Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Paulson’

Diamonds are A Girl’s Best Friend

Oceans 8

Director: Gary Ross

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Elliott Gould, Richard Armitage, Dakota Fanning, Mindy Kaling

Pleasantville director Gary Ross assembles a truly star studded female cast in the feminine version of Steven Soderbergh’s Oceans 11 starring Oscar winners Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine), Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) alongside Oscar nominated British actress Helena Bonham Carter (The Wings of the Dove), Rihanna and Sarah Paulson (Carol, 12 Years a Slave) as together they pull off a daring jewellery heist during the prestigious Met Gala held annually by Vogue Magazine at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, a newly paroled con artist who teams up with the streetwise New Yorker Lou played by Blanchett as they devise a cunning plan to rob the Met Gala and place the blame on Debbie’s egotistical art dealing ex-boyfriend Claude Becker played by Richard Armitage.

In short, Oceans 8 is a cleverly written revenge flick with lots of diamonds, a fabulous cast and glamorous settings beautifully assisted by comedian James Corden as the extremely thorough insurance investigator John Frazier, who adds some dry British humour to the entirely fashionable affair.

Audiences should watch out for some well-placed cameo’s by veteran Oscar nominated star Elliott Gould (Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice) as Reuben and Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, War of the Worlds) as Penelope Stern.

What holds Oceans 8 together is the fantastic onscreen chemistry between Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway, all of whom make this fashionable heist film thoroughly entertaining.

Oceans 8 is an enjoyable con film with a refreshingly female take on the heist genre, proving that women can do it just as brilliantly as men, which is especially pertinent in the wake of the momentous MeToo movement which rocked Hollywood in 2017 amidst a series of sexual abuse scandals.

Definitely a glittering film for the ladies, Oceans 8 is an ideal girls night out adventure heist with beautiful clothes, diamonds to die for and an inside peak at possibly one of the most glamorous events on the American social circuit, the incredibly gorgeous Met Gala.

Oceans 8, with its slick cons and twisting narrative definitely proves the line immortalized by Marilyn Monroe that Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. The film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

History’s First Draft

The Post

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Jesse Plemons, Carrie Coon, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Michael Stulbarg, Matthew Rhys, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie

Before Julian Assange, before Edward Snowden, there was the Pentagon Papers.

A top level government study on how the Americans had been involved in Vietnam way before the infamous Vietnam War and how during that bloodletting fiasco, the Americans realized that they were losing the war in South East Asia, yet still continued to send troops in to fight the Viet Cong.

The leaking of the Pentagon Papers, firstly by the New York Times and then more pertinently by The Washington Post during the Nixon administration is the source of Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s fascinating film The Post starring two Oscar winners, Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) as owner of the Post, Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks (Philadelphia) as Ben Bradlee, the executive editor of The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/ who seizes on the story of a decade and pushes for his newspaper to release the classified documents despite the possible legal or financial consequences.

Streep as usual, is superb as the doubtful and affluent socialite Katherine Graham who inherits her father’s newspaper The Washington Post upon her husband’s death and then is forced into an invidious position when she is called upon to make the critical decision on whether to let the newspaper publish the Pentagon Papers at a time when New York investors are eagerly awaiting The Washington Post Company’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) on the American Stock Exchange, which could hugely benefit the fortunes of the struggling newspaper.

Spielberg packs a lot into The Post, and it would be advisable for viewers to read up thoroughly about that crucial historical period in 1971 which was so decisive and widely regarded as the turning point of American press freedom. All these events occurred prior to the Watergate scandal.

The publication of the Pentagon Papers ultimately changed the American public’s sentiment on the viability of troops in Vietnam and the legal outcome after the Supreme Court ruling elevated Katherine Graham to a media doyenne, a feminist and a massively influential woman who changed the business world’s view on how a single woman can influence and transform a media empire.

There is a solid supporting cast of actors in The Post to add gravitas to a riveting tale of journalistic bravery, including Sarah Poulson as Bradlee’s wife Toni who gives her own feminine perspective on why what Katherine Graham was doing was vitally important and brave. Other supporting actors include Bob Odenkirk, Matthew Phys, Carrie Coon, Jesse Plemons and Tracy Letts.

In the age of the Internet, Fake News and a 24 Hour news cycle, The Post is a critical film to watch and be discussed and is especially relevant in 2018 as back then in 1971, which basically implies that at every historical junction, the media must always hold the country’s government accountable. After all, the news is History’s First Draft.

My only criticism is that screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer should have contextualized the dramatic events more efficiently so that a 21st century audience could appreciate the bravery of publishing critical information without fear or favour.

The Post is brilliant viewing and a highly recommended film about press freedom under a sinister government which makes the film’s ending all the more relevant. The Post receives a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Read more on Katherine Grahamhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Graham

Read more on Ben Bradleehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Bradlee

 

 

 

Martini’s and Cigarettes

Carol

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Director: Todd Haynes

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Cory Michael Smith

Far From Heaven director Todd Haynes adapts the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt for the big screen in the visually beautiful and meticulously directed film Carol featuring Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine) and Oscar Nominee Rooney Mara (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as unlikely lovers in New York during Christmas in 1952.

Similar to Far from Heaven which also featured a love story which was socially prohibited back in the 1950’s, Carol focuses on a love affair between an affluent married woman Carol Aird and a young shop assistant Therese Belivet wonderfully played by Mara. Blanchett brings a nuanced perspective to the role of Carol, a strong willed and affluent woman whose sexual desires for the same sex are severely limited by the narrow social attitudes of the early 1950’s America, particularly mirrored in the attitude of her affronted soon to be ex-husband Harge Aird superbly played by Kyle Chandler, who typically views his wife and daughter as his patriarchal properties which need to be possessed.

Carol has to be viewed through the long struggle for international LGBT rights which is now enjoyed by many but wasn’t the case some sixty years ago. Carol like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain depicts a socially taboo homosexual love affair which affects not only the lovers involved but also their respective partners or suitors. In this case, it is Therese’s suitor Richard Simco played by Jake Lacy who is mystified as to why Therese is constantly rebuffing his advances.

Carol’s situation is more complex as she is married with a husband and a little daughter, which really speaks to the emotional pull of the entire film. As Carol and Therese embark on a cross-country jaunt from New York to Chicago, their travels reflect their own emotional and sexual journeys as they soon realize how deeply they have fallen for each other despite the consequences.

After their initial encounter in a swanky New York department store whereby shop assistant Therese persuades the chain-smoking and glamourous Carol Aird to rather buy a train set than a doll for her daughter as a Christmas present, Haynes makes a valid point about the perceived gender typical socialization of children and how sexuality itself is in fact a social construct.

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Their scandalous affair is assisted by Carol’s ex-lover Abby Gerhard played by Sarah Paulson and as those they affect soon realize what has occurred, it’s the peripheral characters conservative viewpoints on morality which frames this tender and beautifully constructed love affair characterized by Martini’s and cigarettes.

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Carol has generated a lot of critical acclaim because Blanchett and Mara both have the acting abilities to pull off such nuanced and complex performances especially in the hands of a brilliant director like Todd Haynes who after his stunning mini-series Mildred Pierce and his earlier films Far From Heaven and I’m Not There is an artist at the peak of his creative powers, both in terms of semiotics and visual arts.

Carol is highly recommended viewing, extraordinarily acted, beautifully designed and most notably directed with a flair for detail which is rarely glimpsed in the 21st century’s era of effects laden contemporary cinema.

Viewers that enjoy a mature adult drama, should definitely watch Carol, a film which does not resort to explicit nudity or shock value but critically evaluates an extraordinary love affair taking place in an exceptionally conservative era of American history.

2015 Cannes Film Festival

2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL WINNERS

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Winners of the five main prizes at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival were as follows: –

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Palme d’Or– Dheepan directed by Jacques Audiard

The Assassin

Best Director – Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin

The_Measure_of_a_Man_(2015_film)

Best Actor: Vincent Lindon – The Measure of Man

Best Actress: shared between

carol

Rooney Mara – Carol

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Emmanuelle Bercot for Mon roi

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Best Screenplay – Michel Franco for Chronic starring Tim Roth and David Dastmalchian

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Queer Palm Award: Carol directed by Todd Haynes starring Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler

Source: 2015 Cannes Film Festival

 

 

Sold Down the River

12 Years a Slave

twelve_years_a_slave

Director: Steve McQueen

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Michael Kenneth Williams

Based upon Solomon Northup’s groundbreaking novel, 12 Years a Slave published in 1853 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Years_a_Slave, British director Steve McQueen brings the critically acclaimed film version to the big screen exposing the cruelty, violence and brutality of the slave trade in the Antebellum Deep South prior to the American Civil War. Audiences have to bear in mind that 12 years a Slave is set in 1841, the first half of the 19th century when America having broken away from Britain was expanding its nation commercially especially in the Southern States like Georgia, Louisiana and basically most South Eastern states below the Mason-Dixon line from Virginia downwards.

Nevertheless, director McQueen emphasizes the emotional and physical imprisonment of both slave and slave owner in a terrifying master servant relationship which is based entirely on commerce and the expansion of agricultural land in the vast cotton-picking states of the American South East where slave owners viewed slaves as their personal property to be bought, sold or exchanged for debts as part of payment for arable land. Despite the commercial exchange and vicious currency of slavery, this does not excuse the devastating effects it had on the African American people who become slaves often ripping families apart as well as being subjected to all sorts of human rights abuses which would be unimaginable in a 21st century America with Barack Obama as president.

Slavery is a tough subject to contextualize onscreen and British director McQueen takes the challenge head on and show through the extraordinarily horrific experience of Solomon Northup (superbly played by British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) who as a free man in Saratoga, New York travels as part of a minstrel band to Washington DC where after a drunken night is drugged and sold into slavery and literally shipped down the Mississippi river to the slave port of New Orleans.

Northup first becomes the property of seemingly benevolent land owner Ford played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), but after an altercation with the vicious plantation manager Tibeats an excellent cameo by Paul Dano, is transferred as part of a debt owing to the even more sadistic plantation owner Epps brutally played by Michael Fassbender. On Epps’s cotton picking Louisiana plantation, Northup meets the vulnerable but tough Patsey (an excellent performance by screen newcomer and Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o) who becomes the forbidden object of desire by the psychotic, bored and lustful Epps.

It is really Nyong’o’s Patsey who endures rape, torture and a particularly cruel whipping scene which elevates 12 Years a Slave into a shocking and harrowing portrayal of the absolute horrific conditions of 19th century slavery in the deep South, conditions so horrendous that the Northern states eventually intervened in a bid to abolish slavery resulting in the bloody American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War.

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McQueen’s film while at times lacking in narrative structure, is still an absorbing historical portrayal of humanity’s capacity to inflict cruelty and suffering on their fellow humans, a point which Brad Pitt’s character Bass emphasizes and who eventually assists Northup in his bid for emancipation. Shot in the suffocating heat of a Louisiana summer, 12 Years a Slave is atmospheric, brilliantly acted and deeply disturbing and a testament to man’s own ability to survive under vicious circumstances.

Whilst 12 Years a Slave won People’s Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and has nine 2014 Oscar nominations, it is really the breakout performance of Lupita Nyong’o who shines amongst a British American cast including Alfre Woodard, Sarah Paulson, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch and Quvenzhané Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild as Northup’s daughter Margaret.

This is recommended viewing for lovers of historical films, but be warned 12 Years a Slave is cruel, violent and shocking, which is exactly McQueen’s intention in showing up Slavery as one of Mankind’s most atrocious historical eras, a completely ruthless and harrowing practice, offering a contemporary cinematic counterpoint to the 1939 classic Gone With the Wind.

 

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