James Page takes us through what’s worth watching.
Us (2019) Dir. Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele, off the back of his hugely successful debut feature Get Out (2017) returns in scintillating fashion with his new satirical horror, Us. Peele’s already seemingly auteur directorial style in terms of social commentaries, black protagonists and gutsy plot lines are further explored in this second attempt as writer/director.
Us follows the Wilson family, who endure a long night by horror standards, coming face to face with their terrifying doppelgängers during a holiday in Santa Cruz. It’s really up to you to figure out how they got there, and what they want. However, I think that you’ll be able to agree on what ensues - a truly mesmerising performance from Lupita Nyong’o (Adelaide Wilson) as she seeks to protect her family and bring an end to these creepy, jumpsuit wearing, scissor stabbing, unforgiving identical strangers. Yeah - it’s pretty whack.
But throughout the twists and turns that unfold within this gripping narrative, the film provokes important questions. Most notably ‘are we our own worst enemy?’. The film focuses on a clear theme of duality, and can also be interpreted on a global scale - reigning in on massive social commentaries, whilst poking fun at the current political climate in the US.
It’s clever, it’s eye-opening and it will most certainly make you want to look up theories as to what the hell that ending was all about. It makes you think, and a film that makes you think is a film well done.
Daffodils (2019) Dir. David Stubbs
Welcome to the age of musicals reborn! You’ve had Bohemian Rhapsody, La La Land, The Greatest Showman, A Star is Born and now your very own Daffodils...the Kiwi musical you had no idea you needed.
Set to the soundtrack of the classic New Zealand bangers you know and love, Daffodils is the charming, sweet, and surprisingly heart-wrenching love story of Rose (Rose McIver) and Eric (George Mason). Told from the perspective of their now grown up daughter Maisie (Kimbra), the film is set in a very New Zealand backdrop. It’s really refreshing to see, and it couples well with Mason’s crashing Kiwi accent, which is so heart-warming on the big screen.
The reimagining of these Kiwi classics does take a second to get used to, but once you give yourself over to the ‘internal monologue through song’ format, things really pick up. Whilst not every song seems to make sense in the context of the story (one particularly puzzling Darcy Clay/Blam Blam Blam mashup sticks out) it is in fact a nice celebration of pure homegrown music. If you’ve ever wondered what an argument looks like when one party is screaming Dave Dobbyn at the other – well now is your chance to find out.
Charming, nostalgic, and honestly quite sweet, if you do choose to see Daffodils I recommend you bring with you plenty of tissues and a strong sense of national pride. As well as maybe your mum, she’ll love it.
Green Book (2018) Dir. Peter Farrelly
It’s the 1960s, and Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) is nothing but a working-class Italian-American bouncer. But when offered a job to drive African-American classical pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) around the deep south of America on a tour, Tony begins his own journey of self-discovery whilst Shirley makes an unlikely friend. It’s poignant, it’s loving and it’s uplifting.
Self-condemnation is a big theme player in this film - but it’s the way this theme is delicately written through brutal honesty and hard-to-watch scenes that makes Green Book so brave and so important. It’s a film that sadly reflects just how complicated people can be, and I’ve not seen two character arcs this good in a long time after our heroes face these complications. Green Book, despite being set in the 1960s, draws way too many comparisons to our modern world.
Mortenson and Ali deliver such authentic performances, and these are only elevated by the immaculate writing and razor-sharp directing of Farrelly. It’s easily one of the best of 2018. Not just in terms of its importance to society but also the impact it has on you in the cinema.
If you're an awards geek like myself, you might want to know that the film notched up five Academy Award nominations and went on to win three of them. The highly coveted Best Picture, Supporting Actor for the flawless Ali, and writer/director Peter Farrelly’s original screenplay also took home gold. On evidence, each of these wins are fully merited, but you’ll have to go soon if you want to catch this one on the big screen.