Eight films including A Star is Born and The Other Side of the Wind (R-075)

Since seeing Alita: Battle Angel with Biggles I’ve watched Solo and Bohemian Rhapsody again with Siggy. She’s a big fan of Woody Harrelson so I managed to convince her that she really did need to see another Star Wars film and since Rami Malek won the Oscar convincing her to see Bo Rap with me was an easier conversation.

Sticking with the Academy Award winners, we also recently watched this decade’s iteration of A Star Is Born. I must say that Lady Gaga has always impressed me as a singer and since watching the film I’ll add ‘and as an actor’ to that statement. She is really great in the film. Sure, she’s essentially playing a version of herself (something she’s very good at doing) and so without seeing Olivia Coleman’s Oscar-winning performance I’m assuming that’s why she shared the song-writing award as opposed getting best female actor.

I knew I hadn’t seen any of the previous versions of A Star Is Born – and likely will go to my grave without doing so as it’s not the story so much that appeals to me, but Gaga – but I did have a feeling that I had seen a similar film starring Jeff Bridges as an alcoholic country rock star going deaf and mentoring a younger performer who then exceeds him. It wasn’t until we enjoyed watching the Honest Trailer for the film that I realised I wasn’t imaging things and that film was Crazy Heart back in 2009.

Bradley Cooper also does a sterling job as the aged rock star, playing great guitar and singing in all his scenes, something that perhaps can’t be said about Malek. He also directed the film and I guess that’s why I found it more moving than I expected to. That, the rough week at work and the bottle of wine I was drinking with Siggy probably helped. Anyway, I hear that the film is getting a limited ‘encore’ release with some 12 minutes of extra footage included, so if you haven’t seen it at the cinema it might be worth a trip out. Alternatively you can find it like I did on Google Play.

Over on Netflix, I was intrigued by the duo of Orson Welles films – one a documentary about the other. The documentary was entitled They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead and gave some brilliant insights into the troublesome and legendary production of the long-awaited ‘final’ Welles film The Other Side of the Wind. The documentary is obligatory viewing prior to watching the film in my opinion. But I’d only watch both if you are a big film fan, neither will really go down particularly well with the casual viewer.

The Other Side of the Wind is a patchwork of mockumentary and ‘film within a film’. The mockumentary tells the story of an aged film director shunned by Hollywood who is trying to finance the filming of a masterpiece, he coexists alongside a more popular director who he once mentored and there is some friction between the two, and between the Hollywood critics, journalists and financiers and the filmmaker. The ‘film within a film’ is a rather art-house European looking film positioned purposely very far from Welles’s usual style and was co-written and stars his lover Oja Kodar (who co-wrote the actual film with him too).

John Huston is great in the role of the embittered director Jake Hannaford, which one cannot be unconvinced isn’t based on Welles himself. Peter Bogdanovich plays the upcoming Hollywood director who Hannaford feels has betrayed him – much like Welles may have thought Bogdanovich had in real life, if the accompanying documentary is to be believed.

Viewed as a pair these two Netflix branded films are just brilliant, and indeed The Other Side of the Wind is a triumph of editorial tenacity and directorial foresight. ‘We’ll add the dwarves in later,’ Welles is quoted as saying and it’s not until you see the finished film that you understand the vision of the man.

On a lighter note Gerard Butler vehicle Den of Thieves is a reasonably intelligent heist movie which takes on the usual tropes and tries to do something a little different with them. Butler’s performance as a stereotypical hard-working maverick cop with family issues is rather eclipsed by the marvellous Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) who is the main protagonist – an ex-army super-organised and fearless bank robber. There’s some rather obvious holes in the story which are deliberate and pretty much all filled in by the anticipated, but perhaps for once not fully guessed, plot twist at the end. I won’t spoil it for you. It’s worth a watch.

Over on Amazon Prime, I decided to crack on and watch a few films that have been malingering on my watchlist for what seems likes many years. The first was The Frame an entertaining low-budget science fiction movie written and directed by Jamin Winans. It tells the story of a paramedic and a criminal who watch each others’ lives on television (thinking them to be TV shows) who eventually communicate with one another. Both attempt to break out of their realities and rewrite their fates. There’s some very satisfying visual and scripting tricks toward the end and the performances of Tiffany Mualem and David Carranza shore up a lack on budget.

Spurred on by The Frame, I then watched Winans’s earlier film Ink which is also on Amazon Prime. Seemingly even lower budget, and featuring some rather poor acting by most involved, the sloppily-written film was an interesting take on a man getting to see and possibly revise life choices he has made. It didn’t quite grab and keep my attention as strongly as The Frame. Being so critical of an independent sci-fi film doesn’t sit all that well with me, but my advice is to just watch The Frame.

Rather more fun was 1969’s Age of Consent starring James Mason as a grumpy artist and a young Helen Mirren as his muse. It’s safe, I think, to say that the story wouldn’t get the green light from any film studio these days as, despite the innocent relationship between the two principle characters, there is an undercurrent of an old man perving on a young girl. The nude scenes are not as gratuitous as you might imagine for a Sixties film, but there is an implication at the end of the film that artist and muse do have a sexual connection. Watching this in 2019, did make me cringe at times and I don’t want my interest in seeing Mirren at the start of her career to be misinterpreted. However, again, for a film fan this feels like essential viewing especially since Mason’s performance is great despite a rather ropey Australian accent.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is perhaps the film that has been waiting the longest for me to watch on Amazon Prime – so much so that I think it’s been over to Netflix and back again since I originally added it to the list. The film relies heavily on flashback sequences and drip-feeding information about the relationship between mother (Tilda Swinton) and son played by an evil looking Ezra Miller (perhaps better known for his DC Movies casting as The Flash). Essentially Miller’s character, the titular Kevin, commits an awful crime in his teenage years and Swinton’s character has to deal with the associated guilt and fallout from the event. Swinton is as usual great, and indeed so too is Miller.

Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay.

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