77th Golden Globe Awards

Took Place on Sunday the 5th January 2020 in Los Angeles hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association – Here are the 2020 Winners in the Film Categories

Best Film Drama: 1917

Best Film, Musical or Comedy: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Director: Sam Mendes – 1917

Best Actor Drama: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

Best Actress Drama: Renee Zellweger – Judy

Best Actor, M/C: Taron Egerton – Rocketman

Best Actress, M/C: Awkwafina – The Farewell

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Supporting Actress: Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Best Foreign Language Film: Parasite directed by Boon Joon Ho (South Korea)

Best Original Screenplay – Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Animated Feature: Missing Link

The Intimacy of War

1917

Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George McKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Claire Duburcq, Richard Madden

After being entangled with the Bond franchise and directing two films specifically Skyfall and Spectre, director Sam Mendes returns to a more intimate yet visually astounding portrait of war in the spectacular film 1917.

1917 is a major cinematic achievement as the entire film is done in one shot echoing Joe Wright’s astounding directing achievement in his World War Two drama Atonement. Mendes does something better. He directs 1917 from the point of view of two soldiers Lance Corporal Blake played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Blinded by the Light) and Lance Corporal Schofield played by George Mackay (Captain Fantastic, Pride).

Set in less than a twenty-four hour period on the 6th April 1917, this incredible film follows the terrorizing journey of two young British soldiers who are tasked with delivering a message deep in enemy territory that will prevent 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trapped set by the Germans in Northern France.

What makes 1917 so utterly riveting is not so much the acting as the visual interpretation of this harrowing journey beautifully photographed by Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner: 2049) with a haunting original score by Thomas Newman.

1917 is the reason to still watch films in the cinema – it is absolutely perfect and as war films go, this is one of the finest multi-layered interpretation of trench warfare ever conceived on film. Sam Mendes does a sterling job in memory of his Grandfather who fought in World War One.

1917 is a masterpiece of film making, poignant, riveting and epic, a massive landscape punctuated by the most intimate and heart wrenching scenes especially the night sequence in a burnt out French Village which has a fiery backdrop or the spectacular river sequence which eventually leads to the final scene which is equally explosive, while portraying all the intimacies and horrors of War.

With brief scenes by supporting actors including Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Oscar Nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), 1917 belongs to the two relatively unknown young actors Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay, who betray all the horror, devastation and exhaustion of trench warfare combined with the nonchalance of killing.

1917 is an incisive portrait of courage and bravery and of men finding their compassion while being tested under the most brutal circumstances. Everyone should watch this film. Sam Mendes has achieved his cinematic masterpiece.

Cinematically and historically, 1917 is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10. Experience this film in a cinema. It’s breath taking.

The Talk of the Town

Judy

Director: Rupert Goold

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Jessie Buckley, Finn Wittrock, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Richard Cordery, Royce Pierreson, Gemma-Leah Devereux, Darci Shaw, Gus Barry

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Based on the Stage play by Peter Quilter, End of the Rainbow, director Rupert Goold’s poignant musical drama Judy features a mesmerising performance by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) as Judy Garland in the autumn of her career.

Zellweger transforms herself into Judy Garland as she becomes the film Judy with herself in virtually every scene as she battles with drug addiction and alcoholism in a desperate attempt to revive her flagging musical career in a series of shows in London in the winter of 1968 at a cabaret club in the West End, called The Talk of the Town.

With insightful flashbacks of herself as a young Judy Garland when she became the breakout child star of the 1939 hit Musical The Wizard of Oz for MGM. During this time, the young Judy played by Darci Shaw is under a strict contract by the formidable head of the studio Louis B. Mayer played by Richard Cordery. As a young star she forms an attraction to another young child star Mickey Rooney played Gus Barry. Yet the studio had the young Judy Garland on a stringent diet of appetite suppressants, uppers and downers as she always had to watch her figure, becoming a slave to the merciless studio system which exploited young actors and actresses who were under severe contractual obligations.

Fast forward to 1968, Judy Garland meets the dashing Mickey Deans wonderfully played by Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, The Big Short) at her elder and more famous daughter Liza Minelli’s house party in the Hollywood Hills. Liza is played by Gemma-Leah Devereux.

Judy is having a custody battle over her two younger children with her fourth ex-husband Sid Luft played by Rufus Sewell (Carrington, Gods of Egypt, Hercules). Her financial difficulties force her to take up a Gig in London performing at the glamorous Talk of the Town cabaret venue where she forms a veritable bond with her personal assistant Rosalyn Wilder played by Irish actress Jessie Buckley as Judy belts at some fabulous numbers on a glittering stage.

Psychologically, Judy Garland is dealing with some traumatic emotional issues while always pretending to be a consummate performer. Zellweger expertly gives a nuanced heart-wrenching performance as Judy Garland, a legendary Hollywood star in the autumn of her career who also become a champion for London’s gay community in the 1960’s.

At the centre of Rupert Goold’s film Judy is a staggeringly brilliant performance by Renee Zellweger who definitely deserves another Oscar for her excellent portrayal of a Hollywood icon. In a particularly hilarious scene with a doctor, who asks her what do you take for depression?

Judy candidly replies four ex-husbands!

Judy gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 is highly recommended viewing for those that enjoy films about Hollywood Divas. For those that enjoyed My Week with Marilyn, they will love Judy, a gem of a British film featuring a staggering performance by Renee Zellweger.

War in The Pacific

Midway

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, Luke Kleintank, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Keean Johnson, Etushi Toyokawa, Tadanobu Asano, Darren Criss, Brandon Sklenar, Jake Manley

The Battle of Midway was the turning point in the fight between the Americans and the Japanese in the summer of 1942, which followed on from the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbour in December 1941.

German director Roland Emmerich who brought viewers such films as Anonymous, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day, directs Midway with explosive special effects and excellent sound editing by Peter Bawlec.

Emmerich expertly recreates a good old fashioned war film with Midway aided by a superb ensemble cast who all play real life heroes who participated and survived the epic Battle of Midway.

This cast includes Ed Skrein (Maleficent, Mistress of Evil) who plays maverick pilot Dick Best, Mandy Moore plays his outspoken wife Ann Best, Patrick Wilson as naval intelligence officer Edwin Layton, Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri) plays Chester W. Nimitz, Welsh actor Luke Evans plays Wade McClusky, Dennis Quaid plays William Halsey and Aaron Eckhart plays Jimmy Doolittle.

There are also brief appearances by musician turned actor Nick Jonas as Bruno Gaido and American Crime Story Golden Globe winner Darren Criss as Eugene Lindsay.

What screenwriter Wes Tooke does insightfully is present the battle of Midway from both the American and the Japanese perspectives showing that in every war there are always losses on both side, while highlighting the specific historical landmarks which pinpointed Japanese aggression in the Far East and the Pacific.

The bombing of Pearl Harbour dragged America into the Second World War and caused the Pacific Theatre of War to be fraught with tragedy, aggression and strategic victories on both sides until eventually the Japanese sued for peace in 1945 after the American’s decisive and devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With spectacular visual effects, Midway is highly recommended viewing for fans of genuine historical War films which as a genre Hollywood seems to have disregarded in favour of superhero fantasy franchises.

Midway gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 is definitely worth seeing for the visual effects, the battle sequences and the portrayal of historical events during World War II which pitted two naval world powers against each other: America and the Empire of the Sun.  

The Papal Tango

The Two Popes

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin, Luis Gnecco, Cristina Banegas, Sidney Cole, Libero de Rienzo

Please note The Two Popes is only available on Netflix and did not receive a comprehensive theatrical release.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (Constant Gardener, City of God, 360) brings us a sumptuous glimpse into the conclave or the voting of a new Pope behind the magnificent walls of the Vatican City in Rome in his latest Netflix film The Two Popes starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) as Cardinal Ratzinger who become Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, Carrington) as the Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who eventually becomes Pope Francis.

The Two Popes focuses on a clash of ideals between a conservative Cardinal Ratzinger expertly played by Hopkins who is intent on holding the Catholic church back from any contemporary reforms or even discussing any recent controversies that have recently tainted the Catholic Church including the sexual abuse scandal which the Oscar winning film Spotlight so brilliantly explored in the American archdiocese in Massachusetts and in other states.

Cardinal Bergoglio superbly played by Jonathan Pryce is a progressive thinking Cardinal who would like to make the Catholic Church accessible to the impoverished masses especially in Latin America where Catholicism dominates so proficiently.

Bergoglio has endured his own dark history in Argentina as he desperately tried to protect the left wing subversive Jesuit priests in Buenos Aires from a brutal right wing military junta which gained power in Argentina in a 1976 coup killing thousands of dissidents known as The Dirty War: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War .

Controversially, Bergoglio was viewed in his own country as compromising with the military junta and was exiled in Argentina for many years as punishment for colluding with a regime which forced thousands of people to disappear in Argentina’s most brutal decade until democracy was eventually restored in 1983 following the Argentine military defeat by the British during the Falklands War.

The younger Jorge Bergoglio is wonderfully played by Argentinian actor Juan Minujin (Focus) as he deals with the moral dilemma of remaining true to his faith while supposedly appeasing a harsh military dictatorship.

With an insightful script by Anthony McCarten, the most rewarding scenes in The Two Popes are the brilliant scenes between Cardinals Bergoglio and Ratzinger as the older Cardinal announces his intention to renounce the papacy. Both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce nail their roles as the respective diametrically opposed Cardinals, speaking in multiple languages who form a formidable bond over Roman pizza and Argentinian football.

The Two Popes is a stunning portrait of two men who hold the fate of the entire Catholic world in their hands yet seemingly toy with subjects ranging from confession to modernization while both revealing their own inner demons. Fernando Meirelles directs the film with his usual visual flourish as the action alternates between the lavish grandeur of the Vatican City to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires.

The Two Popes is a stunning portrait of two men who hold the fate of the entire Catholic world in their hands yet seemingly toy with subjects ranging from confession to modernization while both revealing their own inner demons. Fernando Meirelles directs the film with his usual visual flourish as the action alternates between the lavish grandeur of the Vatican City to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires.

A Night at the Egyptian

Cats

Director: Tom Hooper

Cast: Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Francesca Hayward, Jason Derulo, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Laurie Davidson, Robbie Fairchild, Ray Winstone, Steven McRae, Danny Collins

Based upon Modernist poet T. S. Eliot’s poetry collection, Old Possum’s Books of Practical Cats, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats the musical has been a Broadway and West End hit for decades.

The film version of Cats directed by Les Miserables director Tom Hooper is fascinating, surreal but also quite lacklustre and this is due to the uneven casting of the film.

Cats as a film has superb production design with brilliantly realized costumes and sets, but viewers must be familiar with the Theatre production of Cats which was primarily about movement, dancing and singing.

To turn such a successful theatrical production of Cats into a hit film is a daunting task for any director. Despite Tom Hooper’s success with such films as Les Miserables, The Danish Girl and The King’s Speech, he unfortunately misses a golden opportunity to make the cinematic version of Cats absolutely dazzling and that has a lot to do with the strange casting choices for the roles.

While Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) adds gravitas as Old Deuteronomy, Idris Elba’s green eyed Macavity is just plain weird and as for Rebel Wilson and James Corden, they should not have been cast at all as their interpretation of Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones is utterly cringe worthy.

What saves Cats is Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s interpretation of Grizabella as her solo numbers are superb and she really anchors the film with a brilliant onscreen performance and fantastic singing.

All the professional singers cast in Cats are really good, including a mesmerizing performance by Taylor Swift as Bombalurina whose onscreen entrance is clearly inspired by Nicole Kidman’s entrance in Baz Luhrmann’s masterpiece Moulin Rouge. Jason Derulo equally holds his own as Rum Tum Tigger and Laurie Davidson’s interpretation of Mr Mistoffelees is spot on and charming.

The narrative arc of Cats goes completely off track but audiences must remember that the musical was loosely based on a collection of lyrical poems, so there was never a strong story to begin with. The middle of Cats is entertaining especially the tap dance scene performed by Steven McRae as Skimbleshanks. Newcomer Francesca Hayward holds her own as the novice feline Victoria.

Unfortunately the beginning and ending are terrible and audiences get a sense that director Tom Hooper was a bit out of his depth with this film production. But perhaps if Baz Luhrmann had directed it, viewers would have gotten an entirely unique interpretation.

Cats as a film is enjoyable but not brilliant, saved by magnificent soloist performances, solid production design and generally speaking the cinematic effort should be applauded and not so universally mocked as it has been on social media.

Despite the dubious casting choices, Cats only gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and is really aimed at ardent fans of the hit musical production.

An Interminable Battle

Marriage Story

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty, Lucas Neff, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson

Please note Marriage Story is only available on Netflix and did not receive a comprehensive theatrical release.

The Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach brings an incisive story of a contemporary marriage disintegrating in his Netflix’s released film Marriage Story starring Oscar nominated actor Adam Driver (BlackKklansman) as Charlie the husband and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Nicole who make up a trendy young New York couple.

Nicole is an aspiring stage and screen actress who falls in love and marries Charlie an off-Broadway theatre director. The couple have an eight year old son Henry played by Azhy Robertson (Juliet, Naked). Very rapidly and much to Charlie’s shock and surprise, their marriage starts disintegrating when Nicole discovers that her husband had a brief affair with a theatre intern.

Expertly played by Scarlett Johansson, Nicole moves back to Los Angeles where she stays with her mother Sandra played by Julie Hagerty (Flying High). There, she enlists the assistance of a hard as nails California divorce attorney Nora Fanshaw superbly played by Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose, Wild).

When the hard reality of divorcing Charlie comes into focus, Nicole has to grapple with all sorts of issues such as child custody and marital finances especially since Charlie has just received a massive Arts Grant to direct a Broadway production with a group of theatre actors back in New York.

Charlie, featuring an outstanding performance by Adam Driver, is suddenly forced to go to Los Angeles to also enlist a divorce lawyer, a cut-throat shark named Jay Marotta wonderfully played by Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Kill the Messenger).

Writer and director Noah Baumbach incisively dissects the dissolution of a marriage as Charlie and Nicole become embroiled in a bitter divorce battle which is overshadowed by the vicious divorce lawyers as each of their lives becomes an incriminating portrait of how a marriage, a partnership shatters into a million pieces with their son Henry caught in the middle.

In Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach perfectly examines the emotional effects of a divorce on a couple who really haven’t considered all the ramifications of a traumatic separation. Adam Driver expertly portrays the emotional toll a father has as he uproots his career in New York to try and sort out a divorce which is being sued for in a Californian courtroom.

Adam Driver is terrific as Charlie and is really a brilliant actor, whose talent was exceptionally displayed in director Spike Lee’s masterful dissection of race relations in 1970’s Colorado in his Oscar winning film BlackKKlansman.

Set between New York and Los Angeles, Marriage Story is the 21st century version of the Oscar winning 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer and is recommended viewing for those that have the Netflix streaming service. The performances are brilliant.

Marriage Story gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

The Destiny of a Jedi

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Director: J. J. Abrams

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Richard E. Grant, Domnhall Gleeson, Keri Russell, Lupita Nyong’o, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Billie Lourd, Dominic Monaghan

Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens director J. J. Abrams returns to the director’s chair to head up the final instalment of the new Star Wars film, Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker and astutely pays homage to the original Star Wars trilogy which made the franchise so famous and utterly unique: Star Wars released in 1977, The Empire Strikes Back released in 1980 and The Return of the Jedi released in 1983.

Along with the full complement of cast from the recent Star Wars films including Oscar nominee Adam Driver (BlackKklansman) as the conflicted Kylo Ren, along with Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn, there are also brief glimpses of the original cast members including the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.

In a genius stroke of casting, Billy Dee Williams reprises his role as General Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as he was last seen in The Return of the Jedi and had a key role in the betrayal of Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt in The Empire Strikes Back.  

The Dark side or in this case the First Order is represented by the ghoulish Emperor Palpatine played by Ian McDiarmid (The Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith) who is naturally revealed as the arch villain along with General Pride played by Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

The Rebels struggling to fight the First Order include Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron played by Oscar Isaac along with a gang of droids lead by R2-D2, C-3PO and BB-8 and of course the roaring Wookie Chewbacca who is insanely missing Han Solo.

If viewers are not a fan of the Star Wars franchise then don’t bother seeing The Rise of Skywalker as this film is strictly for Star Wars fans and those very familiar with the original trilogy which director J. J. Abrams deftly gives a nostalgic nod to.

With as many plot twists as the galaxy, The Rise of Skywalker will keep audiences guessing while they are absolutely dazzled by the superb visual effects especially the final battle and of course the Jedi versus Sith showdown with blazing lightsabres.

Star Wars Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10  is strictly recommended for Star Wars followers.

Let’s hope once parent company Disney starts turning a profit on its international streaming services that the gigantic studio will decide to roll out another three films to answer all the questions regarding the destiny of the remaining Jedi and her mysterious identity.

Manipulated Intelligence

Official Secrets

Director: Gavin Hood

Cast: Keira Knighley, Matthew Goode, Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Northam, Indira Varma, Tamsin Greig, Jack Farthing, Conleth Hill

Set in London in 2003, South African director Gavin Hood’s British political film Official Secrets revolves around the complex story of Katherine Gunn who broke the Official Secrets Act and leaked highly classified Government information on British and American efforts to sway the vote in the UN in favour of a resolution legitimizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the dubious premise that Saddam Hussein was harbouring chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

Oscar nominee Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) stars as the morally conflicted Katherine Gunn who despite working for a highly classified division of the British Foreign Office and Mi6 deliberately leaked a politically sensitive memo to The Observer newspaper in London whereby political news reporter Martin Bright played by The Crown star Matt Smith.

Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, Schindler’s List) reunites with Keira Knightley onscreen after their starring roles in director Saul Dibb’s magnificent costume drama The Duchess as he stars as human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson who decides to take on Gunn’s case in which she could be charged by the Crown prosecution for treason and for being a spy.

Official Secrets was Britain’s entry into the recent European Film Festival https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/ which had recent screenings in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria in November before being released on the general circuit in December 2019.

Official Secrets is an engaging political thriller about manipulated intelligence and about the length powerful nations will go to, to legitimatize a foreign invasion even if the premise for such an invasion are both legally and morally flawed.

Featuring an array of British stars including Downton Abbey star Matthew Goode and Rhy Ifans along with Jeremy Northam and Poldark star Jack Farthing, Official Secrets is an engaging if slightly dark political thriller about recent events that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by American and British forces.

Recommended for those that enjoy murky political thrillers, Official Secrets gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is interesting but not nearly as brilliant as such films as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Constant Gardener.

London at its worst

Last Christmas

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Boris Isakovic, Rob Delaney, Patti LuPone

After watching director Gurinder Chadha’s cleverly written British film, Blinded by the Light inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen, Spy and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig’s romantic musical Last Christmas was such a disappointment.

Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke (Me Before You) plays a Yugoslavian emigrant Kate who works in a year round Christmas shop in London run by a woman called Santa played by Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Tomorrow Never Dies, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) while she falls in love with the mysterious guy called Tom played by Malaysian star Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians). Kate is desperately trying to avoid going back to stay with her parents especially her over-bearing mother Petra played with a Slavic accent by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Howard’s End). 

What was the exceptionally talented Emma Thompson doing starring and co-writing in such a contrived piece of cinematic rubbish as this film?

Surely she has better judgement than this.

Last Christmas was just terrible, sickly sweet, historically inaccurate and absolutely shocking saved only by some gorgeous nocturnal shots of the British capital.

I sat through most of this film thinking what nonsense this film was and when the final reveal came it didn’t even touch me emotionally. Last Christmas is a terrible holiday film and both Emilia Clarke and Emma Thompson’s talents were wasted on a film in which its basic premise revolved around the music by the late George Michael and the 1980’s pop group Wham.

After seeing such a deluge of brilliant cinema in the last couple of months including Knives Out, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman and Joker, Last Christmas is terrible.

Last Christmas was badly cast, badly acted and its storyline was utter nonsense, displaying only the worst aspects of London without even showing a capital city that normally shines in its historical elegance. Emma Thompson definitely should have known better.

Recommended only for viewers that love sickly sweet romantic musicals without any substance, Last Christmas gets a film rating of 5.5 out of 10.

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