Thanks to my birthday this weekend, I didn’t have a lot of time to watch a film for my review. So, I ended up doing what I always used to do. Going to whichever streaming service I saw first and finding the shortest film that didn’t sound awful. I figured this based on a true story film would be just the thing. Intense enough to keep me interested but not too long to be too complicated. The fact that this also contained Benedict Cumberbatch’s face was just an added bonus.
Despite the fact that I vowed to buy fewer books this year, my Spell the Month reading challenge has made it difficult to do this. I have a lot of unread books but there are plenty of letters that I still don’t have books for. J is one of the most awkward letters for me at the moment and I had to go searching for something to pick up. I read about this when looking on the Booker Prize website. I’m not normally a fan of short story collections because I prefer a longer form. However, this sounded like something that I couldn’t miss. The fact that it’s a J title was an added bonus.
I know that I spend a lot of time moaning about Netflix Original films but, I have to admit, they do get it right now and then. The platform also manages to great some great filmmakers on board. Their 2019 releases on the streaming service saw Noah Baumbach and Martin Scorsese gain multiple Oscar nominations. Before he won awards and hearts, Bong Joon-Ho released the fantastic Okja. So, there have certainly been some high points and it looked as though it might have another. Spike Lee’s latest film Da 5 Bloods was released in mid-June. This was the first time we’ve seen Lee since his Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman and it couldn’t have come out at a better time. One of the major themes is how race fits into America. There is the same passion and anger that can be seen throughout the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening all over the globe. What better film to watch when I’m trying to Amplify Melanated Voices?
There was a lot of criticism following the announcement of the Oscar nominations this month. A lot of it, quite rightly, pointed out the lack of female directors and the awful lack of diversity on display. Some of it was less helpful. I saw one person on Twitter moan that 1917 had been nominated because there have already been too many World War One films. I believe the person in question actually asked: “why do we keep telling that story?” Yeah, why do we keep banging on about history? It’s already happened. It’s not like it’s important. Let’s make films about important things like The Rock and Jason Statham driving really fast cars. Although, I’ve never actually seen any of The Fast and the Furious franchise, so I’m not one to judge. The main reason being that I suspect I’d end up really liking them. Fast cars, guns, explosions, it all appeals to my inner 12-year-old boy. But I mustn’t get distracted. This is about 1917. Really, the guy answered his own question by asking it. We still need to keep telling this story when idiots fail to understand why it’s vital to keep telling it. I’m reminded of Joss Whedon’s response to the question “why do you write such strong female characters?” The answer? “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
When I looked back on my blog to find out what today’s TBT film was I audibly groaned. I’ve never wanted to see this film again. Especially now I’ve seen the amazing stage production. That was genuinely an emotional triumph and a beautiful adaptation of a (frankly) stupid story. Stupid because, for me, the story of an animal’s journey through World War 1 is never going to compare to that of a human’s in terms of emotional resonance. 2018 was the centenary of the end of World War 1 and Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old was a film experience I’ll never forget. During the run-up to the actual centenary I got annoyed by the knowledge that an animal charity had designed their own purple poppy badge in memory of the animals who died in warfare. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love animals and think remembering their sacrifice is a good thing. BUT I don’t think it’s right to focus on them over the human sacrifice and you know there are people out there who will have only worn a purple poppy. As another example, I was recently witness to someone compare having to have their dog put down to having a child on life-support. As a former dog owner who went through the experience of having to do that, I know how much it hurts but you can’t compare the situations at all. Animals are great but, surely, we can all agree it’s not the same, right?
This week I decided to let fate decide which 1988 film I was going to watch. It happened to be shown on TV last Saturday so, for the sake of convenience and laziness, I just watched it then. I can’t say that I was really relishing the idea of having to watch the third film in the Rambo series. It’s hardly a franchise that has ever regained the height it reached with its first film. First Blood is a classic action movie and, though it falls apart when you think about it too much, is carried well thanks to it’s main star. I can’t say that I’m a massive Stallone fan but I defy anyone not to find him a little intriguing. He’s had some great and career defining roles. Yes, I can’t say I’ve been queuing up to see his films from the past decade or so but there’ll always be a place for him in the annals of film history. We know that, deep down, I have the same taste in films as a 12-year old boy, so his films do speak to me on some level. Anything with enough guns and explosions is going to keep me somewhat happy. However, I also need there to be something deeper. Something I’m not sure Stallone has always been capable of.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve only been back at work for 3 days and that a week ago I was in the middle of my holiday. It feels like months ago. God, I already need another holiday just to get over getting back from my last one. And I really did start the day feeling positive; or at least as positive as I could in the circumstances. But, clearly, the people I work with had other ideas for me. I managed to leave feeling utterly exhausted and fed-up. Meaning today’s TBT post has been sitting on my screen utterly blank for hours. It also means I’m going to be late getting to bed and unable to read much beforehand. But I’m going to push through. I can’t let things I can’t change stop me getting shit done. Looking at myself now, it’s a mystery how I managed to write-up two weeks’ worth of posts in the run-up to my time away. I must have used up all of my energy and it’s coming up to bite me now. Still, this is in danger of being an absolute self-pity party so, without further ado, on with the review… ooh I love an accidental rhyme.
So, anyone paying attention to my Sunday Rundowns for the past few months will know that I’ve been suffering from a major reading slump recently. So much so that the last time I reviewed a book was way back in April. In fact, the book I’m reviewing tonight was one I started at the beginning of April. Yes, I stopped to read another book in between but after that it took bloody ages. I thought I was never going to finish. Every time I sat down to read I just couldn’t pluck up the energy. It’s a huge shame because I was so excited to read this novel. It was actually on my ‘Most Anticipated Books of 2018‘ list. For one thing, how can anyone ignore a title quite like that? It’s a fantastic thing. Especially for someone who loves Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein so much. The war in Iraq is modern history but is something that we all have memories of in some way. The idea that the two were being combined into something darkly comical was super appealing. It’s just a shame I lost my mood for reading. As much as I enjoyed this, I think it deserves a reread when I get to a suitable time in my life. Once I’ve stopped lending it to everyone I keep convincing to read it. I just can’t help myself. I’m obsessed with this book.