Plot: Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) were recently married and are excited to embark on a new step in their life: Fred got a dissertation spot with Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Rose could enrol at his university, too. Rose is also excited to meet Hyman’s wife, the famous writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss). But things come very different than expected. Shirley is abrasive and the few days that Fred and Rose were invited to stay at their home until they get settled in their own turn longer and longer, with Rose picking up more and more of the domestic duties. Her presence seems to help Shirley focus on her work at least, and the two women become closer.
Shirley is a film made of ambivalences – ambivalent characters make very ambivalent choices in a blend of fact and fiction that is also pretty ambivalent. That makes it rather challenging, but I thought it was more than worth it.
Plot: Teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) spends the summer in Italy with his parents as every year. And as every year, they are joined by a research assistant who can work with Elio’s father – a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg). Elio isn’t too thrilled about the intrusion that costs him his room. But this year the student who shows up is Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Oliver has something about him. Elio realizes that he is in love with Oliver, but Oliver’s detached and sometimes outright brazen manner leaves little doubt that he doesn’t reciprocate the feelings.
Call Me By Your Name is an incredibly tender and soft film with an atmosphere that stayed with me even after the film had ended. Despite some weaknesses, there is something magical about it.
Plot: Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning lady in a big research facility. That facility has recently become the home, or rather prison, of a mysterious sea creature (Doug Jones) that the scientists want to study and exploit. Elisa discovers the creature by chance, but she quickly becomes friends with him, teaching him sign language. But the facility, and above all Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) have plans for the creature – and they are not necessarily humane.
I liked The Shape of Water in many things, but I found its treatment of disability absolutely problematic – and that soured things considerably for me. I still ended up finding it mostly sweet, but it should have been better about that.
Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a great neurosurgeon, and he knows it. But after a car accident that leaves him severely injured, Strange loses control of his hands – a skill absolutely necessary for his delicate job. He tries everything he can to get back to his former abilities. He is so desperate that when he hears of Jonathan Pangborn’s (Benjamin Bratt) apparently miraculous recovery, he asks him for the secret to it. Pangborn tells him of an temple in Nepal where they know about magic. Strange makes his way there, hoping to regain what he lost – and more.
If you manage to disregard the blatant racism in the film and its casting (and I can understand if you can’t manage this), Doctor Strange is an entertaining film that offers a lot of fun.
Plot: Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) hasn’t released new music in a long time. In fact, he was barely seen in public. That’s why journalist Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) is dead set on profiling him to find out what’s going on and to give his own career a boost. He manages to find his way into Davis’ home and gets quickly involved in Davis’ chaotic, drug-fueled life and his desperate search for the master tapes containing his new music that were stolen from him.
Miles Ahead takes a very liberal approach to Miles Davis’ life, landing somewhere between crime story and biopic and working as neither. I hated almost every second of it.
Twelve alien spaceships appear all around earth. They don’t seem to do much, but may be trying to establish contact. To try and figure out their language, linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is contacted and contracted. In a team together with theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and others, and in cooperation with teams around the world, they try to figure out what the creatures could want – and if it’s peace or war they have in mind.
Arrival is the rare breed of science fiction that actually takes Science As It Is Properly Done Right Now seriously and obviously admires and respects it, which is absolutely refreshing as a lot of SciFi today feels mostly like militarized power fantasies with a bit of technobabble. For that alone, I had to like the film, but there are also the cinematography, the soundtrack and the characters to really make me love it.
Plot: Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) loves one thing and one thing only: playing chess. And he’s damn good at it. So good, in fact, that he seems to be the only person who might be able to actually beat the Russians, in particular the current world champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). In times of the Cold War, that victory becomes much more than a simple win in a game. But the pressure that puts on Bobby starts to be too much for his already fractured psyche.
I’m not a huge fan of movies that are yet another take on how closely genius and madness lie together. Usually those films do a great disservice to both. So I probably wouldn’t have seen Pawn Sacrifice if it hadn’t been for Liev Schreiber. Which would have actually been a pity. It didn’t blow me away, but it is a very decent film with great characters.
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an immensely successful screen writer and at the height of his career – when his affiliation with the Communist Party means that he gets caught up in a political witch hunt and is finally imprisoned and put on a blacklist. And he’s not the only one affected – his family suffers, too, as do quite a few colleagues who also get branded as communists. Unable to work officially, he devises a plan how he and his colleagues may ensure their livelihoods.
Trumbo is pretty much how you’d expect it. It’s expertly crafted and tells an interesting story very well. But it plays everything so safe, it’s hard to get excited about it.
Plot: Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is preparing for product launches at three moments in his life. Just before the shows he puts on, he is confronted with various friends and colleagues who have things to discuss with him in very different stages of his life. But there’s also his daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss) who is trying to build a relationship with her father.
Steve Jobs is a well-paced film with beautiful dialogues that manage to cover up the film’s shortcomings enough that it’s very enjoyable to watch.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) married rich when she was younger, but then her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was arrested and she lost everything. So she turns to her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) for shelter, despite their strained relationship and even though Ginger lives way beyond the standards Jasmine is used to. Jasmine tries to get back on her feet but she isn’t in the most stable state of minds to begin with.
Blue Jasmine mostly lives off Cate Blanchett’s incredible performance, but otherwise pretty much continues Woody Allen’s streak of lukewarm films (as far as I have seen them).