You’ll hear plenty of people bemoaning “cancel culture” at the moment. Usually, it’s the people with the most controversial opinion who are so critical of it. All you need to do is look at JK Rowling and see that. Of course, the people who are so vocal about “cancel culture” are also the first people to vow never to use a service again if it goes against their ideas. You know what I’m talking about. The people who threw out their Yorkshire Tea because they don’t agree with racism or set fire to their Nikes when they stood behind Colin Kaepernick. They’ll also be the same people who have cancelled their Netflix subscription after the controversy surrounding one of their latest films. Although, you have to wonder how many have actually watched the feature film debut of writer and director Maïmouna Doucouré. I’d bet all of them have just eaten up what they’ve been told by right wing politicians or the media.
I’ve wanted to watch this film for ages now. I’d heard it was good. It sounded good. I know that I was going to love it. So, why did it take so long? My poor attention span. I’ve been watching films at home since March because of the pandemic which means I’m generally doing multiple things when I’m watching films. I might be writing another blog pot, tempted by my phone, or editing photos. It depends how much I have to do that day. It’s not that I mean to let my mind wander but it happens. I’m not like it in a cinema. Don’t go thinking that I’m one of those people who gets their phone out every few minutes. I concentrate in a cinema. Not at home. It’s difficult to find a two hour slot when I’m not also trying to do something else. So, a subtitled film isn’t exactly a good mix. So, when I found a window on Sunday, I knew what I had to do.
Unless I’m forgetting something, this review should see the end of my Oscar film reviews. I managed to watch all of the full-length feature films nominated in the majority of the categories. I didn’t have time to get through all of the international nominees because of time and cause I suck at watching international films. I need to work on that. However, I did manage to knock a couple off the list. Thanks to the runaway success that was Parasite I saw that early on. Then Antonio Banderas’ nomination for Best Actor meant that I caught up with Pain and Glory. It felt as though Banderas was rarely mentioned in the run-up to the Oscars because the conversation was dominated by Joaquin Phoenix and, to a lesser extent, Adam Driver. Unfortunately, it never really seemed as though Banderas was an option regardless of how much he may have deserved it. Much in the same way that Tom Hanks never really registered in his category for A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Still, that wasn’t going to stop me watching it. I had to make up my own mind about who deserved to win.
I try not to read much criticism before I watch a film. I love reading it but not necessarily to see if I should see something. I prefer to use my own judgement on whether a film’s worth it. But I do like reading it afterwards. For one thing, you might get a different insight on what you’ve just watched. I know it’s not really the point of reviews but I don’t want to be swayed by somebody else’s opinion. And it’s good practice to help avoid spoilers. Most reviews are fine but these days film criticism has moved beyond just giving you an opinion. It’s all about getting that word count up so some people use their platform to reveal most if not all of the plot. It’s ridiculous. But I’m getting distracted. The point I wanted to make was this: so many people seem to have been criticising Sam Mendes’ film for not being a true single-shot movie. They’ve complained that it’s too obvious where the edits are and some have even described it as “distracting”. I have to sigh. Do we know the cuts are there? Yes. Does it make the whole thing any less impressive? No freaking way.
I’ve had a copy of this film sat around for months waiting to find the perfect time to watch it. I was contemplating doing it for Halloween but, last week, the Japanese zombie movie got a limited release in America. So, it seemed like the perfect time to give it a watch. Plus, I didn’t really have time to watch anything new last weekend, so it was an easy fix. And it means I can get a more diverse range of films into my life in 2019. It’s not like I mean to ignore foreign films. I live in Yorkshire and, according to the people who matter, we Northerners don’t appreciate subtitles. I was listening to a podcast recently that tried to shame anyone who had watched Roma on Netflix and not during its limited cinema release. These were, obviously, people who live in London and have an easier time of seeing foreign-language and indie film releases in the cinema. I mean National Theatre Live has barely just made it up here. I know it’s on me to catch-up once films are released but there is still a point to be made about the release of foreign-language films. But not one that really matters right now. I’ll rant about it later.
Just over 7 years ago, I posted my 5th review on this blog. It was the first film I’d reviewed that I was genuinely full of praise for and, as was my style at the time, my post was way too long and rambling. I’d like to think that over the last 7 years I’ve got quite a bit better at writing these things but who actually knows? At the very least, I hope I’ve become a little less hyperbolic and pretentious over time. There are bits of my review that feel a little cringey but it was only due to the fact that I really bloody loved this film. A fact that makes it all the weirder that I haven’t watched it again since. I think I’ve caught bits of it when it’s been on TV but I’ve never actually sat down and watched it from start to finish. And I think it’s because you really need to be invested in the viewing. It’s not as if you can watch it whilst doing something else or if you’re in danger of nodding off. I had to set aside some time today when I had nothing else to do so I could watch it with the focus it deserved. And by “it” I, of course, mean Jean Dujardin’s face.
It’s getting near to that time of the year when I madly try to watch all of the films nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. As I only just managed it last year, I’m trying to get ahead of the curve and watch the most likely candidates before the nominations are even out. Luckily, they’re all films that I want to watch anyway so, even if none of them end up with a nomination to their name, I won’t have watched them for nothing. First film on the agenda is one of the most talked about film of the end of 2018. I was too busy watching shitty Christmas films to watch Roma when it was first released on Netflix. So, I made it my mission to watch it at the beginning of January. I’d only ever read absolutely positive things about it so, it’s fair to say, my expectations were pretty damn high. But could it really be as magnificent as we’ve been allowed to believe? We know what Netflix films can be like after all? Obviously, as you’ve already seen my star rating, you’ll know that it did live up to its reputation but, let’s be honest, there wasn’t any real doubt was there?