People Eating Together entries discuss that age-old tradition of people coming together to tear each other apart — Cannibalism! So settle in, maybe grab some coffee or a snack(!), and let’s explore this last social taboo together – because you can’t practice cannibalism alone.
Sometime in about the year 2007, while bored at my job at a children’s textbook publisher, I fell down a Wikihole about cannibalism. In between reading about Sawney Beane and Jeffrey Dahmer, I ran across the Franklin Expedition, which is to Canadian history what the Donner Party is to American. The article was fascinating enough, so imagine my excitement bordering on hysteria when I reread the article in 2017 to find that AMC was making a TV show about it. I loved the show, and immediately listened to the novel on which it’s based. There are significant differences which I’ll go into in the spoilers section of the review, but for now let’s focus on reviewing the show.
(Note: The Terror is planned as a historical horror anthology. Season 1 deals with the lost Franklin expedition (with supernatural elements) and is based on Dan Simmons book of the same name, but season 2 will be about life in a Japanese interment camp in the US during the Korean war, and stars George Takei at the head of a predominantly Japanese-American cast. After the high bar set with season 1, I’m eagerly looking forward to season 2.)
Recently Jen and Achariya have been fortunate enough to review films prior to wide release. We’re very excited about today’s entry, a screener that Jen received from Sony Pictures Classics. As always, the basic, spoiler-free review will appear above the cut, and more in-depth analysis below. And as always, Jen was not paid or compensated for this review in any way.
Based on a memoir of the same name, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool is a powerful, layered romance that is honestly quite difficult to sum up at a glance. Fading American film star Gloria Graham, weakened by illness, is looked after in her last few months by her former lover, a man thirty years younger, and his working-class Liverpool family in 1981. Through a series of flashbacks the audience discovers what brought the unlikely pair together and what ultimately tore them apart. I haven’t read the book so I’ve no idea how much it differs, if at all, from the film.
Annette Benning plays Graham in a knock-out performance. She has already been nominated for several critics’ awards and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her nominated for an Oscar, although the fact she’s not nominated for a Golden Globe seemed a crime. With masterful subtlety, Benning reveals Graham in layers as the story unfolds; she presents a breathy voiced and starry eyed ingenue to her public and the outside world, which is of course why Peter Turner, played by Jamie Bell, falls in love with her; when stressed she becomes shrill and manic at times, such as when Turner mentions her age or crosses any of the invisible lines she’s drawn for him; and lastly, reserved and fragile when she finally accepts that her prognosis is terminal and weighing heavily on her loved ones.
Although the May-December relationship premise of an older female film star and a young male lover is familiar, it would be disingenuous to compare this film to say, Sunset Boulevard.Obviously the relationship here was based on true events, and the story elements are so novel that they feel fresh. Before I realized it was a biography, I found myself wondering precisely that, since truth is stranger than fiction and the characters and settings felt so weirdly solid. Kenneth Cranham plays Peter’s father, delightful in sweater vests and owlish glasses. Julie Walters (best known as the Weasley matriarch from the Harry Potter movies) puts in an amazing performance as Peter’s mother Bella, who helps him look after Gloria when the latter becomes bedridden. Vanessa Redgrave shines in a small but riveting role as Gloria’s mother.
As as aside before we get to the spoilers – I’m hoping the great Hollywood purge of sexist shitbags occurring right now will make room for more filmmakers and films like this one. In an early scene where Graham is warming up for her performance by blowing air through her lips, the camera lingers in close-up on her mouth every wrinkle and line is on display. It was a bold creative choice, the sort that wouldn’t have a place in a film-making atmosphere dominated by toxic masculinity. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool was directed by Paul McGuigan (who among other TV hits directed 2 episodes of Luke Cage!) and was produced by the legendary Barbara Broccoli.
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool had a limited US release last year and seems to mostly be playing the film festivals. I hope it does well and receives a wide release.
I want you to know three things about The Shape of Water.
They are, in no particular order, that it is:
Beautiful, lyrical, and absolutely deserving of the buzz surrounding it; the fact that there is so much buzz around it and that people are appreciative of such a daring story is wonderful.
Marvelous, in that it literally contains marvels of all sorts. Acting, effects, imagery, characters, sets, dialogue, music, production, you name it, there is something in this movie to dig into.
Inspiring a much, much longer review from my co-blogger Achariya and I that we will hash out tomorrow and post in the next day or so. I will keep general comments above a cut, but deeper discussion will need to contain spoilers so those will go below the cut.
Man. That was something. I cannot WAIT to write more, but it’s late and this sort of thing requires a proper marination of the brainmeats before anything can be said.
Skip today’s entry if you find any of the following boring: British period pieces full of tricorn hats, pantaloons, masked balls, comedies of manners, compelling characters, dry British humor, magical imagery, and battles. If you are down with any or all of those things, please, read on!
The phrase “modern classic” gets tossed around a lot, and isn’t always accurate. In the case of the BBC’s adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell, it is possibly the only description that fits. I’ve already watched it twice, once with one eye on my knitting, and a second time just so I could soak up all the magnificent production and performances. There’s not a wasted moment of the show, and one season really just wasn’t enough, even though it perfectly captured the entire 600-page book.
Today’s post is all about the glorious adaptation, with some light, inconsequential spoilers.
If you aren’t already familiar with the story from reading the book, here is a quick summary:
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie. I just thought it was interesting how two completely different people can create such similar content, without ever meeting.
The Witch is definitely everything I expected, from all the reviews and thinkpieces I’ve read of it, with a few surprises.
Although it’s a horror film, it’s more concerned with building atmosphere and character than throwing out cheap scares. The imagery puts me in mind of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s nature pieces, like The Bear. The soundtrack is beautiful and at times incredibly offputting, as an atonal women’s chorus swells, or strange instruments pluck and rattle, setting your nerves on edge.
The period setting has been exhaustively researched, and director/writer Robert Eggers has perfectly recreated a setting that lends itself to horror particularly well.
It’s not a horror movie for everyone, and I wonder if it will catch fire the way that a lot of people seem to think it will – I can’t see a group of people renting it on Redbox and pounding beers while watching it, but I never would have imagined Downton Abbey would blow up the way it did, either. I have LOADS of praise for it, but I won’t say too much just now. But the last ten minutes – SO awesome.
Anyway, I did notice a lot of parallels with my own work. I’ll put them behind a cut to spare people spoilers from the movie, but if you’re not intending on seeing the movie anyway then you might enjoy knowing where there’s overlap – and where there isn’t.