Love it or hate it, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is always the movies. From arthouse drama to cheesy rom-coms to depressing tear-jerkers, we all have our favourite kinds of romance film. There’s a wide variety of faves even amongst the Much Ado team, so hopefully our recommendation list will give you a new idea or two this February 14th!
(500) Days of Summer
Why conform to watching a traditional romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day? Why submit to Hollywood’s saccharine nature and settle down with a formulaic feature when you could instead confront the heartache that comes with unrequited love and the realisation that no person is ever really what you imagine them to be? If you’re looking for a bit of realism in your romance, then 500 Days of Summer is the film for you. Its central theme can be summed up in one line delivered by a young Chloë Grace Moretz’s character, the younger sister of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hopeless protagonist Tom, as she tells him that ‘just because some girl is into the same bizzaro crap as you, that doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.’ Truer words were never spoken, indeed. There is no doubt that every one of us is at least somewhat guilty of convincing ourselves that someone is the one for us simply because they share a few of our interests. What 500 Days of Summer does is show just how problematic this kind of thinking is and how disastrous it can be for us in the long run, by having Tom break his own heart in attempting to believe that the titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is the person he has made her out to be in his head. Summer may like the same music as Tom, she may enjoy the same kind of cinema as he does, but that doesn’t mean that the two are made for each other, or that they are even remotely compatible. Reality can never truly match our expectations, 500 Days of Summer reminds us, and people are not ours to mould into whatever we want them to be. It is the perfect antidote to the onslaught of Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that infiltrate cinemas around this time of year and shows us that love is, often, not what we believe it to be.
2017 was a crazy, whirlwind of a year for cinema, with great films that left us on the edge of our seats like Get Out and Dunkirk, but now it’s time to start thinking about the countless films we can’t wait to see in 2018. Especially as the 2018 Sundance Festival comes to an end, we can’t help to think 2018 could be another great year for film. Ranging from small, independent films to major Disney blockbusters, here are some of the films our staff desperately anticipating.
Here at Much Ado About Cinema, the focus tends to be on films – which is great, but that’s not all cinema amounts to. 2017 was also a great year for television, and there’s a lot of arguments to be made concerning the prestige of the format; with the popularity of netflix and the prominence of many highly-regarded directors flocking to the small screen, television is experiencing something of a resurgence in reputability. With this in mind, Much Ado will be incorporating more coverage of the medium as we head into 2018, and we thought we would begin with a look back on our favourite shows of 2017, from the surprising, to the disappointing, to the consistently brilliant.
To most, American Gods might seem no different than many other fantasy series that are on cable TV, or even the network: it has cool visuals, is based on a book series, and written in hopes of captivating its viewers via carefully crafted plot twists. Built on the already complex premise of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, creator Bryan Fuller and his team of writers manage to succesfully carry a transition between two mediums of storytelling by doing that one wouldn’t expect from such a genre, and focusing on the people that fantasy world rather than what makes the world a fantasy one. Of course, the fact that people are mostly the main reason that this world is magic does provide help on this subject to them, but even the visual work here is always about what it tells of instead of what it might show. Fuller might be best known for his visual perfection of Hannibal, but his work here can be even argued to exceed that. Eight episodes, each not longer than an hour, work as book chapters of their own — and they all have their own prologues in most cases, little, thematically coherent cold openings that tell smaller stories with little to no consequence, but are still able to create an impactful parallel with the bigger picture. When looked from afar, American Gods is a masterpiece of filmmaking and production — and that might even be enough for it to be considered as one of the best outings of the year: but the real present opens itself up when one begins to examine the work closely, and finds themselves in a labyrinth of significant questions abot love, life, belief and fate.
It’s been a great year for movies. From the blockbusters that broke box office records (‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’) to the new-found classics with a real social impact (‘Get Out’, ‘Call Me by Your Name’), many films released this year will doubtlessly be well-remembered for decades to come. There’s been controversial releases from much-loved directors (‘mother!’, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’), some fantastic sequels, remakes and franchise continuations (‘Logan’, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) and even a new Rotten Tomatoes record for critical acclaim (‘Lady Bird’). Of course, as per usual, some movies haven’t quite hit the mark, but best not to mention those. Instead, we’ll talk about the movies that we truly loved in 2017, the very best of the best, in a year that’s been very important for film. Without further ado, our top 15 of the year:
15. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Martin McDonagh’s latest is a dark comedy about the ongoing anger in our world and what happens as it explodes into something far worse. But for as much as past mistakes may have driven one’s own soul to where they are headed to in the present, Martin McDonagh’s newest black comedy isn’t so much what would have been expected. What I first entered thinking it would be another vulgar comedy in the veins of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths wasn’t only that, but to my own surprise it was also a rather stunning portrait of grief – in order to balance the satire present with the way the American morale is perceived by many. In this world that Martin McDonagh has created, there are no heroes, there’s only anger and it explodes into more anger, we laugh along but quickly enough it bites back since we know that in this world we know that there is no greater authority that wants to control the anger. It only feels more fitting in this day and age when you come to consider that America’s driving force is anger. In the most unexpected ways, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is actually rather hopeful amidst the darker surface and it’s also Martin McDonagh’s most optimistic film – driven by a powerhouse performance by Frances McDormand. Right next to her own role in the Coen brothers’ Fargo, it seems like the most fitting counterpart because of their antonymous morals, but it’s that anger it drives from one’s own mind that leaves ourselves to reflect upon what we have in store for the future.
This post is a collaborative effort between myself, Iana, Dilara, Ryan and Jaime. Huge thanks to everyone for putting the work in at such short notice!
The “Christmas film” is a bit of an oddity; the most popular examples are often poorly reviewed, overly sentimental cheese-fests and yet, we love them all the same. Everyone who celebrates Christmas has their own favourite festive films, and if you’re anything like us here at Much Ado About Cinema, these particular movies will be especially close to your heart. Rather than try and rank this unique genre – if it can even be called that – we’ve decided to simply share those that are special to us personally, in the hopes that others may also find joy in them. Some are masterpieces, some are not-so-masterpieces, but one thing is for sure – come Christmas Day, we’ll be cuddled up with these movies.
Legendary anime director Satoshi Kon is well known for his weirder films that Darren Aranofsky and Christopher Nolan have downright copied, but his most conventional film, ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ serves as a wonderful Christmas tale about the virtues of simple human compassion. The story sounds like it ends with a punchline: a middle-aged alcoholic, a drag queen, and a teenage runaway – all homeless – find an abandoned baby on Christmas Eve while rummaging through garbage for food. With only some baby supplies and a key to the mother’s storage locker, the group traverses across Tokyo in search of the baby’s parents.
Mental health and how it is portrayed on film has always been an especially touchy subject for me. It has always been difficult for me to try to talk about the way people handle it on film because of my own autism and the fact there’s no “definite” portrait about how people on the spectrum truly behave. There isn’t a definite portrait because such portrait is absolutely impossible, but that is just besides the point. The point is, when you look oftentimes at how films portray mental health on film, it always seems to be within a negative connotation.
I’ve written for a friend of mine about how characters who can be read as having autism speak more for our own experiences than characters explicitly on the spectrum. On my own blog I’ve also written a piece about the perception of autism on film, and the negative and positive impact that it has left within my life. But I’m not here to talk specifically about how autism is portrayed on film, rather instead about the challenge of getting down to the bone of the experience of someone who evidently has mental health problems without feeling like a stereotyped portrait of such.
The most obvious example that comes to mind regarding a depiction of mental health that recognizes such people in a positive outlook is a rather well-known film, it’s Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This has been one of my own favourite films for a long while, for even if Jack Nicholson’s Randle McMurphy isn’t a crazy person (the premise of the film is based around his experiences in a mental health institution after he pretends to be insane, to have a relaxed background) he only wanted to seek the best for his comrades in the institution. But all of these people know that they are within limits because of an authority figure who intimidates them at all costs. It seems easy enough for me, because of the fact that in Randle McMurphy, what has come forth isn’t merely just a story about “overcoming” what’s wrong with you. It doesn’t boil everything down to a conclusion so dumbfounded and too simple, but McMurphy sees these people as capable of more than what they’d been led to believe. Because he sees them as human beings, and treats them as such even to the cost of a greater pain.