I was heating up my lo mein, apologies)

CHADWICK!!! He is styling tonight! What a nice suit.
Kelly-Marie!! She is so sweet.
Jordan Peele is a snazzy dresser, too.
Daniel Kaluuya’s jacket is SHARP.
Margot Robbie could make a burlap sack look good, but the top of her dress looks like a parade float.
Judd and Sorvino make a formidable team.
Thank you, technical difficulties, for depriving me of a montage. I LOVE MONTAGES, HOW EVER DARE YOU.
I wish I’d had time to see I, Tonya, simply because I love Allison Janney. It only played for like, 5 days in my town.
God, Jennifer Garner is gorgeous. Her dress is stunning!
GUILLERMO!!!!!
TIMMY!!!!!! He looks incredibly nervous, bless him. Also, white works for him. I want him to win so badly!
Saorise!!! Setting the facts straight, lol. I adore her.
HOLY CRAP I love Sandra Bullock’s dress.
Everyone is so sparkly!!!!
SINCE WHEN IS AMERICAN IDOL COMING BACK? Do I live under a rock?
Greta is great. Would love for her to win tonight.
I love Gary Oldman. Won’t be mad if he wins… but still rooting for Timmy.
There is something so suave about a nice suede/velvet suit jacket. I do my best to sell them at work but no one wants to buy them!
Mood; Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman casually catching up during an interview. But dear God, that bow on Kidman’s dress is awful.
Um… we never got the Allison Janney interview, Michael!!!!!

Monologue
Old-timey. I dig it.
Does Meryl Streep have a seat with her name engraved on it?
Thrilled that Kimmel is hosting again. Let the Matt Damon jokes commence!!!
ARMIE!
A JET-SKI????? And Helen Mirren? Oh, she’s not included. Damn.

Best Supporting Actor
It’s gotta be Sam Rockwell, right?
Wish I’d seen The Florida Project though…
YAYYYY! Well-deserved. I called it back when I saw the film in December.

Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer? Could there BE a better looking presenting pair?

Please… please let someone have their speech go too long. Please. I want a “GET OUT!!!”

Hair and Make-up
Will Darkest Hour take it home? That Churchill transformation was something else.
Marvelous! Oldman’s been thanking them in every speech, too. Nice to see their work rewarded.

Costume Design
Phantom Thread‘s got this in the bag, I think. But there might be a sneaky upset in here from The Shape of Water or Beauty and the Beast.
The dresses in PT were gorgeous. Made me want to binge Project Runway.
Oooh, have we got a Jet-ski contender?

Best Documentary
My resolution for next year is to watch the nominated documentaries. That’s my goal every year, but this year I really mean it.
It’s so nice to see the winners so happy!!!

I meant to watch Mudbound Friday night and straight-up forgot, but it’s my next Netflix watch for sure.
Mary J. Blige killing it, as usual.

I get choked up during the film montage EVERY YEAR. EVERY. YEAR. There is nothing quite like a great montage.

Best Sound Mixing/Editing
Gotta be Dunkirk for both. The sound was phenomenal, especially in IMAX.
YAY!!! Glad Dunkirk got some hardware! Even at the expense of Star Wars
Side-note… is that Kobe Bryant behind my man Chris Nolan?

Best Production Design
Lupita is STUNNING. And Kumail Nanjiani is hilarious.
Pretty sure The Shape of Water will take this one, but would love an upset by any of the others. All really visually-striking films.
That man’s sleeves are too short… or is that, like, a menswear trend I am unaware of?

Coco! I thought “Remember Me” would be usurped by “This is Me”, but it’s got a good shot, I’ll bet. That performance was BEAUTIFUL.

Best Foreign Language Film
I really want to see A Fantastic Woman, which I saw a trailer for before Call Me By Your Name a couple months ago. With that win, it might make it’s way here after all! I want to see The Square too, I’ve heard good things about both,

Best Supporting Actress
In a race that likely comes down in a battle of the moms, I’m betting on Janney, but I’m secretly rooting for a Laurie Metcalf victory.
I mean… you can’t be mad about Allison Janney. She is a freaking TREASURE. And also not winning a jet-ski, but hey, if you’ve got the stage, go for it.

Best Animated Short/Feature
STAR WARS!!!!!! I will never not love hearing that music.
Ohhhhhh that’s why Kobe is there. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. He’s so well-spoken! A+ speech.
As for feature… Coco, I’m guessing? It better not be Boss Baby. Bleurgh.
YAY! For the first time ever, I only saw one of the animated noms. Gotta work on that for next year, get back to my roots.

Daniela Vega’s dress is so lovely!
Sufjan! Call Me By Your Name! Finally! I am here for this. Also here for that suit.
I mean… it’s not going to beat Coco or The Greatest Showman but a girl can dream.

If it’s even possible, I care less about American Idol now than I did the first round.

Best Visual Effects
SPIDER-MAN!!!
I’m betting on Blade Runner, but maybe a sneaky Star Wars win?
I know I need to watch Blade Runner 2049. I have to watch the original Blade Runner first though, because I haven’t actually seen it. *cringes in shame*

I am 1000% here for men who wear jackets that are not the same color as their pants. That is my aesthetic, as long as they complement one another.

Best Film Editing
Can Dunkirk pull out a third?
YASSSS!!!!!!

I have guessed every one right so far. This has never happened! All that remains to be seen is how and when I’ll fuck it up.

If that troupe of people walked into a movie theater I was sitting in I would LOSE MY MIND. Wonder Woman AND Luke Skywalker?!?

I’m sorry… a HOT DOG CANNON? Why on earth would you want a HOT DOG CANNON? Hot dogs are disgusting. Unless they are encased in a soft pretzel, only then are they acceptable.

Best Documentary Short / Live-Action Short
I KNOW NOTHING!!!! I am uncultured swine.

Marshall was a great film! Highly recommend, especially if you love Chadwick Boseman… as you should.

Does Common ever not totally crush it onstage? He is an amazing performer.

Best Original Screenplay / Adapted Screenplay
Adapted has GOT to be Call Me By Your Name, or I will riot. Unless it’s Logan. Then I will riot slightly less.
Can everyone please take a moment to appreciate James Ivory’s amazing shirt? I love a well-dressed man, and a well-deserved win.
Original is tougher… would love The Big Sick, but I’m thinking Get Out or Three Billboards.
AW YEAH!!!! Jordan Peele! That’s the first one I officially picked incorrectly, but I’m SOOO happy to be wrong!

I knew there’d be a Matt Damon joke in here somewhere. I’m actually surprised it took this long to get one.

Also, I think Bullock’s dress is my favorite of the night.

Best Cinematography
I am secretly pulling for Darkest Hour or Dunkirk, but it will probably be Blade Runner.
And I was right, again! If I go through this and only have one wrong I will be extremely upset. But then I’ll be over it by tomorrow, so whatever.

Didn’t see The Greatest Showman and don’t really care to, but this song is a JAM.

Best Original Score
I LOVE THEM ALL. Don’t make me pick.
…It’ll probably be The Shape of Water.
Oh, look at that! The music really did suit the movie perfectly, though. Delightfully weird!

Best Original Song
Coco!!!! I loved “Remember Me.” Though even now, however many years later, I still HATE Let it Go.

Best Director
Will there be an upset, or will Guillermo cap off awards season with a win?
Look at his face, he’s so happy! Hats off to Guillermo – he directed a beautiful monster of a film and he so, so deserves this.
I maintain that Luca Guadagnino should have been nominated though… just saying…

Best Actor
It’s going to be Oldman. I so badly want Chalamet to win, but the Oldman train seems like it’s prime to keep on rolling, and I’m not gonna bet against Churchill…
DDL looks like he will straight-up murder whoever wins, if it isn’t him. I know he won’t, he’s just giving those vibes…
YAY, Gary! I do love him, and it’s so great to see him finally win one. He was brilliant in this film, and easily the best part of it.

Best Actress
Money’s on Frances McDormand. Haven’t even seen her tonight…
Wouldn’t mind a Sally Hawkins win, though. She is adorable. Or Saorise Ronan. Let’s just give them all an Oscar, okay?
HOW TALL IS JENNIFER LAWRENCE? Or HOW SHORT IS JODIE FOSTER?
No surprise!
Frances McDormand is a goddamn prize. Also, Joel Cohen looks so unimpressed, lol.
Sally looks genuinely happy for Frances, it’s heartwarming!

Best Picture
The odds are stacked against my personal fave (Call Me By Your Name) but IT SHOULD WIN, DAMMIT. However, it’s shaping up to be a The Shape of Water or Three Billboards victory, both of which rightfully deserve it as well.
Honestly, though, this category is full of worthy films. It could be a surprise, especially if the vote splits. Might get a cheeky Get Out or sneaky Dunkirk victory.
OH MY GOD THEY BROUGHT THEM BACK.
Please no replay of last year’s debacle…
Well, that’s the second one I picked wrong – I officially picked Three Billboards. But I can’t be disappointed that such a lovely film won!
I hope Mark Bridges enjoys his jet ski.

Oscar Countdown Posts are Coming!

Starting this coming Friday (February 23rd) and ending next Saturday (March 3rd) I will be posting my personal countdown and ranking of the 2017 films nominated for Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards! Posts will be largely opinion-based, so no offense is meant, and I just want to have a bit of fun throwing my two cents into the Oscar race.

Hence why there is no regular post today, as I will be doing 9 daily posts, 1 for each film, starting this Friday, and the Monday (March 5th) post will likely be an Oscars award show recap, like I did last year.

This is the very first year I’ve been able to see all the Best Picture noms, from two perspectives of WWII and the evacuation at Dunkirk, to an amphibian twist on the tale as old as time, to a dark comedy about vengeance and redemption, to a chic exploration of human relationships, to a life-altering Italian summer, to a horror-filled weekend at an unsettling house, to a coming-of-age tale of a teenage girl seeking her place, and a political thriller that feels more timely than ever, I’ve got lots of thoughts to share, so stay tuned!

Film Review: Darkest Hour (2017)

Dir. Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ben Mendelsohn, etc.
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 2hr 5min
Spoiler level: Minor

The moment I saw a screenshot of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill some months ago, I knew I was going to see this movie. I had to travel an hour away to do it (drawbacks of small-town living) but Oldman’s Golden Globe win last Sunday solidified that his turn in Darkest Hour was a performance I didn’t want to miss on the big screen. Also, The Shape of Water isn’t playing within 50 miles of me, so…

dhFollowing Winston Churchill (Oldman) as he takes the mantle of Prime Minister in May 1940 with World War II brewing ominously on the mainland, Darkest Hour offers insight (both in public and behind closed doors) into Churchill’s first tenuous/strenuous days in office as he faces opposition and doubt from his fellow party members, the crown, and himself.

First things first; the cast is superb. Kristin Scott Thomas is great as Clementine Churchill, as she conveys the inner and outer struggle of a wife and her efforts to support her husband as he endures such intense scrutiny. Ben Mendelsohn (who I didn’t even recognize, a total fail on my part) does an excellent job expressing the turmoil of King George VI, who grapples with his opinion of Churchill and what is best for the nation as a whole as it faces the possibility of invasion. Lily James turns in a nuanced performance as Churchill’s personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton, and Stannis Baratheon Stephen Dillane’s determined and frustrated Halifax stands toe to toe with Oldman’s Churchill as he argues for appeasement over war. But obviously, the film is carried by Oldman, who delivers Churchill’s famous speeches with passion and fire, but also shows vulnerability as he is assailed by doubt and criticism from all sides, not to mention the looming war with the Axis Powers on the horizon. He plays off of the other key characters with aplomb, as the chemistry Oldman shares with Scott Thomas, while only shown in a few scenes, is an inspiring look into the strengths and strains of an enduring marriage, while Oldman’s scenes with Mendelsohn evolve over the course of the film as their interactions go from tension-riddled and uncertain to tempered hostility to grudging respect and beyond. Hearing the “We shall fight them on the beaches,” speech coming from Oldman is electrifying, as his words build in intensity and fervor and serve as a contrast to those poignant flickers of uncertainty and wavering confidence he suffers while debating whether or not to enter peace negotiations with the monster threatening to invade and conquer.

One of the film’s main strengths is that it isn’t a wide-spanning look at Churchill’s life and career, sprawling over the course of several years; it’s a snapshot centered on Churchill’s earliest days in office, which encompasses only a few weeks and culminates in the evacuation at Dunkirk. This lends the film a greater sense of focus and a deeper look into Churchill’s mindset and emotional state, and permits a greater exploration into the opinions of those around him, particularly Halifax and Chamberlain. It doesn’t seek to show Churchill’s entire legacy in two hours, and the result is a more intimate film with a greater focus on the gravity of his decisions and their possible consequences, rather than a blustering epic about his greatness with no time to breathe in-between scenes. The pacing is a bit dodgy at times, but the film also strives to show the criticism that Churchill faced during his tenure and references some of his more controversial actions, including the Gallipoli Campaign, which provides a somewhat more “balanced” portrayal of the historical icon, rather than a 2-hour lovefest.

Darkest Hour also shines on a technical level, as the cinematography, lighting, sound (including Dario Marianelli’s score) and direction are stellar, and all components function together to make a visually (and audibly) beautiful film. Certain shots and sequences are framed and shot in such a evocative, visceral way, it gives even more weight to whatever is happening onscreen at the time. Lots of great “hallway” shots and tracking shots, and one particular shot of Churchill in an elevator shows the perfect image of a man who feels utterly “alone” not only physically, but in his convictions. Plus, I’d be shocked if Tsuji and team don’t win the Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyling (Sorry, Beauty & The Beast), as Gary Oldman’s galvanizing performance is enhanced by the amazing physical transformation he undergoes to become one of the most well-known and revered figures in British history.

One of Darkest Hour‘s taglines is also one of Churchill’s most famous phrases, “Never surrender.” And though those famous words have been heard countless times, and WWII has been depicted repeatedly on screens of all sizes, Darkest Hour is a semi-unconventional “war” film that brings something fresh and new to the table in offering a closer look into Winston Churchill’s life and legacy, his personal and professional relationships, and his unwillingness to give in, even when facing such grave odds and innumerable doubts.

P.S. I might suggest this film and Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film Dunkirk as a double feature, though viewing both films back-to-back could be pretty draining… though you could start off with Tom Hooper’s 2010 Oscar-winner The King’s Speech, for a bit of levity.

 

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